Saturday, December 19, 2015


When is a journalist a journalist?
Listening to the radio last night, I heard a performer refer to herself as a journalist.
It made me cringe.
Most of the news readers and show people who clutter the networks are nothing more than pretty faces employed by mega-corporations to jack up ratings by reading prepared texts in as menacing and frightening voices as possible.
Often, I wonder if they actually believe the nonsense their masters put in front of them.
To be sure, they play it well.
They proclaim "Breaking news!" with such gusto we might actually fall into the trap of believing the hype.
And that's what's wrong.
It's hyperbole, melodrama, controlled fearmongering.
Purposeful phony hysteria.
Polls, polls, polls.
Manufactured controversy.
Negativity above all.
I used to defend news readers.
It seemed impossible to me that they would be overpaid shills for their corporate masters.
But my eyes are wide open now.
While the Martha Raditzes, Richard Engelses and a few others who seriously research their topics and report from that research are clearly the exceptions, the so-called "journalists" like John Dickerson, Wolf Blitzer and Chuck Todd are mere celebrities, readers of scripts.
It's all about ratings.
It's all about viewer share.
It's too often about who can be most sensational.
There are few people I listen to or watch anymore. BBC News, Al Jazeera America and NPR can always be counted on to give fair, unbiased news.
When I want educated commentary, I turn to Rachael Maddow, the smartest person on any network.
Labeling performers as journalists does a huge disservice to the dedicated men and women who capably "journal" the events of our times.
It's also an indictment on the gullibility of today's news consumer.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

If a greeting card could speak

It is 33 years old this year.

When I bought it in 1982, Hallmark charged 75 cents for it. Today it costs nearly four dollars.
There's nothing that noteworthy about the card... a guy with a Santa hat and red bowtie in red elf slippers with bells on them... flinging his arms open wide, saying, "Merry Christmas to a really wonderful, witty, charming, intellligent person!"

Inside, it reads, "Save this card! You can send it to me next Christmas!"

I sent it, way back then, to Michael DeNardo, a young Temple student whom I'd followed during his years at Edgewood Regional High in Winslow. Mike was studying to become a radio broadcaster, which he did most successfully. His voice still can be heard on KYW news radio.

In 1983, much to my surprise, the card reappeared, returned by Mike as a typical joke.
I saved it, and sent it back to him in 1984.

Each year, as it traversed from wherever I was living to wherever Mike was, we appended a one-line comment by way of greeting.

Gradually, we ran out of space inside the card (even writing sideways one year).
So we graduated to the back from 2004 to 2012.
That being filled by then, the following year, Mike inserted a plain white piece of card stock with the words, "This should carry us for a few more decades!"

Today, December 8, 2015, the card arrived again. It was Mike's turn this year and he did not disappoint. He said, "Our card endures. It'll be eligible for Social Security soon!"

The last time I saw him in person was at my 60th birthday party, 14 years ago. He looked like the teenage Mike I remembered and his infectious laugh hadn't faded.

But whether we are able to meet or whether our only contact is the Christmas card, we know our friendship has given us a wonderful tradition.

When the inevitable Christmas sadness settles on my heart at the absence of so many people I've loved and lost, I can look at the card Mike sends and get a boost of joy.

Little blessings mean so much and Mike is always there to provide one of my favorites.