by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
Be suspicious of statistics that suggest a reporter
doesn’t understand, doesn’t care or knowingly isn’t telling us
everything the numbers do. For instance, we have tens of thousands of
firearm deaths every year in our country. Uncritical reporting suggests
these are homicides that buybacks or proposed federal gun controls could
prevent or reduce. Nope. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
said there were 31,672 firearm deaths recorded in 2010, the last year
for which complete statistics are posted. Of those, 19,392 or 61 percent
were suicides, not homicides. The remaining 39 percent included accidents, fatal encounters with police, etc.
• Critical thinking was in short supply at the Senate
Judiciary Hearing where gun control foes testified. It’s sort of like
using a faux quote by Hitler to prove gun registration leads to
confiscation, which leads to socialism or worse. Gayle Trotter of the
Independent Women’s Forum told senators that “guns make women safer” and
a ban on assault-style weapons with high-capacity magazines would
To illustrate her case, Trotter cited 18-year-old Sarah
McKinley’s successful defense against an armed intruder near Blanchard,
Okla. Police there told CityBeat that she killed him with a
12-gauge pump shotgun, a classic hunting weapon owned by millions of
Americans. That was a good choice for McKinley but an unfortunate
example for Trotter; no one is suggesting that shotguns be included in
proposed gun controls.
Then, as if to prove that fewer Americans are hunting or
serving in the military and know what they’re talking about (also see
below), MSNBC mistakenly said she used a rifle. ABC News was no smarter:
It had her reenact the shooting with a double-barreled shotgun.
McKinley’s single-barrel pump shotgun was taken as
evidence in the homicide, probably to be returned when her claim of
self-defense is affirmed. Meanwhile, Guns Save Lives, a nonprofit, sent
her a similar, replacement shotgun.
Not only does Oklahoma allow lethal force for self-defense
inside a person’s home, but McKinley asked the 911 operator what she
could do to protect herself and her child. The dead intruder’s companion
reportedly told police the intruders were after prescription
painkillers that they assumed McKinley’s husband left when he died a
week earlier from cancer.
• A secret shooter? After Obama’s comments to the New
Republic about having fired a gun, the White House released a photo of
the president on the Camp David retreat skeet range. Wearing protective
glasses and ear protection, he’s firing a shotgun at the 4-5/16 inch
flying clay discs (pigeons) last August. "Yes, in fact, up at Camp David, we do skeet shooting all the time," Obama told the New Republic. "Not the girls, but oftentimes guests of mine go up there." However, the AP story accompanying the skeet shooting photo in Sunday’s Enquirer
mistakenly says he’s firing a rifle. I’m not sure whether Obama used an
over-and-under shotgun, but it certainly didn’t look like a rifle. That
inexplicable clanger escaped AP and Enquirer editing despite our
unprecedented national debate over certain types of firearms. NRA
pooh-poohed Obama’s comments and photo, saying it changes nothing in NRA
opposition to greater gun control.
• John Kerry drew scorn in 2004 after he was photographed
with Ted Strickland and others with just-shot geese in an eastern Ohio
cornfield. Possibly recalling that ill-conceived effort to bond with
hunters, Obama didn’t release his skeet shooting photo before the
election last year. Kerry’s goose hunting was ridiculed as a dumb photo
op, especially because Kerry borrowed the farmer’s hunting outfit and
double-barreled shotgun for the day. Whether Kerry bagged any additional
rural voters was unclear; Bush won Ohio.
• I began contributing to the new National Catholic Reporter in the mid-’60s when I started covering religion at the Minneapolis Star. I freelanced for NCR when I had that same assignment at the Enquirer. A privately owned, independent weekly based in Kansas City, Mo., NCR was a voice of Roman Catholics who embraced the spirit as well as the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Traditional churchmen had little reason to love NCR.
It was a pain in the ass and collection basket. It reported the flight
of clergy and nuns, often into marriage. Jason Berry pioneered reporting
of priestly child abuse. Penny Lernoux covered Latin American death
squads and links between murderous reactionaries and the church. Murders
of nuns, priests and bishops who embraced liberation theology and the
church’s “preferential option for the poor” received extensive, probing
The bishop of Kansas City and a former diocesan editor,
Robert W. Finn, recently joined predecessors’ fruitless condemnations of
NCR’s journalism. In a letter to the diocese praising official
church media, Finn was “sorry to say, my attention has been drawn once
again to the National Catholic Reporter. … In the last months I
have been deluged with emails and other correspondence from Catholics
concerned about the editorial stances of the Reporter: officially
condemning Church teaching on the ordination of women, insistent
undermining of Church teaching on artificial contraception and sexual
morality in general, lionizing dissident theologies while rejecting
established Magisterial (official) teaching, and a litany of other
“My predecessor bishops have taken different approaches to
the challenge. Bishop Charles Helmsing in October of 1968 issued a
condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter and asked the publishers to remove the name ‘Catholic’ from their title — to no avail. From my perspective, NCR’s positions against authentic Church teaching and leadership have not changed trajectory in the intervening decades.
“When early in my tenure I requested that the paper submit their bona fides
as a Catholic media outlet in accord with the expectations of Church
law, they declined to participate indicating that they considered
themselves an ‘independent newspaper which commented on “things
Catholic.” ’ At other times, correspondence has seemed to reach a dead
“In light of the number of recent expressions of concern, I
have a responsibility as the local bishop to instruct the Faithful
about the problematic nature of this media source which bears the name
‘Catholic.’ While I remain open to substantive and respectful discussion
with the legitimate representatives of NCR, I find that my ability to
influence the National Catholic Reporter toward fidelity to the
Church seems limited to the supernatural level. For this we pray: St.
Francis DeSales (patron of journalists), intercede for us.”
• Rarely have I seen such a neat dismissal of creationism
and defense of evolution as the following by 19th century skeptic Robert
Ingersoll. It’s quoted in a review of The Great Agnostic, a biography of Ingersoll, in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard:
“I would rather belong to that race that commenced a
skull-less vertebrate and produced Shakespeare, a race that has before
it an infinite future, with an angel of progress leaning from the far
horizon, beckoning men forward, upward, and onward forever — I had
rather belong to such a race … than to have sprung from a perfect pair
upon which the Lord has lost money every moment from that day to this.”
• The Weekly Standard also published “A teacher’s
Plea: The GOP shouldn’t write off educators.” Eloquent Colleen Hyland
speaks beyond partisanship for her vocation and colleagues in her Jan.
21 essay. Among other things, she hopes to shake Republican/conservative
ideologues out of their animus toward public school teachers and their
unions. Among her points: Hhateful generalizations about teachers and
their desire for a living wage also degrades women.
• I didn’t know Kevin Ash and I’m not a rider but I read his motorcycle reviews in London’s Daily Telegraph
for years. Details of his death in South Africa are unclear, but he
died during the media show testing the new BMW R1200GS motorcycle. His
informed, passionate writing was a delight for itself, even if I never
thought to get on a two-wheeler again. When I was what the Brits’ call a
“motoring correspondent,” my interest was cars, whether with three or
four wheels. There were a lot of us writing about cars and motor
racing/rallying in Europe and Britain in the 1960s; postwar Europeans
were getting into cars for the first time in most families’ lives. We
were read whether it was the test drive of an exquisite new Zagato OSCA
coupe (built by the original Maserati brothers) or a boring Opel
sedan. But getting killed during a test ride? Since most of us had some
inkling of what we were doing astride a motorcycle or behind the wheel,
that would have been very bad luck.
• Time Magazine’s world.time.com website posted this howler. The original Time story purported to look at Oxford and Cambridge roles in Britain’s social mobility. Appended to the online story, Time’s correction has a lawyerly tone. Here it is at length and verbatim:
“This article has been changed. An earlier version stated
that Oxford University accepted ‘only one black Caribbean student’ in
2009, when in fact the university accepted one British black Caribbean
undergraduate who declared his or her ethnicity when applying to
“The article has also been amended to reflect the context
for comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron on the number
of black students at Oxford. It has also been changed to reflect the
fact that in 2009 Oxford ‘held’ rather than ‘targeted’ 21 percent of its
outreach events at private schools, and that it draws the majority of
its non-private students from public schools with above average levels
of attainment, rather than ‘elite public schools.’
“An amendment was made to indicate that Office for Fair
Access director Les Ebdon has not imposed but intends to negotiate
targets with universities. It has been corrected to indicate that every
university-educated Prime Minister save Gordon Brown has attended Oxford
or Cambridge since 1937, rather than throughout history. The proportion
of Oxbridge graduates in David Cameron’s cabinet has been updated —
following the Prime Minister’s September reshuffle, the percentage rose
from almost 40 percent to two-thirds. Percentages on leading Oxbridge
graduates have been updated to reflect the latest figures.
“The article erred in stating that private school students
have ‘dominated’ Oxbridge for ‘centuries.’ In the 1970s, according to
Cambridge, admissions of state school students ranged from 62 percent to
68 percent, sinking down to around 50 percent in the 1980s. The article
has been amended to clarify that although only a small percentage of
British students are privately educated, they make up one-third of the
students with the requisite qualifications to apply to Oxbridge.
“The article erred in stating that Oxford and Cambridge
‘missed government admission targets’ for students from lower
socioeconomic backgrounds. Rather, the universities scored below
‘benchmarks’ for admission of students from lower socioeconomic
backgrounds which are calculated by the Higher Education Statistics
Agency, a non-governmental body. The article was amended to clarify the
point that Cambridge continues to run Sutton Trust summer schools.
“The article mistakenly suggested that the current U.K.
government had launched an ‘initiative to reform Oxbridge.’ There was no
official initiative, but rather a marked push by the government to
encourage change. The article referred to Cambridge and Oxford’s efforts
‘in the past two years’ to seek out underprivileged students. In fact,
their commitment is far more long-standing — programs to reach out to
underprivileged students have been operating at the two universities
since at least the mid-1990s.
“The article erred in suggesting that Cambridge had
protested state school targets, and in stating that it had ‘agreed to’
ambitious targets, rather than setting the targets themselves that were
then approved by the Office of Fair Access. The article has been amended
to clarify that there is debate over whether the ‘school effect’,
whereby state school students outperform private school students at
university, applies to those at the highest levels of achievement, from
which Oxford and Cambridge recruit.
“The article has been changed to correct the misstatement
that a lack of strong candidates from poor backgrounds is not the
concern of Oxford and Cambridge. The article has amended the phrase
‘Oxford and Cambridge’s myopic focus on cherry-picking the most
academically accomplished,’ to more fairly reflect the universities’
• Until I read the Time correction above, I’d
forgotten one in which I was involved. A young reporter covered a
Saturday national church meeting in suburban Cincinnati at which
denominational leaders argued how to respond to homosexuals in the pews
and pulpits. This was when such a discussion was courageous, regardless
of the views expressed. I edited the story. It was a good, taut story
and it ran in a Sunday Enquirer. All hell broke loose. The
reporter attributed exactly the opposite views to each person quoted.
Instead of a forthright correction, I recall running a new, corrected
story plus the apology.
To some, the AR-15 is a symbol of American freedom. To others, it's a weapon of mass destruction.
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 30, 2013
gunmetal strikes coarse against the skin. With its stout and angular
design, the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle hangs light in the hands. Shadows
catch along the sharp edges of the gun's frame.