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"Age of Obama" Author Mark Curtis on WTMJ-TV's "Morning Blend"

(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

For those of you who missed it, here is the link for a TV interview from Milwaukee on WTMJ-TV4's "Morning Blend" program, profiling "Age of Obama: A Reporter's Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008."



Is “New Media” Just “Peanuts?”

Schulz Sonoma State.JPG

(Rohnert Park, California)

Greetings from the campus of Sonoma State University! It’s a pretty spot in the wine country. I was here Friday for a job interview. It would not be a bad place to teach. The “living lessons” are everywhere!

Take, for example, my photo of the “Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center,” a.k.a. the library. Yes, THAT Charles Schulz—the “Peanuts” creator! Now why would a comic strip writer’s name adorn a university library? This is a great lesson, folks. Charles Schulz was not just the creator of Snoopy; he was a great philanthropist. Born in Minnesota, he spent his adult life in Santa Rosa, California, where he gave generously from his millions, played hockey on local ice rinks, and sketched cartoons about a boy and his dog.

Why is this important on a university campus? It's a lesson in persistence! We all know the successes of Charles Schulz, but what about the failures and roadblocks? Success did not come easily. I interviewed his business partner, Lee Mendelson, shortly after Schulz died. Mendelson recounted how CBS wanted nothing to do with “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.” It was too religious for secular Hollywood, and the network brass thought it would bomb. For reasons I can’t explain, they ran it anyway; and the rest is history.

Schulz, or “Sparky,” as he was known to many of the locals, was a kind and religious man. He worked hard, kept a low profile and shared the humility of his signature character, Charlie Brown. Despite all his detractors, Schulz’s talents were loved by the masses; and he remains a legend in death, as he was in life.

I mention all of this because we are at a critical crossroads in the media business. The landscape is changing fast. The sort of people who laughed at Schulz are the same sort of people who scoff at all this “new media” internet communication they view as nonsense.

Be forewarned. Why? Well let’s go back to my Sonoma State Campus analogy. Do you have any idea what building is right across from the Schulz library? Why the Charles Darwin Building! I am not making this up! The building named for the famous "survival-of-the-fittest" theorist faces the one named for the creator of poor Charlie Brown, who never learned not to kick that infamous football (but survived anyway.)

Oh, it gets worse (or better, depending on your point of view). What is across from the Darwin Building? Why, the Adlai E. Stevenson Center. It is named after the twice-failed presidential nominee, who later resurrected his career as the combative United Nations Ambassador during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Schulz-Darwin-Stevenson Buildings form a kind of “Bermuda Triangle” on the Sonoma State Campus. These are three people who--in their day--could have drowned in the swirl and rough waters of criticism, but who held steadfast. I hope professors on campus are teaching the students the significance of these three men—all once scoffed at, now revered.

As I mentioned, the media mavens of his day laughed at Schulz and thought he was a joke. Many of my cohorts have made the same jokes about the “new media” landscape, much to their own peril. We spoke today in my interview about whether the once mighty "San Francisco Chronicle" will survive; and, if not, what will take its place? It is a big concern.

The times are a-changin’ and the fallout has not yet registered fully. As I walked across the gorgeous wine country campus today, I wondered what Charles Schulz, Charles Darwin and Adlai Stevenson would tell us from the grave about the future of our media and our nation.

I like to think all three men would have enjoyed my book. You can, too! Just click on the blue book button on the right side of this screen to buy, “Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008.”

Have a GREAT Easter Weekend, everyone!

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