Saturday, March 24, 2007

Howard Kurtz, Ken Kurtz & The Future of News

Ken Kurtz, Howard Kurtz and the Future of News

“I'll be a virgin for you and lay my body down
cause I know more tricks than a rodeo clown

-Julie Brown (from the movie Medusa: Dare to Be Truthful)

Last Sunday was my first exposure to an obnoxious jerk named Glenn Beck. I’ve managed to live 48 years without ever hearing, reading or seeing any of Mr. Beck’s work as a “commentator,” but he recently showed up on one of my favorite television programs, CNN’s Reliable Sources, hosted by Howard Kurtz.

During the interview, Beck said he was not a journalist but more like a “rodeo clown.”

Reliable Sources examines the media and does it well. Beck questioned about some of his outlandish statements. It was also a chance for the network to showcase Beck, who appears on CNN Headline News, an affiliate of CNN.

Kurtz did a decent job questioning Beck, but the segment was an waste of time. Beck was treated too much like a serious journalist and not enough like a self-described “rodeo clown”.

I watch Reliable Sources to learn about journalism. If I want to watch rodeo clowns, I’ll watch the rodeo.

It made me wonder if another Kurtz, Ken Kurtz, would have booked a guest like Beck.

The Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame is naming Ken Kurtz as a member next month. It is an overdue honor for one of Kentucky’s best newsmen.

Ken was the long-time news director at WKYT television in Lexington. Although he has “retired” from journalism for several years, someone forgot to tell Ken. He is still one of the best newshounds in Kentucky and a man who has the inside scoop. His enthusiasm for news-gathering and for life is contagious.

He is a nice guy, but I suspect he was a demanding boss. He frequently sends me criticisms of my column as well as ideas for improvement.

Yet even when expressing disagreement, he is still tolerant of others’ viewpoints and is never personal or mean.

That is what separates him from the Glenn Beck’s of the world. To grab attention, Beck pushes the envelope on how obnoxious he can be.

Being outrageous is a quicker path to fame and glory than serious journalism. Anne Coulter is making more money than the people who win Pulitzer prizes. Beck probably is too.

I wonder if the Ken Kurtz news model can survive.

Ken’s broadcasts were first in the ratings and usually by a wide margin. He built his broadcasts on local talent, hard news and pleasant on-camera personalities. If you meet the reporters that Ken hired, like Barbara Bailey or Bill Bryant, they are just as nice off air as they appear on air. They are also serious journalists.

I’ve never heard Barb and Bill refer to themselves as rodeo clowns.

A Ken Kurtz news broadcast was a newscast, not an opinion show.

A true television newscast is getting hard to find. CNN Headline News used to be my first choice, but I quit watching it when they started featuring “commentators” like Beck and Nancy Grace.

For the sake of ratings, many stations forgo political coverage and focus on sex, blood and drugs. Because it works, that trend will increase in the future.

I frequently watch WYMT’s newscasts from Hazard on my computer. You can tell that Neil Middleton, the news director, was trained by Ken Kurtz. Neil’s broadcasts have friendly, home-grown reporters who do serious news. There may be a day when Middleton sends his angelic news anchor Danielle Morgan (daughter of a Leslie County preacher) to pose as an undercover street hooker, but it hasn’t happened yet.

I hope it never does.

I know that being edgy sells. My most outrageous columns are the ones people remember, and they are also the ones that get tons of hate mail.

I don’t write to get ratings; I write because I am mad and want politicians to do something.

There is a line between true outrage and being a rodeo clown. I don’t want rodeo clowns in the news business.

I don’t think Howard Kurtz does either. He ought to bring the other Kurtz on his show.

Instead of learning how to be an obnoxious jerk like Beck, we could learn how to be a Hall-of-Famer.

The news business would be better off all around.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group, where we hope Glenn Beck never comes to visit. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at His award-winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service, and he is on the Board of Directors for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Behind the Column

Ken Kurtz. If there is a picture of Ken Kurtz anywhere in the public domain I was unable to find it.

Glenn Beck. If you want to learn about Glenn Beck, you will have to do it on your own. I am not going to help the "rodeo clown" promote himself.

You can find pictures of Glen Kleine. My former journalism professor at Eastern Kentucky University will go into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame on April 10th along with Ken Kurtz and others.

Dr. Kleine and Dr. Libby Fraas taught me what I know about journalism. If you don't like something I write, please copy them on the complaint.

Reliable Sources is one of the best shows on television. It is one of the reasons I worship my Tivo. I rarely catch the show live.

I've wanted to use a Julie Brown song for a long time. I'm glad this opportunity came up. Brown was a star of early MTV and one of the comic geniuses of the 1980's. Medusa: Dare to the Truthful is a dead-on parody of Madonna's movie, Truth or Dare.

also co starred with Geena Davis in the movie, Earth Girls Are Easy. Brown sang the classic song, Because I'm a Blond, I don't have to think.

Don McNay

Author & Syndicated Columnist

Don McNay is an award winning syndicated columnist and author who views life with a rock and roll attitude.

He is the author of The Unbridled World of Ernie Fletcher.

McNay writes a weekly business and social commentary column and a bi-weekly column that focuses on Kentucky politics. All columns intertwine commentary with lyrics from popular songs.

Don's columns appear in the Richmond (Kentucky) Register and syndicated to over 200 cities through the CNHI News Service. He has also written for Trial Magazine, National Underwriter, Claims Magazine, Probe, Trial Diplomacy Journal and numerous business and legal publications.

McNay is one of the world's most successful structured settlement consultants for injury victims and lottery winners.

He has been named to the Million Dollar Round Table for 22 consecutive years and to the Top of the Million Dollar Round Table eight times. He has spoken to over 100 legal and financial groups around the United States, Canada and Bermuda. He holds several professional designations and was a director of the National Structured Settlement Trade Association from 1998 to 2001.

McNay has appeared on numerous television and talk radio programs and is a frequent guest on Kentucky Educational Television's Comment on Kentucky.

McNay has Master's degrees from Vanderbilt University and the American College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and was inducted into the EKU Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1998.

Don has been featured in Forbes Magazine, The Lexington Herald Leader, The Courier Journal, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Registered Representative Magazine and Financial Planning Magazine.

Don McNay

P.O. Box 747, Richmond, Ky. 40476-0747

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Anna Nicole and Dying Rich

Anna Nicole and Dying Rich

“Get Rich or Die Trying”

-50 Cent

I just watched the movie, Get Rich or Die Trying. The main character was a fascinating study of someone who viewed money and status as the key to happiness.

Being rich doesn’t make you happy. Ask anyone who knew Anna Nicole Smith if you need more elaboration.

The saddest are those who get rich through lottery, inheritance or some other one time money, and then blow it.

They had a chance but couldn’t make it work.

It’s been said that 90% of people who receive a lump sum of money will run through it all in five years or less. After 24 years of doing financial counseling for lottery winners and injured people, I am sure that that figure is correct.

It overwhelms most people to receive a large lump sum of money. They make mistakes and let people take advantage of them.

Some people view the wasted lives of lottery winners as proof that money is evil.

Money isn’t evil. Even quick money is not evil. Money allows us to feed our families and live a high-quality lifestyle. It is the exchange system we use to translate work product into rewards.

Get rich or die is not a motto to many people; it is a lifestyle. Like sex, drugs and rock- and-roll, money can become an obsession.

Just watching people with money, like Anna Nicole or Paris Hilton, has become important to some people.

It is said that money is the root of all evil. A television minister named Reverend Ike said that the lack of money is the root of all evil.

I say that the lack of respect for money is really the root of all evil.

I’ve dealt with over 2,000 people have come into instant money either through a settlement or a lottery. The people that set financial limits and goals live happily. Those without limits often end up making a fool out of themselves.

The unhappy people did not have respect for the money. Money is like fire or a dangerous substance. You have to understand that it can do for good and evil.

If, after receiving a lump sum of money, you take 50 of your closest “friends” to the Super Bowl, you don’t have respect for the money. If you go into a strip joint with $600,000 in cash, like Powerball winner Jack Whitaker did, you don’t have respect for the money.

Most people have friends within 15% of their own income class. When someone wealthy has friends who are poor, it is hard for them to do the same things socially.

Some big spenders think that money can buy them love, friends or happiness.

What kind of person would want “love” from someone who wants them only for their money?

It would be a lot cheaper and productive to dump the “friend” and spend the money on a good therapist.

There is not a law against being stupid. When a 60-year-old lottery winner suddenly gets an 18-year-old lover, the lover is not with them for their looks.

I really don’t understand the inner mind of people who leech. They are certainly out there. Look at the big “posse” that lottery winners have.

How much self-respect can a person like that have? I wonder how people get up in the morning knowing that they are going to suck money from someone who trusts them?

People who earn money learn to respect its power. You don’t see many self-made millionaires doing the stupid things that lottery winners are known for.

Go to a self-made person and see if they are paying people to be their friends. It does not happen. The self-made person has sweat and stress invested in the creation of money.

They view their money with proper respect.

Three has been too much media coverage of Anna Nicole. She did not earn her wealth or make the world a better place. Her big accomplishment was inheriting money.

She managed to be rich and die trying.

Don McNay is Chairman of McNay Settlement Group where we want our client to get rich and live through the experience. You can write to him at or read other things he has written at His award winning column is syndicated on the CNHI News Service.

Obits from Northern Kentucky


I wanted to note the passing of two Northern Kentuckian who had an impact on my life.

Jack Kinsella

Jack owned the West Side Café in Newport which was a hotbed of working class political activism.

Jack was a great friend of my father and I worked in a deli across from the West Side all during high school. The years in Newport had a tremendous impact on how I view the world and my writings 30 years later reflects it.

Jack was one of the nicest human beings I have ever met. He was the ultimate soft touch for someone down on their luck and there were a lot of people down on their luck on the West Side of Newport.

In the 1970’s Newport High School had the second highest dropout rate in the country and the city was the true definition of economic depression. As the great KET documentary, Where the River Bends, notes, the city has come a long way since then.

I have not seen Jack since my father’s funeral in 1993 but know that he never gave up his affinity for the hard working people who came into his café.

Another part of me was formed during that time period. The food at the West Side was incredible and I gained a bunch of weight.

Here is a link to a Cincinnati Enquirer profile of Jack:

Hilda Robinson

I never met Ms. Robinson but she had an tremendous impact on Kentucky through her son, William T. (Bill) Robinson III, who is a powerhouse on the Kentucky legal, business and political scene.

Her grandson, William T. (Tay) Robinson IV, is a structured settlement consultant who started his career with McNay Settlement Group and we remain good friends. Tay’s father in law, Ed Currin, is a funeral director who did a wonderful job with my mother and sister’s funerals last year.

Enclosed is an obituary and profile from the Kentucky Post: