Tuesday, February 18, 2014


As a journalist, I realize that I'm supposed to support the free release of information at all times. I think it comes with the job description.

But what happens when I become the gatekeeper, instead of the writer? It suddenly puts everything in a different light.

This is the odd situation that has popped up in the last week or two, regarding one of my other blogs, the Sports Book Review Center. It's prompted a new situation for me, one which deserves a little thought and discussion.

I recently reviewed the book, "Whatever It Takes," by Daniel Kelly. The review is here. He sent an e-copy directly to our newspaper, billing it as the story of how someone overcame long odds to work in the National Football League. That is true. He was hired back in 1998 in personnel by the New York Jets, despite never having played the game at virtually any level. That fulfilled a lifelong dream; good for him, as Peggy Noonan would write.

The catches to the story, though, were many. He lasted two years as a full-timer and two years as a part-timer before losing his job. While I was expecting/hoping for stories about Jets coaches and players, there aren't many to be found. By the sound of it, Kelly admits he wasn't a model employee. Sadly, most of the second half of the book was about the major health problems of his young child - a difficult tale to read, but one that obviously had very little to do with football. Along the way and only an issue in the context of this commentary, Kelly became a devout Christian.

While the book review site gets plenty of hits - I'm closing in on 50,000 in the second version of the blog - comments are few and far between. Shortly after publishing this review, I received a comment.

"This an outstanding book, If you are in need of hope were there is no hope, and if you have ever had a dream that no matter who or what told you that you coulndt achieve it, then this book is for you. Daniel really sheds light on why you should not only never give up on your dreams but that when you begion to dream the same vision God has for your life then anything is possible. I highly reccomend reading this book, buy one for you and buy one for a friend, Every great success story starts with someone who was told they cant! Daniel shares why You can do all thing through Christ who strengthens you! "

I did publish this comment, but did a little editing to the original review. I wanted to make clear that I thought Kelly had his chance to fulfill a dream, and didn't take advantage of it. That's not a happy ending, even though it's easy to root for someone who had overcome some long odds just to get that far. That's why I read it in the first place. The religious and philosophical arguments involved here are better left unsaid, since no one will convince those on the other side of their validity.

But then another comment came in, making essentially the same point. That was followed by two more comments in the same way, more or less. So ... does anyone want to read four comments saying the same thing?

Perhaps not. That's why I deleted the other three. (I moderate all comments, mostly because of spam.) In our newspaper's letters page, we would not print four of the same comments - perhaps orchestrated - together on one page. But, I still feel a little guilty about that. I like promoting the exchange of ideas, and I've never deleted a rational comment before. And, our newspaper has to approve comments before publication, just to make sure that that vile, anonymous comments aren't listed - but rational ones always go thorugh. So it's a little odd to play censor, and a little confusing. Did I do the right thing? I'm not sure.

By the way, I can't wait to see if I'll publish comments that might come in reaction to this blog entry.

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Thursday, February 06, 2014

Don't let the door...

Let's talk about an entertainment situation for a moment without naming names.

Pretend there was a talk-show host who had been on the same job for about 22 years. Imagine he did nothing but win the ratings battle, week after week. That meant his employer made untold millions of dollars on his work.

When that person moved on, what would be the proper response? I'd probably start with a ticker-tape parade, followed by one of those zillion-dollar presents in the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog.

You've probably figured out that this isn't so hypothetical. It's about Jay Leno, whose last night on "The Tonight Show" will be broadcast tonight.

As departures go, this is a really odd one. The obvious comparison is with Johnny Carson, who left the same job after more than 30 years. Carson's departure was a national event, with an absolutely endless parade of celebrities stopping by to be on his show one last time.

But a lot has changed in Leno's 22 years on the job. Television certainly has. The Big Three networks no longer are the only dominant players on the scene, winning a plurality instead of a majority of the viewers. The Tonight Show's viewers have dropped greatly in that span. Then again, everyone's numbers have gone downhill.

Still, that's not the only factor at work here. Leno was always the safe choice when it came to late night comedy. He didn't come up with many memorable jokes, but he was there for a few laughs night after night. And safe won the (ratings) race, consistently - even if it didn't create a great deal of buzz along the way.

Then there's the fact that Leno was in the middle of the affair in which NBC tried to move him to 10 p.m. weeknights and replace him with Conan O'Brien. Leno had a reputation for being rather insecure before all this; I can't imagine that episode did a great deal for his confidence.

I rarely watched Leno. David Letterman was and is more of my taste. And I can't say I feel sorry for Leno. He's made plenty of money over the years, and did what he loved on a nightly basis. Leno will return to doing stand-up at clubs and casinos, as well as do a little television when something interests him. Considering he reportedly banked his Tonight Show earnings and lived off the other gigs, Leno can work when he wants. And I'll be watch tonight's show, as something of an era ends. After all, I still have a video tape of Carson's last week.

Does the proverbial shout-out from this space go 1/1,000,000th of the way to compensating for the lack of buzz and thanks concerning his departure? Probably not. But you punch in at the job night after night and perform, you deserve a salute. So that's what this is.

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