des moines, Iowa, life, Media, sports

Drake says ‘bye, bye’ to Coach Jennie; departure reminds Des Moines it’s a stop, not a destination

Former (sigh) Drake women’s basketball coach Jennie Baranczyk.

Congratulations to Jennie Baranczyk on being named coach of the Oklahoma Sooners women’s basketball team.

I mean that.

But it hurts to say it.

Last week, Baranczyk was the Urbandale kid who starred at Dowling Catholic High School and then the University of Iowa before eventually taking over her hometown Drake women’s basketball team. She was, in my mind, one of Des Moines’ brightest lights.

Now she’s the big boss for the Sooner women’s team.

Good for Jennie.

Brutal bummer for Drake and Des Moines.

I covered the Drake women’s team early in my career when they had another superstar coach, Lisa Bluder. Covering teams was the highlight of my career, which is sad since it happened before I was a full-time journalist.

Bluder left for Iowa 20 years ago. I loved — and still love — Bluder, her assistants Jan Jensen and Jenny Fitzgerald, a pair of Drake alums.

But it still hurts a little that they coach the Hawkeyes.

I understood it.

Iowa is in the Big Ten, a so-called Power Five conference. They’re the biggest and best schools when it comes to sports. Plus, Bluder was from nearby Lin-Marr. She was moving up and going home.

Baranczyk gave Drake nine magnificent seasons, including six 20-win seasons, three NCAA Tournament bids and two consecutive seasons where her Bulldogs posted undefeated conference records.

Now she’s off to ply her skills for the Sooners, another Power Five school.

I’m happy for Baranczyk. I’ve only interacted with her a few times, but each one was terrific. I felt uplifted every time. She’s fun and driven. She made my beloved Drake women’s team winners.

What more could I ask of her?

Well, maybe I could beg her to stay.

But I’m a realist.

That Baranczyk left Drake for Oklahoma is a fact of life, one that Bulldog fans are well used to by now.

Remember when Keno Davis, the great Tom Davis’ son, took Drake men’s team to the NCAA Tournament back in 2008? The younger Davis got $1 million to go coach Providence.

Drake couldn’t come up with the cash. Well, there were rumors that some boosters cobbled together a competing offer, but the administration didn’t want the basketball coach to be paid more than the university president.

Regardless, Keno went to Providence and the men’s program endured a series of mediocre coaches until Drake hired Darian DeVries, who got the Bulldogs to the NCAA Tournament this year.

Drake rewarded him with an eight-year extension. We’ll have to wait for a couple years of federal 990 form filings to find out how much cash is involved, but I’d put a nickel down that DeVries makes more than the university president now.

That said, if DeVries took the Bulldogs to the tournament a second year in a row, nothing in that extended contract would prevent another Power Five school from scooping him up.

This is the sad song of mid-major basketball schools. It’s all about the coaches, but once you get good ones you can’t hang on to them.

I’m a Des Moines native. This is my hometown. I moved away for a few years. I didn’t like it. I came home. This is my place.

Over the years, I’ve learned to stop taking it personally when bright lights such as Baranczyk leave for more money and bigger stakes in other places. Everybody has the right to pursue their highest levels.

But the losses still squeeze the heart.

The reality is for so many high achievers, Des Moines is a stop on the journey, not a destination.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
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des moines, Faith and Values, life, Media, mental health, People

Losing friends in the 21st century: blocking phones, unfollowing social media accounts, mean-spirited mail — can’t we all just drift apart?

From the desk of Paragraph Stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

“You’re sorry, all right,” the familiar voice said. “Give me a call.”

The message came from a former friend. We made two solid goes at being close friends. Both efforts ended badly. I was not up for a third go.

I admired my former friend. He was an excellent journalist. He should have been writing for the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. His understanding of the economy, particularly labor and banking, were unparalleled by any journalist I’ve ever met.

He came from a hardscrabble upbringing in the Bronx. There were family issues. Those are his story to tell, not mine. But I think those hard knocks early in life gave my former friend a puncher’s mentality to daily life.

He decisively labeled hustlers, chumps and fakers on the job, often with great volume. Sometimes I was a chump in his view. Sometimes I wasn’t. I didn’t agree, but it didn’t matter. He decided. He was never wrong. Just ask him.

We met at the paragraph factory in Omaha. I learned a lot from him, more than most peers and elders in the trade. He inspired me to push boundaries both as a reporter and as an individual. I became less timid and more confident during the first tenure of friendship.

Things broke down. The story is old. The details are fuzzy. I felt betrayed. He felt betrayed. We went our separate ways. It was the early 2000s. There was no social media, so people drifted apart; friendships ended.

That’s probably the natural order of human relationships before technology upended things.

We got back into touch almost a decade ago. Eight years had passed since our initial falling out. I called him for help on a business story. I mentioned an opening at the local shop. He applied. I vouched for him. The bosses hired him.

It worked out for a while. We rode again. We ate dinner. We hung out. But the Midwest is probably too uptight a place for him. Eventually there were clashes with the bosses. Then he got sick with spiking high blood pressure.

His doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He blamed stress at work. That could be true. The shop was in the midst of a stressful period that started, by my estimation, in 1996 and continues to this day.

The shop started doing screwy things. They made everyone apply for their jobs. There was a catch: There were fewer jobs than there were people. I got a promotion. My former friend’s job was cut, as were those of several of the best people I ever worked with.

My former friend said he was happy for me. But he posted cruel things about me on social media. He accused me of brown nosing management and later alleging I copied a story. Both were untrue, but I never bothered to respond to him directly.

I have no doubt he believes the things he said about me to be true. I knew who I was and what I had and hadn’t done. I didn’t owe anyone an apology. I decided to walk away without confrontation. Consensus is elusive to even the most reasonable people. We were not reasonable people.

His recent call surprised me. I figured he’d had enough of me. I had had enough of him. I did not call back. I texted. I was not welcoming. He replied with similar snark. I thanked him for all the things he taught me. I wished him peace in his future. I heard he’d gotten remarried. I hoped they were happy, but I didn’t care to hear from him anymore. I blocked his number.

Cutting someone out of your life is harder than it used to be. Instead of just not talking to one another, you’ve got to block phone numbers, unfollow and block social media accounts. It’s almost as big a hassle as having people you don’t like in your life.

Can’t we just drift apart?

I was on the other end of this kind of issue earlier this month. A former colleague from the local shop visited in January 2020. She came out to cover the caucuses with a particular interest in Andrew Yang, the fellow who believed in giving $1,000 a month to every American.

She stayed a month. She made for a good roommate for a one-bedroom apartment. She kept to herself, made very little noise, came and went as she needed and cleaned up after herself (and me) far beyond necessary.

I should add that there was no romantic entanglement. There never had been and neither of us desired one. We were just friends. We watched a few movies and some TV. I can’t imagine an apartment with two people being quieter.

She went back to New York to address some family issues. Things ended poorly. She ended up living in an apartment with a sketchy maintenance guy. I was unemployed and we talked a lot late at night. I would text periodically to see how she was doing.

We kept in touch. She decided to move to Washington, D.C. That didn’t work out. Then she moved to Texas, I forget which city.

We chatted a few times. She was sad, as people are after sad events. I tried to be supportive. Mostly it was all pleasant. She’s a comedian, so sometimes we traded jokes.

One day I texted her that I thought of her every time I looked in my bathroom closet, where two bottles of hair product sat. “As a bald man, I suppress my seething rage.”

I meant it as a joke. She took it seriously — that I truly, deeply hated her because of a couple of bottles of hair product in my closet. We had a brief and unpleasant text exchange in which she accused me of gaslighting her.

I reject that. I’m not trying to convince her something didn’t happen. We both agree I said what I said. We disagree on the intent and meaning.

In the end, she texted, “I still love you.” To prove it, she blocked me on the phone and all other channels. I reciprocated. I didn’t give it much thought. When people want to go, I say let them go.

About a decade ago, I lost a really good friend over a joke I made on Facebook. I still miss him. I tried several times to revive that friendship, but there was no reply. I finally took the hint. I decided after losing that friend that you really can’t change people’s mind. A person has a right to their opinion, even if they hate you.

Last week I got a parcel from New York. It was from my most recent former friend. She sent back a “Late Night with David Letterman” sweatshirt I gave her after her visit in January 2020. It didn’t fit me. It never fit me. I thought about having the logo cut out and framed somehow. I loved that show so much.

She wrote on the envelope “Peace be with you and peace be with this sweatshirt.”

Humbug. You can’t block the U.S. mail. So it goes.

I tossed the whole parcel, sweatshirt and all, into the trash bin.

I went inside, poured a mug of tea and called one of the few friends who haven’t blocked me.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. I’m freshly unemployed and have a big tax bill to pay. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, Media, mental health, News, Newspapers, TV, Unemployment

How to lose a career in TV in three months: A story of failure and survival

From the desk of friendly neighborhood Paragraph Stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

My brief career as a TV journalist ended shortly before 5 p.m. Thursday, March 4, 2021.

Failure is a hard thing to admit, but I failed and failed badly in the role of assignment editor at Local 5 Iowa. Maybe that’s not the sort of thing a freshly unemployed person is supposed to admit, but it’s the truth.

The news director hired me because when he worked at a different station, he’d had a good experience with an old newspaper guy in an assignment editor’s role. I hoped to repeat that model for him at WOI-DT, but I fell flat the first week and never caught up.

They tried to teach me. I tried to learn. But in the end, I couldn’t keep up.

So many feeds of information swirled around through so many different mediums of communication that I always felt in the wrong place at the wrong time and constantly in fear that I had forgotten something.

I think the biggest problem was this was primarily a scheduling job. I thought I could handle that. I was wrong.

The work was more than keeping the book straight on where and when reporters and photographers are supposed to be. The job included finding sources and booking interview times, generating ideas at a frenetic pace and helping people decide how and when their stories should air.

I sometimes updated the website, tried to lead meetings – which was a fumbling mess – and make sense of the screeches from a dozen or more police scanners while I monitored social media feeds and text messages.

I had no idea what I was doing, and I was doing it all – or more accurately failing to do it all – at a dead sprint.

My bosses tried their best with weekly coaching sessions, but we all grew frustrated. They needed more out of me and deep down I knew I didn’t have what they wanted.

In the end, the problem was I’m a writer, and assignment editor at a TV station isn’t a writer’s job. The skill that I spent nearly three decades developing from high school sports stories to a city columnist just didn’t translate the way the station needed.

I felt like a relic of a different time, a Neanderthal banging at the keyboard with jawbone of an ass.

I leave with no bitterness. I met some excellent journalists. I made one or two friends. I learned a lot.

The biggest thing I learned was what a dummy I had been about TV news my whole life.

The creation of a single TV story takes a tremendous amount of technical acumen and rigor. WOI produced six news shows a day filled with stories created by a small, hard-working staff.

I used to describe TV reporters as “the hairspray mafia” when I worked for the local newspaper. Only my ignorance surpassed my arrogance.

I meant it as a friendly jibe against the competition; but it was more than that. I worked for a newspaper and felt superior. I thought print news possessed a more direct and intellectual connection to its audience.

Maybe that was true once, about 25 years or more before I was born. But TV ruled the house all 45 years I’ve lived. I know from my own mother’s talk about various anchors that she feels closer to local TV journalists than any writer in the newspaper, hopefully excluding me.

TV and print both face the same fade in audience today, as people choose news and information delivered through social media and darker recesses of the internet.

The most important thing about internet news seems to be that it’s free. The second most important thing is that it tells you want you already believe even if it ignores the truth.

Nobody likes a job to end, not really. Jobs mean regular pay, benefits and a certain kind of security.

But this job taught me not only to respect the trades I don’t know but that sometimes even money and insurance are not enough to make a job worth it.

My primary feeling throughout my more than three months at WOI was anxiety. I worried I was failing, that I was letting people down and that I was making a fool out of myself.

To what degree each of those things was true versus the degree to which my own never-ending struggle with mental health exacerbated probably is impossible to measure.

What I know is I had a job at a TV station. I was really bad at it. And when it ended, it felt as if a steel girder had been lifted off my chest.

I don’t know what happens next. I guess that’s what it’s like when your show is canceled.

I’m still in graduate school at Drake University. I plan to earn my teaching certificate and be licensed to teach middle school and high school. I might even teach college when I earn that master’s degree.

If any angel investors want to put me on “scholarship,” I’m not too proud to accept the help. (Seriously, your gifts and donations help not only with this website, but with a struggling newsman trying to make his way in the universe.)

I’ll be blogging more. I may delve into more controversial topics.

This adventure has ended.

A new one awaits.

Daniel P. Finney once tried to work in TV. It went badly.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. I’m freshly unemployed and have a big tax bill to pay. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

humor, life, Media, Movies, People, Pop Culture, reviews

The sham of asking for feedback on customer service and why companies should know no news is good news

From the desk of friendly neighborhood paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney of Des Moines, Iowa.

I called the cable company about a problem with my internet service.

A computer answered.

We are already off to a bad start.

The computer asked me to press numbers on my phone to direct me to the proper human who could help with the problem.

I used my smartphone, which really means I touched glass where a number appeared.

I found myself nostalgic for the old push-button phones from Northwestern Bell. Those phones couldn’t take a photo or play games, but they were well-built and heavy enough to be used as the murder weapon in a blunt-force trauma homicide.

Somehow the ability to push that button really hard made me feel better about these phone tree answering services.

The computer routed me to what it believed to be the appropriate place. I waited for a human to come on the line.

The computer asked a final question: “Would you consider taking a brief two-question survey after your call about your customer service experience? Press ‘1’ for ‘yes’ and ‘2’ for ‘no.’”

This is an odd time to ask this question. I hadn’t had a customer service experience yet and I was already being asked to rate it.

I declined the offer.

I always do.

Don’t put the responsibility of reviewing your employees’ performance off on me. I just want to get my Disney+ streaming the latest episode of “WandaVision” in HD.

I buy a lot of products from a large online retailer. They often send me emails asking me to review a product such as a book or toy.

This offends me.

I make my living as a writer. If you want me to sling sentences for your $1.7-trillion online retailer, pay me. I charge $1 per word.

I would also consider deep discounts.

I’m realistic. They aren’t going to pay me. I’ll be a good sport.

Here’s a review of every product I ever bought from them: “[Insert product name here] was probably fine or I returned it for a refund.”

Cut and paste as needed.

This obsession with rating and ranking knows no bounds. I watch a movie on Netflix, they want me to give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Roger Ebert should sue. Of course, he’s dead. This probably keeps his litigation to a minimum.

EBay wants me to rate every transaction. The feedback system supposedly kept scofflaw sellers from ripping people off.

But everybody gets ripped off by somebody at some point on eBay. I’ve always gotten my money back.

Even if you want to give negative feedback, eBay makes you go through extra hoops to do it.

So why bother?

My feedback is I didn’t ask for a refund.

A favorite restaurant of mine offers discounts to frequent customers. They sent me an email asking me to rate my experience every time I used the card.

I blocked their email address.

I still eat at the place. That’s my feedback. I’m a repeat customer.

I understand that consumers want to have a say in how they are treated by the businesses with which they deal – especially the massive, monolithic and borderline oligarchic corporations that dominate modern consumer life.

But I believe most of the ways they gather feedback amounts to a wooden suggestions box on the breakroom wall with a slot for comment cards that fall right into a trash bin.

I struggle to believe that if I rate my customer service experience at the internet service provider poorly that this will lead to any meaningful change.

I don’t believe they record calls for quality and training purposes. I believe they record calls for evidentiary purposes in case of a lawsuit.

What ticks me off about the whole thing is I’m being asked for my opinion when I know damn well they don’t care and they’re going to keep doing what they’re doing.

My recourse is either to change where I buy things or accept a certain level of cruddy service.

Press “1” if you agree.

And if you disagree, just stop reading.

Daniel P. Finney saw a werewolf at Trader Joe’s. His hair was in a bun and he smelled of beard oil.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. And I got a nasty tax bill for daring to have health insurance while I was unemployed. All donations are greatly appreciated and needed. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Iowa, Media, News, Newspapers, TV

My first week in TV: Be careful with the grommets and know your vocabulary words

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

In the vernacular of Twitter cliche, which is the parlance of our times, if you had “Daniel Finney” takes a job in television news on your bingo card, you win 2020. The person who least expected to be working in television not just this year but any in his lifetime is the aforementioned, or, as I like to call myself in private, me.

The pace of TV is so much faster than the print newsrooms of my youth — and the assignments I’ve had the last eight or nine years — that I felt like I started the day three laps behind in a four-lap race.

My job title is assignment editor, which sounds like I’m handing work to other people. That’s sometimes true. Two people where shot last week, so I sent the night reporter out to get video and canvass neighbors. I gave out another story about an area Santa Claus who had a special story.

Usually, the reporters come up with most of their ideas for stories. Sometimes I might ask a question or make a suggestion about how to execute the story. All the reporters and photographers have a lot going on. Everybody is working on short-term stuff for that day’s broadcasts and long-term stuff for special packages and future evolutions of specific shows.

My job is like a traffic cop. I make sure everybody is heading in the right direction and all the lanes are moving smoothly. When I say “I,” I really mean a future version of me who knows what he’s doing. The first week the people who did this were the executive producer and the show producers I worked with.

They patiently explained to me everything from the vocabulary used in scripts for anchors to exactly where to put my cursor to on a screen to place a pink grommet. That’s not a joke. You can really mess something up by put a pink grommet in the wrong spot. You shouldn’t mess with the blue grommets either.

TV is like the military in this way: It comes with a blizzard of acronyms. There were so many that I had to ask my boss to write down the most common ones so I could study them. Don’t quiz me. I’d fail.

Print journalists often turn their noses up at TV journalists. I did. It’s a human weakness. People in competition need to believe their way is superior to the other ways. The reality is they’re just different. And it’s also true that the print culture felt a lot more like the broadcast culture at the end of my time at the newspaper.

After a week on the production side, I learned how little I know about the difficulty and skill involved in putting on a single 30-minute news broadcast. I’m thankful for the patient producers who helped me feel like I was contributing and not flailing helplessly like a child in the deep end without his water wings.

A new week dawns. Let’s see if we can do better.

Insert obscure pop culture reference and self-deprecating Daniel P. Finney caption here.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, obesity, People, TV

HOT SHEET: My first day in TV

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: I started my new job at the TV station Monday. Everyone who was present, which was only a few, was very pleasant. No handshakes. The occasional elbow bump was offered, but this is the era of maximum caution in the pandemic. The day was a blizzard of new vocabulary. The unknown acronyms of insider TV talk hit me like a rapid fire blasts from a Super Soaker. I have a lot to learn. More than once, i wondered if they hired the right guy. But apparently they did. By late afternoon, a specially ordered over-sized chair for my special over-sized body arrive, alleviating some of the pain felt in my arthritic knees and back. A full workday is new to the ol’ Paragraph Stacker, whose been sidelined since May 1. I was more tired than I expected to be and my consciousness did not last long during the Monday Night Football games. I’ve got to get my caffeine in a higher does this morning and remember to pack a lunch. I really lost steam without some midday protein. I’ll wrote more in a day or two, but just know I’m working and that’s an improvement.

If you had “Daniel P. Finney goest to work in TV” on your 2020 bingo card, you have to ask yourself what the hell kind of bingo are you playing anyway?

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: The eeriness of an empty Drake Knapp Center during the best game in Iowa

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, paragraph stacker, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: The Iowa Hawkeyes and Drake Bulldogs played a high-scoring women’s basketball game at the Knapp Center this week. One could hardly tell from driving past the Knapp Center. The lights were on. People were home. But don’t bother to knock. The doors are locked. The inability to watch a basketball game in person must rank low on the list of tragedies in this wretched pandemic. Still, it’s a stark reminder of how changed things are. This would have been one of the biggest crowds for a women’s game all year. Former Dowling Catholic High School star Caitlin Clark, a fast-blooming star for the Hawkeyes, probably could have filled a section by herself. The ties between Drake and Iowa are strong. Drake Coach Jennie Baranczyk played at Iowa for the Hawkeyes’ Coach Lisa Bluder. Bluder coached Drake for years alongside Drake superstars Jan Jensen and Jenni Fitzgerald. The trio have coached together for nearly 30 years. I’ve often said if you make a list of the best people in Iowa, you start at No. 4 because Bluder, Jensen and Fitzgerald are in a three-way tie for No. 1. The bright light remains on Bluder, Baranczyk and the women they coach. But they deserve the roars of the crowd too.

ITEM TWO: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker admits to some worry about his new job at WOI-DT. Not only have I never worked in TV, I spend a significant amount of my time looking for the remote to my own TV.

ITEM THREE: I finished my first full semester of graduate school Thursday night shortly before 8 o’clock. I would like to say I took to the truth of knowledge like a moth to the flame, but I won’t for two reasons. First, that’s a cliché and I hate clichés. Secondly, It was a long, trying semester. I made good marks and learned a lot, but the daily struggle of unemployment and the sundry worries that accompany said condition drained every last bit of energy out of me. I am glad for the break in schooling until February. I plan to continue and finish the degree. Teaching is something I want to do some day. I always secretly hoped I’d get Woodward’s old job at Drake. But for now, I’m still a newsman trying to get the paragraphs stacked.

ITEM FOUR: Another Carson Classic Zinger on PlutoTV: A 1986 episode ran long and they had to cut the appearance of the band Katrina and the Waves. As the credits rolled, Carson apologetically invited bandleader Katrina to come out and wave.

ITEM FIVE: Almost everything about unemployment stinks, but I admit I’m going to miss a few things, namely regular appointments with the rerun networks offered as over-the-air digital sub channels to local networks. I’ve become addicted to the Jack Webb classics “Emergency” — what I wouldn’t give for a Squad 51 firefighter helmet — and “Adam-12.” There’s “M*A*S*H” and “The Rifleman,” too. I don’t know why, but I would rather watch these commercial-supported reruns than the new stuff. I guess that’s a consequence of being a middle-aged man.

ITEM SIX: Congratulations to Des Moines East alumna and all-around great human, Megan Gogerty, currently of Iowa City, for being named local stand-up comedian of the year by Little Village, the Iowa City-Cedar Rapids culture mag. Megan was a classmate at East. I say nice things about her because I fear her intelligence and wit and don’t want her to unleash them upon me in a savage series of barbs that expose my insecurities and shallowness.

ITEM LAST: Oh, yeah, I’ll be missing one more thing about unemployment — naps. So I’m going to go take one. You should too. Unless your reading this while driving. Then you have other problems.

Daniel P. Finney had a red nightlight in the shape of a cow with googly eyes.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, Iowa, Media, News, People, TV

HOT SHEET: Hey, Finney finally got a job!

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, Paragraph Stacker-at-large, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM ONLY: I got a job.

The last of the “onboarding” paperwork went through this morning. I start as assignment editor for Local 5 We Are Iowa at 9:15 a.m., Monday, Dec. 7, 2020.

This ends an employment drought that dates to May 1 when the local paragraph factory eliminated my job amidst corporate cutbacks during the coronavirus pandemic.

That WOI-TV wooed me back to daily journalism surprises me only slightly more than they convinced me to try a new medium.

I started stacking paragraphs for pay when I was 17. I thought that part of my life was over for good.

But the people at Local 5 seemed to want me at their shop even after I explained that all I know about TV is how to turn one on.

I don’t know what “assignment editor” means yet. I know it means I will be behind-the-camera, which is exactly my preference. I know it involves writing, story idea generating and working with reporters and anchors.

Hell, I’ll get people coffee if the pay deposits on the regular and I can afford to get cortisone shots for my arthritic knees.

I plan to continue my graduate studies at Drake University. I’ve laid out money for next semester already. I will teach someday. As my old friend Don Adams, the retired Drake vice president, always says: “Preserve your options.”

This week, I’m finishing up the semester work. I’m off school until Feb. 1, which means I’ve got two full months to learn my job, get to know people and immerse myself into the new gig’s culture.

Family, friends and readers, I thank each and every one of you for your support of this blog and me personally. This year tested all our souls.

I am blessed to know so many people who showed the love for me even as they carried their own burdens.

I promise to reward your faith in me by being the very best journalist I can be for Local 5. You may not see my byline, but know that I’m there trying my hardest to make sure you know what’s going on in your hometown.

As for this blog, the future is uncertain. I may keep writing. Some topics will be verboten, especially media criticism and politics.

That’s OK. There’s lots of good stuff to type about.

For now, though, I’m going to take a break to finish up the semester and get ready for my new adventure in journalism.

With love and hope,

dpf

Daniel P. Finney works in TV news now is a sentence he never thought he’d type.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Iowa, Media, News, sports, TV

HOT SHEET THANKSGIVING: Where I can say any damn thing I want because I know no one is reading

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: Today is Thanksgiving, which is the American festival of its two most sacred traditions: gluttony and football.

ITEM TWO: Friday is Black Friday, which is the celebrates Americas’ other sacred tradition: spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need in the name of Jesus, who, as the Bible tells us, loved a good deal.

ITEM THREE: The ol’ Paragraph Stacker spent Thanksgiving morning watching Johnny Carson reruns on PlutoTV. The episode was from the early 1970s during the Energy Crisis. Carson mention gas prices were up to 62 cents. There’s nothing like an old TV show to remind that things can always get worse.

ITEM FOUR: Idea for new late night talk show: “Sitting At Home Waiting for Death.”

ITEM FIVE: COVID-19 is like we’re all living in a hospice — except without the morphine drip.

ITEM SIX: [Insert cliché, perfunctory list of people and things the typist is thankful for here.]

ITEM SEVEN: A turkey is the de facto mascot of Thanksgiving, which seems fine until you consider that it’s the only major holiday to have a mascot that gets eaten as a part of the celebration. That’s dark, America. Very dark.

ITEM EIGHT: BREAKING NEWS … sister station WKRP-AM in Cincinnati reports the Pinedale Shopping Mall has been “bombed with live turkeys.” We will update as more news becomes available.

ITEM NINE: Are you falling asleep during the football game because of the tryptophan in the turkey or because the football game is a turkey? The world may never know.

ITEM TEN: Folks, a lot of us will be traveling this season after enjoying a little or a lot of holiday cheer. So, please, PLEASE, be mindful of your blood-gravy levels.

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.

des moines, humor, Media, mental health, Pop Culture, TV

HOT SHEET: The joys of Carson repeats, pining for Letterman and the reruns that numb the age of COVID

From the desk of Daniel P. Finney, hot seat editor, 24th Street bureau, Des Moines, Iowa.

ITEM FIRST: PlutoTV has added a channel with classic episodes of “The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” Carson also airs at 9 p.m. weeknights on the over-the-air digital-plus network Antenna TV, which is channel 13.3 in Des Moines. The ol’ Paragraph Stacker lived in a house without strict bedtimes, so he watched a lot of late-night TV as a boy. The typist is happy to see the late Corning, Iowa, native on TV and streaming again.

ITEM TWO: The typist enjoyed Carson, but always felt he was a warm-up for “Late Night with David Letterman.” Watching Letterman, especially in his “Late Night” years, felt like you were really getting away with something. He was the guy throwing pencils out the window and invisible glass. He was harassing NBC’s new owners, General Electric. In the early days, he wore jeans and wrestling shoes. The sketches were rickety and bizarre, almost as if they were designed to fail and that failure generated all the fun. Letterman was always there as the too-cool-for-school guy who flippantly thumbed his nose at convention, mocked TV tropes even as he created them and even dared to make both the guests, the audience and certainly himself uncomfortable.

ITEM THREE: The Hot Sheet notes all of this because our burning desire is to relive those memories again. In the early 2000s, NBCUniversal slated “Late Night with David Letterman” episodes on the short-lived cable network Trio. Since then, we’ve been left to grainy VHS clips posted on YouTube. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if NBCUniversal dusted off those masters and started spinning them on one of the digital plus or streaming services again? The ol’ Paragraph Stacker’s eyeballs would be glued there several hours a day.

ITEM FOUR: The Hot Sheet ran this idea by his buddy and podcast partner Memphis Paul. His response: “We are spoiled for choice these days.”

ITEM FIVE: The typist found the reply someone deflating, but still valued the perspective. Seeing Carson on PlutoTV is like learning someone brought home the best ice cream in town and then complaining that you don’t have hot fudge topping with whipped cream and a cherry.

ITEM SIX: So, in the spirit of enjoying what is rather than wishing for more, the Stacker notes PlutoTV has apparently added a few new stories to its “Doctor Who” channel including at least two Dalek stories. This could be to pump up Dalek excitement for the upcoming “festive season” episode of the revived “Doctor Who” series titled “Revolution of the Daleks.” Streaming Dalek stories is often troubled by rights issues with estate of Terry Nation, the writer who created the creatures. Britain has different copyright laws that give creators much greater ownership than in the United States, where everything a person creates for a company is owned by the company that pays them. Nation’s estate has sometimes been prickly about allowing certain stories, such as the masterpiece, “Genesis of the Daleks,” from streaming. Twitch managed to get rights sorted out when it did a multi-week marathon of every remaining classic “Who” story a few years ago. PlutoTV’s offering has been light on Dalek stories, so it’s a boon to see the tin-plated pepper pots menacing the universe on a free streaming service.

ITEM SEVEN: If this edition seems a bit less newsy than previous Hot Sheets, well, that’s part circumstance and part design. The circumstance is COVID cases are spiking. The typist wants no part of COVID. He survived pneumonia in February and has asthma. So, that means he’s spending a lot of time at home with the TV on. He chooses comforting old series, such as “M*A*S*H,” “Doctor Who” and Carson or live sports rather than news-heavy programing. Besides, do you really need another voice complaining about how divided our politics are, canceled Thanksgivings and other sad-sack stuff of the era? The typist thinks not. The other reason there isn’t a lot of news commentary in these stacks relates to that big announcement that the typist regrets to inform you is still pending. Be patient. He’s anxious to tell you the news nugget, but only when things are final.

ITEM LAST: As a reminder, this blog will be made private sometime in the next few weeks. That means you’ll have to request access to it. To avoid the hassle, go over to http://paragraphstacker.com and find the big “FOLLOW” button. On a desktop, it will be to the right near the top. On a mobile device, such as smartphone or tablet, it will be at the bottom of the page. Enter your email. Respond to confirm and every post lands in your inbox.

Try this for a deep, dark secret: the great detective, Daniel P. Finney? He doesn’t exist. I invented him. Follow. I always loved excitement, so I studied, and apprenticed, and put my name on an office. But absolutely nobody knocked down my door. A female private investigator seemed so… feminine. So I invented a superior. A decidedly MASCULINE superior. Suddenly there were cases around the block. It was working like a charm… until the day HE walked in, with his blue eyes and mysterious past. And before I knew it, he assumed Daniel P. Finney’s identity. Now I do the work, and he takes the bows. It’s a dangerous way to live, but as long as people buy it, I can get the job done. We never mix business with pleasure. Well, almost never. I don’t even know his real name!

ParagraphStacker.com is free, reader-supported media. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. Visit paypal.me/paragraphstacker.