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Archive for the ‘Entertainment Reporting’ Category

Making Steps Count

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Michael J. Fox at the 1988 Emmy Awards (Photo by Alan Light)

The first time I watched “Back to the Future” I fell in love with Michael J. Fox. He was cute, funny, and, of course, he had access to a rad car. What more could a girl want?

I made my parents put on “Back to the Future” over and over again when I was a kid to the point I knew nearly all of the lines. And when the two sequels came out, those too became favorites of mine. I wanted to travel with Fox everywhere he went.

As the years passed, I outgrew my childhood crush on Fox. While I still loved to watch the “Back to the Future” movies, I seemed to see less and less of him on the big and small screen. In 1998, I finally learned why.

Fox had been diagnosed in 1991 with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disease affecting the central nervous system. But he didn’t go public with his diagnosis until 1998. Since then, Fox has used his celebrity status to champion for a better understanding of Parkinson’s, raising millions of dollars for research.

Until Fox went public with the disease, I knew little about it. I knew the great boxer Muhammad Ali had it, and I had seen footage of Ali shaking quite a bit. So, it was safe to say that Parkinson’s affected the brain. But that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

When Fox went public, though, I wanted find out more about the disease. To do that, I read articles and searched the Internet. What I found scared me. There was no cure for the degenerative disorder. Patients only had medication to mask the symptoms. This was unacceptable. I did not want to watch Fox get worse.

Fox didn’t want to watch that either.

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Bringing Down a General

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

General Stanley McChrystal (Photo by ISAF Public Affairs)

One of the reasons I went into journalism was because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to write about topics that mattered, like education, social justice and corrupt politicians. I wanted to tell stories that could spark change.

My biggest inspiration was two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their articles on the Watergate scandal ultimately toppled a presidency, forcing Richard Nixon to resign.

Woodward and Bernstein had immense power, and I wanted in on it. But by the time I had started journalism school, more than 30 years after Watergate, the gung hoe, investigative reporting that I admired so much had seemed to all but vanish. Journalists no longer had the power they once had.

With the downturn in the economy, many newspapers and media outlets were in the red, and the investigative teams were one of the first to go, leaving papers with barebones staffs and reporting.

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Where Have All the Harriets Gone?

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Harriet Nelson in Follow the Fleet trailer (1936). (Creative Commons

As a kid, I loved to watch The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. No, I did not grow up in the 50s. I relished each episode in the 80s and early 90s when the Disney Channel played reruns.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet chronicled the lives of the Nelson family, which consisted of Ozzie, Harriet and their two sons David and Ricky. They were the perfect 50s family. Ozzie was a funny and loving husband. Harriet was a beautiful doting wife. David and Ricky were cute kids, especially Ricky.  I had the biggest crush on him.

What I remember the most, though, from the sitcom was Harriet’s docile role. She wasn’t at all like my mom. My mom worked as a hairdresser and was away from home frequently. And while my mom could cook, she didn’t do it often. In my household, there were also many arguments between my mom and dad. Harriet would have never raised her voice at Ozzie.

None of the mom’s I new in fact were anything like Harriet. It seemed that by the 1980s and early 1990s mom’s like Harriet had all but disappeared. The stable, nuclear family of the 1950s had been replaced with a dysfunctional far-from-perfect family. This change was also evident in media portrayals of moms.

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Go Big or Go Home

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

(Photo by wonggawei via Flickr)

Adam Richman loves a good challenge. He travels the United States looking for ones he can sink his teeth into. But he isn’t searching for feats of strength to tackle or moral obstacles to climb. Adam wants to defeat America’s most outrageous food.

In the Travel Channel show Man v. Food, Adam attempts to conquer some of the country’s biggest culinary challenges. Whether it’s a gargantuan hamburger or a mountain of milkshakes, no menu item is too great for Adam.

While Adam is by no means skinny, he certainly doesn’t come across as someone who could down a week’s worth of calories in one sitting. But he does, beating the vast majority of delicacies that come across his path.

The first time I watched Man v. Food, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the television. It was hypnotic. I wanted to know if Adam would win. I wanted to know if gobbling down insane amounts of hamburger patties, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese would be worth it for him.

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Lindsay Lohan and the Great Necklace Caper

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Lindsay Lohan (Photo by avrilllllla via Flickr)

Lindsay Lohan’s name has become synonymous with scandal. In the past four years alone, Lindsay has had two DUIs, multiple trips to rehab, jail time, lawsuits, and very public fights with her father. But her most recent run in with the law is her most serious yet.

In January, the district attorney charged Lindsay with felony grand theft for allegedly stealing a $2500 necklace from the Venice, Calif. jewelry store Kamofie & Company. If she is convicted, she could face up to three years in prison, and even more jail time is possible if she is found to have violated her probation.

I first read about Lindsay’s most recent trouble on TMZ. The entertainment website had reported that Kamofie & Company had paid a visit to the police station after the necklace had not been returned. Owners of the store handed over surveillance video (without audio) to the authorities showing Lindsay walking out of the store with the necklace. Then, paparazzi photos soon surfaced of Lindsay wearing the necklace outside of the store. It wasn’t until a judge issued a search warrant for Lindsay’s apartment that the necklace appeared at the police station. Throughout the ordeal, Lindsay has maintained her innocence, saying the store lent her the necklace and that her assistant simply forgot to return it.

After reading accounts of the incident, several red flags went up. I couldn’t wrap my head around how stupid Lindsay would have to be to steal that necklace. With all of the legal trouble she was in, it just didn’t make sense that she would risk more problems for a piece of jewelry. In addition, it seemed rather unlikely the storeowner would let Lindsay walk out of the store with the necklace on unless it had been loaned to her. Granted, Lindsay had multiple necklaces on at once so it is possible the owner didn’t realize she was still wearing it when she walked out. But the necklace was rather large so it’s hard for me to believe the other jewelry around Lindsay’s neck completely hid the store’s necklace.

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A Tool of the Trade

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

The polls had just closed for California’s June 2010 primary election, and I knew I was in for a long night. Tuesday evenings I had volunteered to work the executive producer shift at Neon Tommy, where I was in charge of promoting stories on the front page, running the Twitter and Facebook accounts and producing content. This particular evening I had to provide updated election results.

At the time, I didn’t have television. So, I had to rely on the Internet. I spent the night glued to TweetDeck, software useful for managing multiple Twitter accounts, waiting for @CASOSVote to tweet the results. As soon as I saw a tweet, I excitedly updated Neon Tommy’s story. @CASOSVote is the Twitter account for the California Secretary of State so I knew the information would be accurate.

Twitter gave me virtually real-time updates. Once the California Secretary of State knew whether a ballot measure was losing, I knew. This was amazing!

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From Letters to Phone Calls

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

My dad and me circa mid 1980s.

My dad used to write letters for everything. Whether it was a letter he wanted me to see to the insurance company or just because, I would often come home to a white envelope sitting on my bed. When his handwriting got virtually illegible, he began composing lists and letters on the computer and then printing them out.

He used the house phone all the time to take care of whatever business he had. If it weren’t for the phone, he wouldn’t have had a career in sales. When my dad got his first cell phone, he would call me to say hi or ask me when I would be home from school.

As I sat down to write this, less than a day after his death, the first things I thought of were those letters and phone calls. My dad had embraced the old school but never quite made it to the new school. That wasn’t a bad thing, though.

His old-school charm encouraged me to use those tried-and-true techniques as well. I had all but forgotten that until yesterday. His letter writing inspired me to write early on, and I would use parcel post to send cards and notes to my friends and relatives. The summer my husband and I began dating, he wrote me almost daily from Boy Scout camp, where he worked as a counselor. I got so happy when the mail came that summer. The mail doesn’t excite me quite as much anymore.

Eventually I let technology win. Now, I favor e-mail as a means of contacting people, even sources, over picking up the phone. I would even go as far to say that I avoid actually talking to people. Text messaging, something my dad never did, has also become a fantastically quick way to avoid punching in a few numbers on a keypad.

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Growing Up Too Fast

Monday, January 17th, 2011

(Photo by Robynlou8 via Flickr)

There aren’t very many shows I can’t stand to watch. But a few days ago I found myself turning the television off, because I was disgusted.

TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras takes viewers behind the scenes of America’s beauty pageants, introducing viewers to little girls who pretend to be grown ups.

“You got to work hard for your money, sister,” says Stephany Ellis in a season one episode of her 2-year-old daughter Daylee Ellis who has only won about $150 from pageants. Daylee’s sister Destiny Ellis, 5, has won close to $6000.

But putting a child through a pageant is expensive. Just one dress can cost anywhere from $800 (if mom makes it) to $3000, says Stephany. That figure doesn’t even take into account the cost of makeup, accessories, hair or professional coaching.

Some parents will do anything for their children.

“I want to have a little break,” says Karmen Walker, 6, in a season one episode to her mom Heather Walker after getting upset because she cannot wear a long dress in the Southern Celebrity Wonderland Pageant. (Only the older girls can wear long dresses.)

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