Fox News vs. MSNBC. Who has more Education?

Sometimes I wonder.  Is it me, or is it them?  Has my thinking narrowed because we have websites and cable channels and radio that agrees with me, such that I’m only listening to those I agree with?

Or is it because the political thought on the right (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News) —  sounds a little off base.

It’s probably a little of both.

But one could make a case that the cable TV folks on the left (MSNBC) are smarter, more informed, and more, shall we say, liberally educated, than the cable TV folks on the right.

For example, here’s a bit of background, harvested from Wikipedia, about our media friends’ education:

On the Right

Rush Limbaugh — two semesters and one summer at Southeast Missouri State University

Sean Hannity — dropped out of New York University and Adelphi University

Glenn Beck — one semester of college

Bill O’Reilly (an exception) — graduated Marist College.  M.A. Broadcast Jounralism from Boston University. Master of Public Administration Harvard University

On the Left

Chris Matthews — graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.  Graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ed Shultz — Graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Lawrence O’Donnell — Harvard graduate

Keith Obermann — Cornell graduate

Rachel Maddow — degree in public policy from Stanford. Doctorate in political science from Oxford, which she attended on a Rhodes Scholarship.

Rush Limbaugh
Glenn Beck
Sean Hannity
Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews
Rachel Maddow
Bill O'Reilly
Ed Schultz
Lawrence O'Donnell
Keith Obermann

sometimes pain gets delivered like the morning newspaper

sometimes pain gets delivered
like the morning newspaper

thrown on the driveway
chilled by pre-dawn
drops of night

it waits

morning walkers see it
they don’t care

those who sleep
don’t know it’s there

birds sing
they ignore it

cars pass
they miss it

it just waits

until suddenly
daring to reach that far

a hand
with raw nerve stretched
exposed to cold

strains to lift it

Beware small business owners: Fox News is not doing you any favors

I’ve been in retail businesses — even restaurants — that allowed Fox News to blast background noise all day long.

This is not a good idea.

Whether or not the owners or customers agree with the right wing viewpoint, no one can dispute the fact that every news network — and particularly this one — has a negative outlook.

When people are shopping, mood is important.

Very important.

Slamming Obama, and the economy, 24/7, may feed those who are frustrated.  Many customers may agree with every word.  But it does not lift one’s mood.  It does not make for a happy consumer.  It won’t make people feel like buying.

The big grocery stores know this. They always play snappy music.

Watching Fox News all day (or any news channel) will put everybody in a funk — and, in an economy that’s already tough, will certainly not help a business survive.

Life mirrors art

underwear art conflict
what is art?

Norman Mailer said that “once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever.”

Which is where we are now.  The Clyde Overcash/Anne Caldwell Cave/What is Art? conflict is basically over.  The rest is art.

I just finished reading several articles in today’s Salisbury Post that further advance and illuminate the story.

Emily Ford column

Sarah Hall Column

Emily Ford story

A story about the history of underwear art in Salisbury

My favorite line was the last of Sarah Hall’s:  “In this case, the finest art may be the art of forgiveness.”

This event comes just after a local production of Yasmina Reza’s play, Art, which is no accident.  This is a small town where the power of suggestion prevails like anywhere else.

Like the play, this incident has nothing to do with art.  It’s about, as Sarah says, the problem we human beings have with forgiveness — a simple act that looks so simple and feels so difficult.

In Reza’s play, a guy buys a work of art and gets into an argument.  The play is about the argument, not the art.

In Salisbury, a guy hangs out a pair of underwear and calls it art.  Somebody steals it.  The rest is about the dispute, not the art.

But Art gives the story a little glamor.  A bit of pizazz.

If forgiveness were as simple as it looks and sounds, then we would have no play.  And we would have no news story.  We would certainly not have a juicy trial to look forward to.

And we would have little if any art.

Whether it’s on the surface, or in some place too deep for words, conflict is the stuff of art.  We need it.  It stimulates our thinking and our emotions.  Otherwise — what have we got?  People going to work and being productive and getting along?  All hugs and kisses.  No slings and arrows?  Pleasantville?

Where’s the fun in that?

One could argue that we need art in order to examine our conflicts and be civilized beings.  It’s better than the real life alternative — acting on them.

Years ago, when somebody stole my bike, it wasn’t much of a story.

But stealing a pair of underwear art is just too rich.

rainbow over Mooresville

Today I drove to Mooresville, as I do each and every Tuesday — 52 weeks a year.

I drop off our paper — Coffee News — with Eric.  Eric delivers the papers for us there.  He’s been doing this for us faithfully for a few years — 52 weeks a year.

Often I’m busy.  Often Eric is busy.  So I drop the papers on his porch and boogie down the road.

But sometimes we have time to visit for a few minutes.  Today we did.

It’s always a pleasure.  Usually, like today, I yak too much.  Eric is a good listener.

I need to be a better listener.

Today, while I talked and we loaded papers, shortly before dusk, there was a soft rain falling.

He noticed a fairly impressive double rainbow.

He had to tell me about the rainbow three times.  I ran my mouth endlessly about my car repairs and it took a little repetition on his part before this registered.

I appreciate his persistence.  When he finally got my attention and I stopped talking and looked, it was worth a moment.

Sometimes I need a little help.  Thanks, Eric.

I pointed the iPhone and took a couple of pictures.

rainbow 1
rainbow over Mooresville
rainbow 2
rainbow over Mooresville 2
rainbow 3
rainbow over Mooresville 3

Lost my hat. Broke my glasses. Who cares?

I’ve been watching CNN a good bit since the earthquake in Haiti.

It’s been fascinating to watch the coverage evolve.  At first, there weren’t even pictures.  Anderson Cooper arrived on day 2, and now more and more reporters seem to be filing reports each day.

The despair, and loss of life, the destruction, is beyond words.  As depressing as it is, we need these pictures — even though they offer only glimpse of the tragedy.

It puts cable news in perspective.

CNN has hardly cut away from Haiti since it happened.  Fox News reports it, but they have little coverage on the ground.  And, they report it along with other news stories — mostly political controversies that are basically news events being fabricated on the fly.

I have little respect for Fox News, not only because of their bias, but also because the emphasis they put on certain stories distorts the importance of those stories (or, non-stories).

CNN does the same thing.  They sometimes have online polls with weird questions and then report the entirely predictable results as news.

But Fox is the biggest distorter, and it’s most evident when there’s a catastrophe in another part of the world and they don’t send a team of reporters.  It makes it obvious that most of the drama they report 24/7 is being drummed up there in the studio.

It puts news in perspective — and it also puts my petty worries in perspective.

While the people of Haiti have lost everything, I’ve lost a few things myself.

Last Thursday, I lost my Tyrollean hat.  It came from Austria and has been my companion for 25 years.

I delivered Coffee News all day Thursday.  It was cold, but at one point my head got a little warm and I put the hat on the dashboard.  After a while, it was in the way and I threw it on the back seat.

That’s the last time I remember touching my hat.

When you’ve had — and worn — a hat that long, it’s a little like losing a pet.  The best thing to do when you lose a dog is to get a puppy, so I’ve ordered a new hat.  It’s a knock-off, made in America.  It’s not easy — and fairly expensive — to get them from Austria.  It should arrive next week and I hope it’s the same as the one I lost.

The other loss — possibly — is my glasses.

While wearing the 3-D glasses in order to watch Avatar, I took them off and placed them on my coat.

After the movie, I stood up and put on my coat.  My glasses landed on the floor.  I was apparently mesmerized by the movie credits and didn’t notice this.  Apparently, the movie was so powerful that I even forgot I wore real glasses — though they are bifocals and I need them all the time for everything.

So when I heard a crunch under my foot, I remembered my glasses.

I know there’s plenty of bad news in the world — all the time — and while it feels good to donate time and money to help alleviate suffering, it’s not a good idea, psychologically, to focus on human tragedy too much.

But it does put my own losses in perspective.  A hat?  A pair of glasses?  Who cares?

red cross

Is Fox News really a news organization? Is MSNBC?

It’s interesting that while CNN is scrambling to cover the earthquake in Haiti, Fox news is talking about filibusters and stopping health care reform.

Is Fox News really a news organization?

MSNBC (my preference) is talking about Jay and Conan and late night comedy.

If they were “news organizations,” wouldn’t they be reporting the strongest earthquake in 200 years?

Both of them are basically talk radio.

Location, Location, Location

Like everything else, the secret to Coffee News readership is location, location, location.

The placement of the stand inside the restaurant is crucial to the paper’s readership. When a lot of people see it, some of them will grab it. If they read it once, they are likely to read it again, and again, and again.

If they never see it, they never read it.

Here are a couple of pictures I took last week while delivering Coffee News in Concord, NC.

Coffee News Location 1

Delivery 2

Coffee News Location 2

Notice how, in both restaurants, our stand has a special location, adorned by flowers. Both are located at the entrance.

I don’t want a busy-body in the corporate office to read this blog, call the local store, complain about “corporate policy,” get somebody in trouble and get our paper kicked-out — so I’m not disclosing the name of the restaurants here.

Suffice it to say that both of these pictures were taken inside major national chain restaurants — the biggest of the big.

Both of these locations were challenging at first to get into at all. Some of this chain’s locations still will not let us in now.

At first, the stands were located in much harder-to-find areas. in one case, it was on a messy window ledge full of brochures and business cards and postcards (all clean now).

Who moved them to these perfect, prime locations?

I have no idea. Somebody in the restaurant did this months ago.

How did we get such great locations?

1. Longevity. We’ve been delivering to these locations for three and a half years.
2. Consistency. We’ve never missed a week.
3. Fun, positive material in Coffee News.
4. Smile and a wave from the delivery person (one per week).

Counting steps while delivering Coffee News

My wife and I support the household by publishing Coffee News, a free, weekly paper — available in restaurants. It’s a franchise, and a fun business, and a good bit of work. We do our own graphics and printing, which generally takes the better part of our weekends. But we get to do this work at home, and we enjoy it.

steps delivering Coffee News on Oct. 1, 2009
steps delivering Coffee News on Oct. 1, 2009

For the past year, we’ve hired out our delivery. We’re still doing so in some areas, but times being what they are, many small business owners are watching their expenses and doing more of the work themselves.

We’re no different.

A few weeks ago, we started delivering our own papers in Salisbury — and last week we added the routes in Concord and Kannapolis. That’s getting close to 350 deliveries.

Knocked it out in two days last week. They were long days. This week, we’ll probably make it a three day job.

I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s given me a chance to see a lot of people, improve our distribution by adding new restaurants to the route, and improve the locations of our stands inside the restaurants.

I’ve also put out a lot of new stands, replacing many that were broken or dirty.

I’ve still managed to answer the phone and sell new ads.

But most of all, it’s good exercise.

My New Year’s resolution was to walk 10,000 steps a day in 2009. It’s October now, and I haven’t missed a day.

Once, I had a problem of some kind with my stomach. It gurgled and it hurt, all day. I spent most of the time on the couch, watching TV and sleeping. The walking was tough that day, but I still got the 10k.

Another day, I had a tooth pulled, took some pills for the pain, and didn’t think I’d feel like walking. I was surprised to find that I had a very nice walk in the woods that day. The weather was beautiful and I had a good buzz from the pills.

And there were those days, in the heat of summer, that I was out walking at midnight and the pedometer’s date changed to the next day — at midnight — before the device registered 10k. I still finished the steps, but it wasn’t reflected on the pedometer. I had to do a little math the next day in order to make sure I got the whole 10k and stayed on track.

In July, I got the bright idea to set the time on the pedometer two hours early. As long as I’m done with the steps by 2am, nobody knows the difference and the reading feels 100% legitimate.

Last week, both Thursday and Friday, I got well over 13,000 delivering our papers.

When I was working in the schools, as a technology facilitator, I often walked quite a few steps in the computer lab — and to various computers and printers in classrooms and hallways in the school building. I wore a pedometer then, too — and often registered between 6k and 8k steps per day.

I’ve gotten as few as 8k delivering Coffee News. Once, I challenged myself by deliberately parking a short distance from the locations and got 17k.

10k is a good number. 13k left me a little tired.

Report Card for CNN: D-

The other night, CNN gave President Obama his 200 day report card. People voted online and CNN reported the results on TV.

The results were predictable.

When I was a technology facilitator in the school system (for 22 years), I taught lots of children how to use a spreadsheet.  One of my favorite intro lessons was showing them how to average grades — demonstrating how one zero can bring an excellent semester average way down.  One F can ruin a good GPA.  I tried to show the kids that skipping an assignment altogether is not “just one assignment,” but possibly a way to repeat a grade.

Obama got 54 percent of the popular vote in the election. His voters will give him an A. Those who voted for McCain will give him an F. Unless people have changed their minds — which would not have happened this soon — he would get a C, which he did. He also got a C on his first 100 day report card. Unless something big happens (ie. 9/11, stock market crash, budget surplus) it’s likely to stay that way. His report card simply reflects the country’s current political spectrum.

Letter grades, with the general public voting online, is a good way to make a funny calculation of Obama’s popularity, but it’s meaningless as a grade. Report cards should be an objective assessment of a person’s work.

I did not vote, nor did I watch it. I would have given Obama an A, but by the time I saw it, the voting was over.

They had their panel of mostly partisan commentators on all night — discussing the results of this poll. If they had been discussing his Presidency it would have made sense.  Instead, they were trying to go for the drama, like election night, and discussing the poll. I watched a few minutes. It wasn’t dramatic.

I like Larry King. I liked him on radio, before his show on CNN (and called in a couple of times). I watch the show sometimes, depending on the guest. When the guest is good, the show can be interesting and enlightening. Larry gives his guests time to answer questions.

This night, Larry King and everything else was preempted by the poll results.

They behaved as if this were breaking news. It wasn’t. It certainly wasn’t newsworthy enough to fill an evening on a news channel. It’s a good way to interact with viewers — but it’s all manufactured. What was going on in the world? What were their reporters doing?

I know it’s not my place to judge a news organization. They need to do what they need to do in order to make money and stay on the air. CNN can be an easy, entertaining way to get news, and I watch too much of it.

I know money is the bottom line. Controversy and close elections are better for ratings — and I think we’ve paid a price for this kind of journalism (especially in 2004). I’m guessing some of the programming makes some of their own journalists feel like barfing. Seen Lou Dobbs lately? Glenn Beck, who is a joke, started out Headline News (although he was probably somewhere before that).

They do their fair share of hype — but that is, as Cronkite would lament, “the way it is,” with the current state of commercial TV news these days.

They hyped both Iraq wars, and they reported the Swift boat ads as if both sides of the debate had equally valid factual arguments — even though one side did not. They don’t guard their language at all, when it comes to editorializing in a straight news report. That’s just “the way it is,” these days.

I still watch it.

The Obama report card would have made a nice segment — not an entire evening of news.

Too bad. MSNBC on the left, which I like, and FOX on the right, which I don’t like, are basically talk radio with little news.

CNN, with its resources, could be that solid, responsible, straight shooter in the middle. The other night, it got an F.