Tag Archive: Loma Prieta


 “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” – CNN anchor Bernard Shaw’s opening debate question to 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis

“No, I don’t Bernard. And I think you know I opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that’s it’s a deterrent and I think there are more effective ways to deal with violent crime …” — Dukakis’ answer to Shaw’s question.

How could Shaw have asked that question? More astonishingly, how could Dukakis have failed to explode at it?” – Jack Germond and Jules Witcover, “Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars”

The unthinkable and startling image of the first lady of Massachusetts being raped and murdered was offered up by a respected CNN anchor, Bernard Shaw, from your father’s CNN of 1988 … obviously not the hyper-partisan CNN of today.

Some reportedly accused Shaw of throwing a fast-ball right down the plate for Dukakis to angrily hit the ball out of the ballpark. Shaw emphatically denied this assertion.

Dukakis didn’t even swing. His wonkish answer without showing any vitriol or emotion about Shaw raising the spectre of a raped and murdered Kitty Dukakis, effectively ended the campaign of the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.

The author of Almost DailyBrett distinctly remembers settling into his seat for the October 13, 1988 second presidential debate at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, when Shaw serving as moderator opened the proceedings with his provocative (understatement) question.

To most in the audience and millions more at home, Shaw’s question was shocking, one-sided as it did not apply to both candidates … Vice President George H.W. Bush and Dukakis.

Having said that, Dukakis and his campaign team had to know that a death penalty question was coming. Looking back, the Shaw question was a great opportunity for the Massachusetts governor to express outrage, thus firing up his supporters and maybe even the electorate.

Can you imagine one of today’s CNN anchor/correspondent asking that kind of question to a Democratic standard bearer in Donald Trump’s America?

Whattyathink Anderson Cooper? Don Lemon? Jim Acosta? Chris Cuomo? Jake Tapper?

Are There Any Objective Reporters Left To Moderate Presidential Debates?

“News people are no longer trained that they have to bury their personal views and bend over backwards to be fair. That concept went out the window a long time ago.” — Edwin J. Salzman, former Sacramento Bee Capital Bureau Chief

“ … If you have a son in the Marine Corps, and that you don’t trust the commander-in-chief (Trump)” – ABC Martha Raddatz, crying on 2016 election night.

Do you think Raddatz will ever be asked again to serve as a fair, objective and dispassionate presidential debate moderator?

How about noted-for-his-personal-integrity, Brian Williams of MSNBC?

More to the point, is there anyone at Jeff Zucker’s  CNN, who could be trusted to fill this critical role?

Almost DailyBrett has asked this question before and will pose it again: Where is this generation’s Walter Cronkite?

More to the point: Where is modern day equivalent of Bernard Shaw?

“Never laugh at Ted Turner too early …”

There was a time when America supposedly needed only three networks: ABC, CBS and NBC.

CNN (Cable News Network) was Ted Turner’s dream, which after initial scoffing and snickering became the first all-news, all-the-time network.

The network was there to cover live virtually any significant event regardless of its origin around the world … This was Bernard Shaw’s CNN. He served as the network’s lead anchor from 1980-2001.

When the San Francisco Bay Area was struck by the 6.9 Richter Scale Loma Prieta Earthquake on October 17, 1989, my boss California Governor George Deukmejian was sleeping in an airport hotel in Frankfurt, Germany.

By the means of a continuously open line from our office to the governor’s hotel room, and just as important through the reporting of CNN, Governor Deukmejian was able to direct the state’s response to the earthquake from nine-time zones away.

California’s Lt. Gov. Leo McCarthy was in San Francisco, when Loma Prieta struck with no phone connections, zero television (including CNN) and literally no way to communicate.

This may seem like a stretch, but Almost DailyBrett appreciated at the time that Bernard Shaw’s CNN had become America’s go-to-network for news and information.

Alas, a shift to über-partisan journalism accelerated with the creation of MSNBC, serving the left, and Fox News, oriented to the right, both in 1996.

CNN continued with its emphasis on breaking news stories, but some concluded it was Melba toast, thus suffering in the Nielsen Ratings, compared to MSNBC and Fox News.

Today, CNN has morphed into the second coming of MSNBC with a 24-7-365 stream of angry talking-heads’ invective directed against a hated president. The country already has a MSNBC, it doesn’t need another one.

Does any CNN anchor today exhibit the professionalism, integrity and objectivity to dispassionately moderate a 2020 general election debate?

During Bernard Shaw’s era, the answer was an emphatic, “yes.”

Today the answer is “no,” … “hell no.”

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/lists/debatemoments/bernieshaw.html

http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1844704_1844706_1844712,00.html

https://www.politico.com/story/2018/01/31/raddatz-media-watching-each-other-a-little-more-after-missteps-reporting-on-trump-378739

https://www.thewrap.com/donald-trump-president-martha-raddatz-tears-up-abc-news/

“ … Y’all sit here, y’all trying to interview people during their worst times. Like that’s not the smartest thing to do … like people are really breaking down, and y’all are sitting here with cameras and microphones trying to ask us what the fuck is wrong with us.” – Houston Mother to CNN covering Hurricane Harvey

“We got the bubble-headed-bleach-blond, who comes on at five. She can tell you ’bout the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. It’s interesting when people die. Give us dirty laundry.” – Don Henley, Dirty Laundry, 1982

The author of Almost DailyBrett was present at more than his fair share of fires, floods and earthquakes, first as a reporter and later as the press secretary for former California George Deukmejian.

Regardless of the particular circumstances or magnitude of the disaster (e.g., 1989 Loma Prieta 7.1 intensity earthquake), one thing was always certain: The media was out of control, and had no sense of proportion.

The media eventually becomes obsessed with who is responsible, when it just can a combination of geography (i.e., flood plains, seismic faults, hurricane paths) and the ferocity of Mother Nature. Many times no one is at fault, but with the media someone must be the scapegoat – the higher in the political strata, the better

The pattern begins with the media focusing on the particulars (e.g., time, epicenter, Richter scale reading, number dead, number wounded, damage estimates, how to contribute to disaster relief …). This information is vital to the public, and demonstrates the power of the media at its finest.

Predictably, the media grows bored with the mere reporting the facts and inevitably the hunt begins for who is responsible – even when no one is responsible. The attitude changes from reporting the news to an all-effort to assign blame.

But that’s not all.

Next up is the effort to interpret the news, offering their expert opinions, and to become part of the story by portraying the “human tragedy.”

The media for years has been guilty of placing a live camera lens and a boom mike in the face of someone is obviously grieving and suffering – maybe the Houston mother and her children having the worst day in their lives – and asking how she feels right then and there.

This footage is considered to be great television in Atlanta or New York, which drives ratings and in-turn, precious advertiser dollars. What may be great television to network execs (e.g., CNN) is seen by many as cheap exploitation of those who are suffering by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Do these victims deserve a little consideration and sympathy before the boom mike and camera is thrust into their faces? The Houston mom called out CNN in a graphic and profane way for having absolutely no consideration of her feelings, and the suffering endured by her children.

Will CNN and its rivals ever learn a lesson about sensitivity and empathy as a result of this shameless exercise? Almost DailyBrett will take the “under.”

Redefining ‘Disaster Porn’

“Can we film the operation? Is the head dead yet? You know, the boys in the newsroom got a running bet, get the widow on the set! We need dirty laundry” – Dirty Laundry, Don Henley

The conventional definition of “Disaster Porn” reflects on those who try to economically exploit a crisis (e.g., September 11, Boston Marathon Bombing) with special t-shirts and hats to demonstrate solidarity with the responders and victims. In reality, these are arbitrage opportunities disguised as cause marketing for those who only look to profit off misery.

But what is the difference in making a buck by selling t-shirts and hats on one hand, and thrusting boom mikes and microphones in the face of grieving people while broadcasting live to drive ratings on the other hand?

Almost DailyBrett is not necessarily equating making a cheap buck off the sale of disaster event hats and t-shirts with the exploitation of misery by the networks and labeling both of them as “disaster porn.”

Having said that, there needs to be a process in which the network asks off-camera with the full-calm assent of the victim to a live or taped interview before the interview takes place.

How about it, CNN?

Sure beats being scolded on national television with an F-bomb for emphasis.

http://nypost.com/2017/08/29/harvey-victim-with-freezing-kid-curses-out-cnn-reporter/

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=disaster%20porn

http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/americas-addiction-to-disaster-porn/

https://www.conservativereview.com/articles/disaster-porn-or-ethical-coverage-houston-mom-goes-off-on-cnn

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_Laundry_(Don_Henley_song)

https://playback.fm/charts/top-100-songs/video/1982/Don-Henley-Dirty-Laundry

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/10/15/loma-prieta/

 

Meet the baby of the family, the unexpected/unplanned baby of the family.

This coming Saturday, Pi Day, the mathematically inept, right-brained baby will “celebrate” the successful navigation of 60 years on the planet, and look forward to hopefully plenty more.kmb2

Much has changed since the decade of Ike, Elvis, Disneyland, Sputnik, U2 (not the band) and “Senator, have you no sense of decency?”

The author of Almost DailyBrett has always been a tad vertically challenged; in time became follicly challenged, and still vows to never-ever be horizontally challenged. Looking forward to Saturday’s cross-training with Nike+, charting the results.

Tempted to mimic a lyric, “Oh, what a long, strange trip it has been,” but I was never into that kind of “trip.” When it comes to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, always been a big fan of the first, still dig the latter (never was a Dead Head), and never understood the appeal of the “medicine.”

Baby Boomers are supposed to wax nostalgic for the 1960s and the demonstrations in the streets of Chicago and arrests on the quad at Berkeley. What the heck happened to your author? Instead, he pleasantly recollects the 1980s, when he tied the knot for the first time, became a father to Allison, when it was Morning in America.

California even balanced its budget, raised zero taxes and maintained a $1 billion for emergency. Almost sounds quaint when compared to today’s oceans of red ink for our children’s children to pay. Yep, the 1980s worked; they always will; historical revisionism be damned.

Come to think of it, during my life a Wall went up in 1961 (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and it came down 28 years later (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”). O.J. sliced up UCLA’s defense in 1967 and Nicole Brown a generation later.

Nothing has ever been permanent, particularly disco, hem-and-tan lines.

Brady Bunch Neighborhood

Growing up in lily-white Glendale, California in the age of Hogan’s Heroes and the God-awful Brady Bunch, your blog writer will always be grateful for those priests and nuns who taught writing, reading and literature. They also transformed me into the rotten Catholic I am today with their unique combination of arrogance, boorishness and corporal punishment.

Sorry to say Padre, you were wrong: Mary Magdalene was not a whore.

There was the bitter divorce of 1967, but with it came life-long lessons about how to and how NOT to treat the fairer gender. Monogamy with a special one is best; you should try it and stick with it, fellow hombres.ibmselectric

My love of writing began at eight-years old, the very same year in which the school loud speakers told us about the death of a young president. This same infatuation with the pencil, pen, IBM Selectric, work station, PC, and now the mobile device continued as man walked on the moon, a president resigned, our diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, and planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Growing up, always thought that Nixon’s first name was “Damn.” Came to appreciate that Tricky Dick and Slick Willie were spot-on names for my least favorite presidents. Thankfully, Nixon abolished the draft. There was no ‘Nam for me, University of Oregon instead.

The Earth Shook

Eventually graduated from the University of Southern California with a Rose Bowl ring and no loans. Yes I was fortunate, but a long career laid before me. Cut my teeth covering the Proposition 13 tax-revolt earthquake in 1978. Toured the Soviet Union in 1981, seeing the Evil Empire and its grip on people up close and personal. Recruited to serve as the press director for the Deukmejian Campaign Committee the following year. We won the governorship of California at 5 am the day-after-the-election. We recorded the biggest landslide in blue state California’s history four years later.

Sacramento has two seasons: Hot and Cold. Served as the Governor George Deukmejian’s press secretary as the earth shook San Francisco (e.g., Loma Prieta Earthquake). Was told “The Bay Bridge is in the Water.”  Whew, it was not true, even though the Cypress Structure mysteriously came down.cypressstructure

Next was trees, owls, chips and Japan, which led to the fifth most famous person from Liverpool, Wilf Corrigan, and LSI Logic. Saw the Internet bubble rise and inevitably it exploded, resulting in seven rounds of layoffs and a company on the brink. We survived and yet it was time for Wilf to retire … The world moved on to social, mobile and cloud.

Faced mortality twice, first with prostate cancer and then with Valley Fever/Meningitis. Fought off the first and battled the second to a draw, and yet it was my first wife, Robin, who lost her battle to cancer. Life is unfair. Life is fickle. Life is finite.

Attained the so-called “Holy Grail” of public relations, vaunted agency experience with a life-changing side-effect; subbing at Santa Clara University. Could I teach at the college level, maybe even at the school that caused time to stop with “Kenny Wheaton is going to score; Kenny Wheaton is going to score”?DSC01171

Accepted a fellowship to the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and earned 15 months later my master’s degree. The attainment of a second career was complete with a full-time instructor position at UO, and now a tenure-track assistant professor gig, teaching public relations/advertising/corporate communications/investor relations at Central Washington University.

And best of all, the author of Almost DailyBrett turned his attention away from his blog long enough to survey the field of contenders on Match.com. The result was a love affair with Jeanne, fireworks on the Fourth of July, and trips in the little green chariot. Next up is our long-overdue romantic honeymoon to Bavaria and Tuscany, Mad King Ludwig’s castles and Under the Tuscan Sun.

I am one lucky dude.

Today, I am inspired by Mick and Keith at 71, Ronnie at 68, and geriatric Charlie at 73 on worldwide tour. To use more than a few metaphors, there is still plenty of gas in the tank and the engine continues to rev every morning. It’s pedal to the metal time.

“Oh what a long, strange trip it has been.” Looking forward to continuing the ride with the top down and my few remaining hairs flowing in the breeze.DSC01421

 

The author of Almost DailyBrett will not drive on the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.

Yes, a reported 110,000 motorists each day use the picturesque Route 99 with its views of Puget Sound.

alaskaviaduct1

Just don’t count me among those who make the drive. The same applies for walking under the double-decker highway to check out the restaurants, shops and amusements fronting the water.

The reason is simple: Memories of Loma Prieta.

“The Bay Bridge is in the Water”

This coming Friday is the 25th anniversary of the 6.9 on the Richter magnitude scale Loma Prieta Earthquake that struck at 5:04 pm PDT just as the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants were preparing for Game Three of the 1989 World Series in antiquated Candlestick Park.

There is something about earthquakes. Once you have experienced a trembler, you instinctively know when it is déjà vu all over again. My first was the 1971 Sylmar Quake in Southern California, registering 6.6 on the Richter. There was a book case above my bed with two huge marble bookends (“dinosaur eggs”); one of which almost hit me in the head.

Twenty-eight years later, the Capitol dome in Sacramento was shaking violently. Al Michaels and Tim McCarver went off the air (in this case, not a good thing). There are no fault lines in the vicinity of California’s capital city.

My assistant press secretary was experiencing her first earthquake. She asked me to “make it stop. Please make it stop.” My influence was and remains limited when it comes to Mother Nature.

As the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian, I picked up the phone and called the Office of Emergency Services. OES will always take a phone call for the Office of the Governor.

baybridge1.jph

Their info was sketchy, but here were the details: A major 6.9 earthquake hit the Bay Area. The Bay Bridge is in the water. San Francisco is on fire. The 880 Cypress Street Viaduct or Cypress Structure came down. The governor is in Germany … Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Compounding matters were urgent thoughts about my deputy press secretary. He was sitting in the upper deck on Candlestick Park when Loma Prieta struck. Did he ride the upper deck down to the lower deck?

‘Stop thinking this way, let’s just pray for the best.’

Media Types Come Unglued

Our phone lines lit up (there were no cell phones, let alone texting back in the stone ages) with one reporter after another calling, and I was serving as the lead spokesperson for the State of California. Instinct governed me to buy time. Even though I was told the eight-mile, double-decked Bay Bridge (16 miles of cars and trucks) were in the water, I did not know that as a fact. All press secretaries make mistakes, particularly when one takes upwards of 70 media calls in a typical day. Thankfully I did not share the preliminary info from OES, which easily would have triggered shock headlines around the world.

As it mercifully turned out the entire Bay Bridge was not in the water, but a section of the top layer of the cantilever came down onto the bottom deck. The Marina District of San Francisco was on fire, but it was not 1906 all over again for the City by the Bay. The Cypress Street Viaduct collapsed with the top deck crushing cars and motorists on the lower deck, killing 41 of the 63 who perished in Loma Prieta.

The next day, I was playing lion-tamer beside the Cypress Structure with about 400 reporters, including dozens of cameras and sound booms, and one Governor George Deukmejian who was trying to personally assess the damage. It was the first time that I experienced the smell of death. Again, my instinct was clicking.

As the days went on, the media cover took a sinister turn. It was no longer, who, what, when, where and how … but why did the Cypress Structure come down? Who was responsible? Gee, I thought it was Mother Nature.

cypressstructure

Did the governor veto funds for earthquake retrofit? Ahh … no. Did the state spend the funds for earthquake retrofit? Ahh … yes. Was the earthquake retrofit work completed? Ahh … yes, the first phase was complete. How does Caltrans test earthquake retrofits? Ahh … the Caltrans engineers shake models (You can’t shake a freeway).

One chain-smoking reporter for the now-hanging-on-by-its-fingernails San Francisco Examiner came up and proclaimed her reason for the collapse of the Cypress Structure: “(Caca) happens.”

Eventually the media lost interest in Loma Prieta, the very same natural disaster that inflicted an estimated $6 billion in damage and wounded nearly 4,000 in addition to those who lost their lives. In the Office of the Governor, we continued to set up gubernatorial tours of towns and cities impacted by the quake (e.g., Santa Cruz County) even though some media outlets passed on the story. It was the right thing to do.

When it comes to crisis communications, the predetermined emergency plan loses its luster. Instead, your instinct and training needs to kick in. Even though it is tough to be cool, calm and collected that is exactly what is required. And by all means don’t tell reporters, “The Bay Bridge is in the water.”

And maybe you shouldn’t walk under the Alaskan Viaduct either.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/02/27/the-bay-bridge-is-in-the-water/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1989_Loma_Prieta_earthquake

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypress_Street_Viaduct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viaduct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaskan_Way_Viaduct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_San_Fernando_earthquake

 

 

The capitol building was shaking violently. And yet there are no faults in the immediate vicinity of Sacramento.

Instantly, I picked up the phone and called the State Office of Emergency Services. I inquired about the first reports that “San Francisco is on fire” and “The Bay Bridge is in the water.” I was numb and couldn’t even conceive the horrific nature of the 6.9 on-the-Richter-scale, Loma Prieta Earthquake http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loma_Prieta_Earthquake. It was October 17, 1989 and I was the press secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Deukmejian. This one was on our watch.

Reading and watching the news reports today of the reported 8.8-on-the-Richter-scale earthquake in Chile it is almost impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the quake. The Chile trembler is at least 100 times more powerful than the Loma Prieta Earthquake that rocked Northern California. A seismologist can tell you for sure what is the difference in degree, but rest assured it is huge.

baybridge

For those in public relations/crisis communications, a major natural disaster requires you to throw away the manual. Yes contact information is incredibly valuable, but you are left to your instincts and your training as a reporter/journalist. Who? What? When? Why? How? You are now a hunter-gatherer, in this case you are searching and clawing for information, particularly correct information. What are the facts? What is the truth on the ground? Is the Bay Bridge really in the water? More importantly, what are you (e.g. State of California) going to do about it?

The first three days after the Earthquake were mainly focused on getting the governor to the site (he was in Frankfurt, Germany when Loma Prieta hit) and coordinating the state’s emergency response. The media was constantly reporting changing figures about where was the epicenter? What was the intensity? How many have been killed and injured? And what are the damage estimates? Fair enough.

And then, the reporting took a more sinister turn.cypressstructure

The biggest issue in Loma Prieta was the collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct of the “Nasty Nimitz,” Interstate 880 in Oakland, CA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypress_Street_Viaduct. A 1.25-mile section of the freeway failed with the top deck crushing cars on the lower deck, killing 41 drivers and passengers. The media wanted to know who was responsible.

Gee, wasn’t it Mother Nature?

Did Governor Deukmejian veto funds for earthquake retrofit? Did the state allocate funds for earthquake retrofit? Did the state actually complete the earthquake retrofit work? Why did the freeway collapse? Why were the Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) engineers wrong? The questions came pouring in. Thankfully we had not vetoed funds. We had actually allocated these resources. Work had been done, but still the freeway collapsed.

Here is my question that is just as relevant today as it was 21 years ago: Why was the media so obsessed with assigning blame in a natural disaster? No one wanted the Cypress Structure to come down, but it did. There are always lessons to be learned after any disaster.

Finally after 10 days of this grueling exercise, a chain-smoking reporter came up to me and in her raspy voice she summed up what happened to the Cypress structure, “(Caca) happens.”reporters

The media has a job to do in providing valuable information to the public about a natural disaster, but don’t be mistaken into thinking we are all in this together. If you are working for a major public official or a major corporation in an affected area, you should understand that the Fourth Estate is more than happy to make this your responsibility. For reporters, the bigger you are, the harder you can fall and we are not talking about bridges and buildings. Effective crisis communications also involves never letting down your guard and being as vigilant about protecting reputations as ever.

In the final analysis, your organization needs to be part of the answer. You need to demonstrate your concern about your own employees, your communities and society as a whole. For the State of California, we worked to tirelessly to demonstrate our response to the earthquake and care for the people who were affected. In fact, we continued to work on our response long after the media grew tired and weary of the story.

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