Friday, July 21, 2006

Free Press vs. Dawg Pound

Browns Retaliate Against Bogus News Station

This is a real tough one for us here. As you know, we at the Homeless Grapevine hate Channel 19 and the Homeless Coalition boycotts this tabloid news station. Now, we find ourselves in a difficult situation over the freedom to report the news.

It seems that two weeks ago the only station in town to broadcast the 9-1-1 tapes of Al Lerner's relative calling for help over the drowning of his niece was Channel 19. The fake news channel decided that the viewers must hear the anguish, fear, and sadness of a prominent Cleveland family. This angered the owner of the Browns so much that he cancelled Channel 19's contract to broadcast the pre season games and all access and the designation of official local station of the Cleveland Browns. I am sure that the Browns warned the networks not to broadcast the tapes, and only 19 wanted the ratings so much that they went forward.

The Browns are not the best corporate citizens in the world, and Channel 19 is the worst news in Ohio. Do we support the freedom to broadcast anything that is news worthy even it is a little creepy and voyeuristic? Or do we support the Browns for taking a stand with a station that long ago crossed the line? Will the other stations stand by the Channel 19 or jump at the chance to broadcast the games? This is a silly question, because principled stands went out with button shoes. Every other station will jump at the chance to broadcast the games.

I can't decide which evil is worse. We will take a pass on this, but it is nice to see Channel 19 suffer for their horrible pseudo-news programs.


Monday, July 10, 2006

The British Have Taken WCPN

Does the BBC Think that They Own the World???

I have to admit that I have a huge bias against British people throwing the King's English at me, and so I am very disturbed by the programming trends at WCPN. Maybe its because they still carry that silly concept of a King or the fact that we created this wonderful country after casting off English oppression, but I really can't stand listening to BBC or British announcers. I always feel like they are lecturing me. I know that it is not politically correct, but I can't get over it.

So WCPN has decided to catch the British wave and now has four national programs, and then that British and Irish local music show on Sunday. They have the BBC World Service overnight, a new program everyday at 1 pm called The World Have Your Say and then their 4 p.m show The World. Finally, on Sunday they have that annoying word game with the annoying and catchy name My Word. Which raises the question: Do these guys think that every news program with a British guy must have the word "world" in it?

We beat these guys, and now we have to be told how to look at the world by the British. I mean aren't there any Americans who can tell us about the world? Are we so hated in the rest of the world that no American can report on world news? Isn't there any labor news or poverty news that we could hear about that would be more relevant to Cleveland? How many British people are there in Cleveland that they need so much BBC news? They cancelled a show centered on news for the African American community for The World Have Your Say. The 1 p.m. slot has featured African American hosts for five or six years, and now we have some opinion show from around the world. Bring back News and Notes or some program about the problems in America's urban cities--public radio.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

TV 5 Stages the News?

Cameraman Fined for Staging Flood Coverage

Here is proof that we need a media summit...Two weeks ago in Huron County, a Channel 5 cameraman was accused of asking young people to ride their bikes behind a reporter who was talking about flooded streets. Cameraman Gary Abrahamsen pleaded no contest because he said it would be too expensive to challenge the charge. Plus he was facing the words of the kids and two adults who witnessed Abrahamsen asking the kids to ride their bikes in the flooded street. Finally, the police and all of the viewers of Channel 5 saw the kids riding their bikes in the raging water, and thought where are these kid's parents?

This whole story is bunk. The female reporter had to be involved in setting up a good background for her report and at least should have been identified and charged. It may be too expensive to fight in court, but integrity is priceless. The only thing that you have in the business of news is your credibility, and so if this was a false allegation then Channel 5 had an obligation to fight the charge. Anyway, this is the reason we need a neutral party to pass judgment on violations of journalistic ethics. Someone needs to protect readers/viewers/and listeners from bogus news. There needs to be some disciplinary organization for journalists so that we can have some confidence in the information that we are receiving. If there was a neutral third party they could investigate the charges, and the station and cameraman would be obligated to respond. A $145 fine for staging the news is pathetic for undermining the credibility of information exchanged over the public airwaves.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Grapevine Will Not Reveal State Secrets

We Need a Media Summit to Work Out the Rules

I watched William Keller of the New York Times on Face the Nation today on CBS. As one of the least senior members of the press, I am deeply troubled by what is going on with journalism in America. We need a major gathering of journalists to hammer out some standards. We need bloggers, news readers representing television, independent weeklies, magazines, print and radio journalists to develop standards, punishments for infractions, and a complaint process. Here are where we find ourselves in 2006:

  • We have had scandals of fake news at nearly every major media outlet in the country from Jayson Blair to the Dan Rather with his Bush National Guard story.
  • The viewers of television news are increasing hearing opinions seeping into the news especially at the local level. We hear the anchors calling people scum bags or acting as though the subjects of news are guilty upon arrest.
  • Are the television news readers really journalists or entertainers?
  • Journalists have a spotty record of protecting the first amendment. See our posts about panhandling and the press, but there are plenty of other examples.
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial criticized the New York Times for publishing the government invasion of financial records, a story that the WSJ news department also published. This is certainly a new low in protecting an ideology over free speech.
  • The media has missed huge stories over the last six years including the bogus Weapons of Mass Destruction, the total failure of the intelligence community to figure out huge life transforming events, the purchasing of democracy by corporations, and the destruction of the American safety net.
  • The purchasing of news with public relations firms, government propaganda, and video press releases passed off as news is becoming increasingly prevalent.
  • The problems of opinion pieces looking like news, and confusing readers or viewers is an issue.
  • The Washington Post's reader representative misrepresenting facts and openly hostile to the emerging blogger community is one example of the poor state of the ombudsman. This resentment of the blogger community also goes deep into the heart of most newspapers in the United States.
  • The last two wars undertaken by the United States have involved "embedded journalists." Has this worked and served the best interest of Americans?
  • Many of the journalists make guest appearances giving their opinion on television and radio programs. How do they maintain balance if they are constantly preparing for their next television appearance?
Anyway, we have huge issues that need addressed. Our only solution is to write a letter to the editor that may or may not be published. We have all this space on the internet, why can't all of our letters be posted? Why can't there be some punishment for journalists who sell out the First Amendment? Why can't we see the results of a mistake like we did with CBS News? The journalists of America are losing our trust. I feel sorry for Mr. Keller and the New York Times for having to endure the attack by the administration, members of Congress, and even other media, but he needs to respond with more than just "we are a convenient target." We need a Continental Congress for the First Amendment before 2008.