Posts Tagged ‘reporting’

Your Night Owl Special

Nora Jean & Lester

Nora Jean & Lester

In which we get to listen in as Nora Jean tells the kids about the first time Daddy took her out dancin, he swept her right off her feet!
No, you won’t get news, entertainment, commentary and the spirituality of Christ all rolled into one anywhere else but here at jitterbugging.
And so until tomorrow . . . . . . . .

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Beyond the stars and nightbirds

Art by Beckland, 2000

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Walter Cronkite, take your well deserved rest

First Class

First Class

JFJ readers know that my first calling in life was to journalism and that some of the best years of my life were spent sweating out those intense deadline hours at The Houston Chronicle.
Walter Cronkite learned his writing and reporting craft at The Houston Post and at the old Houston Press. (He mentored Dan Rather, of course, who passed through the Chronicle.)
I met WC a number of times after his retirement and he was the genuine article–not a pretentious bone in this global icon’s body. And let me tell you–he was an old working slug newspaper reporter at heart and loved nothing better than the company of inked stained wretches.
I’m partial to them myself. (See what may have been my first blog here in the archives–I was lamenting the passing of newspapers that very day, as you can see!)
I’m weeping over this loss. Really weeping.
Here’s a blurb about WC from the Chronicle about his Houston roots:

Walter Cronkite’s life and career reflected the words he used in a familiar advertising campaign for his alma mater, the University of Texas: “What starts here changes the world.”

Born in Missouri, he moved with his family at age 10 to Houston, where he attended Lanier Junior High School and San Jacinto High.

It was at San Jacinto where he met Fred Birney, one of his earliest journalism instructors. Birney, Cronkite wrote in his autobiography, taught him the “sacred covenant between newspaper people and their readers. We journalists had to be right and we had to be fair.”

Cronkite’s autobiography also includes tales of summer jobs on the Bassett Blakely ranch, now the site of the Cinco Ranch development, at Sylvan Beach on Galveston Bay and at the downtown Sako­witz store.

He held a summer job during high school at the Houston Post before attending UT, where he made his broadcast debut on radio station KNOW and was advised at the end of the school year that he would never make it as a radio announcer.

Began as newspaperman
Cronkite subsequently dropped out of college to cover the Legislature for the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, then worked for the afternoon daily Houston Press before returning in 1936 to Kansas City. He was a newsman for radio station KCMO in Kansas City and at WKY in Oklahoma City, where he called Oklahoma Sooners football games on radio in 1937, before joining the United Press wire service.

As a UP correspondent, he worked in Dallas (where he was assigned to cover the 1937 New London school explosion that killed 295 students and teachers), Austin and El Paso, before covering World War II in Europe.

Cronkite joined CBS in 1950, returning on occasion to Houston where he spoke frequently with Ann Hodges, the Chronicle’s TV columnist for more than 40 years.

“He was certainly the most influential anchor ever on television,” Hodges said. “There will never be another that influential.”

One of the most stirring examples of Cronkite’s command of the moment, she said, came on the day of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

“That was an incredible, terrible day, and he was very important to the country at the time,” Hodges said. “He sort of held everybody together. Through him, we knew what was happening. We trusted him enough to know it was not the end of the world.”

Longhorn legacy
While Cronkite didn’t graduate from UT, his lasting ties to the university included his donation in the early 1990s of his personal and professional papers to the school’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History.

The collection contains hundreds of thousands of documents from Cronkite’s life and career — plus one moon rock, given to him by NASA in recognition of his coverage of the space program.

“It’s a really outstanding collection of materials documenting the inner workings of CBS News during his tenure,” said Don Carleton, director of the Briscoe Center.

Carleton said portions of the Cronkite papers will be made available to scholars later in 2009 and that an exhibit honoring Cronkite’s career will debut in May 2010 at the LBJ Library on the university’s campus.

He continued his relationship with Houston by narrating a documentary for KUHT (Channel 8) on philanthropist and publisher Jesse Jones.

But Cronkite’s most public gift to Longhorns everywhere is, of course, his voice. In association with the Austin advertising agency GSD&M, he has for several years provided the narration for public service announcements that appear during every televised Longhorns athletics event, extolling everything from UT’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible to its mascot, Bevo.


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One person, making a difference

Scott Harrison

Scott Harrison

Nick Kristof, the wonderful columnist for the New York Times, profiled Scott Harrison in his Sunday times column. Here’s an excerpt from Kristof’s column about this remarkable man Mr. Harrison, who found redemption in helping others:
People always ask: What can I do to make a difference?

So many people in poor countries desperately need assistance. So many people in rich countries would like to help but fear their donations would line the pocket of a corrupt official or be lost in an aid bureaucracy. The result is a short circuit, leaving both sides unfulfilled.

That’s where Scott Harrison comes in.

Five years ago, Mr. Harrison was a nightclub promoter in Manhattan who spent his nights surrounded by friends in a blur of alcohol, cocaine and marijuana. He lived in a luxurious apartment and drove a BMW — but then on a vacation in South America he underwent a spiritual crisis.

“I realized I was the most selfish, sycophantic and miserable human being,” he recalled. “I was the worst person I knew.”

Mr. Harrison, now 33, found an aid organization that would accept him as a volunteer photographer — if he paid $500 a month to cover expenses. And so he did. The organization was Mercy Ships, a Christian aid group that performs surgeries in poor countries with volunteer doctors.

“The first person I photographed was a 14-year-old boy named Alfred, choking on a four-pound benign tumor in his mouth, filling up his whole mouth,” Mr. Harrison recalled. “He was suffocating on his own face. I just went into the corner and sobbed.”

A few weeks later, Mr. Harrison took Alfred — with the tumor now removed — back to his village in the West African country of Benin. “I saw everybody celebrating, because a few doctors had given up their vacation time,” he said.

Mercy Ships transformed Mr. Harrison as much as it did Alfred. Mr. Harrison returned to New York two years later with a plan: he would form a charity to provide clean water to save lives in poor countries. But by then, he was broke and sleeping on a friend’s couch.

Armed with nothing but a natural gift for promotion, and for wheedling donations from people, Mr. Harrison started his group, called charity: water — and it has been stunningly successful. In three years, he says, his group has raised $10 million (most of that last year alone) from 50,000 individual donors, providing clean water to nearly one million people in Africa and Asia.

And here’s Scott Harrison in his own words, from 2006:

In 2004, I left the streets of New York City for the shores of West Africa. I’d made my living for years in the big Apple promoting top nightclubs and fashion events, for the most part living selfishly and arrogantly. Desperately unhappy, I needed to change. Faced with spiritual bankruptcy, I wanted desperately to revive a lost Christian faith with action and asked the question: What would the opposite of my life look like?

I signed up for volunteer service aboard a floating hospital with a group called Mercy Ships, a humanitarian organization which offered free medical care in the world’s poorest nations. Operating on surgery ships, they’d built a 25-year track record of astonishing results yet I’d never heard of them.

Top doctors and surgeons from all over the world left their practices and fancy lives to operate for free on thousands who had no access to medical care. I soon found the organization to be full of remarkable people. The chief medical officer was a surgeon who left Los Angeles to volunteer for two weeks – 23 years ago. He never looked or went back. I took the position of ship photojournalist, and immediately traveled to Africa. At first, being the Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s court felt strange. I traded my spacious midtown loft for a 150-square-foot cabin with bunk beds, roommates and cockroaches. Fancy restaurants were replaced by a mess hall feeding 400+ Army style. A prince in New York, now I was living in close community with 350 others. I felt like a pauper.

But once off the ship, I realized how good I really had it. In new surroundings, I was utterly astonished at the poverty that came into focus through my camera lens. Often through tears, I documented life and human suffering I’d thought unimaginable. In West Africa, I was a prince again. A king, in fact. A man with a bed and clean running water and food in my stomach.

I fell in love with Liberia – a country with no public electricity, running water or sewage – Spending time in a leper colony and many remote villages, I put a face to the world’s 1.2 billion living in poverty. Those living on less than $365 a year – money I used to blow on a bottle of Grey Goose vodka at a fancy club. Before tip.

Our medical staff would hold patient intake “screenings” and thousands would wait in line to be seen, many afflicted with deformities even Clive Barker hadn’t thought of. Enormous, suffocating tumors – cleft lips, faces eaten by bacteria from water-borne diseases. I learned many of these medical conditions also existed here in the west, but were taken care of – never allowed to progress. The amount of blind people without access to the 20-minute cataract surgery that could restore their sight astonished me – all part of this new world.

Over the next eight months, I met patients who taught me the meaning of courage. Many of them had been slowly suffocating to death for years and yet pressing on. Praying, hoping, surviving. It was an honor to photograph them. It was an honor to know them.


For me, charity is practical. It’s sometimes easy, more often inconvenient, but always necessary. It’s the ability to use one’s position of influence, relative wealth and power to affect lives for the better. charity is singular and achievable.

There’s a biblical parable about a man beaten near death by robbers. He’s stripped naked and lying roadside. Most people pass him by, but one man stops. He picks him up and bandages his wounds. He puts him on his horse and walks alongside until they reach an inn. He checks him in and throws down his Amex. “Whatever he needs until he gets better.”

All those passing by could have helped, but only one did. Only one had compassion.

The dictionary defines charity as simply the act of giving voluntarily to those in need. It’s taken from the word “caritas,” or simply, love. In Colossians 3, the Bible instructs readers to “put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

Although I’m still not sure what that means, I love the idea. To wear charity.

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I heard the news today, oh boy!!!!

Sad story today for those who get what “Strawberry Fields Forever” is about:
Lucy, the little girl who was immortalized by John Lennon in the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” classic after Lennon observed her and his son Julian at a birthday party for Julian, is now 40-something and dying.
The song from Sgt. Pepper was “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” one the many great of great John Lennon songs.
People at the time were always trying to find secret “drug” messages and all kinds of weirdness in Beatles songs in those days. Remember when Paul was dead and you played albums backwards and the Beatles were secretly winking sublime messages about Paul having died in a wreck and replaced in the band by a Paul double?
Beatles music has never been allowed to be just great music without all the desperate attempts to find subversive or bizarre signals from the Fab 4.
But of course, the Beatles loved all the weirdness of those interpretations of their music, and what musician wouldn’t want to have that kind of frenzied reaction to the music around the world?
Having said all this, Beatles music in their “psychadelic” days was so incredibly mysterious and weird and wonderful and yes, often drug inspired, that it’s easy to understand why we were playing Sgt. Pepper BACKWARDS to hear for ourselves the message that “Paul is dead.”
I remember being huddled around the, uh, HiFi stereo, with a group of my peers trying to hear it said that Paul was dead and checking out all the other clues in the Paul is dead hoax. Or whatever it was.
I actually heard it myself as we played the classic rock album backerds!
“Paul is dead; Paul is dead.”
The power of suggestion is such that you can hear or see or smell anything once somebody has told you what you’ll see, hear or smell or taste or anything else involving the senses.
Lennon and the Beatles always denied that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was about LSD or an acid trip, because it truly was about the little birthday girl Lucy at Julian’s childhood birthday party.
BTW, I’ve never been all that much about Elton John, although I do like a lot of his music and would love to see him live someday before he drops of old age (or I do first!) , but the Rocket Man’s version of “Lucy in the Sky” is one of my favorite rock songs of all time and I’ll take it over the Beatles original Lucy on Pepper.
That’s a mouthful to say since I never get tired of hearing the Sgt. Pepper music, although it’s not something I care to play anymore, very much, for my own entertainment. It’s just nice to have the CD version when I want to hear it, but I could say the same about a lot of rock music faves of mine. as well as all kinds of music other than rock
The now ill and dying Lucy tells the media she’s heard from Julian Lennon and that he’s promised to take care of her.
Love, love, love is all you need, but as for me and my faith, love is God and God is love and at the end of the day, God, God, God is all you need.

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Watching the mad frenzy in this thunderboomer!!!

Our Mother and Father God, through the Providence of Mother Nature, had me out of bed way early this morning, like 6 a.m. I think it was.
And never mind that I didn’t get home to my digs until 12:30 a.m. this morning after working my chaplain shift at the hospital till midnight last night.
I live in Dallas, and Dallas has seen some serious thunderbooming rainfall for many hours now. It’s now 7:39 a.m. and there is still serious rain and lightning and God-like thunder happening as I dispatch this from my patio.
Don’t worry–I’m safe from the potentially lethal lightning I’m seeing out here.
But it’s been interesting to watch the other apartment dwellers rushing into their cars at this rush hour, some of them dressed to the tees, trying to get out of here and into the madness of the morning rush hour.
I am glad I don’t have to be anywhere this morning except right here, since today is this ordained minister’s designated Sabbath day (real rest in God day) this week.
(Oh my–can’t get enough of the sound of that word “ordained,” only days after that ordination deal with God and the United Methodist Church was finally sealed!)
My oh my, let us say a prayer for a man I just saw trying to get into his Jeep or whatever it is. He’s a rather young man, maybe 30 something. I watched him run out of his apartment with a big umbrella covering him, a briefcase, and him with the coat of his nice suit folded over his arm.
Watched him, clad in nice starched dress shirt and tie, scramble in all the rain and lightning and thunder and swirling water around his dress shoes to get behind the wheel of his vehicle.
But, in trying to get it all together, his suit coat fall right onto the pavement and into the swirling rain water on said pavement.
I don’t know what it was he was shouting out since he was all alone, but it may not have been anything like, “This is the day the Lord hath made and shall we rejoice.”
Don’t think he said that hosanna to himself.
I’m thinking to myself, O my–what would I do in his shoes? (In fact, I’ve lived that same experience of having a nice coat fall into swirling water when in a mad rush frenzy to get somewhere, but not in many years, thankfully. I’m not that young and in that big a hurry about much anymore.)
Him—he just reached down from the driver’s seat, pulled the wet coat out of the rain puddle, threw it into his vehicle and drove off nice and easy out of the apartment complex, and I guess if he has any serious business requiring attire as formal as full men’s dress suit, all the other suits in the room will just have to understand.

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