TriStateNews.com launched this month after weeks of quietly building the Web site. It’s aimed at the region’s GLBT communities, and like the unrelated newspaper, GLBT News, it offers everyone a portal into the interests and achievements of a significant minority.
Produced by Troy May and his nonprofit firm, May Media Institute Inc., in Taylor Mill, Ky., the Web site is attractive and easy to navigate. So far, actual news from the Tristate is minimal. He’s interviewing prospective local contributors and promises more Tristate content.
However, a lead item is timely: The gay identity and activism of the college intern who helped wounded Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords until medical staff arrived.
Some posts date from 2010. It was online before the launch date but “we just didn’t tell anybody.”
May says TriStatePride.com is the first of the publications he hopes to publish for underserved GLBT, racial and ethnic communities. “Minorities can’t depend on mainstream media to provide adequate coverage of their communities. Local media doesn’t have the staff necessary to write about the basics, much less minorities.”
Reliance on ads is risky for niche publications, May said, so he went nonprofit to supplement ads with grants and tax-deductible donations.That’s something a few other online journalism sites are doing successfully. Meanwhile, he supports himself with freelance work and burns savings. “I’ve done this before. I know it takes time . . . The beauty of the Internet is our ability to launch a publication without the need for huge resources like a print publication. And the day it's launched online, we can reach thousands of potential readers.”
May is considering a quarterly print magazine supported by and feeding off the Web site. That’s a reversal of the current conventional wisdom where print supports online. As with the nonprofit approach, this could be a sustainable model as online ad revenues exceed print. Whether the experience of cincinnatibeacon.com is instructive is unclear. That shoe-string operation tried a free print version. It never became self-supporting, and founder Jason Haap killed the experiment.
I asked May whether his publisher’s statement was an implied swipe at GLBT News, the established, ad-supported free monthly newspaper published here by Worley Rodehaver. May had written: “Since the Tristate area has never had a professional magazine covering the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and progressive community, I thought it was an ideal area to launch our first publication.”
No offense was intended, May said. His online news magazine is new media embracing the region while GLBT News is old media and intensely local/Cincinnati.
As for the progressive community, some of us recall the long-defunct Independent Eye newspaper, and consider Streetvibes, CityBeat and cincinnatibeacon.com as local liberal voices.
Another project is a TriStatePride.com app for iPhone and Android to feed news directly to readers, May said.
He’s is a Taylor Mill native and 1988 NKU journalism grad who describes himself as a former reporter, gay publication manager and PR consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area. He moved back to care for an ailing grandmother.
“My hope is that this online magazine will inform, inspire and unite the local gay and progressive community to rally together like never before in history. What would help is for the gay, bisexual and transgender people in this area is to read about the successes of others in our community. After people read these stories, I hope they get a powerful injection of pride, self-confidence and comfort with who they are today.”
In California, he said, his magazine employees and readers were both GLBT and straight, and he anticipates the same thing here.
Once staff is hired, TriStatePride.com will expand its local reporting plus resource lists, calendars and other features that attract readers. Now, he’s reporting and writing, seeking government and foundation grants and business ads/sponsorships. May's Internet site can reach the GLBT population with public health news, including AIDS prevention and treatment, and this is a powerful appeal for grants and donations.
His low-key approach before the formal Jan. 3 launch created problems.
When he sought support or writers, “It was challenging to get people to talk to us. They’d say, ‘Who are you?’” They listened when they heard his answer, he said. In addition to the obvious potential advertisers — spas, lawyers, physicians, Realtors, vacation/tour operators, vehicle manufacturers — May began contacting some of the 1,600 foundations nationally that promote AIDS awareness/prevention/care or other GLBT concerns. Meanwhile, “I have no social life.”
• I can’t remember a health inspection story as good as last Friday’s Business Courier expose of problems in local food establishments. For other news media, it’s the kind of story that’s just not done. Bad for business. Worse for ads. Well, now it has been done. Dan Monk used public records and put them on line at cincinnatibusinesscourier.com. First, I typed in “rodents.” Seven screens alphabetically listed. Bad decision just before dinner. Then I checked two favorite places. If anything, it was reassuring. Inspectors found some poor training, sloppy practices, and details that could contaminate food. Owners corrected most before inspectors left.
• For fine reporting and storytelling, go back to Sunday’s Enquirer and read Sheila McLaughlin’s expose of a failed “coup” at the Butler County Commission. The same paper has Dan Horn’s look at the settlement of the class-action lawsuit against operators of the Fernald uranium processing plant in northwest Hamilton County. They’d polluted the land, water and air with chemical and radioactive emissions for decades. The accord was negotiated by residents’ atttorney Stan Chesley and approved by U.S. District Judge S. Arthur Spiegel. It pays for longterm health monitoring that is credited with saving lives and providing the raw material for other health studies.
• Monday’s New York Times op-ed page has a 50th anniversary story about the life and death of a black leader . . . Patrice Lumumba in the Congo. He was killed by secessionist Congolese with the aid of CIA agents and Belgian government and industry agents. His problem? When Washington refused to aid the newly independent Congo, he said he’d turn to the Soviet Union, a fatal mistake at the height of the Cold War. The same pages has columnist Ross Douthat’s plea for news media to stop obsessing about everything Sarah Palin wears, does and says.
Inshallah. But willfully blind conservative Douthat misses the liberal mainstream news media (“lamestream” in SarahSpeak) conspiracy to keep her in the news; she is the unbeatable dream candidate of 2012 GOP primary voters and unelectable Republican candidate for November general election Democratic voters.
• Unless you’ve been stuck in gawker.com for the past few weeks, you know that Britain is suffering one of the coldest, snowiest winters in its recorded history. And suffering is the right word, except for folks who survived being trapped in a country pub for a week by drifts.
Britain isn’t ready for such winters. As with Cincinnati, there apparently is an official consensus that preparing for the rare, awful weather is costlier than the brief, if intense pain of being unprepared. Here, we fret over unplowed side streets. There, the trains can’t get through. However, muddling may be cheaper than plows and extra salt and sand that go untouched.
There are costs, however, in addition to stalled, late or cancelled public transit and missed school and work in Britain. A friend, headed for Belfast, says she heard that water pipes were freezing and bursting because they are installed outside of homes.
I’m sympathetic; I’ve been there. Brits compare this winter to 1962-63, when I lived in a village in Kent and worked and studied in London. My home lacked central heat so I let every faucet run/drip. No pipes froze. I used the electric “fire” in the fire place only when I was within 10 feet and portable kerosene heaters only when I bathed in warmish water that came via outside pipes from the tankless coin-operated gas instant heater in the kitchen. I still have British sweaters from that winter, although one is on loan to our equestrian daughter for nasty, damp Washington state days.
Driving in the snow was no great challenge for a former Minnesotan but the battery in my British sports car was as far from the motor as engineering allowed. That was a problem, so I plugged a 1-amp battery charger into the unfused cigarette lighter circuit. That kept the battery warm and the car kept starting.
That also was the year of the last great smog. It was so thick in our office near the Thames that it was hard to read wall clocks. Outside, it was worse. Driving was very, very slow; smog was worse than snow.
All of this, however, produced great stories for the international market - after all, we were United Press International - and Aussies loved every world of Mother England’s misery during their Southern Hemisphere summer. I think that’s why they responded with wire photos of bikini-clad beauties frolicking on their beaches.
One of our stories mentioned lethal smog creeping like a cat, snuffing out young and old. It could be that bad if you had
breathing problems. Premature deaths shot up. That story played widely in the ‘States and so upset my folks that they sent me a telegram asking if I was OK. Yes, I replied, adding that sulfuric acid smog droplets did wonders clearing my sinuses. All of this made it easy to accept a photojournalist’s job in southern Africa the following winter.
Other than folks trapped in the pub, my favorite news story so far from this winter involves an Iceland air crew at a London airport. Impatient with the inability or unwillingness of locals to clear the snow around their plane, the crew commandeered shovels, dug out and took off for the comforts of home.
• There is no shortage of evidence — based on campaign statements and other official, published, broadcast, or posted pronouncements — that today’s GOP is at its core, anti-intellectual and hostile to science. Executives, legislators and leaders — Rush, Glenn, Sarah, Michael — reject science when evidence offends or contradicts core beliefs. Foremost is their hostility to evidence of climate change. Not only do they confuse evidence of change with arguments over humans’ role in change, but they often demonstrate their density by equating climate and weather. Climate changes slowly: think of Ice Age, Little Ice and warming that ended them. Weather? “You don’t like it, wait 10 minutes.”
Not to be outdone in the plunge into demonstrable ignorance is my congressman, Steve Chabot. This from stevechabot.com/blog recently: “(M)uch of the nation is digging out from under record snows, blizzard conditions, and historic low temperatures. Europe is experiencing an Arctic freeze. This is one of the coldest Decembers in both North America and across Europe in the last 150 years. And to what do some global warming alarmists attribute these record cold conditions? You guessed it – global warming! So global warming causes – global cooling. Give me a break.”
• Local news media cover efforts by the Pentagon and successive GOP and Democratic presidents to deny funding to an engine that GE/Rolls Royce are developing. It’s promoted as an alternative to Pratt & Whitney’s jet for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Bush, Obama and others say GE/Rolls’ engine would be redundant. Similarly, our news media have reported how Cincinnati-area legislators ally themselves with GE, not least because of jobs and tax revenues related to the fighter engine development. But in a recent cover story on GE’s role in our local economy, Business Courier’s Jon Newberry adds an ingredient I’ve missed if others reported it: “The company says . . . the engine likely would be built elsewhere, not in Evendale.” Yup. If funded, the longterm jobs and our money will go elsewhere.
• Gannett continues to order weeklong unpaid furloughs for most employees at its 81 dailies before April 1. That includes The Enquirer. The details of the confidential (!) internal memo were posted on the independent gannettblog.blogspot.com. The memo says furloughs help avoid further layoffs and boosts profits. Comments on the decision and FAQs included ridicule of the idea that “backup” people would make sure work was done during furloughs (also referred to as “furcations.”) Everyone who might be a backup was fired as Gannett cut thousands of staff over recent years.
• Are we done with Page 1 and Business pages on the new office building downtown? You know, the Third Street tower whose swooning fans say is topped with a tiara but looks more phallic than regal. Now, business reporters can return to swooning coverage of developers’ fantasies about money to be made after taxpayers build a trolley line through the downtown, Over-the-Rhine and up the hill into Clifton Heights. Here’s my challenge: Tell us whether the trolleys could safely climb and descended Vine Street hill in recent (or heavier) snow.
• Who pays for those extensive tattoos on college athletes’ bare arms and necks? At Ohio State, some football players apparently swapped autographs for tattoos. That means their signatures have market value which can be cashed or traded. My guess is that more players nationally buy tattoos than have marketable autographs. Acquaintances with body art tell me that these “tats” could cost thousands.
• A recent issue of The Nation makes this point about Afghan War news coverage: The new counterinsurgency strategy — protecting civilians and winning their hearts and minds — is drowning in Vietnam-era body counts as a measure of “progress.” U.S. military and civilian officials want remaining reporters to tell us about how many Taliban or Al-Qaeda are killed in combat or drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moreover, the narrative of insurgency suppression, aided and abetted by the news media, is being tweaked to support this growing military supremacy.
• Unfailingly, universities serve up cowpies when they censor student papers or classroom teaching. At Texas A&M, the lawyer found ways to make a mess worse.
A&M has a policy that bars employees — including faculty — from using the Texas Public Information Act to request information from the school. However, Pulitzer winning reporter Dan Malone, an A&M professor, taught about the open records law. Students obtained records showing university failure to fully comply with a federal law requiring schools to disclose crimes on and adjacent to their Tarleton State University campus, part of the A&M system.
Someone decided Malone could be fired. I’m relying on The Austin American-Statesman and San Antonio Express-News for the facts. “A faculty member's directive to a student in his or her class is an action within that individual's official capacity as a Tarleton employee," A&M general counsel Andrew Strong initially wrote.
Among the critics was Hagit Limor, national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and an investigative reporter for Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV. Hagit said she’s heard of pushback on various campuses concerning open records, but nothing quite like this. "It seems like an extreme case of intrusion. We absolutely support the rights of professors to teach at will, to inform their students of all tools available to them."
A&M lawyer Strong then admitted he didn’t know what he was talking about. He said he didn’t know all of the facts when he said the ban includes journalism students working on an optional class assignment. Worse, he didn’t know what the policy itself meant. “I'm in the process of determining what is meant by the directive,” Strong said. Even so, he now was sure “It's not intended in any way to inhibit the ability of any journalism professor to teach about the Public Information Act.” You’re doing a heck of a job as A&M lawyer, Andy, as a former Texas governor might say.
• The scandal at NPR isn’t how contract analyst Juan Williams was fired for bigoted, personal remarks on his Fox News gig but that he wasn’t forced to choose between aspirational political neutrality at NPR and continued employment at the GOP’s Fox News. Since then, NPR has concluded that his dismissal was handled poorly and senior VP for news Ellen Weiss resigned; she fired Williams. He’s no loss to NPR. She is. NPR says its outside counsel concluded that Williams’ contract allowed his summary dismissal and there was no evidence of pressure from donors or other interest groups. Lest you think Williams’ anti-Muslim remarks were anathema to Fox and its O’Reilly Factor, Williams was rewarded with a fat Fox contract after NPR fired him. Now, what about Mara Liasson and her dual roles on NPR and Fox?
• NPR wasn’t alone when it reported that an Arizona member of Congress was killed by a gunman. But in its rush to be first and relevant, NPR used its many platforms to report what turned out to be false. Here’s some of what Dick Meyer, executive editor of NPR News, said on the network Web site:
“In the course of reporting on the tragic events in Tucson on (Jan. 8), NPR broadcast erroneous information in our 2:01 p.m. Eastern newscast, saying that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona had been shot and killed. That information briefly appeared on NPR.org and was contained in an e-mail news alert sent to subscribers of that service. This was a serious and grave error . . . Corrections and properly updated reports were issued within minutes . . . The information we reported came from two different governmental sources, including a source in the Pima County Sheriff's Department. Nonetheless, in a situation so chaotic and changing so swiftly, we should have been more cautious. There were, obviously, conflicting reports from authorities and other sources. The error we made was unintentional, an error of judgment in a fast-breaking situation. It was corrected immediately.”
OK. NPR feels badly about this. Knowing there were “conflicting reports from authorities and other sources,” why didn’t it stick to the facts, that there were conflicting reports of casualties? That’s the issue, not the “fast-breaking situation.”
After Giffords’ shooting, an NPR host asked the network’s congressional correspondent about the wounded legislator. They were close, the reporter said, recalling Giffords’ warm personality and hugs. NPR’s reporter should have stopped there. But she added that reporters become so close to some members of Congress that they consider the legislators to be “colleagues.” That’s too close. People we cover can become friends. Some become lovers or spouses. None should be “colleagues.” That betrays NPR’s listeners and leaves me wondering how, not whether, it affects her reporting.
• No one will forget accused shooter Jared L. Loughner’s grinning, bald mug shot. It will become iconic. Nor can we forget how it made him look like a fugitive from Mad magazine, a Charles Addams cartoon, the derivative Munsters TV show, or Ground Zero in an insanity defense.
• Kelly McBride writes a wise column about the need for smarter, more effective newsroom ethics and enforcement in her Jan. 11 column at Poynter Institute’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I differ only in her uncertainty about ways to treat newsroom stars who report and comment. Tell them to choose. We got along nicely before they came on the scene and will get along nicely if they leave. None of us are vital. At best, we’re useful.
• I can’t make this stuff up. First, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is pissed at London’s Guardian newspaper for leaking police information detailing two Swedish women's accusations of sexual assault against him. Then Judith Miller, the discredited former New York Times newspaper, told Fox News that Assange “may be a bad journalist . . . Because he didn’t care at all about attempting to verify the information that he was putting out, or determine whether or not it would hurt anyone." This from the Times reporter who failed to verify the stories she wrote that helped persuade Americans that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Democracynow.com resurrected Miller’s defense then: "My job isn’t to assess the government’s information and be an independent intelligence analyst myself. My job is to tell readers of The New York Times what the government thought about Iraq’s arsenal."
CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: email@example.com