by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
• I was in the Pacific Northwest and the three-hour time difference disrupted my already lousy sleep patterns. I dozed and listened to the BBC World Service on a local FM station when a familiar growl awakened me: WVXU’s Howard Wilkinson. You don’t work with a guy for a quarter century and not know his distinctive voice. BBC was in Cincinnati for an Obama visit and it wanted the best local politics reporter. Howard got up early. BBC got what it wanted. I eventually went back to sleep, lulled by BBC’s Humphrey Humphrey Humphreys reporting from some slum street in Dontunnastan. • Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan quit the UC board last week. It was a conflict of interests from the day she took her seat in 2006. She told the Enquirer, “My news team is reporting aggressively on the departure of UC President Greg Williams and the search for the next president. The credibility that is so important to our news team’s work is my highest priority, and I did not want my involvement with UC to make it uncomfortable or confusing for them or for the community.”The conflict existed when she helped spend taxpayers’ and students’ money for six years or hired Greg Williams as president. Her Road to Damascus moment apparently came in the fallout from Williams’ surprise resignation without explanation and curious $1.3 million parting gift. Now, to avoid another conflict of interest, she should resign from the executive committee of 3CDC where she has more than a passing interest in how her paper covers the private redeveloper of the city’s urban core. These are the kinds of conflicts of interest that compromise the paper’s integrity and long have been unacceptable for reporters. Buchanan isn’t the first Enquirer publisher or editor to ignore a conflict of interest that raised questions about the integrity of related news stories. She probably won’t be the last. It would be ideal if everyone on the paper were bound by the same ethical standards. • Enquirer use of Freedom of Information Acts continues to pay off. Friday’s Cliff Peale story about the surprise resignation of UC President Greg Williams draws on information obtained through FOIA. Granted, there is no smoking gun; whatever Williams’ reasons for quitting, he was smart enough to keep them out of memos and emails subject to FOIA. What Peale is learning from documents and interviews suggests an irreparable breach between UC’s board and president on how each should do its job. • Sunday’s Enquirer devotes two pages in Local News to sell its various media services. Most Enquirer services look to newer ways it can provide news to readers (viewers?). Pay walls are there, too. Now, if the bean counters at Gannett would allow the Enquirer to open its archives to subscribers, the deal would be complete. • Sunday’s Enquirer also exhibited a rediscovered spine with a major editorial opposing the streetcar project for Cincinnati. The reasoning, as far as it goes, is sound: there is no coherent plan to finance construction and operations and Cincinnati has more pressing infrastructure needs. • For a related look into the Enquirer’s future, check the New York Times business page on Monday. It reports changes ordered by Enquirer owner Gannett at its Burlington, Vt., daily. They’re slightly ahead of our paper and reactions there are not as upbeat as those in memos to readers from the Enquirer’s editor and publisher. • Fox News should not have apologized for broadcasting the suicide of a fleeing police suspect last week. Fox blamed inept use of its delay on live coverage. Lisa Wells, on WLW 700 Saturday, argued that Fox let it run for ratings; Fox knew what it was doing and there was no mistake. I can buy that. Ratings are why TV follows police chases live. In the video shot from a helicopter that followed the chase through traffic and on foot, the guy stops running, puts a handgun to his head and fires. His arm jerks and he slumps forward, away from the camera. So why apologize to a country where violent games and films are top earners and homicides generally are treated as a cost of urban living? If TV doesn’t expect something dramatic, why the live coverage from helicopters following fugitives and cop cars? • Maybe vivid writing explains why Brits continue to buy daily papers. I culled this from the home page of London’s Telegraph: Chill wind blows for Mitt Romney in Ohio: As late September gales blew his dyed black fringe free from its gelled moorings, Romney's tanned face crumpled into a frown.• A friend found this on NPR’s website. It promotes a broadcast by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR’s Africa-based correspondent. In part, the promo said, “She also describes the stories that have been exciting, including the U.S. presidential race of the Kenyan-born Sen. Barack Obama.” The promo was dated Oct. 9, 2008. Does that make NPR the most authoritative news medium to buy the “Birther” conspiracy? • It’s a dead horse, but I have to beat it. Why do local news media tie unrelated homicides to nearby institutions? Killings on Over-the-Rhine’s Green Street unfailingly are described as “near Findlay Market.” Last week, Local 12 repeatedly linked a Corryville street shooting to UC although no one except Local 12 made that connection. Why didn’t the TV folks link the shooting to the University Plaza Kroger store which probably was even closer, or to Walgreens and CVS? • Winston Churchill is one of the people credited with this or a similar aphorism: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." Today, he’d probably say, “A lie gets around the world in seconds after it’s posted on YouTube and it can’t be recalled.” So much for Madonna’s onstage lie that went viral after an audience member posted her line, “We have a black Muslim in the White House.” Now, she says she was being ironic. I don’t know what’s scarier, listening to Madonna ranting on politics or True Believers hearing her as affirmation of their deeply held fears about Obama. • Recently, Fox and Friends showed Obama talking with an actor dressed as a pirate. Fox said “The White House doesn’t have the time to meet with the prime minister of Israel, but this pirate got a sit-down in the Oval Office yesterday.” Later, Fox used the image as its “Shot of the Morning,” according to the AP and jimromenesko.com. Fox host Steve Doocy said, “Here’a quick look at what President Obama is up to, making sure he didn’t forget to mark International Talk Like a Pirate Day.’Uh, no. As the AP explained. The photo “was taken as a punchline for a joke Obama delivered to the White House Correspondents Association dinner in 2009 about the administration talking to enemies as well as friends.” Fox & Friends admitted on a tweet that the photo was more than three years old but there was no evidence Fox told its cable audience about the partisan network fraud. • National Review, a long respected conservative magazine, proved it’s no better than Fox. It Photoshopped the Oct. 1 (Monday) cover photo to underline the wider GOP accusation that pro-choice Democrats are the pro-abortion party of death. Reuters/Newscom disowned the image, saying its original photo “was altered by National Review” in print and digital editions. Charlotte Observer photographer Todd Sumlin, who provided his shot from the same angle, told jimromenesko.com, “I was on the photo platform directly behind the President at the Democratic National Convention . . . (P)osters the North Carolina delegates are holding were changed from ‘Forward’ to ‘Abortion’.”• It’s not clear who promised what to whom but the family of murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens says CNN used his journal without permission. CNN found the journal in the ruined Benghazi consulate and relied on it for some reporting without saying it was Stevens’ private thoughts. My gut response: don’t promise anything and use it. His journal contained information relevant to the attack that killed him and three more Americans. The only reason I can see for State Department objections is that the journal might have been more revealing than officials wished. • I’m grateful to Eric Alterman, The Nation’s media columnist, who reported that when “asked about the film that seemingly inspired the riots and attacks, (Romney) echoed exactly the same sentiments contained in the Cairo embassy statement that he and his putative champions had previously found so contemptible. ‘I think the whole film is a terrible idea. I think [that] making it, promoting it, showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths . . . I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment — the good judgment — not to be, not to offend other peoples’ faiths’.”As Alterman put it, “There you have it: Mitt Romney, terrorist apologist.” And if you think Alterman’s indulging in partisan hyperbole, here is the embassy statement issued before riots:“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” • Off-the-record always is tricky. Can you ever use what you learned? Can you use it if you disguise the source? Nothing is farther off the record than anything Britain’s reigning monarch says in private. Quoting her Just Isn’t Done. Now, Britain’s press is trying to assess the damage from the most tempest in a porcelain tea cup: a BBC reporter quoted Queen Elizabeth’s impatience with efforts to deport a radical imam to the United States to face terrorism charges. One does not say what, if anything, the Queen says to One. Talk about blowing access to a source. BBC and its reporter are new nominees for Golden Grovel Award. • Then there is Andrew Mitchell, the sneering conservative parliamentary official who dismissed London bobbies as “fucking plebs.” He was outraged when they asked him to ride his bicycle through a side gate rather than the front gate at the prime minister’s residence at No. 10 Downing Street. Damning police as his social inferiors is perfectly in tune with the traditional Conservative Party but it’s Bad Form for a guy whose governing party is trying to dump its elite and elitist history and image. Mitchell’s fiercely upper class insult resonates through British society. The minister is posh — the right family, schools and universities, if not a Guards regiment. Constables are not. “Fucking” isn’t the problem. “Pleb” is. The New York Times explained that Mitchell’s slur implies that the London Metropolitan Police — also known as Scotland Yard — are “worthless nobodies” in class-conscious Tory Britain.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Enquirer President and Publisher
Margaret Buchanan is leaving the University of Cincinnati Board of
Trustees, citing potential perception of a conflict of interest as her
reporters cover the recent departure of UC’s former president, Greg
Williams, who abruptly resigned on Aug. 21.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Margaret Buchanan, president and publisher of The Cincinnati Enquirer,
resigned from the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees Sept. 28,
citing potential conflicts of interest in her staff’s reporting on the
by German Lopez
It’s October. Tomorrow is the first day of in-person early
voting in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth at the secretary of
state’s website here.
Michelle Obama will be in Cincinnati tomorrow to support
an in-person early voting push in Ohio. The state is considered vital
for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign against President Barack Obama, but while national polling is
close, Ohio is looking very bad for Romney. The
Romney team seems to be banking on the debates to regain momentum, but,
historically, debates have little electoral impact. The first debate is
Wednesday at 9 p.m. A
full schedule of the debates can be found here.
In more good news for Democrats, a recent poll by The Columbus Dispatch
found Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is leading Josh Mandel,
state treasurer and Brown’s Republican opponent for the U.S. Senate seat, by 10 points. The last Dispatch
poll found the two candidates tied. The poll shows a long-term trend
seen in aggregate polling of Brown gaining momentum and Mandel falling
A former Republican Ohio state representative came out in support of
Issue 2. Joan Lawrence came out for the initiative as part of Women for Issue 2, claiming the current system is rigged. If Issue 2
is approved by voters this election cycle, Ohio’s redistricting will be
handled by an independent citizens committee. Currently, elected
officials manage Ohio’s redistricting process, but the process normally
leads to corruption in a process known
as “gerrymandering” in which politicians redraw district borders in
politically advantageous ways. In the First Congressional District,
which includes Cincinnati, district boundaries were redrawn by
Republicans to include less of Hamilton County’s urban population, which
tends to vote Democrat, and instead include the more rural Warren
County, which tends to vote Republican. CityBeat previously covered the issue and Republicans’ losses in court regarding Issue 2 here. Margaret Buchanan, The Cincinnati Enquirer’s
publisher and president, left the University of Cincinnati Board of
Trustees Friday to avoid a potential conflict of interest in the
newspaper’s reporting on the UC Board of Trustees. CityBeat and
other media critics mentioned the conflict of interest in the past,
particularly when former UC President Greg Williams suddenly resigned
and Buchanan refused to comment on speculation around the resignation.
Cincinnati’s economic recovery is in full swing. For the
second straight month, the area’s manufacturers expanded. The Cincinnati
Purchasing Management Index, which measures manufacturing, went up from
54.6 in August to 58.8 in September. The index must be above 50 to
signify growth; below 50 shows contraction.
Cincinnati’s women-owned businesses are doing a lot more than some may think. They are responsible for 3,500 local area jobs.
Ohio’s attorney general is devoting more money toward
solving cold case homicides. Cold cases are old cases that have not been
the subject of recent investigations but could be solved in light of
Captain America: The Winter Soldier will be filmed in southern and northeast Ohio.
Nintendo’s Wii U is already looking like the top Christmas toy.
Artificially intelligent gamer bots convinced judges they’re human more often than actual humans.
by German Lopez
Newspaper's president says she wants to avoid conflict of interest
Cincinnati Enquirer President and Publisher Margaret Buchanan is leaving the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees, citing potential perception of a conflict of interest as her reporters cover the recent departure of UC's former president, Greg Williams, who abruptly resigned on Aug. 21.
“My news team is reporting aggressively on the departure
of UC President Greg Williams and the search for the next president,”
Buchanan said in a statement. “The credibility that is so important to
our news team’s work is my highest priority, and I did not want my
involvement with UC to make it uncomfortable or confusing for them or
for the community.”When The Enquirer first reported Williams' resignation, the newspaper mentioned that Buchanan was on the UC board. However, The Enquirer did not mention asking Buchanan about the resignation even though she was present when it happened — an omission that raised questions for Jim Romenesko, a popular journalism blogger. In response, The Enquirer emailed Romenesko saying Buchanan did not know any extra information.The Enquirer in at least six
follow-up stories about various individuals involved in the Williams resignation
neglected to mention Buchanan’s connection. The Enquirer again
noted Buchanan’s status on the board in an Aug. 24 story titled, “Williams, UC
board frustrated each other.” The story again failed to mention why
Buchanan wouldn’t comment.For full disclosure, Buchanan today cited her board
positions at the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC),
Cincinnati Business Committee, UC Health, Marvin Lewis Foundation and
Neediest Kids of All.
CityBeat previously highlighted the potential conflict of interest between The Enquirer
and other local organizations due to Buchanan's involvement. The Enquirer failed to cite connections between Buchanan and 3CDC multiple times in the past. A CityBeat analysis found Buchanan was only mentioned in 15 out of 481 potential news articles about 3CDC. (Due to how The Enquirer’s database is organized, some of those news articles could be duplicates.) In one particular story, The Enquirer praised 3CDC while omitting the publisher’s ties to the nonprofit corporation.
by Kevin Osborne
Buchanan says 3CDC is covered fairly, despite her ties
The Enquirer’s top boss has
told CityBeat that her connection to a major real estate development group was “overlooked”
in a lengthy, front-page article about the organization that was published
Publisher Margaret Buchanan wrote
in response to an email that she didn’t influence the preparation, editing or
placement of an article about the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC).
Buchanan sits on 3CDC’s executive committee, and is in charge of overseeing
publicity and marketing efforts for the organization.
The Enquirer published a 1,900
word-plus article about 3CDC, lauding the group for its efforts to redevelop
Over-the-Rhine despite the economic downturn. Buchanan’s role with 3CDC wasn’t
mentioned, but she told CityBeat it has been disclosed in past articles and
will be done again in the future.
Buchanan’s response was sent
the same day that CityBeat published a column criticizing the lack of disclosure,
and questioning whether her role violates The Gannett Co.’s ethical guidelines
Here’s the full text of
Over several years, The
Cincinnati Enquirer has fully covered the pro's and con's (sic) of 3CDC's development
efforts in Over-the-Rhine for our readers and we are very proud of that
As publisher, I sit on 3CDC's
executive committee — and did not influence any of the reporting on this issue.
Our editor is completely responsible for all editorial decisions. Typically my
participation on this committee is disclosed, although it was overlooked for
the article that ran on Sunday, April 15. It will continue to be disclosed in
A search using the ProQuest
database of The Enquirer’s archives found that the newspaper has published 481
articles and news briefs mentioning 3CDC since the group began its efforts in 2004.
(Given how the database is organized, however, it’s likely that some of the
entries might be duplicative.)
Of the 481 entries, Buchanan
was mentioned in 15 articles. That equates to about 1/32nd of the
Most of the published
mentions about Buchanan’s ties to 3CDC weren’t in articles about the group’s retail
and residential development projects. Rather, they mostly occurred in articles
about 3CDC’s efforts to move a homeless shelter away from Over-the-Rhine.
Also, one mention was in an
article about the new School for Creative and Performing Arts, while another
occurred in a piece marking the 10th anniversary of the police
shooting death of Timothy Thomas.
Interestingly, most of the
mentions occurred after 2010, when local blogger Jason Haap and CityBeat began
publishing items about the lack of disclosure.
This week’s Porkopolis column
mentioned Gannett’s ethics code, which includes such admonishments as “We will
remain free of outside interests, investments or business relationships that
may compromise the credibility of our news report,” and “We will avoid
potential conflicts of interest and eliminate inappropriate influence on
The code also states “When
unavoidable personal or business interests could compromise the newspaper’s
credibility, such potential conflicts must be disclosed to one’s superior and,
if relevant, to readers.”
In her email, Buchanan didn’t
address why these rules don’t apply to her connection to 3CDC.
1 Comment · Wednesday, April 18, 2012
For a company whose main purpose is disseminating information to the public, The Enquirer and its corporate owner sure are keeping tight-lipped about an article that was published April 15. The long, splashy article focused on the
ongoing redevelopment of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and
the central role of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp.
by Kevin Osborne
The Enquirer ran a lengthy, glowing article over the weekend about the ongoing redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine and 3CDC's central role in helping it occur — all of which is well and good. But the piece, which contained more than 1,900 words, could only find space for 125 words critical of the effort and none at all for a direct quote from 3CDC's critics. (That's about 1/16th for the those keeping track at home.) Maybe that's because Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan sits on 3CDC's executive committee and is in charge of publicity for the group, which was yet another fact curiously missing from the article.Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco, Hamilton County's new coroner, attended a screening of the film, Bully, over the weekend. Her appearance was part of an effort to draw attention to bullying and child abuse during Child Abuse Awareness Month. The documentary relates the tales of several students across the United States who have been tormented by their peers. Its distributor, The Weinstein Co., released the film without a rating after the MPAA announced it would give it a “NC-17” rating for coarse language, which would've prohibited anyone under the age of 17 — the movie's primary audience — from seeing it.Cincinnati Reds superstar Joey Votto hit a two-run double in the 11th inning Sunday, which allowed his team to avoid a four-game sweep by giving it an 8-5 victory over the Washington Nationals. Some Covington business leaders are upset that a current plan to build a new span to replace the Brent Spence Bridge doesn't include any exits into the city's downtown. As proposed, motorists on southbound Interstate 75 would have to exit the highway about a mile earlier, near Ezzard Charles Drive in Cincinnati, to reach the Northern Kentucky locale.Just up I-75 a bit, a new report reveals the city of Dayton has the highest office vacancy rate among the nation’s metropolitan areas, and the portion of its office space that is unoccupied is at least at a 13-year high. The struggling Rust Belt city had about 27.3 percent of its office space vacant in the first quarter of this year, according to Reis Inc., a New York-based commercial real estate research group.In news elsewhere, Taliban insurgents and government security forces clashed over the weekend in Afghanistan. A series of insurgent attacks Sunday left four civilians and 11 members of the security forces dead. Afterward, security forces launched a counter-offensive that killed three dozen assailants, including some suicide bombers.President Hamid Karzai linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of NATO. In his first response to the attacks, Karzai praised the performance of the Afghan security forces. He gave tribute to the "bravery and sacrifice of the security forces who quickly and timely reacted to contain the terrorists," a French news agency reported.The trial began today for Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Islamic militant who allegedly killed 77 people last summer during a shooting rampage in Norway. Breivik, 33, was defiant at the proceedings. Asked by a judge whether he wished to plead guilty, Breivik replied, “I acknowledge the acts but I don’t plead guilty as I claim I was doing it in self-defense.” He has previously said his actions were meant to discourage further Islamic immigration.As the deadline looms for the filing of federal income tax returns, a new Gallup Poll finds Americans fall into two almost evenly matched camps: those who believe the amount they pay in federal income tax is too high (46 percent) and those who consider it "about right" (47 percent). Just 3 percent consider their taxes too low.The United States and China have been discreetly engaging in "war games" amid rising anger in Washington over the scale and audacity of Beijing-organized cyber attacks on western governments and Big Business, London's Guardian newspaper has reported. State Department and Pentagon officials, along with their Chinese counterparts, were involved in two war games last year that were designed to help prevent a sudden military escalation between the sides if either felt they were being targeted. Another session is planned for May.
0 Comments · Tuesday, July 20, 2010
I just don't have time for the stupidity, ignorance, anger, obscenities and racism that anonymous online commenting encourages. In a more innocent online era, many daily papers and others opened themselves to online comments. It was to be an instant Letters to the Editor, a more personal connection with the reader. But the resulting toxic stream of comments have led The Enquirer and other Gannett dailies to hire an outside company, Pluck, to intervene on reader online comments.
6 Comments · Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Splashed across The Enquirer's front page May 23 in a font size usually reserved for the declaration of war or World Series championships was the headline "Poll: Most Oppose Streetcars." The article's tone was quickly set by its claim that Cincinnatians oppose the city's proposed $128 million streetcar project 2-to-1. But if readers delved into the poll's details, which The Enquirer posted online but not in the newspaper, they found some important nuances — like the pro/con opinion was actually almost evenly split. Huge nuance.