Summer 2011 • Volume 41 Number 323 • $7.00
St. Louis Journalism Review Presents:
Covering Oklahoma Twisters by Scott Lambert • Page 24
Journalists Struggling to Find the Truth by Linda Greenhouse • Page 35
Tenacity, Trust Play Role In Saga of Busch Beer Baron by Terry Ganey • Page 49
“Ambient Journalism” Fueling Wisconsin Labor Uprising by Aaron S. Veenstra • Page 30
Lee Enterprises Struggles With Its Debt by Roy Malone • Page 7
News Media Also “Guilty” in Blago Trial by John McCarron • Page 26 gatewayjr.org
Summer 2011 • Vol. 40 No. 323 • $7.00
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20 • How the Internet has Changed the Definition of “Journalist” Nick Defreitas
Midwest Tornado Coverage 22 • Weather Forcasters Balance Warnings with “ The Bachelor ” Scott Lambert
24 • Covering Oklahoma Twisters Scott Lambert
25 • Social Media’s Role Scott Lambert
Features 7 • Lee Enterprises Struggles With Its Debt Roy Malone
9 • New and improved, tech-savvy Big Brother is watching you William H. Freivogel
11 • What J-school Closures At Top Universities Portend William A. Babcock
13 • 1-Minute Video On Cairo Leads to Flood of Words Jason Rosenbaum
26 • News Media Also “Guilty ” in Blago Trial Published by School of Journalism College of Mass Communication and Media Arts Dean: Gary Kolb School of Journalism Director: William H. Freivogel
28 • Blagojevich’s Conviction Fits Pattern of White-collar Retrials William H. Freivogel
29 • Wisconsin’s Political Pot Still Simmering Scott Lambert
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30• “Ambient Journalism” Fueling Wisconsin Labor Uprising Aaron S. Veenstra
32 • Perceived Bias at The Daily Oklahoman Scott Lambert
35 • Journalists Struggling to Find the Truth Linda Greenhouse
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46 • Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction Case Lisa Marcus
49 • Tenacity, Trust Play Role In Saga of Busch Beer Baron Terry Ganey
51 • Anderson Cooper Upholds Ethics in Journalism Charles L. Klotzer
53 • Stan Musial — Our Man — On and Off the Field Joe Pollack
55 • Four Stalwarts Retire From Post-Dispatch Avis Meyer
Summer 2011 • Gateway Journalism Review • Page 3
Publisher’s Note As the St. Louis Journalism Review celebrates the end of its 40th year of publication, its offspring, Gateway Journalism Review, celebrates the end of its first. For four decades SJR was the creation of Charles Klotzer, who kept the publication going on a hope, a prayer and the kind of determination that had helped him escape the Holocaust. Klotzer will be honored for his service by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication at its St. Louis convention this summer.
Letters to the Editor fallout from a remark by the Missouri House speaker about Cairo, Ill., during the Mississippi River flooding this spring. Based on advice from Klotzer and other St. Louis contributors, the current issue spreads St. Louis and Missouri copy around the magazine, while retaining St. Louis media notes in the back of the issue. My life as a journalist has been centered in St. Louis where I live and spent 34 years working for the Post-Dispatch. We’re not going to lose sight of the St. Louis media. In the current edition you’ll find a critical letter from Barbara Finch, a founder of the Women’s Voices civic group. I know her good work because I’ve had a chance to speak to the group. Barbara’s criticism hurts.
Klotzer’s award will be followed by an important SJR fundraiser in St. Louis featuring a tele-presentation by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post. Funds raised at the Sept. 15 event at the Edward Jones building in Kirkwood will help keep the journalism review alive as a print publication in its new home in the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
She has two main points. One is that we shouldn’t have used a pseudononymous column in the last issue. In making that decision, we had told ourselves that some of the great works in American history were anonymous, with the Federalist Papers an outstanding example. But GJR’s piece was hardly the Federalist Papers. We won’t rely on pseudononymous commentary.
There have been plenty of birthing pains in the transition from the St. Louis Journalism Review to the Gateway Journalism Review. We’ve made mistakes, but we are proud of our new quarterly magazine.
Barbara also questions the bigger role that academics play in the reborn publication. We pledge to her and our readers that we’ll strive to take advantage of the academics’ expertise without venturing into academic jargon. Aaron Veenstra’s study of the Twitter traffic in Wisconsin and Bill Babcock’s assessment of the state of news councils are examples of translating academic pursuits into plain English.
One of the birthing pains was the name change. But the new name reflects one of the most important changes we made by broadening the magazine’s scope to cover a 16-state Midwest region from Minnesota and Wisconsin in the north to Arkansas in the south, and from Ohio in the east to Oklahoma in the west. With the nation’s other two journalism reviews situated east of the Appalachians, we thought the Midwest deserved a publication focused on the heartland. That broader scope is reflected in this current issue, which contains pieces on the impact of Twitter on the Wisconsin political turmoil, the coverage of tornadoes in the Midwest and South and the press’ failing report card in covering former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. We have relied on the resources of our journalism school and the broader community of journalism educators to deepen our coverage of media ethics and the First Amendment. Young professors and graduate students have brought new ideas and vigor to the enterprise, including the creation of a new website that reports on journalism in real time. Journalism educators attending the St. Louis AEJMC conference are invited to send us their ideas as we seek new eyes and ears to watch journalism in the broader Midwest, and beyond. Some veteran St. Louis contributors feared that the name change reflected a decreased emphasis on St. Louis. It doesn’t. The name Gateway was chosen carefully to reflect the St. Louis roots but broader ambitions. Thumb through the current issue and you will find stories on the financial plight of Lee Enterprises, a remembrance of “Stan the Man” Musial, a look at the Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the death of a young woman at home of August Busch IV and the
Page 4 • Gateway Journalism Review • Summer 2011
Charles Klotzer continues to write a column. In this issue, he takes on objectivity as a false god. This is a subject that Charles and I will continue to debate. I believe in objectivity as a journalistic ideal, hard to achieve but worth the pursuit. By objectivity I don’t mean, “He said, she said.” As Linda Greenhouse, the former New York Times Supreme Court reporter points out in the current issue, most stories have multiple sides and journalists fail the reader when they rely on stale sources or try to achieve false balance. But the ideal of the journalist is to get as close to the truth as possible. This requires journalist to be “drastically independent” in examining conventional wisdom and questioning the dogmas of the left and the right. But the journalist must never forget great and terrible lessons history has taught about freedom, equality, exploitation, totalitarianism and man’s cruelty to man. Charles Klotzer saw the face of 20th century totalitarianism and inhumanity at a young age and has spent a lifetime in pursuit of truth as he sees it. In 21st century world of highly partisan commentary masquerading as news, the Gateway Journalism Review will be a steadfast voice for the fair, balanced, enlightened journalism that feeds and nurtures our democracy.
William H. Freivogel, Publisher
Worry About Future of Democracy and Journalism Review
Mink Wrong on Fox
What on earth has happened to the Journalism Review?
In Response to Volume 40 Number 319 page 31 Bogart Quotes Pulitzer
The spring issue features 17 pages devoted to journalism schools. There are six articles written by J-school faculty members, none of whom have anything particularly new, interesting or noteworthy to say. But the most troubling thing about this issue from my point of view is that it violates two of the rules that I learned in J-school (yes, it was decades ago, but I believe they are good rules).
In the first paragraph the author Erik Mink says “internet technology is killing the news profession”. He also states ‘the ethical vacuum around Fox News success is sucking the lifeblood out of honorable news presentation”.
First, the article titled “Why J-schools Aren’t Doing the Job they’re Supposed to Do” by ‘Wally Sparks.’ The writer asks: “How will a journalism school address the main issue facing journalists today — that of lost credibility?” Readers who make it all the way to the end of the article then learn that ‘Wally Sparks’ is a pseudonym for someone who “currently has a public relations connection to a University.” Talk about lost credibility! Why would a publication that asks to be trusted run an article by someone who is anonymous? Apparently ‘Wally Sparks’ and the editor failed to read the article on ethics that appears several pages earlier (an article that uses the word “operationalize,” which should make any journalist cringe). The second rule I learned which is broken — twice — in the spring issue is this: we don’t write about ourselves. And even when we do write from a firstperson perspective, we don’t write about our children. And we especially don’t use photos of our daughters to illustrate our stories . . . even if our daughters are attractive and smart and going to J-school. Where are the stories about the media? Where is the criticism, the evaluation, the analysis of issues and reporting that will help us understand what we read and hear and watch every day?
The internet may be killing the newspaper Erik, but not necessarily the news profession. It certainly has not seemed to hurt Fox much. I think most intelligent people do insist on honorable news presentation. And I think Erik Mink forgot to mention news on stations like MSNBC who have commentators like Chris Matthews who state they “get a funny feeling running up their leg” when our current President speaks sends news ratings and intelligent news listeners running for the door. And perhaps running to Fox News. By the way I actually enjoy listening to Chris Matthews even though his lack of a balanced news presentation and obvious bias disappoints me. I think unbiased, objective, informative, journalism will continue to thrive whether it is from a newspaper, TV, or the internet. Perhaps if more news commentators followed Joseph Pulitzer’s advice to “always fight demagogues of all parties,” journalism might not be wallowing in one existential crisis after another.
Mike Ochwat 1981 SIU College of Mass Communications Vice President of Sales and Marketing Pure Planet Water Technologies Orlando, FL
I used to love the St. Louis Journalism Review because I learned something when I read it. I’ve always believed that quality journalism is crucial to democracy. If this is the best that the Gateway Journalism Review can do, I’m really fearful about the future of both. Barbara L. Finch 505 North and South Rd. University City, MO 63130
Summer 2011 • Gateway Journalism Review • Page 5
Editor’s Note This is not a growth time for media accountability tools. In fact, not one of the six major media accountability tools is as healthy as it was at the end of the 20th Century. Media ombudsmen, the internal watchdogs at media organizations around the world, have seen their numbers decline, according to the Organization of News Ombudsmen. While some mainstream operations such as National Public Radio and the New York Times both have a position dedicated to transparency and accountability, most American news organizations see such positions as expendable in these times of fiscal entrenchment. The number of journalism operations employing full- or even part-time media critics is dwindling.And public/ civic journalism initiatives, the bubbling up of news and information that in the 90s seemed destined to signal a new era of journalism, appears to have had little real staying power. Journalism reviews have fared no better with Columbia Journalism Review and American Journalism Review both recording substantial subscription losses to their magazines. St. Louis Journalism Review, the predecessor to Gateway Journalism Review, saw its circulation plummet some 75 percent as many modern-day subscribers drifted away from its more historical, personal and city-focused approach that had been effective for so many years. Thus, the magazine you now are holding — today published by the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Mass Media and Media Arts — focuses its attention both at a greatly expanded and updated Web site (gatewayjr.org) and in its print quarterly publication on timely, regional issues designed to appeal to an expanded readership including media professionals, academics and the general public. A tall order? Of course. Do-able? Let’s hope so. And if journalism reviews are having a difficult time, pity the poor news councils. The Minnesota News Council shuttered its doors earlier this year after decades of being the nation’s premier council. The news council in Honolulu has been moribund for a number of years, the New England News Council attempted a startup in the last decade but quickly became an amorphous online entity, the Southern California News Council died a birthing and, depending on who you ask, the Washington (State) News Council is either surviving or is an institution more intent on bashing news journalists than it is being a true council.
— then attacking the press on a regular, relentless basis. The NNC was formed to “serve the public interest in preserving freedom of communication and advancing accurate and fair reporting of news.”
Lee Enterprises Struggles With Its Debt
While CBS’ Richard Salant was an NNC supporter, most major news organizations, including Abe Rosenthal’s New York Times, claimed such a council would shackle a free press. With scant support from major media organizations, the NNC died.
A leading newspaper industry analyst thinks Lee Enterprises will be able to avoid bankruptcy because of the economic health of the smaller papers making up most of the chain.
I’d like to propose that the time is ripe for a rebirth of the National News Council. I can’t say I’m alone in this proposition. Mike Wallace made the same plea in 1995 [http://www.news-council.org/archives/95wal.html] as did former Christian Science Monitor editor John Hughes (Editor & Publisher, 8 May 1993, 12-13, 41; John Hughes, “Could a Press Council Improve Journalism?” Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 17, 1994,), one year earlier. As much as I respect Wallace and Hughes, I think their call some 16 years ago for NNC’s rebirth was premature as media were still too hostile to the idea and the nation’s news focus still tended to be more city- and regional-focused. Now things have changed, and the change-agent is the Internet, which has broadened and expanded everyone’s view of the media. For example, the current pox on Rupert Murdoch’s multi-continent media house would not have resonated nearly so much 16 years ago as it has now with the help of new media, and I can only imagine how much a strong, vital new national news council might help shed light on the “investigative” reporting methods that led to the shuttering of the News of the World. To quote New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, “. . . the world is now hyperconnected, and there is no such thing as ‘local’ anymore.
R oy M a lo n e
John E. Morton, of Morton Research Inc., does consulting, market research and public opinion polling. He echoes the sentiments of Lee Enterprises chairman and CEO Mary Junck, who predicted the newspaper chain’s finances would improve enough in months to come so it can try again to refinance its debt of more than $1 billion. The deadline for that is next April and some industry watchers are wondering if Lee might default and be threatened with bankruptcy.
Bloomberg News reported July 15 that Lee was offering lenders higher rates and equity interests to refinance the debt. Creditors Monarch Alternative Capital and Goldman Sachs Group were leading the talks with Lee and its adviser, Blackstone Group. Junck also hopes the price of Lee shares will rebound enough for her to recover losses on the 100,000 Lee shares she bought a few months ago in a move to show she’s bullish on the company.
“I suspect the company will be able to refinance its debt when it comes due, although probably not on as favorable terms as it would have had the bond deal gone through,” Morton said.
Lee Enterprises has approximately four dozen other newspapers in 23 states, but is heavily situated in the Midwest. Lee has a number of mid-sized newspapers dotting Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa and Kentucky, including Wisconsin State Journal, Northwest Times in Indiana and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the largest newspaper in Lee’s chain.
Morton added that “Lee has been able to maintain relatively high levels of cash flow,” which should help for refinancing. In May, Lee withdrew a plan to sell more than $1 billion in debt through bonds and loans. Lee had poor results in its March quarter and investors weren’t jumping at the bond offering unless the yields were much higher than Lee wanted to pay.
“Although Lee suffers as much as other newspaper companies from the negative reputation of the newspaper industry generally, it actually is better positioned than most because of its concentration (with the exception of St. Louis) in small and medium-sized markets,” Morton said. “Newspapers in smaller markets generally have fared better than those in large markets, and this shows up in Lee’s
Total circulation in the Midwest area: 865,320 Total papers in the Midwest area: 28
Might this time of deteriorating media credibility attract foundation underwriting and get buy-in from the media? Might today’s hyper-connected world provide the right platform from which to launch a second coming of the NNC. And might there be a modern-day Wallace/Hughes composite who could help fashion such a much-needed, modern-day media accountability tool? Once again, let’s hope so.
William A. Babcock, Editor
From 1973 to 1983 there was a National News Council, an entity formed during the Richard M. Nixon administration
Page 6 • Gateway Journalism Review • Summer 2011
Summer 2011 • Gateway Journalism Review • Page 7
To deal with the upcoming maturity date, Lee said on April 11 it would sell debt of $1.06 billion through bonds and loans payable in six to seven years. Even when Lee tried to sweeten the offer, the junk bond market wasn’t interested unless investors could get higher interest rates than Lee was willing to pay. So Lee withdrew the plan after three weeks. Junck, in a letter to stockholders, said market conditions were not favorable because of “recent bumps in the economy and a slowdown in revenue recovery for the industry and Lee.”
It’s always a run to cut journalistic quality, but sometimes companies feel they have no choice if survival is at stake. Look at what McClatchy did, for an example of a company with a reputation for solid journalism . . . burdened by high acquisition debt, or what Tribune did before it slipped into bankruptcy, or what even a private, unthreatened company like Cox Enterprises did in Atlanta and some of its other papers, not to mention unloading a raft of them. It has not been a happy time for newspapers.
– John E. Morton, of
The Wall Street Journal reported that “junk bond” traders were not interested in the Lee debt and some of the Lee loans had fallen into the hands of so-called “vulture” investors who hope to take ownership in the company, possibly selling off assets, if Lee was is unable to pay off its debt. “‘Vultures’ really defines a type of investment behavior rather than a particular type of investing company,” Morton said. “They usually are hedge funds, but not always, but in any case they circle troubled companies whose debt has been devalued and try to buy up as much of it as possible in the expectation they will wind up owning assets with a lot more value than what they paid for them. That’s why some of them were outraged when Lee tried its bond strategy, because if it had worked they would have profited much less than they had planned (although they would have profited).” Lee had a dismal second quarter, ending in March, with a $1.47 million loss. It had a $3 million profit in the March quarter of 2010. The company said profits were hurt by the fact that Easter came 20 days later this calendar year,
Page 8 • Gateway Journalism Review • Summer 2011
It’s been a rough road for Lee because of advertising and circulation losses it suffered since it bought Pulitzer Inc., including the St. Louis PostDispatch, in 2005 for $1.46 billion. Lee refinanced its debt in 2009 to get some breathing room, and it continues to pay down the debt with its cash flow.
reducing profits it normally sees in advertising in the weeks before Easter. Still, a June 12 Wall Street Journal piece that promoted bullish behavior in newspapers, warned investors off Lee Enterprises and McClatchy. A July 1 Zacks Investment Research piece (http://www.zacks.com/research/get_ news.php?id=182l2821) called Lee stock one of today’s worst performing penny stocks and mistake in the long did not advise investors to buy. While some financial commentators predicted a possible dire outlook for Lee, following the scrapping of the bond plan, Junck remained upbeat, even buying the 100,000 shares. (They dropped in price from $1.06 she paid to 82 cents by June 23. The 52-week high was 3.47). “Refinancing our debt remains among our highest priorities,” Junck wrote in a letter to stockholders. “We continue to pursue alternatives and fully expect to refinance our long-term debt before it matures in April 2012. … We are not, as some in the national media have imagined, staving off bankruptcy.’’
Junck predicted that “revenue trends will improve again as Morton Research Inc. economic conditions in our markets also improve.” The company says that with a few good quarters it can seek better terms to refinance its debt. She said Lee will take steps to improve revenue and “we are also tightening our belts.” Since acquiring the Post-Dispatch, Lee has eliminated a third of its staff, cut wages, reduced the size of the paper, scrapped its pension plan and ended health benefits for retirees. It recently shed another 28 employees, mostly through layoffs. “It’s always a mistake in the long run to cut journalistic quality, but sometimes companies feel they have no choice if survival is at stake,” Morton said. “Look at what McClatchy did, for an example of a company with a reputation for solid journalism . . . burdened by high acquisition debt, or what Tribune did before it slipped into bankruptcy, or what even a private, unthreatened company like Cox Enterprises did in Atlanta and some of its other papers, not to mention unloading a raft of them. It has not been a happy time for newspapers.” Roy Malone is a retired Post-Dispatch reporter, editor of the former St. Louis Journalism Review and now St. Louis editor of the Gateway Journalism Review.
New and improved, tech-savvy Big Brother is watching you W i l l i am H. F r e i vo g e l STANFORD — If it weren’t already 2011, one might think it was 1984. Listening to the venture capitalists and Web techies who gathered in May at Stanford University to peek around the next curve of the information highway, one would think George Orwell’s imagined world was upon us. In a conference on “Legal Frontiers in the Digital Media,” participants described the “gamification of the world” where people build community by building barns together in FarmVille. They explained technology that watches the computer users’ eyes and fingers to make searches more effective and eventually to influence the users to click desired product. They spoke of the advantages of customized searches that provide people the information they want, if not the information they need.
Worse than Madison Avenue, to the eyes of the venture capitalists, were the government regulators who inhibit innovation. It’s information startups, not the government, that will solve the problems of the future, they predicted.
revenue numbers — the declines in percentage terms are about half the declines most companies report. St. Louis, of course, is the clunker in this, which is the genesis of the layoffs, etc. Actually, St. Louis fared better than most large city papers if it eliminated only a third of its staff. Most (papers) cut by half or more.”
They waxed philosophical, observing that people with smart phones can’t sit by themselves and just think like people once did. Instead, people have to be fiddling with their phone 24/7, using it to mediate the world around them.
Draper was a member of a panel of brash venture capitalists who showed no mercy for the lawyers and media executives gathered in the heart of Silicon Valley to discuss the legal frontiers of the “wireless ecosystem.”
They foresaw an ever-growing “creator” economy where Facebook will be bigger than Google and where even bigger tech giants will emerge built around an idea that monetizes a single click of the mouse, much as Google monetized the short phrase of a search request.
The one conventional pundit on the panel was Chris O’Brien, a business and technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News. O’Brien was not as sanguine about the infallibility of the men from Sand Hill Road. He has lived technological change as his paper’s staff of 420 has dwindled to around 100. He thought that the tech bubble on the stock market was proof that the markets had their own inefficiencies.
They ragged on traditional media monopolists and Madison Avenue, saying the latter was always a decade behind Sand Hill Road, the home of Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists. Worse than Madison Avenue, to the eyes of the venture capitalists, were the government regulators who inhibit innovation. It’s information startups, not the government, that will solve the problems of the future, they predicted. “Skype and Facebook have done more good connecting everybody than all of the do-gooders in government,” said Tim Draper, founder of the venture capital firm Draper, Fisher, Jurvetson. They are responsible for “some of the best things that have happened to our global society in the history of the world and it didn’t come from some government edict.” Other venture capitalists followed up that heady assessment by saying that it was new tech startups that were addressing society’s most pressing problems such as war, education and health care. Warfare is nowhere near as violent as it was in World War I, one said. “Ask your dead grandfather.”
But the venture capitalists didn’t have much sympathy for O’Brien’s predicament or that of other traditional media executive in the room. Eve Burton, vice president and general counsel for the Hearst Corp., asked plaintively for tips about how traditional media companies such as hers could communicate with tech firms about the importance of the content they had to offer the Web. Draper offered no solace. “Major platform changes make it better for the consumer,” he said, but not the traditional media where “the monopolist had end-to-end control” of content. The venture capitalists delighted in making the lawyers, regulators and media executives shift uncomfortably in their seats.
Summer 2011 • Gateway Journalism Review • Page 9
Features David J. Blumberg, partner in Blumberg Capital, said that the Sarbanes-Oxley law passed to address scandals like Enron had made it harder for startup companies to go public, which had dampened innovation and sometimes stymied the government’s goals. Without Sarbanes-Oxley, Facebook might have gone public when it was worth $1 billion, he said. Now it is worth $75 billion, with the difference going to the venture capitalists in an “enormous transfer of wealth” to the wealthy. Blumberg told of a conversation he’d had at Davos, Switzerland with an Arab sheikh and another foreign official. They wanted him to explain the social media in light of the uprisings in the Middle East. Blumberg asked them if they had children. They did. Then Blumberg asked them if their children listened to them. The answer was that they listened to them when they were young, but when they became teens, they listened to their peers. That’s what the social media is, their peers, Blumberg told them. The officials persisted. “How can we control social media,” they asked. Blumberg shook his head at their lack of understanding of the impossibility of harnessing the Internet. Paul Saffo, a Stanford law professor, said that the producer economy of the first half of the 20th century and the consumer economy of the second half have now been replaced by the “creator economy.” This is an economy where the same person is the producer and the consumer. For example, when people enter terms into a Google search for free they see themselves as the consumers of information. But the search string provides Google with information with which it can produce value — a lot of value. Each decade has a key invention that enables the information revolution to proceed at a faster and faster pace, he said. Cheap processors made possible the PC revolution of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Cheap lasers made possible the bandwidth needed by the current Web. Now cheap sensors are becoming the “eyes, ears and sensory organs asked to manipulate the world.” He predicted the next big technological change would be robots. Saffo polled the audience and found that few played the popular video games World of Warcraft, Guitar Hero or Call of Duty. He told them they should because the games developed skills important for managers. He also promoted FarmVille, saying it was all about community, with people getting together to build virtual barns. Some comments were positively existential.
Page 10 • Gateway Journalism Review • Summer 2011
People are “uncomfortable to be alone with themselves when they have a (smart) phone,” said Chris DeVore, founder of the venture capital firm, Co-op. Instead of just thinking, people are on their phone “People are always on from before get up until they go to bed,” he added. “People are reluctant to look at the world without their device. What does my device think about the world? It’s creepy . . . but happening.” Jon Ziegler, a senior attorney at Microsoft, said that the Web search engines determine what information is important. “If it doesn’t exist in Google or Bing, it might as well not exist.” The technological advances of the government document leaks also have upset expectations of how the government addresses situations, such as WikiLeaks. In the past, there were two filters before documents were leaked, said First Amendment lawyer Jennifer Granick. “The person who would leak would ‘think really hard’ before leaking and the leak would be to a professional reporter ‘who would think really hard’ before publishing.” With WikiLeaks, the alleged leaker, U.S. Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, could walk off with the equivalent of 18 trucks full of documents stored on CDs marked as if it had Lady Gaga songs. And WikiLeaks could post documents without the review of a professional news organization. Those two changes could end up making the government more vigilant in policing secret information, the panelists said. That may be one reason that the Obama administration has filed more Espionage Act cases against leakers — five — than had been filed in the previous three decades. David Vigilante, senior vice president at CNN, put it this way. “Information can move in ways it never could before. ...It’s as if you woke up tomorrow and there were no more roads and you could drive anywhere.” This story first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. William H. Frievogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a board member of the St. Louis Beacon. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.
G TEWAY JOURNALISM REVIEW
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What J-school Closures At Top Universities Portend W i l l i am A. B ab co c k University of Michigan Ohio State University University of California, Los Angeles Stanford University Rutgers University University of Arizona University of Wisconsin University of Washington University of Colorado (in progress) This is an impressive group of American universities. Its members span the continent and these schools frequently set the scholarship bar for generations in a variety of disciplines and subjects. It’s also a group of universities that once included schools of journalism and mass communication (and in some cases journalism departments). At these institutions of higher learning, however, SJMCs have been dropped altogether, drastically downsized or morphed into communication
programs. Or, in the case of the University of Colorado, the verdict still is out on exactly what will become of its 700student SJMC program. Since many, if not most, mass media organizations are extensively staffed with former SJMC students, changes in mass media programs at top universities affect the number and quality of hires not only at the professional media organizations, but also at the industry’s most respected institutions. While there are a variety of reasons for universities dropping or changing their SJMC programs, certain similarities may be seen in J-school closures at these and other institutions. Many of the most prestigious U.S. universities are increasingly mirroring the British “Oxbridge” model, which has for many years viewed journalism education as unsuitable for study, thus relegating such studies to trade or more smaller, more regionalized institutions. America’s Ivy League universities have never included SJMC as an area of study, preferring to focus instead on the more established liberal arts, sciences and humanities disciplines.
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Features usually are filled, peopled by students knowing they need such skills for whatever 21st Century employment they subsequently will pursue.
This elitist bias also is seen in California, where the prestigious University of California system has all but abandoned undergraduate SJMC programs, foisting such professional programs off onto the more local California State University system. (WHY this thisbias biasininaamedia mediacrazed crazed society?) society?)
However, students filling seats in such skills classes often are those most in need of remedial writing, editing and grammar training. Thus such students seldom make up the sort of clientele likely to become word-smiths in any profession, let alone in journalism and the mass media.
While many top American universities embrace professional education, journalism education seldom has been granted full-fledged “professional” status. And as major universities attempt to shore up their image, SJMC programs, lacking the same professional caché of law, medicine and engineering, can be seen as expendable.
And the students increasingly attracted by SJMCs often are not the crème de la crème of their respective universities. Even if these issues were not on the table, journalism education mirrors the journalism industry. As advertising revenue and audiences decrease and technological transitions loom at every news and information media juncture, parents may be disinclined to think a journalism education is as valuable for today’s children as it was at the end of the post-Watergate Woodward and Bernstein era when many J-schools experienced big enrollment bubbles.
When a major California research institution dropped its J-school late last century, a senior administrator at that university reportedly said dropping the journalism program was an act of “euthanasia.” Part of the issue has been the long-term, intractable battles between the “chi-squares” and the “green eye-shades.” Faculty members in the former category usually have focused primarily — if not solely — on social science research.
When SJMC programs today are linked to journalism hires, the programs appear to be over-subscribed — too many students, not enough jobs.
Is infighting killing t
Accordingly, advertising programs are a natural fit for SJMC programs, given the audience-research component of integrated market communication. The “green eye-shade” faculty, usually fresh out of the media industry and often without graduate degrees, have geared their attention almost exclusively to teaching writing, news/ information gathering, editing and production courses. While both camps sometimes agree that areas such as First Amendment law, media ethics and journalism history constitute viable curricular and research areas, socialscience researchers and media professionals still view each other as enemies at many SJMC programs. Though most media programs have elements both of research and professionalism and a number of faculty members have both professional experience and advanced academic degrees, individual programs often tend to focus heavily either in the theory- or practice-based camp. Not only have a number of high-brow universities essentially rid themselves over the years of SJMC programs, but a
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op J-school Programs?
handful of mostly East Coast media organizations have in recent decades preferred to bring liberal arts-educated Ivy League graduates into what were essentially media apprenticeships, rather than hire students with J-school degrees from other colleges and universities. As a result, university presidents at non-Ivy League institutions often do not think highly of J-schools. While a number of major J-school programs have been eliminated or neutered during the past 30 to 40 years, the overall number of accredited SJMC programs has grown since the early 1980s from 85 to 112. That said, upwards of two-thirds of students in most J-school programs report they are there for the skills-training they receive, not with the expectation or desire of working in the mass media industry. With few English programs any more teaching much professional writing, J-school writing classes — along with information-gathering, editing, and production courses —
Still, with a number of students and their parents, journalism jobs are a key factor today, and where do students go with a degree when newspapers and other media are either downsizing or closing? The online sites can’t absorb the grads, and don’t pay much anyway. And being an
“on-your-own” blogger gets old very fast when there are rent bills to pay and food to buy. Also, universities continue to look for ways to make cuts and there often is little support for SJMC programs from other academic units. While most major universities can’t truly exist without history or philosophy departments, they can still be respectable without a communications or journalism program. Given the financial state of the mass media, there’s likely to be little professional pressure any time soon for SJMC’s to regain their prominence in U.S. education circles. Rather, such programs no doubt will increasingly be part of communication and information studies curricula, where the focus is on more non-journalistic media and technology issues. And more of the pool of college graduates from which most mass media have traditionally drawn will come from less selective SJMC programs at less prominent universities. The end result portends a mass media with a less qualified pool of new hires and interns from which to choose. And this does not bode well for the credibility of journalism. One hopes this dark scenario of what fewer top SJMC programs mean to American journalism — and indeed to the democracy fueled by a well-educated group of reporters and editors — is unrealistic. Unfortunately, however, if there is a grain of truth to this prognosis, it’s likely too late to reverse the trend. William A. Babcock is editor of the Gateway Journalism Review.
1-Minute Video On Cairo Leads to Flood of Words J as o n R o s e n baum JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An obsolete digital camera can be on the cutting edge of journalism. Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley knows what I’m saying. Tilley made headlines in the Show Me State and across the nation after uttering highly controversial remarks earlier this year about flooding in southeast Missouri. When Tilley was asked whether he would rather see Missouri farmland or Cario, flooded, the Perryville Republican immediately answered Cairo.
lawmakers, to apologize profusely. But this episode went beyond the traditional template of “politician being forced to backtrack from comments.” Tilley’s words served as a springboard of sorts for a wide range of discussions.
After some reporters in the room laughed, Tilley asked a reporter if he had ever been there. When that reporter answered in the affirmative, Tilley said “then you know what I’m saying then.”
Columbia Daily Tribune reporter Rudi Keller — the person who asked the question in the first place — parlayed the comments into an extensive blog post about his experience reporting on Cairo’s municipal mishaps and decay. After CNN mentioned the comments in a report about the flooding, the reporter used the remarks to shine a light on deep-seated racial issues that have existed in Cairo for quite some time. And some blogs – such as the Democraticleaning Fired Up! Missouri — took assembled reporters to task for laughing at Tilley’s remarks.
Those comments sparked a firestorm. So much so that it prompted Tilley, one of Missouri’s most powerful
None of these discussions would have occurred if I hadn’t posted a one-minute video clip of the comments to
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Video is a relatively new discovery for print journalists. In my case, I started using a point-and-shoot digital camera back in 2007 to archive the Missouri political universe. I was inspired greatly by Antonio French, a then-Democratic activist who launched a website known as PubDef.net that relied heavily on video to capture the ins and outs of St. Louis City politics. Even though French — who is now a St. Louis City alderman — wasn’t a traditional journalist, he was able to use the tool to shine a raw light onto the city’s major problems and political heavyweights. In the most basic examination, video provides layers of information nearly impossible to encapsulate with the written word. In Tilley’s example, viewers were able to hear the inflection in his voice and see the expression on his face. A follow-up apology video I shot (which I created after Tilley personally summoned me to his office that was being guarded by a police officer dispatched in response to threats) allowed viewers to judge for themselves about Tilley’s sincerity. Video also provides levels of transparency. While a clip can obviously be edited for nefarious purposes, accurate representations of a moment can buttress reporting. It can provide additional lucidity on the journalists reporting the story. Would the reporters’ reaction to Tilley’s comments have been included in a traditional print story? Hard to
The clip has been viewed over 34,000 times, which not only shows how a video can stretch out across journalistic outlets. Rather, it is evidence that new media conduits like Web videos can add new dimensions to quotes formerly absorbed on flat pieces of paper. Instead of being a tangential ornament to traditional print journalism, Web videos can be the story and spark discussion about uncomfortable topics.
YouTube. The clip has been viewed over 34,000 times, which not only shows how a video can stretch out across journalistic outlets. Rather, it is evidence that new media conduits like Web videos can add new dimensions to quotes formerly absorbed on flat pieces of paper. Instead of being a tangential ornament to traditional print journalism, Web videos can be the story and spark discussion about uncomfortable topics.
say. But the video I shot included reporter reaction to the remarks, which opened a whole other channel for debate and discussion. Not all digital videos spark a barrage of conversation, of course. After all, the only video that surpasses Tilley’s comments in terms of hits is a shaky video I shot of thenSen. Joe Biden telling a Columbia state senator to stand up and be recognized. The lawmaker — Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia — is a paraplegic. Many videos I find more substantive — such as a detailed breakdown of a policy proposal or memorable press conference — don’t always get the public’s attention as a gaffe. It’s also apparent that not all stories warrant inclusion of video. Video may be out of place, for instance, in an investigative story that requires document searches and numerous interviews. But in a journalistic environment where a one-minute video of an ill-advised remark can spawn thousands of words, a video camera can be as essential for a spot news reporter as a pad of paper. Jason Rosenbaum is a freelance journalist whose political reports appear in the St. Louis Beacon
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Liberty Tree Seminar: Media Accountability in the Digital Age? W i l l i am H. F r eivogel The School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale hosted a seminar on April 12 to focus on journalism ethics and First Amendment issues, funded by a grant from Liberty Tree. In two panels, journalists, lawyers and professors talked to students and each other about whether the traditional tools of media accountability are up to the new challenges of the digital media age. The first session’s panel was comprised of Alicia Shepard, NPR’s ombudsman, Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab, Margaret Wolf Freivogel, editor of the St. Louis Beacon, and Gary Gilson, former head of the Minnesota News Council. Bill Babcock, SIUC ethics professor and editor of the Gateway Journalism Review, moderated. The second session’s panel, reacting to the first session, was
comprised of Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Carolyn Kingcade, a journalism professor and former Reader’s Advocate at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Aaron S. Veenstra, professor of new media, Laura Hlavach, professor of communications law, and William H. Freivogel, director of the SIUC School of Journalism. Below are the winning entries from a student essay contest on media accountability. The contest was part of the Liberty Tree Intitiative.
New Media Demand New Regulations S cot t L ambert The face of journalism is changing. The blogosphere presents a world where opinion may matter more than fact, partisan news stations and partisan writers present news from slanted points of view. Online start-ups and online news organizations take money from corporations and don’t always let the public know where their money — and their loyalties — lie. Many who study this new landscape use the old west metaphor to describe the media landscape. The old laws don’t apply and no new sheriff exists to keep law and order. So what to do? First, remember this is not the first time the media landscape changed. The invention of the telegraph and the steam press changed the face of journalism in the 1840s. The newspaper became available to many and also became profitable. The existing landscape of the era — a partisan press supported by political parties — found itself in need of change. The early days of the Civil War proved the point that accuracy matters. Correspondents covering battles raced to be the first to gain control of telegraph stations and reported stories of battles that often weren’t true — especially the early battle reports. The stories changed often and each time they changed a new edition was printed for the readers. It was profitable but not accurate.
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Newspaper publishers eventually found an objective press that provided accurate information was the best way to sell advertising to the greatest number of readers. The press became a great provider of one-way information. Media decided what news was most important, how to present that news and how to display it to an audience. The audience trusted the media to provide the most important information in an entertaining and informative manner. If the audience felt wronged, avenues of recourse existed for the audience to complain. Ombudsmen and news councils existed to give the audience a voice in the process of delivering news. Journalism reviews and media critics existed to examine the job media do. Times have changed. Today’s media landscape in some sense resembles a return to the Civil War era. Newspapers can no longer count on advertising dollars to bring in revenue. More venues exist to give the audience what it wants. The financial model that relied on balanced coverage to draw the largest and most diverse audience gave publishers the incentive to call for objective and accurate reporting no longer exists. Without that, a partisan press returns. Audiences can find what they want to read from the point of view they want expressed. Audiences never have to read the opposing point of view. Accuracy and objectivity
decline, leading to a decline in the press’ credibility. How do we maintain this credibility? The old tools no longer work. The old tools of media accountability, including news councils, ombudsmen and media reviews and critics may not have the tools necessary to police today’s media world. These systems were developed to give audiences a voice when news was a oneway street. News is more diverse. Audiences seek the news they want from the delivery system that best fits their needs. Audiences have a direct source to the reporters covering stories. Why have ombudsmen or news councils when the audience can reply directly to what the reporter writes? Their status as a voice for the audience is redundant. Social media have given the audience a voice mainstream media never envisioned. How can journalism reviews and media critics keep an eye on all media when news is coming from so many diverse sources? Besides, the people who read journalism reviews and examine media critics are usually journalists and academics, those who have an interest in the media world. How does this help the general-audience consumer? Where is the old west version of a jailhouse for media who don’t follow the rules? Something must be done to make media accountable and the old methods don’t have the teeth or the currency to do that. Granted, ethical accountability tools are not designed to have teeth. Too many shades of gray exist in ethics to insert the black and white codes of enforcement. But accountability tools with no means of holding those who stray accountable have no meaning. Media credibility is in the tank. Does that mean credible media are in the tank too? Most likely not since studies show that more people are consuming media than ever before. Something must be done to differentiate credible media from non-credible media, to change the audience view from complaining of a lack of media credibility to finding credible media.
have the ability to read whatever they want, but they will know what type of news they are getting and will know if the news is reliable. This system allows audience members a chance to find credible media instead of complain about media credibility. This is the new sheriff. This presents the reader an accurate portrayal of how credible the news he or she is reading actually is. At the same time, it doesn’t try to change the political stance. This allows for wild and untrue journalism but also gives the audience information on what is credible and what isn’t. This is a large task. It will consist of rating media organizations as well as certain bloggers, pundits and news reporters. It will demand specialists in discerning an organization’s content in terms of both accuracy and bias. It will have to be non-political. The ratings credibility system will work on two levels. The first level is to ascertain the accuracy of the news media organization or individual being rated. This will be done by examining a number of stories and fact checking those stories on a scale that goes from -5 to 5. A score of -1, 0, 1 means the stories, on the whole, are accurate. This is an important step in the process. If a news organization or a news reporter fails to pass the accuracy test, the credibility test is no longer necessary. Credibility cannot exist without accuracy. The second system will be more difficult.
The new form of media accountability may end up looking like a ratings system. An entity, or group of entities, possibly from news councils or journalism reviews or possibly from search engines, will have to examine all forms of media and rate them. Ratings may include warnings of political bias. This entity slants left, conservative craziness resides here, etc. The ratings will also rank the credibility of these sites. Sites that lean specific ways but still give accurate information will receive one ranking. Sites that give straight news with as little bias possible will have another ranking. Sites that work hard to check sources and report the news accurately, will receive the highest ratings. Mistakes will lower the site’s ratings. Audience members still
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Does the organization or individual frame stories toward a particular party or ideological stance? Does the organization or individual report on stories of significance for a particular party or ideological stance? D oes the organization or individual ignore certain stories or events that would have a negative impact for a particular party or ideological stance? Does the media organization clearly delineate between straight news and opinion? How many pundits from each end of the political spectrum work for each particular media organization? How effective are those pundits at expressing their views?
After averaging scores for the bias test, ratings will be assigned that give the reader a bias outlook for the media organization or individuals. Add the accuracy scores and the audience will have a tool for finding credible media. One possible outcome of this ratings system could be found in terms of accuracy — organizations and pundits may not have a problem being scored as ideologically slanted but they would struggle if they were known as factually inaccurate. This system may eventually change the landscape we work in. The audience is free to find news that will fit its point of view and enjoy that particular form of news. At the same time, audiences will be able to look at the ratings to know if what they are reading is accurate and/or slanted. Old forms of journalism accountability tools may incorporate this system and become part of the regulatory system that rates media. The Wild West was eventually tamed and law and order prevailed. This new tool may be the sheriff to do the same to the new media landscape.
Does the organization or individual use subtle cues to nudge the reader in the direction a particular party or ideology would approve of? Does the organization or individual conform to high journalistic standards in regard to editing and sourcing?
Scott Lambert is a graduate student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and managing editor of the Gateway Journalims Review. He worked as a sports journalist and editor for 13 years.
Teaching Internet Etiquette: Dealing with Cyberbullying J ami e P fiste r Technological advances over the years have changed the way we live. Through the World Wide Web and cell phones, we now have the capability to instantaneously communicate with almost anyone in the world. A person can take a photo on his or her iPhone and upload it to Facebook in a matter of seconds. A homesick college student is able to Skype with family and friends back home. Technology has provided many opportunities and conveniences. However, along with these benefits, it has also created new issues and problems. The traditional institutions of media accountability by themselves can no longer keep up with rising ethical issues of today’s Twitter, Facebook world. Thus, the rules need to be updated and redefined. “It is very much the Wild West out there” was the way one panelist described the new world of social media during a Liberty Tree conference held May 10, 2011 at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. How can traditional rules and standards be applied to new types of media? What can be done to deal with the issue of cyberbullying, and who even qualifies as a journalist? No easy answers exist for
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these difficult questions. However, it is important to delve deeper into these issues and investigate what the possible and best solutions are. Cyberbullying refers to the use of social media and cell phones by young people to post or send text or images intended to hurt or embarrass other minors. It has become increasingly common in recent years, and concerns about its effects continue to grow. As a result, legislation and awareness campaigns are becoming more prevalent in an attempt to combat this problem. From a legal perspective, it is difficult to determine who should be held responsible for instances of cyberbullying. In most cases, it has been found that websites are not legally responsible for third-party postings. Specifically, Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act gives legal immunity to websites for third-party postings, with a few specific exceptions. Granting this immunity is reasonable, as it is virtually impossible for large networking websites to review every single posted comment or photo.
The traditional institutions of media accountability by themselves can no longer keep up with rising ethical issues of today’s Twitter, Facebook world. Thus, the rules need to be updated and redefined.
Using content analysis tools of both qualitative and quantitative measures, the bias test will examine a battery of work from organizations and individuals following specific criteria:
The 30 million postings each month on Craigslist alone exemplify this truth. However, something needs to be done to decrease the harm done by intentionally malicious and hurtful Internet posts. The issue of freedom of speech arises when trying to control the problem of cyberbullying. How can hurtful online speech be controlled without infringing upon people’s First Amendment rights? We have the obligation to protect speech that we hate. The traditional cases that have set standards for the types of speech that are not allowed are not immediately applicable to this new-age issue. For example, it is not clear what an appropriate use of the “clear and present danger” test is when referring to a hateful Web post made by an anonymous poster or a violent message sent by someone who lives hundreds of miles from the intended victim. While it is important and necessary to sort through the legal actions that can be taken to minimize cyberbullying and its harmful effects, promoting awareness of the issue and educating people is what will have immediate impact. Instead of spending so much time and effort deciding who is legally responsible for the posts and comments made on various sites and instead of creating stringent guidelines that limit people’s online speech, we need to focus on spreading the word about what cyberbullying is, the impact it has on people’s lives and how it can be prevented. Providing “Internet etiquette” education in schools about how to use social networking sites in positive ways is a measure that should be taken. Adolescents too, often use these Web sites to spread nasty rumors, post mean comments or create drama. Through this education, students would be taught respectful approaches to technological communication as well as how to avoid being a victim of cyberbullying.
G TEWAY JOURNALISM REVIEW
Students would be reminded that anything they post online can be read by anyone. They would be encouraged to remember the common courtesy that they have learned to show people in the real world and apply it to the cyber world. Parents, teachers and other adults need to stay informed about cyberbullying and focus on finding new ways to protect their children or students from becoming victims. Providing adolescents with instruction on appropriate technological behavior would not only help prevent students from being bullied but also from becoming bullies themselves. Because texting and social network posting are such impersonal ways to communicate, many adolescents do not realize the negative impact their words can have on others. Unlike traditional bullying where the bully witnesses the reaction of the other person, cyberbullies are physically removed from their victims, allowing them to avoid seeing the hurt caused by their words. An educational tool that could be implemented to help students see the impact of electronic speech is cyberbullying role-playing. This would give students the opportunity to experience being both the bully and the victim. Many students may realize they are closer to being a bully than they ever imagined. Educating students about real instances of cyberbullying is necessary as well. Being aware of tragic cases, such as the so-called MySpace suicide of Megan Meier in St. Charles, Mo., would help them realize the seriousness of the things they say on the Web and give them tools to avoid becoming instigators of cyberbullying. The problem of cyberbullying won’t be solved overnight, but as awareness spreads and teenagers become more educated, the devastating effects will surely diminish. The little things, such as a parent asking his or her child if they are experiencing cyberbullying or a teacher taking the time to inform his or her students about safe Internet use, will lead to ultimate success. Although dealing with issues of cyberbullying is only a small step in taming the Wild West of Web media, it is a step in the right direction and one step closer to reaching the final goal.
Jamie Pfister is an undergraduate student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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MediaAccountabilityintheDigitalAge? N i c k D efr eitas
There was a time when such a definition was correct and valid. But that was before the Internet. In this age of blogs and Wikileaks the definition of journalist has been challenged and changed. How can one argue that Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is not a journalist? How can one say that a blog about topical news is any less valid than a website run by an “official” news organization? Finally, for a profession that does not require a license to work how can society so easily label who is and who is not a journalist? This issue has gained attention recently with the rise of Wikileaks and Assange. Wikileaks has released an enormous volume of classified material on its site, resulting in a great deal of scrutiny of Assange. While there are many valid arguments to say that what Wikileaks did was wrong (such as potentially putting people at risk and crippling the diplomatic position of the U.S.), there does not seem to be as strong an argument that he did not do the work of a journalist. One thing a journalist should try to do is distribute information to the public. Is this not what Wikileaks did? Some would say “No!” since he was not a part of an “official” news organization. But what makes a news organization “official”? In the U.S. there is no federal agency that passes out journalist licenses nor is there a journalistic equivalent of the BAR exam. The traditional definition of journalist must change. A new, more accurate definition should reflect that anyone can do journalistic work today. So the definition should be available to everyone. But it should not apply to everyone all the time. It should apply while they are doing journalistic work. Compare journalists to teachers. True, most people would consider a teacher someone who works in a school. Yet anyone who has taken private music lessons would consider that instructor a “teacher.” Why? They are teaching and performing a role of a teacher. Though this is different from the journalist example in many ways it should be noted that these “teachers” do get some of the same treatment (or protection) that schoolteachers do. For example, the private music teacher, like the official school teacher, can duplicate sheet music for a student under an exception to copyright. The point is that though they may not be “official” teachers they still get a certain amount of recognition and privileges when they are in
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“teacher mode”. This is how the journalist issue should be dealt with. There will always be a class of journalists who work for respected and/or powerful news groups that will definitely be considered journalists. But when someone else is “being a journalist for a day” they should be credited and acknowledged as having done journalistic work and have the same respect and rights that the more official journalists have. So, if a journalist is just someone who does journalistic work, then what is journalistic work? This definition could include a vast swath of work and corresponding people who would not consider themselves journalists (such as people with a TV show that may address topical/important issues but not analyze them or give all the relevant facts). The intent to inform should be the most important factor.
There is nothing wrong with standards. There is something wrong with an elitist view that you have to go through all the right steps and work with the right institutions to have a journalistic piece respected and protected. Not only is that view outdated but, in the age of the Internet, a losing battle to fight.
If most people were to be asked to describe a journalist they would probably say something along the lines of “someone who works for a newspaper or news channel,” while some may even include “a professional who investigates important issues.”
People with platforms that mention or poke fun at the big issues in the news may not want the title of journalist so that they do not have to meet a certain standard. The best example of this would be Stephen Colbert, the host of The Colbert Report. While he addresses topical issues he would not want to have to follow a journalistic standard because that is not the point of his show (it is to be satirical). Calling his work journalistic work is misleading. Yes, it addresses topical events but it is not supposed to inform. It builds off of what people have already been informed about. The line between what is the work of a journalist and what is not if that one factor (meant to inform) is kept in mind.
A journalist should be someone who follows journalistic ethics, reports important and/or topical news, and has the desire to be a journalist (or produces work with the clear desire to inform).
There will be Internet journalists regardless if they are accepted by traditional journalists. The more worthwhile cause is to embrace it and make sure that they too follow journalistic ethics and standards.
How the Internet has Changed the Definition of “Journalist”
With these criteria Josh Wolf should be considered a journalist. Josh Wolf was not treated like a journalist when he was subpoenaed for video he had recorded while protests were taking place at the G8 Summit in San Francisco. The problem was not that he went to jail for not turning over sources but that he was not given the same treatment that traditional journalists receive. He was sent to jail for far longer than anyone else for not revealing a source or information gathered. Yet if his goal was to inform the public about the issues and controversies around the G8 event, how was he not a journalist? Though he would meet the criteria above, he does not work for certain institutions and this may have been his main “flaw.”
would be less prone to make certain kinds of mistakes. Also, going to journalism school probably results in better journalists with more expertise and more ethical awareness. Perhaps this makes them superior journalists to the bloggers and company. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether this new class of journalists should be respected and protected. And the answer is yes. Many of these new journalists will probably not be as skilled or refined or talented as more official journalists. Yet that does not invalidate their work. Even if it is a little rougher than what a professional would produce the content is what is important. It should also be kept in mind that just because everyone could be a journalist does not mean that everyone is a journalist. Certain criteria (listed above) must be met. There must be a clear attempt to inform the public while following a certain journalistic code. The point is that anyone can be a journalist so long as he or she meets certain criteria. There is nothing wrong with standards. There is something wrong with an elitist view that you have to go through all the right steps and work with the right institutions to have a journalistic piece respected and protected. Not only is that view outdated but, in the age of the Internet, a losing battle to fight. There will be Internet journalists regardless if they are accepted by traditional journalists. The more worthwhile cause is to embrace it and make sure that they too follow journalistic ethics and standards.
Another reason that some may argue against this new definition of journalist is that the bloggers and other Internet journalists do not have the training and may not have the ethical standards of “real” journalists. But these are two concerns (especially the ethical) that can apply to journalists who work for official news groups as well.
A sincere attempt to follow journalistic standards and ethics should be the factor that determines if someone is a journalist. So long as the person in question attempts to follow ethical guidelines accepted by the journalistic community and attempts to only report factual information, they should be treated as a journalist.
Some would argue professional journalists are less prone to such mistakes and ethical missteps due to their training in journalism schools. That sentiment is probably correct. Trained journalists who are paid by an established news organization
Nick Defreitas is an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
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MidwestTornadoCoverage S cot t L ambert
England works in Oklahoma, the major thruway of Tornado Alley, where land is flat and tornadoes are easily followed. Helicopters and storm chasers follow the approaching storms and bring real-time tornado footage to viewers. It’s television gold. Storm season is not only a dangerous time for citizens, but also a great thrill for closeted storm chasers wanting to see the power of a tornado from the comfort of their living room chairs. Television ratings skyrocket and competition for the best storm shots and the best storm coverage puts innovation at a premium. This is not the case in smaller markets, such as that of Southern Illinois, where the hilly terrain makes storm chasing extremely dangerous and nearly impossible. In places like this, where weather is not a television event, where tornadoes are not followed from touchdown to dissolution, keeping viewers’ interest is more difficult. Jim Rasor, a meteorologist who works at WSIL TV Channel 3 in Carterville Ill., says his toughest job is dealing with complaints from fans upset that the latest episode of “The Bachelor” were pre-empted for storm coverage. The 2011 tornado season was a tragic season in terms of lives lost and property damaged. More than 500 people died in a season that totaled some 1,200 tornadoes and four EF-5 rated tornadoes, the most powerful of all twisters. A rash of tornadoes struck Alabama on April 27 resulting in over 300 deaths. In Joplin, Mo., more than 150 people died as an EF-5 tornado ripped through the town. But the destruction of 2011’s tornados likely would have been worse without the work of television news weather reporters who got the news out about the oncoming tornadoes in a number of ways, from traditional newscasts to social media, including Facebook and Twitter. But weather forecasting may have been part of the problem as well. A June 15 story in the Birmingham Times quotes local TV meteorologist James Spann saying repeated tornado warnings have numbed television audiences to approaching weather. “I firmly believe apathy and complacency due to a high false-alarm ratio over the years led to inaction in many cases that could have cost lives,” Spann wrote in a June 8 blog. Media tornado warnings have increased from some 100 per year in the 1980s to nearly 800 currently.
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The reason is Doppler radar, which does such a good job of detects even the slightest tornadoes and cells that could produce bad weather. Doppler radar detects the speed of objects as well as the objects. It was originally used during the Cold War to detect incoming missiles, and is also used for air-traffic control and speed guns. When it comes to weather, advances in Doppler radar actually have made forecasters jobs more difficult as nearly 80 percent of the warnings detected by Doppler radar are false alarms. “I ask the National Weather Service to consider stopping the use of tornado warnings when trying to catch small spin-ups within a squall line (or QLCS),” Spann wrote in his blog. “These tornadoes rarely last more than a few minutes, and are next to impossible to detect in advance. And, in most cases, the greatest damage from a QLCS is from widespread damaging straight line winds, not tornadoes.” For the most part, people in Joplin, worn out from numerous past tornado warnings, paid little attention to the tornado warnings that proved to correctly forecast the deadly tornadoes earlier this year. “I think that part of what happened in Joplin was people didn’t react to the warning,” Spann said. “They just assumed it was another warning and didn’t pay enough attention to it.”
Oklahoma has had more than its share of storm-related tragedies over the years, and people in that state are aware of the dangers a tornado represents. But in other markets the attention span of the audience may depend on the direct link to a tornado touchdown. “I presented a paper several years ago on how attitudes changed,” Rasor said.
He explained that the region avoided a major weather event for nearly 20 years. “People had forgotten just how bad it could be. I’m telling you, in the 1990s, people just didn’t want me getting on television and talking to them about storms. They even complained when we ran a bug at the bottom of the television.” A number of severe weather events occurred in the last decade and attitudes changed. Now, Rasor says that people are more receptive to weather interruptions. It’s still a balancing act. Rasor believes in letting programming continue until severe weather is imminent. Like many others, Rasor doesn’t want to numb the audience with too many appearances where no storm event happens. “I guess it comes to education,” he said. “I try to educate people that if they see me on the television breaking in, then I believe it’s serious.” It’s a difficult job. The amount of resources available doesn’t matter; covering tornadoes is one critical example of media serving their public. Keeping the public invested in their coverage may be the most difficult job of all. And saving lives is the final denominator in determining if media reached those people.
The Joplin tornado was a “perfect storm” in England’s opinion. Weather stations provided 23 minutes of warning time for Joplin citizens to take cover but the size of the tornado, and the fact that Joplin is not considered a good weather market, helped create a major catastrophe. “I’m aware it’s not a good weather market,” England said. “It’s easy to infer that the audience probably doesn’t know a lot about warnings and don’t know what to do and the other thing is that the tornado was just so darned huge. It was a giant tornado that was moving toward a group of people who were not weather aware.”
Television ratings skyrocket and competition for the best storm shots and the best storm coverage puts innovation at a premium.
Weather forecaster Gary England played a crucial role in innovating tornado coverage at Oklahoma City’s KWTV Channel 9. His most important job is alerting audience members of severe weather.
The amount of resources available doesn’t matter; covering tornadoes is one critical example of media serving their public. Keeping the public invested in their coverage may be the most difficult job of all. And saving lives is the final denominator in determining if media reached those people.
Weather Forecasters Balance Warnings with “The Bachelor”
For those forecasting the weather for media outlets, that is the most difficult part. They can’t make people pay attention and sometimes a monster makes all the forecasting moot. But competition, education and a general desire to help the public prepare for the possibilities of a tornado provide people with an option for knowledge.
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exact that the forecasters can tell what time each street may or may not get hit by a storm. “We’re just trying to save people’s lives, get some money and get the ratings to go up,” England said. “No matter where you are and what you do, you try to make a better product so people will watch it.”
S cot t L ambert
Social media inform the public of incoming severe weather by allowing meteorologists to get weather notices out quickly and efficiently.
Competition, and the willingness to spend money, place Oklahoma storm coverage among the best in the nation.
“I think it’s the bomb, I really do,” Meteorologist Jim Rasor said. “For me, Twitter is one of the greatest severe weather information tools out there. You have to be so precise with 144 characters. You become concise and let people know exactly what’s happening.
“It became competitive to get the information out there the quickest, and the componies’ had to be willing to spend the money in order to do just that,” England said.
“I tied my Twitter to Facebook as well because more people are on Facebook.”
No matter how bad the competition gets, the goal is always to save lives. Oklahoma lost people in the storms in 2011 and England takes each loss personally. “You want to know what happens and why those people died and you do take it personally. It’s hard to talk about,” England said. At the same time, meteorologists covering Oklahoma have had good moments despite tragedy. On May 3, 1999, England covered the F-5 tornado that ripped through Oklahoma City. The tornado killed 36 people and caused more than $1 billion in damages. The amazing thing was that only 36 people died. Credit for that went to England and the other two broadcasters covering the storm, Mike Morgan and Rick Mitchell. Studies have shown that their coverage actually saved lives.
Covering Oklahoma Twisters
Social Media’s Role
Social media give meteorologists the opportunity to reach those away from their televisions and away from their radios. “I’m not just talking to the folks who watch me, I’m talking to anyone who is interested,” Rasor said. “I have people monitoring out of interest.” Finding a way to use social media is difficult. Rasor and his crew all have separate accounts and regularly send forecasts to people who sign up for alerts. But in Oklahoma, meteorologist Gary England still is looking for the best way to use social media to reach his audience. “A good system for us using it has not been invented yet,” Rasor said. “But (social media) have helped tremendously. We watch the storms anywhere in the country. If you are working at a news station and you aren’t Twittering or using Facebook in some form or other, you are doing a disservice to your audience.”
S cot t L ambert “Twister” was released in 1996. The movie about storm chasers and a tornado-filled day in Oklahoma set off a craze of storm chasers and television shows about tornado chasers. Oklahoma weatherman Gary England played a bit role in the movie and performed a key role in the expansion of Oklahoma’s weather coverage.
“That forced the National Weather Service to do better,” England said. “I was not well-behaved at this time so I’d get on the air at 3 p.m. and say the weather service didn’t put anything out until 3:30. There was a long fight between the private sector and federal about that. It was fierce competition.”
“I came here in 1972 and at that time the only way you could warn Harry about an incoming tornado was if John’s house down the block was hit by one,” England said. “The means for getting information and getting it out there weren’t very good at the time.”
The competition came from other stations trying to catch up to Channel 9 and the weather service, which was unhappy with a local forecaster sending out warnings before it did.
England set out to find a way to improve available information. He lobbied his station, KWTV Channel 9 in Oklahoma City to go out and buy its own Doppler radar setup. Doppler radar was used to detect the speed and motion of incoming events. The station did and England became the first weatherman to use Doppler to spot severe weather. Other stations in Oklahoma City, as well as the National Weather Service, started playing catch-up.
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That competition played out in ratings wars as well. Weather is a big deal in Oklahoma, and the station that gets the most viewers following and trusting their news, gets higher ratings. As television stations vied for the weather crowd, England started using time-of-arrival data, using pencils to determine what time a tornado would strike certain cities. Storm chasers and storm spotters were lined up to follow storms and, eventually, to get live video of tornadoes on the ground as the storms approach towns, streets and houses. Helicopters follow the storm and get video. At times, weather coverage in Oklahoma seems so
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Features J o hn M c C a rron
That’s the ultimate news Illinois voters and news media need to take away from the big federal corruption trial in Chicago this summer. No, not the fact that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was found guilty. That wasn’t news, really. Anyone who followed the interminable trial and re-trial, and who listened to the FBI wiretaps of Blago attempting to auction off the “f---ing golden” U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, knew he was going down. Blago’s only shot at acquittal would have been if the jurors, after listening to him testify for hours about what a great guy he is, concluded the man a delusional egomaniac capable of saying just about anything to just about anybody.
How about the news media? How could it be that this mop-headed Howdy Doody — this rank poseur who carefully studied, and modeled himself after the rhetorical mannerisms of Ronald Reagan, right down to the “Aw shucks” lateral head movements — how could it be the news media did not expose Blago for what he was, and is, before he was able to lure so many voters, not to mention the entire state of Illinois, into eight lost years of governmental stagnation?
Delusional egomania, after all, is not a federal offense. But on Monday, June 27, a federal criminal jury in Chicago decided, on 17 of 20 counts, that Blago really was trying to auction off Obama’s seat . . . and shake down Children’s Memorial Hospital for a campaign contribution, and likewise milk racetrack owners in return for signing legislation to subsidize the ponies. Rod Blagojevich lives in his own make-believe world and likely will never admit to himself that he did anything wrong. But how about the rest of us? How about the 1,847,040 Illinois voters who elected this hopelessly self-absorbed creature as their governor in 2002? Or worse, the 1,620,429 who did it again in 2006, long after it should have been obvious that the guy was too busy starring in his own movie to deal with the mounting problems facing the state? And more pointedly for readers of this fine journalism review: How about the news media? How could it be that this mop-headed Howdy Doody — this rank poseur who carefully studied, and modeled himself after the rhetorical mannerisms of Ronald Reagan, right down to
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Guilty as charged!
the “Aw shucks” lateral head movements — how could it be the news media did not expose Blago for what he was, and is, before he was able to lure so many voters, not to mention the entire state of Illinois, into eight lost years of governmental stagnation? The answer to that last one is, of course, highly complex. But an investigator looking for clues might start at the very end — at the grossly overdone, circus-like attention the Chicago media paid to the trial itself. Like Madame DeFarge in Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities”; journalists proved a lot more interested in a noisy public execution than the root rot that brought on the Revolution.
Or in this case, the boring details behind Illinois’s devolution into a debtor state with $4.5 billion in unpaid bills, over $40 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, and four — count ’em, 4.0 — former governors convicted of financial crimes over the last 44 years. During the just-past and all-too-brief Chicago spring, while the Illinois Legislature down in Springfield whiffed again on pension reform and negotiated a fiscal 2012 budget that holds-the-line at the expense of education and human services, the media’s best and brightest were up in Chicago, all but camped out around our Miesean federal courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St. There they jockeyed for precious courtroom admission chits, gang-banged the trial’s principals as they arrived and exited the building, and delivered at noon, 5 and 10 the kind of breathless pre- and post-event commentary worthy of ESPN’s GameDay. Too bad nobody keeps track of how many broadcast minutes and print column inches were devoted to Mrs. And Mrs. Blagojevich’s wardrobe and demeanor versus, say, the pros and cons of selling state bonds to pay down those overdue bills rather than incur late-payment fees. Apparently the metro media audience has few inquiring minds who want to know the latter.
During the just-past and alltoo-brief Chicago spring, while the Illinois Legislature down in Springfield whiffed again on pension reform and negotiated a fiscal 2012 budget that holds-the-line at the expense of education and human services, the media’s best and brightest were up in Chicago, all but camped out around our Miesean federal courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St.
News Media Also “Guilty” in Blago Trial
One can excuse the ratings-driven network O&O shops for playing up the circus aspects, though it seems a bit much to dispatch helicopters on judgment day to video the movements of Blago’s SUV from the family’s Ravenswood Manor home to and from the courthouse. (The chopper shots likely were inspired by, yet somehow lacked the drama of, O.J. Simpson’s low-speed chase.) What can’t be forgiven was slavish coverage by those who: a) should know better; and b) should be relied upon, by default, to provide more detailed coverage of the things that really do matter. Night after night one public television reporter debriefed us on what she saw and heard inside her courtroom bubble, no matter how inconsequential the day’s proceedings. Meanwhile, the Chicago News Cooperative, a Web service launched a few years ago by mainstream newsies fed up with their former employers’ trivial pursuits, headlined a dozen stories the morning after the verdict, including “Blagojevich’s brother was devastated” and a video “Watch Blago’s uncharacteristically brief reaction to the verdict.” So much for our online alternative. It’s not as though there weren’t warning signs. It wasn’t so much that back in 1996 he won his congressional seat by virtue of an adroit marriage and a stroke of good luck. Lots of successful politicians hereabouts have powerful fathers or fathers-in-law, in this case, former Ald. Richard Mell.
And lots have advanced due to the misfortunes of predecessors, in this case the indictment and subsequent electoral defeat — by a Republican nobody — of Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois 5th District.) But what should have alerted people to Blagojevich was his napalm stunt. As I described in my then-weekly Chicago Tribune op-ed, Congressman Blagojevich was looking for a way to raise his visibility as a freshman back-bencher. He discovered that the U.S. Navy planned to ship an outdated load of the jellied gasoline across northeastern Illinois and the South Side of Chicago to a disposal facility in northwest Indiana. So he holds an outdoor press conference on a South Side railroad overpass to declare that, as long as he’s in Congress, nobody is going to ship dangerously lethal explosives across our great city and state. The Navy caved. Rod exulted. It turns out you can throw a lighted match into a gob of napalm and it won’t go off. It turns out it needs to be sprayed into a fine mist and ignited by a super-hot explosive. It turns out regular gasoline is a lot more flammable, and that regular gasoline is trucked and railed across the city in mass quantities every day. I wrote a column or two warning readers about this up-andcomer who would rather make dishonest, self-aggrandizing headlines, than do the hard work — the research, the issue analysis, the inevitable compromises — of solving the real problems that confront the state and nation. This was well before he won his governorships by beating far more accomplished candidates from both parties. He did this by promising “no new taxes” and to balance the state budget with stunts like selling off state office buildings and taking away pool cars from “bureaucrats.” By and large the press didn’t call him on these preposterous claims. And so, by and large, the people of Illinois didn’t know any better. Twice. Who, then, is really guilty in the case of Rod Blagojevich? If the shoe fits, we all need to put it on . . . and promise to do better next time.
John McCarron is a freelance urban affairs writer and adjunct lecturer at DePaul University’s School of Communication. Previously he worked 27 years for the Chicago Tribune as reporter, financial editor and member of the editorial board.
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Features who represented their interests, not the highest bidder.” Mike Lawrence, retired director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said the conviction won’t erase the damage that Blagojevich did as governor. “Prosecutors showed they had drawn lessons from the first trial,” he wrote in an email. “Their presentation was more focused, less complicated and better mapped for jury consumption. My sense is this jury was more analytical and disciplined. But it’s important to note that Blagojevich would have been convicted on several counts by the first jury except for one or two holdouts. He’s headed for years in prison, but the state will suffer from his corrupt, fiscally reckless, managerially chaotic reign for decades to come.” There had been some criticism that U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had been too zealous in his pursuit of Blagojevich. But Joy disagreed. “Whenever a prosecutor brings a case and gets a hung jury, he has to ask himself if this is something worth going after. Given the nature of the charges and what Blagojech did, most prosecutors would say it was worth it.
Blagojevich’s Conviction Fits Pattern of White-collar Retrials W i l l i am H. F r eivogel The conviction of former Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich on 17 federal criminal counts in July is not surprising in light of the high percentage of convictions that federal prosecutors win in retrials of white-collar crimes after they have a chance to streamline complicated cases to appeal to juries. A jury found Blagojevich guilty of 17 counts of wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, extortion conspiracy and bribery conspiracy. He was acquitted on one bribery charge, and the jury deadlocked on two counts of attempted extortion. “Typically when you have a hung jury and the case gets retried it is better for the prosecution than the defense; and this proves it again,” said Peter A. Joy, vice dean at Washington University Law School. Joy doubted that Blagojevich hurt himself by taking the stand in the second trial after remaining silent in the first. “Since he was found guilty this time, a lot of people will reason backward and conclude the defense made a mistake putting Blagojevich on the stand,” Joy said. “I honestly think
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that the defense had to put him on the stand, the way the prosecution had decided to trim down their case. I thought it helped him rather than hurt him.” Catherine Hanaway, former U.S. attorney in St. Louis, said, “The prosecution did precisely what it needed to do here — narrow its case, focus its efforts and stick with it. They were not distracted by nor did they get pulled into the media circus that was Blago.” Hanaway added, in an email: “Routing out public corruption is one of the most difficult and easily one of the most important jobs of any prosecutor. Too often the public is left with the impression that politicians are generally corrupt. In fact, the overwhelming majority, in both parties, are ethical public servants. However, when they go bad, they tend to go really bad in ways that jeopardize the fabric of our form of government. Our government only works if people believe their vote matters. The convicted felon, who was the governor of Illinois, sought to rip from endto-end our system of government, literally stealing from millions of voters their right to have a senator appointed
“The prosecution took to heart what most people thought about the first trial and changed. I think the prosecutors can take this as a vindication of their approach. When the deliberations were going on for longer than expected, there was some criticism of the prosecution. But there must have been some core of the case the jurors were agreed upon. Given the number of counts they were unanimous on it is unlikely a situation where they were troubled.”
One of Joy’s colleagues at Washingon University Law School, Kathleen Brickey, conducted a study of eight highprofile, white-collar cases that resulted in mistrials over the past decade and found that convictions occurred in almost all of the retrials. She studied cases such as Enron, Tyco and Qwest. “Prosecutors have enjoyed considerable success after mistrials,” she concluded. Two of the eight defendants pled guilty to avoid the perils of a new trial. Three of the four retrials ended in conviction of all defendants. None of the eight defendants won an acquittal. Brickey found that some of the cases had suffered from confusing complexity during the first trials. Prosecutors were more successful in second trials after simplifying their cases. Fitizgerald eliminated Blagojevich’s brother from the case and trimmed the original 24-count indictment down to 20 counts. Many of the 17 counts on which Blagovich was convicted carry sentences of up to 20 years. Blagojevich still faces up to five years in prison for the one conviction from his first trial for lying to the FBI. Joy said it was hard to predict how much time Blagojevich will serve in prison. It will partly depend on whether the judge imposes sentences that run concurrently or consecutively, he said.
William H. Freivogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a board member of the St. Louis Beacon. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.
Wisconsin’s Political Pot Still Simmering S cot t L ambert From the local to the national, the Wisconsin recall elections story is both unchartered territory for media coverage and simply more of the same. To recap, in February, newly elected Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the Legislature passed a bill stripping public unions of their bargaining powers. To prevent a quorum, Democrat Wisconsin senators fled to Illinois, protestors flooded the Wisconsin State Capitol and chaos reigned in Wisconsin. A Wisconsin State Supreme Court election turned into a referendum on Walker’s bill, with first the Democrat, then the Republican candidate winning. And nine Wisconsin state senators are facing recall elections with the balance of political power the ultimate goal in Wisconsin. Six Republican senators are being recalled as well as three Democrats. The six Republican senators will have their recall election Aug. 9 while the three Democrats will have their recall elections Aug. 16.
The recall elections have garnered more than their share of national and local attention. At the same time, few know how to approach these recall elections. Many don’t even know how voters will react. Some media say voter turnout will be low, but that was expected in the Wisconsin State Supreme Court election and voter turnout was as high as when voters turned out for the 2008 national primaries. So will voter turnout be exceedingly high? Will the millions of dollars pouring in from out of state help secure a victory for the Democrats (Unions) or the Republicans (the Koch Brothers)? And what does this say about our democracy? On June 22, 2011, the Los Angeles Times ran a story titled “Recall elections surge in local and state governments.” The story questioned whether or not this rash of recall elections is a new trend that will become a staple of government. The main point of the story asked the question, “How does
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Features On June 26, the Wisconsin State Journal published an editorial entitled “The Gall of Recalls” that basically said the Republicans won and the Democrats lost, and that the losers should deal with losing. The article continued by stating that until Wisconsin has a stable government that can govern without threat of recall, it will never be able to govern. The mess that Wisconsin finds itself in cannot be fixed if all politicians do is campaign. A week later, Dane 101, an online site in Madison, published a reply saying the recall elections are necessary to right wrongs that weren’t campaigned on in the first place. This story argues that the recalls are civic engagement at its best. The voters are speaking and they’re speaking through recalls. This question appears too staid for the online bloggers and doesn’t fit the mainstream media’s desire to draw viewers and ratings. Instead, the question becomes more of a referendum. Media turned the election into a test case to see if the unions still have the power to muster the votes necessary to turn away big business interests. Couched in many different variations, from the tea party to the Koch Brothers, from cutting big government to protecting public workers, including teachers and firefighters, the question
The mess that Wisconsin finds itself in cannot be fixed if all politicians do is campaign.
one govern if every vote could lead to a recall?” That is a question national media and political scientists likely will follow. It’s also a local issue.
always comes back to the simple question about the unions: Are they still influential enough to be a national player? The other question media ask is if anyone is willing to compromise anymore. Again, the Wisconsin elections serve as a local battle with a national payoff. No one is willing to compromise; no one is willing to give an inch. Both sides are so consumed by their own ideological rhetoric that they have no way of compromising without losing face. The Daily Kos, a liberal blog, has constantly reported on the Wisconsin elections and ended many blogs with calls to donate money to help the Democrats win the recall elections. This is not journalism. This is pure partisanism. Scott Lambert is the managing editor of the Gateway Journalism Review. He worked as a sports journalism and editor for 13 years.
“Ambient Journalism” Fueling Wisconsin Labor Uprising A ar o n S. V eenst r a Twitter has become a media agent of change, from Tahrir Square in Egypt to Iran and in the streets of Madison, Wis., where protestors both pro- and anti-union used the social media to report the latest news and information. After Iran’s disputed 2009 election, protesters gathered throughout the country, organized quickly through new, networked communication technologies, including text messaging, Facebook and Twitter. In late 2010 and into 2011, other nations in the region — most notably Egypt and Tunisia — saw similar sudden uprisings driven by the quick, decentralized flow of information across social networks. Twitter may be the tool that does the most to disseminate information in these protests. Twitter allows users to distribute messages of up to 140 characters, including links to content on the Web via computers, mobile phones and other Internet-connected devices. It is similar to the text-message and e-mail tools used by past protest groups, such as those of the “People Power” revolution in the Philippines or the “Battle in Seattle”
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anti-WTO protest, but provides much greater physical and informational accessibility. A 2010 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported 59 percent of American adults are now mobile Internet users, meaning the potential diffusion of this technology into political activity can happen anywhere. Twitter made its first big splash as an American protest tool in February, when Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) announced his intention to strip about 175,000 public employees of their collective bargaining rights. In response, tens of thousands of protesters occupied the Wisconsin capitol building and its surrounding square. Those early events led to a period of semi-permanent protest both within and around the Capitol. During the first month of protests, Twitter users — both supporters and opponents of the protests — sent more than 800,000 tweets using the #wiunion tag. Because of the way it connects information accessibility of the Web to the physical and temporal immediacy of textmessaging, Twitter can be used as both a modernized form of protest communication and as a kind of citizen journalism. Twitter’s users can act as de facto wire editors,
redistributing selected commentary and news to their followers, as well as contributing their own thoughts or first-hand reporting.
Digital communication tools dramatically speed the process of communicating within any organization, including social movements.
A recent study at Southern Illinois University Carbondale tested the idea of the #wiunion Twitter stream as an ambient journalism outlet. Although #wiunion was not the only tag used in discussion of the bill or its attendant protests, it was the most central and provided the broadest coverage of discussion on both sides. The analysis covered 775,030 tweets, 63 percent of which were re-tweets — that is, tweets users had received and then forwarded to their own followers.
Too, such tools make informal communication much easier between a movement and unaffiliated but sympathetic individuals, as well as decentralized communication between and among those individuals. While using social network sites and other new media to mobilize might be seen as a modernized form of protest communication, this phenomenon clearly is a still-developing kind of citizen journalism.
After a while the number of links decreased, suggesting that users’ behavior changed over time, from a tendency toward redistribution of information from other sources to more frequent expression of original information. Faster and more portable networking dramatically alters the ability of individuals to publish instant, live information across different media — text, images, audio and video.
Aaron S. Veenstra, assistant professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Journalism, co-authored the research from which this article is taken. Co-authors include Narayanan Iyer, Namrata Bansal, Mohammad Delwar Hossain, Jiwoo Park and Jiachun Hong. Their research will be presented in August at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication annual conference in St. Louis.
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Features S cot t L ambert
It was a typical media story covering a common problem — sports fans seeing bias everywhere. What was so interesting about the story was its source. After all, the Daily Oklahoman faces some of the harshest calls of bias from one of the most ardent groups of fans — Oklahoma State University football fans — of any newspaper in the country. The Oklahoman faces these accusations each season and must overcome obstacles other media organizations never need to surmount. The University of Oklahoma football stadium is named Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The University of Oklahoma also houses The Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The Gaylord family owns the Oklahoman. The conflict of interest is apparent. It’s one the Oklahoman cannot ignore and the conflict of interest is a great equalizer in the argument between fans of arch rival Oklahoma State who say the Oklahoman slights their team on a regular basis. Is it a fair argument? “I was at the Oklahoman 15 years and 14 years were in sports and I don’t ever remember the Gaylord family coming down from the executive floors and saying we need more coverage of Oklahoma,” said Tulsa World Sports Editor Mike Strain, a former Oklahoman sportswriter. Do a content analysis on the question and you will most likely find the number of stories and number of inches at the Oklahoman is fairly close between the two schools. After dealing with accusations of bias for years, the content analysis had better be close. Content analysis doesn’t tell you what fans think though. Fans are a different thing, especially the rabid fans you find when covering college football. Football rules Oklahoma and the fans love their teams. Harry Hix, who spent years as a publisher, editor and professor at both the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, is well versed in accusations of bias, as are most who work in a newsroom. Hix is also an Oklahoma State Cowboys fan. “People are fans and in Oklahoma, they are very passionate fans,” Hix said. “Some would say it’s an unreasonable
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passion, but they love their sports. And you basically can’t persuade people otherwise, you can’t persuade them that a bias does not exist.”
Do a content analysis on the question and you will most likely find the number of stories and number of inches at the Oklahoman is fairly close between the two schools. After dealing with accusations of bias for years, the content analysis had better be close.
Sometimes a story just follows you. On May 30 the Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman ran a story about ESPN’s broadcast team of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson discussing the accusations from Oklahoma Thunder basketball fans of bias in calling the NBA playoff series between Oklahoma City and Dallas.
This brings up the problem for the Oklahoman. The numbers say the Oklahoman is not biased when covering the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University. The readers say otherwise. The Oklahoman is acutely aware of the problem and did not want to discuss this in a public forum. “We strive to be fair to both OU and OSU in our coverage and are aware that perceptions exist on both sides,” said the Oklahoman’s Joe Hight in an e-mail reply. “Our staff takes the concerns seriously and has discussed the need for balance in our approach to coverage and in the actual coverage. We will continue to do so in the future.” Hight is the Oklahoman’s Director of Information and Development.
Perception of bias Audiences see bias everywhere. Sometimes it exists and sometimes it doesn’t. Academics have been studying bias for quite a while. A 1954 study by Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril examined how fans of two football teams, Dartmouth and Princeton, saw a penalty-plagued football game and reached different conclusions about which team was playing unfairly. Academics use many different terms for how audiences view media, from hostile media effect to persuasive press influence. They generally say people take their own personal opinions and beliefs and transfer them to the
media; sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Media writers know fans will disagree with what is reported.
Perceived Bias at The Daily Oklahoman
Sports writers gravitate toward teams with the best records and history, right or wrong. That team is Oklahoma.
“I figure if you only have one fan group that’s very upset and you aren’t hearing from all of them maybe you are doing something wrong,” Strain said. Every newspaper is perceived to be biased. The Tulsa World deals with the same problems and from many different angles. “We deal with this all the time,” Strain said. “You get those calls all the time. It’s not just OU and OSU. It’s (Tulsa) Jenks vs. (Tulsa) Union in high school football or Oral Roberts vs. Tulsa, it just doesn’t matter. Whenever you have a rivalry you have fans calling in and saying you aren’t being fair to one side or the other.” It doesn’t matter what you write or how you write it, fans will call in to complain. One reason, especially in Oklahoma, is ownership. Who owns a newspaper or media outlet affects how people perceive that outlet.
Covering the Cubs In 1981 Tribune Company bought the Chicago Cubs. Tribune Company also owned the Chicago Tribune, Chicago’s largest circulation newspaper, and WGN, a cable station that showed nearly all of the Cubs’ baseball games at that time. Immediately, those in the media questioned the conflict of interest involved in the ownership as well as the perception that the Cubs would become the recipient of extra media attention. At that time, the Cubs were no different than the Chicago White Sox in attendance and perception. But the explosion of cable television and WGN, the fact that the White Sox left WGN for a local television station and solid marketing campaigns turned the Cubs, not the White Sox, into a media sensation. That didn’t mean the Tribune company treated the Cubs differently than it did the White Sox. In fact, the Tribune did not change its coverage of the two teams. Paul Sullivan, the Chicago Cubs’ beat writer, said in a 2007 interview that he would never allow anyone to tell him what to write. In fact, Sullivan was able to point out numerous instances when the Chicago Sun-Times, the Tribune’s main rival, had beat reporters much more positive toward the Cubs than he was.
In 2009, the Tribune Company sold the Cubs. Since then, coverage of the team has not become more negative.
So is there a bias? “Let’s just say that this has been going on for a long time and the people at the Oklahoman are aware of it,” Strain said. Beat writers and columnists who work sports for the Oklahoman know they will face this perception from fans. They argue that it’s just a perception and has no basis in fact. At the same time, Hix can come up with a good example of what Oklahoma State Cowboy fans consider to be biased reporting. The 2011 Oklahoma State women’s softball team and the University of Oklahoma’s women’s softball team both qualified for the NCAA Division I World Series, which is played in Oklahoma City. In the regional before the World Series, Oklahoma State had to travel to Knoxville, Tenn. to play national power Tennessee while Oklahoma played its regional in the Oklahoma City area. Oklahoma State was not expected to win but knocked off Tennessee on the road while Oklahoma won at home. Oklahoma received more coverage in the Oklahoman. “From OSU’s standpoint, it was a much bigger story because they had to travel and they weren’t supposed to win while Oklahoma was basically playing at home,” Hix said. “OSU fans take that and cry bias, but if you’re working at a newspaper you know that you have other reasons, including cost of travel, expectations and so on for either covering or not covering the event. “But that’s where many OSU fans see bias.” Examining this story from a sports editors perspective puts a higher ranked team playing within the paper’s coverage region with another team, ranked lower and not expected to win, travelling to Tennessee to play a national softball power. Of course the sports editor will play the odds and increase the coverage on the team playing close to home. It saves money. But then Oklahoma State won and the Oklahoman took a bias hit. Another area where bias may be found is in how stories are displayed. Oklahoma often gets top billing in its stories and even though the column inches are the same, Oklahoma gets a better display and that upsets the Oklahoma State fan. “Some of the perception comes from the display of stories,” Strain said. “Not only how you write them but how you display them.” The Oklahoman has a reason to place the University of Oklahoma as a higher priority on its display list. The reason is fan base. University of Oklahoma football is clearly the
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Features just covering their teams and she wrote an opinion and then it became a national sensation.”
No. 1 read sports item in The Oklahoman. Oklahoma State football is a distant second.
When media members become the story it is almost always because someone perceived a bias. In this instance, Gundy tapped into the long-standing anger of the Oklahoma State football fan and unleashed a torrent of hatred toward Carlson.
“The Oklahoman has more OU football fans than OSU football fans reading their paper,” Strain said. “It’s not comparable. They just have a larger base of fans that root for Oklahoma.
It’s commonplace in politics. Sports are just a mirror for examining the phenomenon. It’s something that can’t be fixed.
“OSU and OU have the same number of students roughly, but Oklahoma draws fans who may have never been to the school and just roots for college football teams. And they root for Oklahoma.”
“Somewhere down the line you have to take into account where your readership is and what they want or they won’t be readers anymore,” Hix said. So why doesn’t the Tulsa World receive the same complaints? The gap between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State fans is much closer in Tulsa, but the University of Oklahoma still has a clear-cut advantage in the number of fans who read the paper for news on Oklahoma’s football team. “I think in Tulsa, the readership numbers are much more even,” Strain said. “Every survey that I’ve seen, OU football is our number-one readership number and it’s not close. OSU football is number two but there’s a large gap. OU is the clear number one here. But the gap between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is much closer. So our coverage, in terms of display, is much more balanced.”
Jeni Carlson and the rant On Sept. 22, 2007, Oklahoman Jeni Carlson wrote a column about Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid who had been benched by Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. After winning their game that day against Texas Tech, Gundy used his press conference to berate Carlson for her column instead of talking about the game. The moment was captured on video and later became known among Oklahomans as “the rant.” While many in media were quick to defend Carlson’s right to write the article (while stepping away from the article’s content) many Oklahoma State fans rallied to Gundy’s defense and hailed him for standing up for his team against
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People aren’t easily pursuaded they’re wrong when it comes to politics. Media play a role in that as well, trying to make sure that both sides of a story are well represented. Therefore, global warming may possibly be a liberal hoax, creationism or intelligent design are relevant areas of study along with
an unfair attack from a biased newspaper. “I’ve never seen anything like that situation,” Strain said. “I’ve seen interesting situations but never like that. “I think Mike Gundy exploded that. For fans, almost everywhere now, the media are a four-letter word almost.” This phenomenon is noticeable in politics as well as sports. Pew research shows that audiences consider media as less reliable than they did just 10 years ago. Bias is perceived to be everywhere, from the so-called liberal bias to the attack radio on the right. One byproduct of the attacks on media is threats of violence. “There were attacks on Jeni,” Strain said. “Whether you like her opinion or not, it comes down to this — it’s sports. Could it have been written better, absolutely. That flat out does not happen. They don’t do that. They’re
There’s this perception that they are an OU paper. And that had nothing to do with it. That flat out does not happen. They don’t do that. They’re just covering their teams and she wrote an opinion and then it became a national sensation.” – Mike Strain, sports editor for the Tulsa World and former Oklahoman sportswriter
Oklahoma State’s football team is supposed to be very good this season. The Cowboys are ranked in the Top Ten in many of the preseason polls. Yes, Oklahoma is ranked in the top five, but the Cowboys are gaining ground. “Especially now that OSU is going to be a top-ten program, they’ll get more play,” Strain said. “OU might be ranked number one by some this year but Oklahoma State will get more play.” Will it be enough to satisfy Oklahoma State football fans? We’ll have to wait and see. Scott Lambert is the managing editor of the Gateway Journalism Review. He worked as a sports journalist and editor for 13 years.
Journalists Struggling to Find the Truth L i n da G r e e nh o us e Editor’s Note: The following is the complete speech by Linda Greenhouse, presented at the James Millstone Memorial Lecture in St. Louis on April 6, 2011. A story in the New York Times about a dispute involving the Fox News Channel described Fox News as “a channel with a reputation for having a conservative point of view in much of its programming.” Really?! That phrase “with a reputation” put the reporter, and the newspaper, at arm’s length from the fact that the Fox News channel does have a conservative point of view, and proudly so. What was the purpose of that distancing phrase?
It’s hard to argue that. Oklahoma has a national fan base. That’s what happens when a university has seven national titles to its name, countless conference titles and has dominated the in-state football rivalry, known as Bedlam, to the tune of 81-17-7. Sports writers gravitate toward teams with the best records and history, right or wrong. That team is Oklahoma.
“If you haven’t been there and experienced what’s going on in the newsroom, if you haven’t seen for yourself that the bias really isn’t there, you’ll have a hard time persuading people otherwise,” Hix said.
evolution and President Barack Obama may need to present his birth certificate again and again to satisfy those who don’t believe he was born in the United States.
A Washington Post article on the shooting at the Fort Hood Army base recounted that the shooter, Nidal Hasan, “allegedly opened fire” — an act that he indisputably performed in front of dozens of witnesses. A New York Times article, typical of many others, referred to Jared Loughner as “the man accused of opening fire outside a Tucson supermarket.” Whether the Tucson shooter is guilty of murder is a legal question, but there is no question at all about his identity as the man who shot Congresswoman Giffords and killed six people. We don’t have to say “accused of” — he did the deed in front of dozens of witnesses. I’m not picking on the New York Times — the newspaper I read most carefully — as well as the place I worked for 40
years. And although it is attacked, most often from the right but not infrequently from the left, for various kinds of bias, it actually, in both its performance and its ideals, epitomizes the commitment of mainstream journalism to the goals of fairness and objectivity. This is nothing new. Adolph Ochs, the founding publisher of the modern New York Times, whose byword was “without fear or favor,” believed that a responsible newspaper should “report all sides of a controversial issue, and let the reader decide the truth,” according to a reminiscence written a couple of years ago for internal distribution to the Times staff. His successor, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, liked to say: “We tell the public which way the cat is jumping. The public will take care of the cat.” In my remarks, I would like to raise some questions about the assumption behind that credo, as well as the utility, in this media-saturated and cynical age, of the siren call of “fairness and objectivity.” I will do this by examining how these standards are working in practice. I will question whether the working definition of “fairness,” which seems to boil down to “give both sides of every story,” can operate in a complex world where many stories worth telling have many sides — or only one. I am hardly the first one to raise questions like these. Inside the profession of journalism, there has been a lively debate going on for years over whether the “he said, she said” format, designed to avoid taking sides on contentious issues, impedes rather than enhances the goal of informing the reader.
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It reported that claims in an ad being run by the McCain campaign “seriously distort the record” by portraying Barack Obama as favoring “comprehensive sex education” for kindergarten students. Another campaign story, which ran in the Times as straight news on page one, reported that the author of a negative book about Sen. John Kerry’s war record that appeared during the 2004 presidential campaign was now trying with a newly published book to inflict equivalent damage on Senator Obama. But “several of the book’s accusations, in fact, are unsubstantiated, misleading or inaccurate,” the article declared flatly. It’s relatively easy to make a frontal attack on the “he said, she said” norm in the context of a political campaign, where there is widespread agreement about the format’s inadequacy. It’s more challenging in other contexts. For instance, some people — many people — consider waterboarding to be torture, and they refer to it that way. But others cling to the notion that it is not torture. What is a news organization to do? National Public Radio has chosen to use “harsh interrogation tactics” or “enhanced interrogation techniques” instead of “torture” when reporting stories about waterboarding and other coercive practices used to interrogate terrorism suspects. When listeners pushed back, the NPR ombudsman, Alicia C. Shepard, responded that she agreed with the network. “The problem is that the word torture is loaded with political and social implications,” she wrote on her blog, adding: “NPR’s job is to give listeners all perspectives, and present the news as detailed as possible and put it in context.” Because using the word torture would amount to taking sides, reporters should instead “describe the techniques and skip the characterization” entirely, she said. Again, that may be an easy example, because it’s binary — use the word torture, or avoid it. How about a complex event or situation that requires the reporter to make a series of judgments in order to describe adequately and assign priorities to such factors as motivation, relationships among actors or likely consequences. Paul Taylor, a former political reporter for the Washington
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“Sometimes I worry that my squeamishness about making sharp judgments, pro or con, makes me unfit for the small-bank world of daily journalism. Other times I conclude that it makes me ideally suited for newspapering — certainly for the rigors and conventions of modern ‘objective’ journalism. For I can dispose of my dilemmas by writing stories straight down the middle. I can search for the halfway point between the best and the worst that might be said about someone (or some policy or idea) and write my story in that fair-minded place. By aiming for the golden mean, I probably land near the best approximation of truth more often than if I were guided by any other set of compasses — partisan, ideological, psychological, whatever . . . Yes, I am seeking truth. But I’m also seeking refuge. I’m taking a pass on the toughest calls I face.” Jay Rosen, a press critic and journalism professor at New York University, calls the phenomenon that Paul Taylor describes as “regression toward a phony mean.” Joan Didion, way back in 1996, referred to “fairness” as a “familiar newsroom piety” and “benign ideal” that operates in practice as “the excuse for a good deal of autopilot reporting and lazy thinking.” What it often means, she wrote, “is a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.” In that same year, 1996, the Society of Professional Journalists dropped “objectivity” from its ethics code, a development understood to reflect the fact that there had ceased to be, if there ever was, a common understanding within the profession of what objective reporting consists of.
It’s relatively easy to make a frontal attack on the “he said, she said” norm in the context of a political campaign, where there is widespread agreement about the format’s inadequacy. It’s more challenging in other contexts. For instance, some people – many people – consider waterboarding to be torture, and they refer to it that way. But others cling to the notion that it is not torture. What is a news organization to do?
For that reason, many news organizations now publish or post “fact-check” boxes that vet the accuracy of political ads or of candidates’ assertions during debates. A good example of this was a “Check Point” feature that ran in the Times during the last presidential campaign under the headline: “Ad on Sex Education Distorts Obama Policy.”
Post, had this to say in his trenchant book, See How They Run:
A leading commentary on the modern practice of journalism, The Elements of Journalism, by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, omits “fairness” and “objectivity” from its list of the 10 basic elements of journalism, described as “clear principles that journalists agree on — and that citizens have a right to expect.”
How about a complex event or situation that requires the reporter to make a series of judgments in order to describe adequately and assign priorities to such factors as motivation, relationships among actors, or likely consequences?
This debate comes up most often during political campaigns, and many press critics and commentators have pointed out how superficial and subject to manipulation that format can be in the context of a campaign.
Why the omissions? “Familiar and even useful” as the idea of fairness and balance may be, the authors say, the very concept “has been so mangled” as to have become part of journalism’s problem, rather than a solution to perceived problems of bias and partiality. But Brent Cunningham, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, has observed that despite this discontent and self-reflection, “nothing replaced objectivity as journalism’s dominant norm.” In fact, he notes, “a cottage industry of bias police has sprung up,” leading to “hypersensitivity among the press to charges of bias,” which in turn reinforces the problematic adherence to a standard of “objectivity” that “can trip us up on the way to ‘truth.’” Truth. How about truth for a goal? “We may not have a journalism of truth because we haven’t demanded one,” the cultural critic Neal Gabler wrote in response to the media’s performance in covering the health care debate. He noted that by simply reporting the latest guided missile from Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh, the media “marshal facts, but they don’t seek truth. They behave as if every argument must be heard and has equal merit, when some are simply specious.” He added that those who seek a platform know that the mainstream media will refrain from serving as a referee for fear of being accused of taking sides. The result, Gabler concluded, is a journalism of “silly reportorial ping-pong at best and badly misleading information at worst.” One of broadcast television’s most acclaimed news programs, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, unfortunately has come to exemplify this problem. It almost never presents a point of
view without, in the same segment, providing a platform for the opposite view, and its moderators often sit passively as the panelists rebut one another. Viewers have recently begun to complain about this format. Michael Getler, the Public Broadcasting System’s ombudsman, wrote in 2008 that the complaining viewers have a point. He said there were too many segments “in which Democratic and Republican strategists simply contradict each other, often leaving the viewing audience numb and angry. There are simply too many of these in which the viewer is sacrificed on the altar of ‘balanced’ news coverage that actually does not inform.” The “key to making these segments useful is the interviewer,” he said, “who must be prepared to challenge guests, not just with the other person’s opinion, but with facts and alternative analysis that helps viewers judge what is being said. Challenge and confrontation often does not seem to be in the NewsHour playbook.” Getler’s criticism has gone largely unheeded inside the NewsHour. During the health care debate in Congress, Judy Woodruff, the moderator of a segment on the subject, failed to challenge a series of unsupported assertions made by a guest, the former Republican Congressman and House majority leader Dick Armey, a leading critic of health-care reform. (Digression — note that the mainstream media refrained from using the word “reform,” instead often using the unwieldy phrase “health-care overhaul,” “overhaul” being regarded in the newsroom as a neutral word while “reform” implies that what is being proposed is better than what currently exists.) Viewers complained to Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, who passed the complaints on to the program’s executive producer. The producer, noting that Ms. Woodruff had turned to the other guest, a reform advocate named Richard Kirsch, to invite a reply, responded in defense of the moderator: “Seems to me the guests were asked to rebut one another. Judy was the moderator, not the judge.” Getler said in his column that the incident raised the question “of whether moderators, if not serving as judges, need to at least challenge guests more forcefully, especially on subjects such as health care where the degree of falsehoods and fearmongering has reached very high levels, so that the viewer has a better chance of getting at least close to the truth.” There’s that pesky word “truth” again. Why is it just so difficult to make the search for truth the highest journalistic value? Well, for one thing, the notion that there exists one Truth to be spoken or published exists in some tension with core First Amendment values. After all, “the First Amendment recognizes no such thing as a ‘false’ idea,” the Supreme Court tells us. The familiar image of the marketplace of ideas suggests ideas competing freely for public favor, unvetted,
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In their book, The Elements of Journalism, Kovach and Rosenstiel make a distinction between two kinds of truth: correspondence and coherence. “For journalism, these tests roughly translate into getting the facts straight and making sense of the facts.” They call for a “journalism of verification” to replace a “journalism of assertion:” “A more conscious discipline of verification is the best antidote to being overrun by a new journalism of assertion.” Fairness and objectivity should be regarded as tools to that end, they maintain, rather than as ends in themselves. One further problem is that the he-said, she-said format is increasingly the best that a reporter can do under the severe time pressure of being required to file continuous updates for a web site. In an article in The New Yorker entitled “Non-Stop News,” Ken Auletta quoted reporters and press secretaries on what it means to have to feed the Web without being able to take the time to report or even think. “Instead of seeking context or disputing a claim,” Auletta writes, “reporters often simply get two opposing quotes and file a he said/she said story.” I would like to conclude these reflections with a case study in what I regard as the perils of the journalism of assertion, as practiced by our finest newspaper. Over the last few years, the name David B. Rivkin started showing up in the columns of the New York Times. From the manner in which he was quoted in articles relating to various sub-topics concerning the “war on terror,” Mr. Rivkin appeared to be an expert on just about any development for which the Bush administration needed defending — or for which a federal judge who ruled against the White House needed a thrashing. For example, in August 2006, when a federal district judge in Detroit declared that the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program was unconstitutional, Mr. Rivkin had this to say in the New York Times account of the decision: “It is an appallingly bad opinion, bad from both a philosophical and technical perspective, manifesting strong bias.”
on the part of the judge, Anna Diggs Taylor.When another judge ruled that some prisoners held by the United States at the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan had the right to petition for habeas corpus, there was Mr. Rivkin again. He warned that the ruling “gravely undermined” the country’s “ability to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities worldwide.” This time he was identified as “an associate White House counsel in the administration of the first President Bush.” Since that administration had ended 18 years earlier, I found myself wondering what current expertise Mr. Rivkin possessed that led him to make such a harsh assessment of this new decision.
There’s that pesky word “truth” again. Why is it just so difficult to make the search for truth the highest journalistic value?
unranked, and unregulated by some superintending power. For another thing, the word “truth” lacks a single definition. To report, without elaboration, a politician’s charge concerning the “death panels” in the health-care bill is — assuming the politician is quoted accurately — certainly to report the truth. Does such a report convey a more useful or meaningful truth, the contextual truth of the situation? Obviously not. But just as obviously, it would not require a correction.
A check of the Times database reveals that since 2006, Mr. Rivkin has been quoted at least 31 times in articles concerning the detainees at Guantanamo Bay (12 times); detainees at Bagram; executive privilege and presidential authority; targeted killing; Iraq; Abu Ghraib; the performance of Attorney General Mukasey; and the Central Intelligence Agency and its interrogation policies. The descriptions of his role and his implied expertise varied from story to story, but the quote was always to the same effect: a strong defense of President Bush and his policies. To the extent that David Rivkin has any relevant expertise, the basis for it is not disclosed on his law firm’s web site, which contains a full-page biography. He is a partner in the international law firm of Baker Hostetler, identified as a “member of the firm’s litigation, international and environmental groups.” The entry describes him as having “in-depth experience with various constitutional issues that are frequently implicated by federal regulatory statutes, including commerce clause-, appointments clause-, and due process-related issues, as well as First and Tenth Amendment-related matters.”
Mr. Rivkin was identified in the article as “an official in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush.”
He has “extensive experience in international arbitration and policy advocacy on a wide range of international and domestic issues, including treaty implementation, multilateral and unilateral sanctions, corporate law, environmental and energy matters (with an emphasis on policy, regulatory and enforcement issues.)”
There was no indication of what might have given him the “philosophical perspective” to criticize this court decision so forcefully, or of what evidence he possessed of “strong bias”
His qualifications for practicing law in these areas are evident: during his federal government service in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, he worked on domestic regulatory
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issues, with a specialty in oil and natural gas. He worked in the Office of Policy Development in the Justice Department and worked for Vice President Bush as legal adviser to the Counsel to the President, later becoming special assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Dan Quayle and associate general counsel in the Department of Energy. The more I read, the more mystified I became. An article on the prospect that President Obama might transfer some Guantanamo detainees to the United States included a warning from Mr. Rivkin that classified information might be made public during trials in civilian courts — “a danger that David B. Rivkin, an official in the Reagan Justice Department, calls ‘the conviction price.’” When details of the C.I.A.’s interrogation regime were reported in August, the article contained these sentences: “ ‘Elaborate care went into figuring out the precise gradations of coercion,’ said David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. ‘Yes, it’s jarring. But it shows how both the lawyers and the nonlawyers tried to do the right thing.’” An article about President Obama’s decision to retain the military commission system for trying detainees at Guantanamo included this: “David B. Rivkin Jr., a Washington lawyer who was an official in the Reagan administration, said the decision suggested that the Obama administration was coming to accept the Bush administration’s thesis that terror suspects should be viewed as enemy fighters, not as criminal defendants with all the rights accorded by American courts. ‘I give them great credit for coming to their senses after looking at the dossiers’ of the detainees, Mr. Rivkin said.” And an article on the prison sentence meted out by a Federal District Judge to a man who admitted having trained with and offering his services to Al Qaeda offered the critique from David Rivkin that the Obama administration should have used a military commission instead of sending the defendant, Al-Marri, to federal court. The federal courts are “a crapshoot,” he said, while military commissions “arrive at a better judgment, being comprised of warriors . . .” Mr. Rivkin was described in this article as “a lawyer who served in the administrations of President Reagan and the first President Bush.” I should note that Mr. Rivkin’s usefulness extends beyond the pages of the Times. A Washington Post analysis of the release of the so-called torture memos included this paragraph: “David B. Rivkin Jr., a lawyer at Baker Hostetler who supported the detainee policies, says the memos’ ‘careful and nuanced legal analysis’ . . . produced ‘eminently reasonable results.’”
I give the Post writer credit here by identifying Mr. Rivkin as a lawyer in private practice who simply supports one side of the issue, rather than trying to gussy-up his credentials by referring to his long-ago federal service. David Rivkin even showed up in a New York Times cultural feature, an article about the documentary film, “Taxi to the Dark Side,” which took a highly critical stance toward the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. Mr. Rivkin, introduced to readers as “a lawyer in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush,” becomes the voice of the “other side” in an account of the film and interview with the filmmaker. “It’s pretty clear that it’s not policy and it’s pretty clear that these things are prosecuted,” Mr. Rivkin is quoted as saying. The article goes on: “Mr. Rivkin said the military’s performance by historical standards has been quite good in the recent conflicts. ‘In all the good wars,’ he said, ‘we have had some pretty bad records.’” I decided to try to see how it was that David Rivkin had emerged, Zelig-like, into daily journalism. I asked reporters who had quoted him whether they had called him for a quote or whether he had called them first. I will omit the names of the reporters, because they did not expect to be identified in a public lecture like this. “He reached out,” one told me, noting that “I’ve known him a long time.” Another said he had been referred to Mr. Rivkin by a conservative think tank. “I called him,” another said. “I have quoted him a few times in the weird role of surrogate for the Bush administration. ... It was to the point that Bush administration officials would suggest him when they chose not to speak for themselves on Gitmo.” Although this article did identify Mr. Rivkin by his prior federal service, the reporter observed to me: “I am not sure he did national security in Reagan or Bush I.” From another reporter: “I called him. I have known him for years. He is a good go-to proxy to articulate the Bush team’s national security legal policy views.” And from still another: “I called Rivkin, who has been defending the Bush policies for so long (especially interrogation) that he knows them as well as the human rights folks.” Noting that the article contained criticism of the policies, the reporter added: “I thought it would be unfair not to make the opposite point.” At this point in my lecture, I probably don’t have to tell you what I think of this kind of “reporting.” I find it particularly troubling to use Mr. Rivkin to criticize federal court decisions. When a federal district judge issues a decision, there is no “other side” to the story – the decision is the decision. The “other side” is contained in the briefs presenting the argument that the judge rejected. But digging
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Features political expenditures, candidates using their own money to run against publicly financed candidates, firms using data from computerized databases.
up the briefs, reading them, and summarizing them takes more work that accepting an ad hominem sound bite from someone willing to answer any call.
In these latter cases, it is generally a conservative majority that takes the stronger free-speech position — not surprising in that it is the speech of conservative interests that it is generally supporting. The string of cases where the Roberts court has dismantled key provisions of federal and state campaign finance laws have been 5-4 rulings with the conservatives on top.
I actually don’t mean to be critical of David Rivkin, a man with whom I have a perfectly pleasant personal relationship. As a surrogate, a “go-to proxy,” he is simply filling a role assigned to him by reporters and — let’s assume — editors who accept unquestionably the notion that every story has another side that it is journalism’s duty to present. I hope I have persuaded you tonight that there is another side to that story – one that calls on journalists to do their best to provide not just the facts, but also — always — the truth.
From time to time a case comes along that attracts the more libertarian conservatives and liberals. The recent decision
Linda Greenhouse is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times and a professor at Yale Law School.
Decisions of both the Warren and Roberts courts protect unpopular speech that democratic majorities want to stifle.
W i l l i am H. F r eivogel Free-speech law is nearing the century mark with a golden age of robust rulings under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., one that compares with an earlier golden age under the Warren court in the 1960s.The Roberts court has protected the free speech rights of corporations, protesters at soldiers’ funerals, filmmakers depicting animal cruelty, companies that mine information from databases, producers of violent video games and the teens who want to watch them as well as political candidates who shun public financing. Underneath this broad-brush trend, the situation is a little more complicated. Those arguing for free speech don’t always win with the Roberts court. The court upheld the discipline of a student who unfurled a goofy “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner across from his school. It refused to protect the free-speech rights of a human-rights group accused of providing “material support” to a terrorist group, even though the support was human rights advice. And it ruled against an assistant prosecutor whose boss demoted him because he refused to tone down a memo criticizing a sheriff. The prosecutor and the student might have been more likely to win their free-speech claims when Earl Warren was chief justice. The Warren court proclaimed that students’ freespeech rights did not end at the “schoolhouse gate” and that
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public employees should be protected when they speak out on a matter of public interest. In other words, the kinds of free-speech claims that win with the Roberts court often are different in kind from those that won during the Warren court. The Roberts court is more likely to favor the speech of monied interests, while the Warren court was sympathetic to protesters and other outsiders. Still, the decisions of both Warren and Roberts courts protect unpopular speech that democratic majorities often want to stifle. In the Warren era, it was communists, civil rights protesters, the Ku Klux Klan, a young man wearing a
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
“F--- the draft” jacket in a courthouse. In the Roberts era, insiders are sometimes on the outs with political majorities — corporations making
Analysis: Roberts Court Displays Robust Support of Free Speech, especially for Monied Interests
striking down California’s law against violent video games was a good example. Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the court’s most conservative members, wrote the sweeping majority opinion, joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and by liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Two decades ago, Scalia and Kennedy joined the free-speech leader of that era, Justice William J. Brennan Jr., in the 5-4 decisions protecting a protester’s right to burn the American flag. Dave Roland, director of litigation at the libertarian Freedom Center of Missouri, compared the Warren and Roberts courts in an email. “The Warren court’s decisions were probably more important overall because they dealt with speech directly challenging government actions and authority, but the Roberts court . . . seems (for better and for worse) to be vindicating the principles established by the Warren court.” Burt Neuborne, a New York University law professor and former director of the ACLU, called the Roberts court “the strongest First Amendment court in history.” That doesn’t mean that the liberal civil libertarian always likes it. Neuborne had supported the Arizona public financing law that the court threw out this week because it put candidates who did not agree to public funding at a disadvantage. “The current majority,” Neuborne told Bloomberg, “uses the First Amendment as a powerful tool of deregulation that eliminates virtually all government efforts to regulate anything to do with the flow of information.”
Lee Epstein, a Northwestern law and political science professor who formerly taught at Washington University, made a similar point in the New York Times: “For the conservatives, the First Amendment continues to trump other values, especially if they can help business in the process,” she said.
Justice Antonin Scalia
Chad Flanders, a professor at Saint Louis University Law School, says the Roberts court’s approach to free expression has been increasingly absolutist since last term’s decision in U.S. vs. Stevens, protecting the video depiction of animal cruelty. That absolutism was reflected, Flanders said, in this week’s decision on violent video games. “What strikes me,” Flanders wrote in an email, is the “increasing reliance on the rigid categorization of Stevens. Basically, if the speech isn’t of the previously defined ‘low or no value’ speech categories, such as obscenity, incitement or fighting words, it’s going to be hard for legislatures to regulate that speech. Moreover, you can’t create new categories of low or no value speech . . . (such as) violent video games.”
Dawn of First Amendment Law The First Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1791, but First Amendment jurisprudence is less than a century old. No law had been thrown out for violating the First Amendment before World War I. The fear that surrounded that war resulted in laws that put anarchists and communists in jail for opposing the draft and the war. At first, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes supported decisions like the one that put Eugene Debs, the Socialist presidential candidate, in prison for speaking against the draft. But gradually, Holmes and the other brilliant justice of the time, Louis Brandeis, broke with the rest of the court and began developing modern First Amendment law. Holmes believed in a marketplace of ideas where the best ones would win out. “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market,” he said. For Brandeis, free speech was a tool of democracy, the way to find “political truth.” Brandeis also had a finely developed belief in the right of individual privacy. The belief in privacy and his support for speech as a means of democracy could have left him among the dissenters who opposed broad free-speech claims in the funeral protest, data gathering and campaign-finance cases.
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Features to one side. We just get to look at the list, and if the speech in question isn’t on that list, then you can’t really regulate it. In that respect . . . the dissent by Breyer (in the video games case) is more intellectually satisfying. (He) asks, what are the harms in allowing this kind of speech? How well do these restrictions help stop that harm?” Mark Sableman, a media lawyer at Thompson Coburn, says Kennedy has become one the court’s most important “expounders and developers of First Amendment law,” especially after writing the data-gathering opinion. In that decision, the court ruled Vermont could not stop pharmaceutical companies from obtaining data on doctors’ prescription-writing practices — data companies used to market their more expensive, brand-named drugs to the doctors. The views of Justice Stephen Breyer may be the closest to those of Brandeis’, but Roland sees Breyer as having the “narrowest view of free speech” on the current court. In student speech cases, however, no one has a narrower view than Justice Clarence Thomas who says students have no speech rights because they didn’t in 1791.
Kennedy and Roberts The sparkplugs of the Roberts court on free speech are Kennedy and the chief justice himself. “Kennedy seems to be the leading voice when it comes to the broad spectrum of individual liberty,” wrote Roland, “but I think that the chief justice is challenging Kennedy for leadership in the area of free speech. Roberts has taken it upon himself to write the opinions in several of the major free-speech cases from the past few years.” Roberts wrote the decisions protecting the Rev. Fred Phelps’ anti-gay protests at service members’ funerals, films with depictions of cruelty to animals and this summer’s decision striking down Arizona public financing. St. Louis University’s Flanders finds Roberts’ broad protection of categories of speech less satisfying than Breyer’s narrower, more nuanced approach. Roberts’ “whole categorization test becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: new categories (of unprotected speech) can’t be created because they aren’t in the list of traditional categories. The list is also pretty rigid because the majority on the court seems reluctant to credit any analogies between new types of speech and the traditional categories. So, for example, they reject Breyer’s analogy between selling smut to kids and selling them violent video games. “I tend not to like the ‘categories’ approach because it leaves all the hard work of saying why these categories are special
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Vermont had tried to block this prescription information to protect the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship and to keep down health-care costs. Kennedy wrote that the First Amendment keeps the state from singling out “disfavored speech by disfavored speakers.” The disfavored speech was the marketing of brand-name drugs and the disfavored speakers were the pharmaceutical companies. Protecting pharmaceutical companies isn’t exactly protecting draft protesters, but the drug companies’ speech ended up on the short-end of a democratic vote as did the speech of Eugene Debs almost 100 years ago. Kennedy’s influence is enhanced because he is the justice who bridges the liberal-conservative gap on the court, most often casting the deciding vote in 5-4 decisions, two-thirds of the time joining the conservatives. Sableman, who once was president of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, said he was disappointed the court split along its ideological faulty lines in the Vermont data-gathering case. Only Sotomayor crossed the divide to join the five conservatives in supporting the data gathering. Sableman, who sees data gathering as equivalent to newsgathering and thus fully deserving of First Amendment protection, attended the oral argument in the Vermont case and afterward expected a near-unanimous free-speech decision. He said the ultimate ideological split in that case dramatized for him the extent to which each justice’s basic liberal or conservative instincts affect decision-making, even in the area of free speech.
This story first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon.
William H Freivogel is director of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and a board member of the St. Louis Beacon. He is a member of the Missouri Bar.
Opinion Piece J o h n M c C arr o n
Some of my best friends are investigative reporters, so what follows is argued with no small amount of trepidation. My friends are a bit thin-skinned, you see, because their work is constantly criticized by those they investigate. But they are the stars of our profession, so they almost never get criticized by those of us stationed elsewhere along journalism’s farflung ranks.
But here goes: My friends, you are being played. Most of your investigations are aimed at and focused upon the foibles of government — all levels of government — so effectively that most Americans now harbor a deep distrust of the public sector. You have prepared the garden, my friends, from which now sprouts the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and any number of Libertarians out to free America from the tyranny of Washington and Big Government.
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Features This is no small achievement. And for this service your publisher or your station owner or your holding company’s board of directors ought to thank you. But they never will, for that would give the game away. You are idealists, after all, and you can’t stand being played. I’m amazed you haven’t figured this out on your own. I’m talking about you hard-eyed nerds who comb through the classifieds every morning looking for public notices — of prospective zoning changes, say, or liquor license applications — that might signal some conflict-of-interest at City Hall. I’m talking about wily wonks who every three months, like clockwork, race to the county clerk’s office or the state board of elections to grab those precious D-2 filings listing campaign contributors to elected officials and wannabes. You don’t miss much, my investigative friends. Except, that is, the widespread and growing public cynicism about government that you have worked so diligently, if unwittingly, to create.
Better instead to stand off and dun public agencies with FOIA requests seeking expense accounts, or contract bids, or consultancy agreements or whatever. Even a green reporter can find something in the return mail that will spark public indignation. As an indirect result of these conveniences, press coverage of our most complex societal issues — the problems of public education, say, or the construction and maintenance of public infra-structure — is increasingly crowded out by stories listing the names of school district superintendents earning six-figure salaries or of construction executives donating money to certain campaign funds. All of this is fair game. But the reader or viewer is left inevitably with the jaded view that school superintendents responsible for the education and safety of thousands of kids don’t deserve that $200,000, or that the main purpose of public works “pork” is to pad the political war chests of public officials.
You don’t miss much, my investigative friends. Except, that is, the widespread and growing public cynicism about government that you have worked so diligently, if unwittingly, to create.
Forces? For one thing, investigating the public sector has become much easier than investigating the private. The federal government and virtually all the states now have on their books some version of an Open Meetings Act and a Freedom of Information Act. This is good. Public dealings should be transparent.
Then again, one unintended consequence of open meetings laws has been to turn most official gatherings into stagemanaged productions, the actual give-and-take of decisionmaking having been removed to cloakrooms or in camera one-to-ones or phone calls. Among public officials there is now widespread distaste for making decisions in front of gotcha-obsessed journalists — journalists who may not understand the difference between a revenue bond and a general-obligation bond, or between a tax rate and tax levy, but who are more than willing to assign the worst possible motives to whatever is decided. All those FOIA requests, meanwhile, have largely replaced the development of actual live sources as the basic tool of investigative reporting. Today’s newsroom ethos is such that the cultivation of person-to-person relationships with public officials is generally considered a questionable practice. Gone
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Mind you, I allege no conspiracy here, only a convergence of forces and circumstances that comfortably suit the powers that really be.
is the “backgrounder” lunch or cup-of-coffee at which Mr. or Ms. Official explains what the real issues and influences are.
If the news stories don’t sufficiently drive home these points, news columnists and editorial writers are sure to follow up — in the tradition of Chicago’s late Mike Royko — with even darker insinuations.
Another reason the public sector gets hammered by the press more than the private sector, (a reason almost never discussed at academic media conferences or panels) is the double standard that is U.S. law governing libel. The average media consumer doesn’t understand, though virtually all media owners, publishers and senior editors assuredly do, that it’s almost impossible to libel a public official or public servant. Ever since the landmark United States Supreme Court ruling of 1964 (New York Times Co. v. Sullivan) and lesser subsequent decisions, any public official claiming libel and seeking damages must first prove the journalist and/or publisher knew in advance the libelous information was false. In First Amendment law, this is called “actual malice.” In reality it is virtually impossible to prove. Not so when journalists report on the private sector, whether it’s a giant utility that cooks its books to get a rate increase or a surgeon who bills Medicare for more procedures than are humanly possible.
Private plaintiffs can win judgments and collect damages — sometimes enough to bankrupt a reporter’s employer — if they merely show the reporting was untrue and that it cost them dearly. This sets up a pernicious but seldom-mentioned choice made every day, at least subliminally, by city editors and assignment desks in newsrooms across America: Should I assign my scarce investigative resources to, say, verify consumer complaints about out-of-date perishables being sold at our local chain supermarket? Or should I have them go once again to City Hall and pull this month’s files on who’s getting the juicy consulting contracts? When cautious editors consider the grief that could come from going after the private sector, the choice is a no-brainer. Witness the ABC-TV editors who in 1992 okayed a couple of reporters hiring on at a North Carolina supermarket . . . only to see the network hit later by a $5.5 million verdict from a jury that decided such an undercover maneuver constitutes fraud. It’s true the mega-bucks award in Food Lion v. Capital Cities/ABC was struck down on appeal.
so as to minimize taxes? There is no shortage of politicians now ascending who argue this, indeed, is the way America must go. And they can point to scandal-after-public-sector-scandal, dutifully reported by the media to make their case (And all the while, with straight faces, also complain the country suffers at the hands of a “liberal” media.) Then again, I offer no hard proof that this is what’s going on. It’s not an organized conspiracy. There is no paper trail. But as an urban affairs writer I watched the sub-prime mortgage crisis unfold over the past decade. I saw innercity neighborhoods all-but-destroyed by fast-buck mortgage brokers and the Wall Street debt re-packagers. And I watch now as the revisionist Right tries to blame the entire catastrophe on Fannie, Freddie, the FHA and even the federal Community Reinvestment Act.
But who needs the annoyance, especially if readers or viewers would be just as entertained by the standard photo-spread about city workers loafing on the job. Even when a private company’s misdeeds can no longer be ignored, journalistic heat is more apt to be aimed at the government agency that was supposed to regulate them. Plane crashes and nearmisses are laid at the feet of the FAA; fatal mining accidents are traced to lax inspection by OSHA or the Bureau of Mines; unsafe car brakes should have been detected and ordered fixed by the NHTSA.
There is a grain of truth to these assertions, but only a grain. If our mainstream journalism were better, such charges would be shown to be as crazy as Roswell UFOs or cold fusion. For that matter, if our journalism were as it should be, the entire sub-prime scam would have been exposed and stopped before collapsing of its own weight in the fall of 2008 with the failure of Lehman Brothers and bail-outs of the rest. But that didn’t happen. That kind of journalism, especially that kind of investigative journalism, was too hard and too risky. So the scam went on and on until the crash, and only now, after it’s too late, are the best-seller lists filling with quasi-investigative post-mortems — stories based largely on the work of state attorneys general and a blue-ribbon Congressional commission.
Add it all up and it’s easy to understand why a large and growing segment of the voting public now thinks government is both stealing us blind and laying down on the job. We live now an Age of Anger.
Duped bond investors, meanwhile, are seeking billions in compensation from the big Wall Street investment houses via civil litigation. But the debt-busted families and foreclosureravaged neighborhoods, where do they go?
People are mad-as-hell about the way things are, about why gas costs $4-a-gallon and why their kids can’t find a decent job. And from what they’ve been reading in the papers and watching on TV, there’s little doubt about who’s to blame. Those anti-government zealots on talk radio surely must have it right. And to some extent, they are right.
These are the people and the places our investigators are supposed to protect. And yet, too many of the sub-prime “perps” are back in business, collecting their commissions and year-end bonuses . . . even as too many reporters are back to making their lists of overpaid school superintendents.
Public sector employee benefits have, in many cases, gotten out of line with those available on the private side. There are too many surly, clock-watching clerks at the DMV and not enough police when you need them. Taxes are too high on working families and too many folks on food stamps are buying stuff the rest of us can’t afford.
John McCarron is a freelance urban affairs writer and adjunct lecturer at DePaul University’s School of Communication. Previously he worked 27 years for the Chicago Tribune as reporter, financial editor and member of the editorial board.
But does this mean the private sector – the sector led by those “free men and free markets” the Libertarians swear by – ought to be trusted to call more of the shots? Should government back off and simply allow “the market” to decide where to drill for oil, where to move the factories and the jobs, where to book their equipment sales and record their stock options
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Features L i s a M a rcus Investigative journalists helped free a Missouri man who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. But can the media continue to play its watchdog role?
Ironically, the kind of journalism that helped free Helmig is threatening to disappear, as pressures mount on newsrooms around the country.
The case of Dale Helmig of Missouri is an example. Convicted and imprisoned for the 1993 murder of his mother, Norma, Helmig was freed last December after Dekalb County Missouri Circuit Court Judge Warren McElwain found “clear and convincing evidence” of his innocence. But Helmig might still be in prison if it had not been for the tenacious efforts of investigative reporters in Missouri and elsewhere in the country.
The battle to free someone wrongly convicted of a crime can be long and arduous. Typically, it is waged by attorneys and journalists, with a supporting cast of family members, innocence advocates and others willing to go the distance to help someone who is locked away for years or even decades.
east of Jefferson City, Mo., police immediately focused their investigation on her son Dale, although no physical evidence or eyewitness accounts linked him to the crime. They contended that he and Norma had argued over a phone bill, and that he knew details of the crime that implied his guilt. According to O’Brien, regional news reports initially accepted the prosecution’s version of events and “reported it like, ‘hey, this is a great victory for justice.’ ’’
New Evidence Uncovered
Ironically, the kind of journalism that helped free Helmig is threatening to disappear, as pressures mount on newsrooms around the country.
But it wasn’t until 1999, three years after Helmig was convicted, that the media began to focus on discrepancies in the case and conduct independent investigations. Helmig’s brother Richard was also a crucial factor. Richard, who recruited O’Brien to work on the case, was “a one-man workforce in trying to get help for Dale,” the lawyer recalls. “Exonerations happen largely where the prisoner has somebody like Rich on the outside fighting for them, who won’t let the case go away, won’t take no for an answer.”
Journalists were not the only players in the 15-year battle that began with Helmig’s conviction in 1996. A pro bono legal team, which managed to enlist the help of a regional innocence project as well as Helmig’s brother Richard were also instrumental.
Richard was also instrumental in attracting the attention of the popular TV program “America’s Most Wanted,” whose profile of his brother in 2009 led to a witness coming forward with key evidence.
And Helmig’s story may not be over. Although he was released five weeks after Judge McElwain’s ruling, which also cited “very significant new evidence directly tying” Helmig’s father, Ted, to the crime, prosecutors appealed. The Missouri Supreme Court this week dismissed the appeal, but the state still has 180 days to decide whether to retry him. As of this writing, no decision has been announced.
The growing press attention helped to create a “critical mass,” observes Missouri-based freelance journalist Terry Ganey, who played an essential role in pressing the Helmig case and keeping it in the public eye on the regional level. Journalist Molly Frankel, while working for O’Brien’s team of investigators, uncovered some of the evidence that was used in the habeas corpus hearing. Investigations conducted by documentary filmmakers also unearthed facts which became available to the Helmig defense team.
Helmig’s pro-bono attorney, Sean O’Brien, credits widespread press coverage of the case, as well as new evidence, for the judge’s crucial decision in 2010 to hold a habeas corpus hearing “It is rare for a judge to look at habeas corpus cases,” O’Brien says. “I think that [the press] did get Judge McElwain’s attention,” he says. After Norma Helmig’s body, tethered to a concrete block, was found in the flood-engorged Osage River, about 10 miles
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“At each stage,” Ganey noted. “More peoples’ consciousness (was) awakened.” A company called High Road Productions, which had a development deal with TNT cable network to do a pilot about wrongful convictions, produced one of the documentaries. The program, “Was Justice Denied?” aired on June 20, 2000. “After that show aired, things started turning around,” said
Richard Helmig, who gave a copy of the program to anyone who might be influential in helping his brother. Another documentary about the case was made by John McHale, an associate professor in the Communications Department at Illinois State University, who founded an innocence project there after making a documentary as a University of Missouri Ph.D. student about an innocent man condemned to death row for a 1985 murder.
Generating Public Awareness McHale learned of Helmig’s case through Sean O’Brien and directed “A Matter of Innocence: The Story of Dale Helmig,” produced with the Illinois State University Innocence Project. The film, released in 2005, generated public awareness and support of Helmig. Publicity from the Illinois State University and TNT documentaries garnered attention from journalists, legal and criminal justice professionals, innocence advocates and concerned citizens. The films led to more press coverage that the Helmig brothers could use in their fight to exonerate Dale. Terry Ganey became aware in the summer of 2005 of Helmig’s plight. Then a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he wrote a three-part series on Dale, published in October. Ganey left the Post-Dispatch shortly afterward, but found the Helmig story so compelling that he promised himself he would continue to write about it whenever possible. He went on to cover the case for the Columbia, Mo., Daily Tribune from 2005 to 2010, and later as a freelancer for the St. Louis Beacon, an online news site, and the Unterrified Democrat, a newspaper in Helmig’s former home town of Linn, Mo. “If newspapers do not highlight such injustices, who will?” Ganey said. “The press’s highest calling is its watchdog role over what happens in courtrooms.” Richard Helmig sent a package including both documentaries to Fox Network’s America’s Most Wanted in 2005. Host and executive producer John Walsh and co-executive producer Steve Katz launched their own lengthy investigation, resulting in the only America’s Most Wanted episode ever to question the conviction of an incarcerated person.
If newspapers do not highlight such injustices, who will? The press’s highest calling is its watchdog role over what happens in courtrooms.”
Anatomy of a Wrongful Conviction Case
– Terry Ganey, then-reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
before us is, can we actually help move this case forward and get some justice? That’s really the driving force behind the stories that we pick.” Fox recently announced the cancellation of the series. The support of a pro-law enforcement program such as America’s Most Wanted did bolstered favorable public opinion for Helmig. America’s Most Wanted followed up their initial coverage with two updates on the case, one on Helmig’s July 2010 habeas corpus hearing in Maysville, Mo., about 60 miles northeast of Kansas City; and the second covering Helmig’s release, which aired March 5, 2011.
Working Without Pay As media attention grew, O’Brien and the Midwestern Innocence Project in Kansas City worked tirelessly without pay for years on Dale’s behalf. Ken Blucker, a senior staff attorney there who served as co-counsel to O’Brien in Helmig’s habeas corpus case, said law students, volunteers and staff interviewed witnesses, collected and reviewed documents, visited with Dale and helped research and draft court documents. While the Helmig case was being reinvestigated, reports of wrongful convictions were on the rise. In 2000, Illinois Gov. George Ryan declared a moratorium on executions of death-row inmates because of the “shameful record of convicting innocent people.”
Before that episode, which aired in 2009, the program helped bring people into law enforcement custody and send them to prison, not the other way around.
He noted that since 1977, 12 death-row inmates had been executed and 13 others were exonerated. In Texas, in 2004, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for killing his two children in a house fire. Though experts said after the trial the fire was not arson, Texas officials let the execution proceed rather than admit the possibility of error.
Explaining their decision to profile Helmig, Katz said, “A huge consideration when we look at every case that comes
The New York City-based Innocence Project says there have been 271 post-conviction exonerations through DNA
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Features evidence in United States history, 80 of which were murder cases. Seventeen of those people were sentenced to death before DNA proved them innocent and led to their release. The average sentence served by exonerees was 13 years. Steve Weinberg, a freelance writer, author, and University of Missouri School of Journalism professor, encourages news media coverage of possible wrongful convictions.
foster faith in the criminal justice system.”
“I learn about a new wrongful conviction case almost every week of the year, year after year after year,” he says. “That means the phenomenon is greater than an occasional aberration.”
“It is unusual for the media to spend the kind of money that it takes to do the kind of investigative journalism that Terry Ganey, for example, has done on Dale’s case,” said O’Brien, a 30-year legal veteran.
Weinberg led a research team that analyzed 11,452 cases in which appellate courts reviewed alleged prosecutorial misconduct. The 2003 project, “Harmful Error: Investigating America’s Local Prosecutors,” found that appellate judges reversed convictions or reduced sentences in more than 2,000 cases. In “Innocent Until Reported Guilty,” an article in Miller-McCune magazine in 2008, Weinberg recommended that newsroom managers restructure crime coverage and keep spreadsheets of all felony charges (or, in cases of limited resources, only felonies such as murder, rape and assault). The records would conceivably help reporters to track cases and spot inconsistencies. Weinberg said: “Unless journalists get better at covering the justice system, many criminals will continue to go unpunished, free to murder or rape or rob again. So investigating wrongful convictions is not—as perceived by too many police, prosecutors and judges—an assault by softon-crime bleeding hearts. Rather, it is an attempt to serve law and order, to improve the administration of justice and to
Overall, however, media resources available for investigative reporting of criminal justice appear to be declining. The number of stories about possible wrongful convictions is not keeping pace with that of potential cases reported to innocence projects. O’Brien has seen the impact of this fallout.
Tenacity, Trust Play Role In Saga of Busch Beer Baron T e rr y G a n e y A few days before Christmas, an anonymous caller told a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor that a young woman had died at the home of August A. Busch IV, the ex-beer baron of Anheuser-Busch.
Busch said he tried to elude them fearing a kidnapping. Busch was eventually charged with three misdemeanor counts of third-degree assault. After a trial, a jury acquitted August IV.
“It takes individual investigative reporters to get interested in cases and then invest the time and the shoe leather into going out and looking into the case.”
If true, it was a huge story in the region where the name “Busch” conjured near-royal status. Busch’s grandfather, often referred to as Gussie, had not only steered the big brewery to national dominance, but also owned the St. Louis Cardinals during glory days in the 1960s and 1980s. On special occasions he would drive into Busch Stadium on a wagon pulled by Clydesdale.
Nearly all Busch family members loathe interviews. “No comment” has been the watchword with Busch’s father, August A. Busch III. But his son has been somewhat more open, and Deb Peterson, a Post-Dispatch columnist, had managed to talk to him on the record before.
This story originally appeared in The Crime Report, the country’s primary source for criminal justice news, at http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/inside-criminaljustice/2011-06-anatomy-of-a-wrongful-conviction-case
But by 2010 the brewery had been sold to the Belgian brewer InBev. August IV confided later that he was battling depression, one factor in his deciding to leave the InBev board earlier this year.
Lisa Marcus recently completed an M.A. in Media Communications at Webster University in St. Louis, where she works as a freelance writer.
The woman had died Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010 but it was midweek before the tip reached the newsroom. The night staff worked it Wednesday, but police weren’t talking. It wasn’t until Thursday afternoon, Dec. 23, when the St. Louis County medical examiner confirmed enough facts for the newspaper to go online with the first word that Adrienne Nicole Martin, 27, had died at Busch’s mansion. The event generated national interest. Within hours, all major television networks reported it. And before the story reached its zenith with the release of the prosecutor’s conclusions on Martin’s death, A. G. Sulzberger of the New York Times was dispatched to St. Louis to cover breaking developments. Throughout it all, the Post-Dispatch remained out front. Nick Pistor, a stringer who joined the newspaper fulltime in 2006, broke the story initially, and then came back Feb. 6 with an exclusive disclosure of the presence of cocaine and oxycodone in the body of the former model and mother of an 8-year-old son. Pistor got dozens of tips about Martin and Busch. Online comments produced leads as well. “You spend a lot of time chasing rumors that aren’t true,” Pistor said. “You follow every little lead that you get.” As developments unfolded, Pistor and reporters from the Associated Press, CNN, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and other news organizations sought to interview Busch, who in his college days had wrecked a Corvette in Tucson, killing Michele Frederick, 22. After a lengthy investigation, authorities did not charge Busch. Busch also got into trouble two years later when police in an unmarked car chased him through the streets of St. Louis, finally stopping his 1985 Mercedes by shooting out a tire. Police had trailed Busch because he was driving suspiciously.
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“I think he felt a friendliness to me,” she said. “I’ve never burned him. I’m not a dishonest reporter. I’ve had other experiences with him when I could have made him look bad but I didn’t. I felt he had some trust.” While the story of Busch’s newest troubles developed, Peterson was on holiday vacation. But the 25-year veteran at the newspaper ended up landing the one and only news interview Busch would give. Excerpts of his remarks were reported around the world. When Peterson returned to work, Jan. 3, she telephoned Busch, seeking the chance to discuss what had happened. After leaving a message, Peterson did not expect to hear back, but within two hours she got a telephone call: “Hi, Deb, this is Aug.” For the next 45 minutes, Peterson scribbled notes on a legal pad. “To be honest with you, I did not ask him a ton of questions,” she said. “He was clearly eager to talk and so I kind of let him go on and on, and wrote frantically and tried to be paying very close attention.” The story that emerged recounted how Busch loved Adrienne Martin and how she had brought him out of depression after In-Bev bought his company in 2008. He said her death was “the saddest thing I’ve ever dealt with.” Peterson’s story said Busch did not know what caused Martin’s death but that it might have something to do with the medication she was taking. He said Martin’s ex-husband, Dr. Kevin Martin, had told him Adrienne Martin had been taking Trazodone, a sleep medication. The St. Louis County medical examiner’s office later found she died of an overdose of oxycodone, a drug for which she had no prescription. St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch said on Feb. 10 that Martin also had ingested a lethal dose of cocaine “an hour or so” before she died. He said her death was accidental, and no criminal charges would be filed. From the beginning, the story that was reported said the death was being investigated as a possible overdose. Before
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Features Peterson’s interview with Busch, there had been no disclosures of what substances were found in Martin’s body.
in Adrienne Martin’s death. The suit seeks damages for their son, Blake Alexander Martin.
Peterson said she had no justification for asking Busch any questions about recreational drug use, and she didn’t.
Pistor said the Post-Dispatch and the AP are the only news organizations still following these developments, which are taking place in a courtroom in Cape Girardeau.
“If you want to continue going back to the source, you are not going to do that,” Peterson said. When Peterson showed her transcribed notes to her editors, they wanted her to call Busch back and seek answers to two questions. One dealt with an apparent discrepancy between the time Busch discovered that Martin was unresponsive and the time that police were called to his estate. The other focused on something Busch said about being in rehabilitation. Why was he in rehab, the editors wondered? Although reluctant, Peterson called Busch again and he returned her call a second time. She asked him about the timing issue, and he provided more information in an attempt to clarify. Busch told Peterson he had been in rehabilitation for depression and “my other issues.” Her story said he did not elaborate. “I let him talk, and I was looking to hear what he had to say,” she said. “I would not have done it any differently.” Police got one chance to talk to Busch about Martin’s death, and that was on day her body was discovered. Since then, according to McCulloch, Busch has refused to answer any questions. Busch’s defense lawyer, Art Margulis, has said the Post-Dispatch interview was a surprise to him, and that he would have advised against it, according to a story in the Missouri Lawyers Weekly. In that account, Margulis said he had gotten mixed reviews on the interview, with some people saying it had helped Busch’s public image. Peterson believes Busch granted the interview to her on his own, and not as part of some public relations strategy. Since then, she said, he continues to talk to her but it’s all off the record. “Even though he does talk to me, I think he’s much more skittish of me now,” she said. Bill McClellan, the Post-Dispatch’s talented columnist with an everyman approach, wrote a couple of tough columns on Busch, one likening the family to the reckless French nobility of the “Tale of Two Cities,” and the other comparing Busch to characters in “The Great Gatsby.”
Terry Ganey was Jefferson City correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for more than three decades until 2005. In 1992 he and another Post-Dispatch reporter, Peter Hernon, wrote a bestselling book on the Busch family titled “Under the Influence.” Ganey’s website, http://www.terryganey.com/ says the book “spins a dramatic and startling story of a corporate monarchy that cut a wide and ruthless swath through society in the pursuit of power and profits.”
Anderson Cooper Upholds Ethics in Journalism Opinion Piece C h ar l e s L. K lot z e r CNN’s coverage of the popular uprisings in Egypt and other countries has brought to the forefront once again the question: If reporters know that official statements or press releases do not reflect what is happening on the ground, should they report it without comment? Should they ignore it, or should they report it with a commentary highlighting the lack of veracity, in brief, that the official statement is wrong, if not an outright lie? Traditionally, newsroom ethics draw a sharp line between editorial opinions and news reporting. Most practitioners in the media now acknowledge that the basis of all reporting implies a point of view, and that objectivity — as such — is beyond human capability. Media simply cannot ever know everything about any situation; but, this limitation does not condone the introduction of the personal views of reporters or editors, whether in agreement or not, with an official position. This is not considering points of view. It is focusing on physical happenings, on specific deeds, on activities the reporter has observed, which contradict the official version. It is my view that it is the ethical responsibility of the reporter to point this out so readers, listeners or viewers will not be misled. Indeed, ignoring that obligation aligns reporters with the misleading statements of the officialdom they are supposed to cover.
CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper was criticized for using the word “lie” when reporting statements by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s head Muammar Gaddafi. The Huffington Post quoted Fox news commentator Liz Trotta, who called Cooper’s coverage “really shocking” and accused him of having “no modesty.” She is further quoted, “Any correspondent worth his salt knows that you shouldn’t be making editorial comments,” adding, “. . . though they may be lies and probably were, it’s not in his (Cooper’s) purview to say so.” Most reporters are intelligent and learned in their area of coverage. The policy Trotta recommends was responsible for leading this country into war with Iraq and causing thousands of casualties.James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times was also critical, but largely because Cooper used the words “lies” and “lying” too often. Rainey’s comment: “How refreshing it would be to see that same piercing candor directed at American politicians when they overtly lie.” The burden falls on reporters and editors to determine, first, whether a statement or release represents a point of view or a political position. If so, it should be reported without comment. However, if that official pronouncement describes a verifiable situation that distorts or contradicts observable evidence, then reporters must inform their audience of what they know is accurate. Anderson Cooper deserves our collective thanks.
Charles L. Klotzer is the founder and editor/publisher emeritus of St. Louis Journalism Review.
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In March, Kevin Martin filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Busch alleging he was negligent
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Stan Musial – Our Man – On and Off the Field J o e P o l l ac k In Brooklyn, where his hits rattled off the right field wall like corn in a popper, Dodger fans, filled with respect and awe, first dubbed him “The Man.” On the day of his final game, the commissioner of baseball, Ford Frick, said, “Here stands baseball’s perfect warrior. Here stands baseball’s perfect knight.” Stan Musial earned those descriptions, just as he earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he was awarded recently by President Barack Obama. Frick, once a New York sports writer, offered higher praise than the medal itself, which has been awarded to some 20,000 people since Harry Truman presided over the first ceremony in 1945. Only eight baseball players are in this group, and Musial holds good company: Joe DiMaggio, 1977; Jackie Robinson, 1984; Ted Williams, 1991; Hank Aaron, 2002; Roberto Clemente, 2003; Frank Robinson, 2005; and Buck O’Neil, 2006.
Visit us online to read reviews of ``Kill the Messenger: The Media’s Role in the Fate of the World’’ Author: Maria Armoudian Publisher: Prometheus Books Hardcover: 312 pages
``Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, And the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture’’ Author: Mark Feldstein Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Hardcover: 480 pages
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As well-deserved as the medal was, Musial won it largely because of a fine, low-key campaign by the Cardinals, supported by the Post-Dispatch, other local media and various important figures in the St. Louis establishment. I’ve never heard anyone say an unkind word about Musial. In 22 major league seasons he was never thrown out of a game. As a player, he was a nonpareil. Many of his records still stand. In 1948, he had a magical season that and has not been threatened since. He led the league in batting average, runs batted in, total hits, doubles, triples, total bases and slugging percentage. In addition, he hit 39 home runs, finishing second behind Johnny Mize and Ralph Kiner, who each had 40 to tie for the league lead. Musial actually hit 40, but one came in a game that later was rained out and the game’s statistics did not count. If the homer had counted, he would have won the triple crown (batting average, home runs and RBIs), a feat so rare it has not been repeated in the National League since the Cardinals’ Joe Medwick in 1937. The new biography, “Stan Musial, an American Life,” by the New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey, offers an honest account. Vecsey is a fine writer with a social conscience strong enough that he left the comfortable world of the sports department for several years to be a straight reporter
covering Appalachia. Vecsey knows news, and he knows that there is more to the world than sports. And he lets pictures tell the story, too. The cover picture is Musial as a stylized American baseball hero at the climax of a swing. The title page picture is Musial focused on the pitcher, poised to swing, his gaze that of an eagle tracking a rabbit. The back cover picture, with Obama shaking hands with Musial after placing the medal around his neck, evokes an emotion underlined with the realization that it might be his final public appearance.
Musial as National Hero On one level, St. Louisans were short-changed in their knowledge of Musial because so much of what he said and did was filtered through the purple prose of Bob Broeg, long-time Post-Dispatch writer and columnist. Broeg wrote several books, many magazine articles, and thousands of words about Musial, all increasing the legend. Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray added to Musial’s local fame. On another level, the great majority of St. Louisans never knew how people and sports writers and broadcasters in other cities thought about Stan. And if you read the Post-Dispatch baseball coverage today, you won’t know much about players from other cities. But Vecsey had the advantage of being a New York sports writer, one who traveled, and therefore was able to see the coverage that Musial received. And he writes about Musial’s last game, Sept. 29, 1963: “Despite the legend that Musial did not get attention from the national media, several New York-based magazines had requested permission to follow him step by step on his final day. This was a national hero winding up his career. Attention most definitely was paid. That final Sunday morning, Musial attended mass and then had breakfast with his actor friend Horace McMahon. Then he headed for the ballpark in his blue Cadillac, smoking a cigarillo along the way, with a photographer from Look magazine, Arnold Hano from Sport, and W,. C. Heinz from Life all squeezed into the back seat.” In typical Vecsey style, he notes that Stan was smoking, and he makes several references to the fact that Stan liked a beer, or a cocktail (White Russians were a favorite). In other words, the author writes about a man, not a stuffed idol. He discusses the unfortunate falling-out with Joe Garagiola, long-time teammate and friend, and points out
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Features that there probably was fault on both sides. Stan and Joe had been long-tme partners in a St. Louis bowling alley, and the Garagiolas sued the Musials over — what else? — money, with accusations of misspent funds. The suit was settled, court testimony was sealed and family members — on both sides — decline to comment.
I’m not a fan of owners in the sports business, but I applaud the Cardinals for their successful attempt to honor Stan Musial for perhaps one last time. Joe Pollack is a former St. Louis-Post Dispatch columnist and operator of the blog www.StLouisEats.typepad.com
Vecsey also shows Stan as someone who doesn’t take kindly to those who would smudge his image or otherwise not show proper respect. More recently, Musial apparently developed signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Vecsey mentioned it but did not belabor the point, but some absurdly-loyal media types responded as if the author had called Stan a child-molester.
Stories Sutin worked on: analyzing the area’s fragmented governments, covering the saga of the Admiral entertainment boat, editing more than 20 voters’ guides and writing the lead story on his last day. A blue turtleneck was his trademark and he’s probably had more bylines than any other Post reporter. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley honored him by naming May 31 as Phil Sutin Day. In retirement, he plans to help his wife Kathy with her website, www.st.louisonthecheap.com.
For some night games my Dad and I would sit on the front steps, listening to Red Barber broadcast over a radio whose range was extended by the length of several extension cords. When the game was played down the street, we could hear the cheers whenever something good happened for the home team.
I met Stan later that year. As sports editor of the Columbia Missourian, covering Tiger football, I talked to him at one of the games and then briefly at another. In 1955, as a rookie sports writer with the old Globe-Democrat, I was re-introduced in the Cardinals’ dressing room and he remembered our earlier meetings. I was impressed. I never was on the baseball beat, but knowing Stan, even as tangentially as I did, always has been something to make me smile. It’s a sadder smile today, given the recent news about the health problems affecting the 90-year-old Musial, but it’s still a smile.
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From hot lead to computers; from a p.m. newspaper to an a.m.; from Pulitzer ownership to Lee Enterprises, four veterans who have written and edited for a total of 135 years, recently walked out of the Post-Dispatch for the last time. They are Phil Sutin, John Duxbury, Ron Cobb and Joan McKenna. It was a big loss of talent, experience and institutional memory.
After a session at University of California, Berkeley in the early 1970s, focusing on urban studies, he returned and tackled regional issues, city hall, county government, transportation and the Clayton Bureau. He filled in as the metro-desk editor in the late 1990s and early 2000s; his slot as regular Saturday night desk editor lasted until his retirement.
I saw a lot of games at Ebbets Field, living just a 10-minute walk from the ballpark. Bleacher seats cost 55 cents and in the later innings we might get in free. My mom, listening at home, knew I’d arrive 20 minutes or so after the game ended.
Luckily, I attended the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, with dreams of becoming a sports writer, which made it possible to watch games at the old Sportsman’s Park. One Sunday, in 1954, I saw Musial hit a record five home runs in a double-header against the then-New York Giants.
A v i s M e yer
Phil Sutin started his 45-year tour after his work at the University of Michigan gained him a Post-Dispatch internship. He worked as a general-assignment reporter, in zones and the east side.
I was 11 when I first saw him play, against my Dodgers at Ebbets Field in the spring of 1942. He came up to the majors in 1941, batting .426 in September. But we won the pennant, with the Cardinals second, and even though we lost to the Yankees in the World Series, we were happy with our first pennant since 1920.
Watching Musial was a thrill for me and for anyone who loved baseball. He uncoiled from his corkscrew stance, always in balance, and he lashed the ball to all fields. He was a fine line-drive hitter, had great speed, was an excellent fielder, and while his arm was not the strongest, it was accurate.
Four Stalwarts Retire From Post-Dispatch
Photo by Kelly K.
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Duxbury, called ``Dux’’ by his sports-department colleagues, worked four years at The Sporting News before being hired in 1969 by the late Bob Broeg, then the Post’s sports editor. Duxbury was unassuming but highly valued over his 42 years because of his bedrock knowledge of sports knowledge and his good humor. Dux missed only one day of work. Among dozens of colleagues he recalls working with — Rick Hummel, who was selected for the Baseball Writers Hall Of Fame, and Neal Russo, a baseball writer whose weird antics included shoe-polishing his hair to keep it black. Dux’s work included hundreds of rewrites, handling agate copy of league standings, box scores, a dizzying array of
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facts and stats, and maintaining a library of college catalogs and history sources on sagging shelves — collections from the old days to shore up the present. He still belongs to the Baseball Writers Association of America, so lots of Cardinal games and watching sports on TV are on his retirement schedule. Ron Cobb came to the Post as a sports copy editor 31 years ago, but three years later found himself on the Blues hockey beat. He covered other sports as well, including Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers winning the first of five Stanley Cups in 1984. He saw Jack Clark hit the pennantwinning homer in Dodger Stadium in 1985. He wrote a speech for tennis great Arthur Ashe, which Ashe delivered at the St. Louis Tennis Hall of Fame induction ceremony a year before he died of AIDS. Cobb, a top-rated local amateur tennis player, even traded shots with Rod Laver at Forest Park. Cobb transferred to features for the next 16 years. He served an eight-year stint as travel editor and wrote about places he visited around the country and things he did — snowmobiling, hiking, dog sledding and golfing. “This was my job,’’ he kept telling himself amid the fun. In retirement, he has no travel plans but will be sprucing up his house and playing ``a lot of golf without getting bored.’’ Joan McKenna started at the Post in 1994 as a free-lancer covering local governments. She got on the features department, worked on the Calendar section, Get Out, and whatever else came down the pike. Then it was the copy desk and finally into design, where she worked for 13 years. Among her memories is this story: On a Monday night in October 2000, a plane crashed in thick, foggy weather. The night editor told McKenna they needed a small, 4-inch wire story. Word then came that the plane was owned by the son of Gov. Mel Carnahan and he often flew his dad to campaign events, No one spoke, but they knew. Volunteers filled the newsroom to pitch in where needed — editing copy for an obit, answering phones; taking dictation. At a furious pace they worked to get it all, get it right. She plans to stay in writing and editing, hone her computer-programming skills and be a Facebook blogger for a non-profit group.
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