Partnership Between PGA/LIV Golf Exposes Huge Divot in Fairy Tale of Sport

For centuries, cultures around the world have used fairy tales to communicate various cultural norms in an attempt to pit good versus evil in their storytelling.

In Medieval times, morality plays sought to tell stories that dealt with the very battle for one’s soul.

I thought of fairy tales and morality plays when I read that two feuding professional golf organizations had agreed to combine their operations.  Two sports leagues merging is certainly nothing new. The National Football League (N.F.L.) is the result of a merger between two smaller leagues.

Still, the merger of the PGA and LIV Golf is bigger than just two competing leagues combining forces.

According to published reports, the new merged golf league will be funded exclusively by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. This continues a trend by Saudi Arabia of sportswashing as a means to cleanse their image and launder their reputation through investment in various athletic events, teams and leagues.

The new golf partnership gets more slippery than a sand trap when one remembers that PGA commissioner Jay Monahan noted when asked in June 2022 about the Saudi kingdom’s ties to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack that, “I have two families that are close to me that lost loved ones. My heart goes out to them and I would ask that any player that has left, or that would ever consider leaving, have you ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour?”

It has been said that there is a prize at which anyone’s principles can be bought. It appears that the price at which the PGA principles could be bought was just paid by an entity tied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Graphic R. Anderson

What a difference a year makes.

While PGA leadership seemed to have no issues with the old take the money and run approach, by trading in their principles faster than someone seeking free room and board with someone that they have philosophical differences with, it was reported that Tiger Woods turned down $700-800 million to play in LIV last year.

I certainly have not agreed with everything that Tiger has done in his life, but I certainly respect his stance in this regard.

It will be interesting to see if that stance remains now that the Saudi kingdom is basically signing the checks for Tiger and all of the other players in professional golf.

There is no reason to think that Saudi Arabia will stop their attempts of image repair at the 18th hole.

In addition to rumors that they want to buy World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), it is completely plausible to think that the kingdom could set their sights on buying one or more franchises in the MLS, NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL.

I could rattle off fact after fact about all of the reasons that selling sports assets, or any other assets to foreign powers is a bad idea

I could also list the various reasons why Saudi Arabia is not really the best country to be doing business with.

Instead, I have written a fairy tale of my own about the risk of compromising one’s principles and selling off sport assets to the highest bidder.

Once upon a time, there was a far away kingdom that was built upon sand. Underneath the sand, flowed a magic black goo that the rest of the world coveted.

Although this black goo was harmful to the planet, and other options existed to ween the world off of the goo, much like a cowboy on a mountain, the world did not know how to quit the black goo.

The kingdom knew the power they possessed. They wielded great might over the price of the black goo throughout the rest of the world by limiting how much of their goo they made available at any given time.

Much of the world was so dependent on the kingdom’s black goo that they turned a blind eye to many of the activities that occurred within the kingdom walls.

They would say, “while we certainly would not do things like that here, who are we to judge what other’s do behind their kingdom walls? Besides, if we do not buy their goo they will just sell it to someone else.”

The kingdom made so much money from selling their black goo that they did not know what to do.

One day, a man in the kingdom thought, “why don’t we use our black goo money to buy other things that the world is addicted to?”

For the kingdom knew that someday the world might decide they no longer wanted their black goo.

Therefore, the kingdom thought, we will use our money to buy prestige and respect in the world of sport in an effort to be someone others will admire and support.

And so it was that the kingdom started to acquire race horses and race cars and entire leagues of athletes with their black goo money.

There were quiet whispers from the rest of the world stating, “but we should not support this kingdom, they do not share our values.”

Still, those whispers went unheeded as many people were blinded by the shear magnitude of the amount of money the kingdom was willing to spend on their sport assets.

Even organizations that once shouted loudly from the clubhouse of the atrocities of the kingdom were won over by the vast amount of money the kingdom was willing to pay for their principles.

For you see, as long as the world remains dependent on the black goo that flows under kingdoms built on sand, few will be willing to take a morale stand.

To be fair, the issues in professional and collegiate sport run far deeper than whether or not assets are sold to Saudi Arabia.

The golf merger is just the latest example of how the world of sport is changing, and not for the better.

In addition to rumors that they want to buy World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), it is completely plausible to think that the kingdom could set their sights on buying one or more franchises in the MLS, NBA, NFL, MLB, or NHL.
Photo R. Anderson

In the same way that a theology student might unexpectedly become an atheist after getting disenchanted with what they learned at their seminary, I became more and more disheartened with the world of professional sport the deeper I got into my Sport Management master’s program.

I have spent a large portion of my career working in various capacities within the sports world.

For the most part, I enjoyed each of those experiences.

However, in the last few years I have noticed a rapid change in the way the sport industry operates.

The ideals of fair play and competition are rapidly giving way to greed and corruption at all levels of sport with no signs of stopping any time soon.

While the professional golf merger can be described as a cash grab way for the rich to get richer, it is certainly not the only example of sports leagues choosing profits over principles.

One need only look at how professional sports leagues went all in on embracing sports books and gambling to see how they are willing to monetize all areas of their business despite the optics.

As I noted in a column earlier this year, entire leagues are being created as mere television product giving little thought to building actual support from fans with the community.

In other leagues where fans are a factor, ticket prices are often inflated to the point that the average fan cannot afford to go see their team in person even if they wanted to.

In the current climate, there is every reason to believe that Saudi Arabia will seek to gain a larger foothold in American sports. There is also every reason to believe that if they do come calling, they, and their cargo planes full of money, will be welcomed with open arms.

Like someone believing all fairy tales have happy endings, perhaps it was naïve of me to cling to the ideals of sport bringing out the best in society.

Sport, like the rest of the society seems poised to continue to move towards a place where greed is good and only a small percentage get to live happily ever after.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden urge to read some Brothers Grimm.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

NFL Bans Five Players for Gambling: Despite Earning Millions of Dollars from Sports Books

The National Football League (NFL) recently banned five players for betting on sporting events.

Receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore of the Detroit Lions and defensive-end Shaka Toney of the Washington Commanders were suspended for the 2023 season for betting on NFL games, while Lions receivers Stanley Berryhill and Jameson Williams were suspended for six games each.

Despite the NFL bringing in millions of dollars in revenue from partnerships with gambling entities, it is still against the rules for player to bet on football games.

Merriam Webster defines hypocrisy as a, “behavior that contradicts what one claims to believe or feel.”

Using that definition, one could make a strong case that the NFL punishing players for conduct that they encourage their fans to engage in is the epitome of hypocrisy.

However, a closer look reveals that the players were suspended for breaking a rule under the collective bargaining agreement between players, teams and league.

Despite all NFL employees being prohibited from entering or using any sportsbook during the season, the Washington Commanders opened the first in-stadium sportsbook in January, the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants and Jets have sportsbooks outside their venues.

Despite all NFL employees being prohibited from entering or using any sportsbook during the season, the Washington Commanders opened the first in-stadium sportsbook in January, the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants and Jets have sportsbooks outside their venues.
Graphic R. Anderson

That is a nice way to say that the NFL can have their cake and parlay, too, by saying that the players knew the rules and fans are not under the same restrictions.

Sports betting has always been a part of the game.

Some of my earliest memories of watching football involve Brent Musburger and Jimmy “the Greek” Synder talking about point spreads and predicting winners of games using coded language on the NFL Today pregame show on CBS.

While sports and gambling always had a connection of some sort, the floodgates of the rise in sports betting opened wide in 2018 when the United States Supreme Court voted 6-3 in the case Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that forbade state-authorized sports gambling everywhere other than Nevada.

At the time of the ruling, all four major U.S. professional sports leagues, the NCAA and the federal government had urged the court to uphold the federal law and rule against New Jersey governor Phillip D. Murphy.

In the years that followed the Supreme Court decision, those same leagues went from opposing sports betting to embracing it. In fact, sports betting became mainstream to the point that now there are professional sports teams in Las Vegas, and official Sports Book sponsors in multiple leagues.

What was once only whispered in the shadows came out into the sunshine and spread like a kudzu vine choking out everything in its path.

Personally, betting on sports has never appealed to me. Throughout my career as a collegiate Sports Information Director, sports reporter and editor, I avoided any actions that could seem to be ethically questionable. That included betting on teams I covered, or really any sports for that matter.

That is the stand that worked for me. It is similar to the stand that the NFL and other leagues have for their employees.

I know some people who held similar positions to me take a more relaxed view of the issue of sports betting.

One of the first newspaper groups I worked for in Houston had an annual Christmas party at a local Greyhound racing track. I thought that it was an interesting choice of venue for a newspaper group.

A few years later, while working for a different newspaper, I was sent to do a feature on that same greyhound track because as my editor said, “they are a big advertiser and we like to keep them happy.” In fact, every night I had to dedicated a large about of space in the sports section for the results from the track.

I mention all of this to say that media groups and sports leagues have long been embedded with various forms of sports wagering. As more and more sports betting became legal, more and more embraces between leagues and sports books were made.

There is a huge difference between greyhound racing and the NFL when it comes to participants and betting.

The greyhounds did not know that people were making and losing money based on their performance. In many cases, the greyhounds were just doing what they were trained to do by going around in circles chasing the mechanical rabbit around the track in a counter clockwise motion.

On the other hand, NFL players, and other professional and collegiate athletes know about the millions, if not billions, of dollars that are being wagered on the fruits of their labors.

To be fair, I do not think that athletes should be betting on games that they are playing in. The Black Sox Scandal and the Pete Rose suspension were justified to prevent players and managers from throwing games for financial benefit.

Teams throwing games for better draft picks is an entirely different issue and a column for another day.

There is no easy answer for what to do with sports betting and athletes.

The future of sports betting, as well as player compensation, were topics that came up quite often while I was working on my Masters in Sport Management. In fact, I studied the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in both my academic and professional career.

Leagues are going to continue to gladly accept the revenue that comes from sports betting advertisements with the really small print about how gambling is addictive, etc.

At the same time, athletes are going to continue to test the limits of how much betting they can do on the sports they play in to get a share of the millions, if not billions, of dollars changing hands every sports weekend.

Speaking of million-dollar bets, there is a Houston area business man who is famous for bankrolling promotions at his store with large bets that he makes in Louisiana.

This individual was asked what he thought about the growing movements to legalize sports betting in Texas.

His response was that legalizing betting by phone would bolster gambling addiction, and that his two-hour drives to Louisiana to place bets “limits impulses by a factor of 1,000.”

When those comments first came out, many people called the aforementioned businessman a hypocrite based on the appearance that he saw nothing wrong with him traveling to place bets, but felt that the people of Texas would not have the same control if betting become legal in the Lone Star State.

Online sports betting is now legal and active in 36 states across the country. Massachusetts, Maine and Nebraska are all expected to join the legalized sports betting states in the coming months.

California, and Florida are amongst the states where it’s not yet legal to place an online bet. Texas is one of seven states, along with Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina, with bills or ballot initiatives to legalize sports betting.

With so much momentum moving towards legalized sports betting from sea to shining sea, it is likely that soon the professional sports leagues will be even more in bed with online gaming sites.

Municipalities will claim that they will earn money from taxing gambling operations, and sports leagues will continue to say that embedding their content with online gambling gives a more well-rounded experience to fans.

Time will tell if their actions remain such that they can be called hypocrites, or if they will make it easier for players to get a slice of the pie.

Meanwhile, five football players may never take another snap in a league that makes billions of dollars for their fans and themselves off of the efforts of their players.

Suddenly, it sounds a little better to just be a greyhound focusing on the rabbit unaware of everything that is going on around them

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about sports betting has given me a bit of a headache.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Trump Arrest Places Media in Uncharted Waters

Yesterday, April 4, 2023, for the first time in United States history, a former president was arrested.

While other countries around the world have experienced their top leaders being arrested, for nearly 250 years, the United States had managed to avoid becoming a member of that club.

That all changed when Donald Trump exited a courthouse in Manhattan charged with 34 felony counts.

On April 4, 2023, Donald Trump became the first current or former United States president to be arrested for a crime. Trump faces 34 felony counts in New York State.

Although no current or former U.S. president had ever been arrested before yesterday, there is a general consensus among many historians that Richard Nixon would have faced charges after he resigned in 1974 had he not been pardoned by Gerald Ford.

Additionally, Bill Clinton’s law license was suspended for five years in Arkansas after he reached a deal with prosecutors in 2001, at the end of his second term, over allegations that he lied under oath about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

A less known presidential “what if?” involves whether President Warren Harding would have been implicated in various crimes as part of the “Teapot Dome Scandal” had he not died in office, in 1923.

In the days, weeks, months and years to come, there will be countless opportunities to delve into whether the arrest of the 45th President of the United States was valid.

It is also possible that there will be other arrests of the same individual over the coming months that will also be debated.

Right now, presidential historians and journalists are likely securing publishing deals for the myriad books that will be written on this chapter of American history.

This is not a column about the arrest, nor is it an exploration of whether the charges are valid.

Although no current or former U.S. president had ever been arrested before yesterday, there is a general consensus among many historians that Richard Nixon would have faced charges after he resigned in 1974 had he not been pardoned by Gerald Ford.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, this is a column about how a hyper divided country like the United States can navigate its way through something that was likely never considered by the Founding Fathers.

A high visibility case involving a high visibility individual is certainly nothing new.

Since the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995 put cameras in the courtroom, Americans have been fascinated with watching celebrity court cases.

Last year, viewers clamored around coverage of the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial.

So far in 2023, viewers were treated to the Alex Murdaugh and Gwyneth Paltrow cases.

These are just a few of the many court cases that have drawn the attention of viewers through the years.

Any potential trial in New York would likely not begin until next year. As such, there is a lot of time for other things to happen between now and then. It is also not clear whether a trial would be televised, since the judge would ultimately have a say on the issue of cameras in their courtroom.

If a case involving a former president goes to trial, and is televised, viewership would likely rival any of the previous cases.

Watching the helicopter coverage of the former president’s motorcade leading to the New York courtroom yesterday definitely gave me some white Bronco related déjà vu.

This brings us to the role the media should play in how they cover any lead up to a trial, as well as how a trial itself is covered, as well as post-verdict aftermath.

O.J. Simpson had many fans who believed that the Juice was innocent. Those fans were elated when the glove didn’t fit and the jury had to acquit.

However, if O.J. had been found guilty, it is highly unlikely that his supporters would have rioted in the streets, or charged the courthouse.

Granted, this was nearly 30 years ago, before social media, and during a time when society was slightly more civil towards people with differing opinions. So, perhaps there would have been riots if the O.J. trial happened in the 21st Century versus the 20th Century.

While we may never know how the O.J. trial would have been different during a time of social media, one can be fairly certain based on events that have happened since January 2020, that if there is a trial involving a former president, it could get messy.

To be clear, I am in no way comparing the crimes that O.J. Simpson was accused of with the crimes that Donald Trump has been accused of. I am merely comparing the way the media and public are drawn to coverage of both trials.

The media therefore faces a delicate balance between feeding the public’s right to know with avoiding any reporting that encourages incitement of violence.

Even if a network felt that providing wall to wall coverage was not the right thing to do, there would likely be great pressure to push ahead to avoid being the only network not covering the event.

In this way, the media herd mentality and desire to not miss out on a scoop works against them.

There are many individuals and groups who blame the news media for the hours of free coverage they gave Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Some have even gone so far as to say that the coverage of nearly every rally and speech given by the former president on the campaign trail played a huge role in the outcome of the 2016 election.

I thought of this as I watched the prime-time coverage of a speech given by the recently arrested former president last night.

There was certainly a news value in airing the speech. It was a historical moment documenting a moment in American history that had never occurred before. It is the news media’s job to cover events like that.

However, as the speech ventured into a slew of attacks on individuals, as well as a greatest hits list of grievances, the news value of the speech dwindled with each passing moment.

As the current court case, and perhaps other cases move towards potential trial, there will be other moments where the media will be tempted to cover a speech in its entirety.

Such is the dilemma of the news media. How does one differentiate between what is truly in the public interest, and what is just a man getting free air time to rant around the Festivus pole with an airing of grievances?

Arguments around media coverage potentially tainting a jury pool is a possible consideration. Although, it is highly likely that all potential jurors already know who the former president is.

Whatever happens from here with the case will continue to plow new ground for legal experts and journalists alike.

We are definitely going to need a bigger boat as we navigate the uncharted waters and choppy seas ahead, as well as a measured approach to steer it through the rapids and eddies.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about alleged presidential crimes and journalists has me in the mood to watch “All the President’s Men.”

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Some Journalists are Showing a Total Lack of Respect, Bruh

The other day I read a story about a reporter being fired for calling Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson “bruh” on Twitter.

The reasoning behind the firing as cited by the Dallas Morning News, was a violation of the paper’s social media policy.

Many news organizations have social media policies in place as a means to try to provide guardrails for a mostly unregulated, constantly available, nonstop temptation to create content.

I am not going to weigh in on whether I think the reporter should have been fired aside from saying that, in my time working as an editor for newspapers, I have fired people for less when their actions reflected poorly on the organization. At a minimum, the reporter should have been reminded of the expectations for conduct expected of journalists representing the news organization.

I am also not going to give oxygen to the questions about whether the use of the word “bruh,” as well as the firing, were racially motivated.

What I will say is, I do not see any circumstance where anyone in a position of authority should be called “bruh” by a journalist on social media.

Taking it a step further, I would go so far as to say that a journalist should not call anyone “bruh” on social media.

There is enough mistrust and lack of respect circulating against the field of journalism without reporters scoring an own goal by making the point for people who claim that all journalists are bad.


The University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications has a storied history of producing some of the best and brightest journalists in the world. Of course, once those journalists leave Weimer Hall, they sometimes forget the lessons they learned about how to communicate with public officials on social media and pour fuel on the fire for those who already mistrust the profession. Photo R. Anderson

Again, this is not about the word “bruh.” It is about the lack of respect and the familiar tone being used with a public official. There are myriad other words that could have been substituted for “bruh” and the result would have been the same.

It should be noted that the reporter in Dallas is not the first journalist to get too “familiar” with a public figure on social media. Nor are they likely to be the last.

In many ways, the rise of social media and its relaxation of societal norms is partly to blame for the lowering of the bar in terms of communication expectations.

It also doesn’t help the argument when some politicians and other public figures are equally guilty of lowering the communication bar on social media through their own posts.

Still, members of the media should be held to a higher standard of conduct. This standard covers what they say on social media, as well as what they count as truth found there.

As I have noted before, social media posts should not be the sole sources for any article written by a real journalist. That is just lazy reporting and opens up the reporter to all kinds of scrutiny.

The use of social media posts as “sources” is a column for another day.

The reporter’s defense of using the word “bruh” was that as a millennial that is just the way she talks.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have long had issues with certain things that millennials have brought to the table compared to other generations.

However, this is not a column about millennials.

Despite recently celebrating a birthday, this proud Gen-Xer is still far too young to be the guy standing on the porch shouting at the “kids” to get off of his lawn. Still, I am old enough to know that respect should be given by journalists to the people they cover.

Respecting someone’s position does not mean that you have to agree with everything they say or do, or that you necessarily have to like the person you are covering on a personal level.

It also doesn’t mean that as a journalist you stop doing your job of speaking truth to power and holding people accountable for their actions.

However, it does mean that while doing that job you do not call a mayor “bruh,” or anything other word that does not show respect for the position.

Again, there is a difference between respecting an individual, versus respecting the position they hold.


Long before computers replaced typewriters in newsrooms, journalists have needed to balance what they say and how they say it when it comes to reporting the facts in the best way for their readers. Social Media has blurred many of those lines and led to scenarios where reporters try to get too familiar with public figures. Photo R. Anderson

In my years covering school boards and city councils, there have certainly been officials that I have disagreed with. However, whenever I was writing about them, I would state the facts and let the voters draw their own conclusions.

I also know that there have been people who did not like how persistent I was in covering certain issues.

Although they likely wished I was reassigned to a different beat, they always understood that I had a job to do and that I would cover them respectfully and fairly.

My respect for a person’s position has been a standard throughout my educational career as well. Even though I have had professors younger than some of the t-shirts in my closet, I still respect their role and address them accordingly.

I am sure that I take that to an extreme, but I would rather err on the side of respect than to try to be informal and cute on social media by de-formalizing language while blurring the line between reporter and source.

Going back to the Dallas incident, even if I was not directly involved in covering the political beat, as a representative of the newspaper, I would respect both my colleagues and the mayor and give them both the respect they their positions warranted.

Common courtesy used to be pretty easy to find.

Unfortunately, lately it seems like it is not as common as it once was.

By the time I am that old man standing on the porch shouting at the kids to get off of my lawn, I shudder to think how far the lack of respect within society will fall.

It may force me to be tempted to stay inside.

At the end of the day, there are certainly bigger issues facing the world than whether a reporter who hopefully was taught better in Journalism school used informal speech to address a person elected by a majority of voters.

However, if one stops calling out troubling things, than they become societal norms.

I am often reminded of a paper I wrote 30-years ago during my freshmen year of college about this wonderful thing called the internet and the Information Superhighway that was going to connect the world and put vast amounts of knowledge at our fingertips as a means to make a better more united society.

I misplaced that paper a few years back, and have looked for it off and on ever since. Something tells me that were I to locate it now, I would be sorely disappointed by what was predicted and what came to pass.

Instead of bringing us together, in many ways the technology continues to sow division and turn us into a society of silos where no one really knows how to talk constructively and work together.

If we are not careful with how we control social media, we may discover it is a “memes” to an end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about “bruh” has me in the mood to watch some old surfing movies.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Killing of Orlando Reporter is Latest Salvo in War on Journalists

When an Orlando television reporter was killed, and his cameraman wounded while covering a story about a shooting last month, they became the latest victims in what has become an increasingly violent time for journalists.

Despite the First Amendment of the United States Constitution specifically citing a freedom of speech, and of the press, attacks on journalists, both verbal and physical, have been on the rise over the past few years.

To be fair, the recent attack in Orlando may have been an attack of opportunity, and not a targeted attack on journalists. Accounts of the crime state that the vehicle that the journalists were in was not emblazoned with the logos and tell-tale signs of news vans in the past.

Advances in technology have created a world where journalists reporting live from a scene do not need the large satellite trucks that they once did. As a result, journalists now have a lower profile on many news scenes. Photo R. Anderson

Still, regardless of whether the two journalists were targeted because they were journalists, or if it was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, one cannot argue that in recent years attacks on journalists have become more frequent, and, in many cases, deadlier.

In 2015, a reporter and photojournalist in Roanoke, VA were fatally shot while conducting a live television interview.

In 2018, five employees were killed, and two injured when a gunmen entered the Annapolis, MD offices of The Capitol newspaper.

The above incidents of journalists killed while doing their jobs is just a small fraction of the overall picture of journalism in the cross hairs.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, in 2021 alone there were 142 assaults on journalists.

On January 6, 2021, many journalists were attacked and thousands of dollars of equipment was damaged at the United States Capitol.

It is too easy to place the blame on the war on journalists on politicians who encourage their followers to call journalists the “enemy of the people.”

It is also too easy to blame the war on journalists on individuals who shout “fake news” whenever they disagree with a story reported on by a journalist.

No, the attacks on journalists cannot be blamed on a single individual or group.

Instead, the increase in attacks on journalists is the result of a combination of factors ranging from a rise in violence against all groups, as well as a failure of local, state, and federal governments to take action to ensure proper mental health and gun reform measures are in place.

For years, journalists from the United States and elsewhere have voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way in order to report from various war zones.

Last year, I wrote a column about the history of war time journalism. In that column, I noted that one of my earliest memories of CNN involved watching the “Boys of Baghdad,” Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman broadcasting live when the first missiles of Operation Desert Storm were fired. That broadcast represented the first time, Americans were seeing live video in the middle of a war zone.

In the years that have followed that first live from the battlefield report, countless journalists have reported from war zones and other areas of unrest around the globe.

Even now, hundreds of journalists are in Ukraine and other hot spots risking their lives to report on the battles going on there.

War correspondents sent off to cover conflict, know going into the situation that there is a high probability that they will be shot at covering the story.

Some have even been killed while on assignment.

However, based on the rise in attacks on journalists in non-combat zones, it is not hyperbole to say that all journalists can now be considered war correspondents, since there is definitely an active war going on against the press.

Throughout my career in journalism, I have often worn a press pass, or other identification on a lanyard or clipped to a belt loop identifying me as a member of the working media whenever I was covering an event. Photo R. Anderson

Throughout my career in journalism, I have often worn a press pass, or other identification on a lanyard or clipped to a belt loop identifying me as a member of the working media whenever I was covering an event. My identification as a member of the press was not always worn on my person, however.

Back when I worked as the sports editor for a daily newspaper in Texas, I had a sticker on the windshield of my car that was provided by the Texas Daily Newspaper Association as a way to identify me as a member of the working press.

I took great pride in that sticker and what it stood for. The sticker was so important to me that when I was cleaning out my car after someone ran a light straight into the side of my car and totaled it, I removed the sticker from the windshield.

Part of the reason I removed the sticker was because it was a symbol of my commitment as a journalist.

The other reason for saving the sticker was that I did not want someone else taking the sticker and using it to pose as a journalist.

I still have the sticker to this day.

Back when I worked as the sports editor for a daily newspaper in Texas, I had a sticker on the windshield of my car that was provided by the Texas Daily Newspaper Association as a way to identify me as a member of the working press. Photo R. Anderson

With the rise in violence against members of the press in recent years, I now question whether I would still proudly have that sticker on the windshield of my car, or if I would fear that having a Press sticker would act like a target that could be used by an individual who had it out for the press for one reason or another.

Would a sticker on my car invite someone to scratch the paint, knock out a window, or in an extreme case plant a bomb under it because some had told them that as a member of the press I was their enemy?

This is the reality facing many journalists today.

Despite the rise in attacks, I am convinced that dedicated journalists will continue to go to work each day to tell the stories that need to be told in order to inform their readers and viewers.

After all, based on what the average journalist makes in salary, individuals join the field of journalism out of dedication to the craft versus seeking financial gains.

Unfortunately, thanks to events outside their control, many of those journalists will likely be looking over their shoulder and wondering whether their commitment to reporting the truth will get them killed.

It may also become common practice for journalists to wear Kevlar vests whether they are covering a war zone overseas, or a city council meeting around the block.

In journalism school we are taught to report the story and not to become the story.

Unfortunately, the war on journalism and journalists is making it harder to stay on the side lines of what is quickly becoming a life-or-death battlefield in the name of speaking truth to power and providing an eyewitness account of history in real time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to go remember a simpler time before journalism was under attack.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Remembering former UCF President John C. Hitt

The other day I was saddened to hear about the passing of former University of Central Florida (UCF) president John C. Hitt.

President Hitt, who was 82-years-old when he died, became UCF’s fourth president in 1992 and retired from the post in June 2018. He was a transformational figure at UCF. Over the course of his 26-years at the helm, President Hitt ushered in an era of explosive growth and opportunity both in terms of facilities and enrollments.


While many buildings were added to the UCF campus during President Hitt’s tenure, perhaps the most visible one is the on-campus football stadium affectionately known as the “Bounce House.” Photo R. Anderson

President Hitt, transformed the UCF campus on the Orange and Seminole County lines from a commuter school withering in the shadow of larger universities like Florida State University and the University of Florida, to the second largest university by enrollment in the country.

UCF’s enrollment tripled from 21,000 students to more than 66,000 by his retirement.

Enrollment was not the only thing that grew during President Hitt’s tenure at UCF. Under his watch, UCF opened a College of Medicine and created momentum for the ultimate construction of an on-campus football stadium.

To celebrate his 20th year leading UCF, the on-campus library, which was the first building on campus that was open to students, was renamed in his honor.


The oldest building on the UCF main campus open to students, was renamed the John C. Hitt Library to celebrate former college president John Hitt’s 20th anniversary at the school’s helm. Hitt, who died February 21, 2023, went on to serve as UCF president for 26 years. Photo R. Anderson

While much will be said over the coming days about President Hitt’s legacy, my association with him is a little more personal.

During my time as an undergraduate at UCF, I created a student newspaper called Knight Times, which I ran for three years with the help of some very dedicated staff and friends.

Eight months after forming the paper, I wanted to do something that both set the paper apart from our better funded competitors, and also showed that we were not afraid to go to the top.

To accomplish that goal, I decided that I wanted to interview President Hitt.

To my surprise and delight, he accepted the offer and a two-part series about his vision for UCF’s future was created.

For President Hitt, the interview was likely just another appointment on his calendar that day.

However for me, it showed that not only had Knight Times arrived in terms of being taken seriously, but I had shown that I could score big interviews as a journalist.


In 1997, I had the opportunity to interview President Hitt for a two-part series of articles for Knight Times, the student newspaper I founded and operated while enrolled as an undergraduate journalism student at UCF. Photo R. Anderson

I have interviewed thousands of people in my journalism career. I even had some pretty high-profile interviews during my time as editor in chief of my high school newspaper.

However, my interview with President Hitt was the first time that I felt that I had scored the interview through my own efforts and was being taken seriously as an equal to journalists who had been in the field longer than I had.

Knight Times lasted an additional two years after my interview with President Hitt ran.

The visions President Hitt outlined in that interview have lasted much longer.

At the time of my interview, President Hitt was in his fifth year at the helm. However, even then it was clear that he had a strong sense of where things were headed as noted by the quote from the interview below.

“If I had to look out and see what my fondest dream 15-20 years from now it would be that we would be recognized as the premiere metropolitan university, that we would be a Research One according to the Carnegie Commission’s classifications, and that we would still be regarded as having a lot of concern for an excellence in undergraduate education,” Hitt said.

That desire became a reality in the years that followed drawing attention from some pretty powerful figures along the way.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush once said that it was his belief that, “Walt Disney and John Hitt have done more to transform Central Florida into a vibrant, dynamic place than any two people.”

In addition to being focused on growth, President Hitt knew that it was attention to the students that really mattered as referenced in another quote from that 1997 interview.

“A lot of people around the country see campuses where faculty members won’t cooperate together or with the administration. We don’t have that here,” Hitt said. “We have a real good community atmosphere here. We have got a pretty darn good situation here at UCF and we are proud of it.”

Two and a half years after my interview with President Hitt, our paths crossed once again as he handed me my diploma on the graduation stage inside the UCF Arena signaling the end of my time at UCF, and the beginning of the next phase of my professional journalism career.

Speaking as one of the thousands of Knights who benefited from your leadership, we are pretty proud to have called you our president. Charge On, President Hitt, and thank you for granting me that interview so many years ago.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to read some more articles from the Knight Times archives.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Shooting at Michigan State Shows How Vulnerable College Campuses Are

Earlier this week a 43-year-old man killed three people and injured five others on the campus of Michigan State University.

The shooting, which occurred on the eve of fifth anniversary of the Parkland school shooting, marked yet another example of what appears to be a uniquely American problem related to the use of guns to create mass casualty events on soft targets like schools, places of worship, grocery stores, parades, and a slew of other events where people gather.

As of February 14, 2023, there have been more mass shootings in America than there have been days of the year.  In January 2023 alone, there were 52 mass shootings that left 87 dead and 205 wounded.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This is not a column about repealing the Second Amendment, or creating a movement to take away people’s legally obtained firearms.

This is not a column about the move in some states to loosen laws that seem to make it easier for individuals to gain possession of guns and ammo.

Following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, TX in 2019, instead of cracking down on guns, Texas made it easier for people to get guns by eliminating burdensome gun permitting and training requirements that had caused citizens to have to wait a few days to get their guns and also show that they took a course to know how to responsibly use them.
Photo R. Anderson

This is also not a column about lawmakers who fail to act to pass simple legislation that could make it harder to get and use guns to kill citizens just trying to go about their daily lives.

No, this is a column about the sad fact that everyday people are unprotected from falling victim to senseless gun violence in the most prosperous country in the world.

While no one is immune from falling victim to the plague of mass shootings, for this column my main focus is mass shooting events on college campuses which represent a small fraction of the hundreds of mass shooting events that occur in America each year.

Since 1966 when a gunman killed 15 people and injured 31 at the University of Texas in Austin, in what many consider the first mass shooting event in America, there have been 12 mass shootings on college campuses where over three people were killed leading to 99 deaths.

Prior to the Michigan State shooting, the most recent college shooting was in 2022 at the University of Virginia where three people were killed and two were injured.

Colleges and universities from sea to shining sea serve as both institutions of higher learning, as well as soft targets for would be mass shooters to prey upon.

Last year, while visiting the University of Florida to be inducted into an Honor Society, I found myself on high alert looking in the shadows for potential threats as I walked the sprawling campus.

Like many other colleges and universities, UF is a large campus that acts like a mini city surrounded by various homes, businesses, and infrastructure with no walls or gates to funnel visitors through central entry and exit points to control who comes and goes.

Like many other colleges and universities, the University of Florida is a large campus that acts like a mini city surrounded by various homes, businesses, and infrastructure with no walls or gates to funnel visitors through central entry and exit points to control who comes and goes. The same is true for Michigan State University making it nearly impossible to fully prevent mass shooting events from occurring on campus.
Photo R. Anderson

The same was true for Michigan State University where it appears the gunman entered a publicly accessible building on the edge of campus and opened fire before opening fire in another publicly accessible building full of students.

It is impossible to fully secure a college campus. So, the blame for the shooting does not fall on Michigan State University.

During my tenure as the Public Information Manager for a college, I constantly drilled myself on how I would respond to a crisis communication event on campus. Many of my colleagues thought I was crazy to spend so much time cooking up responses to scenarios that they assured me would never occur.

Then the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred and we found ourselves faced with the need to evacuate the campus for fear that the highly explosive oil tanks that surrounded the campus would be the next target of the terrorists.

Although, the oil tanks and the campus remained unscathed, from that moment on, my “hope for the best but always plan for the worst strategy” did not seem so farfetched to my previously doubting colleagues.

Although the campus I worked on was small, it was spread out with numerous unsecured entry points. It also lacked armed security officers. While thankfully it never happened, it would have been very easy for someone to walk in off of the street and start shooting.

Unfortunately, like many campuses both then and now, there is really no way to prevent an individual from bringing a gun inside a classroom and creating a mass casualty event.

Of course, in Texas and other states, the response to mass shootings by some lawmakers would be to say that the armed good guys in the classroom would take out the armed bad guys.

There is so much wrong with that statement, but I will leave that for another column on another day.

Like I said, this is also not a column about lawmakers who fail to act to pass simple common sense legislation that could make it harder for people who should not have access to firearms from getting and using guns to kill citizens who are just trying to go about their daily lives.

Since it appears most are unwilling to take proactive steps to prevent gun violence, that leaves us in the category of reacting. Throughout my career in public affairs and strategic communication, I have always held firm to the practice of being first on the scene to deliver credible information while also being transparent about what I do not know during a fluid situation.

There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t have that information right now, but I will bring it to you as soon as I do have it,” in the heat of communicating in a crisis.

It is a far worse crisis communication blunder to say nothing at all as a scene unfolds leaving unqualified experts on social media to fill in the voids left by the silence of the official sources.

Based on what I have seen so far, the Michigan State University response to the shooting should be hailed as a textbook example of how to respond to an event.

Multiple jurisdictions worked in harmony with a clear command structure to secure the scene and protect all people on campus. Additionally, regular updates were provided to the media and other concerned individuals while the scene was still active.

That is a stark contrast to what occurred during the 2022 Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, TX. The Robb Elementary response should be added as a case study to every crisis communication and law enforcement practitioner as a prime example of what not to do during a mass shooting.

As great as the response at Michigan State was, the simple fact is something needs to be done to stop these mass shooting events from happening.

As a crisis communicator, I was pleased to see the transparent way that the incident at Michigan State was handled.

I will be more pleased if a day comes when crisis communicators and law enforcement personal do not have to respond to calls of shots fired at campuses where people are just trying to learn, or stores where people are just trying to bring home some groceries to feed their families.

America has twice as many firearms per 100 residents as the next country on the list of Top 10 gun owning countries.

We should be better than this.

And yes, I know that there are people who may not know anything else that is in the United States Constitution, but they use the Second Amendment as their lodestar allowing them to collect an arsenal of firearms.

Again, I am not suggesting that the government come and take away everyone’s guns. However, we should not be willing to just accept mass shootings as a way of life and pray that we and those we love are never the victims.

We should demand that politicians make common sense changes to gun laws to make it harder for people to use guns in mass shootings and easier for people to get the mental health resources that they need.

That can be done while still protecting people’s Second Amendment rights as well as all of the other rights outlined in the Constitution.

The real question is whether any politicians are willing to take those steps, or if they will remain content to putting on their shocked and outraged face for the cameras every time someone takes an easy to obtain firearm and kills a bunch of innocent people while crying “lone wolf” to anyone who will listen.

Students of all ages from preschool to grad school should be able to learn in their classrooms without living in constant fear that someone is going to barge in with a gun.

Likewise, people should feel safe going to see a parade, going to their house of worship, or picking up some groceries on the way home without wondering if the sound they heard was a car backfiring or someone firing a gun.

How many innocent people must be killed before politicians acknowledge there is a problem with gun violence in America and take common sense steps to prevent future attacks on everyday citizens?

The number of victims of mass shootings is already in the thousands. Will it have to reach the tens of thousands before people take proactive steps?

Or, will American society be left in a constant state of reaction where praise is given to the first responders who do things right, criticism is heaped upon those who botch the response, and thoughts and prayers are sent out to the victims along with prayers that the violence stays away from the people sending out the thoughts and prayers?

I guess this was a column about urging elected officials to do something about the unacceptable rise in gun violence and mass shootings after all.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as I said during a column last year following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary, I am off to see if I can make sense out of that another senseless act of violence and see what steps I can take to prevent another one.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Super Bowl Once Again Puts the Use of Native American Mascots in the Global Spotlight

Leading up to this year’s Super Bowl match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs a lot of attention has been placed on the match-up between quarterbacks Jalen Hurts of the Eagles, and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. Barring a late scratch by one of the quarterbacks due to injury, this will mark the first time that two black quarterbacks have started in the Super Bowl.

Having two black quarterbacks starting in a Super Bowl is of course an important milestone. Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl in 1988. Williams was named Super Bowl MVP after leading his team to a decisive victory in Super Bowl XXII. Including Williams, seven black quarterbacks have played in the Super Bowl, with three of the seven leading their team to victory.

With a week of media coverage leading up to the game, the head-to-head battle between Hurts and Mahomes is the type of human interest story that reporters love to cover. Another story gaining traction ahead of the game is the fact that Travis Kelce suiting up for the Chiefs and Jason Kelce playing for the Eagles will mark the first time two brothers have played for different teams in the Super Bowl.

I had the opportunity to cover Super Bowl XXXVIII between the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers and found trying to find new things to write about each day leading up to the game to be quite exhausting. By the time I finished my “Postcards from the Bowl” series, I was worn out from covering the Super Bowl long before the time kickoff rolled around.

As a Super Bowl media week veteran, I can attest that it can be an exhausting week trying to cover all of the stories leading up to the game. Unfortunately, sometimes the stories most in need of coverage are ignored in favor of the shiny things that support the “sports is good” narrative.
Photo R. Anderson

My exhaustion was likely not helped by the fact that after spending eight hours at the Super Bowl experience each day, I still had to do my day job of laying out a sports section and covering high school games.

I say all of this to point out that there is a lot of stuff that gets covered leading up to a Super Bowl. One could argue that there is information overload for the reporters covering the game who are working hard between all of the various social events and parties.

Even the pregame show on the day of the Super Bowl is “super-sized” to the point that the game can often be seen as an afterthought, or merely something to fill the time between the commercials and halftime show.

One thing that should not be relegated to the noise, or considered an afterthought, involves Kansas City’s use of Native American names, image and likeness.

In recent years, a slate of professional sports teams have changed names tied to Native Americans and Indigenous peoples. This includes an MLB team in Cleveland, a Canadian Football League team in Edmonton, and an NFL team in Washington, D.C.

After years of protests, efforts to force a name change in Washington D.C. bore fruit. Similar efforts in Kansas City have failed to gain the same level of results. Protestors are expected to continue their call for change outside the Super Bowl this weekend in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo R. Anderson

As some readers may recall, I have written extensively about my own association with growing up as a fan of the Washington Commanders back when they were known by another name.

While I think that Commanders is a lame name, it does not impact my memories of supporting the team. It does however impact my willingness to buy new team merch. After all, what exactly are they commanding?

While I wish that they had picked a better name, I understand why the name was changed.

While earning my M.S. in Sport Management, I explored the subject of Native American mascots and iconography used by sports teams extensively. Team names like Braves, Chiefs, Indians, Eskimos, and Redskins have long been considered offensive to some indigenous people.

The origin of the team names in many cases were first set up in the early parts of the 20th Century as part of imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race. In both instances, the belief being that the best way to honor the nostalgia of the vanquished was to use names and imagery to remind people of them.

Of course, the problem with hanging one’s nickname hat on imperialist nostalgia, and the myth of the vanishing race, is that the Native American populations are very much still among us. They remain despite efforts throughout American history to wipe them out, or relegate them to out of sight, and out of mind reservations.

So, the use of a population as a mascot becomes problematic when one tries to adhere to the “all men (and women) are created equal” wording of the founding fathers.

Which brings us back full circle to this year’s Super Bowl.

Native American activists who have been urging the team to retire the name “Chiefs,” the arrowhead and the rest of an accumulated 60-plus years of cultural appropriation and stereotyping plan to protest the Chiefs ahead of the game in Phoenix, Arizona.

Although they use Native American iconography, the origin of the Kansas City name is a little different from some of the other sports teams who use Native American terms. The Chiefs were named after former Kansas City Mayor H. Roe “Chief” Bartle as a reward for his efforts to convince Lamar Hunt to move the Dallas Texans, to Kansas City in 1963.

Much like the Washington team before them, the Chiefs have aligned themselves with a group of Native Americans who do not find the name offensive, while mostly ignoring those who do. In defending their name and use of Native American iconography, the Chiefs have an entire website dedicated to all of the ways that they are including Native Americans in their game day festivities.

Of course, as the saga in Washington D.C. showed, Native American culture is not a monolith. Gaining buy-in from one group does not mean that every Native American agrees that the continued use of their imagery is not offensive.

It is likely that when the Chiefs take the field in their third Super Bowl in four years, the Kansas City fans in the stands, and around the globe will do the “tomahawk chop” and “war cry” whenever Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs do something good. There will likely even be some fans wearing headdresses and war paint at the game despite the Kansas City Chiefs barring that practice from their home stadium a few years back.

The Atlanta Braves are among a dwindling number of professional sports teams that have shown little interest in changing their nickname and use of images and chants that some Native American groups find offensive.
Photo R. Anderson

As was the case with me so many years ago, a majority of fans may be unaware that what they are doing is offensive to Native American groups. Such is the sneaky embrace of cultural appropriation.

Unless something changes, the Chiefs will continue to blaze an increasingly less crowded trail with the Atlanta Braves and Florida State Seminoles clinging on to their mascots and customs for the benefit of their fans, and the detriment of indigenous people who have suffered great injustice throughout the history of the great experiment in democracy known as the United States of America.

The purpose of this column is not to make people feel guilty for mistakes and actions taken in the past. The past is the past. As has been said many times, one most learn from the mistakes of history in order to ensure that they are not repeated in the future. Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It is certainly a cause for celebration that there are two black quarterbacks taking the field in the Super Bowl this year. However, as the protests by Native Americans outside the stadium show, there is still a long way to go until all groups can enjoy the game and feel equally recognized.

As the NFL looks to expand their global footprint, it would be wise for them to look at how they treat Native Americans and other groups domestically before spreading their brand further on the international stage.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready to watch some commercials disguised as a football game.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

The State of the Union is…Divided: Presidential Address Shows That Much Work Remains to Forge a More Perfect Union

President Joe Biden has delivered three State of the Union (SOTU) addresses  during his presidency. The most recent address took place on February 7, 2023.

Unlike the previous two addresses where the Democratic party controlled both chambers of Congress, Biden’s most recent address took place before a Democratically controlled Senate, and a Republican led House of Representatives.

At times, the address looked like it had been hijacked by the British parliament with shouting from the gallery directed at Biden, and a fair amount of clap back from the president aimed at his hecklers.

Despite the uncharacteristic back and forth, for brief moments, the address offered a small glimmer of hope that two political parties might agree to actually pass legislation that helped form a more perfect union.

However, for the most part, the address followed the similar pattern of the party of the president agreeing with everything that was said, and the opposition party disagreeing with everything said out of principle during their opposing party rebuttal.

The United States Capitol, depicted here in Lego form, was the site of the State of the Union Address. The address often serves as a barometer for where things stand in the country. Based on the initial reaction, some might feel it would be easier to fix the crack in the Liberty Bell than to heal the divide tearing the nation apart.
Photo R. Anderson

As a classically trained journalist, I was taught to avoid discussing politics in most cases.

Instead, my journalism school professors taught us to report the facts and let our readers decide what position they wanted to take on an issue.

Relying on my trusty friends Who, What, When Where, Why and occasionally How, I have interviewed countless individuals and covered myriad events while always letting the facts tell the story.

Somewhere along the way, in the 20 or so years that have passed since those Journalism school lessons, the environment has certainly changed.

No, I am not talking about global warming, although that has certainly led to changes in the environment. Instead, I am referring to a rise in the inability to discuss issues without people retreating to their trenches on the far left and the far right.

In short, society has moved to the point where it is almost impossible to not talk about politics.

Everyone has an opinion now, and for the most part, they are not afraid to share it with whoever they come in contact with. There are many hot button issues that cause people to dig in ranging from immigration, to renewable energy, and of course the aforementioned global warming.

It is easy to blame social media for the rise in polarization of opinion. Although, a media landscape where people are only fed stories and ideas that coincide with their personal viewpoint is certainly not helping.

While news is getting more partisan on the national level, the rise in news deserts, where the guardrails of sound journalistic principles have given way to a wild, wild west news silo and echo chamber approach, is also contributing to fostering divisions among people.

A 2022 study by the Poynter Institute noted that a fourth of all  local newspapers in the United States have closed since 2005. Some estimates state that an average of two newspapers a day are silencing their presses for good.

Seventy million residents, or roughly 20 percent of the population of the United States, live in communities without easy and affordable access to local news and information that binds the American experiment in democracy at the grassroots level.

A 2022 study by the Poynter Institute noted that a fourth of all the local newspapers in the United States have closed since 2005. Some estimates state that an average of two newspapers a day are silencing their presses for good.
Photo R. Anderson

Of the 10 newspapers I have worked for during my journalism career, only two remain in operation.

The two surviving newspapers have enacted extreme cost cutting measures by relocating to smaller offices, reducing the number of days they print, reducing the width and number of pages of the printed paper, laying off the majority of their staff, and moving their printing operations to remote sites shared with other publications.

When the trusted source of local news is gone, misinformation fills the spot left behind. After all, nature abhors a vacuum.

As a journalist, I am sickened by the decline in the news profession.

As an American citizen, I am worried by what the loss of local trustworthy news means for the future.

So, how does a classically trained journalist navigate the politically charged waters of 2023 without alienating half of their readers?

As noted above, I still try to avoid writing about politics. However, as any long-term reader will recall, during the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic, I dedicated many columns to discussing the shear lunacy of the politicians and sports leagues who were denying the science of the COVID-19 virus for their own selfish gains.

Some politicians even went so far as encouraging their constituents to engage in “treatments” that were dangerous to their health and debunked by science, and in many cases common sense.

As the world slowly emerged from under the COVID-19 fog, I had hoped that the deep divisions along party lines were caused by the hysteria of dealing with a once in a century pandemic, and were not the new normal.

I even went so far as to suggest that society would emerge stronger and a “Coronaissance” that would leave society in a better place then it entered it would occur after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2023, I can sadly report that my predicted Coronaissance did not arrive. If anything, society is even more divided than it was in the before times.

Which, of course, brings me to trying to identify strategies and tactics to use when engaging in conversations about difficult and charged political and social topics.

One could argue that the simplest approach to trying to engage with people who have vastly different political ideals would be to channel the Captain from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” and just throw your hands in the air and say, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men, you just can’t reach.”

It is certainly true that some people will never be swayed, or “reached” to change their opinions no matter what the preponderance of evidence says.

Aside from being sampled by Guns N’ Roses in the song Civil War, the Captain’s speech in the film Cool Hand Luke about a failure to communicate was listed at Number 11 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 most memorable movie lines. As a means of art imitating life, sometimes conversing with individuals entrenched in a certain belief can feel like a real-life failure to communicate.
Photo R. Anderson

Some people will always prefer to stick their heads in the sand ostrich style while enjoying some tasty horse dewormer.

As tempting as it might be to just channel your inner Captain, some people can indeed be reached in the moveable middle.

In my experience, when trying to have a constructive conversation it is always important to not attack someone’s beliefs directly.

Going in with the verbal barrage telling someone all the ways that their point of view is wrong will only cause them to build a wall and stop listening to anything you have to say.

This approach can be especially important when dealing with people whose go to plan for anything they don’t like is building a wall.

Instead, I will ask the person why they believe a certain way and inject opposing and truthful views while gently pointing out along the way that a Facebook post or meme should not be the basis of a life philosophy.

I also will usually point out that as a news junkie myself, I recommended that everyone get their news from multiple sources to avoid the news silo and echo chamber effect caused by only drawing from a single news well.

In a functioning democracy one should be able to have a spirited disagreement on policy issues without it leading to a need to storm a Capitol, or consider everyone who does not think exactly like they do to be the enemy.
Photo R. Anderson

I have also discovered that it can be good practice to point out that in a functioning democracy one should be able to have a spirited disagreement on policy issues without it leading to a need to storm a Capitol, or consider everyone who does not think exactly like they do to be the enemy.

As sound as those practices can be, to quote the late Kenny Rogers, one also must know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away.

This can be walking away from a conversation to salvage a friendship, or it can also be to walk away from the person entirely if their views are just too extreme to discuss rationally.

It is never worth stooping to the level of someone who just will not see reason no matter how hard you try to present the truth.

The state of the union is definitely divided, and I miss those carefree days early in my career when politics was not so front and center in my writing. I would like to think that society will return from the brink and move back towards the middle.

Until then, one just must continue to try building a bridge across the expanse in an attempt to find common ground and hope that those who would want to tear the bridge down are silenced by the voices of those who want to keep it intact.

After all, at the end of the day, failure to communicate is not an option that anyone should accept.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have this sudden urge to watch “Cool Hand Luke” for some reason.

Copyright 2023 R. Anderson

Another Town, Another School: Mass Shooting Pandemic Continues to Infect America

Yesterday another mass shooting occurred at an elementary school in America.

If the above sentence sounds devoid of emotion, it could be because at this point what more emotion is there to give at the constant and senseless acts of mass violence committed by individuals and their guns targeted at innocent people just trying to learn, or as was the case a couple of weeks ago in Buffalo, NY, just trying to get groceries?

In fact, when the first alerts started popping up on my phone, I shrugged it off as just the typical end of school year in America news. It wasn’t until the death toll numbers started to rise that I started to pay more attention.

As a journalist, I am trained to keep my emotions out of a story and just capture the facts. I like to think that is why I did not feel enraged when the first stories about the shooting started coming across my phone. In realty though, I did feel an emotion. I felt numb after realizing I don’t have any more rage to give with all of this senseless death and inaction by politicians at the local and national level to do anything about the pandemic of gun violence that shows no sign of stopping.

Within a single fourth grade classroom at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, 19 children and two teachers were killed.
Photo R. Anderson

Within a single fourth grade classroom at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, TX, 19 children and two teachers were killed.

The fact that they were fourth graders hits a little close to home.

Back in my twenties and early thirties when my mom was working as a fourth-grade teacher, I would often visit her classroom.

Some years I volunteered as a weekly math instructor, and other times I just gave them a career day style speech about what it was like to be a journalist.

Thinking back now on how full of life and curiosity those kids were makes it extra difficult to picture the victims of the latest shooting were killed before their lives really had a chance to take off.

Some of the victims were even murdered on the same day as the end of school awards ceremony, which should have been a day of happiness and celebration. Instead, it was a day of death and destruction.

Even those who survived will carry scars for the rest of their lives. All of the students and staff of Robb Elementary School, along with their families and the larger community are victims. Some were just lucky enough to be called survivors.

Shortly after the shooting, and before many of the bodies had even been identified through DNA evidence based on what happens when an assault rifle tears through the body of 10-year-old child, a Texas politician, who I refuse to name, stayed “on brand” when he said that the solution to ending gun violence was to arm more citizens.

Following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, TX in 2019, instead of cracking down on guns, Texas made it easier for people to get guns by eliminating burdensome gun permitting and training requirements that had caused citizens to have to wait a few days to get their guns and also show that they took a course to know how to responsibly use them.

Following a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, TX in 2019, instead of cracking down on guns, Texas made it easier for people to get guns by eliminating burdensome gun permitting and training requirements that had caused citizens to have to wait a few days to get their guns and also show that they took a course to know how to responsibly use them.
Photo R. Anderson

In Texas they seem to go by a belief that one is just endowed with an inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit and possession of as many firearms as possible.

By eliminating the pesky paperwork and allowing open Constitutional Carry, Texas lawmakers made it easier to wear a gun outside one’s pants for all the honest world to feel as the song goes.

Before I continue, let me get this statement out of the way, lest people stop reading. I am not saying to ban all guns. I am not saying the Second Amendment should be struck from the United States Constitution.

What I am saying is, who in their right mind would think that average citizens need to own assault weapons that were designed to inflict mass carnage on a battlefield in times of war?

Think of the types of guns that were around when the founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment, and then ask yourself whether those same men would have guaranteed such a wide-ranging freedom of gun ownership, without specific caveats related to high powered weapons, if assault rifles had been around at the time of the writing of the Constitution.

There is a big difference between saying someone has the right to own a single shot musket versus saying they have the right to own a high-powered assault rifle with a large capacity magazine.

This weekend while many families of the victims of the Uvalde shooting are burying their children in tiny coffins, five hours away in Houston, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem are among the many politicians scheduled to address the attendees at the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) annual meeting that kicks off 72 hours after the Robb Elementary School shooting.

To his credit, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has decided not to attend the meeting due to an “unexpected change” in his schedule. Additionally, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston) has opted out citing travel to Ukraine as his reason for missing the event.

One can only hope that others encounter similar unexpected schedule changes between now and the start of the conference. It is easy to say you can’t attend because you are out of the country. It is far braver to tell the NRA that you are choosing not to attend out of principle versus travel plans.

The tight knit attached at the hip holster relationship between some politicians and the gun lobbies demonstrates why it is so hard to enact common sense gun reform in America.  After every mass shooting, people call out for their elected leaders to do something about the uniquely American issue of gun violence.

Yet, instead of making lasting reform, politicians will send out thoughts and prayers and try to paint the shooter as either a lone wolf who had racist ideals, or a lone wolf who had mental health struggles.

Speaking of the mental health excuse, in a turn of phrase more suited to a 19th Century Charles Dickens novel than a 21st Century press conference following a mass shooting at an elementary school, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said earlier today that the fault in the shooting was not that of a system that allowed an 18-year-old person to buy an assault rifle and over 350 rounds of ammunition.

Instead, Abbott said that the fault fell on the community of Uvalde for not having the mental health hospital bed capacity to lock away people suffering from mental illness. Abbott definitely stayed on the guns don’t kill people branding.

To paraphrase a line from A Christmas Carol, Abbott seems to be channeling his inner Ebenezer Scrooge by saying that those with mental illness had best be locked away to decrease the surplus population of mass shootings. Pointing out all of the flaws in that stance is definitely a column for another day.

The problem with the labeling every mass shooter as a lone wolf approach is that once you start counting all of the lone wolves, they start to form a pack and bring light to a larger issue that cannot be so easily swept away by saying it was merely a single shooter.

Again, I am not saying that people do not have a right to bare arms. But seriously, what purpose does an AR-15, or other assault rifle have other than to deliver as many bullets as possible in the shortest amount of time?

Early in my journalism career, I had the opportunity to interview a man who traveled the country teaching high school students how to survive an active shooter attack at their school. Promoting a common-sense approach may have worked 20 years ago, but I have to question whether that approach nowadays is the equivalent of telling students to hide under a desk during nuclear fallout.
Photo R. Anderson

Early in my journalism career, I had the opportunity to interview a man who traveled the country teaching high school students how to survive an active shooter attack at their school.

School shootings were relatively rare when I wrote that article. In the years since, there have been countless school shootings and lives lost inside classrooms across the country. School active shooting drills have gone from a novelty item to a part of daily life for school children of all ages.

The program was sponsored in part by a funeral home. Let that sink in for a moment. A funeral home where victims of a school shooting would end up sponsored a program trying to let students know how to survive an active shooter.

However, as many active shooter cases have shown through the years, no amount of training or preparation can stop someone in body armor from barricading themselves in a classroom and shooting innocent children and teachers at will.

I am forever grateful that when I was in school my greatest fear was whether I would get to the bus stop in time, and not whether or not some lunatic was going to burst through the door and kill me and my classmates.
Photo R. Anderson

I am forever grateful that when I was in school my greatest fear was whether I would get to the bus stop on time, and not whether or not some lunatic was going to burst through the door and kill me and my classmates.

We should not continue to accept a narrative that we are a society where going to school and going to get groceries means that we could be used for target practice.

We should also not try to quickly say that every shooter was just a lone wolf who fell through the cracks of the mental health care system, or a racist with unique ideas, and therefore there is nothing to see here kids.

Of course, if history is any indication, after the victims of the Robb Elementary School shooting are buried this weekend, and the NRA convention wraps up in Houston, it will be business as usual with thoughts and prayers for all, and guns available for purchase as far as the eye can see.

And, if Governor Abbott has his way a new mental health hospital will break ground in Uvalde.

Enough is enough.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if I can make sense out of that another senseless act of violence and see what steps I can take to prevent another one.

Copyright 2022 R. Anderson