Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pyongyang wants...


A New Year's surprise from the North Korean government? Or another empty gesture? The government today issued a statement calling for the end of hostile relations with the U.S.

New policy for the U.N. in Pakistan

And the policy is unfortunately necessary. The international agency is moving 25 percent (60 people) of its non-Pakistani employees out of Pakistan.

The policy will be in effect for at least six months.

The reason behind the decision ought to be obvious if you are a serious and consistent follower of international news -- Pakistan is an unsettled land, and one that is not safe.

The opposition is not allowed to stage a protest...

...but pro-government rallies in Iran are legal.

Don't you just love double standards?

NPR tries to establish a local news presence

An interesting initiative. Presuming it's successful, an expansion of stations and ideas seems possible.

Rush Limbaugh hospitalized

Whatever your opinion of Rush Limbaugh, let's hope the chest pains he is experiencing turn out to be nothing serious.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Calgary Herald reporter...

...and four Canadian military dead in Afghanistan.

Slip, sliding away

The media -- and typically it is the right-leaning news organizations that are quicker to point out -- are noting that President Obama's approval numbers have slid noticeably.

According to one newspaper report, the president began the year with an approval rating of 67 percent, and he ends it at 48 percent. However, and this is something the more left-leaning media are likely to tell you, the president also ends the year as the man Americans say they admire more than any other.

Congressional Democrats have something more important to consider than their popularity -- their jobs. And as a result an important discussion continues to take place among them and party leaders: In what direction should the party lean in 2010?

Let's see if the media can be a bit more objective in their coverage of this issue.

More gutting...I mean, the Washington Times? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. EST: "Tweets" note that the newspaper's management has indeed slashed the sports section, which publishes its last edition on Friday. And why you should care.

ORIGINAL POST: The nation's capital has two daily newspapers, except that one of them has decided to chop its Sunday edition.

The same newspaper -- the Washington Times -- is now denying rumors that its sports and metro sections are on the way out.

Hey, you remember when...

...Richard Reid tried to blow up an airplane?

And if you do consider the following from's Josh Gerstein:

Eight years ago, another president, George W. Bush, was on vacation when another fanatic, 'show bomber' Richard Reid, tried to detonate a bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight.

It was six whole days before Bush made public remarks about the episode -- which revealed gaping holes in U.S. intelligence and screening systems – but the GOP didn't peep back them, and 'there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate,' Gerstein writes.

So, tell me...what exactly made what Reid did worthy of presidential silence while what Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab did required an immediate and consistent presidential response?

How about we fly you home...

...and then you give us an interview.

Brilliant move, NBC. Simply brilliant.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Who is a journalist and who is an advocate"... becoming increasingly more difficult to determine. And that's not good.

The link above ought to be required reading for journalism students, advocacy groups, politicians and others who care (or claim to care) about the state of journalism in the nation's capital.

The leader of the TSA

...there isn't one.

The Washington Post explains why:

'An alleged attempt to blow up a transatlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration -- if there were one.

'Instead, the post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has held up President Obama's nominee in an effort to prevent TSA workers from joining a labor union. DeMint, in a statement, said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempted attack in Detroit 'is a perfect example of why the Obama administration should not unionize the TSA.'

'For now, DeMint said, the TSA has 'flexibility to make real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security measures in response to this attempted attack.' He said that if organized labor were involved, union bosses would have the power 'to veto or delay future security improvements at our airports.' Two Senate committees have given their bipartisan blessing to Erroll Southers, a former FBI special agent and a counterterrorism expert who is Obama's nominee. But DeMint has objected to a full Senate vote, saying he wants additional testimony to clarify Southers's stand on unionizing the TSA, a shift Democrats support.'

You may draw your own conclusions.

Oops admits it was duped.

I want TV!

There are serious discussions underway in the television industry about whether the free TV model (meaning you are not charged to view the channel and advertisers provide the dollars to keep that station afloat) is sustainable.

The ramifications are obvious. I wonder if there is an opportunity for the public to demand that its money be used for a commitment to covering national and international news without the bombast and opinion-screaming that dominates cable "news" programming.

Monday, December 28, 2009

You can't read...

...these newspapers. Why? They've been shuttered at some point over the past three years.

He gave himself a B+

TIME magazine suggests it's not so easy to "grade" President Obama's first year in office.

Here's a summary list of Mr. Obama's accomplishments and shortcomings in year one, according to TIME.

Meanwhile, one Financial Times columnist suggests the president had a good first year but opportunities for further success were missed.

These kinds of reports are worth your time (no pun intended) -- provided they come from reputable media sources. Be cognizant that in this polarized media environment, it is more difficult to find individual journalists or news agencies that don't have an overt agenda or bias. Nevertheless, take the time to explore various sites to determine what the media are saying about the president.

Charge them!

Sure, more and more media organizations are considering charging for access to their online content. That makes sense...if.

The Iranian government is not giving up

Today the government ordered the arrests of three aides to opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi, one day after Mr. Moussavi's nephew was killed in widespread protests.

The government -- openly defiant to the world in various areas -- has kicked out of the country journalists from mainstream media organizations. But clearly the various media reports that are getting out and the numerous blog and YouTube reports demonstrates that Tehran is failing to control the story.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


No doubt, has scooped the mainstream media on at least two significant stories this year -- the death of Michael Jackson, and the accident and subsequent revelation of the many affairs of Tiger Woods.

So, the question: Is it time to respect

The international agenda in 2010

Granted, right now the "surge" of American military troops into Afghanistan will be the top international story that the U.S. media will cover in the new year.

But consider what happens if the governments of Pakistan or Iran fall in 2010.

In Pakistan, violence appears to be a daily occurrence; today was no exception. The death of Benazir Bhutto two years ago today was remembered by the government, which is now headed by her husband. But his authority also is dubious.

Meanwhile, today's protests in Iran, which included the deaths of at least nine people, provides further evidence that the government lacks the public's respect. With that, its authority to lead remains nil.

In short, while Afghanistan is the principal focus of attention for the Obama administration (and therefore the media that, based on multiple academic research, regularly follows the lead of the White House in their coverage of the world) right now, the situation could change.

Although these images cannot be immediately independently verified...

...they do suggest a government in Iran that lacks any moral authority to lead.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Two new reminders...

...of how difficult it is to establish an iron-clad security plan.

On Christmas Eve, a woman ran toward and then deliberately knocked down the Pope, as he prepared to celebrate Mass.

Then on Christmas Day, a man had an incendiary device that he attempted to set off on an airplane.

People who commit these acts are often described in some form or another as unstable, and I'm not doubting that. But we shouldn't forget that any society (or leader) that prides itself on openness is always susceptible to such acts. No, I'm not advocating for the installation of some worldwide North Korea-like system; instead I'm saying that there is no security system that can be described as "perfect" that also protects a person's privacy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Chillin' for a couple of days

No posts here until Monday. I hope you have a fantastic holiday season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, some other faith or none at all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The blue and the red

This map tells it all -- the political divide between Democrats and Republicans is largely a geographic one also.

It might have been one vote...

...but the symbolism of it cannot be ignored (at least for the moment).

This morning the Senate voted 60-39 -- a straight party-line vote -- to approve comprehensive health care reform. Early in 2010, the discussions between House and Senate conference committees to reconcile the different bills will begin.

The Democrats unanimous support and the Republicans unanimous non-support caps a generation of the polarization of America's political parties, according to the New York Times.

And what to make of the man who guided the effort? Consider this from's Martin Kady II:

Harry Reid is a historic figure today, a master of the Senate who guided the chamber to a stunning Christmas Eve vote that grants Democrats a victory 50 years in the making.

Or, he's a political hack who poisoned the atmosphere in the Senate, bought votes and rammed through a health care bill that will prove to be an epic disaster in domestic policy.

"We advise [them] to end their activities"

And with that warning, the Iranian government has made it clear it will crack down even harder now on protesters.

The call comes in apparent conjunction with a decision to fire opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi from the government post he had held.

Underscoring these announcements is Tehran's continuing resistance to deal with the United States and other nations on its nuclear ambitions. And that has led at least one American scholar to conclude that a military attack against those nuclear installations is necessary.

In short, as 2009 winds down Iran's domestic and international situation looks no better than it did at the beginning of the year. In fact, considering the June elections -- which international observers maintain was flawed -- and the government's response to it, one could say that Iran appears to be a bigger international problem than it was 12 months ago.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Come on over...the view is pretty good

This wonderful display of Christmas cheer, as reported by

Republicans are stepping up efforts to convince more House Democrats to switch parties and are focusing on Rep. Chris Carney (D-Penn.), who has been asked by Sen. John McCain about making such a move, a top GOP official tells POLITICO.

No, not even on the eve of Christmas do political machinations stop.

The crime...

...justifies the penalty.

The parents of the so-called "balloon boy" learned today that perpetuating a hoax that led to multiple police agencies attempting to catch a little boy who was never in a balloon; included nationwide media coverage; and was followed by ridicule and scorn equals strong penalties.

We also can hope that the media that fawn over these desperate-for-attention people will think twice about giving them what they want.

A small step on the pockmarked road to peace

There will be a temptation in the media to turn the likely prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel into a "huge" news event.

That would be unfortunate. The gulf between the two sides remains wide, and there is no substantive sign that these discussions will lead to additional conversations about securing peace.

Nevertheless any opportunity in which Hamas and Israel can agree is important. And the timing of it -- Christmas week -- is perhaps coincidental but will be considered important in media discourse.

If Nielsen cannot adjust... might be left behind.

You cannot blame communications companies for demanding that there be a more comprehensive system for gathering ratings in this multi-platform universe. The traditional idea of people sitting in front of the television is a relic of the past, and it's not just the youngest generations taking advantage of the computer or a download service in order to "watch" their favorite programs.

Adjust...or become part of the past. That strain is being felt in the newspaper industry, as well. Welcome to the 21st century, where new can be old in about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Will economic sanctions work against Iran?

In the opinion of Suzanne Maloney, the answer is no.

Maloney is a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy at Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which is part of the Brookings Institution.

Happy 130th Birthday

You talk about larger than life! Josef Stalin's rehabilitation (kind of like a re-birth) continues in Russia.

The stories of the decade... seen through the eyes of one American:

10. Katrina and the government's woeful response
9. 2000 presidential election
8. Comprehensive health care reform
7. Cable news networks polarize, newspaper industry fears its future
6. Google and the rise of social media
5. China becomes a significant international player
4. The global economic collapse
3. America elects a black man as president
2. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan divide American opinion
1. 9/11

Health care reform (2 x UPDATE)

2ND UPDATE: 4:00 P.M. EST: This from the Washington Post:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that a vote on final passage of a health-care reform bill will take place at 8 a.m. Dec. 24. It will be followed by a vote on increasing the federal debt ceiling, the leaders said.

1ST UPDATE: There is a chance that Mother Nature could move up the vote to Wednesday.

ORIGINAL POST: There will be a vote on Christmas Eve in the Senate, and that vote will be to approve comprehensive reform of health care.

At that point Democrats will begin to hear concerns from various groups, as they work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of health care. (I leave the Republicans out of this discussion because I believe they will vote unanimously against any final bill.) Any abortion provision is sure to generate the most vitriol, and it is on that area that I anticipate the media will direct their closest attention.

There are legitimate questions being asked about deals that Senate majority leader Harry Reid cut in an effort to get the necessary 60 votes to cut off any Republican-led delays in getting a vote to the floor.

And we move on.

Those who fail to understand history...

...are doomed to repeat it?


Regardless of your opinion of President Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I hope you will acknowledge that it is the place where America's war effort should have been focused over the majority of this decade. That is not to say that a war in Iraq has crippled the opportunity for America and her allies to "win" in Afghanistan, but it does suggest that our nation would like not be as divided about war if other choices had been made by other administrations.

More germane to today, it also is not fair to compare any war to another; however, it is inevitable that will happen as the media, Democrats, Republicans, think tanks and other agencies weigh in on how the "surge" in Afghanistan is working. The comparison to Iraq is going to happen. So too will there be comparisons to previous nations who invaded Afghanistan.

Keep an open mind to all of this.

Kimberly Dozier returns to Iraq

It was there more than three years ago that a bomb killed two of her colleagues and left her with serious injuries.

But Dozier has returned to Iraq to do a series of reports for CBS News.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Washington newspaper chooses... cease preparing a Sunday edition.

This brief story from the competing Washington Post of course doesn't fully highlight all the reasons for the decision, but it at least offers some insight into why a new generation of family leadership is viewing its role differently than the previous one.

A leading critic of the Iranian government is laid to rest...

...and protesters show up in force at his funeral and throughout the area to voice their continued opposition.

Iran is a fascinating country, and its rich history and culture has been subsumed over the past 25 years by the government. It also has not helped that a continuous negative relationship with the United States has ensured an entire generation of Americans has been raised to view Iran as hostile. Sadly, that hostility too often carries over to a knee-jerk dismissal of the Iranian people.

It happened at 1:00 a.m. EST today...

...but nevertheless an important vote for health care reform was taken by the Senate.

It appears the final vote -- also expected to be 60-40 and along party lines -- will take place on Christmas Eve. At that point the work to reconcile the differences between the Senate and House versions of health care reform will begin.

The vitriol continues, and as the Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes in this editorial it reached a new low yesterday.

What hasn't gotten any lower, at least not yet, is the public's attitude toward comprehensive reform of health care.

PBS has succumbed to...

...the ratings game.

There is an important study that an academic scholar can undertake, in light of today's decision by PBS to subscribe to Nielsen ratings: how does the content of these programs change, if at all, knowing that ratings are being posted for them?

I hope the answer is not at all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Some will win...

...but the goal now for the House and Senate is to prevent a clear sense of "some will lose." If that happens, then most Democrats will "sing the blues," as they attempt to figure out how a year's worth of discussion and wrangling about health care could fail.

This country has never been closer to an agreement on comprehensive health care reform; and anyone who thinks the president is being bombastic by suggesting if this Congress doesn't bring it to fruition than no future body will, is simply wrong. In my opinion, the American people would be the losers because the health care system can be improved.

Consider this as a corollary: Departments or schools within colleges and universities review their curriculum on a consistent basis. Doing so ensures that the courses being offered best reflect what students need to know now and into the future. Of course, as those future trends change, then the course offerings are altered. Perhaps a required class is moved to an elective, or another course is dropped; the goal is to continually provide the best education possible to students.

This comprehensive reform of the health care system is the equivalent of decades of not reviewing and updating the curriculum. The students suffer if educational offerings are not enhanced and changed with the times. Thus, today the American people are paying the price of entrenched special-interest groups (among others) pandering to fear and outright distortion in an attempt to prevent the delivery of a better health care system.

If those efforts succeed, then Americans lose. And we will be left walking "up and down the boulevard" as we can "sing the blues."

A powerful voice of caution is silenced (UPDATED)

1ST UPDATE: 2:40 P.M. EST: The death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has led to protests in portions of Iran.

ORIGINAL POST: One of Iran's leading religious clerics has died. TIME's Joe Klein explains why his death is important.

A few international heads of state acted as leaders should

And others...well, they could have done more.

That's the summary line I draw from this Guardian story about international leaders at the Copenhagen climate conference.

The conference ended with more questions than answers about the deal brokered principally by President Obama.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And then there is this piece of charcoal in your Christmas stocking

From Glenn Thrush of

THE CLIMATE DEAL REACHED BETWEEN THE U.S., CHINA AND OTHER GREAT POWERS on Friday night is so vague, hastily hatched and non-binding President Obama isn't even sure he'll be required to sign it. 'You know, it raises an interesting question as to whether technically there's actually a signature... It's not a legally binding agreement, I don't know what the protocols are,' said a bleary-eyed Obama, before hopping in Air Force One for the trip back to Washington. Even as he left, it wasn't clear that the pact Obama described as 'meaningful' would even pass muster with the European Union – or attract enough votes with the 193-nation COP 15 conference to become an official declaration.

It's unclear how many nations, particularly poorer countries who felt shut out of the process, were included in the final deal or how they will vote if the deal is put to one. It's also unclear how the president's half-a-loaf approach will sit with a deadlocked Senate or the Africans, Europeans and Asians who view him as the quintessential 21st Century leader. Obama's allies say he got the best deal possible, and set the stage for a better result next year at the climate change conference in Mexico City. 'The agreement reached tonight in Copenhagen is a breakthrough in the global effort to combat the climate crisis and could not have been reached without President Obama's active involvement and leadership,' said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement.

'Today's agreement takes the first important steps toward true transparency and accountability in an international climate agreement,' said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund. 'The sooner the U.S. speaks through Senate legislation, the sooner we can set the terms of engagement for talks to come.' Earlier Friday, a visibly angry Obama threw down the gauntlet at China and other developing nations, declaring that the time has come 'not to talk but to act' on climate change. Obama's public ultimatum kicked off a furious round of bilateral negotiations between the world's two largest pollution emitters as the conference entered its final hours, with Obama plunging into a pair of bargaining sessions involving Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who had earlier boycotted a larger, multi-nation meeting with Obama. -- with Louise Roug, Lisa Lerer and Fred Barbash

The president is not sure he's going to be required to sign it? Great. Just great.

America will get a Christmas gift from the Senate

A filibuster-proof vote for health care reform. This news brief comes from the Washington Post:

Sen. Ben Nelson, the final Democratic holdout on health care, was prepared to announce to his caucus Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A positive result of the "reset"...

...between U.S. and Russian relations? It appears so.


...better than nothing?

When it comes to climate change -- at least for now -- something is better than nothing. And I repeat a question I asked earlier this week: Is the near collapse of the Copenhagen conference a result of political cowardice or something too complex for leaders with diverse interests to agree upon?

Twas the days after finals...

Twas the days after finals, and all through the halls, not a student was walking, nothing echoed off walls.

The exams were stacked on the desk with care, in hopes that the grading professor would be fair.

And the students proclaimed as they drove out of sight, Merry Christmas to all, you gave me an A, right?

My thanks to former my former graduate student Matt Deegan, and my Point Park colleague Heather Starr Fiedler for providing the second and third sections.


The Wall Street Journal offers an interesting story about media ethics and the Tiger Woods "scandal."

One assessment of local television coverage during a period of bad weather

Rob Owen is the television critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here is his summary of how Pittsburgh's local television stations did (or didn't) cover the unexpected freezing rain and ice that hit the city Sunday morning:

Pittsburghers woke up to an ice storm Sunday morning that coated roads with the thinnest layer of ice and had local TV stations scrambling to find ways to report on a story when they could not send crews into the field.

Well, most stations, but not KDKA-TV. At 8 a.m., a televangelist droned on and at 8:30 a public affairs show aired in its usual time slot. I received this e-mail from a viewer named Hal, who works in commercial real estate: "Please wake up KDKA-TV and tell them there is currently a major weather event. They don't even have a crawl on the screen let alone coverage. They're asleep. Please wake them."

Although I did not see it, KDKA did scroll weather and road closing information, according to news director Coleen Marren. And she said, which can be operated remotely, was also "constantly updated Sunday morning."

She said because KDKA-TV has no regularly scheduled Sunday morning newscast, there was no production crew on hand to put reporters on the air. Station executives opted not to call a crew in due to the hazardous road conditions. No changes to their staffing are planned.

"This was such a unique circumstance," Marren said. "When there's snow, you can use a 4-wheel drive. ... It's hard to imagine another situation like this."

Except, perhaps, another Sunday morning ice storm.

Viewer Hal went on complain about stations' self-promotion and what he perceives as often needless weather scrolls, but he said, "This is one time where they should have been out there, and they have miserably failed."

Often I'm critical, too, when local stations don't move away from breaking news coverage once there's nothing left to say, but in this case, with the parkways shut down, continuing coverage seemed warranted. That doesn't mean it will always be the best coverage or that there won't be repetition, but it is worth keeping viewers apprised as conditions change. And for viewers put out by that coverage, there's an easy solution: Turn off the TV.

WTAE and WPXI do offer Sunday morning newscasts and had staffers on duty, but they had to take more creative approaches to coverage because it would be dangerous to send reporters and photographers out on the road.

WPXI had weathercaster Kevin Benson on with anchor Kimberly Easton, who was also on duty during the April police shootings. Easton was pretty animated as she tried to fill air time ("Where do you think you're going? You're not gonna get anywhere!"), and the station won the early award for best video for scenes that appeared to be shot outside the station's Summer Hill facility of cars sliding down a road and smashing into other vehicles.

On WTAE, phone calls from eyewitnesses and staffers (Kelly Frey, Erin Kienzle) and the use of traffic cameras (pretty effective) had to suffice in the early going. Anchor Janelle Hall handled the live coverage with the same even-keeled calm she showed during the April shootings.

For what it's worth, a winter storm warning exists for the counties that include and surround Pittsburgh, beginning tonight and through most of tomorrow. Granted, this (potential) storm comes with plenty of warning, and it is sure to dominate local news coverage tonight. But it nevertheless will be interesting to compare how and what the local stations cover, and for how long.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's still 2009...

...but the battle for 2012 already has begun.

One almost-certain Republican presidential hopeful was in New Hampshire last night. Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty suggested a "Ponzi scheme" is being run by Democrats in Washington, as he delivered a message that "played well with the movers and shakers in the state party."

Cowardice...or realism?

This comes from

China’s climate negotiators have told Western counterparts they can’t agree to an “operational agreement” on climate change that President Obama had hoped to achieve before arriving in Copenhagen -- and will push instead for a short, noncommittal collective statement at the end of the talks, according to American delegation sources.

And so the question: Have world leaders again demonstrated their cowardice when it comes to climate change, or is simply unrealistic for that diverse group to agree on what constitutes real change?

Times they might be a-changin... the Kremlin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If you don't like the man...

...then go after his wife.

Some people are just da** dumb.

Religion and Politics

From Mike Allen's "Playbook" on

Officials from Washington University in St. Louis and the Danforth Foundation – including John C. Danforth, former U.S. Senator and former Ambassador to the United Nations, and William H. Webster, chairman, Homeland Security Advisory Council, past director of FBI and CIA – will unveil plans for a scholarly and educational center that will focus on the role of religion in politics, to be named the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics.

The lessons behind...

...Houston's election of a lesbian as mayor. Interesting article.

Ben Bernanke...the Person of the Year


He's the man, as far as TIME magazine is concerned.

The magazine's managing editor explains why "The Good Banker" was chosen.

This link will take you to photos of Bernanke at key moments in his life.

The Person of the Year. Really?

A real-life ethics lesson

This is fascinating.

Reaching out...or caving in?

As with so many political issues, your answer almost certainly depends upon where you stand on the political spectrum.

So, here's the question: Was President Obama's decision to write a letter to North Korean president Kim Jong Il "reaching out" to make the world a safer place? Or was it another example of a "weak" president "caving in" to a despot?

Rush Limbaugh might be a blowhard...

...but to accuse him of being the linchpin for death threats against someone is a complex and dangerous claim. Yet, that's exactly what the FCC's chief diversity officer is contending.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's historic

Yes, that term when it applies to sports is thrown around too often, and too often without proper context.

But tonight, historic applies to the 4-team, 9-player deal that sees two Cy Young Award winners being part of the same deal. And why is that historic? Because it has never happened in the history of Major League Baseball.

We ought not forget that baseball's (non-existent) common sense economic policies played a role in this. One of the teams involved -- the Toronto Blue Jays -- knew one of those Cy Young winners was going to ditch them after the 2010 season for "greener" pastures.

Maybe he's an Independent...

...but he could be a Republican. Yet he caucuses with the Democrats.

Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman is unwilling to close the door on the prospects of running as a Republican in 2012, though he admits that prospect is not likely.

One prospect that is likely -- Lieberman voting for the health care bill that continues to work its way through the Senate.

Make no mistake, the man is a consummate politician.

A potential road block in the climate change discussions

The head of the United Nations says plans to include a financial aid package for poorer nations to assist them in meeting their climate change responsibilities will not happen in Copenhagen this week.

That news has led to concerns by some experts that the potential for no deal at all being signed is real.

Perhaps the larger question is...

...were they looking? And was there any reason to suggest they should have?


It's time to reconsider the popularity of Russian on college campuses.

Journalism is an act of terrorism... Sri Lanka.

Charles Gibson prepares his farewell

And as he does he offers some interesting advice for his replacement, Diane Sawyer.

One person's business deal... another person's bad deal. You decide.

Keep your friends close...

...and always keep an eye on the skies around North Korea, because an arms shipment could be on its way.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Half the newsroom is canned

One El Paso television station really cleared out the house.

Another deal to bring about health care reform?

Or a sell-out to get something, anything to the American people?

Consider this excerpt from The New York Times:

Senate Democratic leaders said Monday that they were prepared
to drop a proposed expansion of Medicare and make other changes in sweeping health legislation as they tried to rally their caucus in hopes of passing the bill before Christmas.

Under the proposal, uninsured people ages 55 to 64 could purchase Medicare coverage. The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, floated the idea about 10 days ago as a way to break an intraparty impasse over his earlier proposal to create a government-run health insurance plan.

Obama gets a B+

From the media? No. From the GOP? Oh, come on.

Instead, that grade comes from...the president himself.

If you make a mistake...

...this young man is sure to find it.

Obama as orator

Interesting -- and I think spot on -- op-ed from The Financial Times on the oratory skills of President Obama.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yes, but how will they answer the question?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes today that colleges are evaluating the "cost" of big-time athletics.

But the larger issue is which university president will have the courage to suggest the time is now to back off the pursuit of big-time athletics.

In the last couple of weeks, two second-tier universities -- Northeastern and Hofstra -- have chosen to shut down their football programs. It will take a more high-profile institution to make such a move before a serious discussion can continue.

I'm a huge fan of college sports, and I was fortunate to see it played at its highest level, as a student and a journalist. But over time I've come to question the supposition that "big-time" athletic programs are consistent with the larger aims of a university.

The decision by the University of Alabama to delay the start of the spring semester because of its football program's participation in the so-called national championship game sends a message that is difficult to defend.

I understand that at major institutions the football team is a primary public relations element; it brings national attention to the campus, offers prospective students a sense of what "life" at that school might be like, and allows the entire campus community to celebrate sporting achievements.

But I also understand that the larger the athletic program is allowed to become, the less believable is that school's contention that its "student-athletes" are in fact not "athletes."

911 and 9/11. This is no joke

Here's an interesting story about newspapers, culture, copy editors, and how one editing mark can change the entire tone of a story.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

News sharing

Two Cincinnati television stations are beginning a news partnership in which one station will cover selected news events for both stations.

I'm a proponent of such deals, but I maintain that the rubber meets the road on these deals when an unexpected event happens at these otherwise (supposedly) benign events. For example, a gun-toting protester shows up at a city council meeting, and only TV Station A is at the event. How does the videographer for TV Station A handle this, knowing there are two news directors demanding that video immediately?

He won't be impeached...

...but he will be divorced.

An expected next chapter in the fall from political grace of South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is about to be written; his wife has filed for divorce.

The private lives of public officials (and celebrities) is always a dicey proposition, but I maintain that Mrs. Sanford's decision is newsworthy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Faculty don't have ownership of the process"

An assessment of assessment by the head of the faculty at Temple University.

The link above summarizes a session I attended yesterday, as the annual Middle States Commission on Higher Education continued in Philadelphia. The conference wraps up late this morning.

The aforementioned story does an acceptable job of summarizing what assessment is, and why it is important for all colleges and universities to do. It also highlights the inevitable tension that will result if a university's administration and faculty are not working together to complete the many tasks associated with accreditation.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A shield law moves one step closer to reality

Much like the much more publicized discussion about health care, the federal shield law still needs to have its Senate version reconciled with the differences from the House's bill. But that is expected to happen, and without the vitriol associated with health care.

Among the groups celebrating today's news -- the Radio Television Digital News Association, whose chairman called today's news "the first step towards victory for freedom of the press and the public's right to know."

A "just war"

An excerpt (from Mike Allen's Playbook) of President Obama's remarks this morning from Oslo, where he accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace:

'Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world: I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. ... I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight. ... [W]e are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict ....

'[A]s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason. So let us reach for the world that OUGHT to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. [APPLAUSE] ... We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of depravation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.'

Student-athletes at the University of South Florida...

...are so busy, they deserve MAC laptop computers. And the university is supplying them. I'm just asking: Aren't the university's students also very busy?

They don't deserve one because....?

You talk about a double standard

A publication is closed...

...and employees learn about it in a letter.

The closing of Editor and Publisher (and Kirkus Reviews) offers just the latest example of the volatility in the media. When I read news such as this, I am reminded of a prediction made by a media expert (and unfortunately I cannot remember who it was) who said legacy publications should not consider themselves immune from the economic downturn. He added that in his opinion multiple legacy publications -- magazine and newspaper -- would shut their doors in 2009 or 2010.

That prediction has been spot on.

By George...

...the reactions are coming fast and furious.

In our politically charged political climate, it should come as no surprise that the decision to name George Stephanopoulos as host of Good Morning America would be seen by some as a reinforcement of the liberal media.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenstahl notes that the network was able to pull off the retirement of Charles Gibson, the promotion of Diane Sawyer from GMA to World News and Stephanopolous from This Week to GMA with very little attention.

Why the cable companies should be afraid

Consider a world in which you can watch almost any program available to you through cable...without the cable bill.

Frankly, if a few more programming options were available, I'd make the switch today.

Neither the students nor the government will back down

And in circumstances such as this, it is the government that has the military and police might, but the students who (often) are right.

Considering that these protests are taking place in Tehran, we know what that means.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Classes are canceled because...

...of a bowl game. An interesting message being sent to students at the University of Alabama about their football team, their education and the interaction between the two.

No impeachment

A group of South Carolina lawmakers has decided not to impeach Governor Mark Sanford, who was accused of using state travel for private use.

Instead a formal rebuke of the governor has been called for. The governor's travels to Argentina, where he visited his mistress, was one of the scandals-of-the-moment during the summer. The affair was not the principal thrust of the investigation; rather, lawmakers were examining a variety of ethics charges against Sanford.

The fallout

Tiger Woods' admission of "transgressions" and the lingering uncertainty about what exactly caused his one-car accident in the early hours on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend are damaging his credibility.

The crumbling credibility can be seen on at least two levels. Rasmussen reports that fewer than 4 in 10 people surveyed indicate they have a favorable opinion of Woods. The 38% favorable number is down 18 percentage points from one week ago.

Woods has chosen to disappear from the public eye; he has not spoken to the media since the accident, and last week he skipped a golf tournament in which he serves as sponsor. He also is not being seen in advertisements, something consistent with his image over the past years.

These reasons alone offer evidence that Woods ought to re-think the public relations strategy he has adopted. Granted, he's attempting to protect his family and his privacy; but being Tiger Woods ensures that is impossible. And the consistent series of stories from women claiming they had affairs with him are adding to the pressure to do more than issue a statement on his Web site.

By George (Stephanopoulos)...

...I think he's got it.

On the road again...

...just can't wait to get on the road again.

Well, with apologies to Willie Nelson, I need to get on the road this morning. I'm heading to Philadelphia for the annual Middle States Commission on Higher Education annual conference. The name might not sound all that exciting, but there is no doubting the importance of the organization -- it is the agency that accredits colleges and universities in the part of the country in which I live.

My university -- Point Park University -- undergoes its accreditation review in about 15 months. I'm one of about 8 Point Park administrators or faculty attending the 3-day conference that begins later today.

So instead of my usual blog in the morning...look for a few posts from me later today.

Cue Willie...

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Real journalists: Protected...

Citizen journalists: Nope.

Uh, there's a problem here people.

Uh, isn't this a flip-flop?

From the AP (and excerpted in Mike Allen's "Playbook" --

'A sure sign that it's election season: Gov. Charlie Crist is changing again.

The populist Republican is trying to convince people he's a conservative now that his opponent in the primary for Senate, former House Speaker Marco Rubio, has cut considerably into Crist's lead in the polls with a conservative message.

In the most extreme example of Crist reinventing himself, the governor denied endorsing the $787 billion federal stimulus and put out a radio ad in October criticizing President Barack Obama for trying to spend his way to prosperity. Crist clearly did endorse the package in February, saying it would help re-ignite the economy.

Choosing or changing positions based on what's politically popular is nothing new for Crist. Whether it's abortion laws, oil drilling or even the politicians he associates with, Crist can be a political chameleon.

Crist ... associated himself with Bush's brother, President George W. Bush, when it was convenient, and dissociated himself from him when it wasn't. Immediately after the 2006 primary, Crist proudly stood with the president during a fundraiser that took in $3.3 million for the Florida GOP - most of which was used to help elect Crist. But the day before that November's election, he refused to join the president at a Florida event to rally Republican voters. At the time, the president's approval rating was low and he was only traveling to areas where his help was wanted. The White House was surprised and embarrassed when Crist said at the last minute that he wouldn't appear with Bush. Schedules had already been printed listing Crist as announcing him.'

Where's Joe?

Democrats are again befuddled at Independent Joe Lieberman, who has made himself a scarce presence as the negotiations over health care reform intensify.

A prediction: If the Democrats lose seats in 2010 and therefore no longer approach the 60 needed for a super-majority, Sen. Lieberman will be stripped of any leadership posts he holds and will be told by the Democrats that he is free to align with whomever he wants.

Why Iraq is still a relevant national news story

Unfortunately it takes events such as today's to remind us that decisions to remove Iraq from the national media landscape and from the daily news conversation is a mistake.

But when that happens what we are left with is reports about multiple deaths from coordinated attacks reminding us that Iraq is not fully stabilized and on the road to democracy.

Monday, December 07, 2009

A fall from grace...

...but her important message still resonates.

This is an interesting article and one you ought to read. It points up that a person with an important message deserves to be heard, even if she is tainted by her own mistakes.

I would have appreciated hearing more about Marilee Jones' ideas, but my guess is that would have been giving away advice for free.

A television newscast from a newspaper newsroom

Twenty years ago...crazy talk. Now, reality.

A FOX-y move?

National Public Radio reporter Mara Liasson says she'll continue to appear as an analyst on FOX News.

The issue here is not FOX News and its news bias, nor whether another news organization is attempting to de-legitimize FOX News. Instead, I see it as something larger -- why are news organizations using journalists as analysts?

Yes, I know it's a standard practice, but what do we really learn when multiple journalists -- essentially covering the same stories and talking to the same group of sources -- discuss a news issue with each other?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

"Five handpicked reporters"

Leave it to a high-profile coach to take the luster off college football's Selection Sunday. And leave it to a handful of sports "journalists" who cover (or perhaps shill for?) Notre Dame football to contribute to it.

First, the setup:
Former Notre Dame head football coach Charlie Weis accused USC football coach Pete Carroll, who is married, of having an affair and living with an unnamed graduate student. (Please note the aforementioned link has been edited by and the comments about Carroll have been deleted.) A short time later Weis apologized. Interestingly, Carroll accepted the apology and shut off any further comment about the matter.

Let me add at this point it appears no one has asked Carroll to unequivocally deny he is involved in an extra-marital affair. If someone has, and I missed it, then I will update this portion of this post.

Returning to the Weis allegation, it was this paragraph from an ESPN report that caught my attention and serves as the purpose for this post:

Weis made the controversial comments while speaking to five handpicked reporters in South Bend, Ind., at Hannah & Friends, the nonprofit organization founded by Weis and his wife, Maura, designed to help children and adults with special needs. Hannah is one of Weis' children.

Five handpicked reporters? Handpicked by whom? And why? Moreover, why is it that the journalist -- from -- chose to report what Weis had said without apparently pressing Weis for details about a startling charge? Did senior editor Tim Prister really quote Weis and then move on to another question without doing what Weis' comments demanded -- asking a follow-up question?

If so, what a startling display of non-journalistic principles.

Consider again what Weis was quoted as saying: "Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news.

"He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it OK for one guy to do things like that, but for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins."

How can a journalist possibly let that go without compelling Weis to validate the charge?

This entire story will go away within a day or so. But there is an important lesson about journalists remembering that they can make the news when they fail to do their jobs responsibly. Editing a report so as to take out some controversial words is not an example of that.

The college football games over the past few days provided more evidence that...

...1. it is never easy to go through a season undefeated;
2. going wire-to-wire as the #1 team might be harder;
3. on any given day, a heavy underdog can pull off a shocker;
4. the BCS is an inferior way to determine the sports' national champion.

What we learned about President Obama... he decided what to do with America's military strategy in Afghanistan.

Friday, December 04, 2009

By George, he's (apparently) got it

Now, does George Stephanopoulos want it?

Another bitter reality on the college campus

There has been, in my opinion, less-than-expected attention devoted by the media to the recent decisions by leaders at Hofstra and Northeastern universities to shut down their football programs because of high costs and low fan interest.

I wonder how much media attention will come when universities begin to make an even more painful decision -- to slash academic programs.

Iowa State University is facing those choices, as its president recently spelled out in a letter to the university's faculty, staff and students.

The faculty is especially concerned, recognizing that any decision to cut a program means almost certainly cutting a faculty line.

No one wins when an athletic or academic program is cut. But if there is transparency in those discussions, and decisions are made based upon solid evidence (and not the whim or preferences of selected leaders) then the criticism must be muted.

Terror in the name of God

An all-too-common occurrence in our world, and it has happened again today.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

GIve a little here, give a little there

Welcome to compromise. And as's Martin Kady II notes, that's the theme as the health care discussions continue in the Senate:

The path to 60 is still a long, long way away, but here's a few deals that could be made before Christmas to get the bill through the Senate:

1.Getting a public option compromise. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is working on a trigger deal that could lure Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) but still hold together the rest of the Democrats.

2. Stronger abortion language. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), another Democratic holdout, has an abortion amendment – it may not pass intact but some tweak to abortion restrictions may buy his support.

3. Sweetener for Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). If the first two of these fall into place, all Harry Reid may need is something that brings along moderate holdout Lincoln – though it's not clear what she's asking for behind the scenes.

That's a lot of ifs and buts in a big, complicated debate that favors minority party maneuvers to delay and filibuster at every turn. But the beginning of votes today may be the spark needed to start cutting deals.

Important changes at one Washington newspaper

The Washington Times is cutting staff, reducing the scope of its reporting and almost certainly moving toward free delivery.

Radical? Perhaps. But in the economic climate in which newspapers find themselves in, what the Washington Times is doing could be matched by other papers in other cities.

Another college football program bites the dust

This time, it's Hofstra University saying that high costs and low fan interest are behind the decision.

Northeastern University made a similar announcement a couple of weeks ago.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Any reaction to what is being discussed at the University of Minnesota's school of education?

And away we go

The media -- like a shark -- were waiting for the blood. Today, they got it. Now we're about to learn how they will attack.

Of course I'm referring to the "news" that Tiger Woods was not faithful to his wife.

I have maintained on multiple occasions on this blog that the personal lives of public figures is not news. I'm not saying that when something significant happens that it ought not be reported. The accident that Mr. Woods had last week was news. The announcement he made today that there were "transgressions" in his life is news.

But I am saying that the lusting for every detail in this "scandal" demeans the news organization that engages in such behavior.

Let's admit that over the next days (and perhaps weeks) the media will go on a feeding frenzy as they seek to uncover any woman who can claim to have had a relationship of any kind with Tiger Woods. These individuals will take advantage of a "news" environment in which countless numbers of media organizations will devote time, resources and attention to a non-story. They also will sacrifice their own integrity for a few moments in the media spotlight. And for what?

Earlier today, a California woman was identified as having had a near 2-1/2 year affair with Woods, who has been married about 5 years and has two children. Her claims appear to be bolstered by a voice mail she says is of Woods alerting her that his wife was aware of her. Media reports also indicate she has text messages sent to her by the golfer. To describe her as bitter might be kind.

A few days ago another woman was linked to Woods. She has denied it.

Does the public really care about this nonsense that passes as news? More importantly, does a news organization think it is serving the public's interest by offering this dribble as news?

I'm not attempting to defend what Mr. Woods has done. I can see no defense for (likely) carrying on relationships with more than one woman while being married. But what I am saying is that the constant attention afforded this story with little, if any, social significance fails to serve the public and fails to demonstrate a real commitment to providing relevant information to the public.

The idea that because it is Tiger Woods that his extra-marital affairs is newsworthy is specious. Woods is recognized and admired for his extraordinary golf ability. He is without a doubt the best golfer of this generation, and he might be the best professional golfer of all-time. Those statements allow for his affair to become "news"? Really?

Yes, the "news" of his affair (affairs?) shatters the image of Woods as a larger-than-life hero who "deserved" to be worshiped like an idol. That statement allows for his affair to become "news"? Really?

The media will cover every aspect of this story because of the multiple angles it has: sex, scandal, a scorned woman, a tarnished hero and confused fans. In short, the media will offer you significant and daily helpings of chocolate cake -- no nutritional value but something that tastes good.

Newseum cuts staff

The Newseum -- rapidly becoming my favorite place to visit in Washington -- is suffering through the economic woes that many businesses are dealing with.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

All in

No, it's not poker, but without a doubt President Obama will raise the stakes tonight when he formally lays out his plans for America's increased military presence in Afghanistan.

It seems the most pertinent details have been leaked to the media -- and the absence of a blowback from the White House indicates to me that the president is comfortable that the public has had time to digest what he will say tonight. That message will justify an increase by more than 30,000 the number of American forces in Afghanistan and an expected timetable for when those troops can be expected to return home.

I'm maintained on this blog that the war in Afghanistan will define the Obama presidency in ways similar to how the war in Iraq defined the Bush administration. No, the circumstances are not identical, but there is enough there to warrant the comparison.

Those factors include (and this is not an exhaustive list):
1. Doubt about whether troops ought to be sent
2. A lack of clarity regarding how success will be defined
3. Fear that the U.S. forces will be targets
4. Loud voices of protest at home
5. A heavy financial cost at a time when America needs to tighten its financial belt

Of course, you should watch the president's address tonight -- the imagery of him at West Point is powerful and symbolic. But his message is more important.