Sunday, December 21, 2014

If Computer Hacking is a Crime, Which Countries Need to be Prosecuted?

Do a simple word search for any reporting done on the Sony hacking story.  Search for NSA. You won't find much.   

A key element of journalism is to place issues into context.   

When George Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were telling the American people that Saddam had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, journalists had a responsibility to report it.   They did.   Where the bulk of the press failed was to put that statement into proper context.   After Saddam used weapons of mass destruction against his own people, what did the United States do?   The United States continued to support Saddam. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld should have been asked the simple question, why?   And America's continued support of Saddam following his use of WMD should have been included in stories to place the issue in proper context.    

For the Sony hacking story the press is once again failing to put the issue into proper context.

Who leads the world in computer hacking?   The NSA.   The NSA has hacked into computers around the world including the computers of our allies.  Here are some stories to remind us of what the NSA has done.

And the U.S. using high tech sabotage is nothing new.   The CIA has a long history of that.   During the Reagan Administration, the CIA planted a virus in a power plant in Russia designed to cause loss of crucial controls.   The computer virus worked; the power plant blew up  You can read about that one in a former CIA employee's book available on Amazon. 

Any reporter questioning any member of Congress about how to respond to North Korea should be asking a series of follow up questions:    Should there be mandatory prosecution of countries found guilty of computer hacking?   Mandatory prosecution for offenders is required for torture, should it be required for computer hacking?   How should other countries respond to hacking by the NSA?  

Do we want to be a country that respects the rule-of-law, or in the digital age do we become a country that totally ignores the privacy of individuals, corporations and countries?  It's disappointing reporters aren't asking that question.

Journalists need to be asking the questions that need to be asked and stop playing government cheerleader.   The most unpatriotic act any journalist can commit is to fail to question her/his government.   When journalism fails, bad things happen. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Journalist's Christmas List to Santa

Dear Santa,

I understand you're incredibly busy, but in the land of the secret government approved by the secret court, there's never been a time when journalism has been in greater need for some Christmas cheer.   If at all possible, could you please bring the following gifts:

1.  Earmuffs for the citizens of Washington, D.C. so they won't have to listen to the barking from all the lapdogs.  

2. Two items for the Washington press corps:  1.) an understanding that torture is like rape: it is ALWAYS wrong and 2.) a question to ask any politician who proclaims family values on the campaign trail who is defending torture:  what would Jesus say?

3.  A flash drive with a video of the acceptance speech by Jorge Ramos for his award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.   This should go to every journalist in the country (so you don't have to stop at FOX).  

4.  For Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and 60 Minutes, a copy of the 8th grade journalism 101 lesson plan.   Sabrina Rubin Erdely,  Pete Thamel, and Lara Logan and every CBS executive who approved her Benghazi story that could have been blown up with 15 minutes of checking the CBS News archive seem to have forgotten the basics.   Journalism requires verification. Journalism requires checking your facts. 

5.  Pens for sports reporters.   Currently, most only have pom poms. 

6.  Basic computer-assisted reporting skills for university student journalists who can easily examine the university's grading database and pinpoint puff courses for athletes at their university - they're the ones where everyone always gets an A every semester.   This is 
an analysis provosts should do but they don't and local reporters could do but they won't - see number 5.   

7.  The URL's for the Guardian and Al Jazeera and BBC for CNN so it can see there's more than one story to cover in a day.    

8.  A plaque that says "Giving a NUT Equal Time is Not Fairness, IT IS IDIOTIC" to news organizations giving equal time to those who don't believe in science (climate change).

9.  Membership in IRE for Cincinnati Enquirer editor Carolyn Washburn so hopefully someone will tell her if she goes to the annual convention what an investigative reporter is.   It is NOT someone who "works with your advertising partner to grow and monetize the 25-45 audience."

10.  And most of all Santa, on your naughty and nice list, please tell President Obama it is very naughty to prosecute people who tell the truth (whistleblowers) and not nice at all to fail to prosecute those from the CIA and NSA who lie to Congress.

Merry Christmas Santa.  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moral Dilemma of Torture for Doctors & Lawyers & Politicians & Columnists

Since the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on torture, there's been much discussion over the moral dilemma posed following 911.  What can we do to go after the terrorists?    How far can we go to get those terrorists we've captured to tell us what other terrorists are going to do?  

As far as any moral dilemma when it comes to torture, it's simple.   There is no moral dilemma.

Torture is wrong.

No civilized country authorizes torture for any reason, ever.   Torture is wrong.   It's like raping a woman.   It is ALWAYS wrong.   It's like beating a child.  It is ALWAYS WRONG.

So for lawyers, it's simple.   Torture is wrong.   Coming up with a legal justification for torture is unethical, immoral and wrong.

For doctors and psychologists who assisted the CIA, it's simple.   Torture is wrong.   Helping the CIA torture is unethical, immoral and wrong.  

For politicians or columnists like Charles Krauthammer who justify torture, it's simple.
Torture is wrong.   Torture did not help our country.   It hurt it.

The United States used to have some moral high ground in the international community.   Now, thanks to torture, it has none.  

There is no moral dilemma.   Torture is wrong.   It is ALWAYS wrong.  

This Sunday from the pulpit, how many sermons across this nation will address torture?   Will our nation's religious leaders say torture is wrong or will they remain silent like the nation's  university presidents and corporate CEO's who say nothing when their country's government has admitted the United State of America is a country that approved torture?

The moral dilemma for the country is not torture.  The moral dilemma is the deafening silence from those who should be expressing outrage at those in the Bush Administration who approved and sanctioned torture.   

Torture is wrong.   It is ALWAYS wrong. 


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Torture: What Would Jesus Say?

Following the Senate Intelligence Committee's release of the torture report summarized succinctly in the lead by the Guardian...

The full extent of the CIA’s interrogation and detention programmes launched in the wake of the September 11 terror attack was laid bare in a milestone report by the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday that concluded the agency’s use of torture was brutal and ineffective – and that the CIA repeatedly lied about its usefulness."

...there's a surprising silence.

Where are America's religious leaders?   What do they say?

In the interviews of Republicans objecting to the release of the report who during their re-election campaigns tout both family and American values, where is the basic accountability question for those American values?   What would Jesus say?   I'm meaning no disrespect to other religions, but Republicans who tout family values are usually Christian. 

In the current debate on the effectiveness of torture there's much discussion of what would work and what wouldn't work.  Commentators and politicians alike say this is a complex question.   Is it?   Do you approve of torture or not?   Is beating your wife ok?   Is sexual assault on campus ok?  It's not complex at all.   Do you approve of torture?  

What are some of things the CIA did?   As the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report states, among the techniques were:  rectal hyrdration, threatening detainees with threats to harm detainees' families, including threats to sexually abuse the mother of the detainee.   Captives were stripped naked.  Dragged and hit.  

 What would Jesus say?    

Forget the Geneva Convention.   Join Dick Cheney in flushing the Constitution down the toilet.   Just go straight to religion.   After all, it was President Bush who said he prays every day.   Did he pray for guidance on torture?   Is that something a religious person who reads the New Testament even needs to ask for divine guidance?  

The King James Bible says, "And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheeck offer also the other; and him that taketh away they cloke forbid not to take thy coat also."   Is there any possibility that somehow "turn the other cheek" equates to "feed the person through his rectum?" 

Ask the question.   What would Jesus say President Bush?   What would Jesus say Congressman Rogers?  What would Jesus say Secretary Rumsfeld?   Would Jesus say, "threaten to run a broomstick up their ass!"

Full Disclosure:  I think torture is wrong.   I think lying to Congress is wrong.   I think lying to the American people is wrong.  And anyone who believes anything Dick Cheney says should give me a call because I can give you a great buy on the Brooklyn Bridge as long as you send me cash first.  And someone should ask Dick Cheney, what would Jesus say?

The threat to American democracy comes not from terrorism but from government secrecy combined with the failure of the press to do its job.

When it comes to torture, a worthwhile question to ask your politician or government official is what would Jesus say?      Don't hold your breath waiting for that question to be asked.   Keep in mind, the reason we had a war in Iraq was because the press failed to do its job. And now, journalists just play he said/she said.   

Imagine for a moment what both friends and enemies would be saying if the United States had treated prisoners humanely.   We didn't.   We tortured.   We're a country that thinks it's ok to feed a prisoner by shoving food up his ass.  We're a country that thinks it's ok to strip prisoners naked and beat them.   Global climate change will take care of our species in the coming years, but in the meantime, perhaps we should ask, what would Jesus say?    

A worthwhile reminder of what the press should do and the problems caused when it fails is to read an excellent book,  935 Lies by Charles Lewis.

When journalism fails, what would Jesus say?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

What SI, 60 Minutes and Rolling Stone Forgot

Journalism requires verification.

Standard operating procedure for a journalist is to remind sources of that.   

"I'm a journalist. So I'm sure you understand when I say I don't believe anyone.   My job is to verify and confirm."  

The type of story (business, entertainment, political, education, medical, sports) makes no difference.  It's basic.  Journalists check facts.  Journalists verify and confirm.  

Sports Illustrated forgot that when it did a cover story of the football player with the poor dead girlfriend.    Instead of fact checking, SI published a national example on how not to report a feature story and Deadspin got it right:  Manti Te'o's Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax.

At 60 Minutes in its exclusive report featuring the guy writing a book about the Benghazi attack being published by a CBS subsidiary, the interview as broadcast isn't believable to any reporter who is actually a journalist.   The scene is described as Al Qaeda fighters everywhere.  Morgan Jones (real name - Dylan Davies) tells Lara Logan that in this incredibly dangerous situation an Al Qaeda fighter just walks up to him so Jones hits him with the butt of his rifle.

Who believes a story like that?   An Al Qaeda fighter in the overrun and burning compound just walks up to an American and allows himself to be hit the face with a rifle butt?  As Mother Jones later detailed, there were lots of basic questions that any journalist would be asking when vetting this story.   

Confirm and verify.   It's basic.   It's essential.  Why didn't Rolling Stone bother to do it as it reported a gang rape at the University of Virginia?  The magazine's note to readers is a long-winded way of saying it has forgotten how to do basic journalism.   Rolling Stone writes:  "We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie's request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account." 

When the President says Iraq poses an "imminent threat," a journalist doesn't believe that. A journalist seeks to verify and confirm.   What evidence is there?  Prior to the war, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Special Committee on Iraq both found Saddam had no nuclear capability.    There were some exceptions, but most of the Washington Press Corps didn't bother to confirm and verify, it just played human microphone stand.   Had journalists done their jobs, there would have been no war with Iraq. There was no threat, just the political desire by the Bush Administration to change the political map of the Middle East.  

The most unpatriotic act a journalist can ever commit is to fail to question his/her government.   That's more essential now than ever since we live in the land of the secret government approved by the secret court. 

It doesn't matter if you're reporting for the New York Times or the Tri-County News or 60 Minutes or the tv station in Glendive, Montana, the role of the journalist does not change.   The journalist confirms and verifies.  Journalism requires verification.   When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Where is Boehner's Interview?

President Obama takes executive action on immigration.   No surprise, Speaker Boehner objects and criticizes.   But there's one problem.  

Boehner has consistently refused to bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house.

How come?  

Here's a better question.   Why hasn't a single Cincinnati television station asked the question?   Go to or or or and try to find a local reporter questioning Boehner.    He's a Congressman for this television market.  

Perhaps I missed it.   If it's there, please send me the link.   But I can't find a single Cincinnati television reporter asking the Speaker one question about why he has refused to bring the immigration bill to the House floor.

Should television stations that fail to hold their members of Congress accountable be given a license to broadcast?    

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, November 6, 2014


The Mid-American Conference has agreed to a 13 year multimillion dollar broadcast contract with ESPN.   How much equipment does each university have to provide?  How many university personnel are involved?   How many students will participate?   How much technical expertise will be required, and what are the production standards for each broadcast?   Under the terms of the agreement, what do the universities have to do?  As MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher explains, the universities are obligated to produce a substantial amount of programming for ESPN.

For all those productions, how much do the universities get paid?   We'll just have to wait and see.  Once payments are made, those payments will be public record.  Until then, as MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher explains, how much public universities are paid for producing a substantial amount of live sports programming for ESPN isn't being publicly disclosed.

Is the 13 year $100 million plus contract between ESPN and the Mid-American Conference a good deal or a bad deal for Ohio MAC universities and the taxpayers of Ohio?   MAC Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher doesn't see the connection between tax dollars and universities producing live sports broadcasts for ESPN.

What kind of business agrees to a 13 year multimillion dollar contract without having a copy of the contract?   Who does business like that?   According to Commissioner Steinbrecher, that's how the presidents and the athletic directors of MAC universities do business.  

Why don't reporters at local TV stations and newspapers ask questions about a 13 year $100 million dollar plus contract that's a secret?   When will sports reporters put down their pom poms and pick up their pens?    When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Academic Fraud? To Find, Just Click and Sort the University Grade Database

The headline about what happened at the University of North Carolina provides an obvious story to any reporter in any Division I university city:  Fake Classes, Inflated Grades:  Massive UNC Scandal Included Athletes Over 2 Decades.

At any university such an obvious puff course problem would be incredibly easy to spot.   And if it's a public university, the reporter can get the data.   The university grading system is all computerized.   One exercise my computer-assisted reporting students do is to examine the grade database.  Which courses have all A's?   For how many semesters have those same courses from the same instructor had all A's?  It's a simple check any provost could make.  It's a check any provost who is actually concerned with academic integrity would make.   It's a check any reporter wanting to see if there are puff courses for athletes would make.  

The problem of puff courses for athletes is nothing new.   Back in 2004 ESPN Magazine did an excellent piece on an eligibility mill more readily recognized by another name:  Ohio State University.  The question local news organizations never ask is simple:  where is the provost?   Why is the provost, the chief academic officer of the university,  not doing any basic quality control checks on the academic standards of the institution and pinpointing problem courses?   UNC's scandal would have been spotted more than a decade ago had the university actually been concerned with academics.   

One former provost who has always been truly concerned with academic integrity is Jon Ericson, founder of the Drake Group.   Had UNC followed Jon's advice, it never would have had an athletic academic scandal.  

Why do so many universities have such pathetically low ethical standards?   One contributing factor is a press that plays cheerleader instead of doing its job.   In every Division I market, reporters should be requesting the provost's most recent analysis examining possible puff courses for athletes.   If the provost has done no such analysis, reporters should be asking the provost why he/she hasn't made such an obvious check.   That, of course, won't happen.   When it comes to sports, provosts and universities aren't concerned with academic integrity.   When it comes to sports, we don't have many reporters, just cheerleaders.  So we'll wait for the next college athletic academic scandal and report on that.   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Great Work by Kent State Student Journalist

Kent State University student journalist Richie Mulhall has done great work trying to get the details of the $100 million plus ESPN-MAC contract that requires MAC University participation for the next 13 years.   Richie has confirmed:

1.  The University of Akron does not have a copy of the contract.

2.  Bowling Green State University does not have a copy of the contract.

3.  Ohio University does not have a copy of the contract

4.  Miami University does not have a copy of the contract.

5.  Kent State University is not responding to Richie's public records request of September

Congratulations to Richie Mulhall.  On September 23, Richie's commentary documenting the Ohio MAC universities not having a copy of a 13-year contract to which the MAC says each has agreed to a confidentiality clause is the second item on JimRomenesko's media blog.  So reporters all over Ohio have the information.

As far as I know, not a single Ohio news/sports organization has followed  up.   I guess it must be difficult to ask substantive questions or to write a substantive story when you're waving your pom poms to cheer the team.  When do you think Ohio sports reporters will put down their pom poms and pick up their pens?   With the Ray Rice incident, sports reporters covering the NFL are discovering they have to learn how to do accountability journalism.   If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.   

When journalism fails, bad things happen.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ESPN-MAC Secret Contract Update

Wow - it's a 13 year contract between ESPN and the MAC worth more than $100 million for the universities in the Mid-American Conference, and the University of Akron says it does not have a copy of the contract.

Here's what the University of Akron sent to Kent State student journalist Richie Mulhall.

How do you suppose it's possible for a public university not to have a copy of a contract that involves its participation for the next thirteen years?   What does the president of the University of Akron think of that?  The MAC says all universities agreed to a confidentiality clause.   How can a university agree to a confidentiality clause on a contract and not have a copy?


In Ohio. the public records law dictates that records must be kept in a manner they can be made "readily available."   That generally means they have to be available the same business day, particularly for current records.   This is a current contract.   Obviously, the Athletic Director (or the AD's business manager) would certainly know where a contract this important is.   It will be on a computer.   To click on the document, hit attach, add the email address and hit send takes less than 60 seconds.   

Here's the public records request student journalist Richie Mulhall submitted to the Kent State University Athletic Department on September 10th.   Richie still hasn't received a response.

As Richie's public records request correctly points out, the fact that a university signed a confidentiality clause is irrelevant.   A confidentiality clause can not trump state law; and in Ohio, contracts with public universities are public record.  Is this contract a good deal or a bad deal?   The only way for Ohio taxpayers to know is to review it.  The University of Akron says it doesn't have a copy.  Hopefully, Kent State does and will provide it to student journalist Richie Mulhall as required under Ohio law. 


Thursday, September 4, 2014


Sports reporters across the country reported on ESPN's new television and digital media contract with the Mid-American Conference (MAC).    As the Columbus Dispatch reports, it's a 13-year contract worth more than $100 million with each university getting 670-grand a year.

What are the details of that contract?   What do the universities have to do?  

It's a secret.   

That's right, the terms of  a 13-year contract worth millions with public universities is secret. 
The chief operating officer of the MAC, Bob Gennarelli says he cannot provide a copy of the contract because it is "proprietary" and says all universities have signed "confidentiality agreements."

But confidentiality agreements do not trump public records law.   Under Ohio law, all contracts with public agencies are public records and must be provided when requested. It's not legally permissible to circumvent the public records law by adding a confidentiality clause.   One of my best students is currently asking the Kent State University Athletic Department for every contract Kent State has involving ESPN.  

What are the details?   What does the university have to do under the terms of the 13-year deal between ESPN and the MAC?  Keep in mind, most university athletic departments lose millions of dollars every year.  Is the new ESPN deal a good deal or a bad one for member universities?   The only way to answer that is to review the details of the contract. Hopefully, my student reporter will have those soon.   If not, he'll have an excellent story on sports budget secrecy at public universities. 


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Concussion Reminder

With the start of another college football season, here are some worthwhile legal reminders and story ideas for sports reporters who are reporters and not pom pom wavers.

What does your university president see as the risk of litigation from football concussions?
What were the freshman recruits told when they were recruited about a.) the risk of concussion and b.) who pays the medical bills if there's an injury and c.) what happens to the athlete's scholarship if he/she is injured?   

Any college athlete can find lots of advice on a project my students produced a couple semesters ago on Athletic Medical Bills.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Newsroom of the Future

Tennessean Executive Editor Stefanie Murray says she's creating the "newsroom of the future."   In any newsroom, there are two things to remember:

1.  All the technology is worthless if the journalism isn't solid.
2.  If a newsroom isn't doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.

For any newsroom of the future to have any value, it needs to have journalists who are journalists, not human microphone stands.   That means they have to ask questions that need to be asked.   Here are some questions that would be of value to users, readers and viewers.  

Questions for the Governor

What is the bonded indebtedness of your state and how do you intend to pay for it?

In state after state, the highest paid public employee is either a football coach or a basketball coach?   Do you think that is wise public policy?   Why or why not? 

Should employees and citizens have the right to know what dangerous chemicals they may be exposed to due to fracking, or do you agree with laws like the one in Pennsylvania that allow corporations to keep such information secret from the public?

Do you believe in science, why or why not?

What are the economic implications for your state due to climate change? 

In other industries, the computer has allowed managers to do more with fewer people. The only institution where administrative ranks have expanded significantly is higher education.   In examining the administrator/professor ratio, your state universities have far more administrators now than they did fifty years ago.   Why do your universities need more administrators now than they did before the computer age?

Do elected public officials have a responsibility to agree to interviews with reporters wanting to do in depth interviews on subjects of importance to your state?  Why or why not? 

Questions for members of Congress

Why is healthcare significantly more expensive in the United States than any other industrialized nation?  What are the causes of such significantly higher costs?   

What impact will there be on developing sound legislation when there are members of the House Science Committee who don’t believe in science?

Do you believe in the scientific method, why or why not? 

With current technology, it would be incredibly easy to have instantly updated information on all political contributions being made to a politician so voters can see immediately who is giving money to the politician.   Would you favor or oppose a requirement for immediate financial disclosure for both political candidates and for political action committees?

Do you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision on Citizens United?   Why or why not? 

Regarding Terrorism

What are the top three terrorists groups that pose a significant threat to the United States?

What is the size of each?

What is their budget?

What kinds of weapons and how many of each do they have?

What specific credible threat do they pose?

Why should the facts about rendition and torture be kept secret from the American people?

Regarding Education

What are the implications for democracy when our schools teach K-12 students a sanitized version of American history, one that doesn't discuss the number of governments the United States has overthrown since WWII?  

What are the implications for democracy when our schools fail to teach K-12 students how the government has misled and lied to the public about military actions as detailed in 935 Lies by Chuck Lewis.     To elevate a young citizen's understanding of the country, should a highly documented and fact-based book like Chuck's be required reading? 

Should public universities be required to provide line-item detail on charges so parents and students are able to see where the money goes? (Examining the University Bill)

Regarding Public Safety

Should there be lengthy mandatory prison terms for corporate executives who fail to disclose and knowingly approve for sale a manufactured product that has a potentially lethal safety defect?   Why or why not? 

For Division I University Presidents

Why does your university give more full scholarships to football players than to academic students?

Why is the athletic department the only department where instructors are given free cars?

What is the litigation risk posed by athletic concussion lawsuits?

Why should a university support a sport that causes brain damage? 

Why should academic students pay to fund an athletic program that loses millions of dollars every year?  (Note:  a handful of programs turn a profit; most lose millions).

For the Owner of Your News Corporation

How much are you spending on employee training and why?

How many reporters will your news organization devote to doing in-depth reporting on substantive issues facing your community and your state?

For Commercial Television Newsrooms that Don't Cover the State Legislature

Why should the FCC give your station a license to broadcast? 

REMINDER for the Newsroom of the Future

All the technology is worthless if journalism isn't solid.   

For newsrooms not doing accountability journalism:  do your users, viewers and readers a favor.  Close it. 


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.