clinton-trump-debates

In every modern Presidential election campaign there are three major hurdles to overcome: the primaries, the nominating conventions and the fall debates.

I think it’s fair to say that Donald Trump won the primaries and Hillary Clinton won the battle of the conventions. Now we come to the debates, and with two polar opposite candidates and a surprisingly large number of voters undecided, they are expected to be among the most widely watched televised political events in a long time.

The debates, of course, are not really “debates” as properly understood. And although they are ostensibly about issues, they are really about personalities and creating moments – sometimes as short as ten seconds – that can be replayed endlessly on TV and mocked or celebrated on social media for decades to come.

I’ve watched every Presidential debate since the Jimmy Carter and Jerry Ford met in 1976, (although sometimes I was watching through my fingers).  I think this qualifies me to give debate tips, so here goes:

Beat expectations: The debates are the nation’s longest-running reality TV show program, where performance counts more than substance.  And like much of life, performance is judged on expectation. In 2012, Mitt Romney performed much better than expected in his first debate against President Obama, which gave him a boost in the polls (that is, until he reverted to the mean in the second round).   In 2016, the “expectations game” advantage goes to Trump, who is widely considered to be, shall we say, a shallow policy thinker. So all he needs to do is articulate a few cogent arguments and not commit any major faux pas and he’ll perform better than expected.  This is also called “grading on a curve,” which drives the Clintonistas crazy, but that’s the dynamic of politics.

If you make a mistake address it immediately. In 1976 Jerry Ford bizarrely claimed that the Soviet Union was not dominating Eastern Europe.  But what made it worse was the campaign’s refusal to acknowledge there had been any misstatement at all. That made it an issue for days afterward.  Same with Marco Rubio’s meltdown at the 2016 GOP New Hampshire debate, when he robotically repeated talking points after being accused by Chris Christie of robotically repeating talking points.  Instead of making a joke about his brain freeze, Rubio doggedly insisted that he’d done nothing wrong and by the time he apologized for his poor performance, he’d fallen to fifth in the polls.

Be a gentleman to the lady:  Trump can’t afford to bully Clinton like he bullied his male competitors during the primaries.  Chivalry won’t allow it even in the 21st Century, as Barack Obama, a candidate as politically correct as they come, learned when he condescending said in one of their 2008 debates, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”  She got so much sympathy that she surged in the polls (but not enough).  But in terms of gender block-headedness, no one beats Rick Lazio, who during their New York Senate debate in 2000, approached Clinton’s podium, thrust a piece of paper in front of her and insisted that she sign a pledge against soft money.  That looked aggressive and threatening, not manly.

Don’t stray from the podium:  As Rick Lazio demonstrated, very little good can come of wandering away from your assigned spot.  In 2000 Al Gore tried to assert dominance by getting in the face of George W. Bush, and it fell flat when Bush gave him a surprised and disdainful glance. Eight years later John McCain was caught on camera wandering around the stage while Obama was talking, which spawned a ton of online spoofs.

Use your humor: Everyone is so uptight at these debates that a little joke goes a long way.  Most famously, Ronald Reagan overcame the perception that he was too old to be president when he quipped that he wasn’t going to bring age into the campaign, and wouldn’t exploit “the youth and inexperience” of his opponent (i.e., the well-traveled Walter Mondale).  This year Trump has been the jokester but if Clinton could get off a self-deprecating zinger about one of her liabilities, it would help a lot.  But talk about grading of a curve! It wouldn’t take much for Clinton to beat expectations on her sense of humor, given that he most famous joke of the campaign was that she didn’t know who invented Pokemon Go, but wished someone would invent “Pokemon go to the polls.”  Yeesh.

Don’t fall in love with your poll-tested metaphors.  During one particularly painful debate in 2000, Al Gore kept promising to put Medicare in a “lock box” while George W. Bush repeatedly accused him of “fuzzy math.”   They obviously thought these were killer moments.  They weren’t.

Beware the “Town Hall” format.  I really hate these phony Town Halls, where “real” voters are selected to ask questions, no matter how off-the-wall. Plus candidates are expected to sit at stools and casually approach the audience, which is how McCain got in trouble with his wandering. The worst performer was then-President George H.W. Bush, who was understandably flummoxed when a voter asked him how he’d been “personally affected by the national debt.”  Huh? First he looked at his watch, as if he wanted to know how much longer this God-awful ordeal would last, and then he argued with the premise of the question.  If you are asked a dumb question, acknowledge the voter’s pain and then move on to your own messaging.

If someone asks if you’d be upset if a criminal raped and murdered your wife, say yes.  Got that Michael Dukakis?

 

 

watching netflix.jpg

As Labor Day approaches, most of us past the age of consent are realizing we’ve been denied one of the season’s sweetest pleasures: that great summer film that everyone’s talking about.  It was left to television to produce 2016’s only terrific summer movie, “Stranger Things,”an homage to the great films of the ‘80s. Unfortunately it wasn’t shown in an actual cinema, but only on Netflix.

Film was the great mass communication medium during the first half of the 20th century, with the average American attending two to three movies per week.  The introduction of television in the 1950s dealt Hollywood a body blow, stripping away its monopoly on visual entertainment and significantly cutting into movie attendance.

But early TV didn’t kill the movies.  If anything, by drawing away viewers interested only in mindless entertainment, TV did cinema the favor of making it a more serious and ambitious medium.  For Baby Boomers, going to movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s was akin to attending the opera or the museum a century earlier, and going to a summer movie with your friends was a rite of passage.

Well, that was then.  By the time 2016 rolled around, the major movie studios had almost abandoned any hope of attracting adult audiences.  To the extent there are still serious movies, they are generally produced by independent film companies and shown in art houses to discerning but small audiences, or released at Christmas so they can be eligible for the Academy Awards.

For the last dozen years or so, Hollywood’s business model has been to create blockbusters that generate hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office.  To get a blockbuster, you need to attract repeat viewing, which has generally meant developing movies for teens or kids who are eager to get out of the house (it’s no coincidence that the groups most likely to go to the movies also watch the least amount of TV).

There was a time when blockbusters meant exciting original content (“Jaws,” “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” etc.) Today the industry is fixated on franchises, remakes or sequels.  So it’s no surprise that the top 10 movies of the year to date are literal or figurative cartoons (i.e., animation or action movies based on comic books.)  What’s a little bit of a surprise, however, is that box office receipts are down from last year.  Maybe even kids and teens have had their fill of sub-par films.

Is television to blame for this sorry state of affairs?  Has it finally finished off what it started in the 1950s?

In some respects, TV didn’t kill cinema. The film industry itself committed suicide.  No one forced Hollywood to stop making movies that appeal to adults.

And yet you can’t help feeling that much of the talent and energy that would have gone into making general-appeal movies 20 years ago is now focused on TV.  The best blockbuster of the year is not “Captain America.”  It’s “Game of Thrones.”  And the best horror experience is “The Walking Dead.”  And the best documentary is ESPN’s “O.J.: Made in America.”

Hollywood’s fate may have been doomed by the artistic and commercial success of “The Sopranos,” which demonstrated there was a mature audience hungry for adult storytelling.  Soon thereafter, Alan Ball, who had won a screenwriting Academy Award for “American Beauty,” took his talents to HBO to produce “Six Feet Under.”  A decade later, David Fincher, the Oscar-nominated director for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “The Social Network,” created and produced “House of Cards” for Netflix.  We’ve reached a point where Martin Scorsese, the world’s greatest living director, is now doing occasional TV work, directing the series premieres for both “Boardwalk Empire” and “Vinyl.”

But what’s really drained Hollywood has been the renaissance of the TV mini-series and the anthology series.   Hugely popular in the 1970s and 80s, with such shows as “Roots,” “The Thorn Birds” and “The Winds of War,” these self-contained, multi-episode TV shows have returned with a vengeance.  Mini-series were once a rare and special TV event, but have now become a regular part of the TV diet.

It’s the mini-series that is really drawing star power to television.  Major movies stars like Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams and Vince Vaughn agreed to do TV work on “True Detective.”  And Billy Bob Thornton and Kirsten Dunst appeared in “Fargo.”

Storytellers have always craved time to tell their stories.  Exactly 100 years ago, D.W. Griffith brought forth the three-and-a-half-hour blockbuster “Intolerance,” and in 1924 Erich von Stroheim infamously produced the eight-hour-long silent movie “Greed.”  Since then, some of Hollywood’s greatest films (“Gone With The Wind,” the earlier, 1959 version of “Ben-Hur,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” “The Godfather”s, part 1 and 2, and “The Lord of the Rings”) have all clocked in at three hours or more.   Hollywood rarely has the nerve to do that any longer, but HBO and Netflix, with hours to content to fill, are happy to give their storytellers as much time as they need.

Maybe the slate of fall movies will surprise me and the year will redeem itself. but it will be hard for any film to beat the experience and joy of watching “Stranger Things” this summer.

Good luck, Hollywood.  I like to get out of the house, too, so I’m rooting for you.

TV remotes

I recently received a message from Amazon urging me to watch its video programming, which is included in my Amazon Prime membership.  That certainly seemed like a good suggestion — until the time came when I actually wanted to watch something.

The video-viewing apparatus in my living room consists of a stack of machines and devices — but to my disappointment, none of them offer Amazon Prime, not even my much-hyped Apple TV.  Sure I could watch Prime on my laptop, and last year I did, in fact, watch Amazon’s “Catastrophe” that way, but the experience convinced me that watching “TV” on a laptop while seated bolt-upright in front of a desk is about as satisfying as eating dinner standing in front of the sink.  From a utilitarian perspective they both accomplish their main task, but the aesthetics leave something to be desired.

Preferring to watch video entertainment on my HDTV monitor, I decided to solve the Amazon Prime problem by ordering a six-foot HDMI cable, which I can hook up to my computer when I want to stream onto the TV.

But what a pain in the neck.  Already sitting on my viewing stand are five remotes that control: 1) the monitor; 2) the DVR; 3) the DVD player; 4) my Apple TV; and 5) a cable-splitter device to switch from cable to cable. Now I have a separate cable to connect my laptop.

And it’s not as if these other devices are that easy to master.  The navigation on the Apple TV is so sensitive that I’m constantly landing on the wrong icon or the wrong show.  Of course to get even this far I needed to go online many times to check Apple TV instructions, since there was no manual with the device itself.  And even now, after all these years, I don’t understand why the DVR will sudden stop recording shows on my watch list, or why I get reruns when I specifically set the directions to record first-time-only broadcasts.

Whenever I complain about the complexity of watching TV, I feel like the old coot yelling at the neighborhood ruffians to stop playing on his grass.  Why can’t I be more like my Millennial son, who watches TV while lying on his bed with his laptop propped on his stomach?  Get out of the way of progress ,you geezer!

Of course we have to be careful not to romanticize the past.  One of the earliest television clichés was the image of the 1950s dad on the roof trying to position the antenna just right, so TV was frequently a pain the neck even in the days of yore.  Cable solved the antenna problem but created its own challenges with the cable box, which required its own remote control.  And the VCR was so complicated that most people only used it to play videos, not to record anything.

It seems like every time we master one form of technology, the device industrial complex invents another must-have machine. We now live in a world when no one can go into another person’s home and confidently change the TV channel without screwing up the system.  That’s a lesson I’ve learned over too many Christmas visits to my parents’ house.

Figuring out how to work the devices is bad enough — but finding something to watch is even worse.  I know there’s a ton of content to watch, but where to find it?  I’d really like to watch “Orphan Black,” but have no idea how to do that.  I see from a Google search that it’s on BBC America.  Is that part of my cable package?  I guess I could look, assuming I can find my channel guide?  Or maybe it’s on Netflix, but the search function is really hard on Netflix.

I’m glad there are so many great shows to watch and so many ways to watch them, but it seems like “television” is about to collapse on itself from the weight of its own complexity.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll just stick to Colbert.  He’s on every night and is waiting for me on the DVR whenever I get home.  Sometimes the path of least resistance is the best option.

Ailes

So Roger Ailes has been ejected from his throne at Fox News and even barred from entering the News Corporation building.  You won’t find me shedding a tear because eight years ago he tried to get me fired.  What happened to me wasn’t as bad as what has allegedly happened to Fox’s own employees, but it did provide a brief glimpse of Fox’s modus operandi.

At the time of the events in question I was the chief spokesman for Nielsen and caught in the middle of one of those adolescent spitball fights that periodically erupts between media companies.  In one corner was Fox News, which had recently launched Fox Business News, a financial cable network that was supposed to do for financial reporting what they had done to political news.  In the other corner was CNBC, which Ailes had once led before being ushered out the door in 1996.

In 2007, Ailes launched Fox Business with great fanfare. This included a huge ad campaign that took direct aim at CNBC.  The day the network launched Fox even sent a reporter to stand outside CNBC’s headquarters and announce that it was “hunting season.”

The problem is that the shenanigans that made Fox News a political powerhouse didn’t work with financial viewers, who, since they are making investment decisions involving real money, tend to prefer their financial news to actually be fair and balanced.  The result was that the ratings for Fox Business News were in the toilet.  For the first two months it was on the air, it had an average audience of 6,300 viewers, about as many people as you’d see at a small town’s Thanksgiving Day football game.

The folks at CNBC and NBC were overjoyed by Fox’s flop but here’s the rub: under Nielsen rules, which had been carefully negotiated with all the media companies, no one can release viewing numbers with a rating below 0.1 (or 0.1 percent of the viewing audience), which in this case would have represented about 35,000 viewers.  This rule is designed to protect nascent cable networks so they aren’t humiliated by low numbers as they’re trying to get on their feet.

This rule usually protects networks that no one’s ever heard of, but Fox Business had launched with so much publicity that everyone in the TV world knew who they were.  CNBC wanted them humiliated but Nielsen wouldn’t release the 6,300 number and CNBC itself could have been sanctioned if they made it public.

Despite this rule, I was not surprised when someone actually did leak the number to New York Times media reporter Jacques Steinberg.  For years The Times and Fox had had a contentious relationship, to say the least.  Their values and biases were diametrically opposed and if there was any publication motivated and powerful enough to stand up to Fox it was The Times.

Steinberg’s call to Nielsen asking for confirmation came at the end of several weeks of furious calls among senior Nielsen, Fox and NBC executives, with NBC pressuring us to make the number public and Fox demanding that we squash the story.  Emotions were running high, with both networks acting like this story was on par with the Pentagon Papers.  Nielsen decided to stay neutral and enforce its own rule; eventually I ended up telling Steinberg that I would not confirm the number.  But I also reminded him that I would steer him away from erroneous information, which is what I would do for any reporter.

The resulting story reported the embarrassingly low numbers for Fox Business, with the Times sourcing it to “a person who saw those internal reports [and] vouched for their contents on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.”  CNBC “declined comment” and Fox didn’t answer emailed inquiries.  I was quoted in the piece by name as confirming the rules around the minimum reporting requirements.

I don’t think I’m breaking any confidentiality agreements when I reveal that Fox is (or at least was) full of vindictive bullies.  Fox News almost always got great ratings but whenever there was a dip, Ailes and his lieutenants would call and complain, threatening some kind of unspecified retribution.  Eventually there would be a war or terrorist attack to drive Fox ratings back up and things would be fine again, but for those months when they were slumping Ailes would make life miserable for Nielsen.

Ailes and the rest of Fox News either believed, or pretended to believe, they were the victims of a left-wing conspiracy, which was ridiculous as far as Nielsen was concerned.  Our CEO David Calhoun was, according to public filings, a steady contributor to Republican candidates and the rest of the executive team on balance leaned moderate right, to the extend they leaned any way at all.  As for me, it’s right there on my LinkedIn profile that I worked for a right-wing Congressman, served in the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign and spent time in the Reagan White House.  So I had no ideological problems with Fox News.

In any event, Ailes (or his PR team) was exorcised enough about the story to send Nielsen a letter, which, among other things, demanded my head.  The logic of the letter was that since CNBC and Fox had declined comment and I was quoted in the story explaining how the reporting requirements work, I must have been the one to have leaked the number to The New York Times.  I doubt that even Ailes believed this bit of fallacious logic; instead I think the purpose of the letter was to punish me for refusing to play along with Fox in killing the story, which would have been impossible without outright deception.

Surprise! Nielsen didn’t fire me, viewing this as another Ailes tantrum, and he seemed to get over his fit of pique pretty quickly since the name “Gary Holmes” never appeared in any future Ailes correspondence or conversations.

Jacques Steinberg was not quite as lucky.  Fox launched a nasty on-air campaign against him and at one point even featuring him in an anti-Semitically doctored photo.  Nice.  With Ailes gone will bullying these tactics also disappear?  We can only hope.

 

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OK, here comes the Trump coronation.

The only satisfaction I can take from this week’s Republican convention is that the media are even unhappier than the Republican establishment.  Although why that should be the case is inexplicable, because he’s exactly the kind of candidate the media has been clamoring for.

For as long as I can remember, reporters and commentators (assuming there’s a difference) have been complaining about the plastic Ken and Barbie dolls who have been running for public office.  Two years ago, if you’d asked them to design the perfect presidential candidate, it would have been something like this:

  • Someone who says whatever’s on his mind, regardless of the consequences.
  • A non-politician who doesn’t use talking points, teleprompters, and canned stump speeches.
  • Someone who doesn’t use a pollster to “nuance” his positions.
  • A candidate who is not indebted to PACs and special interests.
  • A media-savvy communicator who will go on any talk show, talk to any reporter, answer any question, and hold plenty of press conferences.
  • A candidate who increases voter turnout among people who rarely go to the polls.
  • A near-atheist who can expose the religious right as hypocrites.
  • A populist who can make Fox News bend to his will, not the other way around.

Trump is all this and more, and the media is appalled that these ingredients didn’t combine to produce a left-leaning truth-teller like Bulworth. What a surprise.

Now that I’ve gone through all the stages of grief, I no longer blame the media solely for the rise of Trump.  Yes, I think it was unfair that the cable news channels would interrupt regular programming to show his speeches, or that the Sunday talk shows would invite him on week after week (and even let him call in).  But in retrospect, I am sympathetic to the situation news producers were in.  Trump generated big ratings for them because he was constantly making news, or at least making controversy.  The other candidates were either too cautious or too unimaginative to make news on a daily basis.

It’s probable that Trump would have received the nomination even if the media hadn’t put their thumbs on the scale.

There’s a body of thought that the media did a poor job of exposing Trump’s negatives.  That’s ridiculous. The kind of things that would have sunk a normal candidate in a normal year – the verbal screw-ups, the bankruptcies, the apostasies from conservative dogma, the use of illegal labor at his construction sites, the lack of religious conviction, the shenanigans at Trump University – were well-documented by the press and thrown at him in debate after debate.

Part of the problem is that the people who support Trump simply don’t believe the media and haven’t really believed them since the 1960s.  They suspect that the people who run the mainstream newsrooms look down on them and advocate for a kind of diversity that includes everyone else but them.  So these folks are apt to discount negative stories about Trump.

Media watchdogs have also taken the media to task for not doing more “fact-checking” on Trump’s proposals.  Also ridiculous.  There’s been plenty of coverage about his proposals – many of which are considered “gaffes.”  Further, there’s nothing that sticks in the craw of a conservative quite as much as the media appointing itself he arbiter of what’s correct and what’s incorrect in a candidate’s speech or debate performance.  Until left-leaning candidates receive the same level of scrutiny, it’s unlikely than any deep review of any candidate’s positions by the media will be taken seriously by  the right.

More to the point, this is a year when the actual positions taken by the candidates are considered performance art more than actual attainable goals.  I’ve listened, mouth agape, as Trump supporters admit that no, they don’t think a wall is really plausible, and no, they don’t really want to ban all Muslims from the United States.

But the same is true with Sanders supporters too. How many of them truly believe that free college is possible?  And while we’re at it, who seriously believes that Hillary Clinton is against the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

So while the media (and most of those hapless GOP contenders) thought this election was about policy positions, it’s really been about identity and grievance.  Trump’s consequence-free ability to abandon Republican orthodoxies shows that most people don’t care what legislation you propose — as long as you seem to be on their “side.”

Looked at it this way, Trump’s “gaffes” turned out to be part of his appeal. When the media thought they were driving a stake through his heart by reporting them so breathlessly, they were actually building him up as the anti-establishment candidate.

The media won’t be the ones to stop Trump.  That will be up the voters now.  If the media really want to stop Trump, the best thing they can do is to deliver the news straight, get off the ratings gravy train, and not treat Trump supporters as yahoos.  That shouldn’t be asking too much.

Modern Family House

Television has been widely blamed — rightly, in my opinion — first, for making the Trump nomination possible and then for making it inevitable.  Starting with “The Apprentice,” TV made Donald Trump a household name, and then, through wall-to-wall coverage during the primaries, it gave him so much attention that the other candidates suffocated from a lack of media oxygen.

But I think there’s another way that television has made Trumpism popular: by (inadvertently) stoking the flames of class resentment.

Let’s recall that the initial vessel of this round of voter anger, the Tea Party, was originally propelled by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s rant against a government bailout of homeowners who had bought houses they couldn’t afford, at the expense of sober-minded homeowners who were living within their means.  In other words, the Tea Party began as a protest by middle-class homeowners against upper-middle-class homeowners.

Tea Party resentment blossomed from the wreckage of the financial collapse and Great Recession.  What’s less clear is why there is so much anger today, at a time of relatively low unemployment and steady (albeit sluggish) economic growth.  Despite the good news consistently trumpeted by the Obama administration, a Marketplace-Edison Research poll found that 63% of Americans feel anxious about their finances, while 43% feel stuck in their financial situation.  That’s a recipe for a disrupter like Trump.

The Occupy movement’s explanation for voter discontent is that the economic gains of the past seven years have gone only to the top one-percent of the population.  But all you have to do is look around to see that it’s more than the top one-percent who are doing pretty well in this economy.  Indeed, as the economist Stephen Ross has wondered, why does a luxury brand like Mercedes-Benz advertise on a mass medium like television when there are more targeted ways to reach the wealthy?

Well, it turns out that the social group with the biggest economic gains in the past few years has been the upper-middle class: i.e., families making between $100,000 and $350,000 a year.  And if you’ve got a nice-size 401K, you’re feeling pretty comfortable about the stock market’s performance these fast seven years. The reason Mercedes advertises on TV is because there’s a large and growing group of Americans who can aspire to a luxury lifestyle.

And it’s exactly that group, the upper middle class, that is over-represented on television.  Among the top-rated series, a disproportionate number feature well-dressed characters living in beautiful houses who are definitely not living paycheck to paycheck and who probably have one of those fat 401ks.  For starters, I’m thinking of “Empire,” “Scandal,” “Modern Family,” “The Good Wife,” “black*ish,” and “Madam Secretary.”

Not all shows are about the upper middle class, of course. But many of the most popular shows that don’t highlight this groups (“The Big Bang Theory,” “The Walking Dead,” “NCIS,” “Scorpion,” and “The Mentalist”) are essentially class-free.  It’s a rare series like the now-cancelled “Mike and Molly” that is clearly set in a working-class environment.

Now this is the point where we leave data-based analysis and enter the realm of conjecture.  I can’t point to any specific studies linking TV viewing and class resentment, but I have to wonder how people who are struggling financially feel when faced with a steady barrage of television shows about people who are, effortlessly, living much better than they are.

America has never had a strong class consciousness, nor have Americans traditionally resented depictions of the rich.  Even during the Depression, one of the most popular film genres was the screwball comedy, with its focus on the antics of rich socialites and playboys.

Still, there must be some impact when the majority of the population doesn’t see their lives represented in popular culture.  Inevitably families who are treading water are going to think they’re worse off and more insecure than they really are if everyone else seems richer, happier and more secure.

And what is the impact of all those commercials (for luxury cars, wealth management advisers, high-end computer equipment, top-shelf liquors, stock-trading services, etc.) that many middle- or working-class families can’t afford?  Couldn’t this contribute to resentment and anger?

Television used to be the most democratic of art forms, representing a wide array of social classes.  It’s ironic that as the TV screen has become more diverse in terms of gender, race, and sexuality categories, it became significantly less diverse on class issues.  The white working and middle classes, which used to be so well-represented on TV are now largely invisible.

And who are Trump’s strongest supporters? Those very same white working- and middle-class voters.  A coincidence?  Maybe, maybe not.

In January 1980 a respected researcher from Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, having traveled to Nantucket Island to celebrate a breakthrough that she was convinced would garner her a Nobel Prize, left her home in the middle of the night and was never seen again.  The island was frozen-in, no planes left that night, and no body was ever found.  This was a major story for several months while I was working at the local newspaper and I eventually wrote a long piece for Boston Magazine.

A Nantucket reporter recently called me to say he’s working on an update to this mystery.  No one still has any idea what happened to her, but it did cause me to pull out the piece and read it again.  It’s still perplexing.

You can read the story here: Kilcoyne Story