Archive for the ‘Headlines’ Category

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What I am is what I am…

Minutes after meeting legendary CBS newsman Bill Plante, I was throwing up in the opulent bathroom of the Michigan Avenue Hilton.

It likely had more to do with the several whiskey waters I had tossed back that evening (a little rugged for a 20-year-old Coors Light drinker) than the excitement of meeting Mr. Plante but still, I’d just shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries with a reporter I’d watched on the national news for years.

It was the 1980’s and I was in Chicago for the Society of Professional Journalists (then Sigma Delta Chi) convention. Three of us officers of our university’s chapter made the trip to learn about journalism ethics, meet leaders in the industry and find out if we had what it took to be journalists. We did and all went on to have careers in the field.

The Society of Professional Journalists is our country’s oldest journalism organization, promoting ethics and freedom in journalism for 108 years. It was an honor to belong to it because its members represented the reporters people trusted to tell them the truth.

I grew up during a time of great journalists. Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ed Bradley, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Charles Kuralt, Dan Rather, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Walters. We tuned into their broadcasts and read their articles to find out what was happening in our world. They had access to people and places we didn’t so they could go in and ask the questions we wanted to but couldn’t. That was their job – to be our eyes and ears and voices and we trusted them to do that.

I’m proud of the years I spent as a reporter and news director and hope during that time, people regarded me as an ethical journalist who reported the facts.  

Once trusted news outlets and reporters are taking a big hit in credibility these days and President Trump decries “fake news” on a daily basis. In the old days, you could back up your facts with film footage or audio clips or photographs. There was always the chance those materials could be tampered with but the technology wasn’t as readily available to do that as it is today. Now anyone with Photoshop or a video editing app can turn out altered imagery and post it online in minutes for the world to see.

So when it comes to news, if you can’t trust what you see, hear or read, what can you trust? 

Your common sense.

Fake news reels you in because it usually contains just enough truth to make you think it MIGHT be plausible and that little bit of doubt makes you overlook the misinformation and inaccuracies. We’re in such a rush to know, know, KNOW everything that we don’t take the time to step back and use our common sense. 

It’s your right to believe what you want to believe. But wouldn’t you rather believe something that was TRUE?

There are still good, ethical journalists out there who are doing their damnedest to tell us the truth. We just have to be open to hearing it.

Where do you get your news? What media outlets do YOU trust?

voter-instrux-1116I’ve voted in every general election since 1984. As a registered Independent, those are the only elections I can vote in but I never considered that a limitation to having my voice heard. I appreciated being able to vote for the person I truly thought could do the best job regardless of their party.

But Tuesday, for the first time in my voting career, I’ll be voting for the person I think will do the least amount of damage.

Clinton and Trump have definitely made the 2016 Presidential race one worth talking about. People I’ve never heard discuss politics before are talking about it now…loudly. Friends who haven’t been registered to vote in years, if ever, will be casting ballots on Nov. 8.

There’s a multitude of reasons why we vote for who we vote for. But there are a few I just can’t accept.

I’m only voting for Hillary because she’s a woman.

It’ll be an historic moment if we finally elect a woman president. Other countries have long had female leaders; it’s crazy that it’s taken this long for our country to get on board. The first woman president of the United States will be under tremendous scrutiny and face a lot of criticism if they screw it up. Plenty of people are waiting for that to happen. Don’t vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman; vote for her because you believe she’s the best PERSON for the job. History will write itself on the gender issue.

I’m only voting for Trump because we need a change.

Change is coming no matter who wins. Trump’s appeal is that he’s the anti-politician and Americans are tired of the typical politician. Don’t vote for the Donald because he’s promising to “change” America; every politician runs on a platform for change. Vote for him because you believe he’s actually got a plan – a viable, specific plan – to change America for the BETTER.

I’m only voting for Clinton/Trump because I don’t want Trump/Clinton to win.

Leave that kind of strategy to high school homecoming elections where the winner’s biggest duties are riding on a parade float and posing for a yearbook photo. The person who’s elected on Nov. 8 will spend four years making important decisions that affect all of us – our families, our businesses, our financial stability, our future. They’ll have a lot of power and if they don’t know how to use it, we’re all in trouble.

Most of what we’ve heard about our presidential candidates in the last few months are reasons why we SHOULDN’T vote for them. Is Hillary Clinton the first political candidate who’s made questionable decisions, acted in secret and has blood on her hands? No. Is Donald Trump the first political candidate who’s groped women, insulted minorities and run an entire campaign without detailing what he’ll really do once he’s in office? No.

In South Dakota, we’re limited by law (SDCL 12-18-15) to no more than 10 minutes in a voting booth on Election Day. I’ve read the Secretary of State’s pamphlet on the ballot measures and marked my sample ballot already. When I walk into that voting booth on Tuesday, I’ll spend about 3 minutes actually voting. Which leaves me 7 minutes to stand there and wonder if I’ve made the right decision.

Are you nervous about the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election? Why or why not?

 

If our names determine our destinies, Jack Pinto was destined for greatness. Those three short syllables ring of action, purpose and charisma. A boy named Jack Pinto could grow up to be anything: a fighter pilot, a rock star, a politician, a sports legend, a hero. Or nothing at all.

Jack Pinto was a six-year-old who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though the funerals are long over and the media have moved on, I can’t get him out of my head. It’s the name. And the picture. You’ve probably seen it. He’s wearing a football jersey (his team was the Giants) and the letters “NY” are emblazoned on his flushed cheek. He’s raising a power fist that says “Go Giants” to the camera and you can tell by the grin and the gleam in his eye that pint-sized Jack Pinto is a force to be reckoned with. When that picture was taken, it may not have been possible to guess what kind of mark that kid would make on the world but by God, you knew he would make one.

In one magazine article about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, it’s a sad coincidence that on the flipside of the page with Jack Pinto’s picture on it is a photo of another boy. Adam Lanza. In it, he’s smiling shyly at the camera, one hand raised in greeting. He looks like one of those kids in high school who at best blends into the wallpaper and that nobody ever remembers or at worst, gets picked on in the hallways and nobody cares. When that picture was taken, you wouldn’t have guessed that that kid would make a mark on the world. But he did, by killing 27 people, including Jack Pinto.

The Sandy Hook massacre continues to raise questions about gun control, security measures in schools, and the treatment of mental illness. In my mind, those questions are joined by one more: what greatness lay ahead for Jack Pinto? It’s a shame that we’ll never know.

On June 9, 2011, the Missouri River was steadily creeping over its banks into Pierre, South Dakota , where I live. On June 9, 1972, Rapid Creek was careening through Rapid City, South Dakota, where I briefly lived.

The floods in these two communities are separated by so much more than 40 years and 180 miles. Last year’s flood drove people from their homes, shuttered businesses, and caused millions of dollars in property damage. But we saw it coming. In fact, many watched helplessly as the Missouri River rose and rose, flowing unheeded over a span of weeks and months. There was some time to evacuate (as I related in “What Do You Take?”), fill sandbags, and construct levees.

In 1972, the residents of Rapid City didn’t know what hit them. A storm dumped 10 inches of rain over a 60-mile area, flash-flooding Rapid Creek which winds through the city. Water roared over the creek banks, sweeping buildings, vehicles, trees, and people, ahead of it. Throughout the night, residents clung to whatever they could to survive – fences, trees, light poles, the roofs of houses. They heard the screams of others being swept away, the crack of beams splintering, the groan of metal as cars collided. And above it all, the deafening rush of the water.

When the floodwaters receded on June 10, 1972, 238 people were dead. More than 1,300 homes were completely destroyed with 2,800 more damaged. Thirty-six businesses were lost with another 236 sustaining heavy damage. Five thousand vehicles became scrap metal. The recovery took years.

In the summer of 1985, I was an intern at a radio station in Rapid City and even thirteen years after the horrific events of that day, a heavy rain could still instill fear and dread among the city’s residents.

On the 40th anniversary of the Rapid Creek flood, Rapid City is a community resurrected, risen from the floodwaters that still flow in the memory of so many. And while the devastation caused by last year’s flood in my own community should not be minimized, I can’t help but think of just how lucky we are; it could have been so much worse.

In 1972, the Rapid City Journal gave the country a firsthand account of the Rapid Creek flood. Forty years later, they’re doing the same with an impressive series of interviews and images. It’s well worth a look, especially the collection “The People of the 1972 Flood”.

Carton 12 of 12 in the big move.

It costs more beer to get a dozen boxes of books carried across a front lawn than it takes to get a six-hundred-pound hide-a-bed couch shoved through a front door.

“ANOTHER box of books?” groaned the friends who were helping us move, as I handed over the last carton.

“It’s just paperbacks,” I said. “Did I mention there‘s beer?”

By the time we moved into our current house, I’d been amassing reading material for about 25 years. I am now 40 years into my collection. New selections are added and familiar tomes recycled continuously. I thought the Thompson library was pretty impressive until I read about Brewster Kahle’s little project to save the world’s books.

Kahle is an Internet entrepreneur whose goal is to collect one copy of every book ever published. With more books going digital, he wondered what was going to happen to all the hard copies? Now, he and his staff of 150 helpers are packing them away for safe-keeping in shipping containers in a warehouse in Richmond, California. They’re being digitized first but should something happen to the electronic copies, the physical ones, with covers and spines and pages you can turn the corners back on, will still exist. Kahle’s crew has half a million squirreled away already with a goal of 10 million altogether.

The number of books published since publishing began is many times more than 10 million. So how does he decide what to keep? For my own culling criteria, if I look at the book’s cover and know the butler did it with a candlestick in the dining room after finding out the mysterious woman he was having an affair with is really his cousin, it can go. But if I scan the book jacket and find one tidbit I don’t remember reading, it’s a keeper. My old books are usually passed along to other readers but there was one book that sucked so badly I actually threw it away. If I could have tracked down every copy of it and shredded them all to save the reading public from trudging through such crap, I would have. At least I was able to save one unsuspecting thrift store bibliophile from making the same mistake I did.

You can learn more about Kahle’s project at the Internet Archives, an online respository which includes archived text, video and audio. Another great resource for free audio books and stories no longer in print is Librivox, a site for which I’ve actually recorded some selections.

Mr. Kahle, best of luck to you in your efforts. I can’t imagine how much beer money it’s costing you to get the job done.

If you were saving hard copy books from extinction, what book would you make sure made it into the archives?

The Internet is a dark place to be today. That’s because many popular websites, including our own WordPress, have blacked out their content, darkened their doors in protest, to shed light on two anti-piracy bills now being discussed in Congress.

The supporters of the U.S. House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the U.S. Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) say the Internet can be a dark place to be any day, populated with unscrupulous users who pirate copyrighted material. Whether such illegal activities exist isn’t the point; they do, and we all know they do. The majority of us pay for our downloads, like we’re supposed to. Others don’t and that’s the problem.

While SOPA and PIPA may be aimed at foreign-based websites, the Internet is a global community and their passage could have serious implications for domestic sites as well. That’s the thing about legislation, and I say this as a former newsperson and United Press International correspondent who’s covered government activities: few pieces of legislation are as cut and dried and simple as they appear to be. Any law, no matter how tightly written, is open to interpretation and there’s no limit to the number of interpreters or the meanings they’ll glean from it. Could the proposed power in SOPA and PIPA lead to censorship, intentional or otherwise? Anything’s possible.

For Congress to make informed decisions, they need to hear from all sides of the issue. That’s what today’s protest is about – getting voices heard. Yours, mine, everyone with a stake and a stand in the matter. Be a voice in the dark today – you might be surprised at who’s listening.

There’s a violent stranger beating down your door. You don’t know if they’re going to rob you, beat you, rape you, kill you. Would you shoot them? COULD you shoot them? She did.

18-Year-Old Mom Kills Intruder

Imagine the scene. Front door splintered, footsteps thundering down the hallway, voices shouting, baby crying. Barricaded in a room with loaded weapons and an emergency operator on the phone, and you’re asking whether you can kill someone to save your child. You’re ready to; you just want to know if you CAN.

The rest of us wonder “What would I do if it were me?” As a bartender and cashier at a number of casinos, I was told by every boss I worked for that if an armed robber walked through the door, you give them what they want, get them the hell out of there as fast as you can, then call the police. You don’t put yourself in harm’s way for things because things can be replaced. People can’t be.

I don’t have any kids but if other members of my family and I were in danger from an armed intruder who meant to do us bodily harm, I would do my damnedest to protect them. We never know for sure how we’ll react in that kind of situation until we’re actually in it. But if you had to make the decision, right now, what would you have done?