Reading some mail

Tuesday, April 20th, 1999

Live from a midnight flight to Las Vegas, it’s time to catch up on some old business. I’m on my way to briefly visit this week’s National Association of Broadcasters convention. It’s a gargantuan show, straining at the seams of the Las Vegas infrastructure, and if the thought of that many TV people in one place doesn’t scare you, perhaps it should. In order just to enter the convention, you have to run the gauntlet through an enormous parking lot filled with the latest in microwave and satellite trucks, jammed nose to nose with gleaming helicopters and colossal sports remote trucks, all as overlogoed as the Coke museum.
Yes, I’m descending into a fake town crammed to the gills with people whose mission is to create the continuing illusion of television, available whenever you click the remote. They’re shopping—looking for the latest digital doohickey or camera or wireless microphone or super doppler mega 2000 radar thingie, and me, I’m just browsing, meeting, and, oh yeah, recoiling in horror at the whole idea.
But I digress.
I got an email from someone at the Journal Constitution who read last week’s about the live television coverage of the Cotton Mill fire rescue, and they wondered, um, how I thought the AJC did covering the story.
Well, we don’t get the paper at home for the simple reason that I can’t bear the thought of throwing away that much ad-covered newsprint every day just to get to the actual news content. (Instead, I shamelessly and regularly scavenge for news sections at restaurants, coffee shops, airports.) I’d probably pay a premium to order the AJC Lite, where just the news sections are home-delivered, sparing me and my recycling bin the shame of wasted ink. (Would they sell it that way? I think not.)
But I digress again.
The rescue. Actually, I did get a look at the local section on Tuesday (yep, discarded out on Concourse A) , and I was pleased to note, alongside attempts where the AJC tried to be television (with huge color photos) they had some space to be a newspaper and indeed gave us some interesting background on the AFD unit that was trained for high-altitude rope work, the Mill, both historically and as a trendy development project, and on the effects of the fire on Cabbagetown in general.
The other email that gave me pause (perhaps it’s in this issue’s letters section) asked if Media Rare is just some lame local-only column because I haven’t talked about the shameful boosterism in print and on-air Kosovo coverage. Yep, true: when the US goes to war, some headline-writers and broadcast news producers get a jingoistic tingling and before you know it, it becomes we, the home team, against them, the evil empire-du-jour. But what seems to make this conflict a little different is that NATO’s deadly handiwork is under day-to-day scrutiny: we hear about bombs that went astray almost the moment they do. Yes, it can be argued that all bombing is misguided, misplaced, and deadly to the innocent, but it’s not journalism’s job to argue that case—it is, instead, to bring us reports of what all the parties are doing. Our outrage, pride, fear, anger, and horror should then be strictly grown locally, and voiced globally.