Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Outdoor Media Comment

In my last post I struck a nerve with a number of people. Not only on this blog but in wider circles, and I have had a surprising number of comments from some surprising individuals. Most of the comments have an underlying agreement that outdoor TV programs (and online video programming) need improvement, and the suggestions range from content to language with every stop in between. Not everyone agrees, however, that the outdoor broadcast media is having any effect outside of our community. Again, the opinions run the gauntlet from “they are killing us by rednecking us” to “no one really cares.”

I will take some time and look deeper into this issue. When we begin to examine “our” broadcast media should we apply the axiom abusus non tollit usum to the outdoor media? Just because both the standard (language) and the intent of some requirements (blaze orange) have been abused in the past does not alter either the requirement (blaze orange) or the standard (language) for the present. In short, the abuse does not create new rules—although a few comments lean in that direction.

Among the cursory things I have done is to look at the language of various codes of ethics or behavior among some of the outdoor media organizations, and other than a vague language referring to “truth” there are no firm governing rules. In fact, if one took the time to analyze the language of these “codes” they would be found to be archaic. Reading them reminded me of the “Pirate’s Code” from the Pirates of the Caribbean in which various characters, at opportune moments, recite the code as being “guidelines” or “rules” as each circumstance was deemed best by and for the speaker. It seems to me this is exactly the way we want to treat outdoor media, particularly the broadcast side—we’ll apply rules or guides as best suits the speaker—not the sport.

This is a complex issue and one that has been the bane of the outdoor media, and surprisingly to many outdoor writers, reaching back to the 19th century. I can accurately state that the question of quality in outdoor media can be traced back (in this country) to the antebellum years when Henry Herbert (his profile appears on every cover of The Pines Review) was writing his articles on the “sporting life,” establishing the art and form of modern outdoor magazine writing, he was also blasting other, emerging outdoor writers, for what he maintained was “dishonesty” in their writing.

I hope to read more comments on this issue because these comments help guide me when I am doing my research, by providing questions that I don’t think of, and for which I can then search for answers.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Responsibility in Outdoor Media

Today I received my replacement glasses! While I was waiting on my glasses I did follow Holly’s advice and buy a pair of those magnifying glasses for reading but they were only minimal help. I need prism glasses and the magnifying jobs didn’t quite work for me. All’s well now.

While waiting I haven’t been slothing. I’ve used the time away from my office and keyboard to cut firewood and keep the walks clear of snow by use of the snow blower. Also, while doing these chores, I have an advantage—I don’t work fast and I take a lot of breaks, which gives me ample time to think. I have a more or less forced pattern of work-rest-work-rest and during the numerous rest periods I will often get out my notebook and scribble notes. Don’t get any ideas that the note writing is some mystical, literary help thing. My memory sucks, so when I think of something I write it down or I’ll think of it again later and swear it is a new idea!

Something I have been thinking about, and writing notes on, is how much influence outdoor television actually does have on future hunters. The source of this is an ongoing debate in The Pines Review,
(http://issuu.com/thepinesreview/docs/the_pines_review_vol._iii_no_3_autumn_2010) my little literary journal for the outdoor media and industry. The debate is between California-based outdoor writer Jim Matthews and Michelle Scheuermann, who is the Director of Communications for Sportsman Channel TV. The debate is over (of course) the quality of outdoor programs. Matthews hates it and Michelle defends it. Recently, Holly Heyser (http://norcalcazadora.blogspot.com) commented to me by email that while she was watching some outdoor programming she became disgusted with the mangling of the English language. Specifically, she was frustrated by the constant butchery of verb tense and number by the “stars.” Her displeasure is nothing new from people who care about language. This is the foundation of most arguments against outdoor television, and a second argument is that the programs are unrealistic. To one degree or another, the claim can be made that we turn a blind eye to both problems and grudgingly admit that the problems are endemic to the medium and not going away. Then, at the start of this deer season, a dinner table discussion made me question that blind eye.

Most of you will recall that I recently wrote about my nephew’s first duck hunt and the adventure it became when Cookie battled a raccoon. Move forward from duck season to the opening of deer season. My father-in-law, Don, decided it was a good time for Alex, his grandson, to be exposed to deer hunting. Good idea. I wasn’t with Don and Alex for any of the hunts but I did hear about Alex’s reaction to being told he had to wear blaze orange. He was appalled and argued vehemently that he shouldn’t have to wear blaze orange. Now, a kid on his first big game hunt is usually pretty excited and when his grandfather is teaching him the ropes it is all going to be a cherished memory, or at least it should be, but outdoor television had so corrupted Alex’s view of deer hunting that Don found himself competing against the “experts on TV” and those “experts” don’t wear blaze orange. Alex finally caved on the issue because it was blaze orange or stay home.

When this incident was passed on to me (in the form of advice on what to write about in the next issue of The Pines Review) I didn’t quite buy Alex’s argument and offered the opinion that Alex was stretching things and perhaps he was referring to archery hunters. I was then reminded that Alex is much smarter than most kids his age and he is also addicted to weekend outdoor programming. If he is not fishing or hunting he can often be found glued to the television the same way I used to be glued to Saturday morning cartoons. I decided to check out his argument. Guess what? In fully two out of three programs the “stars” were not wearing any blaze orange even though they were rifle hunting. Some of the hunters in these programs were on private land where the safety vests are not required, others were in hides, a couple hunters were in tree stands and one was on an elk hunt that was on private land. The programs where the stars consistently wore blaze orange were obviously on public lands where blaze orange is required by law. Alex is able to distinguish between hunting on private lands where the blaze orange is not required and public lands where it is, and it is an issue made more complex for him because he and his grandfather were hunting on private land—Don’s family farm—therefore if the reason the TV hunters don’t wear blaze orange is they are on private land, and Alex and his grandfather would be hunting on private land, there was no reason for them to wear blaze orange.

I think we’ve got a problem here because it is not limited to the broadcasting medium. I went through a number of magazines and for every one photograph of a hunter wearing his blaze orange there are eight to ten of hunters without it! Even Ron Spomer, an outdoor writer for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect because of his language skills and knowledge of hunting, appears in a photo for his shooting column (“Shooting,” Christensen’s Hunting Illustrated), posed sans blaze orange, with a shooting stick as if shooting at a big game animal. Admittedly, many of the hunting articles (and photos) were about either muzzle loader hunting or bow hunting, but not all. In my short survey I found most photos were of hunters in camouflage, whether posed for a trophy photo, or posed as if hunting.

I do plan to do a more thorough examination of the outdoor media on this problem but also the by-laws and ethics of the outdoor press organizations. I am curious, however, what you think. For myself, I see an element of a growing problem with many new members of the outdoor media whose lack of a formal education in media law, ethics, practical journalism and creative writing/film/broadcasting, is contributing to increasing misinformation about hunting and fishing by many non-hunters/anglers.

Or, should I find another windmill because this one has First Amendment written on it?

I am curious about your thoughts.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Limited Posting For a Bit

Hey Guys, Due to my having lost my reading/working glasses I am unable to do much posting because, frankly, I have trouble seeing the screen. I guess it is time for me to get a big flat screen monitor.
Will post when I am not seeing fuzzy double, triple or whatever that is.