The Media, that blobby entity for good

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It’s super easy to blame the media for not covering the news we want. Whether or not it’s true, we blame them because they’re an easy target – a blobby, nebulous entity with an ulterior motive. And even though we live on a planet where everyone videos everything, where everyone wants to be an influencer, and everyone under 50 wants to enjoy viral Brad Pitt-level success, there remains a need for journalism.

  • Why didn’t the media cover Puerto Rico better?
  • Why isn’t the media coming down harder on Trump after that crazy speech?
  • The media won’t cover female presidential candidates?
  • Why isn’t the media right where I want them to be right when I expect it?

Is it possible those who ask aren’t watching or reading enough news? Are they asking “Where’s the media coverage of (this story) or (that story)?” on social media because they only get their news from social media? Does it need to be written that news on social media is cherry-picked and not all-inclusive of the journalistic engine at large?

Does it need to be written that news agencies follow trends like the rest of us, reporting on news that affects our daily lives, and even news we’ve told them we want to read? The Kardashians are famous because we’ve made them famous.

Listen, the media are people who report the news. Their role is not to editorialize your interests. They try, but they often fail. And it’s not their job. A reporter reports.

Imagine if no one offered news anymore and your only source of information came from social media. How much of it would you believe? Forget a socialist society, forget living under a dictatorship, we’d all be a labor class ruled by a few rich people who consider us no better than bugs. We’d be uninformed, uneducated, and have no voice.

That’s what the news is, a voice for the voiceless. It strives to create an informed populace. On it’s best day, it’s there to tell you why things happened the way they happened. On its worst day, it grovels to those who want to kill the messenger, then bitch when there’s no mail.

When complaining of media neglect, or a lack of reporting on something you find important, check yourself first by following simple rules of conduct.

  • Were these news agencies absent from this story because they’re understaffed? These days many are
  • Check online to verify your claim of news-neglect. There are probably stories
  • Question the source. Where did you get the information you’re sharing?
  • Lastly, question the motivation. Is there a reason this wasn’t covered in a satisfactory way? Remember the 2016 election; if you found it on social media and you can’t tell it’s from a reliable news agency, it’s click bait

If there’s one thing to take away from this rant it’s this; your blobby entities need support. We have to fight the trick. The real blobby, nebulous entity is the group trying to convince the public not to believe what they read and to even hate those who strive to give you a voice.

Down with those A-holes.

A lil’ Spider Man story in 101 words

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My 101-word short story, The Sticky Drunk, was a runner up in the Monterey Weekly’s recent short fiction contest. And they used a sentence from another entry in another section, which I found pretty cool. Read all the stories here!

October events!

(Sept. 24, 2018) Look for some cool events this October on the Monterey Peninsula. Cool for writers and fans of the written, and spoken, word at least. And who isn’t a fan of that?

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October 21 – I’ll be joining a number of authors in Carmel on Sunday, October 21, from 1-3 p.m. for a book signing event featuring local authors and historians. More details to come, but it sounds like a great place to find some early Christmas presents for the bibliophiles in your family. I’ll be ready to sign my recent book Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History! The event will be held at Carmel Ace Hardware, located at 290 Crossroads Blvd, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA93923.

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October 23 – Want to learn more about the craft of writing fiction and nonfiction? Author Dietrich Kalteis and I will hold a workshop on that very subject Tuesday, October 23, at 6:30 p.m. at Old Capitol Books in downtown Monterey. We’ll discuss writing style, guidelines, and the research that goes into works of fiction and non-fiction. Old Capitol Books is located at 559 Tyler Street in downtown Monterey. Learn more here!

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October 26 – Noir at the Bar returns to the Central Coast this month! This year’s Noir will be held at the East Village Coffee Lounge, at 498 Washington Street in downtown Monterey, beginning at 7 p.m. Books will be available for purchase thanks to the awesome folks at Old Capitol Books. Donations will be accepted at the door, benefitting the Central Coast Writers group! It’s a sweet lineup of authors too: Terry Shames, Kris Calvin, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Susan C Shea, Mark Coggins, Morgan Boyd, Dietrich Kalteis, and me! Get more details here!

Deitrich Kalteis interview on punk and words

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Zero Avenue, set for release October 3rd, from ECW Press.

It’s always a delight to sit down with authors and talk shop. It’s especially cool when you get to sit down with one you admire. I got lucky with Dietrich Kalteis. His new book, Zero Avenue, is out Tuesday. The book features a gritty punk tale of crime and survival and takes no prisoners in its detail and scope. A great read. Look here to get your copy.

 

Whitehurst: How did you come up with this story? The writing feels so visceral one could almost imagine you had been there.

Dietrich: I do remember the times well, and listening to the music again and talking to people who lived during those times helped a lot with reviving the vibe. What I liked about the punk rock scene back then was its edge and the ‘us against them’ outlook, how that indie ‘shake it up’ attitude threw a middle finger to the status quo. It made a sharp contrast to what some considered a sleepy backwater town at the time. For me, it made the perfect setting for a crime novel.

It was easy to identify with the characters and that ‘shake it up’ attitude. I guess I had a bit of that rebel soul back then, and I did know people growing up who were into the music scene and were a lot like the characters in the book. And I knew some guys who tried to rob a pot field and had rock salt shot at them. So yeah, I guess parts of this one were close to home.

 

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Author Dietrich Kalteis.

Whitehurst: Having dabbled in punk fandom in the 80s (DRI still gets me misty-eyed), I recognized a number of names, but not all of them. Are these all real bands and how much punk did you listen to in preparing for this book?

 

Dietrich: I always listen to music while I write, and I play what goes with what I’m working on. For Zero Avenue I got my hands on as much of the early Vancouver punk sound as I could find: D.O.A, the Subhumans, Pointed Sticks, the Dishrags, Payolas, Braineaters, Young Canadians, the Modernettes, the Reactors. I added some early Toronto bands on my playlists, bands like the Viletones, the Demics, the Diodes, the Cardboard Brains, the Mods, and the Ugly. And also Teenage Head and the Forgotten Rebels from Hamilton. I rounded it out with bands from the U.S. like the Ramones and the Stooges. And there were the Clash and the Sex Pistols from the U.K., and lots more.

Frankie’s band Waves of Nausea is, of course, made up. So is Middle Finger. And I threw some real-life personalities in the shadows among the characters I made up.

Whitehurst: What, if anything, didn’t make it into the book that you would have liked to explore further? I loved how the Vancouver punk scene could easily have been the San Francisco punk scene or anywhere for that matter, as the struggle for discord was apparently the same no matter where you happened to live.

Dietrich: There are some great books on the subject that filled in a lot of the details: Guilty of Everything by John Armstrong, Perfect Youth by Sam Sutherland, I, Shithead and Talk-Action=Zero, both by Joe Keithley helped relive those times. And there was Bloodied but Unbowed, an awesome documentary by Susanne Tabata. It’s jam-packed with clips, music and tales from that first wave of Vancouver’s punk scene. Then there were some firsthand tales. In fact, there was so much that could have been included, that I felt I had to be careful of what I did include so as not to slow the pace of the story.

There were many interesting details that I could have expanded on, from the self-published fanzines like Snotrag that kept a finger on the punk subculture, to the DIY recordings and local record labels that sprang up. One thing that I would have like to explore more was how the local scene seemed to line more with what was happening down the coast in San Francisco and L.A. than it did with what was happening in the punk scene in other parts of this country.

Whitehurst: You have written crime stories set in a number of settings, San Francisco at the turn of the last century and Vancouver at the start of the punk movement, what era do you have your sights set on next for your next book?

Dietrich: Poughkeepsie Shuffle is complete except for some copy edits and is due out next year. It takes place in Toronto in the mid-eighties and centers on Jeff Nichols, a guy fresh out of the infamous Don Jail. He gets mixed up in a gun-smuggling ring operating from a used car lot. The outfit brings guns in from upstate New York, and Jeff’s a guy who’s willing to bend the rules to get on the fast track to riches, a guy who doesn’t let the lessons from past mistakes get in the way of a good score in the future.

The story’s set at a time when I lived there, and I knew it well. On recent trips back I’ve been amazed by how much the city has expanded and grown since those days, so there’s a little nostalgia in there for me.

Right now I’m working on a story set in the dust bowl days of Kansas. It a story about a couple coping with drought, dust storms and debt. And they’ve got some interesting, although not legal ways, of saving their farm from the banks.

Whitehurst: Imagining a gritty, beat-up HBO mini series of this book, who would you picture as the leads, particularly Frankie and Marty?

Dietrich: When I’m writing, I always picture my stories like movie scenes and my characters like actors. For Frankie del Rey I saw her as a punked-up Krysten Ritter with a touch of Patti Smith’s edge. Lose the French accent and Vincent Cassel could play Marty Sayles. That guy’s got the look for it. And for Johnny Falco, I think a young Johnny Depp would be right.

Bio: Dietrich Kalteis is the award-winning author of Ride the Lightning, The Deadbeat Club, Triggerfish, House of Blazes and Zero Avenue. Nearly fifty of his short stories have been published internationally, and he lives with his family in West Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit his website here.

OPINION: Stop Blaming the Media

Interviewing actor Jon Voight during a fundraiser
(and after a monsoon soaked everyone)
for the Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2013.

These days it’s trendy to blame the messenger.

The media is stirring the pot, inciting violence, lying to you, etc., as if they were a giant hive-mind not made up of men and women toiling in poverty, but determined to undermine the stability of every neighborhood in America. In the newspaper business, most reporters can’t afford rent without having a roommate or spouse with a better-paying job. Most of us reading a news story make more than the person who wrote it.

As a reporter I was part of the team that broke the story on the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots that perished in Yarnell, Ariz. I photographed President Obama and his family at Grand Canyon. I’ve hobnobbed with drug dealers and celebrities alike. I may not be a reporter anymore, but I still cling to the tenets instilled in me while earning my degree in journalism. I was never a Borg.

Money

There are issues with the media to be sure, one being the drive for money. Newspapers, television news, and the rest are businesses first and foremost. They are out to make money and they go where the money is. Fox News caters and delivers news to a largely conservative audience. CNN the opposite. And in the drive to deliver 24 hours of news every day, they dangerously over analyze and guess at possible answers.

But who chooses the news? You do.

News is often created by what you click.

What is trending on social media? Let’s do a story on it, Obviously that’s what people are interested in. And it probably has something to do with a Kardashian. Let’s look at our website and see what our most popular stories were last month. Let’s do more stories on that, even if it’s got something to do with an unfounded conspiracy dreamt up by a sociopath. The readers loved it.

You feed the algorithm

It’s that simple. You clicked on it. You scanned headlines and chose something, and that was recorded by a simple algorithm and reported to the folks who gather the news. In any business, you give your customers what they want, and they base what the public wants by what the public clicked.

Still want to blame the media? Go right ahead. Should the media behave more responsibly and operate in a vacuum? They won’t be in business long if they do. Should they become non-profits, controlled by the state, or produced for free? Think about it.

Let’s just call it a conspiracy.

It’s easier to click on questionable news sites where those educated in journalism are nowhere to be found, where you find lies that conform to your beliefs, whether left or right, rather than looking in the mirror. These sites sell you hyper-sensationalism and trade on paranoia. But trust them if you’d like. Trust they are telling you a truth not to be found anywhere else, even though there’s no way to know where these stories really came from – that these sites don’t make money from every click.

Do you really want mainstream media to behave differently? Stop clicking on the stories you complain about. Lay off the sex, the death and the cute animals acting like humans. Redirect the flow. Bring back the news that matters to you.

It’s in your hands.