Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Lengthened Shadow

Emerson was right. You remember old Ralph Waldo’s famous saying; "An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.”
The institution is KET, observing the 50th anniversary of going on the air this month.   
The “one man” is Len Press, who conceived the idea of KET and after many hardships got it going.  Len would be the first to say he didn’t do it alone, and his book points out the many people all over Kentucky, and in DC who had his dream and reality.  But still, this month as we celebrate KET, we must celebrate Len Press (and his wife Lil, very much also involved in KET’s history).
I hope you see the 50th birthday program which KET will be airing a lot, even if you don’t read his book.  KET is so much more than the PBS schedule in prime time many of us confuse with KET. So much more. It—and Len’s—prime mission was to bring education to those who didn’t have it, and who badly needed it.  While other states (and KET, too) have drifted from his primary goal, it is, please remember, Kentucky EDUCATIONAL Television.
I hope 50 years from now we will still have KET. If so, it will be on the frontiers of whatever good broadcasting is about. But I am not entirely hopeful. The legislature has squeezed its budget badly. Good, veteran staffers have been laid off, programs have been cancelled or cut back; more than KET will admit, and these days we need it more than ever.
But so many people realize its worth, and hopefully will continue to do so, that 50 years from now, there will be another shadow, another Len Press to guide it into another uncertain future, and for that, and for what KET has achieved in its first half-century, we may all be very, very proud.
I'm just sayin'...

Monday, September 17, 2018

This Blog Is Not Anonymous

It’s bad enough when the public gets it wrong, worse when journalists get it wrong, and very, very bad when journalists get it wrong and cause the public to get it wrong.
I’m talking about the recent famous “anonymous” Op Ed piece in the New York times where a “senior member” of the Trump administration confessed they were deliberately opposing some acts the President wanted to take “for the good of the country”
This Op Ed was NOT “anonymous," as many news stories reported.
There are at least 2 types of so-called “anonymous” stories—and I have dealt with both in my career.
1—is the truly and totally anonymous story that comes into the newsroom from out of nowhere. It claims certain newsworthy things have or will happen and asks us to cover them. It cites no or little evidence for the claim and gives no indication who has sent in this news tip. That is a truly anonymous story, and gives reporters a hard time.  If the claim is about something significant should we use it; but how do we go about verifying that it is, that the claim is accurate and the “source” is creditable?  In most cases these tips/claims can be tossed out on their face.  Once in a while they are worth investigating to see if there is anything  truthfully there.
2---the other type of so called “anonymous” story, and this was true in the Times cases, is where the source IS KNOWN to the reporter, but insists on remaining anonymous, which in a country with a First Amendment is their right. What to do, if you are an ethical journalist, especially if the claim is about an important public issue? You can try to talk them out of their insistence, which is what finally happened in the recent story in the Washington Post about the woman now claiming Judge Kavanaugh sexually abused her. Or you can keep investigating the source’s claim, and if you can’t convince them to “go public” wrestle mightily with whether the claim is so newsworthy and the source so creditable that you go ahead and print it, keeping the source’s name out of it, as ethics require.
It’s not an easy decision to make and we reporters have had many an argument over what is the “right” course here.  Some decide one way; the Times decided another.
Which also means, since the newsroom and the editorial board room at the Times are two very separate entities, that the newsroom now has the ethical responsibility to try to uncover who the Op Ed writer is..and if they succeed, will that story be pushed?? (That one will go all the way up to the publisher for a decision, and one that will be further complicated by rumors the Wall Street Journal or CBS has unearthed the writer and is about to report same.)  Who said Journalism was easy?
We---the collective we of the US 4th Estate—has done a bad job explaining what I see as 2 very different definitions of “anonymous” here.
May I suggest, in the future, these be differentiated as “anonymous” in case 1, and “from a source known to us but who insists on not being named” in case 2.  That will help the public decide what faith, if any, to put on the story.
I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It's The New Fall Season

For political commercials on TV, of course.
And what do we have so far?
Disappointing attack ads from our 6th district Congressman Andy Barr. He could have started on a much higher note, but chose instead to “go negative” not as much as those semi-anonymous groups supporting him, but nevertheless...
We haven’t had polls for a while, thank heavens, after their grossly inaccurate performance in ‘16. But along comes the New York Times with a type of polling few people had heard about here, and no one trusts---not with a MOE (Margin of Error) of 9%. 4% is considered acceptable by those who know, I am told.
As usual even on my big TV set, you can’t read the tiny print at the bottom as to what group is sponsoring these ads; (wonder if Congress which makes the rules planned it this way?)  Along with making it difficult to find out much information as to who these groups are, and whether they are in touch with the candidate they back, a No No against federal law. But then, who polices these ads?  Who tries to find out if there is illegal collusion?  I think it’s the Federal Election Commission; an agency starved by Congress for funds and staff and are you beginning to see a plan here which works for both parties, of course, but against the people?
So, locally it’s been left up to the news media to probe these ads;a re they correct or misleading?  But local TV stations—which rake in plenty of money from such ads-- haven’t done this for years, and newspapers are starved for staff these days and usually don’t any more; an abdication of responsibility, but...
I was unhappy with some of my Congressman’s ads until I realized most of the really bad ones were coming from supporting groups, not Mr. Barr himself. But one ad, currently running by him, is wrong in saying Mrs. McGrath supports a single payer health care system (which she does) it calls such a system “Socialism.”  It isn’t.  Many countries around the world have such a system or its variations, and these nations run the gamut from left to right.
In fact the US is one of, if not the last, major Western nation not to have such a system, and it is worth being debated in the 6th district campaign; but on the basis of facts, not red flag (“Socialism!!!) errors.
I do hope Mr. Barr will give in—as he hasn’t in past races—and hold more than one debate. The citizens of his district are worth more than just one.
As for Mrs. McG, it’s about time she stopped running fuzzy, warm ads of bare bottomed kids, and cooking grandmas; most of us now know who she is and her military background, but where does she stand on more issues for our district than just health care, important as that is???
I'm just sayin'...