Paul Douglas: Sh*t Storm Chaser

Seen in same room at same time?
I’ve always thought WCCO-TV meteorologist Paul Douglas looked like Pee Wee Herman, comedian Paul Reubens’ brilliant character who famously responded to insults by using every elementary student’s favorite plaground rebuttal: “I know you are, but what am I??” Works every time.

Well, Paul the weatherman might be tempted to use Paul the comedians’ cathartic line over the next few weeks, as conservative climate chaos doubters get wind of his recent Huffington Post essay “A Message From a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change.”

In contrast to KSTP-TV weather man Dave Dahl, Douglas has long been a believer in climate change. But he really provoked the anti-science crowd in this tour de force. It’s a long piece, but worth the read. Here are a few excerpts:

I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real.

I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve”. A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly “global warming alarmists” are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

My father, a devout Republican, who escaped a communist regime in East Germany, always taught me to never take my freedom for granted, and “actions have consequences”. Carbon that took billions of years to form has been released in a geological blink of an eye. Human emissions have grown significantly over the past 200 years, and now exceed 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide, annually. To pretend this isn’t having any effect on the 12-mile thin atmosphere overhead is to throw all logic and common sense out the window. It is to believe in scientific superstitions and political fairy tales, about a world where actions have no consequences — where colorless, odorless gases, the effluence of success and growth, can be waved away with a nod and a smirk. No harm, no foul. Keep drilling.

Thems fightin’ words. Hang on, Paul, a violent storm front is rolling into your neighborhood.

– Loveland

Five Reasons To LOVE State Fair TV News Coverage

On the other hand...
Follow yesterday’s nastygram about State Fair “news” coverage, a TV reporter challenged me to look at the bright side of the issue. So, I’ve dug deep into my dark heart, and taken my special pills, and this is what I came up with:

Reason #1. Tradition. Woody Allen said “tradition is the illusion of permanence.” In a throwaway world – 3D is out and aromascope cards are in…DVD’s are out, streaming is in…Angry Birds is out Camelot Smashalot is in…Pawlenty and Bachmann are out, Perry is in — we need all the sense of permanence we can get. The State Fair, in all it’s sameness, represents that illusion of permanence that comforts us. Yes, we’ve heard the “on a stick” jokes hundreds of times. Yes, we see the same exhibits year after year. But that repetition of tales we’ve heard before creates a treasured thread in our Minnesota fabric. Shmaltzy? You betcha. But it’s OUR shmaltz.

Reason #2. It’s August, so no news is happening anyway. August is arguably the sleepiest news month of the year. The Legislature isn’t in session, Congress is recessing, the Vikings haven’t started, the Twins were done two months ago, high school and college sports is dormant, and the entire world is on vacation, it seems. Yes, a lot of non-news gets covered as news during the State Fair. But since there is virtually no news happening in August anyway, eh, what’s the harm?

Reason #3. The news comes to the State Fair, so reporters don’t need to go to the news. The State Fair effectively is one big, long, laid back news conference. News makers – elected officials, bureaucrats, businesspeople, and local celebrities – are all in Falcon Heights, and arguably more available to reporters and forthcoming than they are in their natural habitats. So the fact is, it would be hard to cover the news AWAY FROM Falcon Heights.

Reason #4. State Fair news coverage merely replaces fluff with fluff. The week after the State Fair, local news stations will be covering the latest in back-to-school supplies anyway. In other words, as bad as State Fair news coverage is, our local TV news coverage never gets much better. (I’m afraid my special medicine can’t eradicate all of my snark germs.)

Reason #5. State Fair news coverage represents community glue. Some of us like Fringe Fest, some of us hate it. Ditto with hockey, opera, action hero movies, chick flicks, cooking shows, politics, NASCAR, marathons, etc. But the Minnesota menagerie in Falcon Heights is the closest thing to a universal statewide event that we have, and probably that any state can ever hope to have these days. If you get stuck in an elevator with fellow Minnesotans, what commonalities can you discuss? The State Fair is on a very short list, and it’s important to have community commonalities over which we can bond. For our fellow Minnesotans who can’t make it to the Great Minnesota Get Together this year, maybe it’s a community service to bring it to their living room TVs, to keep them glued them into our all too fractured Minnesota community.

– Loveland

Five Reasons To HATE State Fair TV News Coverage

I loathe State Fair TV news coverage. And just to preempt the question, yes, I’m not “from here.”

The State Fair begins tomorrow, but State Fair TV news coverage started in roughly February. I’ve already been through a lot, so allow me my primal scream.

Reasons to hate on State Fair TV news coverage:

Reason #1: Because it crowds out all other news coverage. If in the next ten days Kurt Zellers comes out for a 75% tax on all Tea Party members’ Medicare benefits, the Vikings trade a 73-year old groundskeeper for Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson, and space aliens colonize a Mahtomedi strip mall, this much I promise you: You will not hear about it. No chance. Why? Because during the last 10 days of August there is sameness happening in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And there is an unwritten rule in Twin Cities TV newsrooms: All that is the same in Falcon Heights must crowd out all that is new in the rest of the state. (Though to be fair, the crop art turns over every year.)

“It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Reason #2: Because skinny people repeatedly fabricating overeating stories is never that funny. One of the many recurring gags we will suffer through during State Fair TV news coverage involves willowy anchors and svelte reporters exchanging witty repartee about how grotesquely bloated and obese they are from going all Joey Chestnut on Commoner Food all day long. Oh, the humanity! Their image consultants tell them that pretending to be like the binging masses will help their Nielsens. But make no mistake, they are mocking us, as they spit and rinse their Sweet Martha’s at station breaks, and nibble the sensible sack lunches packed by their personal nutritionists.

“And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!”

Reason #3: Because even hilarious jokes lose their charm when repeated the 653,776th time. “On a stick.” “Jokes” using those three hideous words will be repeated hundreds of times over the next 10 days on TV news. Though even Ed McMahon wouldn’t laugh the 653,776th time, you can count on our TV news friends to guffaw uproariously at every “on a stick” utterance, as if they just heard it for the first time. To make things worse, every PR person in town will put their client’s product or service on-a- stick – long term care insurance on-a-stick, get it?! — because it is the one guaranteed way to get coverage for your otherwise non-newsworthy client.

“They’d stand hand in hand and they’d start singing.”

Reason #4. Because Def Leppard hasn’t been remotely newsworthy for at least twenty years. …yet we can be certain that there will be a full length news story about them by every station. Why? Because for the last ten days or August, anything within earshot of the broadast booth is automatically deemed newsworthy. Plus, it’s so adorable when Frank tosses “Pour Some Sugar On Me” segues to Amelia.

“They’d sing! And they’d sing! AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!”

Reason #5. Because the 3.5 million Minnesotans who avoid the Fair every year are people too. One of the most fascinating parts of State Fair news coverage – and it’s quite a competition — is regular attendance updates. Spolier alert: The number will astound the reporters. Last year, it was 1.77 million. Though I’ve always suspected that’s probably the same 177,000 mini-donut addicts coming back each of the ten days, for the sake of argument, I’ll accept the number. Even using that number, that leaves something like 3.56 million of us — about two-thirds of all Minnesotans, I’ll have you know — who have chosen NOT to attend the State Fair. And maybe, just maybe, those of us who chose to stay away from the Great Minnesota SweatTogether would rather the news broadcast contain a little actual NEWS.

“Why for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I MUST stop it from coming! …But HOW?”

There. I’m better now. Nothing like a good rant. On a stick.

– Loveland

Checking the Checkers’ Checking

small business association I’m a fan of reporters doing regular fact checking analyses of claims made by their sources, particularly elected officials. Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV’s Reality Check and Tom Scheck at Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) are among those who do a decent job with that locally, but there should be more of it.

But who is checking the checkers? The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog did an interesting analysis of the fact checking done by the Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact, which is affiliated with the St. Petersburg Times. doing business

Dr. Eric Ostermeier of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance (CSPG) at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs notes that Politifact analyses have found that Republicans lie more often than Democrats or Independents. A lot more.

But Dr. Ostermeier asks a fair question, whether this is because of Politifact’s selection bias. When asked about its selection methodology, Politifact’s Editor told C-Span: small business start up

Continue reading “Checking the Checkers’ Checking”