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AN AGGIE LINE: USU cheerleaders perform during the Aggies' final exhibition game. It's time to cheer for basketball. / Photo by Brianna Mortensen

Today's word on journalism

Friday, November 10, 2006

Q&A with Ed Bradley:

Q: What single issue should be covered more at CBS News?
A: Foreign news.

Q: Have you ever been assigned a story you objected to? How did you deal with it?
A: When I first started in New York at WCBS radio, the assignment editor automatically assigned any story that had a minority in it to me. I objected to being typecast and told him if I didn't get a variety of stories -- as other reporters did -- then I would take it up with the news director.

Q: If you were not in news, what would you be doing?
A: If I had the talent, I'd play bass guitar and sing in a kicking band.

--Ed Bradley, reporter, "60 Minutes," died yesterday of leukemia at age 65 (2006)

We can -- and should -- keep the 'extreme' generosity going

By Marty Archibald

October 23, 2006 | ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition just rolled through town. They helped build the deserving Pauni family a new home. But did ABC really provide much more than a handful of designers and a few cameras? Couldn't we as a community have built that house without the help of ABC? Did ABC provide something we couldn't?

According to the show's official Web site, the homes are built entirely from donations. Money, time, building materials, furniture, all of it is donated. The whole house is built without any expense to ABC. Even the trip they send the family on for the week is donated.

Although some of the money does come from large corporations such as Sears, most of the donations come from the local community. That's the concept of the show. Have the community come together to help build a house for a deserving family. From the local construction company that donates their building knowledge and labor, to local stores that donate furniture and other home accessories, to local community members that donate their time, money and labor, a large portion of the house is made possible just from local support.

There was an abundance of community members who helped out on the Pauni house. Kartchner Homes provided their expertise. Ashley Furniture chipped in. Thousands of local community members gave money and clothes. Some even volunteered to help on the construction. There may have been too many volunteers. My roommate was one of them. He was put on "security duty." He stood there for four hours, trading stories with the real security guard.

We could have built that house as a community without ABC. Sure, the house might not be as nice and it might take longer than a week. We probably couldn't send the family on a fancy vacation either. But what we could do is help people in need.

The only tangible things ABC gave to the project were a few designers and some TV cameras. Someone is designing all of the houses in Cache Valley. It is my guess that the majority of them are designed by someone in the valley. We could probably find designers. As for the cameras, the last time I checked you don't need a camera to build a house. And if we get started and find out we do need cameras, we could probably find our own.

ABC does provide one valuable thing to the project, the intangible prospect of fame, however improbable it may be. Sadly, some people today are hesitant to help those in need unless they see something in it for themselves. Being on TV or seeing an often shirtless Ty Pennington was enough for some people.

You probably aren't going to make it on camera. The show is heavily centered on the family they are helping. Occasionally the camera will make a quick pan across a sea of volunteers. For a volunteer, that is your best chance of being on camera. A three-second crowd shot. For some just seeing Pennington is enough, shirtless is even better. But what is so great about seeing him anyway? Is it because he is on TV or takes his shirt off for no reason?

Even with these delusions of grandeur, some still volunteer just for chance to meet fame. I had an encounter with one such lady.

I work in the card office at Utah State University. Part of my job entails that I occasionally answer the phone and answer general questions people may have. On one particular day a lady called looking for the Extreme Makeover sign up booth that had been set up on campus. I explained to her that there was a table on the first floor off the Tagart Student Center, located just outside the bookstore. She seemed peeved and hung up. She called back again and asked for the number so she could volunteer. I explained to her that they had no phone and you had to sign up in person. That wasn't the answer she wanted. She proceeded to call a couple of other offices located in the TSC hoping to get a different answer. Each time her call was transferred back to me in the card office. I gave her the same answer as before.

This went on for about 20 minutes. Eventually I asked her where she was. Turns out she was in Logan. All that time spent trying to volunteer over the phone could have been spent coming up to campus to volunteer. She didn't want to volunteer that badly, though. A brief chance at contrived fame was enough for her to want to volunteer. Having to get in her car or catch the bus up to campus was too much to ask.

All too often these days we need a reason to be generous. We need a chance for fame to come from our generosity, however fleeting it may be. We want to be entertained at a concert all for the price of a donation. Some donate just to get their name in the paper or on a building. Even if nearly every building in the area already has your name on it and it just confuses people. We tend to want something from our generosity.

A group of friends and I held a benefit concert for Operation Smile. Admission to the concert was just a small fee that would entirely be donated to Operation Smile. The people came and gave. We even had to turn some away due to occupancy constraints. We made over $500, all donated. The jar we set out for people to donate just a little more had just over $5, all coins. The people were happy to donate when they saw the fruits of their generosity, but less inclined to give when they didn't. I shouldn't talk though. We only organized the concert to fulfill the needs of a class. We all gave that night; even if it was to partially fulfill our own selfish needs.

At least we are giving, though. Whatever the reason may be, giving is good. So continue to take advantage of every opportunity you have to give to those less fortunate. And occasionally give not for what you get in return, but just because you can.

NW
MS

Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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