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.