Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Case of the Fabulously Fumbled FOIA

What’s surprising to me is not that the Department of Homeland Security, which is part of the self-described “most transparent” administration in U.S. history, waited a year to produce lame results to my Powertalk 1210 freedom of information request.  The surprise is that it produced any results at all.  I mean, the response was so poor and so meager, why bother at all?

It was obvious in August and September of last year when I started down this road that DHS had no intention of shedding any light on its handling of the refugee crisis that was flooding our southern borders at the time.   Supposedly, under the law any time any governmental event generates a document, you can have access to it as a member of the public.  Exceptions, of course, are classified documents.  The laws and process at the federal level are not the same as the local.  The federal law generally is referred to as the “Freedom of Information Act” and is pronounced FOY’-ah, whereas there’s a hodgepodge of state and local laws aimed to achieve similar purposes but which have no teeth at the federal level.  Journalists usually refer to the local laws as “FOIA” laws as well but this is not correct.

The Tucson Traffic Game

Presented in honor of the latest round of Tucson accidents and fatalities that keep our city punching well above its weight in the arena of pedestrian safety.  The latest one is so typical:  pedestrian steps into traffic, in the dark, well outside of a crosswalk.  We're building toward a record.  The Star reports we've nailed 12 pedestrians so far this year--twice as many as by this time last year.

© 2015 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Leaving Las Vegas

There are, I suppose, good ways and bad ways to leave a job, especially if you’re leaving involuntarily.  In TV news the different styles and methods by which people choose the exit door, or by which they have the method of departure chosen for them,  practically constitute a spectator sport, especially if the person leaving is in management.  Which takes us to KVVU-TV in Las Vegas.

KVVU is the Fox affiliate in Sin City, and happens to be owned by the Meredith company—which, in the interests of full disclosure, let me tell you is now in the process of a merger with Media General, a company I used to work for.  I won’t get into the merits of the firing because I can’t; I know very little about Adam Bradshaw, the veteran and by most accounts capable news director at the heart of our story.  Rick Gevers’ weekly  newsletter reveals to us that Bradshaw had been news director there for about 9 years, which in TV terms amounts to a very good run (news director years are roughly equivalent to doggie years, playing out to an aging ratio of about one to four).  The day before the firing, the city had hosted the first Democratic Presidential Debate, for which Mr. Bradshaw said his station pulled out all the stops, as I’m sure it did.  If you can imagine putting together a coverage plan as aggressive as that that one had to be, busting your butt to get it onto the air in such a fashion as to uphold your personal pride and senses of competitiveness and professionalism, and then hearing your boss say, “Thanks, now GTFO,” you might begin to understand a little bit of what it’s like to be a TV news director.  Nothing personal, just go, and don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out.  Or do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fred Flintstone Killed Me

The premise of today's blog entry may seem outlandish, but if you’ll bear with me I think I can prove it out.

A few months ago I was doing some research for my gig on The Forrest Carr show on Tucson’s PowerTalk 1210 when I came across a TV commercial online that just blew me away.  The spot, dating from the early 60’s, had appeared originally in The Flintstones, what was then billed as a prime time animated series aimed at equal parts children and adults.   Barney and Fred had just walked into the back yard and were noticing that their spouses, Betty and Wilma, were doing the chores.  “Man, I hate to see them work so hard,” Barney opined, at which point Fred agreed:  “So let’s go around back where we can’t see ‘em.”  At which point the two of them decide a cigarette break is in order; they proceed to bust out with a package of Winstons.  Barney blows out a cloud of hot air big enough to have rescued Dorothy and Toto from Oz while Fred rolls off with a verse of the Winston Jingle, which you may remember if you’re old enough:  “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should....”  I remember that first line, and as well I should; in 1998 Advertising Age voted it the 9th most effective TV jingle of the 20th century.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"William Larkin Porter, Junior. July 4, 1928 - October 17 2015."

That ten word headline summarizes this news this week regarding the father of one of my best friends in the world, Mike Porter.  In no way do those words sum up the man. Nor are they supposed to.  It's not my place to try to do that either.  That honor and privilege belongs to the man’s son.

I can, however, and will recall the one particular life-changing act of kindness that came my way many  years ago because of the late Mr. Porter and his wife, an act that arguably put me on a better path.  I was maybe 18 years old was going through a very emotionally troubling period in my life.  On that very night at my own home I was  having a crisis of an evening filled with suicidal thoughts and ideation, and inappropriate language and behavior.  My father objected to the way I was talking to my mother and girlfriend – a dispute that culminated in him tossing the both of us (me and the girl) out on the street in a freezing, steady downpour--without my glasses. (For the record I'll admit to having treated my girlfriend very immaturely, but nothing crossed the line to anything illegal, immoral, or violent.  The girl had done absolutely nothing wrong; my father's treatment of her was beyond disgraceful).  I remember after being expelled from my dad’s home that at the end of this 25-minute walk to the closest pay phone, her hair was as frozen as mine; you can’t imagine how mortifying that was.  When I reached that phone, I placed a call to Mr. Porter, and asked him whether he might be willing to drive cross town that night (a 35 minute drive) to rescue  me and my girl from our frozen hair and from my own personal idiocy, and to help me get my girlfriend home since Dad had confiscated my car.  Mr. Porter did all this without batting an eye, sheltering us from the ravages of a Memphis ice storm and then taking me the next morning to retrieve my clothes from my home and then moving me to an aunt's loft—no questions asked.  This helped get me back on track more ways than I can describe.  How do you thank someone for that?  Really, you can't. But mentioning it every now and then in tones of admiration doesn't hurt.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Attack of the Cybercats VIII

I hope everyone is enjoying Monday.  For those who are not, enjoy these cat photos instead.  This expands on the evidence I've been bringing  you for months showing that your typical house cat may not be what it appears to be.  You have been warned.

I’ve applied my special processing technique to more cat photos.  The evidence remains conclusive:  what looks like ordinary house cats are really Cybercats—part feline, part machine—who are able to exert mind control over certain individuals.  Although their immediate goal of household domination seems clear, their ultimate plan remains a mystery.  The latest round of processed photos is below.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Gift of Love

An open letter to:
Christ the King Episcopal Church
The Prayer Shawl Ministry
Special attention:  Ann Zasa
    Interfaith Community Services Board
2800 W Ina Rd
Tucson, AZ 85741

Dear Christ the King:

I recently received by way of my wife Deborah a wonderful prayer shawl from your organization.  The tag reads, “Made by hand and blessed with prayers of love and hope, this wrap is a gift to you.  May it bring blessings of comfort, gifts of warmth and the knowledge that you are cared for.”  And it’s signed, the Prayer Shawl Ministry of Christ the King Episcopal Church.

Deborah and I can’t thank you enough.  This open letter, which I am posting on my blog, is an attempt to do that but it only scratches the surface, really, of the emotions something like this inspires within us.  This shawl does make us feel supported and cared for and loved and all those things, and we’re feeling it in a way we certainly never expected when we began to go down this road with my terminal cancer diagnosis back in April.  The journey has been a difficult one, yes, but it’s also been filled with joys that we did not expect.   People reaching out to us in the manner this shawl does falls into that latter category. 

I will put this shawl in a place of honor in my office where I write my blog, which I do on not quite  a daily basis, but often, as a reminder of those who care about us.  Every time I glance in that direction I will  think of this shawl, why it’s there, and of Christ the King.  God bless you for thinking of us, and may He continue to support you in your ministry.

Forrest Carr
Deborah Carr

Friday, October 9, 2015

Getting Down with the People

"Let’s ride the bus,” my friend said. 

Now it can be told.  The Tucson bus strike has ended.  I found this article in my files which seems relevant.  Like most of what I write for you, this has the virtue of being all true, with no exaggeration.  I hope you enjoy.

A friend of mine, Jay, was a TV news director who believed very much in the value of a bus ride.  He felt there was no better way to get to know what was really going on in a given community than by taking a ride on a city bus.  During the time I worked for him, he used to preach this philosophy to me constantly.  But I’d ridden plenty of buses as a college kid, and had no great nostalgic feeling for them.  I ignored his advice.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Reclaiming Life’s Little Joys

Looking back it’s hard not to become at least a little resentful at some of life’s little pleasures that have, one by one, fallen off the list of things of which I am able to partake and enjoy.  The list is getting kind of long now, thanks to my cancer.  It started off slowly enough, though, and initially had nothing to do with any kind of terminal diagnosis.  At first it was just about that process we all have to face, that of simply getting old.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up I fell big for those sugary cereal commercials with which advertisers used to inundate the airwaves on Saturday mornings (I presume they still do).  I wound up with a confirmed cereal habit which continued well into my adulthood.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Some Think You Can’t Handle the Truth

I have a keyboard, a track record as an experienced and fairly well-respected journalist, and given my health it’s not likely I’ll have to worry ever again whether something I say might p*ss off a current or future employer.  So when someone, especially an elected official these days, issues forth with something that strikes me as uniquely boneheaded, it’s hard not to go right to the computer and begin the delicious process of ripping that person a new one.  In a nice way, of course.

Every now and then, though, I like to hang back and see if others notice first, especially when it comes to matters of media conduct, ethics, editorial judgment, and the art of self-censorship.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nurse Day

One of the questions I’m having to struggle with now that I’ve made the decision to continue this blog and to keep you up to date on my medical issues is:  How much “I” constitutes “TMI?”  How little is too little? And should I de-emphasize politics, or toss that subject out altogether?  In answering that question, I’m guided by my late colleague Warren Elly, who also blogged about his medical issues as he was battling cancer.  I wanted to hear more from him.  One day his voice simply wasn’t there.  So, under the premise that too much is not enough for a blog of this nature, I’ll probably wind up writing more than I really should.  Politics we'll take as they come but I probably won't write as much about that.