Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Make Sure You Watch the Network Special Report on Healthcare

Watch the in-depth special report each of the networks has done on Healthcare.  

Oh that's right, they haven't done one.  

In addition to calling your members of Congress, call the CEO's of NBC, ABC, and CBS and ask them to explain why the network news divisions no longer do in-depth substantive reporting on important issues confront the country.   No need to call Fox, the most profitable propaganda organization in the history of human communication.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Make Sure You Watch the Network Special on Climate Change

Make sure you watch the in-depth special report the networks have done on Climate Change. 

Oh that's right, the networks have never done such a report.

Operating in the public interest is no longer required to get a license to broadcast.  

In addition to calling your members of Congress, call the CEO's of NBC, ABC, and CBS and ask them to explain why the network news divisions no longer do in-depth substantive reporting on important issues confront the country.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Call the CEO of the corporations spending the big bucks to advertise on the Super Bowl and ask one question:  Why does your corporation support a sport that medical science has documented causes brain damage?


Sunday, January 29, 2017


Who are the people and money behind the 45 Committee?  
The 45 Committee runs television ads supporting Tom Price and urging viewers to call Senator Brown to tell him to STOP blocking Price's nomination.    The 45 Committee runs television ads urging people to tell their Senators to support Jeff Sessions.   But the 45 Committee doesn't have the integrity to tell you who it is.     The 45 Committee won't say who is funding the organization.   And when you read its ABOUT page, what is there seems to be the definition of political BS.  
This is not an organization dedicating to fixing anything.  It's an organization dedicated to keeping its donors' names a secret so the viewer doesn't know who is pushing a particular political agenda. 

Come on Ohio reporters.  Track this organization down.   Hold it accountable. 

Actually, Politico did track down the 45Committee.   Read what it found here.   It's a rich guy who gets money from other rich people who are too afraid to put their names where their money goes.  Vanity Fair also did an excellent piece, and its headline accurately portrays what's happened to our politics.  Money and the powerful rich control the process.
Citizens should call Senator Brown's office and ask him to hold a press conference about the dangers of hidden political money and the need for transparency in political donations.
Citizens should call Todd Ricketts, the man behind this secret organization and ask him what are the implications for our democracy when its controlled by secret money. 

TV reporters should interview their own GM's and corporate CEO and ask them whether TV stations should run political ads from those who do so with hidden money.  What do the corporate owners think of what this kind of political advertising does to our political process and our democracy?    

TV reporters can also use social media.   The Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs.   What do Cubs Fans think of political ads from an organization designed to keep the names of those who give money a secret?


Friday, January 27, 2017

Easy Local Super Bowl TV Story

ESPN says it in a headline that's a warning for every parent.
The Associated Press story on Chicago Bear great Jim McMahon encapsulates in a few sentences what playing America's sport - bash your brain - does.
Jim McMahon is 57.  He forgets how to find his own home.  
Zac Easter was only in high school.   But football had already rattled his brain.  For parents, and particularly for sports reporters (not pom pom wavers, actual reporters) the GQ story is an essential read.  The Concussion Diaries:  One High School Football Player's Secret Struggle with CTE should be mandatory reading for every high school principal.
For television reporters, it all adds up to one question that will produce a worthwhile story.   Go ask your university president and your high school principals:  "why do you support an activity that medical science has documented causes brain damage?"
Back when I was a kid, you could page through a magazine and find an ad featuring a doctor telling you what cigarette to smoke.   
But then, along came medical science.   Journalists reported.   The public was informed. Behavior changed.  With concussions, medical science came along again.   This time, journalists didn't report.   They played cheerleader.   
More than I year ago, I did a project with Brave New Films.   We contacted every Division I university president and asked all the presidents what they see for the future of football, a sport that causes brain damage and is spawning lots of lawsuits.  What was more surprising than the presidential answers was what we found when we examined the reporting.    Listen to what a first-rate researcher at Kent State University found when he checked for any news article where the reporter is questioning a university president about concussions.
So even though it may go against the pom-pom waving traditions of sports departments, think about being reporters instead of cheerleaders.   Go to your local high school, go to your university, ask the principal, ask the president:  why do you support a sport medical science has documented causes brain damage.  What would you say to Jim McMahon?   What would you say to Zac Easter?   What would you say to parents?  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Essential Story for Local TV

It's TV's favorite format:  LIVE.  The story:  simple.   It's one question.  And the headline in the New York Times hands any local TV newsroom the most obvious story of the New Year.

Ask your member(s) of the House to go live on your newscast for any show that fits the member's schedule to explain his/her vote on gutting the Ethics Office.  

Start the New Year by doing what journalists are supposed to do:  hold members of Congress accountable for their actions.   


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Way to go Joe!

Way to go Joe.   Just turn your show over to a presidential candidate who doesn't believe in science and treats women like sex toys.  

Just open up the airwaves.

Don't question.  Don't ask for facts.  Don't hold him accountable for anything.  Whenever he calls, just put him on the air.  Great idea.  

Just join the Fox News crowd, the "who do we hate today" network.  

There's no reason to do journalism when the only thing you care about is ratings.  There's no reason to be concerned about the country.  There's certainly no reason to be concerned about climate change or healthcare or war.   Just be a free national promotional vehicle.

Way to go Joe.  Nice work.  You should be proud.  I bet your work is what put him over the top.   Without your splendid effort, he probably wouldn't have made it.   Way to go Joe!


The Result of Journalism's Failure

We had a war in Iraq for one basic reason:  journalism failed.   Bill Moyers documented that in superb fashion.   Every citizen who wishes to be informed should watch Buying the War. 

Now we have President elect Trump for the same reason.  American journalism failed.

When journalism fails, bad things happen. 

When will America's television networks start paying attention to something other than profit margin and stock price and executive compensation?   When will they demonstrate some integrity and do the journalism that needs to be done?

With the war, we paid and continue to pay a high price.   

With Trump, the price will be far higher.   


Tuesday, November 1, 2016


Donald Trump is the ultimate result of Fox News.

Granted, this year other networks certainly share some blame, particularly MSNBC for simply turning over the airwaves to him early in the campaign.  

But Fox News is responsible.

Remember one thing about journalism and one thing about Fox News.   Journalism requires verification.  Journalists don't just believe what they're told, professional journalists always seek to verify.  Fox News has never had anything to do with journalism.   It's not a news organization.   It's the most highly profitable and successful political propaganda organization in the history of human communication.

In her New York Times op-ed, Senator Elizabeth Warren makes a wonderfully accurate assessment of the "rigged election."  She writes:

Cratering the polls, besieged by sexual assault allegations and drowning in his own disgusting rhetoric, Donald Trump has been reduced to hollering that November's election is "rigged" against him.   His proof?   It looks like he's going to lose.

Senior Republican leaders are scrambling to distance themselves from this dangerous claim.  But Trumps argument didn't spring from nowhere.   It's just one more symptom of a long-running effort by Republicans to delegitimize Democratic voters, appointees and leaders.  For years, this disease has infected our politics. 

The 24-hour mosquito that carries the infection across the nation is Fox News.  

The enemy of democracy is not terrorism.   As Justice David Souter eloquently explains, the enemy of democracy is civic ignorance.  

Climate change?  Science?   Not to worry.   With Fox News, you have the perpetuator of civic ignorance.  It takes an actor on the National Geographic channel  to attempt to inform a public suffering from the infliction of the "who do we hate today" network.   If you're a citizen with a rational brain, watch Before the Flood.   Then ask yourself as a citizen of the United States two questions:  why didn't the moderators of the presidential debates ask specific questions about climate change, and why would any thoughtful person waste one second listening to Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly?

When journalism fails, bad things happen.  For the sake of the country, let's hope we don't pay the ultimate price for civic ignorance.  


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Missed Story - Missed Opportunity for Trump

Donald Trump has possibly missed the best opportunity of his entire campaign, and he's been missing it month after month.

As the New York Times reports, Trump may have avoided paying taxes for years

If Trump wanted to persuade voters to support his candidacy, the smartest tactic he could have taken would have been to release his tax returns months ago.   Those returns would have shown the millions he took in losses, and how he then legally used those losses to offset income and to avoid paying taxes year after year after year. 

Then Donald Trump could have said, "see folks, this is what rich people like me can do because the tax code is designed for people like me, not for people like you.  Do you want to change this, vote for me."

Unfortunately, Trump's tax plan helps people like Trump.   But Trump voters won't look at his tax plan.   In the land of the uninformed angry electorate, Donald Trump not paying taxes could have been used as a superb talking point FOR, not against Trump.   

From a reporting standpoint, we need solid reporting on the tax code and how it's designed.
For cable and network television news, that's unlikely to happen because an examination of the U.S. tax code requires actual reporting.   That takes time.   That takes an investment in journalism.   And the networks main concern is the same as Trump's:  money.   To be fair to Donald Trump, he is interested in more than money.  He's also interested in beautiful women, but apparently only the skinny variety with big tops.     

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   That's why Trump is the nominee.  Just think of all the beauties working at the White House if he gets elected, one job after another for a Hooters server.  What a guy!   


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The College Student Vote - Guess Who Wins?

I asked students in my digital editing class at Kent State University who they will vote for this election.  The winner:  I'm not voting.  

There's probably a good reason for that.   My students have done several reporting projects where they've attempted to get a response from a member of Ohio's Congressional delegation.   Last spring, we asked members for their position on climate change.  Most would not even respond.   Click here to see what they said.

Here's what they said a few semesters ago when the issue was gun control.

And here's what they said a few years ago when we asked about the budget deficit.


Wonder why students don't think it's worth voting?  Consider for a moment how Ohio's Congressional delegation responds to questions from Ohio students.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Donald Trump is in Charge of Media - Amazing

The other day Trump Tweeted:  “If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%."

No, if reporters had done substantive reporting on Trump the way they should have, Trump would have been eliminated after the initial primaries.   Trump owes his nomination to the failure of the media. 

It's been easy for Donald Trump to control the media for one reason:  the media allow it.
As CBS CEO Les Moonves said back in February, Trump may not be good for America but he's "damn good for CBS."   Why should CBS care one toot about the country; it cares about ratings and profit.  Journalists doing their job might get in the way with that. 

It's time for political reporters to do what political reporters are supposed to do:  question each candidate on specific issues confronting the country. 

What is the candidate's position on climate change?   What evidence does the candidate have to support his/her position?   Viewers heard more about climate change by watching Leo DiCaprio at the Academy Awards than from watching reporter-moderated presidential debates. 

What is the candidate's position on economic growth?   What is the candidate's position on paid maternity leave?  What is the candidate's position on healthcare?   Why is healthcare more expensive in the United States than any other country and what can be done about it?

What is the candidate's position on substantive issue after substantive issue?

News organizations have to make a decision.   Are they going to question the candidates on substantive issues and hold them accountable for what they say?  They can cover the outlandish statements and the name calling in a single short story.  There's no need to spend endless minutes reporting on political rally after political rally.   What is needed is to ask specific questions on specific issues and get specific answers and to hold the candidate accountable for those answers (that means fact-checking and verification). 

Will news organizations decide to be in charge of questioning the candidates, or will one candidate, Donald Trump, be in charge of setting the news coverage?  Are we going to have another three months of "did you hear what Donald said?"   That may be good for CBS and Les Moonves, but it's not good for anyone who cares about the country.   What a shame Les Moonves doesn't recognize that. 

When journalism fails, Donald Trump gets the Republican nomination.   If journalism continues to fail, you know the result.   It will be bigly bad.  



Sunday, August 7, 2016

My Endorsement of Donald Trump!

I'm endorsing Donald Trump for one simple reason.   It is a complex world.   Having a president with a vocabulary of only 250 words should simplify that.

If there's a serious problem, we'll know immediately.   It will be BIGLY. 

If there's a major problem facing the country, it will be VERY, VERY BAD.  

The New York Times will probably not be able to report on that with any finesse because as Donald Trump has accurately pointed out, the New York Times "doesn't write good."

The Republican Party may want to change its name to the VERY party because that's Donald Trump's second favorite word, the first being horrible.   Or perhaps his second favorite word is BAD.   All I know from listening to Trump and watching Fox News is that Hillary Clinton is a horrible person who is VERY, VERY BAD.  

If you don't believe me, ask Hannity.  He has a larger vocabulary than Donald Trump, but appears to be his intellectual equal. 

This is not a very good blog post.   In fact it's horrible.   Or maybe it's BAD.   Or possibly, it's very, very bad.  Could it possibly be bigly bad?   I can't find bigly in the dictionary, so perhaps I'm not using it good.  

Once elected, we should definitely pass a constitutional amendment that officially changes the name of the President of the United States to Duh.  

That would be good.   Very, very good. 

So the election comes down to a simple choice.   Are you going to vote for the horrible and very, very bad Hillary Clinton or are you going to vote for Duh?

In this complex world, it's time to simplify.   Vote for the guy with the 250 word vocabulary who Hannity likes.  


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lost in the Bedroom

This post has nothing to do with journalism.   It's about my mom.   She is living in a wonderful assisted living center, the Gables of KentRidge.

Mom with her 91st Birthday Cake

Yesterday she said, "I woke up last night and had no idea where I was."

This is a woman who completed high school at 16 and graduated from Iowa State University at 19.   At 91, she wakes up and doesn't know where she is.    She often doesn't remember what happened ten minutes ago.   As she says, "I know my mind doesn't work."

Life.  So brief.  Watching mom's mind go reminds me how important it is to recognize and appreciate the magnificence of existence.   As my dad always said, "life is short."

Maybe it's age, maybe it's recognizing the magnificence of existence.   Whatever it is, it is truly special to experience the joy of new life with baby Eve, now a month old.  

                                                      Daughter Kate & Eve McFall


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Superb Classroom Journalism Assignment

Have your class read this piece from the Cleveland Plain Dealer that contains facts about trade and immigration between the United States and Mexico.

What the candidates aren't telling Ohioans about the state's huge economic stake in Mexico: Peter Schechter (Opinion) 

Then ask your students to check their local newspaper and/or television websites for articles on Trump, Mexico, trade and immigration.   Did your local reporters check and report facts?  

If not, call and request an interview with the managing editor/executive producer and ask why.   A primary responsibility of the journalist is to provide context.   To do that, fact-checking is essential.   How many articles do you remember about Trump and his WALL where reporters put that idea into context with the real numbers about immigration?
This Plain Dealer article comes not from a reporter but from Peter Schecter who directs the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council.   With Trump wanting to build a wall and continually complaining about all those flooding across the border, Schecter writes:  "In the real world, more Mexicans are leaving rather than entering the United States, a well-documented, though curiously disregarded statistic. Those Mexicans who do come northward are ever more frequently doing so as tourists; in 2014, 17 million Mexican tourists spent nearly $19 billion on goods and services in the United States."

Why haven't reporters been reporting that fact in every article where Trump rails against all those pesky folks coming across the Mexican border?

What does trade look like JUST for OHIO?  Schecter reports:  "Ohio exported $6.5 billion of goods to Mexico in 2015, an 8 percent increase from 2014. Mexico is Ohio's second largest foreign trading partner, the destination for more than $1 billion of Ohio-made machinery, the state's leading foreign export."

Why have so many reporters forgotten how to check facts essential for placing a politician's comments into proper context?

Had reporters done their jobs, Trump wouldn't be the nominee.   He is the nominee for one primary reason:  journalism failed.   When journalism fails, bad things happen.