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On Second Thought

A Brit’s Hard Look at Sgt. Robert Bales

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Rarely do foreign journalists’ brutal criticism of American actions or policies get space or time in our mainstream news media. That’s too bad. What passes for comment and debate here is a pretty constipated exercise.     

Kony Video Is Manipulative But Effective

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 21, 2012
I finally watched the 30-minute online video, Kony 2012, calling for the capture or killing of African terrorist Joseph Kony this year. With an estimated 100 million views so far, it’s an interesting example of manipulation of social media.  

Seed Catalogs a Throwback to Yesteryear

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 7, 2012
A printed news source I can’t do without comes unfailingly in the mail: seed catalogs.  Forget Hindu, Jewish, Chinese or Gregorian new years. Delivery of the first seed catalogs starts my new year before Thanksgiving.     

Article Highlights Cost-Effective Charities

1 Comment · Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Years ago, after speaking at a local Catholic high school on the students’ duty to give intelligently when they donate to charity, a student grabbed my arm en route to lunch of grilled cheese s  

Publisher’s Threat to President Tests Free Speech

0 Comments · Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Atlanta publisher Andrew B. Adler’s “kill Obama” column challenges my “fight-words-with-words” standard response to vicious publications and speech. It never should have been published. No, he’s not a racist, anti-Semitic crank or advocate of sex among boys, clerics and coaches. Sick as they are, I wouldn’t muzzle them so long as they are willing to accept the consequences.    

Media Help Reveal the ‘True’ Ron Paul

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Dwelling on any presidential aspirant’s personal history, proposals and promises invites accusations of bias that mainstream news media fear most. That might explain reluctance to hammer Ron Paul for views he espouses now or previously published.    

Mitt, Newt and Covering Religion in Politics

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Religion continues to bedevil politics reporting. News media prefer the simplicity of characterizing elections as horse races until there is a winner. Religion beyond clichés complicates politics. If voters are to appreciate the implications of campaign thrust and parry, it’s time to yoke religious and political reporters for the duration.   

Plagiarism's Meaning Shifts in Digital Age

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 21, 2011
If Poynter Online director Julie Moos is correct, I’m a plagiarist. I sometimes use others’ words in this column. While attributing the words and ideas to the original writers, I don’t always put their words inside quote marks. That’s not good enough for Moos. It was his failure to maintain that level of attribution purity that drove out veteran aggregator Jim Romenesko from the Poynter website. He always told us where he got his material but he sometimes used those sources’ language without direct quotes.  

Recalling Religious Hysteria, Enquirer Firings and How Jesus Died

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Fussing over the latest translations of the Roman Catholic Mass recalls one of the truly weird moments in my years as a religion reporter.  

Photographing Police is a Dangerous Business

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Are increasingly militarized local police — helmets, assault rifles, black uniforms and boots, etc. — using excessive force more often than previous generations? Or has technology — cell phones and YouTube — made any use of force, whether excessive or justified, easier to document?  

Enquirer Plays Politics with Page 1

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Until its Page 1 story on public employee “perks” last week, The Enquirer was doing a pretty good job of playing pre-election partisanship down the middle. That story — which required a major page 1 correction — embraced the paper’s historic Republican and anti-union demons. The timing was too neat; the subject could have been explored in many ways at any time.  Almost on the eve of the Issue 2 ballot, it was no coincidence.  

Brit Media Savages the Absurd

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 26, 2011
If you want an alternative to the faux even-handedness of American daily journalism, turn to London papers and news/opinion magazines. They know how to treat whack jobs. None of this same-space “objectivity” that leaves it to readers to decide whether the mainstream of, say, science or climate-change deniers are correct.  

Musings on politicians and their religious beliefs

2 Comments · Wednesday, October 12, 2011
To paraphrase Joseph Welch, “Have we no sense of decency?” Nope. Not when candidates’ answers or evasions suggest how they might act in office. At our best, reporters are intrusive so that Americans have the information we need to debate and decide public policies. Reporters should have no reticence when candidates display their families as symbols of virtue/virility/fecundity.

Ignoring the Good News in Africa

1 Comment · Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Traditional journalism feasts on misery: War, plague, famine, flood and deadly storms. We’re addicted to bad news. It’s our most pervasive bias. Audiences love it. It’s generally profitable and a reliable career ladder. Maybe it’s because outcomes are uncertain and that tension, so vital to successful storytelling, is omnipresent. That’s why we cover politics as a horse race rather than maintain our focus on the substance of candidates’ visions of what our nation should be.  

Criminalizing Photography Is Worrisome

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Until the other day, I thought Cincinnati police officers were too bright to confiscate cameras in a public place at a public meeting to which the public was invited. Hell, the owners of the cameras weren’t disrupting the meeting or photographing coppers using excessive force. But I was wrong. One of Cincinnati’s finest took two voters’ cameras on orders from U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) or people working for Chabot. It was a town meeting and Chabot was the speaker.