ON THREE: News at 11

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By ELLEN ENDO

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

—Albert Einstein (1879-1955),
theoretical physicist, winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize

Cleaning out my parents’ garage, I came across my dad’s U.S. Army-issue duffle bag.  He’d had it since 1942, and it was so tightly packed that it was too heavy for me to lift.

I started to remove some of the items to reduce the weight. There was khaki, lots of khaki. Pants, shirts, jackets, caps, chevrons, epaulets, socks, boxers, a wool scarf, and insignias accumulated during his 12 years with the Army. There was even a beret — khaki, of course.

He was one of the few who served in all three Nisei units during World War II (100th, 442nd, and MIS) and later in the Korean War.

When he was alive, my father told me that Korea was different. He felt more alone. Most of his Nisei comrades had left the service after WWII ended. Like other Asian Americans who were serving in Korea, he faced the added stigma of “looking like the enemy.” At best, there were jokes from white soldiers. At worst, there was a real danger of being accidentally shot.

So when a television announcer declared the other night, “North Korea threatens missile attack — could Los Angeles be a target?” I immediately flashed back to the duffle bag and Dad.

Several minutes later, following about six commercials and a story about Lindsay Lohan, the piece finally aired:

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has stepped up his threats against the United States, reportedly targeting Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas.”

The possibility that the North Korean dictator could unleash a weapon of mass destruction should be more than a sound bite for the nightly news. It’s an indication that news professionals aren’t taking the threat seriously. Let’s hope they are right.

While those of us here on the West Coast brace to see what moon-faced Kim Jong-un will do or say next, it is the news industry itself that’s making news on the East Coast. The buzz about the awkward dismissal of Ann Curry from NBC’s “Today Show” back in June is still wafting around New York.

As one of the few Asian Americans reporting the news at the network level, Curry’s career has garnered scrutiny over the years. Most recently, the Curry and “Today” co-host Matt Lauer debacle was the subject of an 8,000-word article by Joe Hagan in New York magazine.

It isn’t necessary to be a television maven to surmise that Curry was jettisoned because “Today’s” ratings were sagging while competitor “Good Morning, America” on ABC was pulling ahead. About the same time, according to Hagan, Lauer was renewing his contract, a fact that gave him leverage in the decision to remove or retain Curry. Somebody had to bear the blame for the dip in viewership, and it wasn’t going to be Lauer.

With thinning hair and looking very much like the middle-aged man he is, Lauer knew his days as an on-air host were numbered. His multi-million-dollar deal to stay on “Today” was presumably sealed with a proverbial goodbye kiss to Curry.

The rest is TV history, and not very fascinating history. Many watched Curry’s tearful farewell in which she apologized “to those who saw me as a groundbreaker” for being unable to “carry the ball over the finish line but, man, I did try.” I took it to mean that she felt a sense of responsibility to all Asian Americans to be a vanguard.

Fellow reporters commenting on the situation recalled that when Katie Couric left, there was a big fanfare. When Meredith Viera left, there was a big fanfare.  But when Ann Curry was being let go after 15 years, word leaked out days before, ending in NBC’s shameful treatment and public deflowering of the half-Japanese, half-French-Scot-Irish journalist.

Hagan wrote, “Off air, (Curry) was just as distraught, crying all the way to airport as soon the show ended. Astonishingly, NBC continued to play hardball with her, even refusing to let her tweet a message of support for ailing Robin Roberts [of ABC]for fear she was trying to undermine ‘Today.’”

Curry’s distress had little to do with money. She left with a deal that gave her $12 million and her own production unit at NBC, Hagan reported.

Buddhists believe in the existence of karma, Japanese say bachi ga ataru (what goes around, comes around) or, as my mother would say, “There is God.” A few days ago, I read in The New York Times that Lauer’s tenure at NBC may be in question. Allesandra Stanley writes that “Lauer has found himself under a growing cloud since his former co-anchor was clumsily cast aside.”

“Today’s” ratings are down, and replacements for Lauer are already being mentioned. Anderson Cooper, Ryan Seacrest, Willie Geist, and Carson Daly are among them. Stanley reports that Lauer has been “a little preoccupied.” She writes, “At one point he stared so intently at co-anchor Savannah Guthrie (Curry’s replacement) that she grew flustered. ‘Don’t look at me like that,’ she scolded him.”

Is it possible he was trying to figure out how to blame Guthrie for his low “Q” rating (popularity quotient)?
It’s tough to feel sorry for him, however. His latest deal pays him a reported $25 million per year.

The following classified ads actually appeared in newspapers:

—Dog for sale: eats anything and is fond of children.

—Semi-Annual after-Christmas Sale.

—Used Cars: Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first.

—Our bikinis are exciting. They are simply the tops.

—For sale: Antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers.

—Now is your chance to have your ears pierced and get an extra pair to take home too.

—Vacation Special: Have your home exterminated. Get rid of aunts. Zap does the job in 24 hours.

—Three-year-old teacher needed for pre-school. Experience preferred.

—Toaster: A gift that every member of the family appreciates. Automatically burns toast.

—Girl wanted to assist magician in cutting-off-head illusion. Blue Cross and salary.

—Illiterate? Write today for free help.

—Auto Repair Service. Free pick-up and delivery. Try us once; you’ll never go anywhere again.

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of The Rafu Shimpo or its management. Comments and/or inquiries should be directed to [email protected]

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