0 Comments · Thursday, May 2, 2013
You want news of a real weapon of mass
destruction? Try ammonium nitrate fertilizer stored in tanks in the tiny
town of West, Texas. At least 14 dead. Hundreds wounded. High school
and nursing home blitzed. Dozens of homes destroyed.
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
• In a
disturbing decision, public radio’s Radiolab (WVXU-FM 8 p.m. Sundays)
gave Cincinnatian Phil Heimlich critical control over its March 5
program on Phil’s dad, Henry Heimlich.
arranged the interview with the aging physician, for whom the Heimlich
Maneuver is named. However, producer Pat Walters had to promise to
exclude the voice of Phil’s estranged younger brother, Peter, from any
Peter is a scathing critic of their father’s therapeutic claims for the Maneuver and more recent medical experiments.
told Curmudgeon that he feared Walters would ask their father about the
troubled family relationships. “Like any son, I’m somewhat protective
of him,” Phil said. “He’s 93 . . . We don’t let just anybody come up and
Peter told Curmudgeon that he was unaware of this bargain when he cooperated with Walters for the Radiolab story.
have no trouble with Phil’s setting conditions for arranging the
interview. My beef is with Radiolab. It could have refused. Similarly,
I’m not going into Heimlich’s therapeutic theories and claims; I’m
writing about Radiolab’s handling of the story.
troubled by Radiolab’s willingness to silence an important critic and a
source of its information in exchange for access to the elder Heimlich.
Further, if Walters failed to tell Peter about his deal with Phil,
that’s unethical, especially since Walters told Peter, “I want you to
speak for yourself.”
elaborated in a recent email to Curmudgeon: “I was first approached by
Radiolab last August when they asked to interview me for broadcast. I
wasn't informed that, five months earlier, they'd cut the censorship
deal, so they obtained my interview under false pretenses. Further, in
the following months, Radiolab producer Pat Walters took up hours of my
time, encouraging me to provide him with information and documents. I
only learned about the censorship deal a couple weeks ago, when the
program disclosed it on their website. If I'd known that Radiolab was
this underhanded, I wouldn't have given them a minute of my time -- and
I'd encourage other sources to keep their distance.”
Over the years, Peter has dealt with lots of reporters. I asked, "Have you encountered this kind of deal before?"
Peter responded, “I've never heard of a deal like this . . . and how many other Radiolab stories have included deals like this?”
website includes a link to the 25-minute program, including the
interview with Heimlich. Radiolab’s website text says:
the 1970s, choking became national news: thousands were choking to
death, leading to more accidental deaths than guns. Nobody knew what to
do. Until a man named Henry Heimlich came along with a big idea. Since
then, thousands and thousands — maybe even millions — have been
rescued by the Heimlich maneuver. Yet the story of the man who invented
it may not have such a happy ending.
Pat Walters wouldn't be here without the Heimlich maneuver — it saved
his life when he was just 11 years old. And one day he started wondering
- who was Heimlich, anyway? And how did he come up with his choking
remedy? Pat had always kinda assumed Heimlich died in the mid-1800s. Not
so. The man is very much alive: he's 93 years old, and calls
Cincinnati, Ohio, home.”
the conflict of interest, letting choking survivor Walters do the
interview was a mistake. Here are the guts of Radiolab’s online
“We made some minor changes to this story that do not alter the substance.
removed the audio of Peter Heimlich, Henry Heimlich’s son, from the
version now on the site. When we approached Henry’s other son Phil to
arrange an interview with his father, one of Phil’s conditions was that
we not air audio of Peter. We thought he’d waived that provision in a
subsequent conversation but he contends he did not. So we are honoring
the original request.”
version available online begins with a light-hearted exchange among
Radiolab personalities in their WNYC studio of New York Public Radio.
The conversation between Walters and Henry Heimlich at Heimlich’s home
maintains that chummy tone.
Walters shifts to controversies over Heimlich’s Maneuver to resuscitate
drowning victims and other medical theories. Walters also interviews
experts who disagree with Heimlich. When Walters lets Heimlich speak
for himself, the physician accuses critics of jealousy and
lets the American Red Cross explain why it (quietly) abandoned decades
of support for the Maneuver as the first response to choking and
returned common backslaps.
“Nonsense,” Heimlich responded.
Red Cross also abandoned Heimlich’s name for its maneuver. Now, it’s
“abdominal thrusts.” Heimlich says abdominal thrusts are not the same as
his Maneuver and he’s offended by the whole affair.
Peter — who provided emails from which I worked — continues to press Radiolab
on its decision to erase his voice from its broadcast. Its latest
response refers him to the program’s original online statements.
avoidable reporting mistakes followed the Boston Marathon bombing. They
began when the New York Post said a Saudi man was hospitalized, under
guard and might be a bomber. Days later, as the hunt ended, CNN said
the captured younger suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was driven away by
police. CNN said Tsarnaev was not wounded or his wounds were so slight
that no ambulance was required. Wrong. He left in an ambulance; his
wounds were so serious that it was unclear when he would speak to
interrogators or appear in court.
there a gun battle after a Watertown resident saw the wounded man in
his boat and called police? Some media say no gun was found or the
19-year-old didn’t shoot.
• Speaking of mistakes, Businessinsider.com
described another blunder when reporters didn’t name sources or verify
leaks. “According to a source at CNN, the network was the first to
report that a suspect had been identified. Anchor John King sent in a
report around 1 p.m. that a source ‘briefed’ on the investigation had
told King a positive identification had been made. CNN Washington bureau
chief Sam Feist approved that report, according to the source.
to the source, who was reviewing internal email logs, Fran Townsend was
the first at the network to say that an arrest had been made. ‘As I
think everyone knows, we really fucked up. No way around it,’ the source
source said that the network's email network went quiet for a 15-minute
period shortly after the retraction — ‘so people [were] either being
more cautious or getting yelled at.’
report came around the same time as other outlets, including the
Associated Press and the Boston Globe, also reported an arrest, so it is
not clear whether CNN was the first to make the mistake . . .
Wednesday's false arrest reports also drew a scathing rebuke from the FBI,
which urged the press ‘to exercise caution and attempt to verify
information through appropriate official channels before reporting’."
is shabby journalism. CNN went with a report attributed to someone who
had been briefed by someone who knew something. No names. No
identifiable links to investigation. Simply assertions. We could have
waited until CNN verified or debunked the report but editors fear that
hesitation can drive viewers to other, less scrupulous sources. At least
Businessinsider.com appeared accurate in its use of its unnamed CNN sources.
media — better called anti-social media in the aftermath of the
marathon bombings - spread so much misinformation and falsely accused so
many young men that the FBI had to release images of its suspects: the Tsarnaev brothers. It was the only way to protect wrongly accused men
from vigilante justice, even though the suspects might be following the
chase on their cellphones.
• London’s Daily Mail reported some inadvertent humor among the errors:
Fox 4 scrolled across the bottom of the screen that the suspect sought
in Watertown was “19-year-old Zooey Deschanel.” Alerted to her new and
unwanted celebrity, Uproxx.com said, the 33-year-old star of the Fox sitcom, New Girl, tweeted, “Whoa! Epic closed captioning FAIL!”
said NBC anchor Brian Williams cut to New England Cable News for an
update on the Watertown chase and listeners heard an unnamed reporter, “Oh, you’re not listening? Well, I don’t know shit.”
• It’s no surprise that Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post was unmatched for sheer bloodymindedness. Here’s the HuffingtonPost.com summary:
Post said 12 people had died, when only three had; it said a Saudi man
was a “suspect” in “custody” when he wasn't; and it splashed pictures of
two young “BAG MEN” on its front page even though it did not know
whether they were suspects. They were innocent. One was 17 years old; he
told the Associated Press that he was “scared to go outside.” And that
doesn’t include Post doctoring the photo of an injured spectator to hide
her leg wound.
Rather than apologize, Murdoch blamed others outside the Post.
• Murdoch’s Post wasn’t alone in falsely accusing men of being bombers. The LA Times said “Reddit is apologizing for its role in fueling the social media witch hunts for the Boston bombings
suspects. The social news website . . . became a place for amateur
sleuths to gather and share their conspiracy theories and other ideas on
who may have committed the crimes. The online witch hunts ended up
dragging in several innocent people, including Sunil Tripathi, a
22-year-old Brown University student who went missing last month (and
has since been found dead).
“After viewing the FBI's
photos of the suspects Thursday, Redditors became convinced that
Tripathi was one of the bombers, with countless posts gleefully pointing
out the physical similarities between Tripathi and Suspect No. 2, who
ended up being 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The
growing wave of suspicion surrounding Tripathi led his family to
release a statement the next day saying they knew ‘unequivocally’ that
their son was not involved.
Monday, Reddit General Manager Erik Martin posted a lengthy apology on
the site, saying the crisis ‘showed the best and worst of Reddit's
potential.’ He said the company, as well as several Reddit users and
moderators, had apologized privately to Tripathi's family and wanted ‘to
take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had
to endure. We all need to look at what happened and make sure that in
the future we do everything we can to help and not hinder crisis
situations,’ the post said. ‘Some of the activity on Reddit fueled
online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very
negative consequences for innocent parties. The Reddit staff and the
millions of people on Reddit around the world deeply regret that this
said it does not allow personal information on the site in order to
protect innocent people from being incorrectly identified and
"disrupting or ruining their lives," according to the LA Times. "We
hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark
exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong," Reddit’s Martin
continued. "The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the
types of vindictive Internet witch hunts our no-personal-information
rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different."
LA Times added valuable context to what followed the bombings: they “were
the first major terrorist attack on American soil in the age of
and Reddit. But the watershed moment for social media quickly spiraled
out of control as legions of Web sleuths cast suspicion on the innocent,
shared bad tips and heightened the sense of panic and paranoia.” The
LA Times added that Boston police asked “overeager” Twitter users to
limit what they posted because that overly detailed tweets could
compromise officers' position and safety.
Free Press editors published a detailed online illustration of how to
make a pressure cooker bomb, like that reportedly used by the Boston
bombers. When their brain fart passed, they took down the instructions
and images. Of course, now, anyone can turn to Jimromenesko.com screen shot of the Detroit Free Press illustration . . .
to the Tri-State puzzle over the lifelong identification with high/prep
school. When a Cincinnatian was involved in the emergency surgical
response to the Boston Marathon bombings, the Enquirer noted he went to
St. X. Only later did Our Sole Surviving Daily tell us he was graduated
from UC’s medical school before going off to Boston for his surgical
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 25, 2008
People often say the strangest things when they think they're talking to a small audience of like-minded people -- including truths they wouldn't dare utter elsewhere. The latest example involves f