Posts Tagged ‘transparency’

When the guys in the Vegas print shop have no clue how to spell the name of the Washington state Island where you supposedly shoot your show…

One night only!

OK, it’s actually an hour-and-a-half in the morning, but cut the guy some slack, he’s busy.

Steve Schorr, who has lived and worked for decades in Las Vegas, is coming to Whidbey Island (well, Oak Harbor at least) this Saturday, July 13, and will appear in the conference room at the Best Western Hotel from 10-11:30.

That joint, catering to people who want to at least step foot on Whidbey, without having to make the trip out to where Wright’s Crossing is proposed to be built, or, heaven forbid, turn south and see 92% of the Island, is at 33175 State Route 20.

Close enough you can grab a bite at Frank’s Place, far enough away from Coupeville so an out-of-towner can avoid our cooties.

So, why is Mr. Schorr’s cameo in Oak Town important?

Because he’s the public face of Whidbey Buzz, an internet show which surfaced this spring, currently broadcasts twice a week, and positions itself as a local news show, while declining to publicly acknowledge it’s shot in front of a digital screen in Vegas.

Schorr is also Chief Strategy Officer of LV.net, Founder and President of Consulting Nevada, President and CEO of Vegas Life TV and hosts Under the Vegas Sun weekly at Liberace’s Mansion.

He’s Vegas through and through, down to recently noting on his personal Facebook page, “Wow. Another earthquake. This one was bigger than the past. My pool water is sloshing over the edges. Stuff falling off shelves. WOW.”

But now, in the middle of an extremely-busy Vegas schedule, he’s carved out a few minutes a week to talk on the internet about an Island 1,500+ miles from said pool.

Well, I mean, at least some of the stories are about Whidbey Island.

Not really sure of the point of Wednesday’s piece about Restaurants Unlimited filing for Chapter 11 while complaining about the minimum wage … since the closest of their 35 eating establishments are in Seattle — at least 60 miles (and a ferry trip) from our Island.

Probably looks shorter on a map perused pool-side.

But, other than that, Whidbey Buzz is right there in the thick of it, sorta, even if stories about Stanwood and Camano outnumber stories about the part of the Island which starts where Oak Harbor ends.

Why? Well now we can ask him in person.

Cause, if you check out the Buzz website, its two Facebook pages (unless you get banned for asking questions), or its Instagram, you find a troubling lack of transparency for a broadcast which wants us to take it seriously.

This (reproduced exactly as originally posted) is as deep as they get:

We Know here at The Whidbey Buzz, that many people are asking questions about who were are. As a non-profit News Operation we Pride ourselves in providing reliable, nonpartisan , deeply rooted thoughtful journalism. At our core is the truth and facts of stories. We look only to support the community, and as a non-profit newsroom we rely on donations and sponsorships to support our work. We don’t sell advertising but rather hope the community seeks to support what we are doing. We just thought you would like to know.

And that’s where the sting is – if they want our support, our donations, you think they would be willing to talk about themselves, and why, in their belief, Whidbey Buzz matters.

Except, they have done the exact opposite.

When asked questions on Facebook, Schorr runs the gamut from offering similarly vague, cliche-riddled non-answers to the slightly more-satisfying “It’s none of your business!” when asked about who finances the show.

Rigel Studios in Vegas, run by Rick Manning, who is listed on the Buzz Facebook page as a Team Member, won’t answer any questions, either, citing an NDA with Schorr.

But, since Manning routinely shares Whidbey Buzz links on his personal Facebook page, and since the opening credits to the show have been lifted straight from Newsline America, an earlier Schorr show proudly produced and advertised by Rigel Studios … this ain’t rocket science.

There will be some who say, “Give them their privacy.”

You’re more trusting than I am.

I had a grandfather who was fond of saying, “If it looks like a scam, and sounds like a scam, and feels like a scam … get the tar and feathers, boy!!”

He was not the most agreeable of men, maybe. But he also wasn’t a rube.

But, those of you who didn’t get to experience Elmer Svien up close and personal may say, “Give them time. They’ll eventually stop dodging questions, and banning the questioners.”

Just trust the Vegas boys. Nothing shady has ever come out of Sin City.

Don’t ask them why they won’t acknowledge the show is created and shot in Vegas, even as Schorr opens broadcasts with “news from around the world, the nation, and right here at home at Whidbey Island.”

Don’t ask why everyone else affiliated with the show (if there’s anyone else) won’t put their name on the product.

You know, the way reporters and editors at the Whidbey News-Times, South Whidbey Record, Whidbey Weekly, Coupeville Sports, Everett Herald, Skagit Valley Herald and every other semi-reputable news organization does.

Or even some less-than-reputable outlets.

Heck, even IslandPolitics.org, the badly-written (scribbled in crayon?) blog which was the bane of civilized society on Whidbey until it imploded, openly identified its four contributors.

Cliff Howard, Bill Strowbridge, Ken Wolf, and the Big Dog himself, the ever camera-shy Bill Burnett, vented bile (or hot ‘n spicy truth, depending on your personal beliefs), but never hid who they were.

Guess, in the end, I did respect them more than I thought.

Now, maybe Mr. Schorr walks into that conference room Saturday, and in between some Danish and a cup of Joe, he suddenly lays it all on the line, like Sinatra wailin’ on My Way.

Right before he hops back on a big jet plane and scoots back to poolside livin’ in Vegas, he finally pulls back the curtain on the who, what, when, where, and, most importantly, why of Whidbey Buzz.

You want us to believe in something which makes little sense.

You want us to accept, without questioning, that a man in his late 60’s, a man entrenched in Nevada, is making this odd pivot, paying for the production out of his own pocket, just because he may have a friend or two up in this neck of the woods.

You want us to believe you are “digging deep for stories,” when, as a 30-year vet of journalism, I can tell you 99% of your stories exist on the level of regurgitated press releases and stories from other sources.

Don’t post the same footage of jets flying at OLF that hundreds of other outlets have and pretend you’re the first to discover we have a Navy base on this Island.

Don’t immediately rush to hold hands with anti-homeless, anti-low income housing Facebook pages like Whidbey Island Community United, SAFE Whidbey, and Whidbey Island Looks Like Shit, and then pretend ignorance when you subtly start dropping in “stories” which mirror their beliefs.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe my grandfather’s suspicious nature has warped my own.

Maybe you’re just doing this out of the goodness of your heart, and there’s no paycheck at the end when Whidbey Buzz, like Newsline America, quietly slips off the internet.

So, you want to meet and greet? Great. I’ll be naive for a moment, even though Elmer Svien would call me a moron for expecting any kind of reveal.

But he was a cantankerous old coot.

Based on the last three months, I’d say it’s a long shot Saturday provides any answers.

Doesn’t mean I won’t be there in that conference room.

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I may use a different style than the reporters and editors at these publications, but I stand with them.

If you look at the ads here on Coupeville Sports, you may have a slight surprise.

Go take a look – on a computer they run down the right side of the page, while on a phone they’re camped out below the five stories on my main page.

The first three ads are for me personally – a PayPal donation button, a “buy my book” appeal, and a connection to my Twitter feed.

After that, starting today, are ads for the Whidbey News-Times and South Whidbey Record, which most people would tend to think of as my “rivals.”

Which, for those who have followed my sometimes-rocky relationship with the papers, the bigger of which I worked at as a freelance writer, mail room/press room roustabout, and, eventually, Sports Editor, may seem a bit odd.

Which is why I want to be very clear about a few things here.

First, they aren’t paid ads. I chose to put them up there, and, when you click on the ads, it’ll kick you to each paper’s web site.

I get nothing from this, financially or quid pro quo in terms of advertising.

I approached them, not the other way around.

Secondly, I’ve (mostly) mellowed over the years, and see little reason these days to view Whidbey’s papers as rivals.

Two of my biggest mentors, News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller and Publisher Keven R. Graves, continue to fight the good fight, day after day, and I have nothing but respect for what they do and how they do it.

Crime reporter Jessie Stensland, who has been at the paper since almost before Deception Pass Bridge was built, is a righteous heir to Mary Kay Doody, the late bulldog reporter who carved out a legend relentlessly chasing the truth, slamming her phone against the wall which (barely) separated our desks when I was fresh out of high school.

With this blog, which is about to hit seven years in August, I sort of run parallel to the path set by the News-Times and Record.

With a lot of jerky-jerky moves along the way.

I’m more biased (call it being pro-Coupeville), I’m more prone to hyperbole (and a lot of exclamation points, at least back in the day) and my stories often are a mix of news and personal opinion.

But I don’t hide any of that from my readers, and I try and stay fairly close to the journalistic ideals I was taught by Fred Obee, Lionel Barona, Kasia Pierzga, Geoff Newton, Ellen Slater, and others.

If you come to Coupeville Sports, there is no question who is producing this, why they are producing this, and just where you can find me if you want to praise me, bribe me with cookies, or throw a royal snit fit about something I’ve written.

And the reporters, editors, and publisher of the News-Times and Record are just as open, just as transparent.

Whidbey’s newspapers are owned by Sound Publishing, which is a subsidiary of Black Press, and it takes no time at all for anyone to know that.

Yes, Canada ultimately pays the bills, but these journalists live here, in the communities where they report.

Which is a long way of getting around to why I chose to offer those ads to the News-Times and Record, and why now.

Because I want my readers to know without a doubt I stand with the journalists at those papers.

We may come at it from slightly different directions, we may have differing opinions on things such as pay walls, but I respect what they do, and I respect that they do it without hiding their identities or agenda.

Unlike, it would seem, Whidbey Buzz.

If you spend any time on Facebook, you’ve likely seen their broadcasts over the past two months.

A honey-voiced anchor, operating in front of a digital screen, wearing an assortment of well-tailored suits, offering a slightly off-key assortment of “stories” over the course of four to five minutes.

No reporters, little actual footage shot on the Island, just the soothing tones of Steve Schorr, your play-by-play man offering up what amounts to a series of re-hashed press releases.

It looks slick. It sounds slick. It feels slick.

And, even if you wonder why the southern end of our very-large Island doesn’t seem to exist in their world, why Coupeville is mentioned less often than Camano or Skagit County, and why he keeps saying “in Whidbey” instead of “on Whidbey,” it goes down fairly easy.

Mainly because 99.2% of people won’t do any follow-up after watching the broadcasts.

Which Whidbey Buzz may appreciate, because, if you pull up the curtain even an inch, you start to have serious questions.

There’s a web site which has no info, and has covered up even who owns the domain.

Other than links to their broadcasts, there’s a small paragraph at the bottom of the site which says “learn how you can become a community sponsor and support the Whidbey Buzz.”CONTACT US TODAY!

However, they have yet to respond to my email about just how I can join the favored few. And I had $5 burning a hole in the pocket of my shorts.

Check out the Whidbey Buzz Facebook page or Facebook group and you find little beyond links to the broadcasts.

There’s an out-of-state phone number (which goes to Vegas), and a “team member” listed — Rick Manning, who owns Rigel Studios, a TV production company in Vegas.

After a little light needling, that company’s Facebook account responded to me, then declined to speak about Whidbey Buzz, citing an NDA.

I got a little more from the Buzz Facebook page, with an emphasis on little.

The unseen page admin was loathe to answer questions, though they did offer to send me a “VIP invite” to a meet-and-greet with Schorr they publicized, while nimbly sidestepping where, when, and if, said meeting would actually go down.

Leaving the spelling mistakes as they were posted by the admin, I was informed “most of the crew are long time residences of the island,” (they’re houses? – I kid, I kid…) but that they were “gathering bios will be on the web site.”

Cause that’s how news operations work, posting bios months after the web site goes live, said no news director ever.

And what crew, asks the man watching a man sitting in front of a digital projection, offering virtually nothing which proves anyone involved has come within two states of Whidbey Island.

To give them some small credit, there is this on the Facebook page, which comes complete with odd uses of capitol letters and the distinct feeling of listening to someone talk without ever really saying anything.

We Know here at The Whidbey Buzz, that many people are asking questions about who were are. As a non-profit News Operation we Pride ourselves in providing reliable, nonpartisan , deeply rooted thoughtful journalism. At our core is the truth and facts of stories. We look only to support the community, and as a non-profit newsroom we rely on donations and sponsorships to support our work. We don’t sell advertising but rather hope the community seeks to support what we are doing. We just thought you would like to know.

As a writer who survives in just that way – community support – my first, last and only follow-up question is, so how do you not have a donate button on Facebook, or your web site, or any place?

Oh, and there’s a Whidbey Buzz Instagram account, which only follows celebrities. As you do.

Now, I’m a sportswriter, not an investigative journalist, but a few more minutes on the internet reveals Schorr is deeply involved in his community … in Vegas.

He worked for Cox Communications there for many years, has an elementary school named in his honor, and is involved in about 2,000 active businesses.

LinkedIn lists Schorr as the President/CEO of Vegas Life TV, Chief Strategy Officer of LV.net, and Founder/President of Consulting Nevada, and that’s just the start for what seems like a very hard-working man.

Oh, and he also hosts Under the Vegas Sun.

There have been hundreds of episodes of that show, in which Schorr gets out and about, conducting interviews with movers and shakers and Vegas strip entertainers in one-on-one chats held at the house Liberace once owned.

I watched a couple of episodes on YouTube and it’s clear Schorr has a deep personal connection to what he’s doing … on that show.

On Whidbey Buzz, I’m not sure I feel the same love coming through.

Professional, slick copy-reading, yes.

But how many times can he refer to it as “in Whidbey, in Oak Harbor, and surrounding communities,” and wonder if he’s forgotten Whidbey is an Island, which means you’d be ON it, not IN it.

The show uses virtually the exact same opening graphics, intro, and style as another show Schorr helped anchor, Newsline America, produced by Rigel Studios.

There’s also The Now Report and the debris of several other shows still lingering out there in the corners of the internet, a veritable web of Vegas-produced shows which seemingly came and went.

Except for Under the Vegas Sun, which again, tip of the hat. That’s the one place I feel a genuine love for what’s being crafted.

But how does a bonafide Vegas dude end up anchoring a slick, yet sort of empty, broadcast focused on a mostly-obscure Island 1,150 miles away in Washington state?

Mr. Schorr, when I spoke to him (or his Facebook admin, cause who really knows for sure on Messenger) said, “I have friends and family that live there.

“Over years I have been there many times just wanted to be able to provide an independent voice for the community. It’s as simple as that. I have great contacts there have had for some time and feel I can provide important information to residents and it doesn’t matter where I hang my hat.”

When I asked him if maybe including that on his web site would be helpful, his response was “I will talk about that when I get up there within the next two weeks. Promise.”

Though he also studiously avoided my question about the when and where of such an in-person meet-up.

But, you know, I want to believe him.

I watch Under the Vegas Sun and I see a man with talent, a man good at his job, a man who could sell you just about anything.

So, maybe this doesn’t play out the way some have suggested.

Maybe the first, and only, sponsor Whidbey Buzz gets isn’t the backers of a proposed housing development here on Whidbey which has been denied numerous times and is in need of positive publicity.

Maybe, as the show shifts to include “rants,” as Mr. Schorr promised it would to a Whidbey Facebook community group which lives and dies for such activity, those rants won’t beat the drum for that development while bad-mouthing a different one on the other side of town.

You know, small-town people with their conspiracy theories…

But maybe I need to be more open and trusting, and buy into the dream that a bunch of shy Vegas residents just want to come promote our Island in their own way.

Like I said earlier, I stand with journalists who operate in the sunshine, who put their names and faces to their work, who offer their readers (or viewers) a chance to interact with them in a legitimate manner.

Maybe Whidbey Buzz will do that. You never know.

I’ll even give the Vegas brigade some incentive.

Embrace transparency, let us into your world, pull back the curtain and let the sun shine in, give us a reason to believe.

Do that, and I’ll give you a free ad the same as I did our local newspapers.

I have a larger readership than you may think, and just imagine all the positive … buzz.

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