Monday, January 21, 2013


What a wonderful man to celebrate, a man concerned with the score of life and not the score of a game.   How would a man so concerned and dedicated to the greater issues view the state of the press now?

Certainly, the press did not lead when it comes to civil rights.   But there were bold journalists like the late Gene Patterson.   As the obituary rightly states, "he made a mark."

Where are the bold journalists now?   How many news organizations are there truly dedicated to substantive reporting?  What would Dr. King think of a press that dedicates more time to reporting on the imaginary dead girlfriend of a football player than it does to climate change?  What would Dr. King's dream be today?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sports Illustrated = Lawsuit in Waiting

It doesn't matter what the deadline is.   If there are major holes and questions about a story, don't publish, don't push, don't broadcast.

Manti Te'o tells a compelling story.   It's understandable a reporter would initially believe that this affable and talented college football player is telling the truth.   But to do any feature story, a reporter needs details.   There's a car accident.   That means there's an accident report with details, that means there are most likely pictures.   There's a young girl who has died.   That means there's an obituary.   This is the girlfriend of a famous college football player.   There are going to be lots of articles.   This young woman would have had lots of friends.

The reporter can't find any of this, and Sports Illustrated publishes?   If the sign says "BRIDGE OUT - DANGER - 1000 FOOT DROP AHEAD" Sports Illustrated editors would drive the bus into the gorge.

The headline in the Atlantic gets it right:

The Manti Te'o Dead-Girlfriend Hoax: Blame the Media

What editors approved this story?  What questions did they ask?  How does a piece with one red flag after another go forward?  Journalism requires verification.   If Sports Illustrated has forgotten that simple basic requirement of journalism, perhaps its editors should consider going to work for Roger Ailes.  Lots of so-called sports reporters did copy & paste of facts that weren't facts because nobody bothered to check.   Click here to read one of the exclusives Fox Sports did on the poor dead fictional girlfriend of Te'o when Fox Sports didn't realize the girl wasn't dead because the girl wasn't real.  

For all those organizations that did copy and paste instead of actual reporting  a word of caution:  you're a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Journalism requires verification.   In court, saying you copied and pasted from someone else won't work as a defense.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Baseball Writer Hypocrites

How long do you think the steroid era in baseball would have lasted had sports reporters investigated the story in front of their face at game after game?   Baseball writers watch a player's neck size double and triple and don't see a perfectly obvious story to investigate?   Those bulging muscles didn't come from eating Cheerios guys.   Knock! Knock!  Anyone home in that reporting head of yours?

With the money involved, one can understand why a professional athlete would be inclined to cheat.   One can understand why the aging athlete might be inclined to cheat.   It's not ethical, but it's understandable.   It's also understandable why Baseball Writers didn't investigate.  There's a difference between being a writer and being a journalist.   There's a difference between being a reporter and being a cheerleader.

Had there been more reporters and fewer cheerleaders, the steroid era would have been short lived.  Any activity has to be placed in the context of the time.   Baseball has certainly taken steps to clean up its act.   What about the writers?  There were lots of stories about nobody being voted into the Hall of Fame.  Did you see many about the baseball writers who failed to report on the problem at the time?

Anyone wanting to be an actual sports reporter can benefit from listening to this video from Bruce Hooley, a sports talkshow host who was fired for criticizing Ohio State.  

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Time to Cover the Real Crime Scene: Congress

Asking the simple, direct question is so simple.   Why aren't more local reporters doing it?

Health and safety experts have done all kinds of research on the dangers and risks posed by automobiles.   As a result, there's been knowledge applied to reduce the risk and save lives.

Guns?  Thousands die every year from guns.  From a health and safety and societal standpoint, any reasonable person, even one with no scientific research background, would agree that it makes sense to examine the issues surrounding gun deaths just as we've studied and analyzed automobile deaths.   But no, that's not done.   That area of inquiry is not allowed.  Congress voted to prohibit such research by the CDC.  

As the viewpoint article in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Doctors Kellermann and Rivara points out, gun research has been silenced.   One primary contributing factor is the silence of the press.    

Why did your member of Congress vote for or against the measure?   Try to find that in your local newspaper or local television station.   If it's not there, write to the corporate owners of the paper and TV station and ask why?    Here are a couple of notable paragraphs from the JAMA article and a caution for viewers of FOX NEWS.  The following paragraphs contain facts.

"Injury prevention research can have real and lasting effects. Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans dying in motor vehicle crashes has decreased by 31%.1 Deaths from fires and drowning have been reduced even more, by 38% and 52%, respectively.1 This progress was achieved without banning automobiles, swimming pools, or matches. Instead, it came from translating research findings into effective interventions.

Given the chance, could researchers achieve similar progress with firearm violence? It will not be possible to find out unless Congress rescinds its moratorium on firearm injury prevention research. Since Congress took this action in 1997, at least 427 000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165 000 who were victims of homicide.1 To put these numbers in context, during the same time period, 4586 Americans lost their lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.10

The United States has long relied on public health science to improve the safety, health, and lives of its citizens. Perhaps the same straight  forward, problem-solving approach that worked well in other circumstances can help the nation meet the challenge of firearm violence. Otherwise, the heartache that the nation and perhaps the world is feeling over the senseless gun violence in Newtown will likely be repeated, again and again."

Local television reporters cover shooting after shooting after shooting.   It's time they actually cover the real crime scene:  Congress.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.