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Scott Morgan

Freelance Reporter. Radio Journalist.

It Seems the Movies Never Liked Reporters Much Either

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Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

Occasionally I let myself wonder whatever happened to the journalist hero in the movies. My wistfulness doesn’t usually last long. There never were a lot of journalist heroes in the movies.

No, most of the time, anybody connected to any news outlet in a movie or show is … well, scum. They’re obnoxious, sweaty little pests at best; bullies wielding the First Amendment like a shield in general; destructive abusers who’ll crush anybody for a story most of the time.

The thing is, I honestly wanted to write something here about good fictional journalists, but there really aren’t a lot of those in the film world. I’m not sure whether I find it troubling or encouraging that all of the great journalist-hero movies I can think of off the top of my head are based on real people.

Maybe it’s appropriate that it makes me feel conflicting things. The best journalism is nuanced, after all. Perhaps the subject of the journalist hero should make me feel ambivalent.

There is one fictional reporter I like a lot – Ben Urich, the crime reporter for the New York Bulletin in Marvel’s Daredevil. Ben’s not perfect. He’s cynical as hell and is, in some measure, a grittier, wearier version of Sgt. Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon. But he’s an ethical man, motivated to do the right thing. He’s brave, if not necessarily kind; methodical, even if he’s trying to divorce himself from the demands of a thankless job. But however you slice it, I’d love to have Ben Urich in my newsroom.

Past him, though, the great movie journos are actual journos, in movies based on real people and events – the Boston Globe team of Spotlight; Woodward and Bernstein of All the President’s Men; Edward R. Murrow of Good Night and Good Luck.

And maybe that’s the way it should be …. A reality in which fictional depictions of reporters and editors can’t compare to the reality about those of us who (gasp!) do our part to keep the lights on for those who think ill of us or won’t even appreciate what we do.

After all, we don’t do this job to be your friend. We do it because we’re against your enemies.

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… and So We Come to the Beginning: How Public Radio in Texas is Redrafting the Future

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Pictured: Margo. Reason: Because she’s awesome, and my public radio colleagues agree.

Screw fiefdoms.

I never liked them and I never will.

I never believed that news was something to guard like a chew toy. Information, as the saying goes, needs to be free.

And if it sounds like a socialist pipe dream to say that news outlets can and should cooperate and collaborate, then I respectfully suggest you change your opinion of what lies ahead.

This past weekend (the end of July, 2018) was probably the most rewarding two-and-a-half days of my professional life. I spent it with, somewhere around 50 other, quite incredible, public radio journalists from around Texas (and Margo, of course, pictured above because she’s cuter than I’d be even if I had a billion dollars).

The ostensible goal of the weekend was training, sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and NPR, and hosted by the good folks at KERA in Dallas. (Thank you to all, incidentally.)

But the spirit of the goal was to pave the future through collaborative journalism. It turns out, my adopted state is leading the way forward with an ambitious effort to share (imagine that!) content, ideas, and information so that we tell more complete stories that represent Texas in all its facets.

It’s gratifying to know that my colleagues around the state (part of the wonderfully named Texas Station Collaborative, which is serving as a model for the direction NPR wants to go) see this future the same way I do. And it’s gratifying to know that stations in major cities and small, rural towns (like mine in the quiet rolling hills of Northeast Texas) are equally important, equally vibrant, and equally part of the state and national zeitgeists. Small stations like KETR are welcome at this table, where “we’re bigger than you” ego doesn’t exist.

After a long time bathed in the cynicism reporting can spark, I never thought I’d live to see the day I’d be so optimistic about where journalism is headed. And I haven’t been this happy to be wrong in a long time.

Speaking purely selfishly, I can’t even explain how grateful I am that I’m part of something that’s never really been tried before. To be on the cusp of a paradigm shift that I have no doubt will become the way of the future all around public radio is … well that’s just … goddamn indescribable, is what that is.

So I won’t try to wow you with hyperbole. Instead I’ll simply say: Stay tuned, Texas. This is going to be a fun ride.

Murrow and Me: A Regional Love Story

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April 28, 2018

Edward R. Murrow is my journalism hero. In one of my video clips, or podcasts, or whatever the hell I put on this site, I have an audio cut of Murrow (known in the radio biz as an actuality) to bookend my piece.

I don’t compare myself to Murrow. I don’t specifically want to be him. Though I do admit I wish I had his voice. But I so respect the man that I’m not even sure how to say it.

So the other day, when I learned I’d won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for my feral hog piece, I just about plotzed. My name specifically won’t be on it, KETR’s call letters will. But to know my name, a story I did, can now be uttered in the same breath as Murrow’s humbles me.

I’m not really so into awards that they light me up. But this year is the first time I’ve won some for broadcast, and it’s, frankly, awesome. The awards from Texas AP Broadcasters and the regional Murrows tell me I’m not as lost in the world of broadcast journalism as I’d feared.  Who knew my sense of melodrama actually had practical, real-world implications?

I’m grateful to my station for being a place that lets me try things my way. I’m also grateful to the judges who said some genuinely nice things about my work. Both these entities make me want to keep working towards better stories. I want to be able to stand next to the best reporters and storytellers of the age and not stick out for the wrong reasons, like a wedding photo with a dog squatting in the background.

Or, I at least want to be the dog everyone finds entertaining enough to keep around.

 

TOt4E: Journalism As the Year Rolls Over

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Twenty-seventeen was a weird year for journalism. At least in the United States. A renewed vigor for journalistic prowess and integrity met a president who openly hates journalism itself. Or, at least, that’s his public stance.

So what will journalism bring about, and what will it bring upon itself, in 2018? How the hell do I know, I’m a reporter, not a crystal ball. But I do have my thoughts …

Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Journalism, What It Is, What It Was. Listen here, and please share, comment, and subscribe to my blog for updates.

TOt4E: We’re All Connected. So Where Is Everybody?

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A major irony in journalism these days is that we live in a world of open, free-flowing, abundant information — and yet it’s harder and harder to get hold of anybody.

Right at the time in history when we need a well-armed press more than ever.

Check out my latest episode of Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Getting Through To People.

Don’t forget to like, share, and comment. Thanks for listening.

Podcast: Bias In the Press

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December 11, 2017

Liberal media? Conservative media? Not the point. But perception of bias,  it turns out, is a pretty big deal.

4th web buttonEpisode 2 of Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Bias In the Press

What are your thoughts on my thoughts? Comment, subscribe, share, tell the world. And be good to the world too.

Convo: Episode 1 ~ The National Conversation On Sexual Harassment

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Logo design by Scott Morgan

I’m not trying to overwhelm you, dear reader, with podcasts, I promise.

But I’m excited to announce my first professionally produced podcast for my NPR member station. KETR. Convo is a podcast of discussion and curiosity on a timely topic of social importance.

For my first edition, I wanted to understand better why we are having an engaged conversation about sexual harassment now, as opposed to the many times it could have happened before.

My conversation is with Dr. Sharon Kowalski, an associate professor of history and director of the gender studies program at Texas A&M University-Commerce. I’m glad to say our conversation was enlightening (at least for me), nuanced, and thoughtful.

Episode 1 of Convo is available at my station’s website, KETR.org. Click the hyperlink to have a listen and be part of the Convo. I’d love to know what you think.

 

 

 

Contain Your Surprise: I’ve Started a Podcast

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December 4, 2017

Today I launched my new podcast, Thoughts On the 4th Estate. I’d explain further, but I imagine the title is fairly comprehensive as far as what it’s about.

Thoughts is a short podcast, though. Typically between 4 and 8 minutes. Something more than musings and less than a treatise. I hope you listen and I hope you like. I’ll be putting a new one up once a week. And it’s not just for colleagues, either. If you’re interested in commentary on society, please check it out.

Click here or click on the banner above to take you to the podcast homepage (which will be more relevant as the catalog builds).

 

For now, listen to Episode 1: Why Does the Press Get Such Bad Press? right here:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts. Also, please subscribe to my site so you can stay up with new postings as they become a thing. Be good to the world.

Journalism vs. Nationalism

September 7, 2017

Yesterday, the BBC reported that an Indian journalist named Gauri Lankesh was found shot to death in the Karnataka state. No motives were mentioned, but Lankesh was a progressive journalist critical of Hindu nationalism. It’s not hard to connect the dots, considering journalists in India are increasingly targets of Hindu nationalist radicals.

Back here in the United States, we’ve all been involved in the topic of nationalism and the press in 2017. So far, the U.S. remains a comparatively safe place for reporters and social critics. A lot of people hate those of us with a press badge, but we don’t generally tend to be targets of assassins.

In terms of journalists being killed, national boundaries don’t matter. I’ve written before about the fact that in so many parts of the world, calling yourself a reporter is a lot like being a deer and buying a vest with a bullseye on it. It’s often dangerous work done by courageous people armed with what remains the deadliest commodity on the planet — the questioning of an idea.

I’m grateful that despite obvious tensions, journalists and nationalists in the United States tend to keep their hands off each other. I wish the same to continue, and I wish it for the rest of the world. There are a lot of dark corners on this planet that need some light. Especially where they’re more likely to be snuffed out.

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