Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No truce, no calm in the Middle East

Israel has rejected a cease-fire plan that was being brokered by the French government. The Israelis based their decision in part on wanting to give Hamas no opportunity to regain the momentum it has lost since this crisis began 5 days ago.

TIME provides a solid assessment of what a cease-fire agreement needs to address, while the BBC notes that the decision to abandon for now a cease-fire might expose domestic political fissures that will reappear again when Israelis go to the polls in early 2009.

The anger in the Middle East is rising, and I came across a new blog this morning as I took a look at what the international blogging community is saying about the war. One blog is calling upon Iran to send various forms of assistance to Gaza. Yes, I acknowledge that the creators of this blog are aligned with Hizbollah, and that is sure to raise legitimate concerns about the group's true aims. I found another blog in which Lebanese citizens are offering their support for the Palestinians in Gaza. What is most interesting about Global-Voices-Online is that I can find no blog written from Israel that offers pro-Israeli arguments for what has happened so far.

On the other hand, the Jerusalem Post is a newspaper to turn to for a pro-Israeli viewpoint. Among the stories you can find today is one indicating that 65% of its readers support the potential ground attack by Israeli forces.

In another important report, the Jerusalem Post reports that pool reporters will be allowed into Gaza; this is a critical development as it will allow journalists their first opportunity to see what is happening in Gaza.

Finally, I encourage you to consider this story that highlights the Israeli Defense Forces' decision to start its own YouTube channel that is broadcasting the strikes delivered by its rockets, missiles and other military hardware. The ethical issues associated with this story are ones that can be talked about in various professional and educational settings.

The New York Times is sued

Sure, I understand the premise behind the lawsuit -- "clear my name." But I don't think lobbyist Vikki Iseman is going to be able to prove that the newspaper acted with malice when it suggested that she and Sen. John McCain had an extra-marital affair.

Yes, the three cable news networks enjoyed fantastic ratings in 2008

But keep in mind, as this article points out, that once the election was over...ratings fell.

In my opinion for the networks to sustain the numbers they had in 2008, they must remain committed to journalism. (I know what you're thinking...here goes the prof once again; he's about to lecture us.) The temptation to fall into gimmick reporting or to chase the latest sensational story of the day will be there, but I firmly believe that if CNN, FOX and MSNBC stay vigilant in covering news, they will be successful.

And consider the "great" news stories of 2009 --

1. The first 100 days of the Obama administration
2. The economy and its inevitable ups and downs
3. International crises that command our attention
4. The GOP's attempts to reform and revitalize itself

These stories (and there are others that could have been added to this list) require solid reporting, a determination to find the best sources, a commitment from management to devote resources to enterprise reporting and other important factors. Sadly, I'm not optimistic in any of these corporately owned news agencies doing any of this.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A perfect Boy Scout?

Well, maybe not. But I read this story about this Boy Scout from New York who has earned all 121 badges available from the organization. What a feat!

Israel/Gaza, Day 4 (UPDATED)

As is true in war time, mixed messages are being heard as the crisis between Israel and Hamas continues.

A relief boat, carrying volunteers and medical supplies, was "rammed" by Israel today. I out the term "rammed" in quotes not to suggest I don't believe what CNN is reporting, but rather to indicate that the term I'm using is coming from a news organization. For what it's worth, FOX is using "collided" to describe what happened earlier today. Fortunately, no injuries were reported in this incident.

Sadly, the overall death toll from four days of rocket barrages from both sides now stands at over 350. However, that figure is made up almost entirely of Palestinians; very few Israelis have died to this point.

The calls for peace continue to be heard from various quarters. However,The New York Times accurately notes that the absence of real diplomatic efforts has intensified the problems. Moreover, the deep support for the Israeli government's actions at home combined with the deep anger throughout the Middle East has inflamed the situation.

Nevertheless, various reports indicate that Israel is considering a truce offer.

Israelis feel threatened as they survey the Middle East, according to an editorial in The New York Times. A resurgent Hamas is only one factor weighing on the fears of Israeli citizens.

UPDATE: Positive signs late in the day that the potential truce likely will be enacted. The French government appears to have taken the necessary lead in making this happen. Where is the Bush administration, which seems more interested in tacitly approving what Israel is doing rather than seeking to be a peacemaker?

Apparently $17 billion is not enough

No, the Treasury, according to Politico.com, has decided to kick in another $6 billion to help bailout the American auto industry.

Telling journalists no... (UPDATE)

...is always a tough thing to do, when it is another journalist saying it. But when it comes to the upcoming inauguration, "no" is an answer some journalists will here.

Moment of honesty here -- I received my "no" a few days ago. I wasn't surprised, as my request was made in my role as a blogger. Nevertheless, I can now count to two the number of times my credential requests have been turned down. (And, no, I'm not discussing when the first one happened because I chose not to embarrass the professional sports organization that was responsible for it.)

UPDATE: Journalists aren't the only ones getting a negative message as the inauguration approaches. So, too, is the public, which is being warned that the crowds, the weather, the long-lines, the intense security and other factors mean staying home might be the best course of action on Jan. 20.

I can understand these messages -- no one who will be in Washington on Jan. 20 expects that getting around will be easy. But I think because of the swirl of energy that Barack Obama has created, people will ignore these warnings, put up with the difficulties of the day, and simply agree that they want to be there regardless of whether they get near to the action.

The path to Putin's return to the presidency has been paved

The perfect plan provided by Putin to put him in the place he prefers has been perfected. Prime Minister is good...but the presidency is where Putin wants to be.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sarah Palin is a grandmother

Congrats to daughter Bristol and her boyfriend, Levi Johnston, who are the parents of a boy.

When will it end?

As Day 3 of the crisis involving Israel and Hamas concludes, the international community is again facing the reality that there appears to be no immediate solution on the horizon.

Israel continued its bombardment throughout the day, and the death toll has swelled to almost 350. Eyewitnesses have told the BBC that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is rapidly escalating. Bloggers are providing their perspective, as well.

The United Nations called again today for an end to the violence; and although I am a proponent of what the U.N. does, the agency appears to be impotent as this crisis unfolds. Beyond its calls for peace, there is little the U.N. has proposed.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration remains adamant that Hamas started this latest crisis, and therefore the impetus is on its leaders to end it.

The Los Angeles Times provides a primer on what caused this latest unrest; this seemingly innocuous piece of journalism is something more news organizations should offer their audiences.

Where are the TV reports from Iraq?

If you thought they were harder and harder to find these days, you're absolutely correct. The New York Times explains why television networks are cutting back.

Israel/Gaza, Day 3

The MSM has put on its analytical and editorial caps, as it continues to report the spasm of violence in Israel and Gaza.

The New York Times suggests that Israel's perceived failures during its 2006 battle with Hizbollah helps to explain why it is responding as it is to Hamas' decision to break the cease-fire agreements. The historical context of the 2006 events are explained to a sufficient degree in this report. A similar report can be found in TIME magazine.

The Washington Post reports that signs so far point to a long stand-off, with Israel ignoring the angry protests that began soon after it fired its first missile.

TIME also succinctly points up that the current battle with Hamas could come with a significant diplomatic price for Israel, though it appears at this point that the Israelis are not concerned with the potential international political fallout. One Washington Post columnist takes it a step further, suggesting that it will be Israel's out-going Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who will be tagged with leading the country into two military conflicts even though he pushed the hardest for good relations with Israel's neighbors.

The realization that in just three weeks the Middle East problems are transferred from George Bush's to Barack Obama's plate is not lost on The New York Times. Perhaps the principal challenge for the Obama administration is that any crisis in the Middle East (or anywhere in the world) is that it takes focus away from the economic mess the United States finds itself in. Along somewhat similar lines, the Associated Press notes that the recent violence also complicates Obama's planned efforts to bring peace to the Middle East.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Comrade Stalin...one of the three greatest Russians

Preposterous, you say? Well, remember, I'm not the one making the claim. Here is where you can find out more about who voted for "Uncle Joe" and the two men who finished ahead of him. (Just a thought -- what might Comrade Stalin have done to numbers 1 and 2 if he had had the chance?)

Israel/Gaza, day two

Ominous signs indicate that the Israel and Hamas are no where near settling their differences. (Any excerpts highlighted below are taken from Mike Allen's daily blog on Politico.com.)

The New York Times reports that rockets were lobbied from both sides in the past couple of hours, and the death toll is approaching 300. But at least one high-ranking Israeli official thinks that much of what Hamas is doing is show over substance.

On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times and other media organizations indicate that Israel is using its superior military force to its advantage and will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, AFP reports from Jerusalem that 'Israel has mobilised thousands of reservists, a senior government official said on Sunday ... 'The cabinet has approved the drafting of thousands of reserve soldiers,' the official told reporters after a cabinet government meeting. 'These include combat units and home front units.'

AFP, in Gaza, added that 'Israel warned on Sunday it COULD SEND GROUND TROOPS into Gaza as its warplanes continued pounding Hamas targets inside the enclave where more than 280 Palestinians have been killed in just 24 hours.'

The Bush administration maintains that Hamas is responsible for this most recent flare up in violence because it was first to violate cease-fire terms. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rice has been keep President-elect Obama aware of what is happening, CNN and other news organizations indicate this morning.

The Wall Street Journal also notes that this weekend's events put Obama in a difficult situation -- he promised to be more aggressive in securing peace in this troubled part of the world.

That seems a more acute challenge today.

The woes for Sirius XM continue

My conclusions after reading this article:

1. It is Mel Karmazin's previous business successes in radio that will be the sole determinant in satellite radio's future
2. Howard Stern made a huge gamble on satellite radio, and to this point he's lost
3. The pronounced economic recession we're in could be the death knell for the industry
4. No one, including Karmazin, has figured out an equitable way to get rid of the massive debt weighing down Sirius XM
5. The absence of positive media stories and a strong advertising presence also are negatively affecting the future of satellite radio

I've made no secret on this blog that my experience with Sirius (before it merged with XM) was a disaster: the quality of the signal was poor; necessary add-ons were never suggested to me; and the overall customer service experience was lacking.

All that being said, I don't enjoy seeing what is happening to satellite radio. Radio was my first love (not counting some girl named Lori, but I was 10 at the time!), and I still firmly believe it is the most intimate and personal medium available to all of us.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Media advancements in China?

Any policy offered by the Chinese government that can be interpreted as a step toward more media freedom is viewed positively by this blogger. And a story in the Washington Post suggests that small steps might be evident in this area.

On the other hand (and why is that when it comes to media freedoms in China that there always seems to be "the other hand"?), the recent call for bolder progress in this area received a negative reaction from the government. This synopsis from Global Voices Online notes that typical abrasive language was used by the government in describing more than 300 journalists, human rights advocates and others who endorsed Charter '08.

Pakistan

The family, friends and supporters of Benazir Bhutto marked the one-year anniversary of her death today. At the memorial service for his wife, Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari played down recent tensions with India and called for political dialogue as a means of solving any domestic or international dispute. India's New Delhi TV provides another angle to the comments made by Mr. Zardari.

However, Pakistan appears no more prepared for stability at the end of 2008 than it did at the end of 2007, when Mrs. Bhutto was assassinated.

I'm about halfway through a fascinating book -- Descent into Chaos, written by Ahmed Rashid --that examines the political and military mistakes made by the Bush administration, which, Rashid posits, never planned to rebuild Afganistan, Iraq and Pakistan. According to Rashid, the United States had an excellent opportunity to make these nations (and others in Central Asia) stronger and more politically aligned with the West but wasted it by never moving past the idea of the war on terror.

I urge you to read this book, regardless of your opinion of the decisions made by President Bush and his administration. My recommendation is based on the tremendous current and long-range history Rashid adds to his book. Clearly the Afghani president (Karzai) and the former Pakistani leader (Musharraf) are flawed men, who might not have been the best people to lead their nations as the 21st century dawned. Nevertheless with more help from the U.S. they could have been more effective leaders, according to Rashid.

Israel/Gaza

I;m about 12 hours behind the events in the Middle East, but it appears that the MSM's message at this point is that Israel was provoked as it chose to attack Hamas.

Israeli military officials insist their actions are justifiable, and they add that attacks will continue until some semblance of stability returns to Gaza. And the Israelis realize that might be complicated and have warned Hizbollah and others not to use today's events as the impetus to expanding the conflict.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for calm, and asked the Israelis to stop the shelling while calling upon Hamas to stop violating cease-fire agreements.

The MSM (and the blogging community) will remain all over this story, and I fear that more violence will be evident in the next couple of days. Expect the MSM to seek regular comments from the Bush administration and from President-elect Obama.

The GOP (and its chances?) are going South

Here's another dilemma for the GOP to consider, as it evaluates the kind of party it will become in the next couple of years -- the "southern" wing of the party is becoming dominant in both numbers and clout, but that wing also seems in direct conflict with real attempts at bipartisanship.

The GOP cannot be significant in national politics if it becomes geographically and policy isolated. However, these southerners are among the most rigid in terms of holding to their political beliefs.

So what gives? And when does it?

Another thought for you to begin considering -- this notion of media bias is all over the place (and I've admitted before on this blog that I believe it exists), and because of that it will be interesting to see how the public perceives these media stories about the GOP, the changes it makes, the policies it pursues, the candidates it runs, and the message it delivers.

As I've stated in other contexts, what you "see" in media coverage is often a result of the political lens you are using.

First, the banks...second, the auto industry...

...third, the states? The Washington Post reports this morning that Ohio's political leaders are just one group of many preparing to tell President-elect Obama that they need a financial bailout.

As I mentioned in earlier postings, the slippery slope has now begun. The banks were "too big to fail." The auto industry provided "too many jobs," so it, too, could not fail. Now what?

If the federal government says "no" to the states, then what is the message? And if there is approval given, then what group will line up next...suggesting that it, too, deserves to be given a financial lifeline?

Indeed, a slippery slope.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The "Santa Shooter" is not non-stop national news

The MSM are obsessed today with the developing details from southern California, where a man killed nine people and later himself in what at this point can be described as an act of rage.

But as I scanned two cable networks today, I learned more about this story than I needed to. Now, don't misunderstand me...what happened to those nine people was horrific, and, yes, because their violent deaths taking place on Christmas Eve makes it all the more gruesome. However, cable networks covering a live press conference is going too far. So, too, was the decision made by one cable network (I won't name it, you "C"; and I don't know if its competitors did the same) to breathlessly remind us that the 911 tapes from that night were about to be released.

From the press conference and the 911 tapes, we certainly learned very little. The former essentially told us that a man planned to destroy a family once very close to him. So? The typical news consumer had long since put that together. From the latter, we learned that people were scared out of their minds. And how would you have reacted? In both cases we were sucked into the more lurid details not worthy of our national news media's attention. As usual, the media could have looked elsewhere for legitimate news.

More time could have been spent on more important events -- the post-Christmas sales or the news about the Pakistani military are just two examples -- that have more relevance to more people. But those complex stories demand resources and personnel that corporate newsrooms are no longer allowed to take on. And so we get another 24 hours of this madman becoming national news.

Please give me the remote. I need to "click" away from this nonsense.

India and Pakistan -- increased tension

A variety of media reports today indicate that the tension between India and Pakistan has ratcheted up. This is not positive news.

It appears difficult to determine who has been the aggressor this time. The decision by Pakistan to move forces toward its border with India prompted today's concerns. The New York Times notes that although the Pakistanis are not saying specifically why they called for the troop transfer, the reasons are rather easy to identify.

In response, India is warning its citizens not to travel to Pakistan, calling trips to that country "unsafe." India's New Delhi TV reports that the travel warning has not been issued in 30 years.

Because of the timing of this event -- meaning right after Christmas when the American media are looking for a topic of the day -- it is likely that there will be substantial coverage by the MSM. Let's hope the reporting is strong on analysis and context.

The Obama administration and the FCC

A primer from the Washington Post. Worth reading, regardless of how familiar you are with the commission, its goals and how it might operate under a Democrat president.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

24 Hours in Somalia

The BBC's Mark Doyle traveled to war-torn Mogadishu earlier this year and spent 24 hours seeing what is happening there.

No, in one day no reporter can come anywhere close to fully grasping the political, cultural, social, economic and other forces that have turned Somalia into a fair representation of hell. However, his program does give you a solid glimpse of what peacekeepers and other humanitarian agencies are trying to do. This link will work only for readers in the UK; however, please note that the program will air again on the BBC's international television system.

Arrests in Tibet

The Chinese media return to a familiar theme to justify the arrests of almost 60 people in Tibet.

The bloom has long since died from the Olympic promises the Chinese government gave to the International Olympic Committee, the world media and other interested groups about a new sense of openness coming to China. And so many people, this blogger included, saw it coming.

I'm always reminded of the memoirs of former IOC head Lord Killanin, who argued that he insisted that the Chinese return to the Olympic family of nations because (and I'm paraphrasing a bit here) he was dumbfounded that the IOC preached about being inclusive and yet 1/4 of the world's population was not part of the movement.

This was the apparent tradeoff -- allowing China in, while caring little for its respect for human rights.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Holiday Greetings

I extend my holiday greetings to you and your loved ones. I hope the remainder of 2008 and all of 2009 is filled with good times and good cheer.

And I thank you for being a loyal reader of this blog. Let's keep it going in the New Year!

Casting aside old (or never-were) friends

Here's the dilemma -- you have lots of people who are "friends" on Facebook or other social networking sites. But they're really not your friends. Perhaps you've not heard from them in awhile. Perhaps you added them as a friend and can't remember why. Or maybe you just don't like them any longer.

What do you do? Cast them aside, right? Sure. I've done it; you likely have, too.

But now it gets tricky -- the no-longer-a-friend finds out about it and attempts to do something about it.

My reaction as I saw this "saga" unfold in the aforementioned news story -- there are a lot of people who need to get a life. If you can't handle being "dumped" in the virtual world, then how do you handle it in the real world? Or are those two worlds too closely linked in your life?

Sharing news content

What the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post are doing makes economic sense; we'll see over time if it makes good journalistic sense. The Baltimore Sun reports (the excerpt taken from Mike Allen's Politico.com blog):

'The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post, longtime rivals in covering Maryland news, said yesterday they would begin sharing stories and photos in a deal intended to save resources for both organizations. Editors stressed that they would still compete on coverage of state government and other areas such as University of Maryland athletics. But the papers will share some suburban, national and foreign content, along with certain sports stories. ... The Sun will use The Post's coverage of Navy football and have access to The Post's federal government coverage, which will be of interest for the many federal workers in the region, Franklin said. And The Post will use The Sun's coverage of Howard and Anne Arundel counties.'

I know a couple of my colleagues who spent many, many years in the newspaper business would be horrified at this arrangement, and I'll admit it wouldn't be my first choice. But personnel are being cut and resources are being placed in more strategic ways. With all due respect to the Maryland counties in question, one newspaper can do the work of two in such locations. But what happens when a juicy local story develops? Do both newspapers share it on the same day?

Dateline: Moscow

From AFP:

Russia's worsening economic situation could spark popular unrest, the interior ministry warns, in the first official expression of alarm that unpaid wages and job losses are creating a mood of protest.'

This is worth watching. Russia is the latest (but likely not the last) country to suffer from the economic misery afflicting many countries. But I think the political response is critical to see. If the "cold old days" are back in the Kremlin, we can expect a military response, or at least a backlash against the people.

And well they should

But I doubt the written protests by prominent science journalists and organizations after CNN cut its science team will do any good.

The problems facing the GOP...

...go beyond the current dislike that many Americans have of the party. TIME's Michael Scherer notes that if many Americans do come to believe that government can and should be part of the solution to the nation's problems, then it faces a perhaps generation-long potential of being the minority party. H

His essay/blog post is worth your time.

A Farewell from Brit

How Brit Hume signed off from Special Report.

You might not agree with his politics, but everyone should agree that he is a top-flight journalist.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And if Putin says it...it must be true

The Russian prime minister says that the era of "cheap gas" is over. Funny, but I thought that had been evident for several months now.

Putin's message might be one of timing over any other reality. Russians are showing signs of frustration, as the economic situation at home appears to not be matching the political rhetoric offered by Putin to the international community (not to mention President Dmitri Medvedev to his domestic audience). This week's protests about plans to increase taxes on imported cars has add more tension between the populace and the government.

Afghanistan as a priority for the Obama administration

New reports today reflect the commitment the Bush administration is making to ensure that Barack Obama and his team have the information they need about the world's critical and current hotspots. And none might be hotter than Afghanistan.

Media reports indicate the current administration is providing a wealth of data so that current U.S. positions do not further erode.

The situation within the country appears so unsettled that the Afghan president is blaming the U.S. for it. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, President Karzai indicates that the misplaced priorities of the Bush administration have led to much of the current crisis. Mr. Karzai's frustration is sure to be increased knowing that the administration is preparing Iraq-like military tactics within his country.

My reading of all of this is that there appears to be terrible communication taking place between the current leadership of both countries. Moreover, my sense is that each is using the media as a means of ensuring that their messages reach and are heeded by President-elect Obama. It would not at all surprise this blogger if the new Secretary of State makes a trip to that part of the world soon after the Senate confirms her.

Legacy building, continued

Informative report from Politico.com about the thematic approach the Bush administration is taking as it builds it own case for the president's legacy.

As I've said on this blog on many occasions, your impression of the president (and thus your initial sense of his legacy) will be built on the political lens through which you see him. If you are on the left, there is little (if anything) about this president you will find positive, and therefore you are already convinced his legacy is tattered and cannot be changed. On the other hand, if you come at this from the right, you are more inclined to give Mr. Bush the benefit of the doubt. In such an environment, you are more willing to accept that time will be the more important barometer in assessing the mark he made on the country and the world.

Monday, December 22, 2008

They like us...they like us not

A very interesting Pew Research Center report about the changing favorable/unfavorable rankings of the United States in various nations since 2001.

As you read this I especially urge you to scroll down to the third chart, which highlights opinions of the U.S. in a variety of countries. The summary:

Dating from 2000 to now,
-Most of Europe views us more unfavorably;
-Russia views us more favorably;
-Indonesians have especially more unfavorable opinions; and,
-Argentinians aren't much further behind

Congress is...

...more Protestant, more Catholic, more Mormon and more Jewish than the American population. Confused? Don't be. A Pew Research Center report has the details.

A free press challenge in Barbados?

Perhaps. Your thoughts are invited.

The Official Anthony Moretti Top 10 Stories of 2008

You, of course, are welcome to chime in with an opinion, a different rank order, or even to add a story that's not here.

And away we go...

10. Rod "Show Me the Money" Blagojevich -- the ramifications of this story will be felt into 2009, though it is doubtful that anyone close to President-elect Obama will be found to have been a significant player in this scandal

9. New York stuns New England in the Super Bowl -- what might have been!

8. Myanmar's cyclone and the horrific governmental response -- can a government face crimes of genocide for deliberate negligence?

7. Russia and Georgia go to war -- the fighting might have lasted only five days, but the message that the Russian government sent to a former Soviet Republic and the world continues to be analyzed

6. China -- the Games promised an openness that the government had no intention of following through on, and the earthquake showcased the zeal to grow lacked concern for the Chinese people

5. Chronically unsettled South Asia -- the Mumbai terrorist attack garnered the most attention; but the continued strengthening of the Taliban, and the weak Pakistani government leads to real concerns that this part of the world could be even more dangerous in 2009

4. Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin -- neither made it to the White House, but the inspiration they provided a generation of young women will bear fruit in the future

3. Zoom goes kaput -- the roller-coaster ride that was the auto industry bailout and oil prices was a wild and costly one

2. Economic meltdown -- a stunning rebuke of deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism; let's hope we don't see this combination for a long time

1. Barack Obama -- style + substance = success

100% spot on

Kudos to The Guardian's Gary Younge for being spot on in explaining why America's values have been twisted in such a way that a high-rolling financial big-wig and an up-and-coming political figure can firmly believe they are above the law.

The ending of Mr. Younge's column compels the reader to think about how America's political, financial and social culture currently is set up...and whether it is the best way for the country to move forward:

When a political system where you have to pay to play meets a financial system run like a giant Ponzi scheme, widespread criminality, corruption and calamity are the only feasible outcomes. The only remaining questions then are what society is prepared to excuse, accountants are able to write off or lawyers are able to defend.

About the only thing I would add to this thesis is that the MSM has too often stood by and let this rot pass without serious question.

Conservative talkers gear up

After eight years with a guy they (more often than not) liked in the White House...the conservative talkers now are about to get vocal about someone they (more often than not) won't like.

It ought to be loud...it ought to be entertaining. But will it be informative?

And that, for me, is the root problem with conservative talk radio -- too often it is not designed to inform but rather to bully. (And when my wife reads this post, oh...is it going to be an interesting dinner table conversation for me!) I have no problem disagreeing with someone's political views, provided that person gives me the chance to explain mine. That makes for a great conversation. It also makes for good talk radio. Cutting someone off and/or disparaging a caller because of his/her political attitudes or beliefs is unacceptable, as I see it.

And if that makes me naive or some other like term...fine.

An interesting tidbit about the U.S. Senate

Great comment here from Los Angeles Times reporter Robin Abcarian (and picked up first by Politico.com's Martin Kady) --

'With the elevation of Illinois' junior senator (Barack Obama) and Delaware's senior senator (Joe Biden) to the executive branch, plus the Cabinet appointments of senators from New York (Hillary Rodham Clinton) and Colorado (Ken Salazar), four states will be getting new senators untouched by the grinding process of raising millions of dollars and seeking votes. ... Not since nine senators died in office during President Eisenhower's first term have so many unexpected vacancies occurred.'

When 5 million is too high...

...simply cut it in half. New estimates this morning indicate the initial projections of 4-5 million people rolling into Washington for the Obama inauguration might have been a bit too...pardon the pun...liberal :-).

Nevertheless, more than 2 million for the event is still impressive.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The headline alone should hack you off (UPDATE)

And if the headline doesn't, then the details within the story should. Kudos to the Associated Press for doing the legwork for this story.

More than $1.6 billion in payouts to bank executives! Hey, any chance someone can force them to hand the money over to the bailout plans?

UPDATE: And the anger felt by some political columnists now begins to be heard.

Of course, while all this anguish and pain is being tossed around, I would like to ask one question: Why were the MSM not paying closer attention to the banking and financial industries? I suspect that on one hand not having enough reporters can be cited as an answer, but I think in this case such an argument is off-base. Considering the many business magazines and newspapers floating out there, it seems unbelievable to me that a thorough investigation of the industry wasn't done. (And if a solid one was done and I missed it...please forward the link and I'll post it on the blog.)

It's just not the same

I'm a huge college football and truth be told I probably spend too many of my Saturdays in the fall glued to the television watching the sport. The passion that I see in many players, the rivalries that are genuine, and the enthusiasm of young people ensure that on almost every Saturday there comes a point when I tell my wife "Yeah, yeah, I'll get to it later." Later comes...and whatever it is still has not been done.

So, how is it that while I also love professional football that the passion just isn't there? Take today for example. The Tennessee Titans whacked the Pittsburgh Steelers (side note -- going to be some grumpy people at my office tomorrow) to wrap up home field in the AFC. Tonight, the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants will play, and the winner will lock up home field in the NFC.

Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos, who have been my favorite team for about 30 years, can wrap up their division championship; the Philadelphia Eagles are playing one of their long-time rivals, the Washington Redskins; and the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings are playing a critical game with both teams in the playoff hunt. And with all that going on, I find myself blogging, checking e-mail and otherwise disinterested from the television.

What gives? My wife and I agree that the professional game seems so sanitized. Too many players seem either afraid or unable to show their enthusiasm...and too often when they do, that enthusiasm is a horrible form of showing up the competition. Meanwhile, the huge costs associated with the NFL bring about many players who are protecting their contract status over playing with passion. And the "me first" attitude brings about an air of cockiness and arrogance that my lovely lady and I find insulting.

So I wait for the college bowl season to resume later tonight. Funny, but I think I'll be watching Southern Mississippi and Troy instead of the aforementioned Panthers and Giants.

And now the typo is gone!

Again, from Politico.com:

Politico.com Breaking News:
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CORRECTED: President-elect Obama has now upped his goal to creating nearly 3 million jobs over the next two years, from 2.5 million just a month ago, Democratic officials said Saturday.


Accuracy is a good thing in journalism. I rank it right up there with the uhbility to spell well. You kant doo much in jernalism if you can't spell well.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Uh, there's a typo here

Hmmm...I didn't know Obama had already been sworn in:

Politico.com Breaking News:
-----------------------------------------------------

President Obama has now upped his goal to creating nearly 3 million jobs over the next two years, up from 2.5 million just a month ago, Democratic officials said Saturday.

For more information...http://www.politico.com

Merry Christmas from my boys

If the aforementioned implosion video didn't get you into the holiday spirit...I promise that this one will!

Implosion video!

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a sucker for implosion videos. Today it was the RCA Dome in Indy that came down. Watch...listen...and enjoy! Who-yah!

If this had happened in my classroom, I'd have called it plagiarism

But apparently in some television newsrooms...it's perfectly a-ok to "liberally borrow" (wink, wink) the work of another television journalist (provided he or she works for the same network you do) and pass it off as yours.

Great ethics. Just great.

(And in the interest of full disclosure, thank you to loyal blog reader Frank Gottlieb for passing on this story.)

When something official...is not official "official"

Confused? So were my wife and I when we saw the pictures of the portraits of President and Mrs. Bush that were unveiled yesterday at the Smithsonian. 'Wait a minute,' we thought. 'Aren't those portraits supposed to be done AFTER the president leaves office?'

Y'all are right. So, read on.

A new low for censorship in China (UPDATED)

Way to go, Beijing! So nice to see that the openness promised as part of being an Olympic host has been demonstrated. Your integrity should never again be questioned.

So, what has the government done to anger Anthony this time? Would you believe...blocked the New York Times Web site.

Here's a second version of the story...this one comes from the Times.

And in case you are wondering, yes I did glance at the CCTV Web site...found no mention of this story there.

UPDATE: Turns out you're going to also find it awfully difficult to access the BBC in China. See, it's blocked also.

But one thing you certainly can learn about in the Chinese media are those times and those nations that have "hurt the feelings" of the Chinese people.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Has the "shoe-thrower" been beaten?

Interesting...and troubling...report from the BBC about an investigation into whether the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush was beaten.

I noted the other day that a pardon from Mr. Bush would go a long way toward putting this story to rest. However, if the man has indeed been attacked by police forces, then this incident cannot be swept aside regardless if a presidential pardon is issued.

What does the newspaper industry have to do to become relevant again?

Some thought-provoking ideas are found in this essay.

I agree with the premise that simply moving the operation to the Web is both short-sighted and incomplete. The industry needs to consider, in my opinion, more partnerships with the communities in which they operate; a commitment to not cut more newsroom jobs; target opportunities to and with young people; consider relevant partnerships with colleges and universities; and reestablish the public service ideal as the number one priority.

Unrealistic? Perhaps. Naive? Maybe. But I care too much about the value of the newspaper to see it simply disappear.

Web Journalism School?

Far-fetched...or the wave of the future? Perhaps what is happening in Serbia is something we journalism educators in the United States ought to be taking a look at.

Blagojevich: I'm going nowhere

From Politico.com:

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he will not resign but will fight “pay to play” allegations against him. Blagojevich: “I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job and fight this thing every step of the way.”

Another installment of "The President and His Legacy" (UPDATED)

This time Slate.com (rarely an ally of the president's) is chiming in about what President Bush's legacy will/ought to be.

You can expect to see many of these articles/opinion pieces, as the president winds up his time as the nation's leader. Few retrospectives at this point will be kind.

UPDATE: Speaking of not being kind, GOP lawmakers are hammering away at the president today for his bailout of the auto industry. Geez, with friends like these, who needs the Democrats???

A responsible...or irresponsible...comment?

Check out the comments of a current State Department official...who says that Russia might want to play hardball with the soon-to-be Obama administration.

I remain perplexed why the Bush administration, the mainstream media and others are looking at Russia with such angst. Let's face it, the Kremlin wants to reassert its control over Eastern Europe, has oil and can use it as a diplomatic tool, and has a former KGB operative as its prime minister. What can there possibly be to fear with that combination!

Alright, all (perhaps feeble?) kidding aside, Russia's resurgence as an international player is a concern to the West because the country to this point has not given many signs that it willing to adopt the political, social, economic, media and other relevant models consistent with the West's definition of democracy and peace. But let's also not forget that Prime Minister Putin appears to enjoy rock-solid support at home. This would suggest to me that he and President Medvedev can continue to be saber-rattlers where they want to be. One example is the warnings from Moscow on Thursday sent to Ukraine.

So, will Russia be President-elect Obama's first significant international test? No question that country will be worth watching.

Want to reach the president-elect

Here's the gatekeeper. This should be mandatory reading in public/media relations classes, for it demonstrates the challenges these professionals face as they attempt to accommodate both the needs of the media and the wishes of their bosses.

Likewise, journalism students ought to read this article. Sometimes access to a politician (or political candidate) is not a certainty, and a certain "you've got to play the game" skill set needs to be established.

The passing of Deep Throat

In 2005, Mark Felt identified himself as the anonymous source for the Watergate stories that appeared in the Washington Post and brought down the Nixon presidency. Now, he has passed on.

The so-called Deep Throat has taken on almost mystical levels of respect in journalism, and I wonder if in our media-saturated environment today if someone like Mr. Felt could have remained anonymous for as long as he did.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The BEST way to end the "shoe" story...(UPDATED)

...would be for President Bush to do exactly what the Iraqi journalist has asked him to do.

UPDATE: The premise of my "accept this plan" idea is, of course, that the Iraqi journalist is indeed serious about this. At this point, we need to assume he is. If so, then a pardon would be a good idea because:

1. It acknowledges that there was one minor injury (suffered by White House spokesperson Dana Perino) and no major ones suffered in this unfortunate incident
2. It gives the president an opportunity to take the high road, especially recognizing that there remains deep distrust of him in the region.

However, the large "hey, wait a minute" associated with this idea is whether a Bush pardon would be seen as him interfering with the political and legal standards of another country. This could lead to some diplomatic slight-of-hand, in which the president asks the Iraqi prime minister to issue a pardon (or its Iraqi legal equivalent).

Regardless, the sooner that this issue disappears, the better.

If Gov. Palin wants to run for president in 2012...

...she's sure to get advice from many quarters. Some of those quarters are already offering their thoughts.

Mr. or President?

I received a thought-provoking response from a reader of this blog...and it got me thinking about how a sitting president ought to be referred.

In other words, is it acceptable to refer to George Bush as "Mr. Bush" while he is in office. Flipping that question on its head, shouldn't it be, the reader asked, "President Bush" on all references.

I consider both titles to be signs of respect, and, yes, once Barack Obama assumes the White House I intend to refer to him as both "President" and "Mr." But I don't think that answer is sufficient, because my opinion is as valid as any other.

However, I did glance at how a few national media sources referred to the president in stories about him that were printed or in broadcast over the past couple of days. Here's what I found:

FOXNews.com calls him both "President Bush" and simply "Bush", in a story about an interview the network did with the president.

The New York Times uses both "President" and "Mr.", in its story about the president's plans to invite Mr. Obama and the former living presidents to the White House for a January luncheon. (As an aside, wow...wouldn't you like to sneak into that event!)

Finally, the Wall Street Journal also uses the "President" and "Mr." titles in its story about the international agenda the president pursued over the past 8 years.

The reader's comment is a good one, and I think the best answer to give is that I see the "President" and "Mr." titles as ones of respect. If there is disrespect seen, it is certainly not intended.

And as you consider political legacies...

...consider what Kevin Martin's might be. The FCC chairman (but only for one more month) appeared to enjoy bi-partisan support at one time...but that was a long time ago. Now, the near-universal cry is that the agency needs change. And in a big way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The incredibly disappearing...

...Washington news bureau.

Congratulations to the corporations that own media outlets. You've won. Over time, you've built an economic model for journalism that suggests fewer and fewer people can do the work of more, and you've also convinced yourselves that large news bureaus were somehow a waste of your precious dollars.

And now the economic morass the country finds itself in has provided another justification for cutting.

You were "dumb" to pursue such policies, but the American news consumer will be "dumberer" because of what you've done.

Thanks.

The public farewell of George W. Bush

I've not seen the entirety of any one interview President Bush has given in the last couple of weeks (including the one earlier this week with CNN), but it strikes me that I'm looking at a defeated man winding down his final month in the White House.

I've made no secret that I think many of the policies -- domestic and international -- his administration pursued were wrong, but it still shocks me that Bush no longer has that bravado that defined his time in the White House. Yes, as I've discussed in other posts, I believe that Mr. Bush is laying the foundation for what he wants his legacy to be. But what I see on television seems to go beyond that.

My (albeit not as complete as I'd like it to be) memories of out-going presidents are that their final domestic and international trips are often designed to celebrate what they've accomplished. Of course, there will be critics -- either of specifically pursued policies or of the man in general -- but typically these tours have an air of "you know, he really did a lot while he was in the White House." But with President Bush it seems these trips have taken on a "please understand that he did what he thought was correct" tone. His interview today with FOX News has that quality.

If Bush had displayed this more humble attitude in previous years, I think many more Americans would have respected his choices (regardless of whether they agreed with him). To me, it was that "my way or the highway" approach that ensures Mr. Bush will have a hard time convincing people that this "see, I'm a nice guy" persona is genuine.

And that might be the most peculiar issue of all. Bush seemed like a nice guy in 2000. In fact, in some ways it was Al Gore who appeared crotchety and boorish; Bush often came off as a folksy, down-home Texan. And I met my fair share of that type of person when I lived in the Lone Star State; they are some of the most genuine people you'll find anywhere.

Much has changed in 8 years. Mr. Bush has as well.

Just in case

Interesting story in The New York Times that highlights a series of contingency plans the Bush administration is preparing for Barack Obama...all falling under the "just in case" scenario.

The story notes this, but I think it is worth repeating -- no such arrangement has been done for any future president. Sure, it reflects the terribly unsettled world in which we live, but I also think it reflects positively on the Bush administration wanting the initial period of Mr. Obama's presidency to be as smooth as possible. Put another way, it's good for the country.

Technology is a beautiful thing...when it works

And on Jan. 20 in Washington D.C...well, it just might not. Here's why!

I like it when I get news that tells me...

...a former student has nailed a job. Kudos to Point Park alum Lacee Griffith. She informed me this morning that she's been hired as a day-side reporter in Salisbury, MD. Lacee is a 2008 graduate of Point Park.

Way to go, Lacee!

Wow, that was a tough choice

So, whom do you think TIME magazine picked as its Person of the Year? Oh, come on, you are thinking wayyyyyyyy too hard this time!

Oh, that Kremlin...there it goes again!

The latest example here of the Russian government caring little for the development of democracy in its neighboring countries.

Come on, folks, remember history and culture here.

Cutbacks of a different kind in Detroit

Calling it "an innovative plan," the group that oversees the two Detroit newspapers have announced a cutback -- of delivery -- and an increased presence on the Web.

At first blush, we can laugh at this idea and even call it silly (or worse). But let's remember that the more creatively the newspaper world thinks about how it can maintain its presence ESPECIALLY WITHOUT CUTTING JOBS, the more chances we have of seeing the industry thrive. Hold off on ridiculing this decision for now.

The "noble" Democrats?

This story is an eye-opener...the party of the people is beginning to look too much like the party of the elite, in the minds of many.

Those Texas Tech students are NOT giving up!

And good for them...what is interesting is that media throughout Texas (and I think it won't be long before the national media pick up on this as well) are reporting the story of the closure of the Texas Tech student-run radio station.

Keep up the good fight, current and former Red Raiders! There is no justification for denying students a valuable and necessary resource to develop their professional skills.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jackson Jr. is squarely involved...

...in the Rod Blagojevich scandal. If the media and interested outsiders were pushing President-elect Obama for answers last week, then the pressure on Mr. Jackson to detail his conversations with the governor -- and federal agents -- ought to be page one news over the next 24 to 48 hours.

When there is neither history nor tolerance for a free press

When that happens, governments can prevent individuals in their countries who do approve of free speech from practicing their craft.

And the governments of Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Syria have done just that. The individuals who wanted to attend the conference that you can read about in the link lose, but so does the general public in those countries.

It is easy for Americans (and especially those of us who believe so strongly in a free press, freedom of speech and other liberties from reacting with hostility. That would be the easy thing to do. Instead, I wonder what each of us is doing in order to really try to bring about change.

The "shoe"...day two

(The following excerpts, unless noted, are taken from Mike Allen's daily Politico.com blog.)

The Associated Press reports the following this morning about the Iraqi "journalist" who hurled his shoes at President Bush:

'The journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush is handed over to the Iraqi military, an Iraqi official says, as hundreds take to the streets for a second day demanding his release.'

Reuters points up the difficult situation the White House and the Iraqi government find themselves, in this excerpt from its story on the incident:

'The hurling of shoes at U.S. President George W. Bush on his farewell visit to Iraq strikes many in the Middle East as a fittingly furious comment on what they see as his calamitous legacy in the region. Arab and Iranian TV stations have gleefully replayed the clip, sometimes in slow motion, of an Iraqi reporter calling Bush a 'dog' and throwing his shoes at him ... The affront was a twisted echo of the triumphal moment for Bush when joyous Iraqis used their footwear to beat a statue of Saddam Hussein toppled by U.S. invading troops in 2003.'

The Washington Post confirms those details, and adds others.

And for another perspective, consider what one person has written on Global Voices Online.

How are journalists reacting to one-man banding?

How would you expect them to? If they stay it stinks, they're setting themselves up to be canned.

Here's the reality as many of my colleagues and more than a few professional journalists I talk to see it -- what is happening in Denver (and you'll recall it's starting in Washington as well) is the future of television news. Current and future broadcast journalists can embrace it -- or they can get out of the way.

Should I stay or should I go now?

If I go there will be trouble...if I stay it will be double!

Remember that old song? Well, sadly it's being sung today (or should be sung today!) by Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. I suggested -- tongue-in-cheek, by the way -- that Blagojevich couldn't possibly be impeached at this point, but there's no doubt that he would do the good folks of Illinois a huge favor by walking away.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm just wondering

Can you impeach a public official who, to this point, has not been convicted of anything? Sure, you can. But should you?

The importance of culture cannot be ignored...

...as you read this (and any other) follow-up story of the shoe-throwing incident involving an Iraqi journalist and President Bush.

My guess is that most Americans, if asked, would react negatively to what the Iraqi did. As a stated this morning in a separate post, I care not what your opinions of Mr. Bush or his policies vis-a-vis Iraq are...no one should throw an object at the President of the United States. I see that office as one that should be respected; and while it is acceptable to criticize the decisions of the person who occupies it, it is not acceptable to turn that anger into a physical action. My cultural values, in other words, compel me to have no regard for the Iraqi journalist and the decision he made.

Yet in other parts of the world, deep anti-American sentiment is always at the surface. And in such an environment, the Iraqi will be seen as a hero or in some other positive way. He will be judged not as attacking the president but instead as having had the courage to act as others in the region would -- expressing a deep contempt for Mr. Bush, seen by many as the leader of the country that is occupying Iraq. Moreover, the West is viewed with suspicion in various parts of the world because of its (presumed) decadence, prostitution of women, and misjudged value of financial success. The journalist's action will be viewed in that context as being courageous for it expressed the contempt.

So, which viewpoint is correct? Can the journalist's actions be defended? Or do they go beyond and civil, acceptable response? As you answer that, remember to keep in mind that your cultural biases are going to influence your answer.

And finally, let's ask what role we expect of our media. If the person who had thrown the shoes had been a private citizen, I would be as upset but not as angry. Why? Because of the role I believe a journalist ought to play in society. He or she should never inject him/herself into a story, and certainly should never display a bias. (Let's not get into that debate here...I'll admit so that we can move on that media bias exists.) But whatever bias this journalist had beyond a doubt prevented him from being a neutral observer of events or of the people he covered. That, too, in my mind is unacceptable.

Oh, you can be biased. You just can't allow it to influence your reporting. If it does, then get out of the way and let someone else do the job for you.

Oh, ought the pundits have fun with this one

TIME magazine is losing one of its bureau chiefs...who's leaving to become Vice President-elect Joe Biden's director of communications. Blarney, you say? No, try Carney.

Patience will be the order of the day... (UPDATED)

...if you are in Washington on Jan. 20.

Meanwhile, you also should read today's story in USA Today about the challenges faced by Secret Service as it builds its protection plan for President-elect Obama.

That was disgusting (UPDATED)

I don't care what your opinion is of President Bush...what happened to him in Iraq was unacceptable. Set aside for a moment having respect for the man and the office he holds. What made me even more angry was the shoe throwing incident involved a "journalist."

Fortunately the president was not injured; neither was any one else.

The actions of the Iraqi man are inconsistent with any rationale person's definition of being a professional reporter. They also demonstrate a lack of respect for other people. Shame on him.

UPDATE: Additional details here from Politico.com's Mike Allen, who has access to White House transcripts and other sources:

'Okay, everybody calm down for a minute,' Bush said when the news conference resumed. Then, turning to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: 'First of all thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw. (Laughter.) Thank you for your concern, do not worry about it.'

Later, prodded by the aforementioned Jennifer Loven, the president said: 'So what if a guy threw a shoe at me? ... It is one way to gain attention. It's like going to a political rally and having people yell at you. It's like driving down the street and have people not gesturing with all five fingers. It's a way for people to, you know, draw -- I don't know what the guy's cause is. But one thing is for certain -- he caused you to ask me a question about it. I didn't feel the least bit threatened by it. These journalists here were very apologetic, they were -- said, this doesn't represent the Iraqi people. But that's what happens in free societies, where people try to draw attention to themselves.'


The (London) Times goes 'BEHIND THE STORY': 'Two of the worst insults in Islam feature dogs and shoes. After Saddam Hussein's statue was toppled in Baghdad in April 2003, onlookers beat the statue's face with their soles. The Iraqi journalist who took aim at Mr. Bush yesterday while calling him a dog combined both at one stroke. Muntazer al-Zaidi, who works for the Cairo-based al-Baghdadia channel, sat patiently in the third row of seats in the Prime Minister's Office, waiting for his moment. It came when the outgoing President reached for Nouri al-Maliki's hand. Al-Zaidi leapt up, left shoe already in hand. Aiming and hurling a verbal insult, he threw the missile. The President ducked and the reporter stumbled, pulling off his right shoe and lobbing anew. This time, his aim was not so accurate and the shoe crashed into a wall, ruffling the American flag.'

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why did NPR make those job cuts?

A senior vice president at the network says such decisions are never easy...but I think as you read the transcript of her interview with PBS' Jeffrey Brown you'll see that staying relevant might have been at the heart of the decision.

A fresh approach

From Politico.com's Carol E. Lee...

'Biden to shrink VP role': 'Joe Biden is laying plans to significantly shrink the role of the vice presidency in Barack Obama's White House, according to an official familiar with his thinking. It's not just that Biden won't sit in on Senate Democrats' weekly caucus meetings – a privilege Republicans afforded outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney. He won't have an office outside the House floor, as House Speaker Dennis Hastert gave Cheney early on. Biden will not begin every day with his own intelligence briefing before sitting in on the president's. He will not always be the last person Obama speaks to before decision. ... One of the few ways he will resemble Cheney is in making clear his future ambitions, or lack thereof: Biden doesn't expect to run for president after leaving the vice-presidency, according to a transition source who was not authorized to speak on the record.'

A correction

A "thank you" to the blog reader who pointed out an important error I made in my posting about the fire at the church attended by Alaska governor Sarah Palin. The church was NOT burned to the ground, as I noted in my posting from last night. What makes my mistake all the more bothersome to me is that I looked at the photo slide show from the fire and saw the still-standing structure...but still made the error.

Ratcheting UP not down the tension

Reports in the MSM today note that India's air force flew into Pakistan's air space
within the past 24 hours.

The move, some will describe it as provocative and others will see it as defensible, does appear to have increased the tension between the two nations. And this ratcheting up of tension comes on the heels of the Mumbai attack, which could quickly open the festering wound that is the divided region of Kashmir.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If there is a connection...

...then there is a sick person who needs to be caught and brought to justice. Reports from Wasilla indicate that the church attended by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was burned to the ground in the past 24 hours...and arson is a likely cause. FOX News has posted some photos on its Website.

About the only good news from this information is that no one was hurt.

The Majority Staff Report...

...from the House Committee on Energy and Commerce paints a not-very-pretty picture of the reign of Kevin Martin at the FCC. (Come to think of it my recent post about how to define leadership could apply to this post as well.)

The report, released just a few days ago, suggests that Mr. Martin is deceptive, plays favoritism, has no tolerance for insubordination, limits conversation, and is an otherwise ineffective chair of the FCC.

I've made no secret on this blog that I have little appreciation for the policies pursued by Mr. Martin, who fortunately (in my opinion) will be gone shortly after Barack Obama assumes the presidency. However, in this report I see examples that validate my concerns about Mr. Martin.

For example, the report indicates that Mr. Martin "ordered the Commission's staff to rewrite the report" pertaining to a la carte programming so as to ensure that a la carte would be shown to have significant consumer benefit. Perhaps even more damning, the House report argues that the revised report "was not reviewed by the Commission" before being delivered to Congress.

Excerpts from an e-mail exchange involving an FCC staff member and Mr. Martin's senior legal adviser indicate that the latter repeatedly attempted to impress upon the former the need to bolster Martin's argument that a la carte would benefit consumers. At one point, the adviser writes: "...the conclusion of this report is supposed to be that a la carte could be cheaper for consumers."

I was especially troubled by this section of the report because I based my support for a la carte programming in part on the supposedly legitimate information coming from the FCC. While I remain a proponent of it, the information in the House report calls into question just how much (if at all) cable subscribers would benefit from it.

I encourage you to read the report, which is 26 pages (not counting an extensive and impressive exhibits section). And more importantly I ask you to draw your own conclusion about Mr. Martin and the FCC. And, yes, as you do, I maintain that Mr. Martin is exonerated on some level because of the unhealthy effort to bring about deregulation throughout the government. This dubious policy began under Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, and now, almost 30 years later, it is my opinion we are seeing throughout the political, economic, financial and other areas the (bad) fruit of this policy.

How do you define leadership?

It struck me tonight as I listened to the podcast of last weekend's Face the Nation that one of the critical issues affecting political leaders is how and how well they lead.

Yes, I know, this is not some kind of epiphany. But the CBS program reaffirmed to me that one of the reasons so many people in the United States and around the world dislike George Bush is because of how he led -- stubborn, go-it-alone, arrogant, all terms used to describe the out-going president especially when it came to examining how he treated the international community. Along the same lines, the belief/hope that Barack Obama will return the United States to a more bipartisan, tolerant, accommodating, friendly nation helps to explain why he has been viewed so favorably at home and around the world.

Among Bob Schieffer's guests last Sunday was New York Times' columnist Tom Friedman, who is among the most thought-provoking people I can think of. While I do find Mr. Friedman a bit preachy at times, he is spot on whenever he points out that for the U.S. to remain at the level of economic and political clout it has enjoyed over the past decades that it must demonstrate a commitment to think creatively and differently about the challenges it faces. In other words, it must have the courage to lead, which at times means that people and groups locked into their fiefdoms of power must either adjust or be swept aside. The auto industry, of course, is the most recent example of this, but you don't need to think hard to come up with a list of groups that believe "because we've always done it this way" is justification for them to hold onto power.

What is happening in Canada these days is another example of the challenge of leadership. Facing the potential of losing power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked that Parliament be shut down. Mind you, Canadians went to the polls in October to form a new government. It appears to me that the coalition "leading" the government was too weak to effectively govern. If that is true, then perhaps the coalition should never have been cobbled together. The legitimacy of Mr. Harper's role as a leader is now compromised, perhaps beyond repair.

Despots, of course, are a far different matter. Pick your "favorite" despot (mine is Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe), and at the end of the day his (I can't think of a female tyrant ruling any country these days) leadership is based on fear, an unhealthy glorification of him, a dangerous relationship with the military, and with an almost complete absence of individual freedoms. Tyrants don't lead, they frighten. Tyrants don't share, they get rid of their opponents.

So, that leads us to what makes a good leader? I invite you to post your favorite books, speeches, documentaries, thoughts, etc. on the topic. All who read this blog will benefit from the discussion.

Image matters...

...and the Republican senators who opposed the proposed auto industry bailout are now ripe for criticism that they are not attuned to the needs of every day Americans.

It will be interesting to see how these votes are used by Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections. The MSM already has ensured it is a big deal now...the Democrats will make it an issue later.

Friday, December 12, 2008

If you care about student-media opportunities...

...then I invite you to join us in convincing Texas Tech University administrators that they made a mistake in closing the student-run radio station this week.

You can join the Facebook group page created by current and former Tech students opposed to this shortsighted decision.

As an educator, I'm biased here (and I admit it): I can see no justification for denying students an opportunity to develop their personal and professional skills. Shuttering the campus radio station does just that.

I hope you're as angry about this as I am, and I also urge you to join with the growing number of voices urging that the decision be overturned.

In defense of Kevin Martin

I saw that headline and knew I had to read on. Surprisingly to me, I found myself in agreement with some of what is said here.

No one will ever call me a supporter of Kevin Martin, but I also think that the criticism of him has at times gone too far. And I am slowly working my way through the report mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the aforementioned column. My thoughts once I through it will be posted on this blog.

It's time for a test...and you can take it

The national media today are dealing with three "huge" stories...and I'm curious to see how these stories will be covered. More importantly, I think there are really only two major ones, but let's see what you think.

The overarching national story should (in my opinion) be the auto industry bailout. Perhaps the most important question is: Will President Bush reject leaders in his own party and authorize money to assist the "Big Three" (or perhaps just GM and Chrysler)?

The second national story is the legal maneuverings in Illinois, where that state's attorney general is seeking the ouster of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The other "big" story today is one that I, frankly, think is a local story that the national media have (unfortunately) sunk their teeth into...and now can't (won't?) let go of -- missing Caylee Anthony. I do hope the remains found yesterday are those of the little girl so that she can be given the burial she deserves. Being deposited in a trash sack and dumped in a wooded area is inhumane. However, this story should not be considered as important as the first two.

The bailout debate affects more people than the other two, while the Illinois story provides an important discussion about political and legal power. The last story is a sad one, but a local one.

If the mother in this case has indeed done what so many people suspect she has, then let's wait for her just punishment from the state of Florida. But let's not parade this story around as being important to the nation. It's not. It will not break new legal ground. It will do nothing to improve our economic situation. It has no bearing on any national political issue.

The bailout and the Blagojevich situation are important. They deserve the national media spotlight. I perhaps am making a wasted plea here, but I ask the national media to remember to cover the stories that matter...not those that are "easy" or pander to ratings.

Good enough...or just for show?

That interesting question is being asked in the aftermath of the Pakistani government's roundup of more than a dozen people it says could be connected to the late-November terror attacks in Mumbai.

As I've said in other postings, the ratcheting down of the tension between India and Pakistan is a necessary first step before anything connected to the on-going investigation can be seen as credible. And right now (and granted writing this from afar) I've not seen that.

Blackberrys for $20...and the information on them is priceless!

Sounds like a bad television commercial, right? Well...it's worse than an ad -- it's actually real!

Now, this is just d*** dumb!

There are many things (and more importantly people) to admire at Texas Tech University, but the decision made about the student-run radio station ranks among the most idiotic that any institution of "higher" learning could make.

Oh, what have they done!

The MSM is in overdrive (pardon the pun) this morning regarding the Senate's decision not to approve a bailout for the auto industry.

Of course, the (tired, but tried and true) blame game is a feature of the reporting -- Republicans say the United Auto Workers refused to make necessary concessions (funny, but I don't recall the GOP pushing hard for the banking industry to make concessions), while others say that the intransigence of the Republicans was the root cause of the deal's collapse.

There already are calls for the Bush administration to rally all parties and cobble together a deal, but I wonder if the administration has any political capital and any internal fortitude to make that happen. However, the calendar might force everyone's hand -- the persistent reports that GM or Chrysler could declare bankruptcy before the end of the year cannot be ignored. (Or that could be a negotiating tactic...I'll let you decide for yourself.)

Initial reports this morning indicate that Congress is calling on the president to free up some of the money earmarked to clean up the disaster that is the banking industry (can you say "legitimate oversight next time", boys and girls?), but will that be enough?

And as your closing "positive" thought for the day -- have fun watching the stock market play "how low can you go?"

The future is...now

The decision being made by one Washington television station is sure to be emulated by others. Some will do it sooner, some will do it later. But many will do it.

This one-man band concept has various implications for those of us who teach broadcast journalism. On many levels it affirms what we've been telling our students -- being a multi-tasker is the wave of the future, and the "team" concept to news gathering also is going by the boards.

The news article highlighted below will become mandatory reading in my broadcast classes next semester. I'm guessing that will be the case in many of your courses, as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The power of a reconnection

Social networking sites such as Facebook are used for various reasons. I think the power they have to help people reconnect is their strongest asset.

And this week I'm experiencing that first hand.

Over the past few days, I've reconnected with a group of guys with whom I went to high school. Mind you, almost 25 years have past since my fellow alums and I walked the wonderful grounds of St. Francis High School as students. Now, we appear to be spread out all over the country. One person lists Hawaii as home, while another calls Maine his home. If I traveled to Washington state, I'd find another member of the St. Francis High School Class of 1985.

Sure, most remained in southern California. But where they are is unimportant. Who they are, is. Because for a short period of our lives we were friends and maybe rivals; we socialized often or couldn't care less what the others were doing; we grew up together and we grew apart just as quickly. But we were classmates, and now we are alums.

I always find it a bit odd when you reconnect with someone you haven't seen in many years. The floodgate of memories open and vignettes of your life pop into your head. You see them as if they had happened just yesterday.

And the memories are good.

Wait a minute

I'm watching the cable networks discuss the location of a baby's remains in Orlando. Now, I have every reason to think that they are indeed those of Caylee Anthony but we have not gotten confirmation of that. I'm hoping the media will be careful in making the final and definitive leap into saying it is little Caylee.

A local sheriff has asked the public to stay away from the Anthony home, which he is suggesting could very well be a crime scene in a short time. Again, let me reiterate, I think the remains are of the little girl. But patience needs to be demonstrated here.

There will be instant speculation that Caylee's mother will again be at the center of any investigation.

Will Kevin Martin get away with this?

As you read this story I ask you to consider that as we who follow the media discuss the legacy of George Bush that we also begin to assess what Kevin Martin's legacy will be.

Playing 7...not 20...questions

According to Politico.com, the 7 questions that President-elect Obama might want to answer as the fallout from the Illinois governor scandal continues. Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that there might have been communication between Mr. Obama and Gov. Blagojevich. Mind you, communication does NOT mean that Mr. Obama attempted to influence Mr. Blagojevich; however, it does set up a situation in which the President-elect needs to explain what they discussed.

Remember that Mr. Obama does have a news conference scheduled this morning, when he will announce another Cabinet appointment. But there is no doubt that questions about Gov. Blagojevich will follow.

A local news director is on the move

Kudos to WTAE news director Bob Longo, who's on his way to Orlando.

Well, that's one way of looking at it

Interesting assessment of today's electorate and of Barack Obama, both of whom are making smart decisions, this column argues.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A powerful podcast

I invite you to take the time to download the latest World Vision podcast.

There is a powerful interview with host Peggy Wehmeyer, whom you might recognize as the former ABC News religion correspondent. The near one-hour program is highlighted by a stunning interview with Steven Lewis, the founder of AIDS Free World, who discusses how AIDS has become a particularly acute problem in Africa in part because of religious and cultural expectations of men and women in that society.

There are, of course, other stories that should appeal to you -- especially so if you appreciate an examination of international news and events that often slide under the MSM's radar.

Lowering the boom

More job cuts announced today...but it was the announcement that NPR is making significant cuts that really caught my attention.

Whoa, wait a minute

I've been a critic of FCC chair Kevin Martin, and I won't back off those areas that I think he's pointed the commission and America's media policies in the wrong direction. But I'm not comfortable with the comments being made by some Congressional Democrats who are suggesting he misused his power.

The report outlining the charges against Martin is one I'll be digging into tonight.

To me, this smacks of kicking someone when they're down. Why didn't the Democratically led Congress go after Martin with some conviction over the past two years? To do so now, with this time at the FCC winding down, seems the equivalent of punching the straw man. Moreover, the policies pursued by Martin were receiving the support of the Bush administration and Republicans, who have over the past 30 years set up a climate of deregulation that Martin was merely a by-product of.

The Illinois governor...

...has taken the potential for corruption in politics to new depths (and again this is presuming that what he's accused of doing is true).

I find the "Obama needs to say something about this" stories in today's MSM to be credible, but there might be a limit to what he can say.

Based on various media reports, it's clear that Mr. Obama and Mr. Blagojevich were not friendly toward each other; and because of that it remains possible that the governor was planning to appoint to the U.S. Senate someone Obama didn't approve of. But that is the governor's choice. I do find it interesting that Obama was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune on the very day the governor was arrested.

More importantly, if Obama indeed was playing no role in finding his replacement (something I would find a bit hard to believe), then he's got nothing to add to the Blagojevich controversy.

However, I also would say that there undoubtedly would have been calls, notes or other forms of communication sent to Obama telling him that the governor was acting in a clearly disreputable way. What did Mr. Obama do with those communications? Did he act upon them in any way? If he was aware of them, did he assist the FBI's investigation in any way?

Whatever Mr. Obama knew, this is certainly a major distraction...and one that he doesn't need as he moves closer toward inauguration.

So, what's your middle name?

Much has been made of Barack Obama's middle name...and come Election Day you're going to hear it. Mr. Obama plans to say "I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear...". See additional details below from Politico.com's Mike Allen:

President-elect Obama says he plans to use all three of his names when he takes the oath of office, giving global voice to a name that was rarely used during the campaign except by critics. John McCain even apologized when a radio host broke the taboo and used Obama's middle name during the introduction at a rally back in February. In Chicago yesterday, in his first post-election newspaper interview, with reporters from the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, the president-elect was asked: 'Do you anticipate being sworn in as Barack Obama or Barack Hussein Obama?'

Obama replied: 'I think the tradition is that they use all three names, and I will follow the tradition, not trying to make a statement one way or the other. I'll do what everybody else does.'
In fact, all presidents have not used their middle names when taking the oath of office, and the Constitution doesn't prescribe the inclusion of a name at all. Jimmy Carter famously went as 'Jimmy Carter.' Ronald Wilson Reagan took the oath as simply 'Ronald Reagan.' (Hat tip: All-hours Andrew Malcolm of 'Top of the Ticket')

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The British are...going?

What would Paul Revere think, knowing that the British military is preparing to leave Iraq? The forces likely will be gone by the middle of next year, and most of them will be out of there in about three months.

I'll be interested to see how the MSM play this story...and what are the ramifications of such a move by the British? This could be framed as a perfect opportunity for the Americans to do the same (meaning speed up any agreed to time line, which sounds like a politically expedient move but is also one fraught with problems), or it could be seen as it being easier for the British to extricate itself because they have fewer forces there than the Americans do.

Stay tuned.

A brilliant move!

Kudos to NBC for coming up with a great counterprogramming strategy...and a cost-effective move.

I discussed this (imminent?) decision in one of my classes today and outlined why I thought NBC had made an excellent decision. Consider that the network is in third place, will spend less money on Leno than it would for five hours of prime-time programming, places a known name in prime time, and delivers a strong counterprogramming option and you can see why I think NBC has hit a home run here.

What a dope

If the FBI allegations against the Illinois governor are true...what a moron.

Again!

Another example of the "humanitarianism with Chinese characteristics" being practiced by Beijing. It stuns me that a nation with the ambitions it has to be among the world's leaders continues to see human rights and free speech as major inconveniences.

Will there be the appropriate groans of protest within the media? And how might the Obama administration approach this?

Cutting the media a new one?

After reading this, see if you agree with me that much of what is suggested in this commentary is true.

Another indicator of the power of Obama

Almost 35,000 people want to volunteer to help with various Inauguration Day events.

I continue to be amazed at the "wow" factor associated with Obama, and I also thought that with the election ending that there would be a scaling back of the enthusiasm for him. But seeing that it has not is something I like -- it suggests to me that Obama's win on Nov. 4 was not the end of the line for many people who supported him.

This desire for people to be part of his life (and I hope I'm using that term in a proper context) also ensures, or at least I hope it does, that there will be consistent attention on Washington; and that people are prepared to see his promises become reality.

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Romney in 2012?

It's early...but there are signs that Mitt Romney is preparing a presidential run in 2012. If he does, and if former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and current Alaska governor Sarah Palin also opt to run, are there enough conservative votes to go around?