Tag Archives: editor’s column

Editor’s Column: Consistently Lacking Consistency

By Nicholas Proch

The human race is doomed. We can see the end of the Mayan calendar approaching and most of us passed through ‘judgment day’ without fretting. If this prophecy turns out to be true, I’m afraid to hear what my judgment was. In fact, most of us should be fearful of that, but we were all busy pointing and laughing at Harold Camping, the pastor who got his rapture predictions to the forefront of the evening news, back tracking on what he said to his undiscerning followers for the past 25 years. His terminal lack of conviction to his faith not only destroyed his reputation, but is just one example of the many of where we are headed as a species.

There’s something to be said for someone with consistency in today’s world. An individual who doesn’t step back from what they preach and believe in should be carried around on a throne while the rest of us watch from below. These types of people will make decisions that may defy the logic of the masses, but it will fall in with their other choices so fittingly that they needn’t think twice.

What do Woody Allen, Tim Tebow and Ron Paul all have in common? Beyond the fact that they share the same skin color, there is nothing that most notice. One is a physical specimen. He’s a dominating fullback who plays the quarterback position for the Denver Broncos. The other two men are frail in comparison and make up for their muscular inefficiencies with their verbal and artistic prowess and whopping nasal cavities.

Allen is well known for his self-pitting comedies against his own psyche and that of society. He has an obsession with Manhattan and the Jews that fill it. He may be my favorite filmmaker of all time, but is more recognized in Spain than he is in his own country. Throughout his 60-year career, he’s had the same stances on love, religion and award-show ceremonies.

Tim Tebow. He’s become a cultural phenomenon for a number of reasons. One being that he is playing quarterback in a style that is completely his own. The other is more baffling and makes our society look immature. He’s a very religious person and that is no secret. ‘Tebowing’ is a gesture that mocks his ritual of praying after a great play on the field. Where the line is drawn to make fun of someone’s religion is a complete juxtaposition to the moral steadiness he’s shown during his career.

Ron Paul took 20 years to run again for Presidential office in 2008. This year he’s having a decently strong showing in the primaries, but beyond that he’s turning heads for his deeply rooted political beliefs. Many of his stances haven’t changed in the 24 years between campaigns.

We’ve seen far too many political, athletic and celebrity figures waiver around what they think is right. Tiger Woods was seen as a family man before he drove his Escalade, and marriage along with it, into a tree. Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum seem to change their stances on something as frequently as the Republican Party hosts a televised debate. And please, don’t get me started on Michael Moore.

This past weekend exemplified how steady Allen, Paul and Tebow are.

Allen didn’t show up to the Golden Globes. He was unable to accept his award for best screenplay. In fact, I’m not sure that he’s accepted any of his 95 awards for his work. He has been public about the fact that he doesn’t see the value in any award shows and has only showed up to one Academy Awards ceremony. That ceremony was in the winter following Sept. 11. He was asked to present a short film about the history of cinema in New York. It was only because of his love for the city that he left his house and attended the event.

The GOP candidates are dropping left and right. The latest is Jon Hunstman. He felt that it would be better for the party if he no longer ran against the others. However, with each figure that drops out, with them go their platforms. Paul will not go down until the party acknowledges his views on the structure of the government. It’s that steadiness that is telling the voting public that he isn’t going to bend his beliefs for additional punches on a ballot.

Before and after each game that Tebow plays, he hosts an underprivileged or handicapped child. Immediately following the loss to the Patriots this week, where his offense looked like they were playing against their will, he went and hung out with Zach McCleod, a young man who sustained a severe brain injury while playing football. His faith finds its way into his post game interviews because it is real. It’s more real than the skills he has as a quarterback in the National Football League, but his faith is first and foremost. That will inevitably turn off his fans, but that’s not his concern.

When a decision you make is questioned it’s hard not to feel the pressure of changing your stance on that subject. Unfortunately, individuals like Tebow and Allen are the minority in a society that features a plethora of egotistical morons who only care about their ratings or if they’re liked or not. Stand up for what you believe in and stop selling yourself out to what others want you to be.

Without people who could do that we wouldn’t be where we are as a society. The civil rights movement wasn’t the popular thing to participate in at the time. The rebels were the minority in the revolution that founded this country, but that didn’t stop them. Let’s not declare that people are committing acts of moral turpitude until we pause and look at how well grounded their decisions have always been.

Editor’s Column: The Power Of ‘Peanuts’

By Nicholas Proch

There is a scene in A Charlie Brown Christmas that I consider to be a contender for the most-influential moment of my childhood. It may only fall short of the first time I heard The White Album and when Aaron Boone showed me to never take anything for granted.

From public pleas to my peers for their participation in our publication, to the point I brought up last week that it’s Apple users versus everyone else, the message of this segment finds its way into my daily thought process, admittedly sometimes without my knowing, more than anything from a cartoon should.

The scene is in the opening minutes of the holiday feature. Charlie Brown, who at the time was a representation of what Charles Schultz didn’t see in youth culture, goes to his mailbox. It should be filled with Christmas cards and greetings, but instead is completely empty.

“Hello in there…” The mailbox echoes his salutation and he leaves empty-handed. Then, as no one does except if on screen, Charlie Brown starts to talk to himself out loud about what he’s just experienced.

If walking in a snowstorm alone wasn’t heart-wrenching enough for the audience, “Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today.”

He then forces the dagger in deeper, “I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me.”

Schultz was, and still is, an over-shadowed master of writing emotional highs and lows. He was scripting layered dialogue for his caricatures ahead of his time; differently from Bambi and other Disney staples, and long before audiences were enthralled with the complexity of Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant.

While you can’t see yourself coming back from this display of self-pity, you’re picked up again in the only way that works, a simple and comedic reflection of the month itself.

“Why do we have a holiday season to emphasize it?” says Brown.

Almost instantly, the audience is delivered a relatable message within that simple idea: Christmas is too commercial.

Schultz used Charlie Brown as a tool to tell a larger story throughout his works. Brown was a representation of what was missing in the culture at that time. He was odd and unpopular, meaning audiences could sympathize with him, but longed for a simpler life, without the inequalities and complexities that were ever-present both then and now.

It’s a story in which I find myself reflecting upon frequently, if not too often. I’ve spent, or arguably wasted, countless hours of my thinking time debating whether or not the media has grown too powerful, how much credence corporations put into consumer habits and if we’re making sound political decisions.

A script that was written in the early 1960s is relevant during the 2011 holiday season for a reason. Before the country saw the problems that eventually developed within the holidays themselves, the ‘Peanuts’ creator was there to predict them.

The commercialization of Christmas, as seen in the cartoon, was just the first of many celebratory days to be fueled by retail sales.

It opened the door for Valentine’s Day to become the biggest cash cow for gift manufacturers. Find me a jewelry store that isn’t running a promotional campaign in early February and I’ll deliver copies of this publication to your door for the next year.

There is no reason that Hallmark should be dictating what is important on our calendars. I feel bad for someone who is born on or around Christmas because their birthday might as well not exist.

This special is a classic, but not because it is a cute and extended version of the comic strip, but because it has a clear message that people have forgotten what is important and have become part of the consumerist cycle.

We no longer have someone like Schultz to remind us, albeit through Linus, what “Christmas is all about… ,” but we can wait. Most have realized it’s too late to turn back, so we can only adjust our behavior accordingly. I’m sure that’s all that Schultz would ask for.

By the end of the special, Charlie Brown realizes that the true meaning of the holiday is only hidden and that remains true today.

This is the season of giving and we can’t forget that. Take some time in the next few weeks to reflect on what the holidays are really about, even if you can only fit it in between trips to department stores.

That’s enough venting for today. Enjoy your holiday, I’ll see you next year. Good grief.

Editor’s Column: Loyal Users Will Ruin Apple

By Nicholas Proch

The meaning behind all advertisements and marketing campaigns inevitably change over time, but Apple’s ‘1984’ Superbowl commercial still holds the values that Steve Jobs had until his passing. Someone should make the current executive board watch the should-be outdated clip.

The lone airing for the commercial was during the third quarter of the 1984 Superbowl. That’s all it needed. It showed the world what Apple, and specifically the Macintosh computer, was all about.

They were about change and fighting the ‘man’. It was a reminder to never stop fighting for a better life, which was directly associated with their computers. You were prompted to go out and buy the best product available. They built their empire on the phrase, “Think Different.”

At the turn of this century, the average Mac user was someone who went against societal norms and demanded a better product. They jumped off the Windows bandwagon. They ignored Linux. They didn’t quit until they found what they were satisfied with. The problem was that they hopped right onto the Apple bulldozer and have never looked back. It’s that loyalty which will be the downfall of an empire.

Since 2007, when I convinced my parents to buy me a Macbook, I’ve been one of those people. When conversation arises about what computer a relative should buy during an otherwise peaceful Thanksgiving meal, I’m that guy screaming that there is nothing else that compares to my Mac family of desktops, laptops and smart phones.

While I’m doing my best lobbying, I keep thinking in the back of my head about how slow my iMac has been running and how several functions of my iPhone haven’t worked in months. I know this can’t be something that is exclusive to me either, which is where the problem lies.

That brief debate, which quickly turned into a one-sided shouting match, is just one example of why consumers like myself will run this company into the ground.

When was the last time Apple did something truly innovative? Even if it’s only been a year, based upon their track-record, that is entirely too long. One of the amazing things about the company for the better part of three decades was that they pushed technology, and its role in society, further.

The iPad has become a cult product. I love them, but how do I know that I won’t become inseparable from an HP or Samsung tablet? I would never even give them a try let alone a serious consideration.

HP has had an all-in-one PC similar to the iMac for the past few years. What’s the only difference? While Apple has been making theirs prettier and prettier over that time, HP has made their product faster and given it a feature that Apple fans have been asking for…a fully capable touch-screen.

Apple has been dubbed the king of touch-screen technology, but is it really warranted? Today’s loyal user more than likely didn’t even try the competition’s product. They were mesmerized by the elegantly simplistic storefront and the fact that they didn’t want to disappoint their fellow consumer brethren.

Without Steve Jobs as a figurehead and driving force, their engineers need to get creative on their own. Of course there is still an executive board, but remember what happened the last time they tried to operate on their own? They barely could.

The foundations for this company are still very strong. They have a great user support system and can still rely on their already strong operating system. However, the strides they’ve made in the past 27 years since the launch of the Macintosh computer will be quickly forgotten if they don’t keep pushing forward.

Any time that they spend idling will allow the competition to catch up, and quickly too. As users we need to take a look at ourselves and make sure are still demanding the best product and not just the least of all the evils. We can’t let them get too comfortable. If we do, we will be the cause for Apple’s failure.

Editor’s Column: Publications Need To Embrace Technology, Not Fight It

By Nicholas Proch

There’s a long, ongoing debate about what will happen to the news media. Will newspapers die? That is an idea that finds its way into my daily thought process and, quite frankly, scares me.

It seems like an obvious notion that they will never be what they once were, but how far will they fall? Is the New York Times going to be something that we tell our grandchildren about when we’re old and telling stories that make them roll their eyes?

We’re already at the point where some young adults have never actually seen a typewriter in person. I’ve personally seen one. It’s in my grandparents basement on display like some type of trophy from a time that once was.

Technology has taken over. It’s now quite easy to have yourself published online and to have your voice heard. Twitter is where some people get their news from. That’s right, Twitter.

When Apple released the new iPhone operating system, iOS 5, last month, I immediately downloaded it. This is partially because a number of years ago I decided that I would support anything that this company rolled out. I have yet to be disappointed, but that’s neither here nor there. I’m a consumer whore and that is a column in itself.

There are several major and welcomed additions to the operating system, but one has been mostly overlooked. ‘Newsstand’, as it is called, is not liked by the average consumer. I find it to be very useful.

Let’s take another jump. As a person who is overly concerned with the media and wants to make a career in journalism, the amount of time I spend actually reading the newspaper or its online counterpart, is laughable. Part of this is because I don’t have time to do this job, take five classes, work another part-time job and have a social life, let alone stop and pick up a newspaper.

In my newsstand is the New York Times digital publication. It’s my connection to the well-reported world. Twitter is not reliable. Depending on the blog, that may not be reliable. They are great resources, but should always be taken at face value.

The Times, and other equally reputable publications, have codes of ethics, editors with experience, news teams and so on. There is someone to check your work. That doesn’t exist at a blog. Heck, the internet allows someone like me to have a blog. That’s a scary thought. Almost as scary as the thought of them winning the media war.

I was juggling my daily life, and texting while driving, when I saw Obama’s announcement about his plan in Iraq. The notification popped up at the top of my screen and I was looking at the story instantly. It was well reported. It had access to the right sources. I trusted it. That’s what will be lost if newspapers disappear. They don’t have to, they just need to adapt.

The ‘old school’ shouldn’t be fighting technology anymore. It will allow their messages to reach people they would have never reached before. They’ve put up a fight for too long. Now they need to embrace the opportunity they have, before they fade in to memory.

Now someone needs to figure out how to make money on the digital production and we will all benefit.

Editor’s Column: A Need For Less Debate

By Nicholas Proch

The perpetual tug of war, which we now know as democracy, needs to find a balance. The current system is teetering over the line and someone needs to speak up before one side loses its grip.

Our media is very pervasive. They find a way into our homes in a variety of ways, in the mail, on television, over radio and on our computer screens. This is especially noticeable during election season.

As you drive down your block you can expect to see sign after sign pertaining to a candidate. There comes a certain point when you stop paying attention to those signs. Your brain will eventually shut them out. There are too many. It’s an over-saturation.

The same can be applied to the Linda McMahon flyers you got in the mail, the Tom Foley television ads and the Dannel Malloy billboards. You stopped looking.

There’s another GOP debate this week. Don’t worry if you have plans and can’t watch it, in two short weeks there’ll be one more. Followed by one, on average, every ten days until March, when the Republican Party will announce their candidate for the presidential election next November.

The media has taken all motivation out of the viewer to tune in and watch. Why would someone make their schedule around these debates when they know they can catch the next one in two weeks? They don’t. They won’t.

This is the tug of war that the politicians and the media are having. It started as a fine idea. Why wouldn’t the Parties want more coverage? For their own benefit that only makes sense. What they didn’t want was an over load of information. So much so, that the messages aren’t remembered after the next debate.

You can ask the most astute political junkie what answers Rick Perry gave to questions posed on September 7, and they would most certainly confuse that debate with the other four he’s participated in since then. The answers are muddled together. This weakens the quality and general intent of the debate completely.

The famed 1960 debates between Nixon and Kennedy are remembered for a reason. There were four of them. They may have been the deciding factor in that general election. If there had been a dozen meetings between the two of them, it would have watered down the meaning. There wasn’t. Debates were rare at that time.

Today, debates are plentiful. They can be found on your television set like clockwork. They can be found as easily as a potato in your local market. Some of us need to fill up our gas tanks at a lower frequency than we see a debate during this season.

It’s unfortunate because these public dialogues could be very beneficial to the general population. They should be able to use them to make informed decisions when they go to the polls, but they’re now missed.

We’re playing with fire. Voter turnout is a telling number, but it doesn’t tell the real story. What will be the percentage of people who come out a year from now and make an informed judgment before they punch their ballot? Based upon the amount of information that is available, the potential is very high.

We don’t live in a world based on potential. Ryan Leaf had the potential to be the best quarterback the NFL had ever seen. Obama had the potential to turn this country around. The Tucker Car Corporation, Polaroid and the Titanic all had potential and failed.

There will be a point when these debates mean nothing. At that point the media will have won the battle against the politicians. They should be working together to make the most of each debate and not let them get lost with all the other aspects of campaigning which we’ve tuned out.

Editor’s Column: When We’ve Crossed The Line

The time has come and gone that the public can handle using anonymity. There was once a time when a source could remain hidden to protect themselves and only in those situations was their name hidden. We’ve now reached a point, in both social practice and technology, that remaining unnamed is an obvious problem.

Letters to the editor at a newspaper publication are checked. They are fact checked. They are then checked to make sure that they came from whose desk they claimed to have been penned from.

These levels of journalistic security provide some relief for the readers, publishers, editors and, most importantly, those who are writing these letters. When you send a letter to the Hartford Courant, you can rest assured that you will receive a phone call or email making sure that you wrote it.

There is a large problem with the tech generation in our attitudes towards what is appropriate and what is not. Namely, we can’t handle public commentary. Too many people handle comments on blogs and other user-driven news sites as if they are forums for cheap and uneducated banter.

A student who has taken Ethics Of Journalism would tell you how important libel is and the rules to abide by to stay out of trouble. Whether or not they are just spitting back information or have actually learned that information is unknown, but they can certainly repeat it back to you.

They will tell you public defamation is a practice that will result in a lawsuit. Most of the time, you will not win this battle. ‘Public Defamation’ is a phrase that isn’t in a lot of people’s vocabulary when they go onto a blog or online news site.

A website like Topix, where users can submit their own stories started as a great idea. It was a way for people to report on their towns. It allowed writers to cover the stories they wanted to. There was room for comment and criticism. This exemplified citizen journalism.

This type of journalism was what our modern-day publications were founded upon. At their infancy, newspapers were the voice of the people. They published personal tales of oppression and questions of public policy. It was meaningful comment. Criticism had grounds to stand on. It worked.

As Topix evolved, along with other similar sites, problems began to show. Lives have been changed by what others are writing on their sites, sometimes without a by-line. Rumors have spread out of control and have even been picked up by national publications as stories of cyber-bullying and defamation.

If you go to your local internet search engine and type, “public defamation topix,” you can see a variety of articles written about issues surrounding cyber-bullying and whether or not it is fair comment and criticism. It’s not just a local issue. A lot of people are talking about this.

Those who have taken classes and understand the elements of journalism through experience or from the classroom should be outraged at what is now considered “reporting.” Real journalists cannot stay anonymous. That’s not how it works. It’s a sham.

There was once a time when you could have asked me if I believed that all newspapers would eventually fold and I would have told you that think they eventually will. I can no longer stand by that statement. The general public is beginning to realize that citizen journalism, with no guidance or education, is not a reputable source of information.

These sites help in natural disaster situations and when the presses can no longer be trusted, but those situations are far and few between. Nothing will ever replace a well reported and balanced story. If you want to be taken seriously, put your name on your criticism. At least then we can believe you are being fair and honest.

There is no more room for these practices in what has become a very competitive market for information. Hopefully we can realize that we’re crossing the line of absurdity in the media before we’re well past it.