Friday, July 23, 2010

RIP Daniel Schorr

They don't make 'em like Daniel Schorr, the veteran CBS journalist, anymore. Schorr, whom I knew from his acerbic but incisive commentaries on NPR, died today after a long life well-lived.

It's especially poignant to hear that Schorr is gone this week, when the whole nation is learning about the scandal in the City of Bell.

I don't know much about South Los Angeles communities and doubt I've ever set foot in Bell, despite being a lifelong SoCal resident. But I have to wonder: Where were the reporters?

How can city and elected officials get away with this disgusting behavior if there is a bona fide news outlet somewhere in town or in the region keeping an eye on them? Back in the day, when I was a reporter for a small (and then a medium-sized) community newspaper, our main task was to keep tabs on elected officials. Rooting out corruption was the journalist's highest calling, and anyone who could pull back the screen to expose pigs feeding at the trough got high praise and monumental street cred.

Just having a reporter hanging around city hall, attending every city council meeting, requesting planning agendas and writing endless stories about budget wrangling kept would-be crooks in line. I'm not saying there was no corruption, but dull and dreary as it might have been, I have to believe that public service reporting discouraged a lot of hanky-panky.

But what about now? I confess I don't know about the state of local media in Bell. But frankly, the small newspapers in my area stink. They reprint Chamber of Commerce press releases and feature local pablum instead of real news stories. No one sits into the wee hours at the council meetings unless there's a brouhaha brewing. The Los Angeles Times, where my old friend Jeff Gottlieb broke the Bell story, used to have staff writers covering all the local cities. Then they hired stringers (my first job as a freelancer) to do it. Then they stopped altogether, deciding it was "no longer their mission" to cover local news.

Never fear, say the detractors of old-school journalism. Those dinosaurs aren't necessary. Our "citizen journalists" and community bloggers will step in to do the job even better than local papers did. My questions: Who's going to train these community journalists to investigate and cover public agencies? Where will they get the clout to stand up to surly, arrogant officials like those in Bell?

And most importantly, who's going to pay them for the considerable time and energy it takes to keep our public servants honest? This is not something one does as a hobby, no matter how much we'd like to believe it can be.

As we lose local journalism, we're all losing something precious. What will fill the gap is anybody's guess.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Ray of Sun(flower) Shine

Aren't sunflowers cheery? It makes me happy just looking at it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Health Care Resource

I wrote recently about the top health care reform myths and realities.

As with any health care reform articles, additional questions and concerns (along with a fair share of rants) cropped up in the follow up comments.

I'm sure I'll write about reform again, but meanwhile a new, interactive forum aims to continue the discussion. HealthyChat, created by insurance giant WellPoint (parent company of Anthem), is an "effort to engage consumers using technology and social media to help improve their health IQ, help them work toward improving their own health as well as the health of those close to them," according to the company.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

As I confessed here recently, I had some trouble gearing-up for work after my vacation.

But small business owners don't have to lose their edge this summer if they have employees who tend to be slow getting back in the groove. They can take the stellar advice presented in my Smart Answers column this week.

Just don't crack the whip too hard on your vacation-addled employees. We all need a little break now and then.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Harvest Time

We've been picking green beans, cucumbers, basil, peppers and tomatoes from our summer veggie garden for a while now.

But yesterday was the first time we picked some corn. Test for readiness by stabbing your fingernail into a kernel. If it just sits there, no dice. If the kernel squirts milky fluid in response to your stab, you're good to go.

We ate these ears a few minutes after we harvested them. Yum!

The sunflowers must be over 8-feet by now (Andy is over 6') but the flowers haven't opened yet. What's the matter, guys - not hot enough for ya!?


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Facts vs Fantasy on Health Care

The small business world is in a tizzy over health care reform.

This week's Smart Answers column aims to sort the myth from the reality.

Last week (while I was recovering from vacation - something I'm writing about for next week!) I did a take on how to choose a web designer.

Take a look; I hope you find these tidbits helpful.