News Bulletin! Well, it’s more than a news bulletin. A revelation. A confession. An insight. It could have ended in a personal scandal for me, but thanks to good editing by the staff at ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, I was spared this evening.
Austin, Texas, July 18, 2011
Reported by Earl B. Russell (decidedly not a journalist)
This report Monday night on a “Retirement Revolution” on ABC World News With Diane Sawyer led to my personal confession in this post. Here’s ABC’s report first:
Last Thursday evening, Bill Walters, a good friend here in Austin, had just gotten off the phone with a New York producer at ABC World News with Diane Sawyer. They had a news crew assembled here in Austin for a Friday taping of activities of “Baby Boomers” who are retiring in huge numbers, with 10,000 per day now turning 65 years of age in the U. S. Bill wanted to know if my wife Ellen and I would join him and his wife Pat “for a drink” somewhere in downtown Austin. I said to Bill,
“What does ABC want to do, make it look like retirees go to the bar for a drink or two every afternoon?”
Bill laughed and said,
“That’s just what the producer wants to do with the piece.”
I conferred with Ellen, and after thinking over the offer for at least two to three seconds, we agreed to participate. It just happens that ABC World News with Diane Sawyer is our news of choice just before dinner each evening—whenever we’re not doing something else. We record each broadcast on our DVR, and if we happen to miss a broadcast due to other obligations, we usually watch it later.
[We realize that most readers of this post under thirty think people like us who still watch network news are nuts, but it’s a generational thing and that’s okay with us. I grew up in a farm family where the NBC News program, “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, kept us informed and I got imprinted on it. Further evidence of how nuts we are is that we still get two newspapers delivered to our driveway seven days a week, The Austin American-Statesman and The New York Times, but again, it’s a generational thing and that’s okay with us.]
Anyway, the ABC taping late Friday afternoon turned out to be part of an opening story in a week-long series, “Retirement Revolution,” that ABC aired worldwide Monday evening.
We found out that the taping was to include ABC’s Claire Shipman, who had interviewed the Walters earlier in the day on the University of Texas campus as they discussed a flagship continuing education program called LAMP, or Learning Activities for Mature People, that each of us and about 500 other people belong to each year within the nationally known Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). Anyone of “our generation” or anyone who is looking forward to retirement may learn more about this program at:
The newscast began with highlights of main stories to be covered in that particular broadcast. The thumbnail of the “Retirement Revolution” story showed the Walters, Ellen and me walking from the parking lot at South Austin’s Saxon Pub into the cave-like darkness of the famous local music hangout. Singer Bobby Whitlock, another native Tennessean now living in Austin who is a noted and highly accomplished musician, began to set up to play, also at the request of ABC News.
Moving the story right along, getting to the backstory I mentioned, by the time the camera crew was ready to shoot footage of us at Saxon Pub, the liquid levels in our glasses were embarrassingly low for national and world news telecasts. The local producer asked us:
Would you like to have another drink courtesy of ABC News?
“Sure” we said, as I instantaneously lifted Ellen’s and my glasses and darted like a dragon fly to the bar about six feet away. We like a deal like that.
As I walked up to the brass uprights to order our drinks, the ABC camera man brought the camera up behind and about eighteen inches from my left ear. I could feel the heat of the lights. The young, attractive woman taking my order was especially eye-catching and I wondered if the camera man noticed the same thing. How could he not notice? Then I thought with some discomfort,
What if this is aired and maybe a few of my remaining relatives in Tennessee–some of whom may still believe an alcoholic drink will send one straight to hell—see this, what will they think?
Well, thanks to ABC’s not using this footage, I was spared the embarrassment. This could have become a minor scandal in my family.
Now I realize that one day some of those family members, if any, may read this blog post and consider this a confession, just as damning. I am guilty. I cannot tell a lie.
A final note on this brush with world news workings is that ABC’s Claire Shipman was on the way to Saxon Pub to interview us when she was involved in a traffic accident! Shortly after the local ABC producer had bought us a fresh round of drinks for the taping, she got a call from Shipman, sadly cancelling our part of the interviews. But Shipman is okay, appearing at the desk with Diane Sawyer Monday evening.
ABC’s weeklong series on retirement continues through Friday, July 22, and will be available online well beyond then. People under thirty should watch, as well as Baby Boomers. (Maybe especially people under thirty–it would help them look ahead a bit farther.)
But I should clarify that I’m not retired. I’m a writer. ABC doesn’t need to know. Please don’t tell them. If you do, they may ask me for a refund.