Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Story Every Local TV Newsroom Should Have Done Years Ago

We've all watched/read stories on the disaster in Palestine, Ohio.   One contributing factor that probably won't get discussed:  the failure of the press.

It's such an obvious story.   You watch railroad tankers roll through your community.  What are they hauling?   Is it toxic?  If there's a derailment, will the fumes pose a hazard?   Will the toxic chemicals pollute the water?  Will it kill livestock?  Will it kill people?

It's a totally obvious public safety story every local TV station that has a railroad running through its communities should have done.  

Are those tanker cars marked and labeled so local safety officials know what's in them?   Are those markings public record?  Are local fire departments alerted to toxic chemicals coming through their communities on rail?  If not, how come?  Why isn't that required?  Do the first responders have the necessary gear to handle a major derailment?   How would they know what they need if they don't know what's coming through on the trains?

Check your local TV stations.   If they haven't done such an important public safety story, ask how come.  When journalism fails, bad things happen.   


Saturday, July 2, 2022

The Price We Pay for the Failure of Journalism

As we watch the Congressional hearings, one thing is missing:  how the failure of the press made this tragedy of Trump possible.

For years, reporters at every local TV station should have been questioning their members of Congress and asking basic questions:

1.  Why don't you object to Donald Trump making racist comments?

2.  Why don 't you object to Donald Trump making sexist comments?

3.  And once the big lie about the stolen election came along, reporters should have been asking  a basic, simple question:  what is your evidence? 

Silence in the face of racism is not an option.   Silence in the face of sexism is not an option.   Failing to ask members of Congress for the evidence they have to support the big lie is NOT acceptable for any responsible news organization.   

It's not the fault of local TV reporters.   It's the fault of management.   The corporate owners of local TV stations don't care about journalism or democracy or the problems of racism and sexism.   All they care about is profit.   If they cared about journalism, all those those questions would have been asked.   Public officials would have been held accountable.   They weren't because local TV journalism failed. 

We're facing the mess we face because of the failure of local TV news.   Their corporate owners only care about profit.   Corporate greed is killing journalism.

And you can't have a functional democracy with a dysfunctional press.  Greed is killing journalism; it is killing democracy.   Will we change?   If so, we have a chance.   If we don't, the country is doomed.


Thursday, September 16, 2021

Public Radio Newsroom Employees Told to Stay Quiet: They Do

Two Ohio public radio stations - WKSU and WCPN - plan to merge.   That's a major story.   It's a story neither newsroom did.   Why?   Because management told newsroom employees to say nothing.

Discussions on the merger were done in secret.   There was no public discussion.  None. 

The newsroom employees told to be quiet did just that.   Rather than report an important story, they stayed quiet.

What an embarrassment to public radio.   What an insult to journalism.    At least the local nonprofit newsroom, the Portager, did the story.  

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Why Don't Media Corporations Care About Sexual Harassment?

Ask any media corporation if it cares about how women are treated and it will offer one bromide after another voicing concern.   But for too many media corporations, what they say is contradicted by what they do.

For many, their employment contracts require mandatory arbitration.   And there is no exception for gender and sexual harassment.   So if a woman is sexually harassed at a commercial TV station in Ohio, the woman cannot take her harasser or her employer to court.

What does RTDNA say about that?   Nothing.   What does SPJ say about that?  Nothing.

Listen to Gretchen Carlson, the woman who sued Fox News chairman Roger Ailes for sexual harassment and won a 20 million dollar settlement.   She's started a nonprofit, Lift Our Voices, an organization dedicated to doing something about NDA's and mandatory arbitration clauses, employment policies that silence women.

After listening to Gretchen, call your local TV station and ask them when they will change their employment policies.    It is time to stop muzzling women.  Women should have the right to take their harasser and their employers to court and hold them accountable.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


There are two questions the Washington press corps must ask.   And please, if anyone has ever heard either of these questions being asked, let me know when and where and by whom.

Question 1 for Donald Trump:  Why do you insult people and call them names?

Question 2 for Donald Trump:  Why do you lie all the time?

More importantly, are two questions local reporters should be asking their members of Congress.

Question 1:  What do you think of Donald Trump calling people names and insulting them?

Question 2:  What do you think of Donald Trump lying all the time?

Silence by members of Congress indicates tacit approval.   Why do your members of Congress approve of such behavior?  But of course, your local reporters aren't asking those questions, particularly local TV reporters.   They aren't holding their members of Congress accountable.

Viewers:  call your local TV stations.   Ask them why their newsrooms aren't questioning their members of Congess on issue after issue.

We now have a country where the president lies, insults people, calls them names and our elected members of Congress say and do nothing about such behavior.   Our local reporters sit in silence and don't even question them about that.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, May 14, 2020

Easy way for MAC universities to save millions

Karl Idsvoog spent a career as an investigative reporter in broadcast and online journalism.  He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University.   Following the bankruptcy of, Idsvoog moved into media development and training.  He has done media development projects for the U.S. Department of State, the International Center for Journalists, IREX, Internews and Radio Free Asia.   He is a tenured professor at Kent State University.

To Save Millions
MAC Universities Should Eliminate the Sport that Causes Brain Damage

The New York Times reports one in five children don’t get enough to eat.  The inequality in our healthcare system is apparent to all.  The pandemic is forcing America to reassess priorities.  One place that should happen immediately and certainly before this fall is at our Ohio MAC universities (Kent State University, University of Akron, Ohio University, Miami University, University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University).

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) universities have the opportunity to do two things no Division 1 school has done in decades:  1.) stand up for ethics and, 2). stand up for education.   In other words, it’s time to eliminate football, a sport that causes brain damage and loses millions at every MAC school.  It’s not just concussions that can cause lifelong problems.  As brain research at Boston University has found, subconcussive hits can be devastating, particularly to the developing brain.

Future Football Player?   Not a Chance.  Mothers
who put helmets on their toddlers before they let them ride a trike will
not allow them to play a sport that causes brain damage.  Mothers, unlike
Division 1 university presidents, have respect for medical knowledge.

What would a university do if it had a chemistry class where the class experiments caused brain damage each semester?   It’s time for university presidents to answer the question:  why do you continue to promote and support a sport medical science has documented causes brain damage?  It’s time reporters everywhere in this country to ask university presidents that question.   Put down your pom poms and pick up your pens.   Stop cheerleading and do some reporting.

Another question for university presidents:  why does the football program give more full scholarships than any academic college? 

We’re the only country in the world where a university gives a full scholarship to a student who can’t even read a college textbook so he can play football.   And if you don’t think that’s true, take a couple minutes and listen to what reading specialist Mary Willingham and Gerald Gurney, an expert on the intersection of college sports and academics have to say in this project:  Checking For Academic Corruption in College Sports (there is lots of academic corruption). 

Time for Financial Transparency    
University students are incurring record levels of debt.  Students and parents should be demanding that MAC universities provide financial transparency (line-item detail) on the student bill.   The highest fee every academic student pays goes to fund athletics.   That’s an issue Ohio University’s David Ridpath has researched and written about extensively.  If you get your car fixed, you get an itemized bill.  Go to the dentist, you get an itemized bill.  But go to a MAC university, as Ridpath says, universities don’t want you to know how much the student pays to fund athletics.

Every university has classes on ethics.   Why, when it comes to college athletics, doesn’t the university have any?   It’s time to stop giving scholarships paid on the backs of the academic students to athletes who can’t read.   It’s time to stop promoting a sport that causes brain damage.   It’s time for a Division 1 university president to say education is more important than football.   And it’s time for reporters in newsrooms all across the country to hold their university presidents accountable and to ask why they continue to support a sport that causes brain damage.

And keep in mind, football is a dying sport.   Moms who put helmets on their toddlers before they let them ride a trike are not going to let them play a sport that damages their child’s brain.  Moms care about their sons' brains.   Why don't university presidents?  The pandemic should force university presidents to answer that question.  

At a national and worldwide level, we've all witnessed the price we're paying for an administration that has ignored science.   Universities should be the last place that happens.  Come on university presidents.   Stand up for education.   Stand up for protecting a student's brain.  Eliminate a sport that causes brain damage and that at MAC universities loses millions every year.   


Full Disclosure:   I’ve certainly been a football fan.   My grandfather was a lifelong football coach, one of my earliest Christmas presents was a football helmet (the old leather ones), I shot the press conference at Lambeau when Bart Starr was named head coach of the Packers.  But back when I was a kid, you could page through a magazine and find an ad featuring a doctor telling you what cigarette to smoke.   Along came medical science.   The medical evidence was clear.   Behavior changed.  Back when I was a kid and you got your bell rung, the coach would say “shake it off.”   I certainly would have encouraged my son to play football.   I'm glad now he didn't.   And I know my grandson won't.   His mother won't allow it.   Moms don't ignore medical science.  They respect science.   Why don't university presidents?


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Gretchen Carlson: Fighting for the Right to Speak

Full Disclosure:   years ago, Gretchen Carlson and I worked in the same newsroom at WCPO in Cincinnati.

Every so often there's a cause that anyone concerned with basic human rights has to support.  Gretchen Carlson, the woman who successfully sued Roger Ailes and won a 20 million dollar settlement, is leading one such cause.

Gretchen cannot talk about what Roger Ailes did to her because she signed a non-disclosure agreement, an NDA.   She also could not sue Fox News because her contract included a mandatory arbitration clause, meaning she could not take Fox News to court.  Now, through her nonprofit Lift Our Voices, Gretchen is working to ban both.  Any reporter, actually any citizen, should ask their politicians if they support Gretchen in her cause.

Should women (and men) have a right to speak about being sexually harassed in the workplace?  Should they have the right to take an employer that tolerates sexual harassment in the workplace to court?   Because in broadcast newsroom after broadcast newsroom and in lots of other workplaces they don't have those rights.  They can't talk.  They can't sue.  Please, anyone who has a contract requiring mandatory arbitration, please email a copy to  Thank you.


Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Newsroom's Sacred Cow - College Athletics

The headlines across the country when it comes to higher education are dismally similar:  states are cutting budgets.  And in a state like Ohio, universities face a dwindling student population.   And it's the students' tuition, room and board that brings in the money.

At university after university there's one area that loses money big time, and it something reporters seldom question:  athletics.   Listen to economist Andrew Zimbalist, co-author of Unwinding Madness:  What Went Wrong With College Sports and How to Fix It, and an expert on the economics of college sports.    Only a handful of universities make money; most lose a bundle.   It's time reporters start questioning university presidents and the university's priorities.   Why do universities continue to promote a sport medical science has documented causes brain damage and that at most schools loses a lot of money in this age of record student debt?   Why aren't reporters asking the questions that need to be asked about college athletics?  When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

No Sports Reporters on Super Bowl Sunday

Is it hard to write while holding pom poms?   Why are there virtually no sports reporters in America's newsrooms and just so many cheerleaders?

The New York Times did a great piece the other day on opioid addiction retired NFL players suffer.  There's a great quote from the NFL Commissioner.

“We obviously put this as a huge priority for us, making sure that we are taking care of our current players as well as our former players,” 

What a crock.   If the NFL were actually concerned about an athlete's health, the league wouldn't exist.   Football causes brain damage.   That's well documented.  

But today as fans around the country drink and get blitzed as they watch a game that causes brain damage and leads to drug addiction, there's a question anyone who actually cares about an athlete's health should ask:  where are the sports reporters?

Back when I was a kid, you could page through a magazine and find an ad featuring a doctor telling you what cigarette to smoke.   Doctors preferred Camels, the brand that gave lung cancer to Chuck Connors, the Rifleman.

Along came medical science.  Reporters reported.   The public was informed.  Behavior changed.   With concussions, medical science came along again.   This time, most reporters didn't report.   It took a movie starring Will Smith to inform the public.

On Super Bowl Sunday, there are basic questions sports reporters should be asking Division 1` university presidents.

1.  Why do you continue to support and promote a sport medical science has documented causes  brain damage?

2.  Why does the football team give more full scholarships than any of your academic colleges?

(This clip is from a student project of several years ago, but the numbers are a worthwhile reminder of the priorities at Division 1 universities.   Keep in mind, at universities like those in the MAC, those athletic scholarships are funded by the fees changed to the academic students)

3.  Why does the university give a full scholarship to an athlete who cannot read past grade-school level?

4. Why does every football coach get a free car?

And every newsroom, particularly local TV newsrooms in America should ask:  when are our sports reporters going to put down their pom poms and do some reporting?  When will someone in our newsroom finally do an accountability interview with a university president?  

When journalism fails, it's easy to understand why we continue to support a sport that causes brain damage and leads to drug addiction.  When journalism fails, bad things happen.  


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

How Local TV News Can End the Shutdown

How can local TV news end the shutdown?   There would never have been a shutdown if local TV reporters had done their job.   Their job is simple:  hold THEIR members of Congress accountable.   Ask them questions.   

1.  Experts agree a wall across the entire border is a waste of tax money, so what's your position?   And on what evidence do you base your position?

2.  It is well documented that many of things Donald Trump says about the wall are not true.  Why don't you object to the President lying?

If local reporters held their members of Congress accountable, we wouldn't have such a dysfunctional Congress.  Now, the member is able to say nothing, to be silent, and is able to refuse comment with immunity because the member isn't held accountable locally.  In my computer-assisted reporting class a couple years ago, each student was assigned a member of the Ohio Congressional delegation, and had to get the member's position on climate change.  You can see what they said on the Congressional Climate Change Reporting Project.

No surprise, most members would not even respond.   They know there's no penalty with local voters. 

There's one question after another local TV reporters SHOULD be asking their members of Congress on issue after issue.  Why don't they?   Please, write to the GM's of your local TV stations and ask them to go on the evening newscast and explain.

If members of Congress were held accountable by local reporters so voters could see and hear what they say, there would have been no shutdown.   The members would have been forced into answering questions and to provide facts that support their positions.  Unfortunately, the corporate owners of local TV stations don't care about the country or democracy.   If they did, their local newsroom reporters would be questioning their members of Congress on issue after issue on a regular basis.   Thanks to technology, it's not even expensive.   Thanks to videoSkype and Facetime, the reporter in any local newsroom can do an on-camera interview with the member in her/his Washington office.   

Please, demand accountability from your local TV stations.   It's not the fault of the reporters they're not questioning their members of Congress.   There is only one requirement for a newsroom to hold members of Congress and the state legislature accountable on important issues:  a commitment from management.   Local TV stations make millions from political advertising.   They spend virtually nothing covering their members of Congress or the legislature. 

Why do you think it was so easy for legislatures in state after state to pass laws to restrict voting?   The answer:  zero oversight by local TV stations.   One the finest journalists in the country, Charles Lewis (former 60 Minutes producer, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, director of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University) describes the problem.   

  When journalism fails, bad things happen.   

KI Note:  I haven't been writing here for quite some time.  I dedicated last year to taking care of my wonderful wife Kathy who died in the arms of her children with her son holding her from one side and her daughter holding her from the other and me on the phone asking for a Hospice nurse as Kath lost her battle to cancer last September.   Hospice people are the most wonderful people.  Thank you Hospice. 

Kathy & Karl Idsvoog

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Hey Morning Joe - Apologize!

Every television executive in America should be watching what Channel 4 in the UK has done: journalism.
Every television news executive at every local TV station in America should ask themselves one question: why doesn't our station hold our members of Congress accountable on anything?
And if you want to find out what your member of Congress thinks of what Cambridge Analytica has done, you'll have to call your member of Congress.   Most likely, your local TV reporters never will.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   That's why we had a war in Iraq.   There was no imminent threat.   Hans Blick's weapons inspectors all found the same thing:  nothing here. Unfortunately, journalists didn't do their job.   They played cheerleader.   Channel 4 in the UK is doing what journalists are supposed to do:  journalism. 

The best thing about the election of Donald Trump is it has prompted both the New York Times and the Washington Post to do journalism again.  That's essential for democracy.

The threat to democracy does not come from terrorism.   Terrorists don't have a chance at destroying democracy.   The threat from democracy comes from government secrecy combined with corporate greed combined with the failure of the press to do its job.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   That's why Trump is president.   Remember when Morning Joe did nothing but play cheerleader for Trump?   Now the show is critical and questioning.   Too late.  Hey Morning Joe, you need to apologize.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sexual Harassment and the Washington Press Corps

I'm watching MSNBC.   It's acting with disbelief, shock and revulsion at the process a woman must go through to file a sexual harassment complaint in the House of Representatives.

What it should be asking is where was the Washington Press Corps?

How in the world does this system get put in place, stay there for years,  and not be questioned by the Washington press corps?

Come on MSNBC.  Try this.  Instead of just putting people in the studio and letting them yack, spend a few dollars to have people do some reporting.   Go question Washington press corps reporters.  Ask them why they haven't done this story years ago.

And here's a super easy story for any MSNBC program.   Ask the head of NBC news to come on your show and explain why the network has never done an in-depth piece of reporting on climate change, racism, sexual harassment, our wars, money in politics or any other substantive issue facing the country.  

Terrorists don't have a chance at destroying democracy.   Three things do:  government secrecy, corporate greed and the failure of the press to do its job.  All three have been running full speed for years.    We had a war in Iraq because American journalism failed.  Donald Trump is president for the same reason.

Senator Al Franken apologizes for doing something despicable.   When will MSNBC?  During the primaries Morning Joe should have been called Morning Trump.   The show just turned its airwaves over to him.  Isn't it time to apologize Joe?  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Monday, September 4, 2017

Why Eliminate a Government Agency Doing Great Work

There's a government agency that has done fabulous work not on behalf of corporate lobbyists or the big banks or even the pharmaceutical industry.   It's an agency that has done fabulous work to help the average citizen.

It's the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The New York Times piece indicates the agency has done such fabulous work, it might be too difficult for Republicans to kill it.

Republicans have opposed the agency since its creation during the Obama Administration.  For some, the fact it was created by the Obama Administration may be reason enough alone to oppose it.  But this agency and your member's support or opposition provides a quick test you can apply to your local television station.

Have your local TV reporters questioned their members of Congress where they stand on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?   If your local TV reporters haven't ever questioned their members of Congress, it's a good indication that the corporate owner of your local TV station doesn't care about you, your community, or the rights of consumers.  Like many, they only care about maximizing revenue.   Any news organization that's actually concerned about democracy and solid journalism, would be questioning their members of Congress.

What are your local TV reporters doing?   Remember, if they're not questioning their members of Congress it's not their fault.   The fault lies with corporate management.

Terrorists don't have a chance to destroy democracy.   Three things do:  government secrecy combined with corporate greed combined with the failure of the press to do its job.   When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Time for Brain Smash

It is brain-smash (football) season again. When do you think universities will recognize what medical science has discovered and do something about brain-smash season? When do you think a president of a university will object to a sport that causes brain damage?
When I was a kid, you could page through a magazine and find an ad featuring a doctor telling you what cigarette to smoke.
What fabulous health advice. Apparently, if the ad is true, a whole lot of doctors liked Camels. Don't you wonder how many of them got lung cancer? But doctors' behavior changed.
With smoking, oh oh, along came medical science. Ah yes. Facts. Substantive scientific research. Turns out the ads urging people to smoke weren't good for your health, just for the tobacco companies' bottom line. (Now tobacco companies target poor people in Africa) Journalists reported what the scientists had found. This was IMPORTANT public health news. The public was informed. Behavior changed.
With football concussions, medical science came along again. But this time, reporters for the most part didn't report. They just waved their pom poms and played college cheerleader. It took a movie starring Will Smith to inform the public.
What do university presidents say when questioned by reporters about football concussions? Here's a video clip that answers that question.
Reporters aren't questioning their university presidents about why the university continues to support a sport that causes brain damage. How come? Is it possibly because Brain Smash is still America's favorite game and a big revenue producer for television? At most universities, Brain Smash loses millions each year. This clip is three years old, but profit/loss numbers still show most schools losing.
What will it take for a university president or the head of a university medical school or a provost or a dean to speak up? More brain damage? More lawsuits?
One thing is certain: mothers will take care of it. Moms who put helmets on their toddlers before they let the kids ride their trikes aren't about to let them play football. They know what Vince Lombardi knew. He didn't call football a contact sport, he described it as a "collision" sport.
Mothers are concerned about their child's brain. University presidents aren't. If you meet a university president, ask why. You'll have to ask why. The press isn't.
When journalism fails, bad things happen.