Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Popular Blogs
Latest Blogs
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Media, Media Criticism, Ethics at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Enquirer Publisher Explains Lack of Disclosure

Buchanan says 3CDC is covered fairly, despite her ties

The Enquirer’s top boss has told CityBeat that her connection to a major real estate development group was “overlooked” in a lengthy, front-page article about the organization that was published April 15.


Publisher Margaret Buchanan wrote in response to an email that she didn’t influence the preparation, editing or placement of an article about the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC). Buchanan sits on 3CDC’s executive committee, and is in charge of overseeing publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.


The Enquirer published a 1,900 word-plus article about 3CDC, lauding the group for its efforts to redevelop Over-the-Rhine despite the economic downturn. Buchanan’s role with 3CDC wasn’t mentioned, but she told CityBeat it has been disclosed in past articles and will be done again in the future.


Buchanan’s response was sent the same day that CityBeat published a column criticizing the lack of disclosure, and questioning whether her role violates The Gannett Co.’s ethical guidelines for news-gathering.


Here’s the full text of Buchanan’s response:

Over several years, The Cincinnati Enquirer has fully covered the pro's and con's (sic) of 3CDC's development efforts in Over-the-Rhine for our readers and we are very proud of that coverage.


As publisher, I sit on 3CDC's executive committee — and did not influence any of the reporting on this issue. Our editor is completely responsible for all editorial decisions. Typically my participation on this committee is disclosed, although it was overlooked for the article that ran on Sunday, April 15. It will continue to be disclosed in the future.


Margaret Buchanan

A search using the ProQuest database of The Enquirer’s archives found that the newspaper has published 481 articles and news briefs mentioning 3CDC since the group began its efforts in 2004. (Given how the database is organized, however, it’s likely that some of the entries might be duplicative.)


Of the 481 entries, Buchanan was mentioned in 15 articles. That equates to about 1/32nd of the articles.


Most of the published mentions about Buchanan’s ties to 3CDC weren’t in articles about the group’s retail and residential development projects. Rather, they mostly occurred in articles about 3CDC’s efforts to move a homeless shelter away from Over-the-Rhine.


Also, one mention was in an article about the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, while another occurred in a piece marking the 10th anniversary of the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas.


Interestingly, most of the mentions occurred after 2010, when local blogger Jason Haap and CityBeat began publishing items about the lack of disclosure.


This week’s Porkopolis column mentioned Gannett’s ethics code, which includes such admonishments as “We will remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that may compromise the credibility of our news report,” and “We will avoid potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on content.”


The code also states “When unavoidable personal or business interests could compromise the newspaper’s credibility, such potential conflicts must be disclosed to one’s superior and, if relevant, to readers.”


In her email, Buchanan didn’t address why these rules don’t apply to her connection to 3CDC.

by 11.23.2010
Posted In: News, Media, Community at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Callinan to Retire Dec. 31

After more than a week of rumors, it was made official today: Enquirer Executive Editor Tom Callinan will retire at year's end to accept a professorship at the University of Cincinnati.

In an e-mail sent to staffers, Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan announced the retirement and said Callinan's replacement would be named "shortly after the first of the year."

Read More

by 01.17.2009
Posted In: Media at 09:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Rocky Mountain News Still In Limbo

Cincinnati-based Scripps announced in early December that they would be selling or shutting down The Rocky Mountain News in Denver. The deadline for finding a buyer has passed with no word on the fate of the paper.

The Denver Newspaper Agency, which prints the paper, set the deadline of Jan. 16 in response to requests from the unions which represent their workers.

Scripps officials could not be reached by the Denver Business Journal or the Denver Newspaper Agency on Friday.

Click here to read more about the initial announcement.

by 01.11.2010
Posted In: News, Media, Republicans at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Palin Joins Fox: Stating the Obvious

The New York Times is reporting today that Sarah Palin has been hired by Fox News to be a regular contributor to the cable news channel.

Uh, didn’t she work there already? This is like reporting “Dog bites man.”

Read More

by 12.26.2010
Posted In: Censorship, Media, Internet, Government, Courts at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Frost Interviews WikiLeaks Founder

For all the rhetoric about the United States' right to freedom of the press, the best reporting on the governmental secrets revealed by WikiLeaks, and the deeper issues they raise, has been done by media outlets in other nations. And the best and most in-depth interview with Julian Assange has been done by a British journalist for Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite news channel.

David Frost, who famously interviewed President Nixon a few years after his resignation following the Watergate scandal, now has a program on Al Jazeera, entitled Frost Over the World.

Read More

by Andy Brownfield 10.02.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, Barack Obama, Media, News at 03:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
natalie portman

Natalie Portman Featured in New Ohio Obama Ad

Ad reaches out to women voters in Ohio weeks ahead of election

Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is again campaigning in Ohio for President Barack Obama, but this time over the Internet.

In an ad targeting the Buckeye State and set to be released online, Portman talks about her family’s Cincinnati roots and calls Ohio a crucial place for the election.

Portman visited Cincinnati Sept. 19 for the Obama campaign’s Women’s Summit, where she talked about how she thought the president’s policies — which include health care coverage for preventive care such as mammograms and birth control — were better for women than those of his opponent, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

“I think this election is particularly important because we are really facing a difference in ideas,” Portman said in the new ad, made available to CityBeat.

“Sometimes the candidates are the same and sometimes they’ve got really different points of view, and in this case you’ve got President Obama, who’s been really, really fighting for women’s rights,” she said, citing Obama’s signing of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the provisions of the Affordable Care Act targeted toward women’s health. “Romney wants to roll those achievements back.”

The video is the latest in the campaign’s “How We Win” series, the first of which featured Ohio native John Legend.

by 03.16.2011
Posted In: Media, Courts at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

First Amendment Champion Goehler Passes Away

Everyone in the media — and indeed everyone who cares about the First Amendment — is mourning the loss of Dick Goehler, a leading attorney at Cincinnati's Frost Brown Todd law firm who passed away yesterday after battling leukemia. Dick's practice focused on media law and represented media clients in all aspects of First Amendment and newsroom-related matters, including CityBeat.

Read More

by Kevin Osborne 04.03.2012
Posted In: News, Media, Business, Courts, Financial Crisis at 04:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Media Companies Face Rough Times

Clear Channel has layoffs, while magazine owner seeks court's help

It’s a tumultuous time in Greater Cincinnati’s media scene. In addition to The Enquirer’s ongoing staff shakeups, troubles abound at Clear Channel Communications and at the firm that owns Cincinnati Magazine.

This all occurs just a month after the recent sale of CityBeat to Nashville-based SouthComm, Inc.

Clear Channel, which owns the most radio stations in the local market, laid off several employees last week.

Among the people who were let go were Tony Bender, the program director for WKRC (550 AM) and WCKY (1530 AM); Sherry Rowland, promotions director for WLW (700 AM); Mark Bianchi, digital sales manager; and traffic reporter Brian Pitts. The staffers reportedly were laid off due to budget cuts.

Based in San Antonio, Texas, Clear Channel owns 850 radio stations across the United States, making it the nation’s largest radio station group owner both by stations and revenue. Locally, the media giant owns the previously mentioned WKRC, WCKY and WLW, along with WEBN (102.7 FM), WKFS (107.1 FM) and WSAI (1360 AM).

If you're in the media and need a job, you might want to consider applying to become The Enquirer's new sports editor. The last editor, Barry Forbis, recently quit to work for Fox Sports in Los Angeles. Here are the requirements for the job.

Meanwhile, Emmis Communications Corp. — which owns Cincinnati Magazine — is struggling to keep its stock listed on the NASDAQ exchange while the firm’s owner is being roundly criticized for asking an Indiana court to approve a plan to vote so-called “dead shares” of the company.

Indianapolis-based Emmis is seeking to vote the shares of preferred stock that the company had bought from shareholders at a sizeable discount. Typically, such shares are considered “extinguished” and no longer viable under tax and accounting rules. But Emmis executives said the shares weren’t actually bought, they merely were part of a “total return swap.”

If a judge agrees, Emmis will be able to vote those shares and convert its remaining preferred stock into common stock, so it doesn’t have to ante up the cash for unpaid dividends.

To deal with its financial problems, Emmis has borrowed a total of $31.9 million from controversial businessman Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Group Investments, to help keep the firm afloat.

Besides Cincinnati Magazine, Emmis owns similar publications in Atlanta, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Austin, Texas and elsewhere. Also, it owns radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Terre Haute, Ind., as well as in Bulgaria and Slovakia.

by Ben L. Kaufman 09.19.2012
Posted In: Media Criticism, Media, News, Ethics at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Curmudgeon Notes 9.19.2012

Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond

•  Enquirer prices are going up in a smart way.  The paper is embracing a computerized system which charges frequent users for its digital content. The more individuals read, the more they’ll be charged. Full access will mean just that and be available to home delivery and digital subscribers.

However, the Enquirer will still limit unpaid access to its archives. That’s a cheapening disservice to readers who want to know more than one day’s or one week’s reporting.

Infrequent/occasional readers still will be able to read up to 20 articles a month online content without paying. With new ways to get the news — smart phones, tablets, etc. — the Enquirer is adapting. As publisher Margaret Buchanan said in a note to readers and email, it’s better than following some other dailies by cutting print editions to three-a-week and charging for digital.

For more than a decade, online versions of print content and unique online content have been free but that’s not a sustainable business policy. It’s also been trendy to ask why dailies gave away online what they charged for in print. One response involved the technological problems involved in charging for digital content. That apparently is largely resolved here and elsewhere but it’s taken years. Another response was that of papers including the New York Times: free online content except for “premium” offerings such as op-ed columnists. That failed. It irritated more people than it recruited. Meanwhile, we became accustomed to the journalistic equivalent of a free lunch.

I say “we” because I quit reading any number of favorite publications when they threw up pay walls that did not include an occasional freebie. At the head of the pack were the Wall Street Journal and British dailies owned by Rupert Murdock. That included the London Times and Sunday Times. The cost was too great for what I largely could find elsewhere. I still turn to London’s Financial Times which allows me a few reads a month.
What publishers are learning to their glee is that readers are willing to pay for much of that now that they can get it on mobile devices. Surveys indicate that we have an insatiable appetite for news so long as we can get it anytime, any place we want it. That’s good news for all of us. Sustainable commercial news media remain vital to our form of self-government if only because they are everywhere and no other form of news media can do what they do.

 •  Maybe some of that new Enquirer income (above) will allow editor Carolyn Washburn to restore some traditional assignments that fell victim to years of staff purges. If anyone needed further proof that firing or retiring specialty beat reporters exacts a toll on credibility comes in a recent Enquirer Healthy Living section. The paper turned the entire cover page over to public relations people promoting their institutions in the guise of news. At least the Enquirer doesn’t pretend its reporters wrote those stories; UC Health and OSU got the bylines. With newsroom staff reductions, it’s open season on readers for public relations people. They increasingly operate without the scrutiny and possible intervention of a savvy reporter.

•  There is nothing wrong with what UC Health and OSU public relations people do when they offer free content to the Enquirer. That’s their job; promote the best possible image for their institutions consistent with the facts. The problem is at the paper. This goes beyond the traditional back-scratching where reporters rewrite news releases. That makes it the paper’s product and gives reporters a chance to ask questions.  A lot of what dailies — whether the Enquirer or Wall Street Journal — publish begins with press releases.

This symbiotic relationship can go too far. An Enquirer journalist once took a junket, came home and put his byline on the story prepared by the sponsor of the junket. When this ethical/professional travesty was noted, there was, to the paper’s shame, little or no condemnation. As one colleague put it, he thought it was uncommonly well written.

Another time, an Enquirer journalist put her name on a news release and ran it as a story, then had the chutzpah to accept an award for that “reporting” from the group that sent her the original press release.

•  The planned Enquirer switch to smaller, tabloid-like pages has been postponed until 2013; it was to start this Fall. The paper blames problems with the new format and new presses at the Columbus Dispatch which is to print both dailies. Meanwhile, Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn continues to tell us that small is beautiful. Or will be.

•  Channel 12 made the right decision in terms of audience numbers when they switched from the men’s final in the U.S. Open to an hour of Bengals chatter and then the game. However, viewers got an awful football game and missed what proved to be a riveting tennis match.

•  It’s never too early for Harvard undergrads to learn the importance of fitting into the Establishment. Reporters of the daily Harvard Crimson, the cradle of untold New York Timesmen over the decades, have agreed to clear quotes with Harvard officials before publishing their stories.

Jimromenesko.com reported this ethical blindness, saying, “Sometimes nothing is changed. But often, the quotations come back revised, to make the wording more erudite, the phrasing more direct, or the message more pointed. Sometimes the quotations are rejected outright or are rewritten to mean just the opposite of what the administrator said in the recorded interview.”

Romenesko also quoted Crimson President (editor) Ben Samuels’ memo to his staff. It said, in part,  “(W)e’ve seen an increase over the past several years in sources, especially Harvard administrators, who insist on reviewing their quotes prior to publication. When those administrators read their quotes, even quotes that Crimson reporters have recorded, they frequently ask that these quotes be modified.


Some of Harvard’s highest officials — including the president of the University, the provost, and the deans of the College and of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — have agreed to interviews with The Crimson only on the condition that their quotes not be printed without their approval. As a result, their quotes have become less candid, less telling and less meaningful to our coverage . . . To increase our striving for frank and informative quotations, we add a new policy now. Effective immediately, no writer may agree to an interview on the terms that quotes cannot be published without the source’s approval without express permission of the Managing Editor or the (editor) President.”

• CNN International (CNNi) is too close to repressive governments with which it has business deals, London’s Guardian says. “CNNi has aggressively pursued a business strategy of extensive, multifaceted financial arrangements between the network and several of the most repressive regimes around the world which the network purports to cover,” the liberal British paper says. “These arrangements extend far beyond standard sponsorship agreements for advertising of the type most major media outlets feature. CNNi produces . . . programs in an arrangement it describes as ‘in association with’ the government of a country, and offers regimes the ability to pay for specific programs about their country.” The Guardian says these programs are then featured as part of CNNi's so-called "Eye on" series ("Eye on Georgia", "Eye on the Philippines", "Eye on Poland"), or "Marketplace Middle East", all of which is designed to tout the positive economic, social and political features of that country.

The Guardian says “the disclosure for such arrangements is often barely visible . . . To the average viewer unaware of these government sponsorships, it appears to be standard ‘reporting’ from the network.” The paper says that in some “Eye on” programs, no such disclaimer is provided. CNN's "sponsorship policy" says "'[P]arts of CNN's coverage beyond the daily news are produced as special reports, which attract sponsors who pay to associate their products or services with the editorial content,' but claims that 'at no stage do the sponsors have a say in which stories CNN covers.'"

• Joe Biden’s acceptance speech at the Democrats’ convention reminded me that “enormity” is a poor choice for something big enough to brag about. If the speaker means huge, he/she should stick to that 5 cent word and skip the 50 cent malaprop. Enormity describes something awful or outrageous, not just big or important, as in, the enormity of a famine or genocide. While they’re at it, speech writers should drop  “fraction” from texts they hand dimmer bosses and clients. A fraction is anything less than the whole: 99/100 of something is a large fraction. It’s not a synonym for small.

• Sometimes, NPR reporters have me talking back and it’s not because it’s a “driveway moment,” when I won’t leave the car until the story is over. It’s usually because they’ve blown a story, not matter how balanced or detailed the broadcast. Repeated stories about the Chicago public school teachers’ strike left me wondering: 26,000 teachers for 350,000 students. I know that’s not really 13+ students per teacher in each classroom but the numbers still cry for explanation that in its he said/she said reporting, NPR failed to provide.

• Here’s another approach to saving local journalism: invite the local daily and public radio station to campus and integrate them with journalism school. The New York Times devoted a major business story to this innovation by Mercer University in Macon, Ga. The story mentioned another innovation, this one in Ohio: TheNewsOutlet initiated by the daily Youngstown Vindicator and Youngstown State University. Now, it includes Kent State and Akron universities. Journalism students work as interns, providing news stories to any organization. That made news when ProPublica, the nonpartisan investigative website, joined forces with TheNewsOutlet. Youngstown State  journalism students initially will work on investigative stories guided by ProPublica editors. ProPublica also is an open source news organization.

•  I’m willing to risk my perfect record at predicting Pulitzers: Tracey Shelton’s stunning photo of four Syrian rebels silhouetted by the flash of a tank shell that killed three of them in Aleppo. How Shelton escaped is unclear. She is close enough for the men to be individually recognizable. Her images are at GlobalPost.com: men sweeping a street, grabbing their weapons at the sight of an advancing Syrian Army tank, the explosion, the lone survivor running toward her through the smoke, and his lucky minor arm wound. My previous prediction: that the Pulitzer committee would change its rules to allow digital entries and honor the New Orleans Times-Picayune for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina that inundated its presses.

•  Poynter Online reports further proof of the nation’s partisan divide: “In August, 31 percent of Democrats polled by the Pew Research Center for People & the Press reported hearing ‘mostly bad news’ about the economy. In September, only 15 percent characterized economic news as bad. Sixty percent of Republicans and 36 percent of independents polled said economic news was mostly bad. The poll’s authors found the gap striking: Differences in perceptions of economic news emerged after Barack Obama took office. But they never have been as great as they are today.”

•  I was delighted to read and hear reporters challenge Romney’s falsification of the events in Cairo before the deadly riot in Benghazi. Romney berated Cairo embassy staff for its attempt to defuse rising Egyptian anger over the online short ridiculing and defaming Muhammed. The embassy issued a statement sympathizing with Muslim anger over the video. Romney damned the embassy staff and statement, saying it was the worst kind of appeasement after rioting in Cairo and Benghazi.  He had to know the statement preceded either riot.

•  American news media were of two minds when offered a graphic photo of a shirtless Chris Stevens after the ambassador was killed in Libya. Some media used it in their primary news reports. Others didn’t use it on air or in print but offered it online to readers. I would have used it. He was not bloody or disfigured, he was not being dragged through the streets or otherwise abused. He was a murder victim, one of four Americans killed in the consulate that day, and we can handle these images and the clarity they bring to events. Our news media showed no such squeamishness when provided photos of bloody Qaddafi.

•  Being a Royal Grandmother probably has always been tough, but Queen Elizabeth is having another annus terriblus: Prince Harry cavorts naked with tarts in Las Vegas and the seemingly perfect Kate is photographed topless on a vacation. Maybe the royals’ police protectors need remedial ed: cell phone cameras are everywhere and nothing goes unnoticed, especially if a royal prince is displaying his Crown Jewels, and paparazzi were sured to track William and Kate and to take off her bikini top on an outside balcony was unwittingly naive. Someone has to explain the facts of public life to these folks. They can’t depend on foreign news media being as deferential as those in the British Isles. Harry’s immodesty was published in Britain largely because it was universally available and seen online. Kate’s slip got plenty of online attention, too. British papers, of course, had to write about the future queen’s nipples without showing them. If there is an invasion of privacy suit in France where the photos were published, the photos will have to be introduced as evidence . . . and there we go again.
by 01.03.2011
Posted In: News, Media, Community, Business at 09:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Enquirer Publisher Hires Old Pal

Carolyn Washburn has been hired as editor and vice president at The Cincinnati Enquirer, the newspaper announced today. A Greater Cincinnati native, Washburn currently is editor at The Des Moines Register in Iowa.

Washburn, 48, previously worked with Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan while both were at The Idaho Statesman. Buchanan will be Washburn's new boss and made the selection. Washburn begins her new job Jan. 10.

Read More