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.

18 comments:

Albert A Rasch said...

Galen,

I started to write a post on outdoor television. I have such antipathy towards the medium that all it came out as was a ditribe against "Horn Porn" and whole bunch of celebrity bashing. By golly, even I have standards when I write!

But to put ti a different way, I think the problem I have with it is the Joe Silkshirt issue. 98% of the folks out there hunting will never, not ever, not in a million years, get the opportunity these "TV hunters" get.

Hunting is supposed to be real. I argue that the experience makes the hunt, whether it is surreptiously hunting city pigeons with a 20 cal Sheridan, or Fallow deer behind high fenced property. A thirty minute show of someone killing a whitetail buck, without any educational aterial thrown in, and to top it off, tasteless and gratuitous kill shots, is worthless to me.

Now the upstart of this, is that advertisers pay to have these shows on...

Who's watching?

I am going to link to this post, it's a good one.

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
The Range Reviews Tactical: How Terrorists Choose Their Targets

Galen Geer said...

Hey Albert,
You made some excellent comments and I'm putting them in my file. I had some good comments on facebook as well and I'm putting them all together in my notes so I can formulate a work plan for how to approach the research and put together a good essay for The Pines Review.
If you think of anything you want to add to what you wrote--do it please. I think that I see the nugget of something that needs to be written and that's how I am going to approach it.
best,
Galen

Jim Tantillo said...

Hi Galen,
I'll play devil's advocate on this one . . . . We don't have tv, so I don't watch these shows regularly. But I remember when they first came out (10-15 years ago?) I thought that they were a net positive for hunting. At the time, hunters were routinely being told to "cover their deer carcass up in the truck" and "don't wear camo in public." I believe that such advice simply drives hunting further underground and out of the public eye. So I was glad to see hunting shows on the outdoor channels--and moreover, I was glad to see the kill shots. Any attempt to mask over the kill would have been an unnecessary sanitation of what goes on in hunting.

Now, with that said, it may in fact be the case that the majority of hunters shown on these television programs are morons. Whooping it up at the kill, high fiving it, etc. As they say about such displays in football, when you get to the endzone you should act like you've been there before.

Does such behavior give the non-hunting public a skewed view of hunters? Perhaps. But perhaps not. I would like to see some social science research/evidence that demonstrates such an effect on public attitudes. I doubt it's there.

Compare the hunting shows with the cooking shows, e.g., "Hell's Kitchen" and the like. The cooks on those shows are all morons--every other word out of their mouths are expletives that are beeped out. Do these shows have much impact on the general public's view of people who cook? I doubt it.

Same with other shows--Project Runway is one my kids and wife watch. Again, morons who sew and the morons who direct them. Do I care if they don't speak well and can't seem to utter a sentence without swearing? not really.

So I don't know that the outdoor media issue is as big a problem as some of the "hunting intelligentsia" makes it out to be. A bigger problem is kids not going outdoors and increasing urbanization so kids can't walk out the door and hunt squirrels and rabbits after school.

anyway. I'm probably in the minority on this one. And perhaps I have a blindspot because I don't watch the outdoors channels all day. But I think there are probably other more important 'problems' facing hunters.

just my $.02 -- your mileage may vary.

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...

Galen,
Albert turned me on to taking a look at your posting and I'm glad he did. It was just this morning that I viewed a hunting show that I was horrified by for a number of reasons. But the main one was that a series of "wives" were documented and killed 160-170 class bucks. Obviously, since I am one, I'm all about women getting out and hunting. However, in one instance, the "wife" got ready to shoot and after asking permission to get the deer, attempted to shoot the gun. The muzzleloader was not loaded and it was made to be the husband's fault for not checking. I was appalled. First thing I learned when hunting is know everything about YOUR gun. I never learned that someone else has to make sure everything is in working order before I shoot.
My biggest problem about these shows is that they are so grandiose in nature that it distorts what it means to hunt. There are not enough doe shots and bucks by the truckload are "passed up" for bigger rack; making hunting go from conservation to a game to see who can get a bigger buck. Referencing back to the show earlier today, the two wives killed really big bucks. And they were "new" hunters. This is a big problem because viewers are going to think that they can get a big buck right out of the gate which is extremely unlikely. Worse yet, shows like this on promotes trophy hunting. The blaze orange thing kills me too. I've heard a number of times that kids don't want to wear the orange because it looks "stupid" or they don't see it on TV. It saves lives and should always be worn; a platitude that seems lost on hunting shows today.
I'm starting to wean myself off these shows. They aren't real. The majority of hunting shows reflect the money pit that is delved into by hunters to gain notoriety and be able make a living hunting. I don't blame them. But at least they could do the entire hunting realm a favor and inject some education and some REAL hunting instead of the glossy, ritzy hunts that dominate outdoor TV.

Happy Hunting,
HLYH

Hunt Like You're Hungry said...
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Hunt Like You're Hungry said...
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Phillip said...

Great topic, Galen.

I think maybe the "orange issue" may be drilling down a little deep, because it goes way beyond TV hunters. Personally, I only wear blaze orange when I'm forced to by law or local rules (apologies to all my IHEA friends). I am not in a minority here either. It's not that I dispute the purported value of blaze orange as a hunter safety aid, and I'd never tell another hunter NOT to wear it... it's just that I, personally, don't wear it.

Maybe there's some sort of subconscious rebellion happening here, similar to my resistance to seatbelt laws (three citations finally broke me of that one), or maybe it's because I DON'T WANT to attract attention from other hunters when I'm in the field. I'd prefer, 99% of the time, that they don't see me out there... especially because when they do spot me, far too often the first insane reaction is to cover me with their rifle scope to see if they can turn me into a game animal... even when I AM wearing orange. But that's a personal prejudice, I suppose, in the same way that my argument against seatbelts stemmed from my personal experience in a pretty bad wreck, where if I'd been wearing my seatbelt, I'd have probably been killed. Statistically unlikely, but screw statistics when real life comes to call.

That aside, I think hunting television is really a double-edged thing when it comes to the image and attitudes surrounding the sport.

It looks like the rest of my reply is far too long for your comment field, so I hope you don't mind if I pick up the conversation over on The Hog Blog.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Hmmm.

As someone who made a career as a writer and now teaches writing, I have tried very hard NOT to be snooty about language. I've tried very hard to remind myself constantly that not everyone speaks or writes well, and that speaking or writing poorly doesn't mean one is stupid and should never be treated as such.

I honestly don't remember what particular transgression I emailed you about, but clearly it was one of those times that I just had to vent to a writer friend. But as long as we're going there publicly now, I'll tell you I'm prone to having the same fits watching football on TV. It pains me when announcers occasionally get it wrong, and really freaks me out when college football players use seventh-grade grammar, mostly because I believe most articulate people judge others by how they communicate.

I think that is my concern when I see verbal faux pas on hunting TV: We hunters as a whole already have a collective reputation as a bunch of ignorant hicks. Stuff like that plays right into it. And believe me, when the non-hunting and especially the anti-hunting people see it, they pounce on it immediately.

NorCal Cazadora said...

Weird, I got email notification of Phillip's comment, but I don't see it here. Galen, you might want to check Blogger and see if it got caught in the spam filter, which seems to have been hyperactive lately.

But I'll respond now in hopes that Phillip's comment does eventually appear, knowing I'll be too busy to dive in later this morning: I didn't say mangled grammar on hunting TV was a PR crisis. If I thought it was a PR crisis, I would've blogged about it myself. I'm not the one who brought this up here.

But it does bolster stereotypes for anyone who witnesses it - I don't think there can be much debate there.

Editor said...

there's a lot of opinions but the only thing I dislike is the effort put in to pushing the pay hunts on TV. The average guy can't do this and I would like to see more public land hunts that are more realistic in true hunting ability.

Galen Geer said...

Thanks for all of the thoughts and as I work to put something together for The Pines Review I'll have some good things to look at, thanks to all of you. If you have any other comments please do so.
best,
glg

Al Cambronne said...

We don't have cable, and I've only seen these shows occasionally. But yeah, I've seen some things that really bothered me.

The whooping, hollering, and high-fiving seemed almost a little creepy. Didn't show much respect for the animal. I'm not saying the TV hunters need to weep or pray at that particular moment. But let's calm down just a little.


I'm not so sure about all the kill shots, either. Yes, it's a real part of hunting. But the fast-paced, speeded-up montage in the intro and closing segments makes it seem like the video editor was enjoying those parts just a little too much.

These shows also seem be creating unrealistic expectations. They make it seem like there's a Boone & Crockett buck standing behind every other tree. And if you don't kill one or two within 23 minutes, then you are a total loser.

(I talked once with a guy who filmed some of these hunts; to get those 23 minutes of footage can take two weeks of sitting in a tree stand, dawn to dusk. But that's rarely mentioned.)

I could go on, but... I have to echo Albert's question. Who's watching? Not me. But someone must be....

Galen Geer said...

I am still collecting comments but one thing that pops out at me is the question of exactly who is watching? Worth digging into? glg

Albert A Rasch said...

Galen,

Who IS watching???

I think we have a problem here Houston, and Mr Tantillo broached it and that is the people who have answered you, are the "Hunting Intelligencia."

Look at 'em! HLYH, Published writer; Phillip, guide, published writer, sportsman; Holly, journalist, academic; Editor, broker and long time blogger; Tantillo, more stuff than I can write about. I'm the least qualified in terms of degrees and honoraria!

The point is that I think the folks that are thoughtful, and introspective with respect to the act of hunting, are the ones least likely to watch those shows. I am willing to bet that we (This group) are all far more intimate with the act and actions of hunting, than the majority of the public.

That is not to say that we shouldn't comment and correct that which we may see as wrong. That is a responsibility we all have as just and ethical hunters.

I appreciate that you have brought the subbject forward and allowed us to comment with you on it.

I have more ideas, but I need more time and thought to gather and collate them. Believe it or not, my current study of pre-Revolutionary America, has directly influenced some of this thinking.

Regards,
Albert
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
The Range Reviews: Remington R-25 Multi-Caliber Rifle

Galen Geer said...

Albert,
I think you have raised an important point and I'm going to address it on the regular blog in a few minutes.
best,
glg

Deloris Daugherty said...

This is the first and maybe the only post I'll put on here. It's not that I have any problem with your blog, it's just that I usually don't blog at all. I only found this because I wanted to see if other hunters felt as I did after seeing the Sarah Paline caribou "hunt." But I don't want to talk about her. I see that several of you are concerned about hunting shows on TV. Since my family doesn't have satellite or cable, the only hunting show we watch is on our local PBS station KET1. The show is called Kentucky Afield and the host is Tim Farmer, a man for whom I have more respect that any other I have ever seen on TV in any capacity. Tim is an ex Marine who was badly injured in a motorcycle wreck, resulting in the loss of the use of his right arm. This man has totally overcome any and all hurdles to become the most ethical, honest, compelling hunter around. I had the honor of speaking to Tim once at a Louisville Bats game where he had been invited to throw out the first pitch. He was walking through the concourse at Slugger Field with his wife and I was doing the same with my grandson. I spotted him and called out "Tim." He stopped and talked to me and Dalton, my grandson, for prpbably a good 20 minutes like we were old friends. If you want to see a hunting show that epitimizes the very best in our sport, check out Kentucky Afield on Saturday night at 8:30 on KET1.

Swamp Thing said...

Yeah, I touched off a redneck firestorm by blogging about a horrendous episode of "Bucks of Tecomate" which was basically a trophy buck shoot (not hunt), and the shooter missed the shot, blowing the kneecap off the deer (which ran off at 30mph into the woods).

People were so quick to come to the defense of a TV show....just...sad. The blog comments were about 2/3 supportive (of my point) but the emails I received were not.

Here's the link:
http://rivermud.blogspot.com/2010/09/please-no-more-canned-tecomate-deer.html

Timdaa said...

Nice post and so true. Especially asking customers what they would like to see, ideas. I like to send a little freebie with every order; bookmarks or a cute little magnet with a quote and my info thanking them for their business.
Ooh Advertising and Outdoor media