If you were to be subjected to torture, what would be the last straw before you broke?
How about the Meow Mix commercial jingle? According to writer Justine Sharrock in Mother Jones magazine, that -- along with songs like the Barney theme song, some Bee Gees, and Neil Diamond -- are some of the most popular songs to torture by.
More here (language warning!)
(h/t: Brandt Williams)(2 Comments)
The head of National Public Radio is taking a hike after a series of running battles with its Board of Directors. Juicy details -- at least for Public Radio junkies -- are in several locations.
Ken Stern's primary crime, according to the Washington Post, is the expansion of NPR's new media initiatives, which "riled station managers." Allow me to translate: "We're radio. What do we get out of this?" Do they have a point? There was a time when npr.org's purpose was to be an archive site for its radio offerings, which wouldn't be put on the site until the last broadcast had cleared the Pacific Time Zone. Most local stations don't get anything significant from npr.org. Compounding the problem may be a measure of "independence" NPR got by virtue of inheriting a fortune from former St. Paulite Joan Kroc.
Now, the organization has a fully functioning real-time site, and that helps local radio stations, how?
Rafat Ali at PaidContent.org says the tension between NPR and its affiliates was also evident a week or so ago at the Integrated Media Association conference, a gathering of mostly Web people from Public Radio stations.
The other issue which I learned about was the tension in the relationships between the top organizations like NPR and PBS, and the local affiliates, very much on the lines of what’s happening in the network TV industry (only in the former case, “revenues” get replaced by “funding"). These tensions are of course related to digital media, and who will lead the efforts, and how should they be presented. From what I heard, organizations like NPR and PBS are arguing that there should be a centralized aggregation effort, a bit like a destination site...while the affiliates resist these moves and want to make their own local sites as the destination sites.
That's the problem Stern had, even as he doubled NPR's audience. It's also the problem his successor will face. Dennis L. Haarsager, NPR's chairman, is that successor and he suggested to the New York Times that the squabble may not be over. He said he supported Stern's emphasis on digital conversion, but “I don’t think everybody in the system would agree with him on that.” Haarsager's memo to NPR staff is here. Haarsager says Stern's leaving wasn't over the digital issue, though, calling it "multidimensional," without explaining what that means.
Haarsager, who's a tech blogger and a native of Minnesota and South Dakota, has got quite a problem on his hands. Like newspapers, the radio industry is often torn between those who believe what's worked in the past is what will work in the future, and those who believe there's a media landscape that has to be acknowledged.
(Photo: Wikimedia)(4 Comments)
As an old boss once said -- sarcastically, of course -- sometimes the facts can ruin a good story.
Remember the story of the woman who was caught up in a road rage incident and was thrown by a driver into the middle of the road?
Never mind. Apparently it didn't really happen.(2 Comments)
Posted at 12:39 PM on March 7, 2008
by Bob Collins
The spotlight is certainly on Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson today. MPR's Tim Pugmire has the story of problems in the AG's office, ostensibly over efforts to unionize. But, says staff attorney Amy Lawler, it's deeper than that.
There are a lot of things that are really wrong with the office right now that are a real disservice to the public," Lawler said. "And as a result, we're losing the best talent, the brightest minds. People don't feel like there's anything they can do to improve the office, so they just leave, or get fired. "
But it was this quote from Lawler in Tim's story that is the eye rubber. Lawler describes the head of the office's "social committee" taking her out for coffee, to deliver an anti-union message:
"He started talking to me about why we didn't need a union," Lawler said, "how people only need unions if they are lazy and don't want to do work, and if they're not very good at their jobs and they need protection."
Pardon me while I check again what the "L" stands for in DFL.
Swanson refused interview requests from MPR, an unfortunate -- and certainly ill-advised -- stance for a public official to take when there are such serious allegations coming from inside her office. Her last appearance on MPR's Midmorning was in August, when she said the union issue is "not an issue for the boss or the employer to interfere with, and I have not done that."
The near mutiny is reminiscent, of course, of one that occurred within the office of then U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose. But the media's pursuit of Swanson, writes Mark Cohen, blogger and editor at Minnesota Lawyer, has been nowhere near as intense as that of Paulose.
Paulose was essentially driven from office by a barrage of negative media because people didn't like her management style. Meanwhile, the Strib as near as I can figure hasn't reported since May 2007 on the tribulations at the office of a DFL AG, despite allegations of harsh management practices and union-busting. It's hard not to view that as a double standard.
Last month, Minnesota Lawyer carried details of a survey of the staff in Swanson's office, and found that 52 of the 82 staffers did not agree with the three assistant attorneys general -- including Lawler -- who penned their dissatisfaction in a letter to her.
But that caused its own level of controversy, as shown by several anonymous comments on Cohen's blog, purporting to be from current attorneys in Swanson's office.
MPR's Gary Eichten asked the leaders of the Legislature today about the controversy during his Midday broadcast today. "I don't know what all the options are in this situation," said House Speaker Margaret Kelliher, who said she heard the story on the radio this morning. For the record, though, this has not been a secret up until today. "The governor doesn't like it when we get into his direct business."
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller also acknowledged hearing the story on the radio. "She is a separate elected official in the executive branch and I think the Legislature probably will be a little hesitant getting into the business of those executive agencies on a matter like this," he said.
Given Swanson's refusal to answer any questions and the Legislature's apparent disinterest in getting involved, it's certainly unclear who will clean up the mess.
If there's one thing in the current budget deficit that had Minnesota doctors -- and subscribers to the MinnesotaCare plan -- worried, it's that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would raid the state's health care access fund. The fund -- which is money consisting of a tax paid by health care professionals, premiums by subscribers, and federal money earmarked for health care -- was raided by the administration a few years ago to close a gap in the state budget. Thousands of Minnesotans, who paid premiums to MinnesotaCare, lost their health care.
So on January 6, when Pawlenty held a campaign fundraiser and was asked about the fund, the Minnesota Medical Association took notice of the answer, posting it on the organization's Web site.
“We were pleased to hear him commit to not using the surplus to balance the budget,” said Dave Renner, MMA director of state and federal legislation, who attended the fund raiser as a representative of MEDPAC, the MMA’s political arm.
Today, however, Pawlenty said tapping the health care fund is part of his solution to the state's budget deficit.
In December, the MMA President Dr. James J. Dehen sent Pawlenty a letter (see pdf) outlining why this would be a bad idea:
"As you know, physicians in this state have never believed that the “sick tax” was a fair or appropriate way to fund the HCAF. We believe that it is a selective tax that is regressive and falls more heavily on the sicker of our citizens. Yet, in recent years we have not actively worked to repeal this tax as long as it remained dedicated to addressing health care access. Transferring money from the HCAF to pay the General Fund’s shortfall is inappropriate."
Pawlenty says using the health care fund will be used for other health care "for the disadvantaged, and says nobody will be removed from government health programs. But, he conceded, an expansion of MinnesotaCare will be canceled. At the same time, the governor proposed a reduction in the state sales tax.
Pawlenty, who had flipped his position on health care after his narrow victory for re-election in 2006, signaled his a return to his earlier attempts to cut health care in a speech before a Burnsville business group three weeks after allegedly making his January "hands-off the health care access fund" promise.
Dave Renner, the MMA lobbyist, told me this afternoon the fund has become the "health care slush fund." He said he fears "a disproportionate amount of cuts (will) come out of health and human services area. At a time we're trying to reform health care and expand coverage to the uninsured, this may result in cutting those programs."(4 Comments)