Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Communist China

One newspaper suggests that you ought to hold off with those noise-makers and pointy hats because there is a problem of legitimacy in Beijing.

The aforementioned editorial is spot on; the Chinese government is raking in enormous amounts of money, but it is exacting a price -- on its people and on its credibility. The continued absence of human rights and general freedoms ensures that while the country is becoming financially powerful, the body remains weak.

There is no reason to be optimistic and to think that the Communist government will give in any time soon and expand the freedoms enjoyed in many other countries. But that might be missing the point -- the larger question is at what point does the erosion of information; the distrust in the state; and other examples of the need for strengthening begin to cause the system to collapse from within?

The H1N1 vaccine...and you

An informative piece from TIME magazine.

Open mouth, insert...firing?

Am I the only one who looks at this story and thinks that either there is something more than meets the eye or that one huge lawsuit is coming?

More importantly, does the decision to fire someone who questioned the layoffs of almost four dozen of his colleagues lead to a "chilling effect" around the newsroom?

The trampling of civil liberties

A Point Park colleague makes a powerful argument that in the effort to derail protests (violent or not) during last week's G-20 Summit, various police agencies and courts trampled on civil liberties.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Either the West is concoting another flawed case...

...or the Iranians are determined to hack off the world.

The Financial Times reports tonight that Iran has been secretly designing a nuclear warhead dating to 2004 or 2005; information that certainly puts more strain on the impending meeting between Iranian officials and leaders from a group of nations, including the United States, attempting to convince Tehran that building a nuclear bomb will not be tolerated.

Another Catholic university...another controversial speaker

This time it's Saint Louis University, which has announced it will not allow David Horowitz to speak on campus.

An on-going trend

WMAR in Baltimore is the latest local news operation to institute cut backs to on-air staff. It certainly saves money, but what does it do to the quality of the newscast?

A sudden change

WPXI has dumped its news director, Corrie Harding. The Pittsburgh NBC affiliate announced the decision late yesterday.

I confess to always being suspicious when the phrase "it was a mutual decision" is used.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And Iran...Iran so far away...

...but this time, it's Tehran that might be able to get away.

The decision by the Iranians to test fire two short- and one long-range missile on Yom Kippur was certainly no coincidence, and it puts pressure on the Americans and the world to follow through on wide-ranging and tough sanctions.

Iran has played its political cards about as poorly as possible, and the (feeble) admission that it was building a second facility capable of producing nuclear weapons also put more pressure on Russia and China to join in punishing Iran.

The president goes "all in"

I don't agree with President Obama's decision to attend the International Olympic Committee's meeting later this week, when the host city for the 2016 Summer Games will be voted on.

I understand why he is doing it: to increase the stature of Chicago, one of the four finalists, and to therefore ultimately boost the U.S. city's bid chances. So, why would I be opposed?

First, it is a blatantly political move. Now, I recognize the president is a politician. But I ask this: Do you think Mr. Obama would have opted to go to Copenhagen, the site of the IOC's meeting, if, say, the American candidate city was Los Angeles?

Second, former British prime minister Tony Blair pulled a similar political play in 2005, when he openly pushed IOC members to vote for London as the 2012 site. He succeeded, but his actions were roundly (and I think justifiably) criticized.

There is a chance that the highly popular Obama could see his efforts backfire.

Granted, the other finalist cities are sending a national political leader to Copenhagen, but with all due respect to them they don't hold the stature that Mr. Obama does.

Whether Mr. Obama's efforts made a difference won't fully be known in the immediate aftermath of the Copenhagen vote; IOC leaders are not likely to acknowledge the effect the president had on the final vote, which I predicted in a recent blog will be won by Rio de Janeiro.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The G-20 recap

It's all over (except for the occasional protest that won't go away, and perhaps the legal wrangling associated with the various arrests that were made). With the completion of the G-20 Summit, it's time to assess what happened in and to Pittsburgh during the couple of days that the international spotlight was shining on this city.

First, the city -- already celebrating the Steelers' Super Bowl championship and the Penguins' Stanley Cup win -- now owns another title: world-class city.

There is no question that the cultural, educational, social and economic benefits of the city and the region were on full display. The tangible benefits of hosting a successful international summit might not be seen for a few years, but there is little doubt that Pittsburgh will be on the radar screen of national and international corporations, as they consider potential areas of expansion. (The region could do more in this area be demonstrating a more business-friendly attitude; it also must more fully tout the educational and entrepreneurial opportunities in the city.)

Second, the G-20 as an international body has supplanted the G-8 as the pre-eminent leaders to turn to in times of bad economic periods. Moreover, it also will be the body that proposes international policies to strengthen economies.

The top-spot enjoyed by the G-20 recognizes the importance that China and Russia play on the international stage, but it also sends a message to other nations that they too can become part of the "elite" club. That's not to say the G-20 will expand to a G-30 or -40 in years to come, but it is an acknowledgment that when political realities warrant, expansion can be made.

Third, the notion of what is appropriate "protesting" behavior might have been changed. The violent protests that affected the G-20 summits in Seattle and London didn't materialize in Pittsburgh. The question as to why cannot immediately be answered, but a couple of potential explanations can be made here.

-Pittsburgh is a smaller, more land-locked location than other recent host cities; this ensured that law enforcement and security had a smaller area to cover.

-Pittsburgh's leaders also chose to essentially shut down during the summit. I've made clear on this blog that I'm not a proponent of such decisions, but at face-value it contributed to fewer people being in the "hot zone," meaning where the protests were expected.

In short, the G-20 was a success.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

And the 2016 Summer Olympics Games host is...

We'll know for sure next Friday, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) selects the host for the Summer Olympics. As someone who has studied the IOC and the Olympic Games in general, I feel qualified to offer an analysis of how I think the vote will go in Copenhagen.

The cities bidding for the Games are, in alphabetical order, Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. The first three candidate cities have never hosted the Games, and Tokyo did so in 1964.

Based on many media reports I've read, the applications are first-rate and there would be little to quibble about in terms of differences. So, we'll move on to how I think the vote will go.

First out: Madrid. The principal reason why Madrid will not get the Games is that the IOC membership strongly supports the message of universality, and it therefore would appear inappropriate for two European cities to host consecutive Summer Olympiads. (London is the host of the 2012 Games. On top of this, the Russian city of Sochi, nominally at least European, is the site of the 2014 Winter Games.) Working in Madrid's favor is the positive memories of the 1992 Barcelona Games. Granted, Madrid and Barcelona are not similar cities, but there is nonetheless a "Spain Rocks" mentality among long-time IOC members.

Second out: Tokyo. Very few cities have had the privilege of hosting the Games more than once, and that list will not be extended this time around. I return to the universality issue mentioned above and remind you that Beijing was the host city for the 2008 Olympics. Bringing the Games back to Asia in 2016 would not, to borrow a perhaps poor choice of words, spread the wealth. But more importantly, the selection of Tokyo as the 1964 host was a symbolic affirmation by the IOC that Japanese aggression in World War II had been relegated to a bygone era; Tokyo was re-building, and directing itself squarely towards openness and prosperity. Working in Tokyo's favor is the recent national elections, in which a more "liberal" set of politicians was put in power; there is little doubt they would not fund the Games to the degree necessary. Also in Tokyo's favor are the many already-in-place world-class athletic facilities.

The choices are now two: Chicago or Rio de Janeiro.

Of course, the American audience is fully expecting Chicago to be named host city. There are some powerful reasons to believe it will happen: New York City was seen as a symbolically deserving host for the 2012 Games but was denied (therefore the time is now to right a symbolic wrong); the last time the Summer Games were in the U.S. was 1996 (meaning it's "our" turn); the powerful U.S. television contract -- that pays for a lot of IOC initiatives -- ensures a larger potential profit if the Games are in the U.S; and Chicago is home to the wildly popular President Obama, who, if re-elected, would be nearing the end of his presidency when this international sports event came to Chicago in 2016.

But Brazilians can also make persuasive points as to why they should have hosting privileges. First, another potent international sports body -- FIFA -- has recognized the validity of Rio de Janeiro as a world-class city by naming it the site of the 2014 World Cup. Next, Brazil's president is as energetic and dynamic a world leader as is Mr. Obama. I confess I don't know Brazilian politics to know when President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is up for re-election, or even if he would still be in office in 2016; nevertheless, his personality is forceful, and he is in office now when the IOC's decision must be made. Third, don't forget that never before have the Olympics been staged in a South American city (there's that universality argument again).

And it is that last point that I think will rule the day. I expect the 2016 Olympics to be awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

Stay tuned. In less than one week, we'll know if I am correct.

67 of 75

An international survey finds that Moscow is among the lowest-rated financial centers in the world -- 67th out of 75.

This information should open the eyes of the political and business leadership in Russia, especially now that the G-20 leaders have made a decision to make that international body (and not the G-8) the pre-eminent political authority for economic matters.

The legitimacy afforded the G-20 -- of which Russia is a member -- also reflects geopolitical realities: Russia and China are being recognized as legitimate players in terms of authorizing sanctions, completing diplomatic initiatives and like matters.

So, the question is, will Russia step up to meet its responsibilities? A better climate for national and international business will help.

Friday, September 25, 2009

G-20 leaders' statement

The statement from G-20 leaders, at the conclusion of the summit: G-20 statement"

The Russian president meets with college students

Quite a coup for the University of Pittsburgh, which hosted Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on the eve of the G-20 Summit.

A video of some of his question-and-answer session has been posted on YouTube, and the topics on the minds of the young men and women who listened to Mr. Medvedev were interesting.

I was especially attentive to his remarks about international educational exchanges, as this will be one issue I will address with colleagues from the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University when I visit them in early October. He mentioned he wanted to attend this session with Pitt because of its numerous faculty who are of Russian origin, suggesting it was a great example of international exchanges. The president said with the international economy improving, he believed the job prospects for college graduates in both countries ought to improve. He also wants new jobs to be created.

Mr. Medvedev reminded the students to remember that their college years and experiences will be the highlight of their lives. (Oh, how right he is.) "I envy you," he said through a translator.

The president also addressed Iran, suggesting that all nations have a role to play in ensuring a healthy and safe world. (Remember, his visit to the University of Pittsburgh took place yesterday, one day before the U.S. announcement that Iran has been building a second site capable of producing nuclear weapons.) "I don't think sanctions can bring the best results," Mr. Medvedev said, adding that at times they are "a must" when other incentives don't work.

Mr. Medvedev also said that strong and positive relations between the U.S. and Russia ought to be a hallmark of the future. Of course, such a position would enhance faculty and student opportunities for Americans and Russians.

Closely related to this, the president was asked of the possibilities of bringing cultural programs and performers to Pittsburgh. Mr. Medvedev wouldn't explicitly promise, but he came close: "Somebody will [come], if you want it that much. You write down the names. I'm not a miracle maker" but will try to ensure a visit to the city.

The aforementioned video appears to be the first of two parts; I'm attempting to locate it.

More ridiculous rhetoric passing as political commentary

I'm struck this morning by the number of people in the blogosphere who are bashing President Obama for not reacting sooner to the information that Iran was building a second nuclear facility.

The general theme that is coming from these bloggers is that the president is either naive or out of touch. A secondary theme is that he's determined to weaken the U.S. at home and abroad.

And isn't it ironic that these were the same people defending President Bush from his "liberal" and/or "anti-American" critics who dared to ask what his administration knew about the lead up to 9-11.

Here's my point: Was there information suggesting 9-11 was going to happen? Sure. But does any rational person really think the president wouldn't have ordered a pre-emptive strike on the madmen who carried out the attacks if he had known more?

Similarly, does anyone think that President Obama is somehow failing in his job because his administration finally and fully uncovered and commented on the Iranian plans? In fact, it appears as of this morning that the Iranian government admitted the facility existed once it became clear the U.S. government was going to go public with the information it had for some time.

I reiterate something I've said multiple times on this blog: A serious political conversation is a wonderful thing in which to take part. However, any discussion slows down and eventually ends once there is ridiculous rhetoric that passes for astute political commentary.

And you thought this was an economic summit!

Well, well, well, doesn't President Obama's decision to drop plans for a missile shield in Central Europe take on a whole new meaning this morning?

The president's claim that Iran is using a secret site to enhance its nuclear ambitions (is that stated politely with just enough sarcasm seeping through?) will knock off the top-story pedestal any announcements that emanate from Pittsburgh and the G-20 summit.

For any plan for sanctions (or worse?) to happen, the West will need Russia's cooperation. And with that realization also comes a requirement to take another look at why President Obama abandoned that missile shield idea.

Put bluntly, can you say tit for tat? We'll see.

Spot on assessment

Kudos to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Rob Owen for a solid assessment of how Pittsburgh's local television stations covered Day 1 of the G-20.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big bucks + public media =

Investigative journalism?

It could be happening in San Francisco.

Different communities...different rules?

The following blog post comes from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and was written by reporter Rich Lord. The last paragraph is the one that caught my attention:

On Liberty Avenue, protesters rolled Dumpsters down the hill at advancing police. Police stayed pretty calm, moved the Dumpsters aside, got back in formation and waited until some distance was established.

Police continued to cut off knots of protesters, but they found ways to reunite.
Eventually, a group of a few hundred protesters, mostly black-clad with the leaders wearing bandanas over their mouths, wound their way through Lawrenceville and Bloomfield chanting slogans and encountering very little police presence. They briefly congregated at Friendship Park, then moved on toward the border of Bloomfield and Shadyside. At the corner of Liberty and Baum, the leaders of the group began to run across a gravelly lot. At that point, riot-clad police crossed Liberty Avenue and caught up with the leaders of the group. While police put the leaders of the protesters in holds, an order to disperse was broadcast from a large SWAT truck. A few protesters began to throw rocks at the front-line police, and I believe police fired rubber bullets. Police pointed orange-tipped rifles at protesters who were dispersing too slowly. Groups scattered in all directions.

It was interesting that the police apparently had little objection to protesters moving freely through Lawrenceville and Bloomfield, including in front of the hospitals, but clearly were not going to let anyone get into the Strip or Shadyside.

Were there different rules of engagement for different communities? And if so, why?

As of 5:00 Thursday...

...the violence linked to previous G-20 protests (and similar international gatherings) have not materialized, but that doesn't mean that they won't happen later tonight or tomorrow.

Local media in Pittsburgh are showing that at least one window was broken at one branch bank. Close to the University of Pittsburgh, it appears the Russian delegation has been delayed in leaving that area because of protesters.

At this point, I'm impressed with the coverage offered by 2 of the 3 local television stations. No, I'm not naming names, so to speak, but the successful stations have managed to provide live reporting, relevant interviews and a minimum of talking heads.

I'll update as needed throughout the evening.

What if the protests never develop? (UPDATE)

UPDATE: 4:00 p.m.: No, I'm not taking down this original post; the protests have developed, and as expected the Resist G-20 group orchestrated the first protest that led to direct police action.

ORIGINAL POST: It's an intriguing question, and sometime before tomorrow the purpose of this post might be made irrelevant. But as the afternoon approaches, the question of whether there will be sustained and violent protests associated with the G-20 is being asked by this blogger.

Let's presume they don't. If that's the case, there will be significant chatter about what the security officials did to ensure a peaceful G-20. The blueprint, in fact, might be matched by the next set of cities that host this important international event. Local, state and national politicians will pat themselves and each other on the back, commending themselves for a job well done.

And all of this will have missed an important point: The protesters have already won.

I'll give you a minute to digest that sentence, and as you do I'll repeat it: The protesters have already won.

Consider the evidence: Downtown Pittsburgh -- a vibrant social, cultural, educational and economic place -- has been turned into a ghost town (no people) and a police state (law enforcement is everywhere), with businesses closed and people either working from home or not working at all.

The price tag for these empty (save for law enforcement) streets is approaching $18 million. Do you think that $18 million could have been spent in more effective ways? What would $18 million mean to local or state school districts? What could that money have done for, say, a local economic stimulus plan? Could those dollars have been earmarked for relevant non-profit ventures?

I know what you're thinking: The city is not footing the entire bill. I know that, but that $18 million still could have been put to other uses. Instead it had to be used to dampen potential (and I think still inevitable) protests. The protesters know that. So do you.

My point is not that security should not have been in place. What I am saying, however, is that by simply threatening to show up, the protesters have forced millions to be spent on stopping them. The fear alone has worked.

Let me close with this analogy: If you are an NFL offensive lineman (the police on the streets) and you are facing the Pittsburgh Steelers defense (the protesters), you are anticipating a blitz.

The history of a tenacious, tough Steelers' defense already is in your mind. Your coaches (the security leadership, Secret Service and relevant politicians) are trying to put the best possible game plan in place to prevent the Steelers from turning your quarterback into a pretzel.

In all your scheming, you sacrifice some of the depth and intricacy of your entire offensive package (your budget). You do more than you normally would to keep your quarterback upright.

In this scenario, the Steelers never have to call a blitz (though you and I are 100% certain they will) in order to have already beaten you: You've altered your game to such an extent that the fear in your head has made you adjust what you typically do.

As I said, I think the protesters have already won.

Validating Pittsburgh

As mentioned yesterday, the city of Pittsburgh is on display as part of the G-20 Summit that begins today. This story provides another example of that.

So, too, does this one, which also notes that the protests that inevitably follow this international gathering could become part of the image that the world takes of Pittsburgh.

As mentioned last night, there is much to admire about this city that I've called home for a little more than 4 years. Continue to examine how these cultural, social, educational, business and other opportunities work their way into the media coverage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

An interesting day at the United Nations

Three world leaders -- President Obama, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad -- addressed the United Nations today.

You've probably read or heard enough of the president's remarks (though I confess to being amused by those on the blogosphere who saw his address as a sell-out of Israel), so I'll omit any inclusion of them here.

However, I think it is worth offering some highlights (if that's the proper word) of the speeches delivered by Colonel Gaddafi and President Ahmadenijad.

Colonel Gaddafi's address ran more than 90 minutes, and despite being in power for 40 years it represented the first time he spoke to the United Nations. And it appeared he was determined to allow his 40 years of opinions to come out. For example, he asked for a re-opening of the investigations into the deaths of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, he hammered away at international aggression, including blaming the United States for what it has done with Guantanamo (among other places). But he noted that other nations also have been responsible for the "65 wars" that have broken out since the establishment of the U.N. and have led to more victims than all of those in World War II.

I've read a few media reports of this speech (which I couldn't bear to watch in its entirety), and the consensus is that Gaddafi rambled, preached and otherwise offered little in the way of clear policy or direction.

Ahmadenijad's speech included a bashing of capitalism (begins at around 4:30 of his address), a repudiation of Israel for its "racist ambitions" (around 7:30), an analysis of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (around 11:00) and a prediction that capitalism will follow Marxism into the trash can (around 15:30). Later he outlined how the U.N. might be reformed (around 22:00), before moving on to a validation of the recent Iranian elections, which he said led to a realization of Iran as one of the most democratic nations in the world (around 26:00).

In other words, if you were expecting (and why you would have is beyond me) Ahmadenijad to offer something beyond his typical rhetoric, then you were disappointed. He did nothing to offer any indication that Iran was prepared to fully work with the world community to foster peace and stability. the world's spotlight

The amount of media attention directed toward Pittsburgh this week is likely more intense than at any period in its history.

Sure, this city's sports teams have been champions; but sports teams -- not the city -- are the focus of attention when they march toward a title. Businesses come and go, but even when a corporation relocates, the media coverage is much more about the move and far less about the city gaining or losing the entity.

One-time tragic events -- such as the April 2009 fatal shootings of three Pittsburgh police officers or in August 2009 a lone gunman killed three others and then himself inside a local fitness center -- also fail to bring the national and international spotlight on the city in which it happened. In this circumstance the event is the news; the location is irrelevant.

Cities are on display when they host important international events, which can range from athletic competitions to political conventions to political summits. And because of that standard, I think this city has never been as sharply studied by the national and international media.

I realize the steel crisis from 25-30 years ago offered the media an opportunity to discuss what was happening to Pittsburgh. In fact, the city's renaissance was one of the reasons President Obama opted to bring the G-20 here.

What will the media find? In no particular order,
1. Residents who are fiercely proud of their city
2. Economic opportunities that offer long-term stability
3. Setting aside poor air quality, a generally good quality of life
4. A cost of living that rivals any larger city in the country
5. Cultural, scientific and historical opportunities that rival larger cities
6. Powerhouse international corporations
7. World-class higher educational institutions

Of course, in the rush to cover the world's officials and the many protesters, Pittsburgh's virtues are likely to get lost in the media conversation. But if you see a story relating to the topics listed above, you'll know they are legitimate.

A sign of the times

As we drove out of downtown late this morning, my wife and I noticed that the Starbucks near Point Park University is boarded up and the signage indicating it's a Starbucks is taped over.

You can read anything you want into that.

The first protest...gone bad

Greenpeace activists left themselves and a few others hanging (literally) in suspense this morning here in Pittsburgh. This was the live report from ABC-affiliate WTAE at noon.

Are these activists deliberately breaking the law? I don't think there's any doubt about that. And by generating media coverage are they furthering their cause? Maybe. They certainly will embolden others as they execute their protests. But they also run the risk of alienating themselves further.

Wait, it wasn't because of the Steelers?

Alright, just kidding...we all know Pittsburgh was not selected as host of the G-20 summit because of its football team. But this brief TIME magazine report indicates why leaders from the world's economic giants are coming here for the economic gathering.

Will there be BIG news coming from this summit? That's highly unlikely; in fact, as participants in one local town-hall meeting said, if there is important news it probably will be bad news.

I'm disappointed that Pittsburgh will not be able to show off one of its best assets -- its people -- to the world. My university, for example, is shut down from today through Saturday, and other universities have made similar decisions. Countless numbers of people from all sorts of industries are working from home, or they've decided to get out of here completely. These collective decisions ensure that while safety is paramount, the story of Pittsburgh's economic renaissance -- as seen through its people -- cannot be told.

The story of the protesters will be told; and there are scheduled protests as early as today, one day before the G-20 begins.

A one-day delay

There is much conversation in the blogosphere this morning about the Washington Post's decision to withhold for one day its story about a critical assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.

The paper is now explaining why that decision was made. You might find it surprising to read that this blogger accepts at face value the analysis offered in the aforementioned link. I do so under the premise that the newspaper and the Obama administration were acting in (for lack of a better term) good faith; the Washington Post's editors made clear the story would be published while the White House sought not to stop it but to seek the non-publication of potentially damaging information.

Sadly, in this fractured political nation in which we live there are those who are hinting that the actions of the Washington Post would not have been made if George Bush were president. And if that's not the case, then the argument goes that the story would have been given even more prominence as a means of criticizing Mr. Bush.

Are either criticisms valid? It depends upon where you stand. This former journalist turned university educator thinks the Post's editors would have acted in the same way regardless of who was sitting in the Oval Office. But I'm not convinced that the administration that occupied that office from January 2001 through January 2009 would have been as willing to deal with the newspaper. And, yes, the spin from the left and the right would have been much different.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Who's in charge here?

A fascinating story in today's Financial Times detailing the political and personal relationship between Russia's prime minister and president.

The domestic and international intrigue surrounding how well Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev get along is a growing topic of media coverage. Putin fired up the speculation machine recently by suggesting that he and Medvedev will decide which one will run for president in 2012.

If that seems far off, then consider that the discussion about the Republican Party and its presidential aspirants is a real part of the media discourse here in the U.S.

Putin is viewed with a healthy degree of distrust in the West, and the mainstream media are sure to pick up on that theme. In doing so, they also fuel his fire, and they allow him to validate his belief that Russia needs to reassert itself on the international stage.

Aw, come on, Hugo

Free, free...set the media free.

What happens when... put together a bunch of creative students, good weather, an international event and an audience? You get this.

What's in a name?

Well, if you move from RTNDA to RTDNA...something is different.

This moves makes sense for the times in which radio and television operates, but more importantly the organization needs to demonstrate it is still viable in this new communications world.

And therein lies the problem

As I read the opening paragraphs of this story, I was struck by the fear that is evident in business owners throughout the Pittsburgh area.

And it's understandable.

The local media have been responsible to this point in their coverage of the preparations for an analysis of what might happen during the G-20 Summit. But there can be no denying that the history of dangerous protests combined with the incessant stare of the media camera provide the sense within business owners that the protests that do turn violent could knock them out of business.

There is no justification for the protesters -- be they from local communities or other locales -- using their right of free speech to seek to harm or destroy. The prospect of it is enough to scare people who work hard every day.

Journalism enrollment is...

...up at many colleges and universities.

Monday, September 21, 2009

"You must really hate FOX News."

That statement was made by a student today, as she and I completed an interview for one of her classes.

Our conversation had turned to media bias as I shared with her my repeated frustration at watching the media (especially the cable "news" networks) dip deeply into opinion-making and news spinning.

She's correct in that I cannot tolerate the overt political agenda put forth by FOX News. But I was quick to tell her that I was similarly put off by the overt agenda offered by MSNBC. (No, you shouldn't read a support for CNN in those statements -- I have no idea what CNN is attempting to be these days.) As our conversation continued, she mentioned in passing that she spent more time watching BBC than in the past.

"Funny," I said. "So do I."

Do you see the problem here? There is nothing wrong with BBC, but there is a problem when too many people determine that an international news agency is better than any domestic alternative at providing solid, reliable and objective journalism.

I'm already anticipating the answer: We're giving our audience what it wants. Not good enough. The media have steadily and without sanction moved away from the notion of public service being their primary purpose.

The public sees it. The question is at what point will the news managers -- who are destroying the fantastic gift available to them, namely providing the public what it needs to know -- react responsibly.

I'm not holding my breath.

Three to one ratio

That statistic was my eye-opener of the day. It indicates that journalists have lost their jobs at a 3-to-1 ratio when compared to other occupations.

There are a variety of ways to interpret the report, but none of them is good. And they certainly put pressure on journalism educators to validate the courses, professional opportunities and potential for networking available in their programs.

But it also puts pressure on news agencies to justify these cuts. Good luck coming up with one or two.

Rehabilitating "Uncle Joe"

In two weeks, I will be in Moscow for the initial Moscow Readings conference.

I appear to be getting there at an interesting time, as Russia (and the international community) continue their reassessment of Stalin and what Stalinism meant for the Soviet Union.

Kudos to Katie

Okay, I'll admit -- I was wrong.

I was one of many who was convinced that Katie Couric would leave the CBS Evening News anchor desk and be tasked with salvaging the CBS Early Show.


Couric appears to be where she wants, and more importantly she appears to have the support of her superiors. I'm not a regular viewer of the CBS Evening News, but the few times I've watched I've come away impressed with Couric as a journalist.

I'm one of many who doubted her. Looks like I was wrong.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

John Edwards appears ready to admit...

...that he is the father of a 19-month-old girl he had previously said was not his. The New York Times reports weighing on Mr. Edwards' mind is his wife's opinion.

Mr. Edwards went from a solid vice presidential nominee to a fire-brand presidential candidate to a disgraced politician. That story is not unique in American politics; however, in this case the health crisis Mrs. Edwards is going through serves to only exacerbate the anger many within the Democratic Party feel about him.

President Obama...Olympics pitchman?

ABC's Jake Tapper reports it could happen.

Mike Huckabee is the favorite of...

...delegates who attended the Values Voters summit. No surprise here, and no surprise to see how Huckabee reacted to it.

In what is a wide-open 2012 Republican presidential field (in fact, as wide-open as the 2008 Democratic field), why wouldn't Huckabee run? Moreover, with the GOP lurching to the right, Huckabee's credentials are a good fit.

You scratch my back...

...and I'll eliminate plans to deploy missiles in an area near where you had planned to put a missile defense system.

I mentioned the other day that I thought Russia would be wise to not demand another diplomatic overture from the United States once the latter announced it was scrapping plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

I suggested that Moscow instead make a positive move of its own. Well, it has. Will this move quiet the naysayers in the U.S. and Central and Eastern Europe who have equated Washington's initial decision with appeasement? Not likely. But at least this week in the eyes of this blogger, Central and Eastern Europe seems to be safer than it was one week ago.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What should journalism students demand from their faculty?

An intriguing question, especially for those of us in higher education. I'm not sure this editorial is the best I've read on the subject, nor do I agree with every item listed in it; but I will admit that much of what is said goes hand-in-hand with what I attempt to impress upon my students.

The notion that you cannot be multi-talented and can be void of any substantive knowledge of another field especially resonated with me.

Shooting in Mexico City

What makes this story resonate with me is that the Metro station in which this shooting took place is one that I used on at least three occasions when I visited the city in July.


Appeasement? Really?

More like common sense.

Of course, various central European nations are going to be angry at President Obama for abandoning the (ridiculous, oops...sorry, did I really say that?) idea proposed by the Bush administration that would have led to a missile shield system being built in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The system ostensibly would have prevented attacks from Russia, which is still viewed with trepidation by various central and eastern European nations.

As The New York Times notes, the decision by the president might actually have been designed to send a message to Iran. And because of that, perhaps Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin needs to re-think his argument that the U.S. has to make another diplomatic step that Russia will agree to.

It's happened again -- a senator has become a president

In fact, it happened today...and in the United States. Have I teased you successfully? Well, read on.

One murder at an Ivy League school is equal to... least three at a public institution.

My conclusion? Yes, but I'm not the only one: Slate's Jack Shafer offers many of the criticisms that I've shared over the past couple of days.

Don't misunderstand what he's saying, and don't misunderstand what I'm saying -- the death of the young lady at Yale is terribly sad. But why is it that what happens at Harvard and Yale instantly becomes national news, when similar events at less-prestigious schools don't?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin... history?

Not really, but this editorial suggests he's playing a bit fast and loose with his analysis of World War II.

By now, Putin should not be viewed as a controversial character; in fact, he seems resolute in his beliefs. Moreover, he's determined to restore the image of Russia as strong with a powerful central government.

I admit that I am fascinated to hear what my colleagues from Russia whom I'll meet during my trip to Moscow think and say about Prime Minister Putin and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Lies, da*n lies, and statistics

Yes, you know what is going to happen when one agency comes out with a report suggesting 45,000 people die each year because of a lack of health care.

You bet, the naysayers suggest the study is flawed.

You decide.

Drop Dobbs?

CNN is under pressure to abandon Lou Dobbs for a set of recent programs that are (at best) controversial.

Now, I'm not a fan of Dobbs; I'll make no secret of that. But if he's guilty (for lack of a better term) of spreading lies and fostering paranoia, then he's different from at least three other cable "news" hosts (whom I won't name)

Or maybe our society is willing to tolerate lies and paranoia being spread about political figures? Just asking.

Glenn Beck

The word phenomenon is overused in media discourse, but I think it applies to Beck. He was a second-tier radio and cable host until two things happened: Barack Obama was elected president, and Beck moved on to FOX News.

You might say those ingredients have led to a volatile soup.

I don't watch or listen to Beck; I disagree with most of his political philosophy, but more importantly I'm bothered by his approach. That approach is outlined well in this TIME magazine report. I find him all to comfortable pandering to fear and instilling an attitude that middle America is under siege.

Now, I've written many times on this blog that where people stand on the political spectrum dictates how they view whether the media are biased, what talk radio does well and what messages they will listen to. I say that knowing that there will be people who read this post and think I'm simply out of touch. Call me that, if you wish, but I'm as comfortable with my political philosophy as I hope you are with yours.

And I always welcome a reasonable debate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A hysteria?

I understand what the author of this essay is attempting to say, but I believe her premise is flawed.

Yes, in April and May the media were irresponsible in their reporting of swine flu, which is not the correct title of this flu bug. It is H1N1. The reports from Mexico were too many, often with too little new information and predicated on the idea that the flu was out of control and infecting everyone in sight.

In fact, I would argue that over the ensuing months the media coverage has been quite good -- the stories have drawn a responsible balance between ensuring people were aware of what was happening and caution/realism.

With that in mind, I see almost daily examples of people laughing at a person who sneezes and making a joke about that person having the flu. No ill will is intended.

The reality is that the H1N1 flu could become potent this winter, but if an adequate vaccine is found (and that appears realistic) and people remain vigilant the fears of an epidemic should die off. However, it is important to remember that this flu has the chance to be especially nasty to children and young adults, two groups that can easily spread the flu to their classmates and parents.

The "right" news

I'm a traditionalist in some of my thinking, and perhaps no more so when it comes to information. I believe that information ought to be values-free, meaning that neither the liberal or conservative spin belongs in information dissemination.

This story is the latest to acknowledge that too often today news is presented with an overt bias. As I see it, and you are welcomed to disagree, whether the left or the right is doing the spinning, it's wrong.

The problem is exacerbated by the 24-hour news cycles (which, at least theoretically, have the time and resources to cover all sorts of stories) and bloggers, who are too easily tagged as irresponsible.

What a mess the UC system has become

Having grown up in California, I'm aware that the University of California system includes many of the best public universities in this country. In fact, a strong argument could be made that they are also the envy of much of the world.

But the state's horrible budget crisis has clearly come to roost on the system's campuses. And this story illustrates just how difficult it is to continue that level of excellence in teaching and research.

To mandate furloughs is not easy, but in my opinion to mandate when they cannot be taken is not fair.

The (political) friendship between...

...President Obama and Pennsylvania's senior senator, Arlen Specter, continues to grow. But will it be enough to save Specter, who is in real trouble in this state.

The G-20, coming to a Pittsburgh television station near you

Looks like the television media in Pittsburgh will be busy during the upcoming G-20 summit. Good, they should be.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm just asking...

At what point does the nastiness that masquerades as political discourse in this country begin to do irreparable harm to our democracy?

Is downtown Pittsburgh during the G-20...

...going to resemble a ghost-town? Perhaps, if what is in this story takes place.

A stop everywhere...

...except at FOX News.

President Obama is making the Sunday talk-show rounds to promote his health care reforms. But one cable network is not on his list.

Petty? Perhaps. But let's also remember that FOX (over-the-air) hasn't covered live any of the recent presidential press conferences or speeches.

Payback? Sure seems that way to me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A crime of brutality and anger

The announcement today that a Yale University graduate student has been found dead inside a basement wall of an on-campus building is disturbing, to say the least.

This is an ugly crime, and it is made all the more disgusting because it happened on a college campus, a place where knowledge and growth is what students expect.

Simply stated, my hope is that the person or people responsible for the death of this young woman are found, tried and convicted. Only then can the family get the peace they deserve.

Almost two-thirds of the people who responded to one survey...

...question the legitimacy of the information they receive from the mainstream media.

Hello? Does anyone else see a real problem here?

Can you say "conflict of interest?"

Or put another (less delicate) way...what was this "journalist" thinking?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why I read nonfiction

"But tell me honestly, who does read political books on horror-ridden regimes except scholars of history and those studying that particular part of the world? Others may claim they have, but more likely they skim the descriptions in The New York... Review of Books, and then say that they are informed, qualified to make judgments."

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan pg. 146, sent to me by my wife. And, yes, the book is a work of fiction.

A watermelon helmet

Yup, sometimes you need to take a break from the serious "stuff" happening in the world...and enjoy the fun part of sports. This is one example.

You'll want to invest the 8:36 it takes to watch...

...this video.

The person who created it (and took the photos) is a Point Park University alumni. His message is one we all should consider -- what is stopping you from doing what you want to do?

And she shouldn't have been assessed this penalty...why?

As I read this account from the Associated Press, I'm left with only one thought: There is controversy here...why?

'Serena Williams walked toward the line judge, screaming, cursing and shaking a ball in the official's direction, threatening to 'shove it down' her throat. On match point in the U.S. Open semifinals Saturday night, defending champion Williams was penalized a point for unsportsmanlike conduct - a bizarre, ugly finish that gave a 6-4, 7-5 upset victory to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters.'

Serena Williams is a phenomenal tennis player, but this description indicates an equally amazong momentarily lapse of judgment. And the video doesn't support any defense she wants to make.

What do you more hot breakfast!

Colleges and universities are finding creative (and in at least one case, in my opinion, symbolic) ways of cutting costs.

Am I going to tell you which one I consider symbolic? Nope.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


A communist and a fascist? How can any one person, including the president, be both?

More importantly, the link above passes as an example of political returns to the U

Go Gophers! And welcome to your new home.

Sometimes we all say something stupid

And in my opinion, this comment from Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor demands an explanation -- from him:

"Not everybody is a perfect person in this world. I mean, everyone does ... kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me. I just feel people need to give him a chance. I always looked up to Mike Vick and I always will because I still think he's one of the best quarterbacks to me and I just love Mike Vick."

Pryor's comments appeared in the New York Daily News.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A college student dies from H1N1

The death happened at Cornell University, where a 20-year-old young man has passed away.

A vote for Putin... a vote for?

Who knows, Russians might just have the chance to answer that question in 2012. And if they do, it could be a decision as to whether they want Vladimir Putin to return as president.

No, of course it wasn't censorship!

Isn't that always the answer when a high school principal or other administrator prevents a student newspaper from going to print because of a controversial story?

That's what I thought.

So, let's call what happened at one southern California high school censorship.

Downed radio towers -- an update

The FBI, at least right now, believes the downing of two radio station towers -- one in Pennsylvania, the other in Washington State -- was a coincidence.

We can hope.

Ditching sports

Stories such as this one bother me -- but they are becoming more and more a fact in television news.

Readers of this blog know I'm a huge sports fan, and in fact most of my "professional" life was spent covering sports events or producing sports programming. With that background and being surrounded annually by a group of students interested in making sports broadcasting a career, I look to stay as "in the loop" as I can about sports coverage on local television stations.

Setting aside the criticisms made by the author of the highlighted piece above, the amount of time devoted to sports and the placement of sports in the newscast both indicate that it is not a priority on local newscasts. If it can be cut from one newscast in a city considered a "good" sports market, imagine what can happen to it in lesser markets.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A symbolic moment?

Derek Jeter could set a new Yankees team record for career hits tomorrow night. Do you also relish in the symbolism of it happening on 9-11?

Almost there...but what's next?

The New York Times reports Iran is inching closer to building a nuclear warhead, but there are obvious inherent risks for the government if it takes any obvious (or not so obvious) next steps.

A too-often used cliche in the political world is "game changer," and I'm often loathe to use it. But in this case, I think it applies. Iran's efforts are meeting with universal condemnation and warning -- don't build a bomb.

What the international community does with the information that Iran has moved forward and what Iran does with the knowledge that it can complete a bomb if it wants to are sure to be closed watched by the international community. Not to mention the mainstream media.

Okay, it's over

South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson made a mistake last night in yelling "you lie" as the president delivered his health care address. He has owned up to that mistake, principally by calling the White House and offering an apology.

President Obama has accepted that apology.

Now, the story is over. Let's hope the media let it go and instead discuss the merits (or lack of, depending on your political preferences) of Mr. Obama's call for health care reform. That's the real story.

Oh, isn't that interesting

Television reporter John Stossel, who often has railed against much of the television media for (in his opinion) a liberal bias, is leaving ABC News.

And he's going to...are you really in need of an answer?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

As I watch... (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Thankfully, this one turned out to be far less dangerous than it could have been.

ORIGINAL POST...the news from Mexico City, where a hijacked plane has landed safely, that it was only 6 weeks ago that I landed in and took off from that very airport.

Food for thought

A well-written editorial that highlights the pressure that Western journalists face when they attempt to report from countries led by repressive dictators.

Speaking personally, I believe not enough respect is given to these men and women who while attempting to do an important job are dealing with governments attempting to stop them and a skeptical public back home reading/watching them.

"The Times was, in fact, a beat behind on this story"

You could say that in referencing the New York Times' coverage of the Van Jones resignation; and the paper's managing editor is.

Her defense of the paper is not likely to sway the critics. However, let's acknowledge that the political polarity that exists in this country is ugly -- too many on the left are closed-minded about the right, and too many on the right are closed-minded about the left. Each sees hidden or overt agendas where too often there isn't one.

What a terrible political environment this must be in which to be a national news reporter.

ABC and Diane Sawyer -- too little, too late?

Carole Simpson, one of network television's best reporters and a strong advocate for the increased presence of women in newsrooms, management positions and other real layers of influence, believes the naming of Diane Sawyer to ABC's World News anchor desk comes at a less-than-opportune time.

It disappoints me to see comments such as this, and not because I disagree with Ms. Simpson. Rather, I see these remarks (and a few people have made them) as a slap in the face at Ms. Sawyer.

Remember when Katie Couric took over the CBS Evening News anchor assignment? She was somehow a "token" move. Now Ms. Sawyer is seen as an "it's too late" move.

Both women should receive far more praise than they are. So, too, should the networks that placed them in these roles.

Tonight is the night (UPDATE)

UPDATE: I should have made clearer this morning that by FOX I was referring to the over-the-air broadcast network. I was not referencing FOX News. I apologize for the confusion.

If the health care debate were a game of poker, it is probably fair to say that tonight President Obama is all-in.

His prime-time television address (which FOX is not airing) is the president's best and last attempt to convince a skeptical Congress and an equally skeptical populace that health care reform is needed. notes the president's gift of oratory will certainly be put to the test.

Perhaps more importantly, he needs to erase the concerns that Congress and the public have about health care.

Will he win over everyone? Of course not. But if he can offer a clear rationale (yet again) for why reform is needed, he might sway enough weakly committed Democrats to his side.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Now that's not very nice

Not sure why a group of extremists -- if they did what they are accused of doing -- would want to do something like this.

Compounding the problem is that it happened not only in Washington State but also in Pennsylvania.

Dirty politics...Texas style?

Perhaps. You decide.

2 student deaths linked to H1N1

Before you run off in a panic, consider the full details about the students' health conditions.

My point is this: Colleges and universities that have prepared well for H1N1 will deal with the occasional student who has extremely bad symptoms, and these often are a result of an underlying medical condition.

Let's be careful before we rush off to discuss H1N1 as a killer on the college campus.

What an agent can...

..and cannot for television people, in this economic climate. A good read.

You get paid HOW MUCH?


Once you read this, you'll know.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Yeah, radical stuff here

These are the remarks President Obama is set to deliver tomorrow. I think you'll agree there is nothing here that remotely offers support for those parents who don't want their children to hear the president's message.

But then again, I could be wrong.

I was there to see history

However dubious the history might be:

The Moretti Men were there to watch the #Pirates lose game number 82 this season, and that means a pro-sports record 17 straight losing seasons.

Context, people. Context

Consider this (an earlier "tweet" from me) --

Van Jones is one of MANY throughout history thrown under the bus by their boss (POTUS) in what can be described as "political expediency."

Look to see in this hysteria of hyperbole that the media are engaging in (not to mention the tweeters, bloggers and other "experts," how many people actually take the time to tell you Van Jones is not unique. He is not the first person told by the president to resign (or to be outright fired), and he will not be the last.

Examples, media. The public demands examples. And context.

Who might replace Diane Sawyer at Good Morning America's Mike Allen offers a smorgasbord of names...and a tantalizing hint:

Top names being 'mentioned' to replace Diane Sawyer on 'Good Morning America.' This list is like odds-fixing for Cabinet posts: It's informed by people involved in the process. But in the end, the decision will be made by one person (in this case, David Westin), and he ain't talkin'. Two things we do know: Diane's replacement could well be male -- they're very focused on 'the Matt Lauer issue.' And the most important quality is RELATABILITY (cousin to drinkability?).

THE 'GMA' STAKES, to be updated as we get new data -- in alphabetical order, since we're not allowed to tell you the favorite (their contract is up, BTW): Dana Bash, Campbell Brown, Mika Brzezinski, Kevin Corke, Katie Couric, Ann Curry, Lindsay Czarniak, Willie Geist, Savannah Guthrie, Bill Hemmer, Molly Henneberg, Jonathan Karl, Terry Moran, Norah O'Donnell, James Rosen, Claire Shipman, Kate Snow, George Stephanopoulos, Jake Tapper, Elizabeth Vargas, Kelly Wallace, Bob Woodruff, Lee Woodruff.

Bob Woodruff has a real name presence, and his story would resonate well with women (who watch the morning news programs more than men). This blogger thinks that right now he's the most likely candidate, although I know nothing about the contract issue mentioned by Mr. Allen.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

You're supporting "fascism and totalitarianism"

You know anytime I read something like that, a blog post cannot be far behind.

This time, it's a former Iranian president leveling that daily double against the current regime for its plans to ensure Iranian universities teach with a more pro-Islamic mentality.

One is a breakthrough...

...two is a catfight?


The opening paragraph of this story is certainly an attention-getter, but once you get passed the shock of the statement the purpose of the report becomes much clearer.

It appears...

...that the elections in Afghanistan are as murky as those that took place in Iran in June. But there is a BIG difference -- the Afghan president is still seen as OUR guy, so the American government is going to offer muted, if any, concern about the results and the claims of fraud.

On the other hand, the Iranian president is NOT our guy.

Isn't politics an interesting business?

Friday, September 04, 2009

You can vote on my Facebook page

Okay, college football fans. Here's the deal. You get to choose the national champion BUT you cannot pick your favorite team, the school you attend or graduated from, a school you generally root for, a school where you worked, or that is ranked in the current Top 20 poll. So, which team are you picking?

The next Ike?

It appears that the some people in the Republican Party are excited about the prospect of a noted military general running for president.

No, this is not some macabre attempt to resurrect Dwight Eisenhower. But it is a recognition that Gen. David Petraeus could be a viable contender in 2012.

As this story indicates, there are a few other political new-faces that the GOP could be courting.

Shutting out the president, part 2

Another political topic...another "no."

This time, it's the television networks telling the White House they are likely to not air the president's address to Congress about health care.

Apparently, they're more interested in putting their bottom line ahead of public service.

No problem, as far as I see it. I'll go to some network that believes that news actually matters.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Shutting out the president

Remember when FOX News created a wee-bit o' controversy when it opted not to show President Obama's prime-time news conferences? Well, his planned conversations with the nation's school kids has hit a significant bump in the road: More than a few school districts say they won't show the president's address.

Let's play pretend here for a moment, as I ask you this question: If George Bush had been president and these school districts made this decision, what would the talk-radio world have said?

So, then ask yourself: Why are they silent now?



No. A college campus is shut down after its faculty walks off the job.

1,600 and growing

If you needed any evidence that the H1N1 flu would be a real issue on college campuses all across the country, then simply consider this -- there are already 1,600 documented cases of the flu, and the semester is no more than one, two or three weeks old.

Another crack at it

If at first you...get railroaded; try, try again.

That's what the Russian legal system will do, as it continues to investigate the death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Are the media fueling a health care debate...

...that doesn't really exist?

A provocative question, and one that at least one national columnist thinks can be answered with a "yes."

As an outsider looking in, the national screaming and yelling sessions that have been passed off as "commentary" by the media has been disgusting to watch. And in some ways you can see these sessions as another (terrible) example of the propensity for media to highlight the most controversial elements at the expense of sober, rational storytelling.

Mind you, I am not suggesting that people opposed to health care reform do not deserve a voice in the debate. Rather, I am saying they easily fit into a media stereotype. And if you think I'm wrong, then keep your eye on Pittsburgh later this month and watch the number of stories about protesters. I guarantee you they will be on the news incessantly, and they will project an image of a G-20 summit that is besieged by unruly people polluting the streets.

The truth can be found there, but the truth also needs to be found elsewhere. And at least in this discussion about health care, the media have not been as complete in their storytelling as they could have been.

Twice the bridesmaid... the bride.

Excellent piece about the overdue promotion of Diane Sawyer to the anchor desk of ABC World News.

I maintain -- and if I'm correct it's unfortunate -- that Ms. Sawyer and Katie Couric will be compared and contrasted in their roles as evening news anchors in ways that men have not been.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A cultural bonanza in advance of the G-20

Chances are you'll find the Moretti family at some of these events.

ABC's Charlie Gibson to retire

In an era where television journalists seem to hang on for too long, Gibson is a refreshing difference -- someone comfortable enough to retire at a young enough age so as to maximize retirement.

Here is the e-mail he sent to his ABC colleagues; I accessed it through Jim Romenesko's daily blog.

Diane Sawyer is a capable replacement, and she has enjoyed a long presence at ABC (and other networks). And there will be the inevitable (and unfortunate) comparisons to Sawyer and Katie Couric, as there will be two women hosting the network evening newscasts.

Just 23 days until the G-20 comes to Pittsburgh

And my colleague Chris Rolinson -- a super photographer and an even better "dude" -- captured this picture.

Another Supreme Court opening?

There is one sign this morning that suggests the answer is "yes."

Let the political battle rage again!

There is a fascinating series of...

...academic and journalistic articles to be written in the coming months and years about the president, the media, and a "big" social agenda.

At their root, most of the arguments ought to suggest:
1. The more complex the policy, the more difficult it is to sell
2. The more expensive the policy, the more difficult it is to sell
3. A political honeymoon between the media and a new administration lasts as long as the media want it to
4. The media love controversy

In short, President Obama had this coming -- the strong majority support he enjoyed for fixing the economy (when the Republicans could do nothing but say "no") is not there now as he tries to bring about health care reform (among other things).

Mr. Obama might be looking at a necessary retrenchment and rethinking of policy.

Were they lured into North Korea?

The argument offered by the two Current TV journalists who were held in North Korea for almost five months makes sense, on the surface -- they were lured into North Korea so that they could be arrested and then used as a political pawn in a bigger game.

Though there is no evidence to support this claim, logic tells us that it is possible. The North Korean government had a run of recent (with some failing) missile/military tests, but it remained defiant about its goals along the Korean peninsula.

Moreover, the political transition that appears to be underway required Pyongyang to appear both forceful but practical.

For now, let's accept that the journalists' claims are plausible. But don't expect to hear much more on the subject.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

This young man is 100% correct

Universities ought not cancel classes, unless it is an absolute last resort, because of H1N1.

Common sense will be the guide for the best in the academy. Let's face it, the lingering uncertainty about what this flu strain is capable of doing compels educators and administrators to have a "Plan A" and a "Plan B."

If this were a typical flu season, educators would encourage their students to stay home at the first sign of the flu. But no one would go running to the academic offices pleading for a temporary halt to classes. However, H1N1 has the potential to not be the typical flu bug. And that requires common sense thinking, but not university closures.

What could that aforementioned "Plan B" entail? Any or all of the following would seem practical:
1. Leaving open the option of teaching some of the course online
2. Accepting electronic delivery of assignments
3. Conducting discussion sessions on Blackboard or some similar system
4. Offering "incomplete" grades, should a student be affected by H1N1 late in the term
5. Waiving attendance policies early in the term
6. Depending upon the course, encourage students to do research into H1N1 for various class assignments

Please offer additional ideas to this list.

An ill-considered expansion...

...or just bad timing?

An interesting challenge is facing the pre-eminent public broadcasting station in the country -- WGBH in Boston.

The station expanded two years ago, moving into an $85-million facility. But since then the economic climate has turned rocky, and WGBH executives are now forced to make some necessary (but embarrassing) cuts.

How much is too much?

And when is it not enough?

An interesting debate is taking place in southern California, where at least one local politician is critical of Los Angeles' television media for the amount and substance of coverage they've given to the recent wildfires.

Regular readers of this blog know that I called that area home for more than 20 years, and as a result I find myself gravitating to certain stories that take place in the Los Angeles area.

And this wildfire has especially caught my attention because it is so close to the high school I attended.

The issue of how much coverage a story deserves is a tricky one for news professionals. If the perception is they "undercovered" it, then the argument is made that the media don't devote resources to serious stories. If they "overcover" it, then there is the equally uncomfortable criticism that the media are preying on emotion and fear.

I don't know which argument has more merit in this case.

Time to leave Afghanistan?

Influential political commentator George Will makes that argument in his column.

Mr. Will, regardless of whether you endorse his political opinion, almost always makes a coherent argument. Today is no different.

The American (and British) public deserves a solid discussion about the merits of remaining engaged in this war. Sadly, such a conversation also should have been had during the Iraq War, but it never was. A variety of forces -- working together and separately -- ensured that never happened.

The Obama administration would be wise to be a central player in those discussions. As stated on more than one occasion on this blog, Afghanistan is Mr. Obama's war. But it's the American public that is war weary and eager to learn about the benefits of fighting it.

Ahmedinejad coming to New York

In a preview of what will likely happen during the G-20 here in Pittsburgh, the media attention when Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits the United Nations on Sept. 23 is likely to be focused more on the protests outside rather than the events taking place inside.

When you consider the number of groups interested in protesting the president's visit, what will take place outside the halls of the U.N. ought to be worth media attention.