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by 02.16.2011
Posted In: News, Public Transit, Media Criticism at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 

Polls, Questions and Minimum Standards

As additional information becomes known, an allegedly impartial poll about Cincinnati's streetcar project touted by The Enquirer becomes more suspect. A person who took the poll says the questions seemed like “propaganda,” while the pollster violated the accepted standards of the polling industry.

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by Ben L. Kaufman 04.17.2013
Posted In: Government, Media Criticism, Media at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 4.17.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

• Tuesday’s Enquirer abandoned its traditional timidity and published bloody color images of victims of Boston Marathon bombings. Good. I’m sure also there were images too ghastly for the breakfast table, but the shift is welcome. The inside image of an elderly runner knocked down by the blast and framed by Boston cops running toward the explosion was another good decision. He collapsed as the blast surge hit him in the midst of other runners. We saw that on TV/online. It was one of the earliest viral images. NPR said the 78-year-old man stood and walked to the finish line, saying he hadn’t run 26 miles to quit.

HuffingtonPost.com quickly repeated this potential calumny: “Investigators have a suspect — a Saudi Arabian national — in the horrific Boston Marathon bombings, The (New York) Post has learned. Law enforcement sources said the 20-year-old suspect was under guard at an undisclosed Boston hospital.”

About the same time, Massachusetts and Boston officials were telling journalists they had no suspects.

I recall how authorities initially sought someone who looked like an Arab after the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed in 1995. How do I know? It was all over the news media. As the current FBI website puts it,  “Coming on the heels of the (first) World Trade Center bombing in New York two years earlier, the media and many Americans immediately assumed that the attack was the handiwork of Middle Eastern terrorists.” 

Two white non-Arab Americans were convicted of the bombing. The only “Arab” link was murderer Timothy McVeigh’s military service in the first Iraq invasion, Desert Storm, where he won a Bronze Star. Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists continued to weave elaborate links between the Oklahoma City bombers and Arabs.  

Everyone with a microphone seems to be telling us the investigation of the Boston bombings will be complex and unhurried. Many recall how long it took to abandon suspicion of security guard Richard Jewell as the Atlanta Olympics bomber. It took two years to identify Eric Rudolph as the bomber and another five to arrest him. False leads will abound and forensic evidence will be sought, collected and analyzed. Some will be helpful, some will be misleading. With so many journalists present, initial coverage largely was self-correcting. The rumor of seven more bombs or a bomb at the JFK library was quickly spiked. The story that local officials blew up a third bomb lasted a little longer. That was half-correct: They blew up a package/backpack but it was not a bomb. There were only two bombs as of this writing. 

Everyone with a microphone seems to be saying the Boston bombing investigation will be complex and unhurried. Many recall how long it took to abandon suspicion of security guard Richard Jewell as the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bomber. False leads will abound and forensic evidence will be sought, collected and analyzed. Some will be helpful, some will be misleading. 

• If bombers hoped to create terror, the Boston Marathon was a smart choice: there would be lots of images from cell phones and the news media. It fits my theory of 9/11: the initial 2001 attack on the World Trade Center tower was timed to assure the news media would get full coverage of the jetliner flying into the second tower. 

• Moving on from bloodshed, Rachel Richardson’s Enquirer story about dogs in the workplace was a smart story, especially part about socialization being vital to a dog fitting in.  

And she pushed my nostalgia button. My first job out of college was night editing a daily paper in Italy. I bought a Belgian Shepherd (Groenendael) pup and named him Loki for the Norse trickster. His mother was a part-wolf/mountain shepherd's companion and father was an Italian ex-Army K9. With long, silky black coat, a plume of a tail, alert eyes and ears, Loki was an unbeatable chick magnet.  

His socialization comprised strolling Rome, riding and waiting in my car, joining me in bars and restaurants, and lying under my desk at the Rome Daily American at night when I was the only journalist. I didn't know the breed is famous/infamous for one-person loyalty and instinct to protect: person, possessions, etc.

Loki didn’t approve of anyone approaching my desk when I was in the back shop where type was set, pages were composed and the press run. Anyone else would bring him to his feet, ears back, shoulder blades up, teeth bared . . . but silent. Even as a pup, he could be menacing. “Lupo siberiano,” or Siberian wolf, was the Roman nickname for the breed. 

Night messengers who brought engraved zinc plates — photos for every edition in that ancient era of hot type and flatbed press — quickly learned to avoid the newsroom and come directly into the back shop. Loki was a force to be accommodated. 

Away from the office, he’d curl up on my Sunbeam Alpine’s passenger seat and bite anyone who was silly enough to reach into the car in hopes of a quick theft.

He rarely let go before I returned and that could create Roman opera buffa. Loki’s victim typically threatened to call police about my vicious dog and — without telling Loki to let go — I offered to help by shouting for police. We never did call for police. When released, the would-be thief unfailingly walked away, cursing me for enticing him with an open sports car into what he hoped was a crime of opportunity. 

When I worked days, Loki stayed home nearby. His socialization didn’t accommodate the chaos of a small, crowded newsroom with strangers coming and going. 

Again, thanks for the reminder: fun, smart and god help us, mindful of Enquirer watchdog obligations.

• As anticipated here, the Cleveland Plain Dealer is following other Newhouse dailies by reducing home deliveries to three days a week: Sunday and two days to be named later. The PD says it will print seven days a week for street sales. It also plans to fire about a third of its newsroom staff.  It’s a sad demise of what long was Ohio’s best daily. 

• The Enquirer business section headline was “Survey: Downtown seen as more positive.” That’s also what the story said, based on what Downtown Cincinnati Inc. told the paper. The accompanying photo showed people playing in Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. People feeling positive downtown just weren’t photogenic. 

• Read Gina Kolata’s April 7 New York Times story on a new understanding of the role of red meat in heart trouble. It’s among the best story telling in a long time. It’s a complicated subject but she draws us in with researchers sitting down to sizzling sirloin breakfast “for the sake of science.” It gets even better as she explains that the science involves  “a little-studied chemical that is burped out by bacteria . . . “ Talk about imagery. Send photos.  

• NPR is killing its Monday-Thursday afternoon call-in show, Talk of the Nation, and we’ll all be poorer for it. Talk of the Nation involves civil, lengthy discussion of timely topics. NPR is working with Boston’s WBUR to create a program for Talk’s 2-4 p.m. time slot. NPR says member stations wanted a program more like Morning Edition and All Things Considered in the afternoon and evening. Too bad. Expect lots of canned (and cheaply produced) interviews that seem to be the promise of the new show. 

• Journalists should refuse to name sources to whom they’ve promised confidentiality. The corollary, of course, is to ask first whether we’re willing to serve time for contempt of court if we reject a judge's demands that we break our word and name our source(s). In that sense, we probably don’t think it will happen to us and almost mindlessly promise confidentiality to encourage sources to talk to us. 

So when there is a court confrontation, the refusenik journalist typically is cast as the hero and the judge as a mindless apparatchik and/or tool of the prosecutor. That’s too simple. Reporters are free to ask their sources to release them from their promise of confidentiality. Judges should compel testimony only when prosecutors have used every other way to identify reporters’ sources and silence could pervert justice. Judges are on the hot seat as much as reporters. 

The latest unresolved contest involves Jana Winter who quoted unnamed law enforcement personnel when she reported that Aurora, Colo., gunman James Holmes sent an incriminating notebook to his psychiatrist before massacring moviegoers. FoxNews.com’s Winter said the notebook was filled with violent notes and drawings. Now that the apparently accurate information is out, I don’t see how the sources’ identities matter to a fair trial if there ever is one. 

Rather, I like what Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland, told the New York Times: “If you required reporters to disclose their sources every time there was a minor leak in a high profile criminal case, the jails would be filled in America with journalists.”

• London’s Daily Mail reports the auction of a log book kept by the RAF navigator whose “bouncing bomb” breached a vital German dam during World War II. The raid was portrayed in the film, The Dambusters. The Daily Mail’s story was spoiled only by a photo of the unique bomb being dropped by a twin-engine plane; Dambusters flew four-engine Lancaster heavy bombers. 

• Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is loathed to degrees that W and Obama cannot imagine. Her death last week sparked national demonstrations of joy even as the government and palace hoped that her almost-state funeral in London could be protected from demonstrators. Haters danced in the street, daubed “Rust in Hell” about the Iron Lady, and sang “Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead.” That forced BBC to decide whether to play that song from the Wizard of Oz movie on BBC radio shows dedicated to hit songs or on news programs about Thatcher’s life and death. The song reportedly became No. 1 on iTunes before the funeral and it was headed for the top of the pop charts, pushed by Thatcher haters. At last report, BBC’s director general said only a 5-second snippet would be allowed on the main radio channel. New to his job, he pissed off everyone. 

• Patrice Lumumba was the Congo’s first prime minister after Belgium granted independence to the huge, potentially wealthy and criminally unprepared colony. He was murdered not long before I began working on the Congo border in Northern Rhodesia. He already was a martyr-hero of the Left when I studied African anthropology in London.

Lumumba’s abduction, torture and murder were popularly assumed to be a CIA operation, working with Belgians, rebels in copper-rich Katanga province, and others who coveted the Congo’s mineral wealth and mines.

Now, a curious news story in London’s Telegraph says Britain’s worldwide Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) engineered Lumumba’s death. More curious is the weight it gives to a second-hand source. It quotes Lord Lea of Crondall quoting Baroness (Daphne) Park of Monmouth, who was the senior MI6 officer in the Congo then, as saying  she "organised it.” 

Lord Lea told the Telegraph, "It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba's abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. 'We did,' she replied, 'I organised it.'"

The Telegraph said Lord Lea claimed Baroness Park reasonably was concerned that Lumumba might be a communist siding with Soviet Russia. After all, African and Asian independence leaders like Lumumba, South Africa’s Mandela and others often found their most active Cold War support mainly in Moscow and the wider Communist movement. 

Initially blaming the CIA wasn’t irrational. By Lumumba’s death in 1961, the CIA had engineered the overthrow of elected governments in Iran and Guatemala and botched the Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Cuba’s Fidel Castro. 

Belgium apologized in 2002 for failing to prevent Lumumba’s death. In 2006, the Telegraph said, “documents showed the CIA had plotted to assassinate him but the plot was abandoned.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.19.2012
Posted In: News, Development, Media, Media Criticism, Ethics at 11:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
buchanan

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 Danny Cross 05.14.2012
 
 
bike month

Morning News and Stuff

Bike to Work Week today kicked off its series of morning commuter stations offering free coffee and treats all week long in an effort to encourage residents to try cycling to work, meet fellow cyclists and learn about bike advocacy. The city was scheduled to announce an award for its Bike Program this morning at the Coffee Emporium bike commuter station on Central Parkway in Over-the-Rhine.

Find a schedule of Bike to Work Week morning and afternoon commuter stations here.

The Enquirer over the weekend checked in with another of its “in-depth” pieces, this one detailing the huge amounts of money energy companies will make once they're allowed to treat northeastern Ohio's land like they do Texas. The story accurately described the fracking process as “controversial,” though it took the liberty of describing Carroll County as an “early winner” because 75 to 95 percent of its land is under lease to an oil or gas company. Here's a link to the weird slideshow-style presentation. And here's a sidebar on the issues surrounding fracking, which includes the following regarding the industry's oversight:

Fracking was exempted from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act under the Bush Administration, so it now falls under state jurisdiction. In Ohio, the Department of Natural Resources issues permits for all oil and gas wells, including fracking wells. The department also inspects the drilling of all wells in the state.

The New York Times came to Ohio to see how the good, working class folks feel about the president who has spent three-and-a-half years trying to help people like them during a recession he didn't start. Turns out many still won't vote for him because he's still black.

Madiera is a really nice suburb, and some residents plan to keep it that way by blocking developers from building luxury condos so “renters” can't move in and “alter the landscape of their charming suburb.”

Ohio State University has released a plan to combat hate crimes in response to several incidents on its campus this spring. The "No Place to Hate" plan includes 24 recommendations including a public safety division “hate crime alert” line staffed by operators. The OSU campus reportedly had a mural of President Obama defaced and found spray-painted messages supporting the death of Trayvon Martin.

Good news from the AP's strangulation beat: “States cracking down on strangulation attempts.”

Newsweek's May 21 cover shows Barack Obama with a rainbow-colored halo over his head and the headline, “The First Gay President.”

National media are talking about HBO's Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary detailing America's obesity epidemic. CityBeat's Jac Kern told y'all about it last week.

John Edwards' defense attorneys are reportedly basing a lot of their case on the definition of the word “The.” That should go well.


Joey Votto hit a two-out, bottom-of-the-ninth grand slam to win yesterday's game for the Reds, 9-6 over the Washington Nationals. It was his third home run of the day.

A Russian satellite has taken an awesome 121-megapixel photo of Earth.

 
 
by 10.04.2010
Posted In: Media Criticism, Congress, 2010 Election at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 

Blog Slams Enquirer's Flawed Poll

There it was, splashed across the front page of Sunday's Enquirer in big, bold letters: “Poll Puts Chabot in Lead.” The headline used for the Internet version was, as usual, even more excitable: “Poll: Chabot Leads Big Over Driehaus.”

The article was about a poll that Cincinnati's only daily newspaper commissioned on Ohio's 1stCongressional District race, using the Survey USA polling firm. Its results show Republican Steve Chabot leading Democratic incumbent Steve Driehaus by 12 points, or 53 percent to 41 percent.

But does the poll provide a complete picture of the race?

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by Ben L. Kaufman 11.14.2012
Posted In: News, Media, Media Criticism, Ethics, Internet at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 11.14.2012

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

•    Monday’s Enquirer carries a sanitized obit for Larry Beaupre, the fine, aggressive Enquirer editor whose career was destroyed by a trusted reporter during the Chiquita scandal.    

Larry’s genius was motivating his staff to take chances and go the extra step. No one wanted to admit not making the last phone call to check something in a story. We made those calls.

As part of that, Larry brought the “woodshed” to the Enquirer newsroom on Elm Street. It was the perfect walk to his corner office overlooking the Ohio and Licking Rivers. There, Larry would privately discuss some failing or pratfall in that morning’s paper.

My favorite Larry story — there is no way I’ll call him Beaupre — is Lucasville. I was involved in coverage of that prison riot and occupation from its start on Easter, 1993. Larry was part of Pulitzer-winning coverage of the bloody Attica prison revolt in New York. He gave us everything we asked for at Lucasville. In the middle of that deadly mess — 24/7 for 11 days in Scioto County red clay mud outside the prison on what became press row — he drove down to deliver Sunday papers and thank his bleary staff. That’s leadership.

“I will never forget the Sunday morning when Beaupre showed up,” then-reporter Howard Wilkinson recalled for an earlier column. “He asked me what we needed. ‘Cash, and lots of it,’ I said, explaining that we had to buy food and clothing for the crew, most of whom came unprepared for 11 days in the mud. Larry pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and start counting out a wad of $50s . . . gave me $500 on the spot, which I ended up spending at Big Bear and the Subway in Lucasville. ‘There’s more where that came from,’ Beaupre said.”

Larry didn’t meddle when things went right. There always were questions about why we didn’t have some Lucasville story that someone else did. Larry always accepted “we checked it out and it’s not true.” We got it right and he honored that.    

A year later, he made sure we knew that a routine Lucasville anniversary story wasn’t acceptable. Kristen DelGuzzi and I spent weeks on race, religion and crowding in prisons around the country and Lucasville. The ordinary was not acceptable to Larry or his editors.

Not long ago, I sent Howard Wilkinson’s comment to Larry, along with that column anticipating the 20th anniversary of Lucasville in 2013. Larry responded warmly, saying it’s nice to be remembered for something beyond Chiquita.

However, it’s the nature of our trade that we’re remembered for our biggest screwups. Ask Dan Rather. So it is with Larry: the year-long investigative effort and special 18-page section describing what reporters Mike Gallagher and Cam McWhirter learned about Chiquita operations here and abroad. Typically, Larry gave two trusted reporters all of the resources they needed. He and Gallagher had worked together before Larry brought him to Cincinnati. Gallagher’s decision to eavesdrop on Chiquita voice mails doomed the project and cost Larry his career.

They gave us a dark view of Chiquita operations, especially in Central America. The project blew up in our faces and Larry was the scapegoat even though the stories had gone all of the way up the corporate chain and back again.

Readers noted that despite the three page 1 apologies and curious renunciation of the stories that followed revelation of Gallagher’s dishonest reporting methods, the Enquirer did not retract the facts.

Larry and the Enquirer had challenged the most powerful man in Cincinnati, Carl Lindner. Gallagher’s dishonesty gave Lindner his opening and Lindner crippled the paper for years. As part of the deal with Lindner and Chiquita, the paper paid $14 million.

More devastating was the condition that Larry had to go. He did. McWhirter was moved to a top reporting job at the Gannett paper in Detroit. David Wells was removed as local editor — the one job he always wanted at the Enquirer - but stayed to become opinion page editor.

Gallagher — who lied to everyone about how he got those voice mails and included his lies in the published stories — was fired. He stayed around to plead guilty to tapping Chiquita voice mail system and stayed out of prison by naming his Chiquita-related sources.

The Enquirer lost the passion and editing talents of Larry and David Wells and Cam McWhirter’s reporting skills. Other colleagues began leaving; the Enquirer was tainted goods. Job applications from similarly talented journalists dried up, I’m told, for years. I’m not sure the Enquirer ever recovered.

•    Larry (above) and his family moved to Mt. Lookout from West Chester when he came from New York.  No matter what landscapers planted in his garden overlooking Ault Park, deer ate them. Then there were the raccoons. Larry came to my desk in distress, wondering what he could do. I suggested a nonlethal Havahart trap. Let the critter loose in another park. Larry tried it. Bait would be gone, the trapdoors closed and no ‘coon. One night he stayed up to see what was going on. The critter went in, ate the bait, and when the doors dropped, other raccoons tipped over the trap. Doors opened and “prisoner” walked free. I think he gave up; Midwestern deer and raccoons were more than his New York smarts could conquer.

•    If you missed it, go back to last Tuesday’s Enquirer opinion page and read mediator Bob Rack’s essay on civility in public life. It’s broader than elections and is more practical than the typical admonishment to behave.

•    Thursday’s Enquirer started a page 1 watch on the Pride of the Tristate, naysaying obstructionists Mitch and John. I hope Enquirer reporters tell us what Mitch and John and their House and Senate colleagues do in the name of “bipartisanship.” Skip their words. Watch what they do.  

•    “Gravitas” apparently is so 2010. The new word favored by many politics writers is “meme.” A wise editor once told me to avoid foreign words unless they’re so common that even an editor would know them. Meme — from the Greek — fails.

•    Quotationspage.com attributes this famous aphorism to department store merchant John Wanamaker: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” I wonder if that’s true about campaign ads. Billionaire right-winger Sheldon Abelson helped poison the well but the New York Times says only his candidates drank; they all lost. I haven’t seen a similar analysis of libertarian Koch brothers spending but it reportedly was far greater than even Abelson’s. Democrats countered by raising and spending zillions. The only difference was the far greater number of Democratic donors needed to reach the magic totals. Great for TV stations but brain damaging for the rest of us.
   
•    There is no “financial cliff.” We’re not going to go over it on Jan. 1. An end to Bush tax cuts won’t pitch us in a recession on Jan. 2.  Sequestration won’t suck zillions out of the economy in one day. Yes, there is a downward economic slope if Congress and Obama don’t sort out the tax/deficit mess. So, why do journalists continue to parrot bipartisan “over the cliff” rhetoric when the facts they report make it clear that no such precipice exists?
 
•    My nomination for a “Useless” award is the New York Times telephone people who are supposed to help with home delivery problems. Twice last week, the Times wasn’t there in the morning and replacement papers weren’t delivered that day or the next. That included Wednesday’s paper with the election results. More aggravating was the blue-wrapped Times on my neighbor’s drive, giving lie to the Times’ “problem resolution” staff’s explanation that there were problems at the printing plant. Times’ operators  and clueless supervisors were in Iowa: dim bulbs who sounded like they read from an all-purposes script.

•    I finally used the New York Times website to email their vp/circulation. A reply came quickly, promising to contact the Enquirer whose carriers deliver the Times. A prompt call from Enquirer circulation on Elm Street promised replacement papers and a personal delivery. Didn’t happen. Still hasn’t, a week later. A perfect union of ignorance and interstate bullshit.

•    Last week’s CityBeat cover story was the annual Project Censored; the most underreported major stories in the major news media. The list misses my No. 1 most underreported story of the year: third-party candidates for the presidency and their platforms.

About the only time the major news media noted Third Party existence was to wonder if a third party might get enough votes to deny victory to a Democrat or Republican in any state(s). Affecting a state’s vote totals would be bad for democracy, those news media anxieties imply.

So I’d offer two suggestions to my 24/7 news media colleagues. First, voting one’s principles is not bad for democracy and it has the potential for great news stories. Second, third party platforms suggest ingredients in whatever becomes conventional wisdom in 2016 or 2020.

That’s what third parties do; hopeful but realistic, they do the thinking that seems to escape mainstream Democrats and Republicans. If you doubt me, look at what came out of the Progressive era 100 years ago and what might come out of Tea Party initiative and energy.

•    Are news media short of photos of Petraeus in civvies? He’s no longer a general. Most images I saw after his surprise resignation had him in uniform. Also, the developing story of how his affair was discovered is fascinating. The FBI stumbled on Petraeus when it was investigating a complaint of online harassment against Paula Broadwell, the adoring graduate student who became author of the new Petraeus biography and his lover. The complaint came from another woman, a frightened friend of the Petraeus family. Agents looking at Broadwell’s emails found  classified information and romantic emails between Petraeus and Broadwell. Tacky as this is, it fell to Jay Leno to sum it up: Guys, Leno said, if the head of the CIA can’t keep an affair  secret, don’t you try it because if you do, “You’re screwed.”

•    BBC’s sex scandal — knighted entertainer Jimmy Savile and others at BBC abused hundreds of girls for years — continues to spread. So far, it hasn’t touched the BBC World Service which Americans get on WVXU/WMUB and other FM stations.

Last week, however, it cost BBC’s new top exec his job. He quit after one of his reporters suggested during a TV interview that he should “go” and a former Cabinet minister responsible for BBC said  Winnie the Pooh would have been a more effective curb on careless, defamatory reporting.

The latest mess involves BBC’s top domestic current affairs/investigative TV program, Newsnight and the broader issue of child abuse by prominent and powerful figures in British public life.

BBC’s Newsnight broadcast Steve Messham’s claim that a top Conservative politician was among men who molested him in a state children’s home during the 1980s. Newsnight didn’t name the Tory but others did on social media: Lord Alistair McAlpine. He came forward last week and denied wrongdoing.

When Messham saw a photo of McAlpine after the broadcast, Messham recanted and apologized. His abuser wasn’t McAlpine. No one showed Messham a photo of McAlpine before broadcasting his accusation. BBC last week apologized “unreservedly.” That phrase usually means a libel suit is anticipated.

Meanwhile, BBC officials canceled Newsnight investigations. Newsnight already is under investigation for killing an program that would have outed Savile as a serial abuser. Savile is dead but three colleagues have been arrested so far.

•    Thedailybeast.com excerpts from Into the Fire, a book by Dakota Meyer, the Kentuckian who won the Medal of Honor in Afghanistan. It’s a toy chest of news tips for reporters. Here’s part of the excerpt:

When I got home in December, I felt like I had landed on the moon. Kentucky is pretty much what you think: cheerful bluegrass music like Bill Monroe, rolling countryside, good moonshine, great bourbon and pretty girls. Greenery, lakes, the creeks and rolling hills, forests, birds, other critters and all the farms. There’s that genuine friendliness that comes with small towns and close-knit families. You don’t want to act like an asshole because it will get back to your grandmother by supper.


“Something like: ‘Well, Dakota, I hear you had some words today with that neighbor of Ellen’s sister’s boy.’

“Dad, of course, was happy to see me, as were my grandparents, so that was a good feeling. Dad didn’t give me a hard time about Ganjigal, and neither did my leatherneck Grandpa. We just didn’t talk much about it. It was great seeing my family and friends, but they had their own lives. Everyone around me was excited about football, Christmas, and other normal things; I was looking at the clapboard houses and the cars and thinking, man — so flimsy. They wouldn’t give cover worth shit in a firefight.

“It was an exposed feeling. And where were my machine guns? I found my old pistol and kept it around like a rabbit’s foot, but I missed my 240s and my .50-cals something awful. It seems weird, I’m sure, but I really just wasn’t buying it that there wasn’t some enemy about to come over the green hills, and I felt so unprepared—I wouldn’t be any good to protect anybody.

“I was set to soon go off to Fort Thomas, Kentucky, for PTSD therapy . .  . “

•    Next year, we’ll commemorate the botched Bay of Pigs invasion. It wasn’t the last time we underestimated the resilience of a far weaker “enemy.” JFK reportedly told the Times that he would have aborted the invasion if the Times had had the cajones to publish what it knew about preparations in Florida and Central America. However, during the two weeks before the invasion, the Times published stories about the preparations.

•    Next year, we’ll also commemorate JFK’s murder. I watched demonstrators at our London Grosvenor Square Embassy vilify the U.S. for its role in the Cuban missile crisis. The night of JFK’s death, crowds were back . . . to sign a book of condolences.

•    A federal judge ordered the FBI to pay journalist Seth Rosenfeld $479,459 for court costs and lawyers’ fees. He sued the FBI after it ignored his appropriate requests under the Freedom of Information Act. Poynter.com says Rosenfeld will donate the money to the First Amendment Project Project in Oakland, Calif. It handled his case pro bono for 20 years. That’s chump change to the bureau and it costs individual agents nothing for blowing him off. Meanwhile, news organizations say broad resistance to FOIA requests has worsened throughout the federal government under Obama.

•    Newsweek is going digital-only next year, in keeping with boss Tina Brown’s changing reading habits. She says she doesn’t even look at newsstands any longer; everything she wants is on her Kindle. Of course, she’ll fire people. Newsweek always was No. 2 to Time Magazine which continues its print edition. I’ve ignored giveaway offers from both magazines for years. It isn’t print, it’s their content. My choice? The Economist’s weekly U.S. print edition.

•    ABC said his family was unaware of film director Tony Scott’s brain cancer when he jumped off a bridge in August and died. Now, ABC admits its original unverified and uncorroborated story was wrong. There was no brain cancer. It only took two months to admit and correct the error.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 04.16.2012
 
 
parvislofts

Morning News and Stuff

The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.

Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.

Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.

Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.

In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.

President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.

The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.

As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.

The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
 
 
by Ben L. Kaufman 12.11.2012
Posted In: Media Criticism, Media, News at 05:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 12.12.2012

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

As much as I usually enjoy Krista Ramsey’s controlled, empathetic reporting and writing, I don’t understand why Enquirer editors wasted her talent and their limited space on their serial about a bank-robbing granny. Who cares? If I learned anything, it was from the front page dedicated to the start of the serial. It was pure, screaming tabloid and perfect practice for the day the Enquirer shrinks its page size again. 

The Enquirer discovered a foreign policy “expert” living silently among us for years. That’s their word: “expert.” He was outed on Monday’s page 1 in a lavishly illustrated story about his taxpayer-paid travels. It’s U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot. Face it, travel doesn’t make anyone an expert. If it did, Rick Steves should be our next Secretary of State. 

Here we go again. Our Enquirer carrier is supposed to deliver the Enquirer seven days a week and the New York Times Monday-Saturday. Last Wednesday, the Enquirer arrived but the Times didn’t. Times call center people in Iowa promised a replacement paper by 2 p.m. We’re still waiting. 

Thursday, there was no Times for the second day and, instead of a replacement Wednesday paper, the Enquirer carrier tossed a copy of the Wall Street Journal

I can’t invent this stuff. The WSJ is the only serious challenger facing the Times as a national daily.

Times people in Iowa promised a replacement Thursday paper. I’ve called so many times I can recite their script with them, including faux sincerity when apologizing for missed papers. 

I also sent another note to the circulation VP at the Times, using the email address on the paper’s website. (I couldn’t find any such person or email in the online list of Enquirer contacts. No surprise.) 

The Times circulation VP couldn’t happy about paying to deliver the WSJ. An aide called, saying he’d do all he could by phone. Not much. Actually, nothing. 

Friday, finally, the Enquirer carrier got it right: Enquirer and Times. That can’t last. The lapses are not new. 

Questions are being raised about foreign research involving UC and Henry Heimlich. UC News Record reporter Benjamin Goldschmidt said, “The study tested whether or not a modified version of the Heimlich Maneuver could stop an acute asthma attack or treat asthma symptoms without contemporary treatment. The subjects’ parents gave consent and the results reported no adverse effects, according to the study. The 67 children who participated were between the ages of six and 16.”

Goldschmidt said Heimlich’s son, Peter, is pressing the inquiry at UC and elsewhere. The younger Heimlich said that “Since at least 1996, based on dubious evidence, my father has claimed that the Heimlich Maneuver can stop asthma attacks, but asthma experts have expressed strong doubts . . . For example, in 2005, Loren Greenway, administrative director of respiratory and pulmonary medicine for Intermountain Health Care in Salt Lake City, told a reporter that using the Heimlich maneuver in an acute asthmatic condition … could actually kill somebody.”

Peter Heimlich said he targeted UC because Charles Pierce, adjunct professor of psychiatry at UC, was involved with applying for loans for the study in Barbados, an Atlantic nation between Haiti and Venezuela. He cited email correspondence in the Winkler Center’s Heimlich Archives at UC. 

The News Record quoted UC spokesman Greg Hand, who said the majority of Pierce’s work is done at Children’s Hospital, not with UC.   

Previously, Peter Heimlich raised questions about his father’s foreign experiments on malariotherapy, which seeks to prove that infecting people with malaria creates HIV-killing fevers. 

If you missed it, find last week’s page 1 New York Post photo of a man about to be killed by a subway train. 

Freelance photographer R. Umar Abbasi said it is one of dozens he shot using his flash unsuccessfully to alert the driver about an emergency. A furor followed the Post’s decision to print his photo.

Photographers frequently are faulted for not intervening in violent or deadly situations. So let me offer a couple comments.

First, Abbasi had no duty to try to lift Ki-Suck Han to safety.  He says he wasn’t close enough, the train was coming, he was unsure whether he could lift the man. Others, closer, did not try to help. 

Whether photographers should set aside their cameras and get involved is a recurrent question. My answer is this: The greater the risk, the smaller the obligation to help. That’s how we get images of wounded and dying soldiers, people trapped in or rescued from bombed buildings, prisoners being shot, stabbed, torture, etc. 

That’s what photographers do. They show us what’s happening and in many situations, photographers would have been casualties if they’d try to intervene. 

An older colleague at the Minneapolis Star said a woman who survived the collapse of a downtown hotel complained that he photographed her instead of helping. My colleague sent her an autographed copy of the photo, inscribed, I recall, “Deadlines are deadlines, lady.” 

Second, the Post wasn’t wrong to publish the photo. I’m on the side of showing what happens when things go very, very wrong. War is ugly. So are traffic accidents, trench cave-ins and shootings here. Sanitizing does no service to readers/viewers who need to know what happened in a newsworthy event. Is the photo disturbing? Yes. But not so much as Ki-Suck Han’s death at the hands of a stranger who pushed him on to the tracks. 

Photographers often spend their lives known for one news photo: Marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi, a young woman screaming over the body of a student at Kent State, a starving Sudanese child watched by a nearby vulture, a South Vietnamese officer executing a Viet Cong suspect with one shot to the head. Some images win famous prizes. Some photographers build careers on their moments. At least one, Kevin Carter, bedeviled by what he’d seen among Sudanese famine victims, killed himself. Abbasi will not easily shake the image of his image of that subway death. 

The Dec. 8 Economist online has a cautious update on the declining newspaper industry, including Gannett, owner of the Enquirer. Included is a look at the ways pay walls like that at the Enquirer are succeeding where online content long was free. At some papers, online income finally is seriously compensating for income from lost print ad revenue.  But the Economist warns “Most important, a paper’s content has to be worth paying for, which is bad news for (unnamed) papers that have cost-cut themselves into journalistic wraiths.” 

I love a journalistic hoax. A top Chinese daily, People’s Daily, reported that “The Onion has named North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un as the sexiest man alive for the year 2012.” 

Obviously unaware that the Onion is an American satirical website, Chinese editors copied it verbatim: “With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman's dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper's editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.”

Radio pranks are nothing new. Years ago, when WNOP “Radio Free Newport” broadcast from an Ohio River barge, it would play recordings of prank telephone calls. One was to a railroad asking if the caller could use its engine roundhouse to play a huge Bobby Breen U.S. Steel record. Another asked a department store lingerie clerk about an Erin go Bragh, and I think, a Freudian slip. A supermarket customer insisted he properly assembled his “chicken parts kit” but it would only fly backwards. What should he do? The “Green Hornet” called a garage, supposedly servicing his Black Beauty car to ask when his Filipino houseboy Kato could pick it up. Finally, there was the soldier who called a McDonald’s with a detailed order for an entire Army reserve or national guard unit. The laughs, of course, came as recipients of the calls struggled to make sense of the queries until they realized they’d been had. 

Sometimes, however, a clever media hoax goes sadly wrong. That’s apparently what happened last week when Australian radio DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian fooled nurses at London’s King Edward VII Hospital into thinking they were the Queen and Prince Charles. They wanted to know how Kate was handling her severe morning sickness. 

In an early morning telephone call, Greig, impersonating the Queen, said: “Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?”

Thinking she was speaking to the Queen, immigrant nurse Jacintha Saldanha, on switchboard duty, replied; “Oh yes, just hold on ma’am.”

She put the call through to the nurse in the Duchess’ room. That nurse, so far unnamed, also thought she was speaking to the Queen and provided details about Kate’s health. 

The Sydney station, 2Day, heavily promoted its prank and broadcast it repeatedly. It became an international sensation; even the real Prince Charles was reported to have thought it funny.

Nurse Saldanha was found dead Friday, three days later. London police said they are not treating her death as suspicious. That means suicide or natural causes. British news media assumed suicide, suggesting Saldanha couldn’t deal with humiliation after 2Day’s recording of her embarrassing error went viral. The London Telegraph said “the two presenters who made the call will be questioned by Australian police following a request by Scotland Yard, which will gather evidence for an inquest.”

Elizabeth P. McIntosh was a Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter writing for women in 1941 when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7. Editors killed her story, saying her graphic description of civilian victims would be too upsetting. Last week, the Washington Post published the uncut story with McIntosh’s recollections. It’s vivid, fine reporting, the kind of writing we seldom see today.   

An inexplicable failure of journalism honesty landed NBC in court. George Zimmerman, who admits he shot and killed unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, sued the network. He says NBC editing of his original 911 call defamed him and caused intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

NBC played the its reporter’s edited tape three times. On it, Zimmerman says, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. He looks black.”

But on the unedited tape, Zimmerman says, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” 

Then the 911 dispatcher says, “OK and this guy — is he white, black or Hispanic.” 

Only then, in response, Zimmerman said, “He looks black.” 

Neither the dispatcher’s question nor Zimmerman’s answer was racist. If a police officer was to be dispatched, it was important what the potential suspect, Trayvon Martin, looked like. 

Here’s a story I haven’t seen as we edge up to the fiscal cliff: how many billions are spent on fully employed people whose wages are so low that employers transfer their costs to the rest of us? Medicaid, food stamps, etc. aren’t limited to the unemployed or aged. And while they’re at it, reporters can tell us how much a full-time worker must earn to equal all of their taxpayer-supported benefits. 

And now, a birther alert. Ted Cruz, newly elected Hispanic and perfectly conservative senator from Texas, says his Canadian birth doesn’t disqualify him from a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. He told Ryan Lizza in the New Yorker, “The Constitution requires that one be a natural-born citizen and my mother was a U.S. citizen when I was born.” He could have added that Americans captured Canada 200 years ago in the War of 1812, assuring Donald Trump of Cruz’s eligibility. And hey! Americans then defeated Santa Ana at the Alamo.

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

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 Ben L. Kaufman 02.19.2013
 
 
enquirer

Curmudgeon Notes 2.20.2013

Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond

 • Giovanna Chirri, the veteran Vaticanista who understood the pope’s Latin, broke the news that he’d just announced his resignation. She works for the Italian news agency, ANSA. Her skill recalled Ernest Sackler at Rome’s UPI bureau when I was a photojournalist stringer during John XXIII’s papacy. Ernest truly understood Vatican Latin well enough to turn it into flowing English; colleagues spoke of him with awe. 

• I’m grateful to the Enquirer for running a story on Sen. Rand Paul’s response to the State of the Union Message. It wasn’t on NPR or any other network that I could find. His Washington office did not respond to my question of whether the Kentucky Republican offered his remarks to any broadcasters/cable networks. 

• Tens of millions of Americans will become eligible for subsidized medical care under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Who’s going to treat them? I haven’t seen that in the news. And while reporters are working out that story, ask how the required additional primary care physicians will pay off college and medical school debts on the salaries that will be paid to their specialties.  

• And once journalists dig into the supply of physicians to handle Medicaid expansion, I hope they’ll ask who’s going to staff quality preschool education for every American child. Obama can be aspirational, but we’re not talking about minimum wage diaper changers. Early learning centers require trained pre-school educators. And while they’re at it, reporters should ask where these new early childhood educators will train and who’s going pick up the tab. After all, they’ll never repay college loans on day care wages. 

• Maybe I missed it in the admiring coverage of our government killing American Islamists abroad with drone rocket attacks: What prevents Obama from killing Americans in this country with drone strikes? None of the news stories or commentaries I’ve read or heard addressed that point. 

There would be no shortage of targets. Wouldn’t the sheriff have loved a drone-launched missile to kill Christopher Dorner, the rogue ex-LAPD cop? That might have spared the deputy whom Dorner killed during the flaming finale in the San Bernardino mountains. And what prevents our increasingly militarized police from using their own armed drones? 

Imagine what authorities could have done with armed drones during earlier, infamous encounters:

A missile fired at armed members of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee, S.D., could have avenged inept, vain and foolish George Armstrong Custer and FBI agents killed in the 1973 siege. 

No feds would have died if a drone-launched missile incinerated Randy Weaver’s family with during its deadly 1992 confrontation with feds at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. 

David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious sect were incinerated by the feds’ 1993  armored assault in Texas. That would have been a perfect photo op for a domestic drone attack.

• Sometimes, “national security” is the rationale for requested or commanded self-censorship, even when secrets aren’t secret. 

For instance, British editors held stories about Prince Harry until he returned the first time from Afghanistan. However, an Australian women’s magazine reported he was in combat. The non-secret was a secret because no one paid attention.

More recently, the new U.S. drone base in Saudi Arabia was supposed to be a secret. Obama officials asked major news media to hold the story and they agreed. National security, you know.

But it wasn’t a secret. Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple said Fox News already had reported U.S. plans to build the facility in Sept. 2011. Three months before that, the Times of London reported construction of the Saudi drone base. 

When the New York Times broke the agreement and reported the Saudi drone base, everyone jumped on the story. Now, the Times, the Post and AP are trying to explain why they kept the non-secret from us.  

• Gone are the days when senior Israeli government officials could call in top editors and broadcasters and tell them what they could not report. Last week, a tsunami of technology overwhelmed official Israeli efforts to censor the story of Prisoner X. Israeli journalists were not to report his existence or mention the censorship order. National security, you know. However, an Australian network named an Aussie as Prisoner X and said he reportedly committed suicide three years ago in an Israeli prison. Social media and the online world took it from there: "Aussie recruited by Israeli spy agency dies in Israeli prison." Israel dropped efforts to censor the Prisoner X story and is issuing official statements about the case. 

• San Bernardino’s sheriff asked journalists to quit tweeting from the final gunfight with former LAPD cop Christopher Dorner. Bizarre. If authorities feared Dorner would gain tactical information, they misread his situation: Dorner was surrounded in a mountain cabin, tear gas was being lobbed in and men outside were trying to shoot him. He probably was too busy to read tweets. Moreover, only one reporter was close enough to tweet anything remotely useful to anyone. Most reporters initially or finally ignored the sheriff. 

The tweet issue first arose during the 2008 Muslim terrorist attack on Mumbai when invaded the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Some authorities reportedly feared accomplices outside were reading news media tweets and forwarding tactical information about police and army movements to gunmen inside. I don’t remember if anyone asked reporters to quit tweeting. 

• A new poll says Fox hit an alltime low for the four years Public Policy Polling has tracked trust/distrust among TV networks: 41 percent trust Fox, 46 percent do not. The poll didn’t find anything for other networks to brag about. Only PBS had more “trust” than “distrust” among viewers: 52 percent trust, 29 percent don’t trust. The poll questioned 800 voters by telephone from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3. 

• Garry Wills’ new book, Why Priests, sets out to debunk Catholicism’s dearest dogmas and doctrines concerning priests, bishops and the papacy. NPR’s Diane Rehm gave him an hour last week to say why Catholic ordained clergy are an unnecessary accretion. Then she asked an outgunned parish priest from the Washington, D.C. area for a rebuttal. If she really wanted a lively, informed argument, there is no shortage of priest-scholars who could have matched Wills’ credentials and talents as an historian. It was unfair and cringe-worthy. 

• It’s touchy when an unpleasantry is brought up in an obit: a long forgiven conviction, a “love child,” whatever. More often, predictably awkward moments are omitted in the spirit of de mortuis nil nisi bonum. Here’s HuffingtonPost on a full-blown omission in the recent obit on former New York mayor and mensch Ed Koch: 

“The New York Times revised its Friday obituary . . . after several observers noticed that it lacked any mention of his controversial record on AIDS. The paper's obituary, written by longtime staffer Robert D. MacFadden, weighed in at 5,500 words. Yet, in the first version of the piece, AIDS was mentioned exactly once, in a passing reference to ‘the scandals and the scourges of crack cocaine, homelessness and AIDS.’ The Times also prepared a 22-minute video on Koch's life that did not mention AIDS. This struck many as odd; after all, Koch presided over the earliest years of AIDS, and spent many years being targeted by gay activists who thought he was not doing nearly enough to stop the spread of the disease. Legendary writer and activist Larry Kramer called Koch ‘a murderer of his own people’ because the mayor was widely known as a closeted gay man.”

• New York’s Ed Koch admired Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl’s recorded last words before Muslim terrorists beheaded him. Koch had Pearl’s affirmation of faith engraved on his own tombstone in Manhattan’s Trinity Church graveyard: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”  

• A former student reporter rarely rates an obit in the national media, but Annette Buchanan wasn’t ordinary. In the mid-1960s, she refused a court order to name sources for her story about student marijuana use on the University of Oregon campus. Her story ran in the Oregon Daily Emerald, the campus paper. No shield law protected her promise of confidentiality. The Emerald said she was fined the maximum $300 and the state supreme court affirmed her contempt of court conviction. That led to the creation of Oregon’s shield law for journalists. She died recently.

• An unresolved First Amendment issue is whether bloggers can be protected by state shield laws that allow journalists to keep sources secret. The latest case is from New Jersey. Poynter.com said blogger Tina Renna refused to identify government officials whom she said misused county generators after Hurricane Sandy. Union County prosecutors demanded the 16 names, saying Renna wasn’t a journalist protected by New Jersey’s shield law because she’s been involved in politics, her blog is biased and she’s often critical of county government. 

The Newark Star-Ledger took her side. It said shield law protection “shouldn’t hinge on whether someone is a professional, nonpartisan or even reliable journalist. It’s a functional test: Does Renna gather information that’s in the public interest and publish it? Yes.” Renna “can be a little wild, she’s not the same as a professional reporter and she drives local officials crazy. But part of democracy is putting up with Tina Renna.” A court will probe whether Renna is a journalist as defined by the state shield law; that is, whether bloggers can be included by analogy under protected electronic news media.

• Few ledes — introductory sentences in news stories — are as lame as those saying the subject “doesn’t look” like some stereotype. For years, it usually referred to a woman in an unconventional (read men’s) occupation or pastime. “She didn’t look like a steelworker . . . “  or, “You wouldn’t think a tiny blonde bagged a deadly wild boar with a huge .44 magnum revolver.” Male subjects aren’t immune, as in this lede from a recent Washington Post story: “Farmer Hugh Bowman hardly looks the part of a revolutionary who stands in the way of promising new biotech discoveries and threatens Monsanto’s pursuit of new products . . . ”

What do revolutionaries look like? Lenin was pictured in suit and tie. Gandhi wore a white, draped sari or dhoti, Mandela and fellow ANC rebels often wore suits and ties. Young 1960s American and French student rebels never wore suits and ties and needed haircuts. Today’s young North African activists dress the same for class or a demonstration. 

“Doesn’t look like” wouldn’t even fit an androgynous male model in the annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show. He’d be there because he looks like a classic, young, leggy “angel.” 

• Have you noticed how hurricanes, floods, blizzards and tornadoes are morphing from evidence of climate change into photo ops? News media see them as so common that little reporting is required beyond images and stories of hardship: shoppers hoarding sliced white bread, downed trees and shattered homes, marooned airline passengers and days without power. Maybe there’s the throwaway quote from some climatologist about change affecting weather, but for the most part, that’s it. I’m betting this deliberate ignorance is a Republican Party plot to show that increasingly frequent, dangerous weather reflects the Intelligent Design that gave us dino-riding cavemen a few thousand years ago. 

The Enquirer devoted Page 1 to a dramatic OMG! graphic and story suggesting Cincinnati was terrible because it had no black candidate for mayor. An accompanying list of movers and shakers had few blacks. The presentation suggested the all-white mayoral contest meant amiss in a city where whites are the largest minority. However, whites and blacks told reporters that leadership rather than color was foremost among attributes they sought in a mayor. Moreover, with so many African Americans in visible leadership roles in the city, having a black mayor succeed a black mayor was less of an issue than the paper suggested. 


 
 

 

 

 
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