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Media Musings from Cincinnati and Beyond

By Ben L. Kaufman · March 12th, 2014 · Curmudgeon Notes
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An Enquirer cover story described a local school program that could have fallen under the old-fashioned rubrics of “shop” or “manual arts.” I hope people read it because too few Tristate men and women qualify for increasingly demanding technical/manufacturing jobs. Their lack of entry-level skills makes companies wary of bringing jobs here for want of workers. 

Many teens won’t go to college; a skilled trade can be a dignified and rewarding approach to post-secondary education … if school prepares them to enter training programs. 

• John Popovich scored an interview with the parents and younger sisters of Lawrenceburg-area Olympic medalist Nick Goepper. Most of the time, the WCPO Channel 9 camera stayed on Popovich, mom Linda Goepper and sisters Kasey and Bradee. Unless he was speaking, all I saw of dad Chris on the right of the screen was hands and knees. 

• Radical Islamists tweeted the amputation of an accused thief’s hand in front of a crowd in rural Syria. Brilliant use of social media: It was retweeted and reached mainline news media Internet sites. Translated captions said the man requested the punishment as penance. One of the clear, vivid photos shows the bloody hand separated from his arm. Some news media showed all four images. Others did not show the severed hand. 

The Washington Post reported that the “Twitter account that posted the photos, @reyadiraq, has been suspended. When asked why, a Twitter spokesperson said the company doesn’t comment on individual accounts and pointed to the rules and media policy.” 

Maybe it’s the Twitter version of the “Wheaties Rule” or the “Rice Krispies Rule.” That is: Don’t publish anything that will make readers toss their breakfasts. The Post said the Islamist account had about 96,000 followers and more than 20,000 tweets before suspension.

• Here’s a story that needs reporting: Walton Family Foundation says it supports K-12 education.

That’s the family that pays such miserable wages that some stores ran food drives for employees during the past holiday period. Walmart and Sam’s Club — foundations of the wealth that makes the family the nation’s richest — pay so badly that taxpayers subsidize them through food stamps, Medicaid and other public programs. For what it’s worth, the foundation website includes no projects in Arkansas, the family’s home state. And when it talks about “reform,” it means alternatives to public education, not better public schools for its ill-paid workers and shoppers. Oh, and Walton Family Foundation supports public radio to broadcast its generosity. Anyone want to tackle a corporate supporter? 

• Have you noticed how often broadcasters and cable hosts/presenters call female public figures and officials by their first names? It’s cultural. Just like the long-abandoned cultural practice of calling black men “boy.” Except that the traditional news media treatment of adult women as girls persists. 

• Days after I spoke to a Ball State journalism class about the virtues of religion reporting during my more than 50 years in the trade, I came across this post on jimromenesko.com:

“Kyle Clauss writes: ‘My roommate [Alex Reimer] and I are students at Boston University’s College of Communication. We’ve listened to our fair share of self-righteous, out-of-touch journalist guest speakers, so we created this bingo board. Thought you and your readers might appreciate it.’” The handwritten chart pictured was headed, “Journalist Guest Speaker Cliche Bingo.” The grid was three rows of squares across and four down. 

Lefthand vertical row squares say “mentions small paper where career began,” “lame jab at Fox News,” “You get to see the world” and “How many of you are on Twitter? Anyone?”

Middle vertical row squares say “Do you want to be first or right?” “We tell stories,” “Compares old school methods to ease of digital age” and “bemoans corporatization of media.” 

Righthand vertical row squares say “Free press is the foundation of a healthy democracy,” “You need to be a one-man show,” “People say journalism is dead but I think there’s no better time to be a journalist” and “How many of you read the New York Times? Good.” 

Science Times is the last part of the New York Times that I’d willingly give up. These Tuesday sections present the best evidence-based reporting on everything from sleep-related problems and diets deduced from mummy innards to the latest astrophysics and drug developments. That’s why I laughed so hard at last week’s cover page. It had a banner ad across the bottom for The Blood Sugar Solution: 10-Day Detox Diet. 

I love ads. Even as paywalls draw new subscribers, ads still fuel our commercial news media. It’s the absence of ads that has caused the near-crippling crisis in newsrooms. 

So I can only imagine the angst among Science Times writers and editors when they saw that diet ad. If the ad’s suggestion of magic and miracles doesn’t catch your attention, there’s a clue is the first TV celebrity endorsement: Dr. Oz. 

• I wish I knew the name of the public radio reporter who twice in one short story mentioned Wikipedia for her research. That’s all I needed to know. I turned the radio off.

• Finally, a good word about Wikipedia. An acquaintance, a widely respected academic, doesn’t use it for the content of its articles. Rather, he turns to articles for the bibliography/footnotes. Often, he said, they’re a shortcut to sources he can evaluate and use.


CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: letters@citybeat.com



 
 
 
 

 

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