Monday, June 25, 2012

HBO's "The Newsroom" rankles the hypocrisies of the corrupt mainstream news media

Bookmark and Share

Cheap Classified Ads

I really enjoyed the drama of Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" on HBO last night. Having stepped into my first newsroom in 1976 with the same wide-eyed apprehension, I connected with Maggie Jordan, the assistant promoted during "war" to an associate producer. I also connected, more importantly, with the building controversy that is growing around The Newsroom between Aaron Sorkin and the show, and the mainstream news media which hates to see its own failings.

And that's exactly what The Newsroom will do, besides entertain HBO subscribers. It's going to show, just by natural selection of show topics, exactly what's wrong with today's news media. Sorkin may not directly address those shortcomings by criticizing the mainstream news media, which so deserves to get its ass kicked behind the wood shed. He'll accomplish this, based on the first episode, by simply scripting a Newsrooms in a way to show us how a real newsroom should be operating. Because today's newsrooms are not operating the way they should be.

They're more corporate owned. Many have been cannibalized by their media competitors to the point where the news media is now acting like a corporate monster with no room for ethics.

Of course the critics are bashing The Newsroom. It's like listening to someone tell you why you are irrelevant  and why you are so hypocritical and wrong. The news media's ego is larger than any and it can't take it in its collective, hypocritical consciousness.

Sorkin's series is a punch to the mainstream news media's chest, knocking the wind out of the media's phony self-image of heroism and honesty and morality. The ugly, stench blows out of the mainstream media's mouth as Sorkin slams them by showing them what they were, what they are not and, sadly, what they probably will never return to become.

Yes, the news media was a great institution back in the day when I entered journalism moved by the disclosures of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. (For those of you who have forgotten who they were -- I say were because everyone clearly changes when drizzled with corporate greed, profits and riches -- click here.

The truth is, American mainstream news media is sick.  It's been compromised. It is unethical and its writings are biased, one-sided and often driven by corporate agendas than by a Don Quixotec-style crusade for truth based on fairness and accuracy. Today's media is corrupt and rotten to the core. They love to dish it out while veiling, disguising or hiding their own conflicts-of-interest. Their own nepotism. Their own corruption -- what we have seen is only the tip of the iceberg. Their own compromises of principle to make money. Their own pulling-punches to minimize criticism of interests they own.

The public can't trust the American mainstream news media any more. Today's journalists like to pretend they are on a crusade for truth, justice and the American way, like Superman defeating the evil-doers in tights while working as a journalist in a suit by day. But they are not Superman anymore. Instead, it's a slick dark blue pin-stripped suited corporate money counter, changing clothes into another dark blue pin-stripped suit pretending to be the champion of something. Their own self-interest of course. And the big "S" from the Superman logo is no longer on this character's chest, but instead is being stamped on the foreheads of every schlepper out there who lays down a small fortune to buy one of their worthless newspapers or pays an outrageously high monthly subscription to tune into the garbage grind on Cable TV.

Yes, Aaron Sorkin has sucker punched the mainstream news media and they hate it. And they're going to get back in the only way they know how, by trashing it with a drive fueled by their own selfish interests. They've lost sight of their mission which is to write honestly for the audience. These critics are writing for themselves, kings with no clothes, smelling like alewives on a Chicago summer evening.

Must be tough for the mainstream news media to look in a mirror manufactured by Sorkin and I am loving every minute of that thought and the show itself, The Newsroom, broadcast every Sunday night on HBO at 9 pm (CST). 

Jeff Daniels offers a phenomenal portrayal of an anchor Tom McAvoy who thinks that the news media owes more to journalism than simply paychecks and power or clout. 

Producer Jim Harper, played by John Gallagher Jr., symbolizes exactly the problem that real journalism faces into today's corrupted media environment. He's up against a colleague (Don Keefer, played by Thomas Sadoski) who has compromised himself so badly, enjoying the spoils of the media but lazily ignoring truth when it doesn't come out of his own pocket.

I loved the performances of all of the show's actors and actresses. What they are doing is real.

And it is nice to see Sorkin's "The Newsroom" reflect one other major reality of today's pathetic mainstream news media, the lack of diversity in a newsroom. I'm not talking about the lack of diversity that is falsely and hypocritically argued by African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans (UNITY: Journalists of Color) but the diversity of exclusion in which the "new minority" of Asians, Indians, Arabs, Muslims and a lot of others whoa re constantly libeled (in print) and slander (in broadcast) by today's media. One minority, Neal Sampat, played by Dev Patel, symbolizes the challenges this new minority has in the real world of journalism, except that we, the new minority, have a more corrupt environment to face than the lucky Patel who plays a smart journalist in the perfect journalism environment that sadly only exists in Sorkin's mind, the wishful longing of many in the public that have abandoned hopes for ethical journalism, and in the new HBO TV series "The Newsroom."

-- Ray Hanania

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Malibu lights and suburban lawns

About every 6 or 7 years I have to replace all the Malibu lights around the house. It's an all day job. They used to be round, made out of cheap plastic and tough to attach to the wire, using a back clip that screws non to press the connector, pointed metal phalanges into the black wire. But they get dirty and rust quickly.

Now, they make heavy metal and wires that use clips hat lock around the wire. They're easier to replace, but still, only last a few years. The bulbs are expensive. It cost about $6 to replace each bulb. The light is only $10.

For some reason chipmunks like to chew on the wires, too. And if you have a gardener, they constantly screw up the lights. I tried talking with them but they don't always speak English and they don't care.

I used to use colored filters on the lights but eventually replaced them all with white lights only. The new transformers also go on at dusk and you can set the time limits. In the old days, you had to use a wheel timer with clips that kicked he transformers on and off at set times. Much more reliable today.

The solar lights are worthless and have to be replaced almost every year. The solar panels deteriorate quickly because of the weather.

But despite all the cost and the effort to install, maintain and replace the ones that break, they sure look great on a summer night. Beautiful.

- Ray Hanania

Best Buy stores are a scam: The Rewards Cards shuffle

Bookmark and Share

Cheap Classified Ads

Best Buy is the Worst Buy. They're dishonest. Most people don't care. We buy things, spend money, get junk and when they break, we just move on. That's what society has taught us over the years. When someone gives you garbage, just accept it and move on. That's the American Way.

I've been buying technology products from Best Buy for many years. I have spent a lot there. I had a Rewards Card with them and every time I make a purchase, they ask me for the card, but I don't have it. So they look it up using my telephone number on their system. The cashier tells me she found it and then the sale goes through.

I figured I got my credit for the purchase on my Rewards Card.

But that's not the case.

Turns out when they ask you if you have a Rewards Card and enter it into the system, they are not really entering it at all. It's just a scam to get your information in to their system so they can send you sales pitches for junk that has to be pushed. Good merchandise sells itself. Junk needs the Best Buy push.

All these years of entering my Rewards information at the register and I finally went online and discovered none of it has been entered at all. But I have been getting their junk mailings, spam emails and harassment at the register everytime I buy something.

When I finally complained to someone at the store, he confessed. It's all a scam, he acknowledged. They just want your contact information. The real system works this way. 

You buy something at Best Buy. They list your Rewards Card number on the sale. They want you to leave the store thinking you got a "reward" when in fact you really didn't.

The clerk explained it to me this way. "If you don't go home and log into the Best Buy web site ( and enter the information from your receipt, your purchase doesn't count towards the reward at all," he said.

Wow. What a scam?

Every time I make a purchase, I am supposed to go home and log into my Reward Zone membership online to give them traffic and put up with all kinds of online push sales pitches. New Windows pop up. The web site is confusing to use. They are hoping that if 5 percent of the people who waste their time doing all this will actually end up buying something online, they've achieved their goal.

So the next time you are in Best Buy, tell those assholes to shove it up their asses.

Fortunately, we have alternatives in Orland Park. Wal-Mart's technology section is phenomenal. And there is also CompUSA nearby.

Unlike Best Buy, which is the Worst Buy, they don't lie.

-- Ray Hanania

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Unreal Rielle Hunter, John Edwards mistress

The jury didn't buy the government's case, but I don't buy the lies and exaggerations of either Rielle or John Edwards. Everyone is a liar in this story and the ABC 20/20 promotion of her book that they call a legitimate news story. Not! Did they do the story as journalistic courtesy? Because Rielle is a former journalism colleague?

How can they slam Andrew Young and his book The Politician lies when they are all liars. Maybe Young was the only honest one in this entire sordid story?

But truly, John Edwards is one of the worst politicians, a man who was once admiredy so many as the most honest and most trustworthy. So sordid and so sad.

- Ray Hanania


Amin El Gamal breaking glass ceiling in TV media

Bookmark and Share

Cheap Classified Ads

I interviewed Amin El Gamal this morning. What a breath of fresh air in a media world of darkness in this country. He's an actor, of Egyptian American heritage and he is starring in episode 5 of Aaron Sorkin's new HBO TV series The Newsroom which features actor Jeff Daniels.

Gamal is a role model for other American Arabs, breaking through the extremely thick glass ceiling that pushes American Arabs down when it comes to media, journalism, entertainment. From the standpoint of being American Arab, the term "Media" is a broad category that includes journalism, Hollywood movies, TV, broadcast and print news, and entertainment including stand up comedy. It defines how mainstream Americans view and understand, or not understand, Arabs, Muslims and the Middle East. It's not just how we are portrayed in the news media. It also includes how we are portrayed on television, in movies and in entertainment including stand up comedy. It even includes other aspects of expression that define us and mold our stereotype as Arabs.

I interviewed Gamal on my two radio shows, Radio Chicagoland last Sunday June 17 and this morning on Radio Baladi, Friday June 22.

I think Arabs have gone through two stages in media relations over the years and are now in a third stage. We started as outsiders. Our parents never encouraged us to become journalists or entertainers. It was considered disrespectful. Not honorable professions. They pushed us to be doctors and engineers, mainly, and even grocery store owners and business people. Journalism? Stand up comedy? TV and Hollywood film acting. As much as there was a lot of hoopla about Omar Sharif, when I was growing up, as one of the only Arabs to make it into mainstream Hollywood film, the fact was we didn't really like him. He wasn't a role model. And when he smooched with Barbara Streisand and kissed her, that was it. The community here and back home, where American Arabs are attached by an umbilical cord, we dropped him like a lead balloon.

The second stage was to recognize in the 1970s that the media, mainly the news media, influenced our lives so much as Arabs in American and in the Middle East. The way they misreported on us, libeled us, exaggerated our most negative traits and acts while ignoring all of the more important and more powerful contributions that Arab culture has and continues to make in this world, created an environment where were were oppressed. It contributed to the radicalization of our community -- only the extremists who didn't care how we were portrayed, would stand up and fight. The rest of the community acted like sheep. We complained about it but did nothing about it.

That's why I got into journalism in 1976, refusing to accept the system. Getting into the media in 1976 was not easy because I was viewed with disdain, like I was a traitor working in a journalism media industry and at a newspaper that libeled Arabs and Muslims almost on a daily basis. It was much like the first Arabs who tried to break into Hollywood film and acting. Almost everyone of them began by portraying a "terrorist" in movies that libeled the reality of Arab society and culture. It was difficult because many people would criticize me, the way they criticized Arabs actors who played terrorists in movies, saying that we were contributing to the continued demonization of Arabs.

But the truth is that those who refrained from entering the hated fields of journalism, movies, acting, were the real contributors to our demonization. Not participating was a major cause of the media's distortion and lies about Arabs. What we did was to get inside the belly of the media beast, be it in journalism as it was in my case working for an anti-Arab newspaper like the Southtown or later the Chicago Sun-Times, or other Arabs who entered the acting profession playing terrorists in the many movies. By becoming a part of the monster, we are now in positions to begin the process of changing the beats. We can change from inside, not from outside. We can become a part of that which we do not like or that which demonizes us and change things. Make it different. We can do from inside what we could never do from outside or on the sidelines where we became enemies, combatants and foes.

Amin El Gamal is working from the inside to change things and so are all of the Arabs and Muslims who have entered media professions that traditionally have been the source of the distortion and lies and negative stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims in the United States or in Hollywood.

Click here to listen to the Radio Chicagoland podcast of the interview with Amin El Gamal.

Click here to listen to the Radio Baladi podcast of the interview with Amin El Gamal.

-- Ray Hanania