Monday, March 23, 2015


In its contract with a Philadelphia consulting firm that specializes in branding, 160over90, Kent State University agreed to let the private firm hold public records hostage.  Here's the relevant portion of the contract:   
What's that black spot?   That's the number of days the private firm has to review and redact information it doesn't want the public to see.   But that's not how the law works.    

Under Ohio law, public records cannot be held hostage.  A private firm cannot have x number of days to determine when and if a portion of a public record can be released.   University counsel should review page 11 of Access With Attitude - An Advocate's Guide to Freedom of Information in Ohio by Ohio's premier 1st Amendment attorney Dave Marburger and myself. That's where university lawyers will be reminded that under Ohio law, a public agency cannot "establish a fixed period of time before the agency will respond to a request unless that period is less than eight hours."

And the university should also review the Sunshine Law Manual from the Ohio Attorney General. As it points out, "Parties to a public contract, including settlement agreements,  cannot nullify the Public Records Act’s guarantee of public access to public records. Nor can an employee handbook confidentiality provision alter the status of public records. In other words, a contract cannot nullify or restrict the public’s access to public records. Absent a statutory exception, a “public entity cannot enter into enforceable promises of confidentiality with respect to public records.”

A private firm does not have the ability to determine what is and is not a public record.   That's determined by state law.  Why did the university agree to a contract that's an obvious violation of Ohio's public records law?  Here's the timetable.  

Kent State University announced it had a hired a firm to come up with the university's strategic vision.  Akron Beacon Journal reporter Rick Armon asked for a copy of the contract.  Kent State sent Rick the contract and redacted several portions, including financial terms.  You can read Rick's story here.   

What would it cost?   How much is the public state university paying for this consultant?   Here's what the redacted contract provided by Kent State University shows.

Akron Beacon Journal reporter Rick Armon persisted, and Kent State University finally decided it should obey state law and provided the contract.   Thanks to Rick Armon, citizens of Ohio can now see the terms of a contract that had been improperly withheld from the public.   You can read his updated story here.    In the un-redacted contract, the public can now see how long (ten days) the university was going to allow the private firm to remove information from a public record.
And the public can now see the financial terms.
I've requested an on-camera interview with Kent State University's legal counsel.   So far, the university has not responded to my request.  Why would university lawyers agree to a contract that obviously violates Ohio's public records law?   I hope to post the video answering that question here.   


Monday, March 2, 2015

A Message to Our Favorite Anchormen


THANK YOU to Brian Williams & Bill O'Reilly
from students in my writing for audio & video class!


Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Simple Solution for Bill O'Reilly

The solution for Bill O'Reilly is simple.   It's the same solution Brian Williams had at his disposal.   Richard Nixon had it too, and had he used the solution chances are he may never have had to resign.  


There are lots of VJ's now, the one-man-bands who do it all.   Back when Bill O'Reilly was working for CBS it was always a TV crew.    The correspondent was not by himself.  

To verify what he claims, Bill O'Reilly  can simply name the photographers he was with who witnessed what he claims to have witnessed.   

The Washington Post's Erik Wemple writes what's probably slightly disconcerting for FOX News because Erik's piece contains facts and rational thought.   Will Roger Ailes take any action at all?    Erik asked Fox News for the name of the photographer, and was told it is Roberto Moreno.   Keep watching Erik's blog for an update once he finds the cameraman.

Is O'Reilly telling the truth about his "Falklands warzone" coverage?   A CBS correspondent who was there doesn't think so.   Eric Engberg describes what it was like for CBS crews covering the Falklands War on his Facebook post this way:  

         "Our knowledge of the war was restricted to what we could glean from comically 
          deceitful daily briefings given by the Argentine military and watching government-
          controlled television to try to pick up a useful clue from propaganda broadcasts. We -- 
          meaning the American networks -- were all in the same, modern hotel and we never 
          saw any troops, casualties or weapons. 

          It was not a war zone or even close. It was an "expense account zone.'"

Would any legitimate news organization take immediate action against a host, anchor or reporter
making things up?   Of course.  Will Fox?

Eric Engberg also takes issue with O'Reilly's description of an injured cameraman.

          "O'Reilly has said he was in a situation in Argentina where "my photographer got 
          run down and hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete and the 
          army was chasing us." The only place where such an injury could have occurred 
          was the relatively tame riot I have described above. Neither Doyle, who would have 
          been immediately informed of injury to any CBS personnel, nor anyone else who was
          working the story remembers a cameraman being injured that night. No one who 
          reported back to our hotel newsroom after the disturbance was injured; if a cameraman 
          had been "bleeding from the ear" he would have immediately reported that to his 
          superiors at the hotel. This part of O'Reilly's Argentina story is not credible without 
          further confirmation, and O'Reilly should identify the cameraman by name so he 
          can be questioned about the alleged injury."

Not being a journalistic organization, what Fox News will do is uncertain.   Most likely, it will take no action at all.   Bill O'Reilly's program makes money.   That's what Fox News cares about, not journalism, not ethics, not professional standards, not truth. 

When journalism fails, bad things happen. 


Monday, February 9, 2015

Watch the Julian Bond Quote Reporters Ignored

It went unreported by local reporters, but thankfully Kent State University recorded Julian Bond's presentation in which he makes a powerful point:  Republicans Don't Want Black People to Vote.


And you can watch Julian Bond's entire presentation on KSUtube.

Rather than ignoring what Julian Bond says reporters should be questioning their members of Congress about it.  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Want the Truth? Talk to the Photographers

Brian Williams did not misremember.    

Anyone on board a helicopter in a war zone that gets hit with an RPG remembers that.   Anyone on board a helicopter in a war zone where the helicopter in front of yours gets hit by an RPG remembers that.   Nobody confuses the two. 

Brian Williams apologized, sort of.  He didn't admit that he lied.  He did not apologize for lying. As the New York Times points out, "With an Apology, Brian Williams Digs Himself Deeper."   The question is does the main anchor of NBC Nightly News have a problem telling the truth?   Does he embellish stories?   Does he make things up?

There's one way to find that out.   Talk to the photographers.   

Nobody knows the correspondent, the reporter better than the photographers.

Maybe it's something in the photographer's DNA, the men and women who take the video, who are often better reporters than the reporters whose stand ups they shoot.   If you want the truth about what's going on in any broadcast news operation, talk to the photographers.

Any media reporter trying to find the truth about Brian Williams needs to talk to the photographers. 

And media reporters have a simple question for NBC.   NBC doesn't have an anchor who misremembered, it has an anchor who lied.   Is that ok? 


Monday, February 2, 2015

Nationwide Death

Do a Google search for childhood deaths.   Click through the first several pages of 

the 77 million results and you'll find information from the CDC and WebMD and UNICEF and a range of advocacy groups.    You'll find quite a few stories from traditional media on the Nationwide Super Bowl ad.  What's not there are stories from major media on the problem of accidental deaths.

Congratulations to Nationwide.   It brought attention to an important issue.   Will the press do anything more than do stories on the commerial?   Let's hope so. 

Watch a commercial that's worth watching, and one that will probably prevent some family tragedies.  


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl Halftime Show Raises a Question Reporters Ignore

Tonight is the Super Bowl.   At halftime, we'll see a spectacular halftime show.   They may not be quite as spectacular as the Super Bowl extravaganza, but the halftime shows at college games are wonderful.  The Ohio State or Wisconsin or Michigan or UCLA or USC or Alabama bands put on a great show.   It's certainly far more interesting than a set full of football yackers. 

Why doesn't ESPN or the networks show the halftime show for college games?  

Does ESPN think it will lose audience?   Does ESPN think guys on a set yacking about the game will attract more viewers than a halftime event where viewers might see their son or daughter performing an entertaining show that has taken days/weeks of practice?

Why don't local sports reporters ask, "Hey ESPN, why don't you show the halftime show at college games?" 

It's halftime - time to yack, except during the Super Bowl.


Saturday, January 24, 2015


I remember interviewing civil rights leader Julian Bond in 1975 or 1976 in Madison, Wisconsin.   I don't remember what he said.  Most likely we would have been discussing the war in Vietnam. But I don't remember.   I certainly remember what he said Thursday afternoon at Kent State University.   It was the most newsworthy point he made, and local reporters ignored it.

Julian Bond's presentation at Kent State was a reporter's dream.   He gave one great quote after another.

"Obama is to the Tea Party as the moon is to werewolves."

"Jim Crow may be dead but racism is alive and well."

"People who say race is history have it backward; history is race."

"Those were the days when politicians from both parties supported the struggle for civil rights, now they struggle to be civil."

But there was only one point he repeated.   He didn't say it a second time for emphasis.   Nor did he say it a third time for emphasis.   He said it over and over and over and over again.

"Republicans don't want black people to vote!"

Think about that.   And in the time it took for the audience to consider that statement he said it again.

"Republicans don't want black people to vote!"

He paused for just a moment and said again, "Republicans don't want black people to vote."

He said it again.  "Republicans don't want black people to vote."

He said it again and again and again.     

In the Akron Beacon Journal, the Record Courier and on Kent State University's student news website, there is no mention of the most newsworthy statement made by a man who has spent his life fighting for civil rights.   Republicans are now in power in Congress, and Julian Bond the former head of the NAACP does not hedge his words.   He speaks directly.  He speaks forcefully.   He states over and over again:  Republicans don't want black people to vote." 

Local reporters don't want to report it.   

They should.   

They need to hold their elected officials accountable. 

What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say to reporters who refuse to do so?   What would Dr. King say to the owners of news organizations?   What would Dr. King say to university student journalists?   

Anyone at Mr. Bond's presentation heard him loud and clear:   Republicans don't want black people to vote.   Anyone who read the coverage of that event in the Beacon Journal or the Record Courier or Kent Wired didn't get that quote.   Readers didn't get a chance to read the one statement and the only statement Julian Bond made over and over and over again.

Republicans don't want black people to vote. 


Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Church of Self Censorship

The response to an attack on free speech should never be self censorship.  

Sarcasm and satire are not crimes.   

Opinion is not a crime.

Making fun of religion (easy to do - seer stones, burning bushes, living in a whale, virgins in heaven) is not a crime.

Killing innocent people, that's a crime.  A drone attack that blows up innocent people at a wedding party most likely generates more terrorists than it kills.   One can debate whether it's a crime.   One thing that's certain, the cartoon that addresses U.S. drone policy is not.

When innocent people are killed for what they say be it with word or drawing, the response from a news organization should never be self censorship.  

I remember a dinner years ago in Baku, Azerbaijan when one of the men mentioned his father had been in prison.   Another man at the table immediately asked, "what prison?"   After being told, he replied, "my father was in that prison too."   Both fathers had been in prison not for what they had done but for what they had said.

No society is free as long as governments can imprison people for what they say and as long as journalists are freely willing to attend the church of self censorship. That's not a church to satirize or make jokes about; it's a church that needs to close.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Terrorism - the Unanswered Question

Why?   To have any hope of addressing the threat of terrorism, it's the essential question to ask.  
Who were those who attacked on 911?    The key question after 911 was WHY.  It's  a question the bulk of the American press failed to ask and analyze.   

Considering those who attacked us, ask a simple question:  how aggressively did the American press question the U.S. Government about our relations with Saudi Arabia?  And why were all those "terrorists" from Saudi Arabia wanting and willing to die in an attack on the United States of America?  Here's the listing from CNN.

Hijackers by Airplane:
American Airlines Flight 11
Mohamed Atta - Egypt, tactical leader of 9/11 plot and pilot
Abdul Aziz al Omari - Saudi Arabia
Wail al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Waleed al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Satam al Suqami - Saudi Arabia
United Airlines Flight 175 
Fayez Banihammad - United Arab Emirates
Ahmed al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Hamza al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Marwan al Shehhi - United Arab Emirates, pilot
Mohand al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
American Airlines Flight 77 
Hani Hanjour - Saudi Arabia, pilot
Nawaf al Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Salem al Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Khalid al Mihdhar - Saudi Arabia
Majed Moqed - Saudi Arabia
United Airlines Flight 93 
Saeed al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Ahmad al Haznawi - Saudi Arabia
Ziad Jarrah - Lebanon, pilot
Ahmed al Nami - Saudi Arabia

So WHY, did we attack Iraq?

Oh yes, Saudi Arabia is an ally.   How does it treat those who blog about religion in a way opposed by the government?   As the Guardian reports, Saudi Arabia sentences such people to prison and gives them 50 lashes for "insulting Islam."
How aggressively is the Washington press corps questioning the Administration and all our political leadership about our relationship with Saudi Arabia?   Why does the United States  continue to support (oil)  a country that doesn't tolerate free speech or rights for women? 
For the press to examine terrorism, it needs to ask questions that need to be asked, not play human microphone stand for the government (or corporate) line.

When journalism fails, bad things happen. 


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Three Questions for Local Television Reporters

The key to good reporting is asking good questions.   That's why reporters, not human microphone stands, are the ones who do stories that matter instead of blather that doesn't.  

Here are three questions local television reporters should be asking their members of Congress.

1.  Do you believe in science?  

2.  If yes, what specific legislative/regulatory steps should be taken to deal with climate change?  

As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports:  "A large fraction of species faces increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st
century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors (high confidence). Most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change in most landscapes; most small mammals and freshwater molluscs will not be able to keep up at the rates projected under RCP4.5 and above in flat landscapes in this century (high confidence)." 

3.  What are the implications for life in the United States 100 years from now if Congress fails to take immediate steps to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases?

Why aren't local television reporters questioning their members of Congress about climate change?

It's one thing for the press to fail to ask questions of our politicians about little things such as going to war with Iraq.   That just led to the killing thousands and spending a trillion or so dollars on a needless war instead of on education, roads, bridges and scientific research. There was no imminent threat.   Saddam had no nuclear capability, and the experts were well aware of that.     But climate change is hardly so insignificant as a trillion dollar needless war where the CIA decides torture's ok because the Bush Justice Department says it is.   

In climate change, we have an issue affecting the future of the entire planet.   Isn't it time for reporters to ask their members of Congress what needs to be done?    And for those members of Congress who don't believe in science, shouldn't they be asked to explain why they choose to ignore the findings delivered by the greatest scientific minds in the world? 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Questions for CNN

Why hasn't someone explained to CNN management that "Breaking News" is not a graphic?

Why would anyone interested in news watch a cable channel that thinks there's only one story a day?

Why not eliminate CNN domestic, the one-story-a-day channel?

Why not just run CNN International, a cable news channel that lets people interested in news find out what's happening around the world?

Why does CNN have a programming strategy to drive news viewers away?

Why doesn't someone at CNN domestic come up with the idea to report the news?   CNN International does it.    And CNN doing news would fill a void left by ABC Disneynews where viewers are able to find the hottest YouTube clips but not much about what's happening in the world. 

If CNN management thinks international viewers are interested in news why does CNN management think American viewers aren't?  

Why watch CNN domestic?  Oh that's right, hardly anyone is.   That's understandable. 
CNN - the news channel that's not a news channel. 

Thank goodness for BBC and Al Jazeera.  Don't you wish someone in America would start a news channel?  


Sunday, December 21, 2014

If Computer Hacking is a Crime, Which Countries Need to be Prosecuted?

Do a simple word search for any reporting done on the Sony hacking story.  Search for NSA. You won't find much.   

A key element of journalism is to place issues into context.   

When George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were telling the American people that Saddam had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, journalists had a responsibility to report it.   They did.   Where the bulk of the press failed was to put that statement into proper context.   After Saddam used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, what did the United States do?   The United States continued to support Saddam. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should have been asked the simple question, why?   And America's continued support of Saddam following his use of WMD should have been included in stories to place the issue in proper context.    

For the Sony hacking story the press is once again failing to put the issue into proper context.

Who leads the world in computer hacking?   The NSA.   The NSA has hacked into computers around the world including the computers of our allies.  Here are some stories to remind us of what the NSA has done.

And the U.S. using high tech sabotage is nothing new.   The CIA has a long history of that.   During the Reagan Administration, the CIA planted a virus in a power plant in Russia designed to cause loss of crucial controls.   The computer virus worked; the power plant blew up  You can read about that one in a former CIA employee's book available on Amazon. 

Any reporter questioning any member of Congress about how to respond to North Korea should be asking a series of follow up questions:    Should there be mandatory prosecution of countries found guilty of computer hacking?   Mandatory prosecution for offenders is required for torture, should it be required for computer hacking?   How should other countries respond to hacking by the NSA?  

Do we want to be a country that respects the rule-of-law, or in the digital age do we become a country that totally ignores the privacy of individuals, corporations and countries?  It's disappointing reporters aren't asking that question.

Journalists need to be asking the questions that need to be asked and stop playing government cheerleader.   The most unpatriotic act any journalist can commit is to fail to question her/his government.   When journalism fails, bad things happen. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Journalist's Christmas List to Santa

Dear Santa,

I understand you're incredibly busy, but in the land of the secret government approved by the secret court, there's never been a time when journalism has been in greater need for some Christmas cheer.   If at all possible, could you please bring the following gifts:

1.  Earmuffs for the citizens of Washington, D.C. so they won't have to listen to the barking from all the lapdogs.  

2. Two items for the Washington press corps:  1.) an understanding that torture is like rape: it is ALWAYS wrong and 2.) a question to ask any politician who proclaims family values on the campaign trail who is defending torture:  what would Jesus say?

3.  A flash drive with a video of the acceptance speech by Jorge Ramos for his award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.   This should go to every journalist in the country (so you don't have to stop at FOX).  

4.  For Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and 60 Minutes, a copy of the 8th grade journalism 101 lesson plan.   Sabrina Rubin Erdely,  Pete Thamel, and Lara Logan and every CBS executive who approved her Benghazi story that could have been blown up with 15 minutes of checking the CBS News archive seem to have forgotten the basics.   Journalism requires verification. Journalism requires checking your facts. 

5.  Pens for sports reporters.   Currently, most only have pom poms. 

6.  Basic computer-assisted reporting skills for university student journalists who can easily examine the university's grading database and pinpoint puff courses for athletes at their university - they're the ones where everyone always gets an A every semester.   This is 
an analysis provosts should do but they don't and local reporters could do but they won't - see number 5.   

7.  The URL's for the Guardian and Al Jazeera and BBC for CNN so it can see there's more than one story to cover in a day.    

8.  A plaque that says "Giving a NUT Equal Time is Not Fairness, IT IS IDIOTIC" to news organizations giving equal time to those who don't believe in science (climate change).

9.  Membership in IRE for Cincinnati Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn so hopefully someone will tell her if she goes to the annual convention what an investigative reporter is.   It is NOT someone who "works with your advertising partner to grow and monetize the 25-45 audience."

10.  And most of all Santa, on your naughty and nice list, please tell President Obama it is very naughty to prosecute people who tell the truth (whistleblowers) and not nice at all to fail to prosecute those from the CIA and NSA who lie to Congress.

Merry Christmas Santa.  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moral Dilemma of Torture for Doctors & Lawyers & Politicians & Columnists

Since the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on torture, there's been much discussion over the moral dilemma posed following 911.  What can we do to go after the terrorists?    How far can we go to get those terrorists we've captured to tell us what other terrorists are going to do?  

As far as any moral dilemma when it comes to torture, it's simple.   There is no moral dilemma.

Torture is wrong.

No civilized country authorizes torture for any reason, ever.   Torture is wrong.   It's like raping a woman.   It is ALWAYS wrong.   It's like beating a child.  It is ALWAYS WRONG.

So for lawyers, it's simple.   Torture is wrong.   Coming up with a legal justification for torture is unethical, immoral and wrong.

For doctors and psychologists who assisted the CIA, it's simple.   Torture is wrong.   Helping the CIA torture is unethical, immoral and wrong.  

For politicians or columnists like Charles Krauthammer who justify torture, it's simple.
Torture is wrong.   Torture did not help our country.   It hurt it.

The United States used to have some moral high ground in the international community.   Now, thanks to torture, it has none.  

There is no moral dilemma.   Torture is wrong.   It is ALWAYS wrong.  

This Sunday from the pulpit, how many sermons across this nation will address torture?   Will our nation's religious leaders say torture is wrong or will they remain silent like the nation's  university presidents and corporate CEO's who say nothing when their country's government has admitted the United State of America is a country that approved torture?

The moral dilemma for the country is not torture.  The moral dilemma is the deafening silence from those who should be expressing outrage at those in the Bush Administration who approved and sanctioned torture.   

Torture is wrong.   It is ALWAYS wrong.