Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Obama? Osama? Whatever!

One of the best year-in-review features EVER is the Crunks list of media errors and corrections. For journalists, it's both sobering and hilarious.

This year, name confusion between Barack Obama and terrorist Osama bin Laden led the way. The compilers also note an unusual rise in errors at student newspapers. Let's hope that's not a trend.

So, grab your eggnog, sit back and follow this link. There are a lot of errors to "enjoy."

(If the link didn't work, paste this URL into a browser instead: )

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

College paper at heart of PBS documentary

Area students interested in newspaper work should try to watch this week's edition of "Independent Lens" on PBS. The program will present "The Paper," a documentary that chronicles the challenges faced by student journalists at Penn State's college paper, the Daily Collegian.

WMEC-TV, Macomb's PBS station, is airing the hour-long program twice this week -- both times in the wee hours of the morning. It's on "tonight" at 3 a.m. and again "Saturday night" (Sunday from 4 to 5 a.m.).

Next week's "Independent Lens" looks at Ralph Nader's activism and career, in case you're interested.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Censorship on farm, under power lines

Two dispatches from the Society of Environmental Journalists' Watchdog Tipsheet show how censorship can take different forms -- and that Americans must remain vigilant to protect their rights, First Amendment or beyond.

"Publishing the origin of 4th-of-July hamburgers could land anyone — including newspaper publishers and consumer activists — in jail for up to 10 years if the animal feeding industry succeeds in getting a little-noticed amendment enacted into law," SEJ writes. "Citing the location of a large feedlot would likewise be a crime, even when the smell of the lot offended people a mile away and federal law requires disclosure of its address under the Clean Water Act."

That issue stems from lobbyists such as the Farm Bureau trying to influence the Farm Bill to prevent disclosure of facts related to agribusiness.

"The Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) and six other journalism groups urged Senators in a Nov. 7, 2007, letter to strike the secrecy language. Joining SEJ were the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the National Press Foundation, and UNITY: Journalists of Color," SEJ reported. "Other journalism groups lobbied behind the scenes for removal of the language.

Elsewhere, a university art professor from Washington was detained by police after she took photographs of power lines, and is suing local officials with help from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"We don't think an art professor should get frisked, handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car for taking photographs on public property in plain sight," ACLU spokesman Doug Honig said. "As an artist and as a teacher, she doesn't want other people who are taking photos of landscapes and other things to be hassled and detained by law enforcement."

For the Associated Press news story on the latter, check out

For the former story on secrecy on the farm, check out

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

IHSA bans photogs from state tourney

Press photographers from daily newspapers in Bloomington, Peoria, Springfield and two Chicago suburbs were banned from covering Illinois' two-day, eight-game high school football championship games in Urbana last weekend by the Illinois High School Association.

IHSA officials said that the papers had violated the IHSA's policy on secondary sales of images from state tournament events, and therefore were not given access to the field.

IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said, "While the Illinois Press Association has indicated its willingness to compromise on this matter, its actions have spoken much louder than its words. We asked the IPA [Illinois Press Association] to have its members refrain from selling photos of our events while we continued to work to resolve this issue. We presented the IPA with a proposal nearly two weeks ago and they have yet to respond."

Some professional photojournalists say a boycott of IHSA sporting events might influence state associations who seek to control the conditions that newspapers agree to in order to receive credentials, including secondary use of newspapers' own images and print sales.

For a complete story from the National Press Photographers Association, go to

Monday, November 26, 2007

'Environmental Journalism' 5 weekends in Quads

Register now for a new course just added to the Spring schedule for WIU/Quad Cities: Environmental Journalism.

Offered as Journalism 400/Topics, the 3-credit-hour class is scheduled to meet on five weekends -- 5:30-8 p.m. Fridays and 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays – Feb. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, plus March 7-8 and April 4-5.

Whether you want a 400-level elective, a course about a vital topic, or something to count toward a Journalism major or minor, Environmental Journalism could fit.

Team-taught by WIU professor Bill Knight, who writes for GateHouse Media newspapers, and Mark Ridolfi, editorial-page editor at the Quad City Times, Environmental Journalism will be a lecture/seminar format, with special guests, relevant videos, and field trips to a Superfund waste disposal site, a Mississippi River eagle count, and a wind farm.

It will require one inexpensive textbook, one journalistic or academic project, an objective midterm, an essay final exam, and will permit students to post online informal stories they write.

Star# 33968.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

‘Running Dry’ Documentarian to Speak (Nov. 28)

Veteran writer, producer and director James Thebaut will present his documentary, “Running Dry,” followed by a discussion, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28 in the University Union Grand Ballroom on the WIU-Macomb campus as part of the University Theme “Global Challenges and Personal Responsibility–Environmental Sustainability” 2007-2008 Speaker Series.

Thebaut’s presentation is open free to the public.

Thebaut recently wrote, produced and directed “Running Dry,” a documentary feature inspired by the late Sen. Paul Simon’s book, “Tapped Out.” The film is a global call to action regarding the evolving world water humanitarian crisis. Thebaut directed crews in China, Israel, Palestine and Jordan, South Africa, India and the American Southwest in order to visualize the depth of the crisis. He also conducted on-camera interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Shimon Peres and many other prominent individuals worldwide. The documentary is narrated by Jane Seymour.

He is also the writer, producer, director and co-executive producer of the documentary feature “The Cold War and Beyond,” the story of the arms race during the 50 years of The Cold War and its legacy on today’s world.

Currently, Thebaut is developing “The Dirty Little Secret,” a documentary on the sexual abuse of female children.

Throughout his career, Thebaut has written, produced and directed an array of prominent socially significant productions including his highly rated and acclaimed Cable Ace Award-nominated 1992 America Undercover documentary for HBO, “The Iceman Tapes - Conversations with a Killer.” He conducted an on-camera interview with Richard Kuklinski (The Iceman) for 17 hours in Trenton State Prison.

He has also produced for A&E “Bad Cops” and “Execution at Midnight” and was the executive producer for the CBS television dramatic special “A Deadly Business,” starring Alan Arkin and Armand Assante, which exposed organized crime’s involvement in the toxic waste business.

Thebaut also produced a one-hour documentary for ABC News Turning Point on New York City police corruption. Because of his work on police corruption documentaries, Thebaut has been called on to lecture at the FBI academy in Quantico, VA.

Thebaut earned degrees from the University of Washington, UCLA and San Francisco State University. A member of the International Documentary Association, he has been affiliated with Lorimar Productions, Carson Productions, Taft Entertainment, Lightyear Entertainment, Home Box Office, ABC News, The Arts and Entertainment Network and CBS.

(From WIU's Campus Connection newsletter, Nov. 16, 2007)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Journalism: antidote to info overload

Journalism should be a way for people to orient themselves more than serve a gatekeeper function, according to Michael Oreskes, executive editor of the International Herald Tribune.

Speaking to the Online News Association in Toronto last week, Oreskes said journalism should be the antidote for information overload, and that abandoning journalism's core values puts the trade at risk.

Check out a summary of his remarks, and download a podcast of his speech here --

Multi-media innovators chat

One of the most innovative -- and energetic -- journalists working in multiple media is Robert Curley, vice president of new products at the Washington Post.

At the Online News Association conference in Toronto last week, another media visionary, J.D. Lasica, sat down with Curley to gab about possibilities.

Check out this 5-minute video of the interview, in which Curley talks about the Post's impressive and moving OnBeing series, the new citizen media site, mobile technology, geo-tagging and more--

Thursday, October 25, 2007

News-Meister up and at 'em

Check out the first of four News-Meister newspapers independently produced as part of WIU journalism students' coverage of the Mock Convention taking place at the Macomb campus through Nov. 5.

Besides print, this weekend a PDF-only version will be available, and every Western student will get an e-mail alert.

Daily -- sometimes hourly -- News-Meister volunters also are posting online versions of stories (check out, and posting insider observations as they happen during convention proceedings (check out ).

Friday, October 19, 2007

Butzow earns award for paper on campus press

WIU assistant professor Mark Butzow has been notified he will receive a research award for contributing the best research paper on campus media issues to the College Media Advisers’ national convention, which takes place next week. He’ll be traveling to Washington, D.C., to present the paper, “The Hosty ruling’s reign of terror only a sprinkle so far,” which reports survey results from college newspaper advisers about the effects of a 2005 court ruling.

The study looked for evidence that college administrators were using the “Hosty v. Carter” ruling to wrest control of content decisions from student editors or otherwise interfere in the free expression of students through campus media operations. As the title suggests, those fears appear to be unfounded, at least so far.

As many of you know, Illinois legislators passed the College Campus Press Act this spring (and the governor signed it Aug. 28), which will provide a good measure of protection to all campus media in the state by designating them as “limited public forums.” That new law was a direct response to the Hosty ruling, which is based on actions in 2000 at Governors State University near Chicago.

Butzow will be presented with the Don Nordin Award for CMA Research at the end of the session where he and two others will present research that applies to teaching and/or advising. One of the other papers studied whether counting sources was a reliable means of evaluating objectivity in stories, and the other paper is a case study on how to build a broadcast journalism operation on a small budget. The research papers in that session also were “blind reviewed” by representatives of the journal "College Media Review," and the winner’s paper will be published in the journal.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Your duty to read the paper

Roy Peter Clark of the Poynter Institute this week wrote a wonderful piece on the necessity of people who believe in journalism to read newspapers.

"It is your duty as a journalist and a citizen to read the newspaper -- emphasis on paper, not pixels," Clark said. "The future of journalism, not just newspapers, depends upon it."

Effectively blending historic perspective and advocacy, Clark also asks the hard question, pointedly: "There is one overriding question about the future of journalism that no one can yet answer: How will we pay for it? Who will pay for good reporters and editors?"

Read the entire post here --

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Extreme Makeover - Newsroom Edition

For years, journalists have wrangled with rampaging change, especially the online revolution that brought vast new duties and the accompanying downsizing that left fewer people to accomplish them. Now these changes are rushing toward a threshold that seems likely to remake the homely print newsroom into a multimedia center fighting for survival and success.

While much attention goes to some new-agey titles (Atlanta has a "director of culture and change") and techy reconfigurations, the editors' intentions go far beyond cosmetics.

Read all about it in Carl Sessions Stepp's comprehensive article in the October/November issue of American Journalism Review. The full story is available here:

You'll read about; about dramatic changes at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution; and a lot about tbhe new Information Centers replacing traditonal newsroom structures at Gannett newspapers.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Courier adviser, teacher makes Nevada HoF

Western Courier adviser Rich Moreno this month was one of four people honored by the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

The former publisher of Nevada magazine, author of seven books about Nevada, and a travel/history columnist for Nevada newspapers, Moreno is completing his next book, Nevada Curiosities and maintaining his blog, The Backyard Traveler [].

Here's the entire story from the University of Nevada Reno --

Cal State journo chair ousted

A followup to a Bulldog Edition posting from Western Courier adviser Rich Moreno about the idea that colleges dump student newspapers in favor of online editions comes from the Long Beach Press Telegram, which reported that Cal State Long Beach journalism chair William Babcock was removed from his position after criticizing his college dean's suggestion to eliminate print editions of the Daily Forty-Niner there.

Read the whole news story here --

Embedded and bedded: newsman as slut

Stephen Fournier in his blog Current Invective posted an essay that makes timely decades-old press criticisms similar to those expressed by George Seldes (Lords of the Press) and especially Upton Sinclair (The Brass Check). It's a screed worth digesting --

The permanently embedded commercial media are embedded in the agencies of government as a stone is embedded in soil. They are also bedded by the agents of government as a whore is bedded to accommodate a paying client.

Modern reporters are paid to gain access to government officials (among other important people). Aware that the reporter’s attention could present an opportunity to influence the public, the official, in return for the grant of access, lets the reporter know what can and can’t be reported. Transgress, and the door slams shut.

Making a deal to censor at the direction of a source is an act of prostitution. The transaction is contrary to principle and both parties are compromised by it, just as the sex act is debased for both participants when money changes hands.

If you’ve ever wondered why the embedded media typically excuse government officials from public accountability, reporters’ habitual acts of prostitution afford a ready explanation. Utter a truthful word, and you’re exiled, left to nose around for stray bits of news like a pig for a truffle. As reporters used to do.

Journalistic prostitution would be fine if the reporter’s job were to shape public opinion in line with the needs of government officials, as it is in totalitarian states. But in a republic like ours the reporter’s job is to inform, and sacrificing factual reporting in exchange for access is just plain un-American.

That’s why news-consumers should be alert to acts of prostitution by reporters. When reading a report about Al Anbar province, for example, the news consumer would be foolish to assume that any of the information was gathered first-hand. More likely, the reporter is delivering a self-serving press release from the government, retyped with an occasional personal flourish from the safety of a bureau in Amman or Doha.

From the White House to City Hall, the reporter who refuses to deliver the press release loses access to the source. The rest are duly bedded and embedded, and, often enough, they won’t even advise you of imminent dangers. How safe is that bridge, that mine, that building, that drug, that car? Don’t rely on the embedded media to tell you. The reporter and the regulator are browsing at the same buffet. Whores.

With this in mind, it becomes possible to sift through what’s presented as fact, isolating rumors, prognostications and opinions, rejecting self-serving declarations, and pinpointing factual deficiencies and inconsistencies. It’s a discouraging way to read the news, but in a failed state like ours, in which newsrooms are staffed by embedded libertines, that’s the way it is.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to be a journalism student

Briton Paul Bradshaw of Online Journalism Blog has posted a wise and witty Top 10 list or journalism majors. It's right on the mark.

1. Read the news. Amazingly, some journalism students don’t read newspapers. I don’t know why they want to write news, but chances are they won’t if they don’t read it. And, yes, that means newspapers, in print or online. For the most part, newspapers dictate the news agenda that broadcast news and magazines then follow. But, yes, watch television news and listen to radio news as well, and read magazines. And do all of this often, and do it critically.

2. Forget you have an opinion. Do you think anyone cares what you think about the condition of trains? Or Genetically Modified food? Or bullying? Unless you are writing an opinion column (which is unlikely) or a review, remain objective.* Think of yourself as a marriage counselor: Ask the questions and let your sources do the talking.

3. Know the difference between news and features. News is new information. It is succinct and to the point -- remember the inverted pyramid. Features typically come later, and tend to explore background/history, different angles, case studies/interviews, analysis, trends, and so on of a topical issue. If you’re asked to write a news story, do just that. Don’t write an essay.

4. Make contacts. Contacts are vital to your work as a journalist -- not only should they be able to tip you off to what’s happening, they will also be a quick and reliable port of call when you need a quote or verification. Contacts are what get you the stories, and flesh them out. From a local vicar to the spokesperson for the Vintage Motorcycle Club, start adding them to a little black book (and spreadsheet), and start making phonecalls now: “Anything happening?”

5. Get a life! Journalists generally report about a particular area -- politics, sport, the environment, science, health, education, communities, religion, technology, motoring, finance, etc. If you haven’t picked an area, pick one, and start getting involved -- join organizations, attend meetings, go to events, do things and talk to people. Stories don’t come with a convenient label: you need to be able to spot them -- while experiences can make for great material.

6. Don’t sit around waiting for an e-mail reply. People can ignore e-mails, and they generally do. A phone call is much harder to ignore, and you’ll get more than a one-line reply. Learn to use the phone.

7. Learn how to spell. Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies makes this point about students generally, but for a journalist correct spelling and grammar says everything about your professionalism. Whether you intend to write for a textual medium or not, a badly spelled resume or poorly constructed script will not get you that job.

8. Be open to new experiences. So you’re interested in music. That’s nice, but if you think you’re going to land your first job on New Musical Express, you’re deluded. A journalist should be prepared to write about anything, and a good journalist should be able to do it with creativity and curiosity. One former colleague had jobs writing about technology, education and cars before she landed her dream job on a women’s magazine -- it’s par for the course. But it’s not a bad thing: It’s one of the best things about journalism! Don’t say you want to see the world but then complain when you have to go to Djibouti.

9. Read books!! Books give you two things: an understanding of the possibilities of language and storytelling; and an expansion of your knowledge of the world. Whether you’re reading an autobiography of Che Guevara or Day of The Triffids; a recent history of Africa or Tale of Two Cities; a popular science book or Hamlet, it makes you more interesting to potential employers; it gives you more ideas to play with; and it broadens your horizons.

10. Know what you want to get out of this -- and chase it. A degree alone is not going to get you a job; your ability to write and research, your knowledge, and your ability to market yourself and network will be key. You must be motivated to study hard, and in order to be motivated, you must have a motivation, i.e. you must know what the reward is -- exposing corruption? becoming editor of the Guardian? Sitting next to Paris Hilton? Then, you must be motivated to do more than study. Get work experience; start a fanzine, or a web site, or a blog. Use Facebook to network. Go to events. Send off work. Pitch ideas to editors.

* Note: don’t mistake objectivity for presenting both sides equally - particularly where science is involved. Global warming, the MMR jab, and various other stories have heavy scientific consensus on one side, so don’t fall into the trap of presenting both arguments as if they have equal weight.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MSM should attribute like blogs do

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine equates supporting journalism "at its source" with crediting "competitors" and also are colleagues in the trade.

"Link unto others as you'd wish they'd link unto you," he quips.

He critizes not just Google and online packages of news that don't fully cite sources, but problems with and by the Associated Press.

Read his short but snappy essay here --

Poynter's NewsU surveys 'censorship' on Constitution Day

The First Amendment can't be considered safe or strong at the high school level, according to Vicki at NewsU, a service of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Prior review and even what she calls censorship is increasingly commonn, and almost 75% of high schoolers aren't sure how they feel about the First Amendment.

Read her whole post here --

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interesting idea

Rachele Kanigel, assistant professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, and advisor to the Golden Gate Xpress campus paper, reports on her weblog, Student Newspaper Survival Blog, that a Los Angeles Times web editor is urging student newspapers to convert from printed versions to online-only publishing. According to her September 16, 2007 entry:

A Los Angeles Times editor challenged student newspaper editors from around California to "stop killing trees" and try online-only publishing.

"Kill your paper," Sean Gallagher, the's managing editor for section development, told about 60 college newspapers editors who gathered at UCLA Saturday for an editors training session sponsored by the California College Media Association. "Stop publishing your print paper."

He suggested student newspapers "take the money from dead trees and put it into training."

Student journalists, Gallagher said, need to develop skills in database building, Flash, multimedia reporting and other new media tools.

Gallagher's presentation, "Getting Serious About Your Web Site," was one of half a dozen sessions at the fourth annual College Editors Boot Camp, sponsored by the California College Media Association, a statewide organization of four-year college media organizations and journalism programs. The organization also sponsored a daylong training for student newspaper ad salespeople on Saturday.

Gallagher urged the student editors to think about the visual side of storytelling and to find ways to interact with readers.

"That old model of us to them, it's dead," he said. "Now it's about blogs, Flash, other multimedia presentations."

Among the ideas he presented for student newspapers to try:
* Set up message boards. "You'll see there are topics (readers) want to talk about and some they don't."

* Run capsule reviews in print. Tease to the full reviews online.

* Post useful information online. He suggested things like bus schedules, gym hours, where to buy tickets for student performances. "It goes back to local, local, local."

* Post stories on the Web first. "A lot of people say, 'Don't put it on the Web yet, I want that in print first.' It's that print mentality you need to throw off. It's gone."

* Set up flat screen monitors around campus. Once they're in cafeterias, student lounges and other student gathering spots you can display the college newspaper Web site on them, giving you a captive audience.

* Sell online sponsorships. Invite advertisers to sponsor podcasts of an on-campus lecture series or other special features.

* Take on a database project. One example: get the office hours of all the professors on campus and monitor whether the profs show up. Publish the results in a searchable database. "That would be a great resource for the campus."

* Send out e-mail alerts.

* Look for student experts. Even if you don't know how to build a database or design a flash presentation, you can learn from other students who do. "There are people on your campus who have the knowledge. They want to be able to put it on their resume, 'I built this Web site.' They want to say to a potential employer, 'I did this graphic.'

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'Watchdogs, not lapdogs'

Network television newscasts are no more informative than Comedy Central's "Daily Show," according to research announced at a recent event in Indiana, where the editor of The Nation magazine commented about these "perilous times."

"We're getting US Weekly fed to us like bad heroin," said Katrina vanden Heuvel. "We need watchdogs, not lapdogs."

Indiana assistant professor Julie Fox studied coverage of the 2004 election campaign, comparing Jon Stewart's "fake news" and network TV.

"I found them equally substantive," she said, "which is to say, not very substantive at all."

For Jonathan Hiskes full article on the event, go here --

Thursday, September 6, 2007

WIU J-students interned this summer

The Journalism program in the summer of 2006 had more newsroom interns than ever.

Shown above outside the Western Courier's complex in the Heating Plant Annex in the south-central area of campus are, left to right, Sarah Cash (Central Illinois Business Publishers), Rob Arroyo (Macomb Eagle), Kyle Moss (central Illinois' Times newspaper group), Drew Thomason (Mahomet Citizen), Ryan Ferguson (Pekin Daily Times) and Ben Snowden (Canton Daily Ledger).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Whoopie! Fantastic!

Illinois' governor, Rod Blagojevich, signed the College Campus Press Act sometime last week. It was included in a press release dated Aug. 31 that was made available to the media today.

The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2008, and it automatically makes every student newspaper at every public college and university in the state a "designated public forum." What that means, in general, is that the administrations at those schools cannot block stories or issues ahead of time. Stuent editors are in complete control of the decision-making about content. And it should be pointed out that paid advisers (sometimes faculty, sometimes staff members in student activities offices, etc.) are among the "administrators" who should leave the content decisions to student particpants in campus media.

Of course, student editors will make errors in judgment (personally, I think the "swingset beer bong" photograph and accompanying caption in the Courier recently was a significant error in judgment), but college media experiences ARE learning experiences! We learn from our mistakes.

The College Campus Press Act was created because, in 2000, a dean at Governors State near Chicago stopped the printing of the school's paper until she could review all of its contents first. A federal appeals court ruling in 2005 seemed to give other schools the go-ahead to do the same under certain conditions, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 failed to take the case and "right this wrong." This legislation is Illinois' way of righting this wrong. And I say "whoopee!"

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Well-rounded education key to future jobs

Reporting jobs may be undergoing a retrenchment, reports Mark Glaser, but many journalism companies also are adding jobs -- in areas other than print.

Such news stresses the importance of a well-rounded, liberal-arts education in journalism rather than a vocational outlook to train students for specific jobs that may not exist in a few years.

Read Glaser's entire piece via his MediaShift blog within PBS --

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Student intern from Iraq appreciates freedom

The next time you're frustrated with a source who won't return your call or an editor who can't be satisfied, think of Washington Post intern Omar Fekeiki, profiled in the Christian Science Monitor this week.

Fekeiki, from war-torn Iraq, was assigned to cover a fatal shooting and wondered how -- if just one or two are dead -- do reporters know whether it's a story?

"I was born and raised in a Baghdad family that appreciated and practiced writing," Fekeiki said in an introductory bio for the newsroom, "but I never thought I'd become a journalist, because I lived under a dictatorship. To me, it was a taboo profession because the only thing journalists did under the regime of Saddam Hussein was to praise the government and lie to the people."

Here's a link to the complete story and photo --

Saner heads prevail at Fox: the audience

It's not the first overly hyped TV show that lasted all of one episode, but Fox's "Anchorman" was canceled Aby the network Thursday afternoon after its Wednesday-night premiere.

The program -- about a former model and World Wrestling Entertainment performer named a local news anchor -- attracted a tiny 1.0 rating in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Fox News makes a mockery of TV journalism

Associated Press TV beat writer Frazier Moore this weekend filed a short, insightful piece on Fox's latest debacle -- a story that ran in some places headlined 'Fox making a mockery of TV news.'

It effectively shares details about "bosomy bottle-blonde" Lauren Jones, soon to be the newest member of KYTX-TV 19 in Tyler, Texas, and star of the network's new reality show, "Anchorwoman."

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Moore writes, "With a resume that includes the titles of Barker Beauty on "The Price is Right," former Miss New York and featured WWE Diva, she's a natural to join the hallowed profession of Murrow and Cronkite."

Turning a bitr more serious, the AP reporter adds, "This show (and KYTX) are doing their part to make a laughingstock out of local TV news."

Here's a link to an online version of his story, published by -- you got it -- Fox News.,4670,TVLookout,00.html
So what? Much of it already is.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Musings of a Journalist

Dave Bakke is a long-time writer at the State Journal-Register in Springfield, where the following essay first appeared this spring:

I am a journalist.

It is my fault that the majority of Americans do not support the war in Iraq.

It was my fault when Americans turned against the war in Vietnam.

I am the reason your teenaged girl dresses like that.

I made “Lady In The Water” tank at the box office.

I am unfair to the president. Every president.

When you feel bad about the future, it is because of me.

I do not know what is important.

I am biased.

I misspell your name and get your address wrong every time.

I snoop around into your business and tell everyone about it.

I am a dinosaur on my way to the dust heap of history.

I am a pest.

Global warming was dreamed up by me.

I don’t get it.

I only print the bad news.

I need you more than you need me.

I get sued, hung up on, shouted at, thrown out and punched.

I am too big for my britches.

I have no business being where I am most of the time.

I print your divorce in the paper.

I print your marriage in the paper.

I dwell on your failures.

I blow things out of proportion.

If your kid robs the liquor store, I print it.

If your kid makes Eagle Scout, I print it.

I tell people about your anniversary, your birthday, your wedding, your award, your promotion, your retirement, your death.

I tell you about unknown people doing wonderful things for other unknown people.

I end up in your scrapbook and on your refrigerator.

I print the quirky, the unusual, the heartwarming, the sad, the happy, the inspiring, the surprising, the awesome and the trivial - all of the goulash that makes up life.

At dawn, I am in a car somewhere on my way to talk to someone who just saved a life.

At midnight, I am on the way to a fire.

Sometimes I like to do the unexpected. Like this.

I do not expect to be liked, admired or trusted. So when you do, it means more.

You do not expect me to be likable, admirable or trustworthy. So when I am, it means more.

I tell what I have to tell about you, despite your importance, what position you hold or how much influence you have.

I tell what I have to tell about you even if you are nobody, do not hold any position or have any influence at all.

I could have done something else with my life and escaped your blame for things that go wrong.

But, no, I could have done nothing else with my life. This is what I’ve always wanted.

I am a journalist.

I tell stories.

You read them.

It’s as simple as that.

And as complex.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New media meets campus media

There's an interesting article out this week in Inside Higher Ed about college journalism programs and their slowness in adapting to the new digital age of news delivery. If you follow the link, check out the comments others have added below the article. Several are from students who make it clear we need to be doing much more to prepare future journalists than we're doing.

In 1995, an article in Quill, a publication of the Society of Professional Journalists, deemed the ability to "deal with new media such as electronic newspapers or World Wide Web pages" as "nice, but not necessary." So David Wendelken, an associate professor of journalism at James Madison University, told a chuckling crowd August 10 during the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s annual convention in Washington, D.C. Suffice it to say, precious few journalism educators would agree with that assessment today. And yet journalism education is lagging behind industry in embracing the new media technologies that students will need to be competitive in the work place, according to Wendelken's research.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Reporter speaks out about Iraq War coverage

After veteran reporter Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News heard U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Spence (R-Ind.) say that the Surge was working but Americans don't realaize it because the media aren't reporting it, the reporter responded with an insightful essay for nieman

"Everybody knows there’s a war on in Iraq," he writes. "What they don’t realize is there are actually four wars – the one to defeat insurgents and terrorists, another to win support for America’s occupation among a majority of Iraqis and yet a third for hearts and minds among the president’s supporters in the United States. The fourth is a war for reporters and editors: It is to find and report the truth while staying alive to file another day in Iraq."

After a heavily guarded tour of a Baghdad neighborhood with McCain in April, Spence compared it to "a normal outdoor market in Indiana."

Hardly, Christenson writes.

"Problems are bigger than the insurgency," he says. "Surge or no surge, they will continue until Iraqi security forces can hold the ground U.S. troops have taken. That is the truth. You can’t put lipstick on this little pig and pass it off as life in Indiana."

Christsenson concedes problems, such as too few journalists there.

"Few regional newspapers like mine send teams to the war zone," he says. "The obvious reasons for not going are the cost and danger, but shrinking newsroom staffs and an increasing focus on local news factor into the equation.

"TV news crews typically have more money than newspapers but seem rudderless when it comes to ethically reporting a story. That’s the way it is in 2007."

He scoffs at the wisdom of censoring or otherwise controlling the press.

"The last time we saw anyone pass off fantasy for reality and think they wouldn’t get caught was in the days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans," he says. "Then, as now, politicians acted as if the rest of us were idiots, as if we would believe their words over the very stunning images that filled our television screens.

"Imagine if the government restricted the efforts of journalists to gather the news there," he continues. "The entire country might have applauded as Bush gave Brownie a medal. This is what is at stake in Iraq. America is at a crossroads there and it’s up to journalists and their bosses to roll the dice, spend the money and tell the story. Think of Iraq as Katrina squared."

For his whole piece, go to --

Friday, August 3, 2007

Chicago TV news: good news, bad news

Chicago TV newscast viewers think the shows adequately inform them, but do little to distinguish themselves from each other and do even less to show people who reflect that diverse market, according to a new study from Medill at Northwestern University.

More than 60% of TV-news viewers think they're "made smarter" by Chicago newscasts, which give audiences a "positive emotional" experience (according to more than 60%, again).

Further, most TV-news viewers think local TV is "substantially more trusted" than newspapers.

However, none of the five stations (WBBM/CBS, WFLD/Fox, WGN/CW, WLS/ABC and WMAQ/NBC) devote even half of their newscasts to actual news or features, the study found, and all would benefit from more diversity in the people it shows.

Chicago's TV market is 66% white and 18% African-American, and approximately 50-50 male and female. However, 75% of faces and voices featured are white and 69% male.

Of course, the study is incomplete, if not flawed, because it doesn't reflect attitudes toward the stations by non-viewiers, nor TV viewers who tune elsewhere at times when newscasts are on.

Michael Malone's summary of the study from Broadcasting & Cable is here --

A pdf copy of the study itself is available here --

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bush, GOP block FOI reform

Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona is helping the Bush administration's Department of Justice block a measure that would require Freedom of Information Act requests to be processed in a timely manner.

Writing a few weeks ago in USA Today, reporter Richard Wolf cited examples such as Don Stillman, who in 1991 filed a request with the State Department for information on workers’ rights abuses in South Korea. Stillman, then employed by the United Auto Workers, never heard back.

“It seems like they have far too great a leeway to fail to respond without some accountability,” he says.

More typical is the case of Rick Blum, who sought documents from the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 on behalf of a public-interest group. Four years later, he got a call saying his request had reached the front of the line.

“Citizens have to wait years to get routine documents,” says Blum, who runs the Sunshine in Government Initiative for media groups. “That renders them useless.”

Here's a copy of Wolf's news story via the Free Press web --site

Newspapers gain online readers, time reading

About four in ten Internet users visited newspaper web sites during the second quarter of 2007, according to new data from Nielsen ratings -- a 7.7% increase from 2006.

Plus, the time online visitors spent on the newspaper sites is up, too.

Bottom line: 59 million people visited newspaper web sites.

Here's Helen Leggatt's summary of the news, from --

Monday, July 16, 2007

Judge Orders Release of Police Data

The Community Media Workshop at Columbia College reports that while the Chicago City Council is considering an ordinance to increase transparency in the police department's handling of misconduct complaints, the city government is fighting an order by a federal judge to release data on police abuse.

The city has until today (July 16) to appeal Judge Joan Lefkow's ruling -- or release the data.
Read the full article here -- []

Friday, July 13, 2007

Media mogul guilty: Chicago jury

One-time media tycoon Conrad Black illegally kept money that should have gone to stockholders of Hollinger International, committed mail fraud, and obstructed justice, according to a federal jury, which announced its verdict on Friday the 13th.

Three other ex-Hollinger execs also were convicted. Black was acquitted on nine other charges.

Black faces up to 35 years in prison and a $1 million fine, according to an Associated Press report today in the Chicago Sun-Times – which Hollinger used to own.

“The conviction signaled an increasing trend of aggressive U.S. government pursuit of senior corporate executives, following the Enron, Tyco and WorldCom scandals, and to hold top executives personally accountable for their companies' actions,” wrote the AP’s Mike Robinson.

Elsewhere, the Wall Street Journal used a few grafs that didn’t appear in the Sun-=Times’ version of the wire-service report:

“Legal observers had speculated that some kind of verdict -- or a hung jury -- was imminent after jurors sent a note to U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve on Tuesday saying they had "discussed and deliberated on all the evidence and are still unable to reach an unanimous verdict on one or more counts."

"Please advise," it added. Judge St. Eve responded by urging jurors to continue working toward a unanimous decision.

The trial began March 20.

Read the Sun-Times’s AP story here --,black071307.article

Media voice calls for stepped-up war coverage

The news media should increase coverage of the Iraq War and even feature more graphic coverage, according to J. Max Robins' opinion piece in the new issue of Broadcasting & Cable magazine. It's responsible journalism, he says, plus it will create a value-added component for nightly newscasts.

At CBS News' blog, PublicEye, there's some support for the suggestion: "As a brother and close friend of Iraq veterans and the son of a Marine, I see the 'show more graphic reality' position as a way of connecting us to the day-to-day reality of what our soldiers are facing," the blogger writes. "If all we see on the news is a still life of a mosque, Bush holding a Thanksgiving turkey, or McCain walking the streets of Baghdad, we won’t have the proper appreciation of the men who are being put in harm’s way everyday. While we get a daily reminder of the brutal mathematics of the war – a certain number of soldiers injured or killed regularly – there is a cold remoteness to such a quantitative approach to the war that doesn’t make it, well, real.

"I’m not sure whether broadcasting more of the brutality of war will be good for business necessarily," he adds, "but it would be good for America."

Here's the whole piece --

This Time, It’s War
By J. Max Robins
Quarterly Nielsen numbers for the Big Three flagship newscasts have ABC World News With Charles Gibson cementing its position as No. 1 and both NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams and CBS Evening News With Katie Couric continuing to lose audience.

It’s a state of affairs that has the suits at CBS and NBC understandably nervous, especially given that both places switched out executive producers not too long ago after each began trending down, to say nothing about the tens of millions of advertising dollars at stake.

My suggestion to all in the nightly-news game, even leader World News, is that they get a lot more aggressive in their coverage of the Iraq War and related stories. I’d advise them to provide even more graphic coverage of what’s actually going on in Iraq and to never shy away from the gruesome toll the war is taking.

The story from the frontlines needs to be told no matter how terrifying the visuals can be, exactly because it can be so difficult to take in. More than 3,600 Americans have died and 26,000 have been wounded. One recent estimate puts the number of those soliders returning with post-traumatic stress disorder at 40%. And let’s not forget the thousands of Iraqis, so many of whom are not combatants, who’ve also lost their lives.

I’m not suggesting that any of these news organizations have abandoned Iraq. A recent study from the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that all three newscasts spend about a quarter of their airtime on the war, splitting that coverage evenly between the policy debate and the situation on the ground. But not one of these organizations has set out to own what is without doubt the most important story of the young millennium.

I know the arguments against going all the way on this one. The coverage costs millions already. It’s too painful and depressing to watch. Viewers will turn away in droves. That’s what you’ll hear in candid moments from network news executives.

There’s the danger factor, too. More than 100 journalists and support staff have died covering Iraq, and we’ve seen some of the networks’ finest correspondents—ABC’s Bob Woodruff and CBS’ Kimberly Dozier leap to mind—nearly lose their lives to bring the story home.

Even if all of that is true, the case against more coverage can just as easily work to support the idea of doing much, much more. The journalists in the field have done a great deal more reporting than ever sees air, so no more money needs to be spent in that endeavor.

But the real sell here is that whoever does own this story will be able to call itself the true network of record. Be purely mercantile about this if you want to be: The audience that the true news leader on the Iraq story will have will be one of quality that advertisers will pay a premium for. Don’t believe me? Look at the demographics and audience growth of that old-media stalwart National Public Radio and such newscasts as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Both have seen steady ratings growth since 9/11.

The knee-jerk notion that Americans won’t tune to this is short-sighted. It would be hard to look at but just as hard to look away, as was the case with Vietnam. These are stories of solemnity, patriotism, waste and heroism that could be told better on a nightly basis.

Given our 24/7-news-cycle environment, it’s essential to provide something that takes full advantage of the large audience these newscasts still maintain and the promotional muscle their networks have to flex. In the parlance of Madison Avenue, let “the unique selling proposition” be the best reportage about the most important story of our time. Someone should just dig in. There’s little to lose and much to gain.

E-mail comments to

'Sicko' reviews are - uh - sick: critic

James Clay Fuller in Minneapolis' Twin Cities Daily Planet writes a sharp commentary about how maintsream media have fallen into lockstep in their response to Michael Moore's new documentary about health care in America: Sicko.

(The documentary is currently showing in the Quad Cities and Peoria.)

By James Clay Fuller
The reviews of Michael Moore's “Sicko” have been fascinating, the editorial and op-ed commentaries on the film even more so.

Apparently there is a rule in corporate journalism that every mention of Moore and his films, or Moore without his films, must contain at least two snide observations about his biases, his ever so naughty attacks on rich and powerful but somehow –- in the eyes of the corporate journalists -- defenseless people such as the chairman of General Motors, and, if you can slide it in, Moore's physical appearance.

Four snide comments, two or three misrepresentations and an outright lie or two about Moore or the films is better, I gather.

(A quick digression: No, I don't know Moore, have never met him or corresponded with him.)

The “Sicko” reviews and commentary are running pretty much true to form, but, interestingly enough, after all the snideness is done, every writer I've come across has had to admit that it is a good film, and that, sonofagun, the United States health care “system” truly is a bloody awful mess, pretty much as Moore says.

Of course, I haven't read the comments in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries publications, though if I run across one I might. The level of unintentional humor should be high.

Speaking of humor: “Sicko” is full of laughs. They're mostly the kind that burst from you when confronted by a lie so outrageous and obvious that the absurdity is overwhelming, but they're real laughs. They get little or no mention in most of the reviews and op-ed pieces I've seen.

Moore knew we'd laugh at the obvious self-serving absurdities of the super rich guys, and I guess that's one of the ways his biases show in the eyes of the corporate press commentators. Perhaps they think he should have paraphrased their idiocies to make them look less foolish, rather than letting them speak for themselves.

A July 5 op-ed piece in the New York Times by Philip M. Boffey is quite representative of the 10 or 12 I've read, I think. He calls the new film “unashamedly one-sided, superficial, overstated and occasionally suspect in its details,” before admitting, in the same sentence, that on the “big picture” of the failure of our health care system “Mr. Moore is right.”

Boffey, who writes editorials on health care for the Times, does not elucidate on his claims that the case Moore builds against our health care “providers” is overstated or “suspect in its details.”

I'll give him this, however. “Sicko” is one sided. Moore doesn't spend any time defending our broken down health care system, which leaves 45 million Americans without health insurance, which is ranked is ranked 37th among nations in quality of care and which overcharges us – often to the point of bankruptcy – and makes deliberate decisions to deny health care to individuals and, as Moore clearly demonstrates, allows people to die needlessly for the sake of protecting overblown profits.

Oops. Was that one-sided, too?

As someone who spent about 45 years in newsrooms, I very strongly suspect Boffey is somebody who is too close to some of his sources. But again I digress.

He says it is “hard to know how true” are the stories Moore puts on film -– stories such as that of a young woman who was retroactively denied health care insurance because of a minor yeast infection that was cured years before she applied for and got the insurance that was taken away when she needed it.

Well, I'll tell him. There is not the slightest reason to doubt any of the individual stories Moore has used in the film.

First, the director is too smart to use a phony story, and risk getting caught, when there are, as he says, countless such stories. When he put out a request on his Web site for personal stories of being screwed by health insurers, Moore was inundated. Within days, he had more than 20,000 such stories.

Second, I can recount four or five such tales from the years I was the primary caregiver for my aged mother, and another dozen from among my acquaintances. This moment, I am deeply concerned about a friend who is in despair because of the years-long battle he has had to wage with his health insurer in order to get care he must have to live, and the debt that has piled up as a result.

Anyone who hasn't experienced such a situation, or doesn't at least know someone who has had to fight for his or her life in such a way, must live in another country.

My favorite criticism of Moore, however, is one employed by at least half the commentaries I've read: That the director didn't give the insurance and pharmaceutical industries time in his film to tell their side of the story.

That, folks, is grandly absurd.

Moore is laying out facts. The industries that profit so hugely from our illnesses spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, public relations and lobbying to “tell their side of the story.” One month's expenditure by the insurance industry for those activities substantially exceeds the cost of making “Sicko.” And Moore doesn't own a single member of Congress; they've bought dozens. (The insurance industry's almost $400,000 in contributions to Hillary Clinton's campaign purse alone would have covered a substantial portion of the cost of making the film.)

Let them tell their lies on their own dime.

Boffey, like almost all of the others whose “Sicko” commentaries I've read, also complains that Moore is to unfailingly kind to the health care systems of other countries. (The film has episodes shot in England, Canada, France, Italy and Cuba.)

What makes Boffey and one or two of the others most annoyed is that Moore doesn't mention “the months-long waits to see specialists in Canada and Britain...”

Well, actually, it does come up in the Canadian interviews, and the Canadians snort in disbelief when the claim is made, though they admit that there sometimes is a wait of a few weeks to see a specialist for an elective or entirely non-threatening treatment or condition.

And the critics fail to note that under our system of money-vacuuming HMOs and profit-building insurance companies, the waits to see specialists in this country often are every bit as long, and longer, than those the defenders of our system claim are the rule in other countries.

The very large network of clinics through which I get my health care and which has close ties to the HMO that provides my health coverage, has made a deliberate decision to limit the number of specialists of several types in its network in order to maximize its nonprofits. (Some specialties, such as cardiology are big revenue producers and so not tightly limited.) When I've complained about long waits to see a specialist, several people within the organization, including four doctors, have confirmed my suspicion on that issue.

Because of a couple of chronic conditions – not life threatening, at least for now, though they have that potential – I must occasionally see specialists in three different areas of medicine. The last two times I had such a need, it took three to four months from the time I placed the first call seeking an appointment until I actually got into the doc's offices. In another case, it was almost five months.

I am not alone in that, despite all the phony denials the HMOs and clinics might produce. Give me 24 hours and I assure you I can provide the names of at least 20 others who have had the same experience. (And it could be 100 others or more if I put the word out on the Net.)

All of the pieces I've read about “Sicko,” have what I find to be a glaring omission.

Not one mentions the comments by Tony Benn, a former member of Britain's Parliament. Yet Benn's statements probably are the most profound element of the film.

He notes, as other good people often do, that “if we have the money to kill (in war), we've got the money to help people.”

But, more importantly, Benn tells Moore, that all of Europe and many other places have good health care systems while the United States lacks such a basic service because in Europe and elsewhere, “the politicians are afraid of the people” when the people get angry and demand some action. In the United States, he observes, “the people are afraid of those in power” because they fear losing their jobs, fear being cut off from health care or other services if they speak up and make demands.

“How do you control people?” Benn asks, and he answers: “Through fear and debt.”

His point is that in the United States we have a great overabundance of both.

Having ignored Benn's succinct analysis, some of the writers, and especially Boffey, state as fact that Americans would reject out of hand any attempt to create a government-run universal health care system. They produce no facts to support the claim, so apparently they just “know" it.

If someone conducted a poll today, asking a section of Americans if they want “socialized medicine,” the results might seem to support the claim of Boffey and others.

But if the gutless Democrats went out and explained, clearly and often, how a government run single payer system actually works, and what it really costs, and what the people of Canada, France, Britain, Germany and other countries really think of their health care systems, the ignorance-rooted suspicion could be reversed in a matter of months. And I believe that is true even assuming the inevitable all-out ad and PR campaign by the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to protect their enormous profits.

(Does it occur to anyone that the profits they suck from our system, while we struggle for and often are refused decent health care, are truly enormous if the industries are willing and able to spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to protect those profits?)

Every American I know is fed up with our present health care mess, and more and more are deeply angry.

Go see “Sicko.” It's a marvelous film, it's full of laughs and, yes, it will give an edge to your anger. Then do something useful with that anger. Members of Congress and state legislatures are just a phone call, a letter or an email away.

And don't be conned by the less-than-half measures proposed by the present gaggle of corporation-serving presidential candidates.

Afterword: Moore's own web site with this opinion piece also has buttons to see where the movie's playing and online footnotes, of sorts: fact checks and sources. Check it out at

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A diet to wean yourself off Junk Journalism

Advertising Age's "Media Guy" last Friday had a terrific commentary on media consumers reducing their intake of -- well -- junk.

Clear Your System of Nasty Media Toxins (No Colonics Required!)
Here's a Guide to Cutting Consumption of Paris, Larry King and All the Other Industry Trans Fats
By Simon Dumenco

You've probably heard about a book called "21 Pounds in 21 Days: The Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox," since it's been heavily hyped by celebrities including Howard Stern sidekick Robin Quivers. The book posits that we all consume so much junk -- unhealthful foods that are poorly prepared and laced with toxins -- that in order to shock our systems back into "wellness," a drastic plan of action is required.

Duly inspired, I've developed my own regimen called The Manhattan Media Diet Detox, which I'm shopping around to publishers. Coincidentally, I, too, posit that we all consume so much junk -- unhealthful media that is poorly prepared and laced with toxins -- that in order to shock our systems back into "wellness," a drastic plan of action is required. (The good news: Unlike with the Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox, colonics are generally not required.)

A few guidelines to start with:
HILTONS: no consumption of information about Hiltons at all. No Rick, no Kathy, no Nicky, no Paris -- not even Barron Hilton, the family patriarch and co-chairman of Hilton Hotels. In fact, while on The Manhattan Media Diet Detox, I encourage you to entirely abstain from staying at Hilton Hotels. Actually, I encourage everyone to boycott Hilton Hotels, despite the fact that the Hilton family is about to cash out big-time by selling the chain to the Blackstone Group, because I think it's important to avoid exposure to toxic brands. Seriously, has any single human alive ever done as much, as quickly, as Paris to tarnish a once-respectable family brand name? Like, imagine if the late Dave Thomas's daughter did porn, drove drunk and said things on video like "I'm a little black whore. I get f---ed in the butt for coke" (as Paris did, as seen on The Smoking Gun last week). Wouldn't you lose your appetite for a Wendy's burger at least a little bit? Likewise, I maintain that soaking in a Hilton Hotel hot tub, or even just wrapping yourself in Hilton Hotel bed sheets, puts you at risk of emotional toxicity due to gravely undesirable psychological associations (this is known in the hospitality industry as the "ewwwww factor").

'LARRY KING LIVE': Compared with many newer, obviously highly synthetic TV figures (e.g., Ryan Seacrest), Larry King may seem like a relatively benign, old-fashioned, "natural" choice. But the truth is, watching his show will leave you feeling queasy, bloated and foggy-headed. Viewers who are stupid already for tuning in to his softball interviews with the self-pitying likes of P. Hilton and I. Washington often find themselves markedly stupider afterward.

STAR, IN TOUCH, ETC. It's not enough to cut them out of your media diet. And it's definitely not enough to simply discard them. Remember that episode of "Seinfeld" in which George Costanza spotted a chocolate ├ęclair atop a pile of trash in a kitchen waste bin? Remember what happened? To avoid relapse, I recommend feeding your latest issues of Star, etc., into a (preferably crosscut) shredder. If you're feeling anxiety at the thought, here, for the record, is all that you'll miss: Some cute celebrities will mate with each other and produce even cuter babies, Nicole Richie will lose some more weight, Ashlee Simpson will try on some totally cute shoes at a boutique, and Michael Lohan and Lynne Spears will express grave concern about their respective spawn. Oh, and Matthew McConaughey will jog on the beach without his shirt on. That's about it.

I will, of course, pad out my Manhattan Media Diet Detox book with lots of sidebars, illustrations, large type, white space and testimonials -- which will totally make the hardcover worth $24.95. As a special bonus, I'll also write stuff like this: "You say you want to improve your overall well-being and rid yourself of the media contaminants that accumulate in your mind, weigh you down, and undermine your sanity? Start today and give your brain the gift of lasting health!"

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

'Press vital to freedom' - Defense Secretary

Arizona Republic Viewpoints editor Joe Garcia this week wrote a compelling commentary based on recent remarks by Robert Gates, Secretary of the Defense Department.

"In these difficult and foggy days of trying to identify exactly who our enemies are, Gates tried to clarify the smoggy matter when he addressed the U.S. Naval Academy's Class of 2007.

" 'The press is not the enemy,' Gates told 1,028 graduates at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., 'and to treat it as such is self-defeating.'

"What?" Garcia asks. "You mean we're not the bad guys after all? News media are used to being portrayed as such: The people who bring you bad news are the real bad guys. Not so, Gates says, who urged new Navy and Marine officers 'to remember the importance of two pillars of our freedom under the Constitution: the Congress and the press.'

"Gates said the military 'must be non-political'."

"Waitaminute. Is this an olive branch being extended instead of the traditional sharp stick in the eye?

"You cannot have freedom without a free press."

Read the entire piece here -

Saturday, June 9, 2007

NYT editor imagines a Murdoch WSJ

Washington Post reporter Mary Ann Akers in her blog reports on a New York Times editor's spoof of what a Rupert Murdoch Wall Street Journal might devolve into.

"There's funny 'ha-ha' - and then there's funny 'ouch'," she writes. "The latter would best describe the reaction of Wall Street Journal reporters and editors to a tabloidized version of the paper's fabled front page lampooning a potential Rupert Murdoch ownership.

"As you can see, the mock WSJ front page looks like a hybrid of the traditional Journal, with its signature pin-dot drawings and bullet point synopses of the news, and a typical Murdoch tabloid strewn with sleazy celebrity gossip headlines, a sensational crime story and flashy lottery ads.

"And who, you ask, is responsible for sending the mocked-up painful reminder to folks at the Journal - who have been having something of a collective anxiety attack over the possibility of a Murdoch purchase? An editor at The New York Times, the Journal's main competitor.

"Larry Ingrassia, the business editor at the Times, says one of the art directors in his department created the mocked-up WSJ front page 'as a lark'," Akers continued. "Ingrassia thought it such a riot that he ordered up an electronic version and promptly pinged his friends at the Journal, where, incidentally, he worked for years before his paper let the Times steal him away.

" 'It was done as humor,' Ingrassia told us, still giggling. 'There was nothing nefarious.'

"And he said he didn't get the sense that anyone at the Journal was offended. Their reaction, he thought, was 'What a hoot.'

"Well, maybe not a full-on hoot," she wrote. "But even if the spoof did have them grasping for the Valium, journalists at the Journal had a few chuckles. (Just a few.)

" 'Most saw it as a good-natured (and wickedly brilliant) joke,' says one senior Journal staffer.

"Another senior official for Dow Jones and Co., which owns the Wall Street Journal, said, 'We're pleased to know that people at the Times actually have a sense of humor.'

"The mock front page has has been circulating around newsrooms of the Journal and Dow Jones for about a month now, ever since Murdoch's surprise $5 billion bid for the news organization was disclosed. A spokesman for the company said Dow Jones had 'no comment' on the spoofed up front page.

"As for Murdoch, he claimed in an interview this week with the Wall Street Journal that he wouldn't change a thing about the WSJ's front page: 'The front page is not boring. Absolutely not,' Murdoch said, (undoubtedly crossing his fingers!).

The JPG graphic spoof itself is here --

Friday, June 8, 2007

Anxiety, excitement and optimism for journalism

Journalism as a trade seems to be in a panic. With newsroom cutbacks in small markets like Springfield and Galesburg as well as big operations in San Francisco and San Jose, it’s not surprising that people who care about traditional journalism are anxious.

However, writes Dan Gillmor in the San Francisco Chronicle, if the issue is the future of journalism --- as opposed to corporate business models --- there's at least as much reason for optimism as fear. The same technologies that disrupt the news industry offer opportunities for creating a more diverse, and ultimately more vibrant, journalistic system.

"There's never been a better time ... to be a journalistic entrepreneur," Gillmore says, "-- to invent your own job, to become part of the generation that figures out how to produce and, yes, sell the journalism we desperately need as a society and as citizens of a shrinking planet. The young journalists who are striking out on their own today, experimenting with techniques and business models, will invent what's coming."

Read his entire piece here --

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Campus Press Act goes to governor

Illinois' public college newspapers would all be granted "public forum" status next January if the governor signs on or if his veto is overridden. Here's today's press release from the STUDENT PRESS LAW CENTER:

By Jenny Redden, SPLC staff writer
© 2007 Student Press Law Center

June 7, 2007 ILLINOIS — With overwhelming support from the state legislature, an amended anti-censorship bill is on its way to the office of Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), who has 60 days to take action on the bill.

If the governor signs SB 729, known as the College Campus Press Act, then all public college and community college publications in the state would be designated as forums for student expression starting in January 2008. The law would effectively negate the 2005 Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Hosty v. Carter in that state. The Hosty decision could allow public college administrators to impose prior review and restraint on student newspapers if the publication is not a designated public forum for student expression.

It applies to Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, which comprise the Seventh Circuit.

"Passage of Senate Bill 729 is a major step in restoring the free speech and free press rights of student journalists on our college campuses," said Edwin Yohnka, director of communications and public policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. "We are grateful that the legislators responded so positively to this idea when we brought it to their attention."

  • Illinois Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) introduced the bill in early February with assistance from the ACLU.
  • Senators passed the bill unanimously in March.
  • The House, which approved the measure 112-2, amended the bill last week to protect administrators from being held liable for any student-produced material and allow them to punish students who use unprotected speech.
  • The Senate unanimously approved the amendment Wednesday.

Jim Ferg-Cadima, legislative counsel for the ACLU of Illinois, said last week that the ACLU looks forward to the support of the governor. However, the bill is virtually veto-proof, he said, because of the legislators' overwhelming support.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

What's a 'free press' when there's no PRESS

There’s no definition of “press” in the 45 words of the First Amendment, so in a world of "citizen journalism," web sites, MySpace, blogs, etc., who's bound by the responsibilities that go along with a free press?

That question is posed by First Amendment Center executive director Gene Policinski in a compelling piece worth considering.

Check it out here --

Friday, June 1, 2007

Reporters without Borders calls for action after record Iraq toll

The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders wants a special police unit to investigate media killings in Iraq after a record 12 journalists were slain in May, reports Paul Tait of Reuters.

The Paris-based group expressed shock after the deaths of four journalists in five days and said police should also set up a witness protection program to help in investigations of media killings.

Since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein, who controlled Iraqi media, Iraqis have seen the proliferation of newspapers and television. Many are controlled by political or religious factions, and Iraqi journalists, dozens of whose colleagues have been killed or kidnapped, complain some officials put them under heavy pressure.

Read Tait's piece here --

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Student, citizen join forces in rural news network

A small town in Montana since March has benefited from an innovative combination of a journalism student and a restaurant owner, in a project helped by the Institute for Interactive Journalism.

Check it out here --

Meanwhile, the affiliated Knight-Batten Innovation Awards invite new proposals for funding, and there's two weeks to apply. For details, check out the J-Flash newsletter here --

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Jon Stewart can teach un-funny journalists

American Journalism Review has a thorough critique of The Daily Shoe parody -- and finds a lot of journalism there as well as comedy.

"So-called fake news makes fun of that concept of balance," says Martin Kaplan, associate dean of Southern Cal's Annenberg School for Communication. "It's not afraid to have a bullshit meter and to call people spinners or liars when they deserve it. I think as a consequence some viewers find that helpful and refreshing and hilarious."

Read the whole piece here:

Rural areas benefit from Knight News Challenge grants

Al Cross's Rural Blog from the University of Kentucky has a nice summary of a few rural projects benefiting from the first few grants from the Knight Foundation.

Here's a few grafs from the May 23 piece:
"The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced today the first grants in its Knight News Challenge, a five-year contest offering $25 million in awards for ideas and projects that use digital news or information to build and bind community in specific geographic areas. As Eric Newton, the foundation’s vice president of journalism programs, describes it, the contest combines 'nerds, news and neighborhoods.” And Knight's 'neighborhoods' includes some rural places.
"The largest grant with rural impact is $885,000 to Richard Anderson, president and owner of VillageSoup Inc., a company that provides places for residents to learn, share and shop in their neighborhoods or towns. The grant will be used to create an open-source version of VillageSoup’s successful community news software, combining professional journalism, blogs, citizen journalism, online advertising and 'reverse publishing' from online to print. Anderson says his goal is 'Turning independent weekly newspaper companies and entrepreneurs into an imposing, lively, worldwide creative energy that is competitive with media company chains.'
"The next largest grant with rural impact is $244,000 to Ethan Zuckerman, a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. With Rebecca MacKinnon, he is the cofounder of Global Voices (, an international community of bloggers and citizen journalists that has introduced readers around the world to the brilliant, funny, insightful and touching voices of bloggers from developing nations. The grant will be used to introduce thousands of new developing world bloggers to the world, helping students, journalists, activists and people from rural areas to the blogosphere. 'It’s becoming clear that the world is listening, so now we’re trying to get new groups of people talking.'
"The second round's application period begins July 1."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Impeachment story being ignored, critic says

A college professor, author and director of the respected Project Censored reports that there's a growing grassroots movements of Americans supporting impeachment of President George W. Bush, but the mainstream media are ignoring the story.

Peter Phillips -- a sociology professor at Sonoma State University in California and co-author of the forthcoming book Impeach the President: The Case Against Bush and Cheney with Dennis Loo -- says there's ample evidence of widespread support for impeachment.

"City councils, boards of supervisors, and local- and state-level Democrat central committees have voted for impeachment," he writes. "Arcata, Calif., voted for impeachment on January 6. The City and County of San Francisco voted Yes on February 28. The Sonoma County (Calif.) Democrat Central Committee voted for Impeachment on March 16. The townships of Newfane, Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney in Vermont all voted for impeachment the first week of March. The New Mexico State Democrat party convention rallied on March 18 for the 'impeachment of George Bush and his lawful removal from office.'

"The national Green Party called for impeachment on January 3," Phillips continued, "Op-ed writers at the St. Petersburg Times, Newsday, Yale Daily News, Barrons, Detroit Free Press, and the Boston Globe have called for impeachment. The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the Nation [magazine] and Harpers [magazine] published cover articles calling for impeachment. As of March 16, 32 [members of the] U.S. House of Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors to House Resolution 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush’s impeachment."

To read his entire 631-word analysis, check here:

Friday, May 18, 2007

House committee OKs Campus Press Act

Illinois SB 0729, the College Campus Press Act, passed the House Higher Education Committee, 10-2, on Wednesday. It now goes to the full House for a vote. It now has six sponsors in the House, four Democrats and two Republicans. The bill passed the Senate, 57-0, March 15.

For additional information go to

First Amendment at stake in court, in general

The First Amendment and the enlightened citizens of a free democracy that it represents are under review if not under attack in various places, as reported by Ronald K.L. Collins of the First Amendment Center and author Naomi Wolf in a Guardian excerpt of her forthcoming book, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot.

First, the Supreme Court's docket of First Amendment cases is full, Collins reports.Ten free-expression cases and one religion case have yet to be decided. In these cases that the court has agreed to hear, the subject matter includes student expression, campaign ads, voting rights, union free-speech rights, child pornography, and the First Amendment rights of a private school football coach. On the religion side of the First Amendment, there is an establishment-clause standing case. Another case raises a First Amendment-related issue concerning the scope of the speech-and-debate clause. For an overview of those cases, look here --

Elsewhere, in a key component of "Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps," Wolf explains her Number 8: "Control the Press," as something that goes beyond a Latin American military coup seizing a capital-city radio station. It extends to the coziness between Fox News, talk-radio voices such as Rush Limbaugh's and the Oval Office, the real dangers to journalists, as reported by the Committee to Protect Journalists, and the compliant White House press corps.

Drawing parallels between different decades and countries and the United States today, Wolf makes a case by using comparisons that are chilling. Read her complete piece here --,,2064157,00.html

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cartoonists sacrificed, readers suffer

Tony Dokoupil in Columbia Journalism Review's blog CJR Daily recounts the observation that dropping editorial cartoonists is "the editorial equivalent of weight-loss through limb removal," but notes that the trend toward dropping staffers in favor of syndicated cartoons continues.

In 50 years, the number of U.S. cartoonists has fallen from 275 to 84. Chris Britt, who spoke at WIU's Journalism Day two years ago, is one of the few staff editorial cartoonists in the Midwest.

"Syndication tends to discourage controversial work and reward vanilla gags," Dokoupil writes.

Commercially, saving a cartoonist's pay and benefits to avoid offending advertisers or to buy syndicated material cheaply may be smart in the short term, but it's not in the long term.

It loses substance that readers want, and it erodes a paper's local identity, like relying on wire service instead of reporters on local streets, or running commentaries from time zones away at the expense of area voices speaking to their neighbors. Great cartoonists like Frank Miller of the Des Moines Register will only be in the past, undeveloped for future generations of readers.

"Also, at a time when the 'fake' news of The Daily Show and the false certainty of 'answer' shows like Lou Dobbs Tonight are ascendant, it's surprising that newspapers aren't expanding their investment in smart cartoons," writes Dokoupil, who recalls the comment from legendary writer adn editor H.L. Mencken, who wrote, "Give me a good cartoonist and I can throw out half the editorial staff."

Read the entire piece here --

Friday, May 11, 2007

Newsrooms become 'information centers'

Last week the country's largest newspaper chain got rid of all its newsrooms.

"Wha'?" some might say.

What happened on May 1 at Gannett -- which owns USA Today and about 90 U.S. dailies -- is transforming their newsrooms to "information centers" accommodating the needs of the audience with the (developing) skills of its staffers.

It could be a win-win -- if the chain figures out how to create revenue from the increased investment and workload.

For now, the move to 24-hour local and multimedia centers is filled with exciting possibilities.

For press critic John Burke's take on this, see

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Higher Ed Cmte. to consider Campus Press Act

From the Chicago Headline Club:

We just received word that the College Campus Press Act, Senate Bill 729, will be considered by the Illinois House Higher Education Committee on Thursday, May 10, at 8:30 a.m. in the Stratton Building, Room D-1, Springfield, IL.

If you haven't put in a word with the committee and want to, time is running short.
At last count, we know of four members who say they will vote for the bill. Committee chair Kevin McCarthy (D-Orland Park) has publicly supported the bill, saying "I don't think censorship has that many supporters from the General Assembly." Vice-chair Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign) and member Dan Brady (R-Bloomington) are sponsoring the bill; Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) has also pledged his support.

SB729 would bestow "public forum" status on student-produced campus media at state-supported institutions. Collegiate journalists have the opportunity, rare among their peers, to practice openly in their field of study before they begin their careers. This work teaches them the responsibility and good decision-making they will use later, as professionals, when they cover significant events at the local, state and federal levels. When college administrators rob collegiate journalists of these rights early in their training, they rob the public of the quality journalism that is so essential to a healthy democracy.

The 7th U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in Hosty v. Carter compromises this ability by permitting prior review and restraint of collegiate media and sets a dangerous precedent for future rulings. We believe Hosty is bad law, and we believe SB729 is a good remedy. It gives Illinois a chance to become a leader in collegiate student press rights and grants no protections to speech not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Neither would it place any legal responsibility on the shoulders of college administrators. Instead, it establishes all collegiate media as open forums and holds editors accountable for what they publish.

We encourage you to contact a committee member from your area, along with the committee chairman. For "Macombey-homeys," that means firing off a letter or phone call to state Rep. Rich Myers. His e-mail addresses are and

Chairperson :
Kevin A. McCarthy

Vice-Chairperson :
Naomi D. Jakobsson

Republican Spokesperson :
Mike Bost

Daniel V. Beiser

William B. Black

Dan Brady

James D. Brosnahan

John D'Amico

Roger L. Eddy

Mary E. Flowers

Constance A. Howard

David E. Miller

Richard P. Myers

Robert W. Pritchard

Jil Tracy

Good argument for not giving away the store

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman on Monday made a strong pitch for newspapers to make web sites into places of added-value contents complementing their print 'parents' instead of billboards that compete with the origin of the resources that create most Internet news content.

Some may view as extreme his suggestion that newspapers charge something for some of their material, but it's no more illogical than spending money to do the reporting, writing, editing, photography, design and so on, then presenting it at no charge to the world.

Surely there's a practical middle ground in journalism that blends storytelling through various media and commerce.

Those who argue that a new business model or revenue stream are imminent should recall Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page's cautionary comment while visiting Western last month. He said that the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers generate $500-$900 in revenue per subscriber annually, but a newspaper's web site generates $5-$10 per unique visitor a year.

Hussman's newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal, offers free headlines and some free summaries (plus free classified ads), but charges for web subscriptions.

Read his whole piece here --

Monday, May 7, 2007

Another federal shield law proposed

Federal lawmakers once more are trying to pass a shield law protecting journalists.

Congressmen Rick Boucher (R-Va.) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.) last Wednesday (May 1) introduced the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, reports John Eggerton in Broadcasting & Cable magazine.

"Similar bills have been introduced before," he writes. "but that was in a Republican-controlled Congress and with opposition from the Bush administration."

The new bill "sets criteria which must be met before information can be subpoenaed from reporters in any federal criminal or civil matter," say the Republican Representatives, adding that it "carefully balances the public interest in the free flow of information against the public interest in compelled testimony."

For the full article, check it out here --

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Journalists attacked, injured by cops in L.A. melee

The use of force by Los Angeles police against reporters and videographers covering the immigrants rights rally in Los Angeles this week came despite a 2002 legal settlement calling for the L.A. police and city officials to recognize journalists' right to cover public protests even if there is a declaration of unlawful assembly and an order to disperse.

Several journalists were attacked and injured at MacArthur Park, where police used batons and firearms against people doing their jobs.

Under the five-year-old settlement, the city is supposed to assign a press liaison to such events and to set up designated media areas. The pact resolved a lawsuit brought on behalf of seven journalists who said they were assaulted by police while covering the 2000 Democratic National Convention in L.A.

Peter Eliasberg, an ACLU lawyer who helped negotiate the settlement, said that based on broadcast news reports he has heard and viewed, "the police went way over the line," using force that "violates the law and the Constitution."Marc Cooper, associate director of the USC Annenberg Institute for Justice in Journalism, said the video he viewed of the clash led him to believe that the use of force by police was "unjustifiable and excessive.""From what I saw, it just seemed gratuitous to go after the reporters," Cooper said. "They weren't really in the way, they didn't really pose a threat and, of course, they were trying to do their job."

For the full Los Angeles Times report check out --,0,4971632,full.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Dinner exposes press coziness Thomas blasts

New York Times columnist Frank Rich last weekend effectively linked the tragic death of Pulitzer Prize-winning newsman David Halberstam, the embarrassing White House Correspondents' Association dinner, and recent press criticism about the shameful inside-the-beltway coziness between the Washington press corps and the federal government.

Long-time White House journalist Helen Thomas two weeks ago at her WIU appearance spoke about that insider status and how it fails the American people.

Rich begins his April 29 piece, titled "All The President's Press"--
"Somehow it's hard to imagine David Halberstam yukking it up with Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz and two discarded American Idol contestants at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Before there was a Woodward and Bernstein, there was Halberstam, still not yet 30 in the early 1960s, calling those in power to account for lying about our 'progress' in Vietnam. He did so even though J.F.K. told the publisher of The Times, 'I wish like hell that you'd get Halberstam out of there.' He did so despite public ridicule from the dean of that era's Georgetown punditocracy, the now forgotten columnist (and Vietnam War cheerleader) Joseph Alsop.
"It was Alsop's spirit, not Halberstam's, that could be seen in C-Span's live broadcast of the correspondents' dinner last Saturday, two days before Halberstam's death in a car crash in California. This fete is a crystallization of the press's failures in the post-9/11 era: it illustrates how easily a propaganda-driven White House can enlist the Washington news media in its shows. Such is literally the case at the annual dinner, where journalists serve as a supporting cast, but it has been figuratively true year-round. The press has enabled stunts from the manufactured threat of imminent 'mushroom clouds' to Saving Private Lynch to Mission Accomplished, whose fourth anniversary arrives on Tuesday. For all the recrimination, self-flagellation and reforms that followed these journalistic failures, it's far from clear that the entire profession yet understands why it has lost the public's faith."

For his complete and insightful column, via, go here:

Rich also mentions journalist Bill Moyers' PBS-TV special about the breakdown of most of the national press between 9/11 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq (for details on Moyers' sobering show, go here: ) and W. Lance Bennett's When the Press Fails (for details, go here: ).

Thomas' own incisive criticism also is exceptional. (For details, go here: ).

Maybe together with public demands for good journalism, the Washington press corps will improve. And do its job.