Wednesday, January 28, 2009

that's just plain sad

Many of us who worked there knew it could happen. Hell, most of us realized at a point that it would happen. And since November, 2005, when Ted Koppel was politely but clearly asked to clean out his desk, and take his umpteen Emmy's and duPonts home with him, the clock was ticking on how long Nightline had as a show at ABC.

Well, it's lasted over three years, but it's unclear if it will make it to four. As Bill Carter reports for Thursday's New York Times, ABC executives are moving fast to counter NBC by moving their excuse for late night humor, Jimmy Kimmel, into a competitive slot with Conan O'Brien and his Tonight Show.

As one who knew what Nightline once represented, and knew what it took to earn that place, I have very bittersweet feelings.

It's just plain said that a show that fired regularly, and consistently, on all eight cylinders, was treated the way it was by news and corporate executives at ABC. It seems like only yesterday, even though it was 2002, that David Letterman spared us from having Nightline taken from the air.

Sure, that was the first public salvo. Koppel's not so public execution was the second. and now, in a New York Times story sure to be denied by both ABC executives in LA and ABC News honchos in NY, we have what is likely the third and final straw.

Broadcast journalism has come a long way over the past 60 years. Perhaps it's been full circle. From brief newscasts produced visibly by corporate sponsors, today we cover corporate actions and tabloid tales, occasionally digressing to present some depth, some perspective, perhaps even some insight.

Nightline can rightly claim to be the godfather of today's cable talkfests. But that's not what it was all about. It was about shining a light on an issue, and focusing that light until all could see what was before them. It was about questioning power with truth, and occasionally putting truth to power. It was about a willingness to let an interview pass if handlers were more concerned about conditions than news. And is was about being there for an audience, an audience built carefully over time by Koppel and a team of diligent and caring producers who toiled in rough places to bring hard stories to bright screens in dark rooms across the country.

Nightline is needed now, especially at a time where there are no clear heirs to this style and format. It would clearly be a shame for the show, even in present form, to be summarily dismissed from the air. Let's hope that truth and justice win out.

For one, I am not sanguine, this time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

it's all about the family

Two postings in one day. And to think I have never had a Red Bull in my life.

This comes to us from the front page of today's Washington Post. And it's a clear winner. If you're reading this, I suspect you may have even heard about this on your cable news, or as the kicker on the local news, or even on the radio during afternoon drive.

On Monday morning, when many families in the country were returning to the work and school schedule they had let slip over the holidays, a rural Virginia family apparently had some difficulty getting it together.

While dad headed off for work at 6:30, presumably leaving his wife to tend to their 4 and 6 year olds, mom decided to sleep in that day. The 6 year old, ever a go-getter, and apparently a bit miffed that he had missed his school bus that morning, grabbed the keys to the family car, and headed off to his elementary school, where he is in the first grade, for both breakfast and education.

Well, the little sucker sure got an education. According to the Post,, the future NASCAR driver, and likely current Ricky Bobby fan, drove almost all of the ten miles to school before he ran afoul of the rules of the road, and the road itself.

While he navigated himself in the right direction, and was almost within eyeshot of the school, he switched back too fast on the wheel and wiped out on the side of the road, crashing the family Taurus (is that really considered a total loss, or a blessing of sorts).

The first person on the scene checked to see that the little boy was OK, and once he did, the kid got up and attempted to run off to school. Man, they must be strict on the attendance policy at that school.

But of course it does get better. The parents are in additional trouble as dad apparently had been directed by authorities not to allow mom to be in custody of the children absent another adult. Don't want to speculate here, but if we were to do so, it might be a safe bet that mom has some issues with stimulants, or depressants, or things you can't readily obtain in the checkout line at your neighborhood grocery.

Here's where I will get on a soapbox, and whether you can afford a f/t live in nanny while you head off to the gym, or can't bother to wake up in the morning in time to get junior off to school for government breakfast, consider whether you can parent, and whether you have not only the skills but the patience required for this job. We've long heard it's the hardest job out there. And it is, and it multiplies geometrically with each additional child beyond the first.

So think about this, and be responsible, especially if you're already a parent.

till death you do part, or something like that

I love these stories. I just love how completely fucked up people can make their lives, and the lives of others. And I'm so glad these people live in Omaha. Hope they enjoy it on the eastern end of Nebraska. Go Huskers.

And this story could also fit into an 'ain't technology great' series, but I leave that for others.


Nebraska man sues ex-wife for putting recorder in toy

  • By TIMBERLY ROSS, Associated Press Writer
  • Wed Jan 7, 6:31 am ET

OMAHA, Neb. – An Omaha man has filed a lawsuit accusing his ex-wife and former father-in-law of hiding a recording device inside his daughter's teddy bear in order to spy on him.

The lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Omaha claims Dianna Divingnzzo and her father, Sam Divingnzzo, tried to use the audio recorded by the toy in the divorced couple's custody case.

Dianna Divingnzzo had been awarded sole custody of the young girl when the couple divorced in May 2004, but William Duane Lewton was seeking custody rights.

The lawsuit says Lewton learned about the audio recordings when his attorney was given copies by Divingnzzo's then-attorney in advance of a June hearing.

Lewton's attorney, John Kinney, said Tuesday that it's believed the teddy bear recorded several hundred hours of conversations from just before Christmas 2007 through mid-May.

Lewton, his daughter — who is now 5 — and five other plaintiffs who were recorded by the bear are requesting a jury trial. They seek $20,000 each, plus other damages and court costs, from each defendant for invasion of privacy and violation of state and federal wiretapping laws.

In addition to the Divingnzzos, the lawsuit names Dianna Divingnzzo's former attorney, William Bianco; his law partner, Chris Perrone; and their Omaha law firm.

Perrone said Tuesday that the firm no longer represents Dianna Divingnzzo. He also said he and Bianco did not know about the recordings until Divingnzzo presented them.

"We had nothing to do with it," he said. "We did not advise her to do so."

But according to the lawsuit, Bianco consulted with Perrone about the legality of the recordings and determined they would be admissible in court.

During a June 3 hearing in the custody case in which the recordings were discussed, Judge David K. Arterburn ruled that they violated Nebraska's wiretapping law and couldn't be used as evidence.

No telephone number was listed for Dianna Divingnzzo. A message left at a number for Sam Divingnzzo of Papillion was not returned.