Channel 19

Todd Dills

Flying high, running low: Friday Channel 19 news round-up

| February 03, 2012

Big birds to fly by truck
Writing on the New York Times blog yesterday, Matthew L. Wald delivered a little unexpected news about a flock of young whooping cranes currently settled down for the winter about 45 miles southwest of Decatur, Ala.: they would travel the last leg of this year’s winter journey, led in large part by ultralight aircraft used by scientists attempting to help the cranes reestablish population numbers, by…

You guessed it, I’d bet. “The only way to get the cranes moving,” Wald wrote, “will be to put them in crates and drive them by truck to the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge near Decatur, Ala., she said, where six or seven whooping cranes, alumni of earlier migrations, are already wintering.”

Read Wald’s full story for more. Or follow the journey’s progress on the Operation Migration blog here.

Reading up writer Irin Carmon’s “The latest Twitter revolution” story, about last October’s Truck Driver Social Media Convention is live at the political/cultural news and commentary site as of yesterday. Aside from a whiff of stereotyping sitting there in the very first line — “Rich Wilson is telling a roomful of truckers how to sound less like, well, truckers” — the piece gets the whole of the event, organized with a boatload of tireless dedication by Allen and Donna Smith over at, fairly well. If you need some background on driver-led efforts at regulatory policy influence to emerge from the meeting, you can start with this item from Channel 19.

Whether you attended the event or not, I’m interested in what you think about the story from both substance and driver image standpoints. Tell me. Read it here.

As for the section therein about Overdrive‘s early years, there’s a much more detailed account I wrote (“Breaking Free”) for our 50th-anniversary issue last year.

Here we go again
I bet you can guess where this is going: The Discovery Channel is launching yet another reality TV show about drivers, making it the fourth such series from as many cable networks in the past year alone. The show, “World’s Toughest Trucker,” is a competition that sounds similar to the History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers’ franchise in that it looks to crown a winner in the end, after competitors face a set of tough runs — with a $150,000 cash prize going to the toughest competitor in this case. Hauls will take place on roads in different locales around the world, though, in a single season, a significant difference.

The show premieres on Feb. 13 at 10:30 p.m. Here’s what a press release from the cable channel had to say about it:

WORLD’S TOUGHEST TRUCKER contestants hail from around the world, including the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Australia and Sri Lanka. All the drivers come vastly experienced but, like athletes in specific sports, each driver brings a particular skill set to the competition. They also bring their share of personal quirks and trademarks. There’s “Ice Man” Derek Martin, cool under pressure and used to the slick and steep roads of his native Canada; the wild and wily Alabaman/rookie, whose mouth can run faster than his rig; and the explosive Aussie loner Rodney Johnson, who always seems to find teamwork to be the toughest part of the assignment.

WORLD’S TOUGHEST TRUCKER begins Down Under as the truckers encounter river crossings, dust holes and dry creek beds in the parched region of northeastern Australia. In this first challenge, the teams won’t allow anything to get in their way, but will one pair live to regret stopping to help and rescue passengers in an overturned car?

You can find more about it here.

  • Rich Wilson

    I’m not sure what I think of her article. I Smell a bit of sarcasm with a wiff of compassion. But She just starts out like I’m wasting my time??? did any one else see that? Maybe I read it wrong?

  • Todd Dills

    The first line is definitely milking a stereotype — but I think it’s a fairly honest look at the event in the end. Intention, at least, in the beginning is to build to the challenge of unity in the trucking world.

  • Marc Mayfield

    I agree with Rich and Todd. The article is, IMO, a bit haughty and patronizing. Truckers and Twitter. (“OhMyGod!”) Truckers and Facebook (“Who knew?”). The substance is there, however. Overall, meh on the article (points off for snark) and props to Rich.

  • Allen Smith

    Rich, I never got that she was saying that you’re” wasting your time”, but rather you have to fight fire with fire” Being angry and lashing out without a well thought out and written comment will FEED the STEROTYPE…that’s what I got.

    Next, this quote pretty much says it all, ” Most of the 170 drivers and advocates gathered at the Gold Strike Casino in Mississippi’s second-tallest building (31 stories) are plenty fired up already: at new federal regulations and local traffic enforcement, at big carriers, at the perception that despite their toil, truckers don’t get any respect. Post-deregulation realities and the decentralized nature of their jobs have largely left them without a seat at the table. That leaves Twitter.”

    I felt she was saying that Social Media will be the new platform for drivers to be heard and the convention was a way to inform and educate ( through the speakers such as Rich,Paul, James, Eddie), so that when drivers are finally heard….the stereotype can be broken by informed and intelligent converstions and comments.

  • Bandit

    Worlds Toughest Trucker???? They don’t need a new show to figure it out, It’s already been done. Take a look for yourselves.

  • Bandit
  • Jeff Clark

    I thought the Salon article was fair. Thought about Donna Smith’s comment about the trucking industry being against social media. At first thought Donna was a little nuts, but got to thinking about it. She is probably right.

  • Phil Madsen

    The article introduction was flaky but the piece seemed good overall.

    Regarding social networking and trucker unity, don’t get your hopes up.

    When the world wide web was breaking into the mainstream, a host of people and organizations got excited about its use as a resource for political reform. Finally, people will have a voice and be heard, they thought. No longer will we have to rely on the media to get our message out. This new many-to-many communication device will enable people to find each other, group up and effect real political reform.

    Some of that happened, like when the internet and social networking helped elect Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura in 1998 (I was Ventura’s internet guy then). But sadly, it only takes a quick glance at the state of politics today to understand that the internet did little to bring the hoped for reforms about.

    As with the world wide web when it was new, so too with social networking today. It helps people get together and make noise but one must think more deeply before saying it will make a difference.

    Be it online, in a state or at a conference, social interaction is complex. Any success that a social network has will be propelled not by the network itself but by what the people connected by it are ready, willing and able to do.

    To effect change to the status quo, I will take 50 good activists who share a plan over a social network of 100,000 every time.

  • Todd Dills

    Here here, Phil. It’s all about engagement — and numbers of people engaged, I’d wager. In any case, thanks for all the thoughts, guys.

  • Phil Madsen

    Thinking more about this, Todd, yes, it is about engagement but the communication efficiency that social networks provide is important too.

    People of similar interests can find each other online and organize themselves into social networks. Those who get engaged can then make things happen. An example is the Facebook group that formed to get the Arrow drivers home for Christmas when that company went bankrupt and left its drivers stranded all over the country.

    Lots of people joined the network. Some actually helped to get the Arrow drivers home. Perhaps a social network is best viewed as a communications tool instead as an end in itself.

    It’s one thing to form an online group. What comes out of it is a function of engagement AND leadership. The more clearly the goals are articulated (get the truckers home, elect your candidate, call your congressperson to speak against a particular bill), the more likely people are to act.

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