by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
Cincinnati IRS employees violated IRS rules and maybe the law by
harassing scores of Tea Party and similar conservative groups seeking
vital nonprofit status.
an example of IRS intrusiveness, the Enquirer reports that the Liberty
Township Tea Party received a questionnaire demanding information the
IRS is not allowed to seek. “The letter was signed by a local IRS
official, who did not return calls seeking comment,” the paper initially
reported. Who? Name names. If the IRS employee signed and sent an
official government document, there’s no reason to grant anonymity.
in its initial full page A-section story, the Enquirer quotes Ohio IRS
spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins saying, “Mistakes were made.” By whom?
Again, names, please. Americans increasingly favor the passive voice,
“mistakes were made” but no one made them. If the paper pressed for
names of mistake-makers, it’s not evident. And who was fired? Anyone?
Associated Press — whose reporter broke this scandal story — says the
Cincinnati mess is at least two years old. This isn’t new. We’ve seen
IRS harassment of activists before and probably will again. Each time,
it’s a scandal. Or should be.
loss of residual confidence in IRS nonpartisanship is a helluva lot more
serious than the muddle surrounding the killing of four Americans in
Benghazi or the murder of three spectators at the Boston marathon.
sure it’s coincidence that the Cincinnati IRS harassment preceded the
2012 election. And I’m sure those employees were motivated only by zeal
to protect the purity of the 501(c)(4) status from improper or illegal
political activity. But I’m also sure that any agnostic or atheist
Republicans are looking at this Cincinnati-born national IRS scandal as
proof that “there is a God.” Now, to keep that wrath boiling with
hearings until 2014 elections.
Associated Press says it’s the target of a sweeping Justice Department
search for the news service’s confidential sources. Monday, AP reported
the Justice Department “secretly obtained two
months of telephone records of reporters and editors . . . in what the
news cooperative's top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented
intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.
records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for
the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, general AP
office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the main
number for AP reporters in the House of Representatives press gallery,
according to attorneys for the AP. It was not clear if the records also
included incoming calls or the duration of calls.
all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate
telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of
2012. The exact number of journalists who used the phone lines during
that period is unknown but more than 100 journalists work in the offices
where phone records were targeted, on a wide array of stories about
government and other matters.”
Maybe it’s time to call in the Plumbers.
no fan of public radio’s Ira Glass. His whiney voice sends me to WLW
700 AM radio for something more insanely macho. Now, he’s shoveling
natural soil enrichment in recorded promos for public radio fund
raising. I heard them on WVXU-FM’s just-ended fund drive. His point: We
should all be happy because everyone who listens to public radio helps
support public radio. Not true. Never will be. At WVXU, fewer than 10 percent
of us donate to its support. That means Ira Glass’s everyone are mostly
parasites, listening but not paying. (Our family is a sustaining member
of WVXU and WGUC . . . )
do our local news media track Macy’s commitment to ethical sourcing of
its house-brand clothing from Asian countries where factory fires,
collapses, etc., are just a cost of doing business? Contracts go where
labor is cheapest. People work or go hungry. It’s only going to get
worse when huge numbers of youngsters mature. Macy’s said the right
things after hundreds died after a Bangladesh factory crumbled, but now
it’s up to reporters to stay on the story.
glad Macy’s says it will continue to buy products made in Bangladesh.
Pleasing writers of anguished Letters to the Editor and leaving
Bangladesh in a virtuous huff doesn’t employ or feed anyone. I’ve been
in and out of developing countries for half a century. Lots of cheap
unskilled or semi-skilled labor feeds more families than one machine
(that breaks and rusts unrepaired). Whether it’s subsistence farming,
breaking stones with hammers for roadbeds, pedaling a rickshaw or
laborers carrying building materials up ladders in baskets on their
heads, it’s work that feeds. We can feel guilty, but walking away helps
accuses the Plain Dealer of racist news judgment over stories about
kidnapped young women freed recently after a decade of imprisonment and
abuse. BBC based its provocative judgment on its count of stories about
two of the three young women, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry. “In
Cleveland, the newspaper stories were mainly about the white girl,” BBC
News Magazine reporter Tara McKelvey wrote. “In the 10 years Berry was
missing, the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper published 36 articles
about her, according to a search of electronic news archive Lexis-Nexis.
During the nine-year period that DeJesus, who is Hispanic, was missing, the newspaper published 19 articles about her case.”
is typical of American news media where MWW (Missing White Woman) gets
more coverage than black or Hispanic girls and women, according to
academics McKelvey quoted.
Chris Quinn, the Plain Dealer’s assistant managing editor/metro, rejects
McKelvey’s accusation. He says it’s not only wrong but “based on an
analysis so simplistic we would have thought it beneath an organization
such as yours.” Quinn said his “much more thorough review” shows the
reverse of the BBC tally. “The number of stories about DeJesus actually
is greater than the number mentioning Berry, contrary what you assert.
Your analysis did not include all variations of the DeJesus first name, a
rather glaring lapse.”
continued, “Because of the racial aspect your network chose to focus
on, we also included in our review stories about Shakira Johnson, a
black child who went missing around the same time as Amanda and Gina.
The hunt for Shakira was as big a community effort as the hunt for the
other missing girls.” Here’s his tally:
Stories mentioning Shakira Johnson and not Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry: 145
Stories mentioning only Gina DeJesus (or Georgina DeJesus): 24
Stories mentioning only Amanda Berry: 17
Stories mentioning Berry and DeJesus together: 8
Stories mentioning Berry, DeJesus and Johnson: 6
Stories mentioning DeJesus and Johnson together: 2
Quinn closed, “The suggestion that this newspaper has used race as any
kind of filter in its story choices is offensive in the extreme. We’re
shocked that such a poorly reported story could be posted by a network
with your reputation.”
can thank Time magazine and writer Steven Brill for prying comparative
hospital costs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Enquirer carried a sample for local hospitals.
According to Poynter.com,
the journalism website, Brian Cook at the department’s Centers for
Medicare and Medicaid Services tells Brill the move “comes in part”
because of Brill’s article from March about health-care costs. HHS
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is also offering $87 million to the states
to create what she calls “health-care-data-pricing centers.”
continues, saying the centers will make pricing transparency more local
and user friendly than the giant data file. Brill says the report
“should become a tip sheet for reporters in every American city and
town, who can now ask hospitals to explain their pricing...If your
medical insurance requires you pay a percentage of a procedure’s cost,
that’s very useful information.”
are reporters going to call their bluff when speakers wax lyrical about
the joys of good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns? Instead of
spreading these fantasies, interview people who train others in the
defensive use of handguns. Or talk to police and military firearms
instructors and combat veterans on how difficult it can be to overcome
the normal resistance to shooting another person.
at news stories that describe how many rounds officers fired in armed
confrontations; adrenalin does nothing to steady the gun hand or
restrain how many times an officer pulls the trigger. And these are the
best we have.
used handguns for more than 50 years. I passed the official Ohio
12-hour concealed/carry course for a CityBeat cover story. If anyone
thinks that training prepared them to provide armed response in schools,
movie theaters, malls, etc., they’re suffering a potentially deadly
delusion. It’s time reporters began to add that context to the debate of
guns in our society.
campuses are perfect for training student reporters. These schools
typically are rich with conflicts of interest, executives with edifice
complexes, misspent millions, and bureaucrats eager to escape blame or
avoid offending alumni. The Columbus Dispatch reported this example last
week about suburban Otterbein University, a United Methodist four-year
It said Otterbein
agreed to stop requiring students involved in sexual-assault cases to
sign confidentiality agreements because student newspaper journalists
discovered it was violating federal law. After
initially denying it, the Dispatch reported, an Otterbein official told
reporters for the student newspaper that he didn’t realize Otterbein had
had victims, as well as others, sign a nondisclosure clause.
just followed the bread crumbs,” Chelsea Coleman, a 21-year-old
journalism and public relations major who wrote the Tan & Cardinal
story with another student, told the Dispatch.
need not agree with Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman to appreciate
his recent criticism of how news media handle stories involving
expertise. In his New York Times op-ed column, Krugman singles out the
Washington Post but he could have included many if not most news media.
a controversial study by Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth
Rogoff, the Post warned that Americans are “dangerously near the 90 percent
mark that economists regard as a threat to sustainable economic growth.”
Krugman pounced. “Notice the
phrasing: ‘economists,’ not ‘some economists,’ let alone ‘some
economists, vigorously disputed by other economists with equally good
credentials,’ which was the reality.”
can be too eager to substitute formulaic brevity for accuracy: doctors
say, psychologists say, weight loss experts say, police say, reporters
say, etc. My advice: beware of any news story that identifies someone as
an “expert” without a clear explanation of their expertise.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 1, 2010
We Americans are proud of the idealized version of youth that most of us at least partially experienced as children: little Billy tossing ball with dad; Sally spending time with mom learning to repair dad and Billy's jeans. The Columbus Dispatch today reported that the contemporary version is just as good, as long as Billy enjoys traveling the country reliving dad's glory days and Sally doesn't mind either being left behind or winning at all costs.