Thursday, April 24, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


The classic national media parachute story that has gotten misreported on too many counts has to be the ongoing saga of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

As you likely know, Bundy is claiming the federal Bureau of Land Management is unfairly evicting him from federal land upon which his cattle graze.

What few are noting, and Bundy somehow is forgetting, is that he has been grazing on the federal land for more than 20 years without paying grazing fees, the same fees his neighbors and many others pay to allow their animals to graze. He simply stopped in 1993 and is now being evicted.

But for some reason, much of this is ignored by national media, Fox News among them. They see Bundy as some kind of folk hero and do not seem to care that armed militia members have taken up defense positions on his land near Mesquite, NV. to block federal authorities.

Sean Hannity, who once ran away from me when I asked him a question at a radio conference, is chief among the biased media on Bundy. He recently sought to criticize Jon Stewart for pointing out Hannity's misrepresentation of the facts on Bundy, and did a poor job of it. 

If this was some tenant who was being evicted for not paying his rent, imagine the reaction if armed militia came to his door to oppose the local sheriff forcing his removal. No one would stand for that as a valid defense.

I pride myself on trying to see both sides of any story and appreciate when a good, solid legal dispute is being examined. But this falls short.

By all accounts there is no "other side" of this story, despite what Fox News seems to think in its defense of Bundy.

I spoke with local Nevada journalists last week and they all agreed the story is that Bundy is breaking the law. Any news outlet that reports otherwise is not doing its job.

Sadly, this seems to occur more often with a national press, and a conservative media, that either do a poor job of reporting because of laziness or a slanted job because of political bias.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Anyone who has known me for a while knows that I have long railed against those who seek to judge and comment on journalism but do not know how journalism is done.

News, at least in the proper form, is the examination of facts and issues that are either interesting, important or unusual to an audience.

In many cases this includes shining a light on the extreme, even hateful, offensive and dangerous. To interview someone such as the self-described anti-Jewish alleged killer Frazier Glenn Miller and expose his hatred is an important aspect of coverage in the wake of the horrible criminal act he is accused of perpetrating.

The key is to find out how and why he has taken the extremist views he has. This does not mean that a journalist agrees with him or wants to promote those views. A good news person wants to find the facts and report them, and when those facts need to be questioned and challenged, engage in that as well.

And to write a story, as Rolling Stone did last year, about what led the Boston Marathon suspects to commit their horrible bombings is also important journalism. As criminologists seek to find motives and causes of crime, reporters must seek to find them as well.

So when Variety's Brian Lowry this week criticizes Howard Stern of all people for having Miller on his radio show years ago while he was a candidate for U.S. Senate, he misses the point. 

Yes, Stern is more of a comedic entertainer than a journalist. But if anyone has ever heard him conduct an interview, they know he is one of the best. From Dan Rather to Lady Gaga, Stern has had a knack for getting interview subjects to open up and speak honestly about everything from sex to parental abuse to money.

In the Miller interview, Stern gave listeners a good insight into his hateful rhetoric, including Miller calling Hitler "the greatest man to ever walk the earth." That showed how evil and dangerous Miller was. And he did so without supporting Miller and actually exposing him. 

Sure, he did it in a comedic way, which is his approach, but he and others who have had Miller on, such as Alan Colmes and filmmaker Sasha Baron Cohen, do a service by showing how horrible he is, not supporting him.

As Stern noted on his show today, other broadcast veterans from Phil Donahue to Oprah Winfrey have had their share of racists, child abusers, and other disreputable guests. But if they are on to show the world how they got that why or why they are dangerous, it is effective journalism.

Donahue once even had leaders of NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association on. Clearly a group without any defensible positions, but in a forum that showed how they think and why they exist -- clearly an important element in seeking to stop such activities and prevent them from occurring.

If news people want to really do their jobs, then exposing the truth behind Miller, the Boston bombers or any other criminal is an important aspect.

Monday, April 14, 2014


It's been more than four years since I last covered the Pulitzer Prizes for Editor & Publisher. But even with my departure from E&P back then, I still keep an eye on the announcement day news to find out who is winning, and losing, and why.

The truth is that as the winning names are announced today, at 3 p.m. as always, the word that some wonderful journalism is getting its due means even more at a time when so much inaccurate, badly reported and poorly resourced "news" is coming out.

The Pulitzers remain the most prestigious awards in the business, and the most difficult to obtain. With just 14 winners in 14 categories, the prizes are few and far between for many. They are also limited only to newspapers and, in recent years, certain news websites.

No broadcast, cable or magazine outlet can win a Pulitzer. And the 19-person Pulitzer Board has immense power to choose who can win, and in which category. Finalists are not announced basically because they are not necessarily finalists until the board chooses winners.

The board can move finalists around, pull in submissions that were never finalists, or choose multiple winners. And, as it has done, the board can also declare no winner in a certain category.

For several years at E&P, I was lucky enough to be able to track down and report on the finalists, a situation that has dwindled as security is much tighter among the juries that choose the finalists. People still reach out to me seeking the finalists.

Even with technology that will allow the winners to be known via Twitter, email and other instant sources, there is still something of a tradition when the winners are unveiled inside the World Room on the third floor of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in upper Manhattan.

There is still something about being in that historic place where Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler (who will retire after this year) hands out the package of winners and describes them as "changing some lives forever."

He's right, for as they say, when you win a Pulitzer Prize, it becomes the first line of your obituary, forever dubbed "Pulitzer-prize winner." Google that phrase and see how many names pop up, but at the same time, how few as it remains a special accomplishment.

Today's winners will be of interest as we see how many are from the big guns - The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times or Associated Press -- and how many are from small dailies, and even weeklies. The likes of the Point Reyes (CA.) Light, Willamette Week and the The Daily Gazette of Xenia, OH., have each won the coveted award since the first ones were presented in 1917.

And then there are the websites, from Politico to ProPublica, who have added a new dimension to this historic but vibrant award.

Speculation has already begun about how the awards will handle the Boston Marathon bombing coverage and the tricky subject of Edward Snowden, whose leaked documents have been fodder for numerous major stories, and numerous ethical discussions. 

And will The Wall Street Journal -- which has 37 Pulitzers to its credit -- ever win another reporting Pulitzer? It has none since Rupert Murdoch took over in 2007.

We will soon see.