August traditionally is a dead news month. Not this year. God help us, but The Enquirer is being held up as a national model of newspaper innovation now that it has fired so many people, MSNBC hired Al Sharpton for a prime time show, finance reporters are bullshitting us about gold prices, and despair is drowning TV producers who were counting on days of cheap, dramatic Hurricane Irene images and overblown reporting.
Day and night, local TV weather forecasters tell us how hot and humid it is and will be. They use “heat index” in summer, just as they had “wind chill” in winter, to increase our anxieties about weather conditions. My question: Although forecasters state “heat index” as fact, how do they know how hot any of us will feel?
Did you notice how little supposition infected reporting from Norway after the downtown bomb explosion and island massacre? There was no rush to blame Arabs or Muslims nor pogroms against immigrants. There were questions but little blame-casting about police response times to the island.
The man responsible for the bomb and the murders was Norway’s version of Timothy McVeigh, not some dark-skinned foreigner or mixed-race child of an immigrant and Norwegian.
Roger Clemens’ mistrial last week recalled a similarly weird situation caused by my Enquirer story landing atop Page 1 of fellow Gannett paper, USA Today. It, too, presented jurors with evidence the judge had barred from court. And as in the Clemens trial, the question was whether that created a potential mistrial.
The latest Enquirer purge — ordered across scores of papers by owner Gannett — took good people. So did earlier rounds. Because of her speciality, one victim stands out in last month’s dismissals: Peggy O’Farrell. Management’s decision that readers don’t want or need informed, local medical news leaves me wondering if undiagnosed dementia afflicts Enquirer executives.
Racism and rants on talk shows at WLW (700 AM) are bred in the bone but morning host Doc Thompson raised the standard for anger and ignorance when he derided Goshen College’s decision to bar “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the college’s sports events. I could almost hear the spittle when he referred to Goshen’s “liberal arts” or “art professor” but what struck me most was his willful ignorance of what it means for Goshen to be a Mennonite school.
I don’t know or care whether my university has winning teams. I have a life, something that Ohio State University fans need to get. Too many lack a sense of reality over the resignation of football coach Jim Tressel. Among the remnant who read, many are bombarding student journalists at OSU’s Daily Lantern with abuse and death threats.
We’re headed into Memorial Day weekend and I hope The Enquirer resists any inclination to repeat the pratfall when the newspaper tried to give holiday water safety advice. It was a beaut: How to use the Heimlich Maneuver to resuscitate a standing victim pulled from the water. Think about it. Your “patient” is standing. How close to drowning is that?
We first saw a photo from the White House situation room with everyone looking intently at something we couldn’t see. About the same time, White House spokesmen said a live TV feed was coming from minicams atop the SEALs’ helmets. Were the president and others watching bin Laden being shot? Was Hillary’s hand-to-face gesture a response to a killing? If yes, how did we got such a phony story about his armed resistance? They would have known better.
Few encounters are more difficult for reporters than trying to interview people living, at least in part, in some alternate universe. I’ve dealt with otherwise seemingly reasonable people who hold beliefs or embrace misinformation with certainty and passion that are impervious to skeptical questions. It’s especially troubling when covering controversies involving public policy.