The press has been breathless in its coverage of the three “scandals” that plague the first months of President Obama’s second term. It has been especially hyperbolic in covering the issue on which it has a direct interest: subpoenas of reporters. Americans are told that the scandals are another Watergate, that Obama is Nixonian, that Obama will be forced to appoint a special counsel, that the president’s entire second term could be destroyed by the IRS, Benghazi and press subpoenas episodes. It is hardly noticed that there is no evidence of criminality or presidential involvement in any of the alleged misdeeds.
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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.
Sports media love building up their heroes. They love tearing them down too.
It’s all part of the cycle. That makes the tale of the latest cyclist to go through the cycle so interesting.
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