by Mark Scheinbaum
Angel Fire, N.M.
May 1, 2011
TORNADOS AND THE TWISTED 'HO-HUM' MEDIA
ANGEL FIRE N.M., May 1, 2011 -- The true nature of New York-centric and Inside the Beltway media bias was clearly revealed on CBS Sunday morning when their coverage of the fatal frailties of weather identified most of us as people with a "Ho Hum" existence.
Reporting from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and standing in front of the splintered homes and shattered glass, Washington-based and Beltway rooted CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrews let us know that historically powerful and deadly twisters interrupted the "ho-hum lives" of this Alabama town.
Liberal-bashing Fox News, with segments from Bill O'Reilly and former CBS field producer and correspondent-turned-media critic Bernard Goldberg, want us to believe that it is their high-flying media moguls who publish and broadcast style-setting segments glorifying bi-Coastal lifestyles. Charlie Sheen is news. Donald Trump is news. People somewhere between California and New York are usually not news.
My former UPI colleague Bob Cox, now in Abiquiu, N.M., with his deep roots in Denver and the Rockies, recently pointed out, "When a dozen alleged prostitutes on Long Island, New York are believed dead and buried it is wall-to-wall national news. When 11 alleged prostitutes' bodies are uncovered on the mesa west of Albuquerque, well, no one has heard of the story outside of New Mexico."
I blame veteran newsman Charles Osgood, the host, and his producers and editors for allowing the words "ho hum" on the air.
Think about it. Think long and hard.
No matter who lived in the wreckage on your screen, no matter where they worked, who they loved, how they enhanced the lives of others, their lives as opposed to that of a former CBS White House and Supreme Court correspondent are "ho hum."
It is the barely civilized equivalent of going on the air and reporting, "Fortunately, only toothless white and black trailer trash were killed and injured and no important Americans were hurt."
My wife, also a former newspaper reporter, who had worked at two national political conventions for UPI commented, "I would have to say that the Weather Channel has done good job on the tornado deaths, and CNN has done a pretty good job, all considered, perhaps focusing a bit too much only on Alabama rather than the six other states."
I quizzed her, "All considered? All considering what?" She answered, "All considering the huge money and personnel they had already committed to the royal wedding, and wanting not to stray from that coverage."
Well, isn't that special? Instead of anchoring killer storms in America from Atlanta or Birmingham or even New York and breaking away to your magazine soft-news stories in London, let's give faint praise to those assignment editors and executive producers who allowed some, uh, ho-hum USA news to interrupt analysis of the House of Alexander McQueen's wedding gown design.
NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his executives were almost alone in understanding the deadly tornado stories were hard news, and returned their hard-news base to Dixie for the weekend.
It is easy to make too much of the CBS "ho hum" comment. It is also easy to make too little of it.
Living four miles outside of the village limits of a town of 800 full time residents whose chamber of commerce tells people they have 1,200 residents make me sensitive to implications of Ho Hum-dom.
I immediately thought of my neighbor up the hill. Let's call her Roz because that is her name. She and her husband run a regional business with real live clients and real live subsidiaries, producing real live jobs and innovating new and real live technologies.
In the ho hum town she and her husband help run the food bank at their church while she teaches music and chorus and directs holiday and musical programs. They are active in civic organizations, travel 16 hours round-trip every month or so to visit kids and grandkids, and have top credentials as leaders of many organizations.
Oh, her ho-hum life includes a stellar academic and music career in which she mentored and coached some top Nashville stars whose names even a casual fan would recognize.
Please understand what CBS is saying: We don't really count, and many of you don't really count.
In our ho-hum slope on the 8-10,000 foot levels of New Mexico's highest mountain (Wheeler Peak) the people are not as important as the people in Manhattan, Georgetown, and Beverly Hills.
The ho-hum lives in my neck of the woods funded and built one of the only fully privately funded public high schools in the United States. This school built by donations and fundraisers has consistently been rated one of the 50 top high schools of any size in the country.
The airline pilot who is building a fully operational planetarium atop his house for school kids to use is just a ho-hum guy.
The retired Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission law enforcement officer who plows roads so snowbound patients can get to the hospital, and emergency vehicles can get to homes is just a ho-hum guy.
The folks who are drilled as search and rescue responders, or volunteer fire fighters, or clinic workers, or pre-school reading tutors are just ho hum.
Finally, the family of Dr. David Westphall who lost a son in the Vietnam War and transformed a hillside into the first - and, to some, still the most heart-wrenching - privately funded Vietnam Memorial, chapel, and museum in the United States, are just ordinary people who do not rise to the level of Donald Trump or Lindsay Lohan.
Personally, I am honored and humbled to be touched by so many ho-hum lives.