Friday, January 25, 2008

What do newspaper journalists think...

...about their jobs, their future and the industry? A report from a faculty member at Ball State University suggests cynicism and burnout are on the lips of too many of these news pros.

Meanwhile, another report indicates more and more people are using the 'Net when they choose to read a newspaper.

If you want to avoid political advertisements...

...you can watch this television program.

The seal of approval has been given...

...by the FCC for the buyout of ClearChannel.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

An important challenge to high school journalism students...

...and for those of us who teach them once they move on to college.

Does anyone disagree with the arguments in this essay? Not going to get any dispute from me. This piece is right on the money.

Are the media giving Mitt Romney a free pass?

When it comes to closely examining his health care policies, the answer -- according to this report -- is yes.

A pair of relevant international news stories

One concerns the death of a journalist...the other examines the development of journalism in one Middle East country

You tell 'em, Sara

After you read this, I think you'll agree with that sentiment.

Not excited about the (potentially) new boss

Who's not? Why? Let's just say that the staff of one Colorado college newspaper wants nothing to do with Gannett.

12 months

That's how much time you have to get ready for one of the most important changes to television. And that change is?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Independent television is back on in Pakistan

But just how independent is it? You decide after reading this.

More evidence that more people are...

...paying attention to this year's presidential race.

What is it with...

...former Bush administration officials seeking to make speeches while leaving the press outside? It almost happened again this week at Indiana University.

A partnership...

...between a college newspaper and a leading national newspaper chain? It could happen.

What are your thoughts on this?

Are we getting closer to the end of...

...the writers' strike? This article suggests the answer might just be "yes."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why radio news is a wonderful thing

Sure, there is a touch of idealism in this story. But it makes some strong points.

Eight days and counting...

...until the important Florida primary. Why it matters to the Republican candidates is obvious. But there are other reasons.

Here is another interpretation of the primary, from USA Today.

The invisible university...

...is a facet of media coverage. Why? Find out more here.

Iraq...a more dangerous place than Vietnam

That's the opinion of many journalists who experienced both nations during wartime.

This former Angelino...

...is disspirited by what I see happening at the Los Angeles Times. I religiously read the paper when I lived in southern California, and I still consider it among the nation's best source of news. But it's hard to be as enthusisatic as I would like as I read this.

How the legacy of the writers' strike might surprise you

With the writers' strike showing no signs of ending and the 2007-08 television season all but lost, there is this report suggesting that the legacy of that strike could be a much different approach to television programming.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday's primary and caucus results...

...have likely thinned the Republican and Democratic ranks, but I don't think they've done anything in the way of suggesting a clear cut leader in either party.

As the returns from South Carolina continue to pour in, the campaigns of Republicans Duncan Hunter and Fred Thompson have fizzled out. The former already has announced his intention to pull out of the race; the latter is reportedly planning to meet with his campaign team over the next 24 to 48 hours to plot the next move. That move has to be a campaign shut down.

Mr. Hunter was never more than a long-shot candidate. Nothing more needs to be said about him. Mr. Thompson likely will be remembered as the most disappointing candidate of 2008. His campaign never caught fire, and he never demonstrated the interest or fire needed to campaign for the nation's highest office. He'll be asked about why he never proved why he wanted it. The answer will be interesting, but who will remember it come next week?

As for the Democrats, Mr. Edwards, meet Gen. Custer. The former senator from North Carolina will say the right things about holding out for the working people, about not surrendering, about running a 50-state campaign. Forget it. He's got one chance left -- he must win next week in South Carolina. It's his last stand. Anything else and he's through. Don't count on him winning there. If he couldn't carry the state as a vice presidential nominee four years ago, then what gives anyone any optimism that he will do so in 2008?

Saturday's results leave us with the two Democratic heavyweights, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. But we already knew that, before today. What is intriguing to me is that Mrs. Clinton is starting to flash that look that was expected -- that of the leader of her party. Do wins in New Hampshire, Michigan and Nevada provide the evidence that the Clinton Train that was expected to roll from the very beginning is finally steaming down the track? I'm not ready to draw that conclusion.

Though I'm basing my analysis on a variety of media reports that I've read, heard and seen over the past few weeks (and therefore not personal experience or evidence), there is no doubt that there remains strong support for Mr. Obama. Nothing that I see suggests to me that Mrs. Clinton is going to suddenly trounce him. That being said, the perception of her and her campaign has changed in the last three weeks. If the Obama message of change begins to be usurped by the need for experience, then the tenor of the Democratic race changes.

On the Republican side, it is time to classify an "A" team of candidates and a "B" team. Place Mitt Romney and John McCain in the first group, and put Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani in the second group. The Huckabee placement might surprise you, but I ask you this: can you really tell me that his campaign is stronger, deeper, and more appealing to the middle, when compared to Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain (and perhaps Mr. Giuliani)? Moreover, despite his strong showing in South Carolina (expected, by the way), where can Mr. Huckabee look to as a place that he can find a likely (or at least potential) win? Let's give him Arkansas on February 5. He might perform well in 2 or 3 other states, but will that be enough to make him a top-tier choice after Feb. 5? I don't see it.

As for Mr. Giuliani, we're about a week away from finding out if his Tiger Woods strategy will work. Mr. Giuliani has sat out the first month of the campaign (meaning writing off every state to this point) to focus on Florida and everything after that. Mr. Woods also stays away from the golf tournaments in Hawaii and the Pacific Coast and joins the tour once it hits Florida. Now, he is the best in the world. Mr. Giuliani isn't at what he does.

Should Mr. Giuliani win in Florida on Jan. 29, then he deserves to be moved into the "A" category. But if he doesn't, then he, more than Mr. McCain and Mr. Romney, needs to generate a number of wins on Feb. 5.

Stay tuned, folks. The races aren't over yet. That is a good thing for the American political process. That's also a good thing for those of us who follow politics. Come to think of it, there also are great teaching moments for those of us in education the longer that this primary season remains viable.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bhutto's death was...

...the act of political extremists within the country. And the government had nothing to do with it.

That's the conclusion of the CIA.

The obit has been written for...

...a young woman whose life appears to be in freefall. She's a celebrity and her every mistake is being watched. Perhaps it's time to leave her alone.

And in case you're wondering, I think the decision to write this obit is consistent with newsroom practices all across the country. It might disturb you; in fact, you might find it disgusting. But it is the way it is.

News media (and I include the entertainment media in that) must be prepared.

Getting teens to read news online...

...is harder than you might think.

And here's a link to the actual study.

How much is that chair worth?

Would you believe...$1.6 million!

The only thing that bothers me about this firing...

...is that clearly more than one person was involved in the decision to run the controversial magazine cover. So why did only one person get canned?

It won't...but should it?

A Tennessee television station is refusing to turn over unedited video relating to a missing woman. As you read this (brief) news report, ask yourself -- should it?

Why or why not?

Sometimes you just shouldn't open your mouth...

...because then you have to open it again to say, "oops."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A powerful photograph

I think you'll agree that the photo for this story encapsules the horror that currently exists in Kenya.

The political trobules in this country appear to not have received as much coverage in the United States. Most of the stories I've seen have come from the BBC (though the print media are providing credible and daily reports from inside the country).

A reporter challenges a candidate

I caught this on CNN.com. It's something worth considering for our classes -- under what conditions should a journalist challenge a statement made by a politician?

Did the AP reporter cross the line and get too testy with Mitt Romney? Was he justified in challenging Romney, as Romney was making his point? At the end of this exchange, a Romney campaign official chastises the journalist for "being out of line."

Definitely important questions to take up with our students.

No more IDs in New Hampshire...

...at least not for journalists.

The premise is the important thing here, and something that might be worth considering for your class discussions.

A decision...

...I disagreed with. See what you think. Let me know.

Iraqis talking to...

...the U.S. public.

The interesting thing here is who is doing the talking.

Two new views of the ...

...fiasco that were the media polls leading up to the New Hampshire primary.

And here's another...from the American Journalism Review.

The bottom line -- the media and the pollsters (whom I have great respect for) blew it in New Hampshire. And considering a similar and more notable gaffe was made just eight years ago, the time to strongly re-evaluate might be needed.

What is it like being in GITMO?

A detained Sudanese journalist offers the following information.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Good...or bad...citizen journalism

You decide, after reading this, which outlines what MTV is doing on the election trail.

Here's a great discussion point for our classes

A Wisconsin news director quits his job. Why? Here's the reason.

Do you agree with his decision?

Way to go, CNN!

A promised one-hour, nightly program dedicated to the 2008 presidential race! Kudos for doing something that (I hope) will inform the electorate.

Now please don't pander to the audience and air frivolous stories. Instead, please consider turning your reporters loose to cover the relevant events of the day (a la C-SPAN). And if you could occasionally do interviews with real Americans, I'd appreciate it!

I hope I'm not asking for too much.

A Norwegian journalist dies...

...while reporting from Afghanistan. The death was caused by yesterday's explosion in Kabul.

A judge is forcing a television network to do something

And in this case I agree with the judge. No presidential candidate from a major party ought to be excluded from a debate.

You are a blogger...

...and you'd like to make money off your venture? Then consider the information in this article.

The challenges of teaching journalism to high school students

As you know, I attended the Journalism Education Association annual fall convention in November. One thing became quite clear to me while I was there -- those of us who teach journalism and mass communications on the college level need to better understand the needs of our colleagues who toil on the high school level.

They do us a tremendous service, but they also face challenges that we don't. This article will help you understand that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Zimbabwe -- fantastic BBC report

The BBC is airing a fascinating report about the political, economic and social situation within Zimbabwe.

Note as you watch the report that there is no pressure to keep to the inadequate 2:00 timeframe that U.S. media almost never deviate from. Moreover, keep in mind that the BBC is banned in Zimbabwe. However, the commitment to covering international news and covering it well is not abandoned.

Well now...that's not very nice

Looks like the recent strain in relations between Russia and Britain is still there. Come on, Kremlin...lighten up.

Keep in mind one of the themes that came through loudly and clearly in the TIME magazine story on Vladimir Putin: He is determined to demonstrate Russia is tough and committed to not surrendering anything to anyone.

Well now...that

Going a bit too far?

The student newspaper at Ohio State University is taking some heat these days. Here's why. And here's the defense.

Was the departure...

...forced or voluntary? It apparently depends upon whom you choose to believe.

Either way, this story provides more evidence of the poor conditions journalists face while covering Pakistan, which, last time I checked, was supposed to be an American ally in the war on terror.

As an aside, I read a very interesting book over the break titled "Pakistan: Democracy, Development and Security Issues". It contains a series of essays written by (primarily) Indian academics about the legal, political, media, and diplomatic environment within Pakistan. For anyone looking to learn more about the country and the region, it is worth considering. Keep in mind that it has a pronounced pro-Indian viewpoint, but it nevertheless is a fascinating read.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

What should journalism educators be teaching?

Here are a few thoughts...and worthy of our consideration.

Slate is correct

Do you agree with this assessment? I sure do.

The media turned around Clinton's fortunes?

Sounds implausible...when you read this article, which suggests that the media's chronic bashing of Clinton led many women in New Hampshire to vote for her.

I think there are multiple strands of conversation we can have in our classrooms about Clinton's win in the Granite State. The "flawed" polls are obvious. But so too are the unique character of the state (people are independent from the pressure of what other voters are doing), voters perhaps saying they didn't want the Democratic race to be "over" so soon, and perhaps the compressed nature of the campaign season leading some to decide that "experience" mattered.

Can you suggest others?

An interesting look into the Clinton campaign

Those who follow politics closely might be surprised to read that the campaign lacked a real message in Iowa for so long. It almost carried over to New Hampshire.

Bias

A term heard too often when the public is asked to describe their thoughts about the media. A new report by Sacred Heart University indicates the "b" word is being uttered more and more these days.

The timing of this report is important...coming just days before we return to our classrooms. It is something all of us should consider in our media discussions.

The judge must have had "courage"

How else to explain a judge's decision to allow Dan Rather's multi-million dollar lawsuit against CBS to move forward?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Investigating the FCC

A House committee has indicated the investigation has to do with the procedures used by the FCC in making policy.

With echoes of destroyed CIA interrogation tapes still ringing through Washington, you'll want to pay attention to the explicit instructions the committee gave FCC chairman Kevin Martin.

The day after the night before

Now it's time to explain. How did so many polling organizations get it wrong? Barack Obama was supposed to be cruising to a victory in New Hampshire. Oops. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Democratic primary in that state.

Politico.com states the obvious -- her victory made "fools" of a lot of people.

The Associated Press suggests residents of the Granite State did last night what they often do -- refuse to go along with the selections made by Iowans. It's a "prickly habit," the AP report states.

The Wall Street Journal picked up on something that my wife noticed last night -- Clinton had children behind her as she gave her victory speech. This visual is designed to counter the young, hip, vibrant message that Obama has been putting forth.

And, finally, the Washington Post, quoting Clinton campaign staffers, is now suggesting that the Obama wave of popularity has crested.

Let's face it, folks...last night was a shocker to the political system. The media had it wrong; The pollsters had it wrong. But these errors ensure that the primary season will be extended just a bit further than anticipated. That is a good thing for the political process.

John Edwards said something last night during his speech that I completely agreed with: Yes, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have so far spoken. But 99 percent of Americans have not.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire -- 10:00-10:30 window

10:05: One interesting question over the next couple of days will be this: How did the polls in the last couple days get it so wrong? The numbers suggested that Obama was going to cruise to an easy victory. No matter what happens over the remainder of the evening, that is not going to be the case.

10:10: FOX is talking to viewers! FOX is talking to viewers! Brian Wilson is at a pub or bar of some kind. Hooray. Voters! Real people. Wilson's interviews are done much like CNN's Tom Foreman's were from Iowa: Walk around and surrender the look of television for real people talking in comfortable settings.

10:15: The first Democratic speech of the night -- John Edwards. Mrs. Edwards sets the tone by suggesting her husband will not give up his fight for working class people. "The goal is still in sight," she says. But it is hard to see that happening. He needs a win and quickly, and no state out there appears to be positioned to give it to him.

10:18: Imagery again is important here. John Edwards entrance is highlighted by the popular John Mellencamp song "This is our country." He opens with a clear message: There are 48 states to go.

10:20: Edwards uses an example he used five nights ago in Iowa...about the 17-year-old girl who needed a transplant and a 60-year-old man who needed an operation to fix a cleft pallet. Repeating stories to generate enthusiasm is not the way to go. He can't continue to give the same speech on national television while conceding that he didn't win a particular state.

Time for me to wrap up. I'll have additional thoughts in the morning. Keep watching people. This is a great night for democracy.

New Hampshire -- 9:30-10:00 window

9:30: Here's a bombshell: MSNBC's David Gregory suggests that he has spoken to many important Republican strategists who say McCain might very well have cleared his path to the nomination, with the win in New Hampshire. This assessment would seem to gain traction if McCain can win Michigan. The consensus on at least two of the networks is that Romney's campaign is over if he fails to carry Michigan, where his father was once governor and where he was born.

9:33: Clear the decks. The Republican story for the night ought to be done. Can Clinton carry this lead into the rest of the evening? And please, someone show me the voters!!!

9:41: My sense is that at this point the three networks are taking a deep breath. Their anchors, reporters, producers and others are likely in for a much longer evening than anyone anticipated. And this is great for democracy! Elections shouldn't be cut and dry. They shouldn't end within minutes of the polls closing. By all accounts, the turnout in New Hampshire was large. Bravo to the people of that state.

9:48: Ron Paul is at the podium. CNN is covering it. FOX is not. Neither is MSNBC. And almost just as quickly, he's gone.

9:54: CNN's Anderson Cooper teases a story that will run after the break: IReports from people in New Hampshire. This, I think, is the closest thing we've seen to "Joe and Josephine American" on any cable network tonight. It's amazing to me that we can go almost two hours into coverage and never hear from actual voters.

9:59: Terribly disappointing IReport story. A CNN Internet reporter flips a few still photos around and describes what voters say in those personal reports. CNN, you blew it. You could have given us viewers. You gave us a talking head talking about voters.

New Hampshire -- 9:00-9:30 window

9:00: Just before CNN goes to the Huckabee speech, Wolf Blitzer mentions AGAIN that Edwards will finish third. And as Huckabee speaks, the lead that Clinton has is slipping -- it was at 3,500 votes just a few minutes ago. Now it is at 2,700.

9:05: More positive spinning, this time by Huckabee. But let's face it, this guy was somewhere deep in 6th place just a couple of weeks ago. He's going to finish third. He's just mentioned that he has come to really appreciate many people in the Granite State, and that he plans to come back many times because he'll be his party's nominee.

9:07: Imagery. This is very critical in campaigning. As we get this look at McCain's headquarters, we see many of his reporters waving American flags. And two big flags buttress his campaign signage. Great imagery. It will look good on television, and it will play well with sizable chunks of the population.

9:10: As we wait for the McCain victory speech, I see that the three networks are filling time with talking heads -- Romney's campaign manager on FOX, and Tom Brokaw on MSNBC. But no voters. As McCain takes the stage, the Rocky theme music plays. Fantastic imagery for this campaign tonight.

9:12: Oh, the COMEBACK KID theme is used...by McCain! Wow, talk about taking a page straight out of the (Bill) Clinton playbook. Wow. One thing I don't like is that McCain is reading his speech. I don't recall any candidate doing this in Iowa, and neither Romney nor Huckabee did so earlier. A small point, perhaps, but I think it is important.

9:17: It looks like McCain is sounding his theme (reiterating it, really) for the future: There will be those on the left and right who will attack him for taking seemingly unpopular stands. His message will be: I did what's right. It reaffirms his idea that he would rather lose by speaking the truth than win by not. Will it work?

9:26: MSNBC's Joe Scarborough is repeating something I mentioned -- McCain shouldn't have read his speech. Two other analysts say he blew the chance to reassert his vitality with the electorate. One analyst suggests that the voters should compare the heartfelt speech by Romney, who was "positive," in the words of one, to what McCain delivered.

New Hampshire -- 8:30-9:00 window

8:30: CNN is referencing the close Democratic race, and Wolf Blitzer repeats the amazing projection that John Edwards will finish third.

8:31: Still no voters appearing on screen.

8:32: FOX appears to be tracking blog postings. Too bad, they've not mentioned mine :-) Maybe the FOX people don't like the fact that I keep pleading with it and its competitors to allow actual voters to appear in their reportage. Most of the reporting on this story instead appears to be about Clinton and how she will resuscitate her campaign.

8:37: CNN's Jeffrey Toobin is not standing alongside Wolf Blitzer at the pie-chart board (for lack of a better term). Hmmm, might this have something to do with his less-than-impressive performance five nights ago? Toobin was out of place in that position; he is much better suited where he is tonight -- as an analyst.

8:40: I just noticed that the tape-delayed television monitor that was visible on CNN's coverage the other night is not to be seen tonight. Combine this with the Toobin posting, and the bottom line is that CNN's coverage sounds and looks cleaner tonight.

8:42: Still...no...voters!

8:43: MSNBC is now interviewing Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell. Why? Keep something in mind here -- the Pennsylvania primary is April 22. That would be more than 90 days from now. Maybe between now and then the networks will remember to include voters in their coverage.

8:47: Mitt Romney is using the Olympics analogy again, as he speaks to his supporters and congratulates McCain. Romney is not giving any impression of a man who feels defeated. Image is important; he needs to continue to give the impression of being a legitimate candidate. He appears to be succeeding...with the crowd of enthusiastic supporters who surround him. But what do other voters say? Don't know. I still haven't heard from any of them.

8:52: Clinton has increased her lead, to almost 3,700 votes. Is something interesting is happening in the Granite State tonight? There are now more than 22 percent of the precincts reporting.

8:55: The Republican candidates are quickly stepping to the podium and then calling it a night. Why? On one hand, it's over...McCain won. On the other...the Democratic race remains close. It appears that Huckabee and McCain all will speak by 9:15 Eastern time. CNN, by the way, is now focusing on the Democratic race.

New Hampshire -- 8:00-8:30 time window

7:50 (yes, I know, it's before 8:00): Early returns coming in with Hillary Rodham Clinton holding the slightest of leads. Returns before the polls actually close in the state...and it appears to lead CNN to dump out early from Lou Dobbs show and into Wolf Blitzer's anchoring the network's primetime program.

7:55: First glance at FOX, and it appears that talking heads prevail here, as well. At this moment Bill Hemmer is noting that Mitt Romney is lagging further than expected, with 10 percent of the precincts now reporting.

7:57: Big news...Hillary Rodham Clinton is revamping her staff. While this is important, let's face it this is not major news at this moment. The polls are set to close in less than three minutes.

8:00: CNN projects John Edwards will come in 3rd!! Wow, what a beginning for Wolf Blitzer. You must be kidding me.

8:01: FOX projects, based on its exit polls, that tonight's vote will go this way: McCain: 35 percent; Romney: 30 percent; and Huckabee: 13 percent. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama: 39 percent; Clinton: 34 percent; Edwards: 18 percent. FOX analysts suggest two things for Clinton -- the loss might not be as bad as first thought, but she's still not going to win. The pressure for her to quit her candidacy, one person suggests, is going to dissipate, however.

8:03: The numbers are coming in quickly, suggesting that by as early as 9:00, we will have close to 70-75 percent of all precincts reporting.

8:04: Tom Brokaw is part of the MSNBC coverage. Perhaps this is a suggestion that the network wanted its own star power? Brokaw is saying something that I've mentioned to many people -- that many Democrats are afraid of voting for Clinton for fear that she will lose a general election against any of the major Republicans.

8:06: A general thought here: The cable networks are scrambling; I think they expected that they would be ready to call either of the two races by this point. If so, this would be a fascinating night to be in the newsroom because the rundown of story ideas, topics, etc. is thrown out the window. This will make for an incredibly interesting coverage, if the networks use this drama (and I use that word carefully) to offer substantive analysis of what mattered to the voters.

8:09: FOX is doing just that at this moment. Independent voters, we are told, are strongly supporting Barack Obama. He also was the favorite among those who want change, and those who are younger.

8:11: FOX says McCain will win New Hampshire. This appears to be the first projection of the night (not counting Wolf Blitzer's brilliant comment at the top of the hour that Edwards would finish third.)

8:12: CNN makes the same McCain projection. "A huge comeback," Blitzer says. MSNBC is now saying the same thing. In short, for those who care about who was first -- FOX. By one minute. You tell me if that really matters.

8:15: MSNBC's Ron Allen says the Romney campaign likely has already prepared its "spin" for its second place finish: They beat Huckabee, Giuliani and Thompson. They also will point to the "quiet" win over the weekend of the Wyoming caucus. Finally, they will say that Romney has been a solid second in both Iowa and New Hampshire. In other words, they will say their guy is still viable. Do voters agree? It would be nice to hear from some of them. But noooooooooo. More talking heads continue on this network.

8:18: A FOX analyst says Romney has one more chance -- he MUST win in Michigan.

8:19: I've heard all day about this projected record turnout in New Hampshire. Yet, as I've flipped through the three cable networks over the first 20 minutes of coverage, I've not heard or seen one of them. (No, using exit polls doesn't count, in my opinion.)

8:21: Ralph Reed is working as a CNN analyst tonight, and he is preaching caution about the McCain win. He says that McCain is doing well with independents, but how many of those people can vote in future primaries? Moreover, he says, exit polls suggest that hardcore Republicans are split in the Granite State between McCain and Romney. In short, the Republican race appears to be wide open. Let's face it, McCain doesn't have the organization and money (at this point).

8:25: Something interesting that I'm picking up on: There are about 13% of all precincts reporting, and Hillary Clinton is still leading. No, I don't think this is going to last, but the networks are spending so much time talking about McCain's victory that they are not spending time looking at the Democrats. I repeat what I said earlier, I think this is a result of the night's script being blown up. The sense through most of the day was that Obama was going to have a huge win. Not yet.

Will tonight be Hillary Clinton's last stand?

At least one report suggests that if Barack Obama wins convincingly in New Hampshire, then there will be substantial pressure on Mrs. Clinton to abandon her presidential campaign.

My two cents -- IF, IF, IF the Democratic nomination is perceived tonight as being over, this is not healthy for the political process. Set aside whatever opinions you have about either party and ask yourself this: Do you really want to see one of the two major parties decide its nominee after just one caucus and one primary?

However, this is the situation we are in with this compressed caucus and primary schedule. There were plenty of reports during the fall and into late December suggesting that both parties would be done (for all intents and purposes) with the primary season on Feb. 5. The expectation was that on that day, when 22 caucuses or primaries are held, one person from each party would have built an insurmountable lead and been on his/her way to securing his/her party's nomination.

But now I'm reading that the prominent Democrats are prepared to hop on the Obama bandwagon now. I don't think choosing a major party nominee this soon is wise.

Obama is the "right" guy?

Interesting article here from Howard Kurtz, as he describes how many on the right are getting swept up by Obamamania.

Citizen journalists are everywhere...

...in New Hampshire. (Darn, if I had the money, I might have joined them for a few days last weekend!) Here's one look at the kind of effect they are having on the primary in the Granite State.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Maybe tomorrow night it will be better...

...or (more than likely) it will be the same ol' thing.

As mentioned in a post last week, I am hoping that Tuesday night's media coverage of the New Hampshire primary is not a series of talking heads -- analysts and reporters alike -- and breathless looks at who's winning. (Not to mention how many fancy graphics can be tossed around.)

Here are a few story lines you are certain to hear tomorrow night, and you tell me if they represent solid journalism:

1. If Barack Obama wins the Democratic primary (and multiple polls today suggest he will), then either John Edwards or Hillary Rodham Clinton are doomed. The inevitability of an Obama nomination will be all but confirmed -- after one caucus and one primary. Is this a good thing for democracy?

2. If John McCain wins the Republican primary (and the polls suggest he is leading, though not by any kind of insurmountable edge), then there will be questions about whether Mitt Romney is doomed. There also will be talk about whether Fred Thompson ought to step aside, and whether Rudy Giuliani might be an afterthought before the end of the month. Again, all this after just one caucus and one primary!

3. Regardless of who wins, there will be talk about the compressed primary and caucus schedule (a schedule I don't like, by the way), and how this schedule did or didn't assist the major candidates.

4. Regardless of who wins, we'll hear prognostications before and pontifications after each candidate delivers a speech. Some candidates will be praised; others will be criticized.

Do you see something missing? You bet. My old friends "Joe and Josephine American" are nowhere to be found. Four days after the Iowa caucuses, I am still in disbelief that CNN's Tom Foreman was the only network reporter who during the 8:00 through 9:30Eastern time window thought that it was a good idea to interview actual caucus goers. And he even had the audacity to interview them live!! What could he possibly have been thinking! Hello, reporters...the voters are making the decisions on primary and caucus night. Why are we not hearing from them?

We're not THAT rich!

Sorry, Charlie (oops, Charles). But faculty are not as rich as you think.

The "pause" button

Do the media know how to find it these days?

This article suggests that in the crammed primary and caucus season the media appear to not be doing enough critical analysis of the candidates. Instead there is the rush to the next state, the next poll, or the next rally.

Needless to say, those of us who care about the political process (set aside the political preferences we have) want the media to do a better job of finding the stories, doing the analysis, etc. Instead they appear to be chasing a daily story. Not good, if you ask me.

The military and the media

No, these two groups have not had the best of relationships in the recent past. But this New York Times story suggests that detente might be at work.

Educators should find this to be an important article; it provides us good discussion points for how these two agencies work well (and not so well) together.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Let's keep one thing in mind...

I try to offer as educated and realistic an opinion as I can about our media. And many times, yes, my comments are critical of what I see or read.

But let's not forget something -- our media system is the best system in the world. Set aside any political sentiments you have and be honest: The freedom our media have is the envy of many journalists around the world.

Yes, I know, the corporate mentality gets in the way. Yes, I know, the talking heads get in the way. But would you rather have it any other way?

Friday, January 04, 2008

How did Iowans vote?

This is a fascinating teaching and learning tool. Kudos to the Washington Post for providing a county-by-county look at how the candidates did in Iowa.

I still don't agree with this strategy

ABC is going ahead with its scheduled Republican and Democratic presidential debates this weekend, minus a few candidates. The network says the candidates who didn't meet a certain threshold of votes from Iowa would not allowed to take part.

Why do I disagree? Regardless of how high or low someone is in the polls, he or she deserves the chance to have their message heard. Barring candidates because of a perceived disinterest in them among the electorate is a bad idea.

Additional thoughts on media coverage from Iowa

I feared too many talking heads...I got a lot of them. In fact, by the end of the night, I had a talking headsache. (Sorry, bad joke, I know.)

I worried about not hearing enough from actual caucus attendees...that fear was justified. My 90-minute dash among CNN, FOX and MSNBC showed just one instance in which "Joe and Josephine American" were interviewed. Kudos to CNN's Tom Foreman for not forgetting these people.

I wanted to see reporters on the ground...and I did. However, they did more pontificating than interviewing.

Overall, my 90-minute media session on Iowa caucus night was not satisfying. Sure, I saw a lot of election returns. Sure, I saw a lot of people rambling on about the caucuses. Sure, I found out who won.

But I was not all that impressed. Let's hope for more in New Hampshire.

ABC is back on top...

...of the network news ratings race.

Of course, owing to diminishing audiences and an overall inclination to covering "soft" news, I'm not sure being number one matters as it used to.

Justified criticism

Personalities over issues. Subplots over real news. At least one media critic says the media failed in their coverage of the Iowa caucuses.

Post-caucus speeches

My summaries of the post-caucus speeches I saw last night:

1. Hillary Clinton: Stunned disbelief. There has to be realization in her camp this morning that her presidential drive could be doomed before the end of the month. Remember her husband's "comeback kid" story from 1992? She's going to need a similar one. I wouldn't count on it. The "I'm not sure she can win the general election" issue continues to bubble up among voters, and the amount of young people who rallied to Barack Obama has to concern her.

2. John Edwards: Gritty. If he's going to go down to Clinton and Obama, he's going to put up one tenacious fight. He used his speech last night to tell Americans that he's in it for the long haul. But logistical concerns are in the way. This is a campaign that needs a win...somewhere...and fast.

3. Mike Huckabee: Calm and professional. Huckabee sounded presidential last evening, reminding his supporters (and the country) that although he garnered an impressive victory in Iowa, there is much work to be done. If Huckabee can rally in New Hampshire, a long-shot possibility, he puts at least one Republican hopeful out of the race. If he wins in South Carolina in a couple of weeks, he probably puts another one on the sidelines. The critical question for this campaign: Can the message play across the country?

4. Barack Obama: Brilliant. As I watched him last night, I was reminded of Bill Clinton. (More experienced and older analysts added Martin Luther King to the list; I did not have the chance to see MLK in any "live" setting [in fact, I was born only 5 months before he was assassinated], so I'll defer to those comparisons and call them valid.) He struck the right tones in terms of enthusaism, competence, energy and commitment. If he runs the table in the next couple of weeks, this race is over.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's time to caucus -- the 9:00 - 9:30 window

9:00: The Democratic race remains incredibly close with three candidates essentially tied. FOX is in a Democratic caucus, as people chant, cheer and yell...attempting to encourage people who were supporting the minor candidates to join their side. The estimate at this precinct is that four times more people turned out than originally expected.

9:03: FOX's Michael Barone says that although the Democratic race is tight, the expectation is that Barack Obama will pick up strong support from the people who originally favored other candidates. (In other words, Obama is the "second choice" candidate.)

9:05: CNN still hasn't fixed that time-delay issue with the monitor behind Bill Bennett. He notes that Huckabee's win in Iowa might not mean all that much UNLESS Mitt Romney cannot win in New Hampshire. If Romney goes 0-for-2, he could be done, Bennett says (and he's not the first one tonight to state that).

9:08: MSNBC analyst/political director Chuck Todd suggests that Romney could be in more trouble than he is letting on. Yet Todd also notes that Huckabee can't rely upon evangelicals in the critical upcoming states -- New Hampshire and Michigan -- because there aren't enough evangelicals in either state.

9:12: MSNBC's Pat Buchanan believes that the GOP race could now be a two-man race -- Huckabee and John McCain. His projection is based on Romney not winning New Hampshire (and therefore dooming his campaign), Fred Thompson flailing everywhere and Rudy Giuliani having almost no traction before early February.

9:14: While I appreciate the strong analysis on all three cable networks, I still don't like the absence of reporters on the scene and comments from men and women who voted.

9:17: Based on the MSNBC numbers, it looks like Obama is indeed pulling the "second choice candidate" vote. Reporter Andrea Mitchell is making an important point -- young women voters are turning out, but they appear to be in favor of Obama more than Hillary Rodham Clinton. This is certainly bad news for her, if this is true.

9:21: I'm surprised at CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin. The 2 times I've seen him attempt to decipher the results have been filled with stumbles and insecure comments. A man who normally makes a solid television appearance is not coming off well.

9:27: The networks all within a few seconds of each other report that Obama wins in Iowa.

With the projections now in, I'm stepping out. More tomorrow.

It's time to caucus -- the 8:30 - 9:00 window

8:30: CNN analyst David Gergen makes a valid point: Patience might be the operative term tonight. The large audience size ensures that the tabulations might fluctuate as the evening progresses.

8:31: High number of evangelical Christians appear to be turning out, CNN analysts note. This is critical to Mike Huckabee, who needs as many of them as possible.

8:33: There is a monitor behind CNN analyst Bill Bennett, and it is on a 7-second delay. This is a real distraction. When Bennett moves his hands, it doesn't match the screen. CNN needs to fix it.

8:36: FOX turns to reporter Wendell Goler...in New Hampshire. Granted, McCain is there. But the room is empty!

8:38: Kudos to FOX for showing continous results. A bit too much in the way of talking heads at this point, but all the networks are facing the same problem: Not trying to talk over the caucuses in process. In addition, the reporters need to get interviews, prepare stories, etc.

8:41: FOX is making much of the early numbers, but considering that only 2% of the results are in (and we don't know from what part of the state) I think the network and Brit Hume and his colleagues are making too much of this.

8:43: Now FOX is commenting about the evangelical Christian vote. Is it possible that even more of them than previously thought will show up?

8:44: It seems to me that the Democratic results are coming in faster than the Republican numbers (this is on FOX). I'm not sure what to make of this. We are now at 18% of the Democratic precincts, while the Republican number remains stalled at 2%.

8:46: CNN is back in a caucus meeting. As we watch (and Wolf Blitzer explains well), one man is attempting to convince those people who favored a minor candidate to turn to Edwards.

8:49: FOX is now interviewing John McCain in New Hampshire. The FOX Republican results has now jumped quickly to 15%, and Mike Huckabee remains in the lead. And with 23% of the Democratic precincts in that race is extremely tight.

8:51: I wonder, will a Democratic candidate appear on FOX tonight?

8:51: CNN's Bill Schneider reports that young voters are heavily supporting Barack Obama, while those who are 65 and older are in strong support of Hillary Clinton. I hope the network reports similar results from Republican voters. Granted the idea of "change" is something that Obama especially has been pounding away on; this message appears to be working.

8:53: Great job, CNN. Talk to the voters!! Tom Foreman, live, walks up to someone, introduces himself and starts the interview. He now interviews a second person. This is quasi-unscripted television. It looks great!

8:55: CNN projection: Huckabee will win Iowa. I believe it is first in its projection, although as I flip to FOX I see an interview with Mitt Romney. He is explaining that Huckabee had a better base of voters to draw upon. Fred Thompson is holding on to third place. If it lasts, this is a bit of an upset.

It's time to caucus -- the 8:00 - 8:30 p.m. window

8:04: CNN's Wolf Blitzer yet again will not allow a colleague finish a thought. To this point, I've counted three times in one minute in which he cut off Jeffrey Toobin. Come on Wolf, let him talk.

8:06: FOX's Bill O'Reilly states he will be "stunned" if Hillary Rodham Clinton is not the Democratic nominee, though he and colleague Dick Morris agree that she won't win Iowa.

8:07: Good ol' Wolf and his amazing comments: "It looks like the Democratic race is tight." He is correct in noting that the second choice of those who are supporting the so-called minority candidates is critical. See my link ("the caucus process") from earlier today about the caucus process to explain why that is relevant.

8:09: Great job by CNN getting into a caucus site in Persia, Iowa. An Edwards supporter is reading a statement apparently written by Edwards. But CNN then cuts away (poor choice) to go to a live shot with reporter Tom Foreman.

8:12: MSNBC now -- Tim Russert notes that voters who might not have played a role in the 2004 elections could sway how the Democratic caucuses turn out. I'm not sure I agree with the idea of MSNBC showing file video of the candidates. I think the network would be better served showing actual caucus sites, as CNN is doing.

8:16: Now MSNBC shows a live picture from a caucus site, as it prepares to go to commercial. (As I flip to FOX, I note that there are more talking heads and that it is not starting caucus coverage until 8:30. Odd to me...I'll be curious to see why it starts later than the others. Perhaps counterprogramming, an important television strategy, is at work here?)

8:17: Tom Foreman again talking about the process, but at least CNN is committing itself to showing the caucuses.

8:21: Something unique to Iowa -- the "entrance poll" continues to be discussed on both CNN and MSNBC. An important thing to keep in mind...the voter in Iowa before he/she enters the caucus site can be asked for whom they will vote.

8:23: First technological glitch that I find -- MSNBC tries to bring in reporter David Gregory for "breaking news" but the lack of audio kills that attempt.

8:24: Glitch fixed. The breaking news is...the high turnout at one caucus site? Hardly worth calling it breaking news. Overkill MSNBC.

8:27: Perhaps you will disagree, but the caucus process is a fascinating sign of the democratic process. It might seem antiquated to some, but my initial sense is that (at least for tonight), this is an important and relevant exercise in democracy.

Here's what you'll see tonight...

...not many anchor stars in Iowa, but there should be plenty of reporters. Good, this was one of the items I wished for in a post I provided yesterday -- lots of people on the ground.

Man's inhumanity to man

It appears to be on display in Kenya, where the opposition political leader is claiming genocide.

Note again that the BBC's reports from Kenya -- both in advance of the election and since then -- have been superb. Today's stories (accessed from the BBC homepage) include video of police water cannons dispersing rioters.

Okay, now tell me "why"

The "why" question. Often a difficult one to answer. But one that is critical to understand tonight, as the presidential election season (finally!) gets underway.

Reports this morning in various media indicate that no one has a firm grip on what Iowans might do tonight as they complete the caucus process. There is no consensus front-runner. There is no consensus sure-fire winner.

So, tonight let's see how well the media do in telling us "why" there is this much uncertainty...and also "why" certain candidates did better (or worse) than expected. There is an old pun that says "inquiring minds want to know."

Well, tonight, there will be plenty of inquiring minds. Let's see what kind of answers we get.

The media plea for calm

In what is likely an unprecedented action, major newspapers in Kenya came together this morning to demand that the political fighting and national violence cease.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Chinese dissident has been arrested

This is the kind of image that the Chinese government should not be pursuing, in advance of this summer's Olympic Games.

Note that his wife has still not been told where he is...some five days after he was picked up.

Ironically, his arrest came on the same day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. And there might be an important media lesson here -- the ability to tell a story through video and imagery (and consider how much of it has been available from Pakistan) can determine if a story makes it on to television.

Fantastic BBC report about the church massacre in Kenya

Go to the BBC homepage and find the link to "Watch: Church Attack Scene".

The fear and anger comes through. You also will want to note that her sources are everyday men and women. I see a tie-in to my "Joe and Josephine American" comment made earlier today in the Iowa caucuses post.

What I'm hoping to see during media coverage of the Iowa caucuses

Tomorrow night, "it" begins.

It, of course, is the primary and caucus season that will lead to the selection of the Democratic and Republican nominees, one of whom (presumably) will be chosen in November as our next president.

Because of the fractured nature of American politics and the divided electorate, this political season is shaping up to be one in which the media will be challenged to cut through the rhetoric, the negative campaigning, the rampant charges and counter-charges to deliver to the American people the information they need to make as informed a decision as possible.

With all of this as the backdrop, here is what I hope to see tomorrow night:
1. Reporters all over the place. If the over-the-air or cable networks tell this story through talking heads, they have failed. I have lamented at various times that the absence of reporters in international hotspots downgrades the reporting that U.S. networks provide. There is no reason to keep reporters out of Iowa.

2. Voters (or perhaps better defined in Iowa as caucus attendees). "Joe and Josephine American" are too often neglected in media reports; Iowa's men and women who head out to their caucus place tomorrow night ought to be front and center in media coverage. How did they vote? What influenced them? What was the attitude/what were the emotions within the caucus site? These are the kinds of questions I want to hear asked of Joe and Josephine.

3. Substantive comments from the candidates. I doubt any of the candidates will drop out of the race, immediately after the caucuses. But there is no question that at least one candidate will be substantially affected negatively -- and likely one positively -- by what happens on Thursday evening. Those candidates will be...I don't know. All signs point to sizable numbers of caucus goers who remain undecided. In this atmosphere, I want to hear the candidates explain why they thought their message did (or didn't) resonate with Iowans.

4. Reasoned analysis. This is where the political analysts are best suited. I want them to help me better understand how the Thursday night caucuses will effect the campaigns (on both sides).

Is this too much to ask of our media? Let's hope not. My plan is to spend as much time as possible flipping among the networks, and the hope is to offer repeated and immediate blog posts. I hope you will join me.

The power of young people

The financial power of young people -- and the hi-tech gadgets and gizmos they like -- helps to explain why the radio industry is justifyably concerned about the new (and apparently inaccurate) method of measuring how many young people are listening.

Remember...listeners equal ratings; ratings equal advertising dollars. Do the math!

134

That figure represents the number of journalists killed in 2007.

Confidential sources issue strikes again

Kudos to former CBS News reporter Jim Stewart, who maintains that he won't give up his sources, as demanded by a federal judge.

Just a reminder that this issue continues to percolate in the Congress. So, too, should it be in our journalism classrooms.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The situation worsens...

...in Kenya.

My post from yesterday detailing how we as educators can use the terrible events of the past week in Pakistan and Kenya to highlight the important role international journalism must play in our curriculum. More importantly, we can demonstrate the importance of a free press -- able to detail the happenings anywhere in the world without the need to kowtow to any government.

A rigged election?

A new report suggests that Benazir Bhutto -- on the day she died -- was preparing to tell U.S. officials of information she had that the upcoming Pakistani parliamentary elections were being tampered with. Pakistani officials deny the charges.