Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Media Bias II

As a former sports journalist, I often studied various media outlets to sharpen my reporting skills.  With the Internet, I browsed the various sport sections of the nations newspapers, listened to national and local talking heads and viewed the various web sites of the East Coat based, corporate media giants.  Just as my local media counterparts warned me, I found a strong East Coast bias in the national media, but never felt led to write about it.

Throughout the college football season last year, I watched possibly the greatest football player of all-time lead his team to a national championship and receive no respect from the national media.  Meanwhile, a Notre Dame team with strong ties to the nation’s East Coast, led by a fat man from New Jersey, lost multiple games, yet managed to be the media darlings.    

Throughout the NBA basketball playoffs, I’ve listened to NBA “experts” such as Bill Walton and Charles Barkley trash the Dallas Mavericks, but chalked their animosity up to envy.  Meanwhile, a very average Richard Jefferson, leads a very average New Jersey Nets team to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and the media lauds him as the next Michael Jordan.  The Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs in one of the most electric playoff series in NBA history, yet the story must compete with Larry Brown’s troubles with the New York Knicks.  In spite of all of this, I felt it futile to discuss the level of bias in the national media.

However, my mind changed this morning.

A day removed from the start of the NBA Finals, I sought out the help of ESPN radio to get a national perspective on the Mavericks/Heat series.  I set my web browser to and tuned into the Colin Cowherd Show.  Indeed, Mr. Cowherd’s show focused on the exploits of Texans, but not on the hard wood.  Instead, Mr. Cowherd’s show centered on the minor league appearance of Roger Clemens.  Mr. Cowherd, a Yankee die-hard, went on to show his total lack of sports knowledge by calling Nolan Ryan, “overrated”, when compared to “The Rocket”.  Clearly, Mr. Cowherd is not lucid, but I would think that even he would realize that the NBA Finals is far more important minor league baseball.  I can assure you, had Roger Clemens pitched in Kansas City and Milwaukee, instead of Boston and New York, his return would have been ignored.

Finally, I found a national perspective of the NBA Finals—kind of.  Dan Le Batard, a Miami radio show host and ESPN analyst, welcomed Scottie Pippen, another ESPN/ABC analyst, on his show.  Pippen assured the Heat fans that Miami had the better ball team in this series.  Evidently, Pippen watched plenty of tape on the Nelly-led Mavs, because he referred to their desire to play up-tempo offense and their defensive struggles.  I assume that Mr. Pippen has not taken the opportunity to watch this year’s establishment of the Mavs. Other national media outlets reported on the new dynamic duo of O’Neal/Wade and treated the Mavericks as a one-man team.

Sadly, I’ve deal with media bias towards all my favorite teams, throughout my life time. Growing up in the remote pine hills of East Texas, I attended a high school that often swam under the radar of the state media.  As you know, Texans go crazy over their high school football and fans crave the media attention offered by the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Texas Prep Xtra.Com, & Fox Sport’s High School Xtra. Normally, these outlets focus on the major media markets in Texas—D/FW, Houston/Galveston, and Austin/Cen-Tex regions.  Occasionally, the Tyler area gets the interest of the Dallas media, but areas north and east of Tyler remain oblivious to the rest of the state.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of football in my 27 years on Earth and I can say, without a doubt, the team Atlanta High fielded in 1994 was one of the most talented high school football teams I have ever seen for its size.  Atlanta High School has less than 600 total students, yet this team featured two future NFL player’s, Randy Garner and Derrick Blaylock, and more speed than many college teams.  

My Atlanta Rabbits met up with the Gainesville Leopards in the regional semi-finals.  The Dallas media loved to write about Gainesville.  Again, this was another small school, but it featured players that had committed to Nebraska, Florida State and Miami (Fl.). No one, not even the Texarkana media, gave Atlanta a shot at winning the game.  All of the media attention focused on Gainesville’s three Division I athletes.  Adding insult to injury, Atlanta was forced to play the game in Carrollton, Gainseville’s backyard.  Well, the mighty Rabbs fought through the media biased and shocked the Leopard, 41-6.  While the NBA Finals are a totally different animal than the Texas high school football playoffs, I find solace in knowing that the media ugly duckling often rises to the top.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Media Bias???

As a self-described progressive, I often shy away from terms like “left wing media” or the Limbaugh phrase, “drive-by media”.  Sure, humans control the media and a certain level of bias will seep through, but I do not think that the mainstream media is actively engaged in a conspiracy to destroy everything American.  However, over the weekend, the coverage of the Canadian terrorist arrests has changed my view.  

While not completely ignoring the story, the mainstream media has, for the most part, buried the Canadian terrorist arrests behind gay marriage, flag burning, Ivy League masochists and a morbid tale of mistaken identity.  Initially, I learned of the story from a brief blurb reported on MSNBC Saturday morning.  The weekend anchorperson simply said that Canadian officials arrested a group of young Canadians accused of plotting an “Oklahoma City style attack.”  While this accurately describes the means of attack (ammonium nitrate), it fails to capture the essence of the attack.  Not once in this initial report did the report reveal the ethnicity or religious background of the accused.

The next morning, the nation’s leading newspapers treated the story in a similar fashion, discussing the similarities between the Canadian terrorist plot and the Oklahoma City tragedy.  Not until the last paragraph did the AP story reveal the name of the accused.  Guess what?  All of the men have Islamic names.

The story hinted that these men attended mosques known for fundamentalist teachings, yet they refused to come out and say—17 Muslim men arrested in Canadian terrorist plot.  

When Madrid was attacked, we could dismiss it for Spain’s active role in assisting the U.S. in combating global terrorism and a centuries old conflict between Spain and the Muslim people.  Likewise, when London was attacked, the motive was clear.  The United Kingdom has long been the United States strongest ally on the war on terrorism.  

But Canada?  Canada has provided refuge for disgruntled Americans fleeing the Bush regime and what they perceive as an illegitimate war.  Like France and Germany, Canada scoffed at the United States’ planned invasion of Iraq and many of the tenants of the so-called, “Bush doctrine”.  Indeed, if anyone were going to plot to attack Canada, it would seem to be some right-wing militant group from the United States, not Arabic terrorists.

I write this blog on the eve of June 6, 2006—6/6/06—a magical date to evangelical Christians all over the world.  You see, “666” is the number used in apocalyptic, Biblical literature to reference the “mark of the Beast.”  The word “apocalypse” stems from the Greek word apokalypsis, which means, “to uncover”.  Just as the Biblical prophets used “666” to uncover the face of true evil, a good journalist would have uncovered the face of true evil with this story.  Emasculated by sense of political correctnesss, the mainstream media purposely ignored the root of this story, failing not only the American people but the world at large.

Never in my life did I think I would echo the words of George Bush, a man I feel is the worst president the United States has ever seen, but we, as global citizens, did not choose this war, Muslims did.  Again, not all Muslims, but Muslims nonetheless.  To ignore the ethnicity and religious background of these Canadians, spits in the face of all peace loving, non-Muslim citizens.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Talking 'Bout Da Vinci

I love talk radio and I spend a lot of time listening to various pundits on both sides of the political aisle.  In fact, talk radio engendered many of the posts on this very blog.  Over the course of the past few weeks, several radio stations (especially those owned by the evil empire known as Salem Communications) have run ads regarding the upcoming release of The Da Vinci Code.  Apparently, some on the “religious right” feel that Dan Brown’s work of FICTION causes the reader to think too much and they feel obligated to dissuade Christians from seeing the movie and using the release of the movie as a proselytizing tool.

This morning, a local talk show featured a call-in segment about this very issue.  The host, a man notorious for aligning with the far right, admitted to never reading the book, but proceeded to attack the work on several grounds.  The callers seemed even less informed.  One caller noted that The Da Vinci Code was “very well written” and should be treated as a work of literature.

Hold up playa…let’s stop the boycotts and let’s stop labeling the work, “literature” and instead examine The Da Vinci Code for what it is, a means for entertainment.

Like many Americans, I drank the Mona Lisa laced Kool Aide and read The Da Vinci Code. Normally, I stray from reading mainstream best sellers.  After all, bad writing is like cheap after-shave—it’s everywhere, it’s hard to get rid of the stench and it’s no replacement for the real thing. Yet, The Da Vinci Code was different. Honestly, it reminded me of the Left Behind series—poorly written, yet sinfully entertaining, a true guilty pleasure.  Both use bad theology to exercise their points, but neither should be read as a replacement or supplement to the Bible.  

Scripture tells us that with faith the size of mustard seed we can move mountains.  Surely, the same amount of faith can protect us from a secular work of fiction.   The people who boycott this movie based on Brown’s portrayal of the Christ story lack the very entry-level faith Jesus begged of his disciples.  These Christians require a very controlling pastor and church that will dictate every move in their life and live life perpetually as a puppet, never experiencing life as a true child of God.

I say read the book and watch the movie.  Judge it based on its entertainment quality.  Is this Tom Hanks’ next Forrest Gump or has he stumbled into another Joe Versus The Volcano?  How does Brown’s novel translate on screen?  For an hour and a half you’ll relax and be treated to an entertaining story.  An hour later, you won’t even remember the name of the main character.

An Open Letter To David Stern

Dear Mr. Stern:

I just wanted to write and share a few thoughts with you.  However, I feared that sending a letter via “snail mail” or a regular e-mail would not get your attention.  My friends suggested that I devote a blog entry to sharing my thoughts with you, but I told them that you didn’t read blogs.  After all, the playoffs are in full swing and require your full attention.  I told them that you were busy reviewing tapes of the games to ensure that the officials called each game properly and that you couldn’t possibly find time to read a blog.

Imagine my shock and joy to discover that you do indeed read blogs.  Apparently, Mr. Cuban decided to share a few ideas on how to ensure the playoffs feature the best officiating possible.  I guess these comments hurt your feelings and you felt that $100,000.00 fine would cheer you up.  Indeed, fining Mark Cuban in the past has made you swell with joy.

Sorry about the loss last night.  I know that watching the Spurs fall to the Mavs truly breaks your heart.  I can only imagine the pain you must have felt watching Mr. Duncan sob like no grown man should.  I can only imagine the pain in your heart watching Little Manu bite his precious little lip.  I’m sure you will find some way to ease the pain caused by the organization you love so. After all, you and your media buddies will not be happy unless you can draw even less of an audience than last year’s Finals.

Obviously, the Mavs fans, players and owner are way too passionate for your taste.  The bitter taste of the Knicks continual slide has made you quiet callous and you no longer enjoy this game.  A bit of advice, let go, Willis Reed is forever gone.

In closing, I look forward to June.  I wonder how awkward it will be for you to present Mr. Cuban with the Larry O’Brien Trophy.  For once, you will have to swallow your pride and admit that you are not the smartest man in the NBA and that the “maverick” in Dallas got it right.

With kindest regards,

Josh H. Ellis

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Recently, a close friend blogged about the passing of a generation, losing the last of the “Survivors” and the continual passing of World War II veterans.  After initially reading his post, I found his entry to be highly informative, but I failed to grasp its true relevance—until this weekend.

As chronicled in yesterday’s entry, I spent the weekend traveling East Texas and visiting with Clay’s relatives.  Many of you know Clay’s paternal grandfather, “Grandpa”, as we know him.  Others of you have heard Clay or me share humorous vignettes about our time with Grandpa.  Anyone associated with Clay understands the role Grandpa plays in his life.  Indeed, few men like Grandpa exist.  

In September, Grandpa turns 80.  Like other members of the “Greatest Generation”, Grandpa saw a “Great Depression”, a world war against an evil dictator, a Cold War and the rise of the United States as the world’s lone super power.  However, Grandpa’s story stands out even among this group of American icons.  Not only did Grandpa serve his country, he also served time for murder on more than one occasion.  Not only did Grandpa survive the Great Depression, he also survived lung cancer and regained his vision after being blind for over a year.  Not only did Grandpa’s service to America foster and nurture her growth into the world’s only super power, he also fostered and nurtured six kids and later in life became the sole guardian/supporter of three grandchildren—two of which still depend on him to this day.  While many members of the “Greatest Generation” retired years ago and spend their days playing bingo, Grandpa continues to work in the garage in his backyard.

With each story that Grandpa tells, he paints a picture that captures the true essence of Americana—all on a 4th grade education.  While books sales and movie ticket sales continue to plummet, Grandpa finds no trouble in entertaining people with his stories told through his unique voice.  Harvard educated students must plagiarize in order to capture an audience; this “shade tree” mechanic just talks about his life.  Sadly, Grandpa will not live forever.  In fact, he told us over the weekend that he recently purchased his headstone.  Apparently, he feared that his children would spend the money on other things if he left it to them.  

Grandpa’s mortality reminds me of the importance of oral history. In college, I had a history professor who constantly talked about oral history.  He spoke about interviewing Orval Faubaus prior to his death and using that as an oral history of the Civil Rights movement.  I feel it is imperative that the same attention be paid to Grandpa’s story—his recounting of becoming a “born again” Christian, how he gave up alcohol and cigarettes, his memories of Korea, Woodstock, Watergate and Reagan.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Welcome to Atlanta: A Reflection

While I tend to stray from the cliché, going back home never ceases to flood my mind with countless memories, often serving as an impetus for deep thought,

Clay and I traveled into the Piney Woods this past weekend to introduce our girlfriends to our native culture and way of life, causing me once again to pause and try to reconcile the psychological and emotional disconnect formed through years of living in rural East Texas.  Indeed, Uptown living in Dallas is a long way from the streets of Texas’ ATL.  Here are a few random thoughts from my trip:

First, a note to all Atlanta (Texas) natives, the town is DEAD!   Drive through downtown Atlanta and count the vacant buildings.  Perhaps, it would be easier to count the actual businesses (2 antique shops, one female dress shop, one drug store and countless churches.)  Do members of the Atlanta City Council not understand the concept of economic development?  Remember when there were Ellises on the city council?  Downtown wasn’t so depressing then…..Maybe I should move back and run for mayor.

By the way, doesn’t Stephen Frost call Atlanta home?  Shouldn’t he try to help out with Atlanta’s economic woes?  If not, you that are registered to vote in Atlanta should vote his ass out.

I pick up the Texarkana Gazette on Saturday and evidently they are still burning crosses in Fouke, Arkansas.  For those of you not from East Texas/ Southwest Arkansas or Northwest Louisiana, Fouke is an “all-white” town in a region where African-Americans outnumber Caucasians.  Fouke comes complete with a “hanging tree” in a residential neighborhood that has been used to deter African-Americans from moving into the area.  Two years ago, Fouke schools consolidated with Bright Star schools, which had a few African-American students. Fouke citizens referred to the state mandated consolidation as “the integration.”  Well, apparently, some Fouke residents recently placed a burning cross in the yard of a white lady who had invited her black boyfriend to move in with her.  The men were arrested and the Gazette wrote an article about Fouke’s racist past.  They interviewed Fouke’s mayor, Cecil Smith, who tried to play down many of the points the Gazette raised.  My favorite quote from Smith was, “When colored folks come in here and ask for different types of things, we treat them like our next door neighbors.”

A mayor using the phrase “colored folks” in 2006?  

I really do miss the cooking from my homeland.  On Saturday afternoon, Clay’s mother prepared a huge feast for us that included fried catfish, fried alligator, fried shrimp, stuffed crab, boiled shrimp and bacon wrapped grilled shrimp; the only thing missing was the crawfish.  It’s nearly impossible to find good seafood in Dallas—all the seafood is so bland and don’t even try to find good gumbo here, it is impossible. Luckily, Clay’s mother taught our girlfriends how to prepare this meal, so hopefully they will be able to duplicate the culinary experience.  

Finally, East Texas is not a good place to travel if you are trying to quit smoking.  It seems like everyone in the area smokes and it is so tempting to pick-up the habit once again after three months of being nicotine free.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Kids Are Not Alright!

I aim to keep my promise and write about the influence of the evangelical church on suburbia, but due to the recent student protests in Dallas, I’d like to first address the immigration issue.

I watched with disgust as thousands of area high school students walked-out of class and marched down to Dallas city hall.  I fully support the student’s right to peacefully assemble and protest, however, I expect anyone who protests to understand the concepts they protest.  Many of the students failed to understand the concepts at play in the immigration debate.  They know that many of their parents face possible jail time with the pending legislation, but they seem to overlook the fact that parents committed a crime, coming to the United States ILLEGALLY!  Furthermore, if any of the students are not citizens of the U.S., they do NOT have the constitutional right to assemble and protest.

It sickens me to see people march in our country, carrying another country’s flag, shouting chants like, “Viva Mexico!”  A TV news journalist asked a Dallas student why she carried a Mexican flag and not an American flag, the student replied that first she was a Mexican and she didn’t need an American flag, even though she was born in the States.  I say we don’t need people like her in our country.

A photo in Tuesday’s Dallas Morning News showed a Hispanic student draped in the American flag; the caption said that other Hispanic taunted this student because of the American flag.  I support free speech for American citizens, but if any the students that taunted her were not legal, they should immediately be arrested.

If you’re tired of the protests and want your voice heard, I invite you to join the “pro American” rally that will be held on April 9, 2006, at the Dallas City Hall.  On that day, thousands of immigrants are expected to march through downtown Dallas to city hall and the “pro American” rally was organized in response to this March.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Great American Schism

Peering out across the Dallas skyline, I see the thousands of twinkling lights of the “Northern front”—the vast void of suburban sprawl, devouring the Texas plains and destroying the heart of the city.

Drawn by the promise of a “neo-cult of domesticity”, thousands of young, white families reject the lure of the city and flee to places like Plano, Frisco, Southlake, McKinney and Wylie. Like a leach, these families suck their host dry, depending on their host (Dallas proper) for their entertainment, their culture and their money, while giving nothing in return. While not a new phenomenon, the suburbs represent the darkest corner of American culture—filled with lusts, lies, lunacy and, most of all, hypocrisy!

Indeed, ask any suburbanite the impetus for their outward migration and inevitably they will reel off a litany of charges—a better life, better schools, and a higher standard of living. In fact, the roots of the suburbs lie in something far more sinister.

At the end of the nineteenth century, our great nation existed as a collection of a few large urban areas and thousands of small “island communities” scattered across the country. The dawn of revolutions in the fields of economics, communications, transportation and industrialization expedited the transition of the United States from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, post-industrial society, paving the way for the great American schism of the 20th Century.

Historians will tell you that the conflict between the shared/corporate values of the rural society and the individual liberties espoused by the urban society, exist today as the most basic tenants of the Republican and Democrat Party platforms respectively. What started as a direct reaction to African Americans’ Great Migration to the cities in the United States following World War II, soon evolved into what we know as modern day “Suburbia.”

In 1947, William Levitt began the construction of homes in a former potato field on Long Island, thirty miles from Manhattan. By 1951, he had completed Levittown, which held seventeen thousand homes, curved streets, parks and playgrounds. This sparked the mass exodus and during the 1950’s, the twelve largest U.S. cities lost two million white, while gaining 1.8 million non-whites. In short, the minorities were left to live in rotting cities.

As with most things, it took this movement time to reach the South and Texas. With the federal courts eradication of de facto segregation in the 1970’s, white Southerners and Texans fled their urban homes and established outposts around the urban center. When these people spoke of “better schools,” they actually meant monolithic schools, catering to the needs and desires of one particular culture—the Caucasian. Indeed, many school districts in the northern Dallas suburbs refuse to observe the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to this day.

In part two of this series, we will examine the role of evangelical Christianity in the life of the suburbs and the growing influence of the “megachurch” on suburbia and American culture as a whole.

For now, just know that those beautiful bedroom communities just north of Dallas, were born out hate and not hope!