Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day Reminder

On Memorial Day, NBC, CBS, ABC, Washington Post and the New York Times owe the country an apology.   Had news organizations done their jobs, there would not have been a war in Iraq.   There was no imminent threat.   But instead of asking questions, the news organizations played cheerleader.

Years later, as we continue the "war on terror," it's time to ask the networks why they fail to do any serious substantive reporting on terrorism.   Who are these people, these terrorists who present such an incredible threat to the United States of America?   Why do they oppose America?  How many of them are there?   How are they funded?   Where do they get their weapons?

Afghanistan has a gross national product of 6.9 billion dollars.  To put that into context, Walmart does more than 450 billion in sales.   The fiscal 2013 budget for our smallest state, Rhode Island is 8 billion.

We continue to fight in Afghanistan because?

The threat posed to our country is what?   Perhaps we could simply do what we did with the surge, when we simply put the people who were shooting at us on the payroll.   When news organization after news organization reported on the success of the surge, why do you suppose nearly always they failed to report the reason the surge worked is because we paid the opposition to stop shooting?   Our soldiers continue to die in Afghanistan for what reason?   The in-depth questioning demanded by our involvement there is where?

The networks, of course, have their priorities.   Dancing With the Stars and American Idol are important; substantive reporting is not.  

On Memorial Day, our major news organizations owe the country an apology.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The search for bodies in the clothing industry should not stop with a collapsed factory in Bangladesh.   The real bodies local reporters should be searching for are the corporate executives of the GAP and Walmart and JC Penney and all the other clothing merchandisers able to sell clothes at a remarkably low price because of employes who work distressingly long hours for depressingly low wages.

Local reporters should be asking the executives a simple question:   what specific steps has the executive taken in the past two years to improve the working conditions of garment workers in the third world?  And thanks to technology, there's no cost for the video interview.  Just use skype.   And if the corporate executive won't talk, report it.

I had read about clothing factories, but it wasn't until I watched one overpacked truckful of workers after another turning into a garment plant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia  that I gained an actual sense of the human cost of a $9 shirt.   We can buy cheap clothes here because our corporations have them made in conditions that would never be tolerated in this country or Europe.

I got a chance to see how the workers live.   Take a look.   It's ten to a room.

Working conditions for the people who make our clothes should be a story for reporters in every market in the country.   Read the label.    Reporters in every market should be contacting the corporate officials and asking what they are doing about working conditions.   Do they approve?   Is paying women next to nothing to work long hours ok?   What's their position?   Take a look at how employees  commute to work in Cambodia.  Riding on the roof of a van is not a safety violation.  Do corporate executives bringing home healthy bonuses care at all about the humans who make the clothes? 


To produce stories that matter, reporters need to ask questions that make a difference.

The collapse of the clothing factory in Bangladesh is a classic example of an important reporting opportunity missed by local TV reporters.  When journalism fails, bad things happen.