There may never have been a son of Minnesota more eloquent than Quentin Aanenson. The Luverne native was the inspiration behind Ken Burns' fabulous PBS series, "The War." The series featured Aanenson and three other families around the country. Through 17 hours, it was impossible not to be confused by the calm of Aanenson's voice recalling the chaos of his experience.
Aanenson is on my very short list of people I wanted to meet. I never got the chance. Aanenson, 87, died on Sunday of cancer.
As the Washington Post obituary noted, he was a man haunted -- and changed -- by war:
But the war never entirely left him. He was haunted by the fear that he had once mistakenly fired on Allied troops. The first time he fired on a column of German soldiers along a roadside, the impact of his shells pitched their bodies into the air. He knew he was doing what he was trained to do, "but when I got back home to the base in Normandy and landed, I got sick. I had to think about what I had done. Now that didn't change my resolve for the next day. I went out and did it again. And again and again and again," he said.
"It's hard to understand why the guy next to you was blown apart and why you're able to go on to have a wonderful life," he said. "There's a sense of responsibility we assume, or should assume. I tried to make a contribution, to my family, to the business world, to live with high ethical standards . . . not to waste this life, to do something that counts in a positive way. . . . I tried to live with purpose."
Here's a roundtable of veterans -- including Aanenson -- on the Charlie Rose Show in 1994, on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, a day on which Aanenson said, "I had the best seat in the house."
After the war, he became a life insurance executive.
On his Web site, Aanenson writes his own epitaph:
I guess in one sense you can say we are an endangered species. But unlike the spotted owl or the whooping crane, there is no legislation that can be enacted to save us. We are rapidly disappearing off the radar screen, and soon all that will be left is what we have written, what we have recorded, and some old, fading photographs. Our voices will be forever silent, and the untold "first-hand accounts" of our experiences will remain untold.
We are the boys of World War II. We are dying off at the rate of 1,500 a day -- that's 45,000 a month. That number will steadily increase until the unyielding laws of mathematics give us an increasing rate of deaths, but a decreasing number of deaths -- the remaining pool will have become too small.
Taps is just one sunset away.
But in our lifetimes, we made a difference. We had the good fortune to live during a time when honor, patriotism, and character were important. We stepped up to defend freedom, and put our lives on the line for the "cause." It was a moment in history that may never occur again.(2 Comments)
Among the things Lehrer told the gathered students was to stick to the basics of news. "If you want to be entertained, go to the circus," he said. "Don't watch the NewsHour."
Those of us who came to public broadcasting by way of commercial radio better understand the philosophy than those of us who have spent a lifetime in public broadcasting. Here's the underlying theory: If you're boring and you put the same faces on a panel to say the same things day after day, it must be a deeper, more insightful form of journalism.
Getler doesn't exactly say so -- he's too good for that -- but he acknowledges what Lehrer doesn't. There's a lot of journalistic real estate between some of the nonsense on network TV news and the static inner-Beltway interpretation offered by NewsHour, and it's not heresy to say so.
Many people who responded to Getler's column, by offering suggestions for improvement said so.
Reduce the number of panels in which Democratic and Republican strategists simply contradict each other, often leaving the viewing audience numb and angry. There are simply too many of these in which the viewer is sacrificed on the altar of "balanced" news coverage that actually does not inform. This extends beyond politics to many other subjects. Sometimes, of course, this is necessary. But the key to making these segments useful is the interviewer, who must be prepared to challenge guests, not just with the other person's opinion, but with facts and alternative analysis that helps viewers judge what is being said. Challenge and confrontation often does not seem to be in the NewsHour playbook.
Getler, in a courageous move, takes on the 800-pound gorilla that exists in most news organizations: The "indisputable sense of sameness."
Nevertheless, it seems to me and those who wrote, that both the NewsHour and Washington Week would benefit from bringing at least some new faces, voices and settings into the mix. That's not a reflection on the current staffs at all, and it doesn't mean I don't enjoy the commentary of Mark Shields and David Brooks (I do but they each have their critics within the viewership) or the always well-informed and trustworthy journalistic guests on Ifill's Washington Week program. To be sure, there is a slightly varying cast of characters now. But there is an indisputable sense of sameness on these programs; the same formulas, the same approach to news and the way it's presented, mostly the same people. Rarely does the off-beat or non-mainstream news item or analysis that may actually have broader resonance make it through the gate. To borrow a line that MSNBC's Chris Matthews uses on his show: "Tell me something that I don't know" or let me meet some people that I don't know.
That's a hard thing for news show producers to do. There's nothing quite so comfortable as that which you've done before. The role of journalism is not to be a comfortable pair of slippers.
So let's take Getler up on his request for suggestions. Whether it's NewsHour, or MPR, or the local TV station you watch: What would you like to hear, see in the coming year that you're not hearing or seeing now?
Be tough, but don't be insulting. And, as always, if you have a person you think is doing great things that should be in News Cut, let me know. I'll go anywhere, anytime for a good tale.
(By the way, on Friday at 9 a.m., MPR's Midmorning will feature the ombudsmen for NPR and the New York Times. I'll be live-blogging the show.)(35 Comments)
(h/t: Blogumentary)(1 Comments)
This isn't the day we notice a turnaround in the housing market.
The Case-Schiller housing index for October was released today. It measures home prices based on what homes sold for the last time they changed hands vs. the most recent transaction.
Housing prices fell by a record 18 percent from October last year, the largest drop since the survey's inception in 2000. The 10-city index tumbled 19.1 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history.
But enough about 10 other cities. What about Minneapolis? It's not good. The prices fell 3.4% from a year ago. There was only one other time when the drop was this steep -- February 2008. It's the lowest home price benchmark since September 2002.
Measured by one-month declines, we're more Detroit than New York.
Meanwhile, local expert Teresa Boardman analyzes other local housing market numbers "designed to show the relationship between how many new listings are put on the market each week and how many homes get offers from buyers that are accepted by sellers each week."
She notes that prices have come down 30% on bank-owned homes, and 2% on non-bank-owned homes that are ready to move.(1 Comments)
The format has a way to go before it becomes valuable, however. Unlike most press conferences, with this one you have to read the answers first and then work your way back to find out the questions.
However, the "answers" so far, make the questions as obvious as the answers are predictable.
Here are some of the major points highlighted so far (with the actual answers):
A better way to follow things is by searching #AskIsrael, but then you have to read through miles of posts of people writing, "I'm typing up a question to ask the Israeli consulate."
Sometimes, the old media is a better forum. If there's one issue that can't be explained in a series of 140 character messages, this one is it.
It was a nice try, however.
It would be a pleasant diversion if the year-end reviews of the news that are so commonplace, would include the many kindnesses extended by average people to other average people who have done extraordinary things.
If they did, the story of Joe Gomer, 87, and the people of Duluth would certainly make the list.
Joe is a Tuskegee Airman, an African American World War II pilot, one of a couple hundred who are still alive. Barack Obama invited them to his inauguration, but there were no plans made to transport them around Washington or find them a place to stay. When you're 80 and 90 years old, you don't just fly off somewhere without having things like that settled. Besides, hotels in the DC area are ushering in the era of change by jacking hotel prices up to around $1,000 a night.
An article in Monday's Duluth News Tribune (reg. required)started the donations. A travel agency and the Experimental Aircraft Association picked up the tab for the travel, and some Minnesotans have made arrangements with friends or relatives in the DC area to provide accommodations.
A similar story is playing out in Indiana. Quentin Smith, 90, told the Indiana Post Tribune a similar story. A day or so later, Smith had all he needed. "I was indifferent about going, really, but after all this the last few days, I feel obliged to go," he said Wednesday, chuckling. "I had no idea that many people cared about my going."
If you'd like to read more about Joe Gomer's WWII exploits, visit a Web site dedicated to him from his daughter.
It was a funny story today, right up until the part where a guy lost his job.
Up in Crookston, Mike Raymond drove a Polk County payloader onto the ice on the Red River where it promptly fell through. Funny stuff.
Today the county sent him a letter, the Grand Forks Herald reports, that said "you're fired."
It did him no good that he's been with the Highway Department for 28 years. It did him no good that his father before him was in the Highway Department. It did him no good that he was a "good employee," as described by his boss.
Raymond's mistake -- and it was a mistake -- was that he was either (a) trying to be a good guy or (b) using county equipment for personal use. He says he thought it would be helpful to ice fishermen if he cleared some snow around the Crookston boat ramp. That violates the rules.
His boss says he sent a memo out last year warning county employees against using county equipment for personal use. He's got a fish house on the river too, although he says he didn't clear a path to it.
Lives change with stupid mistakes. Have you ever had a boss who gave you another chance? Do tell.(11 Comments)