Tuesday, October 30, 2012

News Flash: Reporters Are Human

The Aftermath of Sandy Begins to Take Its Toll

I remember watching the coverage after Katrina and seeing reporters and anchors getting royally pissed off at officials they interviewed as they watched the chaos unfold in New Orleans.

So far, none of that in the aftermath of Sandy, though it helps that "You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie" isn't on call at FEMA, along with governors in three states and Mayor Mike in NYC giving regular briefings and giving the impression of staying on top of the devastation to the extent possible.

It was interesting, then, to see an exchange a little while ago on WNBC-TV, where anchors Tom Llamas and Erica Tarantal were doing a Q-and-A with crusty veteran New Jersey reporter Brian Thompson (aobve). They asked him to reflect on what he's seen after working 18 hours straight.

Thompson had spent the morning reporting from Seaside Heights (the home of "Jersey Shore," BTW), which took more than a glancing blow from Sandy. Thompson (literally) took off his reporter's hat to reflect on the preceding hours and began to get emotional, but not because of the devastation he had bore witness to, but because it was his idea to head down there, and he and his crew were trapped there duirng some anxious moments. Not only that, he had encouraged another reporter, Brynn Gingras and her crew to come down there. They were forced to retreat to a hotel, after their live truck was nearly consumed by flood waters.

Thompson got emotional, saying he felt guilty about putting those folks in harm's way. Everyone's OK, but Thompson knows it could have gone in a different direction. And while TV crews are devoted in these situations to going out so we don't have to, it's not worth dying for. Just because you're driving around in an SUV with a satellite dish and microwave connection doesn't make you invincible. It's a lesson worth remembering, though I have an impression that when the next major natural disaster strikes, news directors and those whom they dispatch probably will.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

A Switcheroo by Yahoo

Another Homepage Extreme Makeover

Even though I had already downed two large cups of strong Zabar's Royale Blend this morning, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the new design of the Yahoo homepage. This is a big deal, as it's always been what's opened up first, at least on my home PCs ever since I started dabbling with this Interweb thing.

I actually do like having the weather on the top right with a three-day forecast, rather than having to click on a link in a column to the left. However, I have no need nor a desire to have astrology info right below.

More importantly, right down the middle of the page, where categories of stories had been beyond the multimedia stories at the top, there is now just a giant mishmash of everything grouped under "top stories."

You can click a link to the left to see stories in four categories (World News, Entertainment, Sports and Business), but gone is a link to local news, among other categories. True, you can recreate some of that in an RSS feed, but no matter how hard I try, I too often forget to go to My Yahoo for that, though when I do it can be useful (there I said it, RSS feeds are swell, but have often do you really peruse them? Be honest now).

My hope is there's a way to rearrange things so that you can make the page more user-friendly for each of us. But it does not appear Yahoo is offering a road map on how to do that. Or maybe I just need another mug of coffee.

A Presumptuous Name for WSJ Real Estate Section

Or Maybe I'm Just the Wrong Demographic

The Wall Street Journal debuted its semi-vaunted real estate section on Friday. So you won't miss it, the paper went for broke and named it Mansion, ostensibly in tribute to the Journal's ultra-monied readers. Or, at least, a critical mass of the readers the paper wants to have.

No doubt, the section was created with advertisers in mind--and ads do take up the majority of the section's 16 pages. Many of them do tout pricey residences of one sort or another, including the aforementioned mansions. Looking for items on mortgage trends or the trials and tribulations of finding the right space, like The New York Times does weekly with The Hunt column in its real estate section (because we really do need to know how those coeds snared that bargain sixth-floor walkup in Alphabet City). Look elsewhere. The Journal assumes its readers don't need to bother themselves with such twaddle. Hell, they pay cash. Mortgages are for pussies.

Still, even for the Journal, Mansions sounds more than a tad presumptuous. Then again, Split-Level Colonial or One-Bedroom Co-Op doesn't quite have the same cache.