Friday, April 30, 2010

A rational (I hope) conversation...

...about the new illegal-immigrant law in Arizona.

Let's begin with a key point: I'm not going to engage in any rhetorical bashing about what is happening in Arizona; yes, I have an opinion about the new law, but I'm going to let a court (or two, maybe three) determine whether the toughest illegal-immigration law in the land passes legal muster.

Instead, I want to examine the fallout from the decision.

Higher-education officials in Arizona are on the defensive, and there is no reason why they should be. However, considering the general national enthusiasm for the law, there is ample reason for them to be worried.

I say they ought not be on the defensive because they played no direct role in the enactment of this legislation. However, not being on the defensive and not being afraid of its ramifications are not the same thing. It is understandable why students (or their families) could decide not to attend any college institution in the state of Arizona. If nothing else, opting not is a powerful form of protest. And if you understand anything about higher education, you realize that tuition dollars are more important than ever, and this is especially so at smaller institutions.

If there is one group that is on the defensive, it is law enforcement agencies throughout the state. On the one hand, they could find themselves compelled to ask about the status of any person they suspect is not in Arizona legally. Now, consider this -- can you really tell if someone is in this country legally just by looking at them? And would you want the responsibility to ask?

Of course, the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the political level is in high gear. Today, The New York Times is suggesting President Obama forcefully and immediately speak out against the law. As you consider whether he should (or whether he has already done that effectively), remember that the governor of Arizona signed changes to the law today that she says eliminates any potential for racial profiling.

There was an interesting protest that caught my attention that took place in Chicago, where the Cubs are hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks this weekend. The point of the protest, in my opinion, was misguided -- it urged sports fans to not attend events involving a team from Arizona, no matter where that event is taking place.

That's hogwash. Unless and until a sizable number of the players on any professional team from Arizona publicly acknowledge they support the law, there is no valid reason to not show up at a sports event involving an Arizona team.

And speaking of where athletes stand, it is not surprising that those in opposition to the new law are the ones making their voices heard.

As you can tell, a reasonable conversation about what has happened in Arizona is hard to come by. That's understandable -- the law is being viewed through an emotional lens; and whenever that situation is evident, reason is sure to be hard to find. Nevertheless, blaming college officials is unwise; but it is reasonable to assume that higher-education officials in Arizona are worried.

Demanding that politicians speak out in support or opposition of the law RIGHT NOW is unwise; but it is reasonable to assume that political and other leaders should make rational comments about the new law.

Calling upon citizens who want to be entertained to avoid events involving teams from Arizona is unwise; but expecting athletes to take a stand on what is happening is a reasonable expectation.

But let's also not forget that for the media the dramatic, the immediate, the raw emotion draws viewers, readers and listeners. So, guess what you're going to see more of?

Catholics in crisis (really?)

"Catholics in Crisis" is the headline to this story in The Week magazine.

You can guess the headline caught my attention for two reasons -- it's more than a bit over the top, and as a Catholic I find any stories suggesting a problem in my Church to be worth reading. Sadly, after getting through a few paragraphs, I opted to stop reading.

The story offers little in the way of new or fresh information about the pedophile scandal and the Church's woefully ineffective response to it. But you shouldn't let my conclusion influence your decision; read it and draw your own conclusions.

The media must continue to cover this story, but offering rehashing of old information while crying for attention with words such as "crisis" is not the way to get at it.

The U.S. economy and problems from an oil slick...

...continue to grow.

First the economy. This from the Financial Times:

The US economy continued to grow at a healthy clip in the first three months of the year, as measures to stimulate output spurred spending and helped the recovery gain momentum.

Gross domestic product grew at an adjusted annual rate of 3.2 per cent in the first quarter, Department of Commerce figures showed on Friday. That was slightly weaker than Wall Street analysts had expected and followed 5.6 per cent growth in the fourth quarter of last year.


Mind you, we are not out of the economic mess; unemployment continues to be a drag on any optimism about feeling that the rotten recession is behind us. But economic growth is a good sign. Of course, in the culture that is Washington these days, I expect the good news will be spun according to which party a person belongs.

And now the not-so-slick way the White House has handled the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Martin Kady II reports the following on his "The Huddle" blog:

The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is quickly becoming serious political issue.

The Obama administration's push for more offshore drilling is now coming under serious questioning. The initially slow response opens the White House to criticism. And now members of Congress like Bill Nelson are pushing for the drilling proposals to be halted for the time being.

The ecological disaster has been clear for days, but the political fallout will start to hit hard as the oil reaches the shores of Louisiana and other gulf coast states.


The White House is attempting to regain the political edge on this story, but the environmental edge might be harder to gain control over; the potential for an environmental disaster is developing. One of the president's top advisers says any plans to "drill, baby drill" off the U.S. coastline are on hold until answers are found for this current crisis.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The power and importance of culture

Two stories in today's media caught my attention, as they captured for me the importance of and controversy too often associated with culture.

The first report was from the BBC, which highlighted a growing number of Islamic women who are opting to undergo surgery to make them appear to be virgins upon marriage. The second story comes from Belgium, where one house of Parliament has moved forward with a new law aimed at preventing burqa-style clothing in public.

The underlying theme to these reports, in my opinion, is the expectations the West has for Islamic women.

One need not be well-versed in Islam or Middle East culture (and I do not call myself an expert on either topic) to know that women are viewed in that part of the world in a different context than they are in the United States and throughout the West. It is easy for us to say that women are repressed and denied the chance to be anything more than a wife and mother (and perhaps without the respect that women who hold those titles in the West often enjoy) in a culture that appears to expect them to be nothing else. (If you've not had a chance to read Greg Mortenson's "Three Cups of Tea" that discusses the challenges he faced to build public schools for girls in Afghanistan, please do so. It will help to explain the point of education and females quite well.)

The aforementioned stories from the BBC and the AP allow that Western cultural bias to be reinforced -- women who are not virgins at marriage can be ostracized or worse in the culture of the Middle East, while women in the West need not prove (and let's face it, there is no other applicable word) their sexual status to their husbands. Moreover, women need not cover almost every inch of their bodies in the West in order for them to appear virtuous.

So, reading the BBC and AP reports "proves" to many people that the Middle East is akin to a Third World society -- politically, socially and/or economically bereft.

But what would a Middle Eastern news source (al-Jazeera comes to mind) report about the women having surgeries and a government preventing the wearing of a burqa in public? In the context of the Middle East, the women in the first story could be seen as acknowledging their past sexual activity was wrong and they are therefore seeking forgiveness for what they have done.

Nonsense we would say. But I would ask you to consider this -- do you know any American woman who might consider asking her God for forgiveness for anything she might have done, as she prepares to enter the sacred covenant of marriage?

Moreover, al-Jazeera could report that the Belgian government is doing little to respect the clothing traditions of the Middle East. Bizarre, we are likely to conclude.

Perhaps, but aren't there boundaries of taste associated with women's clothes in this country? How mini do we as a society really want that mini-skirt to be?

Now, before you start concluding that I'm bashing Western culture and endorsing Middle East culture, please stop and think. My point is simply this -- we are guilty, for lack of a better term, of interpreting news stories through the cultural norms we accept, regardless of whether we are living in a country that espouses those norms. (That being said, we are far more likely to vocally indicate our support for those norms if we know the society around us will support our position.)

Therefore, we are quick to conclude that the women highlighted in the BBC report are acting out of fear, while the Belgian government is not. Is there no other possible interpretation to these stories?

College graduates should consider....

...living in Pittsburgh.

Sure, I know what you are thinking -- Moretti is engaging in a little shameless boosterism for the city he calls home.

And your point is?

Check out this photo slide show from the Huffington Post, which identifies the top cities in which college graduates should consider calling home. No, I'm not being doing public relations for the city of Pittsburgh; I'm simply pointing out what people who live here already know -- it's a pretty cool place to call home.

Why they play the games

My many Washington friends are hurting this morning. Their beloved Capitals, the team with the best record during the NHL's regular season are done, ousted in the first-round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens.

Of course, the media are apoplectic in their analysis of how the Canadiens, down 3 games to 1 in the series, rallied to win. The Capitals collapsed, in the eyes of one sports journalist.

Did they? Who cares. That misses the point of this post.

Games are not won on paper, and certainly on paper it appeared the Capitals would have no problem beating the Canadiens. But if you are a long-time sports fan, then you can remember situations in which your team was definitely supposed to win...and didn't, or definitely was supposed to lose...and didn't.

And that's why sports are a wonderful lesson. You just never know what's going to happen.

Today, my Washington friends are left to wonder "what happened?" But it won't be long before they are relishing the unexpected success of one of their other favorite teams, and because that team won when it wasn't supposed to.

That's why they play the games.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An ethical lapse...

...is an ethical lapse. And what one South Dakota news anchor did was a breach of ethics.

It baffles me that the anchor would appear to be almost defiant of his actions, which led to a suspension. But perhaps Shad Olson is laying the foundation for a departure from journalism and an entry into politics? Mind you, I don't know that, but as I read between the lines from his comments in the link referenced above I see a man who is ready to jump into the political waters.

The other possibility is he wants a job at FOX News.

There's nothing wrong with either of those scenarios, and there is certainly nothing wrong with him having a set of political convictions. But he needs to decide who he wants to be -- an advocate or a journalist.

Crist to pull a Lieberman

From Politico.com:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has told two close associates that he will leave the Republican primary to run as a third-party candidate for the U.S. Senate, POLITICO has learned.

Tracking attendance...the electronic way

Northern Arizona University is spending $75,000 in federal-stimulus money (what????????????) to track student attendance in large, lecture-based classes.

Really?

In an era in which public and private institutions are dealing with financial difficulties borne by government-funding cuts, dwindling endowments and pressures to keep tuition costs as low as possible (among many other issues), this institution wants to track student attendance?

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting that student attendance in classes is not important; and I agree with the argument made in the story to which I provided a link that the more time a student spends in a classroom, the more likely they are to get a better grade in that class (not to mention learn something important).

But, in my opinion, $75,000 in federal-stimulus money -- presuming I correctly understand the parameters of how the money can be spent -- could have been put to much better use through any of the following: installing a new student-use computer lab; upgrading technology; or purchasing equipment leading to a "greener" campus.

And let's not even get into the privacy issues that could be connected to monitoring student attendance.

Obama and the media

The public will likely neither be fascinated to learn (nor in fact care to know) that the Obama administration and the White House press corps don't get along all that well.

My reaction? Who cares!

The media seem all too self-interested as presidents turn over to assess how well the White House press corps is getting along with the President of the United States. These stories almost always come off as "oh, woe is me," but more importantly have absolutely zero informational value.

The astute political follower knows that there are inherently different values associated with being a member of the White House administration and being a member of the press corps. Summarized briefly, the former is more interested in governing, ensuring the president's agenda is advanced, swaying the public and delivering information on a need-to-know basis.

The latter is interested in every morsel of information, access to news makers, uncovering issues of wrongdoing and in general ensuring that the competition is not "winning."

Those inherent tensions ensure that no matter how much the mainstream media might LIKE a president that they will be frustrated in their dealings with him (it will be a her at some point in the future) and the people surrounding him.

So, get over it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year?

No, I haven't gone off the deep end. I know it's nowhere near Christmas. But as I watch "my kids" prepare to finish up their academic year and career -- graduation is just four days away at Point Park University -- I wonder if right now is the most wonderful time of the year.

For some, it is. No doubt about it.

Each year, as I watch a new set of young men and women get ready to enter the "real world," I'm reminded of the emotional roller coaster that getting ready for graduation involves. There is the excitement of wrapping up one part of your life. But there also is the uncertainty of what the next phase will bring. And of course there is the knowledge that all of us who have graduated know -- it is absolutely impossible to predict the future.

If you had told me when I completed my undergraduate days at USC that I would be a Ph.D. before I was 40, I'd have suggested you be fitted for a jacket that has its arms set backwards. And if you'd have told me when I was 21 that I would have married a woman from Ohio...yes, I would have advised that the jacket be tied tightly and that the cell in which you were placed be thickly padded.

But the importance of uncertainty should be ignored for now.

Of course, some people will find instantaneous professional success; I'm reminded that almost half the students who took my newscast class in the fall already have lined up a job. I'm fully confident that one or two others will be wrapping up their job searches rather quickly.

More of "my kids" are neck deep into their job hunting. Their faces say optimism, but their eyes say worry. That, too, is part of the "real world."

At the same time, I see other students who have already moved on -- they long ago decided that the communication field is not for them. Something else is, and some of these young men and women know what that is. But others are struggling with what it is they want to do.

But at graduation and for the two hours it takes to complete that ceremony, the uncertainty of what the road to professional satisfaction will entail will be forgotten. On Saturday I will see some of "my kids" for the final time, or at least it will be a long time before I lay eyes on them. I'll enjoy sharing in their enjoyment, but I'll also have to admit that seeing some of them go isn't appealing.

As is true with my boys, there comes a time when they have to be turned loose. Hmmm, maybe this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year?

Major League Baseball, Arizona and illegal immigration

You've probably heard of "the law of unintended consequences" -- something is done for what appears to be the right reasons, and then the unexpected happens that allows for a re-assessment of the original idea.

Major League Baseball could be facing that very problem if it opts to pull its All-Star Game from Arizona, the scheduled host in 2011. The league could do that in response to the state's enactment of an aggressive illegal immigration law that remains politically divisive and legally questionable.

As you read through the linked story, consider how the National Football League attempted to do the same thing -- use the potential removal of one of its events to pressure voters in Arizona to approve the MLK holiday, only to see that pressure backfire.

Setting the sports angle aside, it also is important for the media to discuss other organizations that are threatening to (or do) pull their activities from Arizona. Let's acknowledge the importance of professional sports, but let's not ignore that the loss of multiple conventions, meetings and other professional gatherings will resonate through the state's economy.

Sure, the symbolic power of sports cannot be denied; but the collective power of all non-profit or for-profit groups that opt to cancel plans sends the same message.

Hold that (i)-Phone!!!

What a tangled legal mess starting to develop in California, where a journalist had his house broken into by police who were executing a search warrant.

The journalist -- Jason Chen -- drew attention after a report detailing the prototype of the new Apple iPhone was published by Gizmodo.

The legal machinations that have followed are highlighted in this report. Of course, we must keep in mind that the source of this report is indeed the organization that first printed the information about product.

There could be some important legal ground following this case, but I wonder if some of this is driven by Apple's desire to protect its products. Setting that aside, the issue of who is a journalist in this rapidly changing legal and technological landscape is something that cannot be ignored.

And unlike political talk radio that seems motivated far more by who can out-shout the other, legal issues will take place in more staid, dare I say professional, settings.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Obama -- unloved

As is typical, Financial Times' columnist Clive Crook has written an interesting piece on the American political scene.

This time, Mr. Crook examines how and why President Obama is accomplishing much but generating little public support at the same time.

We can offer a variety of reasons to explain why Mr. Obama and his party are not basking in strong and widespread popular support, but for purposes of this message I think one is most important -- conservative media.

The comparisons between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama have been overdone. But, again, for this post, we'll accept that they exist and have some merit. If you are old enough to remember, you'll know that Mr. Reagan swept into office largely because of national dissatisfaction with the previous president and the ideas his party represented.

He also used his oratorical skills to control a political message, and the national media adopted a generally favorable attitude toward what he was doing.

However, Mr. Reagan never had a blaring, consistent and biased cable "news" network seeking to undermine almost everything he did. He also didn't have to deal with bloviators on talk radio who did more to distort the national political conversation than they did to enhance it.

And that brings us to FOX News, conservative talk radio and, of course, let's not forget the Internet. All three have allowed a constant drumbeat of anti-Obama, anti-Democratic Party messages to remain prevalent in the national consciousness. Consider the potent rhetoric emanating from those media, and you have an important ingredient into understanding why the president is accomplishing much and his party is benefiting little.

Circulation problems

Granted, the number of newspaper subscribers is declining by a lesser amount than in the recent past. But there are still a lot less of them.

Fomenting overthrow...

...is apparently much easier than governing once you complete that leadership change.

The don't protest like they used to

The 40th anniversary of the shooting of four students on the Kent State campus is next week. I posted a blurb a couple of weeks ago describing a conversation I had had at a convention with two friends who teach at Kent State, which hosts an annual conference about the shootings.

In preparation for the 40th anniversary, The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a couple of interesting stories about student protests. In one, there is a suggestion that political indifference is too prevalent on college campuses now, and the upshot is that student unrest is rarely in evidence. In another story, a provost at one U.S. college reflects on those tumultuous days of May 1970.

We know the media are predisposed to highlight anniversaries with a "0" in its year, so I expect that there will be significant attention in the coming days (and especially next week) to the events of May 4, 1970. Of course, May 4 this year is an election day, so the attention might be muted somewhat.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Intellectual stimulation

There are few things I like better than a good conversation -- one that is predicated on all participants being at minimum sufficiently versed in the topic so that everyone makes meaningful contributions to the discussion.

Of course, a college campus is a great place to see that in action. I had an unexpected opportunity to overhear one today.

One of my sons was taking part in a workshop at Carnegie Mellon University, where the aforementioned exchange took place. While waiting for my son to complete his program, I made a stop at one of the university's eateries. There, I sat at a table, munching my pretzel, and likely doing a poor job of pretending I wasn't paying attention to the conversation at the next table.

Four students -- three men and one woman -- were working on a project for a business class. As I sat down, I heard one of the male students saying something like this: "But the bigger question for us is how do we convince the client that we're not overcharging him?" Various ideas were presented, and the group seemed to settle on the idea that it had the right marketing plan and at the right costs.

Some of the terms the students were using were "above my pay grade." But even if I had understood what they were talking about, there was no way I would have chimed in. I appreciated the talent and the intelligence at that table, and I especially admired they way each group member made an important contribution to what was taking place.

Group projects can be a tremendous learning tool, if for no other reason that they force students with various egos and ideas of their knowledge of self-worth to work together. I have no idea how long the group I listened to today had been at the cafe; they were there when I arrived and they seemed to still be going strong when I left about 20 minutes later. Their time, at least to this observer, was well spent.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Re-making the Boy Scouts (or the Catholic Church)

I knew editorials such as this one would be coming -- people who would take the recent pedophile scandal within the Boy Scouts of America to advocate for the organization to make substantive changes to its makeup.

Nonsense.

There are some unfortunate parallels that exist between the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church, and I remind you that I am part of both. My older son recently transitioned from a Pack into a Troop, and he is working quickly to attaining his first Boy Scout rank. My younger son is joining the Scouts later this year. Regular readers of this blog know that I am a Cubmaster, and I am taking an active role in my older son's Boy Scout troop as well.

Meanwhile, I am Catholic.

I confess to being neither the perfect Scout leader nor the perfect Catholic, but I also will admit to doing my best to uphold the tenets of each. Therefore, I feel especially sensitive to those who take the recent (similar) scandals within both organizations to release their political agenda of change they believe must be adopted by Scouting or the Church.

Let's admit that the Boy Scouts of America and the Catholic Church have done an awful job of dealing with their pedophile scandals. At the risk of being overly blunt, their "we'll handle it internally" was designed to protect a public image rather than dealing with the problem. That was dumb, and again I apologize for the bluntness.

Attempting to deal with it internally works only if the organization actually deals with the problem internally. One pedophile priest is one too many, and one pedophile Scout leader is one too many. Neither deserves to represent the Church or Scouting. Ever.

Accepting that, it is not appropriate for these scandals to be used by critics to push for other purposes. Therefore, I reject the arguments that women must be ordained as priests in order for the Church to fully deal with its "priest problem." Likewise, I reject that Scouting must openly endorse homosexuality or atheists in their ranks.

The issue of pedophile leaders is a terrible stain on Scouting and the Catholic Church. And it must be dealt with forcefully and openly. Yes, the accused must have the full legal rights available to them; I'm not seeking some kind of "let's take them behind the building, line them up and shoot them" mentality. But spare me the idea that the fundamentals of either agency must be swept aside at the same time.

One Republican from South Carolina is right...

...and he's correct.

This from The New York Times:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) threatened to abandon his effort to push a climate energy bill Saturday, arguing that Democrats' efforts to pass immigration legislation has undermined his faith in the process.

Graham, along with Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), planned to unveil their climate proposal Monday.


Why do I think Graham is correct? It has nothing to do with me thinking that immigration is perfect and therefore needs no attention. The question needs to be carefully discussed, and the onerous new law that was signed into law in Arizona has led to immediate questions about its legality, not to mention its practicality. And speaking of legal minds, the American Immigration Lawyers Association has canceled its plans to hold its annual convention later this year in Arizona.

Nevertheless, the White House, in my opinion, is attempting to rush through a program fearing that no program -- or perhaps a tougher one -- will move forward if the GOP makes significant gains in the 2010 midterm elections. I'll set aside the potential that pushing for immigration now is being done in an effort to have a wedge issue in the midterm elections; certainly politics would not be a factor here.

Moreover, this White House has made climate change a bigger priority than immigration reform. (Unfortunately, it appears the Senate sees it the other way -- immigration is more important in its members' minds than the climate.) Right now, it has 1 (and that's it) Republican working with it in an effort to get some semblance of bipartisanship in climate change. That's about to go by the boards.

I cannot see any Republican -- especially one with the credentials Graham has (and like him or not, let's admit he is one of his party's heavy hitters) -- committing himself or herself to working with the Democrats.

So, as I see it, we have a bad law in Arizona and misplaced priorities in Washington. That's not a good combination.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thinking again about leadership

I've been reminded this week through media reports about events taking place in the sports, political and education worlds about leadership. Sometimes leadership seems easy to find, and at other times it seems as elusive as catching air.

Consider just one example to help illustrate my point: The Denver Broncos have been criticized in some quarters for selecting former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft. Picking Tebow in and of itself was not a bad decision, in the minds of the football analysts who seem convinced that they are paid by the word. Rather, the Broncos made a poor choice for moving up the draft board to pick up a quarterback who is not ready to play in the NFL.

Yet, I was baffled at the same time as I listened to these bloviators praising Tebow for his leadership ability, for his ability to rally his teammates and for his confidence to remain true to the ideals he professes.

In other words, Tebow is the kind of person more NFL teams should be interested in acquiring -- someone who will inspire his teammates and stay out of trouble. (Are you listening Ben Roethlisberger?)

In fact, my chin almost crashed to the floor this morning when I heard one person say that he was rooting for Tebow to succeed in the NFL. Why? Because he was a good guy, a fiery competitor and a leader. Interesting. Tebow is a role model, an inspirational figure and admirable.

Aren't those the kinds of qualities we want to see in people, no matter the career path they select?

As Tebow basked in the glow of being chosen in the draft's first round -- something the experts didn't think was likely -- less than 20 minutes later, Dez Bryant was picked by the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryant is the antithesis of Tebow -- ready for the NFL, brash and someone whose past leaves people asking about the quality of his character. In fact, the bloviators were left to wonder last night if Bryant would have gone even higher in the draft had he not had those questions surrounding him.

No one I listened to considered Bryant a leaders. No one suggested he possesses the ability to inspire his teammates. Instead Bryant came off as an all-too-typical athlete -- immensely talented but someone whom you wouldn't necessarily want as your next door neighbor or dating your daughter.

I heard no one this morning praising the Cowboys for moving up and making a deal to get the talented Bryant. I heard no one saying Bryant was a good guy.

Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm not picking on Dez Bryant, and I'm not suggesting he's a goon who within a year will be heading off to the NFL commissioner's office to get a stern lecture about behavior. Nor am I claiming that Tebow is some perfect human being who will never get into trouble.

What I am saying, however, is that on one particular night, two young men who might never be involved in a substantive play during a game in which the other is on the sidelines were nevertheless drawn together by strange parallels.

Each was drafted late in the first round. Each was drafted as part of a trade in which their team moved up the draft board in order to get them. And each was selected where they were largely because of their leadership and character. Therefore, however fair it is, they will be compared as their careers develop, as the bloviators and others assess which team made the proper move on one draft night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thanks, but no thanks ESPN

I'm checking out bits and pieces of the over-hyped, over-covered, over-testosteroned NFL Draft, and I'm not watching a second of it on ESPN.

Instead I'm watching it on NFL Network. Granted, the blah-blah that I expect is happening on ESPN is happening on NFL Network. But what a relief to not have to put up with the same old loudmouths.

And now it's the Republicans...

...trying to deal with a "non"-Republican.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I hold little regard for the Democrats who have attempted to demonize Sen. Joe Lieberman. Now, I don't think Lieberman has always been a straight-shooter with the Democratic Party, but the attempt to ostracize him has come with a cost.

The Republican Party could have its own "Lieberman problem" as Florida's Charlie Crist determines whether he will bolt his party and run as an independent U.S. Senate candidate.

Crist's decision would be a result of a Tea Party in Florida that continues to make loud noises while attempting to upset the political establishment. Such activists -- small in number and frankly worthy of national attention for reasons that confuse me -- are seen in many states, and they appear to be influencing the decisions of prominent Republicans in various states.

Politics does make for strange bedfellows.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I bet she did

And you would have acted much like this college-newspaper editor did if you had just learned about the police raiding your newsroom.

One strong message...

...will there be a second?

Kudos to the NFL for handing down a tough (but fair, in my opinion) suspension to Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. He could miss as many as six games during the upcoming NFL season for his less-than-gentlemanly conducted to women.

The more intriguing issue associated with this story is whether the Steelers' organization will trade their talented quarterback. Remember, this is an organization that prides itself on a clean image, and that idea has not been consistent with this team over the past 2-3 years.

The team did trade away its talented wide receiver Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets this off-season. Holmes' consistently troubled behavior off-the-field ushered him out of the city long before most football fans here thought it would.

The organization also has to explore what it wants to do with a kicker who can't seem to keep his name out of the legal morass.

Getting rid of a wide receiver or a kicker is not the same thing as trading away a quarterback. If you know the game of football, then you certainly know why. Thus if the Steelers' front office does move Roethlisberger, it would be sending a powerful message to the team and the city that it intends to restore internal order.

Here's hoping that happens.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Real-life examples of why press freedom matters...

...at one Washington high school and one Virginia college.

Try as you might, you will not convince me that the actions of the high school administrators in Washington state or of the police officers in Harrisonburg, Virginia are appropriate. In both cases, the (ir-)responsible authorities are seeking to use their illegitimate claim of superiority to trample upon the Constitution.

You can, of course, disagree with me. You'd simply be wrong to do so.

An embarrassment for Europe?

That hardly seems an appropriate description for what is taking place in Europe, but tonight the BBC is reporting that European government ministers are displeased with the restrictions in air travel caused by the Iceland volcano.

It was less than 24 hours ago that I commended Europe's governments for remaining out of the discussion about when air travel can resume at any level approaching normal. Of course, air travelers remain stuck in the middle, attempting to get home as soon as possible.

For what my opinion is worth, governmental pressure to resume air travel is not a positive step at this point. Granted, no one wants to keep passengers in limbo for one second longer than is necessary, but common sense has to be the guide here. To call this unusual, fascinating and dangerous natural disaster an embarrassment for Europe is irresponsible rhetoric.

Hooray for open-mindedness!!!

This from The Chronicle --

A Duke University student says the campus chapter of the College Republicans removed him as chairman of the group because he is gay, according to The Chronicle, the university's student newspaper. Justin Robinette, who was re-elected as chairman without opposition just last month, was ousted last week because of "conduct unbecoming of a person in a position of leadership," the group said in articles of impeachment, which also cited him for disrespecting members, not attending events, and using chapter funds for himself. The group's new chairman, Carter Boyle, said Mr. Robinette had mishandled a student-government endorsement. But Mr. Robinette, backed by another former official of the group, said he had lost his post only after more members of the group learned of his sexual orientation.

It's always reassuring to know that open-mindedness exists on our nation's college campuses.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And now the conflict enters the picture

Print and broadcast media coverage has taken the turn I expected, as the "volcano" story continues.

The new angle is conflict, as the airlines drop hints that the volcanic ash poses no legitimate danger to travelers, and as a result the flights to, from and within Europe ought to immediately resume. Let's not deny that for the airlines -- already under stress because of global economic changes -- need to get their planes back in service quickly. The longer it takes for that to happen, the more stress these companies will be under; and none of them operates in countries where a generous government bailout or subsidy will be available any time soon.

Attempting to be more patient -- and let's also not deny the pressure they are under -- are the scientists and governmental agencies that must provide the first assurances that the resumption of air travel is not happening too quickly and as a result putting thousands of people in unnecessary danger.

On the sidelines, at least so far, are European governments, which (wisely, if you ask me) have not openly pushed for an immediate resolution to this unusual story. Of course, contingency plans are being examined, and for example Britain with an estimated 200,000 people needing to return to home soil is looking at how to make that happen.

And caught in the middle, as they have been from day one, are the men, women and children who are forced to wait for any indication that they can get to where they want to go. (If you have ever been in this position, even for a day, you know how frustrating this can be. You wonder if you should leave the airport and find a hotel. Or perhaps you should instead grab a rental car and drive to where you need to go. And if you are in a city in which you know no one, the tension is even greater.)

The original angle of media reporting was a combination of fascination and disbelief, as they examined how one volcano -- located in Iceland of all places -- could shut down airline after airline and airport after airport. There were stories that looked at the potential economic problems this event could cause (including, just as one example, Kenya), and you would expect such business-driven stories from media that themselves seek profit. Such stories continued today, including this one from The New York Times.

I would like to see more stories about the people; they are the ones who are the most helpless in this case. Consider that airline executives are not struggling to return to their families, as they wait out the crisis. Journalists are not looking at their housing options, as they report what is taking place. And businesses remain in operation, with employees who have homes to return to each day. But the people in airports or hotels, who wonder when the call to come home will finally be made, are left in a lot of cases with nowhere to go and financial considerations that cannot be ignored.

Rhetoric, Iranian style

Iran's president says his country is too powerful for any nation to attack it.

There's a difference, and I'm sure even Mr. Ahmedanijad knows this, between other nations choosing to not attack another nation versus not being capable of it. Suffice to say, if the United States wanted to attack Iran -- and let's set aside a necessary pretense to do so -- it could.

Well now

This from The New York Times:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret
three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the memo touched off an intense effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for President Obama. They include a revised set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Some of those in Las Vegas...

...are unfortunately forced to stay in Las Vegas.

I talked to at least 5 people at the 2010 Broadcast Education Association convention who now have no place to go. They are among our international members who traveled to Las Vegas before that volcano in Iceland began to disrupt travel to, from and throughout Europe.

One person told me he was going to stay behind one more day before likely traveling to New York, where there will eventually be more flights to the U.K.

I'm sure a few people reading this are wondering why being stranded in Las Vegas is a big deal. Consider any of the following items, to see why it does matter:

1. The academic year is on-going, meaning that these people have classes to teach, papers to grade, meetings to have and other issues connected with being a member of a university faculty. Who will fill in for these people?

2. Universities are not flush with cash, and I promise you those of us in academia are not either. So, how are the extra days in Las Vegas, New York or anywhere going to be paid? I expect that university administrators will make the appropriate accommodations for their faculty who are stuck in the U.S., but let's assume that each person here ends up needing an additional $1,500 before they are able to make it home. If you have two people from the same institution "stranded" in Las Vegas, then you have doubled that figure.

In short, this volcano will be one of the signature stories of 2010, and the longer it goes on the more important and disruptive it will be. But for a few of my colleagues, it means so much more.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

What a few days in Las Vegas tells me

Las Vegas is in big trouble, and it's not a stretch to say that if this city is struggling then the rest of the state is equally bad.

The evidence I see:

1. Longer lines brought on by fewer service-related industry workers
2. More time necessary to tear down large convention events brought on by fewer workers
3. Newspaper and broadcast reports about a continuing over supply of housing and too many people needing work
4. Additional stories about people weathering the economic crisis

It should come as no surprise that the state's unemployment rate has ballooned past 13 percent.

The contrast between seeing the Las Vegas Hilton (where I stayed from Tuesday through today) stuffed with people is striking. The casino was empty the first three nights I was here, but last night it appeared that every airplane flying in this country brought people into this city and to that hotel.

I was left to wonder as I heard the slot machines incessantly dinging and saw the card tables two or three deep that the rest of the country remains in flux. But what hit me even more was that if Las Vegas didn't remain the attraction it is for conventions, vacations and short-term getaways, that the economic mess here would be a Depression-like crisis.

Remembering

I got into a fantastic conversation yesterday with two colleagues who teach at Kent State University. If you are student of American history you know that it was there almost exactly 40 years ago where a group of students was fatally shot by the National Guard.

Each year, the university hosts a conference to commemorate what happened there on that fateful May day in 1970. This year the conference is drawing particular attention because of the 40th anniversary.

I've been on the Kent State campus once, and I was 2 years old when the shootings took place, so for me the importance of the event is experienced through books, other readings and people who experienced it first-hand.

If you are close enough to northeast Ohio and can make it to the event, I'm sure you'll get a first-hand lecture and conversation that will be worth your time.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Calculated ignorance?

The premise of this Financial Times editorial is intriguing -- Pope Benedict XVI might be intentionally ignoring the challenge of the sex scandal engulfing the Church because he sees the future of the Church as being in parts of the world where authority is questioned less.

Intriguing, yes. But also flawed. To argue that illegal and immoral activity would be dismissed as not worthy of papal attention doesn't serve the Church, no matter how passive a society might be. An organization that ignores its flaws eventually will be undermined either by internal rot or external pressure.

The Pope needs to be proactive in addressing the crisis in the Church. He cannot hope that passive societies will see his lack of response as indicative of a media-created scandal.

Dirty politics?

Is the right attempting to smear a leading candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens? And is CBS News contributing to it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Whither any caring for my brother?

From The New York Times:

The fierce animosity that Tea Party supporters harbor toward Washington and President Obama in particular is rooted in deep pessimism about the direction of the country and the conviction that the policies of the Obama administration are disproportionately directed at helping the poor rather than the middle class or the rich, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Sounds Christian to me. And we'll leave it at that.

A story that gets curiouser and curiouser

Were documents that students say they found in a trash can actually stolen by someone and given to them?

If so, a story that went from being a criticism of university non-transparency has morphed into a political problem. And that would mean it would have far less to do with a leading Republican politician and much more to do with illegal activities.

I'm just wondering...

...why is it acceptable for a Democrat to move to the right but not for a Republican to move to the left?

Why CNN? Why?

CNN has reached a new low in promotions. I saw an ad on the network last night in which it promoted "another confirmation drama," referring to the so-far-none-existent battle to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

How presumptive and disappointing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

For richer...for poorer

For Nevadans, that answer is unfortunately very clear: In 2009, they got poorer.

Without having any numbers to support it, I can tell you the tourism industry is suffering as well. The hotel in which I am staying this week while I am at the Broadcast Education Association national convention is my preferred hotel because of its location to the convention site.

However, it almost always is priced out of my range. Not this year. My airfare and hotel package was stunningly low. I also have heard from a few other convention attendees (for the BEA and other conferences taking place here this week) that they, too, were able to pick off some excellent deals.

The almost desperate housing condition in Las Vegas and southern Nevada provides another layer of evidence that this state has suffered as much as any other because of the economic recession of the past 18 or so months.

Poking some fun at one professional football team

If you are a sports fan, and especially if you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you are aware of the less-than-stellar few months the Steelers' franchise has had.

I received this e-mail this morning from a friend...I think it states rather well how the actions of current and former Steelers' players cannot be ignored:

In the News: “Plaxico Burress accidentally shot Santonio Holmes in the leg at a night club causing Mr. Holmes to throw a drink in Ben Roethlisberger's face which caused Mr. Roethlisberger to accidentally grope the nearest waitress.

The sound of the shot startled Jeff Reed, causing him to accidentally smash the men's room towel dispenser, startling Matt Spaeth who then lost control of his bladder.

Mr. Spaeth accidentally peed on James Harrison’s leg causing him to blindly swing his right arm behind him where he hit his unsuspecting wife upside the head”.

Arizona and illegal immigration

From the Los Angeles Times:

The bill directs police to determine the immigration status of noncriminals if there is a 'reasonable suspicion' they are undocumented. Immigrant rights groups say it amounts to a police state.

Arizona lawmakers on Tuesday approved what foes and supporters agree is the toughest measure in the country against illegal immigrants, directing local police to determine whether people are in the country legally.


For the link to the full story, click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

From the White House to...

...the Mirage.

Twenty-four hours ago I was wrapping up a two-day Liaison Advisory Board meeting for The Washington Center. Because of the road closures associated with the "Nuclear Security Summit", our bus trip from TWC's "new" building to its current one took a few extra twists and turns.

As a result, our group was able to drive by the Capitol, which as you know is my favorite building in Washington, and the White House.

One day later, I find myself in Las Vegas, and as I was shuttled from the airport to my hotel today, I had to chuckle as I looked at Caesar's Palace, New York New York, the Mirage and the other larger-than-life hotels and resorts in this city.

Think about the contrast -- the stately and historic Capitol and the garish and loud Mirage.

What a difference a day makes!

Of course local broadcast news is relevant...

...and will remain so. Nevertheless, I would have enjoyed being in the audience for this session at the Radio Television Digital News Directors Association convention, which is taking place in Las Vegas.

I wasn't in the city when the session took place.

I find it somewhat amusing when I hear the "oh, no, the old media will be dead in the next few years." Give me a break. At bottom, these organizations are working at re-inventing themselves, much like you or I would if we were to change career tracks. Some of the skills inherent in the past can continue in this new media universe, but some must be done away with in favor of new ways of getting content delivered to the audience.

I think there is an appropriate comparison, and if you are in higher education you are sure to appreciate this. Discussions take place all the time at good college journalism/media programs about the skills that students need once they enter the professional world and what types of classes are best suited to deliver those skills to students.

Of course, in such an environment of change there needs to be a laser-like appreciation for the fundamentals (and writing well and critical thinking are part of that list that I won't flesh out here), but there also needs to be changing delivery mechanisms and altered modes of teaching.

No one in that situation should be crying wolf, ready to announce that the journalism/media program is about to become a relic; instead, with optimism, an exchange of good ideas and an absence of turf battles, success can be had.

Welcome to the world of media.

Hello from Las Vegas

I arrived earlier today in the Nevada desert for the annual Broadcast Education Association convention, which begins later this week.

Tonight I attend the BEA Board of Directors meeting (though I hope jet lag and the time change don't play tricks on me!).

Despite the economic uncertainties at many colleges and universities across the country (not to mention what is happening to our colleagues who work at universities in other nations), attendance should be strong this year, and there are signs it will surpass the number of attendees from 2009.

I'll update you throughout the week on my experiences at the convention. Oh, those experiences will not include massive amounts of hours gambling; I have no acumen for that!

Monday, April 12, 2010

I've been saying for more than a year...

...that one of the problems the Republican Party is facing right now is that it is, in effect, ideologically pure: right is right, and anything that tracks to the left has no place in the party.

The Financial Times' Clive Crook discusses the lack of a credible, moderate voice within the GOP and what it means for political discourse within that party and across the country.

As you read that editorial, perhaps you will reach the same conclusion I did -- it is better to have a party that is politically diverse, even though it is therefore more difficult to manage, then to be a narrowly defined party, in which the absence of dissent is preferred.

The media have done an inadequate job of highlighting what this lack of political diversity means. The fascination with the Tea Party movement ensures that the loudest of the loud who claim the president is a socialist and the Democrats are morons will be heard. In much the same way that a tiny fraction (perhaps 2 percent) of the the total U.S. population watches FOX News each night, one organization with a narrowly defined but almost lustfully followed message will generate headlines and news coverage. By extension, it seems powerful and a burgeoning force in politics.

True, but...

...it beats unemployment. I'm referring to a salary increase that for one year didn't keep up with inflation. Many university faculty -- this one included -- is in that boat this year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Should interns be paid?

As an educator, I believe the answer should be "yes," but I also realize that there are multiple issues that must be weighed in this conversation.

A recent decision from California clarifies the issue -- albeit a little bit -- which first gained some traction in the national media after a story in The New York Times.

Here's a concern -- how many employers would opt to drop their internship programs if any laws were enacted that compelled them to pay their interns? The answer is apparent -- if they fight to prevent minimum-wage increases, then one can extrapolate what any decision pertaining to paid interns would be.

It's more than a poor communications strategy

The Washington Post is correct in suggesting that the Vatican's poor communications strategy has contributed to the growing discontent among Catholics in the U.S. and Europe.

But the Church's "blame game" that also has people scratching their heads. The Church is led by a Pope who as a cardinal made it a priority to come to grips with the decades of sex abuse in the Church. So, why now is this same individual seemingly publicly disinterested in what is happening around him?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

At a wedding I was never invited to

It sounds like something out of a movie, but as I sit in my Washington-area hotel, I'm enjoying a wedding taking place in the hotel lobby.

The couple is being joined by perhaps 70 people, including 5 groomsmen and bridesmaids. The attire of the generations represented at the wedding are striking. Many of the older women are wearing those lavish, big hats (and forgive my cultural ineptness; I have no idea what those hats are called) that are graced by wonderful pinks, reds and blues.

Meanwhile, the younger generations are attired in clothes that I would find more comfortable wearing or seeing my wife or friends attired in.

Oh, and in case you are wondering (and if you are one of my students reading this, you'll understand the context of this comment), the bride's dress includes a train.

When institutions you admire are accused of wrongdoing...

...answers are required.

I've spoken about this on multiple occasions on this blog as it pertained to the ongoing sex scandal within the Catholic Church. And let me make clear here that I think on some level the Church is a convenient target for many people due to its high-profile status, deep pockets and positions that too many in society find out of touch.

Nevertheless, the Church's secrecy pertaining to its pedophile priests is difficult to defend on any level.

We can now add the Boy Scouts of America to this list of organizations that appear to have a problem that was deliberately kept hidden. In much the same way that the Boy Scouts is an easy target because of its high-profile status and policies that many in society find out of touch.

Nevertheless, its apparent secrecy pertaining to its leaders who sexually abused underage boys cannot be defended.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Texting vs tweeting

I got into an interesting conversation with two sets of high school students today about texting and Tweeting.

The students -- four at one table and then five at another -- were part of a group of about 100 high school students who attended the semi-annual High School Media Day hosted by the School of Communication at Point Park University.

Over lunch, we discussed Twitter, and I was not at all surprised to learn that none of the students used Twitter. When asked why, the answers were as I expected -- it's worthless, it serves no purpose in a teenager's life, etc. I was equally not surprised when I heard that all nine students made and received lots of text messages each and every day.

As the conversation ensued, it struck me how generational differences play an important role in communication. I receive few text messages, and I almost never initiate a conversation through texting. On the other hand, I use Twitter almost every day, and, yes, there are times that those posts are rather meaningless.

But aren't a fair number of texts sent and received by teenagers equally vacuous?

My point here is not to defend Twitter or criticize texting. Rather, my point is that what seems important to one generation can come off as unimportant to another. And for me Twitter is a more effective, practical, reasonable and appropriate means of communication...for me.

The controversy in the Catholic Church

For some critics, this will be the smoking gun. Is it?

Justice...done

It won't come as a great surprise to learn that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is opting to retire. This New York Times report is one of many updates you'll find throughout the day:

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, says he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer.

His announcement Friday in Washington had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.


Justice Stevens had been doing an unusual number of interviews, including one with The New Yorker, in recent weeks, and that public posturing fueled the speculation that he was preparing to retire.

Kyrgyzstan

A politically untenable situation continues -- the current president is somewhere, though no one seems to know exactly where, claiming he remains in charge of the country, but the provisional government led by a former diplomat maintains rein over the political levers of government.

The American media understandably remain interested in how the domestic crisis could affect the important U.S. military base in Kyrgyzstan.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The greatest athlete I've ever seen play...

...in the four major sports.

This post is sure to ignite the passions of those who care about sports, and therefore I know that a few people who read it will react on an emotional and not level-headed way.

That's fine, and in fact that's part of the fun.

As I watch the final regular-season game the Pittsburgh Penguins will play in Mellon Arena, I began to think about the greatest athletes I've had the pleasure to see play. Mind you, I'm NOT necessarily talking about the best player in crunch time. I'm NOT necessarily talking about the player who has won the most championships. I'm NOT necessarily referring to the guy I would pick first if I were starting a team.

I'm offering you a look at who I think are the best players of a particular era, namely the one in which I'm part of.

The man who in my opinion has had the greatest passion for winning is Michael Jordan, and he is the best basketball player of this period. (And I would have no argument with anyone who said he's the best of any era.) It took some time for the management of the Chicago Bulls to get the right players around Jordan, but once that happened it was all over. Why that (mis-)management thought it wise to break up the Bulls is beyond me. Frankly, I could care less; the decision did not take away from the greatness that was Michael Jordan.

I just wish he'd have hung up the Nikes and not tried to extend his career with another team. Not to a great extent, but definitely to some, that decision took some of the greatness from Jordan.

One last thought on Jordan -- there are some players in the league today who believe they can be the next Jordan. Forget about it. Let me put it this way: Do you think LeBron James or Kobe Bryant could find a way to prevent Jordan from making a game-winning jumper? Now ask yourself this: Do you think Jordan, if he were the defender, would stand a realistic chance of denying James or Bryant the game-winning shot?

We move on.

Hockey had a "Great One" at the same time basketball had Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky remains the definition of hockey greatness. Gretzky never brought a championship to Los Angeles, but without him there might not be a hockey team in that city today. His talent is often cited as a reason why the sport spread into America's Sun Belt and Southwest, so perhaps it is not surprising that the luster of hockey in these areas has faded now that Gretzky is retired.

I can still see him skating around the Madison Square Garden ice after his final game, accompanied by the Aerosmith song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." I had the pleasure of covering the Kings when Gretzky was in Los Angeles, and I certainly didn't miss many things.

The aforementioned Penguins have a player who could be the next Gretzky. Of course, I'm referring to Sidney Crosby. But to me the difference between Gretzky and Crosby is this -- if you had to pick one of the two, which would you select? For me, it's still Gretzky.

Come to think of it (and this is heresy in Pittsburgh), Crosby might not necessarily be the best player in the NHL. There is a guy in Washington named Alex Ovechkin whom you shouldn't forget.

The NFL markets its players so well that a reasonable argument can be made for perhaps a dozen players being the best of an era. But my selection was made based on one criterion -- he re-defined the position he played.

Outside linebacker was a plodding position before Lawrence Taylor entered the league and began giving rival head coaches, offensive coordinators and quarterbacks nightmares. Matched with a head coach and a defensive coordinator who had the vision to understand what Taylor could mean to his team, Taylor was unbeatable. In fact, the only thing that did beat him was the demon in his head that caused him to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Taylor's head coach in New York was Bill Parcells and that defensive coordinator was Bill Belichick.

There is a somewhat cute, somewhat poignant, somewhat overstated scene early in the movie "Blind Side" in which Sandra Bullock's character notes that Taylor ensured that the second-highest paid player on almost every NFL team was the left tackle -- the man responsible for keeping salivating monsters such as Taylor from the quarterback.

In case you are wondering, I came close to selecting Jerry Rice and for the same reason I opted for Taylor. The wide receiver who played almost his entire career with the San Francisco 49ers re-defined the role of a wide receiver in an NFL team's offense.

I am fully confident that my baseball pick will be the most controversial. And Barry Bonds certainly courted controversy during his career, and he hasn't helped his case by denying what seems obvious to everyone else associated with the game -- steroids (or some form of performance-enhancing drugs) gave Bonds the boost he needed to put up the astounding numbers he did.

My argument for Bonds begins and ends with this: Major League Baseball, the national media that cover the sport, the fans and the league's business partners never once stood up and challenged Bonds or any other player about the changes that were happening to their bodies. No one asked how diet and exercise alone could explain the ripped physiques and ability to hit a baseball seemingly into an outer orbit.

Because of that deliberate oversight or naive assessment, no one belonging to any of the groups above has the right to now tell me or anyone else that Bonds' records are tainted.

You are free to disagree with me.

There you have it. Jordan. Gretzky. Taylor. Bonds.

Let the debate begin.

Later, Linda

A former television correspondent who left the industry to join the Obama administration is now leaving the White House.

If you don't like the results...

...keep them away from any interested eyes.

This is certainly not a way to conduct governmental relations, and it is equally not the way to conduct academic relations.

The former Soviet Union...

...is certainly a place of interesting news today.

President Obama and his Russian counterpart, Dmitri Medvedev, have signed a new nuclear arms reduction deal. And the dispute that notable conservative organizations are having with the decision deserves to be considered, though I confess I believe these groups are wrong to oppose the deal.

While the two presidents were putting their signatures on the deal, there also is the unsettled situation in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, where a political coup is succeeding. TIME magazine is one of several news organizations analyzing the situation. It correctly notes that the political upheaval benefits Russia and has the potential to harm the United States.

This time, Thailand

Why is it that too many government leaders continually believe that shutting down the media during a crisis is acting responsibly?

This time, it is the Thai government acting in a completely irrational way.

Oprah...at night

There will be another challenger to be the king (or in this case queen) of evening television.

Oprah Winfrey is expected to announce today that she will begin a new evening talk show on her OWN (yes, you should already know that stands for Oprah Winfrey Network). The kickoff is expected to be late next year.

Granted, she's not necessarily attempting to pull from the same audience Jay Leno and David Letterman are. And let's also not forget that OWN will not reach as many people as NBC and CBS. But I still expect Winfrey's show to make a dent in the evening television lineup.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The story behind the Web site that...

...posted the video of the U.S. military shooting Iraqi citizens. Two of the dead were photographers for Reuters.

Sadly, WikiLeaks is being forced to defend its actions.

A coup

From The New York Times:

Large-scale protests appear to have overthrown the government of Kyrgyzstan, an important American ally in Central Asia, after violence between riot police officers and opposition demonstrators on Thursday killed at least 17 people.

The country's president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, fled the capital, Bishkek, on his plane, and the opposition declared that it was forming its own government.

Earlier in the day, the police used bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against a crowd of thousands massing in front of the presidential office in Bishkek, according to witness accounts. At least 17 people were killed and others were wounded, officials said.

The upheaval raised questions about the future of an important American air base that operates in Kyrgyzstan in support of the NATO mission in nearby Afghanistan. American officials said that as of Wednesday evening the base was functioning normally.

Great work by student journalists

I noted with some satisfaction last night that three of the eight Point Park University students who took my newscast class in the fall already have secured full-time gigs in television, and two of those students don't graduate until next month.

Well, the work of other Point Park journalism students ought not be neglected. Faith Cotter has taken the opportunities available to her in one of the classes connected to the Innocence Institute at the university and turned them into journalistic pieces worthy to be included in her portfolio. Here's one.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Giving back

I was reminded twice today of the importance of giving back to the community.

One of Point Park's assistant women's basketball coaches, Molly McClelland, who doubles as a student support specialist, spoke to one of my classes yesterday and today about an important mentoring program available to all Point Park students.

The program involves a 2-hour, once-a-week commitment for students to work with the students at the King Alternative Learning Academy located not far from the university.

The passion McClelland has for the mentoring program came through loudly and clearly as she shared stories, pictures and other anecdotes from the program's brief history. She, of course, encouraged my students to get involved in giving of their time and talents to a group of middle school kids who are desperate for a role model and a positive influence in their lives.

I was thrilled to see that several students in the two class sections picked up an application.

Later in the day another student interviewed me about the annual Scouting for Food program done by all Cub Scout packs and Boy Scout troops. I told her that in my opinion the Scouting for Food program is the most important volunteer program my Pack takes part in.

My Pack is made up of Scouts who don't have to worry about their next meal; a breakfast, lunch and dinner is essentially taken for granted. But for so many young people, three meals a day is never guaranteed and the quality of any meal is never a certainty either. As a result it is my belief that there is no more important program a Scout can be involved in than ensuring that people -- young and old -- who want a decent meal have a better chance of getting it.

Yes, today was a busy one with multiple meetings, many e-mails and phone calls, grading papers, and the daily hubbub that is working at a university. But thanks to one university employee and one student, I had a chance to remind myself of what really matters.

A bad day for "net neutrality"

This from The New York Times:

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal
Communications Commission lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic flowing over their networks.

Tuesday's ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is a big victory for the Comcast Corporation, the nation's largest cable company. It had challenged the F.C.C.'s authority to impose so called "net neutrality" obligations.

West Virginia (3 x UPDATED)

3rd UPDATE: 4:55 p.m. EDT: My wife tells me in an e-mail that Mr. Napper's uncle and nephew died in the blast.

2nd UPDATE: 4:45 p.m. EDT: My mother-in-law informs me that she knew one of the men who died in the explosion. She tells me that Joshua Napper's parents are friends of hers and that he leaves behind a 19-month-old daughter. She also has told me that two other family members appear to have been hurt in the same accident.

1st UPDATE: 4:40 p.m. EDT: The search for the missing four miners has been called off. This might seem like a cold and indefensible decision that the rescue teams have made; but the reality is that if they cannot get to the area where the miners might be, then there is not much to do.

ORIGINAL POST: How horrible. How very horrible.

There are 25 dead and four missing after last night's mine explosion in West Virginia. The search continues for the missing, but reality tells us that any chance of finding them alive is remote at best.

I vividly remember the January 2006 explosion in that state, and that terrible moment late in the evening when the families of those missing miners mistakenly learned that their loved ones were alive. The grim reality occurred a few hours later -- 12 were dead.

The mainstream media are quick to cover these types of stories, and often from the angle of the anguished family. Of course, what else are those people supposed to feel at a time such as that?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Pakistan (and Afghanistan)

First, this from The New York Times:

Militants mounted an assault against the United States Consulate in Peshawar on Monday, using a powerful bomb and rocket launchers in a multi-pronged attack, said a senior Pakistani intelligence officer.

There were no casualties inside the consulate, the officer
said, several guards outside were killed. Pakistani media reported that another eight were injured. A spokesman for the American Embassy in Islamabad, the capital, confirmed the attack.

A short time before the blasts in Peshawar, a bomb exploded in Dir Province, killing at least 25 people, according to the provincial information minister, Iftikhar Hussein.


Which makes the following excerpt from this Financial Times report ironic:

[T]he Pakistan People’s party administration is on course to become the first democratically elected government to serve a full term for three decades. It has galvanised the nation for a fight against militants. Most recently, Islamabad has basked in the embrace of Washington as both countries tried to rebuild a troubled partnership.

And of course the ridiculous rhetoric coming from Afghanistan's president muddies the situation all the more.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A moment of levity

My 6-year-old, to me...and during Mass, mind you: "Dad, I think the Easter Bunny has a big semi-truck that someone drives around for him because there's no way he could carry around all those baskets, toys and candy by himself. Bunnies aren't that strong."

A strong eartquake in southern California (2x UPDATE)

2nd UPDATE: 8:10 p.m. EDT Magnitude for the Baja California quake has been upgraded to 7.2.

1st UPDATE: Today's earthquake continues an unusual trend of strong earthquakes. There have been strong earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, the Solomon Islands, Japan and in at least three other places in the past couple of months.

Having grown up in Southern California, I am inclined to pay more attention to this kind of natural disaster than any other kind. The preliminary magnitude of 6.9 makes it a strong earthquake, but I remind you that unlike Haiti (which had a 7.0 magnitude) Los Angeles and all of California is well prepared for such events.

ORIGINAL POST: This from The New York Times:

An earthquake centered in Baja California in Mexico shook buildings as far north as Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon.

The earthquake was centered in Baja California, about 108 miles east-southeast of Tijuana, the United States Geological Service said. The quake had a magnitude of 6.9.

High-rise buildings in Los Angeles and San Diego rocked back and forth as the quake hit. The earthquake shook houses in Los Angeles for roughly 60 seconds, and aftershocks then followed.


And this from the Los Angeles Times:

A 6.9 earthquake struck Baja Calfornia this afternoon, rattling a large swath of Los Angeles and Southern California.

The temblor struck about 3:40 p.m. about 108 miles east of Tijuana. In Los Angeles, the shaking persisted for several seconds. It was felt across Southern California, with skyscrapers shaking in San Diego. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

This part of Baja California has experienced regular seismic activity -- mostly small quakes but also some strong ones.

The temblor this afternoon prompted reports to local authorities in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and dozens of people so far have reported it on the "Did You Feel It" reporting system at the U.S. Geological Survey.

An apology

From Reuters, and "liberally borrowed" from Mike Allen's Politico.com's Playbook:

'Pope Benedict's personal preacher apologized to Jews on Sunday after he compared attacks on the Church and the pope over a sexual abuse scandal to 'collective violence' against Jews throughout history. 'If -- and it was not my intention to do so -- I hurt the sensitivities of Jews and victims of pedophilia, I am truly sorry and I ask for forgiveness,' Father Raniero Cantalamessa said in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.'

And for what it's worth: My wife, our boys and I attended Easter Mass this morning in the church where I was married almost 13 years ago. The priest who celebrated Mass was the same priest who officiated at our wedding. He acknowledged the recent scandal, without mentioning it by name, and in doing so acknowledged that human beings and institutions are not fallible.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Engaging a recluse

Reuters is reporting there are signs that North Korea's president may be visiting China. That visit could come as early as this weekend.

I don't in any way claim to be a scholar of North Korea, but it seems to me that Kim Jong Il schedules something at times that coincide with U.S. holidays, be they religious or secular.

Going from memory, North Korea tested rockets during recent holidays. Fortunately, this time he is engaging one of his few allies. We can hope the Chinese government -- one that doesn't always exhibit commonsense -- will talk some into "Dear Leader."

The Catholic Church, pedophile priests... (UPDATED)

1st UPDATE: Uh, oh. A priest attempted to defend the Church today, and he has opened up another wave of criticism.

ORIGINAL POST:...and the media.

The Archbishop of New York has come to the defense of the Catholic Church by asking an important question: Has the Church been unfairly targeted in the media?

In other words, with scandalous behavior taking place all around, why has the Church's problem been magnified? Perhaps it has not been? Peggy Noonan suggests in today's Wall Street Journal that the best thing that could have happened to the Catholic Church was for the media to shine as bright a spotlight as possible on it and its problem of pedophile priests.

The New York Times notes that the single case that launched this media blitz and the persistent questions of Pope Benedict XVI and the Church happened almost by accident -- a victim recently came across photos of the priest he said assaulted him and they showed him still working with children.

Meanwhile, the Church largely has remained silent, although its supporters continue to rally behind it and the Pope.

So, have the media been fair? Any attempt to answer that question sparks questions about media bias, media ethics, fairness and a host of similar issues. Any institution respected as the Catholic Church is (and should be) will naturally attract considerable attention. In that way, it is like a national celebrity -- it is easy to latch onto for good or bad in an effort to generate ratings or readers. I remind my journalism students that there are two people in the world who make news no matter what they do -- the President of the United States, and the Pope. If one of them sneezes, it is news.

Moreover, the Church is not perfect; it has made its mistakes throughout history (though no international body will ever be perfect), and because it is fallible it is easy to adopt a sort of 'well, here we go again' mentality.

The Church's lack of a response to the scandal also cannot be ignored. Controversial issues grow more intense and the spotlight shines ever brighter when any organization (or individual for that matter -- see Tiger Woods) remains silent in the face of non-stop questions about such topics.

What would be an acceptable response now by the Church -- excommunicate anyone accused of such despicable actions? That's not fair; there is that "presumption of innocence" issue that Western organizations adhere to. However you much might not like it, these men cannot be dismissed based on what someone said; but in the interim they ought not be anywhere near a Church in any official capacity.

These investigations take time, and they likely will lead to some uncomfortable (and that's being kind) findings. I have no doubt that pedophile priests will be found out; their punishment ought to be severe. Much like a medical doctor, they were trusted by people, in this case to be a representative of God and as a means to better following the Church.

Nevertheless, that 'we need to be patient' message only works if the Church allows itself to answer the prickly questions being asked now by journalists. It has failed to do that.

Unemployment numbers hold steady

From the Financial Times:

The US economy created 162,000 jobs last month as the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7 per cent, the government said on Friday, bolstering hopes that the economic recovery is gathering steam.

Temporary hiring by the US government for the US census only accounted for some 48,000 new jobs in March, meaning the private sector has begun churning out new positions.

Economists had expected non-farm payrolls to grow by about 200,000 positions last month, but they had factored in about 80,000 in temporary census hiring.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Russian television ignores the terror

Government-run or not, Russia's television networks displayed an arrogance (or an ignorance) that left their viewers grasping for information alternatives.

What did they do? Fail to provide intense coverage of the subway bombings in Moscow.

Of course, when the government has displayed that same arrogant attitude in its other dealings with the people, it should come as no surprise that the television executives -- taking orders from the Kremlin or acting knowing full well what was expected of them -- would refuse to provide the non-stop coverage viewers deserve in dangerous times.

Meanwhile, there might be video of one of the women Russian investigators say blew themselves up on Monday.

But returning to the theme of this post, Russian television remains non-Western in its orientation. Consider this comment I made in reviewing a book on Russia's media -- Russia’s media have attributes consistent with Communist, not Western, media: Journalists serve their benefactors, and especially Vladimir Putin, the powerful ex-president and now prime minister, more than the audience. Critical commentary is lacking; ethical standards vary; laws are not in place to protect journalists; and little tolerance exists for media freedom. (Here's the full book review, which was published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.)

In short, we should be disappointed (because of our cultural expectations of what the media do in times of crisis) in reading about an almost defiant Russian television system refusing to deliver what its viewers demanded, but we ought not be surprised. Unfortunately, you can't blame Russia's television audience if it is both disappointed and surprised by the decision.

The power of rhetoric

Understandably, Russian president Dmitri Medvedev is angry, shocked and saddened by the attacks that have taken place inside his country this week. More than 50 people have been killed after attacks in separate parts of the country.

President Medvedev has channeled his emotions into rather coarse language. In the most recent example, he urged police and security forces to use tougher, "more cruel" measures to fight the "scum" responsible for terrorist attacks.

I'll leave it to you to determine if such language is presidential or something else. At the same time, I urge you to recall the words used by President Clinton after the April 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing -- "The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it, and I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards."

President Bush faced the grim task of addressing the nation after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- "Thousands of life were suddenly ended by evil, despicable acts of terror....These acts of mass murder were intended to frighten our nation into chaos and retreat, but they have failed."

My point is this: Words, especially when uttered by people in positions of authority, carry special weight. In the context of acts of terror, they offer hints at how people should respond to, feel about or think about what has taken place in their country. As you examine just a few words spoken by three presidents, you get the sense that the citizen will react in different ways to a message that infers a country is still strong versus one that discusses perpetrators as "scum."