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On Second Thought
 

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.  

TV Weather Forecasters Force the Snow/Danger Drumbeat

2 Comments · Wednesday, February 17, 2010
True to their tribe, local TV forecasters created as much anxiety as possible recently about a storm moving into our region. Day after day, we learned nothing new from redundant presentations and banter with anchors. It was like a sermon: The more fearful their ceaseless drumming makes us, the likelier we are to stay tuned for redemption.   

Supreme Court: Let's Fight Words With Words, Not Muzzles

0 Comments · Monday, February 1, 2010
It didn't take long before I realized the true horror of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision freeing corporations to spend freely to support political campaigns. It wasn't the new potential for corruption or wealth drowning out other voices. It's the promise of more campaign ads on local TV.  

Separation Between News Reporting and Opinion Is Like Church and State

0 Comments · Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Believe what you want, there is a difference between news and advocacy. Forget that and it's editorializing, a corrosive mixture of news and opinion in the guise of news. Exhibit A: the recent Enquirer story reporting as fact a local woman's ability to foretell the future. If that weren't enough, the paper provided contact information for anyone wanting a private "reading."  

2010 Predictions for the World of Media

0 Comments · Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Local journalists aren't exempt from the love/hate generated by the command to compile lists of top stories at the end of each year or decade. More than anything, it's a chance to remind everyone how smart they were when they wrote the first draft of what's become history. But rather than remind you of my failings in the past year or decade, let me suggest what 2010 might hold for the news media.  

The Enquirer Does Less With Less, Loses Circulation

0 Comments · Monday, December 21, 2009
Life can be tough at the top of the Enquirer food chain. Circulation (printed papers sold) continues to decline. The paper has retired, bought out and fired just about everyone it can to cut costs. More unpaid furloughs are likely. I have no idea how profitable The Enquirer remains. The paper doesn't say. It never does, at least publicly. Yet its slumping core paid circulation doesn't encourage optimism.