Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Give her a pass

Unlike other people on the Obama team that I won't name (it rhymes with Heitner), I think his nominee to be the secretary of Health and Human Services made an honest mistake in her failure to fully pay taxes.

Did she step aside...or was she asked to step aside?

Oh, you are going to want to follow this story over the next few days. Media reports indicate that Alaska governor Sarah Palin removed herself from delivering a keynote address at a June meeting of powerful GOP members. In her stead will be Newt Gingrich.

I'm not (usually) cynical, but there is something to this story that doesn't add up. Am I the only one who doubts that Palin -- presumed to be on the party's short list of front line presidential candidates -- simply stepped aside to let another presumed front runner take her place?

Chicago is a two-(bankrupt) newspaper town

The Chicago Sun-Times joins its larger competitor in an uncomfortable line.

What will it mean in the short term for the paper? Probably not much.

Wither, the university?

An article that should give you pause -- could the university structure be only a few years away from mimicking the newspaper industry?

I desperately want to say "no," but then I ask this -- once the general population accepts that it can get its educational information online (read: more convenient for them and almost certainly at a lower cost) AND various employment entities accept these degrees as legitimate, then what?

Sure, there are many valid reasons for keeping the university structure in place, and I accept that an online education is not the same thing as being at a university. But didn't we hear similar arguments about the validity of the newspaper industry...just 10 or so years ago?

Journalist as spy

North Korea's state-run media reports that two Current TV journalists detained last week will be tried as spies.

You'll note the North Koreans indicate that a "competent [political] organ" has determined that the two deserve to be put on trial.

Will Mitt fit like a glove?

All signs point to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney being a candidate for president in 2012.

While this is certainly not news, I do hope that Romney doesn't face that undercurrent of "Mormon" that he dealt with in 2008. Sure, I'll admit that as a voter I'd be concerned with many of the policies he would pursue, but anyone who dismisses him because of his faith is demonstrating pigheadedness.

Certainly aiding Romney's credentials is his strong business background. And an interesting nugget from a Washington Post-ABC News poll offers further evidence that his business acumen could be a powerful element in 2012:
'There is now a pronounced divergence between Democratic and Republican perceptions of the economy, a bigger partisan divide than the one that occurred 16 years ago after Bill Clinton took office. In early 1993, people in both parties were about equally likely to see the economy as improving, but now the number of Republicans who say it is souring is more than double that of Democrats.'

Too expensive to keep????

In light of the nonsensical "too big to fail" idea comes this bit of reality from local television newsrooms -- some high-priced anchors are too expensive to keep.

This kind of cost-cutting makes sense; there is no reason that a local television news anchor should make one (or more) million dollars a year.

Media General lowers the boom

The media company has eliminated more than 50 positions. (Eliminated is a nice way of saying people were fired.)

Monday, March 30, 2009

We're still left...we're still right...we're still stuck in the middle (and now in 3rd place)

MSNBC...FOX News...and CNN. Is it any wonder that the three consider themselves to still be in campaign mode?

The howling from the left has pushed MSNBC into second place in the ratings among the three cable opinion -- oops, I mean, news -- outlets. FOX News remains atop the heap. And CNN is dealing with playing the middle-man and sinking in the ratings.

I'm not sure any of these developments is something to celebrate (unless perhaps you work for MSNBC). Cable media that generate increased ratings through an abandonment of objectivity are building a false facade, in my opinion. They must continue to stoke the bias and opinion in order to keep the audience at the ready. They rely more on playing to the inherent biases of their audience instead of sincerely attempting to inform them. They pander to ratings.

Nielsen is not immune to job cuts

The ratings behemoth announced today that it will slash 1,600 jobs this year.

She's right

Kudos to actress Angie Harmon (my wife loved the role she played on Law and Order; I didn't) for not backing down against those who think that being against the president is the equivalent of being racist.

What nonsense.

There are legitimate questions as to whether the president is pursuing the correct policies for this country. Anyone who opts to speak out against them should never be tabbed with a broad brush. But perhaps the "Hollywood Culture" infects people that way?

The countdown is on

And a rocket isn't the only thing about to go up in Asia. So, too, will the tension between North Korea and the United States (along with its allies in Japan and South Korea).

Let's face it, at some point in the next week, North Korea is going to launch a rocket containing what it calls a "commercial satellite." Defense secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday (and I agree with him) that the U.S. can do nothing to stop the launch and that it will not attempt to shoot down the rocket.

On the other hand, the North Koreans are clearing stoking international tensions. "Dear Leader" appears to care little, but that rhetorical nonsense misses the point: North Korea is not going to allow the West to dictate terms of anything to it.

I'm just wondering

If there had been tough, real and effective oversight of industries "too big to fail" during the 1980s and 1990s, would the country be in the mess it's in today?

No one can accuse the president of going soft on the auto industry

That industry might once have been considered too big to fail -- no more. The White House today made more than clear that unless GM and Chrysler show some significant improvement over the next 30-60 days, neither will receive another dime of federal money.

The departure of Rick Wagoner as head of GM is one necessary step, even though it appeared to catch some industry observers by surprise.

I say "good" to the get-tough attitude, but I also say "what took so long?" The problem with identifying any industry as "too big to fail" suggests that no matter what it does it will continue to receive the backing of the taxpayers (whether those taxpayers actually want their money going to such issues is another story!!). Perhaps the Obama administration is finally putting the tough conditions on the industry that should have been required months ago. (Then again, should we ever have entered this bailout concept???)

At the same time, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner says the government will continue to be an active player in solving the various strands of the economic mess, and he knows that some Democrats are considering bucking the president when it comes to either bailouts or seemingly excessive federal budgets.

As a last thought, consider this from the Wall Street Journal:
'The ouster by the government of General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner could put pressure on the Obama administration to deal more aggressively with the management of banks receiving federal aid. Since the financial crisis bloomed in September, the Bush and Obama administrations have replaced management only in cases when they took control of struggling companies ... The move also indicates that the Treasury Department intends to wade more deeply than most observers expected into the affairs of the country's largest and oldest car company.'

Piled (not as) high, and (not as) Deep

Doctoral programs across the country also are facing difficult challenges, even though the worst of the economic crisis might be over.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Hit the road, Rick...and don't you come back no more, no more

The New York Times reports that the head of General Motors -- Rick Wagoner -- plans to resign. Pardon my bluntness, YES!!!!!!!

Stiffing FOX News?

Politico.com's Mike Allen reports that FOX News' anchor Chris Wallace thinks his program is being stiffed by the Obama administration:

'Fox News Sunday' host Chris Wallace said he is frustrated by White House use of an unofficial 'rotation' system to parcel out guests, and notes that his is the only show Obama has stiffed since the Democratic convention. 'First, they said, 'Well, it's the post-convention rotation,' Wallace said. 'Then they said, 'It's the post-election rotation.' Then we began 'the post-inauguration rotation.' We fully expect in a couple of weeks, they will begin their 'post-Easter rotation,' which means starting all over again, and not including Fox.' Referring to a weekly segment the show used until Obama appeared on 'Fox News Sunday' during last year's primaries, Wallace added: 'The famous 'Obama Watch' is being dusted off and may be taken out of the closet.'

My initial reaction: Wallace is whining. There is no doubt that the Obama administration is going to be more comfortable putting its people on programs and networks that are (likely to be) more amenable to its message. But that's politics, and maybe that should be spelled with a capital P.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

TMO?

Too much...Obama?

Is the president taking his message to the public more than he should and in more places than is practical? A few voters in Pittsburgh say yes, and if they are correct then what are the ramifications?

I'm sure sometime today that someone in the blogosphere is going to grab hold off the aforementioned story and use it to suggest media bias...in favor of Obama. In my opinion, that misses the point. The president has been forceful in getting his message out, and the national media will cover the president no matter what he does.

Gaining perspective and an appreciation

I saw an NHL game Friday night. By itself, that brought a smile to my face in part because I like the sport and also because my wife and our boys had the chance to see the game with me.

A professional colleague at the Broadcast Education Association, Heather Birks, who is the BEA executive director, picked up four tickets to the National Association of Broadcasters' suite at the Verizon Center; this generosity allowed us to watch the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning in a location that none of us had experienced before.

But it was the other people in the suite who brought perspective that I hope will resonate with my sons at some point in the near future. The suite was filled with military veterans who are (or recently were) at Walter Reed, the military hospital in the nation's capital.

I was blessed in many ways when I was younger, and one of them was that I was never asked to defend the United States. Don't read anything into that statement except for what you see at face value -- I never had to serve. The men -- some older than me, some younger -- I sat with me on Friday evening all did, and they paid a price that cannot be easy to deal with. So, too, have their spouses, who also were there.

Three had prosthetic legs. One has undergone almost 50 surgeries to repair his face. Another is scheduled to undergo brain surgery. The man who served as host for the veterans (and I'm embarrassed to admit that he told me his name and I've forgotten it) said to me at one point: "These are all great guys."

I nodded in agreement, and then he said something that helped me more fully understand what it means to be a veteran. "None of these guys wants to hear someone say 'thank you for your sacrifice' because they knew what they were getting into when they signed up," he said. "But they sure like it when someone says 'thank you for your service' because that's what they think of themselves. They served their country."

As the game progressed, my boys grew more enthralled by what was happening on the ice; the Capitals ultimately won the game 5-3. We never had a chance to discuss the meaning of sharing that suite with those men. I admit that I felt inadequate at one point -- their commitment to the United States has gone far deeper than mine ever will. My friend helped me give my family a night at a game that I cannot afford to give them. These men gave my sons a lesson that I hope will last as long as the memories of being inside the Verizon Center.

As we return home Saturday I expect our conversations about this trip will turn to the veterans we met on Friday evening. I did tell my sons that the veterans were special guests and that they had all been dealing with serious physical issues as a result of being in war. I don't know if that was a sufficient answer. The boys never asked for more information, and nothing more should have been said in that location.

I'm a firm believer in the importance of history, and I know it can be told from a variety of perspectives. The veterans I sat near can certainly relate history. But my challenge is to relate to my sons what the injuries mean and why they are important for my sons to appreciate.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Keep...or dump...the SAT

More and more universities are discussing the ramifications of keeping the SAT, which is a test I think is of dubious value. I'd dive into the reasons why, but suffice to say that I don't believe that a 4-hour exam should be a gauge of whether a student can succeed in a particular academic environment.

Today there is another assessment of what eliminating the SAT might do. It provides an important talking point for the education establishment that puts a premium on diversity.

Quite a day in DC

The annual faculty/student trip that Point Park's School of Communication takes to Washington is this weekend. Today was an interesting, entertaining and informative day.

The group began our day at one of my favorite places -- the Newseum. One group of students and faculty received a great presentation highlighting the media and the fall of the Berlin Wall. One of the intriguing questions is how the media played a role in the building and tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Later, the "broadcast group" went to USA Today. No, that's not a typo. We got a great look at how the newspaper is using video for a variety of news and corporate communications. Gannett, as I'm sure you know, is the parent company of the newspaper; the corporate commitment to multi-platform news delivery is apparent, and my sense from today is that the people within the company are doing it well.

What I liked even more is that a few of my students are interested in potential internship or employment opportunities. Rock on!

Why accuracy...and verifying...and verifying again matters

Because when you get it wrong, an innocent man coudl be affected.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Merge our way out of the newspaper industry crisis?

Sure, brilliant idea. Absolutely brilliant. Let's merge struggling newspapers. Didn't we learn over the past 10-20 years that media consolidation is a bad idea?

What people who are serious about this issue ought to be pushing for is finding the appropriate economic model that keeps newspapers functional, even if they become Web-delivery mechanisms. Combining them might seem appealing to select politicians ("I saved the newspaper!") but job cuts and fewer voices in the community will be the result.

Cuts here...cuts there...cuts almost everywhere

Three major metropolitan newspapers announced job cuts today -- the Boston Globe, New York Times, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are making (unfortunate but) necessary moves brought on by the lingering economic crisis and the drip-drip demise of the newspaper industry.

What was...and what is

A relevant article from today's Yale Daily News, in which former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse admits one of the reasons she left the paper was because she didn't like the on-line expectations that were becoming part of the job.

But the link above goes far beyond that, and I encourage you to examine the message both Greenhouse and Arianna Huffington gave to the students they addressed.

A form of entitlement?

Question -- does the president have an obligation to call upon a journalist simply because that person works for a particular news organization?

Baloney, you say? I would agree with you. So, I find it "interesting" that the New York Times and Washington Post are reacting after journalists from their newspapers were not invited to ask any questions at Mr. Obama's Tuesday night press conference. To their credit, the newspapers' executives are taking the high road.

But my larger question is this -- WHY exactly should the Times or the Post be entitled to ask a question? And why is it news when their reporters are not given that privilege?

As an aside, Washington Post employees learned this week that their paper will hemorrhage money in 2009, but at least for the short term management is making no drastic plans.

I win!!

I'm so happy to tell you that I received two e-mails today informing me that I won the U.K. AND Spanish lotteries. I can't believe it, especially since I have no recollection of playing them.

All I need to do is send them a checking account number and my social security number, and I'm in the money!!

It's a pity I can't remember those numbers. Darn, I was so close to financial freedom.

If the rocket goes up...

...so does the rhetoric.

North Korea offered renewed signs today that it will launch a communications satellite early next month. There already has been plenty of rhetoric from the West and Asia about Pyongyang's plans, but nothing appears to be slowing down the decision.

I glanced at the English-language version of CCTV, China's state-run media, this morning to say if it had anything of substance. Not really. You'll find plenty of propaganda...oops, I mean reports...about the Tibet situation, but little about North Korea. There is one story, and I was pleased to see little editorializing in the report.

The end of that report offers an interesting question -- does North Korea have the right to develop its space program?

A stern message

From Politico.com's Mike Allen:

The Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry will have very tough medicine for GM and Chrysler when it reports on their viability plans, according to industry sources. More federal money will be offered, but tied to strict concessions. The announcement was planned for tomorrow, but could be pushed back to Monday because of the Afghanistan speech. When the White House said the auto industry needs a 'major restructuring,' it wasn't kidding. And the carmakers are going to have to go further -- much further -- than they have so far. This is going to be harsh news for workers, unions, retirees, shareholders, bondholders, suppliers, communities – it's not good for anyone.

My immediate reaction: Good. A message such as this is long overdue.

Politics, professional style

Am I the only one who thinks that AT LEAST FOR NOW the debate about the budget has been civilized? I'm more than comfortable with the president and members of his party having disagreements about what ought to be included in the federal budget; in fact, I think such conversations are necessary. And this president seems willing to allow for diverse opinions to be expressed. (His predecessor would have been wise to consider such an attitude.)

I'm also more than happy when the opposition party comes up with a reasonable set of objections. Amazingly, I think the Republicans are going to do that this time, though I am keeping my fingers crossed that the loudmouths will not take over the media spotlight and practice their usual grumpy and divisive politics.

Of course, I have little tolerance for groups that think it is wise to pressure any politician to agree with another politician. MoveOn.org is practicing that chicanery. Nor do I think politicians from other countries should use the current economic conditions in the U.S. to reassert their political positions at home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Perhaps the t-shirt will come only in an extra large?

This is great...strange, but great. I'm sure there will be a cardiologist or two who will respond -- and well they should -- to this story and point out the obvious negative effects of eating such a gigantic gastronomic meal.

In fat...uh, fact, the media ought to cover a story such as this with a bit more seriousness than was displayed in the aforementioned link.

An uphill fight

Early indications are that incumbent Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter is facing an uphill fight in the 2010 Republican primary.

This news should come as no surprise. Pat Toomey is a favorite of conservatives in this state, and conservatives are angry at Specter. But as mentioned in a posting last week, don't be surprised to see Specter -- if he were to lose any primary election -- run as an Independent. He's popular enough among moderates and Democrats to pull off a win. And such a victory would not be unheard of -- remember that Joe Lieberman did it in Connecticut.

If you are a Cub Scout parent...

...you'll get this.

He's right

An interesting...and spot on...assessment of the president, delivered by the president:

'I think that the last 64 days has been dominated by me trying to figure out how we're going to fix the economy, and that affects black, brown and white. And, you know, obviously, at the inauguration, I think that there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step to move us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country, but that lasted about a day. ... Right now, the American people are judging me exactly the way I should be judged. And that is: Are we taking the steps to improve liquidity in the financial markets, create jobs, get businesses to re-open, keep America safe? And that's what I've been spending my time thinking about.'

And the conservative Heritage Foundation is blasting him at every turn:

What Obama is going to fight for is massive increases in government spending; or, as he likes to call them, “investments.” Obama said the words “invest” or “investments” 22 times last night. He is staking his entire presidency on the belief that government-made decisions are a wiser and more efficient allocator of resources than the millions of individual decisions Americans make every day through a functioning free market. Obama believes massive new federal spending and control of the health, education and energy sectors will lead to better economic growth.

This is NOT Minnesota Nice

However, it might not be wrong. Norm Coleman says he's leaving open the possibility of an appeal to the federal courts, as the "it still ain't over" U.S. Senate race in Minnesota continues.

A true story -- as regular readers of this blog know, my wife and I have great friends in Minneapolis-St. Paul. As I read the aforementioned Norm Coleman story, I had a flashback to a Christmas-time conversation I had with my friend Todd. He told me then that he wouldn't be surprised if the legal fight in this hotly contested Senate race continued well into the spring.

I hoped he was wrong, only because the prospect of dragging out such a race hurts the political process (in my opinion). But as of now my friend looks like he had it pegged.

You can't YouTube in China

Another sign of a crackdown on openness in China -- the Communist government reportedly has shut down access to YouTube.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Need a laugh?

Consider this: Anthony Moretti regularly reminds his students and himself -- "I never forget anything. I just don't remember everything."

You think???

If there is a Republican anywhere who hasn't done what Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is suggesting, then that person had better start looking ahead. Fast. You got creamed in 2008. Come to think of it, you got smashed in 2006, as well.

Don't rely on the Democrats to make a mistake. Your party needs a clear message, and it needs to get rid of the tired rhetoric of the past. Finding a competent leader for the party wouldn't hurt either (and I'm not referring to Michael Steele).

Should a pro-choice president speak at a Catholic university's graduation? (UPDATED)

An intriguing question, isn't it? And one of the most prestigious Catholic universities in this country is dealing with the outrage (of some of its alumni and friends) as it continues its tradition of inviting sitting presidents to speak at its commencement.

I see this issue as bald-faced politics, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, there is immense prestige that comes with having a sitting (not to mention former) president address a college's graduating class. However, if that person espouses beliefs that are contradictory to the mission of the university, then should that individual be invited simply because his predecessors have been.

I also need a memory refresher here -- did Bill Clinton address a Notre Dame graduation? If so, in what year? And does anyone remember if there was controversy about his pro-choice stance and the mission of Notre Dame?

UPDATE: The bishop of South Bend says he won't attend the university's graduation because the president is the commencement speaker. I think the national media have a new "controversy." Get ready for a lot of hyperbole and nonsense about this story. Expect little depth in the analysis.

Biased?

As I read this, I can't help but think that President Obama's decision is both a sign of the times...but also something I don't agree with.

A sign of the times because more and more media (mainstream and otherwise) are becoming partisan in their approach to political coverage. Now, the conservatives certainly will wail about being denied access to the president, but I would tell them that George Bush and those in his administration were more than happy to talk to you and ignore the left.

And therein lies the problem -- it reinforces that the president ought to give preference to a particular type of reporter/blogger, specifically that person who holds the same political persuasion he does.

You probably missed it...

...and if you did, you missed a great baseball game last night (or this morning, depending upon the time zone in which you live).

The World Baseball Classic championship game was played Monday night, and Korea and Japan played a game worthy of being called both "classic" and of "championship" quality. The 10-inning, 4-hour game (which yours truly watched until the end!) involved solid pitching, timely hitting, strong defense, stars shining and a great baseball atmosphere.

Save for the chronic whining of one of the ESPN analysts about how the Americans were ousted from the tournament and how "we" (as the analyst referred to the U.S. team) must do more to win this tournament, the ballgame was as enjoyable as I've experienced in a long time.

The Japanese team won 5-3 in 10 innings, and has won the first two World Baseball Classic tournaments. I've been a fan (casual, unfortunately because of the distance between the U.S. and Japan) of how the Japanese play the game, and after watching last night I've added the Koreans to that list.

I see a commitment to fundamentals, not wasting at bats, and the team concept. Many of the major league teams would be wise to consider this approach.

The game ended at 1:43 EDT this morning, and your favorite blogger groaned when the alarm clock went off just 5 hours, 17 minutes later. Staying up was worth it, but the 41-year-old body needs a hit or two of black coffee today to keep on going :-).

Going after Obama

From Politico.com's Martin Kady:

In advance of President Obama's prime time news conference tonight, the National Republican Senatorial Committee later today will release one of the first political ads directly attacking Obama's budget. Republicans have generally hit Democrats in Congress so far this year, but this may signal a new front against a president who still has very strong approval ratings. The ad is titled 'Change we can believe in?' and takes candidate Obama sound bites about fiscal responsibility and contrasts them with his signing of the stimulus and the omnibus. The ad closes with: 'He fell well short of some of the things he said during the campaign.' There is no ad buy for this piece so far, but it will be e-mailed to the NRSC's three million person e-mail list and will probably get some traction in major blogs.

Surprised? Come on. You shouldn't be. The notion that the GOP would only go after Democrats in vulnerable seats (as a means of cutting into the Democrats House and Senate majorities) is ridiculous; the party needs to score points with the public that is increasingly worried about what the president's policies will do to them. Moreover, linking Obama to the AIG imbroglio and a swelling deficit (among other items) is essential in winning back Congressional seats. Will it work? The old adage "time will tell" is appropriate, though the cliche is a bit tired.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Another newspaper kills its hard copy offering

This time it's the Ann Arbor News, which will go online only in July. The publisher of the newspaper explains the decision.

Remember, moving to online delivery (even with a reduced staff) is better than killing the newspaper altogether.

The Republicans have a strategy

I'm not sure whether to put a ? or an ! after that title, but according to Politico.com's Manu Raju, the GOP is formulating a message for the 2010 midterm elections:

'There are still 20 months until the midterm elections, but [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell's words about Democratic mistakes are starting to ring true. For the early legislative successes Democrats have had so far, their setbacks have cast a shadow. From the Roland Burris saga to the embarrassing tax snafus that have dogged Cabinet nominees to the AIG bonus fiasco that roiled Congress last week, Democrats have suffered through a series of distractions as they launch an era of one-party rule.'

Meanwhile, Roll Call's David Drucker reports:

'In a tactical shift aimed at capitalizing on the American International Group scandal, Senate Republicans are moving beyond policy critiques of President Barack Obama to charges of incompetence and mismanagement on the economy.'

The Financial Times notes that if the "toxic assets" plan unveiled today by the White House is a bust, the pressure on the Obama administration to demonstrate its competence will increase.

Remember Mike Sanford?

I advised you in an earlier post to keep an eye on South Carolina's Republican governor Mike Sanford. He was the first governor to indicate (and was not making a wise decision, if you ask me) that he would turn down some of the federal stimulus money earmarked for his state.

In my post, I suggested that Gov. Sanford's move would make him the darling of many conservatives. Well, guess what? I was right. (Didn't take a genius to figure it out, of course.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

And in Round 2 of the NCAA tournament

Your favorite blogger went 12-4. To date that makes him 36-12 in the tournament. The good news is that 7 of the 8 teams I thought would make it to the Elite 8 are still alive.

The Chinese government warned us this would happen

Once you peeled yourself from the basketball games today, did you happen to notice that China arrested almost 100 people -- almost all of them monks -- after protesters attacked a police station?

Mind you, because the reports of the police station coming under siege are from state-controlled media, caution must be taken. Moreover, I find it perplexing that there was no story on the English-language version of CCTV.com (and I write this post at approximately 8:40 p.m. EDT Sunday). However, there was a report about the government-supported Panchen Lama calling on the Tibetan people to continue its allegiance to China.

The horrific cargo plane crash in Japan will dominate headlines from Asia, and the corresponding tragic crash of a small plane in Montana will assume national headlines. The crashes killed at least 19 people.

I remind you, at the same time, that the Chinese government offered hint after hint that the "Dalai Clique" would attempt to cause disruption in Tibet. And isn't it interesting that it did? Makes you wonder if that "clique" is more sinister than the government believed possible, or if the government was too inept to prevent it. There would be no way the government would stage such an incident, in an attempt to prove how dangerous that "clique" is, would it?

Islam and modernity

I've always been concerned when those two terms are put into the same sentence because it somehow suggests that Islam is the only religion that struggles with its traditions and how they equate to the modern world.

I'll offer an example -- the Catholic Church, the church to which I belong, grapples with whether women ought to be able to become priests. No, I'm not going to argue that point here, and I'm not going to give you my opinion on that issue.

Returning to the issue of Islam, I think you'll find this article interesting. It sorts out the challenges, dangers and rewards of modernizing Islam. And I'll reiterate using modern in the same sentence bothers me.

A farewell

From the Pasadena Star-News and The Tidings, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles newspaper, as Rev. Msgr. August Moretti is laid to rest.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Captured journalists in North Korea (update)

FOX News is reporting that the North Korean government arrested two American journalists (am I the only one uncomfortable with the use of that term in this case?) because, according to the government, they illegally entered the country.

I decided to check out what CCTV, the state-run media in China, was reporting on this story. I found nothing. However, there were a couple of stories pertaining to North Korea (or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as it is called in China), including one purporting to show a photo of the Dear Leader posing with soldiers.

For what's it's worth...

Your favorite blogger went 24-8 in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament. Mind you, I'm not in any (legal or illegal) pools, so my record could be perfect (or imperfect) and it wouldn't cost me a dime.

And that's probably a good thing because money sure is tight these days.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Write more tickets!

Well now, won't this one go over well in one Midwest city.

Petty, very petty

I would expect ABC's Jake Tapper to be a bit more mature than this. But then again I would anticipate the media to be more mature in their coverage of this non-story. Something about two wrongs doesn't make a right is echoing in my head.

And that's your opinion...others see it differently

Don Irvine from Accuracy in Media suggests that while the end appears imminent for Norm Coleman in the Minnesota Senate race, it actually is the political process that is the bigger loser.

Funny, but I didn't hear anyone from AIM suggesting the 2000 presidential election somehow put into question the political process.

Sounds like a powerful endorsement to me

Politico.com's Mike Allen reports the following statement that is attributed to the president and regarding the embattled Secretary of the Treasury:

'He is a smart guy and he's a calm and steady guy. I don't think people fully appreciate the plate that was handed him. This guy has not just a banking crisis; he's got the worst recession since the Great Depression, he's got an auto industry on -- that has been on the verge of collapse. We've got to figure out how to coordinate with other countries internationally. He's got to deal with me; he's got to deal with Congress. And he's doing it with grace and good humor. And he understands that he's on the hot seat, but I actually think that he is taking the right steps, and we're going to have our economy back on the move. ... I think Geithner is doing an outstanding job. I think that we have a big mess on our hands. It's not going to be solved immediately, but it is going to get solved.'

However, as Politico.com's Martin Kady reminds us:
Geithner, Geithner, Geithner. His boss says he's safe, but expect to see TV headlines all weekend blaring 'Is the president's Treasury secretary in trouble?'

The first day of spring?

It's 43 degrees in Pittsburgh. Spring? Where?

How political coverage is changing...

...because of recent newspaper job cuts. It's not a pretty picture.

They must have angered Dear Leader

How else to explain why two Current TV reporters were arrested in North Korea. The move is certain to further strain the already unsettled relationship between the Americans and the North Koreans...if, if, if the charges against the two women are bogus.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Putin...a KGB tourist?

Oh, the hullabaloo that FOX News is attempting to make out of this one -- a picture that can reasonably pass for Russia's foreign minister Vladimir Putin posing as a tourist...20 years ago...when Ronald Reagan visited the Soviet Union.

If this story is true, why are we surprised? This Putin Pretending Pose Picture happened in the late 1980s, when there was still a Soviet Union. What's the big deal? The "pointed" questions the president would have received would almost certainly have been planted; the USSR would not have risked a free speech advocate showing up unannounced. Nor would a criticism of the USSR been acceptable. Whether Putin was there was to ensure that the "proper" questions were asked...or to prevent any "troublemakers" from showing up misses the point. He was required to be there.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse...

From the Associated Press:

At least 13 firms receiving billions of dollars in bailout money owe a total of more than $220 million in unpaid federal taxes, a key lawmaker said Thursday.

Dealing with Russia

The conservative Heritage Foundation offers some ideas to consider, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum.

Should NPR have canceled its print subscriptions?

The news agency said it did so in an attempt to save money -- perhaps as much as $100,000 annually.

Justified? I'm inclined to say yes on this one. NPR did not abdicate its information sources; instead it took advantage of the Internet/digital delivery options available to it.

However, there is a dangerous argument that NPR is making -- you need not subscribe to NPR (or to public radio) because someone else will and that information will remain free. I'm sure NPR executives considered that, and, yes, I anticipate in this economic climate that contributions to public radio will decline.

Time to put up or shaddup

I stand by my picks from Sunday night:
Louisville, Memphis, UNC and Duke in the Final Four, with Louisville beating North Carolina in the championship game. (Kind of hope I'm wrong about that pick and about three of my four Final Four selections.)

What's it like being a "one-man band"?

Here's one man's description.

What did the president know...(part 2)

So, it now appears that the White House was aware of the what I'm calling "AIG Bonusgate" almost two weeks BEFORE it claimed it did.

Uh, Oval Office, you have a problem. It's difficult enough to argue that AIG is "too big to fail" (a ridiculous idea as I've heard in a long time) in economic times such as this. It becomes more complicated when a president who argued for transparency is at best shading details and at worst not telling the truth about what he knew, and when.

Damage control time. And speaking of damage, the "tax the bonuses" idea will be voted on...and almost certainly passed...today. How can it not? Call it anger. Call it outrage. The symbolic power of a vote like this is a no-brainer, regardless of whether it is logical.

A sock puppet?

I've heard journalists called many things, but "a sock puppet" is a new one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If they give back half...

...then does that mean they were only half-selfish, half-arrogant, and half-stupid? You've got to hand it to the AIG executive team, it certainly knows how to hack off the country. To suggest today that some people who were given bonuses from the federal bailout money give back half was (ahem) gutsy.

One issue that shouldn't be forgotten is that the Democrats could feel that aforementioned anger brewing throughout the country. The Republicans have found an issue that they will (and should) run with -- the Democrats were in charge and therefore linked to the AIG bailout.

Yet again I'm wondering how the Democrats could be so idiotic. (And, no, my Republican friends need not insert a smart-aleck comment here.)

Borderline unprofessional?

Gannett's management must think it's a great idea to torture its employees at the Tucson Citizen. How else to explain putting the newspaper on life support and promising that its publication status is "day-to-day."

I think you can understand why some reporters are (ahem) upset.

And while this is ongoing the CEO of Gannett is becoming a fatter cat. If I had a subscription to the USA Today (Gannett's signature paper), I'd have canceled it after reading all of this.

I'll let you know how it goes

I signed up for this new "MINE" option from TIME magazine. I confess to being a bit suspect of what it plans to do, but I'll leave my mind open and report back from time to time (no pun intended) on my thoughts.

He won't be a Democrat...

...but he might be an Independent. The Hill reports this morning that Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter might bolt his party (in much the same way Joe Lieberman did) and run as an Independent in 2010.

What did the president know...and when did he know it?

If the White House is to be believed, President Obama did not learn until late last week that AIG was using some of its bailout money to pay for bonuses.

Let's, for the moment, accept that at face value, if for no other reason than it is plausible. Unfortunately what the White House is saying is not going to throw cold water on the firestorm of controversy surrounding how it is handling various aspects of the economy. Nor is it going to make it any easier on the Treasury Department, as it seeks to get that money back from AIG.

In short, the president has a problem. The longer it's allowed to linger, the worse it's going to get.

Publish...or perish (with a twist)

Very interesting article here for all of us in the academic world. It suggests that faculty who are placed under the publish-or-perish mandate are doing a potentially devastating disservice to students.

At my first institution, the pressure of publications hung over me and it contributed to my decision to leave. I found myself appreciating more and more the time I spent in the classroom versus attempting to craft the next publishable article that likely few people would read.

No, I'm not criticizing research institutions; I earned my three academic degrees at three different ones. However, I am suggesting that faculty can find professional happiness -- and serve their students very well -- at smaller universities and colleges. Perhaps the paper referenced above will generate some critical discussions in the bigger universities.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An important lesson in media freedom

This is a fascinating article, and it highlights how far political entities will go to promote their own agenda...even if it is on suspect legal grounds...in order to challenge the freedoms enjoyed by the media.

Of course, when it happens on a college campus, the lessons are more poignant, in my opinion.

The P-I says goodbye

For the second time in a month, a large U.S. city is dealing with the death of one of its local newspapers. As was the case in Denver and with the death of the Rocky Mountain News, economics played a large role in the demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

However, the P-I will remain available in an online form, though with significant staff cutbacks. As you now the RMN simply went away. There is a report this morning indicating that some RMN writers are considering bringing back the paper in an online form if they can get paid subscribers. (In this economy, that might be asking quite a bit.)

And for additional understanding of why losing the newspaper matters, consider this editorial from the Financial Times.

Is Israel lurching right?

As always, reading tea leaves can be dangerous but one certain political appointment offers strong evidence that the answer is "yes."

The bucks stop there

In this case, "there" is the Oval Office because the outrage about AIG is being directed in part at the president. Politico's Martin Kady summarizes the president's growing problems...

Outrage is about all Washington has in its arsenal right now when it comes to the AIG furor.

But the legal, financial and legislative avenues for actually taking back the bonus money are limited, several news organizations reported today. President Obama and congressional Democrats, rather than stoking this fire for another news cycle, may want to quickly turn attention to housing or health care or budget negotiations, because, as POLITICO writes today, AIG is now Obama's problem, not the last administration's.


The Wall Street Journal picks up the ball from there, and it points out that Mr. Obama is being directly swept up into the anger, which can derail both his popularity and his political agenda.

A tribute...

...to a great man, priest and family member, in today's Pasadena Star-News.

Conservatives have talk radio...(UPDATE)

...liberals have the Internet? Oh, I can't wait to read the outrage associated with this story.

My immediate reaction: Shaddup. It's legal. Just like talk radio. It's advancing a political agenda. Just like talk radio. It shouldn't have the Fairness Doctrine associated with it. Just like talk radio. (Okay that last one was a bit too sarcastic.)

UPADATE: Be sure to read the two comments associated with this post. A reader caught an important mistake I made in my original comment -- I never made clear that while talk radio is in the open, the JournoList was, for lack of a better term, hidden and not publicly available. Good catch. My goof.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the campaign trail...from the White House

From Politico.com's Martin Kady:
A slew of stories over the weekend show an administration and a Democratic Congress regrouping in an effort to win back the rhetorical wars in an effort that includes real time coordination with activists, a grass roots e-mail effort to spark the Obama campaign base again and a major fundraiser scheduled for next week. Democrats realize they lost some of the message war on earmarks in the omnibus and pork in the stimulus, and they don't want to let the GOP keep that edge.

The timing is prescient: Roll Call notes that the congressional calendar is a bit thin this week in both chambers, so there will be news voids to fill.


Translation -- and to borrow a phrase from legendary former Los Angeles Lakers' announcer Chick Hearn: "It's nervous time at the White House."

You can't buy the P-I anymore (UPDATED)

Tomorrow will being the latest evidence that the newspaper industry is in the throes of a major revolution. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer prints its final edition Tuesday. After that, it's an online-only newspaper.

This is not something that should be celebrated; however, it is important we realize that unlike the Rocky Mountain News which went out-of-business, the P-I will still be an information vehicle for the people of Seattle and elsewhere.

UPDATE: It's ridiculous comments such as this one that makes the right seem petty and vindictive.

So, you're NOT in favor of diversity?

I think The Heritage Foundation is making an argument here that can easily be misinterpreted. I think what the organization is attempting to say is that Congress is trying to use "diversity" as a cover to promote a return of the Fairness Doctrine. (In this area, Heritage is wrong -- there are no efforts underway to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, but I think I've beaten that horse to death on this blog.)

Unfortunately, as you read this report it can be interpreted that Heritage is arguing that diversity is a dubious thing. Moreover, it is overtly arguing that Congress is opposed to free speech.

In both cases I find the interpretation inaccurate and potentially inflammatory.

News...lite?

An interesting assessment here of the ways the Internet, Politico.com and other factors are changing our approach to reading and understanding news. You'll see here that there are some positive and negative issues, in the mind of the journalist who wrote the piece.

A must-read

I always incorporate various elements of the State of the News Media report into my classes. The 2009 version is now available, and regardless of what role you play in the media world (educator to journalist to audience), you'll find plenty of good information nuggets.

A farewell from a local columnist

A good message here from Bill Steigerwald, who is retiring from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

No, I don't know Bill personally. Nor have I found myself in agreement with much of what he has said over time. But I think his message will resonate among young and not-so-young news professionals.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Switching parties?

The following "tweet" comes from Houston Chronicle reporter Rick Dunham:
Rumors sweeping Harrisburg that Arlen Specter will switch BACK to D's after 40 yrs. I don't buy it.

I agree with Mr. Dunham. I don't buy it.

Oh, why not...let's layout an NCAA tournament bracket

Here's how it could go...if there are no key injuries to any front line players:

1st Round winners:
Midwest:
1Louisville, 8Ohio State, 12Arizona, 4Wake Forest, 6W. Virginia, 3Kansas, 10USC, 2Michigan State

West:
1UConn, 8BYU, 5Purdue, 4Washington, 11Utah State, 3Missouri, 10Maryland, 2Memphis

South:
1UNC, 9Butler, 12 W. Kentucky, 4Gonzaga, 6Arizona State, 3Syracuse, 7Clemson, 2Oklahoma

East:
1Pitt, 8Oklahoma State, 5Florida State, 4Xavier, 6UCLA, 3Villanova, 7Texas, 2Duke

2nd Round winners:
Midwest:
1Louisville, 4Wake Forest, 3Kansas, 2Michigan State

West:
1UConn, 5Purdue, 3Missouri, 2Memphis

South:
1UNC, 4Gonzaga, 6Arizona State, 7Clemson

East:
1Pitt, 5Florida State, 3Villanova, 2 Duke

Sweet 16:
Midwest:
1 Louisville, 3 Kansas

West:
5 Purdue, 2 Memphis

South:
1UNC, 6Arizona State

East:
1Pitt, 2 Duke

Elite Eight:
Louisville
Memphis
UNC
Duke

Final Four:
Louisville over Memphis
UNC over Duke

Championship Game:
Louisville over UNC

Of course the honeymoon is over

I'm enjoying reading or watching conservative voices falling all over themselves with delight as they react to David Broder's column.

I find it odd that most of those voices are directing their criticisms toward the Obama administration...and not the media. Weren't the media in the back pocket of Mr. Obama throughout the 2008 campaign? Weren't the media doing all they could do curry favor "their guy?" Weren't the media guilty of ignoring all pretense of bias when it came to Mr. Obama?

SO why exactly is it that the end of the honeymoon (come on people, you knew that would happen) is being treated more as an indictment of the president than of the media's attitudes? The president hasn't changed over the past two months; the media's attitude toward him has. So why is the president to blame for that?

Perhaps it's a sign that the conservative voices are -- drum roll, please -- more determined to get Obama out in 2012 than the are of berating the media? Of course, to do that they first need to come up with a coherent message and then a person to deliver it.

Once they do, the media will be there to listen, report and analyze. By then I'm convinced the conservatives will tell you they're not getting a fair shake by the MSM.

Here's the reality, as I see it -- yes, the media are biased. They play favorites. But when it comes time to do their jobs, the credible and real journalists leave their opinions at the door. Loud-mouths like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann can't. That's why they don't deserve the title "journalist."

A moment of levity...and thank God for kids!

Sitting in front of us in church this morning is a family of four. The two children were (I'm guessing) 3 years and 16 months.

At one point the 3-year-old girl grabbed the toys she was playing with and crawled under her chair. Less than a moment later and using her "sippie cup" as the prop, she said, "Okay, woman. Tell me just how long you expect me to stay here."

Her mother looked down, with that wonderful expression that horrified mothers have. No, daughter was not talking to mother, but daughter certainly was relaying a movie or television program line that she had recently heard.

My wife and I laughed, quietly. We'd been there, done that. No need to say more.

Talk radio -- what's "left" of the "right"?

In most American cities, conservative voices dominate talk radio. But in one major U.S. city, that is not the case.

A family loss

One of my late mother's cousins passed away last night. And the circumstances surrounding his death, from the initial information I'm gathering, sound eerily similar to the passing of my mother three years ago.

And that stings.

Msgr. August Moretti's father and my mother's father were brothers. "Gus", as our family called him, was a long-time member of the Catholic clergy in southern California. His most recent parish was Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, located in Pasadena. He retired a couple of years ago.

It appears that cancer racked his body. One of my aunts, as she fought off tears, told me this morning that her cousin (one of Gus' sisters) said he was in incredible pain at the time of his passing. "Why does that happen to a man who gave his life to God?" my aunt asked. I wish I had had an answer for her.

That dreaded disease took one of Gus' nieces about 10 years ago, and a form of it also led to my mother's death in 2006.

I'm awaiting additional details about funeral and other arrangements, and I might be making a trip to Los Angeles later this week and represent my side of the family in saying goodbye.

I know that many of you who read this blog celebrate some form of faith. I would ask those who do to please offer a prayer for Gus. I'm a firm believer that the good Lord above is taking care of him now, and I'm sure that he and my mother are sharing a hug today.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

TIme to read tea leaves?

A recent comment by a Supreme Court justice suggests that President Obama will soon nominate someone to the Court. Yes, nothing like an opening on the Supreme Court for the social wars to be reignited. Call me nonplussed.

The future of media

I argue all the time to please, please, please expose yourself to interesting ideas and thought-provoking commentary. Here's an example. Author Steven B. Johnson delivered this speech yesterday at the SXSW (that's South by Southwest) conference in Austin, TX. Note how he is speaking optimistically and credibly about what the future media landscape might look like.

The personal time you invest in reading this will be worth it.

A Republican revival in 2010?

Revival might be too strong a word, but according to The Hill there is evidence to suggest that the GOP might have some success eating away at the Democrats' majority in Congress.

This news will invigorate my Republican friends, and lead my Democrat friends to gnash their teeth in fear and loathing. But whatever comeback the GOP makes in 2010 and 2012 will be predicated on the party crafting a message that the voters will accept. It also will help the GOP if the Democrats prove ineffective at leading the country out of the current economic misery.

To date, there has been little evidence to suggest that the Republicans are putting together a concrete message, and there also is scant evidence that the Democrats can do more than point fingers.

I'm pleased when intelligent ideas are part of the civic discourse we all should have. But and as an example when it is a political commentator/economist who is offering credible ideas about whether a second stimulus bill needs to be enacted because the political rhetoric emanating from Washington prevents such a conversation being held openly in that locale, then we are lacking credible leaders all over the place.

Let the SUNSHINE in

It's Sunshine Week! Let's appreciate we have a White House that is much more amenable to openness than we had in the past eight years. And let's hope that pledge of openness does not disappear when the first signs of trouble with the media show.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Uh, oh...this could be bad

The results of a new Pew Research Center study offer little hope for people who care about the newspaper industry -- only 1 in 3 people say they would miss their local newspaper if it were to be shuttered.

This apathy regarding the daily newspaper is understandable -- people see their paper as something less than disposable. And when news that professional news organizations are canceling their subscriptions, the newspaper seems all the more optional.

Which news organization has made that decision? National...Public...Radio. Here is an excerpt of a memo sent out by a member of NPR management to the employees (I took this excerpt from a Poynter.org notice that I came across) --

As of April 1 NPR is cancelling all newspaper subscriptions. We are making some arrangements to get the Wall Street Journal either on line or hard copy. You have until tomorrow to appeal this if there is a solid reason why you should be exempt. This is a cost saving measure company wide.

In full disclosure, I am leaning toward not renewing my subscription when it comes due later this month. That's an economic decision for my family, and it is akin to what was discussed by NPR. That news organization noted (correctly) that almost all the information available in the hard copy of a particular newspaper also was available online. That is the same rationale that I am using.

However, there is a mountain of difference between availing oneself of the online edition of a newspaper versus having no ability to access information from a reputable local or national source. That is what happens when a newspaper is closed.

I'm not attempting to come off as a voice screaming in the night, but I am attempting to rally support for the belief that a newspaper being closed is not good for a community.

Media General closes its DC bureau

Insanity. Absolute stupidity. How could a media group -- claiming to have ANY interest in news -- close its bureau in the nation's capital? Brilliant.

A request from a friend

Todd and Michelle Bannie are two of my best friends. Please consider what kind of support you can give to an important fundraiser. And you don't need to be in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to get involved.

Thanks!


Children’s Hospital NICU fundraiser

The March of Dimes and St. Paul Children’s Hospital NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) are holding their annual “March For Babies” fundraising event on Sunday, April 26th. This event consists of a walk around Lake Phalen, as well as a NICU reunion for the NICU graduates, their family and NICU staff.

I am raising money for the NICU in the name of my daughter Amelia Grace Bannie. As many of you know, Amelia was born 7 ½ weeks early and spent 31 days in the NICU. Because she was born this early, she had a few health issues which necessitated this stay in the hospital.

Amelia was born with two breathing issues called Tracheomalacia and Laringomalacia. Essentially these are a developmental deformity in her airway which caused her to have a condition called Stridor. With every breath she took, she made a loud squeak, which has now led to us calling her by her nickname “Squeaks”. Amelia had surgery on her airway when she was 10 weeks old and the Stridor has become much less evident and she is well on her way to being a normal child.

With the exception of a one day stay in the PICU after her throat surgery, Amelia has been home since her release from the NICU. While we have a now healthy and striving child, there are many other parents who have much longer stays in the NICU, with much more serious health issues with their child.

I am participating in a March of Dines event for Amelia and all babies who are born early with health issues and have to fight to survive. I feel that Todd and I only have our daughter because of the gifted hands of the Neonatologists, NICU nurses and staff who saved her life. They did so much for her that I could not so I have joined the Children’s Hospital walking team as a small token of my thanks.

If you are looking for a great cause to donate, please consider this one. I invite you to visit my link to the March for Babies website and my personal donation page at:

http://www.marchforbabies.org/ameliabannie

If you would like to keep up on Amelia's progress check out her website at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/ameliabannie

Thank you for your continued support for Amelia, and for this wonderful cause! Also, feel free to pass this along to anyone you think may be interested!

Thank you so much!

Love, Michelle Bannie – Amelia’s Mom

My presentation in State College

It's 9:00 on a Friday...the high school crowd shuffled in...
There's broadcast man standing in the front of the room...hoping the students take it all in.

Love the Billy Joel song "Piano Man" but that is not the purpose of this post.

I was pleasantly surprised that 30-35 students attended my presentation this morning at the Pennsylvania School Press Association conference. The students asked some great questions; I especially liked the one from one young lady who asked if environmental science would be a good second major.

"You're going to rock," I told her. That's because she will have a firm understanding of the journalism world and also be able to report on the complex but important issue of the environment.

We're heading home after lunch, but I think there are some prospects for the future we've met here!

Ratcheting up the rhetoric in Asia

Japan says it is prepared to shoot down any satellite launched by North Korea if...and the if is important to consider.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A "Steele trap"?

Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele might be in a trap that he cannot get out of -- stepping away from the party's commitment to pro-life by suggesting that "individual choice" is possible.

Could his (rough) run as committee chair now be impossible to save?

I'm curious, and I ask you to set aside your personal beliefs about abortion: what exactly is wrong with what Mr. Steele said? Again, set aside your personal beliefs. What did he say that is wrong? In some ways, what Mr. Steele did is (and no, I doubt he was trying to do this) compel the party to consider its position.

But I also wonder why the abortion question was asked at all. Social policies were not front and center in the 2008 presidential election, and there is no raging urge within the Democratic Party to make them a critical component of next year's midterm elections.

Mr. Steele did step back from his comments (the third time in a month he's backtracked on something he's said), but it might not be good enough.

Hello from State College

Two colleagues and I are in State College, PA tonight for the Pennsylvania School Press Association conference. This conference at Penn State University brings together high school journalism students from our state.

The three of us have presentations on Friday morning; my session focuses on what high school students ought to be doing now as they prepare for the important transition to college and how learning to write well is the foundation of everything a student does.

It should be fun!

State College is quickly becoming one of my favorite stops in the state. The vitality of this college town is pervasive. And, yes, there is a personal angle -- my older son has become a HUGE Penn State fan over the past two years.

It's a young person's world

Would you believe "The Gray Lady" has hired a 20-something as its new "conservative" columnist? Yeah, you might say "The Times" they are a'changin'.

He's "sorry"

Was Bernie Madoff "deeply sorry" when he was conducting his Ponzi scheme?

Everything old...is new (unfortunately) again

Kudos to Politico's Martin Kady for hitting the nail on the head:
The party in power is struggling with battles over excessive earmarks, presidential signing statements and lobbyist corruption.

Did we miss something or is it still 2005?

Indeed, President Obama and his Democratic leaders are finding that some issues are perennial no matter how strong the winds of change blow.

The "Shoe" will be cooling his heels...

...in the slammer. For 3 years. I admit to being surprised by the Iraqi court ruling this morning sentencing to a three-year prison term the man who threw two shoes at former President Bush.

As I stated in one of my first postings about this subject, while the man's actions are indefensible, I cannot get past the fact that he is a journalist. I expect more of the men and women who are part of that profession.

Can you tell me how to get OUT OF Sesame Street?

Yes, I can...get laid off.

The economic crisis proves yet again that every avenue into the television industry has (unfortunately) a way out of it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The temptation to turn this story into something it is not...

...is going to be quite high. I can only hope that the MSM (I have no such hope for many in the blogosphere) will deal professionally with the news that Alaska governor Sarah Palin's daughter and her fiance have broken off their relationship.

Gov. Palin's critics on the right are sure to use this in a not-so-subtle attempt to argue that she doesn't have the proper family values to be the head of the Republican Party. (I'm reminded of "ye who is without sin may cast the first stone".) Her critics on the left are likely to argue that the separation confirms that Mrs. Palin is so driven by political success that she allowed her daughter to become pregnant and then to break off the relationship with the baby's father.

Everyone should just shut up.

I'm surprised the percentage is this high

It comes as no surprise to me that an overwhelming percentage of Americans are not in favor of a second stimulus bill. But I was not expecting that about 1 in 4 people indicate they would support such a financial effort and commitment from the U.S. government.

Any attempt to win popular support for a second stimulus will come from a solid message that withstands political criticism. And it would help to have a firm grasp of how the first stimulus is helping the country.

That combination might be too much to ask.

I didn't need a survey to tell me...

...that the general public doesn't like Rush Limbaugh. I do love (wink) how the aforementioned blogger describes Limbaugh as toxic to the GOP brand.

Isn't it interesting that just three months ago George Bush was toxic to that brand. Now you see why the linkage of Limbaugh to the Republican Party is something the Democrats want to burn into America's psyche.

When you cut people, you also cut quality

An intriguing debate between a former major metropolitan news editor (who quit rather than cutting people) and the man who replaced him (and who did cut staff). Listen to what they say about their decisions, and how those decisions made at this paper and elsewhere have an effect on news coverage.

Meanwhile the folks at another major metro paper are reading the tea leaves, and right now they are suggesting that the shuttering of their paper is imminent.

Holy bats???

They're going "batty" in West Texas. One of my former students from my days at Texas Tech University has the story.

What's "left" in Berkeley...

...if the "Daily Planet" goes away?

Alright, no more jokes about Berkeley because what is happening there to its local newspaper is something that is indicative of other cities and other newspapers. And as you watch the video link, consider the words of the paper's owner.

In fact, the television journalist who did this story would have been wise to dive into the options discussed by the owner. Unfortunately, he didn't, and so we're left with a superficial discussion about the role this newspaper plays in its community...and how that role compares to other cities.

Uh, hello?

Regular readers of this blog know I love the possibilities that technology provides us. But what one California man did is...well...let's say he did something that you shouldn't try at home.

George Bush is coming to Pennsylvania

From Politico's Mike Allen:
EXCLUSIVE: Former President George W. Bush will give his first post-presidency U.S. speech in Erie, Pa., on June 17 to the Manufacturer & Business Association, which serves companies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. The top of his remarks will be open to media coverage. Other domestic speeches will be announced soon. The former president's first speech will be March 17 in Calgary.

Am I the only one who thinks that this location seems somewhat odd for the Mr. Bush's first post-presidential speech in the U.S? Erie is not a hotbed for Republican ideas, though I recognize he's there for a business meeting.

I'll be curious to see the amount of media coverage this event gets. Of course, the local media will report it, but what will the national media do with it? Will FOX News make a big deal out of it? Will MSNBC ignore it?

Old faces...in new places?

The GOP would appear to be in need of new blood and fresh thinking in order to move the party forward. However, the party appears to be making a wise choice right now by turning to some familiar faces and asking them to consider running for Congress in 2010.

Do not forget, however, that if the old face delivers the old message, then voters might not be willing to listen. New York Times' columnist David Brooks highlights that point in an editorial in which he challenges the party to be more than just a "no" machine.

Free speech zone? What free speech zone?

You know, I really don't like criticizing the Chinese government on a daily basis, but the say one thing, do another leaders make it so easy. Do you remember those free speech zones that were going to be made available during the Olympic Games? (Insert laugh track here.)

Well, something (not so) funny happened on the way to speaking one's mind.

The Dow Jones is creeping...

...ever closer...struggling mightily...to get back to 7,000. Now there's a sign of how ugly the stock market has been of late -- there likely will be a rip-roaring celebration (with water from the tap, no one can afford booze) when the Dow closes a day above 7,000.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Leadership...or posturing?

South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. If you didn't know him before, you had better start. He announced tonight he will formally turn down some of the stimulus money earmarked for his state.

Sanford's decision will be praised by some as a demonstration of leadership. Others will define it as reckless political posturing designed to advance his own political agenda. (Can you say presidential candidate in 2012?)

Sanford is sure to attract the attention (and affection) of conservatives. And, yes, it's becoming ever more clear that a moderate Republican -- right now -- has zero chance of winning the party's presidential nomination in 2012.

The economic crunch is hitting college newspapers as well

Yes, sometimes those papers are laying off people (it's THAT bad!), but many of them are trimming the number of editions they publish.

In some ways, this is a valuable learning lesson for college journalists. Cutting editions (or pages) is, in fact, perhaps the best real-world lesson they could experience.

8,000 earmarks

Well, the Senate has passed the spending bill -- and attached 8,000 earmarks to it. How nice. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the potential for a second stimulus bill is real.

And from where exactly will this money come? (Hey, Congress is skipping its pay increase next year. Maybe they're paying for it!!) And where might it go?

Well, we can hope this is true

An FCC that listens to the public? An FCC that does more than provide lip service to consumers' needs? Is this too much to ask? Apparently not.

Oh, how true

A former student of mine sent this to me today. I think you'll enjoy it :-)

Things I wish my Journalism School professors had told me, but didn't.

--EVERYONE LIES. Everyone. If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Get a second source.

--Everyone has an agenda. Stories have layers. Truth is pliable. Never EVER air a story without first understanding what's motivating the people behind it.

--Journalism is a business, and advertising pays the bills. Understand that going in. News…and programming…are just FILLER between commercial breaks.

--Being a "team player" is a management euphemism for: Someone willing to work crappy shifts, vacation fill-in, and overtime without compensation or complaint. NOT being a "team player" will quickly shorten your career.

--Producers want to be reporters. Reporters want to be anchors. No one wants to be a news photographer, except news photographers, who wouldn't want any other job.

--The first job is always the hardest to get and the easiest to leave.

--Your first job will probably be at a crappy little station in a crappy little town. You may even have to pay to move yourself there. Feel lucky to make $15,000 in your first year...about $250 a week take-home. First jobs are usually "at will" agreements, which means you're employed, basically, from paycheck to paycheck. If you move up to a larger market, you will probably be asked to sign an employment contract, one that will be tilted heavily in your employer's favor.

--Beware of "non-compete clauses" in employment contracts. They're designed to keep you from working at another station in the same market. Non-competes are outlawed in New York and California and are becoming increasingly unenforceable in other states. If an employer tells you it's a "standard clause," know that it's NOT. NEVER sign a contract that gives your boss the right to terminate your employment "without cause."

--Most contracts contain a "morals clause" that allow your boss to give you the boot if you bring embarrassment to the TV station, especially if you're arrested for a crime. Like it or not, working in television exposes you to public scrutiny and forces you to live your private life at a higher level of morality. If you screw up, you'll probably get fired. And if you screw up badly, you may never be able to work in the broadcasting business again.

--Big stations are not always better than small stations, but they are usually more tolerable places to work. And they pay better. There seems to be a 30-market "sweet spot" between markets 12(Phoenix) and 42 (Las Vegas).

--Know that most stations will expect to you fly in a news chopper, and if you have some sort of fear of flying, they won't be very understanding.

--If you want to leave a TV station, start sending out audition DVDs at least six months before your contract expires. But always keep a current audition reel ready to go. You never know when the phone might ring…or the boss will call you into his or her office.

--NEVER EVER quit a job without having another job waiting.

--Don't lose sleep over your college grades. Once you get out of here, no one will ever look at your transcript. You'll be judged solely on your job performance.

--Your reputation is your currency. Manage it carefully. Do not squander it needlessly. Understand that the TV business is a very closely-knit, incestuous society. Word moves quickly within, and soiled reputations, however undeserved, are hard to live down.

--The old saying: "Be nice to the people you meet on your way up because you might need them later on your way down" is truer than you might believe. You will make friends...and enemies...in television who will last a lifetime.

--Learn how to read a ratings book. Understand how your station is being "positioned" in the market, its history, its news philosophy, the message it's trying to extend to its viewers.

--As a reporter or photographer, always remember that you have no RIGHT to be anywhere the general public can't go. Being a member of the "media" gives you no special license. Conversely, understand that you have EVERY right to go anywhere the public is allowed. But DON'T be surprised if you are stopped from doing that.

--Work hard at your job and then go home. Try to create a "normal" existence outside of work. Exercise regularly. Watch what you eat. Develop other interests.

--Do your best to avoid conflict with other employees (although that's not always possible). Assume that others will be jealous of your successes and will relish your failures. And don't be surprised or discouraged when it happens. Remember that you can NEVER build yourself up by tearing others down.

--Try to avoid newsroom romances. They rarely end well. Newsrooms are "hot-houses" for gossip and rumors. NEVER EVER become romantically involved with your boss.

--When you're out on assignment, never use your last battery, tape, or disk. If you do, I can guarantee Osama Bin Laden will get popped for shoplifting at the nearby Wal-Mart. (We swiped that one from Lenslinger.)

--Never set up your camera where drivers can be distracted. And never turn on your camera lights when a crowd has gathered, unless there are a whole bunch of cops standing nearby.

--Understand that nothing can prepare you for the things you'll hear when you answer a newsroom telephone: the first time someone calls you a racist, or a sexist, or a member of the vast left wing liberal media conspiracy.

--Remember that bosses will come, and bosses will go, and you'll never get rich in TV unless you own the station.

--And never forget that no matter how awful the business may seem at any given moment, you will eventually look back on your years in television and remember them as the most stimulating, frustrating, and satisfying days of your life.

Our audience doesn't depend upon us for sports

I read that line in this story...and cringed.

But I also know there is a healthy degree of truth behind it. Because of ESPN, the Internet and other seemingly instant-access options, the traditional sportscast at a local news station is in need of reform.

Let's look at the late-night newscast as our example. By time the sports segment airs (around 11:25 in most markets), the "local" teams' games have wrapped up. The serious sports fan likely watched the game, or at minimum has seen the highlights on a national or regional cable sports network. That fan also has had the option of using the Web to see additional highlights and/or the relevant statistics.

With all that information, that fan knows there is no need to catch "the sports guy" on the local station at 11:25. Sadly, the sports report already is dated; the details about the game are known.

Sports departments are re-inventing themselves in part by focusing on the hyper-local. This could mean the local high schools, small colleges, sports-related events that don't regularly appear on the news agenda and other similar stories.

It appears that at the San Diego station referenced above, that was not enough to save the department.

Tibet

As I've stated in various postings on this blog, the political lens through which you view the world will influence how you react to political policy, news events, and other relevant issues.

Today I came across this quote, which was posted on TIME.com:
We must keep a watchful eye, and with clenched fists, constantly be on the alert."
ZHANG QINGLI,
the Communist Party chief in Tibet, prepping local riot police for the 50th anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising on March 10


Then there is the Dalai Lama, who says that China's rule in Tibet has made that land "hell on Earth."

Meanwhile, the ever-vigilant Chinese have essentially turned Tibet into lockdown.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Relevant criticism

Whether you find yourself in the pro- or anti-Obama camp, there are ideas in this editorial that are worth considering.

How nice

Way to go, China. Way to go.

Way to go, China. Way to go.

Yes sir, nothing like an anniversary in Tibet to allow the government to crack down on anything resembling dissent (or free speech, depending upon one's opinion).

You know, just for once I'd like to hear an International Olympic Committee official admit that the Chinese either played the IOC for a group of fools OR that the IOC was willing to accept the "yes we will" messages about respecting free speech knowing that the Chinese had no intention of following through on them.

And let's also not forget that the Obama administration has some explaining to do as well. Just two weeks ago, Secretary of State Clinton indicated that the U.S. would not longer link human rights to any bilateral discussions between the two countries.

Ten newspapers that are in trouble

An important story from Yahoo! News that highlights 10 major metropolitan newspapers that could be shut down or be forced to go digital-only in relatively short order.

As I read this, I couldn't help but think about the professionals in those newsrooms. What must be going through their minds, knowing that the country is in a dire economic mess AND the industry in which they ply their trade also is in bad shape?

Mind you, a digital-only format is far better than being dissolved, but there remains doubt as to how effective a delivery mechanism that will be. (I might be about to try it as an experiment, however, as the local newspaper to which my subscription is about to expire is offering a higher renewal rate than the competitor is.)

Interesting Pittsburgh political note

Check this out -- the son of a legendary Pittsburgh Steeler is throwing his hat into the mayoral ring.

For what it's worth...

From Politico.com's Mike Allen:
'During the Great Depression, the Dow plunged 89 percent from the 1929 crash to July 1932. Then it went through some big swings before losing 49 percent in 1937-38 as the economy tanked again. World War II, which grew in part out of financial stress around the globe, followed. The Dow didn't get back to its 1929 high until 1954.'

Image conscious

Would you believe, the Obama administration is?

Perhaps the "news" anchors at CNBC ought to be conscious of the image they are projecting -- far too many of them today appear more interested in advancing their pro-business (often anti-Obama) message rather than telling the public what it ought to know.

The "Specter" of independence hangs over Arlen

Would he do it? Would the long-time Republican (his critics on the right say he's a Republican in name only) senator from PA drop his party affiliation, as he prepares to run for re-election?

As you know I've lived in Pennsylvania for four years, meaning I was not here when Sen. Specter ran for re-election in 2004. But it strikes me that in the "red" parts of Pennsylvania that there is significant disgust with Mr. Specter. His decision last month to support the stimulus bill was considered the final sign of ineptitude/disrespect that Specter has for rock-solid conservative values, in the minds of such voters.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

"Rush" to judgment?

From Politico.com's Mike Allen:
RUSH is Newsweek's new cover boy, with a strip of black tape over his mouth – 'Enough! A Conservative's Case Against Limbaugh,' By David Frum, editor of NewMajority.com: 'Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.'

Fear...and the absence of information

The idea hit me like a lightning bolt when I was being interviewed on a local radio station this morning, and I think you'll agree that it helps crystallize the situation in this country: A period of crisis + the absence of credible information = FEAR!

Allow me to explain:
-A majority of people don't understand how economics works (and you can place me squarely in the middle of that group).
-The country is in a period of economic angst: job losses, the fear of a job loss, dwindling retirement funds and the potential for a pay cut contribute to this angst.
-There is a vacuum of political leadership, and frankly both sides of the aisle are to blame. There is more finger-pointing and name-calling in Washington than there is serious and positive discussions about finding real short- and long-term solutions. (And, sorry, "let's raise taxes" and "let the businesses fail" is not a valid discussion point.)

Put all of this together and fear takes over. The public, feeling inadequate about the knowledge it has, turns to the media and its political leadership for the information it wants. Too often, what Joe and Josephine American receive instead are platitudes or partisan rhetoric.

So, which political leader is going to step up and become a voice for reason, information and strength?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The ideological struggle within the GOP...

...is likely going to be front and center here in Pennsylvania in 2010.

Zimbabwe, day two

This story needs to be measured carefully...the investigation into the car accident that killed the wife of Zimbabwe's prime minister (and injured him) is just beginning. However, it is because of the volatile domestic politics in Zimbabwe that these kinds of statements can be made.

Look at the black line (UPDATED)

Check out this chart, from The New York Times.

The black line is the one to especially make note of; it reflects the number of job losses over the last few months. The steep drop -- almost like a straight line down -- is telling, and frightening.

Is there any doubt why the Washington Post would report this morning:
"The nation is losing jobs so quickly that the government, racing to deal with the crisis, is having trouble keeping up."

And in reality the unemployment picture is worse, as reported by NBC's Chuck Todd (this excerpt from Mike Allen's Politico.com daily blog) --
"Add in discouraged job seekers and workers forced to part time and that 8.1 percent number rises to 14.8 percent. Another benchmark, 31.8 million Americans applied for food stamps last month, an all-time record."

It's stunning to think that the economic stimulus package proposed by the president (regardless of what you think of it) was designed with 3.5 million new jobs in mind. The latest projections suggest that figure is 4.4 million have lost their jobs since the beginning of the recession.

Yes, it is unfair to dump all this on the doorstep of the administration; the economic crisis began well before Barack Obama entered the White House. However, the uncertainty that's beginning to creep into MSM coverage of what he's done and whether it will work is something he and his team can neither deny nor ignore. The pressure on Obama to offer something beyond verbal reassurance is building, and his options are complicated further by the doubts about the stimulus bill.

Sure signs of spring...

1. Baseball returns (hey, exhibition games and the WBC matter to me!)
2. "Spring forward" (that happens tonight)
3. Moretti gets rotten head cold (that began last night)

Yup, it must be March.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The stress points are showing...on both sides

Forget for a moment if Democrats and Republicans can get along. The larger question is whether Democrats can get along with their fellow Democrats and whether Republicans can get along with their fellow Republicans.

The evidence -- so far -- is not especially encouraging.

According to Politico.com, Democratic leaders engaged in a profanity-laced argument last night, as they continued to struggle to get an omnibus stimulus bill passed. Considering the majority that the Democrats own in Congress, this animosity is especially shocking. (Then again recognizing the history of the Democratic party and its internal squabbles, perhaps this is not so incredible?)

Closely aligned with this angst among the leadership, the House Democrats appear frustrated by their colleagues in the Senate.

Of course, underscoring all of this is something the Democrats also cannot ignore: the numbing unemployment numbers which some economists say could peak at 10%. (It's at 8.1% now; FOX News noted today that 12.5 million are unemployed in the U.S., a figure that is more than the populations of 45 of the 50 states.) One member of the Obama administration was spot on when she said there is no way to spin these unemployment figures.

Meanwhile, the GOP appears to be doing all it can to demonstrate that it cannot find a leader because it very well might not want the one it has. That leader -- Michael Steele -- defended himself today, but it is doubtful that the criticisms being directed at him are going to go away.

Of course, the absence of a credible political figure in Congress also hurts the GOP. The minority leaders in the House and Senate are leaders in name only; the woefully small Republican numbers in Congress give Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell little with which to work. It should come as no surprise then that one Republican governor, who likely will be a presidential nominee in 2012, stated the obvious today: the party's fortunes cannot sink any lower.

Thus, what we have on one side of the aisle is a majority that can't get its act together and rally behind its leader, and on the other side we have a minority that can't get its act together and is vacuous in leadership.

So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that Democrats can't get along with their own and Republicans can't get along with their own. And while all this plays out, more and more Americans are looking for a handout. Oh, wait, that's the stimulus bill that has been ripped apart and dragged through the mud by both sides.