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Unreported News and Unchallenged Myths

By Ben L. Kaufman · February 2nd, 2005 · Media, Myself & I
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H. Louis Sirkin of Cincinnati is one of the nation's ablest and busiest pornography/obscenity defense lawyers. Cincinnati also has been home to national anti-porn crusaders Charlie Keating and Jerry Kirk. Larry Flynt is almost a local. In short, porn is hot here.

So how did local news media miss the success that Sirkin and associate Jennifer Kinsley had persuading U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster to declare federal anti-obscenity laws unconstitutional? Granted, it was in Pittsburgh, but sports reporters find wins and losses there.

The government might appeal Sirkin's Jan. 21 win, but the judge dismissed all 10 charges against Extreme Associates, saying, "The federal obscenity statutes place a burden on the exercise of the fundamental rights of liberty, privacy and speech" and that violated 14th Amendment privacy rights.

Lancaster drew on the Supreme Court decision striking down Texas' anti-sodomy law as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. He also embraced Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent, that the majority threatened all laws based on morality, including those banning obscene materials from the mail or Internet, under which the Pittsburgh case was brought.

Sirkin added, "We have a liberty interest to find sexual entertainment and to find media material that might be stimulating, and we have a right to view that, for whatever purposes we want to use it for."

If the ruling stands, the only illegal pornography might be kiddie porn.

· · ·

Doug Taylor says he might sell The Downtowner to investors including Richard Hines of cincynation.com and Mark Painter, a judge on Hamilton County's appellate court and possible GOP mayoral candidate in Cincinnati.

"We're talking about it, but I can only be an investor," Painter said. "Right now, we're trying to come up with the money." The Downtowner distributes about 17,000 free copies weekly and Painter said he would like to keep it alive because it "does some things that others don't do."

Hines founded the upbeat Downtowner and sold it to Herb Liss, who sold it to Taylor about eight years ago.

Alerted to the availability of the paper, Hines said, "At first, this was an emotional thing for me, given that I started the paper. In time, I realized it could make a lot of money. It needs to be well managed. It needs a better business model. It needs to have more editorial concepts to pull in advertisers. Editorially, it can do so much for downtown.

I want to see it help build a sense of community for those who work there and those who live there."

Taylor said the 25-year-old paper hasn't made money for years and The Downtowner's ad revenue has been hammered by the 2001 riot and decline of merchants, trade and conventions. He said "cash flow" pays the bills and one reporter.

Taylor said he thinks it's time to let go. He doesn't take a salary and is "getting deeper in the hole."

If Painter and Hines buy The Downtowner, Sue Ann Painter, the judge's wife and a veteran publicist and editor, is to edit it. She almost bought the paper in 1981 from Hines, Painter recalled.

· · ·

Partisan politics on local AM radio without screaming or demonizing people who disagree? Welcome home, Jerry, who's on renamed WCKY (1530 AM) from 9 a.m.-noon Monday through Friday. Listen and remember (or learn) why we elected Jerry Springer mayor and preferred WLWT and his nightly commentaries.

· · ·

Why do so many journalists still bite on Bush's knowingly deceptive Chicken Little approach to social security? The crown jewel of the New Deal, social security shattered the historic equation old age = poverty. Too many news media, however, allow Republicans to frame funding questions as a "crisis."

It isn't. But the scare is the latest media-assisted Bush scam to keep Americans so frightened of something that we won't question government actions.

The Social Security Administration says that, without increased taxes or reduced benefits, it will begin to pay out more than it collects in 2017 or 2018. Then the difference is to be covered by its trust fund. In yet another generation, that also will be depleted and Social Security won't be able to maintain all promised benefits.

The nonpartisan www.Factcheck.org goes further: "President Bush and Vice President Cheney have told audiences that social security faces an $11 trillion shortfall if nothing is done to fix the current system. But they fail to mention that this is over the course of the 'infinite future.' Over the next 75 years -- still practically a lifetime -- the shortfall is projected to be $3.7 trillion.

"The 'infinite' projection is one that the American Academy of Actuaries says is likely to mislead the public into thinking the system 'is in far worse financial condition than is actually indicated,' and therefore should not be used to explain the long-term outlook."

It will be a crisis if Congress falls into a partisan swoon and destroys Social Security as the GOP's long-sought coup d'etat on the New Deal ... aided by willfully complicit, stenographic reporting in the guise of objectivity.

· · ·

Curmudgeon notes:
· USA Today caught Armstrong Williams secretly taking $240,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to pimp Bush's No Child Left Behind Act on his TV shows and in his newspaper columns. Consider why this national and possibly criminal payola scandal died so quickly. He's black. Fellow conservatives didn't attack him on talk shows and blogs. TV stations ignored a scandal that could taint them; many also broadcast other covert and illegal Bush propaganda offered as free video news releases. Broadcasters were so afraid of Michael Powell's FCC and Four More Years that they ignored continued Bush administration violations of law. To their credit, the Chicago Tribune Syndicate dropped Williams' column and the public relations industry condemned his actions.

· In the Jan. 10-17 edition of The Nation, the Rev. Damon Lynch III is co-author of a column on Cincinnati race relations. But it didn't identify Lynch, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine, as a leading figure in the boycott that the article praises. Lynch said, "I may have left it out" during one of six revisions required by editors.

· It's another Nondenial Denial, right up there with "We never said he had weapons of mass destruction (WMD)" and "I did not have sex with that woman." Now Sy Hersh says U.S. soldiers are mucking about in Iran in case Bush decides to bomb known and suspected nuclear WMD sites. Administration says The New Yorker story is flawed. That's less than a denial of Hersh's central assertion.

· Every Michael Jackson story recalls my revulsion pulling off leeches after wading waist-deep in a creek. So when leaked grand jury testimony described what a child said was Jackson's sexual behavior, was it necessary to report it in detail?

· Prince Harry is third in line for the British throne, behind his father, Bad Luck Chuck, and studly older brother, Wills. Harry went to a costume party wearing Rommel's Afrika Korps kit plus Nazi armband. Why did American news media care?



Ben L. Kaufman teaches journalism ethics at Northern Kentucky University.
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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