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The Journalist’s Burden

March 15, 2009

I was watching the first season of the unbelievably wonderful Showtime television adaptation of Chicago Public Radio’s “This American Life,” when I heard the story of Marcus Halevi. The act focused on Halevi’s life as a photojournalist and the memories about his job that still haunts them. One of those memories, the one that haunts him most deeply was a picture he took while working as a photographer for a newspaper. 

Every reporter or photographer who covers these kinds of stories (as I do) has had the conversation with themselves that Halevi had on that bluff. Thankfully, many of them never have to make that split-second decision and decide whether to help or stay behind and do your job. Many criticize Halevi, and later Halevi seems to question his own decision that day, for “letting a woman drown” just to get a good picture, just to sell some papers.

As journalists we often see things we wish we hadn’t and ask questions that many people, including our readers, viewers and ourselves, would rather not know the answers to. I don’t second guess Halevi’s decision not to help. As a journalist, my first job was working in Destin, Florida, walking stretches of sugar-white sand of a coastline fraught with rip tides. Having fairly close relationships with a number of beach umbrellas attendants, lifeguards and firefighters, I learned that often times those who go in after someone who is drowning are often killed themselves and then someone must go in after that person and so on and so forth. Whether that was Halevi’s reasoning that stormy day, no one can say for sure. But I find the idea that because someone is a journalist or someone is a photographer that they were complicit in the death of an innocent person just to get a good photographer insulting beyond reproach. There are those in this business who relish the sorrow, pain and misfortune of others for their own professional gain but that is, in my experience, most certainly the exception rather than the rule. As someone who has gotten into my car after an assignment and fought back tears or just weeped openly, I can tell you that this job gets to you and stays with you.

You never forget the stories you cover, the things people say to you and the things you witness with a notebook in one hand and a pen in the other. Halevi certainly did not.

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March 14, 2009
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Netflix Review: Role Models

March 14, 2009
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In the interest of brevity, as we sit on the eve of Selection Sunday, I’ve thrown in my review of this film posted a few minutes ago on Twitter.

twitter-home_1237062601856Not much more to say about it than that. The film is really carried by Rudd and a surprisingly-decent performance by McLovin’  Christopher Mintz-Plasse. 13-year-old Bobbe J. Thompson steals every scene he’s in and is hilarious throughout (as he did during his guest stint on Human Giant where he played himself as the head of Child Casting Agency, Shutterbugs). Sean William Scott players Stiffler again. Elizabeth Bank is underutilized and forgettable and the best performances of the film are turned in by Rudd, Thompson and Jane Lynch. 

Grade: B-

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March 13, 2009
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March 12, 2009
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March 11, 2009
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A Bills Fan Thoughts on T.O.

March 11, 2009
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Though I’ve taken to calling notoriously disruptive receiver Terrell Owens, “He Who Shall Not Be Named,” for the havoc he caused for my beloved Philadelphia Eagles after Eagles fans embraced him following his great 2004-2005 season with the Birds, there are still some fans who are excited – or at the very least optimstic – about the recent arrival in Buffalo.

One such fan is my best friend Brendan Sorg. A Western New York native like myelf, and a Bills fan essentially from birth, I asked Brendan how he felt about his Bills taking in such a high-risk (and potentially high reward) player. 

Here’s What He Wrote:

Time Out:  TO to Buffalo?

It’s been over 9 years since the Buffalo Bills lost in devastating fashion on the infamous “Music City Miracle” play in their last playoff appearance.  Since that time I’ve seen my beloved Bills drift in and out of NFL relevance.  We’ve been a competitive team most years, typically over-performing for parts of the season to finish a game within .500.  We’ve endured the Willis McGahee and JP Losman debacles and the tenure where Marc Levy and Ralph Wilson teamed up to give us the oldest (I mean most experienced) GM/Owner tandem in NFL History.

Last season, the Bills created a lot of Buzz when they opened the season 5-1 (mostly because 4 of those wins game thanks to games with the Rams, Raiders, Seahawks, and Jaguars).  The Bills came back to reality and their lack of experience caught up with them.  They finished 0-6 in the Division and 7-9 overall. 

The disappointing end of the season led the usually conservative Bills brass to take a big free agent swing and sign Cowboys outcast receiver, Terrel Owens, to a one-year contract over the weekend. 

Initially I responded like the rest of America:  “The Bills?  Really?!”  Then I saw the press conference. When TO proclaimed that he “left America’s team for North America’s team,” I had a good laugh, then I paused…and thought…and concluded…this might work.

Buffalonians have immediately embraced Owens because it signals a new kind of hope that Bills fans haven’t seen in years.  The national spotlight on Buffalo…in March?  Whether reality or not, a perception is created that Buffalo can once again the big free agent.   With season ticket sales slipping, Owens is one of the rare NFL “entertainers” that can attract national broadcasts and put fans in Buffalo (and Toronto) in the seats.  And on a young team, Owens brings the passion and competitive nature that if channeled and managed carefully, can be infectious to the team.

And we still haven’t yet touched on the best part of this signing…he only got a one year contract!

In the next year, due to the Owens experiment, we’ll learn the following about the Buffalo Bills:

  • Are they indeed one playmaker away from being a legitimate playoff contender;
  • What kind of wide receiver can Lee Evans be with a legitimate weapon on the opposite side;
  • Now with a plethora of weapons (Evans, Owens, Lynch, Parrish), does Trent Edwards have the skills and mental toughness to be a franchise quarterback; and
  • Will Dick Juron be entrusted with the head coaching responsibilities in 2010.

I believe whole-heartedly the Bills have much more to gain than lose in this relationship.  Should the Bills miss the playoffs again and TO holds up his legacy as a coach and quarterback killer, Buffalo will be no worse off than if they had another 7-9 season without Owens and were looking to replace Juron and Edwards.  But if they win with Owens, it’s not only an aging receiver’s career that will be rejuvenated – but along with it one of the NFL’s great franchises. 

If you’re a betting man, remember:  No one circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.