Thursday, December 22, 2011

How Could the Press Have Not Asked More Questions?

Latest numbers from the Washington Post are that multiple blasts killed 63 and injured another 185.   The violence in Baghdad is truly alarming, but it is NOT surprising.

In my first trip to Syria what struck me most was the incredibile divisions between various Muslim sects, something you see in several countries in the Middle East.  The New York Times and the Washington Post and CNN and even the remnants of NBC, ABC and CBS all had correspondents and editors with significant foreign experience.  How could they have not been pushing the Bush Administration to answer questions on how it planned to handle the country AFTER deposing the dictator?

Nobody disagrees ruthless dictators are bad.   So are investment banks when there's no regulation to curtail their greed.  But when it comes to national policy, it's up to the press to ask the questions that need to be asked.   One primary reason we have such a mess in Iraq is because the press didn't do that.

It's not too late for news organizations to do a thorough post analysis.    Just because bankers aren't held accountable for anything doesn't mean the rest of the professional world should operate that way.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Egyptian & Columbus Media

From today's NY Times re: coverage of the crackdown by the military:  "At least three radio announcers have been banned from the air for criticizing the ruling military council or its media management, said Ahmed Montaser, one of the state-radio dissidents."  

Sort of reminds you of what happens to radio sports commentators in Columbus, Ohio who dare criticize Ohio State.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Football = Dogfighting??

The New Yorker asks a pertinent question for a civilized society:  how different are dogfighting and football?    On the Huffington Post you'll find another worthwhile story on the father of a professional quarterback who is outraged at the team putting his son back in the game after being knocked silly.    Both stories provide countless follow ups for news organizations that want to report instead of cheerlead.

How many interviews will you see in the coming weeks with college presidents asking them why their university spends major money on a sport that causes brain damage?   Let's pay attention to the interviews of high school principals and PTA's.   How much money do the broadcast networks and newspapers and cable operations and web sites make from football?   Will local news organizations examine the issue of just how dangerous this sport is or will the editors instruct their reporters to just keep waving the pom poms? 



Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doing Journalism for the Right Reason

I was just sent a list to review for an upcoming project.  It's a list of journalists murdered in Cambodia, journalists who were trying to report on significant problems in their country who were killed because powerful people didn't want that.  Here is just one example from the list.

"Khem Sambo

Moneaseka Khmer Newspaper

July 11, 2008, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A journalist with the opposition-aligned Khmer-language daily Moneaseka Khmer, Khem Sambo was shot twice while riding his motorcycle with his 21-year-old son, according to international and local news reports. His son was also shot and killed. The gunmen, who were on a motorcycle, sped away after the shooting, news reports said.
Moneaseka Khmer is affiliated with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, and Sambo was among the publication's most hard-hitting reporters. An analysis of Sambo's reporting in the weeks before his murder, compiled by the Cambodian League for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights and reviewed by CPJ, found a steady stream of critical reporting on Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party.
Sambo's most recent reports, written under the pseudonyms Srey Ka or Den Sorin, touched on allegations of government corruption, internal rifts inside the ruling party, and questions about the distribution of benefits from recent rapid Chinese investment in the country. Moneaseka Khmer is one of only a handful of consistently critical publications in Cambodia; the broadcast media all report unswervingly in the ruling party's favor.
Cambodian police officials said they had not identified a motive or suspects in the murder, which occurred during the run-up to general elections on July 27."


Monday, November 21, 2011

Cheerleading for Brain Damage

I confess.   I'm a football fan (Packers & Badgers).   But read the article today in the New York Times on two former NFL greats, Al Toon and Wayne Chrebet, and the lingering effects of concussions and it makes parents question whether allowing their sons to play this sport at the high school and college level is worth it.  It also makes for a great student journalism assignment utilizing basic content analysis.

The human head is not meant for bashing.  Researchers at Purdue University have found even players who receive NO concussions show declining performance on basic memory tests as the season progresses.   Smoking hurts your lungs.   Football hurts your brain.   And we are today with football where we were with cigarette smoking in the 1950's when you could see an ad that had a doctor telling you which cigarette was best.  Medical science is quickly changing what we know about the risks of playing football, and with that knowledge, parents are certainly questioning whether they want their children to play a sport that causes brain damage.

The Times reports Wayne Chrebet has three sons, ages 9, 7 and 8 weeks old.  Their future in football knowing what he knows about concussions and the risks of playing?   The Times picks a thoughtful quote.  Says Chrebet, “Knowing this stuff makes it a little harder to let the kids go out there and play football.”

So here's the content analysis assignment.   Check your local papers during this football season.  Check your local television stations.   How many substantive interviews are reporters doing with college athletic directors and football coaches and trainers about the risk of concussions?   What documents have the reporters collected about the university's concussion prevention education and training program?  What interviews have they done with student athletes and their parents about the risk of concussions?  How many university presidents have they interviewed about that risk?  How many lawyers have they interviewed about potential liability exposure to the university considering the advancements in medical knowledge?

Most likely, you won't find much because when it comes to football and the press, you don't see much reporting, just a lot of cheerleading.  

Here's an excellent story Ken Brown did while he was still a student at Kent State on what KSU players were being told to do when they got banged in the head during a game.  

The athletic department at Kent State says it did a full investigation and discovered there wasn't a problem.   If you'd like to read a copy of that full investigation you're out of luck.  The athletic department says there's absolutely nothing in writing, not a word.   Anyone taking nominations for the Penn State Ethics in Athletics Award?


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Asking Questions That Need to Be Asked

Don't you wish Bob Costas would moderate a presidential debate?  The White House press corps should take a lesson from Bob on how to ask a direct question, how to clarify and how to follow up.  For any student journalist, this is a line of questioning worth watching again.

Let's hope those investigating the Penn State mess are as thorough in their questioning.  Do you think Jerry Sandusky was being truthful when he told Costas he'd never been asked a single thing about his behavior by Joe Paterno?  The New York Times reports another ten victims have come forward.  Hopefully last night's interview prompts more to do so.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reporting v Cheerleading - the Results Aren't Pretty

I posted this video of sports commentator/reporter Bruce Hooley a while ago, but in light of the Penn State scandal it's worth revisiting.   The role of the journalist is to hold the powerful accountable, to ask questions that need to be asked.  Without question, one huge enabler that's been a key factor in the number of scandals in college sports is a press that plays cheerleader instead of reporter.

For sports reporters everywhere, it's time to put down your poms poms.    For any student journalist wanting to be a sports reporter, here's some good advice from Bruce Hooley.

At Miami, it wasn't the local press that broke a story about a scandal that had been going on for years, it was Yahoo Sports.  In Columbus, it wasn't the local media that broke the story about the Tressel mess, it was Sports Illustrated.   Bruce Hooley who has covered Ohio State most of his reporting career has an excellent description for the Columbus media and how they cover Ohio State.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State - Where Was the Press?

No doubt, more victims will come forward in the Penn State sex abuse scandal.  But there's someone else who desperately needs to come forward:  any journalist who tried to bring this story out but wasn't allowed by his/her news organization to pursue it.

Without question, there are journalists who had hints, who heard something from some source, who were aware there was a serious problem with Jerry Sandusky.   Just examine the series of events.

There's an eye witness to a 10-year-old boy being raped.

There's a university police investigation where the police record phone calls between a mother of one of the victims and child abuser Jerry Sandusky.

Jerry Sandusky did not fool Joe Paterno.   Paterno was told by a graduate student what Sandusky did - the grad student witnessed a 10-year-old boy being raped. 

Lots of people knew.   Do you think the grad student's dad said nothing to his buddies?  Do you think the president of Penn State went home and said nothing to his wife?  Do you think the university cops who recorded the phone conversation said nothing to anyone about the defensive coordinator of Penn State being a child abuser?  What would you do with such information?   People talk.   Lots of people knew.  Don' t you think reporters knew?    Why didn't they pursue it?

It's not unusual for the press to fail, to play cheerleader instead of reporter.  That's what happened in Columbus.   And when radio talk show host Bruce Hooley criticized Ohio State, he was fired.

But the failure of the press in Columbus simply allowed Tressel to continue cheating.

At Penn State, the failure of the press allowed something far worse to continue:  child abuse.

For the reporters out there who wanted to do something but weren't allowed, please email ( or call me (513-646-4953).  This is a story that needs to be done.   It's not just Penn State officials who need to be held accountable.

For an example of how the press should operate,  review the Summer 2006 issue of Nieman Reports, an edition dedicated to courageous reporting.   Pay attention to the article on how the Post Register in Idaho Falls, Idaho stood up to incredible community pressure as it reported on pedophile Boy Scout leaders.   The Post Register didn't stand up for the team, it stood up for protecting children.

Where was the press in Pennsylvania during all these years of abuse? 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Questions for the Penn State President

In story after story about the Penn State sex abuse scandal you see the same quote from the president of the university.   President Graham Spanier says, "I wish to say that Tim Curley and Gary Schultz have my unconditional support."

But what's missing from the stories is the obvious question.   Before making that statement, did President Spanier read the grand jury report?  I've asked that question and will post the university's response here as soon as I get it. 

Did President Spanier refused to be interviewed?  Possibly, but in a quick scan of articles I'm not finding any indication of that.   What IS there in article after article is Spanier's statement of unconditional support that is simply a  university provided statement so no questions can be asked.   Why isn't this university president in front of microphones and cameras?  And if he's refusing to be interviewed, why isn't that being reported?   What did he know and when did he know it?

Today's press consistently fails to get answers to questions because it is willing to play interview by press release.  Today's press consistently fails to push public officials on the record.  

Coach Paterno claims he wasn't told the details of the abuse, just that the actions were "inappropriate."  Right.  Is there anyone dumb enough to believe that?   A graduate student witnesses this and goes to the coach and says, "Ah Coach Paterno, I think you should know I saw something that is inappropriate."  Football players, coaches and assistants don't even talk like that at Brigham Young.

Like all stories, this one demands specific, direct questions.   And when public officials and even the most highly honored and revered in American society (that would be the football coach) sidesteps the question, it needs to be asked again and again. 

Protecting children is far more important than protecting a football program.   Let's hope more than one person goes to prison for this, and let's hope anyone who had knowledge of this and failed to report it to law enforcement or child welfare either resigns immediately or is fired.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rock Center Sinks

How does a brand new NEWS magazine not include a single hard hitting interview with a single subject on a relevant topic?

How do you go to North Dakota and not shoot the man camps?

Richard Engel is a superb reporter, but he crossed the border into Syria for what?

And getting on an airplane is not all that bad unless you're an unbelievable whiner.   The overwriting on the top of this story reminds one of Dateline where everything is "incredible" or "unbelievable."

I wonder how many people staff the CAR unit at Rock Center; I'm guessing zero.   At a time when solid, thoughtful journalism is so desperately needed, this show is an incredible disappointment.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NBC Won't Name Names in its Investigation of Medical Greed

It is a story of corporate greed.  NBC’s Lisa Myers reports how medical supply companies are inflating prices on desperately needed drugs to treat childhood leukemia, breast, ovarian and colon cancer.   
She interviews Congressman Elijah Cummings who talks about the Congressional investigation of the companies.   Cummings describes the corporate behavior as  “profiteering big time.”   
The investigation found a Miami-based company charging $990 for medicine that normally sells for twelve dollars.   The name of the company?   NBC doesn't report it.   Myers also reports on “another company” showing similar greed.  
What’s the name of that company?   Who is the CEO?   What is that person’s name?   Why isn’t his picture on TV for this investigative report?    NBC doesn’t explain that.
In her standup, Lisa Myers says, “We reached out to the companies accused of profiteering.   They deny the allegations, say they are cooperating with the investigation.  And, that they’re actually helping by getting drugs to patients who need them.”
But NBC viewers don’t know the names of the companies NBC reached out to because NBC doesn’t name them, nor does NBC explain in its report why it doesn’t name them.
Congressman Cummings says the companies not named in the NBC report represent the “epitome of greed.”   They certainly should be held accountable, and the public deserves to know who the companies are.   Don’t hold your breath waiting for NBC news to push this story.   NBC doesn’t even dare name the companies that are a subject of a Congressional investigation. 
When journalism fails, bad things happen. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The University Chancellor Who Won’t Talk

The Plain Dealer’s Rich Exner did an excellent piece on how fees charged to academic students fund the athletic programs of Ohio's Universities (except Ohio State, one of the handful of universities in the country that makes money).   But he buried something that should have been highlighted.
This is a public official.   This is the governor-appointed chancellor of Ohio's university system.  He has an obligation to explain why academic students, many of whom are taking out loans and working jobs to pay for school, have to pay more so the athletes can go to college for free.  And the press has an obligation to hold the public officials accountable.
News organizations shouldn’t bury such information; they need to highlight it.
We’ve moved to the era of “no comment”  or comment by press release.  And public officials can get away with it because the press allows it.
By the way, one reason parents and students in Ohio don't realize how much they pay each semester to the athletic department is because many universities don't provide line-item detail on the bill.   You can see that breakdown on a project my computer-assisted reporting class did.  "Examining the University Bill" provides the breakdown for universities in the Mid American Conference.   At Kent State University, students pay $24 dollars per credit hour (capped at 11 credits) to the athletic department.  That's true for all students, even distance-learning students who never set foot on campus.  So a distance-learning student taking a 3-credit course in our new online public relations masters program gets to pay $72 dollars (3 X $24/credit hour) to the athletic department.  
If you think the governor-appointed chancellor of the university system should explain why he thinks that is appropriate, write and ask him.  His address is 
Jim Petro (Chancellor who won't do an interview with the Plain Dealer)
Ohio Board of Regents
30 East Broad Street, 36th floor
Columbus, OH 43215-3414
General: 614-466-6000
When journalism fails, bad things happen.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In the Land of the Second Amendment

In the land of the Second Amendment, what do you think will happen in our three class society (super rich, the rich, and the rest of us)?   Even in the industry with moderate corporate greed (media), the head of Gannett makes 277 times the median pay of the employee.  In the land of the Second Amendment, what do you think will happen as people lose their jobs, lose their homes, lose their retirement accounts and they see that when those in the super rich class make mistakes that would drive a small business out of business, the super rich get bailed out by the taxpayer and then the super rich give themselves multimillion dollar bonuses?

I haven't seen many reporters or columnists exploring the question.   And you certainly don't see many hard hitting interviews with members of board of directors or CEO's on the problem of wildly inflated executive compensation.   Remember when the first concern of a college president was education and not his/her pay package?  Remember when management and labor used to work together so when the business did well all prospered?  Do you think any members of the super rich ever think of what might be coming in the land of the Second Amendment?

We've watched what has happened elsewhere, but this isn't Greece.  This isn't London or Paris.   This is the land of the Second Amendment.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Reporting Obstacles

I just finished  working with citizen and professional journalists in Tunisia.  “What are some of the obstacles you face in your reporting,” I asked.  Working through the translator, the Tunisian journalist replied, “the police beat me and smashed my camera.”
Yes, that truly would be an obstacle.  

In Tunisia, despite continued threats of violence Tunisian journalists pushed for answers.   They’re still pushing for answers.   And in talking with several, currently they have a high degree of confidence the upcoming elections this month will be fair.   Let’s hope so.
What were the obstacles we faced in this country that prevented journalists from questioning the bankers and the regulators and Congress about securitizing liars loans?  Why didn't we question the implications of credit default swaps, and why wouldn't the industry want what was insurance to be called insurance?   Oh yes, then it might have to come under some regulation.  
Concerned citizens wouldn’t have to be occupying Wall Street if journalists had occupied their positions as actual  journalists.   What was the fear that prevented American news organizations from doing the reporting that was necessary?   Was it fear of having to actually invest in worthwhile reporting?   The citizens occupying Wall Street might not have a focused agenda, but many of them appear to be asking better questions about how we got here than our journalists did.    And as one of them said on MSNBC this morning, it doesn't matter that main stream media doesn't cover it.   Like in Tunisia, what's happening is being pushed through social networks. 
Perhaps the citizens will continue to ask the questions our journalists should have been asking years ago.   Let's hope they get some accountability and some answers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tunisian Bloggers

In Tunisia, we’re working with an impressive group of bloggers.   Emma Benji writes,  “I once had an unfortunate experience with the police when I was stopped in the street and questioned for seven hours.   But in hindsight, I think I was very lucky compared to others who have been beaten and tortured physically.”  
Being questioned for hours on end, not all that unusual in any country where police can detain and question as they wish (and you're thinking what's the problem with that?  That's just like what the Patriot Act allows the government to do.)
They all realize the crucial importance of free expression.  
Henda Hendoud’s blog is dedicated to freedom, press and revolutions.    Information is like people:  both want to be free.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Issues in Need of Solid Reporting

 When you pick up the morning paper here in Cairo, it’s a front page of real news.  Some headlines from today’s Daily News Egypt:  ‘Random’ arrests after Israel embassy attack.”   Rights groups are claiming the same abuses by police now that were prevalent under Mubarak.
“Government official resigns in protest of gag order.”   What a great quote from a public official who WANTS to talk with the media, “If I’m forced to choose between keeping my mouth shut and quitting…then I prefer quitting.” 
“Antiquities chief quits amid strike pressure.”   This is the head guy who overseas the protection of Egypt’s historical treasures.   The resigning official tells Daily News Egypt, “I refuse to be regarded as a stooge.   I felt powerless and overwhelmed especially that I had been deprived of much of my authority.”
“Teachers call for a million-man march Saturday.”  Teachers are striking, and they are angry.   But following the revolution, people are certainly freer to speak. 
“Clinton:  Women must be part of new Mideast.”    Without question, we won’t have a safe world or democratic development without full freedom for women.
Typical news day in Cairo.  Wow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What did Ohio State Investigate?

On December 7, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice sent the letter you see below to the legal affairs office of Ohio State.  It provides a long list of Ohio Sports memorabilia and a long list of student athlete names.   This is an evidence trail a junior high journalist could pursue.

How did Ohio State investigate?   Who did it put in charge of the investigation?  With Jim Tressel, Ohio State knew it had a coach with a highly questionable past regarding NCAA violations at Youngstown State.   Indeed, Ohio State's own performance evaluation of Tressel had rated him "unacceptable" in reporting NCAA violations.   Certainly, no university wanting to do a thorough investigation would put the athletic department in charge of investigating itself.

Who was put in charge of this investigation?  Ohio State University has refused to answer that question.

"I bet the chancellor's office would help," you say.   No, I checked with the chancellor's office asking if it would help get the information.  No, it would not.   Without question, someone was put in charge of the investigation.   What did that person's very first report, email or memo say and to whom was it sent?   I've made a public records request for that single public record.   Ohio State University refuses to provide it.   Guess it's time to file a mandamus action in the Ohio Supreme Court. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Failure of the Press Contributes to College Athletic Mess

The Wall Street Journal describes the current state of college football as the "grid of shame" Last spring, when Sports Illustrated investigated Ohio State, the headline read "investigation reveals eight-year pattern of violations under Tressel."  There is lots of criticism of coaches and universities, but how much of a contributing factor is the press? How could Tressel have an 8-year pattern of violations if reporters are doing what reporters are supposed to do?  

At Miami, a booster apparently was providing everything from dinners on the yacht to hookers and had been doing it for years.   How do the local reporters not notice, how do you explain local reporters not going after the obvious?    What happens when the press plays cheerleader instead of reporter?   Fired sports talk show host  Bruce Hooley provides some insight as does Sports Illustrated's George Dohrmann.  Click here to find out what prompted Sports Illustrated to investigate Ohio State and to hear what four reporters from the Columbus Dispatch told Bruce Hooley.

Why was Hooley, a highly rated sports talk show host, fired?  He gave his honest opinion and criticized Ohio State, a school Sports Illustrated found to have an 8-year pattern of violations. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Journalism Education in a Page

If you want to take a quick look at journalists doing what journalists are supposed to do, check out Radio Free Asia.   Full Disclosure:  I've done a lot of consulting work for Radio Free Asia.  But particularly for student journalists, Radio Free Asia can be a quick journalism education.  Just check a few of the stories RFA journalists are pursuing:

Newspapers (in China) Face New Controls.   Talk about government regulations no society wants.  And that's a reminder, you don't hear the presidential candidates say much about the importance of a free press to both democracy and business.   Can you imagine if the business reporters had diligently examined Enron to see what was behind its glowing numbers?  Can you imagine if business reporters had aggressively reported on the risk of securitizing liars loans?  Why would any sound financial system approve the sale of bundled loans sold to people who can't pay them back? 

Report Slams Apple Over Pollution.   I'm typing on a MAC, I have my iPad, and although I favor improved technology, I've always had a strong bias in favor of responsible corporate behavior.   And what a great story for a student journalist to follow up.  Call Apple, request a videoskype interview via your MAC.  If Apple won't talk, fine, report it.   If Apple will, fine, report it.   Either way you have a student produced story that can make some worthwhile news.   With today's technology, the world is your reporting campus.

Activist Monk Banned from Pagodas.   At Radio Free Asia, you'll find lots of reporting on activists, activists for human rights, activists for peace, activists for pollution controls, activists for religious freedom, activists for democracy, activists for workplace safety.    You probably won't find any activists for eliminating all those pesky "needless" regulations.  For that, you'll need to follow a U.S. Presidential campaign. 


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What specific regulation?

It's doubtful you'll find someone in support of "needless" regulation.    But as we move further into the political campaign season, you'll read more and more about "needless regulations" that are making it impossible for business to create jobs and the politicians who want to change that.

For the journalist, it's essential to get the specific.   What specific regulation is causing the problem?   Why was the regulation enacted?   What does the regulation do?   What does it cost?   What does it save? 

There's a lot of criticism of the EPA.   Do you remember Love Canal?  Remember the Cuyahoga River catching on fire?  Would you like to live in a country like China where you can chew the air?

So when politicians start ranting about regulations, do some fact checking and get specifics.  Has the politician who is ranting done his/her homework?  If she/he has, great, you've got worthwhile facts for your story.   If she/he hasn't, now it's time for follow-up questions and more great facts for your story.  Right now, we're seeing a lot of human microphone stand stories.   We just repeat the rants.   That's not reporting.   That's stenography.

If corporations acted in the public interest, there would be no need for the EPA or the SEC or a host of other regulatory agencies.   But we don't live on a planet where all corporations always act admirably.  That's why a river caught on a fire.  That's why OSHA tries to prevent companies from exposing their employees to dangerous, and often cancer causing chemicals.      Never has thoughtful, contextual reporting been more important as we head into the season of the political rant.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

To get better stories, ask better questions.

The great thing about journalism is the joy of simply following the facts and being in a country where you don't get thrown in jail or beaten for doing so.   Ask a great question, get the answer, check the documentation, verify that you're being told the truth or lied to and report what you find.  When you ask great questions, regardless of the answer, you'll usually have a worthwhile story to report.

As we head to another fall football season, here are some worthwhile questions to ask.  

1.  Find a couple top lawyers and ask, what do they see as the legal liability universities may face as an increasing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that playing football causes brain damage?   Indeed, research at Purdue University shows that even among players who suffer no concussions, their performance in basic cognitive tests goes down as the season progresses.

2.  A handful of universities make money on football.   But at a large number of universities, football is a multimillion dollar budget hole, a fact well documented by the Knight Commission.  With universities across the country facing incredible budget pressures, why does the president of your local university think it's worthwhile to continue to support a program that loses millions of dollars and causes brain damage?  By the way, I'm a real football fan (Go Green Bay!).   But I have realized the sad fact that in public health terms,  we are today with football where we were with smoking in the 1950's.  My grandfather suffered severe dementia, and I wonder now if maybe a contributing factor was all the football he played?   He played for Carlton College back in the leather helmet days.  

3.  During the recruiting process, are universities informing potential college athletes of the medical risks of playing football, a sport documented to cause brain damage?  Ethically, do your local university officials feel recruits should be appraised of the risk?   Sports injuries can have long-lasting effects.   Who pays for the college athlete's need for medical care necessitated by the sports-related injury AFTER the athlete leaves college?

4.  How much does the medical insurance for your college football team cost?  Does the policy provide coverage for head trauma?

5.  A couple years ago, the Post & Courier did an excellent piece on drug injections of college athletes.  It's a worthwhile topic for reporters in market after market to examine.   How many athletes are getting pain-killing injections?   What drugs are being used?  Who is making the decision to inject the student athlete?   What pressure does the student athlete face to allow the injection, and what happens to the player who objects?

As we examine the huge mess in college athletics, let's hope news management makes a journalistic decision and tells their local sports reporters to put down their pom poms long enough to pick up their pens like the Post & Courier reporters did and report stories of substance.    Ohio State University tells me that prior to this year, it had never received a public records request from any Columbus media outlet for Jim Tressel's performance evaluation.   After Sports Illustrated did a cover story on the OSU-Tressel mess, Ohio State got lots of public records requests.  It didn't take the Associated Press long to find newsworthy information, like the fact Coach Tressel had been rated "unacceptable."

Go after the records!   We live in a country where we can do that. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Question to Pursue for Fall Sweeps

Why should academic students, many of whom are working jobs and taking out loans, have to pay so the athletes can go to school for free?   Why do our universities apparently think it's more important to educate a quarterback than it is to educate a scientist or an engineer or a teacher?  My students documented the numbers for the Mid-American Conference.  At some schools, even distance-learning students, students who never set foot on campus still have to pay the athletic dept.   Students and parents don't realize where their money is going because as the reporting project of my students show, most universities in the MAC don't provide line-item detail on the bill.   Ohio University does make the information available on its web site, but it's buried so many layers deep it's unlikely anyone would ever find it. 

Why do you suppose universities aren't more forthright with their billing practices?  That's a great question for a sweeps piece, one of interest to a big chunk of the audience.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sports Reporting????

A journalist asks the questions that need to be asked.   For the journalist, the public information officer and PR professional can be incredibly helpful.  But too often, journalists aren't journalists.   They allow themselves to be controlled by corporations and public agencies.  They become stenographers instead of reporters.  You can't fault the corporation or the public agency for wanting to control communication; it's not their fault the reporter isn't doing the job.

Congratulations to the student journalist at the University of Kentucky for doing what journalists are supposed to do.  The athletic department bans him because he called student athletes to confirm a fact for a story?  He's banned because he didn't follow the athletic department's rules????

It's not surprising "professional" local sports reporters don't seem to run into that problem.   You understand why when you listen to sports commentator Bruce Hooley describe how sports "reporting" of college athletics has changed.