Justin McLeod's Blog

Facebook vs. traditional news media

A well known public relations (PR) person recently told one of my colleagues "we don't need you anymore, we have facebook."  That certainly prompted a few chuckles in our newsroom.  But there is certainly a belief that facebook will one day replace traditional news media, if not seriously erode our influence.  

I fought the urge to join facebook for the longest time.  I eventually caved.  The fun part has been getting back in touch with people I haven't seen or heard from in nearly twenty years.  It almost feels like a reunion.  Facebook has also shown me why I didn't stay in touch with some of these people in the first place but that's for another time.  Facebook has put us in touch with our viewers in ways like never before.  People are comfortable on facebook.  They are more inclined to send you a message on facebook about a possible story than to actually e-mail you.  Dear I say, e-mail is becoming blase?  People also seem to be enthralled with every little detail about our personal life.  If you can't tell, I live a pretty boring life.  That is just me.

The downside of facebook is that I think too many people believe what they see on it.  I've read plenty of postings that were only half true or were completely wrong.  That's why I think traditional news media is still relevant and desperately needed.  We are trained professionals.  We know what we are doing. (ok, maybe not all the time) We can investigate claims, cut through the spin, and just give you the facts.  Consider this, police departments and local governments are posting a lot on facebook.  They are only going to post what they want you to hear.  You think they're going to post bad news?  I don't think so.  You still need people like us to ask the tough questions, get answers, and then pass it onto you so you can get the real story.  

We are certainly not perfect.  We could always do a better job.  But I implore you don't believe everything you read on facebook. 


February 26th

UPDATE:  I've now seen all the nominees in the major categories.  I saw "Biutiful" Friday night at the Grandin.  It's about a father dying of cancer. You think you've seen this story before?  Well, think again.  Bardem has a strong performance in an original story.  Too bad at points, the movie is too long.  Bardem deserves a best actor nomination, but he would be a stronger contender if he wasn't up against Colin Firth.


February 21


And the Oscar Goes to....

I love the Oscars.  I've been predicting the winners since I was a kid.  Some years I've done well, others not so much.  For the last couple of years, I've made a point to watch all the nominees in the major categories.  I've seen all the movies this year except one.  Javier Bardem is nominated for Biutiful.  Because it is a foreign language film, he hasn't been widely released.  A quick note before I predict.  I believe strongly the best person should win.  I don't like when people say "it's his time" (awarding someone because they've been snubbed before) or "she will have another chance" (basically she is young and will be nominated in the future).  Ok, here we go.

Best Picture

127 Hours- good movie, intense
The Fighter- great movie, well acted
Black Swan- weird movie but good
Inception- Excellent movie after you watch it three times
The Kids Are All Right- ok movie, didn't love it
The King's Speech- good story, well acted
The Social Network- great movie, good score
Toy Story 3- this movie made me cry.  I love the Pixar movies
True Grit- good movie
Winter's Bone- haunting movie, well acted, great story

Frankly, I think Inception was the best movie of the year but it won't win.  Most pundits say it's between The King's Speech and Social Network. I think most Oscar voters will go with The King's Speech.  I liked the movie but thought the Social Network was better.  They took a boring subject matter and made it extremely interesting and fun to watch.

Will Win:  The King's Speech
Should Win:  Social Network

Best Actor

Jeff Bridges, True Grit- good performance but not Oscar worthy
Javier Bardem, Biutiful- didn't see it
Jesse Eisenberg, Social Network- great performance
Colin Firth, The King's Speech- great performance
James Franco, 127 Hours- unbelievable performance.

All the pundits seem to agree Colin Firth will win.  I think James Franco gave a better performance.  He blew me away.  Firth is a great actor but I think he gave a better performance last year in A Single Man.  Jesse Eisenberg was also memorable as Mark Zuckerberg.  I am ok with Firth winning but think Franco gave the best performance of the year.

Will Win:  Colin Firth
Should Win:  James Franco

Best Supporting Actor

Christian Bale, The Fighter- great performance
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone- haunting and memorable performance
Jeremy Renner, The Town- ok performance, wouldn't get my vote
Mark Ruffalo, The Kids Are All Right- ok performance, wouldn't get my vote
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech- great performance, memorable

I am torn with this category.  Most pundits say Christian Bale will win.  He should.  It was a great performance.  But I thought Geoffrey Rush gave a really memorable performance.  I think he stole the show.  If he hadn't won an Oscar already, I think he would be more of a contender.  Also, can't overlook John Hawkes' performance as a meth addict.  One moment you hated him, the next you liked him.  

Will Win:  Christian Bale
Should Win:  Geoffrey Rush

Best Actress

Annette Bening, The Kids are All Right- good performance
Nicole Kidman, Rabbit Hole- great performance. Bravo!
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone- wow, great performance considering she is only 20
Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine- heart wrenching performance. Will win an Oscar one day
Natalie Portman, Black Swan- great performance

Pundits say it's between Natalie Portman and Annette Bening.  It's hard to believe Bening has been nominated four times and has never won but my vote is for Portman.  Nicole Kidman was memorable in Rabbit Hole.  I think she would be more of a contender if she hadn't won an Oscar already.  Michelle Williams blew me away in Blue Valentine.  She will win an Oscar one day.  I hope to see more from Jennifer Lawrence in the future.  She has a lot of potential.

Will Win:  Natalie Portman
Should Win:  Natalie Portman

Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, The Fighter- ok performance
Helena Bonham-Carter, The King's Speech- ok performance
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom, haunting performance.  This woman scared me
Melissa Leo, The Fighter- great and memorable performance
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit, hard to believe this girl is only 14

This seems to be the most unpredictable category.  Melissa Leo won the Golden Globe and SAG.  She gave a great performance.  My vote is on her but won't be surprised if she loses.  To me, Jacki Weaver gave the most memorable performance but I don't think she will win.  Hailee Steinfeld could end up picking up the award.  She was great in True Grit but wasn't that a lead role?

Will Win:  Melissa Leo
Should Win:  Jacki Weaver


February 10


An important piece of the puzzle was missing

My latest rant/criticism is directed at the major media outlets in the Roanoke area.  It has to do with the coverage of Colin Goddard.  He is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shootings.  He was in Blacksburg this week showing his documentary called "Living for 32."

Part of the documentary shares his experiences of being shot four times and his road to recovery.  The documentary also follows his crusade for stricter gun laws.  Goddard used hidden cameras to show how easy it is to buy guns at a gun show without a background check.

Here's what was missing from all the coverage that I saw and read.  We failed to point out that the Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho didn't actually buy his gun at a gun show.  He bought it legally from a gun shop in Roanoke.  When I brought this up in our editorial meeting, one of my colleagues questioned whether we need to say that everytime we do a story about gun control and the Virginia Tech shootings.  He feels it sounds repetitive and thinks most people already know that Cho didnt buy a gun at the gun show.  I disagree.  Most of the students currently at Virginia Tech weren't there during the shootings and maybe unfamiliar with some of the details from that day.

The news media often receives criticism that we are a bunch of liberals who hate guns and want stricter gun control.  I am not sure that is true and quite frankly I don't think I could change your mind if you feel that way.  However, I can see why gun advocates/gun owners feel that we are unfair when we fail to mention that Cho didn't buy his gun at a gun show.  I am not saying the reporters who worked on this story are gun control advocates and purposely left it out.  I am just saying that piece of information needed to be in there and for that reason we made a mistake.


February 8

I sometimes read the comment section on our website.  It allows users to offer their "two cents" to a particular story.  I was reading the comments about Tony Anderson when one caught my eye.  First, in case you missed it, Tony Anderson is the high profile Roanoke attorney who was charged with driving under the influence.

The posting said this "wow, what baffles me is how quick this story was pulled off of the air. Most stories are run into the ground not this one. Makes me wonder who could have the pull to take it off of the air."  This was obviously written by someone who has watched too many X-Files episodes and believes they are being followed by black helicopters.  By the way, I rode in one of those black helicopters recently and it was a great experience.  

I checked our archives and we ran stories about Tony Anderson on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  I am not sure why this person would think this story was pulled off the air.  It was also on our website throughout the weekend.   I am surprised when people think someone has so much power or influence they can call up and have a story killed.  I am not saying it's never been done.  I am sure it has.  I am just saying it doesn't happen often and its never happened in my 12 year career.

Are people often upset with our coverage?  Yes.  Do they call and complain?  Yes.  But we don't take a story off the air just because they don't like what's being reported.  Case in point?  Recently, News 7 reported on the problems involving Salem Doctor Greg Alouf.  He is a major advertiser with WDBJ-TV.  But that didn't stop us from reporting it.  I am not aware of him calling and complaining but I am sure he would have preferred News 7 stay away from this story.

I will concede one point to the viewer's criticism.  We didn't devote a lot of time to the Tony Anderson story.  The reason is simple.  It happened over the weekend and sometimes it is hard to get in touch with the appropriate people on the weekend like the police officer who worked this case.  There wasn't a lot of information to report until Monday.  It stinks but that is how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

I hope this give you insight about how stories are covered.  There is no conspiracy.  Time for me to go.  The black helicopters are coming to pick me up.


January 24

Much Abo About Nothing?

I've watched with great interest the recent Ten Commandments flap in Giles County.  A quick recap.  A copy of the ten commandments was on the walls of every Giles County school.  The superintendent had them taken down in December after a letter was sent by The Freedom From Religion Foundation.  The Foundation argued it is unconstitutional.  The ten commandments were put back up after outcry from the community and a school board vote.

As a journalist I like to see all sides of an issue.  In this case, it's no different.  Part of me says what's the big deal?  Are they really hurting anyone by hanging on the walls?  If it's hurting anyone it is a parent, not a child.  I think most of the school children probably didn't even know they were up until the controversy made headlines.  I think if you polled most people in Giles County they support having the ten commandments displayed.  Shouldn't what the community want matter?  Doesn't majority rule?

On the other hand, I am not buying this whole historic document argument.  Supporters say it was put up because it is a historic document like the Declaration of Independence.  Basically, they argue it has nothing to do with religion.  That is baloney.  A local minister led the charge more than a decade to display the ten commandments.  You can't tell me with a straight face that he doesn't have a religious agenda.

I also go back to my argument that the children probably don't even know they are on display.  Are you telling me they are walking the hallways each day, stopping, and actually reading the ten commandments?  Probably not.  The commandments are more symbolic than anything else.  Some will say it teaches values.  I went to a christian school from 5th to 8th grade.  We had a lot of pastor's kids in my school.  You know what?  A lot, not all, were the biggest trouble makers.  Didn't they learn values?  

Some will think I am anti-religion or that I don't understand that our country was founded largely on religion.  Baloney. (boy I like this word)  I am one of those people who believes a Christmas tree should be called a Christmas tree, not a holiday tree.  If a nativity scene has been on display in the town square for more than fifty years, why should it be taken down just because one or two people are offended?

At the end of the day, I don't think the hanging of the ten commandments was hurting anyone.  I also don't think it's really helping.  So my take?  This is much abo about nothing.


January 10