'Business Courier' redesign, Quebec rail disaster and more media musings
0 Comments · Thursday, July 11, 2013
undecided about the value of the redesigned Cincinnati Business Courier
print edition. Previously, the weekly was helpful to a general reader
who wanted to follow corporate doings and influence in Cincinnati. Now,
I’m less sure of its usefulness.
by Danny Cross
Posted In: LGBT Issues
at 04:56 PM | Permalink
Macke in a statement apologizes for calling MSNBC's Rachel Maddow a boy
Fox 19 on Nov. 9 apologized for an ignorant
comment made by news anchor Tricia Macke on her personal Facebook page
last month. Macke’s comment, “Rachel Maddow is such an angry young man,”
sparked outrage among gay-rights organizations for its depiction of
MSNBC’s openly gay broadcaster as a man.
According to screen shots published by the Gay &
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), Macke appeared to have
missed the point when called out by a commenter for targeting Maddow’s
sexual identity. Macke wrote, “you are right… I should have said
antagonistic” but then told another commenter, “I knew what I was
GLAAD wrote: “Tricia Macke undoubtedly tried to insult Maddow because of
their political differences, rather than simply because Maddow is gay —
but her comments went much further than insulting Maddow's political
leanings, and took issue with Maddow's gender, revealing an anti-gay (or
at least anti-gender-nonconforming?) bias underlying her political
Fox 19 posted its apology along with a statement from Macke
describing her comment as insensitive and inappropriate. Macke wrote: “I apologize
to Ms. Maddow and any others who may have been offended by my comments,
as they do not reflect my firm beliefs in individual and equal rights,
and they certainly do not represent the opinions or position of my
Maddow, an openly gay MSNBC political analyst, is one of
America’s highest-profile news personalities. She’s also a Stanford
graduate with a doctorate in political science from Oxford University,
where she was a Rhodes Scholar.
by Bill Sloat
Posted In: Media
at 10:27 AM | Permalink
WCPO-TV’s parent corp. pledges to retain 184 jobs, add 125 more downtown
A deal is expected to be approved next week between E.W. Scripps Co. and Cincinnati could bring about $5.65 million in tax revenue to the city by 2018. It
also means that Scripps — which was founded here in the 1800s —
promises to expand and keep its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati for
at least 10 more years. The
media company currently resides in a downtown high-rise on Walnut
Street, and the growth will be in cyber content as it morphs for the
Internet Age. A City Hall document submitted to council in advance of next week’s meeting, says:“The
expansion downtown will be from the Scripps digital group that is
growing and gaining momentum with new product offerings, enhancements
and technology. These products will be developed for smart phones, tablets and computers. They
will include applications that push content from Scripps’ chain of
newspapers and TV stations and distribute new content to consumers in
cities that Scripps does not serve. The new jobs will include skills in sales, design, marketing and journalism.”In all, the payroll is expected to reach $30 million when the 125 new jobs are added. The agreement says Scripps will make “good faith efforts to fill at least 75 percent of the new jobs created” with city residents. Scripps owns 19 television stations and 13 newspapers across the U.S. It
used to publish the Cincinnati Post — the publication that started the
entire Scripps company — but that daily newspaper was shuttered in 2007
because of sharp declines in readership.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
I dread presidential debates. Other than “gotcha!” moments, when was the last time a
presidential debate was more than tired talking point responses to a
by Ben L. Kaufman
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
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
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
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
• 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
• 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.
2 Comments · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The decision to publish an entertainment weekly was largely seen as an
attempt by Gannett to take marketshare from altweeklies like CityBeat and similar papers in other cities. In non-industry speak, Gannett was trying to kill us.
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
As surely as the sun revolves around Earth, the gaffe
that keeps giving has its origins in Cincinnati. I’m talking about
Republican Todd Akin, the Missouri anti-abortion senatorial candidate
who stupidly asserted that some rapes are “legitimate.”
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
• A wet daily paper is near-useless. By the time the Enquirer and New York Times
dry, my day is underway. I might get back to them after supper.
However, we have a new delivery person who, unlike the woman she
replaced, understands that double-bagging only helps if the bag openings
are alternated and neither opening exposes the highly absorbent
newsprint to rain or snow.
• Poynter Online reports the growing number of news media hoping to profit from the Times-Picayune’s retreat from daily journalism in New Orleans. The Baton Rouge Advocate plans to produce a New Orleans edition in October, when the T-P plans to cut printed editions to three days a week.
Coincidentally, Poytner reported, four online news
organizations in New Orleans said they’re forming an online news
collective called the New Orleans Digital News Alliance. The four are The Lens, My Spilt Milk, NOLA Defender and Uptown Messenger. (All but the Lens
are for-profit sites.) “The members will begin promoting each other’s
work immediately through social media and other avenues, and closer
cooperation is being developed,” their press release says. My Spilt Milk
honcho Alex Rawls says in a post, “Our collective goal is to provide
sustainable, up-to-the-minute, hyperlocal online journalism serving the
New Orleans community.”
That’s not the only online newsroom planting a flag in New Orleans local coverage, Poynter continued. Gambit Weekly Editor Kevin Allman says NOLA Beat,
“a nonprofit startup planned in the mold of ProPublica or the Texas
Tribune,” is planned to start up before the end of the year. Gambit is a New Orleans paper.
• Trust must exist between news media and
audiences and journalists and their editors. No medium is immune. NPR
recently had to retract a story after being alerted to a reporter’s
plagiarism. Here’s the NPR editor’s note from July 9: “Earlier
today, we published and distributed a story by Ahmad Shafi recounting
his experience witnessing a public execution in Kabul in 1998. Since the
story was published, it has come to our attention that portions of the
piece were copied from a story by Jason Burke, published by the London Review of Books in March 2001. We have removed Shafi's story from our website.”
• Journatic, a commercial attempt to provide
hyper-local news to major newspapers is in trouble because of
journalistic fraud, fabrication and plagiarism. The agent of its
distress was a former Journatic employee who explained how
low-paid writers in Asia provided the local U.S. stories under phony
bylines to unsuspecting American dailies. The revelation came on public
radio’s This American Life in early July.
Journatic seemed perfect in an era of corporate
cost-saving at any cost, readers’ trust be damned. Cheap outsourced
labor allowed Americans to be fired. Poynter Online said the Chicago Tribune, which invested in Journatic, laid off about 20 American journalists and reassigned another dozen who’d worked on Trib suburban papers and websites. Journatic stories made that possible.
Other papers that substituted Journatic stories for those that could have been done by local journalists included the Chicago Sun-Times, Houston and San Francisco Chronicles.
The Enquirer still struggles to provide the kind of
hyperlocal or local-local news — “Local Youth Wins Trumpet Contest” —
that executives believe readers want. It tried in print and online. It
never found the right formula and gutting its reporting staff left it
without people do it all.
Gannett helped by buying most of the Tristate weeklies.
While not hyperlocal — you can’t cover two or more neighborhoods and be
hyperlocal — this was a good idea. There is nothing second rate about
community weekly journalism; it has some different news values and high
credibility among readers and advertisers. Some of my former students
have created productive jobs and careers on community weeklies.
• Jimromenesko.com eports a fascinating poll result: YouTube has become a major way to
get news. Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism said YouTube poses
“a signficant opportunity and also a challenge” for mainstream news
media. Romenesko included these findings:
The most popular news videos tended to depict natural disasters or political upheaval-usually featuring intense visuals.
News events are inherently more ephemeral than other kinds of
information, but at any given moment news can outpace even the biggest
Citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage.
Citizens are also responsible for posting a good deal of the videos originally produced by news outlets.
The most popular news videos are a mix of edited and raw footage.
Pew added, “The report points out that viewership for TV
news still easily outpaces those consuming news on YouTube — 22 million
people on average still watch the evening news — but fast-growing
YouTube is now the third most visited destination online, behind only
Google and Facebook.”
• Former Enquirer reporter Cam McWhirter and Wall Street Journal colleague Keach Hagey scooped NPR about NPR’s investment in a nonprofit startup in New Orleans called NewOrleansReporter.org. It’s the latest effort to complement the diminished New Orleans Times-Picayune,
which is cutting back from daily to print editions three days a week.
NPR’s partner will be University of New Orleans. Poynter Online says NPR
could be chipping in an initial $250,000. NPR followed with its
announcement, NPR issued a press release after the story, saying the new
site will follow a ”public radio funding model” and will be open
source, like ProPublica and The Texas Observer. NewOrleansReporter.org
will be based in WWNO’s newsroom, and its general manager Paul Maassen
will run both organizations. NPR, the release says, is “providing
consultation to WWNO around technology infrastructure and online revenue
generation as well as training to support the rapid deployment of a
multimedia newsroom.” It also says NolaVie and The Lens are “content partners.” The Lens recently announced (above) it would also be part of an online news collective called the New Orleans Digital News Alliance.
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn’s recent note to
readers assures us that the continually shrinking page will elicit
readers’ joyous cries of “new and improved!”
Don’t hold your breath.
The 10-1/2 x 14-2/3 page — about the size of the Business
Courier — will be printed in Columbus on the Dispatch’s new press. The
tabloid should given designers greater freedom to fill the news hole
with large photos, graphics and headlines. The local section is so small
now that I’m almost inured to diminishing returns on my rising
Page size isn’t the issue; what’s on them is what matters.
I’ve worked on tabloid-format dailies in three countries. Today, few
papers are sold on the street and huge headlines to grab passersby are
wasted space. “Headless Body in Topless Bar” and “Ford to City: Drop
Dead” were perfect in New York but not here. We need smart, patient
reporting. That requires space in the paper. Whether we get it has
nothing to do with page size.
• Publisher Margaret Buchanan’s
subsequent page 1 note to readers last Sunday was hardly reassuring. It
repeats much of editor Carolyn Washburn’s memo (above) and reinforces my
fears: “The pages will be organized with fewer jumps so you
don’t have to turn pages to continue reading the same story. Headlines
will be bolder. The print edition will be more colorful with larger
photos and graphics to help tell the stories. Most importantly, we’ll
continue to provide unique in-depth news stories ..."
Buchanan comes from the advertising/business side of
Gannett journalism, so maybe she isn’t troubled by the contradiction in
her assurances: short stories burdened by big headlines, photos and
graphics on tabloid pages can’t be “in-depth” unless they jump from page
to page. And she’s promising “fewer jumps.” Is the next innovation with
purpose a shift from “readers” to “viewers”?
• Does the Enquirer have a policy about naming juveniles
accused of crimes or is it an adhocracy among editors? When Avondale
kids wanted for shoplifting fled in a car, they were named in the first
story. When a suburban high school student was accused of a central role
in a major drug ring, the first story didn’t name him and said that
discretion was Enquirer policy. “Avondale” long has been code for black
at the paper. “Suburban” or identifying with a suburban high school
means white even if that is no longer a reasonable assumption in many
• Last Sunday, WVXU carried a fine conversation between
Enquirer sports reporter and author John Erardi and WVXU politics
reporter (and lifelong Reds fan) Howard Wilkinson. They talked about
Barry Larkin and why he was being inducted into the Baseball Hall of
Fame. They know their stuff, they obviously enjoy each other’s company,
not least because Wilkinson also spent decades at the Enquirer writing
about politics and on rare occasion, Reds baseball.
I enjoyed their insights and storytelling even though I’m
not a baseball fan. I think I’ve been to three, maybe four Reds games
in as many decades. Blame my parents. The Twins didn’t exist when I was a
kid; it was Minneapolis Millers v. St. Paul Saints at Nicollet Park in
Minneapolis and I don’t remember seeing them. We didn’t have modern
Vikings either and the Lakers left town. No way to nurture a fan.
• I wish I wasn’t eating when I read Dan Horn’s recent
encyclopedia update on water quality in the Ohio River. His Enquirer
report was well done. The photos were marvelous. My upset was personal:
When we moved to Cincinnati in 1967, we moored our boat at
Elmer & Jenny’s Yacht Club downriver in Bromley, Ky. Wonderful
people, but “yacht club”? I don’t think so.
in the river, aware of its water quality but
in denial; it’s hard to give up the one sport I enjoyed from childhood
... in Minnesota. I only swam in the Ohio to put on or retrieve skies
or to drop the rope and wait for my wife to pick me up. I didn’t
I don’t remember infections or gastro-intestinal problems
from Ohio River water. After all, I had skied for years in the St.
Croix between Minnesota and Wisconsin, in the industrial Upper
Mississippi at the Twin Cities and downriver to the the two rivers
merged. God knows what was in those pre-EPA waters then but maybe I
brought immunities to the Ohio.
After three years, we left Elmer & Jenny’s Yacht Club
for Rocky Fork Lake near Hillsboro in Highland County. We sought fresher
breezes and a ski zone free of barge tows and increasingly wild,
mindless boaters in the Ohio’s Cincinnati basin. Cleaner water was a
bonus. I still didn’t swallow.
Recalling the Ohio River in the 1960s — aided by Horn’s
detailed story — was the best appetite suppressant I’ve experienced in
• If you’re going to do gotcha journalism, do your
homework. A conservative blogger challenged Cleveland columnist Connie
Schultz, sure she was a liberal who gets too close to leftwing
politicians she covers. “We have found numerous photos of you with Sen.
Sherrod Brown. In one of them, you appear to be hugging him. Care to
Here’s part of Shultz’s response, courtesy of jimromenesko.com:
“He’s really cute. He’s also my husband. You know that, right?” Shultz
told her former employer, the Plain Dealer where she won a Pulitzer
Prize, that she hadn’t named the blogger because she wants him to “pick
better company and do better journalism.”
Romensko said Schultz told him in a telephone interview, “I don’t want to be a bully. I can say he was working for one of the
larger conservative blogs, but that his name is not in the staff
directory. Maybe he’s an intern, maybe an editor was playing a joke on
him or maybe he was trying to get a reaction out of me. But I just want
him to stop hanging around with those people and learn something out of
(see above) also reports that elsewhere in northern Ohio, the Sandusky
Register posted a voice mail message left by Erie County Tom Paul for
reporter Andy Ouriel. Paul said there was a mistake in the previous
day’s edition. Here is part of the relentlessly F-bombing message: “You
don’t know your ass from a fucking hole in the ground. And you know
what? — sorry about that but you make me mad. Give me a call back, 419-357-2985, ya shithead.”
• Louisville’s Courier-Journal chose discretion over valor
by not naming two juveniles convicted of sexually assaulting
17-year-old Kentuckian Savannah Dietrich. Lots of people, however,
already knew despite the judge’s gag order. She tweeted their names to
protest over what she fears will be judicial slaps on their wrists.
Dietrich told the Courier-Journal they assaulted her when she passed out
after drinking at a party. The youths also shared digital images of the
assault with others. After negotiations with prosecutors, the pair pled
guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism.
Dietrich faces up to180 days in jail and a $500 fine if the judge
convicts her of contempt.
• If you’ve followed news stories about the run-up to the
London summer Olympics, you must know that security for the events and
sites is a shambles, even by British standards of bumbling through. The
firm that was paid to provide security failed in every way. The
government minister responsible for domestic security failed to respond
promptly or adequately. The badly stretched Army — already being
dramatically reduced in strength and losing historic regiments — is
filling roles designed for civilian rent-a-cops and ushers. One cartoon
expressed its contempt for the organizers with soldiers being told
they’ll be able to return to Afghanistan after the Olympics. Be grateful
that Cincinnati’s bid for this colossal money pit was rejected.
• Here’s a question I haven’t seen asked by the national
press: Do we want a president as detached as Romney says he was from his
responsibilities as owner and CEO of Bain? He says he didn’t know if
his subordinates were shipping jobs overseas. The screwed up Salt Lake
City Olympics — which he did help save — were more important. I believe
him. But how does that salvage his claim to being a keen businessman
who can sort out our country’s economy?
• Get over it. With more than 300 million citizens and
immigrants and almost as many firearms, Americans have nut jobs and a
few will be violent. So I wouldn’t be unhappy if our mainstream news
media suffered massacre fatigue. Maybe the latest Colorado shootings
will speed that process. Similar fatigue already is evident in
diminished foreign/war news.
It isn’t a question of whether to focus on the victims or
the shooter or a search for “reasons.” You don’t ask mass killers for
reasons. Given the utter inadequacy of mental health services and our
easy access to firearms, our rational response is to accept the risk
that someone else will die in irrational mass shootings. That’s a price
the NRA and its pusillanimous legislative allies find acceptable if the
alternative is more effective firearm regulation.
A different rational response might be a news media
campaign for a costly, annual federal tax stamp for every high-capacity
magazine for every firearm to which they can be fitted. This wouldn’t
disarm hunters in any way. Semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns
don’t have or require 20 or 30 cartridges to put venison or duck on the
The tax would include the stick-like magazines for
semi-automatic pistols and submachineguns and the familiar curved
magazines for civilian versions of the AK47 and its kin. Drum magazines -
like that found at the Aurora theater - can hold scores of rounds and
be fitted to some military and military-style weapons as well as the
Thompson submachinegun and its descendants. Drums would be covered,
This tax wouldn’t take away anyone’s firearm or
testosterone-enhancing firepower. It doesn’t limit the number of rounds
shooters can load into their weapons the way the extinct Clinton-era
10-shot limit did. The sole function of high-capacity magazines is to
make it easier to kill lots of people. That’s why real military weapons
like the AK47, the M16 or even the World War II Browning Automatic Rifle — the famous BAR — had high-capacity clips.
The tax would not be a Second Amendment issue ... or
shouldn’t be. It copies the longstanding $200 federal tax required for
fully automatic weapons owned by civilians. Americans buy those firearms
and pay the tax.
• Americans own more handguns, shotguns and rifles every
year and reported violent crime has sharply declined. Coincidence?
Absolutely. Second Amendment? When’s the last time you heard about
someone with a licensed concealed firearm and an extra-high-capacity
magazine stopping a crazed gunman? Believe me, the news media would be
full of such a story or NRA complaints about liberal suppression of a
I’m talking about a news media campaign to make it harder
to kill lots of people in a few seconds or minutes. However, that
throws us into the confused world of acceptable risks. There isn’t a
chance in Columbine of doing more than taxing high-capacity magazines
when Americans also accept as normal the thousands of daily deaths from
drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse, obesity, medical errors, etc.
• There’s still another related, rational response for the
news media to the Batman killings: Give less prominence to nut cases
worrying whether the Muslim Brotherhood has a sleeper agent at
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s right elbow, or that less than a
20- or 30-round magazine will allow Mongolian mercenaries in UN blue
helmets and black helicopters to enslave us to a world government. On
the other hand, while the GOP and its crazier allies promote distrust,
fear and hatred of government, don’t expect such courage from the news
media. That could risk being seen as partisan.
CONTACT BEN KAUFMAN: email@example.com
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 11, 2012
No one likes to recall his failures. But rushed, wrong CNN/Fox News stories on the Supreme Court’s Obamacare
ruling reminded me of my descent into rushed, botched reporting. My first inkling of trouble at CNN and Fox News came
minutes after the Supreme Court decision. NPR’s Diane Rehm apologized
for saying the court struck down the law. She blamed unnamed news
sources. Others said it was CNN.