Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunday Shows = Accountability Lost

If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's NOT journalism.   When it comes to Iraq, you don't see much journalism, just lots of yacking skulls and nodding heads.  

There's one short article, and one video every thoughtful citizen should check.   The article is in today's Huffington Post; the video is from years ago.  Both focus on the same problem, the failure of journalists to do their job. 

The headline on Michael Calderon's piece says it all:  

If You Were An Iraq War Critic, You're Probably Not Being Asked To Go On TV

As the cheerleaders waved their pom poms for war years ago, one reporter who was going after facts and attempting to get at the truth instead of the spin was McClatchy's Jonathan Landay. He hasn't been on a single Sunday pom pom waving head up the government's butt program. 
  When journalism fails, bad things happen.
 This report from years ago from Bill Moyers demonstrates that.  Every citizen should watch Buying the War.   Every journalism professor should watch it.   Every member of the Washington Press Corps should watch it and then go out and buy a pair of steel toed boots to kick themselves in the ass. 

We had a war in Iraq for one primary reason.  Thousands of American soldiers died for one primary reason.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's died for one primary reason.   We have an unbelievable mess in Iraq for one primary reason:  American journalism failed.   Had journalists done their jobs, the American public would have known that Saddam's WMD capability was zero.  The weapons inspectors had determined that.  And as inspector Scott Ritter points out, the intelligence services in this country and the UK and Germany all knew that.  Had journalists done their jobs there would not have been a war in Iraq.   There was no threat of WMD, and there were sources available to provide that information.   And there were others doing some worthwhile reporting.   But when Walter Pincus did a great piece, the Post put it on page 18.   When the administration put out its spin, it was on page 1.    Think about that:  page 1 = spin, page 18 = some actual reporting. 

Unfortunately, most of the Washington Press Corps in the build up to the war had forgotten journalism 101.   They forgot journalism requires verification.   They forgot journalists demand proof. They forgot journalists require FACTS.    They forgot journalists are to be highly skeptical.   They played human microphone stand.   And on Memorial Day, they owe the country an apology.  

The current crop of Sunday Shows and Nightly Newscasts don't have to wait for Memorial Day; they should apologize now for not doing their jobs. 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.                                                                                 ###

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Does the NCAA Believe in Title IX??

Take a look at the most recent (2012) IRS 990 filed by the NCAA and it makes one wonder if the NCAA believes in Title IX.    Lots of highly paid executives, mostly men.

Name Base Compensation
Keith Martin 240,350
Mark Emmert 1,201,159
JAMES ISCH 697,697
DONALD  REMY 401,829
DAVID  BERST 291,607
Total: 6,144,992

Why do you suppose a nonprofit that makes its money from the talent of college athletes has so many highly paid executives?  Why does it seem to be so male dominated?  Those would be worthwhile questions for a sports reporter to ask.   They're not questions a sports cheerleader will ever ask.

When it comes to college athletes, we need far more sports reporters, far fewer sports cheerleaders.   Is it really wise public policy for the highest paid public employee in state after state to be either a football coach or a basketball coach?   Is the primary purpose of a Division I University to be a cost-free training ground for the NFL and the NBA and a revenue generator for NCAA executives?    Isn't it time for newsrooms in market after market to put down the pom poms and pick up the pens and do some reporting?


Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bergdahl and the Threat of the Taliban

What an embarrassing week for American journalism or lack thereof.

Just listen to the speculation about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.  Fox News really needs to change its slogan from "Fair & Balanced" to  "Make It Up."   Why don't they believe in fact checking? Perhaps they went to the Lara Logan school of journalism.   

Here's a piece for anyone who is actually interested in Bergdahl to review from a few years ago by Rolling Stone written by an actual journalist, Michael Hastings.  

America's Last Prisoner of War

A highly worthwhile paragraph from the article to note:  In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Pentagon also scrambled to shut down any public discussion of Bowe. Members of Bowe's brigade were required to sign nondisclosure agreements as part of their paperwork to leave Afghanistan. The agreement, according to Capt. Fancey, forbids them to discuss any "personnel recovery" efforts – an obvious reference to Bowe. According to administration sources, both the Pentagon and the White House also pressured major news outlets like The New York Times and the AP to steer clear of mentioning Bowe's name to avoid putting him at further risk. (The White House was afraid hard-line elements could execute him to scuttle peace talks, officials involved in the press negotiations say.) Faced with the wall of official silence, Bob and Jani began to worry that the Pentagon wasn't doing all that it could to get their son back. As Bowe's sister, Sky, wrote in a private e-mail: "I am afraid our government here in D.C. would like nothing better but to sweep PFC Bergdahl under the rug and wash their hands of him."

Read more: 
Follow us: @rollingstone on Twitter | RollingStone on Facebook

As America's networks and newspapers discuss the swap, there's one topic that should be examined:  the Taliban.

Why aren't America's reporters asking their members of Congress basic questions about the threat posed by the Taliban?

How many are there?

What's their budget?  

How many weapons do they have?

What kinds of weapons do they have? 

What's the actual threat posed to the United States?    

Keep in mind, the United States spends more on military than the next ten countries combined.   And keep in mind, the attack that brought down the World Trade Towers didn't come from anyone in Iraq or Afghanistan but from a bunch of guys from Saudi Arabia.    No, we didn't attack Saudi Arabia.   It's a  U.S. ally.  

As the Rolling Stone article reports, Sgt. Bergdahl had lots of complaints about his unit and the U.S. military.  How are those complaints being examined by the U.S. media?   How many of his complaints are legitimate?  Journalists should report on the reality of war, not play cheerleader for government. 

Soldiers in Bergdahl's unit were forced to sign a gag order that prohibited from talking.   How are U.S. journalists questioning gag orders required by the U.S. military?   Journalists should be concerned at getting at the truth, not at the spin or in the case of Fox News, not at the "made up oh my God President Obama is the devil" version of the news. 

Wouldn't it be great to have more journalists and fewer yellers and screamers?

When journalism fails, bad things happen.  So far, most of journalism has been failing Sgt. Bergdahl, his family and the American public.