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.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

When Numbers Don't Make Sense!

When numbers don't make sense, there's usually a story.

This is an essential story for every student journalist to go after on her/his campus and to hold the university accountable.

Here's a number that is not believable, one that cannot possibly be true:  Ninety one percent of colleges/universities report no sexual assaults.    Now it is true that 91% report no sexual assaults; that's because colleges are failing to report assaults on their campus.

Here's one powerful sentence in the HuffingtonPost piece every university administrator should print and post on his/her office wall:  "The reports that there were no incidents of sexual assault on 9-in-10 campuses “directly conflict” with a swath of peer-reviewed research that show around 1-in-5 female students will experience sexual assault by the time they graduate college." 

Here are some easy but important questions for student journalists to ask the college president at colleges reporting no sexual assaults:

1.  Do you believe that number is accurate?

2.  Why are no sexual assaults being reported on this campus?

3.  How long have you been aware of that number?

4.  When you saw a number that you know can't possibly be accurate, what action did you take?

It's time to hold universities accountable.  And when the university president refuses to do an on-camera interview, report it, post it, share it.  Then call your state's governor for comment.   What's the governor think of universities failing to report sexual assaults?   When your governor refuses to do an interview, report it, post it, share it.


Friday, June 24, 2016

A Gun Question Local TV Reporters Should Ask Members of Congress (but don't)

GUN VIOLENCE - it's the only area where knowledge has been prohibited by Congress.

With automobile deaths, we recognized it was a public health problem.   Thousands died every year.   With automobile deaths, we did the science.   We collected the data. We got the facts.   We analyzed it.  Based on our research and analysis we came up with improvements for roads, for cars, for laws and the result:  deaths went down.

With gun violence thousands die every year.  Gun violence in cities across the nation is a significant public health problem.   But Congress has prohibited knowledge.   The CDC is not allowed to study it.

There's an obvious question every local news organization should be asking their members of Congress:  are you in favor of Congress prohibiting knowledge?

If your local TV reporters aren't asking their Congressional members that question, call the station general manager and ask why not.  Do commercial television stations have any responsibility to operate in the public interest?   Should a local commercial TV station that ignores its Congressional delegation and fails to hold its members accountable have its license to broadcast renewed?   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Two Questions for Donald Trump

1.  What is your advice to parents if their child talks about her/his classmates the way you talk about people?

2.  Should we make America kind again?

Why have we devolved into a country that accepts rudeness and name calling?  

Perhaps the "who do we hate today network," the "our top anchor makes things up but it's ok with us" network, the "every problem in the world is caused by President Obama" network, the "facts and rational thought don't matter" network is a contributing cause.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In-Depth Analysis of ISIS by ABC, NBC, CBS

Now would be a worthwhile time to watch again the in-depth programs ABC, NBC, and CBS have done about ISIS.  

Oh, that's right.   There aren't any such programs.  

America's major network news corporations no longer put significant resources, time and reporting effort into complex issues that need to be thoughtfully examined.  

It's 2016.  The purpose of a license to broadcast is a license to print money.  The concern is shareholder value and stock price and executive compensation.

To find some highly informative reporting and analysis on ISIS check the BBC or Bill Moyers or the Guardian.

BBC:  http://www.bbc.com/news/24758587

Bill Moyers:  http://billmoyers.com/2014/09/25/syria/  


The Guardian:  https://www.theguardian.com/world/isis

What about FOX?  FOX, the communication arm of the Republican party, now has the result of its daily propaganda campaign pointing out every problem in the world is caused by President Obama.  The result is Donald Trump, a presidential candidate who believes the current president somehow, some way, had something to do with Orlando.  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Question For NE Ohio Journalists

Years ago, college students going to state universities paid low tuition thanks to the fact the state provided the majority of the cost for a student to go to school.   A college student, I was one of them, could make enough with a summer job to pay for school.  No more.  The state still provides significant support, but it's been cut substantially.   Now, the largest percentage of a university's revenue comes from what the students pay.   Lose students and a university loses big money.   That's what's happening at the University of Akron.  

As the Akron Beacon Journal reports, "Administrators at the University of Akron expect declining enrollment to reduce annual revenue next year by $20 million."

Will reporters in Northeast Ohio ask an obvious question about an item that can be cut from the university budget that will save millions that won't hurt academics one bit?   Will reporters ask about an item that if cut will reduce the university's risk of litigation?   Will reporters ask about an incredibly expensive item that causes brain damage for some students?   Will reporters ask if the university will cut football?

Probably not.   

When it comes to college athletics, local newsrooms typically play cheerleader.  After all, it took a move starring Will Smith to inform the public about the risk of football concussions.  For the most part, newsrooms just waved their pom poms.  There's nothing to cheer about when a university has a $20 million dollar budget hole to fill.  

Only a handful of university athletic programs make money; most lose millions.  So how does a university that loses millions every year with its athletic program pay for that program?   The university charges fees to every academic student.  Students at universities like Akron, Kent State, Bowling Green and Ohio U  don't know the highest fee they pay each year goes to fund the athletic department because universities don't provide line-item detail on the bill.

That's another worthwhile education budget question for higher-education reporters to ask: WHY DOESN'T THE UNIVERSITY PROVIDE LINE-ITEM DETAIL ON THE STUDENT BILL?   This student project showing how much academic students have to pay in fees every semester to the athletic department is a few years old, but the problem of hidden fees charged to fund athletics hasn't changed.  Neither has the problem of news reporters failing to question the cost of a sport that medical science has shown causes brain damage, a sport that would save a university millions if cut.   Take a look at the University of Akron's athletic budget.   Just for football scholarships it spends $2,952.084.  

Why don't reporters ask the university president why the football team gets more full scholarships than any academic department?   In examining any university budget, it's time reporters put down their pom poms and pick up their pens and ask hard questions of the university president.   
The current presidential campaign shows what happens when reporters fail to do their job.  Only now are they starting to ask Donald Trump the questions that should have been asked months ago.   Trump doesn't like being held accountable; neither do university presidents.  But that's the job of the journalist, to ask the questions that need to be asked and to hold people and institutions accountable.   As Dan Rather recently posted, "Good journalism--the kind that matters--requires reporters who won't back up, back down, back away or turn around when faced with efforts to intimidate them. It also requires owners and other bosses with guts, who stand by and for their reporters when the heat is on."

When journalism fails, bad things happen.