I drove through the night from Birmingham to Atlanta, after playing the Work Play theater. I checked into my hotel at 4 am. I distinctly remember getting three hours sleep. Then, I had to be up and fresh for a 7 am hair and makeup call.
CNN was doing a Father’s Day piece on me. We would be live in thirteen countries.
I stumbled into the pre-interview, still wiping my eyes. The beautiful, almost angelic, “journalist” assigned to me was blonde, perky and young, with perfect facial symmetry. But two minutes into our prep work I could tell she wasn’t intellectually inquisitive.
She had pulled some quotes from somewhere and some stuff from my bio and had created a narrative about me that simply wasn’t true. While I was correcting her on her mistakes, she kept craning her head toward the pre-interview happening 20 feet away from us. It was far more compelling to her. Clearly, she was not all that interested in a singer/songwriter with a song called “Babies” and a newly adopted Chinese orphan.
I was a saccharine story …a puff piece …so sweet it gave you an ice cream headache. She wanted to do real news. I was the 7 minutes of “feel-good” fodder she was assigned to and just had to get through …till she could get back to chasing her pulitzer.
We left the pre-production room and walked to the makeup room. I was sleepy and my ears were still ringing from the night before. In the makeup chair a very famous female anchor, getting made up right next to me, asked what I was doing after the segment and if I wanted to go get a drink. It was 8 in the freaking morning. Who WERE these people?!?!
We took our places in front of the cameras. We clipped on our mics and then …the red light beamed. We were live, in front of millions of people around the world. The Headline News logo morphed across the screen to the “news music” and my beautiful, young reporter began …
She plunged in to her opening by-line: “The man who brought us Butterfly Kisses now brings us another story about fatherhood …” little pins and needles raced through my exhausted body. She hadn’t changed a SINGLE thing from the pre-interview. She wasn’t listening to me. This was a nightmare.
And so, I corrected her …live …in front of the world. “I actually didn’t bring Butterfly Kisses to anybody. My friend Bob Carlisle did. But I DID work on that record …”
She was dumbfounded and didn’t know how to recover. But I was naive enough to try and set the record straight instead of just letting it slide and getting on with the interview. It was an awkward few moments at best and when our 7 minutes were done, she jerked her lave mic off and stormed out of the studio without shaking my hand. I had embarrassed her in front of the world. But …SHE. WAS. LYING. Although …not intentionally.
See, here’s how it went down …I DID work on the Butterfly Kisses record as a songwriter. It was originally called Shades Of Grace before that special song changed everything. They put a new picture on the cover and re-released the CD and re-wrote the story of Bob’s career. I was there for all of it …but I didn’t WRITE or PERFORM Butterfly Kisses. She simply saw that album credit on my All Music page and filled in the gaps …to make her story work.
Some of what she was saying was true. The spirit of what she was trying to convey was pure. But she didn’t have her facts straight. And that bothered me …a lot. I thought CNN was a bastion of truth and correct information. The facility was like six airplane hangers put together. THIS was where news was curated. It simply COULD NOT be false …could it???
My experience was that …oh yes …it could. It could be false and unapologitically so. This was international news. Surely there was some kind of standard. Surely there were fact checkers. Surely there was an adult present to make sure we got it right. Nope. There was a sleepy me and a twenty-something homecoming queen. WE were the ONLY arbiters of truth and fact in the room.
That day changed my entire perspective on the news. I haven’t watched it the same way since.
There’s a lot of banter about “fake news” everywhere, right now. Some are blaming fake news stories for Donald Trump’s election. That’s adorable.
Let me give you some news that isn’t fake. Health care premiums in Tennessee going up 62% isn’t fake news. West Virginia being regulated into oblivion isn’t fake news. Fort Hood, Chattanooga, San Bernardino, Orlando and Ohio State …isn’t fake news. More Syrian refugees since WWII isn’t fake news.
Whether you love or hate Donald Trump, you can’t blame his rise to power on something like fake news. The REAL news is the issue. And it’s why he’s about to be sworn in as president.
Donald Trump has already done things as president elect I don’t like or approve of. Don’t mistake me for a Trump apologist. I haven’t been on board the Trump train from the beginning. But the way we digest news is a different animal altogether. And we have to start being intellectually honest about it.
First, if you are looking at Television news – FROM ANY SOURCE – as anything other than entertainment …you’re about a decade behind. TV news is ALL editorial …nothing more.
We should all get about six to ten sources of news and triangulate the truth. The truth is out there …but you have to be ready to face it. It might not be on your side.
Have a well curated Twitter and Face Book feed. Twitter is good because of the character limitations. And if there’s a car wreck on I-90, someone will tweet …”multi car pile up on I-90. Possible fatalities.” Guess what? That’s as good and as solid as any news report you’ll see on channel 5. Twitter is a legit source of news. Just because someone who graduated with a degree in journalism didn’t write it …doesn’t mean it’s not true. Same for Face Book. These are game changers for the news business.
Here’s a note to think about: if you’re unfollowing and unfriending people that take the opposite point of view from you …you’re not getting the whole story. Suck it up and read the opposition. It’s important. Your preconceptions may be wrong.
Listen to several different radio stations and key on their traffic and news breaks. Believe it or not, those reporters are on the pulse of breaking stories and they don’t have time to editorialize or spin. They’re in the moment.
Read a variety of online and/or paper publications.
Let the dust settle on a story before you jump into a judgement.
I’m seeing people post about this Standing Rock story. I used live among the Sioux. I have a close friend who still does. He and I have had an interesting exchange regarding the story and the back story. It’s probably not what you think it is …or what you want it to be.
Greg Gutfeld, at Fox News Channel, is a friend of mine. I did his show, Red Eye a few times when he was still the host. We would get the stories in advance from the AP. Nobody made up news. Nobody got to create their own narrative, based on the skewing of facts. The news was the news. But the art of it was the way it was spun and commented on. That was where the entertainment came in.
That’s what ALL news on TV is, these days …editorial. If you don’t know that …catch up. Your favorite news anchor has a point of view and is using it. No one is unbiased. No news source is objective. And the story is often what you want it to be.
Is there fake news out there? You bet. But in today’s world it doesn’t last as long as it used to. That’s the good news. There are ways of finding out the facts. The TRUTH, however? Well …that’s up to you to decide.
Truth is on a sliding scale. At least it was on CNN …fourteen years ago.