Monday, June 30, 2008

Just a thought about "fringe" candidates

There's been some talk and media speculation of late about the potential for Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr taking votes from John McCain and thereby potentially costing McCain the general election.

I offer this thought -- take a look at the 2000 presidential campaign, in which Ralph Nader "cost" Al Gore that election (depending upon whom you believe and which media you pay attention to) because of his success in certain states, especially Florida. Let's presume, for sake of argument, that Nader was not part of the 2000 election. Or, we could also presume, that enough of the Florida votes that went to Nader instead were cast for Gore, regardless if Nader was on the ballot. Gore therefore would have won the state, its electoral votes, and the presidential election.

I admit that for purposes of this post I'm oversimplifying the 2000 campaign in order to make my point: if Nader "cost" Gore the 2000 election, then are the voters in 2008 who choose Barr over McCain prepared to have the same argument made about them...if Barack Obama wins?

I'm NOT suggesting that voters shouldn't select Barr. Rather, I'm wondering how the media will report a "vote for Barr was a vote for Obama" theme. Such talk, when it was "a vote for Nader was a vote for Bush," was dismissed by many journalists and talk show hosts in 2000. Would they be as quick to dismiss it now?

I can hear the calls in late November and into the new calendar year -- how dare those people not choose the mainstream candidate who HAD a chance to win! How dare they file a protest vote at a time when America's role in the world is so critical! How could they have abandoned their party for the sake of their ideals! They couldn't look past their self-interest and because of it THAT GUY won!


For a host of reasons...that seems like a winning ticket. For a host of reasons...that seems like a losing ticket. And is it possible, as you read this story, that McCain's campaign is doing nothing more than floating this idea?

Putting such information out there does a variety of things:
1. Gives the media something to talk about (you know they will react to this information);
2. Offers the McCain camp a chance to see what the general public reaction would be -- especially in the key battleground states;
3. Provides a smokescreen, as McCain sizes up another candidate

It is my opinion, for what that's worth!, that McCain will not select Romney as his running mate. I base this on the presumption that too many Republicans will be turned off by him and that McCain wants someone that will generate better media buzz.

Romney, in other words, might seem like a safe pick, but McCain might prefer to be a bit more adventurous.

They did it once...they did it twice...

...and a prominent United States senator says they'd like to do it again.

Is Sen. Joe Lieberman correct? Consider the evidence: The initial attack on the World Trade Center occurred soon after Bill Clinton was sworn in as president. Less than a year after he was succeeded by George Bush, the much more devastating Sept. 11 attacks took place.

Lieberman said yesterday on Face the Nation that another strike -- designed to test the mettle of the nation's next president -- could take place in the first few months of 2009.

Is this a scare tactic or a realistic argument? Of course, how you answer that likely is predicated by your political persuasion. More importantly, where you fall in relation to this year's presidential election likely will dictate how you choose to answer that question.

I ask you to consider this -- is the source of the information credible? Setting aside the political baggage (a tough task, I admit), is what he is saying believable? In addition, are the other mainstream media reporting similar stories? And how well do they source their stories?

MSNBC appears to be getting better

What does that mean for the competition? Let them be scared. That's my opinion. If the chronically third-ranked (among FOX, CNN and MSNBC) cable news network is finding its focus and gaining more audience...good.

One other news article suggests it is FOX that might have more to lose if MSNBC continues to surge.

Is the local television sports guy...

...becoming a thing of the past? Last week, it was a St. Louis station that chose to dump one of its sports anchors. Now, a similar fate has befallen a Denver sports anchor.

And this situation from Baltimore smacks of "take a cut, or you're gone."

Though I find these decisions troubling, I can understand why they are happening: Sports, according to the dreaded consultants, never ranks high among the reasons people watch local television news. Moreover, with a plethora of people who want these jobs, finding a "cheaper" replacement will never be a problem.


That's a LOT of Olympics coverage!

While NBC and other international broadcasters are still arguing with the Chinese government about what locations can be used as backdrops for live broadcasts, NBC is pushing ahead with an ambitious Internet plan for the Games.

There are some potential dangers to this strategy, as this story highlights.

I think NBC is making a wise decision here, for a variety of reasons. Let's face it, the "next" generation of television viewers (yes, that means those of us in our 40s already are the past) use their computers and their televisions as interchangeable devices. In fact, in many cases the younger crowd prefers the freedom of the Web to the restrictions of television.

Moreover, NBC ought to examine ways that it can deliver those eyes on the computer to the television. I'm expecting a significant amount of cross-promotion.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Well, I don't think we have to worry about... of my son's following in his father's footsteps.

Tonight, my younger boy got into a conversation with a family friend and me about potential careers he might have. A variety of possibilities were floated, including journalist and professor.

My son had a similar answer for both: "Too boring."

Apparently, undercover policemen and paleontologists are not boring jobs; those were two of his preferences. Must be cool to be 4 years old.

It might get HOW bad?

That's the question floating around the newspaper industry, as large corporations and smaller companies brace for what could be a terrible rest of the year.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A taste of the future

Point Park wraps up its annual High School Journalism Workshop tonight. Over the past five days my colleagues and I have met about three dozen students interested in print, broadcast or photo journalism.

As you might guess, I spent most of this work week with the 13 broadcast journalism students. They range in age from 14 to 17 (was I really that young once?) and all of them are from Pennsylvania or Ohio. I've come away impressed with all of them, and I'm convinced that at least four of them definitely want to attend Point Park. (Yes, I'm working on the other nine.)

No one in this group took part in the prior two summer workshops, and they came to Pittsburgh hungry to learn and experience the life of a broadcaster. They completed their radio and television newscasts yesterday (and tonight they will be "aired" during the celebration banquet). They've met news professionals. They've toured two broadcast facilities. I think they've had a good week.

Events such as this one are important, especially if you are at a teaching institution such as Point Park. Too often workshops such as this become an afterthought at larger universities, where, frankly, it is more important for a faculty member to be published than it is to interact with high school students.

That's a shame, but I'm not going to get into the "publish or perish" argument here. As long as a university is being honest with and to its mission, there is no need to complain. Point Park doesn't have the same philosophy as the really large public university that operates in this city, and it shouldn't. Each school has its strengths. And committing ourselves to teaching and working with students is central to our mission. This week, my colleagues and I did it well.

Once again, the perils of working as a journalist in a non-democratic country...

...that doesn't endorse a free media become crystal clear.

Is there a liberal bias in the coverage of...

...the Supreme Court's decision to recognize the right of individuals to have guns? The 5-4 decision, which in itself indicates a controversial decision, would seem to be the perfect opportunity for the media to espouse the bias that the public and many critics suggest exists.

So, does today's coverage help us to determine a bias? If there is one, we would expect that the "liberal" media would slam the decision and would suggest that a pervasive gun culture has been affirmed by the Supreme Court. The "conservative" media would be inclined to endorse the decision because it confirms the power of the Second Amendment.

We begin with a somewhat down-the-line, "here's the decision" type story, which comes from the Associated Press. I don't think there is much here that anyone will quibble with.

Moving on, the Washington Post suggests that the decision might in fact have raised more questions than it answered. In my opinion, this story is critical of the Supreme Court, but considering that the law that the decision overturned was one from the District of Columbia that is perhaps not surprising.

The New York Times' story provides significant comments from the justice's opinions, and deep down in the copy one can find President Bush's support of the decision.

The Wall Street Journal downplays the decision, suggesting that it remains almost impossible to acquire a gun in Washington. This would seem to be a tangential angle to the story, but anyone who reads this post is welcomed to disagree with me.

The Washington Times notes that gun-rights groups are emboldened by the ruling, and they are expected to file additional legal challenges to gun restrictions.

Finally, TIME magazine takes an almost dismissive approach to the ruling -- sure, gun rights have been affirmed, but only in a very limited way.

The bottom line is this: It does appear that various newspapers and magazines have taken a "political" angle to reporting this important Supreme Court ruling. I leave it to the reader to decide what that means!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Less news from and about the White House?

The "pool" report system is being scaled back in the final few months of the Bush presidency. This story answers the "why" question, and it also points up the controversies surrounding the decision.

I disagree with the policy. No matter what you think of this administration (and the corresponding growth in attention to the presidential campaigns), the president is a news maker no matter what he does. Moreover, this decision raises the possibility that the "rich" media will dominate the flow of information.

Ignoring an important piece of U.S. history?

The answer might depend upon your political persuasion. As you read this post, consider the news and other organizations that have chosen to review a book about Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and also keep in mind those that have chosen not to.

A return of the Fairness Doctrine?

It's doubtful that liberals will see it happen...and therefore doubtful that conservatives will lament its return, but one powerful politician has indicated she's willing to at least consider it.

Of course, there's also one powerful politician (and, yes, there are others) who says he's not willing to even talk about it.

China, the Olympics, and politics

You knew that combination was going to come up in media discourse DURING the Games. But who know that before the Games it would be the Chinese government stirring the pot?

The anecdotal evidence says they've changed

Now, a new report gives us a much clearer picture of just HOW high school seniors (and their interests and aspirations) have changed over more than three decades.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The political crisis in Zimbabwe... awful. Covering the story is proving to be an equally dangerous proposition.

So far, strongman Robert Mugabe has resisted calls from all quarters to reduce the political tension and allow for a fair election. The global community can try its usual threats, such as economic sanctions, in an effort to pressure Mugabe and his cronies to act responsibly. But with military force not an option, and I don't think it ought to be, what in reality can be done here?

The curious story of Al-Hurra...

...gets curiouser and curiouser.

Anytime a news operation is involved in paying guests and anytime a government is involved in supporting a news operation, these ethical dilemmas will pop up. Should any of us be surprised that we are seeing these problems with Al-Hurra?

In the wake of Tim Russert's death...

...NBC News seeks not only a permanent replacement on Meet the Press (Tom Brokaw will handle that role through the November election) but also a bureau chief.

The stability of the NBC News division will be tested in the upcoming months. GE has not been kind to the news division, but in fairness to GE no corporate giant has given its news operations what is needed to do the job well.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A sign of defeat? Or a politically expedient move?

The opposition leader in Zimbabwe has pulled out of Friday's runoff presidential election. There will be various reactions to and ramifications stemming from this decision.

Stories such as this one provide you with a solid glimpse of the current political crisis within the country.

The Olympic torch...

...makes its way to the center of Tibet. Needless to say, a high-level of security also is present.

Friday, June 20, 2008

U.S. tax dollars are paying for... Arab-language television network in the Middle East. What makes this news? Because the message being spread by the network often is a hostile one and aimed at one of America's staunchest allies.

No MSG!!

This posting has nothing to do with food. Instead it has to do with an ever nastier rift between one hockey team and the league in which it operates.

Political ads...during the Olympics?

The linkage of politics and the Olympics would be on display again...though not necessarily in the way researchers and the public have seen before.

A former Philadelphia news anchor sues her former employer

The story of Alycia Lane becomes more confusing, every time her name enters the news.


What does that figure represent? And why is it so concerning to the commissioner of one major sport?

Simple -- perception and reality can too often blur when big time sports, big time money and big time media are all linked.

Coming together to help

Minnesota media are coming together to offer their time (literally) to help flood victims.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame

Or not (especially if you are an alum of USC). But if you want to root for or against the Fighting Irish, you're going to continue to watch a lot of their games on NBC.

Obama-Nunn? Maybe Obama-Edwards?

Or maybe not...but the news on Thursday seems to reinforce the idea that it won't be Obama-Clinton.

You'll "flip" out when after reading this story

One of my colleagues has one of these video recorders. I'm ready to purchase one for myself!

A poignant tribute to Tim Russert

It's written by a man who likely didn't agree with any political leanings he might have had but who immediately saw the professionalism and dedication Russert brought to everything he did.

The investigation into the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya...

...has taken an important twist -- four people have been charged with the killing. We can hope that a legitimate legal proceeding determines whether these four are indeed responsible.

No Tiger = No Viewers

A bitter reality for the PGA, but the reality is what it is.

Of course, I'm left with these thoughts:
1. If the game of golf is supposedly so popular, then why will the television numbers dip so dramatically?
2. If one player is apparently keeping this entire operation afloat, then what does that say about the marketing programs and efforts being put forth by the PGA?
3. Has anyone asked the other PGA players what they think about "the sky is falling" storyline?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

When is something historic? And should the media be making that determination?

Two interesting questions. Here are some suggested answers.

Take another look at Michelle Obama

That's the not-so subtle message the Obama campaign is putting forward, as the relentless (and often nasty) attacks on Mrs. Obama continue.

There might be an interesting academic study here -- a comparison of media coverage of Hillary Clinton during her husband's general election race in 1992 to that of Mrs. Obama in 2008.

One of the worst fears for a television sports executive has been realized

There will be no more roar of the Tiger on the golf course this year.

Let's track the ratings for golf programs for the rest of the season. I guarantee you that the highest-rated program (probably Sunday's round of the U.S. Open) will be the highest of the year. Face it, Tiger Woods means viewership. Tiger Woods in contention guarantees viewership.

Golf might have a problem.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The SAT and its predictive power

The College Board reports today that the new SAT test is as powerful in predicting the success of first-year college students as was the previous version of the exam.

For a look at the complete College Board report, link here.

Readers of this blog know I'm a critic of the SAT (and its counterpart, the ACT) and how fair it is. Recently I've added a few posts highlighting the solid critique that Joseph Soares gave of the standardized test in his book "The Power of Privilege." I find the results from the College Board predictable. Did anyone expect that the organization would find significant problems with this new examination?

The bigger issue not discussed in this report (and I'll admit it was not the forum to do so) is why the SAT remains a sort of holy grail to many college administrators (and a terror in the minds of some high school students) if a student's record in high school is a better indicator of success in college?

XM and Sirius -- today

The expected fallout from Kevin Martin's announcement that he supports the proposed merger of XM and Sirius has begun. Black Congressional representatives are among those who are bothered by the provisions of the merger.

Meanwhile the National Association of Broadcasters wonders why the FCC is favorably viewing an industry that in the past has broken rules.

In the end, the FCC's vote -- like so many others over the past 7 years -- will be 3-2. Kevin Martin and his Republican allies will vote for the merger, while the commission's two Democrats will the merger as a bad idea. Did you expect anything else?

Remember the "Daisy" ad?

Its creator has passed away.

And for those of you who don't know what the ad here.

Independent voters say they prefer...

...well, to this point no one. The Washington Post reports that independent voters (such as yours truly!) are split between the two presidential candidates.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What's fair use/a copyright violation...

...when it comes to blogging and the Web? The Associated Press is taking the lead in the effort to find an answer.

The Power of Privilege conclusion

In his final chapter and then again in the conclusion, Joseph Soares completes his well-researched and well-written critique (some might say destruction) of the myth of meritocracy.

Perhaps the most damning critique of the SAT/ACT exams (and the power it supposedly plays in the admissions process) is found in chapter 6. There, Soares makes clear that the SAT is important but not as valuable as other factors in determining who is likely to be admitted into one of America's elite colleges.

He found that at least four other factors increased a student's chances of admission into an elite school. They were: at least one parent with an advanced degree; attendance at a reputable private high school; an officer position in high school government; and (my favorite!) attendance with a parent to a local museum. At least three of these would suggest being a student who comes from a family of solid financial means.

Equally troubling to the myth of the SAT (and by extension meritocracy) is the notion that students who do get high standardized test scores are more likely to apply to an elite school. In other words, they have bought into the myth that doing well academically gives them a great chance to stepping foot into an elite college.

Soares wraps up his book with a series of ideas or recommendations that he believes would allow elite colleges to more openly and honestly admit that they value and wish to endorse a merit-based system of admissions. As I read his list, I found them to be thought-provoking. And I also admitted to myself that admissions counselors and administrators at this country's leading schools must be cringing at the thought. (Then again they might find adaption of his suggestions liberating.)

The discussion should continue.

Linda Douglass update

The former network news correspondent is now doing to the media a few things that probably angered her when she was a journalist. But that's going to happen when you leave the profession to work for a presidential candidate.

The Olympics on FOX???

Or ESPN??? What in the world of television rights packaging is going on here?

Meanwhile, Olympic broadcasters this year remain confused about what Chinese government officials will allow them to broadcast -- and if those signals can be sent live.

What would an Obama persidency mean for the media?

A few hints are offered, in this report from Broadcasting and Cable.

Kevin Martin says...

...the merger of XM and Sirius should happen. Looks like those many, many concerns filed by advocacy groups, politicians and others fell on deaf ears.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

This is a fascinating story

I hope you'll agree with that assessment after reading this.

What is your reaction to this? Is this U.S. citizen some sort of traitor? Or does she have the right to (in essence) make her basketball talent available to those who want it?

Uh, oh...a $15 million hole

Those of you who are fans of the Olympic Games know the financial morass that was the 1976 Montreal Games. Though the size of the financial hole is not the same, you can imagine what the good folks of Denver must be thinking as they read this.

The Power of Privilege, chapter 5

In this chapter, Joseph Soares hammers the proverbial final nail in the coffin to the idea that the SAT was an important measure of determining admission to Yale. Moreover, in this chapter he also outlines how another leading U.S. institution also abandoned the standardized test as a relevant gauge of predicting academic success in college.

By the 1970s it was clear to Yale administrators that low test scores and/or a low high school GPA would deny someone admission to Yale; however, high test scores and a high GPA were not guarantors of admission. Moreover, the university admissions office and other administrators had for many years valued personal, character or other subjective traits as important for admission.

Yet, with all this information, the university continued to post the average SAT scores for incoming freshmen! (You talk about disingenuous!)

As Yale moved on from the SAT, the University of California began adopting the test as relevant to a high school student's record of academic success even though its administration had information dating to the 1960s that showed it was not a significant predictor of college success.

It was not until the 1990s that California essentially threw out the original SAT test, as it was again in this decade that the lack of its predictive quality was found. Perhaps of an even deeper concern to the administration in Berkeley was that the SAT was found to have a bias when it came to certain types of questions. These questions appeared to favor white students over any other.

As I move to chapter 6, I find myself wondering how the myth of the SAT (and the power it was assigned in determining admissions) began. Soares has hinted at this answer at various points in his book, but because so much of his thesis is based on Yale's history with the test I've not found him giving a substantive answer.

Friday, June 13, 2008


NBC News begins at 1-hour special on the life of Tim Russert now.

Tom Brokaw is anchoring the program, beginning by telling the audience that NBC has suffered a "death in the family."

Russert is being remembered in the first news piece about a sort of dual personality -- a strong news professional and a consummate family man. He was a "dutiful son," according to the report, which notes as I did earlier that Russert passed away on Father's Day weekend.

The initial piece was a powerful retrospective -- aspiring journalists would be wise to remember what appeared to be Russert's guiding principles: tough, fair, take no sides, offer no opinions (unless it came to his beloved Buffalo!) and above all else don't make yourself part of the story.

Brokaw notes that Russert began at NBC with no fear of asking the tough questions to the powerful (and those who wanted to be even more powerful). Election night 2000 was perhaps Russert's finest hour -- he recognized how critical the state would be in deciding the presidential election that year. He used a low-tech white board that allowed him to easily highlight how the night might go and which states would play a role in choosing the winner. "I was determined to use my little grease board" as a way to make sure NBC could get it right. "Finally, I had one state left, Florida, Florida, Florida."


The Power of Privilege, chapter 4

This chapter of Joseph Soares' book examines the 13-year presidency of Kingman Brewster. Under his leadership from 1964 through 1977, Yale became much more diverse, aggressive in its hiring of young faculty, committed to educating America's future leaders, and seemingly more cognizant of the need to recognize merit. However...

While the notion of real meritocracy emerged, the university still was interested in legacy admissions (meaning allowing the children of Yale alums to become Yale students). More interesting (or troubling) is that in this period Yale administrators seemed to establish rules that favored such students. (And in case you are wondering, one student who benefited from these rules was George W. Bush.)

The university continued to acknowledge that academic records alone could not be the principal method for deciding who would comprise the next freshman class; it was in this time frame that, in Soares' words, "subjective reports of an applicant's character" became very important in the admissions process.

One of the more important decisions that occurred in Brewster's presidency was the admission of women, but even this was handled somewhat awkwardly. One administrator suggested that allowing women to attend Yale would "civilize the men and make for more moral relationships." I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

A sportscaster also passes away

Longtime television sports play-by-play man and reporter Charlie Jones also passed away today. A heart attack was the cause of death, according to Jones' agent. He is perhaps best known for his football work at NBC, on which he covered Super Bowl I.

This has been a terrible week for the media industry, as three shining stars moved on. True, Jim McKay and Charlie Jones had retired to comfortable lives, while Tim Russert was still in his television prime. But the loss hurts.

The death of Tim Russert

I'm stunned. I learned of Tim Russert's death earlier this evening, as I turned on the television, prepared for what I thought would be an enjoyable evening of watching baseball. Instead I was hit by the breaking news -- the 58-year-old host of Meet the Press was dead. A heart attack is the listed cause of death, although an autopsy will be performed.

Tributes began earlier in the day, and they will continue throughout the weekend. It's somewhat shocking that Russert's death would come on Father's Day weekend, considering that one of his books dealt with his father and the relationship they had.

The journalism industry lost a great man today.

The Power of Privilege, Chapter 3

Joseph Soares, in this chapter, continues his look at how Yale (and by extension other elite colleges) justified its exclusive approach to admissions.

This chapter specifically looks at Yale in the 1950s, a period in which the university attempted to keep its pipeline of upper-class students flowing, while at the same time offering admissions to qualified students from less economically advantaged situations. Its hope was that 60% if its incoming classes would have no need for financial assistance.

Of course, this policy allowed the university some wiggle room -- most students from economically advantaged homes would be better able to receive a value-added high school education -- these benefits would not necessarily include extra work in preparation for the SAT/ACT exam, but the expected high scores could then be used as a seemingly legitimate tool for admissions.

In short, Yale administrators knew that a high socio-economic status correlated well with high test scores but more importantly expected success in college. But these scores alone were not necessarily a predictor of success in a university setting.

Bug off?

For one television reporter...that and a whole lot more was on his mind, on his lips and in his mouth.

Mike Huckabee...political contributor to FOX

This moves seems to make sense -- the political agenda favored by FOX meshes well with the political agenda favored by Huckabee. He would seem to get the better end of this deal -- his position with the network ensures a national political pulpit as he pursues whatever other national political ambitions he has.

Lou Dobbs...governor?

I can't imagine why he'd want to do it, but the CNN anchor is rumored to be interested in running for the governor of New Jersey. Dobbs has no comment, but I bet media pundits and others will.

The sexism charges continue

Meanwhile, media organizations and advocates for women remain divided about how Hillary Clinton was covered during her presidential bid.

With calls for boycotting cable news networks being heard, you can bet that this conversation/argument/disagreement will go on.

The attacks on Obama

I find it a pity that a presidential candidate has to create a Web site to refute the many personal attacks that have cropped up about him and his wife. Yet, in 2008 Barack Obama must do that.

There's no doubt what the purpose of these attacks is -- create fear or doubt in voters' minds about Obama's legitimacy as a leader. However, I would ask the following set of questions, and I offer you the chance to answer them:

1. Why are the mainstream media passing off these rumors as news?
2. What role should the media play in refuting them?

As you consider your answers, review this report from the Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The government keeps pressing for journalists... testify in court cases and by doing so giving up the names of their sources. This time it's a Washington Times reporter who's under the gun.

Let's keep pressing back -- and demanding that a federal shield law protecting journalists from such efforts is passed into law.

A degree rescinded

No, this has nothing to do with apparent political cronyism in West Virginia. Instead, it has to do with a political tyrant in Africa.

A dual message?

One New York Times columnist wonders if a recent "Notebook" piece by CBS News anchor Katie Couric was aimed not only at those who went after Sen. Hillary Clinton.


Another college newspaper endorses the idea of...

...eliminating the SAT and/or ACT as a criterion for admission to college.

By the way, I'm slowly working my way through "The Power of Privilege," and I've not forgotten about adding posts to this blog about that book.

Three hours a night

That's what the over-the-air television networks say will be the amount of time they devote to the national party conventions.

Is that enough? Probably not. But there also will be additional coverage from the cable networks. And remember C-SPAN will do it right -- gavel to gavel.

A television tradition returns... least in one market. The local news editorial is Charlotte. Good.

Time for the media to reassess their regard for Obama?

This editorial does more than hint at the answer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No laptop zones?

A handful of law professors (and a few of their colleagues in other disciplines) are demanding their students leave their laptops closed once class begins. The results? They might surprise you.

The calls keep coming...for how long?

My wife and I are used to them, but we fight them at every turn -- calls from someone trying to sell us something. The latest group to call: the Obama campaign.

Now, let me make this clear...what is happening is perfectly legal. And perfectly annoying to both of us. Neither of us has any intention of donating money to the Obama or McCain campaigns; we never have contributed to a political campaign, and I can't imagine a scenario in the future in which we would.

Nevertheless, the calls keep coming. I presume it won't be long before the McCain campaign starts hitting up one of us. The answer then will be the same as now: No. And please stop calling.

Let's play a game... (UPDATED)

...we'll call it "The Veepstakes."

Actually, TIME magazine is already playing it. Regular readers of this blog know I dislike media stories that are nothing more than "speculation" and "educated guesses," but I'll reserve my grumbling this time. I think this report is well-written and well-reasoned.

UPDATE: You can scratch one name from the Veepstakes Game. The governor of one Midwest state says he has no interest in being the number two on his party's ticket. But you might be able to add one more.

Now you begin to understand why this game can be filled with so much peril. Once you are in the speculation's a bit hard to get out.

Pennsylvania's primary was big... the state is being targeted by both the Obama and McCain camps as a "must win" in the general election. What does this mean?

In no particular order:
1. Plenty of campaign visits
2. Plenty of political advertisements
3. Plenty of issues for journalism students to cover

All in all, not a bad thing!

TIME magazine reports that Obama maintains he's committed to running a 50-state campaign...the potential positive effects are highlighted in the article.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two one the same time?

A presidential candidate (who never formally dropped out of the race) says there is a need to hold a second political convention in the same city and at the same time as the party's event is taking place.

Hillary Clinton, you say? Nope. But here's the answer. In my opinion, this is fascinating. I'll be in Minneapolis as a faculty leader for The Washington Center and assisting a group of students in learning more about the media and the political process. Can't do much better than this!

Seeing red...over the term 'redneck'

Another network television reporter is backtracking today...apologizing for describing a part of Virginia as "redneck." Who goofed? Link here if you want to know.

Ugh. Capitalism and higher education has come to this

Students are encouraged (and being rewarded by various companies) for taking their old exams and making them available online.

How much...and what to cover?

The questions on the minds of America's television news executives, who are putting the final touches on their plans for the two political conventions.

Consider it radical but I wonder this -- why shouldn't they cover the conventions gavel to gavel?

Remember, it's not just a presidential election year

It also is the year in which the Democrats will attempt to build on their gains from the 2006 midterm elections. Will they succeed? This story provides some answers.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The New York Times wants to hear from you...

...about media treatment and coverage of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. You can link here for access to the newspaper's page.

A partisan election?

This New York Times report indicates that the tried-and-true (and tired?) partisan bickering might dominate media reporting during the upcoming presidential election.

Academic interests in Italy and Europe

Me? Nope. But for others, there is an attraction.

15...or maybe 18

An Associated Press report this morning suggests that as few as 15 and as many as 18 states are expected to be classified as "battleground" now that the general election cycle moves forward.

The New York Times adds that Barack Obama is prepared to go after a few recent GOP-leaning states, in his bid to win the presidency. Additional information is available in a U.S. News report.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A sign of things to come?

After a couple of weeks of positive stories about China (and its still very proactive approach to dealing with the recent earthquake) comes this report -- indicating that the positive stories might be coming to an end.

But more importantly this story suggests that the Chinese government is going to play hardball when it comes to selected aspects of television coverage of the upcoming Olympics. How the IOC, the government and the television networks settle these differences will be worth watching.

The first attempt at a town hall meeting fails

Do you blame the candidates? Not so fast, I would argue. As you read this remember that the Obama and McCain camps are to this point in lock step -- any town hall meeting has to be aired on multiple television/media networks.

Call me a heretic...but I'm taking the side of the candidates over the media on this one.

Once again, we are reminded...

...of the perils of international reporting. Sometimes and in some places writing or reporting the wrong thing can be dangerous.

The Power of Privilege Chapter 2

In his second chapter of "The Power of Privilege," Joseph Soares begins an important, interesting, and well-researched discussion of how Yale became a critical player in establishing the credibility of academic exams, such as the SAT, as a means of determining admission to a college or university.

Soares notes that almost as soon as Yale and its colleagues in the Ivy League endorsed the idea that an exam, rather than the four-year high school record, could be a better gauge of success in college, other universities followed. He argues that the exam also allowed America's pre-eminent colleges to establish exclusionary tactics -- it could shut the admissions' door to students believed to be unworthy of admission to that elite school. Soares claims that Jews were among those that Yale and others wanted to keep out; WASPs were those who were wanted.

These schools soon faced a problem: the earliest version of the SAT was not predicting success in college. Exacerbating the problem was that its internal records indicated to the Yale administration that the high school record was better at predicting who would do well in New Haven. The university soon added leadership potential and examples of such as an admissions tool.

Overarching everything in this period from roughly the 1920s through the 1950s was a determination to ensure that Yale was never viewed as a "public" university (with the perception being that inferior education was received at such higher education institutions) and keeping undesired social groups out of Yale's classrooms.

This chapter is not the most positive one for people who know little about Yale but view its history in high regard.

Miss a day...miss a lot

Plenty of items to get caught up on...

1. The death of Jim McKay: I never met Mr. McKay, but when I was a child he was the closest thing I had to a sports broadcasting idol. He was a powerful figure in sports broadcasting, but those who aspire to be in that role should never forget the humility he displayed. McKay was a giant in an era in which 24-hour sports broadcasting was at best in its infancy, and because of that Wide World of Sports was almost mandatory viewing for people who loved sports. Some of the stories were quirky, some of the sports that were covered were well beyond mainstream, but nevertheless the program became McKay's access to our living rooms each week. He'll be missed.

2. Sen. Hillary Clinton suspends her presidential campaign: I have no idea what is next for Mrs. Clinton. It wouldn't surprise me if she became Barack Obama's running mate, but it also wouldn't surprise me if she returned to the Senate (and perhaps becomes that body's Majority Leader). Make no mistake, she made a mark in this presidential campaign.

3. Gas prices exceed $4 per gallon: For some reason, I think this is the tipping point. I read a report in a local newspaper a day or so ago that indicated use of mass transit was up. Does anyone doubt that the trend will continue? As someone who takes mass transit to work almost every day, I have a simple message -- get on the bus, train, trolley, etc. There's always room for one more!

Friday, June 06, 2008

Three international stories...

...that highlight why the freedoms enjoyed by the media in this country ought not be taken for granted nor ever be usurped by the government. The reports are from Russia...Vietnam...and Venezuela.

An example of "ageism"?

Was age a factor in a California university's decision to hire a younger person with no Ph.D. over an older person who had one? Read this and you decide.

The war of words...

...about going to sure to escalate after the release of a Senate report critical of President Bush's choices and use of intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq War.

I'll be curious to see what the media reaction is to this. I expect that the reaction of (partisan) talk radio will be predictable. But I wonder what (at least on paper) more objective organizations will conclude.

Read more about it!

Regular readers of this blog know I am no fan of ClearChannel -- I believe local owners and local voices make for better radio. Setting that aside for a moment, a new book about the history of ClearChannel has been released. Consider picking it up. I am.

$3 mill for 30 seconds?

Yup, we're talking the Super Bowl!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Soares' book, "The Power of Privilege" Chapter 1

As mentioned in a couple of posts from last week, I promised to pick up (and encouraged you to do the same) Joseph Soares' book "The Power of Privilege: Yale and America's Elite Colleges". It examines a variety of sociological, economic and other factors that influence who gets into college and especially into America's best colleges and universities.

An interesting stat can be found in Chapter 1 (and the data are taken from a U.S. Dept. of Education report, which I so far have not been able to access online) -- 79% of the students in America's most elite colleges and universities come from families in the top 25% of SES (socio-economic status), while only 2% come from the bottom 25%. Soares asks the following question, which is worth considering: How have we gotten to a place where we profess meritocracy [meaning your talents determine how far you go] but apparently condone the reproduction of class privileges?

Soares adds, and here comes the "uh, oh" moment for the media, that many mainstream media organizations bought into the public relations line offered up by Yale and its elite brethren that, starting around the 1950s, these schools went from selecting only the scions of the powerful to selecting students based on academic achievement.

I move on to Chapter 2 (later today?) and a posting when I'm through it.

Images from Burma/Myanmar

FOX News story shows the despair from cyclone ravaged Burma/Myanmar.

Another relevant universities-related story

A report this morning suggests that the Bush administration will make one final effort to influence how universities are accredited.

The power of the a university's registar's office

An interesting story from a higher education web site that suggests two on-going university crises might have been prevented...if...a powerful registrar's office was in place.

It's over...on Saturday (UPDATED)

The political marathon that was the Democratic presidential race is over...Sen. Hillary Clinton is bowing out of the race this weekend. A variety of media reports are available to you, so there is no need to highlight any of them. I do want to point out one relevant story, however, from the Washington Post, which describes the mindset of the Clinton camp in the final month of the primary/caucus season.

The timing of her announcement is interesting. A late Friday or weekend political announcement is usually made when you want to bury a story -- ensuring that it becomes news during a time that more people are following personal/family interests.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain is making his own announcement -- he wants to meet Sen. Barack Obama in as many as a dozen town-hall type meetings in various U.S. cities. Obama, for his part, seems interested.

I'll be curious to see the media reaction to this. I would suspect that at least some major media organizations will suggest this is a bad idea. (Yup, I found one already, though the reasoning is not what I expected!!) Why? Because the media won't have the kind of input and control over these events that they do in traditional debates. I'd like to be wrong. Let's hope I am.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An intriguing question...

What effect will the release of the Scott McClellan book have on the relationship between the White House and the media?

Say no to this union!

That's what one Tennessee newspaper is urging the FCC to do. And, hey, you don't need any fancy "satellite" to know what this editorial is all about.


Media discourse is rampant today about the prospects of a Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton presidential ticket. Because you can find these reports in any media organization you prefer, I won't bother suggesting possible sites to access such information.

It's intriguing to me that the media have so willingly adopted this potential ticket. I'm not implying it would be a bad one, nor am I suggesting it would be a good one. I'm merely saying that I'm surprised (and perhaps disappointed) that a number of media organizations seem determined to make this ticket a fait accompli. At least one story indicates that there are bruised feelings on both sides that need to be addressed.

I do want to call your attention to one story that appears in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. As I read this story, I came away convinced that the reporter openly supported Obama and considered Clinton to be a threat to the success of the Democratic Party in November. Do you agree?

One step closer to the 2016 Summer Games

Kudos to Chicago...the Windy City is now one of four finalists for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The digital stampede continues...

...but why is there little discussion of the continuing digital divide? Consider that question as you read this report.

Another late night...with a twist

It happened again last night (and into the early morning) -- a Stanley Cup playoff game that went into overtime. For those who are not hockey fans, bear with me -- the set up to the memorable (for me) part of the story is fast approaching.

Game 5 of the Finals was last night, and the Detroit Red Wings were less than one minute from winning the game and the Stanley Cup when the Pittsburgh Penguins scored. Overtime followed. Then a second one. Somewhere very early in that second overtime, my wife and I hear the pitter-patter of little feet scrambling down the hall.

Yes, our 4-year-old had awoken, and he was now going to spend time with mom and dad. At the time he arrived in our living room, he could have cared less what was on the television; he just wanted to be with his parents. And then it hit him -- hey, those are the Penguins playing. He was hooked.

Later in this second overtime, the three of us suddenly hear: "What the heck?" You bet, standing in the living room now was our 9-year-old. Oh, yes, he knew instantly what he was looking at.

My two boys slam themselves down on the beanbag in the living room. They're set. My wife and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders to signal what we were thinking: 'Why not? Who knows when this will happen again?"

As the second overtime progressed, I kept telling my favorite three people that I'd seen this act before -- one never knows when a Stanley Cup playoff game will end. Loyal readers of this blog will recall I stayed up rather late one night last month to watch a game that ended in the wee hours of the morning.

No one scored in that second overtime. A third one ensued, and the Penguins finally scored about midway through that period. Game over. Series returns to Pittsburgh. And the Morettis crawled into their beds. It was almost 1:00 a.m.

As I watched the game, I also glanced regularly at my kids. And I was reminded of one of the influences I've had on their lives: Their love of sports. My wife periodically jokes that the sports monsters running around our house were delivered by her but created by me.

Last night (and into this morning), I was rather fond of my little monsters. Now, let's hope that my son's teacher isn't dealing with a grumpy, tired child today. If that happens, that would sort of be my fault, too.

And in case you are wondering, Game 6 is tomorrow night. The boys will not be allowed to stay up to watch. Of course, if the game goes into overtime, and they wake up...

What do...

...critical materials of the host country and opium have in common? Here's the answer.

If the Kremlin doesn't like you...

...then you can forget about appearing on national television, to discuss the critical political issues of the day.

An act of revenge?

Various media reports this morning suggest that the bombing on Monday of the Danish embassy in Pakistan was an act of revenge. You'll remember that a Danish cartoonist prepared a series of cartoons that Muslims thought were offensive to Islam.

From here, you can access reports from the Washington Post, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME, and AFP.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Should what you download put you in jeopardy of deportation?

The answer appeared to be "yes" but now "maybe" in Great Britain.

An interesting question

By allowing any representation to the convention, has the Democratic Party made moot any scheduled primary/caucus in the future?

So much (so called) little context

One of my laments seems to have been demonstrated in at least one study.

Sexism...or something else?

An interesting discussion has begun in Britain, where the BBC is attempting to answer charges that it is deliberately reducing the number of reports aired during its signature 10:00 p.m. newscast produced by women.

More Iraqis studying abroad

Some news from Iraq that (I hope) no one will find controversial -- efforts are underway within the Iraqi government to ensure that more young men and women from that country are able to study abroad. Let's hope this comes to fruition.

Now what?

The Democrats have managed to take a seemingly easy road to the White House and filled it with potholes, detours, and sundry other bumps. But with the primary/caucus season all but over, the question now becomes when (if?) the party can unify itself in time for the August national convention.

One huge hint as to what that answer will be will come from Sen. Hillary Clinton. She continues to resist calls to step aside, and her supporters continue to insist that their voices will be heard. Her win yesterday in Puerto Rico, though expected, is likely to only further energize those who want her to be the party's presidential nominee.

Stay tuned. I don't think this bumpy road is about to be smoothed out any time soon.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A bad decision

Let me begin with some that the critics will be muted (even if only a bit):

1. I'm not a registered Democrat;
2. I've never lived (and hope never to live) in Florida;
3. I've never lived (and hope never to live) in Michigan;

Now on to the news...

The Democratic Party's decision regarding the Florida and Michigan delegations was asinine. I watched bits and pieces of the debate and discussion yesterday, and I came away with one overarching impression: Money is the reason for the Florida and Michigan mess.

Put more bluntly, political leaders in these states moved up their primaries because they wanted to get in on the gravy train. The fear (maybe general consensus is a better choice of words) towards the end of 2007 was that Hillary Clinton was going to steamroll her Democratic opponents and would likely wrap up the party's nomination by Super Tuesday. That likely reality combined with fiscal belt tightening (in almost every state) ensured that states with mid-February or later primaries/caucuses wanted to move up their primary/caucus day so that they could benefit from an influx of hotel, transportation, campaign, media and other dollars that would flow to a state considered relevant to the nomination process.

Then Barack Obama started winning, the contest between Mrs. Clinton and him continued, and the leadership (not to mention the Rules and Bylaws Committee) of the Democratic Party faced an increasingly no-win situation -- how to handle the renegade states of Michigan and Florida. The reaction within the Washington, D.C. hotel was predictable, and it did nothing but demonstrate to many people that the party is no more unified now than it was in early January (when Obama began winning).

In my mind, the Democrats gathered in Washington yesterday had two choices available to them -- overlook the we-moved-up-our-primaries sin and seat the full Michigan and Florida delegations, or not overlook the we-moved-up-our-primaries sin and refuse to seat any delegate from Florida or Michigan.

The piecemail, wishy-washy, wimpy decision should not satisfy either the Clinton or Obama campaigns (though his certainly benefits from it much more than hers). But more importantly it complicates the picture. Mrs. Clinton will continue to push her argument that she will win the popular vote. She likely will be re-energized in her bid to not drop out. There almost certainly will be an appeal. And the potential for this to drag on to the Democratic National Convention is real.

What a mess.