Tagged with " University at Albany"
Apr 21, 2020 - Uncategorized    2 Comments

When did this coronavirus nightmare begin for you?

I stuffed in my pocket the mask my primary made me wear when I visited March 2 with a lingering cough. I feel fine … despite an occasional dry cough.

I can hear my parents’ warning: Don’t give yourself a kenahora!

The saying is an amalgam of the Yiddish and Hebrew “kein ayin hara.” Literally, don’t give yourself the evil eye. Don’t be smug. Don’t jinx yourself. Don’t, I can imagine them saying, write about feeling lucky to be healthy.

Who listens to their parents, alive or dead?

Today is April 21, 2020, and I want to record my small coronavirus stories. I don’t know where to start. Certainly not at the beginning, because I can’t tell you when that was.

Was it Valentine’s Day weekend? My husband Jim and I caught up in Manhattan with pals Tom Petzinger and Paulette Thomas, all traveling Amtrak, we from Albany and they from Pittsburgh. We enjoyed Mexican muralists and lunch at the Whitney, dinner at our favorite Il Gattopardo one night and new go-to Nerai the next, a morning in the imaginatively renovated MoMA, and the original cast in a Hadestown matinee. This was followed three days later by a cough and cold that landed me in bed for a couple of days, a March 2 trip to my primary when the cough wouldn’t quit, and now, two months later, occasional dry coughs that Jim keeps count of. Luckily, for no good reason except my inability to throw anything away, I pocketed the mask my doctor had me wear for that visit.

Was it the end of February and early March, as I hemmed and hawed about what level of insurance to buy for our mid-May trip to Spain? I gambled (having what my father called book smarts versus street smarts) that travel could be safe by then.

Was it Sunday, March 8? That afternoon Jim and I shared a New Haven pizza with our son Joe, after which he walked us around parts of the city we hadn’t seen in prior visits. Then Jim and I headed up to Northampton, Mass., for a Jayhawks concert. Jim cautioned me not to cough and I noticed how the small theater was full of old people (I was still only 65 back then).

Was it Tuesday, March 10? That was the last day I saw my journalism students at University at Albany in person. That afternoon I sent the class out to the Student Center to conduct quickie interviews with students about what the school should do regarding the coronavirus. The students then had to look up coronavirus news and facts online and weave them into a little story with the local angle of their interview.

Or, I could start with the morning of Thursday, March 12, when I arrived at UAlbany five hours ahead of my class, having been downtown at 8:30 a.m. to tape public radio WAMC’s The Media Project. I planned to check my mail, treat myself to a large coffee in the Campus Center Starbucks, and settle in at a computer on the sunny second floor of the Science Library. The parking lot was eerily empty at 9:30. Turned out that half an hour earlier, President Havidan Rodriguez announced that someone had tested positive the previous night for COVID-19 and classes were suspended for the day. School break was the following week, anyway, so students hit the road. The next day came the message that the second half of the semester would be finished remotely. Huh?

Stay tuned for more, or don’t. When did this nightmare start for you?

Mar 31, 2020 - Uncategorized    No Comments

DON’T air Trump’s live ‘briefings’ – and don’t let him off the hook

NOTE TO READERS:
I have CHANGED MY MIND about these briefings, which are neither brief nor informative. I’ll set my record straight at some point, but for the moment suffice to say I totally disagree with this post! Living airing are NOT a public service. To the contrary. Anyway, here’s the original post from the start:

An email arrived the other day telling me the president is using his daily coronavirus press briefings “to spread misinformation, campaign for re-election, and bully reporters who challenge him.” 

No duh.

The email went on: “Instead of enabling this behavior, major news media outlets need to stop” their live, unedited coverage, and I should sign a petition demanding it.

Whoa. No way.  

Granted, it’s tough to watch Trump’s cavalier and dangerous disregard of facts, science, and truth; his obsessively political, hateful rants and innuendoes; his xenophobic propaganda; his inability to demonstrate leadership in any way, shape or form; his absurd failure to social distance on stage. He maliciously maligns elected officials who dare to not kowtow and journalists trying to report the truth. He is bad for the country and my blood pressure.

That’s why I stopped watching. Instead, I check in on mainstream media for a credible summary of the day’s news from rational experts and reporters.  

But while I ignore the live briefings, I don’t want the mainstream media to do the same.

Like it or not, Trump is president. To not air his briefings would leave the mainstream media open to criticism that it was stifling the president’s attempts to communicate with the country during a national crisis, and it would divert viewers to the Trump-sanctioned channel. The challenge for the mainstream media is to relentlessly, politely (to the extent possible), and unapologetically question, challenge, fact-check — and hold him and his administration responsible for what is said and done.

I’ll confess to a pang of déjà vu from when the media gave outrageous candidate Trump undeserved, priceless attention. The lesson from that mistake: Don’t silence the president, but don’t let him off the hook. 

In times of crisis, people crave leadership, information (they want to believe), and hope. Inexplicably, people are finding this in Trump. But the president’s dinnertime ramblings expose his ineptness and incompetence while lives and livelihoods are being lost, and light bulbs are going on. For instance, Trump fan Mike Francesa of WFAN is appalled at what the president says while people are dying “five minutes from where he grew up.”

Local public radio WAMC’s The Media Project (on which I’m sometimes a panelist; listen anytime at wamc.org) addressed a recent decision by a National Public Radio station in Washington State to stop airing the live press briefings (though listeners can still hear them at npr.org.)

The show’s host, Rex Smith of the Times Union newspaper, noted that the station’s action was not censorship, which is what government does when it stifles free speech in violation of the First Amendment. Rather, it was the station making an editorial judgment about newsworthiness. From my decades of running the newsroom of The Saratogian, I understand the distinction and know that such decisions are not taken lightly.

But the public doesn’t make that distinction, as Rosemary Armao, a fellow University at Albany journalism teacher, pointed out. WAMC President and CEO Alan Chartock shared on the show that his staff decided to keep airing the briefings.

They’re right. Better for the media to err on the side of airing – without letting the president and his administration off the hook.