High School Journalists on PBS: Obviously a Different Ballgame

Yesterday, PBS brought three students from T.C. Williams HS and their journalism teacher on the show, and it was almost impossible not to cast a somewhat disparaging eye regarding projects they put together to gain that exposure. The bone of contention is they essentially *reviewed* media from this past year, while HIGHLIGHTS, the school newspaper Ray Patterson rode herd on at Linton HS during the tumultous ’70s, produced an 8-16 page product every two weeks.

Frankly, as dramatically different as the technology of multiple outlets/’platforms’ in the world of 2015 is from 1975, its apples and oranges between CREATING (including 2-3 days of actual physical pasting of copy onto waxed tabloid-sized sheets) an award-winning paper and compiling memorable stuff others produced.

That said, I read the NYTimes online version with a first cup of coffee this morning, and while perusing the weekly Creative Loafing in Charlotte, NC is a regular habit, picking up an actual newspaper is perhaps a once-a-month event, the holy grail that TIME magazine was is now an annoyingly thin red-bordered periodical that can be done without.

Since year-end is the time for reviewing all manner of ‘Best of’ or ’10 Events That Shocked’, admitting the significance of the change is legitimate. This piece is being done on an iPad, and if a tone signals something has landed in an electronic mailbox, that can be examined immediately with the push of a button. That immediacy is a singular important difference between ‘old’ journalism and any 2015 version.

The Vietnam War ended with a roar in 1975, after years of having TV deliver graphic video and body counts of dead-wounded nightly, dividing nearly every demographic in America– especially older “its a duty to your country” WWII or Korean War veterans/fathers and young-enough-to-become-part-of-‘Nam’s-meat grinder-ugliness males. Half a world away, we waited until 6:00 for Walter Cronkite, or a similarly serious news anchor, to watch the final helicopter depart the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, barely unlucky enough final figures trying to jump on-stay attached to its skids. As seminal an event as that was, who in 2014 didn’t know an unarmed (if aggressive) black man named Michael Brown was shot to death by a white police officer in the small town of Ferguson, Missouri, or see the as-it-happened “I can’t breathe!” video-taped final words of another black man (Eric Garner) being choked to death by another white officer in New York City?

In 1968, Bobby Kennedy made the dangerous, incredibly courageous decision to address a largely black crowd in Indianapolis the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis, and many of those people were only becoming aware of that event hours after the fact. Would ANYONE in their right mind step before a similar crowd under similar conditions today? That city was one of the few that was unscarred by rioting that erupted across the rest of the country. Kennedy’s absolute sincerity, delivered with the reminder he had suffered exactly the same incredible loss– the well-documented assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963– was personal, unfiltered, and amazingly, not a fact he ever brought up again in public. Those present understood this was a time to mourn, not senselessly rage.

‘Journalism’ has changed, as has much in this country. Woodward & Bernstein’s efforts, still the gold standard in investigating and writing so much of what became the Watergate scandal for the Washington Post, took *months*, even years, to unravel the presidency of Richard Nixon. Today we know about a cop jumping out of his patrol car and– within two seconds, fatally shooting a child waving a toy gun– and every aspect of that is available immediately on a device we can talk about or send to someone else.

‘Disparaging’ eye of comparison might be harsh; if the opportunities were available 40 years ago (Geraldo Rivera’s ‘bushwhack journalism’ style was just beginning), how many j-majors would’ve wanted their faces in front of people vs. ‘just’ a byline? We know about an almost overwhelming number of things around the world *as they’re happening* now, and shaping that tidal wave into some format, including the terrifying ‘sound bite’ reduction, should probably still be regarded as a legitimate function.

It’s also still apples and oranges to compare a class project to having everyone in school with a newspaper in their hand as ‘real’ journalism.

Glenn Shorkey

ACRC as Much Spiritual as Ruck ‘n Roll

With all due regard given to the need for writing cover letters to resumes–and a decent quantity of progress on two sexy chapters for next book– it shouldn’t have taken me a month to knock out a blog in praise of the ten game slate of American Collegiate Rugby Championships matches assembled by Steve Siano’s Sevens Sports operation. Showcased at the Rugby Athletic Center on South Tyvola Ave. in Charlotte, NC, the event was, for every ex-rugger, newbie enthusiast, or player in attendance, a Friday afternoon-all day Saturday slice of what live sports is supposed to be about.

From the 4 tries by Corey Patton of North Mecklenburg— correctly identified as a star to watch in a gorgeous full color glossy tournament guide– in their 33-5 whacking of Hough in the high school exhibition that kicked things off, through the 53-19 pillaging of previously unbeaten (8-0) Army by the electric lime-green stockinged hordes of major independent Life(their ‘B’ side punched out Western Michigan 42-10 in Saturdays top-‘o-the-morning match), it was glorious stuff to watch.

Boston College beat Iona 29-19
North Carolina St. devastated Texas St. 63-7 in Fridays nightcap
UMass pounded North Texas 46-0
Kutztown (9-1 as Rugby East champs, only loss to Army) overwhelmed Michigan 43-17
American International pulled out a highly competitive 46-40 thriller over Bowling Green
Clemson (Atlantic Coast champs) pulled away from 20-14 halftime score to beat always a rival South Carolina (Southeastern CRC champs) 40-14 in after-Life Bowl Series finale

Beyond the almost un-rugby-like precision that the schedule maintained, it would be a serious breach of sports journalism not to give generous credit for the overall effect to the RAC facility and Sevens Sports as well.

While Saturday was sunny, and the weather of a satisfying Fall crispness all the way, viewing a premier pitch from the comfort of the triple-tiered and sub-divided into ‘booths’ arena a former golf driving range created, was an exceptional experience. There was never a peep of negatives to be heard about *anything*– despite its college-age participants, beer was cold and available, the toilets clean and always operational; even the fire pit between the foosball table and the 3rd level concession stand created its own smoky ambiance. The fact of $2 for 16-ounce PBRs, $4 cans of Guiness, and the meaty warmth of Chik-fil-a sandwiches were appreciated Goodnesses for anyone who ever lugged their beverages field-side (and then wondered where to take a leak). Enjoying said supplies with a nephew who was left off the Stony Brook (Empire Conference champs and 21-20 victors over West Virginia) roster was cool, as was his low key “thanks for letting me use your extra jacket” after several hours.

While its never been on any personal ‘bucket list’, watching Life’s continuous forward motion as tackled runners popped short passes to others blasting along in close support, made believing their program is every bit of what its advertised to be a Real Deal fact. Having been involved in a 52-0 ass-kicking by Old Blue in a 20-minute halves tournament game (Saranac Lake, NY) almost 30 years ago, and earning a last-play-of-the-game karate chop to left ear (think cartoon sound of broken china when shaking head) for getting close to tackling an Old Blue inside center, brought memories to what a full game of barely slowing down the other guys must’ve felt like.

Memories are actually rugby’s stock in trade, so here’s a pretty good one: Seeing an older gentleman (NCHSRA President P.J. Anderson) in Springbok yellow/green outfit at the games required relating how the city of Albany (NY) hosted the South African team in 1990, when it was still an athletic pariah. Lacking a definitive “you can’t do it” from the state, mayor Erastus Corning ignored anti-apartheid protesters– and a small bombing of the ticket office– to allow the game against the Eastern Rugby Union (ERU), played in a driving rainstorm.

In relating that meeting to a random ex-rugger, it turned out he’d BEEN to the game, even got in free. Part Two, he’d played for Binghamton, a member of the Upstate Rugby Union I’d played in. Memory Part Three, telling Sevens Sports leader Steve Siano about the coincidence of talking with guy who went to that game brought reply (believe it or not) that he’d PLAYED at fullback in the game as a college sophomore.

What more could you ask for from a weekend of rugby, an exceptionally well-run event that brings ancient memories into close order with what those participants (and my nephew) will be part of forever? Not sure who won the ‘canoe races’ between rivals UMass and Boston College, but someone will probably still be telling stories about that this Christmas break.

Glenn Shorkey