Mike Tyson Story Goes Live Today

Today my Mike Tyson feature/essay was published in Sports On Earth.

When I had the pleasure of interviewing “Iron” Mike two years ago, it was for the sole purpose of  writing a chapter on him for my yet to be finished book, The History of New Jersey Boxing by The History Press.

So as teaching swamped me, and my wife kept magically producing children, and documents became harder to harder to find, the work is still in progress. Yet I always knew I could put a shorter piece together on my night with Tyson, because I got more from him in an hour than I could have ever imaged. And what a story he told me.

For starters, he was an absolute gentleman. He didn’t try to hide when he was bored of one topic or shy of another.  He is a tough interview to prepare for, believe it not. Only for the fact that he has been interviewed a billion times, and asked the same questions over and over. What do you ask the most interviewed athlete of our generation?

Over a steak and a beer, I had an hour to put some questions together from when I first realized he was there. (I had prepared for Marvin Hagler!)

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No, that is not me next to Iron Mike. Of course the one picture someone took of us talking didn’t come out.

This story went through a few different phases and magazines. This was the right magazine for it. Editorially, I’m very proud of the work Sports On Earth has produced over the past few years, and it is an honor to be a part of the team.

Call “Iron” Mike whatever you want. Don’t ever accuse him of not being forthright and honest.

Thanks for reading.

That Time “Iron” Mike Told Me A Secret

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The Harvest Of Shame, 55 Years Later

For those of you that feel awful about yourselves due to your lavish Thanksgiving Day dinner, then here is one more for you to do so.

While we all scoffed and tossed out all the extra food because we just had to have a piece of every dish, we often forget about how that food gets to our tables, and who are the people that pick them.

Fifty five years ago, CBS and Edward R. Murrow ran The Harvest Of Shame segment the day after Thanksgiving. Americans were horrified at the conditions of migrant work.

At some points, it’s not like watching a world from 55 years ago. It almost seems that this story is centuries old by the survival methods these families have to endure.

It was one of those “feel guilty” pieces that the media can put together oh so cleverly. Yet sometimes, it is absolutely necessary. It was also so truthful and so impactful, that the prime time broadcast of a serious news story such as this took a backseat to sitcoms and game shows because, the public just hates to feel bad about itself.

My students often asked me what has happened to this cause – did wages get fixed? How come we rarely hear about it? Is everything OK now?

For the fiftieth anniversary, the story was briefly updated.

It’s a quiet issue usually these days. The faces are different – no longer white and black – as it is not more of an immigrant issue. Now the faces are Hispanic and Filipino. A 2000 National Agricultural Workers survey state that 93 percent are immigrants, and 65 percent are illegal.

There is no lobby for these people, as Murrow states. Not much has changed.

That study states that the average migrant worker has a sixth grade education and the median income is less than $10,000. The outdoor labor, constant travel and pesticide exposure has made the Department of Labor rank it as one of the most dangerous jobs in America. Cesar Chavez’s successes in the 1970’s seem to be disappearing.

What can you personally do about it? Likely not much. But you can make one contribution. You can watch the video and appreciate the great journalism, and accept some harsh information in your life without having to flip to a reality show about rich/stupid people doing rich/stupid things.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

Robert Redford and the ‘Truth’ About Dan Rather

While Dan Rather is probably one of the most influential journalists in recent history, I have a hard time putting him in my list of my all time greats. In fact, to me, he’s not near the top of the list at all.

Maybe it all started when Walter Cronkite clearly didn’t endorse Dan. Not embracing Connie Chung didn’t help either. Although being an inspiration for the R.E.M. song “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” is certainly points in his favor.

It was Bernard Goldberg, one of my favorite journalists in the world, who opened my eyes in his book, Bias: An CBS Insider’s Look at how the media distort the news. There you saw a new side of Dan – a dangerous side. An arrogant, paranoid side. A side that should not be the most important journalistic voice of a network.

But in reality, it was his role in the “Memogate” scandal that turned me forever sour. Before this incident, it was all innuendo and hearsay. But the Memogate scandal was real, and it was extremely disappointing to see an American icon at the forefront due to just what Bernard Goldberg accused him of – having a political agenda. What he knew, what he didn’t know – well, we don’t know. But verification is key. Two sources are needed. Robert Redford, in his interview below, knows this. Why shouldn’t Dan Rather know this?

Oh, he knows. But a juicy story can make us skip ahead of schedule. Redford mentioned that as well.

Which leads us to this post about journalism movies by Robert Redford aka my favorite baseball player, Roy Hobbs. Redford has made multiple journalism movies in the past and he usually does them so well. He is a tremendous actor, his first foray into the field as Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men is one of the best performances of his career.

His new movie, Truth, finally details the Memogate scandal. I have yet to see it, but I look forward to doing so. In this blog post by Adweek, the site discusses whether each movie he made had a positive or negative influence on the field of journalism. I disagree with their declaration about Truth, because in my eyes, it doesn’t give the industry a black eye to discuss when an icon made a terrible mistake. Don’t hide from it. Instead, accept that it happened and realize that it is unacceptable to happen again.

His last few movies about journalism haven’t done well. But never count the Sundance Kid out.

Are Robert Redford’s Movies About the Media Good for Journalism?

Immersion Journalism

The moment you write the word “I” in your story, your relationship with your reader changes. Because now you are a character just like everyone else. Your observations have to become even more prevalent. Your opinions now have to be known.

You have to ask yourself – is my involvement important enough to be in this story? Am I active enough for the reader to care about me?

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I also use the following examples for my students to understand the role of the narrator while reporting on scene. The first is by Martha Gellhorn, one of the greatest female journalists of all time (any woman who can wrap Ernest Hemingway around her finger is highly desirable in my book). She was one of the first American reporters at Dachau, filling in the rest of the world about the realities of Nazi concentration camps. Her advantage is her brutal honest. I’m glad she didn’t mask her anger. That’s not the point of a first person piece.

Her reporting for Collier’s in 1945: Dachau: Experimental Murder

killer eliteI also show my students a modern take on war, where the baffling management of war is scrutinized. The American invasion of Iraq was chronicled for nearly two months by Evan Wright of Rolling Stone. His story proved that drawing game plans in the mud during a paint ball game may not be so far off from some of the U.S. military strategists. Fortunately, the raw reality of our Recon Marines makes this one of the most appealing war stories you will ever read. Wright also displays an honesty – because he tells us that what the rest of the Marines are telling him is absolutely true – war is exhilarating. And comical. Students could not believe what these men were discussing while facing death, but that is what makes this story all the more enjoyable (and frightening.)

The Killer Elite by Evan Wright For Rolling Stone

Check out the HBO miniseries based on the story titled Generation Kill.

Control Your Selfies

"I guess your boyfriend is going to have to catch the next train."
“I guess your boyfriend is going to have to catch the next train.”

Al Roker, no one loves you more than us Seinfield fans. Oh yeah, you are in the news too. Maybe it’s the technology gap. Maybe you’re trying to be “hip.” Maybe you’re trying to figure out how to use that snazzy new phone. Whatever it is – a word to the wise journalists of the future. You take too many selfies as it is. Next time you are on assignment where there is damage and despair, leave the selfie stick at home.

Roker at the South Carolina Flood.