Can Brian Williams salvage his career?

In a word … no.

At least not as the face of NBC News.

Brian Williams got caught fabricating his field coverage of the war in Iraq, which then called into question his coverage of Hurricane Katrina. He danced around his fibs by calling them memory lapses.



So he’s now on unpaid leave and I’m sure the network bigwigs are wringing their hands trying to figure out what to do. Before his gaffe, Williams was pretty popular with those who still tune in to the nightly news. But now? Now, I think he has to step away from his seat at the evening news desk because he broke public trust and without trust a journalist has got nothing.

star trek

Journalism isn’t really about writing. Sure, it helps if you have a good grasp of grammar and vocabulary. But really good journalists aren’t just folks who know how to turn a phrase. They love the truth. They love it so much that they are willing to wade through the muck of politics, brave wars and natural disasters, and sit through hours of courtroom testimony to tell the public what is happening — in most cases for not much money and crappy hours. If the public thinks a journalist is full of it, well, then that reporter better just hang up his or her hat. It’s over.

Trust is a tenuous thing and it’s not easy to get it back. When I started the education beat, the paper I worked for hired a “consultant” to improve our readership score. His big idea was we shouldn’t go to local government meetings. We should follow-up the next day with the people who ran these meetings and find in-depth stories to pursue.

This is one of those things that sounds good in theory but pretty much sucks in real life. As part of this master plan, I was told to deliberately skip out on a school board meeting even though that board was in the midst of upheaval. I called the superintendent the next day and she ran down what happened at the meeting. It was all pretty generic and she didn’t offer much to pursue later. Hmmm….

My very lame followup story ran that afternoon. I was embarrassed when a reader called to chew me out because I had failed to mention the big blow up between board members over an issue that the superintendent had conveniently left out of our conversation. The reader was convinced I was in cahoots with the superintendent and that I’d lied by omission.


I learned a valuable lesson that day. You can bet your backside I was at the next school board meeting to see for myself what was happening. I wasn’t really mad at the superintendent. I mean, would you tell a reporter that your board was in revolt if you didn’t have to? I was mad at myself. I couldn’t really put my name on these stories if all I was going to do was be a mouthpiece for my contacts.  I needed to know the truth.

Truth matters. Whether it’s what you say or what you don’t say. You owe it to your readers to tell the truth of what happened. Not what you would have liked to have happened. Not what sounds sexy or what sells. Just the truth.


The sad thing is that so many journalists today no longer see truth as the duty they carry. From Rolling Stones’ questionable story about a campus rape to reporters using the news for their personal agendas, truth often is no longer the goal. No wonder journalists have found themselves below bankers when it comes to public perception of honesty.

And that’s unfortunate for the future of the Fourth Estate, an industry still in a tailspin in this Internet age. Truth is the commodity that journalists sell; we can’t let a few bad apples spoil it for the rest.




Just what I needed today (yes, that’s sarcasm)

Today at work I got the call that litigation was pending against me.

To be honest, it kind of freaked me out for a minute until my brain caught up with my emotional reaction to the word “lawsuit.” First, the caller had a thick Indian accent, like so thick I couldn’t understand him. But his name was Brandon with a surname that was decidedly American so that was weird.

Then there was the fact that he was calling me at work (I work at a university) but he didn’t know if I was an employee or a student. And he asked me that twice, even though this lawsuit apparently had to do with my time at the university. So that also was weird.

He also said I should have been served papers yesterday – at work no less – which I had not.

Then he started throwing around a lot of scary words like “breach of contract” and “IRS” but even with the language barrier, it did not make a lot of sense. No facts, no dates or parties involved in the suit. I wasn’t even sure what agency he was with, though he was happy to provide a badge number without me even asking.

My Spidey-sense was kicking in at about the same time he asked if I wanted to discuss a settlement over the phone to avoid litigation.



By the time I hung up, I was kind of PO’d. First, I wasted time on this bozo – I’d been headed out for a bathroom break when my phone rang so I also really had to go.

But the thing that made me mad was thinking about the people who fall for this. I mean, it’s scary to hear someone rattle off all these legal terms and dropping the dreaded name of the IRS. So for some little old lady, she might be tempted to hand over her credit card number.

I Googled telephone scams and without putting in any more details, I found that this particular strategy is popular now, threatening lawsuits, arrest and charges of tax evasion in exchange for personal information or payment. Guys and gals overseas can purchase U.S. numbers in the D.C. area, — mine came from the 703 area code — then plug in a Magic Jack to be in business.

It made me feel better to hear stories similar to mine but it was sickening to see how pervasive this scam was. I lump these kinds of scuzzballs in the same category as the geeks who invent malware and viruses to corrupt computers. Please, just get a real job and get a real life. Quit preying on others for your existence. Use your powers for good, not evil.

And please quit calling me at work. At least have the decency to call my cell so I can ignore you properly.

This is a win!

I’ve read a few things in the news lately that have really irritated me, and I’ve had a few possible posts (aka rants) running through my mind. But I read this today and decided to share something positive instead.

I’m not a football fan. Most of the time I couldn’t even tell you which two teams were playing in the big game. But with all the monetary wagers made over this past Sunday’s game, it was really heartwarming to read that this bet would, in fact, only benefit others.

Way to be good role models, Captain America and Star-Lord! :)


Great News for ‘Sherlock’ Fans (like me)


If you haven’t watched “Sherlock,” the BBC’s modern take on the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories, I would recommend you give it a look.

I’ve had a crush on SH since I was 14 and was skeptical that this adaptation would hold my interest. Five minutes into the first episode, “A Study in Pink,” and I was hooked. Benedict Cumberbatch nails it as SH. Martin Freeman brings heart and humor as the faithful John Watson. And how can anyone not adore Mrs. Hudson?

I also love the nod to the original Doyle works — so much so that I’ve been re-reading the original stories. I’d absolutely recommend those, too. :)

Why Not YA?

The other day, my husband asked me what I was reading. I was about halfway through James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner.” He pointed out — quite innocently — that a lot of adults today are reading books aimed at teens. At first, his comment rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t read YA lit to be trendy. I read it because I’ve found a lot of great series shelved in the YA section of the library and book store. I still read books for adults, too, but today’s teen lit is way better overall than the books published when I was still in that age category.

Here’s why I love YA:

1. The books tend to be fast reads. I wish I had hours to read like I did when I was younger. Now, I get a chapter here and there. Most YA books keep the action flowing, the characters lively and don’t require you to keep looking back to the first chapter to remember who a character was.

2. The books tend to be “cleaner” than their adult counterparts. Now, that statement isn’t true across the board. It’s not hard to find raunchy teen lit. And even my favorite series still have profanity or sexuality. But overall, the language is not as pervasive, the violence not as disturbing, and the sex scenes not as graphic.

3. As a mom of two teenage boys, I’ve often shared what I’m reading with them. If they happen to like the same books — it’s happened! — it creates this nice area for discussion. My youngest is a huge “Hunger Games” fan, too, though he’s Team Gale, while I’m Team Peeta.

If you haven’t tried reading any YA lit, but don’t want to embarrass yourself walking around the teen section of the library looking for a book (trust me, I’ve done this and it is embarrassing), here are a few selections I’ve read and liked.

“The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins. Probably one of my favorite series of all times. I picked up THG when it first game out and was devastated when I realized it was only Book One and I had to wait A WHOLE YEAR for the next book. My advice is to wait until all the books are out before beginning a series.

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey. I broke my rule mentioned above when I started this first book in a trilogy about the aftermath of an alien invasion. Book Two, “The Infinite Sea,” is just as good, if not better. I’m really not sure I can wait another year for Book Three (sigh). There is some profanity and some talk of sex, but the story is compelling and Cassie, the protagonist, kicks butt.  I also like that the issues that come up during the course of the story are pretty provocative.

“Unwind,” “Unwholly,” “Unsouled,” and “Undivided” by Neal Shusterman. I’m not sure how anyone can read this series and not be pro-life, but I’ve heard many people say it is pro-abortion. I just don’t see it. I like that Shusterman leaves room for debate on a very complex subject. “Undivided” was just released last month. I haven’t read it yet but based on reviews I’ve read, it should be a great finish to the series. The first three books are excellent.

“Divergent,” “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.” by Veronica Roth. The first book starts out with a bang, the second book is okay, but the third book was just…I hate to say it was bad so let’s just say I was really disappointed. Not so much with what happened at the end — the ending created quite a backlash among fans — but at the quality of the book as a whole. I’m not sure I can recommend starting this series, given the way it ends, but with the movie out this past spring, it may be something you’d want to read.

I’m always on the lookout for a new book. Feel free to post any recommendations!

The Dreaded Writer’s Block

I’ve been writing for most of my life and have never really had a long bout of writer’s block — until the past few months. At first, I chalked it up to the busy-ness of the holidays, then January hit and I had no more excuses. I knew: I was stuck. I had the basic arc of the story in my head. I knew where I wanted to go, but every time I sat down to write I just couldn’t find the next words. Instead, I’d hop online to Facebook or Goodreads, play a few games on Sporcle, or put the computer away to watch reruns of “Sherlock.” I was the queen of distractions.

It didn’t bother me at first. I’d been writing fast and furious for the past few years. I have Book Six completely written and awaiting editing (I don’t always write in order). So, maybe I just needed a break. But that break began dragging on too long and I started to get worried. Maybe I was losing my edge. Maybe I was getting bored. This was different from my journalism days when I’d stare at the blank page waiting to pound out my next newspaper article. In those cases, I had to get my work done. If I’d told my editor I had writer’s block, he would have laughed and told me to get back to work. On a deadline, there is no such thing.

So I made myself write. If I had an idea for a later point in the book, I wrote that part first. Sometimes it was just a few paragraphs. Sometimes in the back of my mind, I knew what I was writing sucked and I was going to have to go back and fix it anyway. But at some point, the gears quit slipping and the story clicked again. Whew!

Now it’s back to work. 

Taking the plunge?

I have four novels published only in e-book format and I don’t own an e-reader. In fact, up until a few days ago, I was completely sure I didn’t want one. Crazy, right?
I am one of those people who loves the smell of books — when I walk through the library, I keep taking deep breaths to inhale the awesome smell of ink on pages. I like the weight of a book in my hands. I enjoy watching my progress as my bookmark moves closer and closer to the end.
I also am not particularly tech-savvy. I like my texting phone and have no interest in a smart phone. My husband thinks I’m just being a cheapskate. But the truth is that someone could give me one for free and offer to cover my data plan for life and I still wouldn’t want it. I hate trying to navigate the ‘net on that little screen.
So no one was more shocked than me when the idea of purchasing an e-reader began to take shape. I was at the dentist earlier this week and he was raving over his e-reader, talking about how it compared to his iPad and what he liked about each. Something about his assessment appealed to me. I had lugged in my thick book but his e-reader would fit in my purse and hold hundreds of books. Plus, I see so many cool indie books online that also only come in e-book format. And so many of my friends swear by their e-readers.
Now I’m doing some research and assessing whether or not I really will take the plunge. And, if I do, whether my purchase should be a true e-reader or a tablet with an e-reading app. Any advice for this newbie?