“We still don’t know the first thing about terrorists.” That was the title of last week’s column in Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper now available in English and Hebrew on the Internet, by American-born (Los Angeles) and educated (UC Berkeley) Bradley Burston. I have not read or heard an American journalist or TV host make a similar comment, but I wish I had.
The Jan. 7 press release was short and to the point: “Alternative weekly publication The Other Paper will cease publication at the end of the month, the Dispatch Printing Company announced today. The last issue is set for distribution on Jan. 31.” People reacted to the news with anger but not a lot of surprise, according to Richard Ades, who worked at The Other Paper, a weekly alternative newspaper in Columbus, Ohio, for all of its 22 years – first as a theater critic, then as the arts editor from 2008 to 2013. “Most people who knew who we were and were familiar with the Dispatch were surprised that they kept us around that long,” he said.
In mid-January, the Iowa Supreme Court decided to maintain the distinction in Iowa state law between “media” and “non-media” defendants in defamation cases, with the latter easier to sue for some types of libel. In Bierman v. Weier, the court said the distinction is “a well-established component of Iowa’s defamation law.” The decision raises the question of whether bloggers would get the greater protection of media companies or the lesser protection of non-media defendants.
CHICAGO – Back in the early ’70s, as a cub working off the overnight city desk at the Chicago Tribune, you learned fast that all murders were not equal. Sure, all were listed methodically on the deputy superintendent’s logbook at the old police headquarters at 11th and State streets. But while killings on the city’s predominantly white North Side were almost always pursued by our small band of nocturnal newsmen, the more numerous homicides in the black neighborhoods of the South and West Sides most often were ignored. There was even a winking code word for the latter category. They were “blue.” Blue, as in “cheap domestic,” where a drunken live-in boyfriend kills his common-law mate. Blue, as in someone shot in the face after a street-corner dice game gone awry. Judging by how the other four daily newspapers (yes, four!) covered and displayed their homicides, it’s safe to assume the same double standard applied.
Richard Dudman, the former chief Washington correspondent of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, turns 95 today. I don’t believe in heroes, but Richard Dudman is my hero. So many reporters and editors get tired, burned out or cynical. Not Dudman. He never has lost his love for a big story or his intrepid pursuit of the truth in the face of danger. Dudman always kept his suitcase packed so that he could make it to the airport before editors back home had second thoughts about the cost of an international trip.
Traditional journalists, myself included, ascribe to professional standards that emphasize fair, objective reporting and minimize deceptive practices. But stories can look a lot different from different ends of town, making it hard to arrive at one objective truth. And there are important stories that can’t be gotten without creative reporting techniques.
Looking for a long-term commitment in covering a complicated local crime story? As the skeptics say, “Good luck with that!” So it’s well worth noting that both Columbia, Mo., daily newspapers have weighed in recently on the long-term, multiple-part commitment by CBS’ “48 Hours” in covering the 2001 murder case of Columbia Tribune sports editor and popular University of Missouri Journalism School alum Kent Heitholt.
Cleveland is used to bad press. First there was the water: The Cuyahoga River caught on fire in the1960s and Lake Erie was pronounced “dead.” Then there’s sports: LeBron James flees the city, the Browns fail to win a single Super Bowl and the Indians are the second-worst baseball team on the planet. Then along comes Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Theirs should be a happy-ending story to end all happy-ending stories. Held captive in a Cleveland house for some 10 years, they finally escape. Alas, it’s not that simple.
Media coverage of NBA free agent Jason Collins’ announcement that he is gay led to a number of revelations about the state of media and stories about the LGBT community. It also led to some fascinating coverage. Two particular pieces from two ends of the media spectrum provided teachable lessons for working journalists at every level. Howard Kurtz, former Washington Post media critic, host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” and former media critic for the website www.thedailybeast.com, reminded journalists at all levels how to stand up and be responsible for a mistake.
Ten minutes into “Hardball” on Monday, April 22, Clint van Zandt, former director of the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit (and alumnus of Gateway Journalism Review’s home, Southern Illinois University) told host Chris Matthews: “The pieces we don’t have, Chris, are where was their (the two alleged bombers’) inspiration?” That’s when Matthews issued his now deservedly jeered praise of ignorance: “Why is that important? I mean, what difference does it make why they did it if they did it? … I’m being tough here.” Wrong word, Chris. You were being deliberately dense and disingenuous. It matters, as van Zandt pointed out, in giving law enforcement agencies insight to detect similar “inspiration” and prevent it from turning alienated young people into assassins. Such knowledge matters also as liberal education does by granting us a better “understanding of the human condition,” and truly lets journalism become the first draft of history.
True confession: Gateway Journalism Review’s staff is made up of political junkies with long traditions of monitoring election-evening results. Our own political media monitoring likely mirrors that of much of the American population. So, at the risk of being too introspective, here is how GJR staffers spent Tuesday evening.
While reading news from my home state of Kansas Tuesday morning (Aug. 28), a headline caught my eye on the Topeka Capital-Journal Web site: Drought raises concern at Wolf Creek nuclear plant: Cooling waters at John Redmond reservoir are dwindling. The article, which had been posted just an hour prior, was a five-paragraph AP story about concerns over the low water levels and the impact on the nuclear power plant.