How does one go from here to Timbuktu? For me, like this:
• 21 bus to the Lake Street LRT station
• LRT to MSP Airport
• Flights from MSP to Detroit, to Paris, to Bamako, Mali
• Car ride to Mopti
• Flight from Mopti to Timbuktu
Okay, so it's a little more than just a hop, skip and jump away. And Timbuktu is back in Mali's hands, thanks to help from the French and other Western powers. It was ruled by Islamist militants since early last year.
I made the trip to Mali, a land-locked country in West Africa, in January 2009 as part of a team working on a USDA-sponsored sustainable agriculture project. The country is almost completely Muslim, was a French colony and is one of the poorest countries on earth.
Our work took us withing a few hundred miles of Timbuktu, so a few of us made a brief visit. Before I left the U.S., I knew very little about it. Here's what I learned (and saw):
The city is on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The area south of the city is more of a rocky landscape.
A canal linking Timbuktu to the Niger River is flooded a few months a year, making it accessible by boat. The canal was dry for years, but Muammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya funded a dredging project about five years ago. South Africa and Gaddafi's Libya were both benefactors of several improvement projects in the city.
The city is very flat, very windy, and very, very sandy. I took this photo from the rooftop of a hotel run by a French woman -- she served the best French cuisine I've ever had.
Most of Timbuktu's buildings are made of mud, but some, like this museum, are made of limestone.
Much of the city's commerce happens in covered markets like this one.
Apart from symbolizing something foreign, or the middle of nowhere, Timbuktu is famous for its ancient manuscripts. Because it was at the center of a number of trade routes sometime after the 12th Century, it became rich -- and a great center for learning. Those days are long past, but many of the books and manuscripts were preserved in a few libraries in the city. We were told they contained, among other subjects, works of mathematics, astronomy, and copies of and commentaries on the Qur'an.
Yesterday, The Guardian reported that fleeing rebels had torched many of the manuscripts. But today, Time reported that most of the manuscripts had been removed from the libraries in the lead up to Timbuktu's fall last year. Let's hope that's true.
We were also told in 2009 that many families still own manuscripts, though some families have sold them -- Timbuktu is very, very poor. Whatever the case, why supposedly "Islamic" rebels would try to destroy their religion's history goes to show how little they represent the majority of Muslims.
This is a peace memorial commemorating a mid-90s treaty between the Tuareg rebels and the Malian government. The Tuareg are a nomadic people in the Sahara that have long had a tenuous relationship with the Malian government. It's only about 14 years old, but it was falling apart because no one took care of it.
I wonder if it's still there today.
The Sahara is quite literally on the edge of town, encroaching more every year. This caravan of camels was heading north into the Sahara toward salt mines in Algeria.
And here I am, taking in the Sahara's vastness.
If you'd like to keep up with the latest on the Malian conflict, I suggest following @Mali on Twitter.
-- Nate Minor(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)
As someone who used to cover business and the economy, I was impressed by Best Buy's willingness on Monday to lay its dirty linen out for review.
The results of an internal report found ex-CEO Brian Dunn had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate and that company founder and Twin Cities business icon Richard Schulze knew about the allegations months before they were exposed but didn't do the right thing and take it to members of the board. It cost Schulze his chairmanship.
What I didn't realize yesterday is that Best Buy has a chief ethics officer, Kathleen Edmond, with her own website where she explores corporate ethics.
Nothing publicly from Edmond so far on Dunn or Schulze, although there's a recent post on how a friendly internal competition at Best Buy went bad.
The competition was relatively informal and the activity tallies were largely based on the honor system (i.e., employees could designate which activities "counted" toward the contest). After the fact, a quick review of the data revealed that contest participants, as a group, had obviously inflated their results. Although it was an internal contest and there was no effect on the numbers we report to the public, nonetheless it was a concern.I went looking on Edmond's site for something in April after Dunn resigned and the Star Tribune reported that Best Buy was investigating Dunn's conduct with the female employee.
When pressed on the issue, many participants claimed to know of co-workers who included non-qualifying activity in the contest tally but, of course, no one admitted to doing so themselves.
Nothing then on her website either, although in late April she wrote a post asking, "Are We Blind To Our Own Ethical Choices?" where she riffed off an NPR interview of an upstanding businessman who eventually committed fraud.
Here's hoping Edmond follows her company's lead and writes something smart and insightful about the ethical choices of Best Buy's leadership -- and what role she'll play in remaking the culture there.
-- Paul Tosto(2 Comments)
Posted at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2012
by Eric Ringham
I take pride in my Norwegian heritage, but it's hard to imagine life in a country where the worst sentence a mass murderer can get is 21 years. The Anders Breivik story has been painful to watch for a host of reasons - such a beautiful and peaceful country savaged by such a horrific crime; so racist and brutal a killer, somehow sprung from the land of the Nobel Peace Prize; a challenge so blunt to the Norwegian traits of tolerance and generosity.
And it's painful, too, because that very tolerance and generosity will extend even to this monster who claims to have acted on behalf of the country he hurt so badly. Uff.
Decades ago, one of my relatives in Norway - an old merchant marine sailor -- shocked me with a casually racist remark about Africans. Being young and stupid, I was tempted to generalize from that remark that Norwegians might actually be racists who hadn't yet met many people of color.
A more defensible generalization, though, is that Norwegians seem to be people who will stick to their principles through thick and thin. Journalists covering the trial have quoted survivors and onlookers saying the same thing in different ways: Breivik tried to change us, to shake us from our ideals, but he couldn't do it.
Breivik has expressed contempt for the 21-year-sentence that may follow a conviction, and says he should be either acquitted or executed. I'd say he has half a point. But then, my people left Norway a long time ago, and my principles aren't what they should be.(2 Comments)
Long-time readers of NewsCut and its predecessor, Polinaut, know that I'm conflicted when the subject of the political activities of journalists comes up. I've long considered the claim of "objectivity" to be fraudulent. Humans aren't objective. Rather, journalists should strive for fairness. No need to go over it again. You can watch the whole argument here.
All that said, we have to acknowledge that trust is the real currency of journalism and if people think you have a horse in the race, that currency is devalued. I admit to being troubled by all of the journalists who've fled to a few "news" websites in town and declared their political allegiances. Maybe they're fair, but I don't trust what they're writing. I don't know what they're holding back. So I stop reading them.
That's why the situation in Wisconsin is troubling -- more and more journalists don't "get" that point and more and more journalists aren't conflicted by it.
Today, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's media critic reports that all of that city's TV stations have staffers who signed petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker. The revelation comes on the heels of the one that staffers at Gannett news operations in the state -- 25 staffers -- signed the petition.
There's no question that many journalists have political leanings of one kind or another. But having them and actively participating in political activities are two different ethical standards.
The Journal Sentinel defines the differing opinions:
Objectivity is in the DNA of veteran journalists whose ethical guidelines prohibit everything from yard signs and bumper stickers to signing petitions. A political reporter once told me this was the reason he didn't vote.
But in a digital age where biased information is commonplace and reporters are also bloggers and commentators, such "extraordinary measures may seem a bit quaint" to them and the audience, said Erik Ugland, associate professor of broadcast and electronic communications at Marquette University, who teaches media law and ethics.
Does it matter anymore? We presume it's easy to forgive active political participation by a journalist if it's on the side of the politics of the people judging. But what if it's not?
Posted at 2:32 PM on February 14, 2012
by Paul Tosto
Filed under: News
If you booked a trip on Travelocity.com since June 2009 and bought travel insurance to go along with it, a little cash may be headed your way.
The Minnesota Commerce Department today writes:
81,970 Minnesota consumers who purchased travel insurance on Travelocity.com between June 1, 2009 and January 24, 2012 will receive nearly $2.5 million in refunds.A consent order issued by Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman last Friday alleges that New York-based National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh and Wisconsin-based Travel Guard Group, Inc. violated state law by automatically enrolling consumers in optional travel insurance policies.Commerce says consumers were required to select "opt out" to not be enrolled, "a clear violation of state law and represent a breach of consumer trust."
The insurance cost $25 to $45 per traveler. The settlement averages about $30 per Minnesota traveler.
Think you might be entitled? Email the department.
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)
Posted at 12:15 PM on March 4, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: News
Duluth city workers aren't making friends with thrill-seekers that enjoy the adrenaline rush of cliff jumping near the turbid waters of Amity Creek. The Duluth News Tribune reports that workers pruned a cedar tree that sits atop the popular cliff jump known as 'The Deeps' to locals. Apparently a couple of kids were sent to the hospital after climbing the tree to add height to the already significant cliff jump.
Here's a compilation of kids jumping at 'The Deeps,' most of the footage appears shot near the pruned tree.
Ed. Note: Bob is resting (comfortably, we hope) after a late night of furious election coverage. I'm pinch-hitting for today's 5x8.
1) The 'R' WORD
The 2010 race for Minnesota governor might not be as close as the 1962 contest -- an election decided by 91 votes out of 1.25 million cast -- but it appears we are headed for another recount. At least we can work off the 2008 Recount Guide [pdf]. And if that doesn't help, there's always the flowchart [pdf]. Well, at least we're not alone.
2) PHOTOS FROM ELECTION NIGHT
View the full slideshow
3) TWEETS OF THE NIGHT/MORNING
Good morning Minnesota, land of 10,000 votes margin.
To clarify. The DFL Party continues. The DFL Party's party is over.
Eichten just said the R-word. And with that, it's time to break out the gin.
Am I understanding this right, if #mn2010 is too close Garrison Keillor serves as Gov until a winner is determined?
4) RED? BLUE? WE JUST WANT GREEN
The Washington Post had a piece on the millions of dollars lawyers, lobbyists and associations spent on the mid-term elections, jockeying for influence on Capitol Hill. It's not surprising, considering that D.C.'s biggest firms grew their revenue significantly in 2009 with an active legislative agenda. And with the shifty political landscape, it probably makes better business sense to run a bi-partisan shop.
5) SMOKE-FREE IN SOUTH DAKOTA
Voters in South Dakota extended a smoking ban to bars, restaurants and casinos with the passage of Referred Law 12.
The Legislature last year extended the smoking ban, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed it into law. Opponents, however, mounted a petition drive to get the smoking ban on the ballot in hopes voters would repeal it. The validity of the signatures obtained in the drive survived a court challenge by the American Cancer Society and other smoking ban proponents. During all that time, enforcement of the ban has been held at bay.
See also: List of smoking bans in the U.S.
Colleague Julia Schrenkler had a terrific idea for a News Cut feature today: Seemingly irrelevant factoids that crop into news stories.
Her inspiration was this story today.
The details: "Lonya Smoot, who was in the gas station buying a lottery ticket Tuesday night, said today there was also another young woman with the group who looked to be an older teenager. She said she was inside the gas station, playing her favorite four digits 1-0-1-1, while the man who was shot was gassing up his SUV outside."
Be on the lookout for similar stories, please.
An intercepted memo from the boss of National Public Radio raises some significant questions, I presume, for newsrooms across the land.
Is there any "cause" or "rally" that reporters can participate in without being in violation of an ethical guidelines.
Jim Romenesko at Poynter has the memo from NPR execs to the minions, warning them not to attend the "rallies" by comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert later this month, citing this clause in their policies:
NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies.
There's a case to be made that both amount to political rallies, but what should a reporter do who wants to take part in, say "Race for the Cure," which might be considered a rally? (NPR reporting considers this a "cause.") Or a vigil to show solidarity in a neighborhood in which they live, where several homicides have taken place?
Where's the line in civic involvement? Is it actively engaging in a "partisan" event? Or is it being seen participating in a civic or partisan event?
The Pew Center has released a survey showing fewer people are getting their news on the radio, and more are getting their news online. I'm not sure exactly how I'm supposed to feel about that.
But the most interesting aspect of the survey -- at least to me -- was that people are now more engaged with the news, than they were a decade ago. It says that digital platforms are not necessarily replacing mainstream media, but supplementing them. But the number of "new grazers" -- people who only occasionally pay attention to the news -- is up significantly.
Not surprisingly, the younger you are, the less likely you are to know about the news of the day. And Fox News is the only cable news provider showing an increase in audience, mostly because more Republicans are turning to it.
To the extent that young people are getting the news, it appears that the most influential source is The Daily Show and Colbert Report. That's not surprising. What is is that Pew has now included the two shows under the "news program" banner.
A close second in the "most surprising" category: Most Facebook and Twitter users say they hardly ever or never get news there.(5 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)
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:
DFL gubernatorial contender Margaret Anderson Kelliher is making hay, understandably, out of Republican candidate Tom Emmer's remarks this week about tips and the minimum wage. She told Cathy Wurzer this morning that Emmer's proposal to cut the minimum wage for people who earn tips was akin to "stealing" their tip money.
What's lower than stealing somebody's tip money?
A couple of years ago, a young woman -- OK, the No. 1 daughter of the No. 5 substitute for Mr. News Cut -- was working as a barista at a well-known local mall. Yes, that mall. One day she called the No. 5 substitute to complain that none of her customers was putting money in the tip jar.
"Is there anything in the jar?" asked the No. 5 substitute.
"No, Dad," she said. "It's empty."
Ah -- a rare moment when the older generation actually has useful advice for the younger generation! Eagerly, the No. 5 substitute told the No. 1 daughter about the well-known stratagem of putting a few bucks in the jar as seed money. When they saw the bills in there, customers would get the idea. The No. 1 daughter said "Thanks, Dad," and hung up.
A little while later she called back.
"I did what you said," she said. "I put three dollars in the jar."
"Did it work?"
"No. Somebody took 'em."(2 Comments)
Posted at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2010
by Eric Ringham
Filed under: News
This morning's spy swap can make a guy long for the good old days of the Cold War, when the enemy was Russian and John le Carré novels were easier to follow. Le Carré warned us not to expect secret agents to be ideological purists, but even he might be surprised by the likes of Anna Chapman. What motivates these people? An early Le Carré character, Alec Leamas, suggested that spies are "seedy, squalid bastards ... playing Cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten little lives." Here's a moment from the movie made out of Le Carré's breakthrough novel, "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold:"
A note for younger readers: Before Matt Damon, there was an actor named Richard Burton.
Did NPR endanger a farmer by publicizing his name on an All Things Considered post last week?
Before you watch this new TED video on photos that changed the world, add a comment below describing the first one fitting the description that comes into your mind.
Let's see if our collective impressions match Jonathan Klein's.(8 Comments)
Let's get this out of the way right from the get-go: There is no legitimate indication that Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Mn.) is on a short list of possible Supreme Court nominees to replace Justice John Paul Stevens if he retires. None.
So why are so many political reporters making a story out of it, suggesting that she is? Because so many political reporters are making a story out of it, suggesting that she is.
The "Klobuchar to the Supreme Court" story is a perfect example of creating a story where none exists, merely by repeating what reporters and bloggers are writing. In the new media world, it's also an example of the role blogs play in amplifying a non-story to story status.
How did this start? It is almost entirely the work of Tom Goldman, who writes the SCOTUSblog, and was the first to mention that Amy Klobuchar was not on the conjecture lists of other bloggers and writers:
The most serious remaining candidate to General Kagan might actually be someone who has not really been discussed in the published so-called "short lists": Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
Goldman, basically, made it up by noting that nobody had mentioned Klobuchar and Supreme Court in the same sentence. But someone actually had -- Goldman. He did it for the first time in May 2009, when he was speculating about replacements for Justice David Souter.
Goldman provided no attribution to indicate his suggestion had been informed by anybody else in a position to know. What he wrote in February 2010 was not anything new, and not anything sourced, but it was enough to set the "did you hear?" machine in motion. MinnPost's Eric Black was first to repeat Goldman's "list."
In mid-March, an AOL blogger created a list of replacements, citing only "speculation" on Klobuchar (and others), but not mentioning that the speculation came from one blogger.
On Friday April 2, Huffington Post repeated that Klobuchar's name "has been mentioned," also without indicating that it was only Goldman and other bloggers mentioning it.
Two days later, Face the Nation's Bob Schieffer faciliated the rumor crossing into the "mainstream media", when he repeated it on his Sunday show, only to be shot down by his guest.
But it was too late. By Monday, MPR (Klobuchar for Supreme Court?), City Pages ("Amy Klobuchar for U.S. Supreme Court? "), Minnesota Independent ("Klobuchar for Supreme Court?"), and the Star Tribune ("SCOTUS speculation touches on Klobuchar") all had stories that referenced Goldman's remark, but none noted that his original remark noted that Klobuchar wasn't on anybody's list.
On Monday, Slate Magazine repeated Goldman's rumor, then indicated that Klobuchar was not on a list of possible nominees circulated by Bloomberg.
By then, Klobuchar was saying she's not interested in the job.
As if there's any real indication she's in a position to be asked.(9 Comments)
Cops pulled dozens of cats from what officers said were awful conditions this week in Duluth Township and Two Harbors.
Now animal rescue agencies are seeking new owners for the cats.
"Thankfully, these beautiful cats escaped a bad situation in remarkably good shape," said Jim Filby Williams, executive director for Animal Allies in Duluth. "These kitties deserve to find a good home as quickly as possible; they have suffered enough."
Animal Allies has 35 of the cats. Another 41 were sent to the Animal Humane Society's facility in Golden Valley.
Some of the cats are scared of people after living in overcrowded conditions. The fearful cats will need patient owners willing to provide extra TLC, said Animal Allies veterinarian Mary Wictor.
Authorities seized more than 75 cats from two properties, WDIO-TV in Duluth reported.
A report of animal neglect led police to a Duluth Township trailer, where they discovered 25 cats inside. A few days later, officials found 20 more cats and 39 dead ones in a pole barn on the same property.
Then authorities rescued another 32 cats from a home in Two Harbors. Both properties are owned by the same person, police told WDIO.
Shawn Padden, the Duluth Township police chief, told the station conditions in the pole barn were atrocious.
"We found 20 cats living in basic squalor and darkness, surrounded by feces, just disgusting," Padden said. "I don't know how they've survived this long to be honest with you."
Animal Allies is waiving a $90 adoption fee through March 26 for anyone who adopts one of the recovered cats. The cats have been spayed and neutered, vaccinated, tested for parasites and fitted with microchips.
The Animal Humane Society reported that vets at the Golden Valley shelter are evaluating and treating the cats sent from Duluth.
Visit the shelters' web sites for more adoption information.2 Comments)
Jeff Jirik and his team at Faribault Dairy Co. are happy cheesemakers.
They won the top prize Thursday in the Gorgonzola category at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wis.
This contest is an Olympics of cheesemaking. It's held once every two years and draws thousands of entries from around the world.
"It's been crazy trying to absorb it," Jirik said. "It's such a big accomplishment for such a small plant like ours."
The Faribault dairy is Minnesota's only winner, beating 16 other entries in the Gorgonzola category. In all, the judges considered more than 2,300 cheeses from 20 countries. Winners were announced Thursday.
Jirik credits caves for the quality of his firm's Gorgonzola. The Faribault dairy makes its Amablu brand cheese in a series of interconnected caves along the Straight River just outside downtown Faribault.
The St. Peter sandstone is perfect, Jirik said. The pure quartzite creates a pure hygienic environment with 99 percent humidity -- an ideal place to grow Gorgonzola.
The plant has quite a history. The cave opened in 1854 as a brewery, but shut down during Prohibition. Cheese master Felix Frederickson turned the cave complex into the nation's first blue cheese plant in 1936.
Jirik took a job at the plant in 1979.
"My first job was scraping mold off cheese, for $4.65 per hour," he said.
After the plant changed hands a few times, ConAgra shut it down in 1991. Jirik moved on to another dairy and eventually to another industry. But his heart remained in the Faribault caves.
In 2001, Jirik bought the property and started making cheese again. Today, the firm turns out 18,000 pounds per week.
You can buy the prize-winning Amablu in most major grocery stores.
"We don't grow special cheese for the contest," Jirik said. "I am saying with 100 percent accuracy that the cheese that won is out in the marketplace now."
There are reports around the Twin Cities today that the Star Tribune's Web site has spent the morning serving up malware to its visitors. First reports surfaced from the University of St. Thomas earlier today. Since then, a growing number of people surveyed via Twitter also report problems. Your local public radio station blogger also had viruses showing up after visiting and commenting on a review of last night's B.B. King concert.
A few minutes later, a program made to look like anti-virus software popped up reporting the computer was under attack, but the "program" itself was a virus.
The Star Tribune posted this notice a few minutes ago:
We have received reports that a third-party advertising network has been placing a "Malware Ad" onto our site.
A "Malware Ad" is a potentially malicious ad that could contain a virus or attempt to get you to pay for unsolicited services. The ad informs you that your machine has been infected with a virus and that you should click it to run a scan on your machine. We do not approve of this ad and consider it a potential security threat to your computer -- although we do not yet know that for certain.
We take this situation very seriously and are responding aggressively to get it resolved. We have removed all ad networks from our site. All advertising networks will be required to perform complete a check of every ad they run, and to verify that they are not running this ad, before we allow them to run on our site.
If you see an ad matching this description, please let us know about it by emailing email@example.com.
How does something like this happen? Ask the New York Times. It happened to the newspaper's Web site last fall.
While Web site owners usually review the ads they run for quality control and security reasons, many online ads are sold and distributed through middlemen known as ad networks. As a result, ads can appear on a site that its operators have not directly approved, and they may be pulled into its pages from computer servers that it does not control.
About half of the ads delivered to The Times's Web site come from ad networks. As reports of strange activity came in over the weekend, the technical and advertising staff at The Times began to suspect that a rogue ad had slipped through this way, and they moved to stop displaying such ads, said Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman for the Times Company.
But it now appears that the ad was approved by the site's advertising operations team, Ms. McNulty said. People visiting nytimes.com continued to complain about the pop-up ads throughout the weekend.
The real damage, however, comes when the employee sheepishly delivers his infected laptop to his company's I.T. department, fruitlessly claiming he didn't spend the weekend visiting porn sites.
For the record: It's not uncommon for Web sites to use third-party ad servers. Jeff Harkness of MPR's digital unit reports that MPR "(1) allows our clients to serve ads to our sites via 3rd party networks (Doubleclick, Mediaplex and EyeWonder are among the more common) and (2) National Public Media has an ad network that we partner with.
But you're safe here. Trust me.
Update 3:23 p.m. - So now that you've got an infected computer, how can you get rid of the Star Tribune's malware/virus. This page has a step-by-step instruction. It's not easy. (Alternately, you can try these instructions at Bleeping Computer.)(5 Comments)
National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard periodically provides a glimpse into the complaints the Public Radio behemoth gets. Today we also find out that people sure have a lot of time to get worked up over things.
Although many listeners find this second reference offensive, it is not a new policy. NPR has used "Mr." since the mid-1970s when President Gerald Ford was in office. The president is the only person who NPR routinely refers to with the Mr. honorific on second reference. If NPR does a story, say on James Hamilton, an Ohio car dealer, he will be Hamilton on second reference, not Mr. Hamilton.
Apparently, a lot of people consider it a matter of disrespect. So one wonders if the Associated Press, whose stylebook is the very bible on these matters, gets even more complaints. It says:
"On second reference, use only the last name ."
News organizations have to be very careful in these matters, for sometimes you can take the "respect thing" a little too far.
The New York Times, for example, is famous for once profiling the '70s rock star, Meat Loaf and referring to him on second reference as Mr. Loaf.
Of course, some people would argue that's a proper second reference for most sitting presidents.(3 Comments)
Posted at 5:08 PM on November 24, 2009
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: News
Yesterday's news that eight people would be charged in connection with the disappearance of young Somali men from the Twin Cities put the long-running story back in the national spotlight.
Authorities suspect the young men are being recruited to fight with al-Shabaab, an Islamic militia — and terrorist organization, according to the U.S. State Department.
NPR's Talk of the Nation looked at the issue today with counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston. It's well worth a listen if you've been following the story.
MPR News, lead by Laura Yuen, has also been following the story, as well as the larger content of Somali immigrants to the Twin Cities. See our full coverage here.
Earlier this week, MPR hosted a day-long forum on The Future of News. Colleague Julia Schrenkler, who handled most of the online action, has posted the video of the keynote, which featured Ken Doctor. He runs the Web site Content Bridges.
He's also written a post about the conference and, in particular, the one portion where teeth were bared. Star Tribune Publisher Mike Sweeney and his editor-in-chief, Nancy Barnes, declared that MPR was engaged in a "land grab," because it had advantages as a non-profit over the Star Tribune.
Some participants had joked about how MPR was putting on a self-serving conference, one that asked the question about the future of news and came pre-equipped with the two-word answer: Public Radio. Not untrue, but the conference managed to bring not only Sweeney and Strib editor Nancy Barnes into the room and onto panels. It is also brought in Joel Kramer, publisher of MinnPost (as well as Voice of San Diego's Scott Lewis), knowing that Kramer might be (and was) vocal about MPR's unwillingness to partner with MinnPost.
If Sweeney came concerned, he might have left more worried. Yes, Public Radio's legacy business is radio, and, more recently, audio, via podcast and streaming. What Sweeney heard, though, was a larger Who, public radio's nascent attempts to assert itself as a major online (and then presumably mobile) news player throughout the country.
You can find the whole Future of News Web site here. Incidentally, I didn't see this fabulous piece of work until yesterday:
Perhaps it's time to change the name of newscasts to hoaxcasts.
Today's hoax-as-news event occurred in Washington where someone pretending to be from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced the organization was endorsing climate change legislation.
The event at the National Press Club ended when a real spokesman for the Chamber burst into the room.
"Whoops," says The Guardian:
In today's instant news era, that wasn't quite soon enough. Several green organisations tweeted or blogged on the about-face. Reuters news agency put out a straight news story about the Chamber's apparent U-turn, and the Washington Post and New York Times put the story on their news sites (both later removed the stories from their websites). CNBC actually sought - and got - comment from analysts. It also broke its programming to have a reporter read out the fake press release.
There once was a saying in newsrooms, "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." It might be time to bring that baby back.
Coincidentally, the New York Times announced today it's cutting 100 newsroom jobs. No word yet if one of the positions affected is the one that determines if a story is real.
(Update 4:55 p.m.) - The Chamber rattles the legal sabers.(5 Comments)
Suddenly, live on national television yesterday, our collective, inner, 6-year-old boy was stirred to life. Who wouldn't want to be floating free, up in the air with the birds, on a Thursday afternoon? Who wouldn't want to do all of that with a name like Falcon?
Perhaps we're well past the point of expecting cable news to check the veracity of the scenario, that a thin-skinned, sealed, relatively small helium balloon listing and bobbing through the air with little evidence of a ~50-pound load on board could actually carry a small boy, but it was fun while it lasted.
Today, the evidence is stacking up against the boy's father, Richard Heene. Apparently he was there when the balloon launched yesterday.
And after watching the bizarre Today Show interview this morning — wherein Richard dismisses the notion that it was hoax as young Falcon vomits twice — it just doesn't pass the smell test.
Whatever happens, I'm sure we'll be able to watch it live on CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News.(4 Comments)
Every now and again -- when I'm speaking to some group -- someone will ask, "how do you determine what news is?" They're looking for a definition I can't give them. It's not an algorithm (sorry, Google); it's a feeling from your heart to your head. You know it when you see it or when you feel it.
You have to be some sort of heart-dead or brain-dead person not to see the stories within the story of Pvt. Travis Hafterson, whom I've been writing about this week (here, here, here, and here). The 21-year-old Marine from Circle Pines left Camp LeJeune in North Carolina on leave last month only to find out his orders had been rescinded. He was looking for help for post traumatic stress disorder and his mother suggested he come home to get it.
We can argue -- and we have, respectfully, in the posts I've made on News Cut this week -- about whether he should have done that, but one thing cannot be denied: Travis Hafterson is a broken human in need of help and we did this to him.
We sent a kid off to war -- twice -- with all the bravado we could muster on lawn signs, bumper stickers and radio talk shows, and while we lived a comfortable life supporting our troops here with our yellow-ribbon magnets, Hafterson and thousands of other combat soldiers were accumulating memories that turn into nightmares.
Here's just one of several I lifted from a psychological report he underwent last Saturday:
"He watched as an Iraqi police member opened the door of the house, only to have the back of his head explode from enemy fire. He tossed a grenade into the home. ... Though (the enemy) had lost limbs, he was still alive. So Hafterson had no choice but to kill him with a knife through the throat."
Hafterson's primary story isn't the only one that went largely unreported this week. So was the amazing story of how Minnesota's system worked. Psychologists and psychiatrists gave up their days off last weekend, social workers stepped in, attorneys donated their time, court-appointed experts reacted with diligence, a Ramsey County judge and the staff of the Civil Commitment Court acted swiftly, sensitively, and urgently, purely because they recognized the need to help a kid -- "one of our own," you might say -- who came home for help.
On Thursday, the Marines swept in, grabbed Hafterson before he could get it, and sent him to a military prison. He's disappeared into the closed society of the military again, and the public symptoms of a wider mental-health scandal disappeared with him.
The Marines couldn't have done it without the indifference of the news media in the Twin Cities.
Almost a year ago to the day, another Minnesota soldier also had a problem. Gwen Beberg befriended a dog in Iraq but had to leave "Ratchet" behind when she returned to the states. The local media sprang into action. The local newspapers carried the story on page one. Local TV news personalities wouldn't let the story die, and finally the military relented. When the dog came home for a happy reunion, the TV stations were there live.
No such luck for Pvt. Hafterson or, for that matter, the hundreds or maybe thousands of soldiers like him who may exist if only we in the news media were interested enough to find out. No TV station picked up the Hafterson story this week. The Pioneer Press was the only newspaper to do so. The Star Tribune, which announced a "military affairs" beat just a week ago, ignored Hafterson's plight. The Associated Press took a pass. The Huffington Post rejected the story as did National Public Radio. The alternative online news sources around here who fancy themselves the future of journalism -- MinnPost, The Uptake, and City Pages, for example -- proved that they can shrug their shoulders as well as the big boys. Of all alternative online sources of news, only Rick Kupchella's new Bring Me the News "covered" the story.
If the news media here had treated Pvt. Travis Hafterson like a dog, it would've been an improvement.
While the Hafterson story was playing out in the Twin Cities this week, a summit on the future of journalism was being held in San Francisco, where the San Francisco Chronicle noted the theme:
Key to survival in the digital media age is rapidly responding to the preferences that consumers reveal every time they click a link, view an ad, read a story or post a comment, said Michael Franklin, professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. He is also the founder of Truviso, a San Mateo company that creates tools for analyzing consumer data.
Each online action represents clues that media companies can use to customize content, products and ads to particular consumers. That, in turn, can increase customers' engagement with the site and the likelihood of responding to marketing, he said.
Fancy talk, indeed, but it leaves out the two most important elements of journalism. It needs to employ people who give a damn and it needs to make you look, when your instinct is to turn away.
At some future point, the PTSD story will resurface in the form of some tragedy, and the media wags will ask "how could this happen?" When it comes time to ask the question, we should be looking in the mirror.(11 Comments)
CNN today framed a Coast Guard training exercise on the Potomac River near the Pentagon as "felony stupidity." But the case actually shines a light on the journalistic rules of CNN.
A few minutes after the president appeared at a ceremony honoring the dead in the 9/11 attacks at the Pentagon, CNN reported that the Coast Guard had fired shots at a boat on the Potomac, sending the nation, apparently, scurrying for word of a terrorist attack.
It turned out to be a training exercise, which sent the CNN anchor team into hyperbole over the Coast Guard decision to have a training mission on 9/11, where it could be mistaken for an actual terrorist attack.
"Is there any admission on the part of the Coast Guard that they made a terrible mistake?" a CNN anchor asked a reporter. But the mistake was CNN's. There were no shots fired, and along the Potomac, there was little indication anything was wrong, and a Coast Guard statement suggested the training exercise was primarily on a radio frequency. A CNN staffer heard the words "bang bang" on a newsroom scanner, and the news organization went with its report.
Later, a CNN reporter cited "sources in the newsroom" while saying the news network put the story on the air before calling the Coast Guard -- or anyone else -- to ask what was happening. It once was a well-observed rule in the news media that journalists don't report anything heard on a news scanner without verifying its truthiness.
"Coast Guard Confusion: Training Exercise Sparks Panic on 9/11 Anniversary," the headline on ABC News' Web site screamed. Well, no, it was CNN that caused whatever panic might have ensued (Note: There's actually no indication anyone outside the CNN newsroom had panicked.)
Try as CNN might in the aftermath to focus the spotlight on the Coast Guard, Washington officials weren't biting. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says if law enforcement felt there was a need for the exercise it's "best not to second-guess." the Associated Press reported.
Gibbs sharply criticized CNN for airing an inaccurate report that shots were fired during the exercise, saying "before we report things like this, checking would be good."
As an old colleague-comic in a newsroom used to say, "Never check the facts, son. You ruin a lot of good stories that way."
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)(3 Comments)
Don Hewitt, best known for creating "60 Minutes" has died, according to CBS News.(1 Comments)
When NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard was on Midmorning a few weeks ago, she said the Public Radio audience was angry that NPR won't call waterboarding torture. She said she'd have an article about that by the end of the day, but she didn't and I forgot to check.
... the problem is that the word torture is loaded with political and social implications for several reasons, including the fact that torture is illegal under U.S. law and international treaties the United States has signed.
That earned over 400 comments, most of which did not agree with Shepard. She wrote a follow-up post yesterday, noting that she brought the audience concerns to the editors and that NPR is apparently resolute on the matter:
One can disagree strongly with those beliefs and their actions. But they are due some respect for their views, which are shared by a portion of the American public. So, it is not an open-and-shut case that everyone believes waterboarding to be torture. Many in NPR's audience obviously believe it is, but others do not.
The main argument of my column was that NPR should describe waterboarding rather than use coded language to characterize it. Another alternative is to quote responsible officials who have described it as torture, for example President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Media critic Dan Kennedy, who writes Media Nation, took Shepard to task last week for "getting it so wrong."
Perhaps NPR can eschew the T-word and instead describe waterboarding as "an interrogation technique once considered so heinous by the United States that it hanged Japanese officers for doing it to Americans."
To which, he says, Shepard responded...
I'm not trying to say what is and is not torture, but is every abuse classified as torture now or are there degrees? When a police officer throws a suspect to the ground and handcuffs them, is that torture or simply abuse?
And to which he -- Kennedy -- responded today:
As John McCain and others have pointed out, the United States executed several Japanese military officers for waterboarding American prisoners of war after World War II. And as I wrote last week, if NPR really can't bring itself to use the T-word, perhaps it can describe waterboarding as "an interrogation technique once considered so heinous by the United States that it hanged Japanese officers for doing it to Americans."
So yes, if I were an editor at the Boston Globe, you're damn right I would refer to waterboarding as torture. That seems about as solid as referring to oil as a fossil fuel, or baseball as a sport. By eschewing the term "torture" to describe a practice that the entire international community regards as such, NPR is not being neutral. Rather, it is embracing a euphemism that places the network squarely on the side of the torturers and their enablers.
NPR should not use enhanced interrogation techniques on the English language.
On Midmorning, Shepard said she's not just NPR's omudsman, she is "the ombudsman for Public Radio," which seemed to be news to the people at MPR News I talked to.
So, is there an MPR policy preventing reporters and hosts from using torture instead of waterboarding? No.
FYI, Ms. Shepard will be on Talk of the Nation on Thursday at 1:40 p.m. (CT) to talk about the issue.
(Photo: Getty Images)(6 Comments)
If there's one person who would hate the way the condition of Walter Cronkite is being reported, it's Walter Cronkite.
To recap: Last Thursday it was reported Cronkite was "gravely ill."
Later in the day, his publicist declared the reports of Cronkite's near death exaggerated. "He has suffered no major health crisis. He is at home. He was recently ill, and he's home recuperating. He's not gravely ill."
This afternoon the family acknowledged the original story.
In order to dispel false rumors, Walter Cronkite's family wants it known that he has apparently suffered for some years with cerebrovascular disease and he is not expected to recuperate. He is resting comfortably at home with family, friends, and a wonderful medical team. We thank you for your prayers and good wishes."
It's been interesting to read comments from old-timers about Cronkite in the last week. "That was back when journalists just gave us the news," one said, a comment echoed by many others. They forget that it was Cronkite who basically said -- on a news broadcast -- that Vietnam was a mistake.
Cronkite's work also serves as a reminder that news doesn't have to be slick to be good.
The very tail end of President Obama's news conference today provided the best glimpse into the workings of the White House press corps.
Listen to the comment shouted at the end of the president's remarks. (Listen)
After Obama had bid everyone "adieu," an unidentified reporter whined "No questions about Iraq?" It seemed an odd complaint to a president, coming from someone responsible for asking the questions, one of which, by the way, included "how many cigarettes do you smoke a day?"
I wondered about that on Twitter, when Kevin Watterson, the Minnesota House Republican Caucus' communications boss, suggested coordination between Obama and the press corps over what questions would be asked.
Reporters typically don't coordinate their questions for the president before press conferences, so it seemed odd that Obama might have an idea what the question would be. Also, it was a departure from White House protocol by calling on The Huffington Post second, in between the AP and Reuters.
CBS Radio's Mark Knoller, a veteran White House correspondent, said over Twitter it was "very unusual that Obama called on Huffington Post second, appearing to know the issue the reporter would ask about."
Knoller says a news conference shouldn't "be choreographed," although presidents historically have had a "go-to" reporter to call on when questioning gets tough -- the kind of reporter who might ask about, for example, a new dog or the number of cigarettes he smokes a day.
Most of the questions asked today seemed to follow the issues that currently have our attention -- Iran and health care. It's not clear what question about Iraq the lonely reporter with the complaint would have asked had he been given the chance.
On that subject -- the news agenda -- a survey of what we're interested in (by way of the news media) speaks to our short attention spans.
Here's the graph for the last week, compiled by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism:
And the week before that:
And the one before that:
Iraq hasn't registered on the PEJ's news coverage index since the third week in February.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
But Keller said when he talked to Rodhe, he was told the decision to keep his kidnapping secret was "completely the right thing to do." According to Keller, Rodhe's captors were "absolutely obsessed" with his value as a commodity and were determined to keep him, suggesting that if the world knew of Rodhe's capture, it would have been more difficult for him to have escaped.
Curiously, Hockenberry never asked Keller about the balancing the ethics of keeping a news story quiet and whether similar kidnappings have been kept quiet out of similar fears of harm to the person kidnapped(2 Comments)
From America's Dairyland comes the kind of story that makes journalists rap their head on the cubicle walls.2 Comments)
Historical insight or long-lasting sour grapes?
Two ex-members of the New York Times say they had the tip on Watergate first. They say it came from former FBI chief L. Patrick Gray, the Times reports today.
If true, the revelation also means that the top two officials at the FBI were trying -- it would appear, desperately -- to get the media to follow the break-in story. W. Mark Felt, the associate director of the agency, has already been identified as "Deep Throat," the tipster who guided the Washington Post through the biggest story of a generation.(1 Comments)
It's usually interesting to see how others view us. Matt Frei, who hosts the BBC's World News America, has noticed that the (primarily) cable TV newsies are growing more "emotional" (in evaluating that term, remember that the English called World War II "the unpleasantness").
But we the American public are not:
The collapse of the economy, the outrage of unwarranted bonuses, Ponzi schemes and designer trash-cans have brought the pitchforks out of the cellar. We are finally getting a genuine bonfire of vanities.
And yet I am surprised how generally calm and collected the American public has behaved, despite the best efforts of some of my colleagues to tease out their fury.
Perhaps it is because they have just had an opportunity to express their feelings where it matters: at the ballot box.
Perhaps it is because they still believe that judicious government can fix things.
Or maybe it is because all the ranting and raging is being done on their behalf. On air.
While Bob is away, News Cut is on a pseudo vacation as well. But, that doesn't mean we're gonna let you News Cut readers go without a fix, so I thought I'd share some interesting reading with you. Here's a quick smattering of things you may have missed during your hectic day, both on Minnesota Public Radio and around the Internet:
That's all I have for now. Bob, hurry back, the News Cutterites are going to get restless!(1 Comments)
In the first hour of MPR's Midmorning, we're going to talk about how to handle tough times in a particular business -- ours. With the worsening economy, news organizations are cutting staffs. How is a commitment to a viewer, listener, or reader to be maintained? What ethical challenges do these times pose? Do you care?
I'll be live-blogging in the studio with Kerri Miller and we'll be joined on the program by Alicia Shepard, the ombudsman for National Public Radio and Clark Hoyt, Public editor for the New York Times.
I'll be reading your comments and insight during the broadcast.
You might also be interested in reading former NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin's latest blog post comparing public radio in Canada and the U.S.
9:02 a.m. - We're starting with Alicia in the first half hour. Kerri says she's been taking a lot of heat over the budget cuts at NPR. Apparently people have been suggesting NPR used the economy to get rid of shows and people it wanted to get rid of. Some have suggested a racial motive, which as least gets to the concern that a decades-old attempt to make newsrooms more diverse will be wiped out in this economy.
9:07 a.m. - Recommended reading: The future of journalism.
9:08 a.m. - Why didn't NPR use buyouts instead of layoffs. Because NPR was afraid they'd lose people they didn't want to lose, says Shepard. She says buyouts are a more humane way of eliminating people. "But I'm out of my pay grade in talking about those specifics."
9:10 a.m. - Where did the Joan Kroc money go? The St. Paul native gave millions of dollars to NPR (none to her hometown public radio operation, for the record). "The perception was that NPR is rolling in money and that's not true," she says. The Kroc money went into an endowment that was to generate $10 million a year. Here's Shepard's column on the cutbacks.
9:16 a,m. Shepard is defending NPR's acceptance of Homeland Security underwriting. She gives props to listeners for responding quickly when they hear something they don't like. She mentioned WalMart underwriting announcements.
9:20 a.m. - We're going to get to Gaza coverage in a minute. In the past, this has been a huge debate at NPR.
9:22 a.m. - Caller on "underwriting issue." Sounds like local underwriting on MPR... spots promoted clean coal. When membership renewal time came up, she was aggravated. "It was boosterism for clean coal, which I think is an oxymoron." She e-mailed in her complaint asking what the guidelines are. Got a response back she said was unsatisfactory; that corporate sponsorships were important to the budget. She has not renewed her membership and acknowledges she listens to the programming.
The underwriting messages, however, came from NPR, Kerri says. So what do listeners to about that. The impact of the caller not renewing is taken out on Minnesota, while the responsibility for the problem is with NPR. What's a listener to do?
9:26 a.m. - -- Kind of wondering where the future of journalism discussion went.
9:28 a.m. - I've been waiting to relay a reader comment on diversity, but they've gone back to the phones. Would like to get it on before Alicia is cut loose.
9:29 a.m. - Shepard says an ombudsman would never do any lobbying. Then the connection to NPR went down. Budget cuts.
9:30 a.m. - Clark Hoyt joins us regarding coverage in the Times of the Israeli bombing of Gaza. Gotta give Kerri credit here. Hoyt is answering her question, Kerri is talking off mic to the producer about what happened to Shepard, Hoyt completes his answer and Kerri smoothly goes to her followup question. She obviously was listening to Hoyt's answer while talking.
9:33 a.m. - Hoyt says "there's a great awareness" in the newsroom that people are skeptical of news organizations. "They (editors) are very concerned about presenting a true picture of what is happening."
9:34 a.m. - Shepard rejoins the discussion. I have assumed the role of potted plant.
9:35 a.m. - Shepard says NPR has created a Middle East page on its Web site in order to say to listeners, "look at the totality of our coverage" whenever there's an accusation of bias in an individual story from the Middle East. She says it's difficult in a 4-minute piece to provide all of the elements and context of a story.
9:37 a.m. - Should people who report the news also give their opinion? Hoyt says this came up in coverage of the meltdown. He was troubled by having reporters covering aspects of the bailout, and writing columns on the same pages about what should happen. "To me that poses an insoluble conflict."
This has been an issue for me, too. But in a different way. The columns do nothing more than make public an opinion that may be held by a reporter. Not publishing it doesn't eliminate the opnion, it just eliminates your knowledge of it. That's not saying the opinion influences the reporting, however. Quite often, just the opposite is true.
9:40 a.m. - Shepard says allegations of bias occupy most of her time. "There may be bias," Hoyt says, "but the only way you can judge that is only over a period of time." He notes a recent front-page article in the NYT on Bush's role in the housing problem. "I got lots of messages saying 'this is outrageous. There goes the Times... Bush bashing."
Here is the article. Hoyt says nobody apparently considered that "this was Part 16" of a series.
9:43 a.m. - The problem of live-blogging. My question on diversity now won't fit where the conversation is. Bummer.
9:44 a.m. - Reading comments and thinking that a valuable discussion would have is if people don't renew memberships to public radio stations, how that does anything but increase the likelihood the person -- who usually still listens to public radio -- will grow more dissatisfied because resources are further removed from news or programming because of declining budgets?
Methinks public radio should do more to give the public more options on how to influence programming without destroying it.
9:47 a.m. - Hoyt is talking about the story in the New York Times that -- to my analysis -- clearly led people to assume McCain was having an affair. Apparently there's a lawsuit filed over this so Hoyt can't talk about it. I've talked about it quite a bit.
9:53 a.m. - I popped in on the show to ask how people can influence a newsroom short of destroying the journalism therein. There must be a way short of "the nuclear option," as Kerri says. "People go immediately to maximum power," says Hoyt. "People go to angriest option right away." He blames the Internet. "It's not a proportionate kind of response, usually," he says.
Shepard says there's a powerlessness among listeners and readers. "At the end of the conversation, someone will say, 'thank you for listening.' People want to be heard," she says.
Let me point out here that I think this blog just served a valuable role in an otherwise broader conversation, and it came as a result of what you wrote. Newsroom blogs, it seems to me, are the avenue for a better relationship with the news consumer.
"Reporters can be very thin skinned and resistant to criticism. We need to thicken up the skin and engage with readers more directly," says Hoyt.
"Journalism is done with the greatest sense of integrity," says Shepard. "But mistakes will be made."
This concludes the program. I don't think we really ever got to the journalism aspect of things. -- the business of journalism, perhaps.(22 Comments)
I admit, I'm tired of the commercials where someone gives a family member a new Lexus, and the clattering group that remarks "He got it at Jxxxx."
We need a bit of a pick-me-up and we're counting on you. Tell us your Christmas story. Make it good. Heck, make it up if you want.
I'll start. It was the winter of 1980. I was living in a basement apartment in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, my first Christmas alone (my wife had run off with the town insurance agent, but that's another story for another day). We were in the grip of a typical western Massachusetts cold snap. The morning air temperature that Christmas morning was -23. I didn't have a garage.
A car in a garage has a chance of starting at -23; a car high on a hill, exposed to the wind rolling in from New York when it's -23 has no chance. I was to travel back to the family estate for Christmas.
Click. Click. Click. You know the sound. And Christmas was over. I went back inside to spend the day with the cat, and call the family to tell them I couldn't make it.
A few hours later, I looked out the window to see the news director at the radio station I worked at (who, as I recall, also volunteered to take my shift that day so I could go back home) -- and his father -- unraveling some jumper cables. A few minutes later, the car was running, and I was on my way.
Update Here's another one that just came my way from back East. On my personal blog, I wrote a story about my Springsteenian home town last spring. Specifically, I wrote that my mother mentioned to a "checkout lady" at a grocery store (whom she did not know) that she was in need of someone to mow her lawn. Later that day, the phone rang. It was the "checkout lady" with a list of recommendations. Cool enough. This morning, my mother sent me an e-mail. There was a knock at the door yesterday. It was the "checkout lady" with "a beautiful basket filled with candy, coffee and cookies."
When it comes right down to it, you don't need diamonds and fancy cars to make a Christmas memory.
Your turn.(5 Comments)
When it comes to imprisoned journalists, bloggers and online journalists have come of age.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is out with a report showing "45 percent of all media workers jailed worldwide are bloggers, Web-based reporters, or online editors."
One-hundred-twenty-five journalists are currently imprisoned around the world. China leads the pack in jailed journalists.
"Online journalism has changed the media landscape and the way we communicate with each other," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon on the group's Web site. "But the power and influence of this new generation of online journalists has captured the attention of repressive governments around the world, and they have accelerated their counterattack."(1 Comments)
The situation in Mumbai is now over and we will soon forget about it and return our attention to the U.S. Senate recount in Minnesota and the special on doodads at the local Buy More. But for fans of journalism and social networking, not before we take stock of what we've learned about the changing communication landscape.
As documented here and several thousand other places since Wednesday, Mumbai was a turning point in media -- and in particular, Twitter -- the same way the 60 Minutes story on George Bush's military service was the turning point for blogs. We're not going back.
The tendency is to view this in the context of us vs. them; that is, does Twitter now make mainstream media even more irrelevant? No. Some media choose to be irrelevant all by themselves (The Star Tribune op-ed pages, for example, have yet to carry the word Mumbai and there's been three editions since the terror began. At the same time, it found room today for a warning that the Internet is now in the hands of Democrats, as if somebody actually owns the Internet) .
Much of the material that people consumed from Mumbai via Twitter was based on NDTV or CNN-IBN reports, and then repeated on Twitter. But there was actual reporting being done -- better -- via social networking by people such as Vinukumar Ranganathan, a business development manager who is the person known as vinu on Flickr and Twitter. At the height of the conflict on Thanksgiving, he was the only source for eyewitness information because it was happening next door to where he lives. Blogs, such as Arun Shanbhag's, filled in the blanks admirably and expertly.
"Twitter isn't the place for solid facts yet - the situation is way too disorganized. But it's where the news is breaking," Michael Arrington wrote on Tech Crunch. But he was wrong; it was the source for solid facts.
On her blog, Teaching Online Journalism, Mindy McAdams writes of 10 things she's learned from the Mumbai coverage. " Breaking news -- especially disasters and attacks in the middle of a city -- will be covered first by non-journalists," she said. "The non-journalists will continue providing new information even after the trained journalists arrive on the scene."
Closer to the point, what we saw here was not the suspected replacement of one medium with another, but the merging of the two (or three). The news organizations which best understood that have figured out how to create content in the social networking space rather than using social networking only to repackage it into traditional TV, or radio, or even Web sites. The best social networkers have figured out how to merge mainstream media into their space. Those who found themselves out of the game, were the ones who didn't. Their time is running out.
To be sure, the signal-to-noise ratio on platforms like Twitter can be unbearable for any intelligent adult. In its technical infancy, it doesn't yet provide an easy way to filter irrelevant material and, as with most new media, small groups of early adopters/social networking experts are slowing its evolution by trying to dictate the "right" way to use it. It is, afterall, social networking and one has to define one's own social comfort zone. And it's true that there's danger in overestimating the value of social networking during breaking news; it's still a good method of repeating bad information.
On the other hand, if you can turn off the noise, the opportunities for being better informed are endless. The access to information from around the world has never been better, a follower on Twitter said to me yesterday. She was somewhat frustrated that Americans aren't taking advantage of it. The last three days have suggested the situation is changing and the world isn't going to revolve around those who are willing to be left behind.
"I have always been a shutterbug. Would love to be a photo journalist someday!" Vinu Ranganathan told Wired.com.
He already is. And so are you.
This picture that I posted here on Wednesday is the poster for the attacks in Mumbai.
NPR commentator Sandip Roy says the image has haunted him since the violence started on Wednesday. "His message was loud and clear. He said to India, 'pay attention to me,'" Roy said.
What happened to this one? I don't know, of course, but I think I found another picture of him today in the Boston Globe's excellent slideshow.
And another one a few seconds later.
I'm pretty sure it's the same guy. The picture was taken by Mumbai Mirror photo editor Sebastian D'souza, and they're a good reminder that news photographers are either brave, foolish or a little of both
The Independent (UK) tracked him down:
But what angered Mr D'Souza almost as much were the masses of armed police hiding in the area who simply refused to shoot back. "There were armed policemen hiding all around the station but none of them did anything," he said. "At one point, I ran up to them and told them to use their weapons. I said, 'Shoot them, they're sitting ducks!' but they just didn't shoot back."
As the gunmen fired at policemen taking cover across the street, Mr D'Souza realised a train was pulling into the station unaware of the horror within. "I couldn't believe it. We rushed to the platform and told everyone to head towards the back of the station. Those who were older and couldn't run, we told them to stay put."
The militants returned inside the station and headed towards a rear exit towards Chowpatty Beach. Mr D'Souza added: "I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station but they refused to follow them. What is the point if having policemen with guns if they refuse to use them? I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera."
Other notes from Mumbai: Sen. Satveer Chaudhary got plenty of coverage in India's Economic Times with a statement that the attacks will hurt the U.S. economy........ AFP quotes a Minnesota backpacker who was on the scene..... Delta/Northwest resuming flights to Mumbai on Saturday.
Take a moment and look at these two ballots.
Let's compare. Does everyone have their copy of 204C.22 ready?
Our first stop will be Subdivision 1: Ballot valid if intent determinable.
In both cases, the only marks in the ovals are next to a bona fide candidate. I will vouch for the voter's intent with the "X" mark, he/she used it consistently across the full ballot (see Subdivision 10, Different marks).
(We're going to operate under the assumption that it doesn't matter what was in the write-in field, despite what David Icke might say.)
The problem facing the state's Canvassing Board might be reconciling Subdivision 4:
Name written in proper place.
If a voter has written the name of an individual in the proper place on a general or special election ballot a vote shall be counted for that individual whether or not the voter makes a mark (X) in the square opposite the blank.
I've polled a few people around the office and consensus seems to be that this is an overvote, meaning the ballot should be discarded.
Aside: I suppose the Franken camp could mount a challenge by saying that "Lizard People" is not the name of an individual, though I doubt "voter intends to be funny" is one of the criteria the Canvassing Board will assess. Comedy Central's Indecision 2008 crew, by the way, wonders alike.
Several questions arise: Should the county have accepted the Franken vote? Does the voter consider Al Franken equivalent to the Lizard People? Is Lizard People a collective, or just one person like Cat Power? (Hat tip to the Minnesota Independent, which points out who put Lizard People on the map.)
What this also means — assuming the above holds true &mdash is that a lot of the people who played election judge have an unfounded preference for the Franken ballot, legally speaking.
So, there you have it. A pretty straightforward look at some challenged ballots through the prism of the law. Not so hard, was it?
We're all having a great time playing election judge with the challenged ballots coming out of the various counties. However, while it is amusing, the ballots raise a lot of interesting questions.
First, it should be noted that these are just a small fraction of the ballots being recounted and challenged. Looking at the data from yesterday, 452,249 were recounted. Of those, 221 were challenged, which equated to about
0.000489 0.0487 percent (thanks MNLatteLiberal for the correction). See where I'm going with this? These ballots are certainly not representative of everyone that voted. For the most part, people voted correctly. Whether it be from years of standardized testing or simply reading the instructions at the top of the ballot (click image to see instructions).
However, if you assume that there will be 200+ challenges a day similar to these, that starts to add up to a lot of incorrectly filled out ballots. So should there be more explicit instructions, not only on the ballot but at the polling places? Not everyone is familiar with scantron-style bubble tests.
What we've also been wondering is if these people knew that they could ask for another ballot if they feel they messed it up. The prevalence of arrows, eraser marks and lines show that people made mistakes. Is it embarassing to ask for another ballot? None of these questions can be answered without knowing exactly what the person was thinking about when they voted, whether it be lizard people or just sheer confusion.
What was the scene at your polling place? Was it far too busy, chaotic or confusing to ask for another ballot if you made a mistake or ask for instructions if you were confused at how to fill out the ballots? Were there not enough poll workers to help out?
The other topic these ballots obviously bring up is the ballot system in general. Does this make the case for an all-electronic voting system in Minnesota? I'll let you weigh in on that.
Update: More ballot pictures below.
More We'll probably all tire of this soon, but here's what election officials will be contending with for the next couple of weeks. This picture of an improperly marked ballot comes from photographer Bill Alkofer who was in Shorewood this morning.
It's clearly closer to the Al Franken circle, where the mark would have been properly placed assuming the voter's intention was to vote for Franken. I suppose a case could be made that it's more likely the mark of a voter trying to restart a stalled pen than a sign of intent.
But, from the Minnesota statute on voter intent:
Subd. 6.Mark out of place.
If a mark (X) is made out of its proper place, but so near a name or space as to indicate clearly the voter's intent, the vote shall be counted.
On the whole, the statute gives elections officials pretty generous discretion in determining what counts or not.
From MPR's Curtis Gilbert: The Coleman campaign challenged this ballot in Anoka county, arguing the voter drew an arrow pointing at Coleman's name after filling in the bubble next to Franken's name.
Now we've got the spirit. Here's what the statutes say relevant to our next ballot.
Subd. 13.Identifying ballot.
If a ballot is marked by distinguishing characteristics in a manner making it evident that the voter intended to identify the ballot, the entire ballot is defective.
From Gilbert again: The Franken campaign challenged this Anoka County ballot, arguing that the thumb print on it constitutes a distinguishing mark. If a voter signs a ballot or writes his Social Security Number on it, that ballot is invalid under Minnesota state law. The State Canvassing Board will need to determine whether this thumb print has the same effect.
And then there's this one.
From MPR's Tom Robertson: Here is a pic of a ballot that was challenged in Beltrami County. The voter cast their ballot for Al Franken, but also put "Lizard People" as a write-in candidate, not only in the U.S. Senate race, but for several others. The county auditor/treasurer ruled that the vote should not be counted because it's considered an overvote. Representatives for Franken challenged that decision.
Posted at 9:34 AM on November 19, 2008
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: News
File this as another of Mr. Collins' beloved Minnesota connection stories.
Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, who was just declared the winner of Alaska's U.S. Senate race over Ted Stevens, is the nephew of Iron Range resident Joe Begich (reg. required).
Mark's father, U.S. Rep. Nick Begich has been presumed dead since 1972, when his plane from Anchorage to Juneau disappeared. A month-long search turned up neither remains nor wreckage.
It's a story that writes itself:
Joe Begich said that his brother, who was Alaska's sole representative in the U.S. House and running for re-election in 1972, had planned to run for the U.S. Senate against Stevens. But it would be current Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich who would fight that political battle in what was a truly historic and bizarre campaign.
(h/t: Aaron Brown)
Another evening round-up of news and bits that might have fallen through the cracks or that you might have missed during your busy 9-to-5 day:
• Ouch. Jerry Yang, CEO of Yahoo, announces he's leaving the company and its stock soars as much as 13 percent, putting more than $2 billion back onto its market valuation. (Of course, YHOO has lost half its value since Yang and Co. rebuffed Microsoft's merger overtures.)
• Speaking of billion-dollar men, Mark Cuban, maverick Mavericks owner, was charged with insider trading by the SEC for allegedly dumping his shares of Mamma.com using non-public information about an impending stock offering. Cuban seems to insinuate that the case is little more than a high-profile hit job. The fact that he's bankrolling a bailout watchdog site BailoutSleuth.com is unrelated, I'm sure.
• Somali pirates have hijacked seven ships in the last 12 days, including the 1,080-foot Saudi supertanker Sirius Star. Just what does a pirate do with a booty of $100 million in crude oil? Also, note the pirates' poor timing. A few months ago they would've had $200 million on their hands.
• Something I learned today: Cushing, Oklahoma, population 8,371, holds between 5 and 10 percent of the United States' crude oil supply.
• Countdown to The Recount: It starts tomorrow. The magic number is 215. How long will it go on?
When Honda announced it was hiring 900 employees, 33,000 people applied.
• On the other hand, a sure sign that we're in trouble: "big-time" layoffs at NASCAR.
• Google is hosting millions of photos from the LIFE archives going all the way back to the 1860s. Lots of fascinating photos of the evolution of human conflict from the Civil War, to World War I, etc.4 Comments)
Hey there News Cut readers, online editor Steve Mullis here. As my colleague Than pointed out already, our fearless News Cut leader, Bob Collins, is on vacation. He gave us the keys to the car this week and we promised not to crash it. I'm going to waffle between the useful, newsy stuff and the not so newsy but amusing.
So, let's get right down to brass tacks.