0 Comments · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
SATURDAY JUNE 29: We at WWE! are suckers for a great
gimmick — when Papa John’s offers unlimited toppings on medium pizzas we
pick up the phone and dial 347-1111 with a quickness.
Daily refuses to cover "illegal" ordination, but Gannett weekly covers it
2 Comments · Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Thirty-nine years ago, Enquirer editors agreed to cover a global story that still reverberates through some of Christianity’s oldest denominations: the acrimonious debate over whether women may be priests.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Language abuse — as opposed to abusive language — is as old as language itself.
After 50-plus years of reporting and
editing, I should be used to it, but I’m increasingly irritated by its
deliberate, partisan misuse.
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.”
7 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Rich people get to do whatever the hell they want in this city. Maybe that’s the way it is in every city
and anyone surprised by it is a simpleton who clearly grew up on the
wrong side of I-75. But the influence that Cincinnati's rich people have over the direction of this city and the distribution of its resources should disturb everyone.
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Intruding is something
reporters do. Intrusions can be personal, professional, financial or
commercial. Or more than one of the above. And, yes, despite
inexplicably loud cell phone conversations, awareness of omnipresent
smartphone cameras and overly revealing Facebook posts, many Americans
still assert their right to privacy.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Best news we already knew: Science has confirmed that just
the taste of a single sip of beer can make you happier by jump-starting
dopamine levels in your brain. WORLD +2
by Ben L. Kaufman
Ben Kaufman says it looks nice, arrived on time
reporters and editors should be satisfied with their initial tabloid
effort. Today’s inaugural edition — smaller and printed in Columbus — is
a curious hybrid. It arrived on time. It feels and looks like a
tabloid, but it reads like a familiar Enquirer rather than something
exciting and new. That
might not be bad. Others — who haven’t spent 50-plus years in the newspaper
and wire service trade and worked on two tabloids — will decide whether
the tabloid Enquirer works well enough to buy. That’s important because
print ads bring in many times the cash of online ads. Page
1 is a showcase. Catch the readers’ attention to turn them inside to
highly promoted stories. That’s tabloid. Enquirer designers have been
refining this for months on larger pages last printed yesterday. Page
2 is weather and other stuff. My question: Will older readers complain
about the small type? Readers who need glasses probably are the
organization of the rest of the paper is familiar and most stories are
short. Good. Few stories today require more than that, especially one
that continues for days and weeks. Regular readers will learn enough.
Readers who are unsatisfied can learn more elsewhere without abandoning
the Enquirer. It would be no crime if longer versions appeared on Cincinnati.com. That could be a productive synergy. If
there is a problem in the news pages, it’s the black/white inside news
photos. Sports suffers most. Too many are too small, too dark. That
could be an inking problem on the new Columbus Dispatch presses. If not,
it would be ironic if the new Enquirer format meant fewer inside color
photos and photographers having to relearn black-and-white photography. And
small news photos. Here’s where the format cramps. A large photo
doesn’t leave much room for type and there is a limit to how many times
readers will go to another page to learn more about the pictured event. The
special promotional section about the paper — with names and images of
the staff — is a keeper in addition to the existing online contact list.
It was good to see old colleagues and friends looking well and to put
faces to new names. My
one complaint is that the shift in headline type. Now, news stories and
ads that imitate news stories now have the same or similar bold black
headlines. That’s bad. Previously, news and ads had starkly different
type faces. That was an honest effort to alert readers to the
difference. I hope the Enquirer will find a new type face for ads since the bold, black headlines work for tabloid news. Having
nursed a new daily to life years ago, I still can recall the pleasure
of holding that first edition. I hope Enquirer journalists know that
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings from Cincinnati and beyond
a story for local health/medicine reporters: why is Christ Hospital
reducing service at its outpatient cardiac rehab center? Recently,
patients received this bizarre letter:
“In order to continue the highest level of care for our growing patient volume, we have adjusted our office hours. Effective January 2nd, 2013, (sic)
hours of operation for Phase II cardiac rehabilitation will be Monday,
Wednesday and Friday, 6:00 AM through 4:00 PM. Hours on Tuesday and
Thursday will be 6 AM to 2:30 PM. Thank you for choosing The Christ
Hospital Health Network.”
significantly shortens the afternoon/evening hours daily for a “growing
patient volume.” Didn’t anyone read this Orwellian language before it
went out over an exec’s signature on hospital letterhead? To continue
the highest level of care Christ will provide less, especially if
patients need outpatient cardio rehab after work?
outpatient rehab has too few clients, are cardiologists and cardiac
surgeons at this aggressively marketed heart hospital urging patients to
work out at the Mount Auburn facility? Aren’t these docs telling us to
quit smoking, lose weight and exercise more?
not a question of the quality of the care by therapists and RNs at the
outpatient rehab center; if it were, it would be closed.
Sunday Enquirer carried a valuable column on Dec. 30 on what Ohio laws
passed in 2012 mean. Picked up from the Columbus Dispatch, it’s a marvel
of brevity and clarity and it proves there still can be substance
inside the Sunday Enquirer Local section.
the Good Old Days, the Enquirer would fill local pages with “evergreen”
stories written before holiday slow news days. If these timeless trivia
weren’t used, they could be spiked or recycled for future fallow news
days. Today, evergreens apparently have been tossed on the editorial
pyre while this metropolitan daily’s diminished staff is filling its
shrunken news hole with staff and reader pet photos.
help the Enquirer photographer who brings in a horizontal (“landscape
format”) photo for page A1. It won’t fit. Formulaic layout has ads and
promos bannered across the top and bottom, a deep multi-column vertical
photo or graphic on the left and a little bit of news beside and beneath
that photo or illustration. It seems to be the same every day,
regardless of events. It hardly qualifies as design. Cover pages on the
Local section fare no better. My guess? The format saves thinking every
day about how best to present the news (“content” or “product”) for
remaining page editors at some central Midwest location.
Nation offers evidence-based insights into school shootings from
Katherine S. Newman, coauthor of Rampage: The Social Roots of School
Shootings and dean of arts and sciences at Johns Hopkins.
starters, teach kids it’s right, good and potentially life-saving to
tell adults when other children or teenagers talk about killing,
shooting, etc. Peers of potential killers are our best early warning
research also rebuts NRA’s grandiose goal of an armed “guard” in every
school; most schools are unlikely to become killing grounds. She wrote:
shootings tend to happen in small towns with no history of background
violence rather than in big cities which suffer almost every other kind
of brutal attack except this one. There has been only one example of a
rampage school shooting in an urban setting since 1970. All the others
have taken place in rural towns miles from places like New York or
Chicago, or in suburbs in the Western states.”
was one of the towns that her team studied after Goth-wannabe Michael
Carneal shot five Heath High School classmates: three died, one is
paralyzed and another was badly wounded.
research reflects that of many others in describing Carneal as typical
of school shooters. He was a nerdy young white male who couldn’t make
lasting friendships and never fit in at school or in his
football-worshiping community. He was looking for acceptance and
“shooting people is drawn straight from the Hollywood playbook that
equates masculinity with violence.”
talked a lot about shooting and killing but no one risked being called a
snitch by alerting his parents or adults at school.
Were They Thinking? Gannett’s Journal News in suburban New York went
online with the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in two
counties in its circulation area. The paper says it will sue to force a
third county to provide that information. The paper claims the list and
accompanying interactive map showing permit holder’s locations are a
public service. Malarkey. Horse puckey. Madness. So what if the data
come from public records? So do names of men and women who claim to be
victims of sex crimes. We don’t publish that. So what is a reader
supposed to do with the handgun information? Cui bono?
spin wild fantasies about burglaries to obtain handguns from permit
holders or burglars hitting homes where no one has a conceal/carry
permit. My problem is different:
it’s hard enough to wrest public documents from dim and self-serving
officials. Decisions by the Journal News can’t help but undermine
remaining public support for investigative/database reporting.
Enquirer, Louisville Courier Journal and Indianapolis Star also are
Gannett papers. I hope the Journal News' perversion of First Amendment
assertiveness doesn’t become a route to Gannett corporate rings for
editors and publishers. (My name will appear if the Enquirer identifies
permit holders in its circulation area. I took the class, passed the
exam and obtained my permit for a cover story a year after Ohio allowed
counties to issue conceal/carry permits.)
over the Gannett paper’s online posting of names and addresses of
handgun permit holders (above) quickly morphed into online retaliation.
Some critics posted what they said was the home address and photo of
Gannett corporate CEO Garcia Martore. Other Gannett execs’ home
addresses have been posted and bloggers have listed home addresses and
contact information for staffers at the Journal News. The paper has
hired guards for its Westchester headquarters. If guards aren’t active
law enforcement officers, they must have handgun permits and could be
included in lists published by the paper.
daily Brattleboro Reformer bannered this headline across page 1
recently: “Let is snow, let is snow, let is snow.” Executive editor Tom
D’Errico told romenesko.com
that it was a “terrible, terrible typo. The night crew was
short-staffed and we had an unusual last-minute early deadline with the
storm marching in.” Later, he wrote in his blog: “I kept running over
the reasons in my mind . . . of how or why a mistake like this can and
does happen. But everything just sounded like an excuse. And the truth
is: there is no excuse.”
former President George H.W. Bush had one of those “greatly
exaggerated” brushes with eternity recently. (That now-a-cliche
expression originated in Mark Twain’s response to a reporter who
confused him with ailing cousin James Ross Clemens. Snopes.com says Twain actually told the reporter, “The report of my death was an exaggeration” but added “greatly” in a manuscript.)
to Bush the Elder. Houston’s WBAP-AM blasted an email saying, “The
Death of a President: George H. W. Bush.” Romenesko and Texas Observer
reported that news director Rick Hadley blamed the error on a common
practice among news media: “We get our obituaries ready to go for people
who aren’t doing well.” When Bush entered a local hospital’s ICU, WBAP
prepared an email blast for his death. Hadley said a problem with the
email system sent the death message to about a third of the station’s
subscribers. Thirty minutes later — after callers alerted the station to
its misstep — WBAP quickly sent out a corrected email. Hadley said the
bulletin was not read on the radio.
was typical of smart news media: It updates obits of prominent men and
women to avoid being unprepared when the inevitable occurs. Unfailingly,
that’s on deadlines when staff is short and sources are unavailable
because of holidays or late/early hours. These advance obits have blanks
for timely details: age, cause of death, where the person died and a
credible confirmation of death. Then they are filed in ways meant to
prevent all-too-common premature release.
That caution didn’t prevent Germany's respected news weekly Der Spiegel from mistakenly publishing Bush’s obituary in late December. AP said, “The
unfinished obituary appeared on Der Spiegel's website for a few minutes
before it was spotted by Internet users and removed. In it, the
magazine's New York correspondent described Bush as ‘a colorless
politician’ whose image only improved when it was compared to the later
presidency of his son, George W. Bush.” A Der Spiegel Twitter feed
said, "All newsrooms prepare obituaries for selected figures. The fact
that the one for Bush senior went live was a technical mistake. Sorry!"
ago at UPI, we put out HOLD FOR RELEASE obituaries of leading figures
worldwide. Some of our client media saved the incomplete obits to await
news of the death. Others removed mention of death and often published
them as space-filling weekend feature stories.
Associated Press doesn’t send out advance obits as a practice but Dan
Sewell, AP’s correspondent in Cincinnati, noted a different problem:
the subject outlives the byline reporter. Last year, New York Times
ombuds Margaret Sullivan wrote generally about obits after talking to
obit editor Bill McDonald and touched on that problem: “Occasionally,
the author of the obituary was already dead by the time the piece ran – Vincent Canby on Bob Hope and Mel Gussow on Elizabeth Taylor,
for example. Mr. McDonald said that in most cases when an obit subject
outlives the writer, The Times does a new piece. ‘But in select cases,’
he added, ‘we feel the obit is too fine to discard, particularly if it
is by a writer who brings a certain authority to it.’ The Times assigns a
live body to update the obit and, in the case of Mel Gussow, offered a
note to the reader acknowledging the status of the author.”
all won another battle to hold cops accountable. The American Civil
Liberties Union sued to preempt Chicago police who object to an ACLU
project on police accountability. ACLU wanted to make sure its employees
wouldn’t be busted for recording officers’ words. The federal appellate
court in Chicago said we all share a First Amendment right to record
what police say to us. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the
Chicago police appeal, affirming the lower court ruling. Earlier last
year, federal courts said we have a right to photograph police in
public. My guess is dimmer, bolder police everywhere will continue to
arrest reporters who record their words and others who photograph their
actions. That’s not futile. The possibility of an arrest record — even
knowing the charge will be tossed by a judge or prosecutor — can be
intimidating and leave cops free of scrutiny.
Congress obscure methods and goals in naming legislation but reporters
should challenge any legislator who talks about “preventing” gun
We can’t prevent it. With some nuts among
the 300-plus million living in this country and almost nonexistent mental
health programs, some killers will find and use firearms on other
people. We can’t prevent it. That we have hundreds of millions of
firearms makes massacres even likelier. Reporters should press
vote-seeking legislators on how their proposed restrictions will limit
casualties from inevitable firearm violence. That brings us back to the
1994 restriction on high-capacity magazines for semi-automatic weapons.
Hunting weapons and pistols for self-defense don’t need or use them.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
I value small publications
with strong opinions or reporting. The small publications that I
turn to live off subscriptions, a few ads, wealthy benefactors,
foundations and/or myriad smaller donations.