I’m a proud, middle-aged Okie who grew up with a solid foundation of science and politics. Recombinant DNA was dinnertime conversation at our house when I was a kid. So was politics. That incuded major stories of the day like Vietnam and Watergate.
I grew up to enjoy a lengthy career as a TV journalist and video maker.
Thanks to my job, I got to film a live birth. I also filmed an autopsy.
In my career, I videotaped just about everything that might happen to someone in between those two pivotal life events. I considered it an honor, to say the least. It certainly was an eye-openig education in the totality of the human experience.
I’m still a dedicated a news junkie, although retired from the business.
If that all sounds a bit unusual, I think that’s because it is, which is more than OK by me. Once you know my background, it’s easier to understand, and dare I say, make me seem normal? Nah. 🙂
In the beginning…
Life starts with your parents, right? Well, I had something exceptionally rare, especially for the time. Both of my parents were PhDs in microbiology. Yeah, that and mom ran for U.S Congress in 1970 when I was in junior high.
They worked together at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, OK, where I grew up.
I feel blessed to have grown up in such an enriching environment because if these two!
My parents were masters at instilling a love of knowledge and a never-ending curiosity into all of us kids. (There were four; I was the youngest.)
Our house was full of books and the joys of learning. We read the encyclopaedia for fun, dang it!
OK, I admit it, we were total nerds. I am proud of it. 🙂 It all seemed perfectly normal to me, and still does.
I grew up with the core belief that intellectual curiosity was one of the most worthy of all human traits. Sound reasoning based on established fact was essential to all manner of thought and discourse, or so we were taught in the Grula household.
Facts were derived from observation of creative experimentation, with the results put through objective evaluation and analysis, controlling for every conceivable variable and possibility which could bias the results. Any conclusions drawn after this lengthy process are retested and re evaluated to make sure. That’s the scientific method of course. Most people call it overthinking.
Today, I am routinely amazed at the world’s lack of sound reasoning based on established fact derived from well observed empirical evidence. I am mortified by how many people feel disdain for science. But the earth is not flat. The moon landing wasn’t fake.
I strongly believe the scientific method – which is a process, as the best, most accurate, objective way to evaluate anything. As an adult, I’m grateful to have that way of thinking naturally, since it’s deeply embedded into my psyche.
The scientific method has given us everything from instant video chats with somebody on the other side of the globe to cameras tiny enough to film vides inside your eyeball.
I can’t help but look at the world through science-colored glasses. Trust me, there are lots of advantages to doing so.
Today, facts are often thrown out the window in favor of wild speculation and agenda-driven lies. I feel like a large part of the blame for this lies with the sorry state of our news media. I worked in the news media for about 20 years, so have a lot of experience with this issue.
To counter this disturbing trend, I am committing myself to the creation of information and videos online that will help cut through the crazy situation in America today.
TAUGHT TO LOVE OUR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
I truly cherish the form of government founded in the American Revolution and the writing of the U.S. Constitution. Today I worry that many of those founding principles have been violated.
America is supposed to be about individual liberty, but I believe power has been taken from the people. NOT by things like Obamacare, rather by law and order politics, moneyed interests and corporate power corrupting our democratic processes and therefore our individual freedoms.
So many of us are wage-slaves in never-ending debt. One serious illness can destroy us for good financially. We have the highest incarceration rate in the word. Worse than China or North Korea! People are locked up over a plant. (Thankfully that is rapidly changing.) Laws are written by corporate interests, the public interest be damned. The list of problems in this country is long.
I started with politics early under the tutelage of my amazing and wonderful Mom, Mary Muedeking Grula, PhD. She was a dedicated Democrat and thought FDR hung the moon.
One of my very earliest memories in life is clinging to her skirt while admiring the red, white and blue curtain while she cast her ballot for JFK.
How well I remember the many hours she spent on behalf of political causes. On the phone and on the street. Extremely active in the League of Women Voters, Mom was also the first woman county chairman of the Democratic party in Oklahoma.
Mom made a gallant run for the U.S. Congress in 1970 when I was in the 7th grade.
In the conservative 6th district of Oklahoma, Mamma got whooped, but we all hung on to the pride of her efforts and these awesome matches.
I was the only kid at my junior high school whose mom ran for the United States Congress, but I actually had no real idea my mom was so unusual until I got to be an adult. After all, many of friends’ moms were also PhDs. With the university as the bulk of the town, Stillwater had lots of women PhDs. I grew up awfully naive about how unusual that was for the time period.
When I was young, I frequently attended political events as a tag along with Mom. This all engendered a lifelong love of politics, but sadly, it also taught me that many politicians are sleazy, lying crooks out for their own interests, not ours. I hate to say, that but it’s true. I am honest enough to say it outloud. The crooks are on both sides of the aisle.
One of the first candidates I actively campaigned for, Oklahoma Governor David Hall, who served from 1971 to 1975, ended up convicted of bribery and extortion.
I still remember the jingle he used. DAVID HALL FOR OKLAHOMA DAVID HAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!
Not real clever lyrics, but it had a catchy tune. Too bad I can’t sing it for you.
David Hall’s downfall came about the same time as the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, two enormous episodes which further convinced me that politicians, and government in general, should not be blindly trusted.
THE FOURTH ESTATE TO THE RESCUE
As an avid reader and newspaper lover, I grew up believing it was the NEWS MEDIA’S JOB to be the watchdog and expose the misdeeds and corruption of government.
While most girls my age had a crush on Donny Osmond, I preferred Walter Cronkite.
Yes, I admit to being a hopeless dweeb, but I will never apologize for it.
I grew up venerating the news media-the fourth estate- essential watchdog on the government! Oh, weren’t the founding fathers brilliant for including a free press. They knew a king could chop your head off for criticizing him. That would never work for their American experiment.
With a Woodward and Bernstein wanna-be complex (and a deep love of the Mary Tyler Moore show) into the news media I went, anticipating a lively career.
I got my college degree at O.S.U. in Mass Communications in 1980. Dad wanted me to pursue science like my siblings, but I had to be the rebellious one. 🙂
The Mary Tyler Moore Show had a huge influence on my career choices. This was my favorite show all through high school.
I never achieved the heights of Woodward and Bernstein by any stretch of the imagination, but I worked at a higher level than Mary Richards. I’m not sure if I turned the world on with my smile, but I was fortunate to have the opportunity to cover many incredible stories as a TV news field producer, videographer, tape editor and freelance video producer. Most of my career was spent at WSMV-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. I began there as a fresh-faced youngster in 1983.
I ended up not covering politics much. Mostly I did science, medical, and social issue stories. That was all fine with me as I loved those topics too.
Funny thing, I finally realized political news was low on the totem pole. Most people consider it boring. Go figure!
The Gradual Destruction of journalusm and the TV News Industry
WSMV-TV was, in the early days when I was fortunate enough to work there, a bastion of real journalism. Sadly, that faded over the years due to changes in ownership and management. I consder the station to be a microcosm of the demise of journalusm, especially TV journalism.
I left there for good in 2002. Everything was different by that time. Journalism was a dirty word. Seriously. The corporate news director said at a staff meeting, “Journalism is a gimmick. If you want to do journalism, you need to leave here and go work for PBS.”
I promise those quotes are as accurate as my 15-year memory allows. WSMV was then owned by the Meredith Corporation. During the years I worked there, four different owners ran the place. The management styles varied wildly and it made drastic differences in the integrity of our news content. They are owned by a different company now.
Meredith began in the magazine business and published titles such as Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens.
They branched out into local television and bought stations all over the country.
These folks were all about theater, although that was not admitted aloud. For example, the investigative reporter was threatened with dismissal because she wasn’t walking in her standups. She just stood there motionless and spoke. That was now taboo. The more props and movement you could mix in, the better.
On top of Meredith’s love-of -the-superfiscial philosophy, the market for real news had simply collapsed. This happened as a direct result of two things:
- Widespread use of satellite transmission
- Rise of public relations disguised as news.
Let me explain. As an NBC network affiliate, we were always encouraged to share our stories with the network so they could distribute them in other markets. In the early days, we did it through snail mail. We had to pack up a 3/4 inch videotape and wait several days for it to get there. NBC in turn snail mailed them out to the affiliates who wanted them.
I loved it because it was getting paid twice for the same work. NBC paid WSMV $1,000 per story back then. The station took $400, the reporter and photographer each got $300. I averaged about a $1,000 per month extra every month. Not bad for taking the time to snail mail a few cassette tapes.
Fast forward to the common use of satellite transmission and PR disguised as news. PR firms sent out hundreds of video news releases, (VNR) FREE to anyone who would take them.
Budget-starved local TV stations all over ate them up: FREE CONTENT! Professionally produced videos of general interest to fill the starving beast known as air time. VNRs, of course, are actually advertisements but the PR industry is quite clever making you think they are legitimate news stories.
With competition like that, NBC no longer paid for stories. I still sent mine which became easier using satellite. After I had sent in about twenty, they gave me a baseball cap emblazoned with their logo.
So in 1982, I would have been paid $6,000. In 1999, I got a $10 baseball cap.
That my friends, is a free market example of how much our society values journalism.
For me, journalism is a pursuit of the truth. I am the polar opposite of Alex Jones. The guy makes my skin crawl. I firmly believe that sort of vile behavior has consequences that hurt us all.
Lies sell. Truth, on the other hand, usually means someone will lose money. The TV business is for making money.
One thing my long TV career taught me is that the line, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” should not be limited to one scene in one movie. Most people can’t handle the truth, and the reasons vary. More on that later.
Here on this blog, let’s start a dialogue about the news media, science, politics, and any other topic you find relevant. Leave a comment below.
Thanks for visiting and here’s to a better world.
Lorraine Grula, News Nerd
Here are 15 articles on the blog for Demand Real Journalism, plus one about me, in case that is a concern.