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On Second Thought

Juan Williams Whitewashes His Firing

0 Comments · Tuesday, August 30, 2011
August traditionally is a dead news month. Not this year. God help us, but The Enquirer is being held up as a national model of newspaper innovation now that it has fired so many people, MSNBC hired Al Sharpton for a prime time show, finance reporters are bullshitting us about gold prices, and despair is drowning TV producers who were counting on days of cheap, dramatic Hurricane Irene images and overblown reporting.  

Figuring Out the 'Heat Index'

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Day and night, local TV weather forecasters tell us how hot and humid it is and will be. They use “heat index” in summer, just as they had “wind chill” in winter, to increase our anxieties about weather conditions. My question: Although forecasters state “heat index” as fact, how do they know how hot any of us will feel?  

Norwegian Media Remain Calm Amid Killings

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Did you notice how little supposition infected reporting from Norway after the downtown bomb explosion and island massacre? There was no rush to blame Arabs or Muslims nor pogroms against immigrants. There were questions but little blame-casting about police response times to the island. The man responsible for the bomb and the murders was Norway’s version of Timothy McVeigh, not some dark-skinned foreigner or mixed-race child of an immigrant and Norwegian.  

Helping Judges and Jurors Avoid Mistrials

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Roger Clemens’ mistrial last week recalled a similarly weird situation caused by my Enquirer story landing atop Page 1 of fellow Gannett paper, USA Today. It, too, presented jurors with evidence the judge had barred from court. And as in the Clemens trial, the question was whether that created a potential mistrial.  

Enquirer Makes More Cuts, ABC Pays Sources

0 Comments · Thursday, July 7, 2011
The latest Enquirer purge — ordered across scores of papers by owner Gannett — took good people. So did earlier rounds. Because of her speciality, one victim stands out in last month’s dismissals: Peggy O’Farrell. Management’s decision that readers don’t want or need informed, local medical news leaves me wondering if undiagnosed dementia afflicts Enquirer executives.  

WLW Host Ignorant of Religion

0 Comments · Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Racism and rants on talk shows at WLW (700 AM) are bred in the bone but morning host Doc Thompson raised the standard for anger and ignorance when he derided Goshen College’s decision to bar “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the college’s sports events. I could almost hear the spittle when he referred to Goshen’s “liberal arts” or “art professor” but what struck me most was his willful ignorance of what it means for Goshen to be a Mennonite school.  

OSU Fans Need to Get a Life

0 Comments · Thursday, June 9, 2011
I don’t know or care whether my university has winning teams. I have a life, something that Ohio State University fans need to get. Too many lack a sense of reality over the resignation of football coach Jim Tressel. Among the remnant who read, many are bombarding student journalists at OSU’s Daily Lantern with abuse and death threats.   

Media Fail on Water Safety Coverage

0 Comments · Thursday, May 26, 2011
We’re headed into Memorial Day weekend and I hope The Enquirer resists any inclination to repeat the pratfall when the newspaper tried to give holiday water safety advice. It was a beaut: How to use the Heimlich Maneuver to resuscitate a standing victim pulled from the water. Think about it. Your “patient” is standing. How close to drowning is that?  

Media coverage of Osama bin Laden's killing raises questions

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 11, 2011
We first saw a photo from the White House situation room with everyone looking intently at something we couldn’t see. About the same time, White House spokesmen said a live TV feed was coming from minicams atop the SEALs’ helmets. Were the president and others watching bin Laden being shot? Was Hillary’s hand-to-face gesture a response to a killing? If yes, how did we got such a phony story about his armed resistance? They would have known better.  

Public's Ignorance About the 'Submerged State'

3 Comments · Monday, April 18, 2011
Few encounters are more difficult for reporters than trying to interview people living, at least in part, in some alternate universe. I’ve dealt with otherwise seemingly reasonable people who hold beliefs or embrace misinformation with certainty and passion that are impervious to skeptical questions. It’s especially troubling when covering controversies involving public policy.  

Nukes as 'the Living Dead' of Journalism

0 Comments · Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I was The Enquirer’s environment reporter who handled stories about the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island (1979) and the nuke that never was, Cincinnati Gas & Electric’s Zimmer Nuclear Power Station (d. 1980s) in Clermont County. Reporting Three Mile Island and Zimmer was hellish but perfect practice for the mess we encountered at the federal government’s Fernald uranium processing plant in northwest Hamilton County. Sorting that out won our team a Pulitzer nomination.  

Race In the South African News Media

0 Comments · Wednesday, March 16, 2011
South Africa today leaves me feeling like Rip Van Winkle. It’s as if I went to sleep in the mid-20th Century when this nation suffered under a violent, racist white minority government and its Apartheid policy of color-defined racial segregation. Each morning now, I wake up in the 21st Century South Africa, ruled by a freely elected multiracial government and its third black president. I won’t parachute in and play network anchor as instant expert on the “new South Africa.” Rather, I want to talk about some of the ways the issues of race arise or erupt in the news media. There is candor Americans could learn to emulate.  

Memories of Reporting in 1960s Africa

2 Comments · Thursday, March 3, 2011
I’m back in Southern Africa for the first time since colonial 1965, when I was here as a journalist. In the 1960s, black rule was rare, an aspiration of increasingly restive black majorities. Most publications were aimed at white minorities. Broadcast was government owned or controlled. The papers I joined set out to be different; we supported black majority rule and aimed our papers at a multiracial audience.  

Media Culpable In Vaccine Controversy

8 Comments · Monday, February 7, 2011
It’s not often that I write about journalists having blood on our hands. Our willingness to aid foes of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) childhood vaccination, however, is such a case. When, in the name objectivity, we treat all sides equally in this battle between medicine and belief, we enlist in the Flat Earth Society.   

Newspapers Scramble to Make Profit on Web

0 Comments · Monday, January 31, 2011
The Enquirer/Cincinnati.Com is joining an arrangement where a monthly fee will let subscribers read some or all of a broad selection of dailies and news sites on the Internet. It promises one-stop convenience even though much of the content is free elsewhere. Called Ongo.com, it's the latest effort to stanch losses of readers and ads and to make some money from the Internet.