Monday, April 30, 2007

A Virginia Tech archive

Learned about this earlier today...what an excellent resource this should be from a variety of academic approaches.

Falling prey to the hype

Confession -- I watched/listened to/paid more attention to the 2007 NFL Draft than I should have and ever imagined I would. I fell victim to the hype about where this player and that player would end up...whether this team or that team make a deal...and why certain players were (or were not) drafted by certain team.

And for the most part what a waste of time all of this was.

The Cho video...from a polling perspective

NBC did the right thing...is the (sort of) conclusion. But NBC's president is still upset.

The urge to merge...

...apparently is going to be a frustrating experience. Why analysts think one merger deal will not happen.

The will to go the extra mile

One overseas journalist says American media would do a lot better if it were willing to go the extra mile. Read his thoughts here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bill Moyers special

Yes, a few days late in posting about the Bill Moyers/PBS special about the Iraq War, the U.S. media and the Bush administration.

I was struck by the number of journalists who seemed almost amazed at how poorly the industry performed in the lead-up to the war. Of course, hindsight and all, to be openly critical of the administration and what it should have done (or the media and the questions they should have asked). The bottom line is that few reporters either willingly or thoroughly chose to dive deeper into the somewhat complicated issues pertaining to whether the U.S. should have gone to war and the justifications for going.

There are important lessons here that journalism educators can use in their classrooms. They are, in no particular order,
1. always question what the government is claiming;
2. check, double check and triple check;
3. don't allow public sentiment to influence news coverage;
4. and the need for solid sources.

Here is the transcript of the program.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Taking my kid to work...today!

For the first time I'm taking advantage of the "take your child to work" program. I'm not sure if others feel the same as I, but there is something rather refreshing about having your child at work. (Of course, in a journalism class when you are attempting to talk about real world events...well, sometimes your students and you have to edit for content!!)

My 8-year-old and I have gotten through half the day, and my students are thrilled to have him around. So am I. Kind of a bummer that he has to go back to his school tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The media and war

Very worthwhile read in today's Washington Post previewing the much-anticipated Bill Moyers report that airs tonight on PBS. The Post story leaves little doubt that journalists were involved in building the case for a war in Iraq...and that some of them were uncomfortable talking about it with Moyers.

Media bias...a possible test case

The charges are everywhere -- the media are biased. The media are liberal. The media are out to get the president. Well, I think there is a test case that is taking place right now in the news.

Yesterday two young, articulate and powerful voices went to Capitol Hill and offered sharp criticism of the way they and their loved ones were treated by the U.S. military. Kevin Tillman, who lost a brother -- the former NFL player Pat Tillman -- to friendly fire in Afghanistan; and Jessica Lynch, portrayed a one-time as a female Rambo after being injured in Iraq, each detailed how the U.S. military and the Bush administration likely twisted the details of these cases for political ends.

If media bias exists, as the critics charge, then the Tillman and Lynch stories would appear to be perfect opportunities for the "liberal" media to tear into the administration. If the "liberal" media are so determined, as the critics charge, to advance their own agenda about the military's presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, then what better method to do that than through the voices of credible sources? If the liberal media are in the pockets of the Democrats, as we so often hear, then why not use the Tillman and Lynch stories as linkage to teh Democrats call to set a timetable for the removal of U.S. troops from those aforementioned countries?

If you are a critical news consumer, keep your eye on this debate over the next few weeks and see in what direction it starts to go.

Less violence on TV

The FCC certainly hopes so. Link here to read what it plans to do.

Local Virginia journalists recount their Virginia Tech coverage

A worthwhile read.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Cho videos -- should they have been shown

I asked my two Monday classes to react to the request made by the father of a Virginia Tech shooting victim that the television networks significantly restrict the number of times they show the video of Cho Seung-Hui. I was surprised by the number of people who agreed with him.

Those who did agree made two very germane points -- the families have been through enough grief already, showing the video only adds to their sense of loss; and Cho was a coward who used the media to articulate a message that he was too weak to voice himself.

I asked all my students if they would at least agree that the video of Cho had to be shown at some point because it was part of the story. It was, for a short time, the best evidence, for lack of a better word, that we had of him, his motives, and his rage. Most students said that for a short time -- maybe one day -- they could understand. But perhaps no more than two or three saw any need for the video to be replayed over several days.

One student held out, and she insisted that the networks could have summarized the tapes but not aired them at all. In her opinion, the media had to know that putting Cho on the air would give a voice and a face to a young man who had caused such harm. In her mind, that voice and that face did not deserve the attention the media gave.

I'm curious if any other educators have engaged in similar discussions over the past few days.

Couric off the anchor desk?

It could happen...and perhaps sooner than you think.

The Beijing Olympics and changes to Chinese media and society

I took part in a very interesting discussion during the final day of the Broadcast Education Association national convention concerning the 2008 Beijing Olympics and what changes might come to Chinese media and society as a result of the Games.

The panel included Dr. Anne Cooper-Chen (Ohio University) and Gary Swanson (Northwestern). Their first-hand experiences from working and living in China greatly enhanced the discussion, which focused on a variety of issues.

Gary spoke of the many interesting changes already taking place within Chinese society and how the Chinese government is working (struggling?) to deal with them. These changes include increasing Internet usage, international cable/satellite programming, and contacts with the West, among others.

Anne reviewed some of the recent news reports in the domestic Chinese media that have concerned the Olympics. Without question, there is a real effort underway to use the Games as a tool to increase nationalism and to show off the virtues of Chinese society.

I have never visited China, so I tried to tailor my discussion toward some historical events and some critical questions that might develop over the next year. Among the questions I proposed were these:

1. How will the Chinese respond to any so-called provocative action by or inside Taiwan...or inside China, during the Games?

2. What will happen to journalists who broach topics that the Chinese government has stated are not to be talked about in Chinese society? These issues include Falun Gong and human rights abuses, among others?

The panel (and the audience, which posed some very good questions) agreed that there were no simple answers or solutions to anything taking place right now in China. But we also agreed that the upcoming Games were both a great opportunity and challenge for the country, its government and its people to determine the kind of society that China will have into the future.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Incorporating the week's events into our classrooms

This has been a terribly violent week. The tragedy that unfolded on Monday at Virginia Tech University was repeated -- though on a much smaller scale -- at the end of the week in Houston. In the middle there were threats made at at least one other university, and a shooting in downtown Pittsburgh at midweek led to the temporary and partial lockdown of my campus, Point Park University.

These events, sad as they are, should be used by journalism educators to aid our students in understanding their roles, responsibilities, and, yes, their fears as they report such stories. A few ideas are presented here, though the reader should be aware that they are not fully developed and in no way reflect an exhaustive list of ideas. Instead, consider what follows to be an opportunity to begin a classroom discussion.

1. It is perhaps never more valuable or critical than in times of crisis for journalists to be accurate. The public is in a heightened state of uncertainty and tension; reporters must do everything they can to ensure that facts -- not emotions -- are disseminated.

2. Journalists should expect to receive multiple and potentially contradictory accounts from people who somehow were involved in the event. The reporters' duty is to ensure that as best as possible that conflicting information does not make it into news accounts.

3. R-e-s-p-e-c-t people. Resist the urge to shove a microphone into someone's face so soon after a person has been affected by a tragic event. As I write this, I can vividly remember the inaccurate "12 alive" stories that spread, as rescuers reached, but too late to safe, the miners in West Virginia. The families of these hard-working people had gone through three days of torture, likely knowing but not wanting to accept that their loved ones were gone. Then for a short time they received a miracle. And just as quickly it was taken away. The raw emotions that these people shared with the world cannot be forgotten. But I wonder if some of the story would have been told better if the emotion were not so much a part of the multiple news accounts.

4. Don't speculate. Tell the viewers what you know, and be honest enough with them to admit that there are many things that you don't. That lack of understanding will be accepted; speculating about what might be happening, what might have happened, or what might happen down will not be.

Your thoughts about what else ought to go in this list are welcomed.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Public backlash prompts action by networks

They've decided to scale back the number of times they show the Cho video. Find out more here. Meanwhile, NBC is facing criticism from its competitors for something else it did with the video. You can read more about that through this link.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Should NBC have aired the Cho video?

At least one significant news manager says no. Read more details here.

Citizens are a real part of the news process...

...based on a decision made by a major midwestern newspaper. Which one? And what has the newspaper chosen to do? Click here for the answer.

Blacksburg...and Las Vegas

My colleagues and I who are attending this week's Broadcast Education Association annual convention in Las Vegas are about 2,500 miles away from Blacksburg, VA. But each of us, in a real way, are a lot closer than that.

Those of us who taught classes this week before leaving for this convention recognized the need to turn the horrible events on the Virginia Tech campus into a teaching tool for our students. Whether the approach was taken from an ethical, a writing or a reporting standpoint, there was something that could be said. We all hope it was something valuable.

At least two panel sessions that I am aware of are taking the events from this week and using them in the discussions over the next few days. The panelists who are doing this should be commended for revising their planned presentations so as to ensure that critical ideas could be shared with other educators and the students who are in attendance.

A great conversation at another academic conference

I'm on the road again...this time at the annual Broadcast Education Association national convention in Las Vegas. I just came out of a very interesting session, in which four faculty members from four different schools discussed how they teach and have their students learn about live shots.

The panelists represented large, well-known institutions (Arizona State) to medium-sized schools (San Francisco State) to smaller-sized programs (Southern Methodist and Pacific Lutheran). A few things in particular strcuk me during the presentations...

1. Students learn best by the mistakes they make. Those errors can be how they hold their hands to how much information they offer to not looking into the camera.

2. Getting students out of the newsroom to practice their live reporting is something that cannot be emphasized enough. The classroom, television studio or other familiar place ensures that students can feel so comfortable that they do not incorporate the outside surroundings -- and the confusion and assistance such locations provide.

3. Frustration is inevitable. Let's simply call summarize this by saying "hey, this isn't as easy as I thought it was."

4. Allowing students to critique each other is a valuable learning opportunity for everyone.

Indeed, this was a great conversation, and I believe that all of us inside the conference room learned many valuable things from our colleagues.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

72 hours later...where are we?

A few thoughts, now that approximately 72 hours have passed since the terrible news first broke about the shootings at Virginia Tech...

1. Media language over the past few days pertaining to Cho Seung-Hui has become more virulent. Although I cannot recall the reporters or the network, I do remember hearing words such as "crazy" and "sick." I find it a bit uncomfortable hearing media making such statements. Their sources, of course, are another matter, but that is not the point I am attempting to make. Even in the most dangerous times, journalists are expected to retain a certain professionalism and objectivity. Placing such labels on Cho are unacceptable, as I see it.

2. The package sent to NBC News (apparently by Cho) would suggest that there was far more in the way of planning than might have first been thought. Over the next few days, it might become clearer why Cho targeted the specific academic building he did; but nevertheless it appears safe to presume that his selection was not accidental. The cold, angry and almost calculating images of Cho on the videotape would suggest a young man who was seeking to harm as many people as he could. But I am still left to wonder if there wasn't at least one person who was specifically targeted by him.

3. As is typical as events unfold, there have been portions of this story that have later changed. Consider for example on Monday that there was uncertainty as to whether there was more than one shooter. Then on Wednesday, the scenario changed about when the guns were purchased. This is not a major criticism of the media, and in some ways it is more a reflection of the 24-hour, multiple sources of media world in which we all live. The instantaneous release of information will lead to mistakes. Investigators, too, are going on incomplete evidence (or at least the best available to them) at the moment they detail to the media what they know.

4. I have been impressed by at least two students who work for the campus newspaper, The Collegiate Times. The female editor-in-chief and a male reporter, whose names I forget, represented themselves, their university, and the journalism profession quite well in the national interviews they have done.

NBC News was contacted by the Virginia Tech killer

Read the report from MSNBC.com. It appears that the killer sent his package of material to the network after killing two people in a Virginia Tech dorm but before he attacked many more.

NBC News was contacted by the Virginia Tech killer

Read the report from MSNBC.com. It appears that the killer sent his package of material to the network after killing two people in a Virginia Tech dorm but before he attacked many more.

People watched...but what did they learn?

Interesting article from the Chicago Tribune about day one of the Virginia Tech story. And a somewhat more critical one about what these many millions of viewers are learning, and how journalists are covering this story.

The two-hour delay

There has been much discussion in recent days about why Virginia Tech police and other officials waited almost two hours before notifying the campus community about the shooting of a female student and a resident advisor. There is a potential...and I think legitimate...answer in this story.

Peace in the time of tragedy

I encourage you to access the homepage of the Virginia Tech student newspaper, The Collegiate Times. (Do note that the paper's server is down and the paper is being hosted temporarily by another server.) I have seen television interviews with two student journalists in the past couple days, and they have represented themselves, their institution and most importantly the news coming from their campus quite well. I think the photo taken at last night's public service is very moving.

Mistaken identity

An interesting article about a case of mistaken identity in the immediate aftermath of the campus shootings at Virginia Tech.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Networks abandon the public; entertainment is more important than news from Virginia Tech

Should the television networks have interrupted their daily fare of prime-time programming on Monday night to provide continuous coverage of the Virginia Tech story? This Washington Post story suggests the media should have.

If you ask me to answer the question I mentioned above, I would say "yes, they should have." This was a tragedy that affected far more than just about three dozen families. Somehow, the entire nation was touched (or should have been) by what had happened in Blacksburg, Va. This massacre was the largest in U.S. history. Technology and ease of travel ensures that reporters would have no problem getting to the campus (consider this, it is only a 6-hour drive for those of us who live in Pittsburgh) and getting a signal allowing them to broadcast. Beyond that, the local stations were doing as credible a job as they could in the early hours of this tragedy, and the networks were picking up their feeds and delivering them to a national audience.

Was it simply a decision of money? Were the networks abandoning their responsibility of informing the public of relevant, on-going events? My answer is yes.

The networks are planning one-hour specials tonight, but these will be packaged programs. They are better than nothing, please do not misunderstand what I am saying. But last night was when the country wanted to know what was happening and why. By running entertainment-based programs, the over-the-air networks largely were telling their audiences that they didn't care. The public is the loser in such an environment.

Finding Virgina Tech students to interview

If you want to find students...you go where students are. Many journalists used online, socail networking sites to do just that.

Cellphone Journalists and Virginia Tech

Recently I provided to this blog a link to an article I wrote for Media Ethics Magazine that examined the increasing role that everyday people taking in the dissemination of news. Why? Because they have an everyday item -- cellphones, with video capabilities -- that allows them to offer news networks with first-hand accounts of developing stories.

This cellphone journalist phenomenon was displayed again yesterday, when a student at Virginia Tech turned on his cellphone and recorded the horrifying sounds of gunshot after gunshot that would lead to the deaths of more than 30 people. Here is a report in today's Washington Post that acknowledges how compelling that video was.

More Virginia Tech

Additional details about the killer, his name and other disturbing facts have been uncovered by ABC News. You can access those details here.

Virginia Tech, day 2

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has done a great job this morning localizing the Virginia Tech tragedy. Among the reports is one about a local young lady who was among the injured, and because of the proximity of Pittsburgh to Blacksburg (about 6 hours by car) the paper was able to get one of its reporters there to cover one of the many vigils that took place on the campus last evening. Readers of the PG also will learn that Virginia Tech is among the most popular college choices for local students.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech...part 2

In the absence of fact...comes rumor.

The local and national media appear to be dealing with at least two versions of events -- one suggests a lone gunman killed more than two dozen people, while another suggests that there were two gunmen. It is critical that this confusion be cleared up.

Virginia Tech...why?

As the details unfold throughout the days and weeks to come, we might learn more about the apparent lone gunman who has killed more than two dozen people at Virginia Tech University. But for now we are in the always fluctuating period of information gathering and dissemination.

It is in periods such as these that the media are looked to for citical and accurate information about what is happening. We expect the media to not dive into rumor, speculation and over-dramatization. Let's hope they do.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Imus -- fired

The news that broke tonight reporting the firing of Don Imus does not come as a surprise. As is often the case, when a personality appears to be losing something in particular then it is time for him to go.

In my opinion, Imus was canned not because CBS executives had a change of heart and suddenly believed dismissal was the right thing. Instead I think the cause was the rapidly depleting sponsors. The loss of them ensured that CBS was likely to lose substantial advertising income if he had kept the controversial radio talk show host. That was a line that CBS executives could not cross.

Imus -- divided opinions in my classrooms

I've spent at least some time in my classes this week discussing the suspension of radio talkshow host Don Imus and about the comments he made about the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

In very rough percentage terms, about 60% of the students thought some kind of sanction was appropriate. Perhaps 10% were in favor of Imus being fired outright. Finally, close to 30% of my students believed that no penalty should have been issued at all.

The students' rationale went like this: Those who favored suspension thought that the nature of the words themselves, regardless of the intent, justified the penalty. Those who endorsed firing Imus felt that his pattern of quetionable comments about African-Americans showed that indeed this time he had gone too far. Furthermore, they argued, the image he was projecting -- vis-a-vis his employers -- was not appropriate. Those who sought no penalty believed that free speech was free speech, and that the public humiliation that Imus was currently experiencing was a demonstration that justice, so to speak, was being done.

I'm curious if other educators have heard the same kinds of discussions in their classrooms.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A very interesting discussion

I presented a research paper this afternoon at the American Culture Association/Pop Culture Association national convention in Boston. The topics and ensuing conversation was very interesting.

One of the presenters, Johnny Smith, who is a first-year doctoral student at Purdue University, examined the important players and events associated with black athletes throughout the 1950s and 1960s becoming more vocal in their disgust about the ill-treatment of blacks. A second presenter, Dr. Jeff Evans from the University of Maine reviewed the circumstances that led to the famous Black Power salute delivered by Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. My presentation focused on the historical question of who (or what) was an amateur athlete.

Owing to this being the final day of the convention (and with Easter being tomorrow and Passover continuing), we did not have a large audience. However, we did have an engaging one. Each offered questions and relevant points.

In short, it was an informative and engaging afternoon. As a researcher and educator, that is about all you can ask for.

The propaganda associated with hostage-taking/captivity

Two remarkably different stories are unfolding now that the 14 British military men and 1 woman have safely returned home. Anyone who follows the news on a regular basis likely remembers seeing the pictures of the hostages/captives while they were in Iran. Yes, video or still pictures can be deceiving, but the men and woman appeared to be in good spirits -- I saw video this morning that had them playing chess.

Now that they are home, the story about their time in Iran is changing. The Brits are saying they often were blindfolded, kept isolated from their comrades, and subjected to various forms of threats. Those threats, at least one person has said, it was led them to admit they had indeed strayed into Iranian waters from where they were picked up.

Iran has dismissed the story now being told as propaganda. The British government also used the same term to describe what Iran was doing by parading the men and woman on international television, not to mention providing substantial coverage to their (supposed?) confessions.

Who is telling the truth? I encourage people, as they form their answers, to coonsider viewing and reading news reports from various parts of the world. I say this not in any attempt to convince people how they should form their opinions, but instead to make them realize that a complex story is being told. The amount of freedom enjoyed by the media in any particular country will influence how a story is reported. So, too, will the perceived needs and desires of the targeted audience.

A small-scale but practical example of good community relations

If you are a regular to this blog, you are aware of my weekend trip to Boston and the ACA/PCA national conference. I want to do something I don't often do on this blog (though I've been encouraged by some people to actually do more of this) and provide a personal anecdote to highlight something.

My wife and I were trying to find a way to get an Easter Bunny gift to our sons. Of course, being on the road meant having to make sure the EB could get it to our hotel...leave it at the reception desk...and have all of this ready by the big day. (Hey, come on, the EB is a busy guy...girl...thing???...making a side trip to a hotel is tough on his...her...its schedule.)

Well, lucky for us...right next door to our hotel is a chocolate candy store, the Phillips Candy House. And wouldn't you know it that when my wife made an unplanned trip to that shop on Thursday night...she learned that the EB was going to be there on Friday morning. And even more amazingly, the EB knew our kids were on vacation and knew they'd want their baskets of goodies. (Side note...I've not taken anything out of those baskets....yet. I promise.)

One of the women who works at Phillips made sure all the arrangements were in place. On Friday morning, we walked in (yes, the boys knew why we were walking into a chocolate candy store at 8:30 in the morning), took a look around...and a couple of minutes later, here comes EB. Smiles and laughter all around. The unsuspecting customers smiled right along with us.

So, what's the point? Just a demonstration of how community relations can work to your advantage. Chances are pretty good the next time our family needs to send chocolate to someone, we're going to remember the kindness and friendliness that was offered to us.

A lesson that all college students majoring in public relations should consider. Not to mention everyone who values being nice to someone...just because it's right to be nice.

A cultural smorgasbord

As I've mentioned in my most recent postings, I am in Boston for a few days attending the annual American Culture Association/Pop Culture Association national convention. This is my first experience with this organization (I've attended numerous other academic conventions through different organizations). This convention is different in a refreshing way from others I have attended.

Here, one will find academicians and others interested in a variety of what I'll call non-traditional academic fields (i.e. fiction, regional histories, and -- perhaps my favorite -- graveyards and cemeteries). No, I've not had the chance to experience any of these sessions, but the thought that academic research does not have to be limited to traditional communications disciplines is a good one. Next year, this group heads to San Francisco. It might be worth the trip.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Dice-K, part 2

Yesterday I noted in a posting that The Boston Globe did not go overboard in its coverage of Daisuke Matsuzaka, better known as Dice-K, who is the newest Japanese sensation to enter Major League Baseball.

Well, today was another story. Both the Globe and the Boston Herald had the EXACT SAME HEADLINE to today's paper -- Dice- K K K K K K K K K K. (For those who don't follow baseball, a K represents a strikeout, and, yes, Dice-K had 10 of them in his major league debut.

A short time later, my family and I went to Fenway Park and stopped by the souvenir shop across the street. There I noticed that some kind of bracelet, in the colors of a baseball (it looked like a leather-type material). There were bins containing approximately six current Red Sox. Take a guess which one was completely sold out? You got it, Matsuzaka's.

The newspaper headlines had me laughing. Amazing that two competitive newspapers -- filled with long-time news professionals -- thought up the exact same headline to mark the debut of a likely baseball superstar.

And, yes, if you were wondering, I picked up a copy of the Globe. My wife told me a second or two later that she wanted to make sure I knew not to throw out the front page. "We should keep it as a souvenir of our trip here," she said. "Hey. I'm keeping the whole paper," I told her.

Yes, we, too, are into this Dice-K mania. Finally if you want to buy a Matsuzaka t-shirt at that aforementioned souvenir shop...better fork out $25 to do it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The media derailed John McCain's presidential bid?

Not exactly...but one news analyst says the media were more direct about McCain's recent visit to Baghdad than the presidential candidate was.

FOX...CNN...or MSNBC

Which one do you think devoted more time to the (non-)story of Anna Nicole Smith's death. This report has the answer, and it might surprise you.

Overkill in Boston

I arrived in Boston late this morning and was instantly met by Dice-K Mania. For the non-baseball fan, Dice-K is the nickname of the overwhelmingly talented newest Boston Red Sox pitcher -- Daisuke Matsuzaka -- who today made his major league debut.

No, the Boston Globe did not splash Dice-K all over the headlines. However, the regional sports network NESN was rolling the Dice-K anyway it could. Interestingly, one of the network's announcers, who was in Kansas City, tried his best to downplay what was taking place. But no matter how hard he tried, it was still... Dice-K this, Dice-K that, Dice-K, Dice-K, Dice-K.

No, don't misunderstand me, I love baseball. And I watched Matsuzaka destroy some of the world's best hitters during the 2007 World Baseball Championship. I actually thought it was cool to be here today and to have the chance to watch a mid-afternoon baseball game, and, yes to see him pitch. (One of my unfulfilled wishes in life was to have been a major league pitcher -- when I have the chance to see the great ones, I relish the chance.) But let's also remember that he is 28 years old and established himself in Japan as the best pitcher in his home country. Did anyone doubt that he would do well today? (For the record, 7 innings pitched...10 strikeouts...and a win.)

I have discussed in other postings my periodic disgust with the talking heads and the pontification that takes place on sports talk radio and cable sports television. Sadly today NESN went over the top. Yes, I know, Red Sox Nation won't appreciate reading this.

Perhaps they will like to read this -- NESN's broadcast is really strong. Solid announcing. Strong analysis. Wish I could see more.

Hostage or captive?

An interesting linguistic discussion began developing in the media over the final few days of the Britain-Iran dispute over whether British military personnel entered Iranian waters.

The key words were these "hostage" and "captive". In other words, were the British men and woman HOSTAGES or were they simply being held CAPTIVE by Iran? The choice of words were loaded with historical and other references.

Of course, Americans remember well how more than 50 of their countrymen were held hostage in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, from late November 1979 through January 1981. The linkage of that event to the now-concluded dispute between Britain and Iran was unmistakeable, and suggested that Iran was once again intentionally holding people from a Western nation against their will on Iranian soil. In addition, using "hostage" gave additional ammunition to those people who see the Iranian government as somehow illegitimate or as operating outside norms established by responsible nations.

In the end, were the 15 British military hostages or captives? I think the opinion that one holds about the West, the Middle East and a personal viewpoint of the world will assist you in determining your answer.

Interesting questions

I was fortunate yesterday to give the annual Finkelhor Faculty Lecture at Point Park University. The topic was titled "China, the International Olympic Committee, and the U.S. Media: An Uneasy Historical Relationship."

As is true of many such presentations, the most interesting part of the afternoon occurred during the question-and-answer session. Among the questions that were directed to me, but to which many people offered thoughts:

1. From a public relations standpoint, how is China preparing for the 2008 Olympics?
2. Did I recognize that because journalism is a first/rough draft of history that sometimes criticizing media for what they might not be appropriate?
3. Is China going to follow IOC mandates and ensure that it allows the media that cover the Games to operate with virtual complete freedom?
4. How might the Taiwan question play out for the next year?

All interesting questions, and none that can easily be answered. It was a very informative afternoon. I was thrilled to be part of it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Calling from the clouds?

Not going to happen, says the FCC. No flipphone needed to read this story. Just link here.

Calling from the clouds?

Not going to happen, says the FCC. No flipphone needed to read this story. Just link here.

A jailed freelance journalist heads home

What did he do? What were the terms of his release from jail? Read more here.

"O" no...

O'Brien and O'Brien are Out at CNN. Read more here.

One "Zell" of an opinion

The soon-to-be owner of the Chicago Tribune chimes in on "old" media and "new" media".

The media continue to chase the money story

And here is the latest example.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Rai$ing dollar$

Money is the mother's milk of national politics. You've certainly heard that statement before. As we move forward with the 2008 presidential election cycle, we're likely about to learn just how much this kind of money can be worth.

There was a report today indicating that New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has set a record for the amount of money raised this soon in a presidential cycle. I am neither a fan nor a critic of Mrs. Clinton, but I think this kind of money is not a good thing for the political system. And it might be even more damaging for journalists covering politics.

Consider this -- the public wants journalists to be more issue-focused and to spend less time worrying about horse race politics. But doesn't who's winning the money race become another form of the horse race? In this kind of environment of "how much money, journalists appear almost forced to write or broadcast such stories, and the candidates also appear compelled to explain why they are (or are not) raising as much money as their competitors.

I mentioned in the previous posting about the trip certain members of the Point Park University journalism faculty and students took last week to Washington. The question of the political race was discussed with CBS News reporter Bob Schieffer. I don't feel comfortable detailing his answer; but I am comfortable noting that he and I share similar (and different) concerns about this money issue, and what it might mean for politicians, the political process and journalism.

The tired cliche of "we'll wait and see how it plays out" is appropriate here. But in the interim, it is imperative that journalists not become trapped in the cycle of who's raising money at the expense (pardon the pun) of real news items and issues.

A great weekend in the nation's capital

I was very fortunate to spend the weekend in my favorite city in North America -- Washington D.C. I was there along with five other Point Park University faculty and more than 40 of our broadcast and print journalism, photgraphy, advertising and public relations majors.

Each year our department makes such a trip. The broadcast students spent a very informative and entertaining morning with Bob Schieffer and at the CBS News Washington bureau. The excitement (and yes a little nervousness) on my students' faces reminded me so much of meeting a journalism legend when I was their age. On one hand, you want to appear confident and cool; on the other you're trying not to giggle like a child.

Later in the day, we went to teh Verizon Center, where the Washington Wizards explained to us their operations and interaction with the media. We then stayed for a close, close, close game between the Wizards and the Toronto Raptors.

Saturday morning involved a brunch with some of our alumni, before an afternoon of relaxation at the Smithsonian.

Trips such as these are so critical for all journalism students. They obviously get a chance to get out of the classroom and experience something different. They also have a chance to meet with key professionals who someday might become colleagues. And there of course is the educational and tourist opportunities that are all over Washington.

We're heading there again next year.