by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
• The Enquirer’s MasonBuzz.com
wasn’t honest with readers about the source of its story promoting
“National Heimlich Maneuver Day.” It was posted by a reporter but
carried the byline of Melinda Zemper. She’s not a reporter and she
wasn’t identified as a “contributor.” Zemper is public relations
professional whose clients include Heimlich interests. She was helpful
when I sought out Phil Heimlich for a story recently. That’s her job. So
is providing copy ready for publication. With so few reporters and
editors, news media are evermore open to such PR material as “news.”
Traditional journalism ethics requires that we be told the writer’s
underlying interest in the story if it’s not by a reporter or
contributor. MasonBuzz.com failed that test.
Guardian scored its first of two coups when it reported the Obama
administration is collecting our cell phone records in the name of
national security. The Washington Post followed with its story about
spying through Internet sites such as Google. Both relied on the same
source, one of thousands of private contractor employees with top
• The Guardian’s second coup was its interview with the American who revealed that NSA cell phone tracking: Edward Snowden, 29. The Guardian called him a “former technical assistant for the CIA
and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last
four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz
Allen and Dell.”
paper said it named Snowden and published his online video statement at
his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret
documents to the public, the paper said, Snowden eschewed the protection
"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he told the Guardian, although he
wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention
because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about
what the US government is doing." That won’t be easy, he conceded. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."
he told the Guardian, "I really want the focus to be on these documents
and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the
globe about what kind of world we want to live in ... My sole motive
is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that
which is done against them."
• Whistleblower Snowden
is the civilian version of Army Private Bradley Manning, who gave
military and diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Both were low-level
intelligence specialists with high-level security clearance. Both claim
to have acted according to conscience, hoping to save rather than harm
our nation. There is a difference, however, that I haven’t seen or heard
in facile news media comparisons of Snowden to Manning or Daniel
Ellsberg, an academic defense analyst who revealed the Pentagon Papers.
Manning’s military and diplomatic cables and Ellsberg’s study of the
Vietnam war were in the broadest sense histories. Snowden’s revelations
involve current and future data collection and analysis.
Jones magazine/online also scored two scoops in recent days. It says
the Justice Department wants to hide an 86-page opinion by the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court that says the government
violated the spirit of federal surveillance laws and engaged in
unconstitutional spying. Mother Jones’ bureau chief in Washington, David
Corn, says the secrecy effort is a response to a Freedom of Information
suit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
its second coup, Mother Jones says the FBI raided the Winchester, Ky.,
home of corporate cybersecurity consultant Deric Lostutter. As hacker
KYAnonymous, he was instrumental in making the Steubenville rape case a
national story. Mother Jones says Lostutter “obtained and published
tweets and Instagram photos in which other team members had joked about
the incident and belittled the victim. He now admits to being the man
behind the mask in a video posted by another hacker on the team's fan page, RollRedRoll.com,
where he threatened action against the players unless they apologized
to the girl ... According to the FBI's search warrant, agents were
seeking evidence related to the hacking of RollRedRoll.com ... If convicted of hacking-related crimes, Lostutter could face up
to 10 years behind bars — far more than the one- and two-year sentences
doled out to the Steubenville rapists.”
news media embrace an uncritical “boost, don’t knock” approach to local
festivals. Even so, they ignored a great photo op at the opening of
Summer Fair. Hundreds of people stood in line in the Coney Island
parking lot while two people — at one table — took admission money. Some
people waited more than 30 minutes to get in. Parking was free, so no
one knows how many potential customers took one look and drove away.
recent Enquirer cover story confirms what a lot of people have known for
years: Go elsewhere for sophisticated cancer care. What’s news is the
admission in a proposed UC major investment to bring advanced cancer
Enquirer cover story made my prehensile toes curl with joy. The
Creation Museum is evolving to allow us to return to tree tops ...
via zip lines.
still unhappy about NPR’s decision to kill Talk of the Nation carried
here 2-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday. It was the nation’s best long-format
public radio interview program, sort of a New Yorker of the air.
July 1, WVXU plans to fill the newly vacant 2-3 p.m. gap with an
expanded Cincinnati Edition using current staff as hosts. I hope it
retains long-format interviews.
its limited resources newly devoted to the expanded Monday-Thursday
Cincinnati Edition, WVXU is ending Maryanne Zeleznik’s Thursday morning
long-format Impact Cincinnati interview show and the staff’s Saturday
and Sunday one-hour weekend Cincinnati Edition. There were good regular
segments and I hope they’ll be woven into the new format.
To fill 3-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday, WVXU is bringing in The Takeaway. WVXU says it’s
is a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, in
collaboration with New York Times Radio and WGBH Boston. The Takeaway carries the tagline, “Welcome to the American Conversation.” We’ll see. Talk of the Nation set a very high standard.
Enquirer Forum calls on Ohio to expand Medicaid despite a shortage of
physicians and others to cope. In part, the paper notes, few med school
grads choose primary care. Reasons aren’t that complicated. Relatively
low salaries paid to primary care physicians mean docs will spend a good
portion of their adult lives repaying loans that often began as
undergrads and compounded while adding med school loans. Another reason
is that Medicaid pays even less than Medicare for office visits and
treatments. That’s helps explain why primary care docs aren’t better
paid and some practices limit their Medicaid and Medicare patients.
Enquirer should dig still deeper into related issues. Why should
taxpayers provide health insurance (Medicaid or unpaid emergency care)
to badly paid workers whose major employers provide little or no health
care insurance? Why do we as a nation offer such niggardly support to
med students that they opt for higher paid specialties which ease loan
repayments? (This isn’t a personal beef. Our daughter, whose board
certifications include family practice, went through medical school on a
UC scholarship but many classmates graduated with life-limiting debt.)
had a long story on how jelly fish are multiplying at a rate that
creates or exacerbates problems in the oceans. These prehistoric
creatures survive, multiply and prosper without a spine or brain. Apt
cascade of information about NSA snooping has an unintended benefit.
Pervasive federal intrusions no longer are “just a journalists’ thing.”
Millions of Americans now know their cell phone calls and email/Internet
data are being collected and analyzed by NSA computers and agents. This growing consciousness may provoke a groundswell that could provide
brains and spine for Congress to correct police state legislation passed
Holder — still U.S. attorney general when this was written — is almost
contrite about Justice Department grabbing reporters’ telephone and
email records. He now says he won’t prosecute reporters just doing our
jobs. Any journalist who accepts
his assurance lacks the minimum skepticism required for our trade.
Holder serves at the pleasure of a president whose antipathy to leaks
recalls Nixon’s creation of the Plumbers.
dropout Gary Webb shared the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for San Jose
Mercury’s coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Then he took on the
CIA in his sometimes-overreaching 1996 Mercury series, Dark Alliance,
which said crack cocaine was being sold in Los Angeles’ black ghettos to
support CIA-supported contras in Nicaragua. The LA Times and others —
including the NYTimes and Washington Post — were embarrassed by Webb and
the nowhere San Jose paper. They went all out to discredit Webb and his
findings. Webb’s errors and inadequately supported assertions gave
critics their opening. Irrespective of the the national papers’ attacks
inaccuracies and misdirection, they ruined Webb’s career and he
committed suicide. Years later, even former critics acknowledged the
generally substantiated core of Webb’s series: CIA ignored Contra
cocaine smuggling and its spread of crack in U.S. inner cities. A movie
is being made about Webb and the CIA series, Kill the Messenger.
Morning Edition described in broad detail an NSA data center going up
outside Salt Lake City. Computers are so large and hot that they will
need 1.5 million gallons of cooling water daily. I wish NPR told me
where that water was coming from and where it would go after being used
to cool the computers.
• With friends like this ... Aljazeera.com
reports that Syrian rebels executed a 15-year-old Aleppo coffee vendor
in front of his family because the killers thought a common Syrian
retort was blasphemy. The youth apparently refused someone coffee on
credit, saying, “Even if Mohammad comes down, I will not give it as a
meeting at Sunnylands, the Annenberg estate near Palm Springs, Calif.,
pricked my nostalgia. In the early 1940s, my father, an Army physician,
was stationed in Palm Springs. A visionary local developer offered Dad
some land. As our family legend goes, that friend assured my father that
“after the war,” Palm Springs would boom. Headed for combat in Europe
and uncertain what might follow, Dad said thanks, but no thanks. Oh,
well. If Dad had taken his friend’s offer, last week’s Obama-Xi meeting
could have been on a Kaufman desert hideaway, “10,000 Lakes.”
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 18, 2012
The first ever Bunbury Music Festival draws tens of thousands to Cincinnati's riverfront for three days of great times and even better music. Plus, Joe Elliott says Def Leppard will be joining iTunes soon finally — after the band re-records all of its old songs so they can receive all the profits — and one of the jerks responsible for pulling the plug on Bruce Springsteen/Paul McCartney defends the decision and jerkishly says it "added legend to the myth."
by Jac Kern
Popular public radio show will be shown in local theaters
"I don't really like This American Life or Ira Glass," said no one.The weekly, true storytelling public radio show with its quirky, adorable host seriously has something for everyone — timely topics, laugh-out-loud (or cry-out-loud) anecdotes, thoughtful insight. TAL even got my stubborn, conservative father to listen to NPR on a regular basis. So since we can all agree how awesome it is, let's celebrate the announcement that Ira and Co. will present a live show in New York City, to be broadcast in movie theaters across the country on May 10.Those who watched the television adaptation of This American Life know how flawlessly the program can be adapted to incorporate visual elements with the standard unscripted storytelling format. But the live show is set to involve more than just interviews and animations seen in the TV program.The live event will feature stories by writer David Rakoff (who worked with Ira Glass and David Sedaris), comedian Tig Notaro (Comedy Central Presents, The Sarah Silverman Program), Glynn Washington (host of radio show Snap Judgement and jack-of-all-trades) and Ira himself. Taking full advantage of the live, visual format, the show will also feature music by OK Go, a short film by longtime TAL contributor and comedian Mike Birbiglia, a dance performance by Monica Bill Barnes & Company and much more to be seen. This American Life presented a live show, also broadcast in theaters, back in 2009.The show will go live at 8 p.m. May 10 onstage at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. If you can't make the trip to the Big Apple (it's sold out anyway), check it out at one of many local theaters screening the show, including AMC Newport, Western Hills 14, Florence 14, Milford 16, Springdale Showcase Cinemas and Deerfield Town Center. Many of these theaters will present an encore screening May 15 as well. Go here for tickets.
0 Comments · Friday, January 7, 2011
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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 1, 2010
It's 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 28: Do you know where your rifle is? If you don't then it's time to mount up because Ohio's nine-day deer hunting season runs Monday through Saturday and after that you only have two more days this year to shoot one of those bastards.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Why associate a homicide with an apparently unrelated business? A recent Enquirer story said an Over-the-Rhine shooting was "a block south of Findlay Market." The headline said it was "near Findlay Market." Nothing in the story said or indicated the victim or shooter had anything to do with Findlay Market except proximity. Would The Enquirer say "a block south of P&G" in a story that doesn't tie a homicide to the corporation? Not likely.
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I'm troubled by the unjustifiable exclusion of minor party candidates from Ohio campaign debates sponsored by the news media. Criteria I've seen for inclusion remind me of the tests faced by blacks at some Southern election boards and polling places. They're designed to affect the elections by excluding persons who should be included. Stripped of other roles, that of informing voters is the foundation for our continued free press.
0 Comments · Tuesday, May 11, 2010
In the Good Old Days, journalists generally held a story if authorities said it could compromise the stakeout, chase or anticipated capture of a suspect. Even if we knew where agents were headed or or stood with them outside a motel where a kidnapper and victim were hidden, we responded with silence. These issues arose again when the 24/7-obsessed news media unthinkingly helped the Times Square bombing suspect almost escape.
0 Comments · Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Jim Adams set a high standard for religion reporting in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Post was strong in those days, and Jim was one of those strengths. He died recently. At important press conferences and events, Jim would be there, writing with a pencil stub on folded sheets of newsprint. If he ever had a notebook like mine with REPORTER printed on its cover, I never saw it. A pencil stub (useful for editing as well) and the paper on which his words would be printed sufficed.