Monday, March 21, 2005

What Would Congress Do ...

if confessed child murderer John Evander Couey had a massive stroke, lapsed into a vegetative state, and his family wanted to pull out his feeding tube?

Congress has already decided that it is comfortable making life-and-death choices for individuals and families. It's already concluded it doesn't require knowledge of such situations beyond what it sees on the news. And the Terry Schiavo memo from the GOP leadership outlined the potential political gain in such tragedies.

What would congress do? Probably pass a bill to keep Couey alive in the hope he'd recover enough to be executed.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Want to be a News Reporter?

Newly minted journalists face the most brutal competition in the history of the business.

There are fewer jobs, even at the smaller publications and broadcast stations where new journalists are expected to learn their craft. Even when they fight their way into a full-time job, rookies often find themselves on a self-education program because the pace is faster and there are fewer editors to teach and mentor.

Eventually, Judgment Day arrives and they are graded and evaluated. And some of the best don't make the cut. They may have demonstrated rapid growth and glow with potential. But they are sent away simply because they are terrible employees.

They show up late more often than on time. They dress inappropriately. They try to fake their way through a mid-week party hangover. They don't read the work schedule. They complain about having to work nights and weekends. They ask to take vacation they haven't earned. They leave editors idling next to their desk while they finish their personal phone calls. These are the same people whose mantras include, "I forgot," "I'm sorry, and "nobody told me to do that."

This kind of behavior is a regular topic among editors and senior reporters, many of whom are of the Baby Boom generation, supposedly the most indulged in history. An endless string of theories are offered, all true in part. Some believe that adolescence is lasting longer. Others argue that many young people possess an outsize sense of entitlement and believe their wants and needs are always supreme. A few suggest that journalism teachers don't offer enough tough love to prepare students for the real world.

Far too many young journalists treat the professional newsroom as an extension of their college experience. No editor should have to tell anyone that a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops are unacceptable attire when covering a funeral. (It happened.) No editor should have to answer the question "Why?" after telling a reporter it's important to arrive for work on time. (It happens all the time.) And the more a reporter needs such parental guidance, the less likely it is the reporter will have the opportunity to grow in their profession.

Consider the recent college grad whose first question during the job interview was "How's the surfing around here?" (It happened.) Consider two "A" reporters, one who consistently shows she's serious about her job and one who can't give up her image as a rebel in all ways. Guess who didn't get a job in the first place, and guess who would lose hers if layoffs were announced.

The best newsrooms embrace fun - even some silliness - and operate in a generally collegial way. But that can only work when people trust each other to be reliable and professional. New college grads and even those with a few years of experience face dozens of obstacles in their path to a career in journalism. They should avoid erecting their own.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Farewell, Koko

To: Koko The Talking Gorilla
From: Bill
Subj: Breaking Up

For some time now, I've felt you drifting away. I hoped it was just a phase and that you would once again embrace me. I kept my increasing turmoil to myself because I loved you and wanted to give you your own space. My dream was that you would work through your issues, return to my side, and sign "cute kitten" as you gazed into my eyes.

But the exposure of your fetish for female nipples has ruined everything. We're through.

I was confused when you asked me to hire a dozen strippers to entertain you on your birthday. But I did it anyway because I loved you and would have done anything to make you happy. I spent all my money on warehouse-sized sacks of Hershey's Kisses, just to see the look of ecstasy on your face. When you watched wet T-shirt contest videos and clapped your hands I believed you were mocking the behavior of us silly humans.

I was so naive.

Perhaps I should have shared my misgivings long ago. Maybe deep inside I knew I could never hold the affection of a sophisticated gorilla of the world like you. That doesn't matter now. All that is real to me is my pain.

But more intense than the agony caused by your betrayal is the humiliation. Why did I have to read about this in the newspapers? Why didn't you tell me you had finally come to understand your true nature? Even with a broken heart I would have been willing to share and remain your friend.

I hope that someday I learn to forgive you and focus on all the wonderful times we had together. But I know I will never, ever, again be able to talk to Penny, the woman who launched you down a path that led away from my love. I have attached a photo of me signing a short message to her. Could you share it with her?

Yes, Koko, I'm bitter and angry. Eventually I will move on, but, for now you should know that Koko is bad girl gorilla and hurts man Bill.