Jason DeRusha — The Rare Broadcast Journalist Who Gets It

Good journalism is hard to find, especially on television.

A career in broadcast journalism usually equates bouncing from market to market every few years, so by the time a reporter finally gets a grasp of the community they’re serving, it’s on to the next city. It’s a tough gig to be sure, and few do it well.

Jason DeRusha does it well. Really well.

I’ve settled on DeRusha and WCCO-TV as my go-to TV news source in the Twin Cities. He’s been in the local market since 2003, acting more as a concerned citizen than the know-it-all news guy. DeRusha’s bursting with curiosity — an essential trait for any journalist — and that’s most apparent during his Good Question segment, which seeks to answer viewer submitted queries that run the gammut.

Last night, DeRusha took on a tough one — “Why have so many Somalis chosen to come here?” Most journalists would avoid the question in the name of cultural sensitivity, but DeRusha went for the jugular:

It is perhaps the least likely place to find tens of thousands of African refugees: the cold, snowy, middle of America. So why are there so many Somalis in Minnesota? … The Somalis are here as legal refugees, largely. The Somalis Minnesota story tracks to 1991, when civil war broke out in Somalia. Millions fled to refugee camps, many in Kenya. Two years later, the first wave of Somali refugees were sent to Minnesota.

Is it a sensational story? Is it riddled in scandal, sex, crime, blood — the accoutrement we expect to make the 10 p.m. news? No. But it’s answering a matter of public curiosity with facts and research — you know, actual journalism.

Kudos to DeRusha and WCCO-TV for winning this viewer over. Why can’t we get more broadcast journalists like him?

Good question.

Kluwe Cries Foul in Fear of Player Safety at TCF Bank Stadium

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is worried about player safety tonight.

Yesterday, after the Vikings held a walkthrough at TCF Bank Stadium to test field conditions, Kluwe tweeted the field was “unplayable,” adding, “The field is as hard as concrete an hour and a half after they took the tarp off, and anyone that hits their head is getting a concussion.”

Thousands of people — many of whom were temp workers – worked around the clock the past week to help remove the 17 inches of snow that fell on the Twin Cities last weekend. A few weeks previous, TCF Bank Stadium had been winterized and put into hibernation until spring, but when the Vikings faced playing a second straight home game outside of Minneapolis, a deal was made to revive/thaw the field for one more game. In Minneapolis, it’s being considered the sporting event of the year, even if the Vikings are 5-8 and out of the playoff picture.

Back to Kluwe. He’s right in that the NFL should’ve considered moving the game if player safety is the concern they claim it is. However, everyone outside of Kluwe — who won’t be a part of more than eight or nine plays — claims the field is hard, but playable. Maybe everyone else is playing tough guy, though.

You know what drives me up the wall? Football players who refuse to wear long sleeves when it’s freezing out. They have no problem gathering around the portable heater or heated bench on the sideline, but when they’re in the game, they wouldn’t be caught dead whilst properly dressed for the conditions. Wearing long sleeves in a commercial? Well, money talks:

Luckily for both teams, it’s supposed to snow 4-6 inches today and overnight. That could create more padding on the field, but more importantly, it’ll keep the temperature up. (Pardon the meteorological nerdery.) Monday’s forecast has gotten a little warmer each day since TCF Bank Stadium was officially named the site of tonight’s game. Originally, the guess was anywhere from 5-10 degrees at kickoff with something like a (-15) wind chill. If that was the case, players could’ve suffered frost bite to exposed skin in 45 minutes or less.

Kind of offsets Kluwe’s concerns about player safety, doesn’t it? Hard to ask the NFL to move a game hundreds of miles to Indianapolis or St. Louis for player safety when half your team refuses to put on a long-sleeve shirt like petulant children.

In 2002, I played in a high school football game where the temperature was 12 degrees. The field was actually frozen — our cleats were more like tap-dance shoes, unable to penetrate the rock-hard sod. We wore layer over layer and huddled around a propane space heater at every chance. On punts, the ball would bounce upward as if it’d landed in a parking lot. We won that game, no one suffered frost bite, and — most importantly — no one got a concussion.

It’s not something I would ever want to do again, but it wasn’t “unplayable” like Kluwe would probably claim.

I Got The Job

Today seems like a fitting day to announce I’ve accepted a job offer at Fast Horse. Effective mid-January once my internshipexpires, I’ll be hopping on full time as an Associate.

I waited until today to break the news — I found out last Friday — because it’s Lose the Laptop Day at Fast Horse, which is ironic considering laptops had everything to do with me earning my internship and eventual employment. The reason I’m so excited about this job opportunity is for the fact I work at an agency that stays on the cutting edge, but not without challenging itself to get better. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, the whole staff is working away from their computers. That’s like an auto repair shop saying, “All right guys, no drills today.”

But as with mechanics and their power tools, marketing and public relations existed long before the Internet. It’s a relationship industry, after all, and while social media makes it easier to maintain contact, Lose the Laptop Day forces us to go out and engage, to meet people, to re-hash friendships, to learn the world we’re selling to, to be a consumer, to be inspired. We’re channeling our inner Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons, as my boss writes.

This isn’t a stunt or a drill. This is an exercise about checks and balances, well-roundedness, self-awareness, moxie and avoiding complacency when it’s just so damn cozy. Forget an arbitrary seminar, workshop or motivational speaker — we’re living the lesson today.

So, thank you, again, to everyone who voted in the Intern Search back in June. Every week, I seem to meet a new person who voted in the contest. Recently, the conversations would end with me saying, “Now I just I hope I get the job,” and I would walk away a bit sullen, fearful of the reality things might not shake out the way I’d hoped.

But, I got the job. Holy shit, I got the job. Thanks again!

[Powers laptop down.]

Branson’s iPad-only Magazine Project Hints at the Future

Once every few weeks, I write a blog post for Idea Peepshow, the official blog of Fast Horse Inc., the consumer marketing agency where I’m currently an intern. Today, I wrote about Project, Richard Branson’s iPad-only magazine:

Actor Jeff Bridges is featured on the cover of Project's premier issue.

Turns out all the banter about tablet devices and the future of publishing wasn’t just conjecture. Finally, we’ve got something promising.

Project, the iPad-only magazine backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, hit the iTunes app store on Tuesday. Described as a “revolutionary multimedia magazine, ” Project includes lush video and images paired with audio and interactive content to create a media-rich experience.

Of course, we’ve already seen plenty of traditional magazines come to the iPad, but most of these are essentially PDF replicates of their hard-copy editions. Project isn’t the first iPad-only magazine as Branson claims, but it is dazzling. Here’s the requisite video demo:

Continue reading

50 Tyson’s Sudden Fame Raises Concerns Over Handlers

I live about three blocks from Edison High School, where one of the most popular rap artists on YouTube is a senior.

Antonio Henderson-Davis, 17, is better known as 50 Tyson. His viral YouTube videoshave been viewed more than 10 million times, he’s been featured on Comedy Central’s Tosh.0 and even landed a record deal with former NBA point guard Troy Hudson‘s label.

One more thing: 50 Tyson has autism.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune ran a feature on Henderson-Davis and the story is now free online. It’s a gripping tale about the autistic teenager, bombarded by newfound fame, whose eager to please. He’s surrounded by watchful parents, concerned teachers, supportive classmates and handlers, like Hudson, who may or may not have his best interests in mind.

You can read the story here. And if you do read it, I’m curious what you think. Please come back and comment.

 

The Fire Frazier Campaign: Well, That Escalated Quickly

I don't really believe Leslie Frazier should be fired. However, I question the hiring of anyone who participated in the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The Internet is completely wacked.

Consider: Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf fired head coach Brad Childress yesterday, and before newly promoted interim head coach Leslie Frazier held his first press conference, I’d already registered and began tweeting from @fire_frazier.

It started as a joke between a few co-workers, as we’re in the business of making things catch fire. Attempts to make things go viral often fail, but this ludicrous Twitter handle had potential. After all, it was completely bunk to call for the head of a coach who hadn’t even held an official practice, no less coached a game. I saw @fire_frazier as a poke at irrational Vikings fans who were willing to blame Childress for every last failure, not acknowledging some, if not most, of the blame should’ve fell on his underachieving team.

So, who started following @fire_frazier on Twitter?

  • MinnPost.com
  • DJ Tony Fly of 96.3 FM NOW
  • Rob Olson, sports reporter for KMSP-TV Fox 9
  • Jason DeRusha, reporter for WCCO-TV
  • Brandon Warne, founder of TwinsMVB.com

@fire_frazier was also mentioned or retweeted by:

  • Erik Perkins, anchor for KARE 11
  • Joe “Phunn” Anderson, host on ESPN 1500AM
  • Dave Schwartz, sports reporter for KARE 11
  • Lynn University Sports Management in Boca Raton, Florida

Remember the Chicago Sun-Times story the week of the Vikings-Bears game? Bears beat writer Sean Jensen, formerly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, wrote that Childress had long ago lost the locker room and included quotes and sentiments from six unnamed Vikings players who admitted they’d be happy to see him go. Jensen wasn’t so impressed with @fire_frazier:

@fire_frazier was even mentioned during Fox 9’s fan response story on the 5 p.m. broadcast. Go to the 2:40 mark:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Olson was right — @fire_frazier was started as a joke. I wish the new coach well. The one thing I hate about pro sports is coaches are too often made into piñatas because of their team’s shortcomings. I suppose that’s management, though. Forget the NFL — it’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world.

No, Really — The Timberwolves Make a Great Anniversary Date

I follow Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Anthony Tolliver on Twitter on the good advice of my friend Joe Eckert, who attended Creighton along with Tolliver and good vouch he was “a good dude.”

Maybe you’ve heard of Tolliver. Shortly after LeBron James told the world he was “taking his talents to South Beach” on ESPN’s one-hour special, The Decision, Tolliver took to YouTube tell tell the world he was going to play for the Wolves:

Yesterday was mine and my girlfriend’s third anniversary. Money’s been tight, so I had to get creative to come up with a date. Luckily, my girlfriend is a sports fan. I was aware Tolliver gives away home tickets via Twitter whenever the Wolves are in town. That said, I kept close watch on Twitter all day, until:

Bingo! So, I responded as quickly as possible:

Though I wasn’t the first to respond, Tolliver decided to give Beth and I the tickets anyway, given it was our anniversary. We sat in Section 133, Row H, just a few rows from the Timberwolves’ bench. We were surrounded by wealthy season-ticket holders, players’ friends, players’ girlfriends, players’ wives and players’ mistresses. So romantic.

Awesome game, too. Both the Los Angeles Clippers and Wolves are more likely to make the NBA Draft Lottery rather than the NBA playoffs, but there was plenty of young talent on the court, including several players from the vaunted high school recruiting class of 2007. From the Timberwolves (with their Rivals.com class ranking): Michael Beasley (No. 1), Kevin Love (No. 6), Kosta Koufos (No. 16) and Jonny Flynn (No. 22), who is injured. From the Clippers, Eric Gordon (No. 2), DeAndre Jordan (No. 8) and Blake Griffin (No. 23). These players have competed against one another for years now, so it made for an entertaining match-up.

How’d it shake out? The Wolves won 113-111 after Beasley hit a game-winning shot with 2.3 seconds left. We had a great view, too:

So, nothing but good vibrations from this new Timberwolves convert. I love the product on the floor right now, even if the team is too young to reach the postseason.

I also appreciate my girlfriend, who is willing to put up with a guy who, in desperation mode to take her on a date, resorted to Twitter and the uncommonly good nature of an NBA player.

New York Times Nails Online News With Its Budget Puzzle

This morning, I closed the 2015 U.S. budget gap before I could finish my Clif Bar.

I did it by eliminating earmarks, cutting 250,000 government contractors, reducing nuclear arsenal and space spending, dramatically reducing the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, returning estate taxes to Clinton-era levels and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire.

This isn’t the start of my presidential campaign. This is courtesy of the New York Times. Think you can balance the budget? Check out Budget Puzzle, where “you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings.” It’s the realest “game” you’ll ever play.

Here’s how my plan stacked up:

As I’ve said before, I’m a Democrat. (That means I love taxes.) Balancing this beast meant making a ton of spending cuts and avoiding tax hikes that would’ve impacted the budget much quicker, but would’ve left most of America begging I be tarred and feathered. My plan generated a $10 billion surplus, but it couldn’t cure the long-term gap which would peak in 2030. I felt immediate results were more important for position in the global economy and national morale.

Really, this shit is hard. I’m glad the New York Times gave me the opportunity, although it’s worth noting the Budget Puzzle is based on a dictatorship, not a democracy. I felt guilty with many of my selections, knowing few would be lucky to sputter through Congress without becoming a hallowed-out shell.

This is a salute to the New York Times, leading the way for interactive news websites.

Part of me wants to be bitter about the distressed newspaper industry. The Internet has murdered ad sales and subscriptions, which has resulted in more job cuts than new hires. I went to college with the intent of becoming a journalist. I, along with many of my classmates, looked on, hopelessly, as the newspaper industry all but shriveled up before our eyes. Some of my classmates found work at community newspapers, where furloughs and layoffs spread their offices like the common cold. Some gave up writing altogether. I started blogging — something which I enjoy more than I ever did news writing — and I found a job where I get to write, as well. I made out fine.

The traditionalist in me died a little this morning, though. The New York Times has proven online news can, in fact, be more informative than its paper-version.

The NYTimes.com is expected to switch over to a paywall system in January, leaving non-subscribers to limited access of the website. This is the pay model news websites should’ve gone by since day one, but I think the New York Times proves its value with interactive graphics like the Budget Puzzle, which can actively teach readers the intricacies of bigger stories and trends. I’d pay for stuff like this. I hope I’m not alone.

This morning, I eliminated tax loopholes and created a carbon tax before my coffee was ready.  I prioritized the 2015 budget over the 2030 budget and pondered raising the Social Security age limit to 68. (Hey, life expectancy keeps increasing!) This puzzle with its accompanying story ran over the weekend, but this morning, I had one of the best newspaper-reading experiences of my life.

And I did it online.

Election Day 2010: Don’t Overlook the Grey Areas

I have little to offer on Election Day 2010. I won’t implore you to vote, because that’s your decision and I’m sure there’s many real-life reasons you may not. However, if you’re invested in a race or a candidate or you simply feels its your civic duty, go vote. Celebrate democracy.

One thing, though: Be an informed voter. You know you don’t have to fill in every bubble on the ballot. School board, city council, state legislature — those offices often affect our day-to-day life more than congressional elections. Don’t vote based on party alone, and that goes for the whole ballot. Know exactly who and what you’re voting for.

If I vote today, I’m voting for an Independent gubernatorial candidate, Tom Horner. My conservative grandmother always warned I’d turn Republican once I got past college and entered the real world. I’m still a registered Democrat, very much a liberal, but with maturity, I’ve started looking at issues more pragmatically. Maturity makes you respect grey areas. As Democrats and Republicans continue to stretch an already gaping divide, the grey area from issue to issue has become more apparent. Not everything is as simple as conservative or liberal. That’s why we need a third party in our political system. That’s why I’d be happy to vote Independent.

Fat chance politicians will lead the way in ending partisan nonsense, so maybe as voters, we should shy from straight-ticket voting and give each and every race for which we vote a good, honest look. I’m hard-pressed to believe my views align 100 percent with any politician I’ve ever vote for, but in good conscience, I’m willing to overlook some differences in opinion as long as we agree on the right issues.

What are the “right” issues? The issues that truly inform your political beliefs. I believe each of us has a handful of top tier concerns, while the rest of our beliefs often just fall in stride with our party’s. For instance, I support the Second Amendment, but feel their should be a ban on handguns and assault weapons. However, that takes a backseat to my beliefs surrounding education, health care and gay marriage. A candidate’s stance on the Second Amendment wouldn’t necessarily sway my vote one way or the other.

What am I saying, albeit poorly? Be open-minded. Be pragmatic. Acknowledge the grey area. Don’t let voting be as simple as finding the “D” or “R” next to a candidate’s name and don’t be afraid to leave bubbles unchecked. The only thing worse than not voting is casting an uninformed vote.

Now is not the time for voting blindly.

If WAFF-TV Had Ethics, You Wouldn’t Know Antoine Dodson

A heinous attack in Huntsville, Ala. has turned into a multimillion dollar empire for Antoine Dodson. But is it right?

I wonder if anyone dressed as Kelly Dodson for Halloween.

You know, Kelly Dodson? The Huntsville, Ala. woman who was saved by her brother, Antoine, after a man broke into her home in the middle of the night and attempted to rape her. Of course, Antoine Dodson has become famous since WAFF-TV reported the story earlier this year:

Dodson’s “career” as a budding viral-video star really took off when the Gregory Brothers and their Auto-Tune The News clip for barelypolitical.com got ahold of the WAFF story, which has received over 37 million views:

The auto-tuned version of Dodson’s interview has since become one of the best-selling singles on iTunes, generating enough revenue for Antoine and Kelly Dodson to move out of the projects. Antoine and the Gregory Brothers even performed at this year’s BET Awards. His viral fame has also led to an endorsement deal with a mobile app called Sex Offender Tracker:

Over the weekend, I saw dozens of people dressed as Antoine Dodson for Halloween. (Antoine even endorsed www.bedintrudercostume.com — the official Antoine Dodson Halloween costume.) His overwhelming popularity makes me only more concerned about WAFF-TV’s sensational editing of the original story, which included Antoine’s hyperbolic, over-the-top rant not because it was informative, but because it was entertaining.

I raised this point to someone at a party the other night.

“These stories are reported all the time,” she said. “Trust me — I’m a journalist. I would’ve included his rant, too.”

No matter how many times I go back and look at the original story, I can’t help but think Antoine’s comments should’ve been edited. If I was in the editing room, I would’ve kept the following (in bold) from the original:

“Well, obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park. He’s climbing in your windows. He’s snatching your people up, trying to rape them, so you need to hide your kids, hide your wife and your husband, because they’re raping everyone out here.

“We got your T-shirt, you done left fingerprints and all. You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.

“You don’t have to come and confess that you did it. We’re looking for you. We gonna find you. I’m going to letting you know now. So you can run and tell that, homeboy.”

Really, that’s it. We already know the story concerns an attempted rapist who got away. “Raping everyone out here” is factually wrong and could incite unnecessary panic. The threat at the end isn’t really news (nor advisable by legal counsel). The only bit of information Antoine adds to the story concerns the evidence left behind.

But the WAFF-TV editors knew they had something. We live in a viral culture and I doubt anyone from WAFF-TV is surprised Antoine Dodson has become famous overnight. (Although he’s taken viral fame to whole new level.)

Look, it’s easy to feel warm and fuzzy about the story, because in the end, the Dodsons moved away from the projects and (probably) continue to make a living wage of one interview. However, how’s Kelly Dodson? Has she recovered from her traumatic experience, or is she reminded of it everytime she hears her brother’s auto-tuned interview or sees him on the BET Awards or hears “run and tell that, homeboy” or sees kids dressed as Antoine for Halloween? This all stemmed from Kelly being violated, an experience so damaging, some women never fully recover.

It’s good to see that some positives have resulted from the attack. But, I can’t help but feel WAFF-TV got a free pass for showing little in the way of ethics.