One of the best features of the Sunday Morning program on CBS is the part at the end where we get to see some part of the natural world. No lasers. No music. No talking heads. Just birds, and plants, and bees, and animals doing what they're meant to do.
While CBS has slashed the time devoted to that segment each week from minutes down to mere seconds, other television stations like KHOU/Houston and Sky News, have started adding these segments.
As a former television producer, I know that in addition to be beautiful and memorable and giving people a reason to stop and stare, these segments with soft ending times are useful for padding out a short show, or sacrificing so that I can cram in some last-minute story.
With the infinite resources of the intarweb, there's no need to cut nautre for time. So here is my gift to you: A turtle being all turtle-y in Hermann Park. Watch as long as you like.
It was just a decade ago that newspapers were fighting for space in Chicagoʼs downtown newspaper racks. Now, nobody cares.
The racks were installed by the second Mayor Daley as part of his efforts to clean up downtown, where busy street corners would sometimes have ten, 15, or even 20 newspaper boxes all chained together, spilling out into the street and blocking both pedestrians and traffic.
The new street furniture brought order, but also controversy. Small and marginal publication accused the city of playing favorites. There was always room for a Tribune drawer, or a Sun-Times drawer, or a Crainʼs Chicago Business drawer; but neighborhood, non-English, classified advertising, and pornography publications couldn't always get in.
Lawsuits were threatened, but I donʼt know if they ever went anywhere. Perhaps simply because right around the same time, people en masse decided to get their news from the internet for free, instead of paying for dead trees. It didn't help that both of the big newspapers doubled their prices (or more) as the internet ate their revenue.
Today, about the only place to get a newspaper in downtown Chicago is in a drug store. And even then, you might have to go to two or three different stores to find one, since so few are printed. There's no need, since work-from-home has made a 2022 weekday lunchtime on LaSalle Street feel like the same location at 6am on a Sunday in 2012.
Itʼs nice to see a TV station with a streetfront studio. They were in fashion in the 1990ʼs, and most large markets had at least one. They were a way to showcase the station in high-traffic areas, similar to the way big consumer brands like Starbucks, Hershey, and Nokia build flagship stores on busy tourist streets to serve as 3D interactive billboards.
The first one I saw was at KSDK/Saint Louis in 1994. Chicago is a walking town, so by the early 2000ʼs, several radio and television stations built their own. WLS-TV, WMAQ-TV, WBBM-TV, and WGN radio all had them. WKQX radio had one in the Merchandise Mart, but since the Mart doesnʼt have much of a street-level presence, it faced inside, where all the office workers could see it. WLUP radio and WFLD television each did something similar at Michigan Plaza, but while the radio stationʼs version was well done, it was hard to find. The TV station never really pulled it off. Even Loyola Universityʼs WULW/Chicago, and its student TV station had a streetfront studio.
The last time I checked, both WLS-TV and WBBM-TV have let their former showcase spaces deteriorate, and theyʼre not much of a draw anymore. WGN radio was still using its space in Tribune Tower extensively, but no longer 24 hours a day. WGN had an interesting gimmick where a microphone was suspended outside of the studio, and the talk show hosts would occasionally engage members of the public.
A similar setup was featured in a Tony Hillerman book, outside of KNDN/Farmington. Itʼs possible that it was real, since the Hillerman books tend to be more fact than fiction.
When I was at WGN-TV we longed for a streetfront studio, like the big stations downtown. But we were way out in North Central, pretty much half-way out of town. When WGN radio opened its showcase studio, we were jealous, since the space next to WGNʼs studio was originally designed to be a TV studio, and itʼs where WGN-TV was located until it moved out of downtown in the 1960ʼs. We always thought that space should rightly be a TV studio again, especially with all of our competitors opening shiny new studios all over downtown.
That never happened, because the people who owned the TV station at the time thought the prime downtown location was better used as retail space, then a museum, then retail space, and then left empty.
The picture above is KHOU/Houstonʼs downtown streetfront studio, and the woman in front of it is anchor Shern-Min Chow. We worked together for about five years, and she was always nice to me, but I donʼt think sheʼd remember me, so I didnʼt say hi.
When I was at KHOU, we prided ourselves on the fact that we were the only TV station downtown. All the others were half-way out of town, and when important things happened, we were usually better positioned to get to the news before everyone else.
Since then, KHOU has moved even farther away from downtown than the other stations. Its main studio is in the Galleria Area, but at least this satellite studio gets daily use. The only TV station that does local news thatʼs farther away is KIAH/Houston, but its news product is a very faded shadow of what it was when I was there.
One of my newspapers didnʼt come today. So I tried to let the Houston Chronicle know it has a problem. Naturally, since the conglomerate that ate Houstonʼs paper of record doesnʼt have customer service people on the weekend, I have to fill out a report online. And, naturally, the web site doesnʼt work.
Even if I had to wait on hold for a while to speak to someone about it, a human being could solve the problem immediately. Instead, I have to remember to call the newspaperʼs customer service people during the week to get credit for the missed delivery.
Remember when computers were going to make our lives better?
I watched NewsNation today. For a Tribune product itʼs not bad. Itʼs not good, but itʼs not people screaming at me for an hour telling me that Iʼm going to die. Itʼs like a newscast on mood stabilizers. Remember the early days of CNN when you would just turn it on and let it run in the background and kind of dip in and out? Thatʼs what NewsNation is for.
According to todayʼs paper, you can now crush a car, operate heavy machinery, shoot a machine gun, detonate explosives, drive a monster truck, launch flaming arrows, blast flame-throwers, and drink yourself into a stupor all in one place. Because doing all those separately was too much work.
Oh, and thereʼs a brothel on the other side of the ridge.
I can only assume this started with someone from Texas saying, “Yʼknow, thereʼs just too many rules around here.”
Today I learned that one of my friends applied for food stamps because of the COVID situation. I found out about it from an interview in the New York Times. I think that makes me pretty much the definition of a bad friend.
When I was in J school, we were issued little pamphlets from the New York Times titled How To Read The New York Times. It was very useful, and one of those things that would be useful for people to read today since so many are burdened by information overload.
The instructions went something like this:
Throw away all of the sections you donʼt like.
Put the remaining sections in order of priority.
Look at the headlines on each page. If a headline doesnʼt interest you, move on.
If a headline interests you, read the subhead or the photo caption. If youʼre not interested or arenʼt learning anything new, move on.
Read the first three paragraphs of the article. Move on when you stop learning something new.
This method is still remarkably effective, especially for plowing through a fat pile of Sunday papers.
The only Times sections I toss are the Book Review and the Magazine. I like books, but I want to form my own opinion about them. And the Magazine is just hard to read. The paper is too glossy and the print too small for the stylish lighting in my abode.
Counterintuitively, I find the Sports section quite compelling. Even though I have near zero interest in sportsball, thereʼs always an article in there that is intellectually intriguing. A couple of weeks ago there was a good piece about how “home field advantage” is a thing of the past because teams are so pampered in their palatial practice facilities that even when they play in their home stadium, theyʼre playing on unfamiliar territory. Fun stuff.