Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What I can't least not yet

I recognize that vacant look. I've seen it before -- on my mother's face. It's the look of Alzheimer's.

Instead of grading student papers tonight, I'm watching "The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer's" on PBS...again. I've seen it once before, but that was three or four years ago...before my mother went into an Alzheimer's care facility.

During the program, a man talks about losing his wife to Alzheimer's. What he misses most, he says, are the conversations they used to have. Sometimes now she doesn't even recognize him. It makes me think of my father, who cared as best he could for my mother and kept her at home...until the point when she started leaving home because she didn't like "that strange man" who kept talking about marriage.

In another scene in "The Forgetting," two daughters visit their mother, who is in a nursing home. She is largely unresponsive, doesn't seem to recognize them. They speak to her in cheerful voices, patting her hand, her hair. Been there, done that.

Later in the show, the daughters talk about how long it's been since their mother was diagnosed -- 13 years -- and how they know it could go on like this for another five, 10 or even 20 years. It seems endless, they say. They wonder what they will do if she gets pneumonia -- treat it, or let it run its course? I've had that conversation too.

It is nearly 10 years since I first realized something was wrong with my mother. As the out-of-towner in the family, I was the first to notice the changes. Mom had stopped doing needlepoint, which she'd loved. She'd stopped cooking; said she'd done enough of it. She'd stopped cutting her hair; said she liked it longer.

Later, I found that her last completed needlepoint was dated 1997. My brother looked back through his photos and saw that 1998 was the year she let her hair go.

We've now had a decade of living with Alzheimer's and watching our mother slowly disappear. There's no knowing when it will end...or if it will end with her.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Journalism: Form or content?

As I was standing at the head of a classroom yesterday, watching Michael Wesch's Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us for the umpteenth time, I had a minor epiphany.

It was about halfway through, when you see on the screen [Title] does not define the form. It defines the content.

And I thought, you know, it's the same with journalists. It's what you do that makes you a journalist, not who you work for, or where your work is published or broadcast, or how it's distributed.

I'd just been talking about this very issue with my colleague Steve Sloan, a fellow blogger and my co-presenter at yesterday's JACC Norcal conference at SJSU (that's him at left). The night before, we'd both heard veteran broadcaster Sam Donaldson "diss" bloggers as he spoke at the RTVJ 50th Anniversary Reunion dinner.

Blogging is just opinion, Donaldson said, and without editors, how do you know if it's fact or fiction?

But when Donaldson offered his definition of a journalist, he didn't say anything about editors. He said, "We try to present our readers, our viewers, with things we believe to be true." Sometimes you make mistakes, he added, but if you do you correct them.

I didn't hear anything in that definition that would preclude a blogger from being a journalist, Sloan said.

And some of the mainstream media aren't exactly doing a great job of reporting the truth these days, I added. Does this mean they're not really journalists?

So in the middle of our JACC presentation on Podcasting, Blogging and New Journalism, as I listened once again to the Web 2.0 video, it hit me: [Journalism] does not define the form, it defines the content. It's what you do, not who you work for.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Going to the dogs

Ever wonder what kind of dog you'd be...if you were a dog, that is? Well, now you can find out. Just go to the Dog Trivia page of the Dog Show USA web site, and you too can find out what kind of dog you'd be.

The trivia page also includes a "who owns who" quiz to determine what kind of dog owner you are, and a dog trivia quiz (I failed...miserably).

What a good way to direct traffic to a site! And what a good promotional tool for the site sponsor, Purina.

(What kind of dog would I be, you ask? A Golden Retriever. And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have a dog, though we did have a Golden Retriever as the family pet when I was a kid.)

Direct link:

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The dreaded "L" word

Someone finally said it. Someone in the news media...on air, and for the record.

Yes, it's the dreaded "L" word...and perhaps not the one you think. Not liberal, not lesbian. LIE. LIAR.

"We are surrounded by people who lie to us," said Daniel Schorr, NPR senior news analyst, in his Week in Review on NPR this morning.

And then he pointed to President Bush, who keeps saying that Americans don't torture people, even as his recently revealed memos make it clear that we Blackwater, whose representatives keep saying they don't kill Iraqi civilians, even as recent news reports and congressional reports make it clear that they do...and to Olympic gold-medal winner Marion Jones who recently confessed that she lied when she insisted -- repeatedly and publicly -- that she had not used steroids to win.

After years of beating around the bush, it's about time people in the media started telling it to us straight, instead of using "give-'em-a-pass" euphemisms like "misspoke." After all, a lie is a lie is a lie. And those who tell them are liars. Even when that person happens to be the president.