Thanks to Peter Douglas…

Steve Lopez is a true gem. His columns in the LA Times live by the credo that the job of a newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Today’s piece focuses on the Coastal Protection Act, which set the stage for protecting our coast from those who would wish to block access or diminish its beauty and value to us all.
Written by the late Peter Douglas, the protection act has stood the test of time, even if those

Lopez pulls no punches in his disdain for many of the California Coastal Commission, who have proven themselves to be greedy, dishonest props for developers and others.

I especially like Lopez’s take on Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla, who he says is someone ‘who has established himself as one of the most arrogant people in state history.’

Like Woody Guthrie before him, Douglas knew that we have to fight to keep things available to all and unspoiled.

The fight goes on…


Putting words in your mouth (literally)

Fake news has taken many forms in the 21st century but the most insidious may be software using algorithms to create mouth movements that turns audio clips into realistic videos as if the person is saying the words. And with similar technology, recorded voices can be manipulated into creating speech that didn’t occur at all.  Together, these new technologies can trick even linguists into believing that a person said what they never did (or would). Two examples below.

Presidents Trump and Obama speaking in Mandarin

President Obama mouthing words from one source posted to another

One from the peanut gallery …

One of the most interesting parts of any newspaper is the letters to the editor,  where people who care enough send comments, generally about stories of the day but sometimes on topics yet to be explored.

This letter in today’s LA Times is to the point and expresses a viewpoint on how things have changed in the past 40 years.  It’s a good view-point that most of us should consider.



A story of straw poverty…

Manger in Stable

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus but Robert Barron’s piece in today’s LA Times changed that and made me ponder the baby and the circumstances of his birth.   Citing a quote from Bono, the lead singer of the group U2 as inspiration, Barron makes an interesting case which is worth a read…Merry Christmas!


Al Franken’s final speech

Al Franken, the sixty-six year old former SNL writer and actor was elected to the U.S. Senator as a democrat from Minnesota in 2008. He did a good job of representing his constituents during his time in Washington and was recently brought down for unseemly behavior towards women.

What is interesting is that the penalty dispensed to similar perpetrators is uneven. The difference seems to be in part tied to how recalcitrant the person accused of such indescressions displays.

Al Franken and Garrison Keillor, admitted to wrongdoing, apologized and were forced out.  President Trump and Roy Moore deny culpability, branding the many women who have come forward to accuse them as liars and either remain in their position or refuse to admit election defeat.

“I feel that we are losing the war for truth” said Franken towards the end of his 38 minute final dispatch.

Watch the speech from earlier today here:



This photograph, taken in 1826 or 27, shows empty streets when in fact there were horses and carriages moving along them.

With the tragedy of the Thomas fire in Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties this week I’ve been taking a lot of images, which got me thinking about how photographs record history. This morning’s Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece by Paul Manseau about how 2017 may be the year we argued about the evidence in front of our eyes.

Since their inception in roughly 1825, photographs have been used to inform and deceive viewers on what actually happened. The first example illustrated in the story is about a photograph taken by Louis Daguerre showing a street scene with a man getting a shoeshine next to empty streets. In fact there were horses and carriages on that street but because of the delayed exposure time needed to create the photograph, they had come and gone before the image finished.

Fake news has been around a long time but has reached its zenith due to slanted news organizations and the rise of social media, where anyone can deliver information to the masses.

I spoke to an attorney friend of mine this morning who reminded me that for photographs to be admissible in court, they have to be attested to by an eyewitness.

The old average adage what you see is what you get is no longer accurate.


Omega Man

Erik Brady, from USA Today, is my wife’s cousin’s husband.  And after 35 years, he still works there.  In fact, he is the last founding staffer (which they call ‘founders’) from the original 320 people who started the paper back in 1982 (also known as the Pleistocene Age). The word founder was an honorific given those who began working for the newspaper during 1982.  Perhaps a different word than ‘honorific’ could be found as it is perhaps too similar to words more foreboding (horrific, etc…).

Back then, A guy named Al Neuharth had a vision for a national newspaper with brief news stories that could be read in a minute.  Maybe two for the longer pieces.  He realized two things:  many people were too busy to read long form journalism (too bad really as it is contributory to the decline of western civilization) and that if he could publish really tight smaller newspapers, he’d make more money.

And so with much fanfare, USA Today was launched.  Since that time, it is most widely known for short stories, inventive newspaper vendor box design and for occupying hotels large and small throughout all 50 states.  And it lives on today (although I haven’t read one for quite a while).

Erik had one of the best jobs in the world, covering sports.  Whether it be the Olympics, Super Bowl or other penultimate sporting event, Eric was there.  I’ve been jealous from afar for a long time.

One last quip – Neuhearth was fond of being a hard nose to those who worked for him, often writing in the margins of memos that made it to his office FIX IT.  He meant it.

After reading a book about him decades ago, I took that to heart and sometimes find myself even now using his plain speaking manner to get the best out of the people I work with.  In this tough business, nothing else will do.

Read Erik’s piece about his time at USA Today below:


Long Time Gone

Today begins my 35th year in newspapering.   When I got into the business,  a relatively new industry  was growing in strength into its zenith years of mid 80s to early 90s.    The product was called ‘alternative newsweekly’ , the reference being that it was an alternative voice to mainstream daily newspapers and traditional network news.

Most alt-weeklies were independently owned and operated by men and women who cared to tell interesting stories in a truthful way, not beholden to corporate sponsorship pressures.

I still believe in the mission of these newspapers endeavor to do every day, but admit that the term ‘alternative’ can no longer be used for this industry.

The term has now swirls from lifestyle choices to what the New York Times yesterday mentioned as far right wing agitators.  John Herrman’s piece speaks to how such people and groups have co-opted the term and space that once was the domain of progressives.

It made me think of the differences between the two sets: the former  chanting the mantra of peace and love in an effort to stop and unjustified war; the latter co-opting the words hate and fear to divide the country.

I’ll take the former, please…


Difficult discussions

It seems to be a natural human trait to avoid difficult discussions. Especially when it comes to the ultimate discussion, about death and dying. In the LA Times today was an interesting piece about how doctors, who face death and dying every day, we’re given very little training on how to properly communicate that to patients and their families.

The old saying of it’s not what you say but how you say it applies in this case.  In my mind, it’s a combination of both things…


Anything can happen


Remember ‘Gary from Chicago’, who along with his fiancé walked off a tour bus and into the front row seats at Sunday’s Academy Awards show Sunday night? Now get to know his unexpected past in a story from the LA Times.  Never say never…