In the media world, it's all about the latest technology to get people the information they need, wherever they are. These days, that seems to be about smartphone apps. Before that (and obviously to a great extent now), it's the Internet. Email newsletters -- so-called "push technology" -- was the next hot thing, before it wasn't.
Sometimes we forget that the simplicity of basic -- somewhat outdated -- methods of communication are still pretty important and we came across an anecdote today that bears that out.
On the World Headquarters of NewsCut, there's a message board that flashes the headlines of the day. It reached its most prominent visibility with some iconic photos during the 2008 Republican National Convention.
But it was there doing its work for years when few paid attention, too.
Recently, it stopped working and was shut down pending installation of a replacement or at least a fix. We newspeople didn't think much about it, what with our radio, and our Internet, and our smartphone apps and the occasional email newsletter to focus on.
But today, a homeless man walked into the building. He was in reporter Julie Siple's recent story about the Dorothy Day Center and its need to come up with a new approach to serving people. He wanted to hear how the story came out.
But he also had a complaint: His source of news had disappeared.
"He has coffee twice a day at Mickey's," Adam Caillier, the man who is the face of MPR in our lobby said. "Every morning, he'd stop to read about what happened overnight, on his way to the diner. When he was having his evening coffee, he'd step out to smoke and read what had happened during the day. However limited, it seemed like his primary source for general news."
And, apparently, this is true for other people in downtown Saint Paul -- some homeless people in need of information, some not.
The thing always seemed like a better building decoration than an informational tool.
We learned today that's not the case. We hope it comes back soon, too.
(h/t: Jennifer Vogel)(4 Comments)
I'd love to be able to say "I hate to say 'I told you so,'" but I actually like to say "I told you so."
Told you so.
The media "schedule" for treating heroes is entirely predictable. First: Create them. Second: Destroy them.
Step one was pretty easy where Charles Ramsey was concerned. He did all the work, rescuing the girls from the Cleveland home where they'd been held since being kidnapped.
It wasn't hard to see what was coming next.
The guy is a hero & deserves attn. Too bad it's only a matter of hours before media turns on him.usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/...— Bob Collins (@MyLittleBloggie) May 7, 2013
Why don't more people get involved like Charles Ramsey did? That's why.(3 Comments)
We learned today that someone invited NPR's Neda Ulaby to their wedding, just because they liked her name. Apparently, they even had a license plate -- "OOLABEE."
These things shouldn't surprise anyone in public radio, who are fairly constantly asked about the names of people most of us public radio types aren't any more friendly with than you are. Which reminds me: Ask NPR for a signed picture of Lakshmi Singh for that NewsCut reader in Fargo who asked for it a couple of years ago.
But The Atlantic today takes on the public radio fascination with the names of people at NPR.
Some names are just family names. You can blame Michele Norris's father for the heavy stress on her first name's first syllable; she honors him by insisting everyone pronounce the name the same way he did (MEE-shell). Cokie Roberts's full name is actually Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Roberts. Cokie was just easier for her brother to pronounce.
Korva Coleman's name is actually a twist on an elderly relative's name, Cora. But "in some Slavic languages and possibly Hebrew," Ms. Coleman explained in an email, "my name apparently means 'slut.' Once, I was on the table during my first pregnancy being examined by a new OB/GYN. At the damnedest moment you can think of, he raised his head and remarked, 'I don't know if you know this Ms. Coleman, but your first name . . .' 'I KNOW what it means!' I shouted, scaring the poor guy half to death."
We can't see NPR reporters, so we have to picture them. And because they are with us in our most private moments -- alone in the car, half-asleep in bed -- we start to think we know them. Jonathan Coulton wrote a song called "Dance Soterios, Dance" about WNYC's Soterios Johnson. "NPR is my alarm, so I'm pretty familiar with old SJ," Coulton has explained. "I got to thinking: this guy's so smooth, so polished, he's got to have some kind of a crazy secret life in which he goes to raves and lets it all hang out." Renee Montagne -- with perhaps the most queenly of all NPR names -- has said people always expect her to be taller and blonder.
For the record, then, here you go:7 Comments)
There was a somewhat interesting difference in the coverage of Byron David Smith yesterday, the man who allegedly shot and killed two teenagers who broke into his home last Thanksgiving.
Every picture tells a story. Apparently his attorneys are well aware of that.
This is the picture that mostly accompanied previous stories about Smith, who was indicted on first-degree murder charges this week.
It's the mugshot from the Morrison County sheriff's office. It's not flattering, as mugshots seldom are.
But something changed this week. This is the photo that accompanied many stories.
The picture was distributed by Meshbesher & Associates, Smith's attorneys.
The two pictures presented a dilemma for news organizations.
MPR and the Star Tribune went with the new one. The Associated Press went with the old one. The Pioneer Press went with the old one, in addition to images of the deceased.
You are editor: Which picture do you use?(15 Comments)
There's a curious backlash against AJ Clemente today and not because he said you-know-what and then you-know-what on the air at a Bismarck, North Dakota TV station over the weekend, shortly before getting fired.
"It's not news," is the conclusion of several local media personalities on Twitter today, after Clemente appeared on the Today Show today, and it was announced he'd be on Letterman tonight.
Granted, it's not the Syrian civil war, but Clemente's story is of legitimate interest because it so rarely happens ... and certainly not as often as it happens off the air in most newsrooms.
But what makes the story's aftermath interesting is that it's a person dealing with the worst possible moment of his life, at least until the next one comes along. A lot of us haven't sworn on the air -- and a lot of us have -- but we've all got an embarrassing moment that's going to make our face turn red until the day we die.
Clemente is going to get his 15 minutes and then we'll move on. It's hardly the first time that's happened.
On the other hand, it's how we deal with these adversities that make them compelling stories, if only for a few minutes. Give Clemente credit for being a stand-up guy about it, taking responsibility for his mistake, acknowledging the position he put his former employer in, and accepting the consequences.
These days, when someone does that, it's news.(4 Comments)
The Boston Marathon bombing story has reached the repair-the-media-image stage.
Jack Shafer, who covers media for Reuters, seems to suggest that those major mess-ups might just be your fault, news-consuming public. You put too much pressure on, expecting perfection.
Near-perfect news could be printed and broadcast if reports were vetted and peer-reviewed for weeks or months before publication. But readers desire timely "journalism in lieu of dissertation," to pinch Edgar Allan Poe's succinct phrase, and willingly accept a certain level of error as long as the news organizations readily acknowledge their mistakes. Most of us accept minuscule failure rates when buying a new car or refrigerator, knowing that some will fail us in surprising and unpredictable ways. Likewise, we make a similar bargain at the dinner table, accepting low levels of mercury and arsenic in the food we eat and the water we drink, as long we're kept informed and the low levels do not cause illness.
Just. Stop. The fact that some news organizations -- WBUR in Boston strikes me as one -- got so much, so right, so fast, so unhysterically -- betrays the assertion that somehow the CNNs were victims of a system that's designed against them. Nobody is looking for perfection. They're just not looking for this:(2 Comments)
Reddit, the social networking site, has apologized -- privately -- to the family of a missing Brown University student for the role its site took in connecting him to last Monday's Boston Marathon attack.
The family of Sunil Tripathi had to suspend their "Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi" Facebook page after it was filled with hate messages from people after Reddit users claimed they'd heard Tripathi's name on Boston police radio frequencies in connection to the bombing investigation.
Tripathi disappeared from his home in Providence, RI, in March, and hasn't been heard from since.
Today, a blog post from Reddit apologized for the pain it caused.
However, though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened. We have apologized privately to the family of missing college student Sunil Triphathi, as have various users and moderators. We want to take this opportunity to apologize publicly for the pain they have had to endure. We hope that this painful event will be channeled into something positive and the increased awareness will lead to Sunil's quick and safe return home. We encourage everyone to join and show your support to the Triphathi family and their search.
A few years ago, reddit enacted a policy to not allow personal information on the site. This was because "let's find out who this is" events frequently result in witch hunts, often incorrectly identifying innocent suspects and disrupting or ruining their lives. We hoped that the crowdsourced search for new information would not spark exactly this type of witch hunt. We were wrong. The search for the bombers bore less resemblance to the types of vindictive internet witch hunts our no-personal-information rule was originally written for, but the outcome was no different.
Meanwhile, people around the country are showing love to the Triphathi family through a series of photos under the theme of "lend a hand" to help find him.
Today's flurry of journalists debating each other over whether an arrest has been made in the Boston bombing is certainly interesting, given that it's being waged on Twitter.
On the "there's been an arrest" side is CNN, and the normally very conservative (in journalism protocol) Associated Press:
MORE: Suspect taken into custody in marathon bombing, expected in federal court:apne.ws/13jjJem -BW— The Associated Press (@AP) April 17, 2013
On the other wise is NBC and CBS:
LATEST: "All we can say for certain, is that all of our sources say no arrest" - NBC's Pete Williams on Boston investigation— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 17, 2013
Who to believe?
CBS' point person on this story is John Miller, whom the network describes as "a former director of the FBI." Well, sort of. He was the former director of public affairs, so he's more journalist than cop. He's gotten a lot of credit for good sources, especially in the Newtown shootings. But he also did his part to spread the "Saudi national" story that has since been thoroughly discredited. So his sources aren't that good.
You can usually count on the Associated Press to get it right.
Nonetheless, the Boston Globe, which also reported an arrest, is backing off:
US Attorney's office: There is no marathon bombing suspect in custody and no arrest— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) April 17, 2013
There'll be a news conference in Boston in a few hours. It won't be hard to determine who got this one right. (Update: See who got it right. Contains obscenity.)
Meanwhile, at Esquire, Charles Pierce is immersed in the idea of the surveillance.
This presents an interesting conundrum to those of us who have spent a lot of time thinking about the nature of privacy in a modern surveillance state, and the ways that espionage technology has come home and is running so far ahead that the law and the instincts of democracy never may catch up. The fact is that, in most cities, almost everything you do in public is subject to surveillance and, very likely, recorded somewhere. This should give anybody who values their privacy, and their liberty, to use an overused and often abused word, a severe case of the whim-whams. But now, the surveillance culture appears to be the technological hero in this story. Some day, this will be a very interesting debate to have.
It's actually one that people are having now. On Reddit, for example, people have been analyzing all of the imagery in an attempt to see if they could spot the bomber. (h/t: Jess Mador).
Like this, for example:
But Alexis Madrigal, an editor at The Atlantic, calls the hunt "misguided."
This is not how civil society works. There is a reason that police have procedures around investigations and evidence. Due process is important. It exists to systematize justice, and in doing so prevent the sort of excesses common when people take justice into their own hands. And if anything, we don't have *enough* due process in this country.
All of these statements are obvious. And it is possible to see what some set of Reddit users are doing as insubstantial or silly. At best, they help the investigation. At worst, it's a distraction. But we need to take both the rhetoric and actions of this group seriously. It doesn't matter that it's happening in a forum, and not around a burning cross.
One can make a defense of vigilantism in certain circumstances: say, "in the absence of foundations regulating social order." But this is not one of those cases. The FBI and other law enforcement officials are clearly looking for the bomber, and with access to far more information and technical resources.
We'll wait and see what the cops and experts find. Fair warning: You won't read about it here first.
The Washington Post is reporting that a Saudi national is not a suspect in yesterday's bombing in Boston. He is regarded "as a witness, not a suspect," the newspaper says.
To their credit, a lot of news organizations didn't bite on this New York Post headline yesterday, and with good reason.
But CBS News, while couching the story, gave it credence in its broadcast last night, by noting that he was tackled by a bystander because he was "acting suspicious." No one seems to have provided any detail about what qualified as "suspicious," other than "he was hanging around" and "then he was running after the blast," which also describes just about everyone else who was in Copley Square yesterday afternoon.
And this morning, FoxNews did what FoxNews does best, shamefully so, even by FoxNews standards:
Earlier today, Fox 25 in Boston claimed that a flight from Boston to Chicago returned to the gate after departing marathoners expressed concern that two men "not sitting together" were speaking Arabic.
One of the reasons public broadcasting gets public support is that they're not allowed to say certain things in their "underwriting announcements." It's illegal, for example, to issue a call to action ("Programming on WXXX is brought to you by Joe's. Eat at Joe's").
Underwriting announcements also can't contain certain facts, like the interest rate a bank is giving on CDs.
With more threats to cut public funding, in this case from the state, two Arizona stations are petitioning the FCC to allow them to experiment with loosened rules, the public broadcasting newspaper, Current, reports today.
"As federal support has declined (and ultimately may be eliminated), it has become necessary to consider how NCE stations should be permitted to compensate for the loss of federal support," the station's attorney wrote in his request to the FCC.
It said the experiment would provide an opportunity to gauge listener and underwriter reaction to the expanded announcements in case federal funding is eliminated and stations have to figure out another way to finance operations.(1 Comments)
It's official. Carl Kassell walks on water.
(h/t: Peter Sagal)(0 Comments)
Language matters; nobody argues with that. But some words are automatic e-mail generators when they appear in news stories. The term "illegal immigrants" is one.
Today, MPR ran an Associated Press story -- Bill: Instate tuition for illegal immigrants -- that used the term three times, prompting this e-mail from a reader from Stillwater.
I am quite disappointed at MPR's apparently intentional use of the quite derogatory term "Illegal Immigrant". It's the sort of thing that I would expect from FOX News, sorry to say. Is there just no thought given to word usage at MPR?
Yes, there is thought given to these things. In fact, a few years ago, the newsroom had several meetings with representatives of various organizations to discuss an acceptable term.
Here's the Associated Press Stylebook ruling:
illegal immigrant Used to describe someone who has entered a country illegally or who resides in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Acceptable variations include living in the country without legal permission. Use of these terms, as with any terms implying illegalities, must be based on reliable information about a person's true status. Unless quoting someone, AP does not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or the term undocumented.
And here's the MPR News guide on the subject:
MPR's policy is consistent with AP style: "Illegal immigrant" and "illegal immigration" remain acceptable terms for stories on immigration issues. "Illegals" is not acceptable. "Undocumented" is only acceptable when there is an actual and specific question about a person's documents; it should not be used as a substitute adjective for "illegal." "Alien" is not acceptable except when referencing specific legal language.
One point of clarification, however - while "illegal immigrant" is acceptable, it is not mandatory if there is an equally good alternative for conveying a person's or group's legal immigration status. For instance, it's fine to say "John Doe crossed the border illegally" or "Jane Doe remained in the U.S. illegally after her temporary visa expired." These types of constructions reflect our desire for active writing and they accurately convey immigration status, yet they avoid the "dehumanizing" aspect critics hear in the "illegal immigrant" label.
The term "illegal immigrant," however, became a flashpoint after a Republican talking-points memo suggested using it.
NPR, too, has struggled with the term. Writing on his "It's All Politics" blog, Gene Denby considered alternatives:
Jonathan Rosa, a linguistic anthropologist at the University of Massachusetts, told NPR that both phrases muddle the conversation about immigration reform.
'Undocumented' and 'illegal' seem to be signaling one's stance when it comes to immigration reform than it is about characterizing the situation in a precise way," Rosa said. He said the State Department's definition of immigrant explicitly refers to lawful status, making the term "illegal immigrant" a contradiction. But undocumented immigrant doesn't quite fit either because the term "makes it seem as though there's [just been] an administrative mistake, as if a document wasn't issued."
Rosa said the fight over the terminology isn't trivial, since the ways people use language can have social consequences. "It's not simply a way of describing the world or representing the world; it's a way of taking action in the world," he said.
And in case you were wondering: Rosa says he uses the term "unauthorized migrant" in his academic writing. "A 'migrant" is just someone who is moving across national borders," he said. "It doesn't make any presumptions about the legal status of people."
But officially, the NPR policy, too, is to use "illegal immigrants."
Update 2:19 p.m. This afternoon, the Associated Press announced a change in its policy, according to a blog post by Paul Colford at AP:
Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explains the thinking behind the decision:
The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term "illegal immigrant" or the use of "illegal" to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that "illegal" should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.
Why did we make the change?
The discussions on this topic have been wide-ranging and include many people from many walks of life. (Earlier, they led us to reject descriptions such as "undocumented," despite ardent support from some quarters, because it is not precise. A person may have plenty of documents, just not the ones required for legal residence.)
Those discussions continued even after AP affirmed "illegal immigrant" as the best use, for two reasons.
A number of people felt that "illegal immigrant" was the best choice at the time. They also believed the always-evolving English language might soon yield a different choice and we should stay in the conversation.
Also, we had in other areas been ridding the Stylebook of labels. The new section on mental health issues argues for using credibly sourced diagnoses instead of labels. Saying someone was "diagnosed with schizophrenia" instead of schizophrenic, for example.
And that discussion about labeling people, instead of behavior, led us back to "illegal immigrant" again.
We concluded that to be consistent, we needed to change our guidance.
So we have.
Is this the best way to describe someone in a country without permission? We believe that it is for now. We also believe more evolution is likely down the road.
Will the new guidance make it harder for writers? Perhaps just a bit at first. But while labels may be more facile, they are not accurate.
I suspect now we will hear from some language lovers who will find other labels in the AP Stylebook. We welcome that engagement. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or, if you are an AP Stylebook Online subscriber, through the "Ask the Editor" page.
Change is a part of AP Style because the English language is constantly evolving, enriched by new words, phrases and uses. Our goal always is to use the most precise and accurate words so that the meaning is clear to any reader anywhere.
Mr. Colford says this is the new entry in the Stylebook:
illegal immigration Entering or residing in a country in violation of civil or criminal law. Except in direct quotes essential to the story, use illegal only to refer to an action, not a person: illegal immigration, but not illegal immigrant. Acceptable variations include living in or entering a country illegally or without legal permission.
Except in direct quotations, do not use the terms illegal alien, an illegal, illegals or undocumented.
Do not describe people as violating immigration laws without attribution.
Specify wherever possible how someone entered the country illegally and from where. Crossed the border? Overstayed a visa? What nationality?
People who were brought into the country as children should not be described as having immigrated illegally. For people granted a temporary right to remain in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, use temporary resident status, with details on the program lower in the story.
The New York Times' public editor has now checked in the continuing controversy over the obituary for rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, which stressed both her homemaking skills and her rocket propulsion expertise.
First this from the obituaries editor:
"I'm surprised," he said. "It never occurred to us that this would be read as sexist." He said it was important for obituaries to put people in the context of their time and that this well-written obituary did that effectively. He also observed that the references in the first paragraph to cooking and being a mother served as an effective set-up for the "aha" of the second paragraph, which revealed that Mrs. Brill was an important scientist.
And the writer, Douglas Martin:
"I was totally captivated by her story," he said, and he looked for a way to tell it in as interesting a way as possible. The negative reaction is unwarranted, he said -- a result of people who didn't read the obituary fully but reacted only to what they saw on Twitter about the opening paragraph.
It hasn't changed his mind about how he wrote it: "I wouldn't do anything differently."
And the verdict:
If Yvonne Brill's life was worth writing about because of her achievements, and all agree that it was, then the glories of her beef stroganoff should have been little more than a footnote.
The emphasis on her domesticity -- and, more important, the obituary's overall framing as a story about gender -- had the effect of undervaluing what really landed Mrs. Brill on the Times obituaries page: her groundbreaking scientific work.(10 Comments)
Was there too much coverage on NPR about the pope?
Apparently a lot of people think so. There were enough complaints to the Washington-based network this week that NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos responded to them this afternoon.
Some listeners also asked if NPR would cover the transition of other religious leaders as closely as it has covered the pope. This is a logical question. We all know that neither NPR nor the mainstream media in general has done so in the past. I don't think that they will or should do so in the future.
It's not that other religions are not of equal or greater importance. Among Christians, there are more Protestants than Catholics in the United States. In a 2010 Pew study, Catholics made up half of the 2.2 billion Christians worldwide. There were more Muslims -- 1.6 billion -- and almost as many Hindus -- 1 billion. (Among world religions, Buddhists came in fourth, with 488 million followers.)
None of these religions, however, are united in a single institution with a single head, as is the Catholic denomination. No other denomination or sect in any of the religions, meanwhile, is as large as the Catholic one. This institutional factor alone gives the pope far more global influence than any other single religious leader.9 Comments)
This is -- or was -- a big anniversary in the history of political journalism. It was 100 years ago today that the first presidential news conference was held.
There's a fair chance you'll be able to tell your grandchildren you remember the very last one ever held because the era of press conferences by presidents is drawing to a close, Bill Plante of CBS News seems to suggest.
The suggestion is in the age of Twitter, presidents don't need news conferences anymore to get their message out, an assertion, which -- in itself -- reveals the opposite poles of press and president. A press conference isn't about getting a message out. A press conference is about answering tough questions that people without access to a president can't ask, but to whom answers are owed.
But, for the record, the White House took another step forward in the "straight to the people" strategy of recent times today, unveiling the audio series, "Being Biden."
Episode One: This picture:
The presentation isn't really about the picture at all, as it turns out. It's about the push for gun control.
There were no follow-up questions.(4 Comments)
Colorado's legislature yesterday approved civil unions for same-sex couples and the cover of the Denver Post carried a picture that might've been shocking a few years ago.
But of the 247 comments attached to the online article, only two brought up a gay couple kissing on the front page.
But there must have been more phone calls because the director of newsroom operations at the newspaper this afternoon posted an explanation to readers:
One of the missions as journalists is to take our readers where they can't go, and the speaker's office is definitely one of those places. Ferrandino, who is gay, has been fighting to get this bill passed for at least the last three years, and he spoke eloquently on the subject while the bill was being debated. So it made sense to get his perspective.
Walker captured what photographers and photo editors will describe as a "moment," when a picture shows in a single image the essence of the story. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
From left, Reps. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, and Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, hold hands Tuesday while listening to comments before a vote on a civil unions bill, which passed. The three lawmakers are gay.
"Ferrandino has been a central part of the entire civil unions debate, for years," Lyons said. "His inclusion feels like the ending to this story, and it would have been remiss to not have him as part of the report."
At least online, more people seemed interested in knowing the story behind the baby bottle. It belongs to the couple's foster child.
(h/t: Romenesko)(3 Comments)
It's no secret that public radio audiences tend to be older folk. Not every market has a Current to bring the demographics back toward the middle.
Now, the New York Times reports, NPR chose South By Southwest to unveil a new initiative to make public radio... cool.
Curiously, it took two years for its champion to sell it to the bosses, the newspaper reports.
After about two years of pitching -- "I had to 'sell' it inside NPR," she said -- Ms. Deabler won the financial and logistical backing of the chief executive of the organization, Gary Knell, and his colleagues. Ms. Deabler calls it "a conscious movement to connect NPR with younger audiences and connect these fans to one another."
By "younger," she means listeners under 30, though she is happy to sign up people closer to her own age as well. (She gave her age as "Generation X.") The age of the typical NPR listener falls somewhere between that of the network personalities Peter Sagal, 48, and Carl Kassel, 78; a 2009 study of public radio found that the median age for an NPR News listener was 52, up from 47 in 1999. The median age for a classical radio listener was 65, up from 58. For NPR's Web site, the median age is lower. And for podcasts, it's lower still -- about 36.
If you grew up with a romanticized view of investigative journalism, and with an adolescent fascination with the mythical two-headed creature that Ben Bradlee addressed as "Woodstein," then you'll share my discomfort at watching Bob Woodward self-destruct. Oh, well. It's possible that he was only human all along.
Woodward wrote a piece assigning part of the blame for the sequester deal to President Barack Obama, and he alerted a source at the White House that the piece was coming. His source, apparently Gene Sperling, chewed him out. Then Woodward and Sperling exchanged emails, and Woodward chose to characterize Sperling's email as a threat. Here he is, complaining about it on CNN:
But then Politico got its hands on the emails, and Woodward's version suddenly seemed unhinged. Sperling comes across as measured, contrite and conciliatory, and not as someone uttering dark threats against the fourth estate:
"Bob: I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall -- but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. ... Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
"My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize. Gene"
As any well-brought-up person would do, Woodward sent a gracious reply, assuring Sperling that he need not apologize. Richard Nixon, wherever he is, must be enjoying the irony that one of his earthly tormentors is now being haunted by the record of his own words.
None of this impeaches the credibility of Woodward's story, but it does raise questions about his frame of mind: If his perspective is so loopy on this topic, how trustworthy is his analysis on other matters?
-- Eric Ringham
Make some popcorn and pull up a chair if you want to watch the best fight between a journalist and a company he covers today.
It started last weekend when New York Times' John Broder wrote an article about the Tesla Model S sedan -- an electric car -- and the woes he encountered when trying to drive from Washington to Boston.
That sent Tesla CEO Elon Musk to the TV business channel circuit to complain that the article was "unreasonable."
On his blog, the New York Times reporter denied the review was a "setup."
My account was not a fake. It happened just the way I described it. When I first charged the car, which was equipped with the highest-capacity battery available, of 85 kilowatt-hours, at the Tesla Supercharger station in Newark, Del., I left it connected to the cable for 49 minutes until the dash display read "Charging Complete." The battery meter read 90 percent full, with a range of 242 miles.
I was not directed by anyone at Tesla at any time to then switch to the Max Range setting and wait to top off the battery. If I had, I might have picked up an additional 25 or so miles of range, but that would have taken as long as 30 additional minutes.
I was at that point 200 miles from the other East Coast Supercharger outlet in Milford, Conn., which I barely reached by driving 10 m.p.h. below the speed limit and turning off the battery-draining cabin-heating system.
But now Tesla has released the car's logs...
The logs show again that our Model S never had a chance with John Broder. In the case with Top Gear, their legal defense was that they never actually said it broke down, they just implied that it could and then filmed themselves pushing what viewers did not realize was a perfectly functional car. In Mr. Broder's case, he simply did not accurately capture what happened and worked very hard to force our car to stop running.
This chart, the CEO claims, shows the reporter drove around in circles in a parking lot ...
It's certainly unusual that the CEO's blog is able to provide such a scathing rebuttal to the review. It's even more unusual to have a journalism ethics debate break out in the usually dull auto section.(8 Comments)
Every year, those of us who attend certain Christian churches face a dilemma on this day: Wear our ashes or wash them off?
I have no idea what percentage of the Christian population attends services on Ash Wednesday, nor how many churches still mark congregants' foreheads with ashes. But mine does, and every year I see people in the office or the skyway with a cross smudged on their brow. Sometimes I do a double take, even though I know what the smudge signifies.
I'll get mine in the evening, and I won't have to consider whether I want to scrub off the ashes before going out in public unless I stop at the grocery store on the way home. I did stop last evening, and was pleased to find that the bakery section was selling hot cross buns. At the checkout, the young man bagging my groceries stopped and said, "What are these?"
"Hot cross buns," I replied. "You can only get 'em during Lent."
"What's Lent?" he asked.
So I explained about Lent. If I run into the same young man tonight, I'll have some more explaining to do. Unless I sidestep the question by ducking into the washroom on my way out of church.
I looked up the question on the Internet, and found a variety of opinions, of course. One Catholic blogger wrote that it's good to keep the ashes on your face, as long as you're not doing it to draw attention to yourself. It's hard to see how you can avoid drawing attention to yourself, with ashes on your face.
What would Stephen Colbert do? Here's a clip from his Ash Wednesday show last year (mild language alert).
-- Eric Ringham
Here's my favorite:
As you can probably surmise from that photograph, Montgomery wasn't standing on dry land. I asked him about what he had to do to get the shot.
"It's a little tricky since the shore isn't sand, but a mix of snowed-over large rocks, snowed-over iced rocks and rock crevasses that are also snowed over. The crevasses aren't deep, a few feet at most. But it's enough to make you wary about each step since I could easily see myself rolling an ankle. Once the guys make it through all that, they arrive at their launching point, which is an area about 100 yards off to the side of where the waves are breaking.
"The area where the surfers launch from is a gradual slope into the lake. They launch off a large, relatively flat rocky surface. You could shoot that from shore, but then you'd get a lot of ice and rock in the foreground. To get what it really feels like to be a Lake Superior surfer, you want to go out as far as you can without getting knocked over by some of the large waves crashing around you. I'm pretty brave, maybe stupid, since I'll go out into water up to my knees to get a good shot, and that's what I did with many of the shots of guys like Eric Wilkie, Mark Anderson and John Benzick when they set off into the lake. As you can see in some of the photos, there are large waves crashing around, and I think braving the waves and the cold water is the only way to really show what these guys are experiencing.
"To get these types of shots, ideally you'd have waders to keep the water off your body. Unfortunately, I didn't have those when out following the surfers. I had waterproof boots and water-resistant snow pants, which helped with the spray, but didn't help when big waves rushed in up to my knees. At that point, when the water was pouring into my boots, I really wished I had remembered to bring my waders.
"The other challenge is keeping up with all the surfers. They will literally run across the ice and snow-covered rocks to make it back out to the water. A few said they do this because the cold temperatures limit them to an hour or an hour and a half in the lake, so they don't want to waste time. So keeping up and not falling over is another challenge."
Make sure you check out this full gallery of the surfers.
And if you can't get enough of those crazy surfers, here's a video Erik Wilkie, one of the surfers, put together the day our reporter and photographer were out on the lake.
-- Nate Minor(2 Comments)
It's a strange statement on media, or pop culture, or something, that I can watch the brains-bashing "Walking Dead" without breaking a sweat, and then be grossed out by this commercial.
Some things are just too awful to watch. The sight of kids smoking cigarettes, though repulsive, is a powerful component of the "Still A Problem" ad campaign being waged by ClearWay Minnesota.
Spokesman Mike Sheldon was quick to reassure me on the phone Tuesday that the child actors on the school bus only appear to be smoking. "All the smoke you see is computer-generated," he said. Even if only a special effect, the image is shocking - as is the statistic that 77,000 kids will use tobacco in Minnesota this year.
ClearWay Minnesota was established in the 1990s as part of the state's tobacco settlement. It's a research and advocacy group with money to spend and a limited lifespan; the organization is scheduled to disband in 2023. The tobacco industry, by contrast, intends to keep operating, just as long as it can get people to use its product.
Sheldon said the school-bus ad, produced by the local advertising agency Clarity Coverdale Fury, cost about $125,000. "To be effective, we need professional and well-done ads," he said. You can see others on the ClearWay website, but here's the one I like the best. It attempts to establish a link between smoking and the universal fear of carnies:
-- Eric Ringham(2 Comments)
The United States has operated a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia for two years, it was revealed today.
That's not necessarily the story. This line in the BBC account of the story is the story:
The US media had known of its existence, but had not reported it until now.
It's not clear the extent to which this is true and which news organizations conspired to keep wars secret. The New York Times has focused attention on the "clandestine" drone war the United States is waging in the Middle East.
It only hinted that some reporters have known about the extent of the administration's efforts to kill what it considers to be enemies, even if they are American:
American officials have never explained in public why the C.I.A. and the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command are carrying out parallel drone campaigns in Yemen. Privately, however, they describe an arrangement that has evolved since the frantic, ad hoc early days of America's war there.
The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster. American cruise missiles carrying cluster munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children. Another strike, six months later, killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline.
In its coverage today, ABC News didn't sound like a news organization that's been withholding details it knew, although there were hints of agreements to keep it secret:
The CIA declined to comment, but a former national security official confirmed the base's existence to ABC News. "It's been an open secret that it was there," the official said. England's The Sunday Times included Saudi Arabia in a 2011 report about a series of secret drone bases in the region, citing a Gulf defense source.
But late this afternoon, a spokesman for the Associated Press revealed that the news agency knew, and kept it secret:
The Associated Press in 2011 agreed to withhold the location of a secret U.S.-run drone base located inside Saudi Arabia after U.S. officials contended that revealing the location would make the base a target of extremists, endangering people directly, and would badly endanger counterterror efforts. The AP did report at the time on secret drone operations operating from the region, targeting extremists in Yemen.
The AP on rare occasions withholds information when officials offer a compelling argument that the information could imperil national security or specific individuals. When the location of the base was made public Tuesday night, the AP felt national security concerns no longer applied and published the location.
Let's take this last line again:
When the location of the base was made public Tuesday night, the AP felt national security concerns no longer applied and published the location.
The public knowing the existence of the bases no longer constituted a threat to national security? Think about that for a second. If the public knowing something doesn't constitute a threat to national security, how can a news organizations keep a secret on the basis that the public knowing about it does?
Perhaps there's unlikely to be any pushback against news organizations that buy into a government's insistence that wars need to be secret in the interest of national security. Whether that becomes fodder for public debate depends on whether U.S. citizens bother to wonder what else the nation's news media is keeping from them.
In Washington, this afternoon, there's a media feeding frenzy to try to find out who kept what from whom and why? One news organization that's off the hook? FoxNews.(4 Comments)
A new generation learned about Paul Harvey last night. Sort of.
You take an old speech, throw some romantic pictures of farmers next to it, put it on the Super Bowl, and the nation waxes poetic about Harvey. The things a good marketer can do!
Harvey was, in fact, an historic broadcaster who could create an old-fashioned image of America with his prose. He also had a dark side which, a few years after his death, might have made him toxic to someone trying to sell a pick-up truck. But it didn't.
Take this 2005 broadcast, for example:
"We didn't come this far [as a nation] because we're made of sugar candy. Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and across this continent by giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. That was biological warfare. And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever.
"And we grew prosperous. And yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves. So it goes with most great nation-states, which--feeling guilty about their savage pasts--eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry up-and-coming who are not made of sugar candy."
Harvey was the most-listened-to radio person in America. So it was not for nothing when in that same commentary, he lamented that the U.S. didn't use nuclear weapons in Iraq or Afghanistan.
In September 2007, he passed this joke along to listeners, Time.com reported:
This was mild stuff compared with a joke Harvey passed along to his listeners in September 2007 about an imaginary meeting of David Petraeus and Chelsea Clinton. The President's daughter asks the general if he's afraid of anything, and Harvey gives this reply: "I am afraid of three things. I am afraid of Osama, and I am afraid of Obama, and, Ms. Clinton, I am afraid of yo' mama. Heh heh heh. Paul Harvey: Good day!"
"Those of us who believe in the dignity of the person, the importance of social institutions, the need for economic freedom and limited government owe an invaluable debt of gratitude to the great broadcaster," the Action Institute's Joe Carter writes today. "We should thank God he made Paul Harvey. And pray that the Lord soon sends us another communicator as winsome and gifted in explaining the value of virtue of freedom."
Also, he didn't drive a pick-up. He drove a Cadillac.(4 Comments)
Every organization has a CEO who gets most of the publicity, but if you want to meet the real "face" of any company, stop at the front desk. That's where the institution actually lives.
Today, a small band of MPR News pals honored ours. She's Charli Banks (the one everyone else is trying and failing to look shorter than in the above picture), who has staffed the front desk at Minnesota Public Radio for 30 years as of today.
She sees all the famous people who come through and, from what I can tell, excels at not asking for autographs, gawking, or pretending they're any more special than all the little people who walk through the door who, from what I can tell, she views as pretty special.
Just like her.(5 Comments)
Is the end of online commenting on blogs at hand? Probably.
Multiple online sources are reporting on the fascinating result of a recent study that shows what people take away from a blog post depends on what early comments are attached to it.
The research hasn't been presented formally yet but in short, researchers took a post on nanotechnology and showed it to people. In one version, nice comments were added to the post. In another version, a flame war of comments was added.
"The nasty comment thread polarized the opinion of readers, leading them to misunderstand the original article," Scientific America blogger Bora Zivkovic writes.
The assumption is that on hot topics, like climate change, readers already come to the article with pre-concieved notions, and thus the civility of the comments would have no effect on them - they are already polarized. Chosing nanotechnology as a topic was a way to see how comments affect "virgin minds", i.e., how the tone of comments starts the process of polarization in new readers.
They specifically chose a topic about which most people know very little and do not already have any opinion. Neither the article nor the comments contain sufficient information to turn the readers into experts on the subject. So they have to use mental heuristics - shortcuts - to decide what to think about this new subject. Uncivil, aggressive comments resulted in quick polarization. Readers, although still not well informed about the topic, quickly adopted strong opinions about it.
Complaints about comments online have been registered for decades, now. But defenders insisted falsehoods would be corrected by the overwhelming audience. That does not appear to be happening, especially -- as Poynter's journalism blog points out -- there are so many places for reactions to be posted.
Smart people with something constructive to say about your article may be posting their thoughts to their Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr. Your comments section could be left as a second-class wasteland suitable only for logical fallacies and trolling.
Over to you Vi Hart:(5 Comments)
The talk of Boston media today is an article in Boston magazine in which media critic Alan Siegel dismantles the city's sportswriters. It's an article that could have been written in many media markets -- including this one -- where the traditional sportswriter provides game stories and nuggets while his/her national media competition provide the analysis sports fans tend to crave.
Siegel's essay offers more questions -- is the old style of reporting on sports essentially over? Change certain words accordingly in the following excerpt:
And it's not just the city's core sports personalities that haven't changed much. The way the local media covers games is stuck in the past, too. Beat writers may blog, chat, and utilize social media now, but after games, they're still churning out the same kinds of vanilla recaps that have long been a newspaper staple. While these types of stories have the capacity to be poetic--Gammons's lyrical piece after Game 6 of the 1975 World Series is considered the modern standard--today's versions rarely rise to such levels and, in the end, just end up rehashing hours-old events (as if the highlights weren't immediately available online).
In most game stories, there's a conspicuous lack of creative analysis, which is compounded by the local media's apparent allergy to the type of advanced statistics that other outlets have used to shine new, interesting light on old sports. For instance, after the Patriots earned a spot in the AFC Championship game by beating the Houston Texans in January, the Herald dutifully recapped the series of events in the game, sprinkling in quotes like Tom Brady saying afterward, "I'm tired, man." (One would think so!) Tight end Aaron Hernandez offered this enlightening bit of pablum: "We've still got one more to go to get to the big dance, so we've got to keep playing and come to play next week." And defensive standout Vince Wilfork was captured saying, "It's sweet playing in the AFC Championship." Another big shocker. Meanwhile, the sharp minds over at the national website Pro Football Focus informed their readers that the Texans blitzed on 48.8 percent of their plays, a decision that allowed Brady to pick their defense apart. When Houston did get to Brady, he was 0 for 5 on completions, but those occasions, the site reported, were rare. The difference between the two approaches was night and day.
Siegel also suggests local sportswriters in his market are more interested in their TV and radio gigs than their newspapers. That's got to be on the minds of Twin Cities newspaper bosses who can switch between the two all-sports stations in this town if they want to keep tabs on what their employees are up to.
But Siegel's biggest damnation is one that is familiar in the Twin Cities too. When there's a huge local sports story, it's often a national sportswriter breaking it:
In a landscape where being loud and controversial is valued over being smart and insightful--and over doing the difficult work of investigative reporting--it's no surprise that the Boston sports media keeps getting beat on genuinely important news, like Passan's story about the Red Sox players meeting with ownership. That's hardly the only example. If news breaks on the Celtics beat, for instance, chances are it's coming from Passan's colleague at Yahoo! Sports, Adrian Wojnarowski. Last April, he--not a local writer--reported that Boston had attempted to deal Ray Allen and Paul Pierce at the trading deadline. And when Allen signed with the Miami Heat in July, it was Wojnarowski who shed light on the behind-the-scenes friction that made Allen want to leave, and who scored the key interview with coach Doc Rivers.
Wojnarowski is the writer who got the Kevin Love interview in which the onetime Timberwolves star appeared to diss on his employer.(2 Comments)
Public Radio, which is slowly erasing its humorless image, may be about to wipe away the last vestige of earnestness in its midst: the membership drive.
WBEZ in Chicago -- the This American Life people -- is launching a 'campaign' to encourage Chicagoans to have more babies to support its 2032 membership drive.
The station is offering a Facebook app to connect people with "similar interests" to make the process a little easier.
Poynter's blog indicates there could be a problem. The average age of NPR listeners is 49.(3 Comments)
Forty years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson died. And somewhat after that, we're guessing, so did any possibility news viewers will ever see anything like this again.(1 Comments)
NPR says it is done referring to President Obama as "Mr. Obama" on second reference in its news pieces.
The decision, announced by the news organization's ombudsman, renews a complaint that a president's -- any president's -- supporters have always had that referring to Obama as Obama is disrespectful.
Here's the memo:
NPR broadcast style has long required referring to the president as "President" (McKinley/Arthur/Cleveland) on first reference and then, on second and later references, as either "the president" or "Mister" (Van Buren/Polk/Harrison). Although meant as a gesture of respect for the office, many listeners have regarded the use of "Mister" as disrespectful. On the other hand, during the most recent presidential contest, the contrast between our references to "Mister Obama" and just plain "Romney" were perceived by many as showing favoritism toward the incumbent president.
After considerable discussion -- and some thoughtful deliberation -- we will take the start of the second Obama term as a good opportunity to eliminate this style anomaly.
Moving forward, there will no longer be a broadcast style requirement to call the president "Mister" on second and later references. We will continue to say "President (Tyler/Fillmore/Hayes) on first reference. The phrase "the president" remains appropriate on later references, but the president's last name, without 'Mister," will also be an acceptable reference on second and later references. (In our digital copy, we dropped the use of "Mister" a number of years ago, and began referring to the president in second and subsequent references by his last name. That practice will continue.)
Elimination of this long-standing style rule does not mean a prohibition on using "Mister" on second or later references to the president, just as there is no prohibition on using "Mister" in reference to anybody. We will generally avoid using "Mister" (Pierce/Garfield/Ford) in reporter pieces, but in two-ways we expect that one or another host or reporter will find one or another practice more or less comfortable.
The First Lady will continue to be called "First Lady" (Harriet Lane) http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/first-ladies/harrietlane on first reference and "the first lady" on second or later references. "Miss Lane" will continue to be preferred on second and later references so as to distinguish the First Lady from the president. (Of course, "Miss" Lane is a bad example since there wasn't much chance of her being mistaken for "Mister" Buchanan.)
(And, yes, this is an egregiously gender biased note. If presidential gender trends shift, I promise that considerable discussion, and possibly thoughtful deliberation, will go into reviewing appropriate style changes.)
You'd have to be in a fairly high state of denial not to see that this is a cover intending to make a guy look like a mob boss.
Time is playing off Gov. Chris Christie's love of Bruce Springsteen, and he is the boss of New Jersey, but the giveaway is the mugshot-like image.
Christie isn't happy and anytime Christie isn't happy, entertainment follows:
"If his kids don't recognize him as the boss then he has more problems then he realizes. But I think he's having some fun with it. We had some fun with it," Time's managing editor responded.
Fun. Like Time had with the O.J. Simpson cover years ago.(5 Comments)
The Associated Press, the news cooperative that is widely known for it unbiased reporting, is going to start blurring the line between content and advertising.
The AP announced today it will start using its twitter account for sponsorships.
But it's OK, the news agency says, because someone not connected with the editorial side of things will type the tweet and push the button.
"We are thrilled to be taking this next step in social media," said Lou Ferrara, the AP managing editor overseeing its social media efforts, in a statement. "As an industry, we must be looking for new ways to develop revenues while providing good experiences for advertisers and consumers. At the same time, advertisers and audiences expect AP to do that without compromising its core mission of breaking news."
The execs at Twitter say they view the move as equivalent to a banner ad.
Whether it works or not -- or spreads, for that matter -- depends on whether Twitter users view it as spam.(0 Comments)
Sorry, Michele Norris fans. The Minnesota-born journalist is out as anchor of NPR's All Things Considered. Sort of.
Norris stepped down from the high-profile gig in 2011 after her husband took a job as a senior strategist in the Barack Obama re-election campaign. It was a situation that played into the perception that NPR is staffed by Democratic operatives.
In her new role at NPR, announced today, she'll pursue stories that stem from her "Race Card Project," which began after her book , The Grace of Silence, was published in 2010. She'll also do some guest hosting.
Here's the NPR memo:
NPR HOSTING NEWS: MICHELE NORRIS TAKES ON EXPANDED NEW ROLE FOR NPR
AUDIE CORNISH APPOINTED CO-HOST OF "ALL THINGS CONSIDERED"
RACHEL MARTIN NAMED TO "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY"
January 3, 2013; Washington, D.C. - NPR News is announcing new appointments for three of its newsmagazine hosts: Michele Norris returns from a leave of absence to take on an expanded new role as a host and special correspondent; Audie Cornish will stay on as co-host of All Things Considered; and Rachel Martin anchors the week as host of Weekend Edition Sunday. Norris returns to the air fulltime in February; Cornish and Martin have been serving as interim hosts of their respective programs.
"Taken together, these three represent the journalistic depth and power of NPR News," said Margaret Low Smith, SVP of NPR News. "We're incredibly lucky to have such gifted journalists. Each of them has extraordinary range and the ability to connect with audiences in meaningful ways. I'm looking forward to this next chapter for all three."
As host and special correspondent, Norris will produce in-depth profiles, interviews and series, and regularly guest host NPR News programs. One of her focuses will be "The Race Card Project," an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America that Norris began after her 2010 family memoir The Grace of Silence. More than 14,000 people from all over the world have participated, sharing their experiences and thoughts about race in just six words. Norris will develop features around "Race Card" on NPR.org and create related radio segments in addition to producing in-depth profile segments on newsmakers. She will also continue the popular "Backseat Book Club" on All Things Considered, inviting young listeners to read and discuss new books with one another and often the authors. Norris joined NPR in 2002 to host All Things Considered, and during nearly a decade with the show, interviewed world leaders, Nobel laureates and American presidents. She has also reported on Katrina survivors, women in combat, race and politics, and the struggles and successes of everyday people. Norris returns to the air fulltime in February after a sabbatical spent developing "The Race Card Project."
Cornish, who has been on assignment with All Things Considered since January 2012, will remain the show's co-host. Together with hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block, she will continue to bring a distinctive range of interviews, ideas and interests to the signature afternoon newsmagazine. Cornish has been a host and reporter for NPR since 2006. She became the new voice for Sunday mornings in September 2011 as host of Weekend Edition Sunday; there, she developed new features and segments and a loyal following. Cornish previously reported on Capitol Hill and the 2008 presidential election, and for three years, covered the southern U.S. from a base in Nashville.
In turn, Martin will stay on as the host of Weekend Edition Sunday, where she's been filling in while Cornish has been with All Things Considered. Martin previously covered military and intelligence issues as a National Security Correspondent, drawing on a decade of experience reporting all over the world. She was part of the team that launched NPR's experimental morning show, The Bryant Park Project, was an NPR international correspondent based in Berlin, and reported on religion for the network. Martin was also a White House correspondent for ABC News. Her keen intellect, editorial range and warm presence make her an ideal companion for Sunday mornings.
Is it in your best interest to know which of your neighbors has a gun in the house? Does it violate the privacy of gun owners?
New York's Journal News has posted an interactive map showing the location of all gun owners in Westchester and Rockland counties, north of New York City.
My information "should be absolutely private," said Triglianos, who is licensed to carry firearms and owns an AR-15 rifle, the same model of gun used in the Newtown massacre. "Why do my neighbors need to know that? I am not a threat to my neighbors. I don't pose a physical threat to anyone."
He's got some support in surprising place, according to an accompanying article.
The comments section of the paper is worth reading. "I'd rather have a gun owner as my neighbor then a journalist, one is far more responsible then the other," says one commenter.
"It's not necessary for people to know who has what," said Daniel Friedman, a Ramapo councilman and author of the book, "Saving Our Children: An In-Depth Look at Gun Violence in Our Nation and Our Schools." "I think we need to balance people's right to privacy with people's right to safety and people's right to legitimately own guns."
The newspaper didn't do anything illegal in creating the map. All of the data was available using a Freedom of Information request.
But NPR says the move has generated significant pushback against the paper.
And the journalism site, Poynter, says some gun owners and bloggers responded by posting names, home addresses and phone numbers of the paper's publishers and the reporter who wrote the story.
Poynter's Al Tompkins seemed perplexed over why a paper would do such a thing.
"I hope any journalist who does this is willing to be accessible and responsive. If it is unfettered openness you want, you jolly well better set the example," he said.
The reporter of the story owns a .357.(12 Comments)
If there's any appetite at all from American news consumers for information about the rest of the world, you sure couldn't find much evidence of it from a survey released today by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.
Only the attacks on the consulate in Libya made the list of the most followed stories of the year, and the chances are, that's only because it became a campaign issue.
The survey -- available here -- also showed that the younger you are, the less likely it is you cared about the Libya story.
What could've made the list if there interest in foreign news stories? For one, the U.S. is still fighting a war somewhere.(1 Comments)
Former MPR colleague Bob Ingrassia, now at Fast Horse, drops an e-mail today to call attention to his confession, an important read in the aftermath of the Connecticut tragedy.
In it, Ingrassia describes his work as a reporter in Dallas while covering the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people.
Ingrassia filed a story about bomber Timothy McVeigh's tenancy at an Arizona trailer park.
A few reporters clustered around a guy named Bob Evans, who said he worked at the trailer park. We were trying to find the trailer park owner, who'd been quoted in the local papers, but Evans told us the owner was sleeping. So we peppered Evans with questions about this monster named McVeigh.
Evans did not disappoint us. He pointed to a trailer where he said McVeigh lived. He regaled us with tales about a brash, beer-drinking guy who had two dogs and an unruly demeanor. Notebooks and tape recorders in hand, the reporters gobbled up the juicy tidbits.
I was thrilled. I gladly accepted a beer from Evans and had my picture snapped in front of the "McVeigh Trailer."
But even from the little I'd already read and heard about McVeigh, this description struck me as odd. He was said to be a quiet, clean-cut guy who generally kept to himself. Why would he show up in Kingman and be such a different person?
No matter. I called the Dallas newsroom and fed my details to the reporter writing our profile of McVeigh.
But the trailer park owner was wrong. He'd gotten his tenants mixed up.
Because his mistake was made in the dead-tree business, when only CompuServe and Prodigy passed for "new media," he gives social media a bit of a break.
Though few of us cover mass murderers in our journalism career, we've all got stories about the stories we got wrong. None of them is pretty.(0 Comments)
A reporter from the Columbine school shooting acknowledges that just about everything that was reported after the 1999 shooting was wrong. He says it's a cautionary tale when considering everything you're hearing now from Connecticut.
There's been considerable pushback against the news coverage of the tragedy. Suppose you're the assignment editor of a major news organization. What story -- if any, of course -- are you assigning today?
When the media is the story, the media often has a different approach to covering that.
We saw that from the New York Times kept a lid on a story about its reporter's kidnapping in Afghanistan. David Rohde was kidnapped by the Taliban in in 2008. Not until he escaped did news organizations, who knew about the situation, report it. That sparked a debate on whether there's an inconsistency with the approach of news organizations to similar situations not involving a reporter.
"I think that is a weak spot in the underbelly of the decision making in these cases. We show a preference for one of our own in journalism generally by holding back a story or elements of a story compared to how we might cover the kidnapped oil field worker or diplomat or tourist. In those cases, we might not bring as serious a deliberative process to how we're going to cover it," the Poynter Institute's Bob Steele told the Christian Science Monitor after Rohde escaped in 2009.
The debate is sparked anew today after Gawker reported that NBC reporter Richard Engel is missing in Syria, or at least hasn't checked in since Thursday. Gawker agreed to keep the situation secret, but has now spilled the story after it was printed in a Turkish newspaper.
But NBC News has been asking every reporter who inquires about the report to participate in a news blackout. It has also taken to Twitter and asked people who repeated the Turkish reports there to take them down. You can see here a screengrab of the Twitter account @NBCComm asking a Twitter user who had mentioned the reports to urgently call a cell phone number (that account has since been taken down).
NBC News declined to comment for the record about Engel's whereabouts, but asked Gawker not to report what it characterized as "rumors" about Engel's current status.
In 2002, Wall Street Journal officials chose to publish details of the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. He was beheaded.
Update 12/18 7:35 a.m. - Engel has been freed from captivity.(0 Comments)
What would YOU do in this situation?
Bob Collins is off for the rest of the day.(3 Comments)
Why don't notable women get the same attention when they die that notable men get?
Mother Jones is asking that question today after releasing a survey of major papers -- the Twin Cities papers were not included in the study -- showing a remarkable lack of attention to notable women in obits.
The newspaper execs say pretty much what you'd expect them to say in a cringeworthy way: there aren't enough notable women.
Obituaries editors say that the percentage of women on their notable deaths lists will increase over time because women in more recent generations have had more opportunities to make an impact. "We're already seeing that happen," says the Times' McDonald. John Temple, a managing editor at the Washington Post, agrees that there will be "more women on the lists in the future."
McDonald says he's already seeing more women on the lists, but a graphical look at the last five years of New York Times notable death lists shows the number of women sometimes increasing, sometimes decreasing, while the number of men has skyrocketed, widening the gender gap.
I sent McDonald a version of the graph below, and he said that he was referring to day-to-day obituaries. "I haven't done a count."(0 Comments)
What should a media person do when confronted with an audience member's opinion he/she sees as racist?
In Shreveport, a black female meteorologist was fired because she responded to an apparently racist remark on the station's Facebook page.
The media site, Journal-isms says a viewer of TV station KTBS posted this:
"The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq)."
To which meteorologist Rhonda Lee replied:
"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary. I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals.
"Conforming to one standard isn't what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
"Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
She was fired. The TV station execs said it's not the first time the meteorologist responded to race-based comments. Last month she responded to a viewer who said there were too many children of color in a promotion the TV station was running to help deserving kids at Christmas.
Journal-isms provided this memo on company policy:
"When we see complaints from viewers, it's best not to respond at all. Responding to these complaints is a very sensitive situation and oftentimes our off-the-cuff first response will be the wrong response. Even if our immediate reaction response to the complaint were exactly what it should be, it still leaves us open to what has a huge opportunity to become an argument. Either way, it's a no-win situation for us, and for the viewer also.
"If you choose to respond to these complaints, there is only one proper response: Provide them with (redacted) contact information, and tell them that he would be glad to speak with them about their concerns. Once again, this is the only proper response.
It's opened up a continuing debate in media circles: Can media people be people on social media or should social networking accounts be mere promotional tools?(10 Comments)
In Georgia, the governor of the state has appointed a political ally to head Georgia Public Broadcasting, with an eye toward using the network for economic development and to promote the state.
What does that mean for editorial independence, a public radio wag asked the governor.
"I don't consider job creation for the citizens of our state to have a political connotation to it. It's simply doing what's best for our state," the governor said.
This should -- but, sadly, probably won't -- serve as a wakeup call to all the insipid radio morning shows whose appeal is the outrageous stunts the morning teams do for the audience that craves them.
Earlier this week, a radio station called the London hospital where Prince William's wife was being treated for her morning sickness. The show host pretended to be the queen, duping a nurse who dished all of the royal health secrets.
That's some funny stuff.13 Comments)
As I mentioned in 5x8 this morning, the New York Post printed a photograph of a man who had just been pushed in front of a New York City subway train. Moments after the freelance photographer took the picture, the man was dead.
What is to be gained by publishing the picture? It's a question that haunts journalists who make these decisions.
It's fairly easy for me to say "nothing," and then I recalled one of the most compelling photographs I've ever seen.
I was living in Boston in June 1975, not far from the spot where the great photographer Stanley Foreman took this picture of Diana Bryant, and the girl, Tiare Jones, when the fire escape collapsed. They'd sought shelter on it when fire engulfed their apartment. A radio traffic reporter landed his helicopter on the building trying to save them when it gave way. A fire ladder was just inches from reaching them.
Such are the frailties of life.
For this picture, Foreman was awarded a Pulitzer. And Boston strengthened its fire code.
"We're squeamish because news pictures of the dead and dying are of real people and real events. If a news image works, it penetrates, lingers, forces our attention to the events involving death that it depicts," Barbie Zelizer, the author of About To Die: How News Images Move the Public, said in an interview with Slate last year. "If a news image works, it doesn't disappear when we cast aside the newspaper, dim the TV or turn off the Internet. That may be more intrusion than most people are willing to allow."
Images of the moment of death stay with us in a way a few paragraphs in a newspaper cannot. This image of a Loyalist's moment of death in the Spanish Civil War haunts us still.
As does the moment when Lee Harvey Oswald was killed in 1963.
"Where images of dead bodies often push viewers away, creating a sense of distance and objectification, images of impending death do the opposite: They often draw viewers in, fostering engagement, creating empathy and subjective involvement, inviting debate," Zelizer said.
How much do we elevate the importance of professional football players? A tragedy in Kansas City today provides an answer.
A Kansas City Chiefs player killed himself at the team's practice facility. The team's fan website has the important details in its headline...
At CBS sports, the importance of the tragedy on fans' fantasy teams had to be considered...
And USA Today was on top of the story...
BREAKING: Reports: K.C. Chiefs player commits suicide at team facility usatoday.com— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) December 1, 2012
So was NFL.com
Reports: Kansas City Chiefs Player Kills Self Near Stadium n.pr/TAFAb7— NPR News (@nprnews) December 1, 2012
CNN only hinted that there might be more to this...
The Washington Post -- appropriately -- provided the missing detail...
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. A woman is beaten every 15 seconds, according to the FBI. Of all female homicide victims, 30 percent are killed by spouses, ex-spouses, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends. Fifteen hundred women die each year the way a woman died today in Kansas City.
That's the story.(11 Comments)
There are two primary ways to look at the Pioneer Press' editorial on the same sex marriage amendment: (1) It was a typically Minnesota passive aggressive discussion in which a claim of neutrality is betrayed by intentionally vague writing that provides the writer with deniability while making a position known and/or (2) it's what you get when you're too afraid of newspaper's traditional role in leading a debate by forcefully taking a stand, thus risking alienating a declining subscription base.
A reading of the editorial leaves little doubt that the unnamed writer is endorsing a "yes" vote on the same-sex amendment on Tuesday's ballot, using the "I'm just saying" style of argument that is more common to Internet trolls than newspapers with rich pedigrees.
Finally, the vote no coalition has been careful to steer clear of any whiff of forcefulness. Their television ads rely on happily married traditional couples advising that for reasons of love you should vote no. They wisely have struck a gentle rather than strident tone. Yet, supporters of traditional marriage are not wrong to point out that religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption and that religious groups have been forced to close their charitable adoption agencies as a result of having to choose between fulfilling their social mission and acquiescing to a new definition of marriage. And that whenever schools educate children about marriage they will have no choice but to teach it as a genderless institution. Indeed, some members of the movement are aggressive. In California, activists outed people who gave financial support to that state's marriage amendment, some of whom lost jobs as a result. And we saw it here in Minnesota when Target Corporation was subjected to extensive protests for having contributed to a gubernatorial candidate who supported traditional marriage. It did not matter that Target had a long record of support for the GLBT community or that its contribution had nothing to do with the definition of marriage. It was about sending a message that those who took the wrong position on marriage would pay a heavy price. In Chicago, the mayor of one of the nation's largest cities and a former high ranking White House official big-footed a fast food chain and its CEO for his belief in traditional marriage. For those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage, increasingly the force of law will be brought to bear on matters of education, speech and practice. Already in the course of ordinary reporting on this amendment, the Pioneer Press has encountered traditionalists who withhold their names for fear of the possible consequences of addressing the issue. None of which is to suggest that we do not support free speech and the right to protest and transparency in the political process. The point is that the story would be incomplete if it left out any mention of the consequences. And of course these consequences are appropriate or not depending on your stand on the issue itself.
Historically, people in Minnesota generally respect people who make a principled argument if they think they're being treated honestly and respectfully. An institution long dedicated to a search for truth insults its community's intelligence when it doesn't think a declarative truth is something its readership can handle.
They may be right. We'll never know. Such is the nature of an editorial "wink."
In any event, the Press lost the one person who may be responsible for online growth: Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, whose essays on his blog were surely page-view gold, the currency of today's online journalism. He's quitting his blog at the Pioneer Press site and is looking for a new home for it.
My main issue with the Pioneer Press editorial is this: It's a lie. I have no problem with them taking a position I disagree with. What— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
concerns me is them presenting a completely biased piece (word choice, examples used, conclusions) as a neutral position. That's not only— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
irresponsible journalism, it's massively hypocritical. Have the courage of your convictions. Attach your name to what you believe in. Don't— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
try to confuse people through obfuscation and selected presentation of arguments. It ruins discussion, and you should be ashamed.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
I will not abide lying. A stable society has to be built on a foundation of trust, and that editorial just eroded some of it away.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
The Press' editorial also appeared to anger some in its own newsroom. "The Pioneer Press I know values fairness and honesty," food and ag reporter Tom Webb tweeted today. "Its marriage editorial slights those values, and is unworthy of a fine newspaper."
He's not "just sayin'."
One thing we've learned from the coverage of Hurricane Sandy: old school is still cool. The still photographer is still the most fearless and respectable journalist.
They differ from the TV types because few people know their names. They focus on the story they're covering, not making themselves the most visible element.
And then we have our friends in the TV business...
Despite the protestations of some network news directors that reporters who stand in water are on a par with combat reporters, they're getting little love today.
The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf calls them out...
There are a lot of journalists I respect for putting themselves in harm's way -- journalists who chronicle wars, report on conditions in refugee camps, challenge the lies of repressive political regimes, or otherwise gather information that wouldn't be disseminated save for risking their lives.
That isn't what CNN and Velshi were doing. If standing in hurricanes for hours at a time were necessary to report on them, newspaper staffers would do it too. On TV, a camera mounted on a street corner might not be as entertaining. It might lack the drama of a human being in danger.
But it would adequately convey all the newsworthy information.
All in all, the still images captured by the pro photographers have all been almost unanimously more impressive than any video, with or without a reporter standing in the middle of it.
It says something about journalism that the notion that reporters shouldn't be afraid to show empathy and compassion is a debatable point. But it is.
This week, as readers of NewsCut know, it's one of the issues at the heart of Radiolab's woes after the podcast crew created the "Yellow Rain" episode, which has caused considerable backlash from its audience for the way it treated a Minnesota survivor of genocide.
Coincidentally -- and only coincidentally as near as I can tell -- a teacher Augustana College in Sioux Falls writes today about compassion and empathy by journalists on the Poynter website
It's time to surrender: Journalism education should incorporate the study of empathy and compassion alongside its study of the objective method. The objective reporter who integrates into his or her work an empathetic, compassionate approach does not face irreconcilable demands. The compassionate act, one that seeks to alleviate suffering, often follows a process that starts with empathy, i.e., the moment within which one connects with the other in an effort to see through his or her eyes, to know something through its meaning for that person.
When journalists practice an ethic of empathy and compassion, they do not forfeit their objectivity. Empathy seeks to understand the other, not produce agreement with the other. For this reason, empathy compels fair treatment of all sources.
Just as one should empathize with the poor person, he or she should empathize with the public official. For the journalist compelled by a moral compass, the writer who seeks justice in the world, empathy can make visible the lives of those who are marginalized and misunderstood and in so doing transform the act of reporting into an act of compassion.
When is the last time your vote was influenced by a newspaper editorial endorsement?
The effectiveness of the newspaper endorsement is debatable, but there might be fallout from newspapers not endorsing candidates an issues.
Media monitor Jim Romenesko says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided it will take no role in endorsing candidates in the presidential and Senate races
"Inside the paper, I'm told, there's the feeling that 'we have two tough picks to make and we're taking a pass,' and the paper is less relevant because of it," he writes today.
Milwaukee columnist Bruce Murphy says the paper took a lot of heat when it endorsed in the recent recall election. It raises the question, though, that if a newspaper is unwilling to get in the middle of a public fray, what's the point of having an editorial department?
Newspapers like the JS are bleeding readers, ads and staff at an alarming rate. I'm guessing the editors decided it just wasn't worth the blowback to do endorsements, all the more so when the evidence suggest they have little impact on readers anyway.
I think it's an inevitable and probably smart decision by the newspaper, but it does present it with a big challenge: to reinvent the editorial page. The fact is that policy editorials, the kind listed by Dold, typically get very little readership, whereas candidate endorsements get much more discussion and exposure, including in ads by candidates.
Will the newspaper continue to devote the resources, the staff time it takes to write thoughtful, policy wonk editorials that get low readership? Once you dump editorial endorsements, isn't the whole editorial page up for grabs?
Meanwhile, this weekend is the weekend when newspapers trot out the big endorsements. NPR's David Folkenflik says the Pioneer Press will not endorse in the presidential race. In his story, he notes that some experts say editorials only matter in local races, not the national ones. So, contrary to the old axiom, all politics isn't local.(1 Comments)
A month ago, I wrote about a terrible interview that RadioLab's Robert Krulwich did with a Hmong war veteran and his niece, Kao Kalia Yang, who was translating.
Krulwich appeared to sandbag the two in a story about "yellow rain," which many Hmong in Laos insisted was a chemical weapon, but which Krulwich believes was bee droppings.
Krulwich has since apologized, but the interview left a lot of questions about how it was conducted.
Now we have more information. Ms. Yang has written an account of what happened ("The Science of Racism: Radiolab's Treatment of Hmong Experience").
While the show created the impression there might have been more than one interview (with additional reporting in between), there was only one, meaning Krulwich and his producers had their "trap" prepared going into it.
But it's even worse now.
Ms. Yang reveals that after the furor erupted over the show, RadioLab didn't run the statement the producers invited her to write.
The head of the radio station that produces RadioLab told her the broadcast had been "amended" to include Krulwich's apology. "Radiolab had simply re-contextualized their position, taken out the laughter at the end, and 'cleaned' away incriminating evidence," she says.
She says Krulwich and his companions did not look at the research Ms. Yang provided to former MPR reporter Marisa Helms, who handled the recording of the interview in Brooklyn Center, while Krulwich talked to them by phone.
She wanted a copy of the interview. Krulwich told her she'd have to get a court order, she said.
It's a most troubling article about a troubling episode. You can find her essay here.
(h/t: Kelsey McGregor)(9 Comments)
Some years ago, several journalists at the Pioneer Press got into trouble for attending a Bruce Springsteen concert. Two investigative reporters were suspended by the management of the newspaper because the concert was a political fundraiser. The Star Tribune had also previously warned its reporters about attending an event that involved taking sides.
That was 2004. Why is the memory bank churning?
Because of this note on the Star Tribune's union website...
Here's a link with information about the gala concert slated for THURSDAY, Oct. 18 by locked-out union members of the Minnesota Orchestra. Attend the concert and support your brothers and sisters in the labor movement.
It's called LOMoMO and the LEGEND: The Locked-Out Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra with Stanislaw Skrowaczewsk.
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at the Minneapolis Convention Center Auditorium
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, conductor
Tony Ross, cello
Here's the Program:
Antonin Dvorak: Cello Concerto in B Minor, Opus 104
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Opus 47
According to the Musician's union, this concert replaces the opening night concerts that were cancelled by the Minnesota Orchestral Association along with the majority of the fall season.
The concert will be a celebration of the 110-year legacy of "world-class artistry our community has built and supported in the Minnesota Orchestra."
As you know, Management locked out the orchestra players after their contract expired Oct. 1 and then canceled the first six weeks of the season. Management is seeking pay cuts of 30 to 50 percent from union members.
Is it the same thing? Could it be perceived as the same thing? On such questions, ethics in journalism are determined.
On the one hand, the concert isn't a political fundraiser. On the other, it is a sign of support for one side in what is clearly a news story underway in the arts community.
Presumably, the newspaper's arts unit will provide coverage of the concert as a news story, or at least as a music event. But should other journalists not on the clock be allowed to attend?
You are the (managing) editor: What say you?
Note: The Minnesota Orchestra musicians asked MPR to record this concert. The Minnesota Orchestra asked MPR not to record it. MPR decided not to record the concert saying to do so would constitute taking a side in the dispute.(4 Comments)
The unsung heroes of any news operation, any editor will tell you, are editors. They're the ones who are supposed to catch mistakes or look at content through a different prism to make sure what their news organization "publishes" can't be taken the wrong way.
The Associated Press apologized today for the caption that went with the picture, which apparently wasn't particularly clear. So it reworded it... after the fact:
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney poses for photographs with students of Fairfield Elementary School, Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, in Fairfield, Va. A student, right, reacts as she realizes Romney will crouch down directly in front of her and her classmates for the group photo. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
In a news release today, AP Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll explained:
"The original caption on the photo of Gov. Romney taken Monday at a Virginia school was literally correct -- it said the governor was posing for photos with schoolchildren. But it was too generic and missed the boat by not explaining exactly what was happening. The student with the surprised expression had just realized that the governor was going to crouch down in front of her for the group photo.
"We amended the caption on Tuesday with that explanation, but by then many people had seen the photo and were confused by or angry about it. Those generic captions help us process a large number of photos on a busy campaign day, but some photos demand more explanation and we fell short of our own standards by not providing it in this case."
Not unexpectedly, people saw a conspiracy...
Jennifer Livingston, the La Crosse TV anchor who fought back on the air against an emailer who objected to her weight, made the TV talk-show circuit today, a day after her video response went viral (and I wrote about it here).
The most interesting new point she made was that she invited Kenneth Krausse, the La Crosse man who sent the email, onto her show to discuss what he wrote. He demurred.
"It's not a weight issue," she said on CBS this morning. "It's about bullying."
Krause isn't backing off.
"Given this country's present epidemic of obesity and the many truly horrible diseases related thereto, and considering Jennifer Livingston's fortuitous position in the community, I hope she will finally take advantage of a rare and golden opportunity to influence the health and psychological well-being of Coulee Region children by transforming herself for all of her viewers to see over the next year, and, to that end, I would be absolutely pleased to offer Jennifer any advice or support she would be willing to accept."
Meanwhile, WKBT reports the issue has hit home for many families.(14 Comments)
It's been decades since Christine Craft first raised the issue of whether female TV anchors and reporters could be allowed to get old.
Now, a La Crosse, Wisconsin TV anchor is raising the stakes: Can they be allowed to be fat?
Jim Romenesko carries the story today of Jennifer Livingston, who got a letter from one of her viewers at WKBT in the city:
Sure you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
She made a lot of fans by talking about it...
Comments on the state's Facebook page are fairly unanimously.
In other news: She tells pretty interesting stories...(13 Comments)
The Public Radio podcast
show, RadioLab, the radio version of which is heard on MPR on Saturday afternoons, is getting significant pushback for its handling of an interview with a Hmong veteran in the Twin Cities. on last weekend's broadcast
Eng Yang, was living in a village in Laos in 1975, when it was targeted by Viet Cong and Pathet Lao. Eng says it started with isolated killings, until one day, his whole village was attacked, the story goes.
He and thousands of other Hmong fled their homes and went into hiding in the jungle. And that's when they started seeing it -- yellow droplets that fell from the sky and splattered the landscape, followed by dying plants, animals, and eventually friends and family doubled over with stomach problems.
When US scientists looked at the yellow spots, they found poison, and pretty soon "Yellow Rain" as it was known, had become a flashpoint in the cold war.
It was alleged that the Soviet Union was responsible, so the U.S. created its own chemical weapon bomb.
Here's the full segment:
The "yellow rain" turned out to be bee feces.
That's when host Robert Krulwich went back to Eng Yang, and his niece Kao Kalia Yang, who was translating.
At that point, the tight editing and fancy production values of the show ended, and Eng Yang was put on the spot, with Krulwich arguing with both as if he were a cross-examining attorney.
RadioLab appeared to sandbag the family in the most embarrassing way:
What makes the interview particularly uncomfortable is that RadioLab already knew how it ended before beginning to tell the rest of us the story
on Saturday. It led us down a particular pathway of a story, and then dropped the end of the interview on us, as if they didn't know the pain they found. One producer noted -- correctly -- that the story appeared -- at least to Eng Yang and his niece -- to invalidate the Hmong loss and suffering in Laos. If it knew that, why not package and edit the story in a more sensitive way?
Jad Abumrad of RadioLab wrote an update yesterday:
The point of the story -- if the story can be said to have a point -- is that these kinds of forensic or scientific investigations into the truth of a situation invariably end up being myopic. They miss and sometimes even obscure hugely important realities. Like a genocide.
That's not a point we set out to make. It's something that arose organically when our producer, Pat Walters, realized, and then openly admitted on tape, that he felt he'd missed something. That is why we included the lengthy and painful exchange with Kao Kalia Yang, even though it may not have been flattering to us. Our goal in our ending conversation was not to be pedantic or insensitive but to be transparent. That was an honest in-the-moment conversation about honest differences.
All that said, the thing I'd most like to respond to is accusations that we were cavalier in our response to the pain that Kalia and her uncle Eng were expressing.
We were all profoundly troubled by the interview with Kalia and Eng. Before heading into the studio, we argued with one another for weeks about what it meant to us personally and what it meant for the story. If we gave the impression that we approached the ending conversation casually, without much consideration or sensitivity, that's on us. And that is something I'd like to correct. So I've inserted a line in the story that puts our ending conversation in a bit more context.
A commenter to that post (and I strongly encourage everyone to read a vibrant discussion there) captures the problem perfectly:
In my view, there were multiple mistakes but a profound one was the lack of acknowledgement of power in truth-telling and truth-adjudicating. Yes, that yellow rain was probably not a chemical weapon is the truth and has moral and political consequences. Yes, that the Hmong experienced terrible suffering and an attempted genocide is the truth and has moral and political consequences. But as you so ably demonstrated, determination of the first truth has advocates and interested parties in two of the most powerful governments in the world, multiple science labs, and your own reporters. Determination and dealing with the second truth, and the reckoning with justice and reparations and pain it might require, seems to have been left by the wayside by everyone but the Hmong who experienced it.
In the wake of this silence, the idea that Eng has any responsibility to act as a witness in the ongoing dispute between all of these powerful parties regarding yellow rain feels ludicrous compared to his ongoing mission to awaken people to the reality of what he and his family experienced. In your post-interview conversation you acknowledged that part of why the interview may have been so difficult for Eng and his niece is that the telling of the Hmong story is tied to this issue of yellow rain, and losing the latter feels like losing the former. But you didn't acknowledge that this is the case precisely because yellow rain has been the only lens through which non-Hmong have been interested to hear Eng's terrible story, which seems a much bigger blindness to the truth, and to the "fact of the matter," than what you chose to focus on.
Another commenter made a more antiseptic point: Science isn't pretty.
Science isn't exactly compassionate and the devil needs an advocate if we're looking for scientific truth. But science with all the beautiful, interesting and innovative things-- science is not everything.
I think you handled it well. I mean, how do you properly handle the genocide of the Hmong in a science show? That moment was something bigger than you expected and you kept yourselves honest. I respect that.
There's another reality, however, that the show underscores. Many people in the United States do not fully comprehend the suffering of the Hmong people on behalf of the country that walked away from them.
That comprehension might've caused RadioLab to tell its story in a more sensitive and equally accurate way.
Finally, there's an important lesson in this controversy for journalists: if you're not sure what the point of a story is, you're not ready to tell it.(25 Comments)
Rural America is more interested in community news and information about what's going on in their towns. Wrong, research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project says today. Unless the subject is taxes.
The project today released an assessment of how people consume the news in different geographic segments.
Urban residents: "More likely to get local news and information via a range of digital activities, including internet searches, Twitter, blogs and the websites of local TV stations and newspapers. Urbanites were also those least tied to their communities in terms of how long they lived in the community and how many people they know. They were the least interested of all groups in information about local taxes."
Suburban residents: "More likely than others to rely on local radio as a platform (perhaps because of relatively longer commuting times); they are more interested than others in news and information about arts and cultural events; and they are particularly interested in local restaurants, traffic, and taxes. They look to television news for weather and breaking news."
Small town residents: "More likely to rely on traditional news platforms such as television and newspapers to get local news; newspapers are especially important to them for civic information. Small town Americans prefer the local newspaper for a long list of information--including local weather, crime, community events, schools, arts and culture, taxes, housing, zoning, local government and social services. Residents of smaller towns are also the most likely to worry about what would happen if the local newspaper no longer existed."
Rural residents: "Generally are less interested in almost all local topics than those in other communities. The one exception is taxes. They are also more reliant on traditional platforms such as newspapers and TV for most of the topics we queried. And they are less likely than others to say it is easier now to keep up with local information."
Up to 60 percent of those surveyed say they like keeping up with the news "a lot."
But the report shows the difficulty mass media has in tailoring its news to a wide audience -- the "wide audience" have vastly different opinions on what is news.
In the suburbs, for example, the five topics those in the suburbs listed as the ones they're most interested in are arts and culture, restaurants, traffic, taxes, and housing.
Suburban residents stand out in their higher education and income levels relative to other types of communities. Suburban residents are the most educated and have the highest reported household income of the four community types. Four in 10 (42%) have a four-year college degree or greater, compared with 30% or fewer in the other three community types. Moreover, 37% report an annual household income of $75,000 or more, much higher than the 20% or fewer residents in other communities reporting that level of income.
But city people are less interested in the tax issues than most everyone else. City residents, the report said, are less interested in where they live as a "community."
It doesn't take much to get on Fox and Friends. Just say you once voted for President Obama and now you're now going to vote for Mitt Romney, and they'll put you in the broadcast chair without even checking you out further.
It turned out to be a comedian. The guy, I mean.(5 Comments)
"I just--I don't like him. Can't stand to look at him. I don't like his wife. She's far from the first lady. It's about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady." -- Bobbie Lucie, a veteran's wife, at the American Legion convention.
NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos writes today that the comment "set off alarm bells" in the public radio audience.
Is it hate speech or do we just have the sensitivity meter turned up way too high in this too-long-for-the-human-body-to-stand presidential campaign?
Some listeners saw a meaning in the comment. "Looks like a first lady" is code for "being white."
Here's the story in question...
From the way Schumacher-Matos challenged reporter Ari Shapiro to defend the use of the quote -- "I asked Shapiro about his decision to include Lucie's comment and whether it was NPR's responsibility to keep racist opinions off the air. " -- it sounds as though he had already concluded that it was a racist comment.
But Republicans said the same thing about a white woman in 1980 -- Rosalind Carter.
In this case, Schumacher-Matos points out, the meaning of the quote is ambiguous and NPR's directory of diversity suggests a reporter failure...
If there's a problem here, it's not that the comments are racist. The problem is, I don't know if they're racist. I don't know, in fact, what the woman meant when she said any of that. I have a strong suspicion, but I could be completely wrong. When she said she couldn't stand the look of the president, was she talking about his race or his ears? When she implied that Mrs. Obama doesn't look like a first lady, did she mean that she's not white or did she dislike the way Mrs. Obama wears sleeveless dresses?
I believe a reporter's obligation here is to ask the question "What do you mean?" and either use the answer in the story or tell the listener whether the follow-up question led in one direction (racist) or another. Several people, including the woman now adjudged by many as a racist, have a stake in that question and answer. I can't tell from the piece whether the question was asked.
Here's the entire post. It's a good discussion although it's good to remember that it's 2012 and we're still having to have it in this country.(3 Comments)
Around the country at this very minute, people are telling other people that their small attempts to make a difference won't work. "They really don't care. They do it anyway. They're unstoppable," Steven Hascher of Gloucester, VA., observed today. They're the kind of people he wants to know and wants you to know about, which is why he agreed to live on a converted school bus for a year, in close quarters with four other people, traveling the country to document their stories.
The five -- Hascher, Rob Gelb and Chris Simon of Bethesda, MD., Amy Wallace of Belgium, and Amy Chin of Houston -- pulled into Minnesota this week in the blue school bus known as Bus 52. Parked at a campground in Apple Valley, it serves as the studio and control room -- also bedroom, kitchen and bathroom -- for the ambitious media project in which the five research, report, produce, and distribute stories through YouTube videos at a dizzying rate.
Today, for example, it released the story of Operation Happy Note in Alexandria, MN.
Touring the country in search of the good was Gelb's idea. "I was graduating school and trying to think about what to do. We were in the middle of the economic downturn and the news was reinforcing negative stereotypes and I wanted to work on some sort of project that focused on people doing good," he said today. "Plus, I like school buses."
Bus 52 is in its eighth month of travel. The team has posted more than 60 videos so far and is working this week on four in Minnesota, while trying to contact people in Wisconsin and Illinois for future stories on their next stops.
"Viewership has been a challenge," Gelb acknowledges. Each video runs about four minutes. "Maybe it's the short attention span of the Internet," he suggests. Or the fact it isn't about cats, Hascher adds.
"This isn't fluff," Amy Chin says in a manner that suggests that, perhaps, others have suggested it is. "These are important lessons about good leadership and that you don't have to have a lot of money to make a difference; you just have to have some compassion," she says.
"We hope that by showing how other people do it, that they can do it too," says Wallace, who is simultaneously working on her Master's degree in literature, while serving as Bus 52's writer and publicist.
Gelb, who learned some of his media skills through an internship with al Jazeera in Washington, says one of his friends shopped the idea of a reality TV series about the trip to some contacts at the Discovery Channel. "They said 'no,' and that it would be better if the five of us hated each other," he said. That does not appear to be the case, although they acknowledge that living in tight quarters requires a specialty in conflict resolution.
Gelb and Simon have known each other since childhood, Wallace met Gelb at school, but Chin, a photographer, and Hascher, a videographer, weren't entirely sure what they were getting into when they applied to join the team.
The team ducks the question of the most memorable person they've met on their journey, but each has a favorite video.
"It's the first one we did," Wallace says. "Steven and I went into a prison where two ladies were teaching inmates how to knit. You had these huge men with all of these tatoos knitting little pink hats."
Simon, a musician, composes the musical scores for each segment. "Sometimes you're sitting there with nothing," he says, "and sometimes it just happens." For him, it happened with Random Acts of Flowers, the story of a man in Tennessee who collects flowers that otherwise would be thrown away and delivers them to nursing homes."4 Comments)
Juries sometimes reach unfair verdicts and when they do, a judge is supposed to remedy the situation.
That didn't happen in the case of John Hoff, who blogs as Johnny Northside, and who got in trouble because he wrote something that was true about a semi-public figure, that got the semi-public figure fired, and that's when the case went to court.
As I wrote after the original verdict, this case was a lot simpler than the jury made it, because it's about this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Even a few area "experts" on journalism pooh-poohed the significance of the case, wedded as they may be to a mainstream media look at the world. But Minnesota is where free speech was most vigorously defended (Near v. Minnesota) and they should've been on edge pending today's decision.
There were many troubling things about the original verdict as I also wrote:
Moore's attorney says Hoff doesn't enjoy First Amendment speech protections because he doesn't get all sides of an issue. And, it's maintained, if others post inflammatory comments on his blog -- they do -- then he should be liable for those, too. That allegation should certainly get the attention of mainstream media, since the comments on their Web sites are (a) more numerous and (b) often at least as horrible as anything found on those newfangled blogs.
But the Minnesota Court of Appeals looked at the case and today tossed out the $60,000 verdict, making fairly short work of the question of whether Hoff's blogging was defamatory. It wasn't.
More troubling, however, was what the court found on the question of why Hoff lost the original case: The jury believed that he had lobbied University of Minnesota officials, by contacting them to get the subject of his attacks -- Jerry Moore -- fired.
The Court of Appeals leveled a bit of a broadside to the District Court for letting the verdict stand when there wasn't much evidence to support it:
Similarly, here, we conclude that the district court's basis for imposing liability on Hoff is too broadly asserted to assure that Hoff's constitutional rights are protected. By concluding that the "trial record as a whole" supported the jury's verdict, the district court did not adequately identify Hoff's behavior that was separate and distinct from his protected speech. The district court pointed to Allen's testimony to show that there was evidence of interference by Hoff separate and distinct from his blog post, but we conclude that this evidence is insufficient to independently support the jury's verdict.
Hoff's communication with Allen (a friend of Hoff's who sent e-mails to the U of M after the blog post and who claims Hoff told him to) is too intertwined with Hoff's constitutionally protected blog post to accurately characterize it as independent tortious conduct. Hoff's information about Moore's involvement in mortgage fraud was the primary reason for his communication (through Allen) to the University of Minnesota. The fact that Hoff's underlying goal in conveying this information was to get Moore fired does nothing to disentangle the protected statement from any tortious conduct. We therefore conclude that there is too great a risk of infringing on Hoff's constitutional right to publish this information if he is held liable for Moore's subsequent employment termination.
Hoff isn't everyone's cup of tea. Neither are Nazis in Skokie, the Westboro Baptist Church members at funerals of soldiers, or candidates who lie about their military service. Tough.
Blogs aren't everybody's cup of tea, either. But the importance of today's decision is that had it gone another way, and the original verdict survived, future courts would have a good reason to expand the infringement of speech that is unpopular. It still may, should it end up at the Minnesota Supreme Court with a different result.
On his blog today, Hoff called the decision "total victory," and urged people to devote their attention to the case of three punk rockers imprisoned in Russia.3 Comments)
The good news from London is this is the first Olympics I can recall in which the phone/email system isn't jammed with people who are upset because we mentioned who won medals, spoiling their evening TV.
Maybe people have been successful avoiding all forms of media and the titterings of colleagues. More likely, however, is people have realized their fun isn't really spoiled by knowing who's going to win.
Sometimes suspense ruins good viewing. I often taped sporting events, for instance, fully intending to watch it as if it were live. More often, though, I'd zip to the end, see if my team won, and then fully enjoyed the "how" part of it more than I otherwise would have (assuming my team won; otherwise I'd just hit delete).
NBC apparently realized this phenomenon too, according to the Associated Press.
NBC chief researcher Alan Wurtzel says that two-thirds of people who said they knew the results ahead of NBC's tape-delayed telecast said they would watch the events anyway. People who watched the events earlier in the day via computer stream watched the tape-delayed broadcast for a longer time than those who hadn't.
Wurtzel and NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus, were on a conference call today that sought to defend criticism of NBC for tape-delaying broadcasts.
Lazarus said the London Games -- tape-delayed as they are -- have higher ratings than the prime-time live broadcasts from China four years ago.
Tuesday's broadcast of the U.S. women's gymnastics team winning gold, and Michael Phelps winning two races, garnered a 21.8 rating. Game 5 of the NBA Finals, got a 12.6 rating on ABC. Only one of those was live.
Bottom line? Sometimes what people say they want, isn't really what they want. NBC knew that.
Update 2:25 p.m. -- I spoke too soon. This just in:
Why are you putting this on the front page of the MPR website? The event has not yet been broadcast and I was looking forward to this event more than any other in the Olympics. Is it so hard to publish a headline to the affect of "Female Gymnast Claims All Around Gold", so that a viewer can click on the story and you don't ruin the surprise for people who have to work all day, like me? I am so disappointed and I expected so much more from MPR. Shame on you. Please take this headline down so you don't ruin it for more people.
Let me take this one:
Dear audience member:
It' s not the job of the news media to set your agenda for your TV viewing. It's the job of the news media to tell those people who want to be informed of the day's events, what those events were. We write headlines the same way we would for any other news story.
This is not the last scene of The Dark Knight Rises we're talking about here. This is an event widely considered to be current news.
I understand that while others may want to be informed as events occur, you would not want to have the event spoiled. That's why the responsibility for avoiding the news rests primarily with you.
To do otherwise is an utter failure of a news organization. And, by the way, it would also require staff to rewrite headlines for archival purposes after a suitable time has passed. That's an expense that distracts from what we do -- tell people what happened today.
Personally, I've never felt any shame for doing so.
Update 2:32 p.m. - My colleague, Paul Tosto, has reminded me of a 2004 study involving a Minnesota researcher who determined that humans swim just as fast through syrup as they do through water.(13 Comments)
Americans have ranted for decades about tape delays and overseas Olympics. We want to see stuff as it happens. But the network that pays a king's ransom for the broadcast rights makes its money showing the high demand events during American prime time.
Network wins. That used to be the end of the discussion. Not this time.
The beating NBC is taking on social media shows just how much things have changed. Yes, Twitter was around for the 2008 Beijing Olympics but Twitter use has exploded the past two years, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Ryan Lochte could cure cancer during a race & NBC would air it 6 hours later with the cure portion removed for a Seacrest interview #NBCFail— NOT SportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) July 29, 2012
The BBC should setup an "anonymous donation" page for all of us in the US who are taking advantage of their olympic coverage. #NBCFail— Jon Daniel (@binarycleric) July 30, 2012
In 2012, most of us see how ridiculous it is to try and stop real-time news. It can't be controlled. So you either adapt or face the universal mockery that social media can deliver.
Either way, things are going to change. I'm looking forward to seeing how the social beat down of NBC in 2012 shapes the coverage and information flow for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
"The problem for NBC as for other media is that it is trying to preserve old business models in a new reality," writes media critic Jeff Jarvis. "To experiment with alternatives when billions are at stake is risky. But so is not experimenting and not learning when millions of your viewers can complain about you on Twitter.
"The bottom-line lesson for all media is that business models built on imprisonment, on making us do what you want us to do because you give us no choice, is no strategy for the future. And there's only so long you can hold off the future."
-- Paul Tosto
We cannot let this day go much further without stopping to observe that this week is the 17th birthday of the MPR website, a fact which probably doesn't mean much to a lot of people because everybody's got a website now, of course. It seems like a no-brainer to have websites because now it is a no-brainer.
It wasn't always thus.
The day means a lot to a few old-timers who had to convince a radio broadcasting company that something that isn't about radio broadcasting is a worthy endeavor. To its credit, that broadcasting company -- in time -- listened.
A gentleman whom you probably don't know is behind all of it. John Pearson, who was at the time a member of MPR's marketing department, single-handedly started the website and set about to prove that as an instrument of communication, it had real possibilities.
John has the rare combination of the ability to articulate a vision, the patience to wait until the doubting recipient reached the same conclusion, and the confidence to not mind that his idea was now someone else's.
He worked alone, often. In its early days, there was no newsroom involvement in the website. So, John would lift scripts from our radio script system and slap them on the web. But he had to be choosey because they might sit on the page for days.
Eventually, he got some help in the technical aspects of the web -- John is a great graphic designer -- and the newsroom came on board in 1999.
He survived the "new media days" when the buttoned-down MPR created the blimp-flying, Nerf-ball throwing, jeans-and-sneakers-wearing MPR New Media Department, the forerunner of today's mostly-buttoned-down digital team. Not everyone who works in the digital realm here may know the one person -- one person who saves every e-mail he's ever sent -- who's directly responsible for it all.
Times change. Good people have come and good people have gone but there's one person -- and only one person -- who's been a part of MPR.org since the day it started -- John Pearson. This is his day and, really, only his day.
MPR's Facebook page provides a little journey down a memory lane of MPR front pages.(7 Comments)
I won't keep you in suspense; I don't know. But a news release from American Public Media today, coupled with the occasional remark from Garrison Keillor that he might retire will certainly lead to speculation that John Moe, pictured, might be the answer to a question that media observers have been asking for years: What's the post-A Prairie Home Companion landscape look like at Minnesota Public Radio?
The lede on the release was that David Brancaccio, Marketplace's special correspondent and recent host of Marketplace Morning Report, will be taking on the role of host of Marketplace Tech Report. That's a job now held by Moe.
But this is the real news:
By having Brancaccio host Marketplace Tech Report, its current host, John Moe, will devote the full measure of his talents and energy to Wits, Minnesota Public Radio's two-year old show that features creative storytelling and musical performances by some of America's most talented writers and musicians including Fred Willard, Roseanne Cash, Andy Richter, Amy Sedaris and They Might Be Giants. Moe has been hosting the show, since its launch, in addition to his on-going duties hosting Marketplace Tech Report.
"In just two years, Wits has established itself as a weekend destination for great storytelling, great music and illuminating conversation" said McAlpine. "We think there is enormous potential for Wits to go national and John's absolutely the right person to lead that effort."
"It has been a fantastic opportunity to host and develop Marketplace Tech Report, while also pursuing my passion for music and storytelling on stage in front of a live studio audience," said Moe. "With Tech Report in such good hands, I'm free to plunge whole-heartedly [sic] into Wits and into making it a national show. I'm thrilled."
When asked the obvious question (the one in the headline to this post), Moe played the good soldier.
"I think we already have a Garrison Keillor, don't we?" he said.
Wit's recent finale -- moved to a Saturday night from its Friday evening incubator -- could hardly have been more inviting to a comparison with A Prairie Home Companion.
Wits is, to put it succinctly, hip. It attracts the children and grandchildren of Keillor's audience, which still sets the traditional public radio image. But for how much longer? Public radio needs younger listeners for long-term survival.
Keillor "announced" more than a year ago that he would step aside as host in 2013, then later in the year seemed to backtrack from the announcement.
The show still packs them in, especially when it hits the road. There's a comfortable "sameness" to it, and there's no indication anyone in public radio is anxious to move Keillor along.
But with the recent announcement that Car Talk -- another public radio icon -- would cease production in October, there's been more speculation (including in this space) about whether public radio has a plan for replacing an aging fleet.
If Moe is part of one, his employers (who are also my employers) aren't saying.
(Update 7/11 7:22 a.m.) -- "I don't see Wits in relation to a 'post APHC world,'" Judy McAlpine, the senior vice president and general manager of American Public Media, says. "APHC is going strong and we are much more focused on the current world where APHC and Garrison Keillor continue to delight fans with a beloved program. In my view, no one is going to replace Garrison Keillor. He is one of a kind. Wits is its own project, with its own personality, John Moe, and will develop on its own terms. Overall, I think there is room in public radio for many unique programs and personalities to bring joy to people's lives."(23 Comments)
There may not be a sadder story than the one today from Cottage Grove, where -- the Star Tribune reports -- a 29 year old woman set fire to herself last week, a month after being charged in last November's death of her infant son. She fell asleep drunk on the couch, rolled over, and suffocated him. Now, she's dead.
Does anyone else share responsibility for how this ended?
How about Nancy Grace?
The woman, Toni Medrano, obviously had a drinking problem. The Nancy Grace website audience wasn't much interested in considering it...
From several accounts, Ms. Medrano saw and read it all. A friend posted this week...
I am actually a close family friend; you and anyone else tossing harsh words have no idea what happened. Yes drinking with your infant child isn't the best thing to do, but that's not for me to judge. This was indeed an accident, and she had to live with that accident; but Nancy Grace you have shown so much evil upon her amongst other people in the media, that she is now in a hospital after commiting suicide and she has a zero chance to live. So thank's for demonising a person for an accidental death and causing another personsdeath. I use to be a fan, but now all I see is another rating seeking soul-less monster. Another thnig to all of you that have your thoughts about another persons life, if you don't have anyone living in your house to tell you what your doing wrong, then maybe learn the entire situation first before you hear what they want you to hear. There are always two sides and this side of Nancy Grace simply just came from the courts to make a mockary of another mother for a wrongful death.
In today's media environment, there's instant judgment.(15 Comments)
Rather quietly overnight, a piece of Twin Cities media died.
The local entertainment website A.V. Club, along with the print version of The Onion in the Twin Cities, have gone belly up. Jason Zabel made the announcement on the site late last night...
The loss of local coverage is an unfortunate but common occurrence these days. But the loss of The A.V. Club here in the Twin Cities makes me especially sad, and not just because I'm out of a job, but because I think this publication has a unique voice. In our time publishing in the Twin Cities, we have tried our best to develop a publication that we feel reflects the Twin Cities: smart, fun, and a little bit different.
The best part of writing for The A.V. Club is the freedom. During my time alone, we've wondered why there are so few openly gay athletes, written about a man who turned his house into a town, interviewed an all-male Britney Spears cover band, and run-through all of the crazy shit Bob Dylan has done, all while using as many curse words as we pleased.
Sarah Harper at the U of M Daily's A&E blog sums it up...
Both The Onion and The A.V. Club will continue to exist online on a national-level but they won't join City Pages and Vita.mn as part of your coffee shop holy trinity ever again.
I can't be the only shmoe around here who uses The A.V. Club, Twin Cities for a home page - between whistle-blowing sessions with local back-patters and diligent coverage of hack research, there's always a juicy read.
Which, of course, leads to the obvious question: Is there any sort of market in the Twin Cities for an independent source that's always a juicy read?
A couple of years ago, I appeared at a Policy and a Pint session with my boss on the subject of ethics and opinion in news coverage.
You can scroll to 36:17 and see the exchange (one sided because someone didn't wait for the microphone) in which a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota assailed my response to her question of where I turn for news. My answer, of course, is numerous places but one of them is Twitter.
"That's like saying you get your news from the telephone," she said. "That's not a news source."
Her point was clear. There had to be a journalist -- probably a mainstream journalist -- using Twitter as a distribution platform, but Twitter itself was not a "source" of news.
By that rationale, I guess, most journalists are using their employers as a distribution platform. But I digress.
This morning, I noted, there was nothing on the front page of the largest newspaper in Minnesota, about the biggest flash flood in Minnesota in 40 years that was occurring last night. On last night's TV news -- at least the one I watched before turning to 30 Rock -- there was (legitimate in my opinion) coverage of a storm in Lakeville and South Saint Paul, but nothing about the unfolding disaster in Duluth.
But I knew about the situation in Duluth. Guess how?
Let's be honest here. Outside of Duluth, mainstream media struggled to play catch-up on a pretty big story and while much of the Twitter "coverage" came from the Duluth News Tribune, which did a fine job with things, a lot of it came from people in Duluth reporting on the situation while ignoring the middle man.
One of them was Dave Chura, who was the author of the original tweet last night, and also provided particulars during the morning to his Twitter followers.
Video from our drive into Duluth.yfrog.us/7eq0yz— Dave Chura (@dchura) June 20, 2012
Chura isn't a journalist by the standard definition. He's the executive director at the Minnesota Logger Education Program, and a citizen board member of the IRRRB.
Dave had a bigger day than we journalists did. Around midmorning, MPR's Cathy Wurzer put out the word that she couldn't get in touch with her dad, who lives in Knife River.
So I put the word out on Twitter...
Looking for anyone in Knife River who might be able to check on Cathy Wurzer's dad. Contact me email@example.com— Bob Collins (@NewsCut) June 20, 2012
And guess who lives near Knife River. Dave.
"I checked on the parents and they're all OK," Dave reported to me a few minutes ago.
And I got the news on Twitter.(13 Comments)
A picture is just a picture?
There's a great example in the news today of how two "eyes" can see the same thing, and compose the picture in different ways. In this case, it's a car hit by a falling power line/pole on Pilot Knob Road in Farmington this morning.
Clearly, there's more to the art of photojournalism than point-and-shoot.(2 Comments)
It's been awhile since there's been a dust-up between the White House and reporters over the decorum surrounding attempts to question the president, but we got one today.
President Obama was in the middle of a statement on deportations when he was interrupted by a reporter.
The reporter Neil Munro, said he thought the president was about finished with his remarks and he knows the president usually turns and walks away without answering questions. He says he "mistimed" his question.
The question -- "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?" -- was a bit of a "do you still beat your wife?" question.
After he finished the statement, the president said he'd answer the question from the Daily Caller, but he really didn't. "It is the right thing to do," he gave as an answer, which was exactly the same sentence he delivered at the point when Munro interrupted him.
Reporters who want to make speeches has been the bane of presidents for generations. Some have been good at deflecting them...
It's not President Obama's strong suit.
You either loved Car Talk or you hated it; there was no in between. So the news today that the two brothers, who helped pull public radio away from its "way too serious" approach to broadcasting are quitting , is bound to be met with a mixed reaction.
Count me among the lovers, if only because I share an accent with Tom and Ray Magliozzi. It should be called "N-P-Ahhhh."
NPR -- and this is a public radio tradition -- is going to continue to produce the show by recycling old ones. They don't have much choice; it's a cash cow for the station that produces it and the people who distribute it.
But let's face it: it won't be the same.
This has been an interesting time in public radio of late, and the next few years are going to test whether it's capable of taking a risk enough to give an outlet to new ways of doing things.
Car Talk is gone, Keillor is retiring, Eichten has retired, and an increasing number of people who basically built public radio are turning things over to the next generation, which has not been well schooled in the art of betting it all on an idea..
But public radio is a lot more popular now than it was when Car Talk started. I know. I'm from the Boston area and I can assure you, nobody listened to WBUR, the station that produced the program, and where it grew for 10 years before it went national.
A few years ago, when the Smithsonian was asking for it, I encoded the very first A Prairie Home Companion show and it lived online for a few hours, until Keillor asked it be removed. It was, to be kind, not very good. But MPR was a new outfit with not much audience and the risk of trying it out wasn't going to hurt anybody.
You can do a lot of creative things when nobody listens to your radio station because there's little downside to taking risk. But not anymore. Public radio has never been more popular and taking a risk has never been more dangerous. The early A Prairie Home Companion would have a most difficult time getting on the air -- anywhere -- today.
Essentially, public radio is where commercial radio was 30 years ago, just before it went on its suicidal path toward irrelevance by playing it safe in order not to alienate an existing audience.
The problem is times do change, people do retire -- sometimes they die -- and change has to come. Are public radio stations any better at taking chances than the commercial stations were 30 years ago? NPR is dipping into the archive to keep the status quo and to keep current listeners happy.
Eventually, someone's going to have to come up with a new idea and the audience is going to have to give it a chance.
Over the years, some tremendously distinctive radio personalities have made a living in Twin Cities radio. Today, one of them died.
Dark Star, longtime host at WCCO, was found dead in his home today, according to KFAN. He was 66. His real name was George Chapple.
"I stole every second I was ever on the air," he told the Star Tribune in 2010, after accepting a buyout offer at WCCO. "I had the time of my life. It was a lot of fun."
For Twin Cities sports fans, it wasn't unusual to go to a sporting event, then listen to Dark Star on the drive home to see if he saw the game the way you did.
His passion was the ponies. He was a fixture at Canterbury Park and started his media career around here by handicapping horses for the Pioneer Press. It's a gig he started in Los Angeles, colleague Cathy Wurzer tweeted this afternoon. He took his name from a longshot 1953 Kentucky Derby winner when he was handicapping at a newspaper in L.A., and he didn't want his brokerage bosses to know, she said.(3 Comments)
For sheer trivia and worthlessness, nothing beats the "pool report" issued to the local media when a president visits. It's usually written by one reporter selected to be the "official" dispenser of information, so as not to litter the area with the likes of reporters.
Here's the first dispatch from today's presidential visit to Minneapolis.
The President emerged from the Air Force One at around 10:50 a.m. on a glorious, sunny morning in Minneapolis. AF1 came to a stop outside an Air Force Reserve hangar. The President strode down the steps wearing a dark blue suit and black shoes. He was joined on the flight by U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Tim Walz, D-Minn. He was greeted by Democratic U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar along with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. He was also met by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
The President had a particularly long chat with Ellison, but the pool reporter could not hear the conversation.President then jogged over and immediately began shaking hands with about 90 well-wishers, including one woman carrying an Obama portrait. The snapped pictures with cameras and camera phones as he got close.
"How is everybody doing?" the President asked? The crowd cheered."Welcome to Minnesota," one woman said."School out yet?" the President asked one school age kid.
Repeating if you just tuned in: It was a glorious morning in Minneapolis.
Full details later.(5 Comments)
News photographers are an interesting breed and war photographers, in particular, are cut from a different cloth.
One of the great ones died today. Horst Faas, died in Munich at 79, the Associated Press, for whom he shot his photos, said.
The AP said that Faas shared a Saigon villa with the late New York Times correspondent David Halberstam, who said of Faas, "I don't think anyone stayed longer, took more risks or showed greater devotion to his work and his colleagues. I think of him as nothing less than a genius."
A great war photographer makes you linger over the photo. Like this one from Bangladesh, in which four men are killed by Bangladesh guerrillas because they were suspected of being Pakistani infiltrators.
All a photographer can do -- Faas took that shot -- is watch and take a picture, and spend an eternity wondering whether there was more that should have been done.
For this one, he won a Pulitzer:
There's not really much for me to say here. So, ummmm, go!20 Comments)
In journalism, there are 5W's (who, what, why, where, when) and 1 H (how?).
Of those, the most important is the "why." An obituary today for a native Minnesotan journalist provides more proof.
Ben Silver died yesteday at his home in St. Louis Park. He was a TV reporter for CBS News before a career as a journalism professor. His "what" is a who's who of historical moments.
But the "why" of his life's chosen work is a better story...
At 17, Silver dropped out of high school to join the Army in honor of his oldest brother, Morris, who had died fighting shortly after landing at Normandy. It wasn't until college that Silver discovered a love for reading and learning. On the GI bill, Silver earned a bachelor's in speech from the University of Iowa. He had intended to go to law school. But while working the potato line at the university's cafeteria, a friend who passed through regularly convinced him to pursue journalism. After graduation, Silver moved back to New York, met and married his first wife and worked for his father managing his apartment buildings. But Silver said he never wanted to be a businessman. He wanted to be a journalist, specifically on CBS
When we meet people, we often ask "what do you do?" How much more interesting would it be if we just asked "why do you do what you do?" With any luck at all, the answer will involve working the potato line at a cafeteria.(3 Comments)
It's always great to hear how others see us, especially when they find out we're not as boring as we sometimes appear to be.
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)
It might be time to add a new position to the list of endangered news media members -- helicopter crews.
The TV helicopter might be in its death throes, thanks to unmanned vehicles.
I chatted with a colleague a week or so ago who was out at the giant convention of the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas recently. The hot exhibit on the floor? Drones.
Some police departments are already using these things. So are some scientists. They cost about $50 an hour to run.
Nebraska, FastCompany reports, is ground zero for the revolution. A journalism professor at the University of Nebraska is figuring out how news organizations can acquire content using remote mobile devices.
There's just one problem: They're illegal. The Federal Aviation Administration has been given until September 2015 to figure out how to bring drones into the airspace it controls.
The trial of Amy Senser, charged with running down a motorist on an I-94 ramp and then driving away, is already shaping up to be a minefield for the journalists covering it.
Today, prosecutors showed photographs of Anousone Phanthavong's body at the scene of the crash.
The Star Tribune story, some readers insist, played it from the angle of Senser as victim.
The newspaper isn't allowing comments on its Senser stories. If it had, they might well mirror those on Facebook...
"Money. Power. The 'drama' of a poor rich white woman on trial. Even the media can't help but enjoy playing into it. Gross," local journalist Molly Priesmeyer said on her Facebook page.
How should it be played? Straight.
Based on the Star Tribune's story, either of these would work:
Other drivers easily saw flashers of hit-and-run victim's car
911 call: "I'm pretty sure they're dead"
Witnesses in Senser trial say they didn't see how accident happened..
Maybe those don't capture the "color" of the moment. But in a case packed with this much emotion, they don't have to.
NPR reporter David Welna snapped pictures of the young man introducing him today at Carleton College in Northfield. The young man was Welna's son, a student at the college where Welna graduated in 1980. Welna the elder was at the school giving the convocation address to students this morning.
"This is where I learned it's actually cool to ask questions, no matter who is on the receiving end of them," he said. "It's a search for the truth - or at least the truthiness - of the claim being made. But it's making sense of it and putting it into a narrative that makes sense to others."
Welna's roots come from what is now a declining medium - the small-town radio station. "My first brush in journalism was when a reporter from KOWO - the radio station in Waseca - came to school. I was impressed that the reporter had the moxie to take a tape recorder into bars to ask people about the news of the day and then play the tape back on a newscast. Thomas Wolfe was the hottest man in America and was giving a talk at Carleton and my brother and sister went there. It was boiled down and aired on KOWO. It didn't go over big with the station manager, but I thought it was great."
The small-town stations and newspapers of America have been the springboards of thousands of the nation's finest national reporters. "As one of nine siblings, five of whom ended up here, I was trying as much as possible to work my way through school. When I heard the Northfield News was looking for a part-time reporter, I persuaded Maggie Lee, the editor, to give me a shot. I found myself in the tiny newsroom typing up notes about the townies, that always ended up 'a good time was had by all.'"
Welna earned a Watson scholarship and spent his senior year in Argentina where he learned another valuable journalistic truth: Timing is everything.
"Thirty years ago this month, Argentina's generals tried to shore up their regime and in the middle of the night, seized the Falkland Islands," he told students. "Margaret Thatcher was not about to let that go unpunished, and as the British fleet steamed toward the region, it became one of the world's top stories, and I was one of the few reporters in the area to report it.
"I was ready to jump on the story. The chance to do so was when the BBC correspondent was being deluged with calls from the Mutual Broadcasting Network and he didn't have the time to keep up. NPR had already lined somebody up and I'd never done radio journalism. I didn't have a tape recorder, much less a telephone. I called Mutual and said although I didn't have a tape recorder or a telephone, and had never done radio, I knew the story.
"Mutual's appetite for updates was insatiable. By the time England took back the islands, I'd earned enough to pay off my Carleton debts," he said.
But Welna said he was always a public radio fan. "My parents kept their radio station turned to WCAL in Northfield," he said. "It was the first place I heard a show called 'All Things Considered,' produced by a new outfit called National Public Radio. That was before Minnesota Public Radio bought it and turned it into The Current."
He got the job covering South America and Mexico for about a dozen years before ending up in NPR's Chicago bureau.
"When I was assigned a story on whatever happened to the family farm, I ended up back in my hometown, interviewing people I'd known since childhood," he said. "What I found was although I was back in my hometown, I realized it was as interesting a place as anywhere I'd ever been."
For the last 12 years, he's covered Congress for NPR.
"There's a debate which has been raging there for decades and it's taken many forms, but it really boils down to this: What is the proper role of government in society? Is it taking on the role of doing for people what they can't do for themselves? Or is it when the government governs least, it governs best? How much responsibility do we have for the welfare of others?
There are not simple answers to these questions, which is why reporting on Congress is the most interesting assignment I've ever had.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: What is your attitude toward what's going to happen with the great divide? Most governments that separate wealth don't last long.
A: We're going to have a national referendum on that question. We have a faith that democracy and the wisdom of people will work things out. I see the various structures of Congress - the rules they go by - conspires to knot things up. It's true the Founding Fathers wanted the path to be difficult, but what I've seen in recent years is ultimately if you want to move forward from wherever you are, you have to find ways to compromise and find mutually agreed upon solutions.
The Democrats had a super majority of 60 and pushed through the health care law. Republicans felt free to attack that law and vowed to repeal it. That's the danger of something going through without the exercise of compromise.
At the same time, those elected officials who do compromise, often get punished at the polls. People say they're "sellouts" and can't be trusted. That's not how it was supposed to work but that's where we are right now.
I don' know how things are going to shake out after the November election. Everyone is holding their breath. Things in Congress are stalled. Most of the votes they're taking are message votes, designed to score points for November.
The debt ceiling will have to be raised, the payroll tax cut expires, the Bush tax cuts expire, the child tax credit, all of these things are going to have to be done in a lame-duck session of Congress.
It is the mood on the Hill right now that things are as bad as they've ever been.
Q: How has your liberal arts education affected your journalism?
A: I strongly encourage people not to study journalism. That's something you can learn anywhere. What is really important about a liberal arts education is the ability to learn how to write well.
I often don't know what the story is when I go in each day. To be able to jump into scientific issues, arts issues, legal issues and be able to make something of it quickly... in some ways my Carleton education was basic training for the job I have now.
Q: What's your editing process? How much back story do you include?
A: The debate is always how much prior knowledge should we include? When you get to things like the Bush tax cuts. By now, we assume - especially people who listen to NPR - have heard about them. There is a verbal shorthand we use. In many ways what we do is update the information that people already know about something. We talk about new twists. You can' report things completely out of context but there is a tricky balance with giving people the back story.
Q: What do you believe will happen with the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and organizations to pour more money into campaigns?
Reversing a Supreme Court decision is a pretty tall order, especially with a Congress this divided. We'll know a lot more after November how much the Supreme Court screwed up or how much it didn't. I expect the challenge to the Citizens United decision to continue.
Q: NPR has come under fire for having a liberal bias. What is your position on this?
A : There's a binary approach to how news is covered. Stations on the right have a point of view that favors a conservative stance and is openly embraced. That means everyone else has to be on the liberal side of things. There are some that actually embrace the liberal view. But NPR's approach is that we try to play it straight. I try to do stories from Capitol Hill that no matter whether you're a conservative or a liberal, you'll think it's a fair portrayal. I try to have voices from both sides of an issue because I believe in what Thomas Jefferson said that a well-informed people deserves its own government.
The tendency seems to be that people are 'nichefying' and people are going to the corners to find the information that agrees with their position and there's not enough of an attitude that you're willing to listen to competing arguments and you'll come to a position based on those arguments.
I hear from lawmakers and their staffs; I know I can't sandbag somebody without hearing about it. There's never any unfailing reference point that you can look to to see what is truly unbiased, but you try to get close to the calculus.
Q: There are debates on issues such as gay marriage. How do you think these fit? The fact that it's so connected to party lines?
A: You're referring to "the social issues," where religion is often a factor. We just a big debate on Capitol Hill about the proper role of religion in policymaking over the Obama administration decision to require institutions affiliated with churches be required to provide contraceptive health services free of charge.
Quite apart from the question of deficits and a looming debt, I've lived in societies such as Argentina and Cuba, where that kind of debate was very much stifled. Given the choice between a raucous debate on the issues and then not having one, I would choose the former. If nothing else, we raise other people's awareness of these issues.
On the issue of gay rights, you're seeing Republicans - especially in the Northeast - coming around on this issue. Often it's a matter of family members who are gay.
I do feel that gay rights is in many ways kind of the big civil rights issue of the early part of the 21st century much as the civil rights in the '50s and the '60s were for African Americans, but it's a slow process. President Obama still hasn't endorsed gay marriage. He says his position is still evolving. I suspect if he's re-elected, we'll see that evolution speed up.
Q: You spent a lot of time in Latin America. Have you seen a shift toward the U.S.?
A: The shoe is on the other foot. It's the U.S. right now struggling with unemployment and debt and institutional crisis. These are the problems that racked Latin America. Now, those countries are doing very well - Mexico, excepted. To the extent that the U.S. has become mired in its own problems, it seems like there's less time to meddle in Latin America's.
I would love to go back to Latin America and revisit some of the issues back then and talk about how much things have changed. But even last weekend we heard about Secret Service agent consorting with prostitutes, but what went on there was a meeting between the U.S. and Canada and Latin American countries.
Things have come full circle; they've switched around. Latin America is doing well and it's the U.S. that's in trouble.
It had to happen sooner or later -- political ads on public radio and TV.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-to-1 that the Federal Communications Commission violated the First Amendment's free speech clause by blocking public broadcasters from running political and public issue ads.
The federal government has a very narrow definition of what commercials -- fine, we'll call them "underwriting announcements" -- are allowed by public broadcasters. In today's rulling, the court did not strike them all down.
But the court clearly was mindful of the relationship between commercial advertising sales and lousy programming:
As previously discussed, we accept Congress's conclusion that commercial advertisers seek the largest audience possible, and that, were public broadcast stations permitted to transmit commercial advertisements without restriction, such stations would seek to make themselves more attractive to advertisers by broadcasting programs with mass-market appeal. But neither logic nor evidence supports the notion that public issue and political advertisers are likely to encourage public broadcast stations to dilute the kind of noncommercial programming whose maintenance is the substantial interest that would support the advertising bans.
But the court doubted an effect on programming by allowing public issue advertising:
The government's evidence in this case shows only the size and effect of one class of advertising: traditional commercial advertising. That is the content of speech proscribed in subsection § 399b(a)(1), which proscription we today hold passes "intermediate scrutiny" and which we uphold. But the government cannot point to evidence that its fear of harm to public television that would come from allowing stations to air public issue and political advertisements is "real, not merely conjectural," much less that the portions of the statute which ban such political and public issue advertisements "alleviate those harms in a direct and material way." Turner I, 512 U.S. at 664. Thus, we strike down as unconstitutional subsections 399b(a)(2) and (a)(3).
In a concurring opinion, a justice seemed to suggest public broadcasting isn't the "special" form of media it once was...
With the rapid flux of technologies transmitting television, there have come new forms of television that do not require use of the narrow spectrum employed by broadcast television. These new forms -- cable, satellite, cell phone, the Internet and the iPad -- have introduced a variety of ways of communicating on television and call at least for a new look at the government's substantial role in licensing and regulating speech on broadcast television.
But in a dissent, a justice says political advertising poses a bigger threat to public broadcasting than the commercial advertising that remains banned:
As described above, nonprofit announcements on public broadcasts are virtually negligible, and could easily be swamped by the very large market for political advertising. Congress could have reasonably feared the corrosive impact of advertising in general, but viewed non-profit advertisements as harmless to the public interest mission of public broadcasting.8 In addition, while Congress has long sought to shield public broadcasting from political influences, there is no evidence that Congress has viewed non-profit entities as a harmful outside influence. As Ozier's declaration makes clear, the content and quantity of non-profit advertising do not pose the same sort of threat to public broadcasting's financial model as other sorts of advertisements.
Reuters has the reaction:
Jeffrey Silva, a telecommunications analyst at Medley Global Advisors, said the decision could help ease the scramble that public broadcasters often face to raise money, but at a cost.
"You can almost see with some of them that are very much vested in keeping public television's educational, nonpartisan nature intact that this could be kind of a complicating factor," he said. "You can envision where public TV does not look like it traditionally had. It suddenly becomes a different animal."
Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said the decision could "fundamentally change the character of public television and radio" by allowing deep-pocketed political and other organizations to begin "swooping" onto the public airwaves to air their messages.
"This is just going to move us further away from what remains of a public square," said Ornstein, who said he served on PBS' board for six years. "To be truthful, it scares me to death."10 Comments)
Fans of nostalgia are going to enjoy this little nugget. This blog post -- at least up until this point -- was written by a human.
Indications are it isn't always going to be that way in the business of news. The Atlantic gives us the inside look today at Narrative Science, a startup company that has developed a computer program to write news stories.
It's already being used to write earnings report previews for Forbes, it says. And sports stories appear to be the next frontier. Both arenas involve lots of data that doesn't make sense to people unless there's a narrative -- a story -- to go with it. That's where the software comes in.
As a journalist and fiction writer, it of course struck me to think about the relevance of all of this to what I do. I arrived at the Chicago office prepared to have my own biases confirmed--that the human mind is a sacred mystery, that our relationship to words is unique and profound, that no automaton could ever replicate the writerly experience. But speaking with Hammond, I realized how much of the writing process--what I tend to think of as unpredictable, even baffling--can be quantified and modeled. When I write a short story, I'm doing exactly what the authoring platform does--using a wealth of data (my life experiences) to make inferences about the world, providing those inferences with an angle (or theme), the creating a suitable structure (based on possible outcomes I've internalized from reading and observing and taking creative writing classes). It's possible to give a machine a literary cadence, too: choose strong verbs, specific nouns, stay away from adverbs, and so on. I'm sure some expert grammarian could map out all the many different ways to make a sentence pleasing (certainly, the classical orators did, with their chiasmus and epanalepsis, anaphora and antistrophe).
Hammond tells me it's theoretically possible for the platform to author short stories, even a statistically "perfect" piece that uses all our critical knowledge about language and literary narrative. Such attempts have been made before--Russian musicians once wrote the "best" and "worst" songs ever, based on survey data. But I suspect that a computer's understanding of art will never quite match our own, no matter how specific our guidelines become. Malcolm Gladwell writes about this effect in Blink, noting how, for reasons that sometimes confound us, supposedly market-perfect media creations routinely tank.
Besides, the best journalism is always about people in the end--remarkable individuals and their ideas and ideals, our ongoing, ever-changing human experience. In this, Frankel agrees.
"If a story can be written by a machine from data, it's going to be. It's really just a matter of time at this point," he said. "But there are so many stories to be told that are not data-driven. That's what journalists should focus on, right?"
That's an interesting question because the hot commodity in journalism in recent years has been data driven content.
It might well be that the computer program could take over for much of political coverage since it's become little more than poll-driven stories, campaign contribution numbers, and delegate counts.
(h/t: Ken Paulman)(4 Comments)
"I am a weasel, a traitor, a sell-out and every bad word you can throw at me."
That's Joe Muto, an associate producer at FoxNews, who revealed to the public overnight that's he's the "mole" inside FoxNews whose Gawker column (language warning) earlier this week had some people salivating for more.
In the end, it was the digital trail that gave me away. They knew that someone, using my computer login, had accessed the sources for two videos that ended up on Gawker over the past few weeks. They couldn't prove it entirely, but I was pretty much the only suspect.
The Murdoch empire has pretty much written the book on hacking into people's data so figuring out who the mole was wasn't likely to take long and, as it turned out, it didn't.
David Carr in the New York Times wonders what the big deal is?
The only reason that the oh-so-short tunnel dug by the mole was of any interest is that Fox News is supposedly the Stasi of media companies, collecting all manner of information on others while emitting not a trace of information about its own doings.
Carr says media employees talk smack about an employer all the time. Maybe, but few of them are stupid enough to put it in print, and tech savvy enough to know you don't leave a digital trail on the company computer network.
In that sense, Muto might've revealed more about the inside of FoxNews than anything he could've written.
But the more interesting aspect of the story this week was how many people in the media repeated the story of the FoxNews mole without ever stopping to consider whether he was, in fact, a FoxNews mole or just some media savvy individual playing a joke.
As for Joe Muto, he should probably have a Plan B for a career. Say what you want about FoxNews, but no business should want someone who surreptitiously is working against it, and there are few media companies who wouldn't have turned to its I.T. department to find the leak.
The FoxNews story will probably get all of the attention, but the more outrageous employer reaction is that of the Wilmington (Delaware) News Journal, which fired a young reporter who created a press release about his hiring solely for his Tumblr page, and used the newspaper's logo.(1 Comments)
Newspapers are usually very secretive about comics so it was a bit surprising today when I found all of this week's Doonesbury strips posted online. The Poughkeepsie (NY) Journal is one of the newspapers -- like the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press -- that has refused to run the strip this week, running substitute strips that Garry Trudeau put together (which feature almost no dialog or story line, which might be Trudeau's stick-in-the-eye message to the skittish newspapers). You can find the pdf file of this week's Doonesbury here (The Star Tribune is also posting the comic online but only for the day of publication)
(Update 12:53 p.m. The newspaper has now removed the strips)
The strip is tackling Texas' new law requiring women seeking an abortion to have a sonogram first. For the most part, the storyline isn't much different than what Jon Stewart might have on the Daily Show.
I'm guessing this is the one that caused the blowback from editors:
The Doonesbury website has, as you might expect, a vigorous debate going on about this week's series.
Here's one side, for example:
As a mother of two wanted and loved children in Virginia, where they recently passed ultrasound legislation, thank you. I appreciate your guts and your support of keeping the government out of my and my daughters' reproductive business. We teach our children that their private parts are private. When the government forces women to accept whatever touching they mandate and that additionally, we should have to pay for that mandate, I think they should remember that such decisions are not theirs to make, but should be left to the privacy usually enjoyed between a woman and her doctor. Thank you for respecting that privacy.
And the other...
I'm a female in my 40s that has had two (soon three) such sonagrams for medical monitoring purposes (fibroid and polyp). It is not a big deal -- not painful or much more invasive than a pap test -- and certainly not as invasive as an abortion or the process to get pregnant. I'd much rather go through a sonogram than a mammogram. What's the fear, ladies? That you'll actually see a baby about to be murdered? I've seen a sonogram with a coworker's unborn baby sucking its thumb. What's to fear about that? Maybe that you'll develop a conscience? As a female who's had sonograms I know the procedure is not a big deal. You do a disservice to your reading public, and show your ignorance, by indicating otherwise. Obviously some of your readers are equally uninformed about the procedure.
Most of the newspapers who elected not to publish the strip this week said it's an issue that doesn't belong on the comic pages. But -- and again this is similar to The Daily Show, a comedy show which frequently covers the news better than the news stations -- the issue isn't being debated this week in any other section of most newspapers.
But the Fort Worth Star Telegram, an editorial, denied it's because of any cowardice, a charge level, a charge leveled by Rachel Madow last night.
The reason for not printing the strip has nothing to do with left- or right-wing politics. It has everything to do with civility and consistency.
On Wednesday we published an editorial taking to task radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his crass language about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified before Congress about health insurance coverage for contraceptives. Trudeau's language, accompanied by graphic images, is equally crude.
Strong, passionate arguments can be made about public policies without crossing the line that both these men leaped over. And if the day comes that the debate about abortion is decided by which side's images are the most graphic, the pro-life folks will prevail.
Like it or not, Grover Norquist is the straw that stirs the conservative drink. He may be the most influential man in America when it comes to the "anti-tax" movement that's dominated American politics and changed the shape of state governments, including Minnesota's.
He also really makes people who disagree with his influence angry. A few e-mails that came in while MPR News Presents aired his speech to the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce today suggests that people don't want to hear what he has to say and think MPR is wrong for presenting his speech.
Is this they kind of poor judgement we can now expect from MPR after the departure of Bill Kling and Gary Eichten? Count me as UNimpressed!
If I want to listen to Weasel news, I know exactly where to find it, thank you very much!Grover Norquist has ample platforms from which he can spew his dysfonic misinformation to the detriment of our nation, and the continuing reduction in levels of awareness of reality so desired by those who want to hear the falsehoods that ooze from his lying mouth, falsehoods that further reinforce the alternate-reality bubble in which their psychological dysfunctions have them trapped.
That you would waste valuable airtime on MPR to provide him a platform is highly offensive to me. The vast majority of your listeners were already well aware of what he would say, and NONE of his devoted fans will ever become MPR listeners.
WHAT were you thinking?
Why do you let this man insult people with his lies? Please follow up with a look at this man, Grover Nordquist as to the lies he tells and the harm he is doing. Guilt by association is too cheap for honest radio.
Peter, St. Paul.
It's a fairly typical response when a polarizing figure gets air time. But it speaks to a larger problem, which is not that the listener doesn't want to hear Grover Norquist (there's an on/off button to solve that problem). It's that the listener doesn't want anyone else to hear Grover Norquist.
Speeches aren't meant to be the sum and substance of a conversation. They're meant to start an ongoing conversation. The program's format is to air these speeches, just as the second hour of Midday under Gary Eichten did. The program is produced by Sara Meyer, the longtime producer of Midday. She knows what she's doing.
Today's tragedy in Hudson in which a fuel tanker crashed and exploded on I-94 provides us with another opportunity to play "You Are Editor." What's the top angle in the crash: That I-94 was closed or that the driver was killed?
Here's how various news sites played it this morning:
The Star Tribune:
Several years ago, when I was managing editor of this website, we had a lot of young journalism students taking tours through the World Headquarters. As I was just getting MPR into digital journalism, I'd always ask, "how many of you want to be online journalists?" No hands ever went up. Most everyone wanted to go into TV, a few into newspapers, and a smaller number into radio news.
These days, we hardly ever get groups of aspiring journalists coming through the sacred sod.
That's what I realized today while reading a sad tale from Trisha Marczak, a reporter/photographer at the East Otter Tail Focus, who went to Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Fergus Falls for a high-school career fair, and found no one interested in what she does:
I understand high school students don't have it all figured out, and I truly believe they don't have to. But I at least expected to meet one eager, young student with their eyes set on changing the world through their pen (that's how I felt at that age). Don't these students watch movies? You have to admit; reporters are a movie character favorite. They may not always be small town editors, but you get the idea.
Throughout the day, when explaining to students what I do, exactly, I also began to ask whether any of their schools had student-run newspapers.Not one.
There are still plenty of young people working their way through the dues-paying world of small-market journalism. The Penn State scandal, for example, was uncovered by a 24-year-old in one such market.
But the small towns of America need high school kids to keep feeding the supply of tomorrow's storytellers. Why aren't you, Fergus Falls?(3 Comments)
This was such a nice story....
Until the TV station tried to keep the story alive one more day...
The TV anchor, Kyle Dyer, is in the hospital. The incident happened this morning in Denver.(15 Comments)
If there has ever been a nicer person in the journalism business than the Associated Press' George Esper, not many people know about him. Esper, who toiled for the Associated Press, died last night at age 79.
He spent 10 years reporting in Vietnam, the last two as the Associated Press bureau chief. He was the guy who told you about the fall of Saigon. But most of us old people in the business -- especially those near his Boston base in the '80s -- remember him better as the person who could get positively wide-eyed at our stories of covering the mundane city hall and cop shop beats that young reporters are required to cover.
I spent several evenings as a pup reporter telling him about my work, while simultaneously thinking, "why would someone like you care?" But he did.
And that's where we learned a valuable lesson: You don't have to be a jerk to get the story, but you do have to be a great storyteller. Oh, and it won't kill anyone to care a bit about people. When the North Vietnamese rolled into Saigon, he offered them poundcake and Coke. Not just anyone can meet an invading army.
At a time when the world of journalism needs more George Espers, it sadly has one fewer.
Remember when the Associated Press was winning plaudits a couple of weeks ago for its ironclad system of checking and double-checking sources, a system that kept the AP from reporting the premature death of Joe Paterno?2 Comments)
Former Pioneer Press top editor Thom Fladung is in the center of a journalistic firestorm -- or what passes for one -- in his native Cleveland.
Fladung, who left Minnesota for the Cleveland Plain Dealer a year ago, removed a reporter from his beat -- covering the Cleveland Browns -- because Tony Grossi thought he was sending a direct message to someone when he tweeted to the world that team owner Randy Lerner is "a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world"?
"It's a testament to the fact that, in this day and age, where social networks make people more accessible than ever, public figures must be especially careful as to how they present themselves," a writer for the Dawg Pound Daily says.
It also rekindles an old debate: Is the crime here that the reporter has an opinion? Or is it that now you know what it is?
Fladung called a local sportstalk station to explain it...
In other Cleveland football news, the Browns are about to hire former Vikings coach Brad Childress. In the interest of job security, it might not be a bad idea for football beat writers in that city to go ahead and shut down their Twitter accounts now.(3 Comments)
For people in the media, it's always interesting to watch news organizations try to do something new. There just aren't a lot of "new" ways to do "old" media, not that CBS hasn't tried dozens of times over the decades with its perennial third-place-finishing morning news program.
A few weeks ago, it wiped away its last host team, adding Charlie Rose and Oprah-pal Gayle King.
When the announcement of the Oscar nominees was made this morning, the show tried something new: a Mystery Science Theater 3000-like commentary-fest.
"The 2012 nominees for actress in a supporting role are....." the Oscar ceremony host started...
"I assume this is being seen around the word," Charlie Rose interjected.
"It depends on the time zone," another guest intoned as the nominees were named.
"Jessica Chastain in 'The Help'," the Oscar official said...
"Jessica," Rose added.
"Ahhhh," another host said.
It didn't get much better. It was like the people behind you in a movie theater.(6 Comments)
There are plenty of places on the website to catch the last show and various festivities of Gary Eichten Day (have you seen these pictures), so let's wrap things up with this nugget.
After today's final broadcast, the employees of MPR held a gathering in his honor in the UBS Forum. The employees -- the "little people" -- sent him and his wife to Hawaii. It was Cathy Wurzer's idea.
And then Eichten was presented with his softball jersey.
"We know you always wanted to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame," managing director of regional news Chris Worthington said.
"It doesn't look too good," Eichten said.
"It will hang on the wall of the MPR newsroom forever," Worthington said.
It's the MPR News Hall of Fame. It has one member.(5 Comments)
The pleas of some mental health professionals in Minnesota to change the way newspapers and news organizations cover suicides has apparently not fallen on deaf ears.
Today, the Hastings Star Gazette announced a change in its policy of not covering suicides that happen in private, while reporting on those that happen in public. The paper acknowledged the mostly discredited assertion that covering suicides encourages more suicides (the Star Tribune maintains this policy), which is mostly an incorrect interpretation of what experts say. "Glorifying" suicides risks leads to more suicides. Details. Details.
That was short-sighted on our part. Essentially, we were sweeping the problem under the rug.
This week we changed that policy. We will write about mental health issues in the police report - again, the issues are not criminal, but police are often called to help mediate the situations and in some cases they transport the affected person for evaluation. It's a significant use of police resources, and the public ought to know how their department is spending its time.
Please know we will not be publishing the names of those who are affected. Nor will we publish addresses.
The greater good in this, we hope, is that by telling you about these instances you'll see how prevalent it is. You will have greater awareness about the ongoing struggles taking place in your community. Once you are armed with that information, we hope you'll do what you can to help your fellow residents.
Our guess is that if the people who need this care feel like they are the only ones with the problem, they could feel ashamed. They may refuse to be treated. They could become even more isolated, and that would likely just exacerbate the problem.(2 Comments)
It's over, then.
Gary Eichten has hosted his last Midday call-in program, this one with guest Gov. Mark Dayton.
At the beginning of the Midday program, the governor presented Eichten with a proclamation, naming tomorrow Gary Eichten Day in Minnesota. "Holy cow!" Eichten said. "I'm deeply honored, but I'm a little worried we're going to have a blizzard." And that was that. Eichten went to his first question, and ran the governor right to one o'clock.
WHEREAS Minnesota Public Radio program host and producer, Gary Eichten has shared his talents with Minnesota for over forty-five years, serving in many capacities: news director, special events producer, and station manager, and
WHEREAS Gary graduated from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, and began his career at Minnesota Public Radio as a student announcer at KSJR, Minnesota's first public radio station, in 1967, and
WHEREAS For the past twenty years, Gary has served as the host of "Midday." He is known for his election coverage, hosting MPR's election night broadcasts since 1976, GOP and DFL State Convention broadcasts since 1984, and political debates since 1992. Beginning in 1998, Gary has been on stage at the Fitzgerald Theatre to host the traditional "final debate" in statewide elections, and
WHEREAS Gary has received numerous awards throughout his illustrious career, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting award for best local news programs and the prestigious Graven Award in 2011 for contribution to excellence in the journalism profession. He also assisted in the development of two Peabody award-winning documentaries, and in 2007, was inducted into the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame, and
WHEREAS Gary's guiding principle has always been that for the American democracy to work, the people must be informed -- there is nothing more precious to a citizen than truth; and
WHEREAS Gary always saw himself as a proxy and advocate for his listeners, and never as an entertainer, pundit, or sage. Over the past forty-five years, Minnesotans have come to trust Gary and view him as one of the state's most diligent and fair-minded journalists. He is a broadcasting legend and the sound of his voice on radio nearly every day will be sorely missed
NOW, THEREFORE, I, MARK DAYTON, Governor of the great State of Minnesota , offer heartfelt congratulations to Gary Eichten on his forty-five wonderful years at Minnesota Public Radio and wish him luck in retirement by proclaiming Friday, January 20, 2012 as
GARY EICHTEN DAY
in the State of Minnesota
There are lots of people with lots of awards who throw just one more up on the shelf, but -- and stop me if you've heard this before -- Eichten isn't that type of person.
There was no danger, of course, that Gary would get a big head about a day in his honor, but sometimes you just can't take the chance. "So that's why we don't have light rail out to Woodbury," I said to him. "How much did that cost?"
Minutes later, he was sitting in the daily 1:15 news meeting, where we go over what stories are coming up and what's going to be on the radio.
"A lot of you don't have the luxury of what I've experienced in the last few months and certainly in the last few days," he said. "But what we do really matters to people. The news is a big part of their lives. And I can remember when we'd call people up and say 'Minnesota Public Radio,' and they'd say 'Who?' We make a difference," he said.
At the end of our working days, don't we all dream of knowing that we mattered and made a difference? Thanks to the audience he treated with the respect it deserved, Eichten is living the dream, and things are as they should be.
So maybe it wasn't entirely coincidental that before starting his regular gig today, two of the songs he picked for The Current's Theft of the Dial series were about dreams.(4 Comments)
No doubt, the execs at NPR can exhale now that Vanity Fair's long piece on NPR is out. It reportedly has been in the works for more than a year ("National Public Rodeo"),
1) Not liberal enough.
In the process, it's gone decidedly mainstream. True, in story selection and sound, NPR retains a tincture of elite liberalism. (Anyone seeking evidence need only listen to the insufferable "Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!") But as its critics on the left contend (yes, there are lots of them too, every bit as over-heated as those on the right), on NPR these days there's far more comforting the afflicted than afflicting the comfortable. NPR has traded much of its early edginess and eccentricity for reach and respectability, stability, and an almost compulsive inoffensiveness. (When, not long ago, Leon Panetta called Osama bin Laden a "son of a bitch," NPR felt compelled to bleep out the "bitch.") Apart from the occasional stories about gays or Palestinians (and maybe even gay Palestinians), there's precious little on NPR these days for conservatives really to hate. For them, despising NPR and cutting off what amounts to the few pennies it collects from the federal budget has increasingly become more a matter of pandering, or habit, or sophomoric sport, than of conviction or serious policy. The editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, once confessed to former NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin that he really didn't believe NPR was liberal; he just said so "to keep you guys on the defensive." And that still seems true.
2) Pushed around by Juan Williams:
Three times in our hour-long interview, (Tell Me More host Michael) Martin called Williams "the most skillful manipulator of white people's anxieties that I have ever met." Sure enough, when I asked Williams whether he had spread himself too thin at NPR, he came back at me the next time we talked claiming I'd called him "lazy," a lethally incendiary word in a racial context I'd neither used (the interview was taped) nor implied, nor had ever heard anyone else use or imply. (Williams is quite the opposite of lazy: he's hyperkinetic.) Many journalists are surprisingly thin-skinned: to Williams, just about any criticism is ridicule, and personal, and maybe just a bit bigoted. "There's no way that I could be me and be a phony," he said. "It's just too public, too highprofile. If I was in fact a charlatan who knew nothing and was over-extended and was a pretender, it would just be so transparent."
3) And Juan Williams is asking tough questions at Fox that NPR should be asking:
In the Wall Street Journal/Fox News-sponsored debate among the Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina on January 16, the dilemma was on perfect display. In fact, to those who continue to follow him, Williams's performance gave rise to an interesting sideshow, a debate within a debate. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Williams was a panelist alongside Bret Baier and two representatives from The Wall Street Journal. The topics ranged from foreign affairs to tax policy to "super PACs," but with a couple of exceptions, virtually every question Williams asked that night dealt with minorities and their problems in an especially troubled economy.
In a hotbed of "states rights," he asked Rick Perry whether the federal government should continue to scrutinize the voting laws of states that have historically discriminated against minorities. He asked Mitt Romney--whose father, he noted, was born in Mexico--whether his opposition to the Dream Act threatened to alienate Hispanics. He asked Rick Santorum if now was the time to address the extraordinarily high poverty rate among black Americans. He asked Ron Paul to acknowledge racial disparities in drug-related arrests and convictions. Whenever a candidate answered that blacks and Hispanics should receive no preferential treatment whatsoever, he received lusty applause, while Williams sat there glumly. Then, in a question that brought hoots of derision from the hand-picked, wealthy, white Republican crowd, Williams accused Newt Gingrich of belittling the poor by suggesting, essentially, that their poverty was their fault: they really didn't like to work. Then, over more boos, he asked it again.
Summary: There's not a lot of "new" in the piece, though it will rekindle previous debates.
There are two days left now before Gary Eichten calls it a career, and although I've written at least two tribute pieces to the man in the last year, I feel compelled to join the (highly appropriate) media tributes to the long-time Midday host. Instead, I'm going to pay tribute to him in a way only Eichten would appreciate -- throwing the spotlight on his colleague who can't stand the spotlight.
One of the pitfalls of radio is the audience only knows the existence of the voices, not the considerable infrastructure behind the scenes. Sara Meyer is part of that infrastructure. This photo, taken by David Brauer today (he was in to interview Gary), is one of the few pictures she allowed to be taken of her. (Update: Sara says she didn't know David took the picture. I knew it!)
Meyer is the producer of Midday and every deserved tribute that Mr. Eichten is getting as he concludes his career, should live in the shadow cast by Meyer as well. For as larger-than-life a person as Eichten is to the audience, Sara Meyer is to this newsroom, too.
She, like Gary, is the model of professionalism and integrity. She, like Gary, is unflappable in the face of mishaps and breaking news. Every guest you've heard on Midday in the last several decades (she fled to Minnesota from her native Massachusetts in
1985 1975), you heard because Sara made the phone calls to potential guests who were smart enough not to say "no."
There's nothing easy about producing a two-hour talk show with multiple guests or live coverage at state political conventions, live broadcasts from the Capitol, or election nights that go into the next morning. The smoother it all sounds on the air, and the more it sounds like the host is doing it himself, the harder a producer is working. The reward is often only the tongue lashing from the would-be caller who couldn't get on the air because he wanted to deliver a speech that had nothing to do with the topic being discussed.
Like Eichten, her passion is politics. She can tell you where most political districts are, and who lost the election in them 20 years ago.
She is not without blemishes; she maintained that Jim Rice belonged in the Baseball Hall of Fame until everyone got so tired of hearing about it, they put him in.
Gary will retire on Friday and the sun will come up by 11:06 on Monday morning. Sara is staying, as far we know. The plans for Midday will not be announced until after Gary's final show on Friday, presumably because the management (appropriately) doesn't want to distract from the spotlight on Gary.
Gary Eichten has just started today's Midday show in his usual style. There'll be only two more such occasions until he retires to the good life.
His retirement has brought out the literary genius -- more or less -- in his audience, which has been submitting messages to him for the last few weeks.
Today's highlight, courtesy of "Steve R." is worthy of mention:
O CAPTAIN! my Commentator! Your wonderful trip is done;
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel of news has been grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of real news,
Where on the deck my Captain now resides,
Retired and much missed.
O Captain! my Commentator! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up-for you the flag of honest news is flung-for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear Newsman!
This Network beneath supported your clear head;
It was a dream that you were on the air,
You've captured our hearts and heads.
My Commentator does not answer the call in lines anymore;
My Commentator does not feed my head and now I have no pulse nor will;
His news was anchor'd safe and sound, now the voice closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
I walk the dial my Commentator left,
Now shallow, empty and with dread.
If we only had a name for this society of Midday fans.(2 Comments)
Richard Threlkeld was killed in a car crash in New York this morning. A few people -- news junkies, mostly -- will recognize him as a former network news correspondent for CBS and ABC News. He cut his journalistic teeth as a TV reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
More than likely, though, few people will remember that it was Threlkeld who made fact-checking political candidates a standard of network news. He started doing so with the famous Dukakis "tank" ad in the 1988 presidential election.
Very little of the ad was actually true, Threlkeld pointed out in a piece that took the assertions apart one by one. But it didn't matter, because it was enough that Dukakis simply looked silly,.
Threlkeld and journalism expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson discussed the technique during a seminar at Jamieson's Annenberg School for Communications in 1992. You can find a copy of the presentation here and it's worth watching again.
During it, he lamented his company's definition of balance: that if he found falsehoods in a campaign ad for then (vice) president George Bush, he had to find falsehoods in challenger Mike Dukakis. "The problem ... you always want to find two sides of a story. In this case there was only one side of the story, and I was unsuccessful in convincing them that sometimes there's only one side of a story."
Coincidentally, Threlkeld's death came on the same day that the New York Times, which sees itself as the defining standard of journalism, caused a ruckus in the journalism community by asking whether it's OK in 2012 to point out the falsehoods of political candidates.
Also coincidentally, his death came the week that his former company, CBS, launched a new morning TV news show that it claimed -- mostly, incorrectly -- would put the "news back in morning news shows." He and Leslie Stahl were the anchors of the CBS morning news show from 1977 to 1979. It tanked in the ratings.(2 Comments)
The New York Times' ombudsman, Arthur Brisbane, asks an interesting question today that many people will consider a slam dunk, and others will consider: Should reporters point out when someone is lying?
As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?
If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:
"The president has never used the word 'apologize' in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president's words."
Or should reporters simply write what they're told? If this question sounds familiar, you're probably a regular NewsCut reader.(13 Comments)
There are only 8 broadcasts of MPR's Midday left before Broadcasting Hall of Fame host Gary Eichten retires; this is a massively depressing fact for a sizable part of the MPR audience and 100 percent of the people who work here.
We've enjoyed reading the messages that people have been submitting, but few have elicited the guffaws that the imagery from one did today.
A woman who moved here from Germany 18 years ago reminisced about her introduction to Midday, closing with this:
"In centuries past, big proud saling ships had statues of naked ladies mounted to the front that showed them the way through the oceans. I sure hope that MPR is still going to find its way after its very own naked lady, Gary Eichten, has gone home."
Of course, we put our best and brightest on that one...
Mr. Eichten has worked at MPR for nearly 45 years, but it wasn't until his last two weeks in the business that he picked up a nickname that might just stick.
(h/t: Michael Wells)(10 Comments)
Charles W. Bailey, the former editor of the Minneapolis Tribune and its successor paper, the Star Tribune, died Tuesday in a New Jersey nursing home. He was 82.
For the generation of young reporters and editors who entered the journalism business during Watergate, Chuck Bailey was the perfect editor in chief. He came from the East Coast and brought with him an air of old money. He reminded us a little of the Washington Post's Ben Bradlee. He could wear a bow tie and make it work.
Once during the news huddle he asked why the Tribune was giving so much attention to a Lutheran convention. One of the editors pointed out that Minnesota had substantial numbers of Lutherans. Chuck replied, "No, Episcopalians are substantial. Lutherans are merely numerous."
That was the story, anyway. Chuck was larger than life, and it was sometimes hard to tell the legend from reality. He wrote "Seven Days in May," a major political thriller that got made into a movie. He was there when Bobby Kennedy was killed. He was on Air Force One when LBJ took the oath of office. He went with Nixon to China.
That last one I was sure of, because I'd seen a photo from the trip in Chuck's office. Even at the bottom of the Tribune's food chain, I was often in that office, answering questions about my life and career plans. Once, when he found out I was planning to visit London on vacation, he pressed on me the home phone number of a famous foreign correspondent who he insisted would have me to dinner. He made me promise to call. I did, and though no dinner invitation came of it, I did have a memorable conversation.
It says something about a boss: that he would go to such lengths to make a young employee feel like a colleague.
Chuck wrote an occasional column for the editorial page of the Tribune. All too often these days, executive editors and publishers use columns like that to promote a coming series of news articles or to celebrate circulation gains or an iPad app. But Chuck never wrote promotional copy, and instead based his columns on the news. He was implicitly stating a principle: that he would hold himself to the same standards he expected of anyone else.
When he left the paper, it was again to state a principle, explicitly this time. After the Tribune merged with the afternoon Minneapolis Star -- a merger that Star employees compared to the merger of a bug with a windshield -- Chuck promised that staff reductions would go only so far. When the publisher told him he would have to break that promise and make more cuts, he quit. He announced his reasons in one of those somber shirtsleeves meetings that newsrooms always have when something awful is about to happen.
He did pretty well for himself after that, taking a job with NPR in Washington. But as he walked away from a job he clearly loved, he wept, and his staff applauded. In 30 years at the newspaper, I never heard that kind of applause again.
Every now and again, we'll get an e-mail from somebody who objects to the reporting of anything "but the facts." Some people don't want analysis and they don't want anything but what somebody says. That would be a bad thing.
It's a bad idea for journalists to cover a campaign by merely reporting the words of candidates.
It was a fact that Mrs. Bachmann said she'd stay in the race after Iowa no matter what. But it wasn't the truth, and most every political analyst knew it. Facts vs. truth: Which should be in a headline?
"I didn't tell you what I knew to be false," she said today.
How would you headline that?(19 Comments)
Something's missing this afternoon from the front page of the Des Moines Register's website:
It's the cleverly placed ad, purchased by Barack Obama's campaign, that was there this morning:
(From Romenesko)(7 Comments)
The last week of the year is a challenge for anyone in the news business; there's simply very little news going on.
So it's a good time to waste time -- cleaning out the e-mail, for example.
Today, I started chucking e-mails that I've saved in the "Stuff to Save" folder. There are e-mails from colleagues who are dead now, couples who are divorced, and the rare missive from someone who wrote something nice. There are passwords for sites that no longer exist. But some are e-mails I saved for reading later, and then never got around to.
There's this one, for example, from November 2003 from a high school student at Jefferson High School in Bloomington, who attended a symposium MPR had offered for young people who might be interested in a career in journalism. I was managing editor for MPR's online news division then (there were only two of us).
We do very few of these anymore, which is too bad because there's nothing more invigorating for journalists than young people who are interested in the field.
Anyway, she wrote a thank-you note to the person who was my boss back then:
I can honestly say I enjoyed all the speakers, but I was especially intrigued by Mr. Collins' speech about online journalism. I think it's very interesting that radio as a news medium, in particular, has embraced online journalism to the degree that it has. I have heard quite often that online journalism means the end of journalistic reporting as we now know it. Of course, this is true, but Mr. Collins emphasized particularly how that is not a bad thing. He implied that it perhaps makes the job a bit more difficult, but it also allows the public access to more information. That, of course, is what journalism is all about. His speech made me realize that journalism is at a very exciting point right now, evolving and becoming something better than it was before. He also tied his speech in well with Mr. Skolar's talk on Interactive Journalism. I also found this topic particularly interesting. I find that many people my age, myself sometimes included, tend to be quite apathetic about events that are happening around them. By allowing people to, in effect, become the news, it should increase interest. That's simply human nature. What an absolutely ingenious idea.
I wondered whatever happened to that kid? So I "Googled" her and found her... at the Washington Post. She made it to the big time.
Good for you, Hayley Tsukayama!
I wonder what else is in this email folder?
It's pretty unusual to see journalists sniping at each other across the country, but that's happening today between aviation reporter Christine Negroni and a blogger at the New York Times.
Negroni, who reported for the Times this year on a story about the electromagnetic interference consumer devices could cause for airplane navigation systems, is hitting Times blogger Nick Bilton hard for a series of posts that pooh poohs the threat.
Negroni makes a rational argument before unleashing the journalistic version of the "nuclear option."
For those who prefer their pilots not to be wetting their pants over suspected EMI flight control issues I'll point out that it is a basic tenet of aviation safety that events are more predictive than accidents. These pilots were reporting on the precursors to crashes.
But Bilton, having spoken to at last count about half a dozen people over the course of four posts tells Times readers its "time to change the rules."
He's wrong. Aviation's remarkable record is the result of eliminating anticipated risks and creating redundant systems for the risks and errors that are unpredictable. The use of portable electronic devices falls squarely in the former.
Bilton would know that if he felt the need to take his reporting even slightly off the path between his hunches and his biases. As a blogger he may not need to do that, but as someone who's opinions fall under the banner of The New York Times, he and his editors certainly ought to.
By the way, it would be "whose opinions."(6 Comments)
The Mankato TV station anchor whose "slurred speech" during a newscast made her a YouTube hit has been arrested for DUI.
The Mankato Free Press says Annie Stensrud, 28, was arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated on Wednesday morning.
KEYC, the TV station where Sensrud works -- or worked, it's still not clear -- has since had the video pulled from YouTube.
But here's how Stensrud performed during better times. This is her "demo reel," a video anchors put together to help them get jobs.(2 Comments)
There is no shortage of top-ten best-of lists helping us to boil the year down to a blog post. Time's Person of the Year is worth a conversation. The magazine selected "The Protester."
Time: "Once upon a time, when major news events were chronicled strictly by professionals and printed on paper or transmitted through the air by the few for the masses, protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news -- vivid, important, often consequential. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the '70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the '80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means."
Who would you like to see on the cover of the magazine?
It's a lesson that never gets learned: The best way to generate more exposure for speech is to try to suppress it. People who would never have given an obscure reality show a second look will tune in to "All-American Muslim," now that the Florida Family Association has pressured the Lowe's chain to withdraw its advertising.
The group's executive director, interviewed by CNN's John King, did his cause no credit by first pronouncing the word "imam" as "eye-mom." Or by allowing himself to be interviewed in close conjunction with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who did a credible of job of arguing his simple point: Muslims are just regular people. What strange times we live in, that making such a case seems necessary.
Maybe you've noticed the latest local trend in TV news: If something happens to one of the station's "talent," it's news. Have a baby? News. Get a disease? News. Time for the colonoscopy? Health segment.
When is something not news? When most of the nation is laughing at your anchorperson for doing a newscast, apparently, under the influence of.... something.
As an earlier 5x8 post indicated this week, it happened Sunday to an anchor in Mankato.
The TV station hadn't said anything about it until last night, posting a short message on its website at a time when few people are looking at news websites.
"Sunday night's uncharacteristic newscast on KEYC Mankato can hardly be considered private. Nonetheless, in our judgment, the matter represents a personnel issue to be resolved internally."
Dennis M. Wahlstrom
Vice President and General Manager, KEYC
Fair enough. Even though the person is obviously in the public eye, privacy is demanded, even if it makes news. It's not a policy often extended by the news media to people not in the news media.
Later last night, the anchorwoman issued a statement saying she's been sick and on medication.
Perhaps there's a future story here on the need to read the warning labels.(2 Comments)
Posted at 3:43 PM on December 6, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Media
This week has presented us with two significant developments in Minnesota's media landscape: 1) The Utne Reader is leaving Minneapolis for Topeka, and 2) The Star Tribune metered pay wall seems to be working.
In both instances loyal readers were there, but finding loyal advertisers continues to be a struggle.
Strib metered pay wall: Web traffic down 10-15 percent, revenue up. MinnPost's David Brauer sees good things in the early numbers on the Star Tribune's metered pay wall system. "Long-term, there's still reason to believe this will help create a durable digital subscriber base that advertisers eventually pay more for," Brauer writes. "That should keep journalists celebrating."
In addition to keeping this momentum going, the Strib is facing a new challenge to convince advertisers that a smaller audience is worth more money.
Editor-in-Chief David Schimke and his staff will not be moving to Topeka with the magazine. But he did take the time to answer a few questions.
Combs: In the past six years the Utne Reader hasn't been able to make a profit. Why is that? Have automatic aggregaters like Google Reader replaced digests?
Schimke: I think it's a little bit that. But the fact is, we've been winning awards; we even upped the price and didn't see a decrease in subscribership. But the advertising just isn't there. We have a small loyal audience, but it's a difficult audience to market to.
We've had a couple of posts this week on the subject of suicide and over the years, there've been plenty on the question of whether and when should the media indicate a suicide is a suicide.
This week, we got a glimpse into what happens when it's a member of the media who takes his own life.
It happened in Kansas City, when meteorologist Don Harman hanged himself. The station involved asked most of the media in town not to report the death. They didn't.
Peggy Phillip, a news director at a competing news director writes today:
We talked about how we would proceed, first at our weekly manager meeting and then with all reporters, producers and photographers in our daily editorial meeting. Our sources at the police department confirmed that Harman died by suicide. We did not report Harman's suicide on our 11 a.m. newscast. Some have criticized this decision. I understand why but I stand by what we (and most of the other newsrooms in Kansas City) did.
Certainly the management at WDAF was in the most difficult position, balancing the public's right to know with their own significant loss.
And therein lies one of the questions: Should the media treat a story differently because it involves one of their own. Phillip says it wasn't until 4 or 5 p.m. the next day that her station treated the story as a suicide, and provided more information about suicide in general.
From what she writes today, it was a high-volume discussion.2 Comments)
How is running a country different than running a corporation? When you run a country, you don't get to make the rules.
Here's the response Herman Cain's attorney, Lin Wood, sent to a Georgia TV station which this evening is running an interview with a woman who claims she's had an affair with the presidential candidate for the last 13 years:
Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace - this is not an accusation of an assault - which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.
Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door.
Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media."
Fair game? Or is it out of bounds?
The Minnesota Independent online news site is closing.
The network of individual locally-targeted "Independent" sites is being eliminated in favor of one big site.
According to a note on the Independent's site:
I am writing today to announce the closure of the Minnesota Independent. After five years of operation in Minnesota, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news into a single site, The American Independent at Americanindependent.com.
This is part of a shift in strategy, towards new forms of journalism made available as technology has advanced, and an increasing emphasis on national coverage and issue-based coverage from our network. Over the coming months, AINN will announce a number of new journalism initiatives that will continue to advance our mission of producing impact journalism in the public interest.
Going forward, an archive of Minnesota Independent's reporting will exist on AmericanIndependent.com.
We are grateful for the loyal readership of the MnIndy, and to the outstanding work of our reporters and editors.
We look forward to keeping you posted on our plans, which will be announced early next year.
David S. Bennahum
CEO & founder, The American Independent News Network
You heard the one about the reporter who heard "dog" when a meat market worker said "duck," right?
The Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists says WCCO has some explaining to do. The MnSPJ has come out in support of demands made by the Asian American Journalists Association that WCCO explain how its unfounded story claiming that dogs from Minnesota were sold in New York as meat made it to air.
We understand that mistakes happen, but we are disappointed that we have yet to see an explanation from WCCO regarding the report in question, which has since been pulled from the website. The report, which perpetuates an Asian stereotype, resulted in a state probe of the meat market in which no evidence was found of dog meat (AAJA).
The City Pages rolled out some new information on what led to the error.
Apparently it wasn't a snap judgement to air the story and publish it online.
"It was approved by multiple middle manager producers, and the CBS lawyer," says the source. "Our news director hasn't said a word, hasn't approached anyone in the newsroom about it. He may make heads roll before his head rolls."
The City Pages source also says that "a reporter from the CBS affiliate in New York was deployed to Chinatown to ask if the meat market in question also sold dogs as pets, according to our source. The question met with a confused 'No.'"
But I-TEAM reporter James Schugel pressed on with the story and in a phone call with a market employee confused "duck" with "dog."
Thanks to a cached version of the story, here is how the exchange was reported on WCCO.com:
The I-TEAM found no sign of dogs, until they called the market directly.
"Do you sell dogs?" asked the I-TEAM'S Schugel.
"Yea. We sell dog," said the man who answered the phone.
"Dogs for people to eat?" asked Schugel.
"Uh, yea," he said. "We sell many kinds of meat."
"Dogs for people to eat?" asked Schugel.
"Yes," said the man.
The I-TEAM questioned the man again, just to be clear. He said he does not sell dogs for pets. He only sells them for food.
After hearing the shocking story New York Agriculture Department investigators went to the market and found no indication the market was selling dog meat.(1 Comments)
Sooner or later, the two young people interviewed in this segment would have been ashamed of themselves and their comments. When they had children of their own, for example. Last night's "Daily Show" merely hastens the day.
NPR and other news organizations have now identified "Woman A" in the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal.
(Karen) Kraushaar, 55, a career federal employee and registered Republican, currently works as a communications director at the U.S. Treasury Department.
The release of her name also came after the restaurant association, acting on a request by Kraushaar's lawyer, Joel Bennett, freed her last week from a confidentiality agreement signed when she settled her harassment case against Cain and left the association with a cash payment in June 1999. Bennett on Friday read a statement on behalf of Kraushaar, who alleged the incidents involving Cain were "a series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances from the CEO."
Journalist Dan Gillmor has long maintained that using anonymous sources hurts the credibility of news organizations:
Whether the reporters and editors who so casually violate their institutions' rules are simply arrogant and/or lazy, or whether they genuinely believe they're providing information that readers need to know, they're undermining the credibility of their news organizations almost every time they do this. In reality, whether they understand it or not, they betray contempt for their readers, not respect.
As a reader, I've trained myself to treat anonymously sourced stories with the most extreme skepticism. Unless I can infer a truly compelling reason for the anonymity, I now actively disbelieve -- or, at best, assume a sleazy motive on the part of the source -- what I read in these circumstances.
The question of whether anonymity should be extended to people in a news story is not without the occasional flash of comedic irony. Take this paragraph from Michael Calderone's recent article on Huffington Post.:
"There's no journalistic reason not to name them," said the executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "I think it comes down to a very simple equation: If you name them, the likelihood of your news organization interviewing them probably goes down to zero."
The Twins have named a new play-by-play radio broadcaster to replace John Gordon, who retired at the end of last season.
Cory Provus gets the job after serving the last few years as the backup to Milwaukee Brewers' legendary broadcaster Bob Uecker.
I haven't listened to an entire season of Milwaukee Brewer baseball but a quick scan today revealed a solid play-by-play style -- nothing particularly flashy and generally whitebread in nature -- with the occasional baseball cliche thrown in...
He's no Ernie Harwell nor Vin Scully, but who is?
You can learn a little more about him and his baseball knowledge by reading his blog at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Of course, Provus won't have Uecker in the booth with him, so we wont' have exchanges like this, which Provus documented on his blog:
Bob: "Do you know anything about Tony Plush? Where does he come from?"
Cory: "Well, Nyjer Morgan is who you see on the plane and in the clubhouse. However, once he takes the field he becomes Tony Plush."
Bob: "All right."
Cory: "So, tonight's text question tonight is for you. If Tony Plush is Nyjer's alter ego, what is Bob Uecker's?"
-Now, without any hesitation he uttered the following answer....
Bob: "Bette Davis."
-Little background on Bette. Her website, BetteDavis.com, labels her as "The First Lady of the American Screen." She won numerous awards over her legendary acting career incuding a couple of Academy Awards.
Bob: "Just the way she dressed. Powerful. Good right handed hitter. Looked good in flats, heels and pumps. I do all of that."
Cory: "Really? I haven't seen that side of you yet?"
Bob: "Well, don't come into my room unannounced. Otherwise you'll see me in a dress."(4 Comments)
What was your favorite Audie Cornish moment on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday? It's over. At least for now.
Just five months after Cornish took over the program from long-time host Liane Hansen, NPR is tapping Cornish as the new host of the daily All Things Considered program, according to the Two Way blog.
She takes over, at least until next November, from Minnesota native Michele Norris, who is leaving the host position because her husband is taking a job with the Obama re-election campaign.
Norris will continue in a reporting role, but won't do any political stories, according to NPR.
It's not really hard to understand why some members of the public don't see the problem with journalists taking an active role in a news story, as long as they're taking part on their side.
But it's surprising that some journalists don't see the perception problem doing so presents...
Caitlin Curran, a web journalist, wanted to do a story on reaction to the sign, so she had her boyfriend hold it. When he got tired of holding it, she held it. In the business, this is referred to as "crossing the line."
She revealed it all to the Gawker website:
The next day, The Takeaway's director fired me over the phone, effective immediately. He was inconsolably angry, and said that I had violated every ethic of journalism, and that this should be a "teaching moment" for me in my career as a journalist. The segment I had pitched, of course, would not happen. Ironically, the following day Marketplace did pretty much the exact segment I thought would have been great on The Takeaway, with Kai Ryssdal discussing the sign and the Goldman Sachs deal it alluded to in terms that were far from neutral.
Well, not exactly. The story Marketplace did was with the person who wrote the words, not a reporter who was taking part in a demonstration and then covering herself taking part in a demonstration.
It may well be splitting hairs, but if you write the words that someone else uses in an active news story, is that the same as holding the sign with those words? Here's the original post on The Atlantic's website, which has context and information, and would constitute, as they say, "informed opinion."
Nonetheless, does that make the journalist who wrote the words part of the protest?(5 Comments)
Cue the "we knew it" outrage.
Michele Norris is leaving hosting duties at National Public Radio -- temporarily -- because her husband is joining the national Barack Obama re-election campaign.
In a note to staff posted on the company's Two Way blog, Norris says she's not leaving reporting, just hosting:
I need to share some news and I wanted to make sure my NPR family heard this first. Last week, I told news management that my husband, Broderick Johnson, has just accepted a senior adviser position with the Obama Campaign. After careful consideration, we decided that Broderick's new role could make it difficult for me to continue hosting ATC. Given the nature of Broderick's position with the campaign and the impact that it will most certainly have on our family life, I will temporarily step away from my hosting duties until after the 2012 elections. I will be leaving the host chair at the end of this week, but I'm not going far. I will be wearing a different hat for a while, producing signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there's still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role.
"This has all happened very quickly, but working closely with NPR management, we've been able to make a plan that serves the show, honors the integrity of our news organization and is best for me professionally and personally.
"I will certainly miss hosting, but I will remain part of the ATC team and I look forward to contributing to our show and NPR in new and exciting ways."
The should amp up the "NPR is just a bunch of liberals" cackling. And it comes days after an opera host, whose show was distributed but not owned by NPR, got into ethical hot water because she also served as a spokeswoman for Occupy protests in Washington
It also shows the tricky aspect of determining ethics where family members are concerned. Sure, there's a fair chance that if Michele Norris married a senior adviser to Barack Obama, that Barack Obama is on her list of favorites. But, prove it. Clearly, she thought the perception of a conflict of interest was an ethical violation, but does moving to reporting duties erase that?
Norris also recused herself in 2004 when her husband worked on the Kerry campaign. But she didn't when he volunteered on the Obama campaign in 2008.
Another NPR host, Linda Wertheimer, is married to Fred Wertheimer, the former president of Common Cause. There's no indication that presented ethical problems for either her or the company for which she works.(9 Comments)
Which one of these images is more newsworthy?
Or this one?
They were both taken by Associated Press photographer Andrew Burton at an Occupy Wall Street protest last week, a protest that has been largely non-violent.
But it was the top photo that was splashed on the front page of newspapers over the weekend.
You are the editor: Which photo do you use?
"We've written several articles and run numerous photographs in the paper and online from Occupy Wall Street protests, Washington Post Managing Editor Liz Spayd told Salon.com. "The vast majority portrayed the animated but generally peaceful demonstrations you describe. The one we ran last Saturday was a powerful, vivid image of a protester clashing with a policeman. Of all the photographs we looked at that day, it was the most original and the most newsy. The cutline made clear there were only 15 protesters arrested, a small number given the total crowd. We remain highly interested in this movement and its potential political power in the future."
There's some speculation, apparently, that maybe the "tackling protester" was just falling. The photographer told Salon he doesn't know. He said he didn't see the moment he'd captured with his camera and doesn't know what happened.(5 Comments)
What part of the First Amendment don't government officials get? On some days, most of it.
In Broward County, Florida, a mayor says reporters for a local newspaper have to register as lobbyists, the Sun Sentinel reports. At issue is a county code of ethics and Lauderhill Mayor Richard Kaplan's interpretation of it in an email to a reporter.
Though reporters do not necessarily consider what they do is lobbying, their work is provided to the editors who use their research to write editorials. Editors do try to influence the final decision making indirectly (which is communication by an means) which is lobbying according to the new law as I see it. It is this understanding that your research will be used in lobbying activities by editors that pay you, that I believe may include reporters in as lobbyist. I just don't want to risk the situation.
The mayor in this case certainly has the right not to talk to the media, but once reporters are required to register as lobbyists, they subject themselves to regulations and that's the part that probably runs afoul of the Constitution.
No matter to many of the commenters on the paper's site, most of whom invoke a political angle and prove again that many people are willing to defend the constitution right up to the point where it becomes politically distasteful to do so.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, a federal prosecutor is threatening "going after" newspapers, radio and TV stations because of ads they're running for illegal marijuana operations in a state that has legalized medicinal use of marijuana.
According to the Center for Investigative Reporting...
Federal law prohibits people from placing ads for illegal drugs, including marijuana, in "any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication." The law could conceivably extend to online ads; the U.S. Department of Justice recently extracted a $500 million settlement from Google for selling illegal ads linking to online Canadian pharmacies.
Duffy said her effort against TV, radio or print outlets would first include "going after these folks with ... notification that they are in violation of federal law." She noted that she also has the power to seize property or prosecute in civil and criminal court.
William G. Panzer, an attorney who specializes in marijuana defense cases, said publishers may have a reason to worry. Federal law singles out anyone who "places" an illegal ad in a newspaper or publication. Nevertheless, Panzer said he is not aware of a single appellate case dealing with this section of the law.
"Technically, if I'm running the newspaper and somebody gives me money and says, 'Here's the ad,' I'm the one who is physically putting the ad in my newspaper," he said. "I think this could be brought against the actual newspaper. Certainly, it's arguable, but the statute is not entirely clear on that."
Duffy, if she carries out her threat, would have a leg to stand on where TV and radio stations are concerned. TV/radio, regulated by the government, doesn't enjoy 1st Amendment protections that extent to an unregulated newspaper industry. But prosecuting a newspaper on the basis of content -- even advertising content -- might invite a constitutional challenge.
In this case, the law against placing illegal ads is equating the person placing the illegal ad with the organizations -- mostly alt-weeklies -- accepting it.
The even larger issue, of course, is a federal government essentially targeting a state's decision to legalize marijuana.(3 Comments)
So now we know. Timelines are the big deal that Facebook announced today. It's basically an online scrapbook of your life, called Timelines:
But will it replace scrapbooks? A few years ago, my mother surprised me at Christmas with a scrapbook she made of my life. Sure, it had pictures -- the kind you got when you picked them up at the photo store a week after you dropped off the film. It also had a postcard I sent to my grandmother in Florida (announcing some new chickens has laid eggs), a letter I sent to the editor of the local newspaper at age 12 warning against pollution (I grew up in a mill town; there's no pollution anymore because all the mills have closed), the program at my high school graduation. In other words, a lot of non-digital items that withstand archiving in the digital age.
There's another aspect of an online timeline/scrapbook: You're more likely to actually "scrapbook" your life in a more honest way if you know that people aren't likely to see it until, perhaps, you're gone. Throw something up online, and you're probably going to sanitize it so it looks more like the Christmas letters people send you every year, the ones that edit out real life.
Some analysts think this presents a problem for Google. "What does the new Facebook mean to Google?" someone asked via Twitter a short whilte ago. "Google knows our search and browsing history, but Facebook is going to know OUR history."
But which is likely to reveal the real you, the history you post via a Timeline, or the you you reveal by revealing it Google through searches and other activities?
I'm anxious to see everyone's Timeline to see if I have the same reaction as when I open those letters.2 Comments)
When the Republican Party of Florida hosts a presidential debate tomorrow, many people will be listening to the candidates' answers, but they may be just as influenced by the audience's reaction, the Columbia Journalism Review says today.
Through a series of four experiments, the social scientists showed that when an audience cheers, applauds, or reacts favorably to a candidate, viewers are far more likely to hold a positive view of that candidate than had they watched the performance without an audience reaction.
Moments in which an audience reacts are also more memorable and more likely to be reported by the media; these moments, in turn, often become defining sound bites in a campaign season and provide a candidate momentum in the horse race. Ronald Reagan's "There you go again," (directed at Jimmy Carter) and Lloyd Bentsen's "You're no Jack Kennedy" (to Dan Quayle) are classic examples of these sorts of utterances.
"For the audience watching at home, these moments validate certain perspectives and can suggest to the audience that there is much more consensus about a particular point than there really is," Steven Fein, a social psychologist, says. "Just because people are louder doesn't mean it reflects popular opinion."
The problem primarily is also that the media captures these moments and that defines the debate. For example, when candidate Ron Paul was asked by the moderator whether a healthy 30-year-old who gets sick should simply die, some yahoo in the audience shouted, "yeah," and that's what got everyone's attention, and, hence, coverage.
But the first word in the candidate's answer was "no." Too late. The answer was defined by the coverage of the audience.
"What really concerns me is how much the media plays this as a sporting thing. It really sounds like a horse race or a baseball season," Fein says. There's this titillating quality to a lot of the coverage--all the bells and whistles and charts and 3-D things. It just cheapens the whole process and makes the emphasis on very superficial things. It becomes what reader and viewer comes to expect. With a little more substance it can make a bit of a difference, I think the audience is capable of more than more of what the media thinks they are."
Which brings up the obvious question: Is the audience capable of more than what the media thinks they are?
It's not at all unusual for news organizations to be threatened with lawsuits, but fairly unusual for one to be filed. In Duluth today, however, a hospital has filed suit against the investigative reporting of the Duluth News Tribune.
St. Luke's Hospital has filed suit against the paper for its report on neurosurgeon Stefan Konasiewicz, who worked at the hospital from 1997 to 2008.
In May, the paper ran a series of articles alleging the hospital was ignoring the number of malpractice suits filed against the doctor:
When he moved from Duluth about three years ago, Konasiewicz left behind two dead patients, one woman paralyzed from the neck down and six others who say his treatment caused them serious physical harm.
His former employer, St. Luke's hospital, was aware of the harm Konasiewicz was alleged to have caused and yet continued to let him practice, according to records obtained and interviews conducted by the News Tribune.
In its lawsuit, the hospital says the paper knew that the hospital "had a rigorous Quality Assurance program, that all adverse outcomes were investigated, and that St. Luke's has always engaged in an ongoing extensive peer review program," and that state law and the rules for participating in Medicare required the hospital to have an accredited peer review program.
"To create this false news report, Defendants intentionally and deliberately mislead sources, quoted sources out of context, and purposefully avoided information that would contradict their preconceived story," the lawsuit alleges.
In August, the paper followed up with two more stories about the efforts of colleagues to call attention to Konasiewicz, and seemed to imply that the administration looked the other way because he was making money for the hospital that was losing it before the doctor was hired:
Peter Goldschmidt, an orthopedic surgeon who shared patients with Konasiewicz as part of St. Luke's trauma team, said he saw so many complications and adverse outcomes from his colleague that in the early 2000s he brought his concerns directly to St. Luke's senior administration. People he addressed, he said, included CEO and President John Strange, Vice President of Clinics Sandra Barkley and Chief Nursing Officer JoAnn Hoag. He said he also spoke about Konasiewicz with the then-chair of St. Luke's board, Wells McGiffert.
"I thought something had to be done because of the unacceptably high complication rate," said Goldschmidt, who has worked in Duluth since 1994 with Orthopedic Associates, an independent practice that works with St. Luke's. "Nothing seemed to change in (Konasiewicz's practice). And I never received any follow-up."
In an interview on Friday, Strange, who has been CEO of St. Luke's since 1996, said the responsibility for taking any action against Konasiewicz lay with St. Luke's doctors.
Strange said concerns that are brought to him or other administrators about any doctor are taken to the hospital's medical executive committee, which is composed mostly of physicians and has the ability to discipline doctors or restrict their privileges. Strange said he is on the committee but does not have a vote.
"I'm not a physician," Strange said. "Some of that stuff is so technical. I'm not in a position to make a judgment on whether or not something was good care."
In its suit, the hospital said the critic of Konasiewicz quoted in the story, Peter Goldschmidt, worked for a company that was in "competition with St. Luke's," and that his statement was false. It also said had Goldschmidt raised his concerns with the hospital, it would have been required to investigate them.
The story that seems to be at the heart of the lawsuit was filed just as a negligence trial was starting in Stillwater, filed by a man who alleged a brain biopsy performed by Dr. Konasiewicz led to seizures, severe cerebral dysfunction and brain injuries. A week or so later, a jury cleared Konasiewicz.
This afternoon, the hospital issued this statement:
The false statements about St. Luke's published by the Duluth News Tribune are unacceptable. This defamation lawsuit was brought because our patients, dedicated staff, and community deserve to know the truth and not be misled and misinformed by these false reports.
St. Luke's is deeply disappointed in the Duluth News Tribune's tactics to produce its false and defamatory reports. Patient safety and quality healthcare is our top priority at St. Luke's. We are committed to making the truth known, to the extent allowed by law, particularly when it concerns the quality of care we provide our patients.
Notwithstanding the false and defamatory reports by the Duluth News Tribune, we are gratified by the numerous expressions of support that we receive everyday from our patients, staff and community.
In his statement, News Tribune Publisher Ken Browall said: "The stories portrayed what is unquestionably a matter of public safety and concern. We look forward to proceeding to court and the dismissal of this unwarranted complaint."(6 Comments)
If there's one thing radio people hate, it's the sound of silence. That made Sunday's broadcast of 9/11 services a challenge for broadcasters because it involved the awesome power of silence.
Which many of them ruined, according to the NPR ombudsman in an article today.
"I expect that NPR, of all media, trusts its listeners' intelligence and patience," a listenere Diana Krauss from Brunswick, ME, wrote to NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos. "Alas, (host) Audie Cornish needed to interrupt the first moment of silence TWICE to tell us that we were listening to a moment of silence, thus destroying it."
Margaret Lowe Smith, the acting senior VP of news responded:
In our planning, we thought long and hard about those moments of silence- They posed serious technical and production challenges, which we couldn't ignore. But most importantly, we wanted to show respect for the moment, the memory of the victims and their families.
Technically, radio stations have silence sensors that go off if they detect dead air. It's a way to alert station engineers of a dropped signal. We had to avoid that happening. And, for our radio listeners, when there is silence on the air, there is often confusion. All that added up to having to make some brief comment during the longer moments of silence. Our host, Audie Cornish, did that with great respect and sensitivity.
In his article, found here, Schumachker-Matos did not offer a verdict of his own.(2 Comments)
Some of us are still shocked enough by the recent announcement that MPR News' legend Gary Eichten is retiring at the end of the year, that we're not quite prepared for the series of "lasts" that are about to follow.
I guess that started today because Eichten made his last appearance at the MPR booth at the State Fair.
And as I looked at this photo (from colleague Valerie Arganbright), it dawned on me that Eichten has already anchored his last election night in Minnesota, and he's also moderated his last Sunday-before-Election-Day, top-of-the-ticket debate at the Fitzgerald Theater.
We didn't need more reasons to be depressed about the state of politics, but we're not better off not having this guy guide us through.(3 Comments)
I've never been a big fan of the policies in some Twin Cities newsrooms -- including ours -- of (generally) not naming suspects in criminal cases until charges are actually filed. It's not that I don't agree that doing so may lead to the destruction of reputations when facts aren't known, it's that the policies -- generally -- are filled with hypocrisy. The news that broke yesterday that an SUV owned by former Vikings player and broadcaster Joe Senser was involved in the hit-and-run death of a man is a sadly perfect example.
When charges are filed, charging documents are usually released to the public, giving us more facts to provide a somewhat more credible picture of what happened. But there's nothing in the journalist's book of ethics that says these are the ones you extend to average people, and these are the ones you extend to famous people -- whether they're white and rich or not.
Why? Because ethics don't work that way; you either have them or you don't. "Everyone else is doing it" has always been a poor foundation for a good argument. The entire philosophy of fairness depends on an equal application.
What we do know, based on some digging by reporters, is that the SUV is probably the one that killed Anousone Phanthavong and that it is owned by Joe Senser.
On Twitter this morning -- and other media, too -- it doesn't matter what we don't know.
Meanwhile, the Star Tribune is already running a poll saying Senser's is a moral dilemma, even though we don't know exactly what dilemma that is. No matter. Seventy-five percent say they'd turn in a family member involved in a hit-and-run. Good to know, but it doesn't really tell us what's going on here. It only implies that the Sensers are actively engaged in stonewalling an investigation. Maybe they are. Maybe they aren't. Certainly, we don't know.
There's nothing wrong with speculation per se. I do it all the time when writing about aviation incidents. But we have a responsibility to be informed and connect dots that are facts. We're not doing that here and we in the news media are willing accomplices by pretending all of the reasons for protecting the identity of someone who hasn't been charged with a crime don't also exist here.
We don't know that Senser and his family are getting preferential treatment. We don't have any evidence that investigators are cutting him a break because he's rich and/or white. We don't know who was driving. We don't know why they didn't stop. We don't know what the advice of their attorney is, although it's worth pointing out that the attorney contacted the State Patrol.
What we do know is that investigators in these parts have a good track record of figuring out why someone ends up dead. The rest is up to a jury that, hopefully, isn't on Twitter today.
The Senser family promises a statement "in a day or two," and perhaps then we'll have a clearer picture of what's going on here. In the meantime, reality will be created by the dribs and drabs of information from people who have an interest in the reality dribs and drabs of information create.
Update 3:18 p.m. - The attorney for the Senser family reports the SUV was driven by Amy Senser, Joe Senser's wife.
Update 5:04 p.m. - Here, for background, is MPR's policy:
In cases where law enforcement officials arrest or otherwise detain an individual without charging that person with a crime, MPR News may name such individuals in its reports. It will be up to the News Director or editor(s) overseeing the story to determine whether the situation warrants naming the suspect. Editors should consider whether MPR's naming of an uncharged suspect will do irreparable harm to the suspect's reputation if authorities decide not to charge and whether the public's right to be informed is worth taking that risk.
In cases where a decision to name an uncharged suspect is made it is incumbent on MPR News to provide as much context as possible to let the audience determine whether an arrest was justified. Such context must include the fact that charges have not been filed, an explanation of why not, and how long the law enforcement agency can legally detain the suspect. and like any story, mpr news will make every effort to contact principles in the story. Stories should also include any information about evidence implicating the suspect or any other information that will allow the audience evaluate the validity of an arrest. and finally, if MPR News produces a story about a suspect's dentention or arrest without charges, it is committed to giving similar coverage in the event the suspect is released.
"That's really incredible," a CNBC anchor said this morning, seconds after the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level since April 2009.
Incredible? Not really. People are influenced by reality and also the perception of reality. They may have the same income they had last month. They may have the same jobs. They may have even been able to sock away a few dollars. But if you keep up a steady drumbeat of, "things are getting worse and we may be heading for another perception," how reasonable is it to expect people not to lose confidence?
Clearly, fear is not the only thing we have to fear. But fear plays a big part in increasing worry. And worry is what makes people stop spending and people not spending is what creates recessions and recessions are what gives people more fear, which increases worry, which makes people..... well, you get the picture, right?
"A contributing factor may have been the debt ceiling discussions since the decline in confidence was well underway before the S&P downgrade. Consumers' assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, posted only a modest decline as employment conditions continue to suppress confidence," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.
Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 11.8 percent from 17.9 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen surged to 24.6 percent from 16.1 percent, the Conference Board said. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 11.4 percent from 16.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 31.5 percent from 22.2 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 14.3 percent from 15.9 percent.
But the people surveyed aren't economists. It's regular consumers. And what those consumers think about the future makes up 60 percent of the survey results.Their view of the jobs outlook depends on what the people they listen to say is the outlook on jobs.
Sometimes those are the TV and radio business reporters. Sometimes it's the presidential and congressional candidates who point out how horrible things are and how worse they're going to get if you don't elect them a year from now.
More often than not, we think what we're told we should think. So the emotional component of a country's economy certainly presents a problem for politicians and reporters -- how to portray reality without contributing to a worse reality.
So far, few have mastered it.
American Public Media's Marketplace is taking a stab at it with it's new "Index," which purports to quantify the state of things on a daily basis via point system. It's unclear -- at least to me -- whether that's a step in the right direction of balanced economic assessment, or a step toward making the emotional component of the economy even worse.
What do you think?(4 Comments)
I'm not one to hold a grudge.
Well, OK, I am one to hold a grudge. I still haven't gotten over "Three Men and a Baby," the English-language remake of the similarly named French film "Three Men and a Cradle." The remake seemed to have no purpose other than to spare the American movie-going public all that messy stuff with the foreign languages and the funny-looking appliances.
Last weekend I saw the trailer for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," the English-language remake of the similarly named Swedish film "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." (Though it needs to be said that the Swedish title, "Män som hatar kvinnor," reportedly translates as "Men Who Hate Women" - nothing there about tattoos or dragons. For some reason that I don't care enough to find out, the name was changed for both the English title of the novel and the foreign release of the Swedish film.)
The trailer suggests that it's going to be a rip-roaring, gritty crime drama starring big-name actors familiar to American audiences. It contains at least one instance of Daniel Craig doing his signature thing with a cocktail: He takes a sip without breaking eye contact. When I try that, I spill. But James Bond can do it, and so, apparently, can the Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
The thing is, the Swedish film is also a rip-roaring, gritty crime drama. The actors all have this habit of speaking Swedish, but why shouldn't they? It kind of adds to the set-in-Sweden vibe.
Here's the trailer for the Swedish film:
And here's the trailer for the remake. Watch for Craig to do the thing with the drink:(3 Comments)
Everybody's got a right to personal happiness and fulfillment, I guess, and if Gary Eichten wants to try life at a different pace, that may be up to him. We'll see. But I'll bet anybody one of Gary's famous Jacksons that he'll be more of a force as a retired person than most people are at the height of their careers.
Over on Facebook, we're inviting listeners to tell us their favorite Eichten stories. I don't have a story, exactly, but an observation: Gary's interviews with then-Gov. Jesse Ventura were a public service of the first order. Ventura thought the media were jackals, and he became more and more unwilling to explain himself to them. But somehow Ventura had a soft spot for Eichten, and Eichten capitalized on the opportunity. He'd grill the governor, and the governor would come back for more. I listened to those interviews from my desk at the Star Tribune with a mixture of admiration and envy.
Gary has done lots of great work besides that, and most recently picked up a Graven Award to prove it. The Premack judges who gave it to him cited "his commitment to public affairs journalism, excellent interviewing skills and deep knowledge of Minnesota politics." We'll all hear more about his career between now and January. But I'm still betting that we'll hear a lot from him after January as well. (To be clear, notice that I said I'll bet any body -- up to a maximum of one, that is -- "one of Gary's famous Jacksons." Not one of mine.)
How can a (so-far) failed politician and author generate buzz for her book? Or, how can a talk-show host build credentials to help establish himself as a replacement for Larry King?
I don't mean to suggest that either Christine O'Donnell or Piers Morgan went into their taped interview with premeditation, intending the confrontation that ended with her walking off his show. But I do mean to suggest that the aborted interview did no harm to either of them - that, in fact, many more people will be watching the interview on CNN than would have been if the interview had gone off smoothly.
(As Murray remarked to Ted on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "That's right, Ted. It's just a matter of giving the public what they want.")
It's depressing, but this is the way it goes these days. The incentives work in the wrong direction. At least Morgan had the grace - or maybe it was only comic timing - to follow her departure with, "Anyway, it's a good book."
Here's the video.
Finding examples of poor journalism is like shooting fish in a barrel today, what with the stock market meltdown and all.
Here's a headline from the front page of CNN.
It rather looks like advice, doesn't it?
Five paragraphs into the story, we get the real context of the quote:
"Investors are having one reaction to the downgrade: sell first and ask questions later," said Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation with ING Investment Management.
One question: If the stock market is so all-fire important to everyone, how come news organizations can only figure out one kind of photograph when covering it?
A few examples:
Los Angeles Times
This is all, of course, quite depressing. Bring us back to the reality of what people really care about, Texas!7 Comments)
Faced with an overwhelming assault by news organization headlines warning of the market catastrophe that lay minutes ahead, there was a moment this morning that I almost cashed out all of my retirement portfolio that's in equity markets and joined who knows how many others on the sideline.
This goes against everything I've learned firsthand in 40 year of working for a living, but in the absence of even a decent nugget of information telling me what I should do, I felt no choice but to give in to the gloom. Only laziness prevented me from acting, but I wonder how many millions of Americans, more energetic than I, are reacting to the steady drumbeat of news organizations in addition to whatever market savvy they have?
So it was interesting to hear a caller on Midmorning today who insisted the media isn't, as alleged, "making things worse."
"I absolutely think that's true," Ross Levine, a financial planner said in response. "If you look at what's really going on as far as how companies are reporting their earnings, and if you look at the fact the dividend yield in the S&P is close to what 10-year Treasuries are paying, it's almost obscene that the markets are continuing to sell off at this level, and I think market short-term is very emotional. Market short term look like the weather forecasts; you have no idea what they're going to do in the short term. But long term, we have a pretty good sense of market valuation and that's going to be based on earnings, and it's going to be based on dividends, and it's going to be based on getting the economy going again."
"There's been a theme throughout this thing of 'shoot the messenger,' said Heidi Moore, the New York bureau chief for American Public Media's Marketplace program. "You see it with S&P and you see it with journalism. What we're trying to do here is inform people for the most part about what's going on. If those people are telling us that they're expecting a crisis, that they're expecting a panic, that they're expecting the Apocalypse, then of course we're going to reflect that. And when those people don't say that, we reflect that as well. It's important to note that it's not the press creating this; the press and S&P did not spend us into a $14 trillion deficit. So we have to kind of focus here on the issues, and I think people put way too much emphasis on what words are used, and they read stories to see which political parties they support. It's not really about that; it's about are we keeping you informed enough so you can do your duty as a citizen? And that means you have to read the financial news and be able to filter that."
"Words are important," Levine countered. "If you take two situations and you look at the stock market and you say, 'stocks are having a major sell-off,' or 'stocks are trading at the lowest valuations we've seen in three years,' people will interpret that differently. I think that the words shape the context of the story. I'm not saying it's the press' fault because the press is reporting and I think they're doing a good job... but I do think words matter and the interpretations of those words matter even more."
Ms. Moore acknowledged the market is emotional and a reflection of the psychology in it. "I do think the words matter, but for daily market movements, that doesn't tell us so much about what's going on in the economy."
And it doesn't tell me what I'm supposed to do about any of this.(6 Comments)
Even without looking, I can tell that the nation's radio station producers were rolling their eyes while listening to a complaint from a caller on today's Talk of the Nation.
During its program on nutrition guidelines, a caller complained that NPR's "call screeners" (we call them "producers," actually) were letting mostly women callers through for a show on diet, but during an earlier segment, "the male screener only allowed one female caller in during a foreign policy discussion." (Scroll to 24:15 below. Or you can just take my word for it.)
The Talk of the Nation host skillfully, and with tongue held, manipulated the caller back on topic.
How does it work really? As far as I know in 35 years of working in radio, the gender of the caller isn't even a factor in determining whether a caller should be allowed to ask a good question on air.
Radio, at least Public Radio, isn't like the open lines on C-SPAN where they take one caller from the "Democrat line" and one caller from the "Republican line" and everyone gets on in the order they call no matter how stupid or pointless the comment.
Calling a public radio station program isn't the zipper merge.
A producer's allegiance is to the listener and the discussion. Each call and each question or comment has to fit the conversation at the moment it's taking place.The best way to find yourself on the air with a comment or a question, is to focus on something that hasn't already been said.
"I want them to be concise and thoughtful," MPR Midmorning producer Chris Dall says. "I want them to be passionate yet restrained. I want them to be listening to the conversation that's going on. I want them to have a question or comment that moves the discussion forward. I want them to understand that no matter how good they think their question or point is, they just might not get on the air."
As for gender, radio hosts know when the callers are mostly men or mostly women, but there's not a lot they can do about it. Any radio producer is at the mercy of who's calling. Maybe more women are calling on a topic than men. Should the producer put a male caller with an irrelevant comment on instead of a female caller with a good point?
The producers have a tough job, preventing irrelevant conversation -- a complaint about a producer during a show on nutrition, for example -- getting to your ears. Sometimes for every good question you hear on a public radio talk show, there's probably at least three others telling a producer what a jerk he/she is.
Very few of the many I've known over the years actually are.(5 Comments)
Yet another case of police ordering someone to stop videotaping them has surfaced. This happened Friday on Long Island, according to Poynter.org.
The problem here is the law give the police broad authority to define what constitutes "obstruction," for example. In this case, obstruction appears to be the fact the police couldn't do their job because an open society was making it an impossible task.
The person being threatened with arrest in this case was a member of the media. But there are more cases of this now, of course, because just about everyone has a video camera with them all the time.
"We are reviewing the circumstances surrounding the arrest," a police spokesman told the Long Island Press.
update 4:46 p.m. Poynter updates to include this letter from Mickey Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association:
According to news reports Mr. Datz complied with your officer's unreasonable request to move away from the scene while the general public was allowed access. In the video - uploaded to YouTube -- your officer acts in an angry and unprofessional manner and appears to have no concept of the first amendment rights granted to the press under the United States and New York Constitutions. Although Mr. Datz contacted your PIO officer your department was unable to do anything to rectify the situation.
...While in some situations the press may have no greater rights than those of the general public, they certainly have no less right of access on a public street, especially where a crime scene perimeter has not been clearly established.(4 Comments)
The Twitterverse lit up like a Sally Field Oscar speech last night when President Barack Obama credited peoples' "tweets" with helping to bring the "debt crisis" to a conclusion.
Last week, Obama urged Americans to take to Twitter to send messages to their representatives to cut a deal. Never mind that most Washington politicians' tweets are actually a staffperson who tweets on the congressperson's behalf. That Twitter has been validated as a medium that's as influential as a telephone is the point.
But it still has some serious growing pains, as an incident involving a New York Times reporter would suggest.
After the White House issued its call to tweet last week, Jen Preston, the social networking reporter for the New York Times, asked what the hashtag for the tweets should be (a hashtag allows people to filter all tweets to see an organized collection of relevant tweets. In this case, the hashtag was #compromise).
When the White House responded, Preston "retweeted" the message to her followers:
The website Daily Caller charged Preston showed her bias in the "retweet," apparently thinking -- incorrectly -- that a retweet constituted a willing participation in the effort. Other news sources picked up the story and the horse was out of the barn (the link above is an updated story that was rewritten to cover up the embarrassment of a journalist who didn't understand Twitter in the first place).
Preston responded to the attacks with this defense on Storify (only a portion is quoted below).
Mr. Munro's uninformed knowledge of Twitter not only questioned my integrity but unleashed a torrent of ugly attacks from right-wing and conservative Twitter users (including socks and operatives) who accused me of all sorts of things. I have been a journalist for 30 years. Taking abuse comes with the job. But, as a journalist, I am disappointed Yahoo News picked it up without even looking at my two tweets. And that Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times picked up the story without picking up the phone or apparently looking at the tweets in question. Reporters make mistakes all the time. I know that I do. Just last week. But we correct them.
This provides a good example of the dangers of mainstream media hopping into a new medium that others don't get.
Just a few weeks ago, for example, my colleague, Tom Scheck, retweeted an item from a The Hill reporter who was promoting a story on Michele Bachmann's voting record. He got a similar response as Preston:
To which Scheck, who understands Twitter as well as anybody, responded with a message that mainstream media members are going to have to deliver more often, apparently.
Someone called my house last week and asked my wife, "is this the lady of the house?"
"There's no lady of the house here," she replied before hanging up.
We're pretty sure it wasn't the Nielsen company on the other end of the phone. Nielsen, the people who measure what people are watching on TV, and then report to the networks that people are watching garbage instead of decently-written shows, is retiring its "Lady of the House" demographic.
Among the many characteristics its report to network execs contains, the LOH shows what women who don't work outside the home are watching.
CNBC's Jane Wells says...
These days, the lady of the household is often a guy. Meantime, the owner-renter is often a woman, who's probably not really in her house much. She works, or runs 500 errands a day, or both. Maybe she's a single mother. Maybe she's not really much of a lady. She's like a man, only busier.
"Essentially, this is just the latest evolution in our TV measurement," says Nielsen's Julia Monti. "An analysis found that viewing estimates for "Lady of the House" are similar to those of the average female and that clients are no longer using this term for business transactions, thus we determined that it's time to phase it out."
About 40 years late.(9 Comments)
Gov. Dayton's office has released an official photo of this morning's budget signing, with an appropriate, on-message expression of distaste on the Democratic faces.
After all, a person shouldn't smile when he's doing something loathsome.(3 Comments)
When I worked in the newspaper editorial business, we had a cute name for the kind of piece we'd have to write on a day like today: STW, or "Shoot the wounded." It acknowledged, implicitly anyway, that we weren't performing a particularly courageous or useful function. Other people were the ones who had to stay up all night, take risks, make deals, put their careers on the line. We had the luxury of getting a good night's sleep and then coming down out of the hills once the fight was finished to pick over the remains and second-guess the decisions of others.
(There are other kinds of stock editorials, so routine that we made up acronyms for them. One was the DMM; it stood for "Drink more milk," and referred to any kind of editorial that urges a noncontroversial civic good. I hear that the same kind of editorial is referred to in Wisconsin as an EMC. Get it?)
I did not stay up all night to monitor the legislative process that now has brought our sorry shutdown to a close. But the news this morning has been fascinating. My vote for the best quote of the morning goes to Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook: "Gov. Dayton reluctantly took your plan. He took your plan on tobacco bonds. He took your plan on borrowing from our kids. You didn't have to tax those millionaires. You win, and Minnesotans lose."
That is what's called staying on message. The Democrats will do everything they can to make sure you hear, over and over, that the plan the Legislature passed is a Republican one. Most of them won't be quite as descriptive as Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who said, "I'm going to go home and take a long, long shower to wipe the stain of this legislative session off of me." For my taste, that's a little over the top.
Trying to spin the story in the other direction, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, adopted the role of statesman: "Every red vote is a vote to continue the shutdown. We need to get Minnesota back to work. We need to stop pointing fingers."
So there you have them, the core messages we'll be living with for a while: "You keep pointing at me," "I'm only doing what you made me do," "You wanted to keep Minnesotans out of work," "You make me want to take a shower." Sigh.
Unfortunately for the Democratic message, Gov. Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie were unable to control their facial muscles during the bill signing this morning. They did what politicians do when signing bills: They smiled. Oops:2 Comments)
The first sign of the Rupert Murdoch/News of the World scandal meant something to the lives of people across the pond came when Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice was investigating claims that the tabloid hacked into voice-mail accounts of Sept. 11 victims.
The once untouchable Murdoch became "wounded" and "suddenly appears mortal, and his enemies are emboldened" writes Politico.
In an otherwise defiant editorial, Murdoch's Wall Street Journal ended on a note of contrition.
Phone-hacking is deplorable, and we assume the guilty will be prosecuted. More fundamentally, the News of the World's offense--fatal, as it turned out--was to violate the trust of its readers by not coming about its news honestly. We realize how precious that reader trust is, and our obligation is to re-earn it every day. (Wall Street Journal)
Has the phone hacking scandal changed your view of news media?(6 Comments)
We will pay, sooner or later, for our growing acceptance of hidden cameras and other deceptive practices in newsgathering. The latest target is the Christian counseling business owned by Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus Bachmann. Previous targets of such tactics have included Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, ACORN and the Rev. Tom Brock.
The ethics grow murky when journalists misrepresent themselves to get a story. Sometimes it may be the only way, but at other times it's just the easiest way. When is it justified - to expose hypocrisy? To report on a threat to health and safety? To get good film for Sweeps Week?
"If you talk to three different ethicists, you'll get three different responses," says Prof. Jane Kirtley, who teaches ethics at the University of Minnesota's journalism school. There is no clear line, she said, but she articulated the danger well: If we tell readers that we lied to get a story, how can they trust that we're telling the truth about everything else?
Lots of media organizations would turn away in a huff from a reporter who wanted to carry a hidden camera and a faked identity into a mental health clinic. So why is it better or more ethical to publish the work of an activist/freelancer who did the same thing? That's becoming the pattern. ABC News didn't send an investigative reporter to get this story -- but used its "investigative correspondent" to present the story and supplemental material, after John Becker of Truth Wins Out did the dirty work.
In the Bachmann Clinic case, the bar is arguably lower because one of the owners is running for president. If the clinic is using "reparative therapy" to undo the sexual orientation of gay clients - and swimming against the tide of credible professional opinion - that's news. It would probably be news even if Michele Bachmann were not running for president, because the clinic gets public funds.
But as Prof. Kirtley points out, now that everybody has a mass communications device in his pocket, mainstream media have little to trade on but their own credibility. We should be careful about giving it away.
In the meantime, let's take a minute to enjoy the old days, when the mainstream media really knew how to use hidden cameras:
If you watch coverage of a live event, do you expect to see reality or a stage show?
The other night, while watching CBS' coverage of the Boston Esplanade fireworks, I thought something was up when I saw this shot.
The Massachusetts Statehouse is fairly close to the Charles River, but it's not this close.
But it was this shot that gave away what CBS was up to.
It's a lovely image. It's also a phony one. The fireworks behind home plate at Fenway Park is an impossibility. The Charles River, from where they were being fired, is in the other direction.
Today, the Boston Globe called out CBS and producer of the program...
David Mugar, the Boston-area businessman and philanthropist who has executive produced the show for nine years, confirmed yesterday that the footage was altered. He said this was the first year such alterations were made.
Mugar said the added images were above board because the show was entertainment and not news. He said it was no different than TV drama producer David E. Kelley using scenes from his native Boston in his show "Boston Legal'' but shooting the bulk of each episode on a studio set in Hollywood.
"Absolutely, we're proud to show scenes from our city,'' Mugar said. "It's often only shown in film or in sporting matches. We were able to highlight great places in Boston, historical places with direct ties to the Fourth. So we think it was a good thing.''
If one follows the logic, one might fairly question whether the fireworks themselves actually were being shot off.
A media ethicist told the paper it sends a number of wrong messages, including that ethics don't matter if it's not the news department.
(h/t: Ted Canova)
Curt Schilling, the former Major League Baseball pitcher, said no team has won a World Series in the last 20 years without cheating to do it.
Broad brush, anyone?
These sorts of statements sound like wicked honesty, but they also tend to destroy reputations needlessly and where's the courage in that?
Schilling made his comments in an article in the Sporting News...
When asked if he ever suspected any of his 1993 Phillies teammates of using steroids, Schilling replied, "Oh, absolutely. It wasn't something you would walk up to someone to talk about or ask them. You had your ideas. When guys showed up with 25 extra pounds on them after three months after you had seen them during the winter, you had an idea."
Twenty years? Do the math on that. In 1991, your World Series champions were the Minnesota Twins. Anyone want to guess who was on steroids on that team?
This is the problem with "tell all" articles. They tell very little while needlessly -- in some cases -- impugn the character of people.
Take the comment from former Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau that's gotten some traction in the last 24 hours.
In an article on Huffington Post, Molnau appears to take a swipe at former governor Tim Pawlenty ...
"He has a tendency to not be a good judge of what he needs," Molnau said. "A lot of us like to have people around us that think like we do and agree with us because we don't take criticism very well. Well that's a good thing because you don't have a lot of white water conflict. The thing is you never know when you're going off because everyone's afraid to tell you, or, the people who do, you don't see as trustworthy anymore."
"He surrounds himself with people that say 'yes' and tell him how good he's doing, but he doesn't have a lot of people who can take the chance at critiquing him, and that's a problem he's had for a long time," Molnau added.
Is that all of the people? Some of them? Which ones? Without names, we don't know whether it's former spokesman Brian McClung, former chief of staff Dan McElroy or even former lieutenant governor Carol Molnau.
It's a question that reporters need to at least ask reflexively, "who?"(4 Comments)
This is MPR president Bill Kling's last day of work for the company he founded. He'll be feted tonight at a dinner and reception, but last night MPR employees paid tribute to him.
Something great happens to the straight-laced world of MPR News when you give a reporter a camera and tell them it's OK to be funny and irreverent.
Here's a prime example. It comes from MPR higher education beat reporter Tim Post.
Post points out that no company time or equipment was used in the production of his tribute.
Reportedly, there's another video around of a "The Office" parody with Kling playing the part of Michael Scott. That one's been as hard to find online as a state budget agreement.
It had to happen sooner or later but a lot of the voices who made NPR famous are retiring. Carl Kassell retired a few years ago. Liane Hansen called it quits in the spring, and today is Ann Taylor's last day.
She lives in Manhattan and says she got tired of commuting to Washington to deliver the newscasts.(4 Comments)
Now that flood season is starting to wane, we're not likely to see any more reporters in hip waders standing in or near water, but we have a new entrant in live-report props.
Check out the protective eyeware worn by a CNBC reporter in Greece today, which presumably keeps any of the rocks and bottles being thrown in the street from hitting her several stories above on her hotel-room balcony.
There's a good reason, however, for the glasses. Tear gas from the street below.
"I'm less affected by the tear gas. Just my eyes bother me. But that is why I'm wearing them," she said. "Everybody on the ground has them for sure. It wafts up, when there's a lot of it, it seeps into the hotel rooms and causes you to throw up and is extremely painful. You can feel it go all the way down your esophagus."
Everybody on the ground doesn't have them. Communist party deputy Liana Kanelli could've used a pair today. Someone unloaded some yogurt on her during the protests.
The protests have continued sporadically since the passage of a plan to cut spending and raise taxes by $40 billion over five years.
There's another countdown going on in Minnesota besides the one for the state shutdown. Bill Kling's last day as the only president Minnesota Public Radio ever had expires at the same moment the state descends into planned chaos. Pure coincidence, perhaps.
Today, everyone who wasn't deemed essential gathered on the parkland across from the World Headquarters of NewsCut, for a picture to mark the occasion. They're standing next to a mock radio tower which MPR employees paid to have constructed to mark the occasion. It was very terrestrial of us.
This image, however, is probably more symbolic: Kling conducting the MPR "orchestra."
(Images from Julia Schrenkler/MPR)(1 Comments)
A former KARE reporter has apologized for, apparently, being human. Brad Woodard was reporting on a fire for a TV station in Houston last Friday when the camera caught him taking a drag on a cigarette.
Smoking a cigarette in Texas, for the record, is legal and many reporters smoke. It's not as if he started the fire with his cigarette or shot a puppy before the broadcast.
Still, Woodard felt compelled to apologize on the station's Facebook page:
Some of you have raised concerns about my live report from Chambers County on Friday, June 24th. Due to a technical glitch, I was observed on camera smoking and extinguishing a cigarette, something I find both professionally and personally embarrassing. I was reporting from the scene of... a fire at an abandoned "tank farm" formerly used to store petroleum products. The fire was well under control at the time of my report, and I was standing on concrete when I discarded my cigarette. I also made sure it was extinguished following my brief report.
Apparently, some of you are under the impression I was reporting from the scene of a wild fire. That was not the case. My bad habit aside, I'm very cognizant of the extreme drought conditions facing this state. I report on those conditions daily and care very deeply about those affected. That said, I sincerely apologize to those of you who were offended. We appreciate...I appreciate...your viewership and your concerns.
I think honestly, this puts you on a different light for me. More human bring than some Iconic God type of personality. Im glad that you are humble enough to apologize, even if it's unnecessary. Personally, I believe smokers have been stripped of their rights! Keep on keeping on! You shouldn't have to worry about others opinions, but I understand wanting to maintain the professional image.
Good point. You can't smoke and still be a professional in the journalism business.
It's not often anymore than a meteorologist can last at one station for 30 years. Mike Fairbourne might be the last of them in the Twin Cities. Fairbourne is retiring from WCCO this week.
Jimmy Carter was in the White House when Fairbourne started his career there.
WCCO has posted some other Fairbourne videos. This personal favorite didn't make the list, though...
Fairbourne is about as low-key and all-business as they come, but he may be best known for causing a ruckus in these parts three years ago when he expressed his opinion on the issue of climate change.
He accused the environmental movement of practicing "squishy science" when it ties human activity to global warming. The Star Tribune outed Fairbourne after his name appeared on a list of 31,000 "scientists" questioning climate change as a human contribution.
The dust-up also served as a warning to many TV meteorologists to avoid getting into the climate change issue.
Yelp is more than a place to find reviews of local businesses. It has become a window into our communities that can, at times, be helpful. It also provides perspective ranging from hilarious to inane.
Take the reviews of the Minnesota State Fair as an example:
"Eat, Gawk, Repeat."
"It is not the place to count calories, worry about the waistline, try to be posh or be a snob. Just relax and enjoy."
"Just like Farmville only in real life."
"The state fair is like a Walmart on acid — awesome people watching..."
Those yucksters over at Funny or Die! have turned the inane side of Yelp into comedy gold.
This is a picture of President Obama announcing his troop withdrawal strategy from Afghanistan last night.
This is a picture of President Obama when he announced that Osama bin Laden was dead.
Other than the dates and circumstances, what's the difference between the two? The bottom image was staged. The White House had a policy of no pictures during presidential speeches, presumably because of the noise they make.
It wasn't exactly a scandal -- other presidents had the same policy -- but it set some journalistic tongues wagging. The Poynter Institute, for example, called for an end to the practice.
It is time for this kind of re-enactment to end. The White House should value truth and authenticity. The technology clearly exists to document important moments without interrupting them. Photojournalists and their employers should insist on and press for access to document these historic moments.
And so, last night we got truth and authenticity from White House photographers, which looked pretty much exactly like the the staged variety.(3 Comments)
One need look no further than the vaunted "Washington Whispers" blog at US News today to see how women in the public eye are treated differently than men. Writer Paul Bedard delves into the world of Michele Bachmann's lip gloss:
Just consider last weekend's 2011 RightOnline Conference in Minneapolis. Before stepping on stage to speak, the Republican realized she needed a touch of lip gloss but didn't have any. Her new spokesperson, Alice Stewart, who worked for former Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, saw an old friend from Arkansas, Elizabeth Aymond, and asked for hers. "We thought she might need a little touch-up," Stewart says. "Elizabeth whipped out her lip gloss and off she [Bachmann] went."
But don't call Bachmann a prima donna. "She is so focused on her speeches that it's the little details [like lip gloss] that you don't think about."
The shade: Bare Minerals "Wild Honey."
Jon Huntsman announced his bid for the presidency today, and most of the coverage -- so far -- has been about his politics rather than his appearance.
It's not just female politicians, of course, who get this treatment. Venus Williams, the five-time Wimbledon champ, went to work a day ago and got this treatment from the Associated Press:
And she won her match. A later AP story had Venus stoking the coverage...
There sure was nothing shy about a playsuit Williams called "trendy": white and sleeveless, with a deep "V" neckline, a triangle cut out in the back, a gold belt and gold zipper.
"Jumpers are very 'now,"' she explained, "as is lace."
Not as sensational as the corset-like black lace number with skin-toned undergarments that drew so much attention at the 2010 French Open, but Monday's romper looked something akin to a toga and surely would have won the approval of her Roman goddess
There were two local winners announced today when the national Edward R. Murrow Awards were given out. Overall, though, Minnesota was not particularly well represented in the annual awards from the Radio Television News Directors Association.
Of the 95 awards handed out, these are the two Minnesota winners:
Boyd Huppert, the marvelous storyteller at KARE won for best writing. (See compilation video)
The Star Tribune won for overall online news excellence for local news organizations. The entry (available here) stressed the website's video offerings.
Find all the winning entries here.(2 Comments)
This morning I woke up feeling fat, and it took a little while to realize why: I must have gained weight reading and re-reading Rick Nelson's review in the Thursday Star Tribune of "Tilia," a new restaurant in southwest Minneapolis.
"The scallop was evaporating inside my mouth, collapsing on itself in a cloud of ethereal juiciness," he begins. "It was one of those dining-out moments where my body's involuntary response was to slump into my chair, block out everything else around me and wallow in the bliss that was enveloping my taste buds."
You wouldn't think Rick could maintain that level of swoon for long, but he does: He goes on that way for an eye-popping 1,120 words. (For comparison, the play story in this morning's Strib, about the severance packages a state shutdown might trigger, brings home the goods in just 731 words.) Here's more:
"The top of the heap is what's easily the City of Lakes' most awesome way to greet the weekend: delicate cornmeal waffles topped with perfectly poached eggs, chunks of sweet poached lobster and so much supple hollandaise that it should be served with a cardiac defibrillator. It's a dish I could happily consume every Saturday. And Sunday. Forever."
And this -- as my colleague Molly Bloom pointed out - was for a restaurant that Rick only gives three and a half stars. What would a four-star review look like?
Say what you will about the generous helping of steaming adjectives. What I admire about Rick's writing is that he clearly loves good food and enjoys sharing what he knows about it. I just wish he wouldn't tell the whole world. Until yesterday, I'd never heard of Tilia. Now I'll never get a table.(6 Comments)
City Pages released an extensive article on retiring MPR boss Bill Kling today, and the factoid that many people in the business are picking up on is this section of the story:
He believes MPR's current newsroom staff of 86 needs to double.
"You can have all the blogs, all the Huffington Posts, and Twitter feeds, and any other way of distributing content," Kling says. "But if you don't have the content, none of it's worth anything. That comes from reporters, which I believe we have to step up."
It's true that what you hear on the radio comes from reporters but what you hear on the radio is a lot more than their work. And, truth be told, of the 86 people in the newsroom, only a handful of them are reporters.
I occasionally give very long tours of MPR's news operation to News Cut readers because if there's one thing they need to know, it's this: We're more than hosts and reporters. The MPR newsroom, like most newsrooms in well-respected media organizations, is an iceberg.
News content comes from more than reporters. Here, let me show you in this photo tour.
Midmorning has just ended, so producer Chris Dall and Kerri Miller are already talking about tomorrow's show. Or maybe Friday's. There are three producers on the Midmorning team who spend much of their day chasing down potential topics and guests, including pre-interviewing them to make certain they can converse in an interesting way. The same is true for MPR's Midday (two producers). and Morning Edition (three producers).
We're a few hours away, yet, from All Things Considered. The show has two producers you never hear on the air, and one host that you do. They have a large news hole to fill and that portion which isn't filled by a reporter's story, is filled by interviews that they arrange and conduct.
Of course, we have reporters, easily identified because they're usually embracing the latest office fad. In this case, standing up. They can probably give you a good deal on those giant exercise balls they used to sit on...
Editors -- radio and online -- are pretty important in the big content scheme of things. We've got six or seven of them, enough to insure that infinitives aren't split and facts aren't mangled.
A portion of the Minnesota Today contingent -- editor and reporter.
Midday is on the air. You hear Eichten. You don't hear RJ (Randy Johnson) who is the technical director (each show has one), or David Chong, who's one of the producers today. He's one of the people who answers the phone when you call into Midday and makes sure the question you want to ask is relevant to that point in the conversation.
The public insight journalism area, commentary editor position and -- down in the bottom right corner -- a real life blogger (Paul Tosto) can be spied if you're very quiet and stay downwind. Bloggers are highly intelligent creatures and can sense when danger is near.
You know those music segments you hear on MPR? It takes audio specialists like Michael DeMark to make them happen and make them meet the high audio quality standards MPR listeners expect.
And none of this is possible if all of this audio content can't get out the door, into the sky and down to your radio. This is the International Control Center and satellite uplink/downlink section of the headquarters.
And I haven't even shown you the people who book satellite time, the photographers for the Web site, hourly newscasters, the new media department, newsroom managers, and the I.T. people who keep a technical-heavy operation running,
Each of these people is creating news content.
It's true, of course, that reporters are the vital cog in this wheel. But in a given day of news programming, only about 10-20 total minutes actually comes from a traditional reporter. The rest comes from many unseen members of the team.(9 Comments)
"I'm not interested in what you had for lunch."
That's the kind of complaint I hear often from Twitter skeptics. They're partially right -- there's a lot garbage on Twitter.
But Twitter can also act as a vital news service, of course. MPR News uses two accounts to share critical information during severe weather, for example: @MPRnews and @MPRweather, where we share storm warnings and watches, damage reports and photos, and rebroadcast Tweets we read during storms. For example, these Tweets from the May 22 tornado in Minneapolis:
Minneapolis Mayor Rybak asking people to stay away from north Minneapolis. Too many gawkers are impeding public safety efforts... #mnstorms
Our audiences seems to appreciate our Twitter efforts:
Gotta say, Twitter is the best place to get weather information these days. @MPRnews does a good job of retweeting.
But here's an even better example of Twitter's utility and import: Tweets from Tahrir.
Cory Doctorow over at BoingBoing writes about a new book that collects Tweets from the scene of the Egyptian uprising. Excerpt:
... through this book, a picture of Twitter as a means of quickly bridging together different constituencies emerges -- not everyone was tweeting, but everyone knew people who were tweeting, whether they were in the Square, discovering what was going on elsewhere among the hundreds of thousands of people; or elsewhere in Cairo and wondering if they should take to the streets; or watching from around the world. Twitter, text messages, Facebook and phone calls became a way of shaping the narrative, rebutting the official state media, arguing about the purpose and character of the uprising, and deciding when to hold fast and when to retreat ...
Tweets from Tahrir is an extraordinary record of an extraordinary moment in history, a collection of first-person observations and reflections that took place in realtime that constitute a new kind of record of social upheaval.
Social media and human rights, and the use of social media to help dispense of repressive regimes, is the topic of Midmorning tomorrow. It should be an interesting program. What do you think -- is social media a human right?
We now know where Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers got his information before making the assertion that college professors in Minnesota have been getting 20-30 percent pay increases while Minnesota families are losing 30-40 percent of their income: MPR, Zellers says.
Appearing on MPR's Midmorning program today, a caller asked Zellers about the earlier comment, which he made this week on MPR's Midday program. Up until this morning, Zellers had not responded to requests for his information source.
"It was a story that was on MPR last fall," Zellers told Kerri Miller. "MnSCU bonuses to top staffers nears $300K."
"Usually, we Republicans are the first to complain about headlines being misleading, but looking at the headline and looking at the bonuses (headline?) , the bonuses were for staffers; they weren't necessarily for professors. I guess Brian (the caller) can say I was a little close to misinformed and what I was talking about from a family's perspective was my neighbor. He has had his wages cut 40 percent," Zellers said.
His response is at the 48:56 mark.(15 Comments)
The alleged rape of a woman in New York by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, is giving news organizations fits by rekindling an old debate that once seemed settled: Should alleged rape victims be named? And how much should the news audience know about her?
The New York Times danced close to the name by identifying her race, her neighborhood and, apparently, her character.
That earned this rebuke from The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg:
I don't understand reporting like this. What is the point? Does it matter that she is friendly? Does it matter that she is a good person? Does it matter that she has never been a problem? Of course not. Rape is rape. The character of the victim is irrelevant. There's one caveat to this idea: If reporters had discovered in the woman's past a pattern of making false accusations in criminal matters, well, then there's a plausible argument that information about her character should be reported. Otherwise, her mood, relative-friendliness or unfriendliness, shopping habits, dietary needs -- all completely immaterial.
One more thing: Reporters should think twice about visiting the neighborhood of an alleged rape victim in order to ask questions about her life and character. The unintended consequence of such a visit is to publicize, in the place where she lives, her plight, and raise possibly-destructive questions about her situation. Newspapers withhold the names of alleged rape victims for a reason: to protect their privacy. But when reporters ask family, friends and neighbors superfluous questions about the alleged rape victim, they have outed her in the place that matters most.
French media has named the alleged victim.
On CBS this morning, the woman's attorney, Jeffrey Shapiro, said the woman will tell her story when the time is right:
But it's clear that this story is going to be much more than a single criminal case; it's going to be all about how all alleged rape victims are treated in the court of public opinion.
On that score, commentator Ben Stein went off the rails yesterday in his defense of the IMF official, arguing that he couldn't have raped anyone because that's not what economists do.
In life, events tend to follow patterns. People who commit crimes tend to be criminals, for example. Can anyone tell me any economists who have been convicted of violent sex crimes? Can anyone tell me of any heads of nonprofit international economic entities who have ever been charged and convicted of violent sexual crimes? Is it likely that just by chance this hotel maid found the only one in this category? Maybe Mr. Strauss-Kahn is guilty but if so, he is one of a kind, and criminals are not usually one of a kind.
For a glimpse at the strife the case is causing in journalism circles, check out a live chat hosted by the Poynter Institute.(14 Comments)
For the past few days, a mystery has been unfolding in Silicon Valley. Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people's privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
Turns out it was our favorite social networking company, Facebook, that hired the PR firm to do its dirty work. Burson-Marsteller fessed up about its arrangement with Facebook, and threw Zuck's company to the wolves. Hence the divorce.
So which company takes the hardest hit, Facebook or Burson-Marsteller? The PR company lost a big, powerful client, and looks quite sleazy. But it's hard to work up outrage, mostly because shady behavior seems to be, at least occasionally, part of the fabric of PR (not that journalists are always morally pristine). It's worth noting too that Burson-Marsteller has had a few unsavory clients in the past.
But our opinion of Facebook should probably drop a notch or two. The campaign makes Facebook look just a little scared and weak, and capable of questionable corporate behavior. But the company will probably get through this mess just fine, according to MG Siegler on TechCrunch:
Like it or not, Facebook is too integrated into the fabric of the web now for everyone to just walk away. As has been proven time and time again, people will get really angry with them for some misstep, and then totally forget about it a week later.
Too far? A Hassidic newspaper didn't like having women in the now-iconic photograph of the White House situation room during the rain on Osama bin Laden's lair, so it removed them.
This is the original ...
This is what ran in Brooklyn's Hasidic paper ,Der Zeitung.
In the coverage of the killing of Osama bin Laden yesterday (and again today), MPR News is making liberal use of the resources of the BBC. That bothered (a little bit, anyway) a listener who wrote to the network today to wonder why.
"I am curious why it's not being reported by NPR reporters, even if that means simply waiting for their regular news shows," the listener wrote. "Thanks for satisfying my curiosity. (Not that I don't appreciate the global perspective, but today especially I guess I want to hear *us* talking and explaining first before I hear from others.)"
It's a great question and, frankly, we welcome the opportunity to explain some of the discussions that take place at the highest levels of the newsroom during breaking news.
Steve Nelson, MPR's program director provided the play-by-play in his response:
Thanks for the note. Yesterday newsroom leaders spent a lot of time considering options for coverage of this story. Our immediate decision was to put on as much coverage about the death of Osama bin Laden as we could. We tried to choose the best available option for our audience at any given time, much like a web site throughout a day or a newspaper when selecting stories for page one the next day.
We were connected to internal NPR and BBC alerts all day so we knew what to expect and how to compare the two. In addition we were monitoring various wire services and CNN.
Here is some of our thinking through the day.
Morning Edition 6a-9a - Since the story was so important, we dropped all of our local stories that were planned for the day, and stayed with NPR almost exclusively.
9a-noon - Midmorning and Midday covered the story with a range of guests and calls from our audience.
Noon - We had a choice to air NPR programming -- basically, Talk of the Nation -- or the BBC's World Have Your Say, a global call-in show. We went with NPR, largely because their first guest in the hour was Colin Powell, a perspective we hadn't heard.
1p - We cut away from the NPR newscast at the top of the hour to go to a briefing from John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. He had a lot of good, new information and the details proved compelling. We stayed with that briefing for around 40 minutes before returning to NPR's coverage.
(Bob notes: More about that here. That was a brilliant decision.)
2p - We aired the BBC Newshour instead of NPR. We wanted a harder news treatment and magazine style format of Newshour, rather than a "talk" format from NPR. We also wanted the BBC's global perspective. This was the first BBC coverage we had on our air Monday.
3p-6:30p - All Things Considered became available from NPR and we aired it, but this time mixing in MPR News stories relevant to Bin Laden's death.
6:30p -- We aired a lengthy BBC report -- The Hunt for Osama Bin Laden -- instead of Marketplace. Marketplace was offering seven minutes about Osama bin Laden, which we aired at 6:20.
7p - The World, at its regular time, was almost all about Osama bin Laden.
8p - We pre-empted Fresh Air with a special wrap up hour from NPR.
9p and 10p - We aired BBC. The Story was produced mostly last week, so it was out of date. We thought the BBC's coverage at 10 would be stronger than As It Happens. Plus, the BBC was live, and As it Happens is taped earlier in the evening.
Hope that helps. Thanks for the feedback and feel free to contact me with any other thoughts you have.
What the staff at KARE 11 did for their long-time boss yesterday was astounding, at least for the normally bunker-mentality world of the media.
KARE 11 fired Tom Lindner this week, where he'd been the news boss since the early '90s. What was astounding is the station's news department didn't treat the story like it didn't exist, and produced this piece which -- intentionally or not -- leaves the viewer wondering how the firing makes the station somehow better off.
(h/t: @jenyoung18)(4 Comments)
"Jon is a remarkable leader who has been responsible for a great portion of our success over the years," said Kling in this press release. "I'm very happy with the board's decision, and I'm confident Jon will ensure that APMG continues to lead the way in public media's ongoing evolution."
When MPR got into the online business in the late '90s, it was McTaggart who was in charge. He was the company's "technology officer," and presided over a department that featured all of the accoutrements of the era -- Nerf guns, flying blimps, and all the digital creativity you could stuff into a half-dozen cubicles far removed from the more buttoned-down world of public radio news.
Armed with a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, designed to show how public radio stations can create an online service, McTaggart appointed John Pearson to oversee the project, then got out of the way and let people do the job they were hired to do, using the talent that was the reason they were hired in the first place, providing a shield when needed (and it was), and inspiration when required.
And isn't that pretty much the entire chapter on "how to manage?"
Here's a story I've told dozens of times internally:
It was early in my tenure as MPR's managing editor of online news. I was about to leave for a weekend with my youngest son; we were about to drive to Cincinnati to watch the Reds play a few games, and take in a few sessions at the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) convention. I had written an e-mail informing colleagues that I would be out of the office.
As I pulled out of the parking ramp on St. Paul's West Seventh Street, McTaggart, in full-suited attire, was running on the sidewalk, flagging me down. I stopped.
He thrust $20 at me and said, "buy yourself a beer and a hot dog. You do good work."
No boss had ever said anything like that to me before (I've got lots of stories about them, but you're never going to read them), let alone risked a heart attack for the opportunity to say it.
And that's how people run through brick walls for the people they work for.
It may not be a lot of fun being the guy to replace Bill Kling, a larger-than-life figure in the world of broadcasting whose vision is singularly responsible for Minnesota Public Radio and its assorted offspring. No doubt there are plenty of people wondering whether the place can effectively emerge from the long shadow he casts in the Twin Cities.
They needn't be concerned. MPR has hired a knowledgeable and decent person for the gig who understands completely the value and commitment to the audience of the people who work here.
The world is full of CEOs who don't have the passion for the product, couldn't articulate a mission statement if you spotted them the first 20 words, view the employee as an expense to be cut, and the customer as a necessary burden to endure. MPR doesn't have one of those.
Although it would be cool if we could bring back the flying blimp and Nerf guns.
(Photo: John Nicholson)
Some people in the media world think a Texas reporter was being too aggressive in an interview with President Obama.
There are a couple of radio guys who deserve a little extra recognition this week.
This guy, for instance. Tom Robertson is a workhorse reporter who has been called from his home in the Bemidji area to help cover the flooding in western Minnesota. He's done great work while living out of a motel in Moorhead for the last few weeks, but he gets the spotlight this week because he missed his birthday last Friday (we had a small cake for him in the Moorhead bureau) so that MPR listeners could hear (and read, of course) the latest on the flood.
Two years ago, he missed the birth of a grandchild for the same reason.
Then, there's this young man (click image for larger image). Gary Eichten is being given the Frank Premack Graven award from the University of Minnesota. The Graven Award is given each year to members of the journalistic community whose contribution to excellence in the profession merits special recognition. He will receive the award on Monday evening.
"I'm now one step closer to the Graven," he joked during a little celebration in the newsroom this afternoon, shortly before reminding us that we're lucky to work where we work.
NPR has rolled out a new Facebook app that -- with any luck at all -- might distract your friends from all of those quizzes that suddenly seem to be spamming things.
Andrew Phelps -- if you recognize him from the guy who created WBUR's Hubbub, you really are a public radio nerd -- writes at the Neiman Journalism Lab:
The new Facebook app called I Heart NPR asks fans to put themselves on a map with thousands of others. Users can play games, such as Name That NPR Theme Song (I earned four-of-four virtual tote bags, thank you), and then share the results with friends. Secret games will be "unlocked" with every 100,000 new users, according to Kinsey Wilson, NPR's general manager of digital media.
It's not entirely clear what the point is of the map of NPR listeners since you can only find yourself on it and most people -- especially public radio people -- already know who and where they are...
Find it here.
The anti-corporate hoaxsters struck again today.
The Associated Press was the victim this time when it ran a story -- based on an authentic-looking news release from General Electric -- that it would repay a $3.2 billion tax refund for 2010 to the Treasury Department.
GE has been criticized following a New York Times story that it would pay no taxes on its domestic profits.
There's no indication -- yet -- that this was the work of The Yes Men, who made news in 2009 by pretending to be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announcing support for greenhouse gas legislation, and last fall convinced news organizations that a large oil company was admitting to policies that damage the environment.
"He doesn't sound drunk. He doesn't sound stoned. He sounds like a jerk." That's a classic New York cop response to a joyriding pilot who landed on a Long Island beach last night.
What doesn't make a lot of sense is how Jason Maloney got a pilot's license in the first place? He seems relatively clueless on the rules.
He told the police he got the idea from a reality-TV show called Flying Wild Alaska.
The gentleman in the reality show is 1,000 times the professional pilot that the New York pilot is. And New York isn't Alaska.(2 Comments)
Yesterday, the Center for Public Integrity, run by a former MPR news director, made a big splash in journalism circles, when it announced it would start an investigative journalism Web site. Today, it dropped this bombshell: the FBI used a "mole" in ABC News who fed tips from a source (or sources) in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.
But it didn't name the reporter:
ABC News told the Center for Public Integrity that it is not certain about the identity of the journalist involved in the 1995-96 episode, but does not believe he or she still works for the network. Spokesman Jeffrey Schneider said the FBI description of its interactions with the reporter raises serious concerns about intrusions on the First Amendment.
"If true, it would certainly be of grave concern to us that the FBI would have created an informant file based on information gleaned from a reporter," Schneider said. "It certainly would be very troubling for the FBI to recruit a news employee as a confidential source."
Former Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire, now a professor in Arizona, is not happy
"I mean, he's not only a rat, he's a really huge rat" says McGuire. "He's obviously decided that helping the government on an ongoing basis is more important than being a journalist... We're all endangered by him playing these silly games. I think when you're an agent for the government, you're putting your fellow journalists in harm's way."
Who was the "rat?"
Gawker reports that it's Christopher Isham, who is now the Washington bureau chief for CBS News.
He ran the investigative unit at ABC News, putting him in regular contact with counterterrorism officials. In 1998, according to his CBS News bio, he organized the first network interview with Osama bin Laden. And his relationship with the FBI went beyond the professional: He was "close friends" with former FBI counterterrorism chief John O'Neill, according to this interview Isham gave to Frontline. (O'Neill was killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.)
This should embarrass ABC, of course, but it should also be an embarrassment to CBS, right? Isham declined to comment on the story (If you're not the snitch, wouldn't you just deny it?), but referred questions to a CBS spokeswoman in New York.
"This is a matter for ABC News." the CBS spokeswoman said.
For the record, the information that Isham had -- that Iraq was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing -- was obviously bogus.
This hasn't been a really great day for the image CBS News. Writing for MPR News' commentary section today, Woodbury teacher Karen Morrill pulled he curtain back on the news division's flagship, 60 Minutes, which broadcast a segment on removing "the N word" from Huck Finn recently.
"Pitts and '60 Minutes' were not interested in my teaching philosophy," she wrote. "They were interested in why I would not speak a virulent racial epithet. In my two-hour interview with Pitts, I tried to discuss the complex ways Huck Finn deals with race. But he was interested in only that one simple word."
Not a good day, indeed.(6 Comments)
Last night, congresspeople in Washington got cozy with the people who cover them. The Congressional Corrrespondents' Dinner is, basically, the warm-up act for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, in which all the reporters -- and the movie stars who've sort of taken it over -- rub elbows with one another...
Should journalists and the people they cover be quite so chummy?
A kerfuffle has broken out locally between long-time columnist Nick Coleman, and MinnPost, which is holding a fundraising "roast," featuring local media stars and politicians. Coleman writes that it hurts journalistic credibility:
I contacted MinnPost to request a press pass in order to attend MinnRoast 2011 as a working journalist. I was rejected, even though I made it clear that I wanted to attend in order to report on it, not to snort and cavort until the chablis came out my nose. My reason for requesting a pass was simple: Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to speak at the event and any appearance by the governor may -- and should -- be covered as a (possible) news story. Other politicians also are scheduled to show up and crack jokes at MinnRoast, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (my brother) and a token Republican or two, along with a gaggle of local media "celebrities" like Don Shelby and Cyndy Brucato, both MinnPost contributors. Mark Dayton was last recorded making a joke in 1997, but he is the governor. Nearing the end of a difficult legislative session and facing big political and budgetary problems, Dayton may not be in the mood for laughs. But his appearance -- and all the rest of the foolishness -- should be subject to free and open coverage -- by anyone who wants. It turns out, however, that the barons of our alternative news media aren't much different from the barons of Old Media: MinnPost editor and CEO Joel Kramer -- my boss at the Star-Tribune from 1983-86 -- turned down my request for credentials not once, or twice, but three times.
But Coleman says his beef isn't that MinnPost's boss wouldn't let him in for free -- it's that journalists shouldn't act like clowns, even on their own time:
There are other awkward connections and possible conflicts among the list of MinnRoast sponsors and benefactors, a list that -- despite a heavy sprinkling of "wealth creation" and investment firms -- runs strongly towards the liberal-left end of the political establishment, which is the kind of thing that causes hard-right conservatives to dismiss MinnPost as a snake pit of Democrats, despite the online site's lack of liberal bite. Am I suggesting anything improper? No. I am suggesting the appearance of impropriety. And that's enough, in my view, to cast doubt on the wisdom of a bad idea.
Does a MinnPost roast reflect poorly on its journalism, or should journalists be allowed to have a laugh with politicians on occasion?
It's award season on Planet Journalism. Newsrooms all over the country spend much of December submitting awards. It's a small cottage industry for some awards organizations who make a few bucks on entry fees. In return, stations and newspapers get something to promote when the awards start rolling in in the spring. Most of the awards aren't worth much more.
The Peabody Award is not one of those, and today two area news organizations got one.
American Public Media -- perhaps you've heard of it -- won for The Promised Land with host Majora Carter. The program explored "visionaries among us -- men and women with innovative ideas about changing lives and transforming communities. You may find them in the far-flung corners of the world or right down the street."
Here's an example:
The unit returned this week from the Gulf Coast, where it was researching a look at the area one year after the big BP oil spill...
KSTP TV won a Peabody for "Who Killed Doc?" The station investigated the death of a Minnesota sailor and found that "commanders ignored warnings, botched investigations, and failed to protect service members on their own base - where they should have been the safest." (Find it here.)
By the way, public media won 19 of the awards. Many of them were funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Under a House bill passed a few weeks ago, stations would not be allowed to purchase these kinds of programs.
Here's the complete list of winners.(1 Comments)
KDWB radio in the Twin Cities is apologizing for a song that aired last week by one of its morning show employees. The morning show sidekick -- Steve-O -- sang these lyrics to the tune of "Tears in Heaven." (audio here)
No room for a couch
'Cause we sleep on the floor
One big group of Vangs
Hmong family of twenty-four
Kids work in St. Paul
Hang out at the mall
'Cause I know they dwell so well
Thirty Hmongs in a house
Hmongs get pregnant early
First baby at 16
Seven kids by 23
Over the hill by 30
Like sardines they live
Packed in a two-room house with the kids
But you know they age quite well
They be Hmongs.
On the audio, popular radio personality Dave Ryan laughs and then appears to anticipate the backlash, adding, "I am not laughing at your song."
Rob Morris, the station's program director posted a message on the station's Facebook page. He did not declare the bit wrong, but apologized to those who think it was:
KDWB-FM and the Dave Ryan in the Morning Show are very proud that members of the Hmong community are some of our most loyal listeners and fans.
Our listeners understand that The Dave Ryan in the Morning show is a comedy show meant to entertain, and that much of its content is parody. While we've received positive feedback from many Hmong listeners who let us know that they found the song in question very humorous, we apologize to anyone we may have inadvertently offended, as this was never our intent.
We appreciate the support we continue to receive from all of our listeners.
Morris said the subsequent discussion on the Facebook page about the incident is "healthy."
This afternoon, the Twin Cities chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association issued this statement:
Last week, one of the Twin Cities' top-ranked radio stations, KDWB-FM 101.3, featured a parody song on its morning program that has offended some members of the Asian-American community. The two-minute song by radio personality Steve-O mocked housing issues and teen pregnancy in the Hmong community. The song, which has gone viral, was part of an occasional segment on the popular "Dave Ryan in the Morning Show." After soliciting listener-suggested song titles, Steve-O writes and sings a song, which is often meant to be in jest.
While the Minnesota chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association acknowledges the role of parody, we've heard from members of the community who found these remarks offensive and in poor taste. We know KDWB has a large Hmong listenership. We urge the station to take heed when promoting material that stereotypes and marginalizes a large segment of its fan base. It appears that the station recognizes the legitimacy of these concerns. We commend KDWB for addressing the situation. The station has issued a statement (which can be read below). It has also promoted a healthy discussion on its Facebook page, where many Hmong listeners are chiming in with comments.
In regards to Asian-American issues, we hope AAJA can serve as a resource to KDWB's programming in the future.
Morning radio has a history of incidents of racial and ethnic insensitivity in the Twin Cities. In the early '90s, KSTP fired a show host after a sidekick made jokes about drunken Native Americans. In 2007, some Native Americans protested KQRS after morning hosts made jokes about incest and suicide on the reservations.
It was a rather big moment this week when this little number arrived in the MPR newsroom: The William & Kate paper doll book, expertly displayed here by an MPR employee who would not tell us her name (Click image for larger image).
It's important to note, however, that underneath their paper clothes -- including the "sparking plunging-neckline dress that Kate acquired during a 2007 Paris buying trip" -- they are wearing bathing suits, not underwear. Those crazy royals!
The paper doll book was published by Dover Publications. An accompanying press release described it as "America's #1 publisher of high-quality paper doll books." Who says America doesn't make anything, anymore?
In other news, it was revealed today CNN will send
400 150 (updated) staffers to cover the royal wedding.
CNN currently has 50 people covering the disaster in Japan.(3 Comments)
Blogger James O'Keefe's takedown of NPR is the latest incident in what appears to be a growing battle between conservative news outlets and the mainstream media, and raises questions about the future of news in America. Is partisan news what Americans want, and is it good for our democracy?
Midmorning is tackling the question with guests:
CW Anderson: Assistant professor of media culture at the College of Staten Island and a research fellow at Yale Law School and the New America Foundation.
Tom Rosenstiel: Founder and director of Project for Excellence in Journalism. He is co-author with Bill Kovach of "Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload."
I'm live-blogging the conversation. Please share your thoughts and I'll select the best ones to mention on air.(2 Comments)
The trial of a Minneapolis blogger, accused of defaming a man and causing him to lose his job at the University of Minnesota, is over.
Hoff had written on his blog that Moore, a former executive director of the Jordan Area Community Council, had been involved in a fraudulent mortgage scheme and questioned why he'd subsequently been hired by the university.
The jury said that while what Hoff had written was true, it caused him to lose his job, and awarded him $35,000 damages and $25,000 for emotional distress.
Is this a message to bloggers everywhere? The TCDP noted the closing statements of Moore's attorney:
Moore's attorney Jill Clark said in her closing statement that much of the discussion of the First Amendment and freedom of the press as it relates to blogs "is really not relevant." She also said, "There need to be some limits on blogs." Clark pointed to Hoff's lack of objective reporting. "The reporter loses objectivity when he enters the story," she said.
Don Allen, named in the original suit, settled with Moore and testified against Hoff. He told the Star Tribune the verdict sends an appropriate message:
"It's unfortunate for all bloggers, but you have to have some sense of responsibility," he said. "You have to attack the issues, not the individuals."
There was a small win for bloggers in the trial. The judge ruled early on that Hoff wasn't responsible for the comments left on his blog by readers.
I'm interested in hearing from independent bloggers on whether this case changes how you'll approach what you write,
(h/t: Laura Yuen)(10 Comments)
The conservative filmmaker who took down an NPR executive this week with his hidden camera has released another installment. This one, however, doesn't have a "gotcha" moment. Quite the opposite, actually. A previous video showed NPR's now-former fundraiser criticizing tea party members and suggesting the public radio network could do without government funds.
This video, however, may actually confirm NPR's editorial firewall.
In today's release, Betsy Liley, NPR's senior director of institutional giving, explains to a representative of the group, that it's possible to make a donation and have it credited on air "anonymously," but that the organization does that fairly often.
It's not clear whether the phone conversation took place before or after the luncheon.
Liley, however, makes pretty clear that a donation from the Muslim group doesn't buy any direction of news coverage. "That's a news decision," she says. "A lot of people have an interest in specific areas, including institutions, so they give us support in that area, but we can only accept it to the point that it matches our news judgment."
She goes on to relay that NPR might accept money from institutions with an interest in a topic, but those institutions are not allowed to decide any aspect of news coverage. "This would not go to anyone in the news division. No one in news would have access to this document," she said. "There is a firewall between news and development, and there's a similar firewall between development and news.
She also explains that when liberal financier George Soros donated millions to NPR, "we didn't tell anyone in news because... because we're news, we can't tell the rest of our organization what we're doing."
That, if you're keeping score, is one for ethics and editorial firewalls.
Liley also asks for the group's IRS 990 form, which would reveal the management, and funding of the organization, making clear that the network clearly intended to check out the organization before accepting any donation. NPR did not accept the phony group's offer.
The caller tried to figure out ways to "avoid paperwork," seeming to suggest the donation should be hidden, but Liley appeared to rebuff the notion, citing the requirements from NPR's legal counsel, Joyce Slocum, who has since taken on the role of CEO interim president after NPR boss Vivian Schiller was fired. Liley indicated that any donation would not be subject to a government audit, although it's not clear whether NPR is required to submit donor lists to the government for inspection.
Meanwhile, hosts and reporters at NPR today released an open letter to the public regarding the earlier videotaped comments of the deposed Ron Schiller, NPR's VP of fundraising:
Dear Listeners and Supporters,
We, and our colleagues at NPR News, strive every day to bring you the highest quality news programs possible. So, like you, we were appalled by the offensive comments made recently by NPR's now former Senior Vice President for Development. His words violated the basic principles by which we live and work: accuracy and open-mindedness, fairness and respect.
Those comments have done real damage to NPR. But we're confident that the culture of professionalism we have built, and the journalistic values we have upheld for the past four decades, will prevail. We are determined to continue bringing you the daily journalism that you've come to expect and rely upon: fair, fact-based, in-depth reporting from at home and around the world.
With your support we have no doubt NPR will come out of this difficult period stronger than ever.
NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard will be Gary Eichten's guest on MPR's Midday on Friday at 11 a.m. (CT).
Update 5:11 p.m. - NPR has issued this statement:
"The statement made by Betsy Liley in the audiotapes released today regarding the possibility of making an anonymous gift that would remain invisible to tax authorities is factually inaccurate and not reflective of NPR's gift practices.
"All donations -- anonymous and named -- are fully reported to the IRS. NPR complies with all financial, tax and disclosure regulations.
"Through unequivocal words and actions, NPR has renounced and condemned the secretly recorded statements of Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley. Mr. Schiller is no longer with NPR and Ms. Liley has been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation of the matter.
"No stronger statement of disavowal and disapproval is possible. NPR will not be deterred from its news mission and will ultimately be judged by the millions and millions of listeners and readers who have come to rely on us every day."
Vivian Schiller, NPR's president (who spoke to the National Press Club a few days ago), "resigned," today according to NPR. It's clear, however, that this was closer to a firing than a happy resignation.
Here's the statement from NPR board:
It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.
The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.
Vivian brought vision and energy to this organization. She led NPR back from the enormous economic challenges of the previous two years. She was passionately committed to NPR's mission, and to stations and NPR working collaboratively as a local-national news network.
All of you are absorbing the recent quick turn of events. We want to share a few thoughts from where we sit.
Vivian Schiller has been an inspiration for many inside NPR and organizations around the country.
The most recent events, however, have undermined efforts to protect funding for public broadcasting; have further damaged the already shaky working relationship between NPR, APTS, PBS, and CPB; and we suspect will have negative repercussions on the standing of your organization with your community.
In the long-run, we believe that Vivian Schiller's decision to resign as President and CEO of NPR, and the NPR board's decision to accept her resignation, is in the best interests of both NPR and the station community.
The NPR board will have to make several important decisions in the coming weeks, all in the continuing context of the federal funding challenge. We want SRG to be a source of good strategic thinking in all of this and look forward to your best thinking and support in this process.
A conference call is reportedly scheduled soon with reporters and I hope to monitor that and we'll update this post through the day as need be. In the meantime, share you thoughts.
This latest incident stems from the conservative filmmaker's video of NPR's chief fundraiser, reported on here yesterday.
9:51 a.m. - Media critic Jeff Jarvis has a think-piece about the relationship between NPR and its affiliates. It's more of a "this is what I think" than a "this is what I know" piece in that it suggests the role of affiliates as content producers/distributors is ebbing. That's not really true. NPR only control four public radio shows in the nation. And affiliates have increasingly been turning to new ways to distribute their content to other public radio stations. It also suggests an increase chasm between NPR and its affiliates, when actually that long-standing angst has lessened significantly in recently years. Arguably, there's been more symbiosis than in recent years.
10:00 a.m. Dave Edwards, the chairman of the board of NPR is about to hold a conference call. I'm live blogging it here.
Edwards: The board accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation last night. It was a difficult decision for the board to accept. She came to NPR at a time of great economic difficulty and led the board back from enormous financial challenges.
10:04 a.m.: Edwards: The organization has faced significant challenges. Vivian is not responsible for the mistakes that were made, but the CEO of any organization is responsible for the actions.
10:06 a.m. - Joyce Slocum, the VP of legal affairs for NPR, is now in charge pending a search for a new CEO.
Edwards: It was the wisest decision we could make.
Q: We're hearing from critics of NPR that NPR has a problem and that its executives don't understand how to conduct themselves in ways that are consistent with NPR's mission. What do you think about that?
A: Edwards: When I watched a portion of the video that I saw yesterday -- I'm told its two hours in length and was edited -- but I have to tell you watching that video, I felt that the comments being made were so opposite, so ... I cannot tell you how much it bothered to me to my core as to what was being said. What was being expressed there has never been expressed to me by anybody from the NPR staff, the NPR board. NPR, I believe, is a welcoming organization to a variety of viewpoints.
Q: Obviously the comments crossed the line. But either he accepted it or he was telling the donors what they wanted to hear to get their money. In either case, there's a question of a management culture.
A: Edwards: We have a responsibility as an organization to point out we don't support those kinds of views. The comments we made yesterday should telegraph that and the decision to part company with Vivian Schiller should demonstrate that.
Q: Who in the leadership team are you referring to when you say you have confidence in them?
A: Edwards: The board's primary responsibility is always with the CEO. We are very comfortable with Joyce Slocum moving into this position in an interim capacity simply because she has a relationship with the leadership team and knows what's going on.
Every member of the adminsitrative team in place, including the interim VP of news, we feel is an absolutely incredible team of individuals who care deeply about the future of news and the future of our industry.
As I have said, we will be establishing a transitional committee with the board to make determinations as to how we move forward.
Q: It's been reported that Vivian was asked to resign.
A: The board had a wideranging conversation last night about what has transpired in recent months and about how the organization needed to move forward. Vivian... offered to step aside if that was the board's will and the board decided that was in the best interest of the organization.
Q: What message does this send to Congress?
A: Everything that has transpired in the last six months has complicated our fight to maintain federal funding. We established a public media collaborative to make the case to Congress for why federal funding is so critical to our industry. That does not change with the departure of Vivian Schiller. The board will continue to make the case that without federal funding, a lot of our public radio/TV stations could go dark.
Q: Has anyone in Congress changed their mind about funding after this?
A: I haven't talked to anyone in Congress.
Q: Is this the worst threat ?
A: The funding is so absolutely critical as an industry. We have to articulate that in the best way possible.
Q: Do you still have support from Democrats and the Obama adminstration?
A: I would certainly hope so.
Q: Do you feel NPR was unfairly targeted by the filmmaker? Was this an ambush?
A: Edwards: I haven't focused on how it was staged and set up. The process worked. When NPR was originally contacted by this supposed organization, there was a lot of due diligence done when dollars are offered to NPR. In terms of researching the organization, and making sure the organization understood the firewall when any organization offered a donation. That process worked. It was the comments of the individuals at the table -- presuming they weren't edited -- those comments are what ran counter to the way NPR operates and what NPR believes.
Q: By pressuring your CEO to resign, it seems the problem goes beyond one guy who was leaving NPR anyway. Doesn't that mean there's a problem beyond someone who misspoke at a lunch meeting?
A: Edwards: The events that took place created such a distraction that it hindered Vivian Schiller's ability to lead the organization going forward.
Q: This organization was fictitious. I have trouble understanding how due diligence was conducted to the point your VP even met with them?
A: Edwards: This alleged organization contacted NPR development and I would say... it would be appropriate for an NPR executive to have a conversation with a potential donor. But NPR never accepted a check from this organization and I've been told following the luncheon is when the checking began.
Q: Any changes to that process now?
A: The process worked. We're talking about the comments made by an individual at lunch.
Q: There's been criticism that NPR is bowing to the "right" on this. And that it's going to weaken the organization in the long run.
A: I don't believe it weakens the organization at all. People will believe what they want to believe. If people hold certain beliefs strongly enough, I 'm not going to change that. I live in Wisconsin, take a look at the papers. The interim executive team is going to be able to move forward on the initiatives that took place. We continue to be a preeminent news organization. Nothing stops that.
>>> This concludes the conference call. <<<
10:28 a.m. -- Minnpost's David Brauer tweeted today, wondering if Bill Kling could be convinced to step in as NPR's CEO. The response from APM/MPR's communication director, Bill Gray:
I know that Bill plans to remain involved in the continuing evolution of public media in the United States. He hasn't discussed any specifics beyond that with me. And with the NPR development so new I don't think he'd see it as appropriate to speculate around that.
10:45 a.m. - Bill Kling's message to his staff, e-mailed today:
There is no doubt that this is a challenging time for public media on many levels. But we all need to keep reminding ourselves that these problems are National Public Radio's problems - not ours. Do they affect us? Absolutely. Do they threaten our efforts to make the case for the importance of federal funding? Yes. But do they reflect on APM|MPR? No they do not. We have a deep pool of talented people that have built this organization through the years into a recognized leader in the public media industry, and we will retain that reputation for leadership moving forward.
At this time it is incumbent upon us and our public media partners to step up and provide counsel and leadership to the system as it begins its recovery from these events on the national level. We also need to remember the most important focus of all - the 900 thousand listeners to our regional services and 16 million listeners to our national programming that tune us in each week.
"I obviously had no prior knowledge" of the executive's comments, "and nothing to do with them, and disavowed them as soon as I learned of them all. But I'm the C.E.O., and the buck stops here," she said in an interview Wednesday morning.
She added, "I'm hopeful that my departure from NPR will have the intended effect of easing the defunding pressure on public broadcasting." Ms. Schiller has been campaigning in recent months against potential funding cuts.
10:56 a.m. - Ron Schiller, the former NPR development boss whose comments led to Vivian Schiller's (no relation) resignation, was leaving NPR anyway to take a job with the Aspen Institute. He has now decided not to take that job.
11:34 a.m. - NPR's Talk of the Nation is going to pick up the discussion during today's show.
11:40 a.m. - MPR doesn't carry the Diane Rehm show but you can find today's broadcast with NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard on the Schiller firing here. Other guests were:
Tucker Carlson political commentator and founder of The Daily Caller
Patrick Butler President and C.E.O of the Association of Public Television Stations
Brooke Gladstone host of "On The Media"
David Edwards director and general manager, WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio
chair of the NPR board
Stephen Moore member of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Paul Farhi Staff writer at the Washington Post covering media
1:28 p.m. - NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, really let's NPR have it.
He's right. Schiller comes across as an effete, well-educated, liberal intellectual - just exactly the stereotype that critics long have used against NPR and other bastions of the news media. It's also a stereotype that NPR journalists try hard to combat every day in their newsgathering.
One has to wonder why NPR's head of development and another senior staffer would meet with a prospective donor who had no history of philanthropy and nothing more than a phony web site as credentials. Don't they research potential donors?
People at NPR yesterday were angry and dazed by this episode, which is just the latest in a series of events that put the company in the worst possible light. Doesn't anyone in NPR's top management think of the consequences before they act?
1:41 p.m. - Shepard has just concluded a "chat" at the Washington Post site. Not much new, but this is probably the essence of it:
Q.How many Republicans work for NPR?
A. Don't know. I wasn't asked that when I joined NPR. And I'm not sure it's relevant. Diversity is more than political beliefs. I'm more interested in how many people NPR has working for it who have blue collar backgrounds, or were in the military, or come from Nebraska.
2:01 p.m. - David Edwards, the NPR Board Chair is now address reporters at public radio stations around the country. I'm live blogging this, too. I'm not going to retype all of his previous comments but I will relay the questions and answers.
Q: How does NPR need to be repositioned?
A: The series of events of the last six months have become a distraction and the board felt it hindered her ability lead the organization.
Q: How does NPR begin to clean up the damage that's been done to the stations who have had nothing to do with this?
A: There are clearly challenges we face. I manage a public radio station in Milwaukee and we've been careful to explain our relationship with NPR. NPR has to make clear that we're an organization that has strong corporate values....we're obviously a very important journalistic organization to the American people. We must have credibility at all times, and we have a very strong executive team in place.
Q: Do you feel Schiller leaves NPR in a more difficult situation than when she arrived?
A: The difficulties are different; I don't know which are worse. She accomplished a lot. We're much further ahead. The collaboration between NPR and stations in journalism and fundraising are in far better shape now than they were two years ago. I don't want to give the impression that Vivian was not an effective leader.
Q: Are you confident that the tape that's out there is complete and accurate?
A: I have not see the two hours. I have to believe that it's somewhat of a portrayal.
Q:There's a feeling among a segment of Americans that NPR has a political bias, and it's not just a few people. How do you combat that?
A: What I heard (on the tape) bothered me to my core. I've been in this business for a long time and I like many of us embrace the values of an organization and an industry that is open to a wide variety of views. They were clearly the views of an individual. Those views are not representing any of the views of anyone inside the company. I found them to be repulsive.
2:13 p.m. Q:Is NPR going to provide training to staff about expressing personal opinions in public?
A: We've asked for a review of our news ethics policy. We obviously have to have a sensitivity to the comments that are shared with different publics.
2:16 p.m. - Q: Do we have a solid top level management team?
A: We have individuals who bring a wide variety of experience. Joyce Slocum has extensive legal experience, the director of news has been in the business for decades. I believe that there is a strong team in place. Once a new CEO is on board, it will be up to that person to take a look at the structure.
2:19 p.m. - We had a tough fall in fundraising because of the Juan Williams situation. Are we getting some help from the network? We're a rural station, we get 30 percent of our funding from the CPB.
A: The development team released some material this morning on how stations might want to pitch given this situation. I'll defer to the experts. The head of the public media association are fully engaged in the messaging to members of Congress.
2:21 p.m. - Why the news ethics review when the problem came from your development wing?
A: The ethics review is something the board called for last November. That is purely focusing on news ethics for the organization. That has not changed because of the events of the last few days.
2:27 p.m. - Is there any NPR policy that an organization with ties to Muslim Brotherhood would be considered for a donation?
A: Every donation that is considered is carefully vetted. Anytime a donor calls and says we'd like to talk, we consider that.
2:28 p.m. Why did PBS turn down the conversation altogether?
A: I can't speak for PBS.
>>That concludes the conference call.
4:10 p.m. - Alicia Shepard just tweeted:
"Ron Schiller said in the full two hour Okeefe video he is a Republican, and was raised as a Republican. that didn't make it in video."
5:42 p.m. - Here's David Folkenflik's story recapping the day.
(Updating to add NPR comment)
A conservative filmmaker says he's caught the NPR's foundation senior vice president on video saying liberals are more fair and balanced and conservatives are anti-intellectual. In James O'Keefe's video, Ron Schiller notes he's only giving a "personal opinion," but he does so while meeting as an NPR executive with two men who portrayed followers of the Muslim Brotherhood anxious to give $5 million to NPR.
Schiller also says NPR would be better off in the long run without federal funding.
Schiller joined NPR last year as its chief fundraiser after leaving a VP position at the University of Chicago.
He's leaving NPR, too. Last week, the Aspen Institute announced it is hiring him.
Update 1:55 p.m. NPR's response:
The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.
We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.
Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.
Schiller's leaving NPR has nothing to do with the video, according to NPR.
Vivian Schiller, the president of NPR (formerly "National Public Radio"), is speaking today to the National Press Club. It's one of her first major public appearances since the senior news editor at NPR was forced to resign in the wake of the Juan Williams controversy. Her appearance also comes at Congress considers chopping funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
I'm live blogging her speech (12 p.m.) and Q&A session, which is being broadcast on MPR's Midday.
12 p.m. - We're underway with the usual introductions. Mark Hamrick, president of the Press Club notes that this isn't the first financial crisis Schiller has faced at NPR. When she took over, companies were cutting, including their donations and underwriting, and NPR was laying off employees.
12:05 p.m. - Schiller: Begins by reading e-mail from an NPR reporter who made their way into Libya. "We basically pushed our way in, we walked across the border and were lucky to find people to drive us.... everywhere else we've gone, we've been treated with cheers and shouts. This is a country that hasn't been exposed to western media. They were desperate to have their stories told. Everyone was stunned to see us."
"I have never been prouder to be a journalist," the email said.
Schiller: "It is at the core of NPR's mission."
12:08 p.m. - It's been 44 years since CPB was established. "That was a time when the Big Three broadcast networks had foreign bureaus all over the world, and deep reporting staffs. Even then there was concern commercial interests would drive the networks away from news.... The economics of the news business are undergoing seismic change. Demand for the news had never been higher, and yet mainstream news organizations continue to cut back resources for news, particularly at the local level."
12:11 p.m. - "We stay on the story when everyone else moves on," she says. She notes reporters are still covering the West Virginia mine disaster, the Gulf oil spill, and the brain injuries of soldiers.
12:13 p.m. - "The audience at NPR radio is growing and has been growing." Public radio listening in the top 50 audience is at an all-time high. The average listener listens for six hours a week.
12:18 p.m. - "Our coverage has its critics; we're working to expand diversity of sources and we're paying aggressive attention to our ethical decision making," Schiller says. "We hope to deliver in even larger following in the country.
12:19 p.m. - She outlines the funding model for NPR. "We are successful because of the investment the American public has made in public media in 40 years and the way we've been able to leverage that investment to broaden support -- listeners, corporate underwriters... philanthropic individuals and institutions... and continued government funding." Grants to stations from CPB represent 10 percent of the public radio station economy.
12:20 p.m. - The 10 percent government funding is critical to generating the other 90 percent, she says. "It is through diversity of funding that we are able to maintain journalistic independence," she said.
12: 22 p.m. - Schiller takes a shot at punditry. For some reason, I remember this wonderful segment, which made a young man who wanted to go into journalism, sit up and take notice:
12:25 p.m. - She ends her remarks by mentioning this riveting interview:
QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION
Q: Let's get the Juan Williams issue dealt with. You've had five months to reflect on how it transpired. What can you tell people about the way it transpired and how you might have done it differently?
A: We handled the situation badly. We acted too hastily and we made some mistakes and I made some mistakes. The key is to fix systems that fell down on that day. That's the learning experience.
Q: Is there a process in place reviewing that?
A: There were some processes that were followed and we have fixed them.
Q: Do you think you've moved past it?
A: There was some communications issues that didn't work quite as they should have. Since October, we have undertaken a thorough review of our code of ethics to make sure it's clear, up to date with the reality of media in 2011, and is consistently applied. It was created in 2004, so we've finished a process led by Bob Steele, the DePaul expert on journalism ethics, and we'll be making changes.
We are going to be creating a new position at NPR -- a standards editor, who is on top of all the other checks and balances.
Q: The task force has called for an end to NPR journalists appearing elsewhere. How will this affect Mara Liasson and Cokie Roberts?
A: We embrace the notion of NPR journalists appearing on other media. The task force has recommended ending the practice of having long-term relationships between journalists and other news organizations can be confusing. We're not ready to make specific statements about individuals.
Q: Juan Williams was the only black male heard on NPR. What's being done about the lack of diversity?
A: This is a very big priority for us. We have a number of initiatives underway to further diversify our staff, our reporters, the people we interview, and our audience. We've made progress but it's not nearly enough. (She references this article)
Q: Is there a political imbalance at NPR?
A: I wish people could be in our editorial meetings and see the care our journalists take to get it right. We want journalism that reflects no political bias. We tell stories about areas that almost no other news organization is covering. I ask them to point to specific stories and when they do, we take them very seriously.
Q: Is it a perception issue?
A: There's no question it's a perception issue. I take much more seriously when someone says, "I have a problem with this story." When we get a complaint, we take those very seriously.
Q: What is NPR doing to seek diverse talent outside of the j-schools, and the mainstream dailies?
A: We have a reporting farm team, represented by the affiliation stations. (Bob notes: I'm not sure I like the idea of being referred to as a farm team. I believe Martin Kaste and Kitty Eisele are the only MPR people to go to work for NPR, for what that's worth.)
Q: What can you talk about the Gabrielle Giffords' reporting error.
A: It was a mistake, plain and simple. There was no excuse for prematurely reporting her death. We take that matter extremely seriously. We've done a post mortem, we've evaluated processes. I wouldn't say it represents anything more than the one mistake it is.
Background: Slow down NPR (American Journalism Review)
Q: How high is the risk of the deficit cutting environment?
A: It's a significant risk and is a risk to all of public broadcasting. For many public radio stations, it's a much higher percentage (than 10%) of revenue. On top of that, there is state funding as well. It (cutting) would have a big impact on public radio's ability to deliver news or, in the case of TV, presentation of the arts.
Q: How does the liberal perception impact the current debate?
A: This country is facing a $1.4 trillion deficit. I believe that this is driven mostly by an attempt to find cuts to the deficit. That's certainly understandable, but the small amount of money that goes for public broadcasting, and the very large amount of money that small amount of money leverages... is too critical to give up.
Q: What sets this apart from other Republican-led efforts to defund NPR?
A: The deficit.
Q: Why doesn't NPR become a self-funded organizatin?
A: If federal dollars went away, the ability to serve the public to provide universal aspect with free over-the-air information... we would be retreating. You can't isolate funding for this one entity or this station. It is the network effect that strengthens us. Not just the big distributors on radio, but PBS, and local TV stations. You pull out one thread and the whole thing unravels.
Q: Can you talk about listening to radio growing up? And what do you listen to now other than NPR?
A: I grew up in New York so I was listening to AM pop radio. I came late to NPR because for most of the '80s, I was living abroad. I started listening when dating my husband and had just moved back into the country. He had NPR on and that was it. I was hooked to NPR and hooked to him.
Q: NPR engineers complain they're being made obsolete and the audio is suffering.
A: Audio is essential to us. There is a unique quality that's hard to describe. We are not forsaking our heritage, although there has been a reduction in audio engineers. We have fewer audio engineers going to do field reporting. In those cases, perhaps, you're not hearing the same richness of sound and layering, but we're not hearing complaints.
Q: Couldn't NPR raise money by becoming a private company. Why not just air commercials and move on?
A: That's not public radio (Bob: It's also not allowed by the law). We'd like to have more radio from private interests, but the fact is we have no plans to become a commercial enterprise. It's not who we are; we're on the non-commercial end of the radio spectrum.
Q: Your Web site is obviously a rich site. What is your vision for the future? And what aren't you trying to do? Are you staying away from video?
A: NPR.org is just one piece of our whole digital strategy. Our goal is simple: To provide more sources of that to more people. We must be available wherever the audience is. Even though they're listening to radio in record numbers, we also know they're on other devices. In the next year, we'll be rolling out plans to make sure that we provide all of that to our member stations so all of our stations can be as robust on their Web sites and we all are on the radio.
Q: Is there a downside risk?
A: The only risk in all of this is if we ignore what the audience wants.
Q: Have all the positions you eliminated been restored?
A: No. The team made the right decision. Instead of cutting everyone, two shows were cut. In so doing, the rest of the newsgathering operation were not only spared, but we began to modestly invest in those programs. Those investments haven't reached the level of the people laid off from those two shows, but where we invest will be to have more foreign correspondents and more reporters on the beat.
Schiller gets the traditional NPC mug, signifying the end of her presentation.
Update 3:18 p.m. - Current.org reports on the NPR task force report that includes "reining in punditizing."
This image was taken nearly 40 years ago,:
So it's probably time for an update, no?
Lars Leafblad is an incredibly well-connected Twin Cities businessman who is keenly interested in innovation and thinks a lot about why Minnesota is great and how it could be better.
In a recent interview with The Line Leafblad says that it's time to start thinking differently about what defines the Minnesota identity:
When you think of this region, there are so many great ingredients in the pot, but what hasn't emerged is a clear image. Remember the cover story on our state in Time magazine in 1973--"The Good Life in Minnesota"? The cover photo was Governor Wendell Anderson by a lake with a northern pike in his hand. It was Time's shot, of course, and I think people interpreted "the good life in Minnesota" in a lot of ways--but many people could say, that photo visualizes on a very visceral level why we love this place...
We're in a "white-paper" community. We have a lot of smart, well-educated people here, thinking and creating. We produce white papers and task forces and reports and strategic plans. But is there an image, a visualization of what we're trying to become? It would be interesting to try to come up with it. Maybe as a contest. What's the new snapshot? What's the new cover shot for "The Good Life in Minnesota"?
So what would you put on the cover to capture life in Minnesota? Leave your idea in the comments or share a photo here.
(h/t Andrew Haeg)
These days folks who are trying to make money from the whole digital thing talk about market penetration for smart phones, broadband Internet, social social networking and tablet computers. In 1936 it was all about radio.
CBS Radio executives created this gem of a sale pitch designed to persuade advertisers to move their accounts to radio.
"This is probably the dullest story we will tell you about radio," wrote CBS's Victor Ratner. He continues:
It gives you the anonymous millions ... that are the deep source of radio's power. But as you glance through its pages, you may agree with us that even radio's dullest story comes alive with the immense drama of these millions -- within reach of one soft voice.
More than 9 of 10 Americans owned a "wireless" in 1936. In 2010, 96 percent of young adults owned wireless phones.
(Flickr photos by j_barry)
It'll be a short debate -- a half hour or less -- but an important one on NPR's Talk of the Nation.
Participating in the broadcast:
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). He supports federal funding for public broadcasting.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). He thinks it should be eliminated.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, who will provide context of the role of public broadcasting in the media landscape.
1:08 p.m. - Lamborn: "When we get to the reality of actual programs getting reduced, people get uncomfortable. Everyone will have something in this budget where they're not going to be happy. We have to share this with Americans to get our house in order.
Conan says it's a small drop in the bucket. Lamborn says if we used that approach, nothing would ever get done.
"Zero seems like a lot, too," Conan replied.
1:09 p.m. - Lamborn: "I'm fan of public broadcasting. There are a number of programs that have a lot of quality. It would be an adjustment, honestly, but I do think the future is bright for public broadcasting should it become private broadcasting. Because of the quality, there will be a way forward. It'll mean scrambling and finding new sources of revenue, but I really do think there is a bright future for public broadcasting."
1:11 p.m. - Conan asks if government should be involved if there isn't a market in the private sector for arts programming. "If there isn't a market in the private sector, should it exist?" Lamborn replies.
1:12 p.m. - Conan asks, "Don't Republicans believe funding CPB is funding the enemy?"
"I don't know what people are thinking," Lamborn replies. "My bill was in existence before Juan Williams' firing took place. "
Caller (Oswego NY): - "This is taking information away from Americans when you should be more involved in providing information."
"No one is talking about eliminating CPB or NPR," Lamborn says. "We're just talking about not having the taxpayers pay for it. The taxpayer can't keep paying for everything. This cannot continue."
Caller (Philadelphia): "Maybe it is time to cut it. I'd never object to advertising on public TV or public radio. If they need the funding, by all means do it. I would give more if I knew the government was cutting it."
Are the votes there. "Last night at midnight, we beat back the main challenge -- an amendment to eliminate the reduction of funding," Lamborn says. "That was defeated. We had a back-and-forth at midnight."
(Lamborn cut loose)
Enter Tom Rosenstiel.
1:17 p.m. - There are only 31 all-news commercial radio stations left in the U.S. There's really not any street reporting still taking place in commercial radio. On public radio, there was 31% -- in a study -- of the stories on public radio involving international news. On commercial radio, it was 4%.
1:20 p.m. - Rep. Earl Blumenauer. "They wouldn't allow my amendments to come to a vote. They disallowed it on a technicality even though Republicans have routinely waived points of order for their things."
1:21 p.m. - Blumenauer says his idea was to steer subsidies to major oil companies to public broadcasting. He says it's an ideological reason for cutting. "We've seen this movie before," he said. "It has long been an agenda. What's different is up to now we've had a core of Republican supporters who've said, 'this is crazy.'"
1:23 p.m. - Why not just sell advertising? "It's not commercially viable? It costs 11 times to serve Burns, Oregon as it does the Portland area."
If local listeners won't support it, why should taxpayers, an e-mailer asks.
"The money is a small amount," Blumenauer says. "And it is highly leveraged. All of this educational content we revere, you look at the commercial stations, they're not producing commercial-free entertainment. The stuff is made to sell things to kids, not to educate them."
1:25 p.m. Conan asks if poor people are losing heating assistance, shouldn't public broadcasting be on the table, too? "It is on the table," Blumenauer says. "But for less than half a cent a day, this is part of the essential infrastructure of the nation. We need it if we're going to educate and inform them. The real money is going to be defense, and social services. That's where the money is. Tying up the argument over a half a cent a day is a terrible mistake."
Blumenauer is cut loose.
1:27 p.m. - Rosenstiel says there is more news on commercial TV than before. "There's more foreign news on PBS," he says. "Cable news on television tends to take one or two stories of the week and double it. The biggest story is talked about even more. So you have a very narrow range of subjects on cable TV and it's typically something with an ideological edge. Lindsay Lohan should get less coverage on cable news because there's no ideological divide.
Emailer: "One of my concerns is that CPB is a distraction. It's a feel-good moment. If Congress made major cuts and then said "we had to cut CPB," I'd feel it was genuine. But to start with CPB?
Another emailer: "We all have to give up something to balance the budget."
1:29 P.M. - What would happen if 50% CPB were cut? "It would hurt NPR less than local markets," Rosenstiel says. "NPR, which is the political target here, is going to survive. If this is a political fight, there'll be a lot of collateral damage at the local level."
Caller from New Hampshire says funding for public broadcasting is being zeroed out there.
"Lots of things are being cut," Rosenstiel. "Gradually public broadcasting has moved away from state funds. It does two things different: Because you're not tied to commercial audiences, you operate more on a long-term strategy. In the '90s as commercial audiences shrank, the programming became more tabloid and crime was the top subject even though crime was going down. None of that staunched the loss of audience. Public broadcasting has seen its audience grow because they stuck with it. Radio... NPR has seen an enormous growth because it's doing things that can't be found anywhere else."
1:35 p.m. - Conan notes there are several places to get multiple public broadcasting stations. Rosenstiel says the stations end up targeting, becoming all news or all music.
1:36 p.m. Caller:"We have to fund the things that are important. Social Security and Medicaid are the important thing. I listen to public radio every day, it's just not a priority right now. "
That concludes the segment. Audio will be posted later. Comments open below.(6 Comments)
Time to reopen the great CPB debate.
There's a line of thought among those who oppose public funding of radio and TV that goes beyond the traditional "they're too liberal." It says that if you create a link between the government and a broadcast operation, sooner or later the government will get involved in the editorial content.
The reality is that the government -- by way of the FCC -- already is involved in content requirements but for the most part, politicians are at an arm's length.
Broadcasting and Cable magazine reports that a House committee wants to investigate the editorial standards of National Public Radio:
The House Energy & Commerce Committee plans to "examine certain editorial and employment standards and practices at NPR," as part of its communications oversight, according to a committee oversight plan, a copy of which was supplied to B&C. It cites "recent controversies involving NPR."
Those would be the firing of commentator Juan Williams, an ensuing investigation into that firing, and the resignation of the person who made that decision, Ellen Weiss, NPR Senior VP, News, It also plans to investigate the financing of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funds to NPR and PBS, to determine whether that funding should continue.
By the way, tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation (around 1 p.m. CT for you MPR listeners), there will be a discussion on the future of public broadcasting.(7 Comments)
For a few decades now, the long-tradition of over-the-air broadcasts of major league baseball games has been disappearing. Today, an announcement from Fox Sports North (FSN) suggests, the era is just about over.
The network and the team announced that all Minnesota Twins games -- except for a few that are on the national Fox broadcasts -- will be on cable. There will be no local over-the-air partner for the team.
It's a trend that's not exclusive to baseball, of course. Last month, the Los Angeles Lakers announced that starting next year, there'll be no more "free access" to its games on TV.(16 Comments)
You're the national TV network people turn to for news. A million happy protesters are cheering the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. It's an easy story line to cover. Everybody's happy. So that's the story CBS has told last Friday:
But CBS knew there was a more sinister story to tell, and today its public relations department -- not its news department -- told it. One of its reporters, Lara Logan, was being attacked by more than 200 people who'd been "whipped into a frenzy" by the day's events, according to an account in the New York Times.
After the mob surrounded her, Ms. Logan "suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers," the network said.
Who attacked her? We don't really know. Were they arrested? We don't know. Why did she have to be saved by women? Why didn't the men in the square do something to stop the awful assault? All fine questions. But we don't know.
You're in charge of CBS News. Should you have told the story of what was happening in that square last Friday? Would you have told it if it involved a woman who didn't work for you?
Here's Lara Logan's appearance on Charlie Rose's show a week ago.
"We have seen Lara's compassion at work while helping journalists who have faced brutal aggression while doing their jobs," Committee to Protect Journalists chairman Paul Steiger said this afternoon. "She is a brilliant, courageous, and committed reporter. Our thoughts are with Lara as she recovers."(10 Comments)
There's an awful story developing out of Los Angeles today, made worse by the initial viral nature of this video by people who at first thought it was funny. CBS reporter Serene Branson stumbled badly during a live report during the Grammy awards last night, giving every outward sign she was having a stroke.
(Update 2:21 p.m. - CBS is working hard to get all video of the incident taken down. As usual on the Internet, it pops up in different places every time they succeed in shutting one down.)
Unfortunately, we don't have anything more on the story except that Branson has been hospitalized. The station's Web site says nothing about the incident.
Update 1:02 p.m. - Station Web site says no hospitalization.(5 Comments)
I have not written about the effort to strip the Corporation for Public Broadcasting of its funding for a couple of reasons. First, I have an obvious interest in the outcome and I try not to write about the obvious. Two, I don't want to be appearing to shill for the home team, although my banishment from the airwaves during pledge drives should give me more street cred on the subject than I have (I swear I was only joking when I said I'd shoot a puppy if you didn't call now). And three, the danger is the discussion surrounding it will lead to the typical -- and frankly, tiring -- debate between the right and left -- another political battle to be won by one side or the other. A lot of truths and facts get lost in those sorts of discussions.
But NPR and PBS picked up an ally today that may not help their cause that much.
US News' Washington Whispers reports today that MoveOn has mobilized its considerable -- and liberal -- members against the zeroing out of the CPB's funding.
It may well have become an ideological battle anyway, but the opportunity to go head-to-head with MoveOn is the stuff some politicians use to fill the campaign war chests.
Somewhat lost in that usual skirmish is a national dialogue about why the United States created public broadcasting in the first place, whether the U.S. still has an interest in how its people are informed, and whether it makes budgetary sense in 2011. Maybe the answer is yes, maybe the answer is no but it's only going to be answered with calmer and quieter voices that usually get shouted down when the far left and far right do their thing.
Fred Rogers' testimony before Congress decades ago about the need for two men to work out their differences could've been an apt metaphor in the debate.
I'll leave the comments area open. Prove me wrong.(50 Comments)
Chandra Levy's killer was given a 60-year prison term today.
She was a Capitol Hill intern and her killing was a media sensation until it wasn't anymore.
Who killed her?
a) Rep. Gary Condit
b) Ingmar Guandique
If you guessed "b," you probably didn't pay much attention to the news coverage, which determined that Condit -- no saint, here -- probably did it. Except he didn't.
It took the Washington Post to do the job should've done, and reported the story the way the media should've reported it. As it turned out, the cops were being pushed by the media; the tail was wagging the dog.
Now that Huffington Post, a site that sometimes make insignificant stories look like big news, is owned by the same company that owns Patch, a network of hyper-local news sites, what if Patch adopted the design aesthetic of HuffPo? Voila! Haugen's Fridley Patch is born, HuffPo-style.
I can't figure out what's being made fun of more, Patch or Huffington Post.
BTW, here's the real Fridley Patch.
Do you read a local Patch site? You like?(2 Comments)
There's quite a media spat playing out in the Alexandria area following the death last weekend of a teenager, which some said was a suicide, and which his family said was a known medical condition (I wrote about this on News Cut earlier this week).
What we know is that Lance Lundsten is dead. What we don't know is why.
Several media in the area cited his friends in stories saying Lundsten was bullied for being gay, and that may have contributed to a suicide. The teen's father called media saying the coroner told him the death was due to an enlarged heart.
On that, the Alexandria Echo Press reported the death was because of a medical condition. KSAX, the local ABC affiliate in Alexandria, noted the father's story, but then quoted the coroner:
Douglas County Medical Examiner Dr. Mark Spanbauer said the preliminary autopsy report showed the teen did not die from an enlarged heart.
The teen's heart was slightly enlarged, but that finding was a secondary finding to an undetermined cause, according to Spanbauer.
Spanbauer said what actually caused Lundsten's heart to slightly swell was not yet known, as the final autopsy report was still in progress.
The Echo Press newspaper stayed with the father's version of the story, but then amped up the dispute with a blistering editorial against KSAX and Facebook.
Unfortunately, whipped up by the Facebook frenzy, the distorted story of Lundsten's death took on a life of its own. A TV station reported about the Facebook speculations and it snowballed quickly from there, getting reported by other media outlets as well - a sad case of media reporting what other media were reporting, even though it was untrue.
Some Jefferson High School students threatened a walk out, believing the school wasn't taking the bullying issue seriously enough.
Anti-bullying groups were quick to pick up on the death, spreading the story further. U.S. Senator Al Franken called attention to the incident to drum up support for anti-bullying legislation. Images of Lundsten connected to headlines of bullying and suicide popped up all over the Internet - even on a website in France.
It shouldn't have happened this way.
Echo Press editor Al Edenloff confirmed today the newspaper hasn't contacted the coroner, but based its editorial on the statement from the dead teen's family:
According to Lance's family, the coroner said Lance had cardiac edema and that no other contributing factor had been found during the preliminary investigation (note the word "preliminary"). The family said that all of the prescription pills in the home had been accounted for and there was no indication of drug use. However, as we stated in our story, it will take six to eight weeks for the complete toxicology results are determined. The KSAX story squares, in part, with what the family told us -- that Lance had cardiac edema. No one knows the exact cause of death yet, which the coroner also told KSAX. The cause won't be determined for another six to eight weeks and no one knows what that will reveal. We talked to the family on Tuesday morning and KSAX talked at the coroner at a later date. Its story came out Wednesday. To answer your question directly: No, we did not contact the coroner because at this point, no one, including him, knows the cause of death yet. We do know, however, that the coroner told the family Lance had cardiac edema and that's what we reported. We will be contacting the coroner when the results come back.
That requires a response from Christi Jessee, the news director if KSAX.
I find it very hypocritical that the Echo Press accuses KSAX-TV of reporting rumor and speculation, when it seems to be knowingly perpetuating it. Selective facts have been reported, but the most important facts released by official sources in this case are, deliberately it seems, ignored. The truth is not always comfortable. But journalists should not ignore facts in an effort to comfort a grieving family.
Dr. Spanbauer was not available when MPR News attempted to contact him today.
This was as close a look at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as anybody got today when she was transferred from the University of Tucson Medical Center to a waiting aircraft for a trip to a Houston rehab center. But that didn't stop people from gathering along the route.
Giffords' recovery from the tragic shooting that claimed six lives nearly two weeks ago is certainly heartwarming. It's a story that needs no embellishment, and yet it continues to get it.
"Why is so much of the expression around this so excessive?" Kerri Miller of MPR's Midmorning asked today. In particular, she focused on the assertion that Giffords' recovery is "a miracle."
"In part, it's because we are so disappointed, so taken aback by the horror of the events, that we want to have some kind of moral balance," ethicist Art Caplan said. "The flourishing the of the miracle language starts to be an antidote to the evil of the shooting. We want redemption. We want that event transformed into something positive, and one way to do it is to use religiously-tinged language about the recovery to get that redemption."
Caplan said the same word was used -- at least in the American press -- during the rescue of the miners in Chile. The European press, on the other hand, focused on the science of it. "I don't think it's an accident," Caplan said. "We tend to get religiously tinged language It's reaching out for that divine or religious theme as part of how we interpret and make sense of our world. It's just been the culture."
Deborah Tannen, the professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, says it's a glimpse into our culture..
"Anytime we confront a terrifying, unexpected death, in our daily life and public figures... what's overwhelming is the lack of control. Something happens suddenly that we have no control over, we couldn't foresee, and everything falls apart. We find ways to think about it that make sense," she said. "When people talk about how they met their spouse, they're horrified to think, 'Had I not gone to that party, my whole life would be different.' So they talk about it in terms of divine intervention."
Reader Jennifer Zick -- a scientist, she says -- responded to today's broadcast. "I agree with Art's comments about not wanting to take away people's hope in these situations, but I definitely think this language is overused. I, for one, do prefer to look at these situations as the result of determinism, because that is in fact the only explanation with any supporting evidence. It also avoids the trap of having to explain the counter situation -- if god is intervening in Giffords' care, why didn't he save the other victims?"
Listener Doug Bieniek of Duluth, however, says he could barely stand the show:
Forgive my impudence, but neither the host, nor the guests have the slightest understanding of the concepts involved with true believers operating in faith. For secular folks such as those on your show to try to discuss a miracle and discover meaning in such a concept is like asking a laborer in the fields to repair the damage Mrs. Giffords suffered. Frankly, it was abundantly clear you had no idea where to begin to talk about such a topic.
Folks are habituated to assigning religious terms to things they do not understand and often throw such terms around devoid the very high value our Creator and the faithful place upon them. They use them without the foundation necessary to grasp such concepts and more often than not misuse and abuse such terms, even going so far as to turn some of these sacred terms into cursing.
Let me explain, to breathe is a miracle. That I may grasp a pencil, or type this message and send it to you is no less a miracle. That Mrs. Giffords should recover from her wounds through the work of all those people around her is still, a miracle. The secular definition of a gift from a Creator God is ridiculous. If one can accept through faith where the power for such things comes from, it is an easy leap to the real truth of all things.
There are all kinds of rock stars in the bible. The difference, however, is those operating with a faithful understanding know where to point the adulation when it comes their way. One can look to science for the truth, but it only reflects the great power of the One God who created all things in the first place. To think differently, in my view, is arrogant and one dimensional. If you are not able to see past the science, which is a created thing, one can never hope to truly understand truth.
Here's the whole show.
Of course, everyone processes events differently. Some people invoke a divine intervention, others sell their toys:(2 Comments)
The story of how NPR botched the Tucson shooting story by falsely reporting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was dead is getting more curious.
NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, has the nearly unbelievable story of the pain the false report caused, including the insistence from NPR that its two sources trumped Giffords' mother, outside the operating room:
NPR correspondent Ted Robbins is based in Tucson. He was at the scene Jan. 8 when his cell phone rang shortly after NPR aired at 2:01 p.m. EST that Giffords died. The call was a friend, who is also a friend of Giffords.
The friend was sitting outside the hospital operating room with Giffords' mother Gloria, holding her hand.
"Please tell them to stop reporting she is dead," he begged Robbins. "She is in surgery."
Robbins immediately called NPR but was told NPR was sticking to the story since it had two sources.
Scott Simon, who is apparently a friend of the Giffords family, also got a call:
"I couldn't fathom how cops or pols would know more than the hospital," said Simon. "Two sources who are not in a position to know something are not reliable sources."
Good question and one that NPR has refused to answer. It has yet to reveal who the source in the sheriff's office was or what congressperson's office is the knowledgeable second source and, moreover, why either one was deemed more reliable than the source outside the operating room with a name and a close connection to the subject at hand.(1 Comments)
It was only a matter of time before we in the media kicked over that pedestal that we put Ted Williams on. He's the homeless guy with the great voice who, up until six people got killed at an Arizona grocery store, was the obsession of the news media.
After getting into a domestic altercation with his daughter the other day, Williams, who had told the media last week that he's sobered up and is clean, is heading for rehab. He's admitted that he's still drinking.
There were a lot of opportunities for the media to take a serious look at the story they were building last week -- the difficulty of reintegrating into a non-homeless world, the likelihood that he was being used by companies throwing around job offers, the problems dealing with fame -- and the media would have none of it. It would have ruined the fairy tale that never actually existed. Escaping homelessness is more complicated.
In other news, Ted Williams is getting a dental makeover:(2 Comments)
It can't hurt, but is a comic book about suicide likely to prevent any?
Marvel Comics today released an app as part of "an effort to help raise awareness of suicide prevention."
The company, however, is releasing the app for the iPad and iPhone only. Droid users, for example, are out of luck, although there is an online version. But I'm not sure this is what you want to see when you've reached the point of desperation...
There's no dialogue in the comic (except for the last page). There's a tall building, a bad report card, a note from a parent that isn't helpful, a text message from someone urging the reader, presumably, not to call anymore. It's not hard to figure out what's going on.
Then comes some weird intervention by Captain America against a bunch of people on another building's roof. Why they all have bazookas and weapons, I'm not sure; perhaps they're life's demons:
If only life were that easy. At the end of the comic, the number appears for a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.
Perhaps in the next episode, Captain America will take on the fact when parents often call for help for their in-crisis children in Minnesota, they're told there are no juvenile psychiatric beds available. Fixing that reality will take a real superhero.
NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard has, apparently, spent the last couple of days trying to figure out how NPR allowed a false report onto the air that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had died.
The most interesting observation (at least to this blogger) was an exoneration of NPR's Two Way blog, which also posted the story, but with a disclaimer, Shepard reports:
The incorrect news was also posted on "The Two-Way," NPR's newsblog. It was attributed to an unnamed source in the Pima County Sheriff's office. However, Two-Way blogger Mark Memmott handled the news just right, continually cautioning that the story was erupting in the midst of panic and pandemonium and nothing was certain.
Which demands that someone ask the question, "if it's not certain, why post it, particularly since it did not come with any attribution"?
But in the reality of how blogs work, she's wrong. Unless the blog has been edited, there was no specific caution attached to the news that Giffords was dead. The caution was actually issued at the beginning of the live blog which scrolls to the bottom of a page as newer items are added to the top. That's just the way blogs work, but the as-it-happens blog isn't read like a newspaper story or, for that matter, like any other online story. On a live-blog, any caution, any disclaimer, any information at all that needs to be imparted, needs to be embedded completely within a time-stamped entry.
Other than that, though, Shepard zeroes in correctly:
NPR had two sources, though neither was identified in any way, and should have been. And the newscast should have put the news in context, explaining that a tragedy had just occurred, the story was changing quickly, and this was what NPR knew at that moment.
A critical question for each source was: "How do you know that?"
It turns out that neither source had accurate, first-hand information. The congressional source had heard it in a meeting on Capitol Hill, where undoubtedly rumors and half truths were flying around.
Moran said his information came from "law enforcement sources, a KJZZ reporter and very early reports on NPR.org."
"I felt supremely confident in the two sources I had but unfortunately those sources were relying on other sources, almost like a game of telephone tag," said Moran. "Unfortunately in this case the stakes were extremely high and I'm sick about it."
Typically, in a big, fast-breaking news story like this, senior editors should have been consulted before going on air with devastating news based on sources NPR would not name.
One other note: Shepard reports that NPR correspondent Audie Cornish provided the second source on the report, indicating it came from "a congressman's office." She didn't identify which congressman, but should have.
Shepard also does not wade into the question of using anonymous sources, which is unfortunate. And while she says senior editors at NPR should've been consulted before the story was aired, she doesn't provide an answer to the question of whether NPR's firing (I'm calling it what it was) of Ellen Weiss from the position days earlier was one of the reasons that wasn't done.
Over the last few months, I've done a fair amount of defending the notion that journalists have and should be allowed to express informed, fact-based opinions on news, but Juan Williams' reaction to the firing -- sorry, "resignation" -- of the NPR news executive who fired him disproves most of it.
As quoted by Business Insider, Williams assessed National Public Radio this way during an appearance on FoxNews, his current employer:
"They have a culture there is not open to real news, that is not open to all points of view, that is not open to the real world around us and to the many different dynamics, perspectives and life stories that animate America."
Williams never said any such thing when he cashed a paycheck from National Public Radio (now "NPR"), so we can only conclude that his assessment stems not from an informed, fact-based reality, but from lingering hurt feelings about his firing in October. As a news commentator, his assessment of reality is too clouded by his opinion. Hurt feelings do not create an environment from which news insight comes and, at the end of the day, insight is a journalist's job. NPR fired Williams because it felt his feelings similarly prevented him from providing that insight and discredited the organization.
It's possible to be close to a story and have an opinion, though (and is anybody seriously doubting that in their private moments, everybody who works at NPR has an opinion on the firing of Ellen Weiss yesterday?). One need only look at -- surprise -- NPR to see how good journalism is done.
David Folkenflik, an NPR reporter, got the unenviable task of covering the story for NPR. He, unlike Williams, did a magnificent job by playing it straight and leaving his feelings out of it.
Put the two assessments (news stories) about NPR side by side, and it's easy to figure out the more trustworthy source on the subject.
Ironically, Williams refused to talk to Folkenflik for his story. Clearly NPR as a news organization was open to his point of view in covering this story. Williams wasn't. That's on him.
NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller took a ton of heat for the way she fired former commentator Juan Williams after he appeared in his role on FoxNews and acknowledged being nervous when Muslims are on board.
There were more than a few people who wondered whether Schiller would survive the public relations mess. Now we know. She did. A lower executive didn't.
Today, NPR issued this memo, which buries the news that Ellen Weiss, the senior vice president for news, was resigned.
The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has completed its review into the facts and circumstances leading to the termination of NPR's contract with senior news analyst Juan Williams. The review also included an examination of how other NPR analysts and correspondents have been treated under the NPR Ethics Code with respect to on-air comments. The independent members of NPR's Board (the "Board") worked with outside legal counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP ("Weil"), to gather information related to the contract termination.
"In light of the review and feedback provided to them, the Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review. The recommendations and remedial measures range from new internal procedures concerning personnel and on air-talent decisions to taking appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination. Some of these changes have already been made and others are in process. Specifically, the Board adopted recommendations that NPR:
"-- Establish a committee comprised of NPR personnel, respected journalists, and others from outside NPR to review and update NPR's current Ethics Code (the "Code").
"-- Develop policies and procedures to ensure consistent application of and training on the Code to all employees and contractors.
"-- Review and update policies/training with respect to the role of NPR journalists appearing on other media outlets to ensure that they understand the applicability of the Ethics Code to their work and to facilitate equitable and consistent application of the Code.
"-- Review and define the roles of NPR journalists (including news analysts) to address a changing news environment in which such individuals have a myriad of outlets and new platforms for their talent, balancing the opportunities presented by such outlets and platforms with the potential for conflicts of interest that may compromise NPR's mission.
"-- Ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.
"-- Williams' contract was terminated in accordance with its terms. The contract gave both parties the right to terminate on 30 days' notice for any reason. The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure. However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the Board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams' contract termination.
"The Board has expressed confidence in Vivian Schiller's leadership going forward. She accepted responsibility as CEO and cooperated fully with the review process. The Board, however, expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus.
"NPR also announced that Ellen Weiss, Senior Vice-President for News, has resigned.
The NPR Board of Directors announced today that it has completed its review into the facts and circumstances leading to the termination of NPR's contract with senior news analyst Juan Williams. The review also included an examination of how other NPR analysts and correspondents have been treated under the NPR Ethics Code with respect to on-air comments. The independent members of NPR's Board (the "Board") worked with outside legal counsel, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP ("Weil"), to gather information related to the contract termination.
"In light of the review and feedback provided to them, the Board has adopted recommendations and remedial measures designed to address issues that surfaced with the review. The recommendations and remedial measures range from new internal procedures concerning personnel and on air-talent decisions to taking appropriate disciplinary action with respect to certain management employees involved in the termination. Some of these changes have already been made and others are in process. Specifically, the Board adopted recommendations that NPR:
"-- Establish a committee comprised of NPR personnel, respected journalists, and others from outside NPR to review and update NPR's current Ethics Code (the "Code").
"-- Develop policies and procedures to ensure consistent application of and training on the Code to all employees and contractors.
"-- Review and update policies/training with respect to the role of NPR journalists appearing on other media outlets to ensure that they understand the applicability of the Ethics Code to their work and to facilitate equitable and consistent application of the Code.
"-- Review and define the roles of NPR journalists (including news analysts) to address a changing news environment in which such individuals have a myriad of outlets and new platforms for their talent, balancing the opportunities presented by such outlets and platforms with the potential for conflicts of interest that may compromise NPR's mission.
"-- Ensure that its practices encourage a broad range of viewpoints to assist its decision-making, support its mission, and reflect the diversity of its national audiences. The Human Resources Committee of the Board is working in conjunction with key members of NPR management on this issue.
"-- Williams' contract was terminated in accordance with its terms. The contract gave both parties the right to terminate on 30 days' notice for any reason. The facts gathered during the review revealed that the termination was not the result of special interest group or donor pressure. However, because of concerns regarding the speed and handling of the termination process, the Board additionally recommended that certain actions be taken with regard to management involved in Williams' contract termination.
"The Board has expressed confidence in Vivian Schiller's leadership going forward. She accepted responsibility as CEO and cooperated fully with the review process. The Board, however, expressed concern over her role in the termination process and has voted that she will not receive a 2010 bonus.
"NPR also announced that Ellen Weiss, Senior Vice-President for News, has resigned.
" 'We have taken this situation very seriously and the Board believes these recommendations and remedial steps address the concerns raised in connection with the termination of Williams' contract,' said Dave Edwards, Chair. 'The Board regrets this incident's impact on NPR and will work with NPR's CEO, Vivian Schiller, to ensure that these actions will be expeditiously completed, examined, and monitored on an ongoing basis.'
"In conducting the review, Weil gathered thousands of documents from various sources and interviewed many current and former NPR employees and contractors. Weil requested Williams' participation in the review through both his agent and a former NPR colleague. Unfortunately, these efforts were unsuccessful and Williams was not interviewed.
"The Ad Hoc Committee and the non-management members of the Board met on multiple occasions and deliberated on the information provided to them. Weil reported to an Ad Hoc Committee of the NPR Board consisting of Dave Edwards (Chair of the Board), Howard Stevenson (Immediate Past Chair), and Carol Cartwright (Vice-Chair)."
Schiller then issued her own memo which praises Weiss. If you're in any sort of corporation, you've probably seen this before: A person "resigns" followed by a wink and nod. If Weiss departure wasn't because of the Williams fiasco, why mention it in a memo about the Williams fiasco.
"NPR SVP for News Ellen Weiss has notified me that she will be leaving her position. Over her decades at NPR, Ellen has made meaningful and lasting contributions to the evolution of NPR and our newsroom. She is a strong journalist who has brought her considerable talents to how NPR covers the world and meets the ever-increasing expectations of today's audiences. Ellen exemplifies journalistic professionalism and integrity. I'm grateful to her for what she has accomplished at NPR, and I encourage you to reach out to her in the days ahead with your own thanks."
None of the official material says what it is that Weiss did wrong. For that, however, we have this tweet from NPR reporter David Folkenflik.
Weiss gave this lecture at Stanford four months before the controversy:
Update 3:50 p.m. - James Fallows, who occasionally does some work for NPR, writes:
Is letting her go, for one episode (with Williams), any worse than letting Williams go for one comment on Fox News (that he got nervous when people in "Muslim garb" got on an airplane)? Structurally they might seem the same. But NPR's day-after explanation about Williams was that this was the culmination of years-long disagreements with him about his role as a Fox commentator. I know nothing first-hand about the merits of that explanation; but its essence is different from Weiss's situation, in which one instance of misjudgment appears to trump her reputation and achievement over the decades. I am sorry for her and for NPR -- and for the likelihood that in the politicized battle over the meaning of "news" I wrote about originally, she will be presented on the Fox side as a "liberal" scalp collected in atonement for Williams's. That's political reductionism, of which we have so much these days, when we need more people who, like Weiss, have been trying hard to send explanatory reportorial probes out into the world. [For the record: I've had outside roles as a commentator or analyst on NPR shows over the years, never as a staff member.]
Update 5:37 p.m. : Weiss has made her first comments to the Los Angeles Times. "What I would say is that the decision to terminate the Juan Williams contract by NPR, of which I was a participant, was based on the highest journalistic standards," Weiss said Thursday.(3 Comments)
If you haven't had enough journalism navel gazing lately, here's a video from The Current from last week's Policy and a Pint on the subject of the line between journalism and opinion. We reached no consensus that I'm aware of. The most contentious point seemed to be when I revealed I get much of my daily information from Twitter. But it was fun and the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis is one interesting venue.(1 Comments)
Even to this day, the thought that a president could put the FBI on the trail of a journalist because he didn't like the reporting sends shivers up the spines of rational people.
That shiver today comes from fbi.gov, which today released the Nixon-ordered probe into journalist Daniel Schorr. The White House justified the use of the FBI by contending it was considering an appointment for Schorr. That, of course, was a lie.
The documents released today contend the FBI dropped the investigation as soon as it realized what was going on. But, even so, many of the names were removed from the documents. We may never know for sure everyone who was involved in the use of a government agency to harass a legitimate reporter:
Mark Memmott, at NPR's Two Way Blog, says the investigation found out that Schorr was a hell of a reporter.(2 Comments)
There are a lot of people out there making a good living by claiming to be experts in matters of the Internet.
MJ Bear wasn't one of them. Even though she was one of the original experts of the Internet, she didn't parade herself as one.
Her funeral was held today down in Des Moines. She died last week after a seven-month fight with leukemia.
Those few of us who were around back when MPR was getting into the online news businesses, remember her as a friendly voice at NPR, where she headed npr.org's development.
It's easy to forget now just how revolutionary it was to answer questions about whether an NPR program can be streamed on a local affiliate's Web site (it couldn't), or whether there was any value in expanding online audio. Back then, MPR had a total of 100 live streams available between the classical service and news and after that, you got a message that you were out of luck. Back then, we only streamed Midmorning and Midday because there were no rights granted for the NPR programs, or even the top-of-the-hour news, for that matter.
But someone with a vision helped answer all of those questions. And MJ Bear also helped form the Online News Association, which at the time was a collection of online newsies who had a hard time getting the time of day from their core-media bosses and colleagues.
NPR undersold her contributions today when it cited her work "redesigning and overseeing NPR.org from 1996 to 2001." It was so much more than that. It was hand-holding public radio Web teams across the country as they tried to do something new, in the face of opposition from those who felt it would undercut the role of radio.
MJ Bear was one of the first people to recognize that journalism and the Web were made for each other, and that public media was uniquely qualified to prove it.(2 Comments)
The hardest news story to cover is the one where there's no news story to cover. We journos set up shop every year at the airport to tell you about the headaches that are evident on this busiest travel day of the year.
There are few lines at Minneapolis-St. Paul. There are no disruptions of note at the security area, and the FAA map shows the only airport delays are in New York City, where it's only news if there's delays there.
Looking at the images from MPR's Tim Nelson, who drew the short straw this year, we're tempted to wonder how things are at the bus and train stations.
This video, released by Columbia Journalism Review earlier this month, is a perfect example of how the political news you hear on your radio this afternoon gets made. It features NPR's congressional reporter Don Gonyea and two other reporters.
The details have been announced for next month's Policy and a Pint session discussing the changing nature of news and the redefinition of the word journalism.
Here's the release:
Event Fact Note
Policy and a Pint: The Line Between News and Opinion
December 15, 2010
Doors at 5:30. Program 6:00-7:00
According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Americans are spending more time "with" the news. That means listening to radio, watching TV, reading blogs, opening newspapers and paging through magazines.
But the news sources listed in the research are surprising. It includes the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and network nighttime broadcasts, of course, but also Bill O'Reilly's show, The Colbert Report, The Daily Show and Rush Limbaugh. Where is the line between opinion, news and comedy?
Steve Seel will talk with MPR News' Chris Worthington and Bob Collins about Juan Williams, objectivity, opinion, Keith Olbermann and how different generations get and interpret their news. If Walter Cronkite felt he could venture into commentary, why can't today's anchors and journalists?
Policy and a Pint is presented by Citizens League and 89.3 The Current.
Chris Worthington joined Minnesota Public Radio in July 2006 as program director for its Regional News & Information Service. He has more than 25 years of news experience, most recently with the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, where he served as managing editor and senior editor for business and technology from 1997 to 2006. From 1983 to 1996, he worked for the Dallas Morning News as its assistant business editor, assistant state editor and sports editor. He held other newspaper positions with Newsday, the Fort Lauderdale News and the Fort Myers News-Press. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from the University of Southern California and a masters of business administration degree from the University of Dallas.
Bob Collins joined MPR in 1992. He served as broadcast editor and coordinated MPR's political coverage until 1999, when he was asked to direct MPR's foray into online journalism. He previously was vice president of programming for Berkshire Broadcasting Company in Massachusetts, and national desk editor at the RKO Radio Network in New York. He also was editor at WHDH in Boston, where he received the Edward R. Murrow Award for his investigation into the Boston mob scene. Bob is a private pilot and is building his own airplane.
Like just about every other public radio newsroom, we had a meeting after the Juan Williams "situation" to go over this question of how much of "us" we should reveal to people. It's a difficult line to draw. Chris' view is there should be a reasonableness to the expression of any opinion. No arguments there although I enjoyed debating the edges of the assertion with him. Someone in the room said, "you and Bob should debate on the radio." Someone else in the room said, "Bob, you should shut up," so we settled on a format that is halfway between the two.
It'll be fun. You can make your reservations here. If you can't make it, you can always scalp the ticket.(9 Comments)
Roger Ebert today penned an ode to NPR (though he mistakenly linked American Public Media's A Prairie Home Companion with NPR).
This paragraph about Chicago could have easily been written about the Twin Cities.
I've mentioned before that I cannot get into a taxi in Chicago where NPR is not either playing, or pre-tuned when the radio is turned on. The driver is invariably African or South Asian. I ask, "You like NPR?" I have been told, "I hear more about the rest of the world." I've also been told, "I hear more about America." More than once I've been told, "I want to learn."
Update 11:41 a.m. NPR has won the coveted Medal of Fear.
How deeply involved in radio and TV station programming should politicians be?
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal that would have barred local public radio and TV stations from buying any programming from NPR (formerly "National Public Radio").
The House has rejected a Republican push to block public stations from using their Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants to buy NPR programming, voting not to take up the matter. NPR receives little direct government funding, but would have lost a significant part of its funding with the end of CPB-funded programming purchases.
The attempt to block NPR funding came after a poll on the Republican YouCut website showed it as the top choice among respondents for a spending cut. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (VA) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) in a joint statement also cited NPR's abrupt firing of analyst Juan Williams -- a liberal commentator who also appears regularly on Fox News -- as proof of political bias at the public broadcaster. Williams was fired after he said on Fox that he gets "nervous" when seeing Muslims in traditional dress at airports.
The proposal will likely make a return appearance once Republicans take control of the House next year.
Make no mistake about it, this is topic #1 in public broadcasting circles. They're very worried that their budgets will be cut by the loss of CPB funds (which come primarily through government grants).
But the threat of it is a big stick that politicians carry, not unlike the one it uses on Major League Baseball through its granting of an anti-trust exemption. Congress has constantly threatened to pull the anti-trust exemption to extract action from this private business (that's why Washington keeps getting baseball teams after it continually proves it shouldn't have one). If they ever actually followed through on the threat, Congress would be giving up power.
(Here's a list of how CPB money is presently allocated in Minnesota)
It was quite a segment on National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation today when the iconic Ted Koppel defended an op-ed piece in the Washington Post that managed to put Keith Olberman and Bill O'Reilly on the same side of an issue.
As you may know, Olbermann returned to his MSNBC program after just two days of enforced absence. (Given cable television's short attention span, two days may well have seemed like an "indefinite suspension.") He was gracious about the whole thing, acknowledging at least the historical merit of the rule he had broken: "It's not a stupid rule," he said. "It needs to be adapted to the realities of 21st-century journalism."
There is, after all, not much of a chance that 21st-century journalism will be adapted to conform with the old rules. Technology and the market are offering a tantalizing array of channels, each designed to fill a particular niche - sports, weather, cooking, religion - and an infinite variety of news, prepared and seasoned to reflect our taste, just the way we like it. As someone used to say in a bygone era, "That's the way it is."
Olbermann, who's become a caricature of himself, fired back last night:
Koppel's problem was using Olbermann as an example at all. There's simply no ethical guideline in the present, past, or future that's ever going to OK giving someone a campaign contribution, then inviting that person on your show, and not revealing the tie. Somewhere between that extreme, and the "old days" lies journalism in 2010.
So it was a good idea for the Talk of the Nation producers to book Jeff Jarvis instead, but perhaps a bad idea to chase the question of objectivity. Jarvis suggested if news is dead, Koppel's industry killed it.
"Television is responsible for killing many of the voices -- the cacophony of democracy -- newspapers, many times 6, 7, 8 newspapers in a town became one, maybe two because television came in an essentially killed them, "Jarvis said. "Television was given a government mandate to have this neutral voice... to have this one-size-fits-all... and I think we lost a lot of democracy."
He called television's news offerings "tapioca."
"The new media is probably going to be responsible for the last few newspapers that are still out there," Koppel replied. But he said his op-ed has nothing to do with a search for truth, but with the corporations who own the cable TV networks "and their interest in making money." He says the problem is too many voices on cable TV.
Here's the full segment:
By the way, next month I'll participate in a Policy and a Pint discussion at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis that considers "The Line Between News and Opinion." I suspect some of these same themes will emerge. It's on December 15. Details later.
Officials at Benilde-St. Margaret, a Catholic school in St. Louis Park, have removed two articles from the school newspaper's Web site critical of the Archdiocese's DVD mailing against same-sex marriage.
Dr. Sue Skinner, the principal, posted this on the Web site:
The administration is asking that the staff editorial entitled "Staff Finds DVD unsubstantiated" , and the opinion piece titled "Life as a Gay Teenager" be immediately removed from the Knight Errant website along with the online comments for each piece. The reason is that while lively debate and discussion clearly has its place in a Catholic school, this particular discussion is not appropriate because the level of intensity has created an unsafe environment for students. As importantly, the articles and ensuing online postings have created confusion about Church teaching. The administration will be following up with the staff of the Knight Errant to review and discuss the protocol for what is appropriate content.
Is it a violation of the First Amendment? Probably not, according to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in a case of a public school (Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier) that authorities have the right to censor school newspapers.
"A school need not tolerate student speech that is inconsistent with its basic educational mission, even though the government could not censor similar speech outside the school," it wrote.
In that case, a principal had barred printing of articles about one student's pregnancy and another student's thoughts about his/her parents' divorce.
But that was then. Now, the articles that were banned today can easily be distributed if the students at Benilde-St. Margaret want to push it that far. Any number of Web sites -- including this one, I suspect -- would post the offending articles, or the students could distribute it themselves using any number of social networks or blogs.
The ability to censor anything inevitably depends on the willingness of journalists to risk the consequences of opposing it.(6 Comments)
NPR has hired an outside investigator to review its botched (at least from a P.R. standpoint) firing of commentator Juan Williams last month.
But NPR's ombudsman isn't happy with the notion that some of the resulting report won't be made public.
I'm told it's unlikely the final report will be made public in its entirety, though parts of it may be. I always advocate for transparency, but NPR considers this a personnel issue even though the resulting damage to NPR goes beyond the consequences of firing an independent contractor.
NPR can hire the most sophisticated investigators in the world, but how can such a review have credibility if people who care about NPR can't read the full results of it? NPR needs to find a way to make the full report --or the key parts of it --public.(4 Comments)
Ouch, that one hurt. But the tweet, posted hours before the hapless Timberwolves were to take on the world champion Los Angeles Lakers this week, is an example of what happens when a definitive poll turns out to be not so definitive.
That's the U of M's Larry Jacobs' problem, which he shares with the Humphrey Institute and Minnesota Public Radio after gubernatorial polls released just before the election appear to be inaccurate -- and not by a little.
MPR issued this news release today:
(St. Paul, Minn.) November 11, 2010--Minnesota Public Radio and the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs announced today that they will undertake a thorough review of the methodology used in polls conducted during the 2010 election season. The process will include an internal review of the poll by the Humphrey Institute and an independent audit that will be made public. The independent audit will be conducted by Frank Newport, the editor and (sic) chief of Gallup.
MPR and the Humphrey Institute partnered this year to conduct four polls leading up to Election Day. The final poll, based on interviewing begun nearly two weeks before Election Day, showed results significantly different from the final election tally. This issue will be examined along with the raw data from other polls to determine whether there is a methodological reason for the difference, or whether external events account for the difference.
"We are committed to a transparent review of our polling methodology because we value the importance of continuous improvement in our efforts," said Professor Larry Jacobs, director of the Humphrey Institute's Center for the Study of Politics and Government. "If a shortcoming is identified, we will fix it. If not, we will have third-party verification that our methods are sound."
"The review of polling methodology is a necessary step in continuing to provide Minnesotans with the unbiased information they need to make informed decisions," said Chris Worthington, MPR's managing director of News.
Dean Brian Atwood of the Humphrey Institute added, "I welcome the opportunity to conduct this self analysis and peer review, a regular process for any academic institution. Professor Jacobs is an internationally recognized expert in this field. He is a professional who looks critically at his own work, as well as at polls conducted by others. We are committed to maintaining a very high standard."
I have not talked to anybody at MPR involved in the polling situation, but one doesn't need to to know that MPR has a problem going into the 2012 campaign. Even if MPR and the Humphrey Institute get the methodology fixed (assuming it's broken) before the first poll of the 2012 campaign comes out, few of them will be have any credibility until Election Day, because there's really no other way to prove their reliability.
On his media-watchdog blog, David Brauer has found a Carleton College expert who may (or may not) be involved in the poll introspection.
While (Steven)Schier won't divulge conversations with MPR, he is willing to critique HHH's methodology. "What I can tell you is that the poll problems may lie in two places -- the likely voter screen and the attempt to factor in cell phone use."
As I noted this summer, HHH does not survey cell-phone-only voters, or CPOs. However, it tries to simulate that 25 percent of households by giving additional weight to land line respondents who also have cell phones.
To be sure, it's comforting that MPR is taking the possible poll problems seriously. Of course, any hits to a news organization's credibility is an assault on its vital organs.
But there's another reason why accurate polls matter: They may influence the outcome of elections. Sen. Kathy Saltzman, a moderate DFLer who lost to a Republican last week, told the Woodbury Bulletin that she thinks Democratic legislators may have suffered defeat because voters saw the pre-election polls showing DFLer Mark Dayton leading in the governor's race.
"I think that people were concerned that a (Democrat-controlled) Legislature would be a rubber stamp for some of the policies that he campaigned on," she said.
Maybe she's trying to come up with ways to make her loss sting less, or maybe she's right. If it's the latter, perhaps a larger discussion is in play for news organizations: If polls influence the outcome of elections, what's the value in doing them?(2 Comments)
Marc Ambinder, of The Atlantic, has decided to give up the world of blogging and head back to print journalism, but not before unleashing a scorched-earth treatise on his soon-to-be-former medium:
All I will say here is that the mere fact that online reporters feel they must participate in endless discussions about these subjects is something new, a consequence of the medium, and is one reason why it can be so exhausting to do primarily web journalism. The feedback loop is relentless, punishing and is predicated on the assumption that the reporter's motivation is wrong. Unfortunately, the standard for defining oneself as a web journalist depends upon establishing a certain credibility with a particular audience of critics. Responding to complaints about content and structure and bias is part of the way one establishes that credibility.
Ambinder says he misses having an editor to tell him his blog posts, which were really more column than blog, weren't very good.
Really good print journalism is ego-free. By that I do not mean that the writer has no skin in the game, or that the writer lacks a perspective, or even that the writer does not write from a perspective. What I mean is that the writer is able to let the story and the reporting process, to the highest possible extent, unfold without a reporter's insecurities or parochial concerns intervening. Blogging is an ego-intensive process. Even in straight news stories, the format always requires you to put yourself into narrative. You are expected to not only have a point of view and reveal it, but be confident that it is the correct point of view. There is nothing wrong with this. As much as a writer can fabricate a detachment, or a "view from nowhere," as Jay Rosen has put it, the writer can also also fabricate a view from somewhere. You can't really be a reporter without it. I don't care whether people know how I feel about particular political issues; it's no secret where I stand on gay marriage, or on the science of climate change, and I wouldn't have it any other way. What I hope I will find refreshing about the change of formats is that I will no longer be compelled to turn every piece of prose into a personal, conclusive argument, to try and fit it into a coherent framework that belongs to a web-based personality called "Marc Ambinder" that people read because it's "Marc Ambinder," rather than because it's good or interesting.
Here's the most controversial TV interview in the Twin Cities from this week's election.
Last night, Heidi Collins -- a former CNN anchor -- at KMSP battled Secretary of State Mark Ritchie.
Did she go too far, not far enough, or was it just right? (Update: The view has been removed by Fox)
For the record, I am not in any way related to Heidi Collins.
(h/t: David Brauer, MinnPost)(58 Comments)
Did an NBC affiliate in Texas believe that asking "are homosexuals the downfall of America" was a neutrally phrased question? Or were they just trying to get people worked up enough to make the phone lines ring?
The video also sets the record for the most number of times the same three homosexual couples were shown in a segment about how many homosexuals there are.
The Courage Campaign has sent out action e-mails to NBC to protest.(2 Comments)
A nationwide survey has found that 45 percent of Americans favored continued U.S. government NPR funding, while 39 percent called for a halt to funding, with the remainder saying they had no opinion. The poll comes from Poll Position, using an automated dialing system. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.
The poll found men are more likely to favor NPR funding than women.
The same survey found that Democrats are more likely to be comfortable aboard an airplane with Muslim men.
It is not, however, proven that the more comfortable people are with Muslim men on an airplane, the more likely they are to support funding for NPR. But it might make a good guess.(5 Comments)
A week ago, Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, who has become the poster child for upstart, anti-incumbent candidates, lectured her opponent on the meaning of the First Amendment. Today, she threatened to sue a Delaware radio station if a video of an interview with her was posted online.
It was posted online (available only on Facebook, however)
Things were going well for O'Donnell until the show host, who up to then had seemed to be a sympathetic interviewer for O'Donnell, asked for specifics of where she'd cut a county budget. (Scroll to 11:30). When things got tense, a campaign manager and other campaign officials entered the studio (a no-no for most radio stations), and began writing notes to her. As the show ended, he allegedly told the station the campaign would "crush" the station if the video aired.
Says the radio station:
WDEL's attorney asserted that the interview and video were in compliance with all applicable laws, was clearly protected free speech under the First Amendment, and that the campaign had no grounds to demand the station withhold it from the public.
After seeing the video the attorney for the O'Donnell campaign contacted WDEL's counsel again to apologize for charges made by their campaign manager. The attorney agreed that there was no legal issue with the video and expressed regret for the incident.
For the record, MPR does not allow campaign staff to be in the studio when show hosts interview candidates.(2 Comments)
James Fallows, who was a guest on MPR's Midmorning today on an entirely different subject , opens up on the attacks on NPR in the wake of its firing of news analyst Juan Williams. Fallows, who appears regularly on NPR, has penned "Why NPR matters."
In their current anti-NPR initiative, Fox and the Republicans would like to suggest that the main way NPR differs from Fox is that most NPR employees vote Democratic. That is a difference, but the real difference is what they are trying to do. NPR shows are built around gathering and analyzing the news, rather than using it as a springboard for opinions. And while of course the selection of stories and analysts is subjective and can show a bias, in a serious news organization the bias is something to be worked against rather than embraced. NPR, like the New York Times, has an ombudsman. Does Fox? [I think the answer is No.]
One other factor affects my view of NPR. There are jobs where people are mainly motivated by the hope of big money. (Finance in general.) There are jobs where the main motivation is job-security. And there is a category of jobs where, as absolutely everyone recognizes, it makes a tremendous difference that "employees" care about something beyond pay, hours, and security. Teachers. Soldiers. Doctors and nurses. Judges and police. Political leaders, if they want to be more than hacks. And, people in news organizations.
There probably isn't a newsroom in America -- certainly not a public broadcasting newsroom -- that isn't having a conversation about what its journalists can say when they're out giving speeches, appearing on panels, or hanging around in their own neighborhood.
It stems from Juan Williams' run-in with reality this week. Moving on from the specifics of the case, however, PBS looks at what it means for other journalists.(3 Comments)
The Juan Williams story continues to fester across Planet Public Radio. This morning, Midmorning provided an excellent look at some of the issues surrounding the firing.
NPR, meanwhile, has sent out talking points to its member stations, who are taking the heat for the firing of Williams. They're not much different than what the NPR ombudsman provided in her article this morning (I provided the link in this morning's 5x8). And this is the central issue:
In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows electronic forums, or blogs that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.
This is where it gets difficult. What exactly is fact-based analysis? In many cases, a journalist might connect two facts -- this is common in political "analysis" -- and describe what may be a politician's strategy. They don't really know for sure that it's the strategy being employed, because the people employing it won't say. Is that opinion, fact-based analysis, or just a guess?
These are questions that reveal the true nature of journalism and those who practice it. It's not a black-and-white task.
A blogger I read daily provided an interesting observation yesterday:
As the child of a television executive, I can tell you that growing up we were not even allowed to have political yard signs. Such a visible display of political leanings could be easily construed as representing the news departments of the stations my father worked at. Of course, this was a time (not that long ago, really) will journalistic ethics were grounded in the work of people like Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.
Walter Cronkite expressed an opinion -- or was it fact-based analysis? -- in 1968. He was right, as it turned out, because it ended a war. But journalists debate to this day whether he dictated the outcome with his analysis -- because it led to a reversal of public (wait for it)... opinion -- or whether it was destined to work out that way anyway.
Edward R. Murrow -- the very definition of an ethical journalist -- achieved his greatest fame with an opinion. Where did the facts end and the opinion begin?
Ed Bradley, in a reminiscence about his approach to Vietnam stories, makes it clear that he never considered journalism a regurgitation of facts. "I knew we couldn't win that war," he said. Does that come from opinion? From fact? Or a little of both?
In its excellent show this morning, Midmorning asked whether Juan Williams "crossed the line." What NPR did this week is try to define where that line is. Can it be defined? Or do you just know it when you see it?(27 Comments)
(note: There are numerous updates to this post. The latest is posted at the bottom.)
The story of the day today seems to be NPR's firing of Juan Williams, who exercised the poor judgment to go on Bill O'Reilly's show on Fox to admit to being concerned when he sees Muslims on an airplane, but cautioned O'Reilly not to brand Muslims as terrorists. Because O'Reilly makes all discussions about O'Reilly, the forum does not allow a guest the opportunity for full explanation. Williams, by all accounts a pretty smart guy, had to know that O'Reilly uses guests as props for his own version of reality. And last week O'Reilly did brand Muslims as terrorists.
NPR has tried to find a comfortable role for Williams since his failed stint as the host of Talk of the Nation. It kept trying to find a role for him at the network, finally settling on "news analyst," a partial admission that he had opinions.
After he compared Michelle Obama to "Stokely Carmichael in a dress" on Fox in February 2009, NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard wrote that she's not convinced NPR listeners objected to what Williams said, but where he said it:
That may be the cause of the criticism. Williams tends to speak one way on NPR and another on Fox.
His "Stokely Carmichael" comment got the attention of NPR's top managers. They are in a bind because Williams is no longer a staff employee but an independent contractor. As a contract news analyst, NPR doesn't exercise control over what Williams says outside of NPR.
"Juan Williams is a contributor to NPR programs as a news analyst," said Ron Elving, NPR's Washington editor. "What he says on NPR is the product of a journalistic process that includes editors. What he says when he is not on our air is not within our control. But we recognize that what he says elsewhere reflects on NPR, and we have discussed that fact with him specifically in regard to his remarks on Fox News regarding Michelle Obama."
This recent comment may have undermined his credibility with some NPR listeners. But I question whether listeners, overall, object to what Williams says outside of NPR or the fact that he says it on Fox.
There were almost 2,000 comments on the NPR story about Williams' firing, but it's difficult to get a sense of what public radio listeners think about it because one popular conservative blogger urged his legions to go there and fill the comments section.
But here are two that define the general reaction.
First from one who opposes the NPR action:
I have been listening to NPR for decades, literally. I could not believe this story when I heard it. Now that I know that it is true, I am nothing short of furious and deeply disappointed. Juan Williams is one of the few voices of reason out there. He represents a viewpoint, to be sure. But unlike all the screaming voices out there, he is a reasonable and brilliant man. As such he reaches across the great chasm that divides our people. There are others on both sides of the political spectrum that are like Juan, but very few. This was a reactionary and incredibly stupid blunder on NPR's part. Unless he is reinstated, I am done with NPR. No more contributions, no more listening.
I should point out here that public radio stations and NPR are two different entities.
And one from a person who supports NPR's move.
I agree with NPR's decision. NPR is the only news source I trust in the current news media environment where objectivity is either optional or not even on the menu. It is inexcusable to paint all Muslims with a broad brush. His comments about McVeigh and Cristianity do not disguise his intent to promote an unfounded irrational fear of Muslims. NPR saw right through it... and so did I. Thanks NPR.
Williams was an occasional guest on MPR's Midday. His last appearance was in December when he evaluated Barack Obama's first year in office:
Update 11:37 a.m. - Williams responded to his firing today.
Update 1:04 p.m. - Sara Meyer, Midday producer, reminds me that Williams' last appearance on Midday was last month.
Update 1:09 p.m. - The head of NPR has sent this out to public radio stations, who are apparently bearing the heat from NPR's action:
First, a critical distinction has been lost in this debate. NPR News analysts have a distinctive role and set of responsibilities. This is a very different role than that of a commentator or columnist. News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that's what's happened in this situation. As you all well know, we offer views of all kinds on your air every day, but those views are expressed by those we interview - not our reporters and analysts.
Second, this isn't the first time we have had serious concerns about some of Juan's public comments. Despite many conversations and warnings over the years, Juan has continued to violate this principal.
Third, these specific comments (and others made in the past), are inconsistent with NPR's ethics code, which applies to all journalists (including contracted analysts):
"In appearing on TV or other media . . . NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist. They should not participate in shows . . . that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis."
More fundamentally, "In appearing on TV or other media including electronic Web-based forums, NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist."
Unfortunately, Juan's comments on Fox violated our standards as well as our values and offended many in doing so.
We're profoundly sorry that this happened during fundraising week. Juan's comments were made Monday night and we did not feel it would be responsible to delay this action.
This was a tough decision and we appreciate your support.
1:51 p.m. -- Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, appearing on NPR's Talk of the Nation, gave us a preview of the column she's promising on the subject "I think it's just that the different roles that Juan played -- being a news analyst -- worked for NPR but it didn't work for NPR to be more inflammatory. And people think what he said about Muslims was inflammatory and didn't advance the debate," she said.
2:18 p.m. - Poynter is hosting a live chat on the issue. Go here.
3:33 p.m. - Williams gets a big payday from Fox. $2 million over three years.
4:15 p.m. - Here's the Talk of the Nation segment, a portion of which had been cut by MPR because of the membership drive.(160 Comments)
There's a lot more to the ethics of journalism than rules designed to protect the image of a news organization. There's also the very real -- and much more relevant and difficult -- question of when a journalist should "get involved."
In 1979, the late Ed Bradley waded into the ocean to help refugees whose boat had been swamped by waves. Some ethicists criticized him for getting involved in a story he was covering.
In St. Louis, a newspaper photographer took a picture of a flag in a trash can as part of a story about home foreclosures.
Apparently, some readers said the photographer, David Carson, should've removed the flag.
As a journalist, I'm bound by ethics to only record and document reality. I never stage it or change it, even after I'm done photographing it. There are only rare exceptions when a journalist can and should intervene, like in a life-threatening situation. For example, if I were available to help save a drowning person I'd dive in after them.
Several people questioned my respect for veterans and all they have fought for over the years.
I have great respect for veterans and their service. Both of my grandfathers fought in World War II, and my father served on the U.S.S Enterprise during Vietnam. While I never served in the military, I traveled to both Iraq and Afghanistan to cover American and NATO forces in those wars. On top of that, I'm named after my father's best friend, David Gray Prentice, who was killed in Vietnam.
It raises the question of when a journalist should be "in this world" and not just "of this world." What would have been the harm of removing the flag from the trash after it was photographed? Why can't a journalist get involved only in life-threatening situations? If you were a journalist and you did a story on hunger, why couldn't you slip $5 into the hands of the mother you just interviewed so she could get something to eat?
I frequently photograph the flag being inappropriately -- and perhaps ignorantly -- desecrated, such as this display in Belle Plaine...
This week, I noticed the flags over St. Paul's Wabasha Street bridge are becoming tattered.
If one had fallen to the sidewalk below, I would've picked it up and disposed of it properly. Last year, while covering the flooding in the Red River Valley, I helped sandbag.
I made a few trips into Fargo to pick up some supplies for homeowners who needed some.
I would argue that wanting to help people save their homes did nothing to disrupt the value of the coverage, nor diminish the value of the MPR "brand." I never thought twice about whether ethicists would think less of me. It never occurred to me to care whether they did.
At least one journalist in the Twin Cities has been tsk-tsk'ing the mainstream media for not reporting the details of Brett Favre's alleged self portraits.
I've been thinking about this since Nick Coleman posted that tweet last week. He's right, perhaps, that someone in the Twin Cities sports media corps should've at least asked Favre about it. That "honor," however, went to an out-of-town reporter.
On the other hand, it may not be such a bad thing that the rumors stayed rumors until NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's office announced he'd look into them.
But former Twin Cities journalist David Carr wrote in Sunday's New York Times that even that shouldn't have led the mainstream media to adopt the blogger mentality.
That cycle is both oddly familiar and rapidly evolving. Most news organizations stayed off the John Edwards love child story when The National Enquirer broke the news in October 2007, but the dam broke over the course of many months as the drip-drip of evidence and consequences began to accumulate. (At least The Enquirer had to chase John Edwards all over the Beverly Hilton. All Deadspin had to do was pay some loot and open a jpeg.)
There are differences between the two stories. First, the informational value of reporting that a famous married athlete may have been looking to step outside the holy bonds of matrimony does not pass the laugh test. If and when the N.F.L. decides that Favre violated the league's code of personal conduct, it may be news, but not before.
Though they may have been late to the story, the local media is making up for it. In an article in Sunday's Pioneer Press, about the only angle of the story that wasn't covered was this one: the possibility that Favre is being unjustly accused.
You are the editor. What would you have done?(3 Comments)
NPR is pushing back against mainstream media's favorite whipping boy -- the "blogosphere" -- over reaction to a memo earlier this week that said NPR journalists were forbidden from attending the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert "rallies" in Washington later this month. Both ostensibly are aimed at poking at the high-octane political discourse we're experiencing.
The organization's president, in a memo to stations today, blames bloggers for inciting the masses with the notion NPR was vowing not to cover the the event.
Dear Station Colleagues,
There's been quite a bit of media hubbub about an internal memo we sent the other day reminding employees about our longstanding news code of ethics. We specifically mentioned the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies, and that's what caused the stir....and quite a bit of speculation and even false information.
First let me give you the facts, and debunk a few of the blogosphere's mistakes:
We will cover the rally to the extent that it is newsworthy, just as we do with any rally.
We did not specifically send out a similar note in advance of the Glenn Beck rally. That is true. Conspiracy theories aside, the reason we did not send out a note before that rally, or the One Nation rally, is that they were overtly political (e.g. Sarah Palin was a main speaker at the Beck rally). In terms of Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, that rally could be perceived as entertainment and subject to confusion.
We are not against "sanity" and we do not discourage "curiosity", two charges from high-profile bloggers. No more so than we were against "honor" and "freedom" in applying our policy to the Glenn Beck rally. The fact is the Stewart/Colbert rally is becoming politicized. Witness the close relationship with the Huffington Post which has wrapped itself around the event.
We are not violating the civil liberties of our employees. We understand that our employees are citizens as well as journalists. Our policy is not intended to tell them how to live their lives, nor do we compel anyone to become a reporter or work for NPR. But when an individual decides to sign on with NPR as a journalist, he/she understands that comes with certain rules. This is the case in almost all legitimate news organizations, indeed in many professions. In our case, the rules are designed to protect the impartiality of our content.
We do not bar our staff from voting. We do not bar our staff from attending political debates, speeches, or even tapings of Jon Stewart's or Glenn Beck's programs for that matter.
We believe in common sense and trust our staff. No one is going to be fired if they happen upon a rally and wander through to check it out.
So what is this about? The rationale for this policy is pretty simple. We live in an age of "gotcha" journalism where people troll, looking for cracks in our credibility. We need to err on the side of protecting our journalism, our journalists, and our reputation. While the credibility and trust that attaches to the NPR brand depends principally on the quality of our news reporting, it can be easily undermined if our public conduct is at odds with the standards we seek to uphold as a news organization. This is a pillar of quality journalism, and indeed many quality news organizations including The Washington Post have also reaffirmed their policies in the wake of this debate, also addressing the Stewart/Colbert rally specifically.
While I sent the ethics reminder to all staff, the policy applies only to those staff in editorial positions or those staff outside our newsroom who are in positions where they could be representing NPR in public forums (for example, our communications staff who are quoted in press reports). But I sent the code to everyone on staff because we should all be mindful of the message we send in our activities outside of work. We rely on our employees to understand our standards and exercise good judgment about how our policies apply to them - and seek clarification when needed.
Please let me know if you have any questions. These journalistic ethics are living breathing things that need - must! - be perpetually debated with full transparency and an open mind and heart. That's what makes us who we are.
In a post this afternoon, NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shepard, was a tad less nuanced:
One never truly knows what a lousy job the blogosphere is capable of until one is at the center of a story.
But she misses an opportunity to expand on the admission that the entire brouhaha isn't about reporters not having a bias, it's about you not knowing what those biases are:
Sure, journalists have opinions and causes they support.
But at the end of the day, they have to be professional - and that means avoiding actions that create the perception that they are taking sides in political controversies, including elections.
The issue isn't whether reporters "take sides" in political controversies. They do. They're not mummies. The issue is whether those opinions make their ways into news stories or in the process of selecting what stories to cover in the first place. Not allowing you the opportunity to know what the biases are does nothing to guarantee the impartiality of NPR (or any other organization's) content. It's designed more to prevent the questioning of the impartiality of the content, by not giving you an important piece of evidence by which to prove it.
Is public radio still too stuffy?
The NPR ombudsman calls out attention to a study commissioned for National Public Radio on ways to increase its audience.
The bottom line? Don't be so elitist. Stop me if you've heard this before.
According to current.org, a newspaper for public broadcasting types....
Some objections to the traits of NPR News are sure to prompt pushback from listeners and producers who value complexity and ambiguity, and don't mind lots of words. Wordiness is a problem for one white woman who spoke to researchers about NPR: "I think it can be clever and quirky, and smart and insightful. But I don't choose to listen to it because it's too much talking for me."
Wait. It gets worse....
The tone and seriousness of public radio programming also presents challenges: 35 percent of those familiar with public radio (including 29 percent of the core) say NPR "needs more energy"; 30 percent describe it as "too monotone," and 28 percent say it's "boring."
The people who did the study correctly point out the challenge: How to appeal to these people who want less talk and more energy without alienating the large number of listeners public broadcasting has now -- the ones who put up the money to build the system in the first place?
For content accessibility, the summary proposes that NPR go for a more open, dynamic and conversational tone in news delivery. "There is an appetite for things that sound conversational, and for people sounding like real people," Kaplan said. "It also has to do with understanding what people like to know about and what matters to them."
It's important to note -- lest the comments section get filled with the "you're too liberal" or "you're too conservative" discussion -- that the report is talking more about style than substance. Or at least, that's what it appears to say to me. But, then again, I change my own oil
Your thoughts?(27 Comments)
Long-time readers -- especially those who go back to the early days of Polinaut and/or the "blogs" from the conventions in 2004 -- know that I'm a big fan of transparency in the media. I generally think it's a good thing if people know the secrets of those in a journalism organization. The fact that you may not know the existence of bias, doesn't mean there isn't any. Armed with the knowledge, you can detect whether it creeps into news stories. Truth is: Journalists -- most journalists -- vote and have opinions, just like everyone else. So what's the big deal?
I've come to understand how insanely naive that notion is.
A shudder went through the Minnesota Public Radio newsroom yesterday afternoon: Garrison Keillor went all DFL. Again.
Keillor wrote a fundraising letter on behalf of the DFL challenger to Rep. Michele Bachmann:
Thirty years ago, when I started telling stories about Lake Wobegon, I put it smack in the middle of Minnesota -- in Minnesota's 6th Congressional District, in fact -- where staunch Republicans and loyal Democrats know how to live together without yelling at each other and do what needs to be done to work out our problems.
It's embarrassing to me and a great many Minnesotans that Michele Bachmann, a politician who is so busy grandstanding and giving interviews on Fox News that she doesn't have time to serve the people who elected her, represents the 6th District in Washington.
(Update 12:37 p.m. : Bachmann spokesman Sergio Gor says, "The quota on comedy in Minnesota has been reached with the election of Al Franken. Garrison Keilor should stick to what he knows best, which is fabricating make believe stories. Instead of soliciting support from comics, Tarryl Clark should explain to voters why she voted for higher taxes and more useless government spending - every year. This is yet another sign of a desperate campaign.")
It was big news in Minnesota. "It's huge," WCCO political reporter Pat Kessler told a skeptical Dan Barreiro on KFAN yesterday afternoon. "People love him and where is Lake Wobegon? The 6th District."
He's right. It is big -- if predictable -- news. Lesser endorsements have made our news -- former state epidemiologist Mike Osterholm endorsing gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner comes to mind -- but you didn't read about Keillor's involvement here, or our political blog, or our Web site, or our newscasts or on any of our news programming.
Why not? Nobody, least of all me, wanted to touch it and open up the can of worms that is opened whenever Keillor talks politics in the news.
It's true that Keillor doesn't work for Minnesota Public Radio and it's obviously true that he doesn't work for MPR News. Even when he was based in our building, I never saw him converse with anyone from the newsroom unless it was on the air. He's his own boss at an office far away from MPR headquarters for his own company, which produces Prairie Home Companion.
He's not MPR. Except that the perception is that he is. And that's the problem. Perception.
Let's acknowledge that public radio has a long reputation among its detractors for being socialist bomb throwers. Most of it is undeserved. I've worked here for 18 years and even overhearing private conversations, I can't tell you the political leanings of most of the people who work in the newsroom. They work hard to provide a fair -- there's no such thing as objective -- portrayal of issues, although those who are looking for bias will find it, even when none actually exists. I also acknowledge that plenty of you don't believe a single word in this paragraph.
But Keillor's link to Minnesota Public Radio cannot be ignored based on the fact that he doesn't work for MPR. Let's face it: The joint is the network A Prairie Home Companion built. Even this Web site started as the Prairie Home Companion Web site. The fact that you can hear audio streams here has its origin in a gift to make it happen from the owner of a once-dominant Web browser company. He was a Prairie Home Companion fan.
Keillor is no stranger to politics anymore. His early battles with Jesse Ventura were legendary. As the person in charge of creating the MPR News Web site, I can admit they were also welcomed vehicles. Any story with both Ventura and Keillor in it was page-view gold, the currency of the digital age.
If Keillor's relationship with MPR hurt MPR's relations with Jesse Ventura, it didn't show. By the end of his term, MPR News was Ventura's favorite media haunt. He chose MPR's Midday as the place to announce he wouldn't run for re-election, proving that Gary Eichten's professionalism trumps Garrison Keillor's politics. (Incidentally, my colleague, Paul Tosto, notes that Keillor has not been above taking a few shots at liberals.)
He "came out" during the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004. It coincided with the release of his book: Homegrown Democrat. He gave pep talks to Minnesota delegates (photo) and held fundraisers while in Boston. I covered that convention. I hadn't read his book. I was, to coin a phrase, embarrassed by the perception that followed. I attempted to interview Keillor for a story about mixing a media organization's reputation with politics, but he wouldn't return my calls. I like to think it's because he didn't want to further link two organizations that -- technically -- weren't linked. Still, it didn't make covering the Republicans in New York a week later any easier.
And that brings us back to my discredited theory of media transparency. It was a selfish notion. It failed to consider that the public is quick to transfer knowledge of one person's politics in a news organization, to everyone else in the organization.
In time, perhaps, people may come to disassociate Garrison Keillor with Minnesota Public Radio and, by extension, Minnesota Public Radio News. From the vantage point of the low-end of the food chain, it's hard to see how or when that happens.(30 Comments)
Well, a video about it, maybe.
The Online News Association today announced its finalists for its annual awards, and that video, from MPR's Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom is a finalist in the category: Online video journalism-small site.(6 Comments)
There was a piece of last evening's All Things Considered interview with Archbishop John Nienstedt that didn't make it to the the final product because of time constraints. Nienstedt answered questions about a DVD being sent to 400,000 Catholics throughout the state in which church leaders cal for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to be put before Minnesota voters.
The story started on KSTP the other night. The archbishop says when he gave the interview to the station, the subject.
"Throughout the conversation, the word homosexual or same sex or gay was never mentioned.
The station's Web site has two stories posted. One is a text story, which quotes the archbishop from a previous speech, called "In defense of Marriage and Family."
A video post several hours later carried two comments from the archbishop, none longer than 10 seconds. None of the facts in the story, however, appear to be in dispute other than the archbishop does not believe the DVD constitutes an "attack" on homosexuals. But that word wasn't part of the station's report.
Given that the station interviewed the archbishop after his speech, it would appear the archbishop's complaint is that the station didn't tell him that it knew about the DVD.
A transcript of the edited interview with the archbishop has now been posted on the All Things Considered page.
In the wake of the story, some have suggested the church cannot be involved in a debate over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage because it violates laws about the political activities of non-profits.
It doesn't appear to.
The rules for non-profits are they can't work on behalf of a particular candidate. They are free to weigh in on issues.
According to the IRS:
Organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
It's a somewhat finer line, however, when it comes to lobbying:
An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.
The church says the DVDs are educational.(8 Comments)
Balance. It's the word of the week in the continuing story of why the University of Minnesota pulled a Bell Museum-sponsored documentary about pollution in the Mississippi River.
"I'm not a scientist in this particular area. I was just looking at balance, and it seemed unbalanced," a university official told the Minnesota Daily.
Undefined, however, is the word, "balanced," and what it looks like.
It's a word that has caused more controversy in recent years, although most of it surrounds stories about climate change. Many of those who believe climate change is a scientific fact, resent attempts to present assertions that is not. Balance obscures consensus, they argue.
Balance is what has led to the dominance "he said/she said" news programming. In this particular case, a documentary is not journalism. But would balance -- some of those who viewed the film didn't think alternative farming methods should have gotten so much attention -- change the meaning?
"The world is not a balanced place. Stories that we cover today are increasingly complicated, they're complex. The truth and falsity of information is difficult to know. It's up to journalists to discern these distinctions when possible... to let viewers, readers, and listeners know how much they don't know," Brent Cunningham, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review told NPR's Talk of the Nation during a 2006 show on the subject.
What does balance look like to you? Is it equal time? Should the documentary producer -- or journalist -- present all sides and let you figure it out?(8 Comments)
NPR's ombudsman opened a can of worms last week when she wrote about NPR's rejection of underwriting announcements for Harry Shearer's documentary, "The Big Uneasy," ostensibly because the original wording formed a person's opinion, not matters of fact.
Shearer has been participating in a conversation in the comments section of a post I wrote about the controversy last week, and it's pretty clear that I should've gone into greater detail on the issue, since it involves an alleged lack of aggressiveness on the part of NPR toward the cause of the flooding of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
Yesterday, Shearer provided e-mails showing that he had accepted NPR's proposed wording for an announcement in support of his investigative documentary, contrary to the NPR ombudsman's account of the controversy.
"While the ombud frames the debate over acceptable language in the underwriting announcement as he said/he said, I supplied her with a copy of my email accepting the edit NPR Legal says they proposed," Shearer wrote.
The controversy also asserts that NPR News has had an aversion to investigating the Katrina story. Shearer has company. A reporter for Southern California Public Radio (disclaimer: SCPR is part of the American Public Media "family"), writes that she tried to give NPR her investigation into the causes of the Katrina disaster. It passed.
It is not generally speaking the custom of the station-based public radio reporter to out their inner workings with freelance pitches, particularly to NPR. I'll make an exception to say that NPR was offered these pieces, or segments thereof, or a conversation about them. The message I received was that they had their own coverage plans, and anyway, there had been enough about Katrina around that 'versary. (In those moments, the frustration of the local reporter knows no bounds: I lived in New Orleans after Katrina, and with Eve Troeh, now at Marketplace, I grew so restless with people coming in and telling us how it is that we decided to tell people how it was for us, for residents, not parachutists. I've also been on the other side of the equation, working at NPR.)
(Note: Shearer is also participating in a discussion in the comments section of the above post.)
NPR gets a lot of credit -- to a degree, understandably so -- for its innovative use of social networking. But in the aftermath of the NPR's ombudsman's original post on Shearer's complaint, all of the principals involved are online discussing it in the open. Except one.(2 Comments)
The attempts of the university of Minnesota officials to explain why they canceled the premiere of "Troubled Waters," a documentary about the Mississippi River and the pollution therein, couldn't get more clumsy.
From the time the story broke in the Twin Cities Daily Planet this week, university officials have paid the price for trying to get ahead of a story, which alleged undue influence by big agriculture, by releasing information in small pieces from different people, who often were unavailable for questions. It's harder to find the smoking gun of influence that way, true, but it's easier to notice that each person telling the real story, is telling a somewhat different real story.
The university is a land-grant institution which exists partly to serve agriculture. The film was made under contract to the Bell Museum of Natural History. The Bell is part of the university.
On Friday, Susan Weller, the Bell's director, explained why she pulled the film:
"Our standard procedure at the Bell Museum is that our exhibits and educational products have at least one researcher who oversees the project's scientific integrity from inception to completion. Unfortunately, this procedure was not followed by the Bell Media unit for production of the documentary, 'Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story.' As Director of the Bell Museum, I am responsible for ensuring these standards are followed, and I regret our error in this case.
Late on Friday, MPR reporter Stephanie Hemphill brought another story to the story. The dean of the U of M's School of Agriculture -- the Bell Museum is part of the School of Agriculture -- said one reason the film was pulled was because it "vilified" agriculture.
Dean Al Levine said the film opens with a lot of drama, and spends too much time discussing agricultural pollution before considering any other sources of water pollution.
"Agriculture is a major contributor to these issues, we know that," he said, noting the film takes a half-hour to talk about other sources of runoff, such as cities or lawn chemicals.
Levine says the film isn't inaccurate, but it's unbalanced. He said it should have included scientists who are trying to figure out how to feed 9 billion people by 2050.
Levine reveals the issue is actually editorial, not scientific as the U of M had asserted earlier in the day. He says it's not inaccurate, but that the film should have included scientists who are trying to figure out how to feed 9 billion people in 2050. But that's not science as much as perspective and that's what asserting editorial influence looks like.
Levine's suggestion seems to be that the Gulf's "dead zone" may be the trade-off for preventing hunger. And maybe it is. It would make a great documentary about the environmental cost of eradicating hunger.
A person who has seen the film says it was fair. He has a perspective, too. He's with an environmental organization.
That's part of the problem. This isn't independent journalism. It's not a documentary. (Add) If content is changed by those outside the production process (/add), it's an infomercial and the debate is over which self-interest owns its soul. That's what often happens when a combination of private and public money -- often with its own intent -- is used to contract with an organization that may have "skin in the game," to produce a piece that will end up being shown on public television under the label of journalism or backed by its journalistic credibility. Any time the word "promote" appears in a mission statement for any editorial
project process -- it does in this one -- it disqualifies itself from that classification. (Update: I acknowledge that a documentary is not by definition journalism)
The process in this case is not how journalism works. It's how advertising works. Perhaps iit's too late for "Troubled Waters." By the time it airs on television -- if it ever airs on television -- it may have little integrity because the process that created it is too polluted. The larger question now is how many other "documentaries" around here are produced the same way?(37 Comments)
Every now and again, the curtain is pulled back on the newsroom of National Public Radio. NPR's ombudsman does so today with the story of Harry Shearer's complaint that he couldn't promote his film about Hurricane Katrina on other NPR shows, because he had already been booked to appear on Talk of the Nation.
It also gets into the always-controversial question of "underwriting" on public radio, because NPR refused Shearer's copy for an "underwriting credit" to promote his documentary.
As is now standard, Shearer took his complaint to the Huffington Post.
Well, here's a clue about what NPR stands for now. I've just made a documentary film about why New Orleans flooded, "The Big Uneasy", in theaters nationwide on Monday. Having been denied access to coverage by either of the network's two flagship news programs, I decided to buy in, purchasing some of those "enhanced underwriting" announcements that the rest of us would call ads.
Ombudsman Alicia Shepard (who is leaving NPR) responded:
But NPR has devoted extensive coverage over the past five years to Katrina and the aftermath. And NPR did cover Shearer's new film - just not in the way he wanted it.
Shearer's attitude that it's only worthwhile to appear on a flagship shows ignores how the Internet has changed news consumption. Millions of people hear NPR content on podcasts, online and on mobile phones.
It was disingenuous of Shearer to criticize NPR on Huffington Post without mentioning that he had in fact appeared, for a half-hour, on an NPR show.
Just another day in the news business.
(h/t: David Brauer)(33 Comments)
Bill Kling announced this morning that he's leaving MPR next year. He's been a catalyst and a controversy at the same time. He's on Midday with Gary Eichten and it seems appropriate to use the occasion to see what people think, and what direction MPR should take, and maybe reminisce a bit.
From the inside, there's always been a perception that when Kling leaves, MPR will be at a crossroads. Despite all the capable people in the company -- and trust me, they're excellent -- when there are different paths to take, all eyes turned to Kling for which one to take. The track record has been pretty good but it will be interesting to see how the dynamic of the organization changes with his departure.
12:08 p.m. - Q: Why are you leaving?
A: I signed an agreement to stay for five years and that's up in June. There's a time you should be. An organization will atrophy if young people can't rise up in the company. (Bob notes: This implies, doesn't it, that the next president will come within the company?). We have a balanced budget. This is the time to attract that person to come in. We set it up so "he did a good job, but we've got an even greater opportunity."
Q: Were you forced out?
A: Absolutely not. We've had a succession committee for more than a year, headed by an executive from General Mills. I've talked with them about the kind of people who might do it well. We're looking inside the organization as well as outside. We're not done yet. You look at other public radio organizations and they haven't achieved their potential. I want to go out and raise money... to demonstrate how should public media be seen. We have 913,000 in Minnesota, 600,000 in Los Angeles who love what we're doing. But loving it doesn't force us to do better.
Q: Why do you have to leave to do that?
A: I don't want to have the title and not do it justice. Sooner or later, someone has to come in. We have to come up with strong leaders.
(Aside: Back when we were building what's called the ICC -- International Control Center-- at MPR, I was on the committee to decide what technical capabilities it should have. As we considered what technology in the future we should account for at the time, someone said, "Who wants to be the one to tell Bill Kling we can't do something?" That usually settled it.)
12:17 Q: Did you have any thought in 1966 that all of this would come to be?
A: Of course. It was survival. I can remember when the first check for $5,000 came in. At that point, we didn't know if there would ever be any significant audience support. You couldn't think beyond.... you always thought, 'how can we serve our audience?'....
People sent us tapes. We tried to bring the best of what we could get our hands on. As the audience responded, we said, 'if you trust us, we'll do more.' We've gone now to where we have 111,000 members. Your technology changes. Your society changes. Look at what's happening with magazines and newspapers; all of the ways in which people consume news.
12:19 p.m. Q: Why hasn't public radio as a whole taken hold?
A: National Public Radio is something we were all involved in creating. It's hitting on all cylinders. It's got a great president, they're opening bureaus. What we haven't gotten right is the local service and it should play.
(Bob notes: Frankly, the problem here is the changing commercial market. As local news has disappeared from commercial radio, public radio has had a chance to fill the gap. The problem is there's also the tradition of public radio which is we don't do crime stories, we don't do breaking news etc. As commercial radio news becomes extinct, there's a conflict between those who embrace the traditional public radio news model, and those, frankly, who come from a more traditional commercial news model. In the end, the two have to come to an agreement, but that tension certainly exists.)
12:24 p.m. Q: What kind of money are you talking about?
A: We're talking about adding $5 million plus to the budget of these institutions. Yes, it's nice that Cincinnati has four reporters in its station. But they should have 100. If public radio is going to pick up the slack as newspapers disappear, you're not going to do that with four reporters.
12:25 p.m. Q: (Caller Randall) Your article "no good deed goes unpunished" is not going to be true. Are you looking at international models?
A: We're just beginning so we will clearly. Europe in particular has some wonderful models. When I talk about the BBC, I'm talking about the domestic BBC. It plays on all levels -- five live channels of sports and news -- they're with it; they've gone where the audiences are. When you think about this country -- you've heard us say 'no rant/no slant' -- anger is growing. You go to Washington and if you can get a private conversation with our Senate and congressional delegation, they'll tell you the change in the decorum in the House and Senate is total. One told me he's actually afraid of the anger being focused on government.
Why is that happening? Because it makes money. If I said outrageous things today, you'd come back and listen tomorrow and every time I do that, we'd make more money.
You see it on all sides of the spectrum. Look at the British population -- I've done this. I've asked 'tell me what you think about the news of the domestic BBC" and they've all said, "straight as an arrow." That tempers the anger. They have the same thing we have; they have the tabloids going off in all directions, and yet there's a centering institution that calms things down. We don't have that in this country. I'm hoping that's something we can achieve.
12:32 p.m. (Caller Scott) I've noticed a change in the direction of MPR toward social media. If I wanted to hear what everyone thinks, I'd go to their blogs. I think MPR has become too commercial.
A: It's not a commercial endeavor. Sometimes I think the same thing you do and you switch over and see how much there is. On social media: We have to be where the audience is. I love listening to radio. Now, if I'm in Colorado, I can listen to Minnesota Public Radio, and hear high-quality stereo sound, just as I can in my kitchen.
(Bob notes: That's not social media. That's technology. The two are different)
We have 6.9 million downloads a month. The NewsQ page -- it's getting 1.3 million impressions per month. That's extraordinary. We talk about it and we suggest there are ways to interact. Everyone in the media business says it's the future for how print media will be distributed. We need to be there for people who want to read their news.
(Tale from the past: When I was first starting the MPR News Web site in 1999, the MPR billboards didn't have the Web site address. "Why not?" we in online asked. "Because people don't have computers in their cars," was the answer. We were so quaint.)
12:40 p.m. -Q: If you're successful in raising money for stations around the country, does that mean the government can stop subsidizing public radio and TV?
A: No. We'll be able to jump start four or five radio organizations and demonstrate how good they can be. At the end of five years, we'd expect the community to pick up the cost. When we first got funding, we were able to add 6 reporters for five years. Now we have 80 people in the newsroom. We think CPB funding will be critical toward sustaining the leap forward we want to make.
12:41 p.m. Q: People are worried about competition. When you talk about public media, what are you talking about?
A: It's all the way our content gets out. When you send out something by computer, that's not radio, that's media. We can do video. We can do podcasts. We can do streamed audio. We have public insight journalism, where we have almost 90,000 people in the country, who've signed up and said, "I know something about something that might be helpful to you." They make our reporting smarter. Now we're thinking there may be a channel where their knowledge may be sent out on an ongoing basis. It's new ways of getting information to people.
12:43 p.m. Q: (Caller Grace) I don't know where you're going or what you're going to do, but could there be an educational station?
A: We have a lot of options now. We have HD radio. You need to know. HD... I sat in a car the other day, turned on the radio, and there were all three of our channels. On 91.1, there are two other programs you can listen to. It's an opportunity to get content out in radio, get more content to people. We can already do it on the Web. The kind of things you're suggesting, are possible. It used to be there was just one way to get content to you. We may send the content you're talking about in a podcast, or HD radio. HD solves all of the interference problems.
12:45 p.m. - Q: (Caller Matt) - My Republican friends absolutely hate MPR. What can you do to put in people's minds that not only MPR but NPR is educational?
A: It's an old, old out-of-date characterization, but it's there. I don't know what you do about it. Our COO, Jon McTaggart, is on the board of NPR. The head of our Los Angeles operation, Bill Davis, has just been elected to the board of NPR. If we're giving you information that is the best-informed content we can produce... it still may not agree with what someone thinks. There are those who say there's no such thing as climate change and I think you're liberal every time you suggest the melting of the ice cap in Greenland is because of climate change, some people want to kill the messenger. They don't want to agree with what they hear. We don't rant. We don't try to make people angry. We simply try to get the best thinking out to people and I don't know anybody else in media trying to do that. The distortion isn't MPR, it's the people around us.
12:49 p.m. Q: MPR has an aging audience, what's the plan for providing programming toward a younger generation? I was a fan of In the Loop, and that went away?
A: It's one of the reasons why I want a new generation of leadership to come into the company. Some of the media companies have leaders in their 70s and 80s. There's not much hope for those companies. Our biggest strategy is The Current. It just received every accolade it could in City Pages and other music-related press that play to the 20-year-olds in our communities. People are beginning to talk about "The Current effect." It's drawing in young audiences. They're joining in to see what else we've got -- like Policy and a Pint, in which we have people talk about positions, and then people have a beer, and dance, and think Minnesota Public Radio is kind of cool. And then they migrate to our news and information service. And we want to be there where they are -- social media, Twitter. Your point is right on and we're making progrress.
12:52 p.m. Q: Why are ratings down for all three services?
A: They're huge to begin with. Audience measuring systems are up and down all the time. Our trend is a growth trend and I'm not the least bit worried that it's down in one month for some reason.
(Gary reads an e-mail from Wiesbaden Germany)
12:53 p.m. Q: You have a lot of business program. Are you having discussions about creating that frequency of programming about the state of our democracy?
A: We've talked a lot about it. It's behind everything I'm talking about now, in terms of strengthening our programming. You're talking about a civics lesson. What you've got to start with is the information that helps a democracy function.Public media is the key to reaching audiences at all levels to conduct their democracy as well as they can. Jefferson said when the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their government. The people aren't well informed right now.
Q: What kind of person should be the new leader of MPR?
A; A generalist. Someone who's creative. A good manager. A good leader. Someone who can go out in the public and convince them that this is something strong that should be better. We'll see.
Q: Will members have any input?
A: They can apply for the job. Sure, we'd be open to any kind of communication. The search committee is headed by Ian Friendly of General Mills -- a very smart and strategic guy. They'll get it right. And I'm a member of the committee. You can be sure I will have an enormous vested interest in getting this right.
-- End --8 Comments)
As I posted the other day, I had a feeling that Gen. David Petraeus' statement on the plans of a Florida preacher to burn the Quran was more intended for the management of news organizations than it was the Florida preacher. A memo issued by the Associated Press today would appear to confirm that the message got through: Don't show images of someone burning the Quran.
From: Kent, Tom Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 11:53 AM Subject: Standards Center guidance: Planned Sept. 11 Quran burning
As you know, a group known as the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., has announced that it intends to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11.
In the runup to this event, we've seen a rush of stories, photos and video from points around the world. Let's keep our coverage in proportion. Although many are speculating on the effect the Quran burning could conceivably have, at the moment it's a proposal by a tiny group that may or may not happen.
We plan ONE main spot story on this issue a day. The News Center will coordinate where this story will originate from. Routine spot news -- for instance, comments about the plan by political or other public figures -- should be funneled to the point handling the main story. We should avoid a profusion of separates beyond what any newspaper, website or broadcaster would actually use. This includes stories, photos, audio and video that repeatedly make the same point, for or against the burning. Consult the News Center if you have questions on this.
The concept of this planned event is offensive to many Muslims worldwide. National leaders and spokesmen for other religious denominations have also found the plan repugnant.
Should the event happen on Saturday, the AP will not distribute images or audio that specifically show Qurans being burned, and will not provide detailed text descriptions of the burning. With the exception of these specific images and descriptions, we expect to cover the Gainesville event, in all media, placing the actions of this group of about 50 people in a clear and balanced context.
AP policy is not to provide coverage of events that are gratuitously manufactured to provoke and offend. In the past, AP has declined to provide images of cartoons mocking Islam and Jews. AP has often declined to provide images, audio or detailed descriptions of particularly bloody or grisly scenes, such as the sounds and moments of beheadings and shootings, displays of severed heads on pikes and images of hostages who are displayed by hostage-holders in an effort to intimidate their adversaries and advance their cause. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.
From time to time, a member or customer will insist that we distribute offensive material to them so they can make the decision about whether or not to publish it. We've had to make clear that a decision to distribute, for us, is the same as a decision to publish for them. We must adhere to our own standards.
For the record, I agree with the decision. But if it's AP's policy not to transmit images that are designed to offend, how do we explain this image it transmitted earlier this week?
This is the difficulty of being an editor and having to define what is offensive. An editor in this case had determined that the burning of an effigy of President Obama, and standing on the American flag were a legitimate emotional reaction, not something designed to offend someone.
What about this one?
These are all tough calls, and I'm glad I don't have to make them (anymore).
The flaw in the decision, however, is it strips the decision from the editors of newsrooms worldwide. The Associated Press provides materials to newsrooms, which employ editors to decide whether it should go in the local paper or on the local Web site.
Overall, the AP, as you may know, is a fairly conservative (not in the political sense) organization when it comes to journalism. Its standards are high. It is as mainstream as media gets. The memo evokes memories of past discussions in the early days of News Cut -- What standards should non mainstream media have on this story?
(h/t: Romanesko)(1 Comments)
Back in the old days -- the '90s -- Minnesota Public Radio frequently sought the expertise of a "mortgage consultant" to comment on the housing market. Then one day, a sharp-eyed editor -- fine, it was me -- noted that he often said it was a good time to buy a house. Forgetting for a fact that it really was a good time to buy a house (if you sold before the bubble burst), it didn't make a lot of sense to seek analysis from someone who was in the business of processing mortgages.
Those who often have the most expertise in a given field, also often make their money in that field (that's why they're "experts") and, hence, lack -- shall we say -- objectivity. Political "analysts" in the Twin Cities are quite often people who are directly tied to a particular political party. When's the last time you heard a DFL "analyst" criticize the DFL? Or, similarly, a Republican "analyst" criticize Republicans?
That's why reporters, who cover these people every day for no other reason than that's their job, often make better "analysts" than the analysts. Unfortunately, most political reporters don't want to be analysts because they think it'll hurt their credibility with people who may not agree with them.
This was a particular problem, too, with questions of investing. Prior to the collapse of the housing bubble, and subsequently the stock market, it was always the perfect time to invest in the market, we were told. How many times did you hear that leaving your money in the market was the best thing to do during the market collapse? Maybe it's true. Maybe it's not, but what else would you expect someone in the business of the stock market to say?
National Public Radio provided a good example of the conflicts between "analysts" and reality this afternoon when All Things Considered host Robert Siegel called up a Realtor to talk about today's pathetic housing sales report.
"Houses that were selling for 45-50 thousand are selling in the 70s now. We have very little inventory. We hit bottom in February, " she said, suggesting that the worst is behind us and low interest rates make it a good time to buy a house. And maybe in Manassas, Virginia, that's the case. But today's report appears to contradict that assertion, given that it was the worst one-month drop in 40 years. But what else did Siegel expect her to say? It's a lousy time to buy a house? Save your money?
Fortunately, NPR turned to other "experts" to say that.
In its reporting on a federal court judge Vance Walker's decision that California's Proposition 8 -- the anti same-sex marriage law -- is unconstitutional, National Public Radio reporter Karen Grigsby Bates added an aside on Walker:
"He was appointed by the first President Bush - George H.W. Bush. He is generally considered to be very thoughtful, very thorough. And he's gay. He's gay and out," she said.
NPR's ombudsman, Alicia Shephard points out that Walker's sexual orientation is an accepted fact among many journalists, but it may not be.
"But, in a case such as this, the first obligation is to verify that the person is gay and that can only come from Walker or close personal friends or family who are quoted by name. As far as I could determine, Walker has never openly said he is gay," she writes today.
But Shepard's most illuminating revelation may be why so many journos accept it as fact:
When I asked about sources, NPR cited the Chronicle column, a dozen or so Internet links to show it was widely discussed in California and gay press - and that Walker isn't denying it.
It must not be comfortable for NPR reporters and editors to be quizzed by an ombudsman on an issue such as this, but the reporters and editors did themselves no favors by replying with an excuse that is, basically, "everyone says so."
Then there's the question of whether a judge's sexual orientation matters to the story, which Shepard doesn't really think is a question at all:
It only becomes relevant if there is a conflict of interest, and then the news media is obligated to report it.
"If the judge had actively participated in the Prop 8 debate in some fashion - fundraising for advocates or opponents - that would be significant," said Bob Steele, an ethicist with the Poynter Institute. "Such activism would likely disqualify him from this case no matter what his sexual orientation."
If the judge confirmed he is gay that might be an interesting factoid. But since we expect judges to be impartial - even though all judges have some conflict - then it's wrong to assume Walker or any judge can't be objective on a topic that may have something to do with his personal life.(7 Comments)
Reporters for a Connecticut FoxNews station were sprayed with hornet and wasp spray yesterday, while filming a woman suspected of receiving beer from a beer delivery driver who later shot 10 people at his workplace.
The woman's husband was charged with assault.
It's a tough business.
Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot...
You know what would make a good topic for "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!"? A story about a guy who wrote a play with the words "for God's sake" in it -- a play that was to be used by schools in Texas as part of the English curriculum testing -- and then the deal falls apart because the writer refused to take out "for God's sake."
It's a true story that's happened to Peter Sagal, host of "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!".
The Fort Worth Star Telegram has the story today:
Sagal complained on his blog that the request was irrational and indicative of Texas' reputation as "the state that's leading the charge back into the middle ages in terms of educational standards."
Sagal told the Star-Telegram that he has followed the State Board of Education's various curriculum debates for years.
"We had a joke on the show about them excising Thomas Jefferson," Sagal said, referring to a controversy earlier this year in which the state board cut Jefferson from a section on influential philosophers in its social studies standards. The board later put Jefferson back in. After struggling with the issue and getting advice from fans via Twitter and his blog, Sagal decided that whether or not Texas schoolchildren read his play didn't have anything to do with his difference of opinion regarding other aspects of the state's curriculum.
"I don't think I was going to help the cause of improving the education in Texas, if that's something I could even imagine doing, by keeping my play from Texas students," Sagal said.
Sagal said he was going to use the money he was to be paid by Texas to help defray the cost of a friend's treatment for colon cancer.
Editorial cartoonists generally get a higher degree of leniency than other commentators on the nation's editorial pages. But Mike Lester of the Rome (Georgia) News Tribune pushes the envelope on the issue of the mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.1 Comments)
"I don't know."
Those are the three most hated words in America's newsrooms, and a quick scan of the search results on Google News under the subject "Ted Stevens" shows why that, perhaps, should change. Someday. (Click for more readable, larger image)
The rush to quote someone -- anyone -- with the fate of the former Alaska senator reached its most embarrassing point when a TV station in Alaska reported Stevens dead, based on a second-hand -- or possibly third- or fourth-hand -- report. It wasn't until a newspaper double-checked that the "source" said he didn't know Stevens' fate for certain.
"Get it first" is still more important in many news organizations than "get it right."
Is Stevens dead? I don't know. We'll find out eventually. And we can wait.
Update 1:39 p.m. - A spokesman for the Stevens family says the former senator died in the crash.
Last Friday, NPR's All Things Considered aired its usual letters segment and many listeners complained that a five-minute segment on Mel Gibson's latest transgressions was about five minutes too long. But NPR did not respond to the criticism that questioned whether public radio still stands for what public radio once stood for -- smart information that can exercise the brain muscle.
Today, All Things Considered's executive producer responded by way of a post by the NPR ombudsman. As they say on radio, we caution that what follows might be considered offensive to old-time public radio fans:
The Mel Gibson story is totally defensible," said Christopher Turpin, ATC's executive producer. "To me Mel Gibson is a huge international star. It's a story that everyone is talking about. I was in the coffee shop and what were people talking about in line? They were talking about Mel Gibson. So I don't think we can pretend these things don't happen. I think because there's a huge amount of business involved, there are very interesting questions about the entertainment industry, what happens to celebrities when their personality or character is undermined by their personal behavior."
"Good," as the man once said, "grief."
Fortunately, Alicia Shepard, NPR's ombudsman doesn't let her employer off lightly:
While I understand that NPR programs struggle to find the right balance between serious news and tapping into the zeitgeist in the story of the moment, I agree with many who complained that NPR could have skipped this story and lost nothing. After all, NPR has built its reputation on in-depth reporting of important news and arts and entertainment coverage that rises above the ordinary.
Listeners generally do not turn their dials to public radio for the kind of gossip featured at the grocery store check-out counter. At the very least, if ATC really believed this story deserved airtime, something less than 4 minutes and 31 seconds would have done the job.(7 Comments)
Since Minneapolis had a good chance of welcoming
anarchists the Democratic National Convention in 2012, today is a good day to revisit the role of the media in the 2008 Republican National Convention.
It comes from former NPR ombudsman Jeff Dvorkin, who wonders whether the news media and law enforcement are occasionally too tight. In a blog post today, Dvorkin applauds Utah newspapers who refused to run a list of individuals, who are allegedly in the country illegally.
He says that's in stark contrast to newspapers in Toronto where the G20 summit brought out the anarchists. Subsequently, the police asked the media to publish photos of people allegedly responsible for the some violence and damage, to help identify and catch them.
Some photos show individuals clearly in the act of trashing a police car. That would appear to be enough evidence to convict. (I can imagine what a good defense lawyer might say: "Your honor, my client was only trying to retrieve her property which had been thrown onto the roof of the police vehicle...").
Others photos are "head and shoulder" shots released by the Toronto police. They don't reveal any evidence of law-breaking, beyond the say-so of the authorities.
While the damage to property in parts of downtown Toronto was considerable and the actions of hooligans, reprehensible, is it the role of the media to act as police agents? Are reporters being sufficiently skeptical and asking the police those four most important words: "How do you know?" Or is this an instance when citizen journalism descends into vigilante journalism?
This sounds a little too familiar for comfort. In the aftermath of the St. Paul violence in 2008, local authorities did the same thing.
St. Paul Police and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office released this photo, for example:
And the media -- and that includes News Cut, for the record -- printed it. The difference, however, is that in this case the police weren't looking for the ID of the attacker; they were looking for the ID of the victim.
But is that different from Dvorkin's complaint. Is this an ethical violation?(7 Comments)
Arbitron, the radio audience measurement company, has released its annual profile of... us. Public Radio Today 2010, How America Listens to Radio, analyzes nine public radio formats and paints a picture of the typical -- if there is such a thing -- public radio listener.
News/talk is the dominant public radio format, beating its next-strongest public radio format (combinations of news and classical music). In fact, there is no age demographic in which news/talk isn't the most-listened-to public radio format.
A "heat index" reveals where news/talk on public radio is heaviest, although the most intriguing note is where it's not:
Nearly 70% of public radio news listeners have a college degree and 92% have attended some college.
Listeners to classical public radio stations jumped 1.7% in the fall of 2009, compared to a year earlier, which Arbitron attributes to the disappearance of the remaining commercial classical stations. More men, apparently, are listening to classical than a similar Arbitron report four years ago. And, contrary to the prevailing wisdom, the classical music listening audience got younger, increasing its below-55 audience from 29% to 32% in a year.
The "heat index" map isn't surprising...
Contrary to their public perception, almost half of public radio listeners drive -- or plan to purchase -- an SUV or midsize car, the report says. The least popular vehicle -- and this isn't surprising anyone, is it? -- is a pickup truck.(8 Comments)
The devil may be in the details, but the primary message is always in the headlines. Monday's report from Israel on the commando assault on a Gaza-bound "aid flotilla" provides a perfect example with today's online stories.
Here's the BBC:
Every morning, it seems, we're greeted with another shooting, another fatality in a car crash, an ATV accident somewhere, another life lost. Little effort goes into finding the humanity behind any of the stories but Austin Daily Herald reporter Mike Rose provided a good example today of why we in the business should try harder.
Here's the story as reported by AP:
An Austin teenager was killed and a 5-year-old boy injured in an all-terrain vehicle crash near Albert Lea.
The Freeborn County sheriff's office says 18-year-old Dennis McDermott died at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.
Deputies found McDermott lying beside the ATV after Sunday's crash. The 5-year-old boy, whose name was not released, was conscious. The boy was treated and released from Albert Lea Medical Center.
And here's what Mr. Rose found: The young man who died had Down Syndrome. He took up wrestling in high school and wasn't very good at it. But he didn't quit:
It wasn't always easy -- because of his Down syndrome, Dennis sometimes struggled with the sport, particularly when he was just starting out. One day, he told his dad about his struggles.
"He hardly ever complained about anything," James McDermott said. "(But) he said, 'I can't win.'"
Never one to give up, Dennis McDermott kept trying. He took his fair share of losses, but he kept pushing himself. During his 10th-grade year, Dennis started practicing and training more -- getting "buff," his mom noted.
That year, the hard work paid off -- Dennis pinned an opponent and won a match.
"I never heard him complain again," James McDermott said. "He just went back to loving wrestling."
Added his brother, Jimmy: "That was one of his proudest moments."
In the big scheme of things, perhaps, Dennis McDermott wasn't much different than a lot of other people. But a lot of other people who are a lot like a lot of other people have stories worth telling and are people worth knowing. That's where a good reporter comes in.2 Comments)