Saturday, January 24, 2015


I remember interviewing civil rights leader Julian Bond in 1975 or 1976 in Madison, Wisconsin.   I don't remember what he said.  Most likely we would have been discussing the war in Vietnam. But I don't remember.   I certainly remember what he said Thursday afternoon at Kent State University.   It was the most newsworthy point he made, and local reporters ignored it.

Julian Bond's presentation at Kent State was a reporter's dream.   He gave one great quote after another.

"Obama is to the Tea Party as the moon is to werewolves."

"Jim Crow may be dead but racism is alive and well."

"People who say race is history have it backward; history is race."

"Those were the days when politicians from both parties supported the struggle for civil rights, now they struggle to be civil."

But there was only one point he repeated.   He didn't say it a second time for emphasis.   Nor did he say it a third time for emphasis.   He said it over and over and over and over again.

"Republicans don't want black people to vote!"

Think about that.   And in the time it took for the audience to consider that statement he said it again.

"Republicans don't want black people to vote!"

He paused for just a moment and said again, "Republicans don't want black people to vote."

He said it again.  "Republicans don't want black people to vote."

He said it again and again and again.     

In the Akron Beacon Journal, the Record Courier and on Kent State University's student news website, there is no mention of the most newsworthy statement made by a man who has spent his life fighting for civil rights.   Republicans are now in power in Congress, and Julian Bond the former head of the NAACP does not hedge his words.   He speaks directly.  He speaks forcefully.   He states over and over again:  Republicans don't want black people to vote." 

Local reporters don't want to report it.   

They should.   

They need to hold their elected officials accountable. 

What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. say to reporters who refuse to do so?   What would Dr. King say to the owners of news organizations?   What would Dr. King say to university student journalists?   

Anyone at Mr. Bond's presentation heard him loud and clear:   Republicans don't want black people to vote.   Anyone who read the coverage of that event in the Beacon Journal or the Record Courier or Kent Wired didn't get that quote.   Readers didn't get a chance to read the one statement and the only statement Julian Bond made over and over and over again.

Republicans don't want black people to vote. 


Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Church of Self Censorship

The response to an attack on free speech should never be self censorship.  

Sarcasm and satire are not crimes.   

Opinion is not a crime.

Making fun of religion (easy to do - seer stones, burning bushes, living in a whale, virgins in heaven) is not a crime.

Killing innocent people, that's a crime.  A drone attack that blows up innocent people at a wedding party most likely generates more terrorists than it kills.   One can debate whether it's a crime.   One thing that's certain, the cartoon that addresses U.S. drone policy is not.

When innocent people are killed for what they say be it with word or drawing, the response from a news organization should never be self censorship.  

I remember a dinner years ago in Baku, Azerbaijan when one of the men mentioned his father had been in prison.   Another man at the table immediately asked, "what prison?"   After being told, he replied, "my father was in that prison too."   Both fathers had been in prison not for what they had done but for what they had said.

No society is free as long as governments can imprison people for what they say and as long as journalists are freely willing to attend the church of self censorship. That's not a church to satirize or make jokes about; it's a church that needs to close.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Terrorism - the Unanswered Question

Why?   To have any hope of addressing the threat of terrorism, it's the essential question to ask.  
Who were those who attacked on 911?    The key question after 911 was WHY.  It's  a question the bulk of the American press failed to ask and analyze.   

Considering those who attacked us, ask a simple question:  how aggressively did the American press question the U.S. Government about our relations with Saudi Arabia?  And why were all those "terrorists" from Saudi Arabia wanting and willing to die in an attack on the United States of America?  Here's the listing from CNN.

Hijackers by Airplane:
American Airlines Flight 11
Mohamed Atta - Egypt, tactical leader of 9/11 plot and pilot
Abdul Aziz al Omari - Saudi Arabia
Wail al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Waleed al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
Satam al Suqami - Saudi Arabia
United Airlines Flight 175 
Fayez Banihammad - United Arab Emirates
Ahmed al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Hamza al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Marwan al Shehhi - United Arab Emirates, pilot
Mohand al Shehri - Saudi Arabia
American Airlines Flight 77 
Hani Hanjour - Saudi Arabia, pilot
Nawaf al Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Salem al Hazmi - Saudi Arabia
Khalid al Mihdhar - Saudi Arabia
Majed Moqed - Saudi Arabia
United Airlines Flight 93 
Saeed al Ghamdi - Saudi Arabia
Ahmad al Haznawi - Saudi Arabia
Ziad Jarrah - Lebanon, pilot
Ahmed al Nami - Saudi Arabia

So WHY, did we attack Iraq?

Oh yes, Saudi Arabia is an ally.   How does it treat those who blog about religion in a way opposed by the government?   As the Guardian reports, Saudi Arabia sentences such people to prison and gives them 50 lashes for "insulting Islam."
How aggressively is the Washington press corps questioning the Administration and all our political leadership about our relationship with Saudi Arabia?   Why does the United States  continue to support (oil)  a country that doesn't tolerate free speech or rights for women? 
For the press to examine terrorism, it needs to ask questions that need to be asked, not play human microphone stand for the government (or corporate) line.

When journalism fails, bad things happen. 


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Three Questions for Local Television Reporters

The key to good reporting is asking good questions.   That's why reporters, not human microphone stands, are the ones who do stories that matter instead of blather that doesn't.  

Here are three questions local television reporters should be asking their members of Congress.

1.  Do you believe in science?  

2.  If yes, what specific legislative/regulatory steps should be taken to deal with climate change?  

As the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports:  "A large fraction of species faces increased extinction risk due to climate change during and beyond the 21st
century, especially as climate change interacts with other stressors (high confidence). Most plant species cannot naturally shift their geographical ranges sufficiently fast to keep up with current and high projected rates of climate change in most landscapes; most small mammals and freshwater molluscs will not be able to keep up at the rates projected under RCP4.5 and above in flat landscapes in this century (high confidence)." 

3.  What are the implications for life in the United States 100 years from now if Congress fails to take immediate steps to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases?

Why aren't local television reporters questioning their members of Congress about climate change?

It's one thing for the press to fail to ask questions of our politicians about little things such as going to war with Iraq.   That just led to the killing thousands and spending a trillion or so dollars on a needless war instead of on education, roads, bridges and scientific research. There was no imminent threat.   Saddam had no nuclear capability, and the experts were well aware of that.     But climate change is hardly so insignificant as a trillion dollar needless war where the CIA decides torture's ok because the Bush Justice Department says it is.   

In climate change, we have an issue affecting the future of the entire planet.   Isn't it time for reporters to ask their members of Congress what needs to be done?    And for those members of Congress who don't believe in science, shouldn't they be asked to explain why they choose to ignore the findings delivered by the greatest scientific minds in the world? 

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Questions for CNN

Why hasn't someone explained to CNN management that "Breaking News" is not a graphic?

Why would anyone interested in news watch a cable channel that thinks there's only one story a day?

Why not eliminate CNN domestic, the one-story-a-day channel?

Why not just run CNN International, a cable news channel that lets people interested in news find out what's happening around the world?

Why does CNN have a programming strategy to drive news viewers away?

Why doesn't someone at CNN domestic come up with the idea to report the news?   CNN International does it.    And CNN doing news would fill a void left by ABC Disneynews where viewers are able to find the hottest YouTube clips but not much about what's happening in the world. 

If CNN management thinks international viewers are interested in news why does CNN management think American viewers aren't?  

Why watch CNN domestic?  Oh that's right, hardly anyone is.   That's understandable. 
CNN - the news channel that's not a news channel. 

Thank goodness for BBC and Al Jazeera.  Don't you wish someone in America would start a news channel?