Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference.
Every broadcast network’s news division follows the daily ritual of the “budget” meeting, at which stories are discussed and ranked in importance. And so it was last week at the Homogenous Broadcasting Company.
Executive Producer Howard Bashford convened his top sub-producers, Doroteo Arango, Jill Poke and Amy Handleman – plus anchorman Hugh Blandman – to hash out the budget for the evening’s “HBN News Hour.”
“Let’s hear your ideas for the top story,” said Bashford.
“Donald Sterling!” said Arango and Poke in unison.
But Handleman said, “Tornado deaths, Ukraine and the ongoing story of Miriam Carey, which we’ve never given the attention it deserves.”
“You’re kidding,” said Arango. “Sterling is a billionaire capitalist who owns a basketball team!”
“And he’s 80-some years old, with a beautiful young ‘girlfriend,’” interjected Poke. “Plus, he said racist things!”
“The story has great visuals,” said Blandman. “Sterling looks like a toad, and his girlfriend is young, lovely and exotic!”
“So, who died?” asked Handleman, precipitating a barrage of protest from the others. The babble continued until Bashford stepped in.
“Wait a minute. Calm down!” he shouted. “Now, who is Miriam Carey?”
“How quickly we forget,” said Handleman under her breath. Aloud she said, “She was the mother Capital police shot dead – with her infant daughter in her car – last October. She was gunned down after fleeing the scene of a wrong turn.”
The babble erupted again, and Bashford cried, “One at a time! Doroteo, go.”
“Sterling said racist things!” said Arango, “and he’s a billionaire! And he owns a basketball team! And his players are African-Americans! Their feelings were really hurt!”
Bashford said, “Jill?” She replied, “Sterling has been banned by the NBA and fined $2.5 million! And he probably will have to sell the team!”
Blandman was waving his hand vigorously, so Bashford addressed him, “Hugh! I almost forgot you were here. Do you have something to add?”
“Did I mention the story has great visuals?” asked Blandman. “Sterling is old and ugly and his girlfriend is …”
“What do you say now, Amy?” interrupted Bashford, brushing off the anchor man.
“Three dozen people died in the tornadoes,” she replied. With a nod to Blandman she added, “And it has great visuals. But let’s go on. Lots of idiots say racist things, $2.5 million is pocket change to this billionaire, and how important is it that a bunch of multimillionaire athletes had their feelings hurt?”
“You forget there was almost a basketball boycott,” said Arango. “Furthermore, former NBA great Kevin Johnson, now mayor of Sacramento, warned that others saying the same kind of things could face similar penalties.”
“Everybody knew this guy was a racist,” countered Handleman. “Didn’t he have to pay even more than $2.5 million as a penalty for racial discrimination in rental housing he owned?”
“But he said bad things on a tape recording!” said Poke. “And it became public!”
“I’ll ask again,” said Handleman. “Who died as a result of this thought crime? Three dozen are dead in the tornadoes; there are more deaths in Ukraine; Miriam Carey was shot five times in the back, and nobody has gotten to the bottom of her story.”
“We’re agreed then,” said Bashford. “Our top story is Donald Sterling.”
And so it went all last week, not only at the Homogenous Broadcasting Company, but at ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, even Fox. I’m not saying the Sterling story should have been ignored. The elements were bizarre: an old, homely guy with ugly thoughts, a beautiful younger woman angry that she had to return lavish, a spurned wife, divorce, millionaire major-league athletes, racism, punishment of a thought crime and the treatment of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver like the second coming of Jesus.
I tried to care about this matter, but just did not. The question kept arising: Who died?
A final word about Miriam Carey: Why is WND the only news organization strongly campaigning for justice for this beautiful, young African-American mother? Other media have done stories, but there are the old questions: Where is the outrage? Where are the demands from civil rights organizations? Where is the human-rights commission investigation?
When we ask “who died?” in the context of the Donald Sterling case, the answer is, Miriam Carey died, and nobody has determined exactly why.
WND Books has the 10th anniversary re-issue of James Rogan’s autobiography, “Rough Edges.” If you’ve forgotten the name: Rogan, as a young, Republican congressman, was the guy who prosecuted Bill Clinton’s impeachment before the United States Senate.
For a guy in a Democratic district, it was political suicide, but Rogan took it on as the right thing to do. “Rough Edges” is a great read – and inspirational as well.
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