By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, Dec. 31, 2015 — What was your personal year in review?
It’s easy to compile lists at year’s end — the best this, the worst that: TV shows, books, movies. But it’s all so impersonal, isn’t it? Think about it: What do you care what someone else thinks was the best and worst in the past year?
The only year that really had any value was yours. What did you do? Speaking for myself, 2015 was a good year for journalism — mine, that is.
I wrote 275 columns for Television News Daily/MediaPost.com, 38 news stories and features for TVNewsCheck.com, four stories for AARP The Magazine — all on the subject of television — and one story for a neighborhood paper in Philadelphia, The Chestnut Hill Local, that was the most meaningful of all the stories I wrote this year.
It was the story of Cooperman’s Pharmacy, my grandfather’s drugstore, a fixture of its neighborhood for more than 90 years until it closed for good last spring more than 35 years after he died. Farewell.
The 275 MediaPost bylines included 27 stories from the New York “upfronts” (the TV and on-line programming presentations) stretching from February to May and ranging from Nickelodeon and MTV to Yahoo and Buzzfeed. Among the highlights: Performances by Jessie J at the MTV presentation at the Beacon — electrifying — and Ricky Martin at the Univision event at the Lyric — awesome.
The 38 TVNewsCheck stories included nine stories written in three days at all hours, including the wee-est hours of the morning, during the National Association of Broadcasters annual convention in Las Vegas in April — attendance: 100,000-plus (the two photos at the top of this blogpost and left are from that trip).
I got little sleep, ate few actual meals and walked many miles — through the vast exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center in search of drone displays (which I found, and the sheer number of them was mind-boggling), down endless hotel corridors searching for meeting rooms, and on the sidewalks of Las Vegas between venues (when a cab was not convenient).
One day, as I walked from the Wynn to the Convention Center, somewhere in the vicinity of the Indoor Skydiving place, the city was hit by a rare weather phenomenon — a dust storm that kicked up the desert sand and sent it flying through the air, a glorious thing to behold (although not to ingest).
The entire experience of covering the NAB this year felt like … journalism. Unless you’ve done it, or you’re a journalist yourself, you cannot know how great it feels. I think gonzo is the word I’m looking for here …
I did six radio interviews this year — two with Geraldo Rivera on WABC, New York; one with Mark Simone and one with Len Berman and Todd Schnitt on WOR, New York; one with the great Larry Rifkin on WATR, Waterbury, Conn., and one with Brian Kilmeade on Fox News Radio.
I did three TV interviews — one on the WPIX/Ch. 11 morning show last February assessing the Super Bowl commercials (actually, we did two different segments); one on Al Jazeera America (about the Brian Williams mess at NBC) — my first time on this particular channel; and one for WNET/Ch. 13’s “MetroFocus” show about my book “JERK: How I Wasted My Life Watching Television.” This interview has been posted on the Ch. 13 Web site since last spring, but it has yet to air on the actual show. Perhaps soon …
I made two public appearances this year, both courtesy of the National Geographic Channel, which enlisted me to host and moderate the two panel discussion events the network staged at the Paley Center for Media in New York. The panels varied widely, to say the least.
The first one was the world premiere screening last July of a portion of the four-hour NatGeo documentary called “The 2000s: A New Reality,” about the first decade of the 21st century.
You can watch the whole thing here:
It was a great privilege (and the world’s biggest hoot) to conduct live, on-stage interviews with this diverse group of newsmakers from that decade: Donato Dalrymple, the south Florida resident who gained fame as the man who plucked the young Cuban refugee, 6 year-old Elian Gonzalez, from the waters near Miami in 2000; Andy Grignon, part of the development team at Apple who created the iPhone; John Keller, ex-U.S. marine who saved lives during hurricane Katrina in New Orleans; Richard Hatch, famed winner of the first season of “Survivor” on CBS in summer 2000; Sherron Watkins, brave whistleblower who told the world about the Enron mess; and Jane Root, executive producer of “The 2000s.”
The second one was the New York premiere screening on Oct. 29 of the NatGeo science series called “Breakthrough,” which aired over eight weeks this past fall. The panelists that night were Trish Aelker of Lockheed Martin, who directs the company’s efforts in the development of exoskeleton technology; Dr. John Dye, who fights pandemics such as ebola as the chief of the immunology branch of the U.S. Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases; Dr. John Schenk, one of the original innovators of MRI technology at GE; Laura Deming, an investor who puts her money in companies involved in lengthening human life spans; Eric Fitch, an entrepreneur and pioneer in alternative energy sources; Cindy Wallis-Lage, an expert in new water-conservation technologies; and “Breakthrough” executive producer Kurt Sayenga. An amazing night.
Also in the past year, I contrived the usual boatload of ideas for stories and books that I have not yet started to write, and possibly never will. I added many songs to my personal playlist too, including these four: “Bang Your Drum” (Dead Man Fall), “Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again” (The Fortunes), the theme from “Up The Down Staircase” (Fred Karlin) and “Come Softly To Me” (The Fleetwoods). Don’t ask me why.
Ever since Letterman said good-bye last May, I haven’t been able to get Everlong by Foo Fighters out of my head either.
Of all the events of the past year, none could equal the reunion I had earlier this month (on Dec. 14) with this guy (the one in the photo at right) — a get-together that took 38 years to arrange, proof that miracles do happen.
Maybe I’ll run into some of you in 2016, on our way up the down staircase, always.
Contact Adam Buckman: firstname.lastname@example.org