Goodbye, Bob

I have the morning off and I’m taking advantage of my time by listening to the final broadcast of Morning Edition featuring Bob Edwards. For the most part it’s business as usual — news updates on Fallujah and a feature on desegregation.

Bob Edwards: 30 years on NPRThen after the sports guy talks about the NBA playoffs it gets a little weird — the guy (John Feinstein) breaks format and thanks Bob for everything over the past 15 years at the end of the segment. This sort of thing pops up about 4 more times throughout the program.

It’s a rare moment where the “wall” is broken and a program and longtime host addresses itself. The moments (especially from the commentators) sound heartfelt by and large. Unfortunately, the last segment from Susan Stamberg referring to the tribute on the NPR Web site seems tacked on.

The whole situation just adds to my memories about when I first heard Bob. I didn’t appreciate Bob when I first heard him. It was 1993 and I was in the ninth grade in Roswell, Ga. My first exposure to NPR was going to an early morning student council meeting.

I carpooled to school with a friend on those mornings. The mornings when her father drove, the car radio was tuned to public radio. I remember hearing Bob Edwards’s rumbling voice through the car speakers. The news wasn’t that big of deal to me back then and I thought it was more than a little dry.

Years later, I’m working at my first job in San Diego in 1995. I spin through the dial trying to find something to keep me sane and awake. My fingers land on KPBS after I hear Edwards’ voice as he conducts an interview. Edwards’ presentation of the news and detailed stories helped keep me focused and calm through a lot of morning commutes.

Ultimately, Bob Edwards has been the voice of calm and reason cutting through the static of increasingly bland and inane radio that’s been done in through creeping consolidation and a drive to the lowest common denominator. During the most chaotic of times, NPR and Edwards provided thorough information with a personal touch.

Of course, National Public Radio’s conduct throughout this entire affair has been largely lackluster — putting a man out to pasture 6 month before a landmark anniversary without announcing a good reason is poor form. The network belatedly pays its respects to Edwards’ career with Bob Edwards: 30 Years on NPR. My best wishes go with Bob as he moves into a new role as senior correspondent.

Followup: I was wrong thinking that no one finding anything wrong with Nightline’s tribute running the names of U.S. soldiers KIA in Iraq tonight. The Poynter Institute has an interview with Nightline anchor Ted Koppel about the broadcast and some of the fire directed at the show by talk shows and columnists.

Saying the program isn’t in the “public interest,” Sinclair Broadcasting is refusing to air the program on its 8 ABC network affiliates.

I know it’s really easy to make any thing under the sun political, but the conservatives are making far too much of what really is a simple tribute that requires no journalistic digging whatsoever. It might be that war supporters are opposed to anything that will “undermine” the war effort.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen anything noting the coincidence that the program will end on May 1 — the anniversary of President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” photo op. Given that, I think the timing of the program could be suspect beyond the fact the program airs during TV’s May sweeps.

When it’s all said and done, what Nightline is airing is a simple tribute that’ll probably tug at a few heartstrings. It’s a far cry from a in-depth report probing the U.S. government’s conduct into the Iraq conflict and the reconstruction since Bush boarded the USS Abraham Lincoln just as it was within sight of San Diego.

Fall in

ABC’s Nightline is planning to read all the names of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq Friday. (BBC story). It’s a fitting tribute to those killed overseas during this war/occupation, and I would probably be hard-pressed to find people opposed to it.

One questions concerns me: How does the honoring of servicemen and women killed in action by playing their stories, pictures and lives over our newspapers and TV screens differ from those photos of the coffins released last week? (BBC story).

The U.S. government has said the restrictions on media coverage of the return of war dead to the U.S. was imposed to respect the privacy of the victim’s families. I can understand this desire, but there’s no right to privacy in the U.S. Constitution.

Bottom line, you have two competing rights here that aren’t enumerated in the Constitution. They include a right to privacy and a right to access the government by the people (and the media).

I think the government fails in this case. There’s absolutely no way to discern the individual identity of each coffin while there is a vital public interest in seeing the government’s execution of the war effort.

Unfortunately, we have an administration that’s more concerned about controlling information rather than let the people have access (except when it suits their political ends).

Sadly, the Bush White House’s on-going enforcement of a 1991 policy is just the latest in a series of concealment that goes back four years (over 30 if you count Bush’s duck on the National Guard issue).

A side note: Things have been extremely hectic over the three weeks. New leadership at work and a brief vacation on top of regular duties have just got everything out of whack. Sadly, blogging is one of the first things to go.

So, so sad

It’s been a crazy week at work, and I might tell a few stories in a little bit. For now, I’d like to indulge in a little external introspection.

A year ago, I was king. I ego-search for my name every once in a while — just for kicks — and I’m disappointed about how far I’ve fallen.

For a long time, I was numero uno (or at least on the first few pages) whenever anyone looked for my name (Ryan Olson) on Google. That wasn’t even my blog — it was my lonely GeoCities page that I essentially dropped when Yahoo! dropped FTP access. Sadly those days are no more.

I was on top of the heap, top dog, and now where am I at? My first hit comes at around 107 (for a Picnic Day message I wrote four years ago). My oh-so-new clocks in at around 656 out of 6,890 hits. BTW, kudos to Gimpysoft — that Ryan’s all over the place.

Now what’s sadder — the fact that I rank so lowly in Google, or the fact that I’m whining about it?

So for now if anyone (and to be honest I don’t know who) trying to find my site wouldn’t go that route. I guess the one sense that I do get from digging through all those Ryan Olsons — that range from athletes to programmers to possible offenders — is the sense of wonder at how many different lives people with the same name are living. Of course they’re not me, but there’s a common bond solely because of the same name. That’s been addressed in an episode of This American Life.

As I filter through the chaff of the other Ryans to find the wheat-y identity of myself, I come upon a few reminders of my past which stir emotions and deep memories that I don’t often dwell on.

Some of the hits are off beat — like Pep Band articles or meeting minutes of a story I covered. Still some are reminders of how utterly forgettable I am — a comments page of a former collegiate newspaper colleague has my identity mistaken with another. Yet still others are reminders of dark chapters — some message archive included some comments about decisions that were made at the Guardian.

It’s those memories that upset me the most. I, like many others I think, have developed a positive version of themselves. These links to the past are reminders that we are not infallible. It’s definitely a different perspective and one I’m not all that comfortable with at times.