Nov 22

A last word on election coverage; more words about riding bikes

They started planning their election night livestream in September. I was pleased to see my friends at IUSTV trying something new and so ambitious. They held several fax out practices. They prepped for days, huge binders, names, contests, context. I was happy to see all of that prep, and I was excited to see them collaborating with Indiana Daily Student and WIUX.

The different outlets work together on a few projects here and there, something The Media School has been hoping to see. I’ve always advocated for that to happen organically. Building natural momentum and enthusiasm from seeing the impact and the benefit of their ideas, will create lasting success.

It was an entirely student-conceived, produced and delivered project. They got great support from my colleagues in bringing together a few technical achievements, but everything else was theirs and, last night, they covered a lot of ground, all of those reporters. It was a great experience for them, a fine service to their community.

Ella Rhoades and Ashton Hackman were on the desk at the top of the first hour. They rotated out over the course of the evening with some great reports from Carly Rasmussen, Anna Black, Haley Ryan and a lot of others. They did drop-ins with their colleagues at WIUX. They ran packages, had scheduled panels with IDS reporters, they even did their own big map segments. Olivia Oliver and Emma Watson were just a few of the star producers of the evening, which ran for almost four hours. Andrew Briggs was his usual indispensable self, producing this, directing that, making it all come together.

Not everything went perfectly, live productions don’t go perfectly, but there are plenty of lessons in that, and they handled the rough spots with grace and good humor. It was an impressive lift. They’re in the middle of their school semester, after all. Some of them left one studio and one show to come directly into another studio to run this stream late into the evening.

So, while I was pleased they had the idea, and happy to see their substantial preparation, and excited for the collaboration with their peers, the best part was watching them work, off camera, on deadline.

That’s where the real magic happens. A lot of people showed us last night that they’re figuring that out. Could’t be prouder.

And their attitude was infectious!

This morning, on one of the last beautiful days before winter arrives and sets in between now and April, I got out for a little bike ride. It was sunny and in the 50s, so it seemed important to get out for a few minutes.

It doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I keep a record of my annual mileage. I am sneaking up on some of my best years now, and so I wanted to get just a few more in before I have to put my bike on the trainer. If I threaten my record, it will most likely be in a muggy bike room, wondering why there’s an actual puddle of sweat below me.

But today, I’m merely moving up the ranks of my annual chart. After today’s little spin 2022 is now fourth place, all time.

The year 2013 was a very good year. It was a comeback year, and that’s a big part of why it is third all-time. The second and top spots are 2021 and 2020, respectively. No surprise there. Couldn’t really do much except ride my bike during the hardest part of the pandemic.

Between now and the end of the year, I have plenty of time to move 2022 into second place. Hitting that 2020 mark … that’s going to be a real challenge.

Now that I’ve written about it here, it is, of course, a big thing. I’ll keep you updated. And hopefully a few of those updates include some version of “and I got to ride outside today!”

Those are good days, just as this one was.

Hope yours was a dandy, too!

Nov 22

We voted hard

We voted this morning. Took a quick trip to the local middle school where all of the sign holders were sunny and pleasant and one of the men running for local office was out greeting people at the 50-foot line. By the time we got our ballots I’d forgotten about them entirely. After walking 50 feet and then waiting 30 seconds to get my ballot, I’d forgotten all about those people.

The ballot here was front and back. One school funding referendum, one Senate and one House seat. There were a lot of local seats for council this, commission that. The jobs you seldom see campaigned for, because the campaign budget isn’t there, but the people in them impact the day-to-day business of this in a direct way.

We also had the opportunity to vote on whether two judges should be retained. It’s a system this state has used for a half century.

Once appointed, a judge must stand for retention at the first statewide general election after the judge has served for two full years. If retained, the judge is on the retention ballot every 10 years. The retention system is designed to allow appellate judges to decide cases fairly and impartially, free from campaign finance considerations, and without influence by partisan politics.

Everything is a tryout, I guess.

Tonight, the student-journalists are trying a new thing. The students from the television station presented a long collaboration with the newspaper students and the campus radio station. They covered the location elections from multiple locations, aired a special on the FM station and streamed live results and news on the web.

This is a big collaboration for them. It happened organically and, I think, that’s the best way. I’m very excited for what they’ve undertaken here, how it has played out and, mostly, for how I’ll get to brag on them after the fact.

Someone gets to be the cheerleader, and that person is me.

More on all of this tomorrow, though.

If you don’t want still more election stuff … here’s some more cycling stuff.

Yesterday we were talking about Major Taylor, the turn-of-the-century world champion. Early in his career he took part in a six-day race. I found this little package from ESPN which talked about what, for many, was a career-defining event.

The six day races are primarily European these days, and soon after Taylor’s, they were reimagined as team events. (If you ever see mention of a Madison, that’s what they’re talking about.) These days, they aren’t even racing 24 hours a day. But way back when, they were a solitary, continual, brutal war of attrition. In the U.S. the six-day races took place in Atlantic City, which saw two, in 1909 and 1932. In Boston, 13 such races took place between 1901 and 1933. Buffalo had 16 races starting in 1910, wrapping up in 1948. There were four in Newark in the early 19-teens. Chicago hosted 50 six-day races between 1915 and 1957, but Six Days of New York was, by far, the most popular American version. There were 70 installments, starting in 1899 and wrapping up in 1961. Taylor’s participation was in a predecessor to even that one.

Two guys — the Italian Olympic champion Franco_Giorgetti and the Australian world record holder Alf Goullet — won eight of those each, in The Big Apple. Both of those were of the relay variety, but still. One of the records Goullet set was at New York, in his 1914 victory,still stands. He and his teammate, Alfred Grenda, covered 2,759.2 miles.

If you rode a bicycle from Madison Square Garden to Las Vegas, Nevada, Google Maps tells me you’d do almost that exact same distance, except these masochists were doing that on a track, where the scenery seldom changes — but the hallucinations might!

The following photos are from last night. Don’t run, we are your friends.

Except we did run. The Yankee had her second post-op checkup and her surgeon gave her the green light to run, a little bit, when she felt like it. She felt like it, so we ran a little bit. Just a mile or so, being conscious of the jarring and vibration that comes with running.

I think, more than the run, she simply liked being able to do one more thing that was normal. It’s a big step, followed by another one at a brisk clip.

There’s a 10K to do next month. Plenty of time to ease into that, and then back into off-season base miles. One more thing that’s normal.

Nov 22

An apple, a bike, and some venerable newspaper departures

Another day, another new kind of apple. This is the Cosmic Crisp — a cultivar of the Enterprise and Honeycrisp varieties. It is another product of Washington state, and also Washington State. The producers say it has the perfect balance between sweet and tart.

It was firm, it was crisp. The skin had a tartness, but the flesh had a nice, mild sweetness. There was a little spice to it, which seemed to come and go, so every bite was something of an adventure.

I didn’t want this apple to end, and how often do you say that about produce? So I’m glad I bought an extra for another day.

I went for a bike ride this evening, which means I can get a new shadow selfie. Let’s check in.

Looking good, shadow self, looking good.

This ride was my third ride since The Yankee crashed in September. I think I’m finally getting back to being able to spend some time in the saddle again, just in time for the season to end. But you take what you get in a place that has winter — and you wonder why you subject yourself to such a thing. Anyway, just three rides in six weeks gave this one a distinctive “your ride is hard, but good, and you don’t know if your lungs or legs are burning more and you’re amazed at how well you just got over all three hills and then realized you weren’t on the third, but just topping out on the second hill” feeling.

It was a 22-mile ride, over the usual roads. I was just racing the sunset, and I’ve done these roads enough, and I’m slow enough to do the math, so I know exactly when to get back before it gets dark and spooky outside. And, today, that means 22 miles. Actually it meant 21, but I snuck in the last mile cruising around in front of my closest neighbors.

And do you know what? I’m going to go for another ride this weekend.

Let’s do something different. Let’s check in on a social media account I started a long time ago.

This has been an inevitability since 2010 or so, in keeping with the evolving ecosystem, so it isn’t surprising. It is still sad. It is still unfortunate.

I worked for the predecessor of AMG for four years, from 2004 until 2008. and it’s parent, Everyday Alabama, were in a huge growth phrase. Those three papers were in a growing pains phase. Each of those papers were still dailies, and their newsrooms were filled with brilliant and talented print journalists. Some moved on. Some retired. The ones that could cross the philosophical divide that argued against being strictly a print journalist stayed on, with some success. They went to an online-first model in 2012, well after I’d returned to academia, and now the next phase is upon us. These are the three last dailies in three of the state’s four largest cities. (The state capital’s Montgomery Advertiser is owned by Gannett, a lament for another day.) I grew up reading The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times, and the Press-Register is a paper that inspired us all as journalism majors.

The News debuted in 1888, The Times launched in 1910 and the P-R traces its roots as the state’s oldest paper back to 1813. Just as the newsrooms have lost a lot of institutional knowledge in the last 20 years of change, the three cities are losing the last of their civic center, good corporate neighbors, a vast trove of history and a lot, lot more.

Alabama Media Group has had its successes, and their newsroom is growing. There are some talented people there, still. As the product has changed, though, so has the work.

I was, perhaps, among the last groups of print journalists trained by journalists who were themselves directly inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, hard-writing scribes who cut their teeth on civil rights era coverage. I was trained by some of those people as a watchdog journalist and that was an amazing education. (The difference between me and them and some of my peer group is that I was more interested in the journalism than the medium — and that has been an important distinction at various parts of my career.) This is where we get to the hammer-nail part of this conversation.

Part of the problem with those newsroom cutbacks in the aughts and teens meant that more and more local government got less and less coverage. It is hard to be a watchdog when you’re not in the room, you can’t be familiar with the ins and outs when you’re not in the room, and if no one is on the beat, no one is filing the stories or the FOIA requests. Eventually, the locals notice the reporters aren’t there anymore, and they start acting like it. Sunshine is a disinfectant, and offers a fair amount of accountability, but without that … what are we left with? There’s a level of granular coverage that has gone missing that won’t come back in this model, and the people are the losers. The truth of that is obvious, even as these business moves reflect consumer appetites.

And how is all of this going over? Let’s just look at the quoted retweets.

A former colleague:

A friend who runs a nearby hyperlocal paper.

Another of those former colleagues, one who moved on to greener pastures.

I could write several hundred more words on this before delving into the highly technical, but maybe the point is already here. Some things will be gained; a lot will be lost. I suppose entropy and progress have always been that way.

Oct 22

Very exciting

We went out for a date on Saturday night. This, and our ghost walk last night, are our first date nights since early August, when we went to the USA National Championships in Milwaukee where my lovely bride competed in two races. So those weren’t really dates, but adventures.

So these were our first dates since … June. Switzerland.

That’s not true. We did go to the lake one day last month.

We’re very exciting people.

So it was a date night to Indy on Saturday night. We had dinner at a little Irish pub we like.

Perfect weather. We were the only people sitting outdoors. Very odd.

We also went to the joint where the Pacers play, because this guy was giving a performance of a different sort.

I laughed so hard — at stupid stuff of the sort that isn’t even my style of humor — that I was in pain. Bert is simply telling (embellished) family stories and is just now hitting his stride.

It rained yesterday, so it was a good day to stay inside, except for when we went to the grocery store, in the rain. Today, it rained and looked even more grim.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I finally finished this video project we’ve been working on. Helped one of our students lay out his graduate capstone project and saw another event canceled due to … apathy, I guess it was.

A student knocked on my door today and told me this.

This evening I wrote a little essay about that, which likely won’t get picked up anywhere. I also stopped by the sporting goods store to get some new weights. The Yankee is now able to upgrade part of her PT, and she needed some 2.5-pound plates.

Someone shoplifted in the store while I was waiting to check out. The guy working the door thought it, I thought it. Nothing was done — injury liability and insurance I am sure — even as the woman all but telegraphed her guilt. She then wandered around outside for a while, going to the farthest part of the parking lot before coming to a blue Taurus parked right by the door. She drove away.

And so did I. At the house I replaced our license plates, and did the monthly cleaning of my computer desktop.

Yep. We are very exciting people.

Oct 22

Scenes from a walk

Just about the time you get inside, get the shoes off, get the stuff out of your pockets and all that stuff, take your coat and tie off and put some lazy clothes on it is time to sit down. Then you can sit down. And a moment or two after that it is time for a walk.

You’d almost think it’s deliberate, but it’s not. The sun is on the clock, and dusk brings a chill, so if you’re gonna go outside, doing it six minutes after you get to the house and 45 seconds after you sit on the sofa is the right time to do it.

Gives you good views, at least. My apologies for walking into someone’s yard for this on.

This sycamore was ready for its closeup.

Just two minutes later, and 180 degrees the other direction.

Direct light this time of the year is fairly dynamic. One last hurrah before everything is diffused in clouds, I guess.

That’s one big leaf!

Yeah, this one is a little blurry, I guess, but that’s how you remember the leaf turn anyway. It’s a mass of color, more than the separate leaves. They only count up there in the altogether.

Down here, you might look at them a bit differently.

But you can’t do that unless you go on the walk.

Let’s briefly return to the Re-Listening Project. Of course, we just spent a whole post on this yesterday, but if we get in one more right here I’ll be caught up for the moment. Today’s installment was at least a contemporary record when I bought it, though it was probably still part of this batch purchase. But I listened to it a lot more because it was the music of the moment, and, in 1996, the harmonica had a moment.

This was Blues Traveler’s fourth album, and it’s the one that has the songs you know. They’re still doing it, by the way. Their 15th studio album came out just last year, did you know that?

Did you also know that John Popper, the guy doing the singing and harmonica playing, was originally in another band with the core guys from Spin Doctors? That group was called The Trucking Company. One day I’m going to look for some of their music, just to see what it sounds like.

Anyway, Blues Traveler sounds like Blues Traveler. And a lot of people liked that sound! This record peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200. The band saw this record land in the top 40 of the year-end charts for both 1995 and 1996. And, of course, there are the two top 10 hits to consider, too. “Hook” hit number eight on the Mainstream Top 40 chart. “Run-Around” peaked at number two on the Adult Top 40 chart, and only Seal could keep them from the top spot, but “Run-Around” stayed on that chart for an impressive 66 weeks.

No wonder, then, that “four” was certified as a platinum record six times. Also, there’s a Grammy tied to this record. Not a bad moment in the sun.

It was a big hit at parties, at a time. I’m sure it got played around our place a lot in college. And it was a good soundtrack for sunny days in the car with the windows down. Popper’s voice needs room to breathe. And let us acknowledge that he can make a harmonica sound like most anything.

I’m going to let “Uncle John,” the last track on the album, and a joyous jam song, play us out. I admittedly don’t listen to the record a lot because a little goes a long way, but this time through, this song caught my attention the most. It has almost all the key ingredients.

I’m going to offer one small quibble, and it isn’t even with the band. If you look on Wikipedia, the post covering Blues Traveler lists their genres: jam band, blues rock, folk rock, alternative rock, all of this is fair in that this group has enough diversity to fill in all the blurry areas where those genres coexist. But to call Blues Traveler southern rock … this band is from New Jersey. The parts that aren’t from Canada.

Anyway, the best Blues Traveler song is a cover, but we should be getting to that soon enough. I say should because while I’m playing these in order, I’m not looking at the discs ahead of time. It’s almost a little surprise with each one.

And that’s enough for now. I hope your Wednesday evening, or perhaps your Thursday, has some little surprise as well. The pleasant kind, if I have any say in it.