Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wait a minute...can Hillary be SoS?

Washington Post columnist Al Kamin raises an interesting scenario in this report, which appeared in the paper almost 10 days ago, but which I found out about only tonight after receiving an e-mail from a family friend. As you read this, consider the question I raised above -- legally, CAN Clinton become the Secretary of State?

Even if the problems involving Bill Clinton's finances can be resolved, there's another potential issue for his wife's nomination. It's called the Constitution of the United States, specifically Article I, Section 6, also known as the emoluments clause. ("Emoluments" means things like salaries.)

It says that no member of Congress, during the term for which he was elected, shall be named to any office "the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during his term." This applies, we're advised, whether the member actually voted on the raises or not.

During Clinton's current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, Cabinet salaries were increased twice -- first that month and again in January 2008, to $191,300.

This situation has arisen before, most famously in what became known as the "Saxbe Fix," which involved a controversial, somewhat tortured reading of the Sacred Document. The "fix" came in 1973, when President Richard M. Nixon nominated Sen. William Saxbe (R-Ohio) to be attorney general after the famed "Saturday Night Massacre" of the Watergate scandal. Saxbe was in the Senate in 1969 when the AG's pay was raised.

Congress acceded to Nixon's request to lower the attorney general's salary to its pre-1969 level. Apparently this had been done once before, in 1909, for a senator in line to be secretary of state. And President George H.W. Bush, as he was leaving office, approved a Saxbe fix so that Sen. Lloyd Bentsen could become Treasury secretary.

But Democrats in the past have inveighed against this sleight of hand. In the Saxbe case, 10 senators, all Democrats, voted against the ploy on constitutional grounds. Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), the only one remaining, said at the time that the Constitution was explicit and "we should not delude the American people into thinking a way can be found around the constitutional obstacle."

Call it the Hillary Amendment?

Now, I'm no Constitutional scholar (though there are days that I wonder if I'd have done my undergraduate education differently!), but the scenario here poses some interesting questions. Consider just a few:

1. Was anyone within the Obama camp aware of this potential issue when Mrs. Clinton's name was initially discussed for the SoS position?
2. Do Republicans, if they chose to, have a legitimate protest to make?
3. What should Mrs. Clinton do if there is opposition to this move?
4. Is it time to reconsider this "emoluments" clause?


An NPR correspondent...

...escapes death in Baghdad.

The reporter, Ivan Watkins, discussed the situation with his colleagues. From the same link, you can see video taken shortly after the car bomb went off.

The "Specter" of "Matthews" doesn't bother "Arlen"

At least that's what Pennsylvania's senior senator, Republican Arlen Specter, is saying publicly of the potential for MSNBC (loud-mouth) anchor Chris Matthews challenging him for his seat in 2010.

ABC News reports that Specter is adopting the philosophy of a legendary former pitcher -- never look to the side or behind, just keep plowing ahead.

Throwing an expensive celebration is hard when... don't have enough funds to do it.

An interesting report in The New York Times that underscores the expectations federal officials, visitors, media and others have of Washington as it readies for the January inauguration of Barack Obama. I'm not sure there are simple solutions to this problem -- but it would seem plausible to ask the Obama camp to free up some of the many millions it generated during the presidential campaign to help pay for what is expected to be a party attended by as many as 4 million people.

The Mumbai Terror Attack... over, but the lingering questions remain.

Without question, the most important is who carried it out? The historical tension between India and Pakistan makes it easy to suggest that Islamabad was involved, but as mentioned this blogger thinks that idea is far-fetched. For its part, the Pakistani government has renewed its offer to assist the investigation in any way it can. Of course, after appearing to back off from such a request, the Pakistanis really had no other choice but to be a full participant in the search for answers.

Meanwhile, questions arose again on Saturday as to whether al-Qaeda could have played a role in the terrible events.

There also are questions from within India, including how the government and the military forces responded to the crisis. These kinds of questions always follow periods of crisis, and the proper way to approach such an investigation is not to point the finger of blame but instead to determine where a nation is vulnerable and work to fix it.

India also is facing the grim task of making sure that no other terrorists are hiding in Mumbai or elsewhere within the country.

Sadly, we can never predict that "something like this will never happen again." However with vigilance and an open mind to learn from the mistakes of this week, the Indian government, military and people will be better able to thwart a similar attack in the future.


The Morettis returned to Pittsburgh on Saturday after spending a couple of days with my family in New York. We typically pick up I-80 out of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and remain on that long stretch of road until we hit I-79.

But not this time. My wife and I decided to take a side trip...and it was a real surprise for our boys. We scooted down I-99 into State College and gave our boys their first visit to Penn State.

Sure, our stay wasn't long. But it was worth it. It will take a long time before I forget the look on the face of my older boy as he recognized where he was. Mind you, this is the one who is a clone of his father, meaning a rabid sports fan. He's seen plenty of PSU games on television, but never one at the stadium. (I've seen only one there...and it was something like 9 years ago when I worked for the Ohio News Network.)

Souvenirs and a chance to run around on an open field just outside Beaver Stadium made for a memorable 90 minutes. (And, yes, PSU security -- the guy in the minivan driving all around the stadium on Saturday was me. I was trying to get the kids in for some pictures, but no luck; you folks lock up that place like a drum.)

He and his brother will have plenty to talk about in the days to come.

Recognition from a local newspaper

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has recognized me in its weekly Newsmaker segment.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Family and holidays

When my mother passed away almost three years ago, she was living with two of her sisters. Those two women are still alive, and my wife, the boys and I make at least one trip each year to visit them (along with two other aunts, an uncle and a family friend).

There still is an odd feeling that comes with entering mom's house knowing she won't be there. It's probably some subconscious reaction, but I find it hard to walk into her bedroom. If I go in there, it usually is with head low and with the goal to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Today, my eyes focused on a picture of her that was in one of my other aunt's houses. It was a quick glance, and my immediate reaction was "oh, man." It's odd how a picture of the woman who gave birth to you can change your day -- even for a moment. Because the boys and I were rolling around on the floor (or to be more honest, the boys were rolling all over me), my focus instantly turned again to my sons. But that picture was a reminder of who was no longer here.

My parents divorced when I was young, and I have no memories of my father's family. My mother's mother passed away when I was 14 months old, and her father died about 5 years later. I don't remember her, and I have a few memories of him.

Fortunately, my older son has some memories of his grandmother. My younger son doesn't; he was not quite 3 when she died. My wife's parents are alive, and I hope the boys will have many years with them.

And yet I know there will come a Thanksgiving or a Christmas for my wife -- who has dealt with the death of more extended family members than I have -- when her mother won't be there. She'll probably deal with her loss differently than I. But the holidays will be different.

Saying "Pakistan" played a role in the Mumbai attacks... a loaded term. What exactly does the use of the country's name mean?

If "Pakistan" means the government, then what the Indian government is suggesting is that the Pakistani leadership deliberately sought to bring terror to India. Granted, the two nations have been bitter adversaries in recent decades but as you might expect Islamabad is saying it had nothing to do with what was taken place in Mumbai over the past 72 or so hours. At the same time, Washington is saying there is no evidence to date to link the government to the terror.

If "Pakistan" means that the terrorists came from that country, then what the Indian government is suggesting is that Pakistan was their (possible) home. But it doesn't directly tell us that Islamabad played a role in this. Under this scenario, there is a comparison to 9/11 terrorists who came from Saudi Arabia -- the country was not specifically linked to what took place. There could be some credence for this theory -- Indian television network NDTV is reporting that one arrested terrorist is providing information that suggests the planning for these attacks dates back six months.

Interestingly, London is looking into whether its country can be linked to what has taken place.

Sen. Chris Matthews?

I can't decide if that sounds like a good idea (get him off cable television) or a bad thing (place him in the U.S. Senate).

For what it's worth, Matthews is denying that he's making plans to run for the Senate...from Pennsylvania!!

Talking to your sister

President and Mrs. Bush completed an interview with his sister for a national oral history project. An excerpt -- highlighted on Mike Allen's daily blog -- is posted here...

PRESIDENT and MRS. BUSH GIVE AN INTERVIEW in the White House residence on Nov. 12 TO THE PRESIDENT'S SISTER, Doro Bush Koch, for StoryCorps, the national oral history initiative. An excerpt aired yesterday on NPR stations as a lead-in to today's celebration of StoryCorps' National Day of Listening:

DORO: How do you want to be remembered, and what are you most proud of?

THE PRESIDENT: I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process. I came to Washington with a set of values, and I'm leaving with the same set of values. ... I'd like to be a President (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor; that led an effort to help relieve HIV/AIDS and malaria on places like the continent of Africa; that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do.

DORO: What role does faith play in your day-to-day life?

THE PRESIDENT: I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the President, and I have been affected by people's prayers a lot. ... I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena. ... [P]oliticians should not be judgmental people based upon their faith. They should recognize -- as least I have recognized I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption, and therefore have been very careful about saying (accept) my faith or you're bad. ... [Y]ou can worship or not worship and be equally American.'

Mumbai, updated (death elsewhere, too)

Granted, I'm not following the events in Mumbai moment by moment, but it surprises me that the chaotic situation has carried over into a third day. The news this morning that 5 people were found dead in the city's Jewish Center is the latest horrible news from the tragedy.

At the same time, the news from Iraq this morning is no better -- 9 people are dead following an attack at a mosque.

In an attempt to bring some semblance of peace, I offer you the chance to visit this live Webcam of the Vatican.

What maps can...and cannot...tell you

Check out this map, which highlights how each county in the country voted in the November presidential election.

When you look at the large swaths of red, you'd think that John McCain was the winner (and by a hefty margin) on Nov. 4. However, keep in mind that the number of voters in each county is a more important issue in determining success. And it is in those heavily populated areas that blue can be seen.

Photos (and more) from India

This Global Voices Online posting provides links to photos from the fires in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting report from TIME magazine detailing the initial hours of the terror in Mumbai.

The Wall Street Journal also (correctly) notes that the crisis in India will be an initial test of the diplomatic abilities of the Obama administration. Meanwhile, The Indian government also is pointing the finger of blame for the incident on Pakistan, a nation with whom it has had chronically poor relations. India's accusations serve to make the Obama effort more difficult, according to the New York Times.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Various video snippets from Mumbai

Raw emotion is one of the byproducts of the terror in Mumbai, which reaches another dangerous moment tonight (EST) as a group of Indian military commandos drop into a Mumbai Jewish center where hostages reportedly are held.

Other video reports allow us to gain only a small understanding of what happened; of course, it will take substantial time to figure out the why (and the who is still not clear tonight.

In one video excerpt, CNN reporter Sara Sidner does an excellent job of attempting to retain her composure, despite an angry man who interrupts her report. I've listened to this a few times, and I think what the man (in the blue Oxford shirt) continues to repeat is "why should we are dead." Sidner added (in a voice-only, no-video follow up) that the people who approached her were upset at the consistent reporting of the ongoing events.

The BBC's Paul Wood summarizes the initial moments of the coordinated attack, which struck at least 4 different locations. In another BBC report, a restaurant owner describes what happened when the attack began.

NDTV also is offering critically important coverage, and in one report the network highlights what has taken place at the internationally recognized Taj Hotel. A couple of CNN employees add their perspective to what took place on Wednesday night (EST) in India.

Mumbai on the blogosphere

As always, the blogosphere has relevant ideas to share...this time these comments refer to the attacks in Mumbai. I encourage you to access one of my favorite sites -- Global Voices Online. There is a page devoted to the terror in India, and I expect that it will be regularly updated over the next few hours.

Learning - or hiding - from the past

Here's a story that discusses Russia's turbulent past, and how the Russian government is dealing with it. The New York Times home page indicates that there has been tremendous response from this story.

Mumbai updated (includes Kabul attack)

What a terrible day in India's commercial center. What makes the events of late Wednesday (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) was that the attacks appeared not to be discriminant, but instead targeted Westerners, especially Americans and Britons.

The New York Times Web site has an interactive map, allowing you to see the physical layout of the attacks, which as of Thursday morning (EST) appears to have killed 101 and injured 314.

Meanwhile, and it could be just a coincidence, a suicide bomber killed four in Afghanistan. The New York Times report highlighted in the previous sentence indicates that the attack might have been targeted at a NATO convoy.

As Americans sit down today with their families and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, we should be reminded that there are parts of the world in which peace and stability is fleeting, and in which people eager to destabilize society see good out of what they do.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A sad day for India (UPDATE)

I first heard a radio report about this as I was driving my car. Now as I read this New York Times story, I see that the news is even worse. A sad day, but a reminder that there are groups in the world that are seeking to derail the peace that governments and people pursue.

UPDATE: The terrible irony of tonight's attacks in Mumbai is that South Asia was gripped by another crisis as the West celebrated another major holiday. Do you remember that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last Christmas.

The online coverage from CNN is very good, though I'm not watching much of it because my sons are staying up late tonight because of family and the holiday.

Leaving early

Interesting AP report on the decision by Ted Koppel and the Discovery Channel to abruptly end their professional relationship.

Is the transition hitting a bump in the road?

Interesting (as always) tidbits this morning from Martin Kady II, of

It's hard to tell whether the president elect and the president for real are competing for air time or working in concert, with major economic news busting out of Washington every day this week while Obama holds an economic-themed press conference every day this week.

The Treasury moves yesterday, according to the Washington Post, is designed to 'buy up to $500 billion of securities backed by mortgages, which are guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Fed will also buy up to $100 billion of debt in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which should let them more easily expand their lending.'

Politico's Patrick O'Connor sees Obama directly reaching out to fiscally conservative Dems who could otherwise cause problems for his new agenda. 'These 'Blue Dog' Democrats, who have dragged their feet on most measures expanding the federal debt, will be critical to Obama's plans to authorize hundreds of billions of dollars for new roads, bridges and cash-strapped states. The payoff for Blue Dog support: Obama's promise to overhaul the rules that govern federal spending and his call to cut wasteful spending.'

Politico's David Rogers sees Paulson coming back to Congress, hat in hand again, to ask for the rest of his bailout money. Per Rogers: 'But asking for the second half triggers an expedited procedure in which Congress must vote up-or-down on a resolution of disapproval - free of any filibuster threat but still requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses to be effective and overcome a veto by President Bush. Given the market turmoil - and the White House transition - few expect that the money will be blocked.'

McCain WILL run again, part 2

Oh, calm down my Democratic and liberal (not to mention conservative) friends. His plans do not call for a run to the White House. Instead, he'd like to remain exactly where he is.

And the nominees are...

...well, there are four of them. The winner becomes the permanent host of "Meet the Press."

Yes, in case you are wondering, I have a preference from the list highlighted above. But I'm not telling!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

You (might) see a hypocrite...

...but I echo the sentiments on one Los Angeles Times' columnist you says that if you do, you're wrong.

Sure, there will be those who criticize the decision made by the Obamas to send their daughters to a private school. Give me a break. Of course Obama made the improvement of public education a plank of his candidacy, but let's get real...if you were in his shoes, where would you send your children to school?

When you see a challenge...respond to it

This is an interesting story...principally because, in my opinion, it highlights that aspiring journalists should NOT be afraid of the economic conditions that currently exist in the media world.

Meanwhile, here's another important message -- this one tells those up-and-coming reporters what they should remember is important about...their resumes.

Yet another reminder...

...of why doing investigative journalism is filled with peril.

I've said it before, and I hope every time I do that it doesn't sound trite -- I respect my colleagues who undertake investigative reporting and dig into places where powerful or dangerous people do not want them to go.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And now for a little fun

My boys were playing a board game...and I was trying out my new FLIP camcorder. What happened next? Well...seeing is believing!

More fear...all unwarranted

Unless President-elect Obama and countless numbers of Democratic congressional leaders are prepping for the surprise of all time (doubt it)...the fear that conservatives have of a return of the Fairness Doctrine is unwarranted.

Look, whether you like it is irrelevant -- conservative talk radio is here to stay. I can't see legislation being introduced to bring back (pardon the pun) fair and balanced talk on the radio. I can't imagine there being sentiment for it in the White House, on Capitol Hill or in the living rooms of Americans.

The race is over...but the winner is only now getting to work

If you are like me, then you are undoubtedly suffering post-election malaise. The non-stop coverage of the 2008 presidential race has given way to incessant reporting about the economic crisis, the Obama transition and other seemingly less interesting news items. Somehow, someway you keep hoping to turn on the television, flip on the radio or open the newspaper to find another scintillating report about poll numbers, campaign speeches or other issues connected with the recently concluded (and fascinating) 2008 campaign.

It is interesting that although the media reporting has shifted away from Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain the real work for Mr. Obama is only beginning. And with the economic misery growing by the day, there is an expectation that he will do something about it...immediately after (if not before, in the minds of some) he in sworn in as president.

That's a tall order.

Sure, Mr. Obama is doing, in my opinion, a solid job of transitioning from presidential contender to president-elect to president, but he also is dealing with increased expectations. I can recall no other president-elect who has moved as quickly as he has to get his Cabinet in place and his agenda moving forward. Perhaps he has no choice -- the mistakes of the past 8 years need to be addressed immediately. So far, in my opinion, so good, as Mr. Obama attempts to convince the American people (and fellow world leaders) that he has the competence, demeanor and intellect to get the job done.

So, keep in mind that as you lurch from network to network attempting to find your media fix for the day that much of what Mr. Obama will do from this point forward will not be accomplished in front of a live television audience and with thousands of screaming fans relishing his every word. Instead, it will happen behind closed doors and in meetings. No media fix there. But you should pay attention nonetheless.

Under 30? One of every two of you voted in 2008

A fantastic figure...and indeed one to celebrate. But on the other hand I wonder why more of America's under-30 crowd did NOT vote in 2008.

Working quietly, behind the scenes

This New York Times report indicates that President-elect Obama remains committed to practicing what he preached -- working across the aisle with the Republicans.

Of course, as this excerpt from a report filed by ABC News' reporter Jake Tapper notes...reaching out doesn't necessarily mean getting what you want:

'Democratic sources tell ABC News that President-elect Obama's transition team is working with lawmakers on Capitol Hill so that on Obama's first day in office, Jan. 20, 2009, an economic stimulus package has passed both houses of Congress and is awaiting his signature. ... Some Democratic officials cautioned that having such a pricey bill on President Obama's desk by Jan. 20 might be too ambitious a goal, especially in the Senate where Democrats do not have enough seats to prevent a Republican filibuster.'

Meanwhile, the stature of Obama in his Chicago neighborhood (not to mention elsewhere) has changed. Some of his friends react to that in this Washington Post piece.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The critics will have a field day with this one

And let them. Who cares. In my opinion what President-elect Obama is proposing is a much-needed and long-overdue effort to upgrade or modernize much of America's infrastructure.

Sure, there will be legitimate questions about how he intends to pay for all this (can you say tax increase?), but certainly logical people can see that taking care of America's roads and schools are sound investments. The fact that they will add jobs is an added bonus.

Missing Egyptian blogger -- update

No new information this morning from Zeinobia, the Egyptian who reported on her blog that a popular blogger from her country apparently has gone missing. Here is her original post, should you be interested in learning more about this.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The problem with college football... that for a team to have a legitimate shot at the (alleged) national championship, it has to go unbeaten. And over 12 or 13 games that is a tall order.

Consider any other sport played on the college level. Now imagine if perfection were the requirement for championship consideration. Imagine this year's consensus number 1 men's basketball team -- North Carolina -- and then imagine that the Tar Heels were told at the beginning of the year that in order to be a contender for the crown it had to go through its regular season schedule without a loss.

Ridiculous, you say? I agree. Then tell me why perfection is expected of college football teams? Tonight, Texas Tech gets walloped by Oklahoma, and that's the Red Raiders first loss of the season. Now, they have no chance of making it to the national championship game. The Red Raiders will fall a few places in the standings, and behind two other teams from their conference.

Now take Penn State. The Nittany Lions were literally kicked to the championship curb after a loss at Iowa. Sure, the consolation prize -- a trip to the Rose Bowl -- is no cheapy, but are you going to tell me with a straight face that Penn State doesn't deserve a chance to play for the so-called national championship?

I could go on, and list USC and at least three other one-loss teams that will find themselves with no chance to prove they are the best because of the nonsense that college football calls the "Bowl Championship Series." Give me a break.

If perfection is what we expect each week from a group of roughly 80 young men, then there is something grotesquely wrong with college football. It makes me appreciate the (former) 1-AA, II and III championships all the more.

Oops...another altered photo, another controversy

What was the U.S. Army thinking when it chose to release a digitally altered photo? Needless to say, once the error in judgment was organizations reacted. And appropriately.

A fascinating story about loyalty and honor (UPDATED twice)

Take the time to read this lengthy but very interesting report from the Financial Times about life in Gaza.

I found this to be one of the best pieces of journalism I've read in the last few months. I trust you'll agree after you take the time to read it.

UPDATE: And once you complete that story, you also are encouraged to visit this blog post -- indicating that a popular Egyptian blogger has gone missing. Yes, because of America's stereotypical view of the Muslim world...we are going to presume the worst. We can hope we are wrong. I'm also attempting to find out who the U.S. journalist referred to in this post is.

SECOND UPDATE: The Egyptian blogger tells me in a post that she doesn't yet know who the American journalist is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hard to argue with this idea

Kudos to an educator in Maryland for saying something that all of us in either journalism or education should -- where in the world is the media's coverage of (so-called) third party candidates?

Marginalizing or eliminating them from media discourse provides a powerful (but unfortunate) message to the general public that Republican and Democrats are the ONLY relevant politicians.

Not true. Perhaps I should put up or shut up...and do a better job of finding or highlighting the work of such parties and candidates.

Two veteran sports journalists hit the road

Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Downey accepts a buyout (see the last item in this story) and reports persist that long-time Sports Illustrated reporter Jack McCallum also is voluntarily stepping away.

I knew Downey when I lived in southern California and he wrote for the Los Angeles Times. His wit and excellent writing were consistent elements of his columns, which I read with a healthy degree of 'darn, I wish I could write like that.'

Why the secrecy?

Kudos to one JUROR for asking a necessary question in the trial of the men accused of killing a prominent Russian journalist.

Kind of a shame that it was a juror and not the legal system itself that did the asking.

With the issues behind them...

...a nomination to be Secretary of State appears to be in front of them.

The Wall Street Journal notes that sometime shortly after Thanksgiving, the Obama transition team is expected to announce that Hillary Clinton will be nominated as Secretary of State. It appears whatever hesitations she might have had about the job have been overcome.

One conservative voice -- specifically the one belonging to Peggy Noonan -- is asking some interesting/provocative questions about this marriage.

Nevertheless the perhaps most high-profile selection Mr. Obama has to make has been made. It is one that this blogger (for whatever value my opinion has) supports.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The power of a reconnection

This has been my week to stroll down memory lane. A colleague with whom I worked at the Ohio News Network tracked me down a few days ago (on Facebook). From there, I learned that another former ONN employee had started a Facebook group.

Wow. What a mother lode of names and faces that was for me. I've come across almost ten people who shared many great news and sports nights with me at ONN.

Now I've got to make sure I keep up with all these good folks. A set of us worked together as a team, and, wow, they did all they could to improve the vision I had for the shows on which I worked. My producing was made better because of their talents.

McCain is running again

Oh, that headline will draw a few interested looks. Now before you run off down the road scared out of your what he's running for.

McCain and John Kerry ought to be able to share a drink one day...and an interesting conversation. (In fact, wouldn't you want to be part of that talk?) Each can discuss how because of George Bush they are not the president!

A really interesting question

And probably one with a host of answers. Here's the question.

From 349 to 213

A decline to celebrate? Nope. Not unless you favor fewer reporters doing their jobs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Attention Pittsburgh media -- a story idea for you here

I'm sharing with you an e-mail I received from the mother of one of my Cub Scouts. (Regular readers of this blog know I am the Cubmaster for my son's Cub Scout Pack.) Check out what he is going to do in December to help a local Make-a-Wish agency here in Pittsburgh...

Hi Everyone !

For those of you that may or may not remember, last year my son Scott did something that really touched me. A week before Christmas he was very worried about people who had nothing to eat for Christmas. I told him that there were Shelters and Salvation Army to help those in need, but to him this wasn't good enough. He really wanted to do something. We held a cookie sale.

On December 23rd neighbors and friends gathered in our yard on the corner of Boxwood and Driftwood waving down car after car selling cookies for holidays. We played Christmas carols and had coffee and it was a wonderful time. We just about sold everything we had. Banana bread and gift baskets. Smiley cookies and chocolate chips were flying off the tables. In 2 hours the boys raised over $200.00 . We marched straight away to the food bank to drop off the money so the boys could see what they did.

Well, Scott and I have talked about it this year (mainly because I didn't want this bomb dropped on me a week before Christmas, haha). This year he would like to help sick kids and donate funds to the Make a Wish Foundation. His sale will be held Dec. 13th in the morning (time to be determined). This is something near and dear to me since Scotty was sick when he was a baby and spent 16 days in Childrens hospital NICU.

Once again I am asking for your love and support. Can you bake something for the sale? Can you stop by and purchase a cookie?

Even if you could please forward my email on to someone that you think might want to help. Stop by and have coffee with us and yell at the cars. Bring your kids and let them play. Anything you could do to support Scott would be most appreciated
Lots of love to you all

Wow. Isn't that cool.

Senate...not State?

Wow, here's a stunner, in my opinion -- Sen. Hillary Clinton reportedly is torn between accepting any offer to be Secretary of State or remaining the Senate.

I say "surprised" in part because I was reflecting my ideas -- being 1 of 1 versus 1 of 100, etc. -- when I explained my belief that Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State was a no-brainer. Now, there could be another issue at work here -- perhaps the Clintons are concerned that the various international business and goodwill efforts undertaken by President Clinton could affect Mrs. Clinton's role as a Cabinet member.

Then again, the issue of "legacy" cannot be underscored. If Mrs. Clinton were to remain in the Senate and in the next 4 or so years was the author of a law overhauling the health care system...well, that just might mean more to her than advancing the political and diplomatic agenda of Mr. Obama.

More signs of economic woes

The television and sports industries are feeling the pinch this morning, and frankly no one should be surprised at either piece of news.

One national trade association has announced its has canceled its 2009 show held annually in New York City.

Meanwhile, the LPGA also is making cuts -- to both its 2009 schedule and overall prize money.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tough times in California

I read with zero enthusiasm this story in today's Los Angeles Times.

Regular readers of this blog know I was raised in southern California, and I hold the UC and CSU college systems in high regard. The news that mandatory enrollment cuts might be a reality for the CSU system is news that should be met with dread.

4 million people?

Inauguration organizers say as many as 4 million people (!) could cascade into Washington for the inauguration of Barack Obama.

I think this is a wonderful thing, and I think it explains the impact the president-elect has had on young people...but for politics as a whole. I've reminded students in my classes that the energy and enthusiasm that Obama has brought to them and their colleagues across the country is something they should never forget -- and something that I hope will make them want to remain part of the political process as they develop their professional and personal lives.

I didn't think at the beginning of this year that Obama would be the agent of change that he's become. Regardless of your political opinions, I think what he's done is important and necessary for the political process.

He wins one...he loses one?

That seems like a pithy summary, but in the case of Sen. Joe Lieberman it might be valid.

Liberals are likely to be outraged by the apparent final decision made by Democratic leaders, but this independent voice thinks it was the correct one. Yes, Lieberman angered his (technically former) party by supporting John McCain, but unless the Democrats are convinced that they want Lieberman AGAINST them instead of (ostensibly) WITH them then they are correct in keeping him in a position of authority.

Monday, November 17, 2008

News from a former home

I began my academic career at Texas Tech University, and I have many fond memories of the university and the wonderful community that is Lubbock. So it was with some interest that I read this story. The station highlighted in this article was great with internships and jobs for the broadcast students at Tech.

Go Red Raiders!

The presidential transition (UPDATE)

My sense over the past two weeks is that Barack Obama is moving forward with his transition from senator to president-elect to president with a healthy degree of sophistication, calm and professionalism.

The anticipation/expectation that Sen. Hillary Clinton will be named as Secretary of State is the latest example. There are some legitimate questions that need to be asked about President Clinton and the work he and his foundation does. While no one is expecting that those questions will lead to an unfavorable decision about Mrs. Clinton, President-elect Obama nevertheless must have a complete vetting process.

I missed the interview the Obamas gave last night to 60 Minutes, but a couple of reviews I saw this morning seemed favorable.

UPDATE: The FCC is one area where Obama is moving forward quickly. One industry analyst believes that Obama could have his people in place more quickly than any of his predecessors, and that means Kevin Martin could be gone before the end of February. Because of this speed, the growing consensus is that the final months of the Martin-led FCC will be quiet ones.

Mince words? Not this guy.

It appears that former (and future?) Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is not afraid to name he dissects what went wrong for him and his party in 2008, and how the GOP can reclaim its stature within the electorate.

I found Huckabee to be a refreshing change during the political season, though I disagreed with many of his positions. He seemed to be a genuine man, very personable and someone who understood that complex issues could not be solved with pithy soundbites.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A bigger tent?

Is that what the Republican Party needs in order to rebuild and again become popular with the electorate? That answer, as you might guess, depends upon whom you ask.

But as you consider whether the GOP needs to become more moderate and inclusive...or more conservative and traditional, consider also that there are political columnists, bloggers and others who think the U.S. voters gave the party a huge gift on Election selecting Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president. Those who hold this belief say that with Obama in the White House (and the Democrats as the majority in Congress), the Republican Party can return to its roots without calling as much attention to itself as it would if it were the ruling party.

Now, as readers of this blog now, I'm not a Republican, but I'm also not a Democrat. It is my opinion that both parties have sold out whatever honor they once had in an effort to rule without the other. Special interests and big money have replaced bipartisanship. But it is this blogger's opinion that the GOP will not return to the stature it enjoyed throughout the past 30 years until it resolves the internal dispute it is going through right now. The bloodier, messier and more public the fight is...the longer the road becomes for the GOP.

There are many contenders to be the leader of the party in 2012 and beyond. Names such as Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Chuck Nagel, Tim Pawlenty, Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist and many others will be floated -- some as trial balloons, some as legitimate nominees -- over the next couple of years. Who comes out of this pitched battle will be a tested candidate, just as Barack Obama was in 2008. But the principal difference is that this person will be facing an incumbent (and perhaps a still very popular one) in 2012.

The GOP would be wise to consider rebuilding its strength at the grassroots level over the next four years. Successes in the midterm elections of 2010 and 2014 plus successful efforts in a variety of gubernatorial races will at least give the party some optimism that it can move forward with a viable presidential bid in 2016.

How big will that tent be that year? That depends on what the voters tell the party between now and then.

The growing consensus...

...among Democrats and Republicans is that Sen. Hillary Clinton would be an excellent Secretary of State. The chatter among these "elite" combined with the Obama camp doing nothing to squash talk of the finalists (widely reported as Clinton, Bill Richardson and perhaps a third person) reaffirms in my mind that Clinton will be the pick.

Poor Richardson. He was drowned out of the Democratic primaries largely because he couldn't compete in the money game. Now he appears to be finishing behind Clinton again. Let's hope President-elect Obama can find an appropriate post for Mr. Richardson. From a distance, I've admired the man for many years.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Another sign of media bias

If you need additional evidence that the cable "news" networks have become consumed by ideology...consider this story.

While the content of the aforementioned story doesn't surprise me, it does reaffirm in my mind that cable news has sold out...for ratings. The ideological bias for FOX has been no secret for a long time, and MSNBC's swing to the left mirrors your favorite amusement park's roller-coaster. CNN is attempting to straddle the middle, but I still can't determine what that network is attempting to be.

I mentioned to a group of high school educators and students this morning that the cable networks appear more interested in advancing an agenda than practicing objectivity. I hope those students don't forget that as they begin their broadcast journalism careers that providing information is what journalists do.

The problem, however, in this cable news environment is that information has been twisted so as to promote or reinforce a distinct agenda.

The fires in L.A.

Having spent 20 years of my life in southern California, I watch with much despair at this time each year as the wildfires burn down homes and destroy the wonderful natural beauty of the state that will always be part of me.

I have at least one conversation each year with someone who wonders WHY someone would live in southern California...knowing that the earthquakes, fires, etc. could in a moment destroy everything you've worked for.

That's not the point. The south is littered each year with hurricanes, yet no one seems to ask why people continue to live there. The Midwest is rocked by annual floods, yet no one is calling for hundreds of thousands of Iowans to move somewhere else.

So why this fascination with "get out of California?" I don't have a good answer, but I think it has to do with the perception of the state -- a bunch of people left of center, devoid of reality, blinded by too much sun, infected by the allure of the beach, dying slowly because of smog, etc. Sure, the stereotype is true...but only on some level.

It's on days such as today when I see the homes burn that I remind myself of the great things that California has to offer. No, it's not home anymore, and I really don't want to live there again. But it is a majestic place. Part of me will always consider it home.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Has he...or hasn't he?

I've switched around a bit tonight among the three cable newscasts -- hey, it's a Friday night and I'm on the road in a city that is dealing with damp and chilly weather tonight. What do you think I should be doing? (Oh, yes...I'm grading papers and watching hockey, as well. Come on!)

MSNBC is reporting that President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the Secretary of State post to Sen. Hillary Clinton. FOX, in the segments I've seen, has offered no such story -- it has focused on Bill Ayers (and his ABC News interview from this morning) and economic issues. Finally, CNN is looking at the Obama-Clinton story, but it has not offered the same information as MSNBC.

So, what do we make of this? Does MSNBC have better sources? Could be. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the network's liberal bias might be well received by various members of the Obama team. Of course, it might not be better could be better reporting.

I've made clear that I think this story will become reality -- early next week. Yes, the news organizations will look at it incessantly over the weekend, but America's attention to football, NASCAR, the approaching holidays, cold weather (in some places) and other typical weekend events (family get-togethers, etc.) will ensure that confirming this story on the weekend will lose much of its punch.

Now, it wouldn't come as a surprise if there is a press release highlighting a "major announcement" on Monday. But Obama (and Clinton) will want to dominate the weekday -- not weekend -- news cycle.

I agree with the Los Angeles Times...

...which notes in an editorial that the right-wing of the Republican Party has little to fear with a Democratic Congress advancing a return of the Fairness Doctrine.

I told my students in one class this week my thoughts on the Fairness Doctrine -- as much as I am a proponent of balanced coverage, I cannot accept Congress telling radio stations how to program their stations. Yes, that sounds like a contradiction -- not liking a one-sided approach to radio but not favoring government intervention to change it.

But that's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Is this a sign of the future?

Newspapers have joint-operating agreements...this sounds like something that the television world could be moving toward.

I don't think I'm a fan, but I'll remain open minded for now.

Obama's FCC advisers

Meet the folks who will guide President-elect Barack Obama on the changes the commission might need to make and the policies it should pursue.

The challenges are enormous, but they are doable. I've made no secret on this post (and in my classes, for that matter) that I think ownership issues are out of whack, deregulation has been a mistake and too little has been done to protect the consumer from the interests of the corporations that control much of the media.

I'm intrigued... the amount of media coverage associated with the still-unconfirmed-rumor that President-elect Obama will nominate Sen. Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State.

Now, as I stated yesterday I think this appointment would be a brilliant one. It would provide Mr. Obama with a strong personality in his most important international diplomat. It also would provide further evidence that the breach that existed between the two leading Democratic presidential candidates has been healed. (Now, that's not to say the two are friends, mind you.)

But what interests me about the media coverage is how much of it has a fait-accompli feel to it. No one within the Obama camp has offered the slightest bit of information to suggest that this partnership will come about. Mrs. Clinton, for her part, also tried to deflect the rumors, although the slight smile on her face spoke volumes (at least to me).

I doubt we'll move past the rumor stage this weekend; I doubt anyone in the Obama camp is going to leak anything...and if the Clinton people do, the whole deal could unravel.

So, I suppose the media will need to relax for about 72 or so more hours. If this is a deal (and I think it will be), the announcement will come soon enough. Mr. Obama has made it clear he wants to move with "deliberate haste" to get his Cabinet together. No reason why some of his most high-profile appointments shouldn't come in the next week or so.

Hanging out with high school students

If you thought college students can help you stay young...well, high school students make you feel old.

I'm in St. Louis for the annual Journalism Education Association fall convention. This morning, I visited the information/registration/booth rooms. One of the most popular stops in that room is the Guitar Hero set up. Now, I've got to tell you -- the music that these young people are playing is...well, different. Something called Radio Head was the band used in the demo. The line to play the game and listen to the music was at least five deep.

Radio Head? Help!

I also met with a few students to talk about Point Park University and our new School of Communication. A few prospects can be found in that mix.

I have a session this afternoon in which I'll discuss getting your broadcast career started. I have another session in the morning dealing with broadcast writing. In between, I'll be a judge for at least one broadcast contest.

These kids are young. Really young.

Radio Head?

And well it should

Kudos to eBay for doing the right thing and preventing its site from being used as a means to sell inauguration tickets.

I'm in favor of capitalism, but to profit on something that is a civic gift (for lack of a better term) is just plain wrong.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hill-ary! Hill-ary!

Hillary the next Secretary of State? Could happen.

My two cents -- brilliant move. Mrs. Clinton had her chance to be president...and she won't have the chance again. Whether Mr. Obama is re-elected four years from now is irrelevant; he WILL be the Democratic Party candidate in 2012. Mrs. Clinton will not pursue her party's nomination in 2016, when she will be knocking on the "70" door.

She could remain in the Senate for the next eight years, and I have no doubt she would represent New York well. (Wow, if members of my family who live there read that line...they might hurl.) But she also would be one of 100.

But if she moves to the Cabinet (and perhaps the most high-profile one), she becomes 1 of 1 and has a chance to influence the Obama administration far more than she could in the Senate. I think it also would be the most convincing sign the Obama and Clinton camps can offer that their often bitter primary campaign has been put in the past. Whether either person (especially Mr. Obama) has to offer such a statement is questionable, but placing Mrs. Clinton in the Cabinet would be a stunner.

If this announcement is one of those trial balloons, I expect it will be well-received in a variety of quarters. It also will raise the hackles of many within the Republican Party. And how much fun the MSM will have as that angst and battle is played out.

Two Alaskans give me a lesson on Sarah Palin

I spent a couple of minutes talking to two Alaska natives tonight as we waited to get off an airplane. When they mentioned they had flown into Chicago and then St. Louis from Anchorage...I innocently brought up Sarah Palin.

Wow, the blowback was quick. My comment was something like "man, you're state has been in the media spotlight for the past couple of months."

And for no good reasons the couple (I'm assuming they are married) told me. I then said something that really got them going: "Aw, come almost had the vice president of the United States from your state."

"Who are you, Gilligan?" the man replied. He and his wife then reminded me that Mrs. Palin was not what she appeared to be, and that they were more than happy to see what happened to her on Election Day. (Interestingly they offered no thoughts about Sen. John McCain...but there I go being Gilligan again?)

By this point, a couple of people around us were chuckling. One other woman looked up at the female Alaska native and said, "Hey, you don't have to worry about me." She added that Mrs. Palin and she agreed on almost nothing.

So, there you have it.

How (conservative) talk radio works?

Great article here...especially because it comes from someone who was on the inside. Hang in there Dan're about to get scorched by the media.

A super lady gets ready to step aside

The head of the RTNDA -- Barbara Cochran -- has announced her retirement.

Bummer Anyone who has had the chance to know or work with Mrs. Cochran will agree that she is one of the fantastic women in the broadcast world. I got to know her a few years ago while I was the liaison between RTNDA and one of the academic organizations to which I belong.

She has been a passionate advocate for the rights and needs of all journalists. Her wisdom and experience will be missed.

Gingrich heading (back) to Washington?

Oh, come know that Newt Gingrich wants to get back in the game. So much so in fact that he, too, is using a sports analogy to highlight where his Republican Party stands at this moment.

And I have this thought -- if Gingrich becomes chair of the RNC and Palin does indeed become of the face of the GOP, then is there any question in which direction the party is turning?

How well is that going to resonate with the American public? And can you imagine the field day the MSM will have with those two?

When is emotion appropriate?

One reporter reflects on how...and whether...he should have reacted to Sen. Barack Obama's presidential victory.

You know where I fall on this one -- any emotional reaction, positive or negative, to a politician's victory ought to be grounds for a journalist to be suspended (at minimum) or fired.

Palin heading to Washington? (UPDATE)

Hmmm, would you believe...Sen. Sarah Palin?

Here's an excerpt from a blog post:

Even as [Ted] Stevens faded, Sarah Palin was telling CNN she's open to the possibility of running for Stevens' seat if he 1) wins 2) gets booted from the Senate.

'I believe that I have - I feel I have a contract with Alaskans to serve. I've got two more years in my term. I'm going to serve Alaskans to the best of my ability. At this point it is as governor... Now if something shifted dramatically and if it were, if it were acknowledged up there that I could be put to better use for my state in the U.S. Senate, I would certainly consider that, but that would take a special election and everything else.

'I am not one to appoint myself or a member of my family to take the place of any vacancy,' she added, in an apparent shot at former Gov. Frank Murkowski, who appointed his daughter Lisa to the Senate seat he vacated in 2002.

UPDATE: Well, leave it to FOX News to never hide its opinions. The morning show female anchor (I'll omit her name so as to not embarrass her, but she works alongside Bill Hemmer) told her viewers this morning that Sarah Palin is the new face of the Republican Party. Really? When was this decision finalized? FOX, of course, is covering Mrs. Palin's speech to the Republican National Governor's Convention.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bipartisan spirit...sort of

Alaska governor Sarah Palin says that she'd be honored to help the soon-to-be Obama administration in any way possible...even if she sees a flaw in the president.

Give Palin credit...she knows how to use the media.

After two straight election setbacks...

...the GOP is turning to its governors for some answers. How does the party re-connect with voters? Who is best suited to be the face of the party moving forward?

It is perhaps no surprise that the media are focusing much of its attention on Alaska governor Sarah Palin. For good or bad, she has become the lightning rod within the party -- did she do enough to help John McCain, or did she undermine his presidential chances? Intriguing questions, and Palin will be both the number one contender and number one target for those who want to be the face of the party in 2012.

Palin will be helped, in my opinion, by the incessant media attacks on her. And when the right comes together to rally around her, the media seem to be put on the defensive. This gem, courtesy of, highlights how personal many leaders on the right think the media made their attacks on her:

A roomful of academics erupted in angry boos yesterday after political analyst Michael Barone said 'the liberal media' trashed Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republicans' vice presidential nominee, because 'she did not abort her Down syndrome baby.' Barone said in an email that he 'was attempting to be humorous and ... went over the line.' Barone was speaking in Chicago to the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges. 'The liberal media attacked Sarah Palin because she did not abort her Down syndrome baby,' Barone said. 'They wanted her to kill that child. ... I'm talking about my media colleagues with whom I've worked for 35 years.'

Now, I have no idea what in the world Michael Barone was thinking, but I do believe he hit the nerve -- the media say they covered her fairly, while the right thinks she was under siege from day one.


Of course, the party first must determine if Robert Duncan will remain the chair of the RNC. If he chooses not to (or is shown the door), then a battle for the post could ensue. My wife, who is astute at politics, said the other night that it wouldn't surprise her if Newt Gingrich attempts to pull a Howard Dean -- failed presidential candidate who brings the party together.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Am I the only one who thinks that..

...every Republican is taking his or her shot at George Bush these days?

Now, don't misunderstand me: The reasons to bash Bush are numerous, and I'm not going to recite any of them here. But it does strike me that Sarah Palin (see an earlier post from today) and Newt Gingrich and many others are using the media spotlight to hammer away at the perceived/real mistakes of the past 8 years...and, yes, all the while making the not-so-subtle case that they could be the person to turn around the fortunes of the Republican Party.

I think the timing of these announcements is no accident: There is a political lull right now. Mr. Obama has been elected (but has not yet been sworn in); the Congress is on recess (though will soon gather for a lame-duck session); and there is still a political hangover from the presidential and other races. However, once the holidays take over and attention turns to the swearing in of Mr. Obama...the potential Republican Party leaders are going to find it more difficult to share the media spotlight.

Strike will you have the chance. One of the more obvious political maxims.

See, I told you it was a relevant question!

Regular readers of this blog know that I have, from time to time, questioned the role that objectivity plays in this 24-hour, news-crazed, cable-news-opinionated media world.

Well, would you believe...the stately Editor and Publisher is now taking up that discussion!

I sooooooo like it when I'm ahead of the curve :-)

Who will be next?

Yes, the media speculation about President-elect Obama is in high gear...but so too is the talk about who will succeed Kevin Martin as the head of the FCC. Here is an interesting argument that suggests Mr. Obama can demonstrate "change" in his appointment to the FCC by bringing in someone not tied to the Beltway mentality.

Your chance to tell the GOP where to go

The GOP appears to be taking a page out of the Barack Obama playbook -- make an appeal directly to the people. Here's a snippet from Mike Allen daily blog --

RNC Chairman Mike Duncan announces a new grassroots Web site, 'As we regroup as a Party after the presidential election, we must reflect on what we have done well and what we can improve upon as we move forward. The Republican Party has always been the Party of hope and the Party of ideas. I strongly believe we will continue in this tradition as we work to the future. ...Please tell us what you would like to see the Party focus on and address in the coming weeks and months.'

Taking a different tack, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the GOP can return to prominence if it keeps in mind how successful it had been in recent years in appealing to the growing Hispanic voting bloc. Meanwhile, another editorial -- this one in the New York Times -- advises the conservative movement to evaluate and quickly decide if it wants to align itself with the "Traditionalists" or "Reformers" that are clashing for power within the party.

The speculation is rampant!

Who's going to be the Secretary of ___________?

Fill in the blank...and add a bunch of possible names. The media are falling all over themselves this morning (and will be doing the same for several days) trying to determine who will fill President-elect Obama's cabinet.

Remember, stories such as these are inevitable in the "down" political season -- Congress is not meeting, the presidential race is over and the potential for the Obama presidency combine to allow speculation to run rampant.


Meanwhile, a different kind of speculation also is happening -- what will Sarah Palin do in 2012? While she didn't necessarily throw George Bush under the bus...she did make clear in one interview that the McCain-Palin ticket did perhaps better than it should have, recognizing the domestic and international messes that are (rightfully, in my opinion) placed at Mr. Bush's doorstep.

Of course, the political and political journalism communities (not to mention a few bloggers) are interested in what Mrs. Palin's plans are for the next presidential cycle. Will she run for president? Almost certainly, yes. Will it be in 2012? Maybe. 2016? Possibly.

Ah, speculation. The problem when the media play this game is that too many questions are left unanswered, and the individual who can offer the most concrete answers often doesn't talk. (Or doesn't say exactly what people want them to!)

Stay tuned...there's another rumor out there to be checked out :-)

Dean's surprise

I was surprised to read this morning that Howard Dean is going to step down as head of the DNC.

Dean's decision opens the door for someone linked more closely to and with President-elect Barack Obama to take over the party, which is in far better shape than it was when Dean assumed the leadership role.

Dean's fire-brand political oratory set him up as a potential major player in recent presidential campaigns, but his unfortunate "scream" in Iowa derailed those hopes. His in-your-face style also seemed both suited and ill-suited for being the head of the party.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And speaking of dealing with the media

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has an important reminder or two for the President-elect...

'After three months of campaigning, he stopped reading blogs. After six months, he stopped watching cable news shows. After nine months, he stopped reading the press clips, relying instead on his staff to flag important stories. Obama said during a brief conversation last month that it was 'just weird' to be constantly reading and watching reports on his candidacy, creating a 'hall of mirrors' effect that he regarded as unhealthy. He said that cable news yakkers, just like those on ESPN, make provocative comments because they have so much time to fill ...

'Now the president-elect must decide how to handle the media as he shifts from campaign mode to commander in chief. If he is overly influenced by editorial criticism, he could be thrown off course in ways that were rarely evident during his highly disciplined campaign. But if Obama tunes out the press, he could find himself isolated in a White House bubble. Robert Gibbs, the affable spokesman who will become press secretary, sees no danger of that. 'We ran promising a more open and transparent administration, and the president-elect will keep that promise,' Gibbs says. ... Once a president takes office, though, an adversarial relationship usually flourishes, at least with beat reporters. careful what you say...

Valerie Jarrett, Co-chair of the Obama transition team, said on NBC's Meet the Press, "There is one president at a time. President Bush is still the president. ... However, given...the daunting challenges that we face, it's important that President-elect Obama is prepared to really take power and begin to rule day one."

Rule? I thought it was lead?

A small gaffe, sure. But tone and symbolism are important.

Palin's full-court press (UPDATE)

Sarah Palin knows a thing or two about basketball...and she obviously knows a thing or two about politics (and, yes, you have to acknowledge those truths regardless of what you think of her political stances).

I find it fascinating to see her full-court press (basketball term) being applied in the political arena. She has been very vocal in the past week in skewering the media and anyone in the McCain campaign whom she thinks has been blaming her for the McCain defeat last week. She's being interviewed by Great Van Susteren...might be worth your time.

UPDATE: Your time also would be well spent checking out the TIME magazine article about Gov. Palin. Anyone who thinks she's going back to Alaska and will never be heard from again is making a big mistake. And remember my warning -- I maintain the media will deal with a backlash for their treatment of Mrs. Palin. Sure, her political opinions are fair game...and they should be scrutinized, analyzed and criticized when appropriate. But I think the attack mentality was a mistake.

Disinformation...or misinformation?

I always love it when political operatives let the media know that they "might" be barking up the wrong tree. The latest manifestation of this is "you in the media might be way of base with some of your predictions for Cabinet positions in the Obama White House."

Of course, the media are guessing as to who might be in the Obama Cabinet. In the absence of "real news" from Washington, the media are going to run rampant with speculation. Come on, it's all part of the game.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The race for 2012...has begun!

For anyone who thought that the GOP was going to wait before moving forward with trying to win back the White House in 2012...think again.

One of the intriguing questions as the Republican Party moves forward is which direction will the party move in the next few years? If the decision is to move right -- and keep in mind conservative Republicans won the White House in 1980, 1984, 1988 (a sort of conservative), 2000 and 2004. No non-conservative Republican has lost in that almost 30-year period.

The party also could retain its centrist approach, and the last two middle-of-the-road Republicans (1996 and 2008) were hammered in the general election.

Keep an eye on this intra-party discussion (which might get nasty at times)...and also see how the media cover it. Clearly the Republicans are reeling after last week's election debacle (and the party's popularity began to decline in the 2004 midterm elections)...and they need to articulate its agenda forcefully and clearly, but also quickly. The potential presidential nominees who can be the most forceful, clearest and quickest will take the initial step toward being the party's standard bearer in four years.

A huge win for the Democrats...but not a national ideological shift

Consider these details (which was published by the AP, and which I "copied" from Mike Allen's daily blog...

'The 2008 presidential election saw the biggest partisan shift in a generation - more of a rejection of Republicans than an embrace of Democrats - but voter surveys find no broad ideological realignment behind that shift. Democrats made up 39 percent of the electorate and Republicans 32 percent in a national exit poll for The Associated Press and television networks. That left the share of voters considering themselves members of the GOP lower than in any presidential election since 1980 and was a sharp contrast with the 37-37 split between the two parties in the 2004 election.

'But there was virtually no change in the ideological spectrum: This year 22 percent called themselves liberal, compared with 21 percent in 2004; 44 percent moderate, compared with 45 percent; and 34 percent conservative, same as four years ago. ... With huge samples - nearly 18,000 voters this year - sampling error on the national exit polls is plus or minus just 1 percentage point. ...

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Checking out DC

Regular readers of this blog know that Washington is my favorite city in North America, and I'm here for about 36 hours attending the fall board meeting for the Broadcast Education Association.

I had a free morning and with the rain that was forecast never coming in...I walked a few miles -- yes, in my shoes, thank you!

I gain a deeper appreciation and fondness for this city every time I'm here. (Of course, being stuck in traffic trying to get here on a Friday night...yikes, one learns to appreciate the decision to take mass transportation to work!) Today was spent away from the usual places I like to visit -- the Capitol, the White House, the Smithsonian, etc. Instead I simply walked the DuPont Circle area. Nothing fancy, and no real plan.

There are more tourists here this weekend than you might think. The tourist maps, finger points toward the Metro stops, kids screaming for souvenirs, etc. are indeed the sights and sounds.

I might have the chance to be back here in January for that...oh, what's it know the new president thing-a-ma-bob :-). I've never seen an inauguration in person, and I've never been in this amazing city for that event.

Parallels...and what they might mean

In 1980, voters opted for change -- and that desire brought Ronald Reagan into the White House.

In 1992, voters opted for change -- and that desire brought Bill Clinton into the White House.

In 2008, voters opted for change -- and that desire brought Barack Obama into the White House.

In a variety of ways, these men are polar opposites...but I think Mr. Obama will be judged by the media and the public in ways that Reagan and Clinton were (with one huge difference that I'll get to later). With that in mind, the symbolic "First 100 Days" in office will be important for Mr. Obama.

It is safe to say that the economy will be his number one priority, and let's be fair -- there is no way he can fix the economic mess in three months. However, what he can do is demonstrate that he is taking slow, steady and reasonable steps toward getting the problems solved.

Next, the media will be looking to see how effective (and how honest) the bi-partisan spirit is within Mr. Obama. Change, in 2008, does not mean sweeping aside the Republicans and replacing them with Democrats. Instead, it means making Washington a less divisive city, and perhaps more importantly it means fostering a spirit in which both parties roll up their sleeves and work together.

Finally, the white-hot media spotlight will shine on any attempt Mr. Obama makes that can be classified as "a reach." Remember the negative reaction in 1993 to Mr. Clinton's efforts to revamp the gays in the military question? He then compounded that error (meaning trying to solve it too quickly) by not getting his health care agenda passed. The result? A GOP tide in the 1994 midterm elections.

And underscoring all of this is one of the biggest differences from Reagan in the 1980s, Clinton in the 1990s and Obama today -- the Internet, bloggers, citizen journalists and other non-mainstream media people and organizations that will advance their message and be heard. Neither Mr. Reagan nor Mr. Clinton had to deal with this "other media," and the ability these groups have to get their message into the living rooms, hearts and minds of the American citizen.

And so in about 70 days Barack Obama is -- to borrow a phrase from the NFL Draft -- "on the clock."

Friday, November 07, 2008


President-elect Obama learned today that EVERYTHING you say when you are in his position will be magnified, scrutinized and (when necessary) criticized. No matter what he meant when he referred to Nancy Reagan and didn't come out correctly. He subsequently apologized.

Mind you, everyone says things that they wish they hadn't or that didn't come out exactly as it was supposed to. Almost always, few people notice and fewer people care. But remember, when I or someone else does that...well, we're not the president-elect.

Teaching students to blog

As mentioned in an earlier post from today, a Point Park colleague and I co-presented a 2-part session that discussed the intricacies and relevant issues associated with being a blogger.

I'll ask you to visit that earlier post to review some of the items we discussed. In the end, I thought it was a successful day. There were perhaps 10 students at our first session (the nuts and bolts), but almost two dozen showed up for the second program (actually blogging).

I think (hope!) the students gained an appreciation for what it takes to be a GOOD blogger and why it is important to remember that your blog (and its postings) is a bit like your DNA -- it follows you everywhere you go.

Building the Obama cabinet

Interesting assessment here from both The Hill and as to who Barack Obama might tap for his Cabinet:

HYPOTHETICAL DOMINOES: JOE BIDEN gives up his Foreign Relations chairmanship for the veep's office; CHRIS DODD stays at banking or eventually moves to HELP; JOHN KERRY gets State; and . . . RUSS FEINGOLD becomes the chairman? The Hill's Walter Alarkon says Dems could bypass the 'staunch opponent' of the Iraq war in favor of a 'more centrist member' like BILL NELSON, but that doing so would 'rile the party's left wing.'

The one I find most intriguing is John Kerry as Secretary of State. I can't quite define why, but he would seem out of place in such a role. I don't question the man's credentials, and Kerry (in my mind) is a statesman (and, yes, I suspect my Republican friends are going to have a field day with that one)...but why do I find myself looking at his name and that position and seeing an improper fit?

Now, I'm going to throw a wild card at you. Consider this: Mr. Obama has spoken often before the election and again today about the need for bipartisanship. If he were serious about this, how about offering Joe Lieberman a key post? Wait, you say, Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats -- how can appointing him be a sign of bipartisanship?

Let's be realistic -- the Democrats are facing a difficult decision: Do they strip the Connecticut senator of his committee chairmanship as a penalty for his support of John McCain? Doing so would be both politically appropriate but also politically inappropriate. How about removing this no-win situation and moving him to the cabinet?

Listening (not watching) Obama

I listened to President-elect Obama's press conference today as I drove from Pittsburgh to Washington...and I was impressed with how quickly the rhetoric had turned off and the reasoned delivery was turned on.

Obviously Mr. Obama is now in a far different position from just four nights ago -- he is no longer one of 100 from the Senate (or one of two presidential candidates) -- as he is now about to be THE MAN.

His call for a second stimulus package ("aimed at the middle class," if I'm remembering his exact words correctly) was spot on, as was his acknowledgment that he is not the president at this point and therefore must continue to allow George Bush to lead the country.

It wouldn't be surprising if he were tired, but I detected fatigue in his voice. But I also heard a man resolute with belief that hard work and difficult choices are ahead. The recent economic news (especially today's unemployment report) offered nothing positive.

Thinking about blogs

A Point Park colleague and I are completing a 2-part session this morning at our annual high school media day that examines CREATING BLOGS.

Our students attend various Pittsburgh-area high schools, and they are learning about the power, implications and challenges of being a blogger.

We've discussed the ethical issues of blogging. We've highlighted how blogs can be both professional and personal in nature, but in the end they need to reflect WHO you are.

My colleague -- Heather Starr Fiedler runs, which, as you might guess, highlights issues relevant to working or stay-at-home moms. Heather told our students that her audience reacts and responds to her posts in predictable and surprising ways, but that at the end of the day she gets a charge out of anyone who is affected by what she writes.

As you know, my blog is more analytical (though not as opinionated) when compared to Heather's.

The challenge now for our students is to create their own blog and then post two comments that tie into the issues presented to them. We're asking them to think about what they are an expert/authority in; how they can allow their "voice" to come through; and how they can attempt to attract an audience.

Later today, and after I arrive in Washington where I need to attend an academic/professional conference this weekend, I'll offer some thoughts on how the process went.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The future of the media...

...a live Webcast for your consideration.

This ought to be interesting to see. You'll also note that there are opportunities to ask questions.

Hey, Barack...welcome to the neighborhood!

Not quite sure when Russian president Dmitri Medvedev intends to call Barack Obama to congratulate him on his presidential victory...but Medvedev certainly called out Obama (and more importantly any military plans he might have for Central or Eastern Europe) yesterday.

Make no mistake, Russia intends to retain (whether it's perceived or real) its power in that part of the world. No, we're not looking at a hot war here, but we could be looking at some Cold War era rhetoric.

To the victors...the spoils.

To the losers...the blame game.

The GOP is facing the difficult series of questions of "where do we go from here?" and "what now?" in the aftermath of the November elections.

On one hand, it can lurch back to the right. While that might not be popular with the majority of the electorate, consider this -- the last two "moderate" Republicans who have run for the presidency were hammered on Election Day. And the similarities between Bob Dole and John McCain don't end there. (If you know the biographies of these men, you know what I'm talking about.)

At the same time, the GOP won the presidency with the conservative Richard Nixon...the equally conservative Ronald Reagan...and the (promised "compassionate") conservative George Bush. (Yes, I'm leaving the elder Bush off this list because in my opinion his win is attributable more to his role as Reagan's vice president than any other factor.)

So if the party opts to turn right (and the choice in the next month or two of the new party chairman will be a critical test of this issue), then people such as Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Sam Brownback and even Newt Gingrich (!) become potential standard bearers for the GOP in 2012.

Wow...we're less than 48 hours removed from Barack Obama's win...and already talking about the next presidential election.

You voted...then you watched the returns come in

Wow, did you ever. And when the tallies (for television ratings) were appears that more Americans got there news from a network that is as easy to remember as A-B-C.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The question of race

Race. An underlying theme to this year's presidential election...and one handled gracefully and appropriately by the New York Times and other MSM today. But the answer to whether Obama's election can bridge the racial divide in this country is a more difficult one to assess.

I cannot imagine the thoughts that must have been going through Jesse Jackson's head last night as he watched (through his tears) Barack Obama deliver his acceptance speech. I reminded my students in two classes today that it was 40 years and 7 months to the day that MLK was shot in Memphis to Obama's election as president.

Few of the students knew that Jackson was in Memphis when King was shot, but they did understand the symbolism behind an African-American becoming president.

When should the call have been made?

It's an interesting question being asked today -- when should the media have called last night's election?

It's a bit disingenuous of any television organization to suggest it wouldn't call last night's election until either political candidate was guaranteed to reach the 270 Electoral College number. And so I find the premise, and it's highlighted in this story, to be difficult to accept.

If you are an astute follower of politics, you KNEW that unless Mr. McCain cleaned up in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina that he had no chance of reaching the magic number of 270. Clearly by 9:00 the handwriting was on the wall -- going from memory here, Pennsylvania already had been declared in the Obama category and Ohio was not far behind. Mr. Obama's near error-free campaign ride was heading into victory lane at that moment. It was clear why he was winning...and even clearer why voters favored him.

Therefore, for the television media to do what it did last night -- wait until polls had closed in California and the West before a simultaneous announcement made for great theater...and probably allowed for the audience to stay longer than it otherwise might have.

Now, there is another way to look at this -- by not declaring the Obama win until 11:00 in the East assured that the vote count in the mountain and western time zones would not have been affected. A message released before the polls closed there that Obama would be the next president certainly would have affected the total number of votes.

The television media were in a no-win situation -- to announce early kills their ratings and leaves them open to criticism that they suppressed the vote in the western third of the United States, but to not announce early leaves them open to criticism that they were hiding from the public what was already known to them: Mr. Obama was going to win.

In the name of...fear

It didn't take long for the corporate world to speak up...the fear of real regulatory oversight of the broadcast world has at least one broadcast executive warning that if Barack Obama takes regulation too far, the consumer will suffer.

Uh,'s about time that effective regulation and legitimate FCC oversight was part of the broadcast world. Welcome to the new world!

The morning after...the night before

It comes a lot quicker when you get older. And you feel worse than you did when you were younger.

I got home close to midnight last night, spent 30 minutes watching television (including Mr. Obama's acceptance speech), checked and sent e-mail...and tried like heck to come off the adrenaline rush of three hours of live television.

No luck.

I fell asleep sometime around 2:00. The alarm went off at 7:00.

Oh, it's going to be a long day!

What a night

I try not to get overly personal on this blog, but I hope you will indulge me for a moment as I share with you the e-mail I sent to my colleagues and to my students. It tries to convey how proud I was on Tuesday night, as I watched my students complete a live, 3-hour election night program.

Hi everyone,

My broadcast students did it again on Tuesday night. They delivered a live, 3-hour broadcast that covered the 2008 elections...and they did it with the professionalism, commitment, confidence and pride that comes with believing in your abilities.

I keep raising the bar for these young men and women who call themselves Point Park broadcast students, and they keep delivering. One student, Justin LaBar, humbled me moments after the program when he reminded his colleagues that from the moment I arrived at Point Park, I let the television students know that I expected great things from them, believed in them, wanted them to succeed and pushed them to complete projects that they perhaps wondered if they had the talent to do. He left me speechless, which is not an easy thing to do :-)

I hope that at some point over the next week, you get a chance to see the replay of our broadcast on U-View. I'm confident that when you do, you will look at these really great students and know why I am so very proud of them. These young men and women might be "my kids" for only four years before they abandon me to graduation and a pay check (when will they ever learn?), but I'll keep them for as long as I can.


And when the show was over and the clean-up had been accomplished, most of them went out to have a celebratory beverage. Me? I headed for home, eager to make it in time to watch Barack Obama's (superb, in my opinion) acceptance speech...but more importantly I wanted to celebrate my student's accomplishments in my one way -- in the comfort of my living room. My students really rocked on Tuesday night.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My Electoral College prediction

Obama: 349
McCain: 189

I'm suggesting it will be Obama who wins the swing states still sitting out there.

If this prognostication is anywhere close to accurate (meaning that the Democrat wins Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania), the MSM will be compelled to declare him the president-elect sometime around 8:30 to 8:45. But consider the ethical and professional questions that decision would raise.

This statistic -- perhaps more than any other -- demonstrates... Barack Obama has engaged the political electorate this year: As Election Day develops, he could gather more than 50 percent of the popular vote.

No Democrat in more than 30 years has done that.

That statistic, should it be borne out tonight, will cement in my mind that this election was never John McCain's to win; it was always Obama's to lose. The sweeping tide of change that enveloped the country over the past year (maybe more) ensured that the Democratic nominee faced an almost impossible-to-lose road to the White House.

What I hope the television media do not do tonight

Let's call this an early Christmas letter to Santa...

1. Please do not forget the importance of talking to and hearing from Joe and Josephine American
2. Please do not savor the (expected) victory of Barack Obama; you've got credibility problems as it is, don't intentionally exacerbate the problem
3. Please don't try to dazzle viewers with fancy graphics at the expense of critical analysis
4. Please if the time comes tell Americans "we don't know" instead of rushing to a "we were first...but wrong" predicament
5. Please do not let your analysts engage in petty bickering for the sake of a ratings grab

Thanks, Santa. The milk and cookies will be waiting for you when you scoot down the chimney on Christmas Eve.

And now it's time

It took me 30 minutes from the time I walked in to my polling location to walk out...not bad, considering the warnings from our county elections director that long lines were going to be the norm before and after the traditional work hours.

The polling representatives at my station determined that slightly more than 70 people showed up in the first hour, and that none of the three people sitting there could remember such a strong turn out in the initial hour of voting.

In the overnight hours, the location where I vote -- which is a Jewish temple -- was plastered with placards, and an overwhelming number of them were for Democratic candidates. Standing near the driveway to the temple was one man. He was holding a gigantic sign reminding people that abortion was murder.


I won't be watching the election returns tonight. What did he just say? Yup, not watching. That's because around 30 of my broadcast students are putting on a 3-hour election night broadcast. We begin at 8:00 EST, and we'll look at the election from a local, state and national perspective.

I'm awfully proud of these kids. They've got a great chance tonight to build their professional credentials. They're pumped to do a great job.

Monday, November 03, 2008

With friends like these...

I got an e-mail today from a friend. Check out the attachment!

You've got to love your friends!

TIME beat me to the punch

I was going to make the same comment today -- the math is not in John McCain's favor, with just one day to go before Election Day.

When you crunch the Electoral College numbers, you find no combination RIGHT NOW that indicates Mr. McCain can win tomorrow. Even if he were to sweep the swing/too close to call states, he would find himself about 10-20 Electoral College votes short of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

He needs to pluck one or two states that are right now not trending in his direction. I don't see that happening.

Moreover, the Democrats are feeling (and with some justification, based on the polls and general national sentiment) that they will make strong gains in Congress. Here's a snippet of a New York Times report:

'Sensing an extraordinary opportunity to expand their numbers in both the House and Senate, Democrats were spending freely on television advertising across the campaign map. Senate Democrats were active in nine states where Republicans are running for reelection; House Democrats, meanwhile, bought advertising in 63 districts, twice the number of districts where Republicans bought advertisements and helped candidates.'

Sometime tonight I'll post my "what I hope to see from the media on Election Day" thoughts.