Archive for the 'journalism' Category

30
Apr
14

Sam Holden, The Gonzo light is out, but the fire burns on.

Sam Holden with his Hasselblat

Sam Holden with his Hasselblat

By Charles Cohen

The fact that Sam Holden was a studio photographer in a smudgy newsprint world immediately distinguished him from the photojournalists who dedicated their lives to capturing life in motion.

 

But Sam wasn’t interested in lucking or timing himself into a great image. He believed that the image lies within or below the surface, and he was going to pry it out one way or another.  Sam Holden entered a room big, a loveable Bluto carting a massive case, holding not one, but two Hasselblad cameras. His Hasselblads were the size of a V-8 carburetor and about as heavy.  No one used a Hasselblad in the field.  But Holden was into plying the sacrilegious road as a way of searing his own art.  He worshipped at the altar of style as many a modern artist from Miro to Warhol understood, as advertising geniuses also knew and even photojournalists recognized but would rarely admit.

 

Not only did Sam wield the German box camera, but he’d haul in lights, stands, reflectors and hanging globes, threatening to commit the cardinal sin of swamping a story with yourself. But somehow, Holden showed up big but sat quiet …. for at least awhile … as I would scribble and blather away. Then he had enough, “Cohen are you done,” and not waiting for an answer he’d heave himself up and take over, click clacking the gear together like a machine gunner taking the hill under heavy fire. Truly his setup was amazing to behold.

 

Normally mobile studio photographers with such outfits in tow have to scout a place out, demand a half an hour to set up, and then still go into an anxiety jitter fit when the remote sensor goes ballistic. Holden had his shit together. He prided himself on this and no doubt like a good grunt practiced the drill at home. Within minutes he’d have a room, a warehouse, a mechanic’s shop transformed in the classic three point lighting system, lights blinking and the power packs doing that sci fi winding. Holden was a master of presentation. Could Holden have taken a picture with a 35 mm Canon with a removable flash? Hell, yes. But he wasn’t looking to snap an image; he was looking for transformation. This kind of utterance would never spill from his grinning pumpkin slit mouth.  But there can be no denying when you were standing at the receiving end, holding his taekwondo stance, all in black biting down as if some kind physical convergence was about to ensue. If that wasn’t enough surely the inappropriate comment would put you on notice

 

Whether it was a down-and-out homeless vet or a CEO of Legg Mason, sooner or later the F-bomb would explode. Could you put your ass against the wall.  Fuck yeah. That’s great. Hold it. Hold it.

 

This was shock technique similar to that of the 80s New York photographers who would throw balls at their subjects to slap them out of their world. In most cases, Holden’s subjects would follow, sometimes uncomfortable, and that’s because his tone would suddenly ratchet down to a tenderness, hold it, hold, eyes right here man, that’s it, beautiful and they got it. This was no glossy in the making.

 

But getting the shot is only half the equation. Sam saved his wizardry for the dark room, as he told Mary Rose Madden for The Signal, “You are standing inside my darkroom and to look around here you are kind of like inside my soul.” Even as early as the 90s, newspapers and magazines were using developing machines hooked up to Macs. Holden for the most part was doing his alchemy by hand — a mad scientist of color saturation.  Much has been detailed on the web/Facebook eulogies about his rock esthetic where he uncannily grabbed the glory of the jell lights and infused his images with lava pushed color saturation. He loved rust and corrugated steel or maybe just an excessive spew of white paper. Anyone who has ever pushed their way up to the stage to gaze dreamily at their hero got Holden’s patented hue-heavy style immediately. The reds, greens and cobalts of black room clubs swirling in smoke is what dreams are made of.

 

At their best, Sam’s portraits worked as landscapes, the colors were not visual adjectives, but pieces of nature, life forces.  Faces in big lens detail picked up the tone the way a gritty building picks up the last shards of sunset, their eyes glinted with the hunger of the stage or with lust or madness. (Holden’s website)

 

When critics write about artists, they like to study their environs — the French countryside or Hopper’s Chicago rail yard patinas. Well, in Holden’s case his natural palette was no doubt the Indian summer gloaming of Baltimore. Apparently piss poor air quality does wonders for an orange splash fest across over West Baltimore. Case and point for me was when he did a cover shot of a chess hustler on the verge of becoming a grandmaster. As a rule, I tried hard not to see his photos before they hit the press so I could enjoy the rush of seeing it the box. I was shocked when I saw how he not only captured this guy–sweat on the brow, a maniacal killer from his shades –but he was swimming in a crazed burning orange around him. This cover came out during a heat wave and like any acutely released publication does, the cover needs to reflect both the pages within and the world it’s entering. The New Yorker carved out its foothold by doing this.  Holden relished the impact, but moved on his never ending list of cool shit he was doing.

 

 

I rode shotgun with Holden in his oversized Suburban  then Tahoe for a solid six years when he was my assigned photographer for a City Paper column. It didn’t take long to realize that we were having one of those cop car relationships. Just like the clichés we’d both talk about dreams. But unlike 99 percent of us in this pathetic mulch pile that is print journalism, there was no stench of little lives of quiet desperation in his plans. He put out his plans like nails waiting for a hammer, and how he went at it. I watched him jump from a decent studio on Fort Avenue to a massive space that could easily play as a stage set. It was a brazen move, borrowing heavily just as the city was approaching its third Renaissance that would see the rise of Harbor East.  Holden had to get those big accounts pronto to pay for that studio, which he was opening just as Baltimore’s major advertising agencies were shutting down, due to the first heave of the digital revolution of the late 1990s. But he fortified his move by saying that if you wanted to be nationally recognized – hell internationally known– then you must set yourself on a top tier.Sam Holden Hasselblat

 

The first sign of Holden’s gambit could actually work was that his buddies were stepping up for him. He and his father did all the work they could themselves, and a slew of artisans filled in the detailed stuff. His eye for sparse design was apparent when he retrieved stainless steel medical cabinets from Church Hospital, the place were Edgar Allan Poe died, as it shut down for demolition. This he used for well paying food photography gigs.

 

Sure enough, Holden did bring in the top talent from Ray Lewis to shooting Iggy Pop, but he always kept his one foot local, driving with me to City Paper gigs.   He used to rip me at times for chattering like a runaway organ grinder monkey and I’d counter by calling him a superstar who didn’t know whether he wanted to be behind or in front of the camera. The fact is, Holden uniquely pulled off this non-negotiable edge being both a gonzo character as well as an observer.  He’d do the LA thing, but also dug deep roots that sprouted way beyond Baltimore but always felt local.

 

No doubt Holden aspired for the large as in Annie Leibovitz large, but the truth is his amazing network reveals his homeboy connects ran deep. His Facebook page shows the widest range of folk who bypass posting the usual sympathies, instead offering testimony of how an interaction with him imprinted their lives. There is a lot of “I knew him when”  at play, but this is out of the desperate yearning to keep someone like Holden around for just a little bit longer. Sam Holden was a kind of force that propelled us all.

 

 

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04
Feb
13

A Good Party Spoiled

Fells Point Square Swept Clean. A spontaneous Super Party wasn't going to happen

Fells Point Square Swept Clean. A spontaneous Super Party wasn’t going to happen

Fans take refuge in the Fells Point Bars. As the Cops corral the streets..

Fans take refuge in the Fells Point Bars. As the Cops corral the streets..

The wagon awaitsThe wagon awaits

On one hand you got to give the cops props for anticipating what could be mass destruction if Super Bowl party had gone bad. But on the other hand, you got to wonder about the excessive show of force. It’s not like I saw any abuse or anything, but it did snuff any spontaneous joy that this one fan craves. It got to the point where a stupid night at Bond Street Social unleashes more asshole, well off folks who don’t give a damn as they scream into rowhouse windows throughout the neighborhood. I’d rather see Ravens fans full of good will and smiles and all walks hugging each other.  The spontaneity is the true joy of sports — the whole thing with Seven Nation Army — and when the Ravens beat the Patriots, punching their ticket to the Super Bowl, there was the moment when the Police Commander was all smiles and his unit stood down allowing about 500 kids moshing with joy.  But that beauty was stymied with this win as the square stood erriely empty and cops on horseback chased down a group of fans down Lancaster Street. As a resident I would love to see that same attitude applied to the well off Revelers who scream into windows just to hear their voices.

Here’s an open plea to the Mayor. Could you please allow the Citizens of Baltimore to have some fun during the Parade next Monday.

Twelve years ago under Martin O’Malley, the Super Bowl party was pretty paltry, just an appearance from the team and they sent the crowd on their way. It was like people showing up ready to party and being sent to the door. Please aspire for something better.

The Calvery keeps it clean

The Calvery keeps it clean

02
Feb
13

Why The Ravens will Win the Super Bowl — Winning Ugly

Of course this is purple glasses homer talk, but I see the Ravens winning this game and rather decisively. Truthfully,  each team I believe has an equal chance. At this point the odds makers, and experts have no inkling and can’t represent reality. (They have been wrong about the Ravens all through the post-season) But the real reason for me putting my name down behind the Ravens is all the hype they’re given Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers Pistol Offense. They act like  San Fran has dominated every team in the post season, befuddling offenses. But truthfully San Fran barely made their way past Seattle and Atlanta. Against Falcons, Matt Ryan and his two picks and fumble did as much for San Francisco as Kaepernick’s  gutsy throws.

The same can be said about the Ravens – Denver game when The Bronco chose to run the ball in the last two minutes.  Guaranteeing the Baltimore to get the ball back no doubt played in the Ravens hands. But the Ravens aren’t trying befuddle anyone. They are winning by any means necessary either by winning ugly or just wearing down a team like they did to New England.

As far as The Ravens not seeing anything like Kaepernick, I say balderdash. The Ravens did a fine job forcing R.G. III to beat them in the air (which ummm, yikes, he did),but the defense was pretty gimpy at that point and now safely in hindsight, Baltimore pretty much should have won that game.

Now Suggs and Nagta has had two weeks rest and Krugger is grinding at a high level. The Ravens have also have experience with Roethlisberger, who may not be as fleet footed as Kaepernick but is every bit as tough to bring down , devastated defenses with his last second passes.  But the Ravens have gotten past all those days at least for this year.(Insert Suggs hanging off of Big Ben as the Beast hits Ward to win game Ugggg).

But let’s talk Right here, right now. The amazing thing about the Ravens is they can beat you in so many ways. The offense is so stacked that it could actually be a problem for the coaches in that they call the wrong plays. Anquan Boldin, as pointed out by  Kris Jones, in Russell Street Reporter has emerged as must cover threat allowing the Ravens to break out their other receivers. Tory Smith, Jones and less not forget Ray Rice in the backfield or hey diddle diddle up the middle.And if that’s not enough add this year’s breakout Raven, running back  Pierce. He should be mended enough after two weeks rest that he will be sorting up the D-line with his power runs.  But like a soothsayer, I envision the games before they are played. I’m not saying I have any mojo, but sometimes I swear these vision come true. It’s more like finally my fantasy play a boyhood quirk that has never left gets actualized is more like it. But for the first time I’m going to put it on the line. I foresee, a big game for Suggs as he for the first time this year, emerges as 95 percent himself and causes mayhem in the backfield. I also see Ed Reed doing the hometown hero thing,  tipping a brazened pass in the middle, to himself and taking it to the house and of course he won’t be able to resist holding the ball out like he used to do in the early years. (We love Ed Reed. Gonna miss him). I also see Flacco just tearing up the field. If he gets that smile on his face watch out. (BTW to all those folks who say Flacco doesn’t have emotion, they must have missed that smile. You ever see a quarterback grin so freely in the heat of battle?)

The real threat to the Ravens is the distraction. Can the Ravens maintain their focus, can they somehow pace themselves through that excruciating long Sunday and not wear down emotionally. Because if they can time their intensity I think  San Francisco isn’t gonna see this one coming freight train before its too late. I predict the Ravens win by two scores.

10
Jan
13

Winning Ugly — The beauty of being Not Pretty — an Essay about psyche of a Ravens Fan

Image

The heart and soul of Baltimore’s now nationally famous tailgate scene is NOT on the official lots  at M&T Bank Stadium.  Nothing wrong with those lots of well-healed spectators. They surely put out a great spread one more outlandish than the next. From the stainless steel grill the size of a bass boat to the gramps bunkered down in a van with three tier rotating carousel of liquor,  M&T offers up a might buffet that doesn’t welcome my kind — peddlers.

Lucky for me hauling around a massive bag of newly minted T-Shirts, there’s the wilds of the Baltimore hinterlands that sprawls through what is the city’s oldest industrial sites.  To the South was the B&O Warehouse, made a museum  to the North was the Mount Clare House, which oversaw a colonial forge one of Baltimore’s first. Lost in the middle is  this flatland of rubble, weeds and harsh hughed buildings along Ostand Street snaking up Warner Street and slivers and lots under bridges in-between. The Mad-Max revelers unleash their twisted take on the family picnic. Booze presented on checkered table clothes.  Kids play catch alongside the railroad tracks before a nervous security guard looking for the flashing signal lights listening for tale-tell moan of the rail. In fact the tracks is littered with the purple-cladded doing a hobos stroll, taking  pisses while guzzling urine-colored beer at the same time.  More times than expected a train pushes oafishly through, the wheels grinding in a fist pumping camaraderie. The blast of the horn definitely so.

A D.J. sets up his mobile studio and mashes up country-western with hip-hop. Absorbing it all like he’s done for years is  T sitting like a kingpin reading the paper — who reads the paper at a tailgate?

“Without the football team a lot of people of different races would not have met,” he said. “ They have their differences and the whole nine but there’s one common denominators, the Baltimore Ravens, the purple and black.”

And with my T-shirts I was hoping to plug into this common  denominator not just into the Ravens, but the definition of the season and hell why not – the city.

 

Winning Ugly is a Beautiful Thing — Laying down a concept is ruckus that is Baltimore Tailgate scene not an easy thing especially when the competition gets to sell trademarked protected and lawyer enforced emblems and player’s jerseys, which has become a required uniform for the football fan.  But every once in a while a rouge t-shirt comes along that sums of the moment. I believed that Winning Ugly was that next big thing.  Like Ball So Hard  University was last year.

Winning Ugly surely would make a connect – I thought. While the Ravens forged a reputation for not winning pretty, this season has been particularly vexing. The Ravens vaunted Defense loomed at the bottum of ranking and the high-hoped anticipated high powered offense played like  Joe Cool has been supplanted by Flaky Flacco and yet were playoff bound, I was hoping to give the fan to embrace the team’s inner-ugly for a bargin price of ten dollars. Then Ray Lewis had to go mess this whole spleen venting indulgence up and announce his retirement. Hours before the Ravens played the Colts nobody mentioned the old tired history of the Baltimore Colts leaving town. It was all about Ray.  Nobody wanted to hear about Winning Ugly with  the return of Ray Lewis. After being out for nearly eight weeks due to an injury, Ray Lewis presence was conjuring up images of days of yore when he and his fellow hunters terrorized offenses to the point it wasn’t even physical. The quarterback would become mired in his own mind game.

 

It’s a  simple T-shirt with high aspirations, a newly minted slogan, a get rich quick scheme, a chance to experience that hustler’s rush of peddling on the streets, a chance to step away from being a passive spectator and ride back-drafts of a team plunging into post-season glory. What I got was a crass view of Baltimore’s psyche, the collective unease of being the step-child of the Mid-Atlantic, a harsh view that comes ever clear with a butt whipping when I hit the streets.

You know that character Bubbles in the Wire> Well I was like his shopping cart  buddy who we all know was doomed for an ugly end all caught on a little video.winning ugly under bridge

This project wasn’t all about selling shirts, but also engaging the crowd, a little subversive instigating in the guise of  a street hustle for a short film. As a low-end documentary filmmaker,  I’ve always been attracted to dynamic of old school peddling. I’ve done more than my share of A-rabbing stories and videos. I did a film about  a successful New York street musician. I followed around Fancy Clancy, beer vendor extraordinaire for two years. But this t-shirt scheme has fermented for years until I could stand it no more.

I figure the shirt not only fits this team, particularly this season, but if embraced — that is if you embrace the inner ugly — than you’ll experience a  transcendence and isn’t what we all want in a football team or as fan of any sport. You’re hoping to experience transcendence or more accurately live vicariously through the players. But the ugly truth that very little if anything that happens on the field will fix the lives of those up in the stands and out in media land.  We are stuck with our selves like a hangover while the players go on to their exclusive euphoria capped with hundreds of thousands if not millions,   that us fans manufacture for them – that is unless you got a stake, a wager, a business, 150 t-shirts that needs to be sold.

Finding the good in the ugly was what I was preaching to  the fine folks  tailgating in the nooks and crannied remnants of South Baltimore’s old world industry — vacant lots festooned with purple tassels and obscene suggestions for Ben Roethlisberger — It was Steelers Week and the fan base stewed, hellishly, enflamed further with each yield of the bottle.  And there I was, the short misfit among gunslingers, talking some nonsense about benefits of winning ugly.

“Winning Ugly is a beautiful thing. Winning is a beautiful thing. Embrace it and if you do we’ll ride this horse to the Super Bowl. Give up on the dream of being a Peyton Manning Team. Fuck that. I wanna win ugly all the way and piss the whole world off. “

At this point it was no longer about selling a t-shirt for ten bucks. It was about if  these boys were thinking about kicking my ass.

Winning Ugly selling on streets

But I still, at this writing defend my actions.  I am going down believing that  Winning Ugly is beautiful thing is the Ravens true identity whether the team crushes their  opponents or is given a gift-win. In fact I believe that winning ugly is where they find  their glory.

“They are not the most esthetically pleasing team to watch — they can put up 55 points one game and not get 8 points the next,”

Bob Haynie, a Sports Radio Talk Show Host for 105.7 the Fan, who  offers a point of reason on the airwaves particularly after a loss,  but does so  in a scratchy voice one suspects is forged from yelling at the TV, cured by cigs and distilled by libation

Ever since the Ravens ugly Super Bowl Win in 2001 where a historic defense lead by then four year Linebacker Ray Lewis, Haynie and the rest of the sports show hosts have fielded irate calls about lame play calling, inept quarterback play be it  Kyle Boller to Joe Flacco, who by many accounts takes extra heat,  and a general offense that can look clueless at times.

“Everybody wants to identify with the team’s hard working smash mouth grind it out — throw out any cliché you wanna to use but at the end of the day they want Joe Flacco to be Joe Montana. And when he’s not that’s when the complaints roll in.”

No doubt Baltimore dug deep in their Ravens Defense street cred. As Warren Sapp put it, when his team won Tampa Bay Buccaneers team won the Super Bowl the next year, “The Ravens made defense cool.”

But you get the feeling the NFL wasn’t too keen on games being won on Defense. Before The Ravens Super Bowl win over the New York Giants, Ray Lewis stated that all they all needed was for the Offense was to put up 3 points and Defense would take care of the rest.) Rules were instated that hampered defense play including preventing cornerbacks from “ touching” receivers five yards off the line of scrimmage. The word was that the NFL was looking for more scoring and flags for illegal hits start flying. Even the Ravens the next year didn’t believe in their Winning Ugly M.O.  and jettisoned Game Managing Quarterback Trent Dilfer for Glory Boy Elvis Grbac, a decision that came back to haunt the Ravens like a curse. Grbac left the team and the game in tears and the Baltimore fan base  was driven to tears by watching the clown shoes footwork of Kyle Boller. The team was either by design or  out of survival stuck with keeping the Defense stout, despite a doomsday chorus of prognosticator declaring the end of the ancient adage “Defense Wins Championships.” According to the NFL stats, The Ravens produced a Top 5 defense eight out its last ten years.winning ugly stadium

Players like Ed Reed, Bart Scott, Adalous Thomas, Kelly Gregg, Jerrett Johnson,   and Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, and Ladarous Webb to name too, powered a fierce Baltimore’s defense. It didn’t seem to matter who was the defense coordinator,  Marvin Lewis,  Mike Nolan Rex Ryan now Dean Pees, the Ravens consistently inflicted  its will on opposing offenses. And  Baltimore, with a rich sports heritage but one fraught with some horrible losses (The Colts 68 Loss New York Jets has been the greatest upset.), not to mention step child status to cities like New York, Philadelphia Boston and Washington, D.C. ate ugly defense identity up.  Even Pittsburgh, the Ravens arch-rivals, , at times would top the Ravens in Defense standing, with Baltimore taking number, has had a dynamic offense ever since Ben Roethlisberger came into the league and made magic with tenacious receiver Hynes Ward. It can be easy to pair the defense with Baltimore’s blue collar vibe.

Talk to Ernie Ernie Grecco, 70 year old native, who watched when an upstart Colt Team beat the Giants in what now has been called the Greatest Game Ever Played, because of the first use of Sudden Death and the dynamic play of Johnny Unitas. Back then Sparrows Point had 35,000 workers. There was a General Motors Plant. Armco Steel and Continental Can. Baltimore was second to New York in the garment industry. The city was chalked full of Breweries. Grecco, now the President of the AFL-CIO in Metropolitan Baltimore got his start at the Seagram Distillery. “Now it’s all gone,” he said.

But Grecco bails before going down life was sweeter in the good ole days brattle. He marvels that Baltimore, a town that people drove through to get from D.C. to Philadelphia, pointed out in a National Geographic article – has emerged as a destination point. “I’d rather have the jobs the good manufacturing jobs,” he said.  “But people love Baltimore.”

Baltimore’s hard climb as a destination point for artists and those looking to break out on their own has surprised yours truly. I remember my dad driving me around as a kid pointing out the few hot spots in other dreary streets — Louis Bookstore, Bread and Roses Coffee House, Peabody’s Bookstore. Now city pulsates tailights from Woodberry, Hamden down through the Charles Street Arts district into Fed Hill and Fells Point, Canton and beyond. I remember when you couldn’t find a cab now the streets team with taxis and you still can’t find one — empty.

But last week came a new realization. I was out in LA desperate for something on the radio when I came to a DJ gushing about Dan Deacon’s America. He talked how he was out to Baltimore and how those places that Deacon refers to like “Guilford Avenue Bridge” really do exist and that he could see why Deacon doesn’t wanna leave.

Never in my dreams did I think Baltimore would get such recognition, much of which has already been documented in this paper.

It’s gotten to the point that natives like myself have become a bit rare, maybe not like Formstone, but maybe like Berger Cookies. We around but you got to know where to find us. And for the last 10 years I’ve heard from the new settlers an appreciation of the feel of history. Sports Talk Show Host Rob Long noted that many blue colar towns like Cleveland or East Coast cities like Boston have rich sports heritage with teams that pre-date ours by more than half a century, Baltimore keeps its history close to the surface.

It’s the difference someone who keeps the family heirlooms in a cherry wood box or someone who displays the great, grand-dads fiddle on the wall or even plays it. .In fact, Long takes it another step further and says that Baltimore’s revels in the under-dog snub.

“I don’t know if it’s an inferiority complex or our edge,” Long said. Long warns that people shouldn’t interpret the complaints about snubs or National Coverage conspiracies as self hatred. “We don’t believe it.”

But change does come even for a town that has a firm grip on the past and old fashion smash mouth football. For one, Baltimore is in the mists of its fifth straight playoff birth but also racking up at least one win  in the post-season. And during this run there’s been a seismic shift from defense is king to offense led by Joe Flacco, who came in as an under-dog, from a below the radar school University of Delaware and looking to be a second stringer at least at first until Troy Smith got sick right before opening season. The problem is for a whole host of reasons, the offense hasn’t hit the heights of the Ravens defense. Last year it looked like Flacco and The Ravens was about to plateau at beautiful heights with a spot in the Super Bowl. The Season careened from brilliant play — from opening day beat-down against the dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers to the  head scratching bungle in Jacksonville. But in the AFC Championship  Flacco did what everyone out their in radio and web-land  have been clamoring for: Flacco put the team on his shoulders and marched the team down the field. With less than a minute, Tom Brady was on the bench, his head in his hands and Flacco reared back and found Lee Evans in the End Zone. What followed is one of the ugliest drops – somehow a New England defender managed to lurch two steps in the endzone and knock the ball out before Evan could but the second foot down to be called a touchdown. Two plays later Billy Cunduff shanks a gimmie field goal to at least send the game into overtime. Talk about an ugly loss. Man put that one on the NFL top ten why don’t cha.

Honestly it’s surprisingly the Ravens could even muster the nerve to be contender this year.  Long is convinced that Ravens 5-11 showing in 2007 was a hangover from the Ravens 13-3, throwing a dismal and ill-advised pic in the Playoffs against the dreaded Colts, losing their chance to get to the Super Bowl.

The Ravens have ridden  the top of our division the entire season and it felt like we’ve been in a tail spin. Hell at 9-3 we fired our offensive coordinator. Who fires an offensive coordinator when the playoffs seemed almost certain and the losses could have been put on the defense who allow The Steelers and then the Washington Redskins to drive the field and win.

“We’ve become spoiled,” Haynie said. Drew Breeze threw a ton of touchdowns and he will be home watching the playoffs with everybody else. The fan base, fans in all cities they tend to harp on the negative more than the positive.”

the competition was not only fierce but wise.

the competition was not only fierce but wise.

So Winning Ugly is a Beautiful Thing. Right. No way to dress this season up — the miracle 4 and 29, 30 yard run by Ray Rice in San Diego was as ugly win as anything. The next day Flacco got mocked for not daring to throw down field like a real quarterback, instead he dumped it off to running back in the flat with a lot of real estate to make up. No way to dress this season up. Might as well give it an ugly kiss and feel better about ourselves.

Ah Theories look much better on paper, but as soon as they hit the air they start to tarnish. It wasn’t pretty for this little peddler out there folks. I never felt so short.

I sold 14 shirts and everyone was tough and took a lot a patter.  There was a time I got a bunch of grissled fans engaged in some conversation, the first step to a sale.

“Hey Buddy, Hey Buddy. You’re selling to the wrong crowd.

“What

This is a homeless shelter.

I played the fool well. Doing a hard sell to a woman who wondered if I would be there after a game, while a stranger freaked her. I turn around and spot tons of  Pittsburgh Sucks shirts everywhere. A bail bonds company was giving them away.  Ten dollars can’t compete for Free. One  woman mocked me and said I needed to change the saying to “A win’s a win.”

“A win’s a win?”

Her eyes spoke loud as any jeer  — you doofus.

“You’re never going to sell shirts with that.”

Next stop a man heckled during a near sale. “I’ll give you two cookies and two dollars. This heckler owned the massive lot and demanded a five dollar shirt if I wanted to keep selling on his lot, the only lot that I had made multiple sales.

He already called me a fuck up and “You don’t know what you’re doing.”

But in this business you can’t have any pride and when I’m saying this business, I’m referring to journalism. A journalist has to eat it for a story. Many cases I’m intruding or at the very least culling their world and if you want truth, you got to seek pain. Tom Nugent, a teacher told me that back in J-school at U of Maryland. If it was  not for him I’d never be a journalist, which isn’t such a good idea these days with the written word and the newspapers in such straights. He would urge us to “seek pain,” look for the truth by throwing off the cliché’s and the formulaic. He inspired me to aim to be a great writer, not that I am or ever be, but to aim for it anyway. Why not go high, but to do so would be an ugly road. He warned me. He also hated sports, football especially. He thought sports was an opiate for the masses, a place where people took their broken lives and dreams and hung them on a team that would do nothing but take their money, get them drunk and feed their shortcomings that many times exploded into violence and abuse. That’s the truth of sports, he’d say.  “I used to see blood run down the steps of Memorial Stadium.”

His father was Tom Nugent (Sr.), The Football Coach at University of Maryland, back in the 50s. Through his access due to his father, Tom was struck by the brutality  on the student athletes — not the physical impact but the lie that aspiring athletes were left along with their shattered knees and no hope of getting into the NFL. But worse,he says, is how sport obliterates people’s view of the ills of society. As sports engulf the culture he says, society has become, “so degraded and vile, it’s hard to look at.”

“By roaring at this abstraction that we call our team in the stadium, we avoid the big problem of community mainly the killings that go on forever in the ghettos of Baltimore,” he told in a phone interview.

I believe he spoke the truth. PSLs is a crock after we the people paid millions to build that stadium and what’s worse is the time – weekend quality time – that I spend away from wife and kids. More than once I’ve come back from the stadium with this sick feeling that I’ve been had, that why am I putting so much physical, monitory effort in something that means nothing while my life could use such effort.  Each summer I proclaim I’m not going to be into it that much, my friends and family laugh.

But I love football. Can’t help it. I love it. I loved The Baltimore Colts, got my heard broken and stayed away from it until the Ravens showed up in very ugly fashion I might add.

Football to me is about the struggle, seek pain — it plays out the hassles of the day to day of living.

They say soccer is a beautiful game. That may be true in real time. But in slow mo there’s nothing more beautiful than Football. Even baseball — besides Brooks Robinson watching clips of him scooping up balls, still sends chills up my spine). But the struggle as violent as it is what I relate to ….  Between the rants of the God-talk Ray Lewis  personifies the struggle.

The shoe of Johnny U kept shinny by folks rubbing for good luck

The shoe of Johnny U kept shinny by folks rubbing for good luck

I not much for hero-worship, but I dig Ray Lewis work ethic, how he stresses working on the little things. That’s all in the work you put in or as Jackson Pollack put it, “Work is Art.” How amazing it must be to go to Ray’s house and do film study with him and Ed Reed and whom ever else. I once met an ex-linebacker who had dreams of making it back into the league. He never did, but he kept himself in shape and the day after The Ravens horrible loss (worse than  ugly) to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2010 playoffs when the Ravens went from 24-7 in the half to losing with a series of dropped passes on Flacco’s last drive, the day after that, Ray Lewis called this guy up and asked him to work out throughout the afternoon. That’s all I need to hear about the man.

But my misgivings about Old 52 retiring had nothing to do with missing his presence. No. I had a feeling it was going to throw static in my Winning Ugly vibe. And when I parked my car for an extra ten bucks, I knew it was over. I gave t-shirts to the parking lot attendants and invaded people personal space, re-working my pitch:

I know we’re going to win pretty today. But in Denver we’re going to scratch and claw, so you might as well sit on your coach next week with this t-shirt on.

Not one sale.

I found myself on the Southside of the tracks penned in by a slow moving freighter and security fencing. The train wheels screeched something fierce and I sold one shirt. I turned to get a number of a guy who says he would buy one but he’s leaving the country on account of Obama winning the elections and the taxes.  His wife verified that they were packing boxes to move to South America.

When I got his name turns out this bail bondsman was in my class in Mount Washington Elementary School. Everything changed. He brought his dad over, gave me a drink and we talked about the fights down by Falls Road. This wasn’t Whole Foods Baltimore.  The train was gone but I wasn’t going anywhere as he marveled over Baltimore’s small town vibe.

“This is a blue colar working hard team, that’s gonna do what it takes to win, just like Baltimore Cty , unemployed taxes through the roof, but they are gonna make it work. When you see Ray Lewis come out you’re gonna see the real Baltimore City.

I went to see Ray’s last game and as Rob Long predicted the story line has changed – It’s no longer about the dreaded Colts (the ones who scorned us via Mayflower Trucks) coming to town. It’s about a Raven leaving.”

Sitting next to me was  Minnie Niazi, who forgo her club seats to sit with her daughter.

“They are a hardnosed fighting battling  guys, that give us all they have and we love them,” said Minnie Niazi of Annapolis with a dog named Lewis.

The game started out ugly – exchanging turnovers, but finished in a noble way. Not a beat-down, but a hard fought win that at time was closer than the 24-9 implied.

When I got back the parking lot attendant looked up and said, “Hey I got a lot of comments on your shirt. If you leave some with me, I’ll make some sales for you.”

Sure thing, Next Year/.

Check out the five minute film at http://vimeo.com/55525096

And for a David Lynch look — https://vimeo.com/54908743

password winning

Bryan Bello camera man.

Bryan Bello camera man.

26
Apr
11

Baltimore Mayor First. William Donald Schaefer may have been a two-term Governor, but his heart belonged to Baltimore.

The late Governor and Baltimore William Donald Schaefer heads to City Hall one last time.

There’s a reason, that the pugnacious funeral procession started Monday morning in Annapolis where William Donald Schaefer officially hit his career crest as governor from 1987 to 1995, but ended roaming through his hometown of Baltimore before landing for a day of viewing at City Hall .

Baltimore is  still  morphing into the vision that he created 40 years ago. As Baltimore’s histrionic Mayor, he  grabbed national attention for having the gall to envision a dirty rotting wharf-front as a gilded tourist attraction.  Here is where he made his mark as four-term  Mayor Willie Don.

Schaefer will be eulogized as the guy who flipped the switch for mayors stuck with dying waterfronts not just nationwide, but worldwide, to view their harbors , not as derelict land but potential vacation spots for tourist looking some of that beach vibrations in between their jaunts to the ocean. Why couldn’t people get that good ol boardwalk stroll in the city. Crazy. Preposterous. Nuts as the guy who jumped into the seal tank at the National aquarium. Oh wait that was Schaefer.

But to Baltimore he was so much more. He was an old school character, tough and goofy, a little hard-boiled, part Comic Costello. He exuded a kind of fairy tale aura that drew you in the schtick and still did even from the hearse.  Even on Monday’s procession, you were in his world.

I saw this one last time today. When I was standing in Fells Point, one of about 14 stops on his tour de Baltimore before he was laid out at City Hall. I was standing in this still yet to fully blossom Colonial seaport, home of the Baltimore clipper, 1812 privateers and  tugs vacated to make way for a waterfront hotel that has yet to appear. This was also the place that Schaefer wanted demolished in the late 60s and 70s for I-95, 695 interchange.  This was the place where Schaefer realized the strength of the neighborhood, after fierce fighting, enduring protestors dressed like American Revolutionaries,  and he realized that rather  than bull them over like Robert Moses did up in New York, he embraced Fells Point and neighbors in the city.

Senator Barbara Mikulski displays a sign for the cause that launched her career and shaped Baltimore

So there stood his chief foe, Barbara Mikulski, now a U.S. Senator flanked by neighborhood activists of days long gone. She told me how during the long battle, a low point came after she, then councilwoman, lost a bill to save the neighborhood and other waterfront stalwarts like Federal Hill across the Harbor, which now stands as  Baltimore’s more humble version of Boston’s Beacon Hill.. But rather than bask in his victory, Schaefer noticed something big was brewing in the neighborhoods.  He called Mikulski and others in for a sit down and fate did a slow change.   And when the motorcade finally ambled up the Fells Point cobblestones and came to rest in front of Jimmy’s Diner, a one time politico hotspot, the cluster of a crowd cheered. About 50 strong went ecstatic — a strange reaction at a funeral procession. But it was as if  the mayor was gonna step from the black shine of the limo , his  eggplant head  never  find balance on his neck, always in motion, looking for an angle, contorting his face, rolling his eyes,  yes even clown-like. His act was infectious when at his prowess and at times sadly ill-timed when he got older.  Still he was pure Baltimore, a tugboat of a man, tenacity done different. So when Old Schaefer failed to step out the limo, they cheered for his aid, as if  it was a homecoming. The strangeness stretched on as a classic Schaefer event, which of course it was, hitting spots like Faidley’s at Lexington Market and was it an accident that limo paused in front of Attman’s Deli on Lombard Street as if he was going shoot the you know what in the KibitzRoom.

Schaefer's entourage heads down what was once the heart of Jewish Baltimore.

Working the crowd, today’s pols should be as masterful.

I remember when I had a similar  private audience with the king. It was behind old Memorial Stadium, three-quarters demolished. I was doing my first documentary, about Baltimore’s emotional hold  on the stadium, which he argued unsuccessfully to save. (Why I’m not exactly sure) On his  suggestion, he pulled up  and jumped out of the Limo and laid down the reasoning, how the demolition of the stadium was a failure of imagination. He did this right in the middle of the street and just nailed it with no press hands, no guards. Just him in his suit and the limo. Then he jumped back in and jetted.Whether you agreed with his politics. (He didn’t make too many friends when he bailed on Jimmy Carter for Reagan back in 1980), you had to admire his mastery of the craft.  Of course the major flaw with Schaefer’s plan was you can’t replace an economy w th tourist glitz even if you crown it with jewel of a baseball stadium.  A major salvo against Schaefer was his avoidance or glossing over some the major urban issues, the crushing repercussion urban renewal, like of jobs in the city . Baltimore’s African American community lost the very historic assets  that now would help turn around neighborhoods like Pennsylvania Avenue’s one time famous jazz district.

Schaefer’s passing isn’t an end of an era. That era was long gone. You could see it  in the ragtag crowds around  town. There were clusters of people, A few hundred here, 90 there. But the thousands were absent.

That may because many of  the Baltimore contingent are dead or have left the city a while back, although I’m betting his funeral on Wednesday will be a major draw.    Of course the major flaw with Schaefer’s plan was you can’t replace an economy with tourist glitz even if you crown it with a jewel of a baseball stadium.  A major salvo against Schaefer was his avoidance or glossing over some the major urban issues, the crushing repercussion of  urban renewal, the loss of good paying  jobs in the city . Baltimore’s African American  community lost the very historic assets  that now would help turn around neighborhoods like Pennsylvania Avenue’s one time famous jazz district.

Despite the shortcomings, Schaefer had heart, an unabashed radiance woefully  missing in these wound-too tight times. Too much risk to let your personality shine, too many people with video on their phones. Schaefer himself as an 80-year-old Comptroller was taken down by gaffes that came off sexist, out mode and crass. Still we could use a guy who would bother to work the crowd. A lot is being made about Schaefer’s jump in the pool at the National Aquarium. But that was one of hundreds of so-called stunts. During some research at the News American archives now stored at University of Maryland, I came upon boxes upon boxes of Schaefer immersing himself in  tiny neighborhood shing-dings.  . There’s the Mayor with a lemon stick. There he is in leprechaun hat.  If Baltimore was the city of neighborhoods, he was the ring master
Where is that kind of politicking today? Don’t tell me,  time is better spent on strategic placement like Obama visiting Facebook’s headquarters.Compare the luke warm to snarky coverage he got  to the New York Times front page  photo of Obama running up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to surprise tourists, after he managed to strike a deal to avoid a government shutdown.

We need to get back to the human level. That’s why Schaefer even though after beating back Mikulski’s bill was able to see the human potential that she represented and he eventually came around to seeing Fells Point and Federal Hill as Baltimore assets. That insight shaped what Baltimore is today. We could have easily been in Newark’s position even if we live with in a two tier society that David Simon’s Wire so deftly depicts.  Schaefer’s  was a vision of classic slow cooking. It took two developer’s renaissance after Fells Point and Federal Hill was saved in 1970s for other neighborhoods to emerge nearly 30 years later as go-to waterfront spots like Canton, Locus Point. That’s why on a Monday afternoon, people in Fells Point cheered when the hearse slowed to a standstill.

The Mayor's hearse stops by Fells Point, Baltimore

They wanted so badly for someone to pop out once again with that kind of audacious, infectious belief in  Baltimore.

29
Jun
10

Rolling Stone Freelancer upsets the Journalistic status quo

 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal on the job or posing for a photo-op?

 

The fallout from the Rolling Stone article that cost General Stanley McChrystal his job has since calcified into a debate over what’s inferred when a journalist creates trust with his/her subject. 

And that’s a good thing.

There’s no doubt that Gen. McChrystal is one of the few people whose arrogance actually cost him his job. More times than not  arrogance bullies over objection and consequence. To be such a frat boy, giving the finger etc. trashing the Prez, McChrystal, a four star  general like any CEO should have known better. But then again, whose really surprised by such boorish behavior by a general. His biggest sin was his poor gamesmanship letting the pen be mightier than the sword.  So McChrystal’s behavior isn’t what stirring the pot. Instead we find ourselves deciphering the reporter Michael Hastings’ true motives and thanks to him running his mouth we’re got some clues.

He needs to learn the powerful lesson illustrated from his own Rolling Stone article and mind his words.

He starts up spewing safe journalism 101 patter that, ” I went out to try to tell the best story that I could and write what I saw, I heard and thought. And I had really no control over, you know, the aftereffects,” he told  CNN’s Howard Kurtz (transcript provided).  Um actually he did. He had control in choosing those volatile snippets and vignettes out of days worth notes and reams of paper. He chose to lead the article with a built up story that ends with Gen. McChrystal giving the finger, which basically set the tone for the entire article, an article that pretends to be a discussion on the counter insurgency, which apparently was why Hastings was there in the first place. For example, Hastings could have embedded himself further on the front lines of counter insurgency, capturing antidotes of the obstacles of winning “hearts and minds” as a way of converting the Afghans to US thinking.

Hastings is being disingenuous when he says, he didn’t think it was a matter of McChrystal and company letting their guard down. It’s time like these when people reduce life to a  one deminsional transcript of what was said, what wasnt’; Hastings offfered this:  “I mean, it’s not much of a mystery. If someone tells you something is off the record, I don’t print it.” …. but back to real 3-D life, actions speaks louder than words and if you are with a bunch of people and the conversation turns into  bull session and some volatile stuff starts flying you as a reporter know right then that the quotes are verbal plastic explosives. Right there, I believe is the true test of character. Should you stash it away like a sneak and go back and try to illicit more goods from aids to brace the  juicy quotes you now know will make some hot type? You know right there that your subject’s guard is down.  Is this all kind of chess game, or contest where you take advantages of loop holes? Or do you inject a little bit of honor and remind the General that the record is rolling here.  If the general really didn’t care than he’d just shrug him off.  But  Hastings didn’t say anything …. why … because he wanted to keep the good quotes flowing.

Again much is revealed in Rolling Stones actions or their non actions to include any of the damning material in their 30  fact checking questions sent to the brass, obtained by the Washington Post.  In addition, Hastings reveal his philosophy in his interview with CNN when an article he penned for GQ Magazine displays his  demeanor and perhaps his objectives.  “You pretend to be friendly and non-threatening. And over time you build trust, which everyone knows is an illusion. If the time comes, if your editors calls for it, you’re supposed to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) them over.”

Wow. Editors have power but I didn’t know they called in hits  on people. Actually reporters and editors are usually engaged in what is suppose to be a constructive power-play over stories. The reporter supplies the goods, which basically means ferreting through notes building a case with one quote followed by antedate  making the outcome obvious even to an editor. 

Definitely not all reporters don’t see building up trust as an illusion. I mean you can be friends with a cop, hang out, drink, but you might think about reminiscing about crimes gone by or buying drugs in the bathroom while he’s sitting there. The same with befriending a reporter.  So in my book, the relationship isn’t an illusion, but it is dubious. A cop shouldn’t be making friends in hopes of catching someone and reporters shouldn’t be building trust so they can hang them by their own words. 

This conundrum has certain been the gauntlet that divides the new bread of freelancers from  Afghanistan beat reporters who look like Army Lackeys by failing to include McChrystal’s sored behavior in their dispatches. Witness the outrage spewing from CBS Chief Foreign Corespondent  Lara Logan when challenged by Kurtz who says,” He’s suggesting that he did a job that the regular beat journalists have not done.” Logan responds with, ” I think that’s insulting and arrogant, myself. I really do, because there are very good beat reporters who have been covering these wars for years, year after year. ”

In fact Hastings article’s crass depiction contrasts the  puff being so blatant offered in past profiles. When do you included, the negative, the awkward that seems to break from the paint by number profiles that we find even in the supposedly more critically thinking journals.  The answer comes down to the central theme of the article. The Rolling Stone article at times seemed trapped between two places as illustrated by the cover. No not Lady Ga Ga. But the headline on the front: Obama’s General, Why he’s losing The War, which  convays some analysis as the  controversy that is blaring from  the article’s title, “The Runaway General”

Yahoo’s Media writer, Michael Calderone made good hay with New York Times David Brooks’ criticism saying that “by putting [McChrystal’s] kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.” 

The second part is beside the point and shouldn’t be of Hastings’s  concern as he tweets, “David Brooks to young reporters: don’t report what you see or hear, or you might upset the powerful.”

But then Hastings couldn’t resist taking a self-righteous swipe, ” Question 2 to Mr. Brooks: how much time has he spent listening to the troops kvetch in a war zone, just askin.”

So the  merits is defined by time spent on the lines? Then  should Hastings be ranked against  senior war correspondents, the same ones who would treat such Kvetching as off the record. Then how does Hasting’s real war experience, who gets to fly home and enjoy yapping about his time in the media, compare to the soldier?

This same privileged attitude, which let’s face it is one of the few vitriol thrills that journalist can lord over people, was put to Hastings by Logan. “I mean, the question is, really, is what General McChrystal and his aides are doing so egregious, that they deserved to end a career like McChrystal’s? I mean, Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has. ” 

Being too close to the action doesn’t give you the entire story and you got to wonder how good is Hastings all access pass to the front is worth these days. Who knows he might find himself sitting back here with the rest of us grunts.

28
Jun
10

Gen. McChrystal Ambushed by Rolling Stone or Gonzo General undone by Gonzo Magazine

Preamble:

Yup the Baltimore boy is going national with this. For a long time I’ve been chomping on some national issues but believed it was beyond  this  blog’s scope and if this was in a typical print publication then that thinking would stand. But hey I’m in blogland where anyone with a keyboard can make an impact.  The individual can now be a media giant and this medium is all about the little guy weighing in on big issues, so rather than creating another blog with a big reaching title, I opted to  reveal my vantage point from chair in Baltimore and thereby comment that really you don’t have to be an insider or  politico geek to throw down an opinion. Therefore, on occasion I’m gonna comment when I see a void in the public discussion. Here’s my first foray:

When I saw the Smack  Quotes coming out about Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Rolling Stone article that had yet to be published —  questions marks started to fly in my head. First, what was the Four Star General thinking or snorting?  He had to know such low brow  childish chest pumping is gonna force a beatdown that even he can’t win. The insanity behind the news never fails to amaze. But then as a reporter, I started questioning Michael Hastings methods. Based on Web info, Hastings at the meek age of 30 (ck) has already paid some dues reporting from battle lines in Iraq, like the in the trenches story where he follows the Louisanna National Guard. See www.http://www.businessinsider.com/10-great-pieces-michael-hastings-wrote-before-he-brought-down-gen-stanley-mcchrystal-2010-6

For Rolling Stone, He was basically allowed to shadow McChrystal, on his day to day. I don’t know. I may just be a bloke from Baltimore but I would bet that many a discolored quotes would be popping around a General in the field of battle. I’ve seen my share of War movies. I know. Actually, I’ve done my share of stories with cops, with politicians, drug addicts, hustlers with regular folk to know you’re gonna hear some rancid shit under certain conditions. I mean I’m doing a story about Baltimore Barbershop culture and a few times when the discussion turns to women or race …. let’s just say I have to put the tape recorder on pause. Seriously, a reporter, I believe, needs to set the tone  with his/her subject. On any given story even ones that seem about as dull and boring as it can get, say about a talent show at a mall, there will times when off the wall comments is dispensed and as a reporter you could easily just glam on to that and in fact come up with some must read copy for once for the local weekly throw away. But you don’t whether you’re in the locker room with the Ravens or doing a story on an ex-drug slinger trying to go mainstream. Not at first. Not if you aren’t a snitch or an ambitious asshole cut throat. You let the first miss-step  roll by, but if it gets to be a pattern, if it starts dominating the moment then, of course you as a reporter have to judge whether the attitudes being expressed define the story unfolding before your eyes. For example, when the General’s getting ready to chow with the French Dignataries and he’s blowing off steam and says something, “I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people  than go out to this dinner.” as a reporter, knowing right there how this would play, you might wanna show that he’s on the record. Sometimes I show the subject that yes I’m taking notes or even say, Hey General are we still on the record here?” And what do you think his answer would be? “You print that and I’ll shove that notebook up your ass.”

At some point the reporter has to set the tone. Early on during those interviews when the loose talk starts flying, the reporter needs to ask are we on the record? This way the subject knows what he’s dealing with, what kind of environment he’s has to tread. It’s only fair. The subject will then see oh we’re dealing with a starchy by the numbers reporter than all candor and down to earth talk will cease and everything would turn in a professional dull exchange. Not what we want. We want some semblance of reality. And based on Hastings previous impressive work with Newsweek where he seemed to thrive on being in the action, see his article, “The Battle for Haifa Street” www.newsweek.com/2007/01/11/the-battle-for-haifa-street.html
  — the General made the fateful mistake that Hastings had earned his stripes, he was one of them and he could talk freely. Did Hastings infer this when he was establishing his relationship? Did he encourage this, by laughing  and playing the part of one of the guys, signaling that he’s in on the joke? 

From Hastings Newsweek Article

 

Reporters are always complaining about being smothered by handlers, PR flacks practically forcing the story to come out as a sorry piece of boredom. Real reporters fight for reality, get off The Campaign Bus, hang with the grunts — why  — to get some semblance of truth. McChrystal story now stands as total validation for the overpriced Public Relations Industry. Now any firm can hold up the Rolling Stone cover  featuring Lady Ga Ga wielding guns, bare assed BTW –and say Don’t let this happen to you.

Of course, Rolling Stone and Hastings could counter by saying this is about the bigger good. Sometime the journalist has to sacrifice himself and his hard earned status with sources for the greater good. This is a true and tough situation, where you as a reporter might find you become basically a scumbag  and sell out your source for the well-being of US  readers. And it seems, based on the Rolling Stone’s headline, The Runaway General,” they seemed to be making this insinuation, that we have an out-of- control cowboy  in Afghanistan. And if this is Rolling Stone’s case, there’s still a major problem with the magazine article perhaps even graver mis-step  than the suspected violation of trust between reporter and subject for glory of juicy quotes —  and that is the fact checking:

Gen. Stanley McChrystal at Airbase

 

According to the Washington Post, Rolling Stone fact checkers offered 30 questions, but never went over  the controversial quotes.www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/25/AR2010062504194_3.html?sub=AR&sid=ST2010062504101.Why?

Even here in the “deviled details”  of reporting there are questions with the fact checking  process. For example, according to the Washington Post article, McChrystal’s Military Flack had issues with Rolling Stone’s depiction of McChrystal expanding the morning briefings to include thousands of officers. The Military PR suggested over 400. And the military had a problem with the magazine’s depiction of McChrystal  “Situation Awareness Room”  being modeled on New York’s Mayor Bloomberg’s offices. McChrystal’s people said the room wasn’t modeled but was similar. Rolling Stone took none of the responses to heart.  

These are nit-picking crumbs, perhaps, but they also speak to the larger issues about the decision NOT to float the incendiary quotes by the General or the flack , according to what is offered in the Washington Post. And what is the rationale? Perhaps the RS editors just felt that McChrystal would obviously deny them. That he would realized he’d violate the old military adage, “Loose Lips sink ships” and claim his rants were taken out of context. But there were those second source quotes, the most controversial in the articles that you’d think the editors would want to check. Second hand info can be dubious and if it’s gonna be damaging to the subject than just out of self-preservation, you might wanna float those. For Example the quote about Special Representative to Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke, “The Boss says he’s like a wounded animal.” And Rolling Stone isn’t going to check that? Think about how the reporter got that quote, he talks to a bunch of Ballsy Soldiers and sooner or later someone’s gonna say something non too wise. 

Again why not run these quotes by someone? I know as a reporter when I get something that’s obviously going to detonate a commotion, I prefer running the quote myself even before the fact checker so I can say to the editor I did so. This is out of self-preservation rather than courtesy. Because editors are removed from the story, they may be quick to delete such inflamatory diatrab, some don’t have the stomach for taking on such flack. Plus the fact checker is normally unknown to the writer, many are interns and have power to change something. Publications are notorious for break downs in communications and a major contributor to  good chunk of misakes that find their way in print. But most editors I would figure would want a sampling of fire-storm that’s sure to follow and test one of these hot comments out there to see if  the story. Hastings isn’t even a Rolling Stone staffer.

Rolling Stone's Cover

 

Based on the layout, you got to figure that maybe Rolling Stone see the noise it would get from this article, which turns out probably the magazine’s biggest in decade(s). 

Hence; The cover is Lady Gaga, then headline, Dennis Hopper final days and then down below in small print “Obama’s General why he’s losing the war.” This cover seemed to be in place before the media went nuts with the story. Colbert showed it before it hit the newsstands. 

Still from my prospect as a consumer who picked up his copy at the Port Authority, you got to wonder if Michael Hastings, a freelancer was throwing down his card, going snitch for the cause. Was it to protect America from a renegade General? Please. Who wouldn’t figure a General who emerged out off the ranks Special Forces wouldn’t think that he alone knows all — that he’s surrounded by Asses. This just in: Four Star General anoints himself King. Instead of an important article debating the merits the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, which by the well  is pretty well done in the article, we have “gotcha ya” scandalism dictating public policy.

Disclaimer:

I’m no basher of the media as some left wing junta pulling strings. Hell, I cut my teeth on Rolling Stone and watched it go glossy, shrink in power and size not just on its politic impact but even on the music front which they (and everyone else it seems) can’t get a handle on anymore. That’s why I was surprised when I first heard of  The General Rukas was brought to you by  Rolling Stone and was bemused  when the New York Times, didn’t mention them by name higher up in their articles. What a comeback for the Gonzo mag. but at what cost? Check out Eyesoreproductions.com