Friday, February 29, 2008

The dean is now the president

Kudos to Tom Kunkel, who is becoming a college president.

A media blackout

What makes this one interesting was that it was self-imposed. Here's who did it...and why.

A short time ago, another report was issued about Prince Harry -- his tour of duty in Afghanistan has been cut short.

A host of interesting questions follow this report of self-censorship (which in the end I think is the operative term):
1. Were the British media correct? In my opinion, the deployment of a military group is news. Without knowing with any degree of certainty how the British media report such matters, I wonder if it would have been possible to announce the deployment of new troop divisions/brigades (or whatever the most appropriate term is) without mentioning Harry by name. If that was possible, that could have been the way to handle it.

2. Would the lives of the prince and his military mates have been put in more danger had the news of his deployment been made public? Let's not kid ourselves, the answer to this is an obvious yes. The symbolic victory that would have come from killing a potential heir to the British crown would have been impossible to ignore. Consider the killing of Saddam -- he was out of power and lacked any chance to return to it; nevertheless, his death was a symbolic affirmation that the past was not going to be the future of Iraq.

3. Would the American media have made the same decision if the son/daughter of a president was sent overseas? I doubt it. In fact, I think the rush to be the first to report this news would have been too much for the American media to pass up. Moreover, with the controversies that have dogged the last two presidents about the type of military service they did (or didn't) do, I believe it would have been wrong to shield the American public from the information about a president's child who was heading overseas.

4. Is there ever a circumstance in which keeping information from the public in order to protect a source (or another member of the public) a wise decision? I'm a strong proponent of a free and vibrant media, and I find few, if any, circumstances in which self-censoring is appropriate. I recognize people will disagree with me, and I welcome the chance to hear those opinions. In the end, I believe that society benefits most when it has the largest amount of information available to it.

$30 million...on something that might not happen

Would you spend $30 million on something that, in the end, might never happen? Well, one media company did in 2007. Find out which one...and what the (potentially wasted) money was spent on here.

NBC's Jeff Zucker...

...makes a powerful statement about the future of his network's news division. You might be surprised where he thinks it's heading.

Read into Zucker's comments (and I'll admit, a complete news story will still lack every word and every nuance that he or anyone said), and I think he has a healthy understanding of the television industry. The Web and other new media (and are they really new anymore?) are the growth areas, and more importantly they are where the younger generation is turning. If you're going to grab have to use the tools they are using.

TV first...Web second...Newspapers a distant third

Those are the results. Here's the question.

The most powerful journalist in the world is...

...Matt Drudge. Matt Drudge? Hey, don't criticize me -- I'm not the one making the claim; a British newspaper is.

Let's take a step back for a moment, as I ask somewhat related questions: Even if Drudge is not the most powerful journalist in the world, can we at least agree that he's a potent force? But by what rules does he play? Is he to be respected (or reviled) for the reporting style he uses? Is he mainstream? Does he have to be? Is he more a reflection of the technology driven universe in which we live? Or would he have been a great journalist no matter the era in which he lived?

Consider your answers.

Why do the Olympics matter so much to China?

This Washington Post story highlights some of the more important ones.

Keep something in mind -- the Games are always political, despite the efforts of the International Olympic Committee to separate politics from sports. But no Games -- dating back to 1980 -- have had the political intrigue that awaits 2008 Beijing.

There have been comparisons made of late to South Korea, which used the Games as a strong indicator that the country was modern and deserved a place at any top-flight economic table. I find this comparison to be inadequate because of the political nature of the two societies. South Korea was seeking to rid itself of its non-democratic past; China is not.

In 2008, China will be judged not only by the quality of the Olympic facilities and the overall "wow" quality of the Games. It also will be watched by many to see how non-accepted political messages (and messengers) are handled; how Western journalists are handled; and how well it conforms with IOC regulations. And no matter what the Chinese do, there will be howls of protest from some quarters.

It will be worth watching.

Russia -- update

Good story from TIME magazine about the oh-so-smooth transition of power in Russia.

Now this is unprofessional!

A broadcast journalist announces his political a newscast. And his station apparently turns it into a news event. Poor judgment.

And, yes, at least one of his likely competitors is considering filing a complaint with the FCC.

Family Guy spinoff?

Alright, moment of confession here -- I love Family Guy, although I make sure to not watch it when the 9- and 4-year-old kids are awake :-).

I read this morning that one of Peter Griffin's friends might get his own show. I can only imagine what Stewie might say about this!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Three editors at a college newspaper quit

Here's why. Tell me, with whom do you side in this discussion?

One of the preeminent journalists covering the Supreme Court... leaving her post. Why is Linda Greenhouse exiting the New York Times?

This is a conversation piece that would fit in well with my colleagues who teach a law course.

First, the New York Times blew it... 60 Minutes has, as well. I'm not the one making the claim, but at least one Alabama newspaper is. To find out what it's upset about, link here.

Political apathy exists in... far apathy doesn't look like the buzzword for politics in the U.S. this year. But another large and important nation also is sending its electorate to the ballot box this year. Excitement doesn't seem to be following anyone.

Russia is a complicated country these days. The West (and especially the U.S.) appears frustrated by the policies and reforms (or lack of) being undertaken by Vladimir Putin, who will be out as president this year.

Putin's rule has been well-received by Russians, however. They believe he has restored the notion of international strength to the country.

The Russian economy also appears to be doing well. With all this in mind, and with Putin's appointed successor sure to win at the polls next week, it perhaps is no surprise that Russians feel no compulsion to vote.

Iraq and Afghanistan

The U.S. military has designated an Afghani journalist as an enemy combatant.

Meanwhile, the head of the largest Iraqi journalism organization has died, days after being shot.

His running mate will be...

...hold on a minute...which candidate am I referring to? Here's your answer.

Bob Geldof and George Bush

On the surface, there is no match! But you'd be surprised where the two men are not only seeing eye-to-eye...but getting something done.

Michael Bloomberg is not running...

...but he's not going to stay on the sidelines in the upcoming presidential election.

I had a thought as I read Bloomberg's decision -- how well do the media cover the non-traditonal presidential contenders? By non-traditional I mean the candidates who are not the Republican or Democratic candidates.

I think this would be an interesting academic study...and perhaps something that also can be discussed in our classrooms.

These numbers are not good...

...the public is telling us yet again that the traditional media are not doing their jobs well enough. This is not good.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 should be ashamed of yourself

Yes, I know I've given the inanimate organization a personal pronoun, but bear with me. Your anger should instead be directed at Comcast...for trying to block the public from being heard at an FCC session.

Meanwhile, the New York state attorney general is looking into Comcast for other reasons.

Congress is getting involved!

Look for Congress to begin examining the digital television transition scheduled for February 2009. This -- unlike meaningless sessions about sports and steroids -- is a good use of our representatives' time.

Bodies exhibition update

Looks like the national organizers of this controversial exhibit (which is currently in Pittsburgh) continue to catch flak for the show. The recent ABC News investigation, which suggested that the bodies might not have been gathered in the way the organizers believed, continues to resonate.

This is an interesting story to tell to local audiences. There also are some ethical issues, including, but not limited to:
1. How much of the exhibit do you show?
2. How much of the controversy to discuss?
3. Who to interview?

I'm curious if there have been stories about the exhibit in other television markets. If so, send me the links; I'll add them to this story.

Should newspapers endorse political candidates -- follow-up

Here's a report on how the New York Times is attempting to handle this issue.

As an aside, I found this report a bit long-winded. I was never a newspaper editor, but I still found places I would have trimmed.

Meanwhile, a group of editors has stepped forward to criticize TIME magazine for its original essay suggesting no newspaper ought to endorse any candidate.

Sorry, but I agree with TIME on this one.

Will this be Dan Rather's legacy?

And if you think the answer is "yes," then I ask another question: Should he quit while he's (sort of) ahead?

My general sense is that Rather can't win, no matter what might happen in court. If he wins a lawsuit, the general response within the public (I think) will be a shrug of the shoulders. I see the public essentially saying that CBS was part of any effort to derail the Bush campaign, under that scenario.

If he loses the lawsuit, I see the public snickering. Under this scenario, I see too many people thinking that Rather was determined to take someone down with him, and failed.

Either way, he doesn't win.

A Sirius without an XM?

You might be surprised who's suggesting that.

He didn't win...but because of that...he won

Sounds like tortured logic? No, that's the consensus result of last night's Democratic presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (I didn't watch it, so I can't comment on the links supplied below.)

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Washington Post, and Philadelphia Daily News are among the sources you can turn to for a summary.

Free airtime to political candidates

Scripps is continuing a policy this year that it first implemented in airtime to political candidates.

The merits (and drawbacks) of such a policy can be discussed in almost all of our journalism classes. I'm curious to read what some of your suggestions are. Fire away with your ideas!

Myron Cope

I've only lived in Pittsburgh for about three years, but I'm learning from a variety of people today about the legacy of former Steelers' broadcaster Myron Cope. He passed away today at 79.

William F. Buckley

I noted with sadness the death of this conservative icon. I rarely shared the political ideas he had, but he without question was well-reasoned in what he argued...and he compelled you to think about the reasons you had for the positions you held.

A high school friend of mine, whom I've sadly lost touch with, very much admired and respected Buckley. I can't tell you how many times I likely frustrated my friend Clarence by either refusing to read National Review or debating the ideas contained in it.

How to beat Obama

It's headlines such as part of stories such as this one...that bother me.

Whenever they are used, they are suggestive -- that one candidate is (or isn't) electable. I'm not sure how fair that is to anyone else who is running.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Is the satellite radio merger in trouble?

Might be, as analysts take a look at the dreaded tea leaves.

We're not like FOX..., MSNBC certainly is not. But it might want to re-think what it is becoming.

An important lesson for educators, students and politicians...

...has been delivered by the Democratic presidential candidates.

Last week, I noted the $50,000 price tag for one local university

Now it appears that the leading public institutions in Pennsylvania are threatening significant tuition hikes.

This state, of course, is not alone in dealing with this problem. Higher education costs are stifling the ability of too many people to either attend or remain in school. Politicians of all stripes talk about the importance of youth and education and staying competitive in the world. And this is the result of their conversations?

U.S. troops arrest a Shiite broadcaster

In our fractured political climate (and perhaps that disdain of "the other person's opinion" is seen most notably with the Iraq War), almost any decision made by the U.S. military is going to be defended by many...and criticized by many others.

So, with that as a backdrop...what conclusions can we draw from this story? And remember my warning -- "think" about your answer, don't pass off a "this is what I feel" emotional response as being automatically logical.

Can "cellphone journalists" (or whatever name you wish to call them)...

...take it too far? After reading this story, you might reconsider your initial answer.

And speaking of Pakistan

It appears that talk of increasing media freedoms is just that -- talk.

A local newspaper is covering Pakistan

Kudos to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which for more than a week now has been running stories from Pakistan from one of its reporters. Today's report is a bad one -- detailing the death of a military general. But consider doing an archive search to read more from Betsy Hiel.

You also should note that Hiel is filing video reports from the country. This effort at media convergence (yes, I'm using that term liberally here) is worth noting.

I'm already planning to invite Hiel to one of my journalism classes, once she returns from the country.

The power of prose

An interesting story, detailing how Barack Obama is using the power of the word perhaps better than any candidate has in more than a generation.

Poll stories

Have you been keeping tabs on the number of stories relating to the polls in Texas and Ohio? In the absence of actual elections, too many stories in the past two weeks have concentrated on whether Hillary Clinton is (or isn't) winning in Texas and Ohio.

By all accounts, she must win both in order for her Democratic presidential bid to move forward. But we are being saturated with these stories. And in the end, these stories tell us nothing.

Remember a couple of points that I tell my students:
1. Polls are a snapshot in time
2. Polls never predict outcomes

Perhaps the national media will remember this.

Update -- Philly TV anchor and her legal problems in New York

The legal problems are over...but the feisty attitude remains. Except this time she's not gunning for the police...she's gunning for her former employer.

A conspiracy!

That's what some people are sure was taking place at one Alabama television station over the weekend...when a local television station had a glitch as a controversial story about a state politician was airing.

Monday, February 25, 2008

David Shuster -- no regrets

The soon-to-be not-suspended MSNBC reporter discusses the controversy surrounding him since he suggested that the Clinton campaign was "pimping" Chelsea Clinton for her mother's gain.

The media don't care enough about foreign affairs

A scathing charge (and one that I don't believe). But then again I didn't make it. Here's who did.

Fair...or foul?

It appears -- though it has not been confirmed -- that the Clinton camp is sending out this photo of Barack Obama.

My question for those of us in journalism education to consider is this: Is this photo appropriate to use in a political context? Mind you, no one is questioning the authenticity of the photo; thus, there are no concerns at this point about it somehow being altered or fake.

Serbia - Kosovo, protests continue

The hostile response to Kosovo's independence call continues in Serbia. Today, the anger seems to be directed toward the European Union.

While true, I think this story misses the point

Just because recent political conventions have lacked drama does NOT, in my opinion, give the media justification for ignoring them.

This story does correctly note, however, that there might be some real news coming out of those political conventions late this summer.

A strong defense...

...or a feeble attempt at backtracking? You decide, after reading this story in today's New York Times, outlining what the paper did and did NOT say in its John McCain story from last week.

Bob Woodruff -- update

A well-written piece in USA Today, detailing the struggles that ABC News' anchor and reporter Bob Woodruff continues to deal with as he overcomes a frightening brain injury.

The 2008 Summer Olympics...

...are fast approaching. For those who enjoy the inevitable mix of politics, media and sports, the Beijing Games will be a fascinating story to watch (and wow do I wish I could be there to see it in person).

Here's a story about how activists might try to influence advertisers to consider doing what Steven Spielberg already has done -- pull his talents from and support of the Games.

Nader -- day two

Needless to say, the presidential candidates are not giving much thought to Ralph Nader as a candidate in 2008. (Can't blame them.)

Consider this link, however, if you're looking for additional information as to why he's running again in 2008.

Racist! Sexist!

An interesting story from about GOP fears of attacking the Democratic presidential nominee without being labelled racist or sexist.

Good talking points for our classes, too!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Investigative journalism matters

Consider this report from Nieman Reports at Harvard University.

I especially like the sentence that begins the fifth paragraph, and the warning in the sentence immediately after that one is important to reiterate for those of us who have the privilege of teaching journalism.

I admit, I don't think his contention made later in the story that newspapers are automatically and always the best source for investigative reports. But I do agree with anyone who believes that newspaper journalists do investigative journalism better than their colleagues in the broadcast or new media worlds.

Speculation, speculation, speculation

Well, another type of horse race within media coverage is beginning -- picking the running mate. has what will become a typical story over the next couple of months -- playing the guessing game, as the media try to figure out who the running mates might be.

Note one line from this story: "The V.P. subject is just too enticing for most reporters..." In other words, if the proverbial tea leaves could be read, journalists would be reading them.

These stories are a waste of time. The possible nominees are placed in a no win situation: If they say they are not interested and later turn out to be among the finalists, they come off as disingenuous. If they say they don't want the job, they come off as liars. (Come on, would you turn down the job?) And heaven help the person who says they would be interested. That's too self-serving, not to mention disrespectful of the people they currently are elected to represent.

Moreover, these stories are a waste because the presidential candidates also are forced to do an uncomfortable tap dance. Imagine the following question: "Mr. McCain. Do you consider (possible running mate's name inserted here) to be a worthy person on your ticket?"

If McCain says "no," he hacks off the voters in that state. If he says "yes," then the media frenzy goes into overdrive. And if he asks everyone to be patient...yeah, right. Good luck.

Come on, there must be better stories out there for a journalist to cover. Leave the speculation to someone else. Like those folks on talk radio or those folks who are labelled "political analysts" on television. Those groups seem to have perfected the art of speculating...and speculating...and speculating.

Trying to return to normal

How Northern Illinois University's faculty, staff and students plan to put the events of 10 days ago behind them.

And let's pray that no other campus community has to go through this. Ever.

As a Cubmaster...and former Texas resident...

I am curious to learn more about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's new book about the Scouts and the U.S. culture wars.

How easy will it be for Barack Obama to carry the "red states"?

This Washington Post story suggests the math isn't as simple as it might seem to be.

Consider whether this is a relevant discussion in your classroom -- especially if you are teaching in one of the states that are expected to be competitive in 2008.

An essay that forces you to think

I read this today and was stunned by its accuracy.

Think for a minute about how little time we spend as a society in serious discussion and learning.

YouTube has been banned... Pakistan. Too many anti-Islamic postings is the official reason.

Almost six years ago I heard former Assocaited Press reporter Terry Anderson say something that I've never forgotten and firmly believe -- there really is no way to stop the messages you don't like from being heard.

Anderson was teaching a course in international journalism at Ohio University, where I was getting my Ph.D. I was disappointed when I heard he was leaving teaching because I thought he forced his students to think creatively but smartly. I was always amazed that the man who went through the he** he did as a hostage came out of that experience with such a positive attitude about the difference he could make in the world.


Pardon the all caps headline, but here we go again: Ralph Nader says he's running for president. But this time he plans to do it as an independent.

He made the announcement this morning on Meet the Press.

My immediate reaction: let's look past the hype and get to the nitty-gritty. Using's 2000 election returns page as the guide...Florida and New Hampshire were the only states in which Nader influenced the final outcome that year. This thesis is based on the presumption that every vote that went to Nader in those (and all) states would have gone instead to Al Gore, if Nader had not been in the race.

Does this mean that Nader cost Gore the election? If you want to interpret it in that narrow a framework, then the answer is yes. But I think anyone who views the 2000 election from a larger perspective will agree that Nader was not the only cause of Gore's defeat. (And, for the record, let's set aside any personal sentiments about whether Gore actually lost in 2000; that issue is over.)

I'll set aside Nader's run in 2004, when he gathered 1% of the vote. These results suggest to me that even if he had a role in deciding the 2000 election, he was nothing more than a bit player in 2004.

Now let's move ahead to 2008, and here are some questions that I'd like to see the media address immediately:

1. Will the same voter who chose Nader over Gore (or Bush) in 2000 be inclined to support him again?
2. Why did those who voted for Nader in 2000 and/or 2004 do so? Are they of the same political mindset now?
3. Does Nader's message still resonate in 2008?
4. Do John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama represent a reasonable mainstream candidate? (This is not to imply that Nader is not mainstream, but it does reflect a general opinion that in 2000 those who supported Nader were somehow angry at Bush, Gore, and/or traditional politics.)
5. Does Nader intend to run a national campaign?
6. How will he finance his campaign?
7. Will he attract any sort of media attention? Should he?

I await the answers.

When the perception is that the media are going easy on a candidate...

...perhaps there is a reason, according to this article.

Now the larger questions:
1. How well have the media identified the legislative triumphs of Barack Obama?
2. If the "he's not experienced enough" label isn't sticking, doesn't that tell us something about whether it's a legitimate issue?
3. How much digging are the media supposed to do? (Yes, this is a rhetorical question.)

As I read this article, I was struck that although the name Reagan never came could probably see him in your mind. For those too young to remember, he was the last president to whom nothing bad seemed to stick. I'm not implying that there is nothing in Obama's background (the "smoking gun," to borrow a phrase), but what I am saying is that in this political era Obama might be able to do what Reagan did -- rise above the criticism.

Michelle Obama and her proud to be an American comment...

...drew some interesting media attention this week.

Ask yourself this question, after you read a more complete transcript of what she said: Why are the media (especially FOX News) jumping all over this?

The answer is simple -- in a 24-hour news cycle, "news" more often than you would think (or like) is manufactured. Something that is benign (or not important at all) becomes magnified to an unnecessary scale. Let's be honest here -- did Mrs. Obama's comments come anywhere close to being "news"? I'm not dismissing her interview, and the importance of her as a newsmaker, but let's put stories in the position they deserve. This blowing up of her comments into a national controversy went far beyond what was necessary. the newsroom?

Oh, no! (I'm about to run the risk again of being called an educational snob, aren't I?)

I rail against my students using (and in fact won't let them use) Wikipedia as a source for any research they do...and then I read this.

Attention young journalists...

...are you living up to this man's standards?

Of course, you can argue whether his standards are reasonable, but my response would be this -- tell me why and where he's wrong? At the risk of sounding like an educational snob, too many people enter journalism because they see it as fun and cool and adventurous. There is hard work to be done in order to succeed. Are you ready for that hard work?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

$50,000...per year

That's the bill facing students at a prestigious university here in Pittsburgh who go to school full-time and live on campus.

How can the middle-class family come close to affording this?

Oh, remember that post about "timing"

Well, today we get another example of it...

Hillary Clinton is blasting Barack Obama, claiming that his campaign is distributing information about her and the issues that are incorrect. You can check out any Web site for additional details, and almost all of them are leading their story with the words she used: "Shame on you."

Now, what does this have to do with timing? Simple. Consider that today has been, relatively speaking, a slow news day. Because of that, there was a fantastic opportunity for the media to jump onto any comment in the Democratic race and highlight it.

Set aside what you think of the Clinton-Obama race and recognize this -- Clinton's timing (something that no one can really ever control) has been perfect. She's in a state she must win (ensuring a rather healthy media contingent), the national news is seeking a lead and rhetoric almost always generates headlines.

Now let's see how quickly the media provide substantive reports that demonstrate whether Clinton or Obama is right. It is their responsibility to get past the rhetoric and determine the truth. At minimum, these stories should appear starting tomorrow. Let's see if they do.

Should newspapers endorse presidential candidates?

A provocative question, and one that the managing editor of TIME says has only one answer: No.

When a source has no name

Of course, a source always has a name...but sometimes journalists choose (or need) to not disclose it.

Kudos to Al Tompkins of Poynter for using the New York Times story about John McCain to highlight when such sourcing is valid. He offered two sourcing manuals, one from the New York Times and the other from Poynter, in a recent message to journalists and interested others.

Review the guides and consider at that point how you might use a classroom exercise to highlight these suggestions. More broadly, the reader of this post should consider how often media use unnamed or confidential sources and whether the policy is valid.

If the Democratic race for president ends on March 4...

...meaning if Barack Obama wins either or both Texas and Ohio (the conventional wisdom being at this point that a loss by Hillary Clinton in either confirms that Obama is a train that cannot be slowed down), a question to ponder: When does the general election campaigning begin?

Yes, it's a bit of a rhetorical question, and I ask it because several people and I were discussing this over dinner at the University of Pittsburgh event the other evening.

We unanimously agreed that a presidential campaign that began earlier than ever before (and in my opinion has had more vitriol than expected) will not simply shut down once the party's two nominees are chosen. (Yes, I know, the nominees officially aren't chosen until the respective conventions, but you certainly understand my point.) One person at the table lamented that the candidates already appear to be tired (and not to mention spending money like the federal government is in Iraq), and therefore how much energy and enthusiasm can we expect from either of them over the summer?

What then are some of the stories you might see over the remaining weeks of the winter and then into the spring (and all the way through the conventions)? I think at least three big topics will dominate:

1. The differences between Barack Obama and John McCain in terms of America's role in Iraq. No two candidates are more opposite than these two -- one wants us out (and as soon as possible), and the other says we need to remain there until the job is done. I characterize this as a policy question, and one relevant to politics; I see any conversations about this as necessary because they would be issue-driven.

2. America's economic situation, vis-a-vis outsourcing and global trade agreements. One of the most pivotal swing regions in the 2008 election will be the midwest, incorporating in this case at minimum Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota. According to the Federal Election Commission, these four states account for 57 electoral votes (or 21.1 percent of 270, the Electoral College number needed to secure the presidency). We can expect McCain to attempt a middle-ground approach, bridging the needs of business with the need to bolster the sagging economies in these states (and others). Obama is sure to take a more fire-brand approach, and demand that the American worker (symbolically if not actually) be more important in the discussion about free trade. Here agian, a policy discussion and therefore a positive. (If you haven't gotten the hint, I prefer media discourse about issues!)

3. Experience and change. Perhaps no two words better define the campaigns of McCain and Obama, respectively. One can almost anticipate the question that underscores almost every issue in 2008 (but especially in foreign policy) -- How much importance should we place on the experience of a candidate? Because he's been there, is he better able to lead the country?

If America is as polarized in 2008 as it was in 2000 (and especially in 2004), the debate about all three issues soon will turn nasty. Political operatives, such a negatively charged word it is, will soon fire up the attack machine. That would be a shame because the media would be inclined to highlight the negative elements over the policy issues and the ramifications of those policies.

No matter how you approach the next few months, be prepared for a non-stop political campaign from March 4 (or at some future date) and November 4. The longer is stays issues-driven, the better we as an electorate will be.

Serbia and Kosovo today - UPDATE

First, an update from Kosovo and Serbia, where the U.S. embassy was attacked late Thursday. is doing a solid job updating the story as often as possible; here is the latest version, but, of course, anticipate changes later in the day.

The latest report I could find on its Web site comes from the Associated Press. Not bad, but some original reporting would be nice.

You'll find a similar AP report on

I'm disappointed that the BBC Web site has no today story, but there are some video and audio clips available.

Finally, is running a Reuters report.

And if you are looking for a different angle on this story, consider this interesting World Press Review report. It points up that Kosovo, which declared independence last weekend, is not the only place in the former Yugoslavia where change could soon be in the air.

My point to all of this -- not much original reporting from U.S. media sources, as they reply upon the wire services to cover this story. I'm not criticizing the wires, don't misunderstand me; but I am simply highlighting the dearth of reporters on the scene.

UPDATE -- Three comments have been posted about this message; one of them contains a video that might make you uncomfortable. I did allow the comment, but I thought it necessary to provide the warning.

The New York Times and the McCain story

Kudos to the New York Times for acknowledging the number of criticisms it has received -- from political circles and the general public -- for the story it ran two days ago about John McCain.

I would like to see someone take a closer look at these questions and see if there is any way to judge if there were any political motivations at work. In other words, are any of the people who submitted questions tied in any way to McCain, the female lobbyist, or anyone else mentioned in the story?

Are these legitimate issues to cover on the political campaign?

As you read this article -- which highlights questions that people have about Barack Obama's loyalty and Michelle Obama's partiotism -- ask yourself: Are these legitimate questions that the media ought to be asking?

A broadcaster chimes in on the McCain story

The broadcaster says McCain's versions of events -- told to the media at a Friday press conference -- might not be accurate.

Meanwhile, one Seattle newspaper editor explains why his paper chose not to pick up the McCain story from the New York Times.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Final panel discussion post

Among the final issues that came up for discussion at last night's event was the influence of so-called new media, and the ever-improving technology on media coverage of elections.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Jim O'Toole called "this overwhelming cornucopia of information" that comes from blogs and the Internet positive. In his opinion, at minimum the 'Net allows journalists to do research in minutes that in years past would have taken dozens of phone calls.

Associated Press reporter Glen Johnson added that the newer technologies give almost everyone the opportunity to be what he is -- a wire service reporter. In this technology environment, in other words, anyone can become a kind of central hub of information and distribute it to a wide audience. He concluded his thought by noting that Yahoo! is the largest (in terms of size) subscriber to the Associated Press.

Of course, these technologies and the growth of the 24-hour news cycle has put a strain on print journalists as they struggle with how to keep their news the freshest and the most relevant. Maeve Reston of the Los Angeles Times gave a thought-provoking answer. She suggested that with the candidates always trying to stay on message and with the competition able to report what any candidate is doing at any time, she finds herself at times listening so that she can find the slightest differences in what the candidates are saying today versus what they said yesterday or at some point in the past.

She wondered, at the same time, if any subtle change in language automatically should be equated with a change in policy. And how exactly should that new language be incorporated into a story.

Wrapping up, it was a fascinating event at the University of Pittsburgh. The university's Honors College and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette put on a great program. I would have liked to have seen more students in the audience, but I confess to being chronically worried about the lack of enthusiasm that young people have for the political process. It probably didn't help that the Pitt men's basketball team was playing Notre Dame, or that the weather forecast was calling for potentially bad weather. Setting aside this one gripe, this was a great evening of conversation. I wished the session could have run longer than the approximate 70 minutes that it did.

More about panel discussion

The reporters at last night's event made a point of how important -- and at the same time how difficult it can be at times -- to get out of the candidates' cocoons and talk to real people.

Bloomberg News reporter Indira Lakshmanan noted that being on bus with the other members of the media and traveling with the candidates is important (and she's absolutely correct) because doing so allows the journalist to report what is happening...from the inside. However, she also noted (and again absolutely correctly) that being in that "bubble" can allow the reporter to lose "perspective" on other critical issues taking place within the election, though not necessarily directly related to the candidate.

Later, she noted that the same problem affects the candidates. They are insulated so much by the polls and their staffs, that they too cannot get the "reality check" that comes from listening to everyday Americans talk about the issues that matter to them in the campaign.

Lakshmanan is covering her first presidential race in 2008, though she has covered similar elections in other countries. She told the audience that she is making a particular effort this year to spend as much time as she can with the electorate.

Jim O'Toole was asked to comment on one audience question, which asked why do the media seem to get it wrong so often? (The person who asked the question asked everyone to remember the conventional wisdom that John McCain was dead meat and Hillary Clinton would steamroll her way to the Democratic nomination.) He suggested that the public needed to approach all media reports with an independent and critical eye, while seeking out as many different sources as possible. He also noted that, yes, sometimes journalists fell victim to "group think," which ensures that once an idea gets planted into the mainstream media, it becomes difficult for journalists to see another solution or perspective.

Additional reaction from last night's University of Pittsburgh panel discussion

I'll provide periodic postings today (around an otherwise busy schedule!) to review some of the issues that came up during last night's discussion at the University of Pittsburgh. Be sure to read the late Thursday post and the McCain post from this morning for previous comments on the panel session.

The image that political candidates project with the public and with the media became an interesting talking point last night. Jim O'Toole from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (a co-sponsor of the event) noted that Hillary Clinton engages with her audience more than the public might think, and that the steely demeanor that many people have of her is in fact not always on display.

My notes are not as clear as they should be, but I believe it was Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News (if not her than it was O'Toole) who told the audience that the now famous tears that welled up within Mrs. Clinton was not the only time that her emotions have come to the surface during the campaign. Either Lakshmanan or O'Toole remembered a moment when Mrs. Clinton was speaking to a woman, somewhere on the campaign trail, and the story she told the candidate seemed to really resonate with the Democratic presidential hopeful.

Mike Pride, the editor of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor found Barack Obama to be quite refreshing when the Illinois senator met with the Monitor's editorial board. Pride found it surprising that Obama, for example, did not duck questions about his already-admitted cocaine use, which Pride has discussed in an editorial, and which Pride said last night was not something most candidates would do.

Lakshmanan also said something about Obama that I found very interesting: he took 36 hours off over Valentine's Day so that he could spend that day and some time with his family. She contrasted Obama being home with the (three) Clintons, who were in three different states campaigning.

Finally, here is an overview of the five journalists who took part in this session.

Want to buy a magazine?

This might be your time to jump in. Find out more here.

McCain-New York Times, Day two

A variety of questions are being posed this morning about the reporting done by the New York Times in its story alleging an improper relationship a few years ago between John McCain and a lobbyist.

Here is a sample, including from the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.

And don't forget that conservatives also are rallying behind McCain. Isn't that a twist from the political discourse of just two weeks ago?

A separate Chicago Tribune story suggests that the paper might have run the story on Thursday because a national magazine was about to do the same. And here is The New Republic account.

A further assessment: I mentioned in a late Thursday posting that I attended a panel discussion at the University of Pittsburgh last night. Mike Pride, the editor of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, was asked to address the McCain story. He said that he would not have run the story. He told the audience that while flying in to Pittsburgh, he took out his editor's pen and identified the "weasel words" and other places where the story somehow waffled or was not as strong in its sourcing as it should have been. Pride ssaid he was disappointed once he got to the end of the report to see the number of edit marks he had made or general questions he had posed.

Also on the panel was Glen Johnson, the Massachusetts Statehouse Bureau Chief for the AP. He suggested that the Romney campaign knew about the Times story more than a month ago and pressed reporters covering the Romney presidential bid to find out why more of them were not asking their own questions about the story. He added that Romney never discussed the issue publicly.

Friday update -- U.S. Embassy attacked in Belgrade

A few media reports, specifically from the Washington Post, CNN, FOX News (this story, I'm disappointed to say, still has a Thursday dateline), and the BBC, which takes a look at this story from a European persepctive.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Should journalists prognosticate?

Tonight, I attended a discussion at the University of Pittsburgh in which five political journalists talked about the 2008 presidential race.

Sometime Friday, I'll provide a substantive series of posts about the session, but there is one question that I thought was the most interesting of the evening. "Who do you think will be the two candidates for president?" the journalists were asked.

Each offered almost the same assessment -- John McCain and Barack Obama. It struck me, as it did a Point Park University student who attended the event with me, that it was not appropriate for journalists to offer predictions.

We agreed that the five journalists should have refused to answer the question. It was my sense that just by suggesting who the Republican and Democratic nominees would be that somehow each journalist was tipping his or her hand about how they would cover the candidates.

More on Friday.

Angry and violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade

This hostile reaction, however stunning it is, does not come as a surprise, owing to the U.S. endorsement of Kosovo's declaration of independence over the weekend.

I'm working to find some links offering historical information about the region.

UPDATE: 1st link -- here is the New York Times story highlighting the independence call.

The CIA's World Factbook also is a valuable reference to learn more. Note the map on the first Web page; you will find Kosovo in the southwest part of Serbia.

When the cellphone rings... answer it, apparently even if you are on the air!

Pennsylvania's new "Right to Know" law

A colleague sent this link to me; I've not yet read it, but it is the new Right to Know law here in Pennsylvania.

The Russian media aren't asking the critical questions either

Of course, the reasons there are a bit different! But some bloggers are attempting to discuss relevant political issues.

The Russian media aren't asking the critical questions either

Why journalists in this country have it so good

Consider this story, and this one, along with this one; all three would make for a great in-class discussion about the differences in media philosophies and government involvement around the world.

The timing of it all

Quite a morning in presidential politics and the media...

As mentioned in my previous post, a variety of questions about Barack Obama, the now clear Democratic frontrunner for president, are being posed. While I find these questions relevant (I can't say the same for the blatantly political swipes), I wonder WHY NOW? Why did the media wait until now to ask the difficult questions about what an Obama presidency might look like, and what his positions were on the relevant issues of the day.

Let me interject a separate point: I'm still undecided about whom I will vote for in the November election, and as a registered independent here in Pennsylvania I cannot vote in the April primary. Therefore, I have no horse in this race, so to speak, and to borrow a strategy the media appear to like when it comes to covering campaigns.

I'll return to the Democrats in a minute. On the Republican side, John McCain woke up this morning to learn that the New York Times is asking if he had an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist when he ran for president eight years ago.

What I find interesting about this story is that there is never a direct charge that McCain and the woman had an affair, and at this point there appears to be no evidence of such. As you read the stories, pay close attention to the sources and ask if any of them might have an axe to grind.

So, again, I'm left to wonder WHY NOW? Unless the newspaper stumbled upon this story only in the past couple of days (not likely, especially since at least one online news source had been asking similar questions weeks before), I wonder whose agenda this issue serves to advance.

Let's return to the Democrats: the questions about Obama are legitimate, and I hope that even the most ardent of his supporters would agree. We're moving ever closer to handing over the most important political position in the world to someone who the public appears to still know little about.

However, by posing so many of the questions now, the media are acknowledging that up to this point they both failed to cover him with the seriousness they are now doing, and that perhaps they, too, were caught up in Obama-mania. Strike one...and strike two. Now, I'll deliver strike three -- the other possibility is that the failure to uncover Obama's positions was based on an assumption that his candidacy would eventually fizzle out.

Better luck, the next time you step to the plate. But for now, sit struck out.

Let's return to McCain: the questions about any extramarital affair are going to be asked in the media, even though the public -- generally speaking -- says it could care less about the private lives of political candidates. (The fact that Bill Clinton survived the impeachment hearings is all the evidence you need.) So, why the "affair" questions?

For those who love the "conspiracy" game, I ask you this: Who would have planted this story? Mike Huckabee? Doubtful. He's now been placed in the rearview mirror, and he can't win the GOP nomination at this point. Another Republican candidate? Even more doubtful. Some unnamed conservative, in a last ditch effort to derail McCain? Fine, if you want to accept that, I ask you this -- who becomes your nominee?

Could a Democrat have planted the seeds for this story? You can forget about the Clintons doing this; Hillary Clinton's campaign is almost on life support at this point. If she doesn't win in Ohio and Texas, it's adios.

Obama? He doesn't strike me as someone who would play this kind of card to advance his political ambitions. The enthusiasm for him is based in part on his commitment to deliver an upbeat message of promise and hope, while ignoring the smearing that plagued too many previous presidential elections.

Of course, if the story is based on good old fashioned reporting, kudos to the Times. But, wow, it sure took you long enough to come up with the answers.

Timing. Critical to news stories.

I don't know...can he?

You can take a stab at answering this question, if you like.

Of course, the Wall Street Journal is suggesting that Barack Obama might have just entered a new period of vulnerability.

But the questions about his viability are being asked, as well, in newspapers that operate in states supposedly favorable to Obama. So, too, are they being posed at other national news agencies.

An "independent" group

My experience is that there really is no such thing as an "independent" political group, but setting aside any bias I such group is backing Hillary Clinton for President.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A 52-week television season?

Huh? No season opener? No season-ending cliffhanger? What in the name of NBC is going on here?

Add yet another voice to those opposed to the satellite radio merger

Read additional details here.

More journalists on the street?

A radical idea! Heresy, you say!

Well, at least one TV executive believes that more people on the street is exactly what the medium needs. Let's hope this idea catches fire!

The plaigarism boomerang

The media are focusing again today on the "did Obama plaigarize" question. However, the direction of reporting today seems to be geared more toward criticizing the Clinton campaign rather than criticizing Obama.

The New York Times asks if Clinton's spouse was not guilty of the same offense.

This AP report also might give you pause; it suggests the Clintons are pointing the finger of blame at the media for this latest flare-up between the two Democratic candidates. notes that Obama also went on the offensive in defending himself and criticizing Clinton.

Is it time to write the Clinton obit?

Based on some media accounts this morning, the answer appears to be yes.

CNN notes that in winning two more contests last night, Barack Obama did so by successfully chipping away at Hillary Clinton's base of support.

The Baltimore Sun suggests that Obama appears to be a kind-of runaway train at this point, and the chances are dwindling for Clinton to stop him.

The New York Times offers similar analysis.

The AP says that Obama also used his victory speech last night to begin establishing the differences between Republican John McCain and him.

And, finally, the Los Angeles Times says that Clinton might be missing a critical point -- Democratic voters are NOT responding to her argument that she is the better candidate because she, and not Obama, would be ready to lead the country on day one.

Keep one thing in mind: Obama is rolling, no question about it, but his delegate lead is still less than 100. Now, I understand that because Democratic contests are not winner take all that it is more difficult more Clinton to make up that deficit, but if she wins the three major states coming up (Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania) the race will substantially tighten and there will be another interesting question to consider: Why is SHE winning the BIG states, but not the smaller ones?

Again, if she wins the next big three, she will have won California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan (though the last two are a bit dubious this year). The power of those wins likely will resonate with the superdelegates.

Of course, if she fails to capture Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania...then her campaign is effectively over.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Still fighting in Ft. Collins

The student newspaper at Colorado State University remains steadfast -- we don't want Gannett taking us over.

I couldn't agree more

Too many talking heads...often at the expense of substantive issues coverage or the thoughts of Joe and Josephine American...fill up cable news coverage of politics.

Kudos to one of my former students

You'll find her name as the second author of this ABC News piece. And as you read this story, remember that this student graduated only last May.

Kate Santichen did a lot of things right in her college career, including completing an internship at GMA; and during her final semester in school travelling back and forth almost every weekend from Pittsburgh to New York so that she could keep working there.

Kudos to Kate!

And the winner is...

...well, it sure looks like the winner will be this person. And what is the prize? Winters in Syracuse...but in charge of one of America's great journalism schools.

The incredible shrinking...

...newspaper industry. A report that should give many people pause.

Obama...the plagiarist?

Plenty of media reaction this morning to a Clinton campaign charge that the Obama camp plagiarized parts of a recent speech.

The Boston Globe report can be found here, but you also can read substantive accounts from CNN, the Washington Post (in which a stinging comment or two is made about Obama), and Keep in mind that the person who penned the words that Obama is accused of "lifting" thinks the charge is bogus.

And don't forget, as the Financial Times (among others) correctly notes, it was a charge of plagiarism that 20 years ago doomed the presidential bid of Joe Biden.

There are several questions that immediately flow from these stories:
1. Are they legitimate charges? As you read these media accounts, you'll note that some reports answer this question quite well.
2. Is the Clinton camp reaching for anything at this point to slow down Obama? In politics almost anything is fair game, but is that necessarily a good thing?
3. Will the charge resonate with the public? There might be a hint of an answer in Wisconsin, which holds its primary today. My sense is that this will blow over rather quickly, however.

And one final question -- how can this example be used in your classroom? (Or can it this soon?)

Musharraf: We've lost

Another place in the world where the news this morning should not be a surprise: Pakistan's leader Pervez Musharraf has acknowledged his party's defeat in parliamentary elections.

Now the larger questions can begin to be answered (albeit on a halting basis) --
1. How will the opposition parties move from out-of-power to in-power?
2. How will this change affect relations with the U.S. and the West?
3. And, yes, because this is a blog pertaining to media -- will the election results portend a change in media policies?

Fidel Castro steps down

The news from Havana this morning should surprise no one, but it will be worth our time to monitor news discourse on this throughout the day.

Consider using what you see in your classrooms.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Is the world a more dangerous place today?

There's no question we live in a dangerous era, and setting aside any political rhetoric there is no doubt that the U.S. has been at war since late 2001. But how much do you know about the other places in the world where violence is (or very easily could be) a fact of life.

In fact, which of the following countries are not involved in real or potential skirmishes at this point:
a. Kosovo
b. Kenya
c. Pakistan
d. Chad

The answer is all of them are very dangerous places today, and the chilling thought is that Kosovo is the most stable place among those four nations in which you'd want to find yourself.

Kenya has been involved in deadly political violence since late December, when the nation's president was re-elected amid claims of vote fraud.

Pakistan has been at a steady simmer for years, and the late December assassination of Benazir Bhutto turned up the heat even higher. Now the country is about to embark on parliamentary elections, and the opposition party says it will take to the streets if there is any evidence of fraud.

Chad also is in the grips of a domestic political crisis, including multiple reports, which the nation's president downplayed, indicating that he had been injured in at least one of them. A state of emergency remains in effect.

With all this as a backdrop, I invite you to go to the Web sites of America's national news networks.

My cursory check (between 8:55 and 9:05 p.m. ET) indicates that ABC is reporting only on Kosovo, NBC (through MSNBC) is highlighting the Kosovo and Pakistan situations (while at the same time boldly noting the Web site's new partnership with NBC Sports, the same two stories (Kosovo and Pakistan) can be found on the CBS News' site, FOX News will tell you about Kosovo (and under its Top Video links is a report about breast augmentation and free breast implants), and finally CNN also will tell you only about the Kosovo independence announcement, which was made today.

Of course, CNN also is touting its exclusive interview with the girlfriend of the young man who killed five people and then himself late last week at Northern Illinois University.

Ah, priorities.

Go easy on him...I mean, he's only a presidential candidate!

Are the media giving a free pass to the Barack Obama record? Are they paying attention to any flip-flops in his message? Are they simply presuming that his record and that of Hillary Clinton are so close that the general public thinks of one when they think of the other? Do the media value the horserace, even though the should be fed up with that kind of nonsense passing for legitimate news coverage?

All interesting questions, and in case you didn't catch the conversation this morning during CNN's Reliable Sources, here's a transcript.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Characterizing two university shooters

It's a dangerous thing to do, but something that the media are either compelled or feel compelled to do. "It" is trying to read the mind of a killer and attempt to decipher what led him (and almost always it is a "him") to do what he did.

With that in mind, I'm paying attention to the terms used within media discourse to characterize the killers at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech.

Today I noticed that the people who knew the NIU shooter almost universally described him in positive terms. Consider these:

According to the New York Times, he was "revered" by his professors.

The Chicago Tribune noted he was "earnest" and perhaps a bit shy.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, picking up an Associated Press report, noted that people who knew him thought he was "a bright, helpful scholar." Few at the university seemed to know of any mental issues he might have been suffering from.

Are these characterizations accurate? We have to assume they are, for a variety of reasons. But this post challenges you not to determine whether they are correct. Rather, I ask you to go into your memory bank and remember how the Virginia Tech shooter was characterized. Without question, there were no positive assessments of him. He was a seemingly chronic dark and moody individual who never reached out to anyone.

Again, I'm not asking you to verify how accurate those assessments were.

Rather, I want us to consider a larger question -- what purpose do these characterizations serve? Are they germane to storytelling? Do they reinforce any stereotypical or cultural biases?

Think it over.

Northern Illinois, Day 3

A solid report from TIME magazine detailing how the tragedy at Northern Illinois unfolded.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A connection between the Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois shootings?

According to this CNN report, the connection, if it proves accurate, is almost surreal.

British athletes can't criticize...

...while they're in China for this Summer's Olympics, but the IOC says any athlete can blog. Hmmmm...sounds like a loophole to me!

100 jobs to be cut... what I consider to be America's best newspaper.

Are the media treating Clinton and Obama differently?

Nonsense, says one Washington Post columnist.

A controversial medical and scientific exhibit...

...might be undermined by an ABC News report airing tonight.

Northern Illinois, day two UPDATE

Plenty of reports this morning, local and national, pertaining to the gunman who killed six people, then himself, at Northern Illinois University.

The university's president says the gunman was an alum of the university and was a good student. In fact, just two years ago he had been recognized for his research work.

Meanwhile, tributes to the victims are also being disseminated.

Finally, don't forget the value of technology; individual reports from "cellphone journalists" are available through CNN, the Chicago Tribune and YouTube (though you might find the music and editing quality of this report a bit offensive).

Additional information now available, including a photo of the shooter (see CNN's home page), including news about medication he had been taking.

Fired...for blogging?

A former CNN producer says it's happened to him.

As you read this, consider what the implications are for: free speech or expression, "old" media versus "new" media and the importance that newsrooms place on being territorial about its information.

An important message about the DTV transition...

Nielsen is warning that ratings numbers could be affected, and one demographic in particular might suffer from the planned transition, which is almost one year to the day from now.

To be in 3rd place...and apologetic

Such is the unfortunate position that MSNBC finds itself in. Here's one critic's assessment of what it means.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Romney endorses McCain

An interesting twist in the Republican presidential race today...Mitt Romney endorses John McCain.
On one level, this can be seen as Romney as Conservative and therefore an important endorsement because of Romney's solid conservative record; Romney's decision could signal that McCain is making in-roads with the conservative base of the GOP.

On another level, this could be viewed as Romney as Opportunist and therefore an endorsement designed to increase Romney's chances to be McCain's runningmate.

Either way, let's watch how the media dissect this announcement. Romney's decision also will put pressure on Mike Huckabee to abandon his (not almost impossible) efforts to secure enough delegates to be the GOP nominee. Of course, considering the enmity between Romney and Huckabee, I doubt that anything Romney suggests will be acted upon by Huckabee.

Oh,'s happened again- UPDATE

This time, Northern Illinois University is the location as a gunman opens fire on a college campus. As of now, 4 are dead and the gunman fatally shot himself.

A suggestion -- WLS-TV in Chicago for local coverage of the shooting on the NIU campus.

UPDATED: 9:37 p.m.: 6 now dead at NIU. Meanwhile, additional information can be accessed from the Northern Illinois University homepage.

Talk radio is "right"...

...but you decide if it is "correct."

NBC to shutter two domestic news bureaus

Additional details here...and plenty for us to discuss in our classrooms.

CBS journalist in Iraq update

Still a captive...though the interpreter is now free.

Meanwhile, a report from another part of the world detailing the death of another journalist.

FOX and Yahoo!

A match made in heaven (or somewhere else)? It could become a reality.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do you remember the furor surrounding the "Mohammed" cartoons?

It looks like the controversy is about to flare up again.

How do you think these discussions should be had in our classrooms? Has your opinion changed since the initial publication of these caricatures?

If you're looking for jailed journalists...

...chances are, they'll be found in China.

If this news is true... will be very good news...a British newspaper reports that the release of two CBS News journalists is imminent.

The lessons of plagiarism have been delivered... Texas Tech University, a former employer.

"60 Minutes" going soft?

That's one person's least when it comes to analyzing a recent interview with a presidential candidate.

Another view... the question of whether journalists should vote in elections in which they cover the candidates.

It sounds like something out of "Get Smart"

Would you on your (mobile) phone? Nothing funny here...and once it gets here the radio industry could be primed for a significant income jump.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who's in charge here?

As you read the following short story, ask yourself...would you have allowed this to happen if you were a journalist? And equally importantly how can you use this as a teaching tool?

More ideas about non-profits and journalism

This time it's happening in San Diego.

If at first you don't succeed...

...Microsoft will try, try again.

Update -- Kidnapped CBS News journalists

Two updates, one from the Los Angeles Times...and one from The Guardian

A "sweep"-ing shift of the schedule?

It might happen in February 2009. And I think for good reasons. See what you think after reading this.

I don't mean to laugh...

...but I find this funny: ClearChannel is urging that the proposed satellite radio merger of Sirius and XM not go through. The company is worried about there being too much concentration of power in the hands of one entity.

ClearChannel, of course, would know nothing about concentration of ownership. None at all.

An educational-industry partnership that is working well...

...and it's happening at my university :-) As you might guess, all of us are quite proud of what we're doing!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Not many details at this point...

...but what is here is not good: Two American journalists are missing in Iraq.

A very important article...

...detailing how news organizations (and journalism schools might be compelled to consider this model as well) are turning to non-profits to assist in their investigative reporting efforts.

It took four years...

...but a prominent Chinese journalist has been freed from prison.

Why going after political candidates is good...

...for talk radio. Care to hazard a guess as to the reason? I bet you know it!

You know, if the cable and over-the-air networks are going to cover the political horse race...

...then I suppose it is inevitable that others will write about the news media horse race. Give CNN a win on Super Tuesday.

Another former Bush administration official...

...demonstrates contempt for the media.

Let's remember that this official was just hired by FOX News to be a news analyst. He's experienced and smart; he should know better and have more respect for the media.

What troubles me more is when I read that people hosting these officials are agreeing to this idea.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Shhh! Say nothing!

If you're like me -- and I pity you if you are :-) -- then I think you're going to find this story interesting.

A prominent Western European sports entity is requiring its athletes to keep its mouths shut this summer.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Affirmed...Spectacular Bid...Secretariat...


The first three were in horse races. The final four should never be. So why are the media falling in love again with the political horse race (and, yes, that is a rhetorical question)?

I'm watching FOX News tonight and Geraldo Rivera is on a horse race rampage. In his usual over-the-top bombast, Rivera has informed his viewers in just the past 15 minutes that Obama earned "huge" victories tonight...and that the "real big story" tonight is Huckabee's current leads in Louisiana and Washington, coupled with his win earlier in Kansas earlier in the day.

Rivera also said immediately after Obama delivered an address to a group in Richmond, Virginia that tonight was the first time that he felt Obama was going to be the Democratic candidate. Felt? Felt? And just who asked Rivera what he felt anyway? He also is saying he very much admires McCain.

Keep this is mind: Clinton still enjoys a slim lead in the delegate count (and regardless of who leads at this point, neither she nor Obama is anywhere close to securing the party's nomination); and Huckabee would need to win perhaps 90% of the remaining delegates in order to win the GOP nomination.

Everytime I hear people talk about what they "feel," I'm reminded what the pastor at a Catholic church my wife and I once attended repeatedly told his parishoners -- people need to stop feeling and start thinking. Father William Reichart was right then, and he'd be right if he delivered that comment tonight. Get past your own emotions and consider the big picture.

Please, Geraldo, chill out. Start thinking. Stop feeling. And stop opining. You're supposed to be a cable news anchor.

And now it appears to be over

The writers' strike, that is.

Letting the government control the message?

Do you think the answer to that question is yes...after reading this story?

The "C" word

Journalists hate it. The public is not served by it. But was it something that jouranlists dealt with as they covered the war in Iraq? You decide, after reading this.

Cub Scouts

Many of the regular readers of this blog know that I am the Cubmaster for my son's Cub Scout pack. This week my 47 kids had a chance to gain a valuable learning experience -- they were invited to attend both a Scout Sunday and Scout Shabbat service.

The Scout Sunday service is a regular part of our Pack's program of activities. Bower Hill Community Church has been the home to my son's Pack for more than 50 years, and each year it hosts a service to welcome Cub Scout Pack 28 (and Boy Scout Troop 28) and to recognize their achievements in Scouting. I remind the congregation at that service that the church community is an integral part of everything we do -- whether they are actually in the church or not during the time our Scouts hold their many meetings, they are providing a critical sign of support for what my fellow leaders and I do.

Last night, for the first time our Pack attended a Scout Shabbat. I don't know why my predecessors never encouraged this (and frankly I dropped the ball by not trying to make it happen during my first full year as Cubmaster), but 2008 marked the beginning of what I hope will be a new tradition for my son's Pack -- attendance at a Shabbat. We also were joined by at least one Girl Scout group last evening.

I see most of my Jewish Scouts only at various Scout meetings or at the school many of them attend with my son, but I was aware that many of them were receiving Hebrew-language instruction at Temple Beth El. Nevertheless, I still I found myself in amazement last evening listening to these boys (or their sisters, female cousins or female friends) sing or recite prayers in Hebrew.

I told the congregation that as a college educator I always remind my students that they need to constantly keep their eyes open so that they can learn, experience and see new things. I try to impart that same message to my 47 Scouts. Not all 47 were there last night, but my hope is that those who were learned something valuable.

I'll admit that I did. I gained a better appreciation for Judaism, but more importantly I gained a better appreciation for the work that many people at Temple Beth El do in order to instill important lessons about the Jewish faith to a large number of boys and girls.

Yes, if you keep your eyes open you can learn a lot.

A grand re-opening...

...that all (Good Morning) America fans can see.

The transition to digital...

...a couple of interesting stories about how the process is going. First, a reaction from FCC chair Kevin Martin. Next, concerns (I think legitimate) being offered by a certain group of cable owners.

It's not over till it's over...'s not over...till we get it right!

Remember that song? It might become the theme song for the writers' strike, which appears to be getting ever so close to being over.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Romney's departure

The decision today by Mitt Romney to suspend his presidential campaign was a wise one, in my opinion. One report I read today (I think it was by the Associated Press), and disseminated before Romney made his announcement, indicated that he would need to win almost 75% of the remaining delegates in order to overtake John McCain. McCain seems formidable in too many upcoming primaries for that to happen. By leaving now, Romney leaves open the possibility that he can be a legitimate candidate in 2012...if a Republican does not win November's general election.

In the early weeks of the campaign, I was bothered by the media's never-ending attention to Romney's Mormon faith. I mentioned in a post in late 2007 that it disturbed me that in the 21st century a man was compelled to defend his religion.

Over time that issued seemed to fade, as concerns about the American economy and the slumping stock market took centerstage. Romney used that economic downturn to demonstrate his belief that he was the best suited to fix the problem, because of his background as a CEO.

But he could never turn that momentum into a string of victories. Yes, he won Michigan; but his family's history in that state seemed to make that win an inevitable one. He was then derailed in the south, and the McCain momentum took hold. A few successes on Super Tuesday were blunted by wins by McCain and Mike Huckabee.

Romney's departure makes McCain the almost-certain GOP nominee. And with that the media's attention will turn to whether he can unite conservatives behind his campaign.

Here we go again...

...a premature call of an election. This time, it involves the AP and Missouri.

95 journalists were killed...

...while doing their jobs in 2007. A sad statistic, but an important thing for us to talk about in our classes.

The Newseum to open

Looks like mid-April is the new target date.

The death of a former ABC News great

I admired John McWethy...never met him, however. I thought his work was among the best. His death today was horrible to hear.

Google -- the best choice for local news?

Hardly, but it is hard to argue that Google is attempting to become a viable player in on-line local news coverage. Read more here.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's good to be living in Pennsylvania

Consider this calendar: There are no primary or caucus elections between March 12 and April 22 (the day Pennsylvania voters go to the polls).

Consider the charts: By that date, there is no way that the Democrats will have settled on their nominee for president; and it's also possible that John McCain will use a win in Pennsylvania to lock up the Republican nomination.

Consider my job: Someone who teaches broadcast journalism and believes in using as many real-world examples as I can inside my classrooms.

Consider the possibilities: For my students who use the political climate in 2008 to bolster their storytelling abilities, to gain a better understanding of the political process, and to network with the national media as they make numerous visits to our state during that five-week stretch.

Hillary...on FOX?

Looks like the contender and the network that care little for each other are going to do business with each other, at least for one night.

And you thought I was bitter about network and cable television coverage of politics

Well, for another this.

Does voting damage your objectivity?

An interesting discussion, one that we can easily extend to our classrooms.

Some very happy FOXes

You would be, too, if your network had the broadcast rights to this year's Super Bowl.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

ABC's coverage of Super Tuesday

I've to this point found the coverage of Super Tuesday on ABC to be quite good. What strikes me is that it appears more relaxed and composed than I've seen on the cable networks on earlier primary or caucus nights.

No, so far I've not seen enough "Joe and Josephine American," but I'm beginning to conclude that I'm hoping against hope in seeking it. Nevertheless, Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer and George Stephanopolous are providing a professional-looking program without the rushed feel that I've seen elsewhere.

It's not quite wall-to-wall coverage...

...instead, it's more like wall-for-all coverage. At least one pundit likes it. I don't share his enthusiasm. I find CNN's wall too busy.

The media are playing nice with one presidential candidate

Oh, yes, you've heard this one before. Here's the latest (supposed) example of media bias.

And in case you wanted more ammunition for this argument, read this.

8 is enough?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But here is what one journalist thinks might happen because of today's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

Kudos to my colleagues!

The following is taken from the Innocence Institute, located at Point Park University. Kudos to my colleagues for the great work they've done!

Johnson Wins New Trial
New evidence discredits key eyewitness testimony
February 5, 2008

By Jodi Weigand, Jesse Miller and Ben Adducchio

The Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Terrell Johnson, imprisoned since 1996 in a gangland-style execution of a government snitch, has been granted a new trial based on new evidence that at the precise time of the killing the woman who said she watched the slaying was several blocks away smoking crack cocaine in a Hazelwood basement.

In a one-page order granting a new trial, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lawrence O'Toole said Mr. Johnson, 31, proved at an appeals hearing last November that testimony from the new witness, a long-time drug addict named Kenneth "Skinny" Robinson, forced him to order a new trial because the new evidence could not reasonably "have been determined prior to (Johnson's original) trial," according to the order.

Shortly after his conviction, Judge O'Toole also reversed Mr. Johnson's conviction due to ineffective counsel, but that ruling was overturned on appeal and subsequent appeals denied, condemning Mr. Johnson to a life sentence in prison until the ruling Friday. Two others implicated in the killing were acquitted at trial.

"He was so happy, just happy," Saundra Cole said of her husband when he heard the news during a telephone call from the State Correctional Institution at Greene. "But we've been here before. We're just praising God anyway in advance, hoping this is it."

Neither Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala nor J. Richard Narvin, Mr. Johnson's present attorney, could immediately be reached for comment.

"The whole thing was a travesty based on lies," said John Elash, who was the penalty phase attorney in Mr. Johnson's first trial.

November Hearing Changed Case

The Jan. 29, 2008 decision stems from the testimony in November by Mr. Robinson, who said he was smoking crack with Evelyn McBryde, the government's key witness, at the time Verna Robinson, a recovering drug addict, was murdered only hours after she was supposed to testify in an un-related shooting involving the notorious and deadly Hazelwood Mob, which police believed was responsible for at least 10 unsolved killings in that area.

While she told no one of what she supposedly saw, three weeks later when Ms. McBryde was caught stealing at an area mall, she asked police for a deal if she testified she witnessed the murder by Mr. Johnson and two others. It was her testimony that resulted in Mr. Johnson's conviction during the first of three trials in the matter.

By the time his two co-defendants went to trial, lawyers and investigators shredded her eyewitness testimony by proving her story did not match that of other witnesses or the murder scene's landscape. They also produced much more evidence about Ms. McBryde's drug-fueled criminal background, and documented numerous additional lies, hidden deals and other issues related to her voracity that later led to acquittals for both of Mr. Johnson's co-defendants.

In 2001, the Innocence Institute of Point Park University, an investigative reporting program where students learn skills through probes of allegations of wrongful convictions, conducted a detailed investigation of Mr. Johnson's murder conviction. Students interviewed witnesses, examined the crime scene and uncovered numerous other inconsistencies in statements from Ms. McBryde, who is currently incarcerated for bank fraud. The institute uncovered and wrote about numerous instances of questionable deals from prosecutors, hidden evidence and ineffective legal assistance.

According to court documents, she was given reduced sentences for prostituting her children, using them to steal from retail outlets, and even getting away with shoplifting while she accompanied a Pittsburgh Police Detective who was trying to protect her. Ms. McBryde is also known to have used over 11 different names and six different Social Security numbers.

At Mr. Johnson's trial, Ms. McBryde testified the night of the killing, she went to a nearby bar and then a drug den before she walked up a street and secreted herself behind bushes in front of a house when she watched the attack on Ms. Robinson. After Mr. Johnson's conviction when Ms. McBryde realized a locked gate would have prevented her from seeing the murder, she changed that story to say she watched the brutal killing from beside the home, which would have placed her in plain view of the killers.

At Mr. Johnson's PCRA hearing late last year, Mr. Robinson, another long-time criminal and drug addict, came forward for the first time. He said Ms. McBryde, and another man, whose name he couldn't recall, were smoking crack in a basement on

Glenwood Ave., Hazelwood. A short time later, his mother called him to tell him about the shooting of Verna Robinson several blocks away and advised him to get out of the house, known as a "hot house," or a drug house.

"I told them to leave," Mr. Robinson testified. "The guy left pretty quick, but Dolly took her time. I told her that Verna had been killed, and she said, 'What?'"

Neither the jury nor the judge in Mr. Johnson's first trial or the other cases heard testimony from Mr. Robinson.

At the appeals hearing, Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Ron Wabby argued that members of the Johnson defense team knew about the information Mr. Robinson had for years, which under the law, precluded them from bringing it up at this late date.

"If I knew this man could have proven my innocence, why wouldn't I tell someone," said Mr. Johnson under oath. "I would have been screaming it from behind the prison bars."

After Mr. Johnson and others testified they did not have the information until just before his latest appeal was filed, Judge O'Toole ruled in his favor.


Jodi Weigand is an administrative assistant with the Innocence Institute, she can be reached at Jesse Miller ( and Ben Adducchio ( are Innocence Institute graduate assistants. All three can be reached at 412-765-3164.