Archive for January, 2015

“Missing Mister”

January 25, 2015

Megyn Kelly 03

 “You’ve got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

“Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” —

Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer (1944)

Mister In-Between is not only missing, but the first two lines of that Bing Crosby/Andrews Sisters classic have been flipped like a flapjack. “Gotcha” carries the day – good news gone away.

It’s a money thing.

When I started my broadcast career back in the late ‘50’s at WNDR in Syracuse monitoring police scanners, checking updates from a Western Union teletype machine and writing local copy, virtually every station in town had a full time newsroom, staffed around the clock.

Providing extensive local news coverage was seen as a critical public service, serving the community as an important consideration in being granted a license by the Federal Communication Commission to operate over limited public broadcast frequencies. This was true for both radio and television. In the pioneering days of “free market broadcasting”, anyone could go on the air on any frequency with any power they wanted. The predictable result was a chaotic cacophony of unintelligible gibberish. Can you imagine a busy intersection without traffic lights?  Same idea. Regulation was required.

Subsequently, the business model for radio and eventually television allowed enormous profits to be generated from paid advertising in return for presenting a certain amount of public affairs and public service programming, particularly emphasizing news. This was spelled out by competing entities that pledged specific percentages in their license applications and renewals. An informed electorate was seen as essential to democracy.

Alas, all of this is long gone. Such noble intent has now been swept away by the prioritization of profit over public policy. “News” must score ratings. Only this directly and immediately impacts revenue.

Here human nature takes over. What sounds better? Vegetables and vitamins or candy and cookies? Me, too! But our current diet of journalistic jam offers little more than immediate gratification at the expense of critical thinking, a recipe for the triumph of ignorance over information.

Negativity reigns supreme. Its alluring attraction is hard-wired in us all. Do we secretly prefer Gospel or gossip? Truth or trash? Salvation or sin?

With indifference to integrity, performance takes powerful precedence.

The new darling of FOX News, the attractive and vivacious Megyn Kelly, snarled her way past both Sean Hannity and Bill O’ Reilly in the recent November ’14 ratings sweeps to become #1 and Queen of Cable TV. She’s brutally candid about what it takes. According to a profile in the New York Times Magazine, Megyn enthusiastically reports she would have gladly gone to work for MSNBC, her current progressive competitor, ten years ago when she was seeking a network position. “I’d have done O.K. there, too”, she unabashedly states – humility taking a back seat to honesty.

Last year’s 43-8 blowout of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII scored 111.5 million viewers on Fox TV. This year’s Presidential State of the Union Address was watched by only 33.3 million on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, Azteca, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC combined. That’s less than one-third of those football fans and barely ten percent of our overall population.

Why worry about unemployment, foreign affairs, immigration issues, the national debt, an outrageous and shocking disparity in wealth distribution and our collective future as a nation when there’s a “Deflate-gate” to debate?

That’s not to say we won’t be discussing the results of this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX at our February Meeting of the Oakhurst Democratic Club on Saturday, February 7th, at Dennys. But we’ll also be hearing from our new California Highway Patrol Commander, Jason Daughrity, as we welcome him to the area. He’ll have some important things to say you won’t hear on the radio.

Breakfast is at 8:30 and the program starts at 9:30. As moderator, I keep things moving along. You don’t have to be a Democrat to attend and/or actively participate in discussions. It’s a democracy.  Whatever your political persuasion, you’ll do O.K. with us, too.

See you at Dennys!

“Delaware North vs. US”

January 5, 2015


That’s how it’s coming down.

Delaware North vs. The People of the United States.

It’s January 8, 2015. On this date in history, the first American commercial corporation was chartered as The New York Fishing Company in 1625.

Today we see the Delaware North Companies claiming ownership of these names: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Badger Pass, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel and Yosemite Lodge. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, such allegation arises as the National Park Service is accepting bids for a new concessionaire’s agreement at Yosemite with the submission window now closing on January 20th.

Curiously, Delaware North had yet to officially put itself in the running at the start of this New Year, although it’s had plenty of time to do so.  DNC has only held the current contract since 1993. It was supposed to expire in 2008, but was extended by mutual agreement until now.

This privately held corporation, one of the world’s largest, says it wants 51 million dollars for “intellectual property rights” to Yosemite names, several of which date back more than 100 years – the Wawona Hotel to 1865 and Curry Village to 1899.  Perhaps it’s going to bail and simply wants a goodbye sweetener?

 “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”

Yosemite spokesperson Scott Gediman is quoted as being surprised by DNC’s position, saying, “These names belong to the American people.” 

I couldn’t agree more. Judging from area comments coming from all sides of the political spectrum, I’m certainly not alone.

John Pero, Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party Coordinator, states,  “I think Delaware North is trying what Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton are so good at. A shakedown of any business or group that doesn’t agree with them. This is nothing more than a blackmail attempt by DNC to poison the well and attempt to make it extremely difficult for any other concessionaire to win the bid at Yosemite. Get the hook and remove them, they’ve overstayed their welcome. “

Madera County District 5 Township Supervisor Tom Wheeler expressed his chagrin. “What I really don’t understand is how DNC got the trademarks without our park service knowing about it. Someone dropped the ball. Now everyone who bids faces a disadvantage. But I do think DNC does a really good job.”

George Whitmore of the Sierra Club, among the first to successfully ascend El Capitan in 1958, notes that the DNC also succeeded in trademarking the name of the Park itself. He observes, “Yosemite National Park” is a name that DNC now claims. I guess I won’t be able to peddle my “Yosemite National Park” T-shirts at the Fresno County Fair next fall.” Whitmore continues, “I suspect that DNC has kicked the sleeping dog.  Renewal of the concession contract had been a non-issue until now, but this has awakened the public to the fact that there is something to be concerned about. “

While Yosemite action, valued at over 140 million dollars annually, was Delaware’s first venture into operating within a National Park, it has since extended its involvement to the Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yellowstone. Is the name “Old Faithful” now regarded as Company property? How about “North Rim”, “Park Gate” or “Shenandoah?” DNC is even running the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Will they soon say the names Mercury, Venus, the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and poor little Pluto belong to them? We’ll see what Walt Disney has to say about that last one.

What I find most surprising in this whole creepy development is that my own experience with DNC has been nothing but positive since moving to Oakhurst eight years ago. Up to and including highest executive levels, I have always found local DNC employees to be extraordinarily helpful, thoughtful, competent and thoroughly professional in every way without exception.

There’s something happening here I just don’t understand.