Saturday, August 15, 2015

Pandering Misleading Headlines

The University of Akron is a mess.  It has a $60 million budget hole.   To address that budget problem it has eliminated 213 positions including the entire staff of the Akron community's premier performing arts center, EJ Thomas Hall.  

The headline on the front page of the print version of the the Akron Beacon Journal reads:  PROENZA SPEAKS ON UA - former president defends financial record during 15-year tenure in aftermath of current budget cuts.  

That's not a headline that holds a public official accountable.   It's an excuse.  It is also rather misleading.   

A more accurate headline would be:  Proenza refuses to be interviewed; issues self-serving statement.   My, my, he defends what he did.   Surprise, surprise.   With no follow up questions, he's able to say whatever he wants unchallenged.  Another more accurate headline for the front page would be:  Beacon Journal copies and pastes Proenza's press release for the front page.

The Beacon Journal writes, "when asked to respond to questions about the university's current financial problems, UA past president Luis Proenza issued a statement..."

Interview by email is NOT an interview.

Whenever a public official refuses to be interviewed, that needs to be highlighted.  

It's understandable public officials refuse to be interviewed.   They don't want to be held accountable.   They know they can get away with it for a simple reason:  the press allows it. 

As lots of university employees get fired, it's understandable several faculty members are upset that one area that didn't get touched is football, a program that loses 8 million a year. How come?   You don't find any accountability questioning there.  As the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, Scarborough said the football program is a "marketing asset that brings in students." 

Where is the follow up question?   Who is dumb enough to believe that statement?

What evidence is there the football program with the lowest Division I attendance in the country attracts students?   The follow up question is essential.   Without the follow up question there is no accountability.

At Kent State where I teach, I give a lot of student tours.   I've never had a student say "gee, I was watching a Kent State (football/basketball) game and decided I want to go to Kent State School of Journalism where I get charged $24 per credit hour to help pay for college athletics "  

Whenever university officials refuse to be interviewed, that needs to be reported prominently.   When university officials refuse to answer questions, that needs to be reported and highlighted.   And when a university president makes a statement that is totally nonsensical, i.e, the football program is a "marketing asset that brings in students," the reporter needs to ask the follow up question.

Copying and pasting a press release is not reporting.  If you're not doing accountability journalism, it's not journalism. 


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Debate Reminders (that will probably be ignored)

Ask direct questions.   

Ask relevant questions.

That means the moderator must ask the candidate's specific position on climate change, the one issue that affects every citizen of the globe. 

When questioning the candidate's position to his opposition to the Iran deal, the moderator must ask for the candidate's specific recommendations.  The candidate saying we need "a better deal" does not suffice.   Political rhetoric does not suffice.  This will be difficult for Fox as it will have to ask for specific facts.   And this is a network that doesn't like or deal in facts.  Ideology doesn't require facts; journalism does. 

When the candidate doesn't answer the question, the moderator needs to point that out and ask the question again.

Since this is Fox News (the "who do we hate today network," and  "the cause of every problem in the world is caused by President Obama - soon to be the every problem in the world is caused by Hillary Clinton" network), the moderator should apologize to the American people for Roger Ailes, the man who has done more than anyone in history to degrade and debase thoughtful political discussion so necessary in a democracy.

When journalism fails, bad things happen.   Welcome to Fox News, the network that appears to have not followed its own requirements for determining the top 10 candidates. Had Fox followed its original guidelines for selecting candidates, it doesn't appear the Governor of Ohio would be.   

Fox - the "we really hate fact-based thoughtful reasoning" network.   


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Jonathan Karl: Worst Interviews of Presidential Candidates Ever

I may have witnessed a broadcast first:  a network reporter interviewing two presidential candidates and failing to ask a single question about a single substantive issue. 

On ABC's This Week, Jonathan Karl didn't ask Donald Trump about climate change or inequality or ISIS or racism or student debt or any major issue.   He asked Donald Trump about what Donald Trump has said about other candidates.   And he asked whether Trump would select Sarah Palin as a running mate.  That doesn't qualify as asking a serious question. 

Next up on the show was Rick Santorum.   Jonathan Karl didn't ask him about any substantive issue either.   He just asked him about the polls.  

If you want to find out what a presidential candidate thinks about specific issues facing the country, don't bother watching a Jonathan Karl interview.  You watch a Jonathan Karl interview if you want a lesson on how not to interview a presidential candidate.

When journalism fails, bad things happen (and embarrassing things happen on network television).