Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A book or an e-book?

A recent essay in the Globe and Mail about books and e-books got me thinking: Is reading a book the same as reading an e-book?

No, and it never can be. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

Books have a texture and a tangible quality to them; and when they come from a used bookstore, a history. There is, at least for me, an almost child-like wonder when I visit a used bookstore (which for me remains one of life's fantastic adventures) -- who had this book before me? Did they like the book? Why did they give it away? Newspapers, save for the "used" quality, are the same -- you can touch them, easily turn back and forth between the pages, feel a sense of sharing them with others, and, yes, enjoy knowing that someone else is trying to glance over your shoulder to read the same story you are.

But a book -- especially a lengthy hardcover tome -- is bulky and at times heavy. And newspapers leave your fingers with that smudgy fingered look.

An e-reader, such as Amazon's Kindle or the soon-to-be-released iPad, is light, and it can store countless numbers of books. You can download another one (or a newspaper) at a moment's notice. You can read in real privacy. And when you are ready to put it down, no smudgy fingers.

There is undoubtedly a generational trend at work here, and my generation is caught in the middle. On one hand, our predecessors. They touched books, newspapers and other printed material. (And unlike my generation or the subsequent one, they read more.) They could not -- and would not? -- have downloaded such pleasures of reading.

On the other hand, our successors. They can -- and often do -- download what they want. Music, movies, letters, books or newspapers are all a click away. The tangible book or newspaper is often strange to this generation, and as someone who teaches on the university level I can tell you that students www-dot everything and know little about Dewey and the decimal system.

In the middle is my generation -- old enough to remember how it was, and young enough to still appreciate how it is. We are saturated by technology, but I don't think we are consumed by it.

The pleasure of a "great read" being the pages of a book feel wonderful to us. But so too does the idea of the e-book. So perhaps the question of a book or an e-book doesn't have to be answered by affirming allegiance to one or the other.

And as you think about that, remember you are reading this from your computer!

She's heading home

Pittsburgh's loss is Hartford's gain, as KDKA-TV news director Coleen Marren returns to Connecticut and takes over a news operation there.

Drill, baby. Drill.

I wonder what Sarah Palin thinks about the president's decision to allow for some oil and gas exploration off parts of the United States' coastlines.

A snippet of the New York Times' story:

'Mr. Obama said several times during his presidential campaign that he supported expanded offshore drilling. He noted in his State of the Union address in January that weaning the country from imported oil would require 'tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.' Perhaps in anticipation of controversy, the new policy has been closely held within the administration. White House and Interior Department officials began briefing members of Congress and local officials in affected states late Tuesday.'

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The tortured life of a Los Angeles Times reporter

Regular readers of this blog know I grew up and began my broadcasting career in southern California. So even though I've not called Los Angeles home for almost 15 years, there is still a part of me that remains interested in what happens there.

The story of a former Los Angeles Times reporter continues to be of interest to me, and I hope you'll see not from a "oh, check out this sleazy stuff" angle. That kind of reporting disgusts me.

The story of Mike Penner's gender switch, then switch back followed by his suicide has been documented in various places. Another story appeared in the Times this week.

I covered a lot of sports events during my years in southern California, but Mike Penner was not someone I ever came to know personally. I could have picked him out of a crowd and told you who he was, but to call him anything more than a professional colleague would be inaccurate.

We might not have been friends, but I nevertheless have respect for the courage he must have had to do what he did. Few of us will ever know the emotional wars that must have taken place inside his mind; fewer still will act on those emotions.

Penner will be remembered as a hero to some, and, yes, there will be people who will see him as nothing more than a "freak" or by some other derogatory term. I don't care where you fall on that spectrum (though I admit I hold people in the latter camp in low regard); but I do hope that no matter how you came to decide what you did about this journalist, that you have taken the time to read the aforementioned story and others like it.

Social networking, politics style

This from the Associated Press:

'Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is holding a town hall meeting on Facebook. Pawlenty's Facebook page says the potential Republican presidential candidate will convene the online gathering on Wednesday. The page is linked to his national fundraising committee. The notice says Pawlenty will ask Facebook users for ideas to help Republicans win this year's elections and slow federal spending.'

I say this as politely as I can...

...you've got to be dumb as a rock to threaten a politician.

We'll leave it at that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Slowly drifting away

CNN can't stop the ratings slide. And the question continues to be a simple one -- when is CNN going to do something about it, and when?

It should come as no surprise that FOX News is the cable news (a term used loosely when it comes to anything connected to the openly partisan FOX News and MSNBC) ratings leader, as it is the opposition voice to President Obama -- and yes that is a ridiculous moniker for any news organization to hold.

It also should not come as a surprise that MSNBC is gaining ratings points; it has risen from the ratings dungeon by applying a liberal slant to anything taking place in the United States or abroad.

Twisting in the middle (sort of) is CNN, which lacks an identity. It either is noble or idiotic in claiming it is carving out the middle of the news spectrum. Moreover, the fact that CNN remains under pressure to "do something" suggests that America's expectations of its cable news options is apparent -- it wants them to take sides.

CNN in the so-called (and dreaded) murky middle is like your favorite middle-aged man who is out of a job -- being passed by younger, more agile, and more skilled people. It appears unwilling or unable to change, or it might just be too darn stubborn. Then again others might simply not care about it anymore, further isolating it.

What can CNN do?
1. It could declare war on either FOX or MSNBC by becoming one of them. If that were to happen, I think CNN would veer left; MSNBC is less entrenched than FOX News. But could the current crop of CNN anchors and program hosts pull off being liberal or conservative? I doubt it.

2. It could become more like the BBC and adopt a hard-news approach to most of its programming. If this were to happen, then I think CNN's HLN would become like the current CNN. And that would be quite a promotion for that network. But I ask the same question I asked above: could the current crop of CNN anchors and program hosts pull off being serious news presenters?

3. It could opt to do nothing, in hopes that America will grow tired of the partisan cable news wars and turn to a calmer, more practical CNN for news and analysis.

The Moscow subway terror attack (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: See end of second paragraph

ORIGINAL POST: The news from Moscow is grim. It appears that more than three-dozen people have been killed as a result of twin suicide bombings carried out by two women.

There has been video posted of the aftermath of the attacks, but it is the typical clutter of emergency vehicles and people; it will add little to your understanding of what took place. (UPDATE, 5:10 p.m.: WARNING: Video contains dead bodies and blood spatters) The New York Times has posted YouTube video from a citizen in Moscow who was evacuated from a subway shortly after this morning's attacks. An even more graphic video is available here.)

The Moscow Times newspaper is providing extensive coverage and from many angles, including a report on the initial moments after the explosions.

The investigation is focusing on the so-called "Black Widows", who are a group of Chechen women retaliating against Russia for its military actions in Chechnya.

As I take a look at what has happened today in Moscow, a city I came so close to visiting last October, I am reminded of the new look of domestic crime. In fact, that term domestic crime seems almost passe today, an era in which acts of violence are quickly dubbed acts of terrorism.

Should they be? In other words, the women believed to be behind today's bombings could be classified as terrorists. Are they? In the context of the 21st century, yes. But I'm wondering if that term has become so embedded in our minds that we use it any time something like this happens.

Consider that it was only a decade or so that the term "going postal" was used whenever someone attempted to or killed multiple people. That term applied regardless of where the crime took place and regardless of the weapon used. Were those acts not terror?

My point is not to argue semantics. Rather it is to ask that we think seriously about how we want to label violent acts. Any term has a connotation associated with it, and therefore we need to be careful about what we are saying.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

6 days that exemplify the power of the Presidency

As I watch cable news coverage this afternoon of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan, I am reminded how that office and the person who occupies it can make and dominate news.

I don't know what CNN's State of the Union program (which I'm watching as I write this) had planned to report today -- though I can take an educated guess it was health care. Regardless of what it was, the news that the president has made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan -- his first since being inaugurated -- assumed the lead (and only) story.

Mind you, CNN, like the other news organizations reporting this story, are right now playing catch up -- attempting to identify why he is there, the importance of Afghanistan, the U.S. military effort in the country, examining the security reasons associated with the trip, the domestic political situation in the country and the other ancillary issues. Regardless, they are talking about Afghanistan -- the message the White House wants the mainstream media to cover today.

Today's news comes just six days after the president signed the health care bill and four days after the announcement of an arms deal with Russia. Any one of these items, especially with Congress out of session for the Easter break, would dominate the headlines. (And obviously each did this week.)

But most especially with Congress out of session, the president SHOULD seek to control the headlines in an effort to prevent the disastrous media coverage from last summer in which health care almost was scuttled because of the many rallies against it that took place around the country.

I apologize if that comes off as a "political statement;" that is not my point. Rather it is this: what the president is attempting to do is provide a sense that health care has been passed and is now in the past. Controlling the news headlines ensures that the Tea Party, the GOP and any other group opposed to health care is pushed further down the news headlines.

This president has not used the power of his office to control news flow as well as his predecessors, in my opinion. What has happened over the past 6 days -- his signing of a health care bill, the announcement of a military deal with Russia, and now a trip to Afghanistan -- demonstrates that this president and his advisers might be learning to use an important element of the presidency to his benefit.

Transfer students

An interesting story in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about transfer students, who for too long were viewed as academic nomads.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

As a Roman Catholic...

...I am pained by what I see happening to my Church.

Whenever a priest -- a symbol of the Church's authority and legitimacy -- is accused of immoral acts with underage boys, the investigation must be complete and any the men found guilty of such acts ought not be allowed to remain in their position of leadership.

I cannot accept any hiding, stonewalling or denying what has happened.

The so-called sex-abuse scandal that demoralized the Catholic Church in the United States is now being replayed in Europe. What is particularly galling to me is that THE leader of the Church -- the Pope -- is linked to this latest crisis. No (and thankfully), he has not been accused of being a pedophile. But there is growing and convincing evidence that at minimum Pope Benedict XVI knew what was happening decades ago, and at maximum sought to sweep under the rug what was going on.

Should the Pope resign, if the evidence continues to point to his knowledge of pedophile priests and his apparent callous handling of the cases?

That's hard for me to say. If he alone is forced to resign, then are we not punishing him simply because he is the Pope? On the other hand, if active priests, bishops and cardinals who worked with then-Cardinal Ratzinger also are required to step down, then we are moving toward a more credible response.

As a final thought, the Catholic Church (and all of Christianity) is entering one of the most holy times in the Church calendar. Holy Week begins on Sunday, and Easter comes the following Sunday. How sad, to this Catholic, that this ugly chapter in the history of the Church is being played out this week.

But even worse this ugly chapter involves actions of men who should have known and done better. They failed those of us who proudly call ourselves Catholic.

Why is there this fascination with Sarah Palin?

I was a guest this morning on a local Pittsburgh radio station, and the subject of Sarah Palin came up. Now, before you jump to conclusions and say that I'm about to cut her a new one, please chill out and read on.

I believed during the 2008 presidential campaign -- and I still do now -- that the mainstream media treated Mrs. Palin and her family with an almost open disdain; they saw her as a bumbling governor of a backwater state who did not deserve the political nomination given to her by John McCain. What followed, in my opinion, was media coverage designed to mock, ridicule and otherwise undermine her in the minds of the American people.

Mrs. Palin survived and is again in the political ring. The problem, in my opinion, is that she has not done enough to convince anyone other than her base that she has the slightest chance of being a legitimate presidential candidate. Consider that since the 2008 presidential election she has resigned as governor, authored a book that does little more than reinforce the perception that already existed of her, and agreed to do a reality television show.

It is the last one that would concern me most, if I were a political adviser to her. Instead I would be encouraging her to do multiple political speeches that allow her to start carving out political positions and separating herself from her likely competitors in the upcoming political race.

The Republican nominees are almost certainly going to look the same -- white and male. Mrs. Palin, and let's not mask the obvious, is an attractive woman and the television camera likes her. She has the opportunity to look and sound different than her all-male competitors. However, if she worries about reality television shows in Alaska, then she misses a great opportunity to tell her story.

Of course, the media need to also worry less about whether she is wearing a black leather jacket in Arizona in late March. But that's another story.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Uh, oh

As a journalism educator, I read with more than passing interest the news that the College of Media at the University of Illinois has had to suspend its search for a new dean.

As I read the letter referenced above, I saw the potential for some "uh, oh" moments for the faculty, which includes one person who was on the faculty at Ohio University when I was getting my doctoral degree there.

Consider the industry in which you work, and then imagine receiving a letter that talked about:

"imminent funding reductions";
"cost reduction strategies";
"potential reorganization or consolidation";
"dire financial situation"; and
"drastic realignment".

How would you feel?

Forgot to post this last night

From The New York Times:

House Sends Obama Package of Fixes to Health Bill

Congress on Thursday gave final approval to a package of changes to the Democrats' sweeping health care overhaul, capping a bitter partisan battle over the most far-reaching social legislation in nearly half a century. The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Does this technically mean the president signed health care legislation TWICE during his first term?

One man's opinion

If our military can defeat fascists; be strong enough to overcome Communism; and attempt to build democracy in places where it has never existed, then it is certainly ought to be strong enough to tackle this (non-)problem of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Congressional vote that defines a presidency

From TIME's Joe Klein (with the excerpt appearing on Mike Allen's "Playbook" on Politico.com --

'[T]he vote would anchor him in history. Obama became a very different President in the process. After a first year in office that promised consequence but never quite delivered on it, he had done something huge. The comparisons with Jimmy Carter would abruptly come to an end. He was now a President who didn't back down, who could herd cats, who was not merely intellectual and idealistic but tough enough to force his way. This is bound to change the landscape of American politics. It makes significant progress on other issues-¬financial reform, immigration, perhaps even the reduced use of carbon fuels-more plausible. It may give Obama new stature overseas, in a world that was beginning to wonder about his ability to use power.

'Of course, if he doesn't carefully read the lessons of this excruciating passage, it could lead to hubris and overreach. The President's weaknesses-his isolation, his tendency to mediate rather than lead-are less evident in victory, but it remains to be seen if this experience has mitigated them. ... Obama's health care reform will undoubtedly prove inadequate to the demands of a globalized, warp-speed economy and an aging population. It will have to be modified, and modified again-and one hopes the Republicans, with their natural instinct for efficiency, will participate in that process. But, however flawed, the health care bill is a sign that major, concerted public reforms are once again possible, and that the difficult work of transforming America to compete successfully in a new world of challenges can now begin.'

What is behind Google's get-tough policy with China?

Here's a primer with some answers.

And I'm still waiting for your "hey, you should talk about this angle of the story with your students" messages!

The Senate passes the health care reconciliation bill 56-43

From The New York Times:

After running through an obstacle course of Republican amendments and procedural objections, the Senate on Thursday afternoon approved of a package of changes to the Democrats' sweeping health care overhaul, capping a bitter partisan battle over the most far-reaching social legislation in nearly half a century.

Republicans, raising procedural challenges, identified flaws that struck out minor provisions to the bill. Because of those changes, it now goes back to the House for one more vote, though passage seemed virtually assured.

Democrats said they were confident the measure would soon be on President Obama's desk for his signature. The vote, just after 2 p.m., was 56 to 43, with the Republicans unanimously opposed.

I'm assuming...

...that at some point today many, many Republicans are going to step in front of a microphone and loudly and clearly state that any threat -- real or implied -- against any Democratic member of Congress who supported the health care bill is un-American and unacceptable.

John Grisham comes to Point Park University

Quite a coup for my colleague Bill Moushey, who brought Mr. Grisham to the Point Park campus on Wednesday night.

The message -- when someone is wrongly convicted of a crime, the innocent man (or woman) is not the only person who suffers.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

She's biased!!

Oh, here we go again -- another journalist accused of being biased.

This time it's CNN's...oops, ABC's Christiane Amanpour who apparently has fallen off the objectivity wagon train.

When I think of bias, I think of art work. One of my sisters-in-law has a talent for painting that I was never blessed with. (My students are well aware that if it goes beyond stick people, I'm in deep trouble.) She and my wife also have an eye for art interpretation that I don't. They see a piece of art and can revel at its depth of color, placement of images or figures, and overall meaning. I look at it and might think "that is a piece of junk."

Do you see the parallel? To one viewer, Amanpour (or any television journalist) can dive into a story with a depth of reporting and use of multiple sources that leads one critic to appreciate her thorough use of the tools available to her. Another person sees her and immediately thinks her work is a piece of junk because of who she is.

The difference here is that my "piece of junk" is often an off-the-cuff comment that lacks any appreciation for art. It is, in other words, vulgar. On the other hand, the "she's biased" crowd often -- though not always -- are intelligent, reasoned individuals who understand how the media operate but cannot get past their own biases.

Is Amanpour biased? She probably is. Journalists are not robots; they deal with people they like, and with people they don't. Moreover, they will be affected by the events in their past, their faith, their family upbringing and other issues. They have the ability to use their microphone (or editorial space or other communication mechanism) for whatever purpose they please.

If Amanpour is biased, then she is no more so than than the Washington Post columnist who thinks everything she does reflects her personal feelings. Something tells me if Tom Shales were asked if he were biased...oh, here we go again.

Not my cup of tea (party)

But that's only one man's opinion.

The following comes from Politico.com's Glenn Thrush --

What role will the tea partiers play in the midterms?

Still hard to say, but Quinnipiac is out with a national poll showing that the Tea Party Movement is gaining in popularity – but could pose a risk for Republicans by splitting the conservative vote, giving Democratic House and Senate candidates a slight advantage.

The poll – conducted before President Obama's huge health care victory on Sunday - shows that while only 13 percent of voters self-identify as Tea Partiers, they enjoy a 28-to-22 percent favorable rating, with nearly half of voters saying they don't know enough to have an opinion.

But here's the rub – call it the Scozzafava Effect: Republicans enjoy a slight edge over Democrats in a generic Congressional ballot, but if a TP candidate runs the generic Democratic wins by a 36-to-25 percent margin over the generic GOPer.

The generic Tea Party Candidate now polls at 15 percent – but most of them would have voted Republican anyway, he poll shows.

So, who are these guys? Firstly, they aren't guys – 55 percent of Tea Party sympathizers are women, 88 percent are white and 77 percent backed John McCain in 2008.

Any reaction to the China and Google affair? (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: 8:10 p.m. EST: Required reading on Monday for my students; you get a 5-day head start!

ORIGINAL POST: Students in one of my classes are reading Kevin Sites' fantastic book In the Hot Zone. We reached the point in the book this week in which (among other things) Sites discusses the battle Yahoo had with China over the freedom of the Internet, at the same time the recent news about China and Google hit the headlines. (Here's the latest news, including a recognition that booting Google poses some risks for the Chinese government.)

The question I posed to my students was simple -- does China have the right to compel Yahoo, Google or any other search-engine company that wants to do business inside the country to restrict the number of Web sites someone can access?

Almost everyone in the class said it did. When asked why, there was near-universal agreement on this summation of the reasons -- China is a sovereign country and its laws must be respected by businesses that are operating within its borders.

Those who argued against China's policies believed the premise of the Internet was that it should be available to everyone; therefore, any denial of access was tantamount to slapping that premise in the face.

A few minutes later, I extended the conversation with this question -- so, if most of you are a-ok with China telling corporations what it can do, then what happens when you are reporting from the country and are told that either a government official or censor was preventing your story from being broadcast, or would otherwise harass you and make it difficult to get your job done? Would that be acceptable to you?

It surprised me when a united volatile reaction didn't follow. Granted, most of the students grasped the magnitude of what I was suggesting -- a denial of a free media. As the conversation broadened, one student asked me what I would do. My answer: If I were told to somehow get approval for or otherwise deliver a pro-government message, then I would refuse.

As that conversation continued, I was then told that being that obstinate would likely get me thrown in a Chinese jail. "No," I responded. "It would get me thrown out of the country."

And then the class period was over. Bummer.

I intend to continue this conversation on Monday. I'm curious to hear what ideas you think ought to be added to it. If it's a good one, and I use it...I'll acknowledge you!

An arms deal!

From The New York Times:

President Obama and his Russian counterpart, President Dmitri A. Medvedev, have broken through a logjam in their arms control negotiations and expect to sign a new treaty slashing American and Russian nuclear arsenals in Prague next month, officials from both nations said Wednesday.

The cynics will suggest this deal had been agreed to sometime in the past and that President Obama intentionally held up any announcement so that it could detract from the noise about the health care bill. I doubt it, but listening to people ramble on in that way will be fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting to know you

Prior to Sunday night, even the most ardent political follower would have had a hard time answering this question: Who is Randy Neugebauer?

Well, one not-so-well-timed outburst on the House floor has thrust Rep. Neugebauer into the political spotlight, where he'll remain for about another day before returning to obscurity.

Mr. Neugebauer represents Lubbock, TX, an area I know well from having lived there for two years. I didn't know him, but over the two years he was my representative, he was a gentleman who carried out his political work without the fanfare that too many politicians seem all-too-happy to seek.

China, to Google -- we got you again

You've got to love that Chinese government -- it has perfected the blocked Web site.

The GOP presidential aspirants are...

...voicing their opposition to the health care reform bill.

Please remember something: Whether you approve or disapprove of the bill approved Sunday night by the House, EVERYONE has a right to voice their opinion. I refuse to listen to those people who say the other side is idiotic (or worse).

Meanwhile, the president has signed the health care bill into law. This report comes from The New York Times:

With the stroke of President Obama's pen, his health care overhaul -- the most sweeping social legislation enacted in decades -- became law on Tuesday.

Mr. Obama affixed his curlicue signature, almost letter by letter, to the measure, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, surrounded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and a raft of other lawmakers who spent the past year on a legislative roller-coaster ride trying to pass it. Aides said he would pass out the 20 pens he used as mementoes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Google is "totally wrong"

And what does that say about the source of that statement?

In a poorly written, bureaucratic sounding report, the English-language version of CCTV explains why the Chinese government is angry with Google. Another report went a step further, suggesting Google had broken promises made regarding copyright.

You've got to hand it to the state-run media -- when they want to turn on the propaganda machine, they turn that spigot on high.

It's unconstitutional

That's the claim of almost one dozen states' attorneys general across the country.

They are filing court cases claiming the health care reform bill passed by the House last night is unconstitutional because it usurps states' sovereignty.

Today, the president indicated he will sign the health care bill on Tuesday. Two days later, he will begin (again) his pitch about health care to the American people with a visit to Iowa.

As you decide whether the attorneys general are doing the correct thing, I urge you to read Chris Cillizza's "The Fix." He argues -- and I think he is spot on -- that civil discourse was among the biggest losers in the recent Congressional debate about reforming America's health care system.

And if you want an endorsement of what House Democrats did last night, consider reading another Washington Post piece, an editorial from E. J. Dionne.

I for one am a bit hesitant to accept that all Tea Party members are out-of-touch, far-right zealots who prefer to utter invective rather than common sense when they open their mouths. But I encourage you to review the back-and-forth about the messages of this group in this story from The Week. Granted, I can't see myself aligned with the Tea Party on much of anything, but I reject the idea that its membership deserves to be treated like some lunatic fringe.

Health care, part 2

I respect the opinions of those who say "the government is attempting to force me to buy health insurance." And taking it one step further, I can also accept an argument that says such a policy is anti-American.

However, I wonder how many people who do not have health insurance are making this argument. My guess would be something less than one percent of that population. This group -- undoubtedly more than any other group in our nation -- has had some experience with a sick child, a personal injury or some other incident in which a medical check was not performed because there was not enough money to pay for it in the absence of a health care plan.

I fail to see how that can be consistent with American values.

Along the same lines I wonder how many people who have health insurance are making this "forcing me" argument; and to those who are, I ask a simple question: Are you surrendering the policy that your employer has provided you over time in order to stand with your principles?

If you work and your employer provides health care, you are -- using the logic mentioned above -- compelled to buy into that program; each month a portion of your salary is forcibly taken from you so that you and any other person covered through you can have health insurance.

Is there a difference, in other words, between a "government-forced" purchase and an "employer-forced" purchase? From where I stand, the answer is loud and clear -- no.

I'll also take it a step further -- the government forces you to buy auto insurance. Is that an onerous application of governmental authority?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Health care reform

It's a night that America either moved into line with the other Western nations or took a step toward denying individual choice.

That's for you to decide.

The 219-212 "yea" vote in the House tonight brings health care reform, and it's expected that the president will sign it as soon as possible. President Obama then will need to make his case with the American people -- again -- that the Democrats' decision was not rash or foolhardy. Remember, he doesn't have to answer directly to the American people until 2012; however, every member of the House has to meet the electorate in about eight months.

The president, in other words, will need to convince a skeptical American electorate that the vote to reform health care was not a mistake.

Mr. Obama noted in his late-night remarks at the White House that the American people can finally realize that their dreams will not be eliminated because of dreaded news after a visit to their doctor. He called the vote tonight the "right vote" that was "not radical reform, but major reform" that moves the country in the right direction.

The president reiterated his contention that the current health care policy works well for insurance companies but not for the American people. He added that health care reform will include ideas from Democrats and Republicans, and that tonight's vote was one for the American people. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later called the vote one for "patriotism" that will lead to 32-million more Americans having health care.

Mr. Obama didn't take any questions, including the most obvious one -- just when will he sign it into law? I expect that answer will come in the next day or two.

I'm reminded of a parallel -- and I confess I don't know if it's a fair one to make. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was in part an outgrowth of the civil rights movement from the 1960s. How ironic, in my eyes, that it is he who will sign health care reform into law. Consider how many presidents pushed forward the idea of health care. They all failed, however unfair that term is to use.

Tonight, this president can say he didn't.

The media reports flood in

This from The New York Times:

House Approves Landmark Bill to Extend Health Care to Millions

Congress gave final approval on Sunday to legislation that would provide medical coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and remake the nation's health care system along the lines proposed by President Obama.

By a vote of 219 to 212, the House passed the bill after a day of tumultuous debate that echoed the epic struggle of the last year. The action sent the bill to President Obama, whose crusade for such legislation has been a hallmark of his presidency.

Democrats hailed the votes as historic, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security and a long overdue step forward in social justice.


And from Politico.com:

Democrats in the House of Representatives approved the Senate health reform bill Sunday night by a vote of 219 to 212, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama for his signature. The vote marks the climactic finale to a year-long attempt by Democrats to enact Obama’s signature legislative goal – expanding health insurance to nearly all Americans, a goal that eluded the party for decades. No Republicans voted yes, and 34 Democrats voted no.

My thoughts on the health care remarks in the House

From my "Twitter" account...

If you get a chance, watch NJ Democrat Rob Andrews -- what a remarkable 90-second speech on the floor of the House.

Rep. Andrews spoke of a vote for health care as the nation's next step toward doing the right thing for all its people.

Then compare his remarks to the "hell, no" from the Minority Leader John Boehner.

The minority leader is supposed to be a forceful advocate; he certainly was tonight. The "hell no" should never have been uttered, however.

Here's the difference between being in the majority and in the minority -- you need not be as combative; compare Mrs. Pelosi to Mr. Boehner.

Set aside the feelings you have for POTUS and 111th Congress -- no one can say White House and Congress have not sat around and done nothing.

I must admit -- I would love to have been in Washington tonight.

It's only one man's opinion -- the votes tonight should be by roll call. The electronic ballot provides just enough duck-and-cover.

219-210

Make that 219-212.

From a former news colleague John McClelland -- 3/21/10 10:45 PM - America has just changed, and not for the better. This isn't about cost or coverage, it's about control.

To all who care enough about the political process to offer reasoned argument about health care, thank you. The country needs more like you.

Bravo

This from Politico.com:

Health reform holdout Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan announced Sunday that he and fellow anti-abortion Democrats have reached an agreement with the White House to defuse the controversy over abortion in the health care bill and will now vote “yes” on it – appearing to give Democrats enough votes to pass the sweeping overhaul by day’s end. The move came just after the White House announced that President Barack Obama will sign an executive order reaffirming a ban on federal funding of abortions.

The magic number of 216 now seems certain; the House will endorse health care reform later today.

They got the votes

This from CNN:

Democrats have the 216 votes needed to pass health care reform legislation in the House on Sunday, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus told CNN.

"This is a historic day and we are happy warriors," Rep. John Larson, D- Connecticut, told CNN's "State of the Union." He added, "We've got the votes."

But the chief deputy whip in the House, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, cautioned, "We don't have a hard 216 right now." Schultz made the statement to "Fox News Sunday" just as Larson was speaking to CNN.

Wasserman Schultz added, "I firmly believe we will have 216."

"This fight is not lost, yet," said House Minority Leader John Boehner on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Former President Bill Clinton made several phone calls Saturday to lobby wavering Democrats to sign on to the health care reform bill, Democratic sources told CNN.


We'll find out for sure this afternoon or this evening.

And what could passage mean for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? A fantastic excerpt here from Martin Kady II's daily "The Huddle" from Politico.com:

Nancy Pelosi has a chance to cement her reputation as one of the most powerful speakers in American history today.

But the political cost of this legacy may be great. On the march to health care reform Pelosi has been vilified by the right and has created incredible divisions within her own Democratic caucus. As she works the aisles during this afternoon's historic vote, Pelosi will be walking among friends and colleagues who will get fired by voters this fall because they followed her lead.

The conventional wisdom is that by late Sunday afternoon, Pelosi will have willed the House to 216 votes for passage of the biggest domestic piece of legislation in a generation, but nothing is certain until the gavel falls. The headlines tomorrow will likely focus more on the historic passage and how Democrats pulled it off. The intense focus on procedure and process will fade.

The political fallout will not truly be known until November, and the substantive impact of this health care bill will not be understood for years.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's still 4 years away...

...but there are real signs that the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are in trouble.

You'll recall that Russian president Dmitri Medvedev ordered a purge of the nation's Olympic sports leadership, after the country's poor (for Russian standards) performance at the recently concluded Vancouver Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Olympics likely were not on the mind of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who used a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to remind her of what he sees as the deficiencies in America's foreign policy.

The Pope does the right thing

This from The New York Times:

Confronting a sex abuse scandal spreading across Europe, Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday apologized directly and personally to victims and their families in Ireland, expressing "shame and remorse" and saying "your trust had been betrayed and your dignity has been violated."

His message, in a long-awaited, eight-page pastoral letter to Irish Catholics, seemed couched in strong and passionate language. But it did not refer directly to immediate
disciplinary action beyond sending a special apostolic delegation to investigate unspecified dioceses and religious congregations in Ireland. Moreover, it was, as the Vatican said it would be, focused particularly on the situation in Ireland, even as the crisis has widened elsewhere.


The apology needs to be taken at face value, and as a sincere attempt to apologize for one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Catholic Church. There is no way to defend the immoral actions of priests, plain and simple.

For some people, this apology will be enough. For others, actions to back up these words will be required. Still for others, no apology and no action can heal what has been done.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Getting up to speed

It's a confounding issue for college educators -- what to do with incoming students who are not ready for college?

In California, the state system is requiring remedial courses for students who fall into that category.

There's no college basketball viewing going on here!

Of course not. You're just staring intently at your computer screen...because? Three million of us...uh, I mean you...did just that yesterday.

It will pass

A confident group of House Democrats are confident that they have the votes to pass health care reform on Sunday. This report comes from Politico.com, and you are sure to hear more about this as the day progresses:

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Friday that Democrats will be able to pass health reform by Sunday. "We'll have the votes when the roll is called," Hoyer said. The Democrats top vote-counter, Rep. James Clyburn, agreed. "I feel very sure that we'll vote on this some time Sunday, and the bill will pass," Clyburn said.

Google to exit China?

That decision, which seems more likely each day, either will go down as a stroke of genius for a company that has had a fantastic run of good luck in recent years, or it will be viewed as short-sighted and attention-seeking.

Either way, Google appears set to exit China.

Of course, that decision has its employees feeling uncertain.

I admire the stance Google is taking, and it's indicative of a company -- rolling in cash, of course -- that is not afraid to put its money where its mouth is.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's official...Amanpour is on the move

This from CNN.com:

Christiane Amanpour will be leaving CNN to join ABC News.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the incredible team at ABC News. Being asked to anchor “This Week” and the superb tradition started by David Brinkley, is a tremendous and rare honor and I look forward to discussing the great domestic and international issues of the day,"Amanpour said in a statement. I leave CNN with the UTMOST respect, love and admiration for the company and everyone who works here. This has been my family and shared endeavor for the past 27 years and I am forever grateful and proud of all that we have accomplished.”

Amanpour was CNN's chief international correspondent and anchored Amanpour., a 30-minute, daily interview program that premiered on CNN International in September 2009.

Amanpour worked for 18 years as an international correspondent, covering major crises including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans and the United States during Hurricane Katrina.

CNN's President Jim Walton praised Amanpour's career and work at the network.

"Over the years, Christiane and I have talked about her professional goals and personal interests, and more recently about the excitement of a new opportunity at this point in her career," Walton said in a statement. "While I don’t presume to speak for her, as her colleague and friend for more than 25 years I know that this decision has not been an easy one. Since 1990 when Christiane became a CNN international correspondent, she has covered the defining news events of our time.

"Her work burnished our news brand and gave it authority. In turn, the CNN imprimatur opened doors for her around the world and provided a global platform for the intelligent, courageous, principled reporting that is her signature. CNN and Christiane helped make each other great."

Walton said Amanpour will leave her CNN International show at the end of April.

"For her hard work these many years on behalf of CNN; for going where the story was, wherever in the world that might be; for her passion, character and generosity; and most of all, for her extraordinary journalism, Christiane has our gratitude, respect and sincere best wishes," Walton said.


I have just one question, and I'll preface it by saying I respect the work Ms. Amanpour does: How can ABC justify this decision (Ms. Amanpour is undoubtedly commanding a multi-million dollar salary) after slashing nearly 400 news personnel just a couple of weeks ago?

No go, to Indonesia

This from Politico.com:

President Barack Obama postponed his trip to Indonesia and Australia until June, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced. He was planning to leave Sunday, but the health care vote is expected Sunday as well. "Passage of health care reform is of paramount importance and the president is determined to see this battle through," Gibbs said.

This, of course, raises the question of whether the Congress is prepared to take a vote about health care, as originally scheduled, over the next few days. Any delay will be a sign that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the president aren't wooing enough hesitant Democrats.

A financial incentive to support health care reform?

An important piece of news is being released this morning about health care reform. This blurb comes from The New York Times:

The proposed final health care legislation would cut the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the first 10 years, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said on Thursday, citing a finding by the Congressional Budget Office that is expected to be released on Thursday. The office found that the overhaul would cut the deficit by more than $1 trillion over the subsequent decade, Mr. Hoyer said.

Those figures are expected to influence the wavering Democrats concerned (justifiably) that health care could lead to an even deeper and more dangerous federal deficit.

ABC and Amnapour are close

At least one media report says Christiane Amanpour could be the next host of ABC's "This Week" program.

Funny, isn't it, all this talk about television dying...and here is one of television news' most important figures joining a Sunday talk program.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pulling a fast (food) one

In this tournament, I've got a Final Four of Quizno's...Panera...Arby's...and Boston Market.

Panera and Boston Market advance to the championship game, and Boston
Market wins the title.

Hey, it's Vegas...everyone makes money there!

Sure they do. And there's oceanfront property available just off the Strip, too.

This is an interesting story. It shows what happens when any news organization -- print or broadcast -- dives too quickly into new media (a term as you know I don't like) and often at the behest of someone who is classified as an "Internet guru." (Somehow I hear snake-oil salesman when I read those words.)

Well, that's what happened in Las Vegas, where the growth was supposed to go on forever and the media would follow along into economic paradise.

Something (unfortunately not) funny happened on the way to that gaudy economic chapel of love.

A Minnesota television station withholds a story...

...at least for now. But what makes this interesting, at least in my mind, is that it has been open with its viewers in explaining why.

Your privacy and social networking

You can't have it both ways, as this story makes clear.

It's getting nasty out there

Political, too.

This from Politico.com's Jonathan Allen and Patrick O'Connor:

'As health care lobbying heats up, some members are getting calls from President Barack Obama, like the three Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) got in the past two weeks. 'He believes that the economy will turn around, that people will be in a better position to judge the effects of this bill later on, that while it may not be a politically popular vote today, a year or two or three from now, it will be viewed as something the American people want,' said Altmire, who voted no last time on health reform but is undecided now. Others in the House said the lobbying can be much less friendly.

'Aides to conservative Democratic lawmakers describe intense pressure tactics, including one who said his office has received calls from donors. Those calls are taken as a thinly veiled threat to withhold future financial support if the member doesn't vote as the donor wishes. 'We're having donors, even donors outside of our district, that are being called and asked to urge support' for the bill, said a senior aide to one conservative Democrat, who indicated the tactics could backfire on the health care bill. 'If you want to play Chicago-style politics, and that's what this is, then we will come out firmly against it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1 in 4 California residents have...

...no health insurance. This excerpt of a Los Angeles Times story appeared in Mike Allen's "Playbook" on Politico.com:

'Nearly 1 in 4 Californians under age 65 had no health insurance last year, according to a new report, as soaring unemployment propelled vast numbers of once-covered workers into the ranks of the uninsured.

The state's uninsured population jumped to 8.2 million in 2009, up from 6.4 million in 2007, marking the highest number over the last decade, investigators from UCLA's Center for Health Policy Research said.

People who were uninsured for part or all of 2009 accounted for 24.3% of California's population under age 65 -- a dramatic increase from 2007 driven largely by Californians who lost employer-sponsored health insurance, particularly over the last year. Among those over age 18, nearly 1 in 3 had no insurance for all or part of 2009, the UCLA researchers found. The ranks of uninsured children also grew.'

And we should be surprised?

Leave it to Tiger Woods to enter the golf stage where it is highest and perhaps brightest -- at the Masters.

Golf's greatest (and maybe sleaziest?) player said today -- in a statement released through his publicity staff! -- that he will return to golf during the Masters tournament in April.

As a former sports journalist, I can tell you that I would really enjoy being a credentialed member of the media at that event. It would be interesting to me to see first-hand how Woods attempts to deal with the media circus.

We can hope the circus doesn't turn one of golf's majestic locations into a free-for-all.

I think I'm a "B"

Well, we think you're a "C".

What in the world of higher education is going on here? A new report suggests chairs of academic departments give themselves a B when asked to grade their performance. The faculty whom they represent disagree; they gave those academic leaders a C.

I wonder what my colleagues would give me in this year in which I am acting chair?

No change

From the New York Times:

The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate near zero on Tuesday, affirming its view that job growth and other economic indicators remained weak as the United States slowly pulls itself out of recession. The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's chief policy-setting arm, left the Federal Funds target at zero to 0.25 percent, where it has been since December 2008.

As it has said since March 2009, the committee said the rate was likely to remain
"exceptionally low" for "an extended period." Most economists have taken that language to mean that the Fed would not begin tightening monetary policy until later this year at the soonest.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So long CNN...hello ABC?

Maybe. Just maybe.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour could be on her way to ABC, where she would become host of "This Week."

I think Amanpour is among the best reporters on television today, but my one personal memory of her is not as enthusiastic. When I was getting my Ph.D. at Ohio University, she was invited to speak there. Her presentation was ill-prepared and too heavy on q-and-a. It appeared to me that she had no formal comments prepared or considered. To say she mailed it in would be unnecessarily harsh, but it certainly would be accurate to say she was a disappointment.

You'll find me here

Washington Post Columnist and Author Anne Applebaum To Speak at Carnegie Mellon

Event: Anne Applebaum, a political columnist for the Washington Post and an award-winning author, will speak at Carnegie Mellon University on "Putinism: The Ideology." Applebaum also writes for Slate, the New York Review of Books, and Spectator magazine and the Daily and Sunday Telegraph in London.

Her most recent book, "Gulag: A History," won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and is an historical narrative of the Soviet concentration camps. By using memoirs, interviews and recently opened Russian archives, Applebaum detailed everyday life inside the camps.

Applebaum was previously a member of the Washington Post editorial board, foreign and deputy editor of London's Spectator magazine, political editor of the Evening Standard and a columnist for several British newspapers. From 1988-1991, she covered the collapse of communism for the Economist. Her first book, "Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe," recounts her journey through the Soviet Union's collapsing borders. Currently, Applebaum resides in Warsaw, where she is at work on a new book about the imposition of totalitarianism in post-war Central Europe.

Sponsored by the International Relations and Politics Program, the Humanities Scholar Program, the Department of Modern Languages and the University Lectures Series, the lecture is free and open to the public.

When: 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 6

Where: Baker Hall Adamson Wing (136), Carnegie Mellon University

Saying no to the Chief Justice

Call me what you wish, but I think the faculty of Butler University has made a mistake refusing to allow the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to be the commencement speaker in May.

This smacks of the same nonsense that surrounded Notre Dame's invitation last year to President Obama (and I devoted multiple posts to this idea).

The bottom line is that no university can endorse a free exchange of ideas (something considered beyond reproach at America's colleges and universities) if it refuses to allow people that it fundamentally disagrees with to open their mouths on the school's grounds.

No laptops in the classroom!

A ridiculous idea?

Yes, if you ask me. But don't take my word for it. Consider this report from Poynter's Al Tompkins.

A woman whom I dearly love often winced when she saw me react to students not attending class, doing poorly on assignments or otherwise not completing the tasks I assigned them.

One night we sat down and she asked me what I saw my role as inside a classroom. As the conversation evolved, the "customer" idea identified in Mr. Tompkins' essay evolved. Since then, I haven't embraced totally embraced the idea, but I do admit that there is a significant amount of reality to it. Especially in today's media-saturated world, students will seek the instantaneous gratification that comes with using their computers for a host of professional or personal reasons.

It's my job to "get over it." And I have. Most of the time. Grudgingly.

Good news to start the week

The wife of Senate majority leader Harry Reid has been released from a Washington-area hospital after a nasty car wreck.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I can never understand why...

...media organizations do stupid things.

Delivering a mock broadcast that suggests your enemy has invaded your country belongs high on that list.

Is Twitter going to save...

...over-the-air and cable television?

A ridiculous idea because television isn't going to die. But is it a coincidence that some of the largest television audiences in recent decades have come in the past year or so, and mimicked the popularity of Twitter?

Call me skeptical, at least for now, though I acknowledge that Twitter provides an instantaneous, interactive-like feature that connects viewer to content and to other viewers.

One thought about health care

Granted, no system is perfect, but every Western nation offers some form of government-provided (for lack of a better term) health care for its people. It's considered as crucial as national defense (at the risk of overstating).

It's shameful in my opinion to have such little regard to taking care of people. To dismiss someone because of cost bothers me.

I wonder if similar discussions were taking place today about starting a public school system if there would be such opposition.

And we move on.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spasibo, Mr. Gorbachev

His legacy will be that of the man who led to the collapse of the Soviet Union (and that is a flawed legacy; his goal was to reform the system and keep the Communist Party atop the political hierarchy).

Nevertheless, in the West, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is seen as a positive figure; at minimum, the man who had the courage to allow his country to be open in ways it had not been for decades.

Today, Mr. Gorbachev believes his country is again at a crossroads, and he fears that the changes he brought about in the early 1990s are being pushed aside with little resistance heard or tolerated. A story in the Moscow Times offers just the latest evidence to support Mr. Gorbachev's contention.

Forward thinking from the FCC

We haven't seen that in a long time.

The New York Times reports the FCC is ready to make high-speed Internet access the country's dominant communications network.

My only question -- why would the agency announce this on a Friday and therefore on the eve of the weekend which is always a low-interest period.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A potential Heisman Trophy candidate is benched

For an entire season.

Oregon football coach Chip Kelly is staring at a program about to spiral out of control. He took a step today toward showing he's boss.

Yea or nay on health care

Let's solve the health care debate very simply: Anyone prepared to vote against a bill is denied any and all access, no excuses and no exceptions; they clearly believe it is unnecessary. Anyone prepared to vote for a bill is allowed to keep the coverage they have or get it if they don't have it. Now, shut up and vote.

You give us 22 seconds...

...will give you the complete, total, all-encompassing coverage of city government.

Preposterous, you say? True. But guess what Los Angeles television viewers are getting from their local news outlets?

How is this allowed to happen? Easy. Three simple ingredients:

1. An FCC that has been neutered after almost three decades of a relentless (and failed) argument that government ought to stay out of almost all regulatory issues

2. A public that has become increasingly convinced that the media can't be trusted to cover important news without bias

3. A corporate ownership structure that supports the coverage of celebrity, crime and other vacuous stories in lieu of complex, investigative pieces.

Enjoy the "news."

FAUX News

Kudos to a former New York Times executive for saying something that many others should have said and starting a long time ago -- FOX News is deliberately distorting the political debate in an attempt to undermine the Obama administration.

He's right, plain and simple.

And away we go

This lead to a New York Times story makes it clear that the time for talking about health care is over and the time for voting is about to start:

The White House and Congressional leaders put Democrats on notice Friday that they would push ahead next week toward climactic votes on the health care legislation, as President Obama delayed a foreign trip and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hoped to complete House action before he leaves.

Here's the link to the full report.

The president's decision to delay his planned trip to the Pacific is tantamount, in my opinion, to him telling the Democrats -- you'd better not embarrass me. If a vote is not taken, then the embarrassment will be felt at home and abroad.

The public relations push by the White House for health care continues. For example, here are the opening paragraphs to an e-mail I received today:

41 -- that's the number of leading economists -- including three Nobel Prize winners -- who sent a letter to President Obama and Congress yesterday urging the swift passage of comprehensive health insurance reform to curb skyrocketing health care costs.

41 -- is also the percentage of adults under the age of 65 who accumulated medical debt, had difficulty paying medical bills, or struggled with both during a recent one-year period.


And there are some signs that the publicity campaign is working.

Okay, Democrats. The ball is in your court.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

"In good faith"

Three little words, but how they are interpreted is the opposite of little.

Iowa State University is engaging in a difficult discussion -- what to do when there is a need to dismiss a tenured faculty member. Tenure in the academic world equates to job security; you cannot be dismissed unless the university is in dire financial problems (or if you do something monumentally stupid).

But Iowa State is facing difficult financial times, and so the question of whether the tenure policy needs to be changed is heating up. And those three words -- "in good faith" -- are at the center of the discussion: Can the university terminate a faculty member if it makes "a good faith" effort to find that person another teaching position in another department but cannot find a match?

The issue is not limited to Iowa State, and that's why faculty at universities big and small need to consider the ramifications of what takes place there.

She's listening

To her supporters, she's a tough, fair leader who has always worked hard for the people. To her detractors, she's a scheming, divisive scoundrel who will do anything to advance herself.

I wonder what both camps will think after reading this excerpt of a story about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (note: I "borrowed" the excerpt from Mike Allen's daily Playbook that appears on Politico.com) --

'[A] little over a year into her tenure as secretary of state, allies and detractors alike say Clinton has made a vigorous effort to widen her circle, wooing and pulling into her orbit the agency's Foreign Service and civil service officials, many of whom said in interviews that she has brought a new energy to the building. ...

She has approached this new [Foreign Service] constituency of 60,000 worldwide like a seasoned pol trying to shore up support. Those interviewed inside and outside the agency say Clinton has done a good job of heading off the historical tensions between career employees and quadrennial political newcomers by relying on the counsel of senior Foreign Service operatives and reaching out in general.

She has walked the halls and popped into offices unexpectedly, created an electronic 'sounding board,' and held seven internal town hall meetings to listen to gripes about everything from policy to cafeteria food to bullying in the workplace.

She installed six new showers that joggers requested, is taking steps to remedy overseas pay inequities and instituted a policy that allows partners of gay diplomats to receive benefits.

She became a heroine to the Foreign Service when she went to bat to get funding for 3,000 new Foreign Service positions for State operations and the U.S. Agency for International Development -- the first boost of this magnitude in two decades. ...

Uh, oh. The door might just have cracked open

The USA Today reports that the recent retransmission consent battle between Cablevision and Disney (a battle that is played out every year in various media markets) could have had an unintended but important consequence -- it could lead the FCC to explore a la carte programming.

Call me a fan!

Perhaps the invasion of Iraq was not immoral

That's what the Financial Times' Nigel Biggar asks you to consider in this editorial.

The problem with almost every discussion today about Iraq is that people's minds are made up -- it was either the correct thing to do, or it was a terrible (and immoral) misuse of American and Western military might.

One editorial is not going to change anyone's opinion; however, if it gets us thinking about the proper role of the use of military force, then it has done some good.

And while you consider the Iraq War, you need also to consider the Bush administration. As I've said at other times and in other posts, Iraq will define the Bush legacy; whether that's fair is up to you to decide.

TIME magazine's Joe Klein offers a negative evaluation of the new book by one of Mr. Bush's most senior officials -- Karl Rove. I've found it interesting that Mr. Rove, who appeared to cared little for the media while he was in the White House, suddenly cannot be on television enough. You don't think his attempt to sell his book has anything to do with that, do you?

Even when a group of newspapers tell the Chinese government to change a policy...

...the policy remains in place. Of course, the person identified as being responsible for coordinating this editorial criticism is canned (we can hope that's the worst that happens to him) and others are sanctioned (we can hope...).

Ah, freedom of the press.

Why every piece of video matters

ABC goofed. Plain and simple.

What????????

The student-run newspaper at N. C. State could be shut down. Why? Not enough students want to be involved.

Sad.

And I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The new world order...

...of network television.

One network executive says advertisers will pay more for their spots that air during network shows and network affiliates will pay more for the retransmission consent fees they work out with cable companies. Ain't that the "Tiffany" way?

Meanwhile, an executive at another network thinks it might be time to spin-off its news division. Would that really be as easy as "ABC" or "1, 2, 3"?

Excluding children because...

...they have parents who are lesbian.

That's a difficult one to accept, especially when it is a church-related elementary school making the decision. One Denver-area Catholic school has decided that two children will not be allowed to return as students in the fall because of their parents' sexual orientation.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A bird in the hand...

...beats looking for a job.

Yes, a deliberate distortion of a cliche; but when it comes to the television news industry, today a job at a smaller market sure beats the uncertainty of being at a larger one.

Give me a T...

give me an E...give me an N...give me a U...give me an R...give me an E. What does that spell? I work with a great group of people who want me to stick around for awhile. And I'm thankful for their friendship and support.

If you have a child that plays sports...

...you might want to read this story.

No, no one is suggesting that young people not play sports, but clearly the potential long-term effects of concussions mean that the medical community and parents need to be ever-vigilant when determining what to do when a young person is hurt.

An open-minded college football coach

I'm no fan of Ohio State, despite getting my MA from there, but I do admire its football coach -- Jim Tressel.

I admire him more for being open-minded about one of the most touchy subjects in sports -- homosexuality.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Your favorite college journalism professor...

...on television. Today. And the television camera didn't even break!

A wee bit o' humor to brighten your day

A man is traveling the world and is in Italy. He sees a sign that says "Call God here." He goes in and asks how much and Italian man answers, "10,000 dollars." So he decides to move along.

A week later he is in Ireland and sees the same call God here sign. He again asks how much. This time the Irish man says "50 cents...." The traveler asks "why so cheap?" The Irish guy smiles and says... "It's a local call."

Advertise here!

Every now and then you can still find that invitation to advertise.

Well, in 2010, it appears that for the first time more money will be spent advertising online than in print publications.

As I read this story, I couldn't help but chuckle -- do you also remember the conversations from just 3-5 years ago about whether advertising agencies would deliver enough money to the Internet in order to ensure the profitability of Web sites?

Amanpour to ABC?

If it happens, it would be quite a coup for ABC News, which reportedly is attempting to bring Ms. Amanpour to the network to host its "This Week" program.

This report comes just days after a story suggesting CBS News was interested in bringing CNN's Anderson Cooper to the network to replace Katie Couric.

As to the Amanpour story, count me among those who think it could happen. As to the Cooper story, I'll have more to say when I stop laughing. It's ludicrous.

Did Cablevision cave in?

That's the consensus of a couple of media reports I've read, as the fallout from the Cablevision-Disney retransmission consent argument lingers.

Remember, the cable company relented just hours after pulling the local ABC station in New York so that those viewers could see the ever-popular Academy Awards.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Cablevision vs Disney (UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: 9:15 p.m. EST:

Surprise! (Not!!!) This report from TVNewsCheck:

The GM of the ABC O&O announced at about 8:50 p.m. Sunday that it has ""reached an agreement in principle that recognizes the fair value of ABC7, with deal points that we expect to finalize with Cablevision. Given this movement, we're pleased to announce that ABC7 will return to Cablevision households while we work to complete our negotiations."

I told you so. I've seen too many of these discussions/negotiations go down this road. Granted, not all of them do, but enough of them wind up as the one between Cablevision and Disney do in both the short and long term.

ORIGINAL POST: Well, it's happened...the cable company has pulled a local television station from its program lineup as part of an on-going retransmission consent fight.

Of course, this is no ordinary cable and station fight -- it's taking place in the country's largest media market and that ensures consistent coverage of this dispute.

As I stated the other day, I think Cablevision is right. But I also think that by the end of the day (and in this case that's literally the end of the day -- remember, the Academy Awards are tonight and airing on ABC stations all across the country), this dispute will be over.

Pushin' Putin to...

...get out.

I wouldn't expect it to happen, but a growing group of ordinary Russians is calling for Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin to step aside.

In a somewhat related action, the head of the Russia's National Olympic Committee has stepped down, a move that had been urged by President Dmitri Medvedev.

Putin has charted a somewhat bellicose foreign policy for his country; and as one editorial suggests, such a position comes with a cost.

He's a fascinating international figure, and one who asserts Russia's short- and long-term international prestige. But words must be met with actions, and the embarrassing (by Russian standards) performance at the Vancouver Olympics is a sign that more needs to be done before prestige can be deeply felt and demonstrated.

Raleigh, NC is number one

That North Carolina city -- near the renowned Research Triangle -- has the most residents receiving broadband Internet.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Expectations

At times, a dangerous word.

I've read two books in recent weeks being considered by my institution for our annual Summer Reading program. (For those unfamiliar with such programs, they are designed to provide a book for reading, analysis and discussion for incoming college freshmen.)

One of the books is "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time"; the other is "Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference".

I see a few intriguing comparisons between the books:

1. Each book challenges the reader to see how he or she would deal with cultural, ethnic or religious diversity

2. Both books provide real-world examples of how people turn away from (or embrace) peoples and cultures unfamiliar to them

3. Each author centers around one person doing something noble

4. Each book leads us to examine what it is that makes education important – no American would argue against education, but there are important points about what how we can validate it as important.

There are other similarities (and of course differences) in these books, but nothing I've written so far ties into the "expectations" I mentioned above.

I think it comes into play when we examine what we expect from other people -- both Greg Mortenson (the central figure in "Three Cups of Tea") and Luma Mufleh (the key figure in "Outcasts United") demand much of themselves, perhaps more than we expect of ourselves.

I wonder what kind of intestinal fortitude it takes to do what they do, and I'll admit I don't think I have the daring, confidence or ability to inspire that Mr. Mortenson and Ms. Mufleh do.

But when people are placed into roles of "doing great things," aren't we placing an unhealthy level of expectation upon them? If you've read either of these books, I think you'll agree that people who surround Mr. Mortenson or Ms. Mufleh see them as equivalent to saviors. In such a scenario, anything less than perfection comes off as not meeting our expectations.

That's not fair to people such as Mr. Mortenson and Ms. Mufleh. But let's face it, it happens.

Friday, March 05, 2010

I'm just saying

Am I the only one who finds it surreal that the health care debate could be decided by Easter but only if tougher abortion language is included?

Abortion and Easter seem to not belong in the same sentence, if you ask me.

We move on.

Unemployment

This report from The New York Times:

The American economy shed 36,000 nonfarm jobs in February as the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent, the Labor Department said Friday, a more positive report than expected given the series of winter storms that shut down much of the East Coast.

The report interrupted a trend of easing in the recession-bleakened job market in recent months. But economists, whose forecasts for Friday's report had varied more widely than usual, said the February data may be substantially revised in the next few months' reports.

They're mad as...

...and they're not going to take it anymore.

Students and faculty of California's public university system -- once the envy of the country -- took to the streets (and the major roadways) to protest budget cuts to higher education in the state.

Noble. And likely to have no effect.

State governments are in no-win situations these days. The "tax" word has become the equivalent of the stomach flu in the minds of most people; in the absence of revenue growth, there must be cuts; and higher education is feeling this economic crunch the same as most areas.

It sickens me when I hear of state budget cuts to any form of education, but I confess that I'm biased on this one -- as the father of two elementary school children and a professor at a (private) university, I think there are few things more important than education. But I also know that running a state government is no fun, and unpopular choices have to be made.

One unnecessary paragraph (UPDATE)

1st UPDATE: 8:00 a.m. EST: For what it is worth, neither the Washington Post nor the Washington Times is focusing on the same gun violence line.

But the New York Times is still including its Virginia and guns angle in this Friday morning report.

ORIGINAL POST: As I read this report discussing the shooting that took place last night outside the Pentagon Metro stop in Washington, I soon found myself in a conversation with my wife.

It was the final paragraph that caught my attention and started the conversation. Was that final paragraph relevant to the story? If it wasn't, then what purpose did it serve by being included?

Here's what was known at the time -- and those final three words are critical -- a man shot two police officers outside the Metro stop. He appeared to be American citizen. There is nothing at that moment to suggest he has any ties to the state of Virginia.

So, why was the final paragraph included in this Thursday night report?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

How much do you want it?

I had a fantastic conversation last evening with three Point Park alumni, two of whom are graduates of the School of Communication and one who is a graduate of the university's Conservatory of Performing Arts.

The four of us examined student media on the university level, and we agreed that there is often one ingredient in student journalists that defines their success -- what price they are willing to pay in order to succeed.

Viewed another way, at what level a student defines success is a large factor in determining how far he or she will advance. If, for example, one is satisfied with mediocrity, then one is destined to have a mediocre (at best) career in the media.

Student journalists are not the only ones to whom that "how much do you want it?" question ought to be asked. It can be applied to those young men and women entering the photography, advertising, public relations or other communication field.

Just a few minutes before having that aforementioned conversation, I had talked to two other graduates -- one who graduated in 2008, the other who graduated in 2009. Both young women had been dealing with parallel careers over the past year -- each had been laid off twice. The 2008 graduate was in her third job in the past year, while the 2009 graduate was in that "I want to work, so why is no one hiring me?" mode that all professionals have gone through.

I gave that young lady a pep talk, reminding her that she is 23 years old, talented and has worked for almost a year in the country's largest advertising market. The lousy economic conditions of the past year went unstated as a cause for what she and her fellow alum had gone through.

It struck me later that the 2008 and 2009 graduates wanted to succeed; mediocrity was not in their vocabulary. And I'm confident they will find the long-term professional satisfaction that is so important to them.

Today I received some good news -- one of my December 2009 graduate students has been hired by a television station in Oregon. I spoke to the news director late last week about my former student, and one item that came up more than once in our conversation was about how he would handle being far away from Pittsburgh (the city of his birth) and in a part of the country in which he has never lived.

I told the news director that my student had that "it," that always difficult to define but nevertheless discernible quality that allows you to know distance or any other potential obstacle will not be a problem. She and I agreed that the student had a great resume tape, had put together a solid resume and had another important ingredient -- maturity.

I was not at all surprised when the student notified me today that Oregon was in his future. He'll do well.

I recognize that "how much do you want it?" question is often a trite motivational tool used to athletic coaches and other leaders in a warped attempt to get someone to do something. That is not how I'm phrasing the question. Instead it must be an internal motivation; one has to know what they want and how they intend to get there.

It doesn't mean a radical, irresponsible pursuit of success. Instead it means a logical, reasoned internal motivation. A plan. Those who have it do; those who don't, don't.

Sarah Palin -- reality TV star?

It could happen.

At least one television industry report indicates Mrs. Palin and a television producer were pitching the idea to multiple over-the-air networks.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this -- Mrs. Palin, like anyone else, should have the right to pursue a television opportunity. But I wonder what this does for her credibility as a political commentator and potential presidential candidate.

You are invited to weigh in.

Cablevision vs. Disney

I'm in New York for another couple of hours for a School of Communication alumni reception event. We had a successful night with good times and good memories for those who were there.

While here, I've seen just snippets of a very protracted battle between Cablevision and Disney.

If you are familiar with the television industry, then you know all about retransmission consent agreements. They've become more contentious in recent years as content providers (such as Disney) are demanding carriage for all their broadcast and cable properties on a cable system in exchange for giving the authorization to carry the over-the-air station.

In New York City, the argument is heating up as Disney is refusing to grant Cablevision carriage of WABC (the local owned-and-operated ABC station in New York) unless the full range of Disney properties are picked up by the cable company.

The emotional rhetoric is heating up because of this weekend's broadcast of the Academy Awards. It would seem illogical for Disney to surrender coverage of that hugely important television night to significant portions of the New York audience. But remember the amount of money at stake supersedes the broadcast of any one event -- with the exception of the Super Bowl.

Who wins here? My guess is that Cablevision will give in. I'm not sure it should. I'm even more confident that Congress ought not be sticking its nose in the problem; nevertheless, it is.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

1,000 deaths

Granted, numbers that end in zero seem to attract more attention than others, and I'll leave it to psychologists to tell us why.

But the 1,000 figure in this story seems to be sure to generate its own attention and conversation; it represents the number of American soldiers killed since late 2001 while fighing the war on terror.

Sure, let's have a peace conference. We'll accomplish....

...uh, um...something. We think.

For a strong piece of evidence at the discord associated with the bringing the Taliban into a peace agreement with the Afghan government, read this.

Meantime, the Afghan government has directed all media to not provide live coverage of any Taliban attacks, because such reporting "benefits the enemies of Afghanistan."

War and peace. Complicated. Lengthy, too.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Dasvidania, Vitaly (maybe?)

The purge of the leadership within the Russian sports ministry has begun.

Or has it?

Returning to Moscow today (and do you think that flight from Vancouver must have felt like an eternity for him), sports minister Vitaly Mutkov said he was ready to resign.

He was responding to a call made by Russian president Dimitri Medvedev to clean out the top ranks of the country's sports leadership, following Russia's disappointing (3 gold, 15 total medals) performance at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

However, Mr. Mutkov has a powerful ally -- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

As you consider whether that relationship might save their jobs, you also should relish the diatribe written by Pravda, which in a previous iteration was the mouthpiece of the Communist Party. That newspaper is asking if Canada hockey players might have been on drugs when they whacked the Russians in the tournament's quarterfinals.

Somehow I don't see the International Olympic Committee taking a look into that.

Distrust, ambivalence or indifference

I'm reading an interesting book by Swedish academician Peter Dahlgren that examines the intersection of the media, other forms of communication and democracy.

One of the intriguing sections I've reached so far in "Media and Political Engagement: Citizens, Communication, and Democracy" examines why people tune out the political process, failing to attend to media messages or opting to not get involved in any form of political participation.

Dahlgren's discussion includes research done by two other Swedes, who suggest this resignation toward politics manifests itself in three forms -- distrust, ambivalence or indifference.

I'll explain each in the next paragraph, but the purpose of this post is to engage in a conversation about which of those three is most damaging to the political process, democracy and the media. Your opinion therefore is invited.

Distrust occurs when an individual deliberately ignores participation, believing doing so would reward (my term, not Dahlgren's) a system that the individual sees as corrupt or otherwise not working for the good of society.

Ambivalence occurs when someone is capable and interested in getting involved in the political process but refuses to muster the energy to do so.

Indifference results from someone who sees no value to the political process, seeing it as irrelevant in their lives.

Of course, Dahlgren's summation -- in an effort to make his point -- is brief, and my summation of his remarks are even more truncated.

So, which of the three is the most corrosive? As I see it, it is indifference.

Distrust accepts that politics has value but is somehow broken; one can extend that idea and see people who attempt to get involved in order to save it. We'll set aside the chances of that happening in order to acknowledge that a person who distrusts politics nevertheless believes it important. I believe one can see the rise of the Tea Party movement as a response form those who think the political process is flawed and that their interests are not being met by either party (but especially the Democrats). They want change, and now.

Ambivalence, in my opinion, defines the large segment of the U.S. population who opt to not vote. They follow politics, but for reasons known only to them do not take that important step of offering any overt support for the political process. These people also are not likely to openly support any political candidate, though they might be inclined to do so. For them, a benign acceptance of the system (with the inevitable mild and sporadic spasm of support or anger) is there.

Indifference implies a "who cares?" attitude of the political system. Let me offer a comparison -- you say "opera" or "ballet" to me, I say "who cares?" I have no interest in those forms of entertainment, and I believe they have no value or importance to me. Why would I waste my time on either of them? Sure, there is a tinge of sarcasm in that answer, but I think you see the point -- opera and ballet are two things I have zero interest in.

That indifferent attitude is corrosive when one adopts it for politics -- which unlike opera, ballet or even sports has incredible importance in our society. If you have any doubt about that, simply ask yourself this question: Would the U.S. be in the position it is in domestically and internationally if it had been Al Gore, not George Bush, who won the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections?

As the saying goes, 'unless you've been living under a rock....'

Alright, time for you to offer your opinion. Which is worst -- distrust, ambivalence or indifference?