Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “CNN”

So Happy – Historical Decision

I took down the Whistleblower post and it will appear in a week or so. I want to give space and recognition to the historical decision just handed down by the Supreme Court. 

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http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/politics/2013/06/26/sot-nr-scotus-doma-unconstitutional.cnn.html

Not sure what else to say. A great and long-overdue moment for all our LGBTQ community.

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA – At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

 

Anderson Cooper: Journalism’s Biggest Sellout – Tom Rossi

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about “selling out” that mostly focused on music. But musicians’ selling out is really only a minor irritation. The selling out that really burns me up and hurts us all in concrete ways is when journalists sell out. Today, I’m going to call out one of the biggest sell-outs on television, and one of the biggest disappointments to me – Anderson Cooper.

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Anderson Cooper was, not that long ago, a hero of American journalism. He did in-depth investigations into government and corporate shenanigans, he told us things that people in power didn’t want us to hear, and he did so with integrity and a non-sensationalist professionalism that was his brand. For all of this, he has won several awards. I miss THAT Anderson Cooper.

Today, Anderson Cooper is a media whore. He still has his old show on CNN, but it is worthless. In fact, his reports resemble Fox “News” in both their quality and their shallowness. Cooper has also added to his resume. He now appears semi-regularly on 60 Minutes, and he has his own daytime talk show.

The quality of his reporting on 60 Minutes leaves me wondering why they put up with him. At the end of his reports on that show, my wife and I both sit there, in disbelief, full of what seem to us as obvious questions that should have been addressed. A journalist is supposed to answer those, and questions that people didn’t even think of. A journalist is supposed to get through the fluff and cut to the meat of the story, telling us not only the where and the who (everybody does that, it’s the easy part), but the why.

Why???? What was the motivation for this event? What do (qualified) people say about it? Is this part of a bigger issue? What’s the background? If you’re talking about a government program that is turning out in an unsatisfactory way, why did that happen, and what are the alternatives? A journalist doesn’t research and come up with alternatives, but he or she ASKS people in the field what went wrong, what might have been done differently, and what could be done from here.

I saw two different Anderson Cooper reports (I think on two different shows of his) on high-speed rail. They were both done as Fox “News” reports – just “scandal/boondoggle” type talk about how much money had been spent and how the train trip from some corner of New England to New York City is only 28 minutes shorter now. WHY has all this money been spent? What, exactly, has it been spent on? WHY is there “little to show for it?” WHY are the trains “still slow?” What is the real problem? What are the alternatives? What could have been done, instead? What if nothing had been done? And maybe the big one: What should we reasonably have expected, by now?

High-speed rail is such rich ground for journalism, it just shocks me that these reports by a former top-level journalist like Anderson Cooper are so thin.

“Anderson Live” is the name of Anderson Cooper’s talk show. It’s worthless. Cooper has always said that it would not be a news program, but wow. Recently, on the show, he was discussing with his co-host for the day (or week or whatever) Melissa Joan Hart the discomfort that he feels, knowing that someone may have “tweeted” him while sitting on the toilet. This is the level to which Cooper has sunk.

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Every time I have tuned to this show I have felt dismayed with his celebrity gossip, and unneeded segments on some isolated crime, committed somewhere, that has already been covered extensively by the people who concentrate on that type of thing. The good news is that Cooper’s talk show has apparently been cancelled.

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The thing that bothers me most about Anderson’s adventures in “look-at-me-ism” is that he has spread himself so thin that the quality of his important work, the actual journalism, is obviously suffering greatly. I’m sure the networks lured Cooper with huge amounts of cash. I’m sure they told him he could be the next Oprah. With visions like that crowding his horizon, Cooper seems to have lost sight of himself.

To Anderson Cooper I say this: You have stolen an incredibly valuable resource from the people of America. We want it back. There is nothing preventing you from returning to your former glory. You will be forgiven. Put the money you have made during your long flirt with self-centered, self-indulgent, self glorification in the bank, and return to serving the people. One day, when you lay dying of old age, you can look back at a life of real accomplishment, and people will remember you with gratitude.

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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A Safeway Fairy Tale

Fairy tales never come true, right? You know: the ones where a hero tries to save a damsel in distress (from dragon/bad prince/abusive boyfriend), gets wrongly accused by the all-powerful (insert king/queen/corporate boss), punished by (insert thrown in dungeon/sent on dangerous quest/fired from job in middle of recession), and finally vanquishes his foes (insert with magic sword/unicorn/mass movement from the people) for a happy ending.

Doesn’t happen, right? Wrong.

Ryan Young was working his shift at the meat counter of a Safeway when he saw a man repeatedly push and kick a pregnant woman. Ryan didn’t hesitate and, without regard for his own safety, stepped in to protect the woman from being beaten.

A hero right? His corporate bosses probably gave him a promotion, a raise and, we can forgive them if they exploited this to show that Safeway cares about its customers, plastering pictures of the hero in every place possible.

But Corporate America never misses a chance to do the wrong thing. Claiming that Ryan should have called security instead of stepping in himself, the suspended him without pay and, pending the results of an investigation, might fire him. He should, they said have followed company procedure and called security.

Ryan can be forgiven for being such a good citizen because his wife is also pregnant. They are expecting their baby in a few months, so this is probably as good a time as ever for taking away his income, as he prepares for the financial (as well as emotional) changes.

A Safeway customer, Doug Castro, who is also a security guard, believes Ryan did the right thing by intervening.  Had he called security and held back, the victim could have sustained serious injuries and endangered the life of her baby.

So Mr. Castro turned to Change.orgasking Safeway to lift Ryan’s suspension and give him backpay for the income he lost during his involuntary time away from work.

Indeed, local Police Chief Ron Langford has reviewed the security footage and believes the man who beat his girlfriend could be charged. He also told reporters, “In my mind, in this case Ryan did the right thing.”

Enter the magic sword/wise Jedi master/fairy godmother/whatever – lets call it Change.org and the army of good people form all over the country. Over 180,000 people signed Douglas’ petition asking Safeway to reinstate Ryan with full back-pay, and Safeway has acquiesced.

Ryan’s case became news on CNN and other national media including CBS and Business Insider.

Ryan says he’s “deeply grateful” to everyone who signed the petition. “Knowing that I had all these people standing behind me and that I wasn’t alone really helped me through this difficult time,” said Ryan. “Thank you again to everyone who took the time to help me out.”

And everyone lived happily ever after.

When my boys were younger and we would read them fairy tales and ideologically stories about peace and friendship (I know, poor kids – they have never quite recovered – And To Think That We Thought We Could Never Be Friends should be required reading for every citizen in the world!)  – I would often ask them what we could learn from the story.

So here we go:

– Corporate America can and does get it wrong.

– We can stand up to them when we stand together.

– The Internet can be a powerful tool for change.

– The folks at Change.org are awesome.

– Those who signed the petition are awesome.

– Ryan Young is a hero and should be recognized as one.

– Safeway did the right thing in the end.

And now everyone can live happily ever after.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

 

A Look Back At Borders

There is a great article on CNN about the demise of Borders, great as in one of historical value and a look behind the ethos of the company. Although I wrote a tribute to Borders after my final author appearance there, I want to share this story. Employees talk of the pride and mission they felt working there, and the original owners vision.

A sad sight to any eyes

Truth is, I miss my Borders. There were two situated near my home and office respectively, both with convenient parking and I used to peruse when I wanted to buy books for my staff at Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Passover. I created a tradition where I give a gift of a book to each of them that I hope will be meaningful or timely for them and I used to deliberating in a store. This year, I did my search online.

But it is my fault that they collapsed. I am the typical customer who rarely purchased a new book. I often picked up something from the bargain bins for myself or a friend, but that never paid salaries. And yes, I admit that I often used Borders to research books that I then bought used, often on Amazon.

Now I have my kindle (or I will when it gets fixed) and I am truly committed to the ebook revolution, primarily for environmental reasons. I believe the most expensive ebook that I have bought new in a while is $7.99. I bought a couple of YA books for my son (Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowlings) new and in tree book form (we are a one e-reader family), but this is not the pace that the remaining bookstores need.

Joe Gable, right, manage a 1st Borders. Robert Teicher, left, the chain's longtime fiction buyer.

Still, though I have no cause to complain, I miss the sensory experience of Borders: the clean store (and bathrooms), the color, choice, smell, armchairs, and conversations with their committed staff (read my son’s Eragon experience – he will remember that moment forever).

As I mentioned, I am firmly behind the ebook revolution, but I will miss the disappearance of the bookstore if this is their destiny. I understand that my children’s life will be more screen based, but I would like them to share this experience. And yes, I get a kick out of seeing my books on their bookshelves.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Changing the World One Book at a Time

A week ago, I became excited at the prospect of our children becoming engaged in reading because of the e-book revolution. I posted it here.

Now I found something even more exciting. While I compete with my sons for my Kindle, how about ensuring that children who live far away from libraries, who can’t afford to buy tree-books (even if they live near a bookstore), who haven’t in the past had an option to grow up reading, have a sustainable way to do so?

This is the vision of Worldreader, a non profit whose mission is “to put a library of books into the hands of children and families in the developing world with e-reader technology“.

It is an exciting prospect that we can end global illiteracy through a sustainable technology.

Books and the ideas in them engage minds and create opportunity, but only for the few. Families and schools in the developing world have access to vanishingly little written material. Worldreader aims to put a library of digital books in the hands of every family.

For more on the organization and how to help, please check out this interview with CNN’s Ali Velshi.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com

 

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