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On Second Thought
 

Teaching Media Ethics to Two Generations of News Consumers

0 Comments · Monday, September 13, 2010
Next Wednesday I'll pursue a favorite past time: introducing a class of University of Cincinnati undergraduates to the ambiguities of journalism ethics. We'll talk about virtues and vices, standards and seducers. Our first session probably will include the threatened burning of the Qur'an by a Florida pastor. And in October I'll teach a similar class for UC's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. It's freewheeling — no text, exams or grades.  

The Disappearing Science of Covering Science

0 Comments · Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Mainstream news media have trouble covering science or anything else that involves a process and lacks a winner and loser. It's worse these days since reporters covering that beat often were among the first to be fired in the search for profitability. Probably no one has fared worse from this institutional handicap in recent years than Charles Darwin, especially in the past months during the 150th anniversary of his unsettling book on evolution.   

A New Challenge for the Media: 'Unpublishing'

0 Comments · Monday, August 16, 2010
A Pennsylvania legal case opens up discussion of the perennial tensions among individual desires for privacy and the news media and old thinking versus new media. Should news stories, especially those with embarrassing details, be expunged from online media archives? Can they ever be truly "unpublished" in the digital world?  

Why Fact-Checking Is Even More Important in Today's Go-Go Media World

0 Comments · Tuesday, August 3, 2010
I'm still laughing at the credulity of the NAACP national office, the White House and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack over the firing of Shirley Sherrod. You can't make this shit up. And when I'm done laughing, I want to weep. Some of the brightest people in our public life believe anything that's on the Internet.  

News Sites Trying New Approaches to Handling Anonymous Comments

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I just don't have time for the stupidity, ignorance, anger, obscenities and racism that anonymous online commenting encourages. In a more innocent online era, many daily papers and others opened themselves to online comments. It was to be an instant Letters to the Editor, a more personal connection with the reader. But the resulting toxic stream of comments have led The Enquirer and other Gannett dailies to hire an outside company, Pluck, to intervene on reader online comments.  

Access to Important Sources Often Means Journalists Avoid Controversial Stories

0 Comments · Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Access is everything to reporters. We want people to talk to us, to share confidences and documents, to point us to others who will do the same. But there's a price: Don't burn your sources ... which can mean ignoring a story that will prompt the subject to slam the door (figuratively or actually) in a reporter's face. That might be one reason it took Rolling Stone to reveal the contempt for the president and other civilians to whom U.S. military officials in Afghanistan report.  

FTC Studies How to 'Save' Journalism Via Federal Government Intervention

0 Comments · Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The Federal Trade Commission is sticking its nose into the future of journalism. It's not needed. The FTC has enough to do; news is not a monopoly, nor is it a fraud. That hasn't kept staff from studying what already is being studied, drafting issues and suggestions that hardly suggest novelty or media neutrality and laying the groundwork for continued employment of FTC staff while working journalists are being fired by the thousands.  

Conflicts of Interest, Transparency and the Media

0 Comments · Monday, June 7, 2010
When is disclosure of potential or real conflicts of interest sufficient? Or, put another way, when is the absence of disclosure an ethical issue for journalists? This question of transparency provoked an attack on the World Health Organization's recommendations regarding H1N1, and locally it's an issue surrounding Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan's role on the 3CDC board.  

The Media's Jewish Problem

0 Comments · Tuesday, May 25, 2010
When Elena Kagan was nominated for the Supreme Court, an immediate story was that her confirmation would mean "three Jews, six Roman Catholics and no Protestants." The media still have a lingering fixation on Jews. Not Judaism, Jews. Somehow it often seems necessary to identify people by their religion when they're Jews.  

Does the Media's Obsession With 24/7 Breaking News Compromise Law Enforcement?

0 Comments · Tuesday, May 11, 2010
In the Good Old Days, journalists generally held a story if authorities said it could compromise the stakeout, chase or anticipated capture of a suspect. Even if we knew where agents were headed or or stood with them outside a motel where a kidnapper and victim were hidden, we responded with silence. These issues arose again when the 24/7-obsessed news media unthinkingly helped the Times Square bombing suspect almost escape.   

Why the Media (Even the Big Boys) Fail to Ask the Right Questions

1 Comment · Monday, April 26, 2010
Reporting creates personal reservoirs of trivia. My treasury includes South African troopers in vehicles designed to defeat land mines laid by ANC's military wing during the apartheid era. So I wonder why American reporters in Washington, Iraq and Afghanistan haven't written about the Pentagon decision to go to war without South African vehicles that could have reduced now-common traumatic brain injury and loss of limbs from roadside mines and IEDs.  

Blurring the Lines Between News and Advertising Content

0 Comments · Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Gannett's Indianapolis Star has a real mess on its hands involving a breach of ethics and the readers' trust, started when the paper "repurposed" a three-year-old feature story and photo spread on summer camps in a new camp guide advertising section without the reporter's or photographer's knowledge. The old story was labeled "special advertising feature" and presented as if it contained up-to-date information. I asked Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan about his policy on the separation of news- and advertising-oriented content.  

Frenzied Coverage of Toyota Problems Short on Skepticism and Attribution

1 Comment · Monday, March 29, 2010
We're watching the meltdown of another story that was too good to be true, too vivid and contemporary to challenge: the runaway California Prius. It didn't take long before the California driver's claims were restated as facts: uncontrolled speed, inability to slow or stop and heroic cop who played a role in averting disaster. It made sense if you believed the hype about Toyota problems. It was too good a story.   

Covering the Science Beat for an Increasingly Anti-Science Audience

2 Comments · Monday, March 15, 2010
In today's cultural, intellectual and financial world, I can't imagine a media job with less potential than science reporter. When your sources become objects of public scorn and ridicule, what's to write? In a nation accustomed to seeking simple answers to complex questions and a culture increasingly driven by belief rather than evidence, scientists today often are trying to communicate with the willfully deaf.  

Local Corporations Tried to Control Health Care Costs Before, and They Failed

0 Comments · Monday, March 1, 2010
General Electric boss Jeffrey Immelt wants major businesses to create a regional cooperative to deal with major shortcomings (limited access, rising costs) of our health system. Something similar was tried in 1992, when the big four employers (P&G, Kroger, GE Aviation and Cincinnati Bell) basically sought to control costs by demanding that hospitals demonstrate cost effectiveness. Facing threats to their fees, unhappy physicians used scare tactics to predict a health care crisis as specialists left for more lucrative cities.