Look for the helpers

With all eyes seemingly on the coast of Texas and Louisiana, I have been no different, keeping close watch on several good friends from high school who now live in Houston or the greater Houston area.

The historic hurricane Harvey made landfall Friday in Corpus Christi, and the result since has been record-breaking rainfall on United States soil, most of it in Houston and the surrounding areas.

News and social media coverage has made it much easier to get accurate news, and check on friends and family. Luckily, most of those I know have escaped injury and a significant loss of property.

Some have even been able (and more importantly, willing) to leave their homes and neighborhoods and help others deal with their losses.

We got word at the newspaper yesterday that several residents from Iowa Park left for the coast to aid in the rescue efforts. Some were sent with their jobs, and some went as private citizens and took boats with them. One of our locally-owned gas stations donated the fuel for the trip.

A locally-owned pizza restaurant, Ken’s Pizza, raised in one day $7,100 for the Red Cross to aid victims. Even more have begun collecting necessary items to truck south.

At tragic times like this it is important to look for the helpers, because it is far too easy to find the problems. There is still more good than bad, my friends.

One of my friends who lives in Port Arthur used humor to make it through the worst days, sending me a picture taken in her back yard of a croc … Seriously, a shoe – that Croc – that had ended up in her back yard,  and said, “some people might not find this funny, but …”

Finding a bright spot, something to smile inside about, in tragic times is a healthy coping mechanism, I think.

And because it is my lifelong vocation and passion, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the local media who are covering their respective communities, many of whom I’ve known most of my life.

Not only have several had significant personal and business losses, but they are also charged with accurately covering the damage as it is occurring. And they are doing it in many cases with no electricity and with their staff scattered all over the state, helping remotely. Their own homes will have to wait, but the newspaper will be printed for the good of the community.

With national rhetoric as of late tearing down this honorable profession, it’s important I think to cast a light on the importance of what they are doing.

It’s important to send prayers and love and thoughts to these people on the Texas coast, but if you can, send more.

Many reputable news organizations are publishing lists of what is needed by the victims – and what is not needed – with organizations all over Texas taking donations and getting them to the proper place. Check that out and do what you can, even if it is only $10, a box of diapers or some feminine hygiene products.

And to my friends and family who live there, or who have travelled there to help out, stay safe and keep making sure that love bats last. Your spirit is healing in many ways.

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National political news coverage is the new acid trip

This is not a political column, and because of that I endorse this message.

I remember a time when our national journalists actually reported the news. Just reported it, with no indication whatsoever how they felt about the news, because that was not their job.

Their job, and their only job, was to report the news and allow you, the semi-intelligent viewer as the case may be, to make up your own mind.

Walter Cronkite knew the secret of “not my circus, not my monkeys” when it came to that.

Journalists of that time felt no need to interject themselves into the stories of the day because they knew that’s when you cross the line between an observer and objective reporter of the news and, well, the actual news.

No pure journalist wants to be the news because the allure of the profession is the observation and clear communication to the masses. That’s it. It really is that simple.

It seems now that a job in journalism – at least on the national level and in particular TV and radio – is more kin to entertainment than pure journalism.

Don’t get me wrong, coming from me –  a hack writer who would rather write humor than pontificate the finer points of election laws – I get that I am more identified with the entertainment portion of this newspaper than the place you turn to get serious news in a concise way.

But I understand the difference, and so should everyone.

So I may have lost several IQ points Tuesday night when I turned to CNN to see how the candidates were faring in the New York state primary. I was subjected to the most asinine insult to my intelligence in recent memory, and that is saying a lot, given this political cycle.

Two talking heads – I do not know who they are, but they were incredibly happy to be reporting this – reminded me of the emcee’s of a Macy’s Day Parade in that they were seemingly outside, up high and weirdly jubilent.

They began by explaining how they were having the Empire State Building lit up in colors to reflect who, in fact, CNN was projecting to win because, hell…they are CNN.

Somehow, CNN moved heaven, earth and the powers that be in New York City in order to promote who they are projecting to win. I can only assume their logic behind this move was that they feel that forming words with their mouths and just saying it into a camera reaching millions of people isn’t nearly as exciting as it could be.

Since they were projecting Donald Trump the winner for the five minutes I stuck with it, the Empire State Building was lit crimson red. I don’t know what colors they assigned Cruz or Kasich.

I stopped watching because I had no desire to experience an impromtu acid trip compliments of CNN.

But even when they did speak semi-professionally about the results of the primary coming in, they would occasionally get distracted by the magnificence of the lit up Empire State Building and trail off whatever subject they were actually there to talk about and congratulate themselves and, of course CNN, for how very cool that is.

In fact, the lady emcee said it reminded her of a Nora Ephron movie, and called it “very New York.” Mostly I am assuming, because the Empire State Building by itself isn’t “very New York” enough.

I’m predicting sky writers with glitter and parachuting elephants and donkeys in the general election come November, and I can’t freaking wait.


My prediction for November, 2016

I remember a time when there was some dignity and reverence in what use to be considered hard news. I recognized it even when I was too young to be expected to.

The reason for that change is, of course, that national media is now corporate owned, and that is a topic for another day. For now, I am just mourning the quiet and slow acceptance of what it now means to deliver and receive the news.

I now know what my high school principal, the late Bob Dawson, meant when at my graduation in 1983 he said, “If I am looking at our future leaders, stop the world. I want off.”

We all laughed and laughed, but he was more wise than we knew.

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