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  • Tue, 09:06: @BrianRoss Judicial Watch exists only to lie about Hillary Clinton. Why legitimize them? One meeting is hardly Watergate.

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I sent the commentary below to the Times Union newspaper in Albany, where it appeared last Saturday (July 16). However, I can't read the version which ran because they require a $13 subscription, and I'm not going to shell out that much for one article.

In this, I discuss how corporate greed has corrupted serious journalism. So, for what it's worth, my opinion below.

We need grownups in the newsroom

By Stephen Seitz


Enough.

The Hillary Clinton e-mail embroglio should never have happened, and would not have happened if responsible media organizations dedicated themselves to putting events in their proper perspective and context, rather than race each other to the next overhyped headline.


In the first place, any “scandal” originating in conservative media is suspect from the outset. They are up front about their bias. They make no pretense of being fair. They have been caught using deceptive practices over and over again, and even outright lying is routine. Fake conservative scandals are as common as aphids, and not one has ever panned out.


The legitimate news organizations have an obligation to take that into account. They should evaluate the actual facts and proceed from there. They should place events in their proper context. But they don’t.


Instead, they repeat the accusations at face value and get people screaming at each other. Thus, the FBI Clinton e-mail report is “scathing,” when it isn’t. The State Department Inspector General never “ripped” Sec. Clinton’s e-mail practices; in fact, his report tends to favor her.


Before news organizations were forced to be profit centers, newsmen like Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley would be saying, “Wait a minute. What’s really going on here?”


One thing that finally came out in FBI Director James Comey’s statement is that Sec. Clinton used several servers, something which should have been obvious to anyone who’s worked in a government office. One of those servers is exclusively devoted to classified and secret information; that’s a basic security precaution. Sec. Clinton’s private server was used for daily administrative tasks. This should have been made clear months ago. If any cable commentator mentioned it, I am unaware.


The Old Guard journalists would have known that the Secretary’s job is managing U.S. foreign affairs and diplomacy, not wrangling records. No president would ever say, “Hillary, we have to find a graceful way out of Iraq, contain a civil war in Syria, and do something about Iran’s nuclear program. But your top priority is to know, in detail, how e-mail servers work.”


Executive staff should not be expected to have to care about these things and, if you’ve ever worked in a government agency of any kind, you know they don’t. That isn’t their job. There are support staff in place for those matters. Executive staff have more important things to do. They just want the equipment to work. They shouldn’t have to care about comparative trivia.


What do we have instead? Finger-pointing, name calling, promises from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to waste even more taxpayer money on yet another witch-hunting investigation into how this could have happened. When news organizations were independent divisions, there might have been coverage of exactly how much money the House of Representatives has wasted for no better reason than political gain for Republicans. It’s got to be close to $1 billion over the past 20 years.


What is apparently off the table in the current presidential campaign is: expanding health care coverage, campaign finance reform, anyone explaining the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal and what it means, stagnating wages, a shrinking middle class, doing something meaningful to reduce gun violence, or anything else that might actually affect the lives of average Americans.


It has come to this: everything is reality TV. Facts and perspective don’t matter anymore.


I did meet Walter Cronkite once, but, of course, I thought of the question I should have asked him too late: What are we in the press doing wrong?


Now I think I know. We did not have these problems before the three original networks were absorbed by large corporations. The profit motive has sullied journalism as it has sullied so much else.


Journalism is the only profession given Constitutional protection for a reason. Newsrooms should be independent and protected so that they can properly do their jobs of informing the public. Not fattening next month’s bottom line.


Stephen Seitz is an author and journalist based in Vermont. In the past, he worked under contract for several federal government agencies in Washington for about 13 years.

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 Chris Isaak puts on one hell of a show.

 The Lebanon Opera House in New Hampshire is the perfect venue for Isaak’s band; it seats 800 people, which means it’s easy to fill, the acoustics are excellent, the crowd friendly and enthusiastic.

 After 30 years touring with the same band, Isaak and his team work together with smooth professionalism and skill. As a showman, Isaak knows how to engage an audience, and, unlike some performers, genuinely likes people. His patter is light and funny, and the audience becomes part of the act. He had us on our feet for half the show. One great way to guarantee a standing ovation at the end, but by then, he really deserved it. Isaak didn’t stop for an intermission; he gave us a rollercoaster of music in a straight two-hour set.

 During one song, for instance, Isaak made it from the stage up to the balcony (where my wife and I were seated) without missing a beat, so we could all get a good look at him. Until he showed up, we had no idea where he was; we thought he was just working the crowd. He danced with some of the fans; after he returned to the stage, he gave every member of his band a chance to join him up front and have a chance to shine.

 Toward the end, one lucky group of audience members actually got onto the stage to dance, and one of them even got a selfie with Isaak and his bassist without missing a single beat. Now, that is showmanship.

 If you already know his music, of course, you know what to expect; everything from good, raw rockabilly to ballads and dance tunes. Isaak is especially fond of early rock’s pioneers, especially Roy Orbison and the other graduates of the legendary Sun studios of the 1950s; those songs were easily the most effective, and affecting parts of the show. At one point, Isaak gave his pianist any choice of any song he wanted to play, so they ripped into “Great Balls of Fire,” complete with smoke pouring from the piano.

 I also have to commend Isaak for not doing what so many other performers would, which was to save the big hit for last. Of course, the crowd went wild when the opening chords of “Wicked Game,” began; for myself, I have always loved the solo guitar sequence in the middle. The song is from the film which put Isaak on the map, David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart,” and it’s a theme for Nicolas Cage’s character. (This was back in the era when Cage made good movies.)

 About the only criticism I can make is that Isaak didn’t mention Prince or cover one of his many songs. A rockabilly version of “Party Man” seems like a natural for him. Maybe he’ll get to it one day.

 I have to say, if you like a rockin’ good time, Chris Isaak is your man.

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