Book: Six and Eleven by Ed Dague

Ed Dague was a consumate professional newsperson

six and eleven.ed dagueIt was a Thursday in mid-November. I was looking at some quiz and realized I had read but two books all year. So I scanned my bookshelf and picked out Six and Eleven: A Television News Anchor’s Story by Ed Dague.

I’d known who Dague was since the mid-1970. I was going to college at New Paltz, in New York State’s Mid-Hudson region. On cable, we got the stations from both New York City and Albany. I’d watch the NYC news during the week, generally WABC, Channel 7.

On Saturdays, I found myself watching this Dague guy from WRGB, Channel 6 out of Schenectady. He had such a command of the stories that I didn’t know why he was relegated to the weekends. He moved to the 6:00 and 11:00 pm weekday newscasts in 1976.

Channel 6 had a woman on sports named Liz Bishop, who is now the lead anchor at the station. If memory serves, the “weather girl”, a term they may still have used, was Linda Jackson, who later, as Linda Jackson-Chalmers, became a respected educator.

Eight years later…

Anyway, I started reading the book, which I had gotten for my birthday in March 2011, a couple months after it was published. I realized that I had read chapters from it before, but not the whole thing. I finished it in one read and thought I’d review it in due course.

Three days later, Ed Dague died at the age of 76. That rather weirded me out. It wasn’t that I was shocked. He had retired in 2003 when a painful and progressive form of arthritis forced him to stop working.

The book, written in a series of short chapters, relayed his great antipathy toward his brutal father. Ed was an engineering student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in part because that’s the only major his dad would pay for. He eventually segued into local radio, eventually landing at WRGB.

But he wasn’t just an anchor. He was the chief political reporter, and he had a thirst for all of the nuances of state and local government. In 1982, he was the only broadcast reporter to interview Albany mayor Erastus Corning in his hospital room.

In July of 1984, Dague left WRGB, the top-rated evening news in the market, to become the Managing Editor and Anchor for WNYT, Channel 13. Fairly soon, WNYT became the region’s top-rated news station.

Local news’ decline

ed dague.nysbhof
In the book, Dague is direct in his criticism of the dumbing down of local news. Covering fires and accidents are easy. Discussing the nuance of what a particular piece of legislation might mean is far more complex.

Ed was rather pointed in his assessment of a few former colleagues. His antipathy towards religion clashed sometimes with some of his more devout colleagues, and he mentions them by name.

Watch Ed Dague talk about the book when it first came out. And coverage of 9/11. Listen to his former co-anchor Chris Jansing talked about him shortly after he died.

The one thing about the book that is obvious is that he wrote the chapters not necessarily in order. Occasionally, there’s a bit of repetition. Also, there’s a couple of typos. I mention this only because I had wanted to contact him about this. I imagine it probably bugged him a little.

Ed Dague came to my church in the fall of 1993. I must have impressed him enough that he invited me to stop by to see a broadcast. By the time I took him up on the offer, I suspect he had forgotten.

Still, I hung out with him from about 8 pm until the end of the 11 pm news on April 18, 1994. I remember that he’d heard that Richard Nixon was sick – he’d die four days later. He said to someone, “Is he dead?” It was not a matter of spite but of newsworthiness.
Somewhere, I have a transcript of that night’s broadcast.

Ed Dague was one of the smartest, most self-aware people I had ever met. No doubt he was the best newscaster from this market. He was inducted into the NYS Broadcasters Hall of Game in 2007.

I loved his blog. Here’s when he hosted Answers Please. And did the weather.

A Sense of Proportionality

Getting lost is the fact that OWS changed the conversation. The narrative that wealth trickling down works has been largely rejected. The notion that your can’t fight back against the banks has been proven to be false.

Things in the world have been annoying me, and I think there’s a common theme: everything seems to be perceived as equal as everything else. I go to a news aggregator and I see the latest on the wars, a bad weather event, and the most recent person voted off a reality show, and it’s all treated similarly, as though they have the equivalent news value.

There has been a run of misstatements by US politicians recently, and they are not the same at all. US Senate Majority leader Harry Reid recently talked about being done before the Easter recess, then quickly corrected himself to say Thanksgiving. In a debate, Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry has a brain freeze and can’t remember the departments he’d eliminate, and some pundits declare his candidacy over; it WAS bad but human. GOP candidate Herman Cain not seeming to know that China had gotten nuclear missiles – over 40 years ago! – or the US position vis a vis Khaddafy’s Libya seems less like a gaffe, which I think means a relatively trivial matter, and more like a fundamental shortcoming.
Re; the Occupy Wall Street, et al movement. There were basic truths about income inequality that fueled the protests. But recent polling suggests that the OWS has become less popular, not, I submit, because of the wrongness of the original premise, but because of the obfuscation over whether or not the protesters had the right to essentially live in public parks, and the manner in which they were removed by the police. In fact, it has been the heavy-handed response by authorities in many cities, such as NYC; Oakland, CA; Burlington, VT; Portland, OR; and Chapel Hill, NC, which has actually energized the movement, rather than defeat it. Of course, I know from too many rallies that “the people, united, can never be defeated.”

Getting lost by critics is the fact that OWS changed the conversation. The narrative that wealth trickling down works has been largely rejected. The notion that you can’t fight back against the banks has been proven to be false. There’s a pushback against the idea that unions are all costly, terrible mistakes. There is an economic disparity, and if there is a class war, it isn’t the 99% waging it. So a poll of whether one supports the movement is facile at best.
Another issue: the alleged sex crimes at Penn State. Jaquandor hit on much of it when he noted that PSU isn’t the victim here; children allegedly are. And I should say here, I suppose, that Jerry Sandusky is innocent of the charges against him until proven guilty. What I am compelled to note, though, is guilty or not, Jerry Sandusky is an idiot. Who thought it was a good idea to agree to a phone interview on national television? His lawyer, who had a child by an underage girl more than 30 years his junior? His lawyer is an idiot too.

I read an article by a local retired journalist, which I cannot now find, that suggests that people have watched so many “real” people interviewed on TV after a tragedy that they feel some sort of obligation to do the same. This is a false assumption, and especially when one has been indicted. Sandusky, from everything I’ve seen of him, seems to think HE’S the misunderstood victim here. Some free legal advice: Jerry Sandusky should say NOTHING, at least until his trial.

What the heck is behind Congress considering a bill counting pizza as a vegetable? A paean to some fast-food lobby or hostility towards Michelle Obama’s efforts towards healthier living? Or something else?

I believe in intellectual property rights, but the Stop Online Piracy Act, proposed in the House of Representatives, and the companion bill PROTECT IP (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) is a pair of oxymoronic newspeak titles, just like peacekeeper missiles and the USA PATRIOT Act. As an intellectual property attorney I know puts it, the proposed law is “insidious and dangerous. It will change, some say break, the internet as we know it, by turning the internet into a limited portal where you can’t do much more than buy what they want you to buy, and only from them, and to read only what they want you to read, and for a price.”

Yet the legislation has a good chance of passing with bipartisan political support, despite the opposition of Google, AOL, eBay, Facebook, Linked In, Mozilla, Twitter, Yahoo, and Zynga. This is bad law, and could easily affect those not in the United States as well,

Done ranting. Or, I’ve run out of time.

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