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by German Lopez 01.03.2013
Posted In: Media, News at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
al jazeera

Time Warner Pulls Plug on Al Jazeera

Cincinnati's largest cable provider to drop Current TV

Time Warner Cable will not be taking up Al Jazeera’s newly acquired channel. The Associated Press reports Cincinnati’s largest cable provider will no longer carry Current TV after its sale to the Pan-Arab news network.

After the buyout, Al Jazeera announced plans to gradually transform Current TV into Al Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus and hiring more journalists. But immediately following the acquisition by Al Jazeera, Time Warner released a statement: “Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible.”

As AP reports, Al Jazeera has faced an uphill battle reaching American audiences. In 2010, Tony Burman, managing director of Al Jazeera’s English branch, blamed hostility from the Bush administration for reluctance among cable and satellite companies to carry Al Jazeera. 

But at least part of the reluctance is due to the perception from some that the Qatar-based network is anti-American. Dave Marash, a former “Nightline” reporter who worked as Al Jazeera’s anchor in Washington, D.C., left Al Jazeera in 2008, saying he sensed an anti-American slant.

Despite problems establishing a foothold in the United States, Al Jazeera has built a substantial following for hard-hitting news, and it earned multiple U.S. journalism awards in 2012.

Al Gore confirmed the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera Wednesday. The former vice president cofounded the left-leaning Current TV in 2005 to provide what he saw as an alternative perspective in media through user-generated content. But the network always struggled, making multiple programming and personnel changes in its quest to become relevant.

TheBlaze, Glenn Beck's media company, also tried to buy Current TV. But the network declined, reportedly saying, “The legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view.”

by Kevin Osborne 04.17.2012
Posted In: Media, Business, Community, Humor at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Enquirer Prints Photo With Expletive

Flub at Louisville design hub caused thousands of papers to be trashed

Confirming rumors that swirled for two days through media circles, The Enquirer’s top editor has written a memo outlining how some editions of Sunday’s newspaper included a photograph with the word “fuck” in it.

Once editors learned about the photo, several thousand copies of the newspaper that hadn’t yet been distributed were trashed. The edition was reprinted without the offending photo.

Enquirer Editor Carolyn Washburn confirmed the gaffe in an email to staffers sent at 4:10 p.m Monday, which CityBeat received today.

“I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us,” Washburn wrote. “We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock.”

Reportedly, Washburn has been fielding complaints from readers who received the paper for the past two days.

The page in question was laid out by a “design hub” in Louisville, which is part of a push by The Gannett Co., The Enquirer’s owner, to centralize some functions like many copy-editing duties into regional locations.

The same design hub was responsible for a similar incident in December when a Gannett paper in South Carolina, The Greenville News, published an article with the word “fuck” randomly inserted into it. The gaffe caught the attention of several websites including The Huffington Post and Romenesko.com.

Sunday’s incident occurred just two days after four veteran copy editors at The Enquirer left after taking an “early retirement” severance deal to reduce the newspaper’s expenses.

Here is the full text of Washburn’s email:

Sent: Mon 4/16/2012 4:10 PM

From: Carolyn Washburn

To: Cin-News Users


Subject: in case you are getting calls about a photo in Sunday's paper

A photo ran on the state government page of a protestor holding up a sign that used the word f#*&. It was caught on the press and replated but it still went out to several thousand homes.

Here is how I am responding.

Yes, the photo was completely inappropriate, on many levels.

I learned about this after midnight Saturday when someone in our operation saw this photo and alerted us. We stopped the presses to change the photo and threw out thousands of papers still sitting at our dock. Unfortunately a few thousand papers had already gone out to carriers.

I deeply apologize and am working this morning to understand why this photo was chosen in the first place and why it was not caught sooner. I take this very seriously.

Again, I apologize.


by Danny Cross 04.30.2015
Posted In: Media at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Enquirer's OTR Shooting Coverage Was a Huge Mess

A few years ago, a friend and I were walking down the street in Over-the-Rhine from Neons to somewhere north on Main Street — maybe MOTR, maybe our friend’s place at 13th and Clay, might have been heading back to a car. I’m not really sure — it’s been three or four years now since people started coming back to the (mostly nighttime) amenities in the neighborhood. 

Just before we turned the corner from 12th onto Main, gunshots popped off behind us. We turned around and saw some dude running south on Sycamore. We bolted onto Main and jumped into a storefront doorway until things calmed down, called the police and then continued on our way. I followed up and found out that the man we saw running away neither died nor killed anyone.

It was a scene that has grown less common in recent years in the area, as the push of development has moved much of the drug dealing and related violence outward into other neighborhoods. In January WCPO reported that violent crime in OTR was down 74 percent since 2004, in part due to development and evolving policing tactics.

Such facts didn't deter The Enquirer from freaking the hell out yesterday when one of its reporters witnessed a shooting in front of a bunch of popular OTR restaurants. Reporter Emilie Eaton was on the same block when 30-year-old Gregory Douglas was shot around 9 a.m. near Vine and Mercer streets, fled a short distance then collapsed and died. Police today issued a warrant for the arrest of Darnell Higgins for the murder.

It's been a sad day for a lot of people: families and friends of the deceased and the accused; those who witnessed such violence up close.

It’s also a sad day to consider the state of local media, considering the response we've seen so far to The Enquirer's collection of coverage. It started with the reporter's first-person account of witnessing the shooting. Then came a news story questioning the neighborhood's safety, for some reason quoting the Hamilton County Republican chairman and a lone neighborhood resident saying he didn't feel safe these days. Soon afterward, a more formed version of the story was updated online — this time the headline tried to cleverly play on the word "dead" (“Gunfire in OTR brings morning to a dead stop”). The headline was later changed, “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR," though the insensitive quip lives on in the story's URL.

The Enquirer’s decision to frame Douglas’ death as a question of whether or not OTR is safe for those of us unaccustomed to witnessing violence is generating the type of online debate (/clicks) the "newsroom of the future" was meant to induce. It has also been heavily criticized.

Here’s former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken on Facebook:

Here’s Derek Bauman, an OTR and mass transit advocate/suburban police officer, who wondered on Twitter why the first source in an early version of the “Is OTR safe yet” story quoted the county GOP chair before anyone else. Alex Triantafilou’s take? “There is more work to be done to make our city as safe as the suburbs."

Eaton's first-person story was published just hours after the shooting occurred. "A stray bullet could have easily missed the victim and hit me," she wrote. "The gunman could have come around the corner for me. I'm lucky to be writing this story right now."

The story elicited strong response from readers, but perhaps not the kind the Enquirer was picturing. About 20 wrote comments questioning the appropriateness of the piece, many along the lines of this:

As writers molded dispatches from the scene into The Enquirer’s larger collection of reporting on the incident, debate continued on social media. Enquirer writer John Faherty took to the comment section of Eaton's article to defend her.

Those of us in the media don’t enjoy criticizing each others' work, and we realize most people in the industry are dedicated and passionate. We respect colleagues at other media companies, especially when their dedication to the craft is evident.

Eaton clearly had a shitty morning. Her decision to immediately get back to doing her job is admirable.

Unfortunately, the collection of work to which she contributed was misguided, made worse by the classlessness with which Enquirer editors showed along the way. Publishing right-wing digs at inner-city neighborhoods has been a longstanding tradition at The Enquirer. Using a play on the word "dead" in a news story about a murder is the type of move that would get a college newspaper in trouble. It shouldn't be OK at any self-respecting daily. 

There's no way to tell which “content coach” might have shaped yesterday’s coverage. Any number of web editors could have written such an offensive headline — the newsroom of the future isn't set up to catch these things. Newsroom morale has been known to be low at Gannett papers across the country, and many of us actually feel bad for the many talented people struggling to produce quality work under such restrictive guidelines. 

Ultimately, reporting that might have culminated in an articulation of how opposite worlds intertwine in front of our eyes every day instead became a question of whether it's smart to eat and shop near poor people.

Later versions of the story noted that the lunch rush on Vine Street continued as usual just hours later, suggesting that maybe the question of whether or not Vine Street is safe had already been answered. 

"I'm not worried about it," said Mike Georgitan, a general manager at Pontiac BBQ on Vine Street. "It might affect lunch today – maybe," he shrugged. "But then it will pick back up."
A person is dead, and the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that gripped Over-the-Rhine long before a Japanese gastropub opened at 15th and Vine is still occurring all over this city. The Enquirer would be wise to demonstrate an understanding of these forces rather than following the path of least resistance to Internet debate.

It would be a lot more compelling than a description of how witnessing violence makes a typical white person feel.
by Ben L. Kaufman 04.17.2013
Posted In: Government, Media Criticism, Media at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 Jason Gargano 02.09.2011
Posted In: News, Media at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

It's Official: Olbermann Joins Current TV

Current TV confirmed today that recently axed MSNBC host Keith Olbermann would being joining the network later in 2011. According to a press release, Olbermann will not only be executive producing and hosting a new nightly primetime news and commentary show but that he will also serve as the network's Chief News Officer and that he will have an equity stake in Current Media.

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by 01.05.2011
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business, Community at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More Furloughs at The Enquirer

The new year already is looking a lot like the old one for employees at The Enquirer.

Workers at Cincinnati's only remaining daily newspaper got some bad news Wednesday: They can expect to take another five-day furlough during the first quarter of 2011. Robert J. Dickey,  who is U.S. newspaper division president at The Gannett Co., The Enquirer's parent firm, announced the latest round of furloughs in a memo sent to workers.

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by 12.27.2010
Posted In: City Council, Media, Republicans, Government at 05:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Big Decisions Coming Soon

Some major decisions are expected in the next few days, and we're not referring to how the dithering, ineffectual Cincinnati City Council will finally close a $54 million deficit.

Rather, the decisions coming soon are who will replace Republican Chris Monzel on City Council, and who will replace Tom Callinan as editor at The Enquirer.

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by 11.04.2010
Posted In: Media, Financial Crisis, Business at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

More Layoffs at The Enquirer

Jim Hopkins' Gannett Blog and some local sources are reporting The Enquirer has laid off between 5 to 7 people this week.

Two of the casualties were the person in charge of the incessantly promoted Moms Like MeWeb site and the assistant managing editor of operations, who performed the administrative functions in the newsroom.

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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)

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 Ben L. Kaufman 12.11.2012
Posted In: Media Criticism, Media, News at 05:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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.