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.
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 28, 2012
SATURDAY NOV. 24: The best way to increase public safety is
to get things that imperil it off the street … and then auction them
off to the public so they’ll be back on the streets. That’s the
bulletproof rationale the Kentucky State Police are employing by selling
confiscated firearms to gun dealers.
by German Lopez
Apologizes for posting mock election results early at Cincinnati.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer earlier today posted fake data on its website showing Mitt Romney with a 92,000-vote lead in a supposed early vote count in Ohio. Editors later posted an apology, explaining that the election-results chart was created as a template and was inadvertently posted early. The Enquirer explained the error: “A Cincinnati.com front-page link to a chart with dummy data, created as a
design template for election results, was inadvertently posted early
Tuesday morning. It purported to show early voting totals in
Ohio counties. However, no votes have been counted yet — by law counting
doesn't start until the polls close. Cincinnati.com regrets the error.” The correction came a bit
too late, however. Conservative-leaning Drudge Report had already
tweeted the false results before the apology was published, and journalism blogger Jim Romenesko called The Enquirer out on it. Providing voting results before polls close is typically frowned upon in media circles to avoid discouraging voters with potentially disappointing numbers.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 17, 2012
If this presidential campaign hasn’t been sufficiently enervating, here’s more dispiriting news. Gallup reports that “Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high
this year, with 60 percent saying they have little or no trust in the
mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly.”
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
• Look at the rare collection of Enquirer photos at the National Underground Freedom Center. They’ve been reprinted and for many, reprinted copies of original pages are nearby. The show is part of the much larger Fotofocus at many venues. Unfortunately, the Enquirer chose the Freedom Center which charges $12 admission; many Fotofocus displays are in admission-free venues such as the YWCA or UC’s Gallery on Sycamore. I think the oldest photo is from 1948, a one-legged veteran leading a parade to commemorate the end of WWI 30 years earlier. Many are by photographers with whom I worked and whose images I displayed large on local pages during weekends when I edited. Some are recent, by photographers I admire but know only from their images in the paper. To its credit, the Enquirer exhibit includes unpublished photos of which the photographers are justly proud. First among them is Gary Landers’ image of a homicide victim illuminated by an officer’s flashlight behind Landers’ home. Missing are two images that remind me of what photojournalism is about. One is Gerry Wolters’ stunning — and in its time, controversial Pulitzer contender — of a dead African-American lying in a pool of his blood on the Avondale street where he’d been shot by a bailbondsman. Standing over him is the dead man’s young son. Some readers said our photo would ruin the child’s life. No, I told callers, if anything would it was his father’s killing. The other missing photo was one that wasn’t published by the paper: Glenn Hartong’s firefighter carrying a toddler from a burning house. I’m told that editors flinched because they didn’t know if the child survived. So what? That faux humanity illustrates Enquirer execs’ fear of readers tossing their cookies into the Cheerios. Such touchy-feely screening sanitizes what can be a nasty, brutish and short life and lifestyle in our region. Life Magazine published Hartong’s photo across two pages and someone posted it in the Enquirer newsroom coffee alley. It doesn’t get better than that. In the Good Old Days, before self-inflicted sensitivity, the Enquirer had a unapologetic double standard for violent images. If the victim were local, the photo might be spiked to avoid upsetting readers. An example was the half-excavated body of a recognizable young construction worker suffocated in a trench cave-in. Distant victims — executions, genocide or bodies in floods/earthquakes — were likelier to be displayed. And even before the Good Old Days, Ed Reinke’s iconic photo of a line of shrouded bodies from the 1977 Beverly Hills supper club fire gave a sense of magnitude to the disaster that our best reporting couldn’t. It’s the first photo in the exhibit, preceded by a warning that some images could be troubling. They should be. I don’t know if Reinke’s photo would be used today. • Ohio’s Sherrod Brown is among the Democratic senators targeted by out-of-state billionaire GOP donors. He’s an unapologetic liberal and the Progressive monthly made Brown’s re-election battle its latest cover story. A point I’d missed elsewhere is the unusual state FOP endorsement for a Democrat but Brown stood with officers against Republican legislation stripping them of most of their bargaining rights. The Progressive story includes a Mason-area jeweler whose health insurer refused to pay for an advanced cancer treatment. Husband and wife say Reps. Jean Schmidt and John Boehner brushed off their pleas to intervene with the insurer. A Brown staffer — who said she didn’t care what party the Republican couple belongs to — spent the weekend successfully persuading the insurer to cover the potentially life-saving $100,000 procedure. More recently, reporters on Diane Rehm’s public radio show estimated SuperPACs are spending $20 million to defeat Brown and suggested it might not suffice. As a DailyBeast.com columnist notes, polls show Republican Josh Mandel probably won’t even carry his home Jewish community in Cleveland.• That same Progressive names 26 billionaires and their known donations to Republican and other rightwing causes in this election year. No Cincinnati-area men or women made the list but it’s reasonable to infer that some of the men listed donated secretly to Super PACs opposing Ohio’s Sherrod Brown’s re-election (see above). • As one of that dying breed — an Enquirer subscriber who prefers print — my morning paper is missing a lot. Customer service provided a free online copy and promised to deliver the missing paper paper the next day. Next day? Another customer service rep said only replacement Sunday Enquirers are delivered the same day. Message? Don’t stiff advertisers. • The ad on the top half of the back page of the Oct. 11 Enquirer Local section invited everyone to a Romney-Ryan “victory event” on Oct. 13 at Lebanon’s Golden Lamb. The bold, black ad headline on the bottom half of the page was “The #1 dishwasher is also a best value.” • Want to know more about Sarah Jones, the former Ben-Gal and school teacher who admitted to sex with a 17-year-old student? Among others, London’s Daily Mail has enough to satisfy anyone who doesn’t need to see a sex tape. • Don’t piss off Turks. That’s a lesson lots of people have learned to their pain over the generations. No one will be surprised if Turkish forces invade Syria to end Syrian shelling of Turkish civilians. Turkish troops have gone into Iraq to deal with threatening rebellious Turkish Kurds seeking sanctuary there. Turkey is a NATO member and NATO says it will defend Turkey if required. A couple English-language websites can complement the snippets about this aspect of Syria’s civil war: aljazeera.com from the Gulf and hurriyetdailynews.com from Turkey. • The New York Times stepped back from the slippery slope of allowing subjects of news stories to say what news is fit to print. It allowed some sources to review and possibly change their quotes before reporters used them. In July, Times reporter Jeremy Peters blew the whistle on the Times and other major news media. The alternative to quote approval often was the threat of no interview. Initially, the Times defended the practice. No longer. Jimromenesko.com reported the change. Times executive editor Jill Abramson told Romenesko that quote approval “puts so much control over the content of journalism in the wrong place . . . We need a tighter policy.”Romenesko quoted a recent Times memorandum that said “demands for after-the-fact quote approval by sources and their press aides have gone too far . . . The practice risks giving readers a mistaken impression that we are ceding too much control over a story to our sources. In its most extreme form, it invites meddling by press aides and others that goes far beyond the traditional negotiations between reporter and source over the terms of an interview . . . So starting now, we want to draw a clear line on this. Citing Times policy, reporters should say no if a source demands, as a condition of an interview, that quotes be submitted afterward to the source or a press aide to review, approve or edit.”Good. Here’s my question: What happens when a beat reporter can’t get an important interview after citing Times policy? Access is everything. Few people who want media attention will turn away the Times, but editors can get weird when reporters can’t get a desired interview. • Daily papers own and are members of the Associated Press. In their rush to be first, AP reporters used social media to get out the news and scooped member papers whose editors hadn’t seen the stories yet. That went over badly in today’s breathlessly competitive world. AP promises it won’t use social media until after breaking news is sent to members and non-member subscribers. • It’s time for the news media to abandon “reverse discrimination” when the purported victim is white and English-speaking. It’s an issue again because the U.S. Supreme Court is reconsidering university racial admission criteria. A young woman claims the University of Texas rejected her because she is white. Discrimination is discrimination; someone is favored and someone is rejected. I won’t anticipate the court’s decision but the ethical issue is whether the community’s or the individual’s compelling interests are paramount when discrimination becomes policy and practice. Moreover, demographic trends could make “reverse discrimination” obvious nonsense if Anglos become a minority among newly-hyphenated and darker-skinned Americans and immigrants from Latin America, Africa and Asia. • We’ve seen three debates, two presidential, one veepish. The third was Tuesday or last night if you’re reading this on Wednesday. I missed it; I was fishing in Canada. Other journalists will tell you what you heard really means. I’ll catch up when I get home. At least the Biden-Ryan contest was lively and the moderator asked smart, sharp questions and kept the politicians under control. • The vice president and challenger had disturbingly weird expressions when they listened. Biden’s smile recalled a colleague’s remark after waterskiing with me: “I saw Ben smile and he wasn’t baring his teeth.” Worse, Biden’s expression could appear to be a smirk. Ryan’s intensity reminded me of a predator wondering about its next meal. Neither appearance had anything to do with the substance of the debate but it’s how we tend to judge people we don’t know. My question: Is this really how we choose the man one heartbeat away from leadership of The Free World (whatever the hell that means)?• Viewers — and these performances are TV events — worry me. Too many tell reporters and pollsters that their votes can be influenced by how the candidates came across in the debates. The president and vice president do not belong to debating societies. This isn’t Britain’s House of Commons. The ability to “win” a televised encounter has little or nothing to do with the job for which the men are contesting. Winners won’t debate until and unless they seek office again. • News media would be in doldrums if there weren’t stories to write before and after each debate. They burn space and time when little else is happening - if you discount the economy, pestilence, war, famine, etc. • Stories I didn’t read beyond the headlines. One’s from HuffingtonPost.com: "Lindsay Lohan Reveals Her Pick For President"The other is from the Thedailybeast.com:"LINDSAY LOHAN PICKS MITT! & OTHER TOXIC ENDORSEMENTS"
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 17, 2012
THURSDAY OCT. 11: The Reds today became the first team in National League history to blow a
2-0 lead in a five-game Division Series. This latest painful postseason
exit for a Cincinnati sports team caused more chafing than others
because of how well the Reds played during the regular season, and for
the first time in like 20 years local sports fans thought their team had
a legitimate shot at winning a title.
by Ben L. Kaufman
Media musings on Cincinnati and beyond
Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn’s recent note to
readers assures us that the continually shrinking page will elicit
readers’ joyous cries of “new and improved!”
Don’t hold your breath.
The 10-1/2 x 14-2/3 page — about the size of the Business
Courier — will be printed in Columbus on the Dispatch’s new press. The
tabloid should given designers greater freedom to fill the news hole
with large photos, graphics and headlines. The local section is so small
now that I’m almost inured to diminishing returns on my rising
Page size isn’t the issue; what’s on them is what matters.
I’ve worked on tabloid-format dailies in three countries. Today, few
papers are sold on the street and huge headlines to grab passersby are
wasted space. “Headless Body in Topless Bar” and “Ford to City: Drop
Dead” were perfect in New York but not here. We need smart, patient
reporting. That requires space in the paper. Whether we get it has
nothing to do with page size.
• Publisher Margaret Buchanan’s
subsequent page 1 note to readers last Sunday was hardly reassuring. It
repeats much of editor Carolyn Washburn’s memo (above) and reinforces my
fears: “The pages will be organized with fewer jumps so you
don’t have to turn pages to continue reading the same story. Headlines
will be bolder. The print edition will be more colorful with larger
photos and graphics to help tell the stories. Most importantly, we’ll
continue to provide unique in-depth news stories ..."
Buchanan comes from the advertising/business side of
Gannett journalism, so maybe she isn’t troubled by the contradiction in
her assurances: short stories burdened by big headlines, photos and
graphics on tabloid pages can’t be “in-depth” unless they jump from page
to page. And she’s promising “fewer jumps.” Is the next innovation with
purpose a shift from “readers” to “viewers”?
• Does the Enquirer have a policy about naming juveniles
accused of crimes or is it an adhocracy among editors? When Avondale
kids wanted for shoplifting fled in a car, they were named in the first
story. When a suburban high school student was accused of a central role
in a major drug ring, the first story didn’t name him and said that
discretion was Enquirer policy. “Avondale” long has been code for black
at the paper. “Suburban” or identifying with a suburban high school
means white even if that is no longer a reasonable assumption in many
• Last Sunday, WVXU carried a fine conversation between
Enquirer sports reporter and author John Erardi and WVXU politics
reporter (and lifelong Reds fan) Howard Wilkinson. They talked about
Barry Larkin and why he was being inducted into the Baseball Hall of
Fame. They know their stuff, they obviously enjoy each other’s company,
not least because Wilkinson also spent decades at the Enquirer writing
about politics and on rare occasion, Reds baseball.
I enjoyed their insights and storytelling even though I’m
not a baseball fan. I think I’ve been to three, maybe four Reds games
in as many decades. Blame my parents. The Twins didn’t exist when I was a
kid; it was Minneapolis Millers v. St. Paul Saints at Nicollet Park in
Minneapolis and I don’t remember seeing them. We didn’t have modern
Vikings either and the Lakers left town. No way to nurture a fan.
• I wish I wasn’t eating when I read Dan Horn’s recent
encyclopedia update on water quality in the Ohio River. His Enquirer
report was well done. The photos were marvelous. My upset was personal:
When we moved to Cincinnati in 1967, we moored our boat at
Elmer & Jenny’s Yacht Club downriver in Bromley, Ky. Wonderful
people, but “yacht club”? I don’t think so.
in the river, aware of its water quality but
in denial; it’s hard to give up the one sport I enjoyed from childhood
... in Minnesota. I only swam in the Ohio to put on or retrieve skies
or to drop the rope and wait for my wife to pick me up. I didn’t
I don’t remember infections or gastro-intestinal problems
from Ohio River water. After all, I had skied for years in the St.
Croix between Minnesota and Wisconsin, in the industrial Upper
Mississippi at the Twin Cities and downriver to the the two rivers
merged. God knows what was in those pre-EPA waters then but maybe I
brought immunities to the Ohio.
After three years, we left Elmer & Jenny’s Yacht Club
for Rocky Fork Lake near Hillsboro in Highland County. We sought fresher
breezes and a ski zone free of barge tows and increasingly wild,
mindless boaters in the Ohio’s Cincinnati basin. Cleaner water was a
bonus. I still didn’t swallow.
Recalling the Ohio River in the 1960s — aided by Horn’s
detailed story — was the best appetite suppressant I’ve experienced in
• If you’re going to do gotcha journalism, do your
homework. A conservative blogger challenged Cleveland columnist Connie
Schultz, sure she was a liberal who gets too close to leftwing
politicians she covers. “We have found numerous photos of you with Sen.
Sherrod Brown. In one of them, you appear to be hugging him. Care to
Here’s part of Shultz’s response, courtesy of jimromenesko.com:
“He’s really cute. He’s also my husband. You know that, right?” Shultz
told her former employer, the Plain Dealer where she won a Pulitzer
Prize, that she hadn’t named the blogger because she wants him to “pick
better company and do better journalism.”
Romensko said Schultz told him in a telephone interview, “I don’t want to be a bully. I can say he was working for one of the
larger conservative blogs, but that his name is not in the staff
directory. Maybe he’s an intern, maybe an editor was playing a joke on
him or maybe he was trying to get a reaction out of me. But I just want
him to stop hanging around with those people and learn something out of
(see above) also reports that elsewhere in northern Ohio, the Sandusky
Register posted a voice mail message left by Erie County Tom Paul for
reporter Andy Ouriel. Paul said there was a mistake in the previous
day’s edition. Here is part of the relentlessly F-bombing message: “You
don’t know your ass from a fucking hole in the ground. And you know
what? — sorry about that but you make me mad. Give me a call back, 419-357-2985, ya shithead.”
• Louisville’s Courier-Journal chose discretion over valor
by not naming two juveniles convicted of sexually assaulting
17-year-old Kentuckian Savannah Dietrich. Lots of people, however,
already knew despite the judge’s gag order. She tweeted their names to
protest over what she fears will be judicial slaps on their wrists.
Dietrich told the Courier-Journal they assaulted her when she passed out
after drinking at a party. The youths also shared digital images of the
assault with others. After negotiations with prosecutors, the pair pled
guilty to first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor voyeurism.
Dietrich faces up to180 days in jail and a $500 fine if the judge
convicts her of contempt.
• If you’ve followed news stories about the run-up to the
London summer Olympics, you must know that security for the events and
sites is a shambles, even by British standards of bumbling through. The
firm that was paid to provide security failed in every way. The
government minister responsible for domestic security failed to respond
promptly or adequately. The badly stretched Army — already being
dramatically reduced in strength and losing historic regiments — is
filling roles designed for civilian rent-a-cops and ushers. One cartoon
expressed its contempt for the organizers with soldiers being told
they’ll be able to return to Afghanistan after the Olympics. Be grateful
that Cincinnati’s bid for this colossal money pit was rejected.
• Here’s a question I haven’t seen asked by the national
press: Do we want a president as detached as Romney says he was from his
responsibilities as owner and CEO of Bain? He says he didn’t know if
his subordinates were shipping jobs overseas. The screwed up Salt Lake
City Olympics — which he did help save — were more important. I believe
him. But how does that salvage his claim to being a keen businessman
who can sort out our country’s economy?
• Get over it. With more than 300 million citizens and
immigrants and almost as many firearms, Americans have nut jobs and a
few will be violent. So I wouldn’t be unhappy if our mainstream news
media suffered massacre fatigue. Maybe the latest Colorado shootings
will speed that process. Similar fatigue already is evident in
diminished foreign/war news.
It isn’t a question of whether to focus on the victims or
the shooter or a search for “reasons.” You don’t ask mass killers for
reasons. Given the utter inadequacy of mental health services and our
easy access to firearms, our rational response is to accept the risk
that someone else will die in irrational mass shootings. That’s a price
the NRA and its pusillanimous legislative allies find acceptable if the
alternative is more effective firearm regulation.
A different rational response might be a news media
campaign for a costly, annual federal tax stamp for every high-capacity
magazine for every firearm to which they can be fitted. This wouldn’t
disarm hunters in any way. Semi-automatic hunting rifles and shotguns
don’t have or require 20 or 30 cartridges to put venison or duck on the
The tax would include the stick-like magazines for
semi-automatic pistols and submachineguns and the familiar curved
magazines for civilian versions of the AK47 and its kin. Drum magazines -
like that found at the Aurora theater - can hold scores of rounds and
be fitted to some military and military-style weapons as well as the
Thompson submachinegun and its descendants. Drums would be covered,
This tax wouldn’t take away anyone’s firearm or
testosterone-enhancing firepower. It doesn’t limit the number of rounds
shooters can load into their weapons the way the extinct Clinton-era
10-shot limit did. The sole function of high-capacity magazines is to
make it easier to kill lots of people. That’s why real military weapons
like the AK47, the M16 or even the World War II Browning Automatic Rifle — the famous BAR — had high-capacity clips.
The tax would not be a Second Amendment issue ... or
shouldn’t be. It copies the longstanding $200 federal tax required for
fully automatic weapons owned by civilians. Americans buy those firearms
and pay the tax.
• Americans own more handguns, shotguns and rifles every
year and reported violent crime has sharply declined. Coincidence?
Absolutely. Second Amendment? When’s the last time you heard about
someone with a licensed concealed firearm and an extra-high-capacity
magazine stopping a crazed gunman? Believe me, the news media would be
full of such a story or NRA complaints about liberal suppression of a
I’m talking about a news media campaign to make it harder
to kill lots of people in a few seconds or minutes. However, that
throws us into the confused world of acceptable risks. There isn’t a
chance in Columbine of doing more than taxing high-capacity magazines
when Americans also accept as normal the thousands of daily deaths from
drug, tobacco and alcohol abuse, obesity, medical errors, etc.
• There’s still another related, rational response for the
news media to the Batman killings: Give less prominence to nut cases
worrying whether the Muslim Brotherhood has a sleeper agent at
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s right elbow, or that less than a
20- or 30-round magazine will allow Mongolian mercenaries in UN blue
helmets and black helicopters to enslave us to a world government. On
the other hand, while the GOP and its crazier allies promote distrust,
fear and hatred of government, don’t expect such courage from the news
media. That could risk being seen as partisan.
CONTACT BEN KAUFMAN: firstname.lastname@example.org
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 25, 2012
The Good and Great of New Orleans have risen up to demand better from Times-Picayune owners and executives. Their
ad hoc citizens group is spitting into the wind. Trying to shame a
newspaper owner is futile. It’s an alien emotion. Economics might humble
owners and executives, but that pain can be passed on to employees.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 27, 2012
I am a pessimist by nature and experience. My inclination still is to trouble-shoot rather than to jump on passing bandwagons. So it is with deep reservations that I admit that maybe, just maybe, Gannett’s years of bloodletting might have left The Enquirer
strong enough to provide Cincinnati with printed papers seven days a
week as others print fewer daily editions to cut costs and seek elusive
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Political columnist Howard Wilkinson and longtime photographer Michael Keating are among the 26 employees who are leaving The Enquirer as part of a buyout deal. Last week was the deadline for editors at
the newspaper to decide whether to accept voluntary “early retirement”
buyouts from employees.