Friday, October 27, 2006

Smoke from a Distant Fire

In case you haven't noticed, I pay a little bit of attention to local TV. One reason is that it reminds me of growing up in Pittsburgh, and visiting relatives in the country who had a big old TV antenna on the roof, with a remote-controlled electric rotor that would move the antenna into position to receive different Pittsburgh TV stations.

The interesting thing was that you could also pull in stations from Wheeling, West Virginia and Youngstown, Ohio, and sometimes these stations were pretty entertaining in a way that I don't think they would have appreciated if they knew how we thought of them. The commercials and newscasts were more than a little less professional than the Pittsburgh stations, and occasionally the wrong film or taped segment would be aired, or something else akin to slapstick would happen, and then some of the locally-produced commercials would run. Think of the SNL skit about the chandelier store and you'll know what I mean.

Some of these stations do deserve credit for creative programming, though. Back in the late 80's the hospital in Pittsburgh where I worked still pulled their TV in from over the air, and the Saturday night Star Trek Marathon on WTOV sure helped the night shift go by quickly.

With the arrival of cable and satellite came the ability to see TV stations from a lot further away than just within the broadcast range of proximal metropolitan areas, and with that came the arrival of federal regulations that established rules about viewing stations other than the ones that served the Designated Market Area, or DMA, that you resided in.

Some of these rules, such as Must Carry
and the Satellite Home Viewer Act, are specifically aimed at preventing local TV consumers from viewing what are called Distant Signals, unless the consumer could prove that they are outside the range of the local station. This has been of particular interest to people like me who moved to Grand Junction from someplace else and found that the local TV stations, especially the news, felt like being forced to watch the Steubenville station when you were used to Pittsburgh.

To be fair, the quality of Grand Junction TV news has improved over the years, but you'll never see a GJ station provide overall event coverage and service at the level of the Denver stations. They'll bring up several examples of "excellent local news coverage", but let's see them break in live at 2:00 AM with updates on the recent CSP trooper shooting and manhunt in Garfield County. Not gonna happen.

Thanks to must carry, the arrival of KKCO in 1996 signaled the departure of Denver's KUSA
from the local cable and rural translators, and the battle was on to get Denver news back on the air in GJ. Pressure from local viewers on several GJ stations has eased since KREX relented by airing the Denver Fox affiliate's newscast on their Fox station KFQX at 9:00 PM, along with the Fox 31 morning news every morning.

In the rural areas of Colorado this has been a somewhat heated battle at times between the smaller DMAs such as Grand Junction and Colorado Springs, and consumers in these areas who prefer news and local programming from Denver stations. Nowhere in the state is this a more glaring issue than in Durango and the Four Corners region, which falls into the Albuquerque-Santa Fe DMA.

EchoStar, the parent company of Dish Network, has provided access to Denver stations to Durango subscribers who are more interested in what is going on in Colorado instead of New Mexico. This is now threatened thanks to a federal judge's ruling in Florida last week that would require Dish to shut down access to distant signals to the vast majority of its' subscribers. Dish has vowed to fight the ruling to keep the distant signals coming, and many folks in the Durango area have contacted the Brothers Salazar about federal legislation aimed at ending the archaic monopolies that prevent residents of rural Colorado from getting the best possible statewide news coverage available.

The Heritage Foundation summed the issue up very nicely in 1999:
  • Broadcasters want to preserve the government-sanctioned monopoly they have enjoyed since the early days of TV broadcasting by ensuring that no company (other than the current local broadcast affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox TV located in each community) is permitted to transmit or retransmit network television signals in the local market. They are concerned that increased competition from "out-of-market" competitors like satellite broadcast providers puts their local advertising base at risk. If their advertising base shrinks, broadcasters argue, their economic livelihood will be threatened and "localism" in broadcasting endangered.

  • Satellite providers want to continue to deliver "distant network affiliate signals" to anyone who wants them, especially those who have poor signal reception from local network affiliates using roof-top antennas, set-top "rabbit ear" antennas, or cable television. Satellite providers believe "unserved households" should be defined as broadly as possible so that customers who do not receive adequate broadcast signals at any time during the day can do so via satellite transmission. (Note: At least one satellite TV provider is now beaming the GJ stations through their satellite systems.)

  • Consumers for the most part want to make sure they do not lose their current service, whether it is traditional broadcast programming from local affiliates or retransmission of distant network signals via satellite providers. Most important, however, they want to receive the highest quality signal possible from a provider of their choice.

The continued development of the Internet as a communications tool lends a bit of irony to this debate. Tonight I can go to KUSA's website, and watch a good portion of their stories online over the same Bresnan cable that is restricted from delivering the same content to my television in the form of a TV signal. Hopefully the net will continue to remain a neutral source of information, so that the foolishness that dominates the delivery of local broadcast TV can't pervade cyberspace.

Best wishes to the folks in Durango and at Dish Network for success in their respective efforts.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Politics, Family, and Religion (Oh My)

Lovely topics for a "polite", albeit one-way conversation, don't you think?

The political season is upon us. Isn't it wonderful?
KKCO had some type of technical difficulties on Thursday evening, and instead of the 5:30 news they aired at least 7 minutes of consecutive commercials, many of them the largely shrill and fear-promoting TV ads that will pervade the airwaves from now til November 7.

I won't pretend to be a political expert. We are fortunate enough here in Mesa County to have a
blogger who does an excellent job at analyzing and providing valuable insight on these types of things. I think I'll follow his lead on at least a couple of topics tonight.

The Junction Daily Blog provided some excellent insight on
Thursday, the same day that the letter Ralph referred to in that day's post appeared as a full-page ad in the Daily Sentinel. I agree with Ralph's analysis of what was to me an attempt to say that we shouldn't vote for someone because they are the most qualified to represent us in Denver. Instead, we should elect the one most likely to remain beholden to a collective ideology, and can be depended upon to vote the party line. This appears to me to be party politics at its' most "basic" level. I think that one could easily substitute the adjective "raw" or perhaps "Neanderthal" for the above and still have an understanding of the practice.

When I was little I remember going with my Dad to the polls, and seeing the slate cards being distributed by volunteers outside the local elementary school where the paper ballots were cast and counted. Machine-type local politics were a staple of that area and era, even before the
voting machines that appeared when I was about 12, with the big lever at the far left that you could pull to vote the party, not the candidate.

Didn't think about it much back then, even when I started volunteering for political candidates as a teenager. What attracted me to being involved was a fairly young, energetic Republican running for congress in my district. He had a pretty, equally energetic wife and three young kids who all looked pretty nice. He was well-off, but seemed honest and dedicated to public service.

H. John Heinz III was elected to the House twice, then to the Senate three times before dying tragically in a plane crash in 1991. He was asked in 1973 to reflect on his first 100 days in congress, and what he said was prescient:

"I have attempted to wear no label, neither 'liberal' nor 'conservative' nor 'pro-labor' nor 'pro-management.' I have acted in each case on the basis of what I believe is right for my constituents, for our state and for the country."

This was my kind of politician, and probably what motivated me to work as a volunteer for
John Anderson's presidential campaign in 1980, and aside from running for school board in 1981 was my last active foray into politics.

So maybe now you have an idea of the kind of politician that will get my support, now and in the future. As far as that letter that Ralph was so concerned about; it makes me wonder which building in Downtown Grand Junction will be the new local GOP equivalent of
Tammany Hall.

Ralph had an equally poignant post on
Friday, concerning his wife being out of town on their 25th anniversary, tending to family members. My family is spread out all over the place, but my mother is still in Pittsburgh and my wife's immediate family settled in Massachusetts.
Her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2003, and my wife spent the better part of the next year taking care of her there, until she passed away in September 2004.
Jan's mother smoked until the week before she died.

Fortunately, we've been able to live on just my income, so there weren't any work-related difficulties with her doing this. When she went back to her mother's condo in June of 2005 and started complaining of back pain there, my work was very supportive in allowing me to go back, help out, and get the family back home. Our son was in Pittsburgh visiting my mother, so our plan was to fly from Providence to Denver through Pittsburgh to pick him up. We got as far as our intermediate stop before the pain became intolerable for her.

The next two weeks felt like being on automatic pilot, making all of the appropriate moves but not really feeling the impact of them. She was hospitalized in Pittsburgh after an MRI found lung cancer that had spread to her spine and brain. She had never smoked a day in her life; now nobody can tell me that secondhand smoke is harmless, especially a
bunch of bar owners.

She had spinal surgery in Pittsburgh, was flown back here and spent 3 weeks at St. Mary's getting radiation therapy and rehab before coming home. My mother was gracious enough to spend 4 months here afterward, helping to keep the house in order while I went back to work and our son started high school.

I can't say enough about my co-workers. My boss and others picked up our cats while we were gone and discovered a broken water line that had flooded our basement, a week before we got back. Repairs weren't complete upon our return, and my son and I spent a few nights between the house, the hospital, and a motel.

Now we're over a year since her diagnosis and major treatment, and we still have a few rough spots and things to watch out for but in general her cancer is under control. The grace and mercy of this community cannot be underestimated, and I believe the foundation for that lies not in any man-made institution, be it corporation or government or even church, but the teachings and actions of Christ that so many of us have found peace, and a sense of direction and purpose.

Now my mother is starting to have some health-related issues, and my brother in Oklahoma and myself will be going back east sometime soon to set up some contingencies. Enjoy your anniversary sometime soon as well, Ralph, and may God bless you and your family.

I wasn't always what I would consider a person of faith. I was raised Roman Catholic, and worked my way through other churches, never really connecting to the message. I always seemed to feel that the man-made trappings of ritual and hierarchy got in the way of the essential message, the reason that you were there in the first place.

Going to
Young Life in high school was the closest I had ever felt to having a relationship with Christ, up until the point that our family started attending the Vineyard three years ago.

A column in Saturday's
Rocky brought my attention to a new book that appears to defiantly argue against faith, belief, and religion in general. This is Sam Harris' Letter to a Christian Nation.

I found the column intriguing, and some of the
quotes on the website even more so.
I'll probably read the book, and may come away from it nodding in agreement with some of Mr. Harris' assertions.

This doesn't really change my thinking about the last few years, or my life in general.
Here's a brief summary of that:

I feel better about myself and my life knowing that God is a part of it.

I have no real explanation for this.

My family feels the same way, despite the recent hardships we have endured.

Many people I know that don't seem to share this also seem to be unhappy and/or searching.

I'll conclude with the first three definitions of the word faith from the American Heritage Dictionary. The varying meanings that can be drawn from just this one word could apply to any of the above topics I've written about.

American Heritage Dictionary faith (fth)
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters

With this many meanings (there were more obscure ones as well) for one simple word, is it any wonder that the idea exists that man has potentially re-shaped scripture and dogma to fit his own purposes, from the Crusades to indulgences to Manifest Destiny to the Iraq War?

May you have the faith and wisdom to calmly navigate the turbulent sea of sound bites over the coming weeks, and rationally choose the best people for the tenuous and daunting job of managing our earthly kingdom.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Redux and Revelation

Several topics that I've written about recently have had new information that clarifies or embellishes the topic pop up in the media and elsewhere, so I thought I would begin by revisiting a few of them.

School Safety

The Daily Sentinel's package of articles in this past Sunday's edition went a long way toward addressing what I believe Denny Herzog meant when he wrote about taking a "critical look" at the issue and reporting on it. What was surprising to me was the continued reticence of District 51 administration on the subject in general. While the focus of these articles was admittedly on School Resource Officers, the District's contribution from its' chief public spokesman to all of the articles published amounted to one sentence.

I would think that Mr. Kirtland would have more to say, and maybe he did that didn't make the articles. Either that or perhaps for him this topic is like the Klingon proverb about revenge; a dish best served cold. Still, I think it would paint a better picture for the District if its' Public Information Officer was proactive and at the forefront of any media coverage of the schools, rather than the principal of Palisade High School, which from one of the articles is what it seemed like.

The new "PRIDE" program at GJHS that was mentioned gave me a chuckle, as I first heard about it from my son, who added that "pride is one of the seven deadly sins". We're raising a nation of cynics and comedians.

In any event, school safety and security will be a continuing topic for discussion and media attention, irrespective of attempts to control or ignore the message being delivered. I also appreciated Bob Silbernagel's editorial on open records, with his personal experience in dealing with schools as an example of some of the difficulties encountered by many in our community and elsewhere.

So long as public schools remain an arm of government and accountable to the people, part of their focus needs to be on transparency and candor, especially when it pertains to safety and emergency planning. Like I've said before, as a parent I expect nothing less when it comes to risks involving my child and the environment where he spends most of his waking hours 9 months out of the year, and that includes extracurricular activities like football games.

The schools must also acknowledge that it will be an increasingly difficult balancing act between educating children and working to assure both their safety and that of the community at large, but it is one that they cannot ignore. Time for them to plan on ponying up for safety-related staffing and training in the future.

Vigliotti gone?

In a related item, it appears that Jonathan Vigliotti's tenure at KJCT has come to an end, less than two weeks after his investigative report on school security, which according to some corners should have been followed by a mea culpa. Mr. Vigliotti's bio has been removed from the station's website, and a Colorado Springs-based media message board has posts to the effect that he was offered a job in Milwaukee (a big market jump) after the news director there saw his school piece. Having been to Milwaukee recently, I think that he will be a busy person. Best of luck to him.

Net Neutrality

An item in the online edition of the Orange and Black caught my attention. This week on PBS, Bill Moyers will tackle the issue of threats to the future of the Internet as part of his Moyers on America series. It will air here on Wednesday night at 8:00 PM on Rocky Mountain PBS. Here is a preview:

MOYERS ON AMERICA: ''The Net at Risk,'' Oct. 18, 2006, 9 pm ET on PBS

The series is also promoting a citizen's class program that involves community discussion groups talking about the series and the issues it raises, and the Mesa County Public Library District is participating with sessions the next three Monday evenings. More details here.

KKCO Closed Captioning

Thanks to KKCO for fixing its' closed captioning technology, but as always there is more work to do. A lot of the interview SOTs are not captioned at all, and some of the stories have such a delay between the story and the captions that all meaningful context has been removed. I hope that they will take their responsibilities in this regard seriously, perhaps as much as to work on getting real-time closed captioning implemented. This would admittedly be pricey, but they won't have to worry about synching with the video, all of the ad-libs will be captioned, and they will be performing a needed service for which many hearing-impaired residents of our community will be grateful.

KKCO is the number one newscast in this market area, so I'm guessing that many viewers who would benefit from real-time captioning are watching. If so, contact the station and tell them how you feel.

Canyon View Vineyard Church has started a seven-week series of sermons on the Book of Revelation. As someone who hasn't navigated the Bible as well as he should, my impression of Revelation was all that stuff about the end of the world, but the beginning of this book is basically advice to the seven primary Christian churches in various cities. These words of advice comprise the seven lessons the church is focusing on in this sermon series.

The apostle John received this revelation while imprisoned on the island of Patmos. With tongue in cheek and after a first blush through the book, I got the distinct impression that these first seven admonitions were received by John before he found the wild island mushrooms.

I've got a lot to learn about many things, and this series so far has been engaging and challenging. Paul Watson has done an excellent job teaching these first two lessons. One of the most significant things that Paul had to say about the first lesson, which revolved around the part of Revelation directed to the Ephesians, was this:

We lose focus when we start to think that we are in control.

I'm looking forward to the rest. You can listen and read about the first sermon here, or better yet come on out, especially if you haven't been there before.

May you find the grace this week to see beyond those things you think you can control, and begin (or continue) to understand who is really in charge.

Requires Real Player
choose your connection

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Future of the Internet, At Stake Now

I was gone the bulk of this past week, in Longmont attending the annual conference of the Colorado chapters of the two largest trade organizations representing the interests of public safety communications and 9-1-1 providers, APCO and NENA. I'm still trying to digest all of the information that I received from peers and vendors regarding emerging trends, and how to prepare for some of those trends that are literally already upon us.

I'm referring to the use of devices for communication that rely on packet switching using an Internet Protocol instead of circuit switching through the Public Switched Telephone Network.
You are likely familiar with some of these features of communication devices, aside from the Internet itself; e-mail and text messaging, streaming audio and video, and the biggest challenge to emergency call routing since the cell phone, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

My preference in a perfect world would be to prohibit the marketing of these devices until they could demonstrate their ability to route 9-1-1 calls correctly. Unfortunately, it appears that 9-1-1 is a minor issue when rolling out some of these new telecommunications technologies, that is until something tragic occurs and the FCC gets involved.

Progress is being made, as witnessed by the conference's emphasis on Next Generation 9-1-1, an initiative that hopefully will bring to all 9-1-1 centers the ability to receive things like text messages, pictures from wireless phones, and streaming video from the locations of emergency calls. The path to this capability is likely to be a long and arduous one, and will have to follow along with challenges to the integrity of the Internet itself.

This past week the FCC delayed a vote on approving the merger of two large telecommunications companies, AT&T and BellSouth, due in part to concerns about the merger's effects on Net Neutrality, or the concept that Internet Service Providers must route all data in a neutral fashion, irrespective of the destination of the data. A brief video overview of the concepts involved is available here.

Without Net Neutrality, the average Internet experience could start looking like this.

The detrimental effects of a non-neutral Internet on the myriad sources of Internet content, including packets of information that may be destined for a 9-1-1 answering point, is too much for me to stomach. The FCC has established a comment period until October 24 on the AT&T / BellSouth merger, and I'm sure that in a few days sites such as Save The Internet and Free Press will have links to forms that will automatically post to the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System. If you have a minute, make your thoughts on the subject known to those in a position to steer information access in this country for years to come.

Those who would make the Internet a world of tiered services, frought with limited access for those with a limited ability to pay, or preferential data routing or outright restriction of "non-preferred" content, are seeking to commoditize information just like a physical resource such as coal or natural gas.

Initiatives such as the One Laptop Per Child project, combined with the efforts to preserve net neutrality, are important steps toward the development of the Information Commons, and dovetails with yesterday's awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Bangladeshi economist and banker Mohammed Yunus for the successful concept of "micro-credit", which has helped to enable thousands of poor people take the first steps out of poverty.

These efforts, whether in an impoverished country or the richest nation in the world (at least in terms of material wealth), are indicative of a vision of Christian living that I would like to subscribe to. While this is admittedly difficult for the best of us on a daily basis, and we may find ourselves perhaps disagreeing on how best to live up to Jesus' parable as told in the Gospel of Matthew, the effort itself, and the reward at the end, will prove more satisfying than anything material we may hold onto in our present lives.

May this week bring you an opportunity to share the wealth that is yourself with someone less fortunate.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Changing Face of Grand Avenue

Godspeed to Doug and Suzan Scott, who left for South Africa this past week to begin the process of becoming full-time missionaries there. Suzan is one of the first people I met outside of work when I moved here who took the time to strike up a conversation. I met her at a booth at one of those spring art festivals Downtown, selling jewelry and clothing that she had made.

Suzan and I worked across the street from one another for a few years, when she worked for the state Department of Local Affairs. Most recently she worked at Mesa State, first in the tutoring office and then in the library. Her husband Doug worked for District 51 in maintenance, but also ran the Scott Real Estate Agency with his late father. They have a grown daughter, married with a small child in the Washington DC area.

Doug and Suzan belong to First Assembly of God in Grand Junction. I would venture that one of the last few things Doug did for the church was to list it for sale. Judging from the absence of real estate signs, I'm guessing that the sale has been completed and the church has the funds to complete construction of its' new home on Highway 6 & 50 near 21 Road.

I had been fantasizing about what could be the best use of that entire city block in the middle of Downtown, with its' natural quick access to primary roadways in both directions and proximity to the seats of City and County government. Of course much of this was self-serving; how about a public safety center, containing a new Police Headquarters, Fire Station, and Communications Center? Well, it was nice while it lasted in my head.

My guess is that whatever commercial and/or residential development being considered for the property will considerably alter the physical and functional dynamic of the area. The property currently attracts considerable attention only when there are church functions, primarily in the evenings and on weekends. That will likely not be the case anymore. The City leased some of the parking spaces for employees during the week; the eventual loss of those spaces will be made up by the new garage at 4th and Rood.

Whenever the City's Community Development Department gets the application from whomever has purchased the property (the County Assessor's database still shows it as belonging to the church), careful consideration will need to be given to the inevitable increase in traffic and parking needs, as well as the impact on residential areas north of the property. Best wishes to everyone involved for an approval process that equitably addresses the needs of all stakeholders, including those of us who call the Historic Downtown Neighborhood home.

This of course isn't the only place along Grand where new development could potentially occur. The vacant northeast corner of 6th and Grand is a possibility, as is the property currently owned by the Library District, purchased presumably for planned expansion, which is awaiting a majority of the electorate to gain vision. The southwest corner of 4th and Grand, a former drive-thru bank that is currently unused, is also a ripe corner for something new to happen.

One item on the front page of this past Friday's Rocky Mountain News also raised some remote possibilities. The story involves the Diocese of Pueblo and a dispute with one of its' insurers over some of the claims filed against the Diocese for sexual abuse by a priest in Pueblo during the late 60's and early 70's.

The insurer is trying to assert that it is not liable for the claims, and if their suit is successful the Diocese may be directly liable for millions. The attorney for the plaintiffs has stated that they will go after church property if necessary. This could include some of the St. Joseph's Church property at 3rd and Grand, such as the vacant lot left by the demolition of the old school that was destroyed by fire last winter.

Change and transition are inevitable, whether it is life changes such as Doug and Suzan feel called to undertake, or the changes at their church that calls them to relocate, and the opportunities for development that have resulted from that calling. The re-development of the First Assembly property will set the tone for the continued re-inventing of Grand Avenue as well as Downtown Grand Junction, but as with all development that benefits a community it must be underaken with careful consideration as to impact and appropriate use for the surrounding area.

The property owner and developer, in conjunction with City government, will hopefully recognize and abide by these responsibilities. The Downtown Association and Downtown Development Authority, whose northern boundary is Ouray Avenue, need to take stock of the residential areas just north of that boundary, and help to assure that whatever is built at First Assembly does not damage the quality of life of those nearby residences. Hopefully the lessons learned by my neighborhood in dealing with Bourbon Street will not have to be taught again.

In the meantime, my best wishes and prayers to Doug and Suzan for success in your mission, as well as safe travel and relocation.

Today Jan and I mark 18 years of marriage with a quiet Sunday afternoon peppered with small chores, football, laundry, and some writing and conversation. We'll have a weekend away somewhere this month, and I'll take her out to dinner wherever she would like to go. Basically I'll do whatever I can to make sure she is comfortable and cared for, in hopes that she will continue to feel well and make improvement.

Our marriage has not been perfect, but it's been good. The last few years have shown us that there are much bigger things to concern ourselves with than most things that couples typically disagree about. I'm reminded of the scene in Doctor Zhivago when Yuri, Tonya, Sasha and Tonya's father are forced to take refuge in the small cottage in the Urals after fleeing Moscow. The father says to them, "I wouldn't be surprised if you look back on this time as one of your best".


Much press was made over the response of the Amish community in rural east central Pennsylvania to the West Nickel Mines school tragedy. Some of my colleagues expressed disbelief at the tradition of forgiveness and helping one's fellow man that is woven into Amish culture. There was a good op-ed piece in today's Philadelphia Inquirer that succintly explained the background and history involved.

The New York Daily News used the headline "Amazing Grace" for their coverage of the issue, and they didn't mean Nancy. You won't find any mention of the Amish story on the CNN Headline News spit-and-venom hostess' website, or any other example of forgiveness or understanding for that matter. Nancy Grace and those like her forward the misguided idea that our justice system can provide closure and healing to those victimized by crime.

The approach of the Amish and many others to these situations is indicative of a basic, fundamental truth of our existence; how we endure bad times and circumstances is directly related to God's grace and mercy, as reflected in the sacrifice of his Son and our collective outward actions as a community confirming the peace we hold within us.

May you find peace and forgiveness in your life this week, and may you find the grace to pass some along to others.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Apples and Oranges

Denny Herzog of the Daily Sentinel took issue with KJCT and reporter Jonathan Vigliotti's story on school safety that I mentioned in my post yesterday. His blog entry was rather uncomplimentary of the reporter and the station for the story idea and the manner in which it was carried out.

Denny did his job; he made me think about this.

He added that his staff would likely not recommend such a story idea, because "It serves no purpose and requires no particular journalistic skills (other than perhaps the ability to walk and carry a camera at the same time)." He also stated, "It seems to me our job is take a critical look at what they are doing and report on that."

I agree with Denny that such a story idea would be a bad fit for the Sentinel. The intent of the story was to show where the reporter was able to get to inside the building without a visitor's pass, and then to confront a district official with the "damning" evidence and elicit comment from him and a response from the viewing audience.

Would such a story play as well in print as it did on video? I don't think so. We're dealing with two vastly different forms of media, with significantly different ways of plying the trade. I think that the nature of the two businesses must also be taken into consideration when trying to deduce any purpose for doing this type of story.

I think that there were two underlying purposes in conducting the story. First, to capitalize on a timely, topical, legitimate concern, draw attention to any successes or failures, and get an
explanation from someone of authority. For Grand Junction TV news, this was quite a stretch, and a somewhat refreshing one to be honest. It showed initiative on the part of the reporter.
He wasn't concerned about "taking a critical look". That doesn't make for provocative images and snappy dialogue, not to mention the Geraldo-like approach to the post-entry interview.
Leave the details for the print media.

Second, Mr. Vigliotti is probably looking to get outta Dodge like the majority of his colleagues in the 187th largest TV market in the country, and has just added a juicy morsel to his resume' tape to do just that. With a few notable exceptions, the Grand Junction TV market is a training ground for new broadcast journalists who are here to get some practical experience and move on.

There are several excellent, thorough, professional reporters and anchors who have been here for several years, but to be upwardly mobile in the TV news biz means to move up in market size. That's where more viewing households, higher advertising rates based on those households, and higher salaries live, and since broadcast journalism is one of the lowest paying professions that typically requires a 4-year degree to get in the door, people new to the business are often eager to get the job, get the experience, and get out.

Denny also mentions that "School District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland was reportedly livid when he saw the KJCT report". My impression is that the bulk of the Sentinel's staff have made their homes here for a long time, and have to live and work with people like Mr. Kirtland every day. Doing stuff like this isn't good for business in the long run, because Mr. Kirtland and those like him will be inclined to sound Red Alert and bring Shields Up more often, like he did with the recent knife incident at Pear Park Elementary.

Putting people on the defensive just doesn't seem to be a good way to gather news if you are trying to "take a critical look" at processes and practices. I would think that fostering effective relationships is a key, and Denny knows this. That's why guerrilla journalism such as practiced by Mr. Vigliotti would be unwelcome in his shop.

I'm guessing that Mr. Vigliotti will succeed in finding a TV news job in a larger market within the next year. Either that or he will start producing political attack ads. The techniques used in his story and those ads are intended to achieve a temporary effect or gain, not lasting change or improvement. Just as when the true Fourth Estate excels in sweating the details, "taking critical looks", and enlightening citizens when the job is done well, we as a community will be better off for it.

On a related note, closed captioning is an important part of my family's TV viewing, as my wife Jan is hearing impaired. KKCO's newscasts have been without closed captions for at least the last two nights. I sent an email to their website and received a prompt, polite reply from Jean Reynolds, their News Director. She explained that a converter had been hit by lightning, and was on order and would hopefully be replaced in a few days.

Thanks for your reply and explanation, Jean. I know it's been a rough 10 years at times between us, and I appreciate your efforts. Once it's back, maybe we can start talking about real-time captioning, OK?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reflections and Remembrance

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (New International Version)

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This passage was one of several used by Dan Cox, Senior Pastor at Canyon View Vineyard Church, when be preached on "A Time to Reflect" this past weekend. Another passage he used was a more familiar and a favorite one of mine (in part because it inspired one of the better songs of the 60's), to help illustrate the plight he found himself in.

Part of this sermon was to announce that he is taking a sabbatical for 3 months, and admitted that he is "burned out". He went on to list some of his weaknesses with regard to how he approached leading the church, and how he felt the need to ask permission to take some time off.

I identified with just about everything Dan had to say about weaknesses, including when he said, "When you have a work ethic that defines your self-worth, then you need permission".
Truer words have not been said, at least to describe my approach to things. Jan's illness and the needs of my family have provided a much needed re-direction, but I feel I need to be reminded of my weaknesses, so that I may remain strong in those directions that truly matter.

Dan and his wife Cheryl have been at the helm of CVVC for the better part of 25 years, and have steered the church through phenomenal growth. The church recently held a celebration of their 25th anniversary; Cheryl, who has been fighting Multiple Sclerosis for several years, was not there. Through the quiet grapevine of a congregation of this size came the somewhat expected information that Cheryl's condition has worsened, perhaps requiring 24-hour care.

Please include Dan and Cheryl in your thoughts and prayers for healing, strength, and renewal.

I can identify somewhat with some of the difficulties that Dan is experiencing, and although Jan has been feeling better I must sometimes reflect upon what God's will is for her, and how that will affect myself and Evan.

I have also received other reminders of my weaknesses in past days and weeks. While I am not yet as strong as Paul to "boast all the more gladly" about them, I know that I will do all I can to keep them from being impediments to becoming more of what God intends me to be.

School safety continues to be at the forefront, as well it should be. Evan tells me that a review of emergency and lockdown procedures is under way at GJHS and other schools. The Sentinel had a good article in Wednesday's paper that discussed safety and access policies from an administrative and practical perspective, and Jonathan Vigliotti of KJCT pulled off a rare (at least for around here) investigative reporting coup when he dressed in regular clothes and took his hidden camera for an unchallenged stroll through a few high schools. Online access to the two-part series can be located here.

Hopefully the message is being delivered to staff at the schools now that if an adult is seen in the school without a visitor pass, that person needs to be challenged. We'll see what other changes and amplifications are in the offing. In the meantime, the girls of the Nickle Mines school are on my mind. I sometimes associate real life with the movies I've seen. This whole episode reminded me of The Village and Witness.

I pray that those who are unhappy and unfulfilled will find a measure of happiness in their lives, if in no small part to spare our most precious and innocent resource.

A note of thanks to jovial_cynic for allowing the use of his "Bloggers Rights" button. It's a nice addition, and carries an important message. He has another nice one for Save The Internet.

Thanks also to Ralph for the last two paragraphs of his October 4 post. I nearly fell out of my chair. Somewhere up there Gilda Radner is smiling.

May all of you find your strength in humility and service to others.