Here’s my unsolicited advice for the day: every once in a while, watch movies that are guaranteed to be good. I awakened this morning as my roommate was watching “The Shawhank Redemption.” I LOVE this film. No matter how many times I’ve seen it on cable TV over the years, the ending always drives me to tears. Best conclusion in the history of cinema. Don’t you agree?
Right now, I’m watching the end of “Good Night and Good Luck.” You probably know Edward R. Murrow was the first national figure to really question Joe McCarthy’s tactics in his overzealous quest to weed out Communists in government. The film is also just a grim reminder of how broadcast journalism is in a constant state of decline. Producing substantive news and investigative reports takes courage– and support from people willing to be smart news consumers.
Now, it’s on to the third “guaranteed to be good” movie of the day… “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
Thanks to the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) and my mentor, Independent Producer Dmae Roberts, my first self-produced radio documentary aired today on KBOO Community Radio! So exciting! Unlike my first piece for This American Life, I recorded, wrote and edited this second piece on my own. The story is called “James and Claire.” It’s about a guy I know from Boise, James Jameson, and his decision to become transgender. In a series of interviews and outings, he talked to me about why he did it, how he transitioned, and how his “unconventional” views of sexuality and gender continue to evolve. I first talked to James in Idaho, and followed his progress after he moved to Portland in search of a broader trans community.
I’ll try to get some audio up on this blog soon. Special thanks to Dmae for offering me this opportunity and for providing such wonderful guidance. For more information about her award-winning work, click here.
BTW, I just watched this Frontline doc titled, “Young & Restless in China.” We all know Frontline rocks and there is a never-ending fascination with all things China. I think what makes this one unique is the sheer depth in which the filmmakers are able to track and film several individuals over a four-year period. Considering that’s how long I’ve been out of college, I can understand how much an individual can change in that time– especially when you live in a country that is developing at China’s rate. What compelling stories they had to tell! I felt I could totally identify with their struggles to find a balance between work and relationships, personal freedom and family obligations, etc. Story of my life lately. I’m sure many of you can relate.
This election year is too important to offer Tim Russert’s venerable moderator’s seat to anyone who might be perceived as too partisan (Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann), too inexperienced (David Gregory or Anderson Cooper), or too cerebral (Charlie Rose).
My nomination for the job? Ted Koppel.
We need someone who can ask the tough, well-researched questions- and demand answers. Ted did this on a daily basis for years!
We need someone familiar with the Beltway. Ted is already an established insider whose Nightline program was based in DC for years. He is not a crony. I believe he is an unabashed truth seeker.
We need someone with moral authority and a clean track record for candor and honesty. I believe in Ted.
We need someone who has the years of experience to offer context and meaning to the news developments in this election cycle. Again, Ted tops the field.
I suggest NBC resurrects the master of the nightly political interview. Koppel has covered EVERY SINGLE WAR since Vietnam. Every single election since LBJ. He had the presence of mind to remind American citizens in the spring of 2003- weeks after the war began in Iraq and as President Bush prepared to announce “Mission Accomplished”- that the internal struggle in that country had only just begun. Remember, this was months before any of us had even heard of the term “insurgency.”
And look at this video below. Tim Russert interviewed Ted on Meet the Press in 2007! It is a little dated and you may not agree with everything he says, but within the context of the time– he offers another dose of wisdom.
Koppel also knows how to interrogate in his own distinct way, as he did while interviewing Bush’s “Brownie” in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster. See it here. Not only is he tough on Michael Brown– he ends the grilling in a way that shows it wasn’t about making himself look good. It was about finding the truth and holding the person at the top accountable.
Then… check out this classic Koppel moment from an old Nightline. He interviews former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Listen to him talk about what happened behind the scenes.
There is a plethora of old Koppel videos on YouTube and elsewhere. It’s a testament to his skill and legacy.
I don’t know that Mr. Koppel has quite the same speed or ability to connect with the “Everyman” that Mr. Russert was known for. What always comes through to me in his reporting and interviewing, though, is his curiosity, focus and compassion for those he seeks answers for- and from.
In conclusion, he has covered the broad spectrum of American society and interacted in human ways with soldiers, children, politicos, etc. And who can forget Morrie– the guy Ted spoke to years ago in interviews that inspired Mitch Albom to write his best seller.
Like Russert, Koppel has written books. Like Russert, he has received tons of accolades. Like Russert, he is based in Washington. Like Russert, being interviewed by Koppel is like a rite of passage for Washington mega egos. Like Russert, he does not rely on good looks or great hair (ha!)- just his smarts.
When Nightline re-structured itself a couple years ago, I remember asking, “What are we going to do without Ted and his arsenal of knowledge?”
Well, here’s our chance to find another outlet for Ted Koppel. We need his voice in the national dialogue. I believe expanding his work beyond the Discovery Network would be great for our democracy and pay tribute to Tim Russert’s tradition of offering the best political journalism every Sunday.
The host of “Meet the Press” died today. He was only 58.
This is a huge loss. Not just for journalism, but for our country.
Click here for MSNBC’s coverage.
Okay, I’m gonna make a regular feature out of posting classic stories as I find them. Here is another ’60 Minutes’ piece I have been searching for in vain– until now! Morley Safer talks to the Muppets, the men behind them, and the genius who started it all– Jim Henson.
Best damn interview I’ve seen and heard in a while is here on NPR’s web site. Our subject today: Cookie Monster. He ain’t just about the sugar anymore.
What an inspiration.
On another note– 60 Minutes continues to whoop ass when it comes to television news profiles. On Sunday, the crew caught up with the Democratic contenders.
Barack Obama: “We’re like the challenger. She’s like the champ.”
Hillary Clinton: “My two secrets to staying healthy: wash your hands all the time. And, if you can’t, use Purell or one of the sanitizers. And the other is hot peppers. I eat a lot of hot peppers. I for some reason started doing that in 1992, and I swear by it.”
Here’s a link to her profile.
I crave mental stimulation, and I found it once again this week thanks to Professor Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon virtual reality engineer who is dying from pancreatic cancer. He delivered “The Last Lecture” last year. Luckily, he’s doing well enough to continue teaching, so here’s his latest lesson on the topic of time management.
1. Happy (very belated) New Year.
2. This winter weather needs to stop blowin’ down property and raisin’ such a ruckus! Makes my work a little more exciting (and for some good TV), but come on– there’s other news to report, too.
3. Ask anyone around me. They’ll tell you I can’t stop talking about the latest Frontline piece, The Medicated Child. Such a great dialogue for us to have with one another– are kids just being kids when they throw those nasty tantrums and run around with boundless energy, or is it something else that needs to be treated with a questionable concoction of drugs? It seems like such a simple answer to me. But then again, I’m not a parent.