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Ben L. Kaufman

Plagiarism's Meaning Shifts in Digital Age

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 21, 2011
If Poynter Online director Julie Moos is correct, I’m a plagiarist. I sometimes use others’ words in this column. While attributing the words and ideas to the original writers, I don’t always put their words inside quote marks. That’s not good enough for Moos. It was his failure to maintain that level of attribution purity that drove out veteran aggregator Jim Romenesko from the Poynter website. He always told us where he got his material but he sometimes used those sources’ language without direct quotes.  

Recalling Religious Hysteria, Enquirer Firings and How Jesus Died

0 Comments · Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Fussing over the latest translations of the Roman Catholic Mass recalls one of the truly weird moments in my years as a religion reporter.  

Photographing Police is a Dangerous Business

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Are increasingly militarized local police — helmets, assault rifles, black uniforms and boots, etc. — using excessive force more often than previous generations? Or has technology — cell phones and YouTube — made any use of force, whether excessive or justified, easier to document?  

Enquirer Plays Politics with Page 1

0 Comments · Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Until its Page 1 story on public employee “perks” last week, The Enquirer was doing a pretty good job of playing pre-election partisanship down the middle. That story — which required a major page 1 correction — embraced the paper’s historic Republican and anti-union demons. The timing was too neat; the subject could have been explored in many ways at any time.  Almost on the eve of the Issue 2 ballot, it was no coincidence.  

Brit Media Savages the Absurd

0 Comments · Wednesday, October 26, 2011
If you want an alternative to the faux even-handedness of American daily journalism, turn to London papers and news/opinion magazines. They know how to treat whack jobs. None of this same-space “objectivity” that leaves it to readers to decide whether the mainstream of, say, science or climate-change deniers are correct.  

Musings on politicians and their religious beliefs

2 Comments · Wednesday, October 12, 2011
To paraphrase Joseph Welch, “Have we no sense of decency?” Nope. Not when candidates’ answers or evasions suggest how they might act in office. At our best, reporters are intrusive so that Americans have the information we need to debate and decide public policies. Reporters should have no reticence when candidates display their families as symbols of virtue/virility/fecundity.

Ignoring the Good News in Africa

1 Comments · Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Traditional journalism feasts on misery: War, plague, famine, flood and deadly storms. We’re addicted to bad news. It’s our most pervasive bias. Audiences love it. It’s generally profitable and a reliable career ladder. Maybe it’s because outcomes are uncertain and that tension, so vital to successful storytelling, is omnipresent. That’s why we cover politics as a horse race rather than maintain our focus on the substance of candidates’ visions of what our nation should be.  

Criminalizing Photography Is Worrisome

0 Comments · Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Until the other day, I thought Cincinnati police officers were too bright to confiscate cameras in a public place at a public meeting to which the public was invited. Hell, the owners of the cameras weren’t disrupting the meeting or photographing coppers using excessive force. But I was wrong. One of Cincinnati’s finest took two voters’ cameras on orders from U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Westwood) or people working for Chabot. It was a town meeting and Chabot was the speaker.  

Juan Williams Whitewashes His Firing

0 Comments · Tuesday, August 30, 2011
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.  

Figuring Out the 'Heat Index'

0 Comments · Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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?