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Drama in Kentucky and More Media Musings

By Ben L. Kaufman · February 26th, 2014 · Curmudgeon Notes
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WDRB-TV Louisville’s general manager, Bill Lamb, implied the Louisville Courier-Journal rigged a statewide poll putting challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes ahead of Mitch McConnell.

His on-air charge included the statement, “It stretches credibility to think that a newspaper with time-tested bias is not going to rig its polls.”

He told jimromenesko.com, “I’m saying that when a newspaper is as blatantly biased as the Courier-Journal is, you have to question the poll’s credibility. … The findings go right in line with every editorial they’ve done.”

Romenesko described Lamb as a “longtime Courier-Journal critic,” but Lamb said he backs McConnell, “because he’s the most powerful Republican in the United States and he’s a Kentucky guy. Kentucky will lose an awful lot of influence if he’s no longer there.”

Neil Budde, the C-J’s executive editor, told Romenesko that the poll was supported by, “four of the largest, most credible news organizations in the state. It was conducted by SurveyUSA, which has a great track record in the industry, including accurately predicting margins in favor of McConnell in his last election.”

Within days, Lamb apologized on the air. “To suggest that the Courier ‘rigged’ its poll was wrong and I would like to apologize. That was a bad choice of words.” Instead, he explained, “When any organization with an agenda pays for a poll or pays for a study, we should always take that with a grain of salt.”

• The recent failure of Duke Energy to contain toxic coal ash slurry at a North Carolina power station recalls another mess in eastern Kentucky. Back in October of 2000, another failure was called the nation’s worst coal-sludge spill. I was there. It looked like a wave of pudding had poured out of the failed Martin County Coal Co. pond. An estimated 250 million gallons of slurry covered lawns and roads and oozed down to local creeks, rivers and, eventually, into the Ohio River. If any reached Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, local water treatment intakes were ready; it was no danger.

• Glenn Greenwald was a columnist for London’s Guardian when he and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of domestic spying by the Obama administration. Greenwald left the Guardian and, with two colleagues, this month began an online investigative magazine, Intercept. I found it at firstlook.org, backed by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar.

Editors Greenwald, Laura Poitra and Jeremy Scahill said that in the short-term, Intercept will continue to publish Snowden’s documents.

“Our longer-term mission is to provide aggressive and independent adversarial journalism across a wide range of issues, from secrecy, criminal and civil justice abuses and civil liberties violations to media conduct, societal inequality and all forms of financial and political corruption.

“The editorial independence of our journalists will be guaranteed, and they will be encouraged to pursue their journalistic passion, areas of interest, and unique voices.

We believe the prime value of journalism is that it imposes transparency, and thus accountability, on those who wield the greatest governmental and corporate power. Our journalists will be not only permitted, but encouraged, to pursue stories without regard to whom they might alienate.”

• Thedailybeast.com tells the story behind what might be the best New York Times headline ever: “Three Englishmen Saved from Boiling Post By Cannibal Chief, Who Was Friend at Oxford.” Only the remark attributed to the Cannibal Chief was better: “Of course, no Balliol man could think of eating a fellow Balliol man.” 

• Glenn Beck had a brief, passing moment of what in others might be remorse for his role as a Fox News host. He told Fox’s Megyn Kelly:

“I remember it as an awful lot of fun, and that I made an awful lot of mistakes, and I wish I could go back and be more uniting in my language. Because I think I played a role unfortunately in helping tear the country apart. And it’s not who we are. I didn’t realize how really fragile the people were. I thought we were kind of a little more in it together. And now I look back and I realize if we could have talked about the uniting principles a little more, instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly. But that’s only my role.”

• Olympics Watch: Initial stories about terrorist risks mentioned recent lethal bombings in Volgograd but failed to remind readers and listeners of that city’s history. Volgograd knows bombings.It used to be called Stalingrad.

Similarly, stories often mention the Caucasus region as a font of anti-Russian terrorism but not why. Memories of Czarist conquest of Caucasian Muslim cultures don’t die. Sochi, the base for winter Olympics, is where the Caucasus meets the Black Sea.

• We need more of this BBC News Magazine online article, “Lions and donkeys: 10 big myths about World War One debunked.” To cite just one myth, “It was the bloodiest war in history to that point.” Wrong, TV historian Dan Snow wrote. “Fifty years before WW1 broke out, southern China was torn apart by an even bloodier conflict. Conservative estimates of the dead in the 14-year Taiping rebellion start at between 20 and 30 million. Around 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed during WW1.”

The Diane Rehm Show had a vigorous, informed debate over the value and risks of annual mammograms on Thursday, Feb. 13. The DRShow focused on a highly publicized study that authors said proved that regular mammograms do not reduce deaths from breast cancer and carry unnecessary radiation risks. The strength of the show is in the participants’ argument over the study design and research methods. That’s rare in the news media.

Portland Press Herald reporter Colin Woodward says Maine Gov. Paul LePage is lying and defaming him. I caught the story on jimromenesko.com.

LePage told conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham that Woodward “went to Canada to interview my ex-wife and children. … (S)he slammed the door in his face.”

To which Woodward replied online, “I never went to Canada to interview his ex-wife. I never sought to interview his children. I never had a door slammed in my face.”

I’m not sure how long animus has motivated LePage, but a profile by Woodward on politico.com called LePage America’s craziest governor. The profile began, “What better way to start a governorship than to refuse to attend a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day breakfast and, when the NAACP complains, tell them, on camera, to ‘kiss my butt?’”

• Rather than add professionals to its overworked copy desk staff, the St. Augustine Record attacked “typos and grammar mistakes” by inviting volunteer proofreaders from the community. Dinner for two goes to the volunteer who catchesthe most typos and errors.


CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: letters@citybeat.com


 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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