Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's Legal, but is it Right?

It has taken decades for America to pass and enforce laws to assure safe and humane working conditions.   But conditions outlawed in this country are often totally legal elsewhere.   How many of the products we buy are made elsewhere by workers forced to endure deplorable condtions?   Such conditions concerned Mike Daisey.   By failing to be up front about the reality of his performance, Mike Daisey has caused great harm to an issue that needs thorough and thoughtful reporting.

Here's a video from Radio Free Asia that's worth watching by all American consumers.   In Cambodia, workers in the garment factories commute to work.   In Cambodia, it is not a safety violation to ride on the roof of the van.   The more workers crammed in and on top of a van, the lower the fare.  Workers cram together to save a few extra pennies.  But what happens when the driver has to slam on the brakes?   What do American consumers think?   You don't need to understand the language to ask a worthwhile question:   what are American companies who buy from the Cambodian factories doing to improve safety conditions in the country?   On corporate web site after corporate web site, you can read about the corporation's commitment to vendor codes of conduct.    So what real pressure are American & European corporations exerting to assure safe and humane conditions?

Click the video and take a ride on a Cambodian commuter van.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to Do a Retraction

The radio program This American Life hosted by Ira Glass screwed up.   It's also done possibly the best retraction story in the history of broadcast.

This American Life doesn't hide or make excuses about its mistake.   It learns from it and so do the listeners.   This is a program every journalism class in the county should hear.

Great work This American Life; superb interviewing Ira Glass.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

March Madness or Cheerleading Beats Reporting Again

Once again, you can read lots of discussions about college athletics.  Some say the athletes need to be paid.  Others say the NCAA is too greedy.    Where are the business reporters?

In a globally competitive economy, what are the implications for this country when the highest paid public employee in state after state is either a basketball or football coach?   Follow the money.

In smaller Division I universities like Kent State where the athletic department is a multimillion dollar budget hole that gets plugged by charging fees to the academic students, does it make sense that the department that spends the most on recruiting students and provides the most full scholarships is the athletic department?

Come on business reporters.  Come on education reporters.   Go interview the rubber stamp boards of trustees that are supposed to provide oversight.  Do they agree with putting athletics first and academics second?  

The full-scholarship scoreboard produced by a couple of my reporting students a few semesters ago is worth another look.   Are these scores acceptable in a globally competitive economy?

When it comes to the financial stress on college budgets caused by ever-increasing athletic salaries and costs for smaller Division I schools, it's time to put down the pom poms and pick up the pens.   If we're concerned about education, if we're concerned about strengthening Ohio's economy, it's time to stop cheerleading and to start reporting.     

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Are Grits or Healthcare More Important?

Watch MSNBC and you can see clip after clip of Mitt Romney talking about grits.   Yes, Mr. Romney is not a comfortable campaigner.   But when he was Governor of Massachusetts, he was directly involved in one of the key issues facing the country and most familes:  healthcare.    What's more important?

Doing thoughtful reporting on healthcare takes time, dedicated research and analysis.   It's not possible to report on a crucial issue by just sitting on set yacking about it.

T. R. Reid points out in his book The Healing of America:  A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care, when you examine healthcare around the world, there are four basic  systems:  the Bismark model, the Out-of-Pocket Model, the Beveridge Model, and the National Health Insurance Model.   Have you seen in-depth reporting on those on CBS, ABC, NBC or Fox? 

For broadcast television, if you want to watch thoughtful reporting on healthcare you have to watch PBS, particularly Frontline.

PBS gives us reporting.   MSNBC gives us grits.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.    Watch this Frontline piece to see an example of journalism doing its job.