Friday, November 21, 2014

Where is Boehner's Interview?

President Obama takes executive action on immigration.   No surprise, Speaker Boehner objects and criticizes.   But there's one problem.  

Boehner has consistently refused to bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house.

How come?  

Here's a better question.   Why hasn't a single Cincinnati television station asked the question?   Go to or or or and try to find a local reporter questioning Boehner.    He's a Congressman for this television market.  

Perhaps I missed it.   If it's there, please send me the link.   But I can't find a single Cincinnati television reporter asking the Speaker one question about why he has refused to bring the immigration bill to the House floor.

Should television stations that fail to hold their members of Congress accountable be given a license to broadcast?    

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Mid-American Conference has agreed to a 13 year multimillion dollar broadcast contract with ESPN.   How much equipment does each university have to provide?  How many university personnel are involved?   How many students will participate?   How much technical expertise will be required, and what are the production standards for each broadcast?   Under the terms of the agreement, what do the universities have to do?  As MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher explains, the universities are obligated to produce a substantial amount of programming for ESPN.


For all those productions, how much do the universities get paid?   We'll just have to wait and see.  Once payments are made, those payments will be public record.  Until then, as MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher explains, how much public universities are paid for producing a substantial amount of live sports programming for ESPN isn't being publicly disclosed.


Is the 13 year $100 million plus contract between ESPN and the Mid-American Conference a good deal or a bad deal for Ohio MAC universities and the taxpayers of Ohio?   Ohio taxpayer and MAC Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher doesn't see the connection between tax dollars and universities producing live sports broadcasts for ESPN.


What kind of business agrees to a 13 year multimillion dollar contract without having a copy of the contract?   Who does business like that?   According to Commissioner Steinbrecher, that's how the presidents and the athletic directors of MAC universities do business.  


Why don't reporters at local TV stations and newspapers ask questions about a 13 year $100 million dollar plus contract that's a secret?   When will sports reporters put down their pom poms and pick up their pens?    When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Academic Fraud? To Find, Just Click and Sort the University Grade Database

The headline about what happened at the University of North Carolina provides an obvious story to any reporter in any Division I university city:  Fake Classes, Inflated Grades:  Massive UNC Scandal Included Athletes Over 2 Decades.

At any university such an obvious puff course problem would be incredibly easy to spot.   And if it's a public university, the reporter can get the data.   The university grading system is all computerized.   One exercise my computer-assisted reporting students do is to examine the grade database.  Which courses have all A's?   For how many semesters have those same courses from the same instructor had all A's?  It's a simple check any provost could make.  It's a check any provost who is actually concerned with academic integrity would make.   It's a check any reporter wanting to see if there are puff courses for athletes would make.  

The problem of puff courses for athletes is nothing new.   Back in 2004 ESPN Magazine did an excellent piece on an eligibility mill more readily recognized by another name:  Ohio State University.  The question local news organizations never ask is simple:  where is the provost?   Why is the provost, the chief academic officer of the university,  not doing any basic quality control checks on the academic standards of the institution and pinpointing problem courses?   UNC's scandal would have been spotted more than a decade ago had the university actually been concerned with academics.   

One former provost who has always been truly concerned with academic integrity is Jon Ericson, founder of the Drake Group.   Had UNC followed Jon's advice, it never would have had an athletic academic scandal.  

Why do so many universities have such pathetically low ethical standards?   One contributing factor is a press that plays cheerleader instead of doing its job.   In every Division I market, reporters should be requesting the provost's most recent analysis examining possible puff courses for athletes.   If the provost has done no such analysis, reporters should be asking the provost why he/she hasn't made such an obvious check.   That, of course, won't happen.   When it comes to sports, provosts and universities aren't concerned with academic integrity.   When it comes to sports, we don't have many reporters, just cheerleaders.  So we'll wait for the next college athletic academic scandal and report on that.   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Great Work by Kent State Student Journalist

Kent State University student journalist Richie Mulhall has done great work trying to get the details of the $100 million plus ESPN-MAC contract that requires MAC University participation for the next 13 years.   Richie has confirmed:

1.  The University of Akron does not have a copy of the contract.

2.  Bowling Green State University does not have a copy of the contract.

3.  Ohio University does not have a copy of the contract

4.  Miami University does not have a copy of the contract.

5.  Kent State University is not responding to Richie's public records request of September

Congratulations to Richie Mulhall.  On September 23, Richie's commentary documenting the Ohio MAC universities not having a copy of a 13-year contract to which the MAC says each has agreed to a confidentiality clause is the second item on JimRomenesko's media blog.  So reporters all over Ohio have the information.

As far as I know, not a single Ohio news/sports organization has followed  up.   I guess it must be difficult to ask substantive questions or to write a substantive story when you're waving your pom poms to cheer the team.  When do you think Ohio sports reporters will put down their pom poms and pick up their pens?   With the Ray Rice incident, sports reporters covering the NFL are discovering they have to learn how to do accountability journalism.   If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ESPN-MAC Secret Contract Update

Wow - it's a 13 year contract between ESPN and the MAC worth more than $100 million for the universities in the Mid-American Conference, and the University of Akron says it does not have a copy of the contract.

Here's what the University of Akron sent to Kent State student journalist Richie Mulhall.

How do you suppose it's possible for a public university not to have a copy of a contract that involves its participation for the next thirteen years?   What does the president of the University of Akron think of that?  The MAC says all universities agreed to a confidentiality clause.   How can a university agree to a confidentiality clause on a contract and not have a copy?


In Ohio. the public records law dictates that records must be kept in a manner they can be made "readily available."   That generally means they have to be available the same business day, particularly for current records.   This is a current contract.   Obviously, the Athletic Director (or the AD's business manager) would certainly know where a contract this important is.   It will be on a computer.   To click on the document, hit attach, add the email address and hit send takes less than 60 seconds.   

Here's the public records request student journalist Richie Mulhall submitted to the Kent State University Athletic Department on September 10th.   Richie still hasn't received a response.

As Richie's public records request correctly points out, the fact that a university signed a confidentiality clause is irrelevant.   A confidentiality clause can not trump state law; and in Ohio, contracts with public universities are public record.  Is this contract a good deal or a bad deal?   The only way for Ohio taxpayers to know is to review it.  The University of Akron says it doesn't have a copy.  Hopefully, Kent State does and will provide it to student journalist Richie Mulhall as required under Ohio law. 


Thursday, September 4, 2014


Sports reporters across the country reported on ESPN's new television and digital media contract with the Mid-American Conference (MAC).    As the Columbus Dispatch reports, it's a 13-year contract worth more than $100 million with each university getting 670-grand a year.

What are the details of that contract?   What do the universities have to do?  

It's a secret.   

That's right, the terms of  a 13-year contract worth millions with public universities is secret. 
The chief operating officer of the MAC, Bob Gennarelli says he cannot provide a copy of the contract because it is "proprietary" and says all universities have signed "confidentiality agreements."

But confidentiality agreements do not trump public records law.   Under Ohio law, all contracts with public agencies are public records and must be provided when requested. It's not legally permissible to circumvent the public records law by adding a confidentiality clause.   One of my best students is currently asking the Kent State University Athletic Department for every contract Kent State has involving ESPN.  

What are the details?   What does the university have to do under the terms of the 13-year deal between ESPN and the MAC?  Keep in mind, most university athletic departments lose millions of dollars every year.  Is the new ESPN deal a good deal or a bad one for member universities?   The only way to answer that is to review the details of the contract. Hopefully, my student reporter will have those soon.   If not, he'll have an excellent story on sports budget secrecy at public universities. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Concussion Reminder

With the start of another college football season, here are some worthwhile legal reminders and story ideas for sports reporters who are reporters and not pom pom wavers.

What does your university president see as the risk of litigation from football concussions?
What were the freshman recruits told when they were recruited about a.) the risk of concussion and b.) who pays the medical bills if there's an injury and c.) what happens to the athlete's scholarship if he/she is injured?   

Any college athlete can find lots of advice on a project my students produced a couple semesters ago on Athletic Medical Bills.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Newsroom of the Future

Tennessean Executive Editor Stefanie Murray says she's creating the "newsroom of the future."   In any newsroom, there are two things to remember:

1.  All the technology is worthless if the journalism isn't solid.
2.  If a newsroom isn't doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.

For any newsroom of the future to have any value, it needs to have journalists who are journalists, not human microphone stands.   That means they have to ask questions that need to be asked.   Here are some questions that would be of value to users, readers and viewers.  

Questions for the Governor

What is the bonded indebtedness of your state and how do you intend to pay for it?

In state after state, the highest paid public employee is either a football coach or a basketball coach?   Do you think that is wise public policy?   Why or why not? 

Should employees and citizens have the right to know what dangerous chemicals they may be exposed to due to fracking, or do you agree with laws like the one in Pennsylvania that allow corporations to keep such information secret from the public?

Do you believe in science, why or why not?

What are the economic implications for your state due to climate change? 

In other industries, the computer has allowed managers to do more with fewer people. The only institution where administrative ranks have expanded significantly is higher education.   In examining the administrator/professor ratio, your state universities have far more administrators now than they did fifty years ago.   Why do your universities need more administrators now than they did before the computer age?

Do elected public officials have a responsibility to agree to interviews with reporters wanting to do in depth interviews on subjects of importance to your state?  Why or why not? 

Questions for members of Congress

Why is healthcare significantly more expensive in the United States than any other industrialized nation?  What are the causes of such significantly higher costs?   

What impact will there be on developing sound legislation when there are members of the House Science Committee who don’t believe in science?

Do you believe in the scientific method, why or why not? 

With current technology, it would be incredibly easy to have instantly updated information on all political contributions being made to a politician so voters can see immediately who is giving money to the politician.   Would you favor or oppose a requirement for immediate financial disclosure for both political candidates and for political action committees?

Do you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United?   Why or why not? 

Regarding Terrorism

What are the top three terrorists groups that pose a significant threat to the United States?

What is the size of each?

What is their budget?

What kinds of weapons and how many of each do they have?

What specific credible threat do they pose?

Why should the facts about rendition and torture be kept secret from the American people?

Regarding Education

What are the implications for democracy when our schools teach K-12 students a sanitized version of American history, one that doesn't discuss the number of governments the United States has overthrown since WWII?  

What are the implications for democracy when our schools fail to teach K-12 students how the government has misled and lied to the public about military actions as detailed in 935 Lies by Chuck Lewis.     To elevate a young citizen's understanding of the country, should a highly documented and fact-based book like Chuck's be required reading? 

Should public universities be required to provide line-item detail on charges so parents and students are able to see where the money goes? (Examining the University Bill)

Regarding Public Safety

Should there be lengthy mandatory prison terms for corporate executives who fail to disclose and knowingly approve for sale a manufactured product that has a potentially lethal safety defect?   Why or why not? 

For Division I University Presidents

Why does your university give more full scholarships to football players than to academic students?

Why is the athletic department the only department where instructors are given free cars?

What is the litigation risk posed by athletic concussion lawsuits?

Why should a university support a sport that causes brain damage? 

Why should academic students pay to fund an athletic program that loses millions of dollars every year?  (Note:  a handful of programs turn a profit; most lose millions).

For the Owner of Your News Corporation

How much are you spending on employee training and why?

How many reporters will your news organization devote to doing in-depth reporting on substantive issues facing your community and your state?

For Commercial Television Newsrooms that Don't Cover the State Legislature

Why should the FCC give your station a license to broadcast? 

REMINDER for the Newsroom of the Future

All the technology is worthless if journalism isn't solid.   

For newsrooms not doing accountability journalism:  do your users, viewers and readers a favor.  Close it. 


Sunday, July 13, 2014


I need your help.  Can anyone please identify a director of a school of journalism in the United States of America who is standing up for journalism.    Please send me the name and any supporting evidence.

To avoid confusion, let me emphasize, I'm not looking for a name of a university president.   As we all know, the world could be ending and a university president wouldn't stand up and say a word.   We don't expect university presidents to provide intellectual leadership on any issue facing the country be it needless wars, climate change, inequality, sexual assault or a sport that causes brain damage.  University presidents aren't essential for democracy; journalism is.  I'm looking for directors of schools of journalism, those who should be setting journalistic standards for the next generation of journalists and who should be outraged at the Obama Administration using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers wanting to tell the truth about what the secret government is doing.  

As John Kirakou points out in his Guardian article, "Obama's abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism," the administration's actions are "meant to send a message to anybody else considering speaking truth to power:  challenge us and we will destroy you."

How does Obama compare to other presidents?   Kirakou summarizes it succinctly.

"Only ten people in American history have been charged with espionage for leaking classified information, seven of them under Barack Obama. The effect of the charge on a person's life – being viewed as a traitor, being shunned by family and friends, incurring massive legal bills – is all a part of the plan to force the whistleblower into personal ruin, to weaken him to the point where he will plead guilty to just about anything to make the case go away. I know. The three espionage charges against me made me one of 'The Obama Seven.'"

What was Kirakou's crime?   Why was he prosecuted?   The reason should outrage every citizen, every journalist and particularly every director of every journalism school.    He talked to reporters.  Here's Kirakou's description: 

"Two of my espionage charges were the result of a conversation I had with a New York Times reporter about torture. I gave him no classified information – only the business card of a former CIA colleague who had never been undercover. The other espionage charge was for giving the same unclassified business card to a reporter for ABC News. All three espionage charges were eventually dropped.
So, why charge me in the first place?
It was my punishment for blowing the whistle on the CIA's torture program and for confirming to the press, despite government protestations to the contrary, that the US government was, indeed, in the business of torture."
Torture used to be something other countries did; the USA would not tolerate such inhumane treatment.   That has changed.   Now the United States prosecutes someone like Karakou for talking about it and the message is loud and clear to anyone looking to tell the truth about the secret government. 

As ProPublica reports, "Despite promises to strengthen protections for whistleblowers, the Obama administration has launched an aggressive crackdown on government employees who have leaked national security information to the press."

Where are the directors of America's journalism schools?   Why aren't they objecting to a concentrated attack on free speech?

With the passing of one America's great journalists, John Seigenthaler - a journalist's journalist -  it made me realize it is time to ask a question as free speech has come under increasing attack by government and as the press has devolved into such incredible lapdogs:  where are the journalists?

Now, it's more important than ever for the directors of schools of journalism to stand up and fight for 1st Amendment rights because so many so-called news organizations have abdicated their responsibility.  In his article "How the 'War on Terror' Became a War on the Constitution," Peter Van Buren correctly notes far too many of America's professional journalists are failing at the basics:  holding government accountable.

"Sadly, as the Obama administration is moving ever more fiercely against those who might reveal its acts or documents, the bulk of the media have acquiesced. Glenn Greenwald said it plainly: too many journalists have gone into a self-censoring mode, practicing 'obsequious journalism.'"

Please, if you can identify a director of a school of journalism who is raising hell about the Obama Administration's attack on whistleblowers who are so essential in a democracy, please let me know.  Put their name and school and links to articles demonstrating their objections in the comments below.   

Thank you. 

P.S.   I wouldn't expect network news executives to object.   Lapdogs don't bark; they just wimper.   When journalism fails, bad things happen.   


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Technology for Journalism that Works

(Full Disclosure:  I'm a MoJo Advisor for Michael.  This post talks about what a great job he's done developing cost effective equipment for journalists in challenging situations)

What do you do with no budget?   I'm not talking about American television news operations that got spoiled with 50% profit margins.   What about those who actually want to do journalism, who want to do reporting that matters instead of doing blather that doesn't. 

Michael Clarke of International Media Solutions, came up with a fix.

Michael recognized that the journalists in countries suffering from civil strife already had iPhones, but they had little money.   I was amazed when I did a training project in Kenya and visited the slum outside Nairobi.   The slum had no sewer system, but those living there had smartphones.   No toilets, just technology.  With the journalists Michael was training he realized they couldn't go out and buy video cameras.    Plus,  iPhones don't shoot in broadcast format (16X9); they shoot a vertical format.  What's the solution?   Michael found it. 

He developed and patented an incredibly convenient mobile kit for any Apple device (and the Samsung Galaxy SIII and S4) that allows the video journalist to shoot broadcast quality video in 16X9.   What provided the impetus?  Iraq.

Says Michael, "The MoJo Kit was born out of the conflict in Iraq.  The Journalists I was working with did not have the resources to purchase expensive equipment and therefore were using cell phones as a news-gathering tool."

The MoJo kit may be the one possible positive result of the War in Iraq.

And he's helped journalists working in incredibly challenging environments utilize the power of video.

What a shame the American press never utilized the power of video on the war in Iraq.  With Vietnam, we saw what war did.   With Iraq, the American press sanitized the war, something no true journalist would ever do.  

Michael Clarke is helping journalists in other countries do what journalists in all countries should do -- report reality.   Michael understands that journalism is not government propaganda.  He understands journalists need the technical tools to report what's actually there, and he's developed a cost-effective tool to help them.   Check out the MoJo Kit.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Required Book for Every Newsroom

935 LiesYes, I know, you thought it was going to be 935 Lies by Chuck Lewis.   Well, of course, that's required reading.

Considering the current state of media, an old book that has timeless advice is also essential.   It's A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech - a guide to creative thinking.  

It is truly amazing to see how little creativity media organizations have when it comes to developing more effective video possibilities for both their newsrooms and their sales force.
A newsroom that goes out of business informs nobody.

When creativity fails in the sales department, bad things happen to the news department.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

How Newspapers Can Increase Digital Revenue

Newspapers want more revenue.   Here's an easy solution.   Newspapers should treat every print story like they treat their video.   Whenever a user clicks on the story, instead of getting the story, the user gets an ad.

That's what happens with video; why not do it to the text stories?

Ah, probably because that would infuriate users and makes absolutely no sense.   

Isn't it amazing with the incredible power and versatility of video how newspapers haven't invested in video sales development, to help advertisers come up with far more effective ways to use the power of video within the newspaper website?

Look at the most compelling advertising video above the fold on today's Washington Post and New York Times.   There isn't any.

A news organization that goes out of business informs nobody.   

Newspapers knew twenty years ago they had to develop more effective sales opportunities for website advertising.   Examine the size of the video creative team at any major market newspaper and you'll find a source of a newspaper's revenue problem.

Vice has built a highly effective and profitable website because it understands the web is not television.   A story, a program,  doesn't have to fit a prescribed time.  

Web video = storytelling freedom. 

Vice also understands users don't want to click on a video news story in order to watch a commercial produced for television.

Web video = advertising freedom.   

Unfortunately for their revenue, newspapers haven't figured that out.  

When creativity fails in the sales department, bad things happen to news operations. 


Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Book To Celebrate the 4th of July

A book every thoughtful citizen should read is the latest book by one of the country's finest journalists, Chuck Lewis.   

The book is 935 Lies.

If we had more journalists, this book would not have been possible.

Chuck Lewis documents how the government has lied and how most of the press reported rather than questioned those lies.   Journalism is not stenography.   Journalism requires verification.  A journalist should not be a human microphone stand. 

The most unpatriotic act possible by a journalist is to be a pom pom waver for government.
Patriotic journalists question their government because they understand truth and transparency are essential for democracy.    

A democracy built on truth is vibrant; one built on lies is in danger of collapse.   

Check your local newspaper website.   Check your local TV website.   Check for accountability interviews, where the journalist is holding your members of Congress accountable.  And there's a current and obvious topic where you should be seeing just such an accountability interview.

 As reported in the National Journal, The House Ethics Committee voted to eliminate the requirement for members to disclose free trips paid for by outside groups.    Does your member of Congress approve?   Your local journalists should be asking.  And if they're not, write a letter to the newspaper's publisher and to the TV station's general manager and ask why the journalists aren't doing their jobs.     On this 4th of July, we don't want another 935 lies to lead us into more unnecessary deadly wars.   We need more patriotic journalists like Chuck Lewis. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunday Shows = Accountability Lost

If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.   When it comes to Iraq, you don't see much journalism, just lots of yacking skulls and nodding heads.  

There's one short article, and one video every thoughtful citizen should check.   The article is in today's Huffington Post; the video is from years ago.  Both focus on the same problem, the failure of journalists to do their job. 

The headline on Michael Calderon's piece says it all:  

If You Were An Iraq War Critic, You're Probably Not Being Asked To Go On TV

As the cheerleaders waved their pom poms for war years ago, one reporter who was going after facts and attempting to get at the truth instead of the spin was McClatchy's Jonathan Landay. He hasn't been on a single Sunday pom pom waving head up the government's butt program. 
  When journalism fails, bad things happen.
 This report from years ago from Bill Moyers demonstrates that.  Every citizen should watch Buying the War.   Every journalism professor should watch it.   Every member of the Washington Press Corps should watch it and then go out and buy a pair of steel toed boots to kick themselves in the ass. 

We had a war in Iraq for one primary reason.  Thousands of American soldiers died for one primary reason.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's died for one primary reason.   We have an unbelievable mess in Iraq for one primary reason:  American journalism failed.   Had journalists done their jobs, the American public would have known that Saddam's WMD capability was zero.  The weapons inspectors had determined that.  And as inspector Scott Ritter points out, the intelligence services in this country and the UK and Germany all knew that.  Had journalists done their jobs there would not have been a war in Iraq.   There was no threat of WMD, and there were sources available to provide that information.   And there were others doing some worthwhile reporting.   But when Walter Pincus did a great piece, the Post put it on page 18.   When the administration put out its spin, it was on page 1.    Think about that:  page 1 = spin, page 18 = some actual reporting. 

Unfortunately, most of the Washington Press Corps in the build up to the war had forgotten journalism 101.   They forgot journalism requires verification.   They forgot journalists demand proof. They forgot journalists require FACTS.    They forgot journalists are to be highly skeptical.   They played human microphone stand.   And on Memorial Day, they owe the country an apology.  

The current crop of Sunday Shows and Nightly Newscasts don't have to wait for Memorial Day; they should apologize now for not doing their jobs. 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.                                                                                 ###

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Does the NCAA Believe in Title IX??

Take a look at the most recent (2012) IRS 990 filed by the NCAA and it makes one wonder if the NCAA believes in Title IX.    Lots of highly paid executives, mostly men.

Name Base Compensation
Keith Martin 240,350
Mark Emmert 1,201,159
JAMES ISCH 697,697
DONALD  REMY 401,829
DAVID  BERST 291,607
Total: 6,144,992

Why do you suppose a nonprofit that makes its money from the talent of college athletes has so many highly paid executives?  Why does it seem to be so male dominated?  Those would be worthwhile questions for a sports reporter to ask.   They're not questions a sports cheerleader will ever ask.

When it comes to college athletes, we need far more sports reporters, far fewer sports cheerleaders.   Is it really wise public policy for the highest paid public employee in state after state to be either a football coach or a basketball coach?   Is the primary purpose of a Division I University to be a cost-free training ground for the NFL and the NBA and a revenue generator for NCAA executives?    Isn't it time for newsrooms in market after market to put down the pom poms and pick up the pens and do some reporting?