In this episode I take a look back at Margot Kidder passing away and her impact on the Superman legacy. I question whether or not the DC films can ever do as well as Marvel or if the whole super hero craze is gearing up to wind down. I tackled the controversy over the new Thundercats cartoon’s art style. I also give a shout out to a friend’s podcast. There might be a few surprises too so be sure to check it out, share with your friends and feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for listening.
No matter if you work in print, digital, television or radio the one thing every journalist keeps hearing over and over is about the 24-hour news cycle. Things have heated up in recent years. How do traditional journalists trained in ‘old media’ adjust to the ever changing times?
When I began college in 2011 I signed up to study Broadcasting. At the time my interest was in film making. The closest I could get to studying film at the university I was attending was Broadcasting. They offered a few classes in audio and video production. I set out to minor in Theater with the intention of meeting actors and other players who I could team up with in my endeavors. By the end of my second semester everything changed. I took a class in introductory news writing and photography. Combined with a course in media software (Photoshop and InDesign specifically) I slowly began to increase my interest in becoming a journalist.
The first time I went out into the field to cover a story I was nervous, anxious and excited all at the same time. I put in my best effort, (I was still very shy and anti social at this time) and I earned a B- on my story. This was not a bad grade in my mind but below the threshold for publication. That meant all my hard work was for nothing. That didn’t stop me from trying again. I decided the second story I would really contemplate my professors advice and find a subject more interesting to the readers.
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see a story I wrote, along with photos I took, printed in my college newspaper. The feeling was tremendous. Still, it wasn’t yet enough to snap me out of the delusion I would get into film but it gave me a hunger I had not felt before.
I continued my education with a new slant. This time I was more determined to have a more realistic fall back. So I changed my minor from Theater to Political Science. I had always been interested in politics so it was a natural fit. My advisor felt that if I followed a career in the news media field politics would be my strength.
By the time I left college things had changed. We witnessed the death of Osama Bid Laden, the rise of Al Jazeera as an alternative news outlet and YouTube was increasingly becoming important to the spread of information. In 2015 I landed my first job at a newspaper. This was the first time I put on a press badge around my neck. Suddenly I was transformed. No longer did I want to pursue a career in video production. I was a journalist and nothing was going to change that.
What I learned about being in the news industry is you have to hit your deadline. You have to be as accurate as humanly possible. You have to hit your deadline. Oh and you really have to be careful you don’t miss your deadline. I made the mistake of getting lax at my last job. I was working at a weekly newspaper in a small town. Sure, the work was as professional and important to our community as any other news outlet. The thing was, when you have a whole week to get our work done, deadlines become a little moving target. The publisher didn’t quite see it that way and so we ended up having to work many long hours. This taught me to be better organized. The goal was to make sure I did everything I could to get my stories completed on time. I didn’t always meet that goal but we did our best.
Another thing I learned working at a weekly newspaper was you have to know your audience. In the world of hyper local news your stories can really only be catered to that very specific audience. Otherwise it doesn’t make it to print as it won’t pique the interest of the readers. I worked in that office for 2 years and eight months. Truth be told, the money and work was such I could have stayed there for another 2 years and been fine. However, I had aspirations to do more with my life and so I gave my notice to pursue other projects.
Once I arrived back in the area I was raised things began to change. On the one hand my confidence began to grow as I knew I was fighting more experienced journalists for job interviews. On the other hand I began to slowly realize 2 and a half years at a weekly newspaper amounted to no more than 6 months worth of work at a daily newspaper. I was suddenly faced with the harsh reality I wasn’t going to be getting any new experience either until someone decided to offer me a new job. That’s when I realized I had to go the freelance route for the time being.
Once I began pitching stories as a freelance reporter the first thing I learned was I was no longer guaranteed, well anything. Priority was given to staff reporters. When I did show up to an event to cover it, I was treated no different than I had been as a staff writer for my previous publication. However I quickly learned I could invest time, effort, energy and money doing a story that the newspaper might not buy. In some cases they flat rejected the story based on lack of interest. I had never pitched stories to a daily newspaper before so naturally I was falling back on my training as a reporter for a weekly, community newspaper. Finally I got a break and one of the daily newspapers bought one of my stories.
Why am I recanting this story? Because it’s important to remember as a journalist what the market is doing. Like it or not news outlets are businesses which need to make money. Journalists are also people who need to eat, pay bills and earn a living.
As I watched news unfold on Twitter I started to remember how fast the national news media works. As a journalist working at a weekly newspaper I would often have to cover national events localized to appeal to our market. We had the luxury of being able to take our time and get the facts right. Meanwhile we had to sit back and watch the national media issue corrections, alter stories and write new stories with updated facts. The national media, in this 24-hour news cycle has to get it first, then they can get it right later. This leads to false facts getting published then being corrected or retracted. The problem is with social media it has become easier to spread the early reports, false facts and misinformation long before the hard hitting journalists have a chance to do their jobs and sort out all the noise.
Once I realized that a journalist is just a regular citizen with the protected right to share information I made a decision to make changes to my website. I want to be taken seriously as a journalist but I don’t want to be victim to the 24-hour news cycle of get it first. I want my stories to be accurate and right the first time. Sure, I can always edit after the fact but I would rather not have to do that. I won’t be focused on hard news, or breaking news as it’s called in the industry. Instead I want to get back into writing feature stories, in depth articles and stories covering what goes on in the world not from a get it first perspective but a get it right and publish on deadline.
I try not to get political on my podcast. I made this decision partly because I was working at a newspaper when I started doing the podcast and so I felt it best to keep my political views away from my newspaper audience. My publisher advised I stick to that as it was technically against company policy to discuss politics on social media. Now, I am not currently working for a newspaper and this blog of mine is well known to contain my personal opinions. Still, as a journalist I often try to keep my politics to myself.
That being said, it’s now election season gearing up in the media so I am going to have to put on my adult pants and tackle this stuff head on. After all, if I want to be taken seriously as a journalist I am going to have to tackle serious issues. With that in mind I am going to start a series of more investigative editorial stories. I want to keep using this website for the intended purpose of making sense of the world. Often I use popular culture to make sense of the world, so I discuss popular culture.
As far as politics go, I feel I am at least as qualified as any average Joe. I mean, I am fairly informed, college educated and I have experience interviewing politicians during my 3 years working for the news media. Thus I am going to start modifying the blog in order to allow for more political discourse. I am not entirely sure if I will continue to adhere to my no politics on the podcast or if I will slowly lift those restrictions. I will, however, begin getting a lot more political on the blog. I am not going to turn this into a social commentary site or a vehicle for political change, rather I am hoping to hone my skills covering politics in an effort to advance my career as a journalist.
I will begin by publishing modified versions of political stories I wrote for the newspaper. I will include photos that I took along with stories I wrote. I am also going to begin digging into other political issues, ranging from elections, candidates and the hot-button issues. I am probably not going to give away my personal stance on issues but I will do my best to be as fair and objective a journalist as I can. I hope my readers will bear with me during this transition, and who knows maybe I can reach a wider audience.
Rep. O’Rourke draws large crowd in Sherman
By Richard A. Todd
-Photo by Richard A. Todd
GRAYSON COUNTY DEMOCRATS HOST TOWN HALL MEETING– U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) was invited to speak in a town hall meeting at the Grayson County Courthouse in Sherman on Sunday, Aug. 13. 2017. Organizers included, in no particular order: Lander Bethel, Dan Pucul, Genna Mitchell Bethel, Roger Sanders, Andra Petrean, Mark Ewig, Beto O’Rourke (center back blue shirt), Barb Rush, Glenn Melancon, Christina Johnstone, Glen Johnstone, Rajendra Wagle, Terry Templeton, Dinesh Wagle and Marion Morgan. O’Rourke is running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) for a seat in the U.S. Senate.
A Town Hall meeting that took place on Sunday, Aug. 13 at the Grayson County Court house drew a crowd of over 300 people. The focus of the town hall, U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, (D-El Paso), speaking to potential voters in Grayson County. O’Rourke brought out the big guns and used strong words to take on his political opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz, (R- Houston), currently sitting Senator from
Texas. In a heated story about immigrants from South America that flooded into Texas during the previous administration O’Rourke fired up his base by directing harsh words towards the current administration. “Who would have thought that in 2017 we’d be having to hold marches for civil rights?” he asked to a fired-up crowd.
-Photo by Richard A. Todd
FULL HOUSE– Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) spoke to a crowd of over 300 attentive listeners at a town hall meeting on Aug. 13, 2017 at the Grayson County Courthouse. Rep. O’Rourke is running against Sen. Ted Cruz (R) for a seat in the U.S. Senate in next year’s mid-term election
“We can’t wait until 2020. We need to start to unravel the policies this president has started now.” – Rep. Beto O’Rourke
Gordonville residents Clyde and Barbara Reynolds were in attendance.
“We came to hear what he had to say,” said Barbara. “We heard enough. This man is getting my vote.” she said.
O’Rourke has an uphill battle if he wants to persuade Grayson County voters. In the previous two elections Grayson County voted nearly 75 percent for the Republican candidate. In 2012 when they elected Sen. Cruz, and again in 2016 when they contributed to sending Donald Trump to the White House.
“I’m not looking just to voters who supported the president. I have had people come up to me who said they voted for Trump who are supporting me.” he said.
He took a hard stance on a few key issues. When asked about a woman’s right to choose,
“That’s non-negotiable for me. A woman has a right to make her own decisions about what she does with her body.” he said to cheers.
Other hot button issues were education, healthcare and immigration. He went so far as to say he favored universal healthcare and that it was the next step. On education he wants to do away with and replace the No Child Left Behind Act. When faced with a question he didn’t have a response for, he was quick to suggest he would better serve the voters by doing further research.
At one point he took down the name and information of a young man who asked a question about animal rights the congressman didn’t have a definitive answer for.
“I will have to do more research and get back to you, but I want to make sure I get it right.” he said.
He told stories of children, some Hispanic, others Muslim, who asked him “why doesn’t the president like me” referring to Trump. When asked if police should be allowed to arrest people who attend protests in military garb his response was a firm defense of all Americans’ first amendment rights. He did not condone the use of violence and called the incidents that took place in Charlottesville over the weekend acts of terrorism.
“We need to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem” he repeatedly said during the event. He added, “We need to move forward, not backwards.”
He told stories how people need to live in communities with downtown districts where people come face to face instead of living in gated communities.
“We need to invest in down town projects” he said.
“These [gated communities] separate us versus them. Communities are part of how we became so divisive in the first place.” he said.
He also proclaimed he wants to invest more in alternative energy, suggesting he sees the fight against the oil and natural gas industry as being similar to the whaling industry, a fight he claimed his side won.
He also said he favors term limits going so far as to indicate he would serve his two terms then step aside. It was not clear if he was counting his time in the House of Representatives as a part of that claim. The event was organized by members of the Grayson County Democratic Party. There were people in attendance from Grayson, Fannin, Cooke, Collin and Denton counties, and at least two who indicated they were from Rockwall.
O’Rourke announced his candidacy to unseat Sen. Cruz in March of this year. He will continue his tour of the state until the end of the month when he will return to his home district of El Paso, a city he referenced many times throughout the day.
–Editors note: This story originally ran in the Aug. 18, 2017 issue of the Whitesboro News-Record. It is recreated here for posterity sake.
Richard A. Todd is a journalist, photographer and podcast host. He is currently writing stories freelance for local newspapers in the Magic Valley of Southern Idaho and Elko County, Nevada.