Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finally!

A presidential administration and a Congress that are doing something to protect journalists.

As you consider the current results of this poll...

...also keep in mind that e-mails are flying encouraging people to vote FOR FOXNews.

In fact, I received one of those e-mails. It says:

If you haven't heard this, the White House is accusing Fox News of not being a legitimate source of news, calling them biased, etc. They have tried to block Fox reporters from news conferences, etc., NPR has put a survey online for us to voice our opinion. Currently it is 55% in favor of the White House, because mainly liberals log on to the NPR website.

If Fox loses this poll you can bet Obama will mention it as support for his attack on Fox.

Let's show them how we feel about honest conservative news reporting.

To vote log onto:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/10/in_white_house_vs_fox_news_war.html

Then ... forward this to everybody !


And as for the poll, here it is.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A student blogger...

...is no longer being targeted by one university.

From InsideHigherEd.com:

Monday, Butler University formally withdrew the libel and defamation lawsuit it had filed against Jess Zimmerman, an undergraduate student who kept an anonymous blog that criticized senior administrators. The case did not name Zimmerman directly, and instead was filed against “Soodo Nym,” the moniker he used to write the blog. Even after Zimmerman went public and admitted he was “Soodo Nym,” Bobby Fong, Butler's president, told faculty multiple times, as he did in one statement, that “The university did not, has not, and will not sue Jess Zimmerman.” By university administrators' logic, because they had not named Zimmerman directly in the suit, they had not technically ever sued a student. Zimmerman and many professors and other students took issue with this stance in the days following his public outing. On Zimmerman's new blog, he even kept a running tally of the number of days the lawsuit remained active in Marion County court following Fong’s statement that the university was not suing him. Ultimately, the suit remained in force for a week.

Michael Blickman, the university’s attorney, noted in a statement that the university had begun an “internal disciplinary process” to punish Zimmerman last week, before the suit was dropped. Of the move, Blickman said, “The university and its administrators strongly support freedom of speech and academic freedom. The free exchange of ideas is fundamental to academic life. However, the University also has a commitment and duty to protect the safety of all its members and ensure the opportunity to teach and to learn freely.” Zimmerman, by contrast, criticized how the disciplinary process was being handled in his blog: “I worry about them since the president, on numerous occasions, has seen fit to pronounce me guilty. I would have hoped that we could have the trial first and the verdict second, but that isn’t the way Butler has decided to operate."

Should your DNA...

...be part of any background check for employment?

At one Ohio university it is, and that decision is (justifiably) leading to some criticism and pointed questions.

Pittsburgh's television news market...

...has been in a state of flux of late. Today, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette television critic Rob Owen examines the fallout.

Uh, oh

From today's Washington Post:

'House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling, according to a confidential House ethics committee report prepared in July.

'The report appears to have been inadvertently placed on a publicly accessible computer network, and it was provided to The Washington Post by a source not connected to the congressional investigations. ...The ethics committee is one of the most secretive panels in Congress, and its members and staff members sign oaths not to disclose any activities related to its past or present investigations. Watchdog groups have accused the committee of not actively pursuing inquiries; the newly disclosed document indicates the panel is conducting far more investigations than it had revealed.'


Continuing:

'The investigations by two separate ethics offices include an examination of the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on defense, John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), as well as others who helped steer federal funds to clients of the PMA Group. The lawmakers received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients. A document obtained by The Washington Post shows that the subcommittee members under scrutiny also include Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) , C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

Hmmmmmm.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

H1N1 on college campuses (and nationally)

An important update.

It also is relevant to note that the issue of when and how much of the "swine flu" vaccine will be available could become a political liability for the president.

Advertising and television

Very interesting article in today's Financial Times examining the never-perfect but terribly necessary relationship between television programming and ratings.

Whether you are in the media, a college educator in a journalism/mass communication educator or a savvy media consumer, you'll want to read the story.

They can meet all they want...

...but until FOX News and the White House stop acting like spoiled children, they're childlike spat will continue. But at least they are talking.

Outsourcing...sports?

'Am I reading that correctly?' you are thinking.

You bet. One local Atlanta television station is turning its sports coverage to a local radio station. I admire (wink, wink) the justification for the decision.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sacre bleu!

Or maybe something that newspaper publishers in the U.S. ought to consider -- turn young people into (potential) loyal (and paid) readers by first giving them the paper for free.

The erosion of the public's trust in the media...

...is perhaps exemplified greatest (or "worstest," if you know what I mean) by the results of this recent poll.

And perhaps, by extension, this news also should come as no surprise.

Military moms

One of the moms in my Cub Scout Pack sent this video to me.

The video hit home for me because one of the young men who appears in it was a member of my son's Cub Scout Pack when he was a young boy. In fact, at one point you will see him in his Scout uniform and you'll also see the local church that has been the home to our Pack for more than 50 years.

Oh, I know, there will be opinions hot and cold about the political message associated with this video; I'll let you decide where you fall. But as you consider that, also never forget that there is a human story attached to every single man and woman fighting anywhere in the world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh, brother!

Hmmm, do you think the news that the brother of the Afghan president being on the CIA payroll complicates America's role in that country? Just a smidgen?

Honoring Randy Pausch

Cool move by Carnegie Mellon University, which will dedicate a pedestrian bridge to Randy Pausch, the author of "The Last Lecture" who died of cancer last year.

Pausch was a popular educator, and he has left a legacy that university faculty should consider emulating.

I doubt I will ever forget how hard a young woman in one of my classrooms cried when I showed his last lecture. An unforgettable image.

CNN: The Most Trusted Name in News

Oh, yeah, and The Least Watched Name in Cable News.

The fall (literally) from the top is now complete. CNN, which brought to your living room the Challenger disaster, the initial Gulf War and many other national and international events, has been replaced as the place cable news viewers turn to. Unfortunately, the places those viewers now go are either bloviators (FOX News and MSNBC) or lightweights (CNN Headline News).

What an embarrassment. And the rise of FOX News and MSNBC will serve to embolden those who are determined that partisan opining substituting should be real news.

As long as my cable company continues to offer me BBC, I'll have a legitimate source of cable news from which to learn about the world.

A "bias"?

Or a changing of the times?

Politico's Josh Gerstein asks:

'A four-hour stop in New Orleans, on his way to a $3 million fundraiser. Snubbing the Dalai Lama. Signing off on a secret deal with drug makers. Freezing out a TV network. Doing more fundraisers than the last president. More golf, too. President Barack Obama has done all of those things ... What's remarkable is what hasn't happened. These episodes haven't become metaphors for Obama's personal and political character - or consuming controversies that sidetracked the rest of his agenda. It's a sign that the media's echo chamber can be a funny thing, prone to the vagaries of news judgment, and an illustration that, in politics, context is everything. Conservatives look on with a mix of indignation and amazement and ask: Imagine the fuss if George W. Bush had done these things? And quickly add, with a hint of jealousy: How does Obama get away with it?

So, is it media bias? Perhaps. Is it the media "like" Obama more than they did Bush? Perhaps. Is Obama more media savvy than Bush? Perhaps. Is it just a change in the times? Perhaps.

Are you going to offer your own ideas?

This is a perfect case of...

...compounding one problem on top of another.

As you read the aforementioned story, consider the concerns about free speech. But also consider that the institution's president is "on vacation." A university president on vacation during the academic year? I'm not saying that can't be done, but I am saying it shouldn't be done.

In short, you have an absence of free speech (and its potential chilling effect) and an absence of leadership.

What a mess.

A new boss

For me? No. But instead for the great folks who work at WPXI, the NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh.

Here is the e-mail that went out announcing the new news director:

Dear Staff,

I am pleased to announce the hiring of Mike Goldrick as News Director of WPXI. Mike is an energetic, experienced leader who will have an immediate impact in our newsroom. He will occupy the ND’s office starting December 1st, and I will return to my office on the 2nd floor. (Alright, stop the loud cheering in the newsroom!)

Mike is currently serving as News Director of WHEC-TV in Rochester, NY. He has been at that station for nearly 3 years. WHEC was his first News Director’s job but what an impact he has had. In the last year, WHEC won the 6am ratings for the very first time, won the 11pm ratings for three books in a row, and won its first-ever Edward R. Murrow award, for Best Newscast.

Before becoming a News Director, Mike was the Executive Producer at KOMO-TV in Seattle and Executive Producer at WSOC-TV. (Yes, our sister station in Charlotte). Prior to that, he spent a dozen years or so in positions on the Assignment Desk and as a Producer and Senior Producer in markets like West Palm Beach (WPTV), Tampa (WTSP), Detroit (WDIV), and Houston (KPRC).

His combination of experience, creativity and bold leadership will be a terrific fit for us. As you’ll see, his energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

Mike is a graduate of the University of Florida. He, along with David Johnson officially put us over the obnoxious UF quota. Mike and his wife Willa are the parents of three children, Brendan (17), Emma (14) and Connor (10). Willa and the kids will likely finish out the school year in Rochester, before making the move to the ’burgh.

Please join me in making Mike and his family feel welcome in the City of Champions.

Ray Carter
VP/GM
WPXI-TV

Monday, October 26, 2009

More than 32 hours per week

I saw this radio station's Web report and was stunned -- the typical child, ages 2 through 5, spends more than 32 hours in front of the television each week.

Are you kidding me? Parents, what are you doing?

I come from a media background, and I know that there is quality television programming out there. And in that mix there are some great options for young people. However, no amount of good television programming can justify a child spending that much time in front of the TV. And considering the DVDs, video games and other electronic options available to really young people, it's no wonder children spend more time in front of the tube than they have in almost a decade.

Palin being Palin

She has her critics, but give former Alaska governor Sarah Palin credit for not backsliding on her conservative principles.

Her recent endorsement of the most conservative of the candidates in one New York Congressional election makes clear that Mrs. Palin is ready to carve out her niche as the conservative voice of the Republican Party.

There's a lot of company where she stands, including (among others) former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. And if the party is indeed prepared to pick such a person for as its standard bearer in 2012, then there's no time like the present to make sure people know where you stand.

What a difference...

...20 years and a political system can make.

If you have any interest in higher education, I think you will find this report from The Chronicle to be important to you.

One of my biggest disappointments in not being able to make it to Moscow earlier this month was not being able to experience first-hand some of the changes to the higher education system taking place there.

No, in 20 years no country can wipe away decades of decay, but progress is being made.

Another reminder that Afghanistan is...

...President Obama's war.

A good editorial for you to consider this morning. It points out that as long as Mr. Obama continues to waffle as he puts together the next steps in America's effort to combat the Taliban, Afghanistan itself will become more unsafe.

This also is a deadly day for American troops. More than a dozen have died in separate helicopter accidents.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Obama plays golf with men!!!!

Oh, the horror.

Imagine a happily married man plays golf and basketball with his buddies, who are men. For some people, somehow this is an example of sexism.

And so today when the President of the United States went to play golf, he...invited a woman to play with him and a couple of other friends.

Set aside for a couple of moments that the far-left who criticized the president for his male sports partners is out of touch; there is a larger issue here: In my opinion, this story is NOT news.

Is there any real significance attached to whom the president golfs with? Yes, I know, someone is going to make an argument about the "symbolic" relevance of who's with him. But symbolic gestures are not news.

The bloggers who ad nauseum pound away on their computer keyboards advancing their personal (or professional, for that matter) agenda deserve attention when what they do leads to an important news item being uncovered. But spare me the nonsense about the president and whether he's sexist or denying an important photo opportunity for women.

A rational person need only to take a look at how he adores his wife and daughters, and to examine his professional record to know Mr. Obama is no chauvinist (or he is and he's the greatest actor of all-time!!). Who the man chooses to play golf, basketball or any other sport is entirely his business.

I suppose the next thing the president will be asked to do in order to demonstrate he's not a sexist is to attend a WNBA game. Or maybe he should invite a few LPGA players over for dinner. And then if one of those women is single, we can let the bloggers start another set of verbal harangues about a Democratic president and young women in the White House.

Yes, that would be a (im-)peach of a story.

When journalism gets it wrong...

...there is often plenty of blame to go around.

But when three significant stories are blown in the span of a couple of weeks, there is justification for asking what is going on?

I remind my students that if journalists report a story badly, they have a chance to do it again tomorrow. By extension, if chemists make a mistake, then we're typically looking at a medical emergency; something is going to go boom.

But it's different when journalists get a story wrong. And over the past couple of weeks, the "news" has been wrong.

Newt Gingrich: If someone else won't do it...

...I will (probably).

What's "it?" Oh, come on, I think you know, but in case you don't -- offer a critical and relevant alternative to the Democrats in 2012.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Product placement

I can anticipate the outcry already -- "government getting more involved in our lives" -- but those claims are empty, in my opinion.

Product placement in television programs is unethical, and there ought to be more regulation to prevent them (as this blog post outlines), or to make advertisers and program producers admit when and how they are being used.

Whatever "Ailes" the country...

..."Roger" won't fix it.

From Politico's Mike Allen, and his daily Playbook:

ROGER AILES laughs off news that friends and associates are pushing him to run for president, telling POLITICO through an aide: 'This country needs fair and balanced news more now than ever before, so I'm going to decline a run for the presidency. Besides, I can't take the pay cut.'

A national emergency

Too often, government leaders are guilty of acting in a reactive, not proactive role.

Today, President Obama chose the opposite, as he indicated the federal government, various health agencies and, yes, individual citizens need to be aggressive (but smart) in their preparation for and dealing with H1N1.

Of course, the flu already is here. Don't misunderstand the point I'm making. What I'm suggesting is that with the worst of the flu season still ahead of us (and the potential for H1N1 to hasten it), any federal action that causes people to act with more haste and responsibility is a good thing.

Friday, October 23, 2009

It was a hoax

If the mother of "balloon boy" is to believed, that is. Am I the only one not surprised that mom is throwing dad under the bus?

How we communicate...and why we do it

A high school buddy sent me this link, and I couldn't stop watching it.

It's a thought-provoking presentation about how culture, media, economics, technology has in many ways eroded a sense of community. At the same time, people are forming new communities but often without the interconnectedness associated with interpersonal communication.

The implications for democracy, society and relevance of information are considered.

Do yourself a favor, watch this; and as you do consider the implications.

Why are journalism schools still enrolling students?

Attorney and First Amendment Coalition executive director Peter Scheer makes a valid point about a journalism education needing to remember it is not replacing one set of new journalists with another.

And his argument about harnessing technology and enterprise reporting also is correct. But I'm surprised in making his case for why journalism still matters that he failed to acknowledge the importance of media ethics, freedom of the press, the importance of sunshine laws and similar issues that are a standard part of the curriculum at relevant journalism schools.

Lenin remains one of the greatest minds...

...and greatest politicians.

That and other pearls of wisdom from the leader of the Communist Party in Russia. Note this interview was conducted about six months ago; I located it through a link on another blog.

A further blurring of the line...

...between a journalist and a blogger?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. But the information in this article is "worth" considering.

A FOXy move?

Politico.com's Mike Allen reports this in his daily Playbook:

Friends and associates are encouraging Roger Ailes -- Fox News founder, chairman and CEO -- to jump into the political arena for real by running for President in 2012. 'Ailes knows how to frame an issue better anybody and that's what we need now,' says one Ailes friend who is encouraging him to run. Frank Luntz, for one, tells Playbook that Ailes could be a force if does it. 'I have known Roger Ailes for 29 years,' says Luntz. 'No one knows how to win better than Roger.'

And you thought the White House was anti-Fox News before! If this idea gains traction, there will be a very interesting ethical discussion about how FOX News ought to cover the 2012 presidential election. Please, spare me the "FOX reporters and program hosts can be objective about all candidates." We know that won't happen.

The votes, at least right now,...

...are not there.

Probably not a surprise, but it does mean that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has some work to do if the most aggressive form of the so-called public option is going to become part of health care reform.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Brilliant

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt knows who to blame for his team's disastrous performance in the National League Championship Series: his soon-to-be ex.

The Chicago Times?

Not quite, but there are some heavy hitters lining up to assist in the creation of a new news cooperative in Chicago.

The product will be minimal at the beginning, but you should expect that to change quickly.

The louder conservatives get...

...the more nervous Republicans get.

This excerpt comes from Mike Allen's daily Politico.com Playbook:

'Many top Republicans are growing worried that the party's chances for reversing its electoral routs of 2006 and 2008 are being wounded by the flamboyant rhetoric and angry tone of conservative activists and media personalities, according to interviews with GOP officials and operatives. ... Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the most active potential opponents for Obama in 2012, said that media portrayals of a narrow-minded party could make it harder to attract the middle-of-the-road voters needed to make the GOP a majority party again. 'The commentators are part of the coalition, not the whole coalition,' Pawlenty said in a phone interview. 'The party needs to be about addition, not subtraction - but not at the expense of watering down its principles.'

THE POINT: Some Republicans worry the party could squander an opportunity to capitalize on voters' concerns about Obama and the Democratic Congress because they come off looking shallow, sharply partisan or just plain odd to persuadable voters.

Why are you still covering "balloon boy?"

It's a relevant question, and the person asking it is writing from Ft. Collins, Colorado, where the story seems to (ahem) still be up in the air.

The fifth and final part of a series...

...that examines how a New York Times reporter was captured by the Taliban, and how he escaped from them.

Forgot to post this yesterday...

It's the fourth in a five-part series by New York Times reporter David Rohde, as he recounts his captivity by the Taliban.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who's going to replace Diane Sawyer?

As you are probably aware, Diane Sawyer is leaving Good Morning America at the new year to take over the anchor desk of World News.

One report circulating today indicates ABC executives want a man to replace Sawyer. Doing so would allow for a male-female team (Robin Roberts is remaining as a co-host). Another report says don't be surprised if Sawyer's replacement is George Stephanopoulos.

As they say, "stay tuned."

Government support for the American media

It's not likely to generate much support from the public, and there's no doubt that corporations will oppose it. But that doesn't mean it's a bad idea.

But if the country deserves quality public affairs reporting (and it does), then the real issue might be which corporations have the guts to sign on to this interesting idea.

And remember the idea of financial support is just one concept mentioned in the aforementioned report.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In TV, it's called a "get"

And Oprah Winfrey got the "get" -- the first interview since she left office with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school

Say what?

Malcolm Gladwell might be a terrific author, but I think in this case he's just not right.

Give it up, Cook County

Sure, mine is only one opinion but I think there is little doubt that Cook County officials are trying to play hardball with a group of Northwestern University students who did what good journalists should -- uncover something wrong.

It's pitiful...

...that the White House and FOX News continue to act with a reckless disregard for the respect each deserves.

You may stand wherever you want on this argument; you are free to side with the White House that suggests FOX is intentionally skewing news coverage so as to damage the integrity of the Obama administration, or you may agree with FOX's anchors and management which say that as a news organization it is entitled to cover whatever stories it wants and in the way it deems appropriate.

However, I hope you also will side with me as I suggest that each side is wasting precious time and resources that should be devoted to real policy making and legitimate news reporting, as their very public, very childish spat continues.

My sons are sent to their rooms to chill out when they act in such a manner with each other.

The pressures of recruiting students...

...in an uncertain economic crisis.

This was a painful story to read; the suggestion that an off-year in recruiting could have led a long-time admission director to be ousted at one U.S. institution.

The larger issue that Seattle University appears to be grappling with, according to the article, is the kind of student it wants to matriculate to its campus.

The third of a five-part series...

...as a New York Times reporter recounts being held hostage by the Taliban.

He won...but he didn't win

Giving in to reality, Afghanistan's president has accepted that there are inconsistencies (is that polite enough?) in the results of the recent elections there. As a result, a runoff election will be held.

In acknowledging the uncertainty about his "victory," President Hamid Karzai was bowing to consistent international pressure.

The decision could give President Obama an opportunity to justify an increased U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, Mr. Obama is facing a restive military leadership that would like clear answers as to whether more U.S. forces will be sent there.

The 'Horns have hooked...

...the Walter Cronkite papers.

Mr. Cronkite's decision is not surprising, considering he attended (though did not graduate from) the University of Texas.

I suspect that some of my colleagues at Arizona State University are disappointed, recognizing that the journalism school there is named after Cronkite.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fox has corrupted CNN and MSNBC

Don't take my word for it (though I agree with the assertion). Instead read this editorial from a Newsweek columnist.

There are at least two ways to interpret freedom of the press: One is freedom is freedom; a news organization can report what it wants, how it wants.

The other is to say that freedom comes with a responsibility to not be partisan.

Let the fight begin.

Medill, don't back down!

Got to love Chicago politics. Go after the journalists.

Leno is bad for local news...

...ratings.

Leno at 10:00 made sense from an entertainment division perspective, but the early indications are it leads to a drop in local news ratings at 11. If this continues into another ratings book, there will be intense pressure on NBC to do something, and it won't be a laughing matter.

Profit sharing?

Rupert Murdoch will leave no (financial) stone unturned, as he explores the future of the media world. One of those ways might be to take the typical retransmission agreement one step further.

Part two...held by the Taliban

From New York Times' reporter David Rohde, as he continues to recount his kidnapping by the Taliban.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Fewer journalists are reporting less news in fewer pages..."

Yet another discussion about the future of news? Well, yes. But the people writing this report are two people whom I respect.

As the New York Times notes, there is no perfect solution to determine the future of news, but unless we continue to have the discussion we are sure to see more damaging declines.

They "put on a very good show for us"

It was not surprising to me to hear a Colorado sheriff say today that he believed the "balloon boy" stunt was a hoax, but I'll admit to being disappointed.

I cannot fathom why parents would act so irresponsibly, and the potential charges they face confirm that serious repercussions could follow.

I do not know the Heenes, so I confess that speculating on what they did and why is perhaps unfair to them. However, if they are this desperate for attention, money and fame then they have succeeded in shaming themselves. Their children will live with that shame as they mature into adults.

Pitiful. And from where I'm sitting the show they put on was not very good.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery

And it appears Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is interested in imitating...the Chinese.

This article asserts that the Mr. Putin is not attempting to bring Communism back to Russia, but he is interested in seeing if Russia can prosper economically under a one-party system.

Of course, that one party would be Mr. Putin's, which has in recent years moved Russia toward more autocratic policies. Perhaps one person's Communist is another person's Autocrat?

Held captive for 7 months and 10 days

The New York Times begins a 5-part series today, as one of its reporters describes his seven-month ordeal as a prisoner of the Taliban.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

One journalist in captivity is news...

...but another is not.

The media's absence of coverage of a Newsweek reporter released from custody today in Iran is in stark contrast of the significant coverage afforded other journalists held recently in Iran and North Korea.

Hmmmmmmmm, does anyone have any ideas why that might be?

Rush responds...forcefully

Give Rush Limbaugh credit. He's not going to let his elimination from an ownership group interested in purchasing the St. Louis Rams go without forcefully defending himself.

I maintain that Limbaugh's removal was a blatant cave-in by the group; fearing that Limbaugh's continued involvement could derail the overall chances of successfully purchasing the team (and getting approval from the league's owners).

However, blatant politics is something that Limbaugh is familiar with. Whether his critics were being fair to him is not really the issue; it's whether their message to undercut him were successful. They were.

"We Like Mike"

Well, at least right now they do.

They refers to Republican voters, and Mike refers to Huckabee.

It will not snow in Moscow this winter

'Okay,' you are thinking, 'Moretti has completely gone off the edge.'

Nope, not me. But perhaps the mayor of Moscow. He's setting aside a couple of million dollars so that the Russian Air Force can inject a chemical into the clouds to ensure the clouds will dump their snow outside the city's limits.

After reading the aforementioned story, you decide if the idea is a good one, a ridiculous one, or one that other cities should consider.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Only 3 for 2018

The International Olympic Committee has only three options for the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The field of candidates is the smallest in two decades.

The global economic crisis undoubtedly contributed to the small number of candidates.

What will Obama do?

Politico.com's Mike Allen:

Look for President Obama's Afghanistan decision to be announced the LAST week of October or FIRST week of November. A perusal of the calendar suggests the announcement will be sandwiched between next week, when Secretary Gates is in Japan, and the president's departure for Asia the week of Nov. 8. This is in keeping with the White House's recent statements that the decision was 'weeks' away, but is sooner than some aides once had thought. The reason: The decision needs to be made soon in order for forces to get their orders and be in place in time to make a difference during the traditional spring increase in attacks

What Would Stalin Do?

We could guess, but that's not important for right now, as we address why Russian authorities have arrested a historian who is examining the Stalin period.

Is this really the image the Kremlin wants to offer the world? (Don't answer that.)

Anonymous blogs...

...like anonymous sources can be a murky issue for those involved. One Butler University student is learning that being an anonymous blogger (and he admits to being the author of it) can get you into a significant amount of trouble.

Don't press that "copy" button

I preface this post with an admitted bias: I don't like coursepacks, those bundled book excerpts, photocopied papers or other documents that are sold to students as a single pack of information.

Because of that bias, I read with some delight this story that noted a business in Michigan was trying to conveniently get around the rules of copyright.

It didn't.

Change the policy, expect the fallout

You knew there would be quick (and legitimate) concern expressed by various media organizations and advocates for a free press after the military announced a change to its policy regarding photographs taken of dead soldiers.

The fallout has been quick. As you read the aforementioned link, I remind you of something I wrote in an earlier post on this subject:

There is always a delicate balance that needs to be struck between covering war as it happens and the respect of the individual. Speaking personally, I am opposed to any attempt to deny the media the right to videotape, photograph or otherwise document the reality of war. But a delicate line needs to be straddled to ensure that those tapes and/or photos are not used as more than factual examples of what happened on that particular day.

A blanket policy that says "you can't do this" is not a good strategy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Afghanistan, there is at least a pretense...

...of listening to the electorate. The government has announced that there is an increasing likelihood that there will be a runoff election, in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election.

In Iran, the government simply orders the military to shoot anyone who disputes (rigged) elections.

I guess three is a crowd

And when it comes to covering the officials of one rather large county, three makes for too much confusion.

As you read the above story, please note that lobbyists are not barred from the same halls that the media are being cut off from.

Another world event is coming to Pittsburgh

This time it's...here's your answer.

Uh, so?

My reaction to the media-created story indicating that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a higher favorable rating than President Obama is one of shrugged shoulders.

There's always a danger when a poll becomes the basis of a story, although my concern about the legitimacy of the polling agency does not exist in this case. A poll is a snapshot in time, and in this case the work being done by the president is going to make him much more of a lightning rod when compared to what his Secretary of State is doing.

Don't misunderstand me: I'm not criticizing Mrs. Clinton, and I'm not defending Mr. Obama. Rather, I'm saying that the higher up you go on the political ladder, the more controversial you are...and the more you become a favored critical subject of the media.

I ask you this: If these people had switched political positions, do you think Mrs. Clinton would be more favorable viewed today than Mr. Obama?

I also will be interested to see which media organizations pick up on this story. And you can read anything you want into that.

No photos allowed

A change in policy from the U.S. military regarding photos taken of soldiers who die in combat in Afghanistan. From this point forward, no photos are allowed.

There is always a delicate balance that needs to be struck between covering war as it happens and the respect of the individual. Speaking personally, I am opposed to any attempt to deny the media the right to videotape, photograph or otherwise document the reality of war. But a delicate line needs to be straddled to ensure that those tapes and/or photos are not used as more than factual examples of what happened on that particular day.

Congratulations, you won...

...but we're not letting you leave the country to receive the award.

In the latest sign that Cuba still has some opening-up to do, the government has announced it will not issue a travel visa to a popular blogger, who wanted to travel to New York to receive a journalism award.

A brilliant move. The government will now call MORE attention to the blogger than it would have had it let her visit New York and pick up the prize. Brilliant, I tell you.

Everyone is accountable. Everyone.

And that includes a university president...no matter how popular a figure he might be on campus.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Rams have no RUSHing game

Sorry, there are better puns out there. But for right now, the feeble attempt made above will have to do.

A prospective ownership group of the St. Louis Rams announced today it has removed conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh from its potential list of owners.

I stated on this blog the other that while I am no fan of Limbaugh's, I am disappointed that he was so quickly ostracized in this case. As I see it, Limbaugh was treated unfairly. Now, I also will admit that I think he's swallowing some of his own medicine here: Limbaugh has never offered his political opponents (or any other one for that matter) a fair chance to defend themselves; perhaps what has happened here is a comeuppance.

Hmmm...what was it?

Really cool video from Moscow, where a strange cloud hovered in the late afternoon sky last week.

Dad gum it, if my visa paperwork had been in order...I would have been in Moscow on that night.

We're "reinventing ourselves"...

...by abandoning a news program for a lifestyles show.

I admit, the idealist in me who believes passionately that the television media have a responsibility that is first and foremost to serve the public interest. I fail to see how that goal is met by ditching local news coverage in favor of a soft program.

On the other hand, the realities of television are that local television stations are expected to maximize their profit potential. This program at this television station at this time might help to ensure that.

Run your own teleprompter!

The anchors at one Washington news station have a new job responsibility, and it will give a somewhat new meaning to thinking WITH their feet.

This story might seem trivial, but it does provide yet another piece of evidence that the old ways of doing business doesn't apply any longer.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Pittsburgh Pirates did NOT finish last!!!

'Hey, Moretti,' you are thinking. 'Have you completely lost your mind?'

No. And for the proof that the Pirates did not finish last, click here.

Russia says "nyet"

To me? Again?

Nope. This time to a far more important person (on the diplomatic stage), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

When it's not safe for journalists to practice responsible journalism...

...then the state cannot be considered viable. Such appears to be the case in Iran, where reporters have left the country in the aftermath of the June presidential elections.

Not just the number...

...but the quality...of sources matters to determining the value of the information the public receives.

I think this Chicago Tribune columnist is correct that quantity matters, but I think more needs to be said about quality.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Here we go again

North Korea. Missile tests. A combination all too familiar these days, and it appears they're about to be merged again.

The world will voice its displeasure. Threats about sanctions will be uttered. Pyongyang will again be defiant. At some point the North Koreans will welcome the chance to re-join the six party nuclear non-proliferation talks.

And it will start all over again.

Only 58%? Really?

Almost 6 of 10 surveyed people say they think the committee that selects the Nobel Peace Prize recipient is motivated by politics.

Really? Only 58%? The committee itself all but admitted it was.

Surprised? Why?

Strike 1, 2...150

An interesting story about the travails of two sisters, both journalism graduates and the difficult time they have had attaining that always difficult first journalism job.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And yet another reminder of what is important

I received this e-mail just a short time ago:

Please pray for Walter Heinz, the priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pomeroy. He suffered a heart attack this morning and was taken to St. Joseph Hopsital in Parkersburg and was then life-flighted to Riverside Hospital in Columbus.

Fr. Heinz married Nichola and me, and he also married two of our best friends, Todd and Michelle Bannie. I saw Fr. Heinz over 4th of July weekend when he baptized the Bannies' second daughter, who also is my godchild.

If you are a person of prayer, I ask you to say one on Fr. Heinz's behalf.

And speaking of fraud...

...might it be happening in Russia, where regional elections took place today?

Rush...to judgment?

The NFL's Players Union chief says his organization has no interest in seeing controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh be part of any group wanting to own the St. Louis Rams.

Now, I'm no fan of Limbaugh and of almost every political position he believes in. However, I'm not sure that he deserves to be dismissed as a potential team owner just because of his political beliefs.

That smacks of a litmus test that I'm not sure I want to consider.

A little fraud here...a little fraud there

There is an interesting study to be done -- how America's media covered the allegations of fraud in the Iranian and Afghan elections.

There's no question that "irregularities" (isn't that a fantastic word?) occurred throughout Iran and Afghanistan, where voters went to the polls earlier this year.

But it appears to me the media were more interested in and focused more attention on what went wrong in Iran and less attention on what took place in Afghanistan.

A little family fun

The Moretti family spent a couple of hours this afternoon at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, where we enjoyed a trolley ride...

and the pumpkin patch.

Later, we found an open house at our nearby Volunteer Fire Department. Amid the fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, goodie-bags and food, the Moretti boys found Lord, the K-9 dog.

And when they learned that another nearby VFD is doing its open house next weekend, well...our plans were set.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A weekend of reminders of what is important

This weekend allows my wife and I to share in some of the highlights and some of the definite moments of pain in the lives of our family and friends.

One colleague and his wife are celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary this weekend, and they have one of those marriages that you hope to have as time progresses. They're also going to become grandparents for the first time in just a few months, and they are as excited as you can imagine.

Another colleague and her husband celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary this weekend. Their cats are their kids; and if there is a picture in the dictionary associated with the term pampered cat, you'd find one of theirs in that spot.

And then there are our neighbors, who last night celebrated their 5th anniversary with a huge meal at one of Pittsburgh's great restaurants. Aaron told me this morning that he enjoyed quite well the steak fillet, shrimp appetizer, the dessert and more. I was hungry just listening to him.

On the other hand, this also is a weekend of pain for some of our family and friends.

More than 20 years ago the son of one of my late mother's cousins was married. When marriages go bad, everyone is affected. And I know, as I'm the product of a nasty divorce. Each has gone on to a second marriage, and it appears happiness is indeed in their lives. Nevertheless, divorce stings.

Two years ago yesterday, the husband of one of my great colleagues unexpectedly passed away. John was 51 and seemingly in perfect shape. But a heart condition that no one knew about took him from his family.

Today, my wife is in Columbus, where she attended the funeral Mass for the son of a former colleague. Paul was 47 and passed away in his sleep a few days ago. Nichola talked to me after the Mass, and she said that the parents couldn't stop crying. But the love of family and friends brought a peace that everyone needs at such a time.

One weekend. Six events, and each remind us of what is really important in our lives.

H1N1 and children

Seventy-six children across the U.S. have died because of the H1N1, and the worst of the flu season is not yet upon us.

Snow? Snow?

Last night, snow showers fell in Alberta as Edmonton and British Columbia played their CFL game. As I watched (online), I was reminded that it was only a matter of time before those of us in Pittsburgh deal with that. Another person watching from Winnipeg said it was snowing even harder there.

Then today I flipped on the Minnesota-Purdue college football game, and the announcers noted that it was 27 degrees in Minneapolis and snow had fallen overnight.

Finally, Major League Baseball has canceled tonight's scheduled Game 3 of the playoff series involving Colorado and Philadelphia because of cold and snow in Denver.

Geez, we had rain here last night. Does that count? (Insert laugh track here.)

The president's Nobel Peace Prize is more taxing on him than you might think

As you might expect, the president announced yesterday he intends to donate to charity the $1.4 million that comes with being a Nobel laureate.

However, that's not as simple as it seems. Chances are the president will accept the money, take the likely tax hit and donate every penny he can to a charity.

Once that happens, can you imagine the scrutiny that will be directed at that charity? The media will cascade upon its central offices, requests to review its financial books and reports will flow and questions will be asked as to why it was selected over many others. Oh, how fun.

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Wow, who knows when you'd have gotten out of Russia?"

My aborted attempts at reaching Moscow are a consistent topic of conversation among my professional colleagues or friends and me. (If you are unaware of what happened to me earlier this week, please access reports from this blog beginning on Monday.) What has struck me is that with one exception, each of those conversations has quickly adopted a "wow, who knows when you'd have gotten out of Russia?" theme.

To me, that strand of conversation demonstrates the corrosive history of the Cold War and the distrust Russia's prime minister engenders among American citizens.

I'll remind you that the Air France gate attendant who noticed the lack of an official Russian entry visa on my passport told me that if I had traveled to Moscow, I would have been immediately sent back to Paris by the Russian immigration services.

Presuming he is correct, and I have no evidence to suggest he is wrong, then I would have not been stranded (or worse) in Russia, which, let's face it, is what the people conversing with me are suggesting.

Compounding the "gee, you're really lucky" idea is that I ended up spending about 48 hours in Paris, where, I must admit, I moved around as freely as I wanted to. I boarded multiple subway trains, walked the streets, took photographs and carried on as many other American and foreign visitors did. "There's NO WAY you'd have done that in Moscow," one person said to me. "You'd have been...who knows where?"

Almost 50 years of hostile relations between the United States and Russia (or the Soviet Union) has corrupted the thinking of too many Americans about Russia's government. In recent years, the aggressive posture of Russia's current prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who prior to holding that position was the country's president, has served to re-instill in Americans' minds that Russia cannot be trusted and is hostile to the United States.

I can't say what those years have done about the image of the Russian people, but the anecdotal evidence available to me indicates they are not viewed with suspicion. I do know that the one Russian native with whom I talked this week was embarrassed at how the country of her birth demands that entry visas be required of American citizens and that they need to be requested no later than two weeks before someone plans to travel to Russia.

"The Russian government might be mean, but the Russian people are not," she said to me.

And no matter how many times I tried to convince her that I held no grudge against Moscow and that I still very much want to visit Russia one day, she was adamant that I should have been treated more kindly. To make her point, she then gave me, my wife and my sons different gifts. I humbly took them but not convinced I deserved them.

I don't know when I'll again have the opportunity to go to Russia, but I do hope it happens. In the meantime, I think I might need to work on the attitudes too many of my fellow citizens have about the fascinating country that is Russia.

An embarrassment in Los Angeles TV news

Regular readers of this blog know that I lived in southern California for 20 years; and although I've not called it home for well over a decade, I still follow events from there closely.

This report angered me. The shortcomings of television news have been well documented by educators, commentators, bloggers and others. Each of those groups undoubtedly would feel the same anguish I do upon learning that one Los Angeles television station has abandoned its news operations. Why?

Of course, economics. You also can probably guess which media mogul is behind this decision. If you can't, here's a small hint: His initials are RM.

There is little historical evidence...

...to indicate that China's president is making a hollow promise. Today, President Hu Jintao said the rights of international news agencies will be protected when they report from China.

I see.

This is the same government that indicated various freedoms would be respected during the 2008 Olympics, and that China as a result of hosting the Olympic Games would become a more vibrant society. Yeah, that happened.

It's ugly out there

The Democratic Party is firing away today, but I find the language being used unacceptable.

The message is a valid one -- the Republican Party criticized the president last week when Chicago failed to win the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, suggesting he was a weak international figure, then turned around this week to suggest the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize was an affirmation that he is too large a figure on the international stage.

But equating the GOP to terrorists goes too far. I would hope that an apology is issued later today.

The terror continues in South Asia

Today, Pakistan was the site of a terror attack, and the preliminary death toll is almost 50.

Yesterday, it was Kabul that was shook by terror.

Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize

This is the kind of news that bolsters America's international image, but I am stunned by the vitriol coming from the right.

The President of the United States has won the world's most respected peace prize, and Republicans are NOT happy about this? Am I missing something here? Clearly, they wouldn't let politics get in the way of the good news for the country.

Certainly, the decision adds to the "wow" factor that surrounds Mr. Obama, and it has the potential to make his political program even more difficult to complete.

Yet, I fail to see why this should be viewed as a bad decision, or as something that works against America's interests.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's been 3 years...

...and still there has been no justice. The Russian judicial and political system continues to flounder as it seeks to determine who killed journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Or perhaps those entities know who did it and are protecting someone.

If you access the Web site of Point Park's student newspaper...

...you'll definitely want to read this.

Hey, wait a minute...

...I thought this White House was supposed to have an 8-year run of great relationships with the media? Weren't we told only 10 months ago that the president had the nation's media in his back pocket and almost all of them were going to do whatever it took to ensure his success?

Well, something unexpected (insert laugh track) here has happened -- the media and the White House are indeed butting heads, and on a regular basis. And, no, I don't accept the aforementioned article is simply a "see, another get FOX News report."

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My only question: what took so long?

As I read this story tonight, I was struck that it took far too long for the White House and FOX News to have a meeting of the minds. Frankly, both parties share the blame for what has become a petty display of professionalism by one side or the other since the first day of the Obama administration.

It's time for both parties to bury the hatchet (and, no, not in each other) and recognize that a major cable news network and the White House cannot act like spoiled children toward each other.

Is it a reflection on generational attitudes...

...or is it a reflection on age providing patience?

It took almost 8-1/2 hours to complete the flight that brought me from Paris to Philadelphia (where I then connected to another flight that delivered me to Pittsburgh), and I was struck by how distinctly different the actions were of the primary generations represented on the plane.

My generation (and in this case I'm referring to anyone on the plane who appeared to be in their 20s, 30s or 40s) was far more likely to be up-and-about. Whether we were stretching our legs, standing in the aisles or talking audibly, there was no doubt we were seen and heard.

Then there was the previous generation (and in this case I'm referring to anyone who appeared to be in their 50s or older), which was doing the opposite of what I described in the previous paragraph.

And so it got me to wondering -- was I witnessing a generational or age divide? In other words, does my generation act differently because societal norms have changed? Or is it because age provides a calmness to life that allows one to sit quietly and patiently for multiple hours?

I don't have an immediate answer, but it is thinking about.

Big changes at a major Boston university

Anytime there is a change in the academic units at a college or university, there are sure to be fierce advocates for and against what is happening. That is the case at Northeastern University, where there are soon to be three, not two, colleges on the campus.

Rome wasn't built in a day...

...and Paris shouldn't be explored in one.

But that's all I got.

I returned to Pittsburgh from Paris today. So, if you are counting at home, I was in Paris for about 51 hours.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"No" "Non" "Nyet"

It doesn't matter the language, the message is clear: The Russian Embassy here in Paris has turned down my request for a visa. And that means I will be in Paris until Sunday.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know I flew to Paris Sunday night/Monday morning before preparing to board another flight to take me to Moscow, where later this week I was to take part in the initial Moscow Readings conference. I was to present a paper examining how Soviet athletes were covered in two leading American newspapers, and I also was preparing to talk to faculty at the Moscow State University journalism school about faculty and/or student exchanges.

Everything came to an abrupt halt yesterday when the Air France gate attendant informed me I lacked the proper visa on my passport in order to enter Russia. He did not allow me to get on the plane, telling me that if I did get to Moscow I would immediately be put on the next plane to Paris because of the lack of the entry visa.

Today I went to the Russian Embassy in Paris in an attempt to solve the problem. That didn't happen. The embassy representative informed me that as an American citizen it would take two weeks from today for any visa to be approved. And being in France would complicate that because this country would in essence be acting as a third party to the request. When I informed him of the conference I was attending and my willingness to show him the papers, he told me it would make no difference.

I asked if the U.S. Embassy could assist in this, and he said no. (I figured that would be the answer, but I needed to satisfy all potential areas of inquiry.)

He did say that while the paper I was sent looks "official," it is indeed only an invitation/request for a visa as it provides a purpose for my visit to Russia. As to whether I was told that I needed to use this paper as a request for a visa, I don't remember. The Air France airline representatives, the staff at the hotel where I'll be staying all week and the gentlemen to whom I spoke today at the embassy all were in agreement -- if I wasn't told, I should have been.

Why don't you just fly home early? you ask. I talked that over with an Air France customer service representative, and she informed me that it would cost me $5,500 to do that.

I've asked a few colleagues back home to look into possible interviews, meetings, discussions or similar opportunities I can pursue here over the next 3 to 4 days. Being here is not what I had planned, and I sure don't want to just be a tourist.

You might say I'm attempting to make "limonade" ("citronade"?) out of the "limons" ("citrons"?) I've been handed.

Am I at the center of a revolution?

Who knew? I got to Paris (and will have to stay here all week) at just the right moment -- when a revolution might be springing up in Europe.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Two New Yorkers did it!!

Pittsburgh police report they believe two anarchists from New York were directing many of the movements associated with one of the most provocative protests during the recent G-20 Summit.

China -- the next media titan?

Makes sense to me; and as this New York Times story notes, there are a variety of factors working in China's favor as it attempts to create a media dynasty.

I remind readers of this blog from time to time that I regularly access the English-language version of CCTV.com. Sure, there is an overt media bias, let's not deny reality. But there also has been a substantial upgrade in the overall professional appearance of CCTV.com, and I assume that has carried over to the CCTV programs.

“It does concern me that if you cover straight news, you will lose.”

Oh, no.

That quote comes from this article that suggests some local television station news managers are re-thinking the traditional notion of local news reporting "just the facts, ma'am."

Now, I'll admit that there are unwritten rules at many local news operations regarding how news should be reported; who the friends of the owners are; and recognizing the political ideology of the ownership group. But, in my opinion, that is not the same thing as overt bias, which is what FOX and MSNBC have downgraded themselves to in order to pander for ratings.

If local news chooses to go that same route, I believe that industry will reap a bitter harvest. Much like the cable news networks, they will be considered "left" or "right" instead of as journalists.

A funny thing happened on my way to Moscow

At least for now, I'm not there. And I'm not sure when I will be.

The best case scenario has me getting to Moscow sometime tomorrow, but that is not a certainty. To make a long story short, either I misinterpreted the information sent to me by the organizers of the conference I am attending in Moscow, or the information they gave me was inaccurate.

The crux of the problem is that I was sent an invitation/voucher from the university asking the Russian government to issue me an entry visa. That paper, in and of itself, was not equivalent to allowing one to enter the country. Either I didn't follow up on that, or I never knew I had to do it.

Fortunately, when I attempted to board my Paris to Moscow flight this morning, a smart gate agent caught the problem. (Had he not, I'd have been put on the next plane right back here to Paris.)

I hope that I can get that visa tomorrow, but that is not a guarantee. I have to go to the Russian embassy here in Paris in the morning, which is the only time that such visas are released. But I talked to three different people at either Air France or Aeroflot, and no one can tell me definitely how long it will take.

Realizing that, I also looked into what would happen if "no visa for you" was the answer I received, and therefore I'd want to head home. Oh, I could have done that -- for 3800 Euros, or roughly $5500 U.S. Nope.

And so I wait, unsure of where I'll be tomorrow but sure that it won't be home.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Russia and China: The new France and Germany?

A member of the Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Academy in Russia says that the off-and-on enmity that exists between Russia and China does neither nation any good. Instead, he suggests that the two nations look to France and Germany in order to see how one-time enemies have become allies.

Clearing out the subway system

Recognizing that I'll be using the Moscow Metro in a few days, a story in The Moscow Times caught my attention: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has declared kiosk shops illegal.

The official reason, as you'll see in the aforementioned story, is an attempt to clear out the petty criminals and homeless who can be found inside the system. In short, the government is interested in beautifying the image of the system.

I wonder if it also mutes any capitalist spirit that exists there.

I have been advised to be as careful in the Moscow Metro as I am in typical big-city underground train systems. I've experienced various U.S. subway systems as well as the one in Mexico City.

We Love L.A...We Love it!

Don't be surprised if the United States Olympic Committee does all it can to ensure that Los Angeles is the American city put forward to be host of the 2020 Olympic Games.

There are a couple of valid reasons. First, it was the Los Angeles Games in 1984 that ushered in the commercial explosion that has ensured the long-term health of the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Movement. A vote for Los Angeles, in other words, becomes a kind-of "thank you" for what took place in 1984. (Atlanta warped this relationship during the 1996 Games; and as I mentioned in one of my Friday posts, it is my opinion that the crass commercialism worked against subsequent bids put forth by U.S. cities.)

Next, many of the facilities that were used in the 1984 Games remain viable Olympic sites today. In fact, with the creation of a new soccer-specific facility, there would be a "professional" site for that important international sport.

Third, with the failed bids by New York (2012 Games) and Chicago (2016 Games), there is a growing sense that the USOC is desperate for a success story to once again validate its international image.

Of course, in 2020, Los Angeles (and all other potential American-host cities) will face a geography problem. Because the 2016 Games will be in Rio de Janeiro, the IOC might be reticent to allow the Americas to host consecutive Summer Games.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Chicago, longer reflections

The "how could this happen?" question is on the minds of the many people who supported Chicago's bid to be the host city for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"This" refers not to Chicago not being chosen today by the International Olympic Committee, but rather it being the first of the final four cities eliminated in the voting (scroll down from the link for the results).

Chicago garnered only 18 votes, four behind Tokyo, which was the next city eliminated. Madrid was the final city to be denied hosting privileges, which left Rio de Janeiro as the popular choice (except for perhaps in the other potential host cities).

There are a myriad of factors that appear to be behind Chicago's poor showing. At least one IOC member thinks the lack of stability within the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) contributed to an uncertainty about its ability to oversee the 2016 Olympic effort. Of course, it might be fair to ask if Rio de Janeiro is ready to host the Games, and Brazil's president made a plea today to convince IOC voters that it was. "We presented a heart and a soul," he said.

The same apparently cannot be said for the USOC, which must critically reassess its international agenda, and the Chicago delegation, which must decide if it wants to bid on the Games again.

There will be questions about whether President Obama should have traveled to Copenhagen, site of the IOC meeting, to make a plea for Chicago. The White House also was in clear backtrack mode today, attempting on one hand to not spoil Brazil's celebration while on the other tempering the blow that Chicago as feeling.

In the attempt to assess "why not Chicago?" there likely won't be much analysis (at least immediately) in the U.S. media of why Rio de Janeiro. It is my opinion that the universality of the IOC's message carried the day. Remember, the Games have NEVER before been held in South America, and there is a history of the IOC using a host city to advance a clear symbolic message. Moreover, the symbolic victory of South America over North America was not lost among Brazilians who celebrated their nation's victory.

Moreover, the aforementioned President Lulu acknowledged that Rio de Janeiro has chronic poor, but he suggested that the infrastructure improvements that the Games will bring and the corresponding jobs they will generate could enhance the economic life of many within the city. But he also used the international image of Brazil has a place of warm and friendly people to his advantage.

I put no stock in the many IOC members who said that Rio's bid was the strongest of the four cities; my remarks don't suggest I doubt the veracity of such statements, but rather such comments are obvious to almost read as trivial. (I see them as akin to a sports commissioner congratulating a championship squad by saying "you clearly have a great organization from top to bottom, and everyone contributed to your title."

So, the victory is Brazil's, and so now is the work to demonstrate management is ready to deliver.

Chicago (UPDATED; 12:50 p.m.)

6th UPDATE: 12:53 p.m. EDT: The decision to award the Games to Rio de Janeiro makes sense. It marks the first time the Olympics will be held in South America. Rio de Janeiro also has demonstrated its ability to prepare international sports bids (remember, it will host the 2014 World Cup). Moreover, the bid also recognizes the universality of the Olympic message. And let's also not forget that the personality that exists within Brazil's president Lulu cannot be ignored.

The Brazilians used the idea that the Olympics can upgrade the infrastructure within Rio de Janeiro, and it also could lift some people out of poverty.

5th UPDATE: 12:50 p.m. EDT: IOC President Jacques Rogge: "In every competition, there can only be one winner." The winner: Rio de Janeiro.

4th UPDATE: 12:35 p.m. EDT: As I wait for the IOC decision to be made, I am reminded of a comment that Mrs. Obama made this week. When she said the city of Chicago, its proud residents, its Olympic delegation, the president and she all were going to Copenhagen, she added that "the gloves were off." I wasn't sure that was the best choice of words, though I remind you again that in the initial hours after learning that Chicago was denied the Games that any little morsel of information will be used.

However, as you examine the "12:15 update" post, please consider how her words could have been used by IOC voters as a sign that the United States still had not learned from the 1996 and 2002 errors.

3rd UPDATE: 12:15 p.m. EDT: Chicago's defeat marks the second time in as many Olympic cycles that an American city has been denied the Games. In 2005, the city of New York had a strong bid; and it also carefully, respectfully and professionally used the events of 9-11 to argue the symbolic re-birth of New York could be demonstrated through hosting the 2012 Olympics. Instead, that city was eliminated in the second round of balloting (Moscow was first; Madrid was third; London then won the final vote, 54-50).

Today, Chicago -- also considered to have a strong bid -- was the first of the 2016 candidate cities to be removed from consideration.

There will be continuing analysis here and elsewhere over the next few days, but I offer one thought to perhaps explain why Chicago was denied the Games: The last two times that the Games came to the United States, controversy and embarrassment followed. In 1996, the so-called "Coca-Cola Games" damaged the IOC's international reputation. Then the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City were marred by an influence-peddling scandal that demonstrated that bidding cities would do almost anything to secure hosting privileges.

Perhaps these events are still on the minds of IOC voters, and they therefore remain reticent to return the Olympics to the United States. In other words, the United States is still doing penance for past sins.

2nd update: 12:05 p.m. EDT: Listening to White House adviser David Axelrod as he is interviewed on CNN that he is spinning Chicago's initial defeat as positively as he can. Though he correctly notes that he is not an expert on the IOC processes, he is making a realistic argument that anytime the IOC membership gets together, uncertainty can follow.

1st UPDATE: 11:54 a.m. EDT: I see it as shameful that there are politicians and others on the right who are using the defeat of Chicago as an easy opportunity to criticize President Obama. I would ask those people the following question: Would you have accepted the public expenditure of funds that it would have taken to deliver a world-class Olympics in Chicago? And please remember that some of that money would have come from public sources.

ORIGINAL POST: The news this morning that Chicago was eliminated in the first round of IOC balloting appears surprising to almost everyone who has covered this story. The question is how could it have happened?

We should not expect much information from IOC members; they are going to focus their energies over the next 24 to 48 hours in promoting the winning city (which is expected to be announced around 12:30 p.m. EDT). Moreover, because the IOC members vote in secret, there is no way to know how each member voted.

Later, we will see the round-by-round vote; however, that will be "total" counts.

There has been conversation this morning that the city's delegation did not dazzle the room, and based on media reports the other cities might have been less technical and more emotional in their presentations.

This story will continue to be updated.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Is Iran giving in?

Interesting reports late Thursday night indicating that Iran might have made a significant concession to the West, as discussions about Iran's nuclear program advance.

This story will be worth following over the next few hours and days.

The 2016 Olympic vote...

...is just hours away. From this link, you can watch the IOC's discussions about and the announcement of which one of the four cities will be chosen as host of the 2016 Games.

There has been much media attention in the past couple of days about President Obama's decision to travel to Copenhagen, where the IOC's meeting is taking place, and to openly politic for Chicago, one of the four candidate cities, and from where at least one national network news program will emanate tomorrow evening.

The other finalists are Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, the city I believe will be selected on Friday by the IOC members. The presentations from the candidate cities begin around 2:45 a.m. Friday (Eastern Daylight Time), and it will be approximately 10:00 a.m. when the voting begins.

Will "Paw" claw his way to the top?

The early signs are that a moderate Republican might have more of an effect than first thought on the outcome of the 2012 presidential primary/caucus season.

Politico.com reports today that former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is putting together the initial parts of a campaign team, and the strength of that team indicates Mr. Pawlenty could be more of a political force than initially thought.

Serious followers of politics know that Mr. Pawlenty was considered as a running mate for Sen. John McCain during the 2008 presidential year. His announcement earlier this year that he would not seek re-election in Minnesota offered the initial strong hint that Mr. Pawlenty had eyes on the nation's biggest political prize.

He is not likely to be a favorite among conservative Republicans, but he certainly might be appealing to moderate and independent voters.

Is it really a party...

...if no one is invited?

A curious birthday party was thrown in Beijing this morning -- the country celebrated the 60th anniversary of its Communist founding, and no one from the outside was invited to take part in it.

I watched some of the CCTV live coverage of the parade, and I was struck by some of the words uttered by China's leader Hu Jintao. The translator indicated that Hu was thanking the military and the others levers of power who were allowed to witness the parade and reminding them that the celebration was a recognition of all they had done for the people of China.

And yet there were no people there to return the appreciation.