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.
I was The Enquirer’s environment reporter who handled stories about the partial meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island (1979) and the nuke that never was, Cincinnati Gas & Electric’s Zimmer Nuclear Power Station (d. 1980s) in Clermont County. Reporting Three Mile Island and Zimmer was hellish but perfect practice for the mess we encountered at the federal government’s Fernald uranium processing plant in northwest Hamilton County. Sorting that out won our team a Pulitzer nomination.
South Africa today leaves me feeling like Rip Van Winkle. It’s as if I went to sleep in the mid-20th Century when this nation suffered under a violent, racist white minority government and its Apartheid policy of color-defined racial segregation. Each morning now, I wake up in the 21st Century South Africa, ruled by a freely elected multiracial government and its third black president. I won’t parachute in and play network anchor as instant expert on the “new South Africa.” Rather, I want to talk about some of the ways the issues of race arise or erupt in the news media. There is candor Americans could learn to emulate.
I’m back in Southern Africa for the first time since colonial 1965, when I was here as a journalist. In the 1960s, black rule was rare, an aspiration of increasingly restive black majorities. Most publications were aimed at white minorities. Broadcast was government owned or controlled. The papers I joined set out to be different; we supported black majority rule and aimed our papers at a multiracial audience.
It’s not often that I write about journalists having blood on our hands. Our willingness to aid foes of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) childhood vaccination, however, is such a case. When, in the name objectivity, we treat all sides equally in this battle between medicine and belief, we enlist in the Flat Earth Society.
The Enquirer/Cincinnati.Com is joining an arrangement where a monthly fee will let subscribers read some or all of a broad selection of dailies and news sites on the Internet. It promises one-stop convenience even though much of the content is free elsewhere. Called Ongo.com, it's the latest effort to stanch losses of readers and ads and to make some money from the Internet.
TriStateNews.com launched this month after weeks of quietly building the Web site. It's aimed at the region's GLBT communities, and like the unrelated newspaper, 'GLBT News,' it offers everyone a portal into the interests and achievements of a significant minority. Produced by Troy May and his nonprofit firm, May Media Institute Inc., in Taylor Mill, Ky., the Web site is attractive and easy to navigate.
Dump consultants. Cancel audience-counting contracts. Fire click whores. Ice eyeballs. Adopt my cost-free 12-step program (actually 15) to save surviving news media ... from ourselves. Readers, viewers and listeners know we fill space and time with meaningless words. It goes beyond verbosity. It's insulting. Start the new year by embracing virtue.