Saturday, September 03, 2005

Where are the American Flags Now?

There have been many questions asked in the past few days regarding the devastating situation in the gulf state region of our country. And I am sure and am hopeful that these questions and discussions will continue for a long period of time. Here are a few questions that I have tonight:

Why are the cable networks the only media truly dedicated to this story?

I’m reminded of that horrible day in 2001. I was working in radio again. As I did every morning, I started the day with a cup of coffee and the morning TV news shows. I watched as Bryant Gumbel tried to piece together what was going on after the first plane hit the tower. And then I saw the second plane hit on live TV. I jumped in the shower and hurriedly headed to the station, where I anchored 12 hours of continuous coverage that was simulcast on five stations. Only two of those stations were news-talkers, so the programming interruption was significant. On Friday morning as I drove into work, the leading news-talk station in Omaha found the need to talk about football for three hours of primetime.

For the week that followed, the coverage of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath could be found on each of the networks continuously. On Friday afternoon, I turned on the TV and found that all three networks were carrying their regular schedule of Soap Operas, followed by Dr. Phil and Oprah. Oprah is fabulous, but when people are starving to death and clinging to life by a thread, I don’t care to hear about earth tones and designer home furnishings.

So is this an east coast media bias? Maybe. But I think it goes beyond that. The difference is power. On September 11th, the powerful financial center of the universe was hit. In this case, the areas affected included row houses, apartment complexes, hospitals and multifamily dwellings where the poor and powerless lived and worked.

Where are the American Flags, the prayer vigils, the moments of silence?

There is no doubt that our country is coming together in extraordinary ways to help our brothers and sisters in the south. But once again I wonder why this situation is different from four years ago? Yes, what happened in New York and D.C. and PA was an attack on our nation by a terrorist group. So, because we can’t mobilize troops to attack old Mother Nature we aren’t upset and distraught? We aren’t putting flags up on our front porches because Katrina isn’t hiding somewhere in Pakistan? Radio stations aren’t playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” because not enough important and powerful people are dying?

Or maybe others are feeling as I feel tonight. Our nation is so divided politically, economically and socially that it is difficult for anyone to come together to express patriotism today. I find it difficult to wave the flag of a country that allows thousands of its citizens to die an unnecessary death because the government was on vacation. I’m fearful too – fearful of what might happen if someone truly wanted to attack us again. If we are not prepared for a natural disaster that we had at least 48 hours notice of, what will we do when a dirty bomb hits Chicago? What will we do if someone flies a plane into a shopping mall in Albuquerque or drives a bus into a high school football stadium in Fargo? Fly back from our comfy ranch in Texas and say - oh shit? Talk about what we should do for three days? Point fingers at everyone else beside ourselves?

When will we learn?

We have spent so much of our resources worrying about the rest of the world. Our role as a super power is significant and, without a doubt, we have helped many. But it is time, now more than ever, to come home and worry about our neighbors down the street and protecting the lives of our own. Obviously, creating a humungous bureaucratic agency wasn’t the answer.

We need to find the answers – soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Saying goodbye, in lieu of flowers

I haven't really said anything substantial on this blog as of late. Not necessarily because I haven't had anything of substance to say, I've just had difficulty finding time to get it done. Things are changing in my life however, and there will be more "substance" in the future.

I was on the phone Sunday night with a good friend who has always been a devoted viewer of ABC news. That includes the local affiliate and most definitely the evening newscast featuring Mr. Peter Jennings. As per usual, she had her TV on and was watching the local news on the ABC affiliate. As we were talking, Charlie Gibson broke into programming with the announcement that Mr. Jennings had passed. It was as if my friend was just informed of the death of a close friend or family member. Without a doubt, we underestimate the impact that the news media has on peoples lives.

Last night on the Nightly News, there was a story documenting the enormous number of people who had visited the ABC News website message boards to share their memories and feelings of grief surrounding Peters passing. What is remarkable is the number of people who vowed on the website that they were quitting smoking because they were inspired by Peters story. More on this story can be found here.

ABC News has released a list of several Peter Jennings tribute funds for well-wishers. "If you would like to show support, in lieu of flowers, Peter Jennings' family asks that you contribute to one of the organizations that he supported, worked for and believed in deeply," says. The groups are Coalition for the Homeless, Women In Need, Teach For America, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Lung Cancer Research Fund. Here are the mailing addresses and phone numbers...

I agree with Ted Koppel, who on Monday's Hardball said this: "The passing, one way or another, of Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings from the anchor desks, is the end of an era. But why must that be seen as a bad thing? In any field, people grow older and are replaced by younger, talented people. It's worth mentioning that when Dan and Tom and Peter, and even I, came along, there was a lot of looking back with nostalgia to Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Eric Sevareid, Walter Cronkite. Things change."

Now, we just have to find those younger, talented people.

Friday, August 05, 2005

CNN Suspends Novak After Tantrum

CNN suspended commentator Robert Novak indefinitely after he swore and walked off the set Thursday during a debate with Democratic operative James Carville.

The live exchange during CNN's "Inside Politics" came during a discussion of Florida's Senate campaign. CNN correspondent Ed Henry noted when it was over that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity.

A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, called Novak's behavior "inexcusable and unacceptable." Novak apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, she said.

"We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off," she said.

A telephone message at Novak's office was not immediately returned Thursday.

Carville and Novak were both trying to speak while they were handicapping the GOP candidacy of Katherine Harris. Novak said the opposition of the Republican establishment in Florida might not be fatal for her.

"Let me just finish, James, please," Novak continued. "I know you hate to hear me, but you have to."

Carville, addressing the camera, said: "He's got to show these right wingers that he's got a backbone, you know. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em that you're tough."

"Well, I think that's bull---- and I hate that," Novak replied. "Just let it go."

As moderator Henry stepped in to ask Carville a question, Novak walked off the set.

Only two weeks ago, CNN executives defended their decision to keep Novak on the air during the ongoing probe into the revelation of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. In a July 2003 newspaper column, Novak identified Plame, the wife of administration critic and former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a CIA operative.

Read the full story here.
Source: AP via

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Harris: Papers doctored makeup in photos

Congresswoman Katherine Harris, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat next year, has again accused some newspapers of doctoring photos to distort her makeup as a way to poke fun at her.
In an interview on a conservative radio talk show Monday, Harris said some newspapers -- she didn't say which -- altered photos during the 2000 presidential election recount when she was Florida secretary of state.

Democratic commentators and late-night talk show hosts lampooned Harris for her liberal use of cosmetics as she took center stage in the recount.

Jay Leno quipped at the time: "They had trucks in Florida bringing the ballots to Tallahassee. In fact, it's the same trucks they used to bring the makeup to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris."

Harris, a Republican, was asked Monday by nationally syndicated radio host Sean Hannity whether that image bothered her.

"I'm actually very sensitive about those things, and it's personally painful," she said. "But they're outrageously false. ... Whenever they made fun of my makeup, it was because the newspapers colorized my photograph."

She has made similar allegations in newspaper articles since the recount and in January told The Associated Press, "The jokes about my appearance -- it's the computer-enhanced photos."
Her campaign manager, Jim Dornan, declined to answer questions Wednesday about her radio comments.

Kenneth F. Irby, visual journalism group leader at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, said the development of digital photography in recent years has made it easier to manipulate photos. As a result, he said, newspapers have tightened their ethics policies prohibiting such practices and have fired people for making even minor changes in news images.

That makes it unlikely that newspapers did what Harris is charging, he said.

Harris oversaw the disputed 2000 ballot count that gave George W. Bush a crucial 537-vote victory in Florida.

She was elected to Congress in 2002 and re-elected last year.

Harris is vying for the Republican nomination to run for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Florida House Speaker Allan Bense said Wednesday he won't challenge her for the GOP nod, saying he believes a campaign would take away from his commitment to the House.
The White House and other top Republicans had encouraged Bense to get into the race.

Source: AP via

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Not Revealing Sources Helps the Terrorists?

Source: Washington Post

The Justice Department is opposing a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill to protect journalists from having to reveal confidential sources, calling the legislation "bad public policy" that would impair the administration's ability "to effectively enforce the law and fight terrorism."

In testimony prepared for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this morning, Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey Jr. says "imposing inflexible, mandatory standards" would hurt the department on prosecutions involving public health, safety and national security.
The department's position is a disappointment to lawmakers and news media advocates who have been negotiating with Justice officials and this week scaled back the bill to meet administration objections. Senate sponsors Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) and Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) altered the measure to allow prosecutors to compel journalists to testify about sources if that would prevent "imminent and actual harm to national security" and the potential harm outweighs the public interest in unfettered reporting.

Dodd said Justice officials "are making a judgment that this is good politics for them to be opposed." While the legislation faces "a hard mountain to climb," he said, it is aimed not at journalists but at "consumers of information."

"There are numerous instances since the founding of the republic when we have relied on aggressive investigative reporting to get to the bottom of things," Dodd said. "You now have a chilling effect."

Scheduled witnesses at today's hearing include Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper, who narrowly avoided jail by testifying last week in the Valerie Plame leak investigation, and Time Inc. Editor in Chief Norman Pearlstine, who surrendered Cooper's notes in the case after losing in the courts.