The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Reporting While Armed: The Horror!

Posted by Bill Nance on August 14, 2009

Patrick Appel links to a story about Afghan reporters who are routinely armed for self-defense.

Patrick’s selected quote:

[If] a local journo writes a story that burns a big-shot in government or the drug trade, the reporter will be looking over his or her shoulder (to say nothing of their family’s) for years to come. I don’t know any reporters who carry a gun in the US. Here, I know more than a few reporters who won’t leave the newsroom unless fully strapped.

The original story is about Afghanistan’s dangerous environment, which is hardly a surprise. But the notion that reporters might need to be armed is something that only happens in third-world pestholes is stupid beyond words.

Let me share from my personal experience since I  was a crime reporter for several years.

For a couple of decades now, any crime reporter who actually does their job, as opposed to simply taking dictation from the local police department and talking with the occasional victim, is in serious danger more than occasionally. I’m not complaining about the danger, the streets in crime infested neighborhoods are more violent places than they used to be. But that’s far truer for the residents than for reporters who don’t live there.

If you’re following the scanner, going to crime scenes, talking with neighbors and witnesses etc. in Crack Central at 3am, you’re not unlikely to be accosted by people who really really don’t want the press there asking questions and taking pictures. This is one reason why you almost never see pictures and read interviews with witnesses that were taken at the time unless they happen to be at the scene with a dozen cops around. There are plenty of places where reporters are missing good stories because they aren’t safe for an unarmed person to walk around snooping, even in broad daylight.

The reason all this is bad for newspaper readers is you miss the actual facts, which are often quite different from what the police are saying. As a reporter, you fail to get a genuine understanding not only of the event, but of trends, gang affiliations and lots of other things that give you a depth of knowledge which allows you to inform your readers about what’s going on on a larger scale. In other words, you have no perspective.

Crime sells, so reporters are always going to write about it. It’s also interesting because it’s conflict, which fascinates almost everyone on some level. But how often do you read or hear that crime levels nationally are going down, but in one district, or small subsection of a city the crime rate is 30% above the state’s?  That’s a not infrequently the case and the overall number of murders in a city can be a meaningless statistic. Many police departments don’t keep statistics by neighborhoods and the ones that do don’t share “intelligence information” (not subject to freedom of information act requests) with reporters. If you live in Chicago, the murders in one or two sections may make up 50% of the city’s total. That indicates one area has a crime problem, not the city as a whole.  But reporters who just report blood and take dictation from the cops will never grasp that very important fact.

So if you’re going out there and hustling and taking a few risks (it’s still 10 times safer than being a steelworker) it’s prudent to be armed. I was able to avoid a serious confrontation or assault simply by warning several gang members that I was armed. Who knows how many problems this saved me with other people they talked to.  Criminals don’t like to mess with people who are armed and ready to defend themselves.  Absent a very good reason (like being a rival gang member) they leave you alone.

So I know it’s taking a different tangent from the story Appel linked, but I think the point remains a valid one. That the writer in question doesn’t know any reporters in the ‘States who carry speaks to American reporter’s timidity and hoplophobia, not just that Afghanistan is a dangerous place. I mean seriously, we already knew Afghanistan was dangerous didn’t we?

Advertisements

Posted in afghanistan, Crime, firearms, hoplophobia, International, Journalism | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Michael Jackson: Pedophile? Maybe. Popular singer? Sure. Important to Music or Culture as a Whole? Gimme a Break!

Posted by Bill Nance on July 6, 2009

We just got back from our fifth anniversary trip to Montreal tonight.  It was a wonderful trip where we got together with some old and some newer friends, had a ball at the Montreal Jazz Festival and got a chance to have stellar Paella at our favorite restaurant.

We had some down-time here and there and of course it always takes me a while to fall asleep, so we had a chance to watch the boob-tube for a while, mostly CNN, trying to get more on the Palin resignation, or on Iran.

Apparently Michael Jackson’s death and all the idiocy surrounding his life is the ONLY thing of import happening in the world.  At least if you’re CNN.

I have freaking news for you people, he wasn’t that big a deal.

Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Buddy Holly, The Beatles and The Doors all had lasting impacts on popular music that are 1000 times more lasting and serious than anything Michael Jackson ever even approached.  He was about as significant a figure as Fred Astaire when you look at his dancing, or as Paris Hilton when you look at anything else.

And of the above mentioned rock/blues bands/artists, none were ever indicted twice on child molestation charges.

He’s dead, and no crying from me.  For all you people acting as though he was Elvis, get a friggin grip.

And CNN has officially been removed from my list of reputable news sources. Anyone that devotes 24/7 coverage to Michael Jackson in the middle of giant news events goes to the bottom of the list. You’d be better off watching Fox. How pathetic is that?

Posted in Journalism, Rants | 4 Comments »

Obama picks top climate change scientists and the MSM gets opposing views from philosophy majors?

Posted by Bill Nance on December 19, 2008

President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen two top scientists for his scientific advisory team, according to this article appearing on MSNBC.com.

But that’s not the real story here. The real story is about how the press continues to seek opposing views for any story it does, regardless of the lack of qualifications of the dissenter to even have an informed opinion on the subject.

Case in point:

The appointments of Harvard University physicist John Holdren as presidential science adviser and Oregon State University marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will be announced tomorrow, dismayed conservatives but heartened environmentalists and researchers. (emphasis mine)

Who cares what “dismays conservatives?” Is this a political issue or a scientific one?

That the shills for energy companies and polluters and the politicians who swallow their lies are “dismayed” means nothing. If they announce plans for Senate opposition to a seat that’s newsworthy, but that isn’t in the story.

The Bush administration’s political appointees have edited government documents to delete scientific findings and to block scientists’ recommendations on issues involving climate change, endangered species, contaminants in drinking water and air pollution.

“The Bush administration has been the most remarkably anti-science administration that I’ve seen in my adult lifetime,” Nobel laureate David Baltimore, former president of the California Institute of Technology, said in an interview. “And I do think that there will be a sea change in the Obama administration with the respect shown for the findings of science as well as the process of science.”

And then the reporter goes out for an opposing view from, wait for it…

The Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Yep, you guessed it, the press goes for an opposing view of the statements of fact in the article, statements absolutely no one disputes except Bush appointees, to an organization focused on right-wing economics, wholly funded by companies like Exxon Mobil, which has given millions to opponents of global warming (like that’s a big surprise). And who do they find to voice a solid scientific countervailing view? Myron Ebell.

Yep, everyone’s favorite right-wing nutjob, who seems to rear his ugly head every time climate change is mentioned by the press. There’s only one minor problem with Ebell being the source of this contrasting opinion: He’s not a scientist. In fact, he doesn’t even hold an undergrad degree in any scientific discipline. He’s a philosophy and economics major.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Journalism, News & Analysis, Politics, Right-Wing Nut-jobery, Science and Technology | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let’s fuck over the Indians some more

Posted by Bill Nance on December 17, 2008

Campbell Brown, CNN’s latest coverrgirl™ commentator has a new article decrying a recent court decision taking away an infant from adoptive white parents after six months and handing the child over to tribal welfare authorities. The child in question will be put in foster care with his other siblings. His actual bloodlines as I’ve been unable to determine, are unknown. Though the adoptive parents claim the mother was 1/4 Ojibwa, that claim, not to mention the identity of the father, was apparently not enough to satisfy the federal court which ordered the child to be turned over to tribal welfare authorities. Since the adoptive parents obviously have an axe to grind in this case, I think it reasonable that their claims be taken with a grain of salt.

The court case, which was the result of the tribe filing suit against the State of Utah, rested on a federal law which prohibits states from taking custody of Indian children and raising them outside the tribe.

To quote Brown:

If there is concern in the Native American community that children are being lost to the tribe through adoption because of unfit parents, then focus on strengthening your families so that your children won’t be parentless.

Can you imagine Brown saying that about Black people? Mexican people? Neither can I. But as usual, beating up on Indians is just fine and dandy. Anytime they assert their sovereign rights under treaty with the United States Government, it’s all about “responsibility.” As usual, white power elites on the East Coast view treaty obligations to the Indian nations as meaningless and they can be disregarded at will. God forbid, people of color in this country who aren’t recognized sovereign nations by the Government of the United Statesbe taken to task. Oh, noes, we wouldn’t want to do that! But beat up on the Indians? Sure, they don’t have a NAACP to boycott you because they’re too small a minority, even though they have a completely legitimate claim to special rights, a claim more legitimate than any other minority group in this country.

Perhaps the State bureaucrats in every state where there is a significant North American Indian population could just stop the concerted efforts to ignore treaty obligations in the first place and not place Indian children outside the tribe? That’s the real issue here. The State of Utah is the bad guy here, not the Ojibwa. They shouldn’t have allowed the adoption in the first place and they knew it. But Campbell doesn’t go after the incompetent fools in the Utah State government. She reserves her disdain for the Indians. -Film at 11, MSM shits all over Indians…

(note: I say the word “Indian” because I have never met an Indian, and I lived on a reservation for several years, who was  not indoctrinated by University PC police that referred to themselves as “Native American,” which is about the most stupid fucking term imaginable. -At least the Canadian “First Nations” is linguistically accurate. -But I digress).

There is a very long history, a history which is still going on by the way, though the MSM’s coverage of it has been shamefully silent on the subject, of white government taking away children from a sovereign nation, raising them as “white,” and thus continuing a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the heritage, language and history of the First Peoples of this continent  and eventually, destroy the tribes. There is no other description for the despicable behavior of state governments, with the nodding asssent of the feds that continues to this day. Only the courts and the occasional acts of congress have kept the remaining Indian nations from total destruction.

These are in fact, sovereign nations, recognized as such by the Government of the United States. They have a unique “Nation Within a Nation” status. Something about which Brown, no doubt, hasn’t a fucking clue. Because of this unique status, state governments have no authority over Indian children, nor should they. What would Brown be saying if an American child had been handed over to adoptive parents in Mexico over the objections of child welfare agencies in California? Would she be so fucking outraged when that kid was brought back to California? -Thought not.

The history of the deliberate destruction of the culture and language of the First Peoples is so long, and frankly so recent, I cannot believe anyone has the moxie to just note it as “The law allows them to broadly declare who is Native American.”

Yes, you ignorant twit. Nations have the right to define who their citizens are. Like as in, you know, the United States?

Shame on you Brown, And shame on CNN for not having editors who know something about Indian history and the unique status of federally recognized tribes under the law.

Brown is an ignorant fuckwit. She should learn a little something before she opens her piehole again.

Next time I’ll tell you how I really feel.

Posted in Journalism, News & Analysis | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pet peeve of the day

Posted by Bill Nance on December 3, 2008

Reporters and headline editors are in love with the word “Czar.”

Every time someone is named to be in charge of any government project they call them Czar.First there was the drug Czar, then there was the intelligence Czar and now MSNBC’s front page is calling Bill Richardson, who was named today as Secretary of Commerce, “Commerce Czar.”

To quote the incomparable Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

The Czars of Russia were, with hardly an exception, cruel despots who ruthlessly crushed all opposition and ruled as feudal tyrants all the way into the 20th century. Calling someone a Czar is not a description of a manager or department head, it’s an insult.

There are these things we have now called dictionaries and thesauruses. Use one please.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Let’s beat up on the cops…again

Posted by Bill Nance on November 25, 2008

For some reason journalists cover police with one of two attitudes:

  1. Police are always right, always tell the truth and are to be quoted as though God herself has spoken
  2. Police are armed thugs intent on abusing minorities, destroying civil rights and by the way are probably corrupt.

Now personally I’ve never understood this, and I speak as someone who’s covered police for years as a reporter. In my experience, most cops are doing their very best in a difficult and sometimes dangerous job. They perform their duties on average, better than most public employees and are extremely reluctant to get into unnecessary confrontations.

I’ve run into both corruption and brutality. For the first, I’ve never seen tolerance from higher-ups. Not once.

For the second, there is a lot more tolerance than there should be, but brutal cops tend to get fired, get moved to desk jobs or otherwise be forced out. It’s not 100%, but it’s more common than not. Some cops are just plain rotten. They lie, they frame people, they are bullies. I’ve seen it and reported same.

So in other words, police in general do a pretty good job, But they’re human. The training and the badge don’t make them any less susceptible to this condition. They do stupid things, they are sometimes crooks, and some are brutes and bullies. Of course equally, they do heroic things.

If a journalist is actually interested in reporting facts, one would hope they would look at each situation and make the best judgment call possible in their reporting.  This means neither acting as stenographers for police versions of facts, nor assuming everything they say is a lie until proven otherwise.

The latest example of cop-hating masquerading as journalism can be found here.

Now if you skim over the article you’ll be left with one conclusion: The Air Marshals are incompetent, dangerous and corrupt. Having never met an Air Marshal, I can’t personally testify one way or the other. However, I will quote one meaningful statistic out of the article:

“But an examination of police reports, court records, government reports, memos and e-mails shows that 18 air marshals have been charged with felonies, including at least three who were hired despite prior criminal records or being fired from law enforcement jobs”

Eighteen bad apples. Out of a force of 3000-4000 (the exact number is classified).

Do the math. That’s .06% of the officers, assuming 3000 total.

No one should be happy with cops as felons. But let’s please attempt to be real. A 2,000-word article who’s clear purpose is to show the Air Marshals as dangerous, corrupt and incompetent, and the only numbers they can come up with are 18 cops (who have been prosecuted by the way) a few cops who weren’t fired after getting a DUI, (Should you lose your job because of a DUI un-related to your work)? And a few sloppy hiring decisions.

Let’s all panic now shall we?

Gimme a break.

Posted in Crime, Journalism, Law & Order | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Stupid poll of the day

Posted by Bill Nance on November 24, 2008

From CNN’s front page:

QUICK VOTE

Who is better suited for Cabinet posts?

  • Qualified insiders
  • Outsiders with fresh ideas

I guess it wouldn’t generate enough false controversy to just say: The best qualified candidate.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

American Sissyfication Watch: We eat meat.

Posted by Bill Nance on November 21, 2008

If you’ve been watching TV over the last 24 hours or reading the blogosphere, you can’t have missed the latest Sarah Palin bashing shown on MSNBC.

What’s the terrible crime today? Being filmed in front of turkey slaughtering.

As much as I’m in favor of anything showing Sarah “secessionist” Palin in a bad light, I would request that such attempts actually have some substance behind them. And this most certainly does not.

I really wish urbanites and other people who think meat comes from a package would be forced to tour a slaughterhouse at least once in their lives. The killing of animals to harvest flesh, something we as predator/scavenger animals are built to eat, is a bloody business. But then again so is childbirth. Given my druthers, I’d much rather watch someone slaughtering a pig than watch afterbirth slipping from the womb onto the floor or into a sanitized medical dish.

Both are kinda gross if you’re not used to it, and both are equally natural and necessary.

It’s indicative of the Sissyfication of this country that the mere sight of blood (and turkey slaughter is pretty tame compared to most meat processing) calls for blurring of an image. And it’s hypocritical in the extreme when the same network runs “Saving Private Ryan” uncut. I guess seeing vivid and horrifying bloody battle scenes is less horrible than seeing the animals 90% of us eat every year being prepared for our tables.

Color me disgusted. And not with Sarah Palin -for once.

Posted in Journalism, Left-Wing Nut-Jobery, Politics, Sarah Palin | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Another newspaper editorial writer shows his ignorance on gun-issues.

Posted by Bill Nance on November 10, 2008

An editorial published yesterday in the Pittburgh Post-Gazette:

Who knew that paranoia could be such an economic stimulant? As The New York Times reported Friday, gun owners are stocking up on handguns, rifles and ammunition because they fear Mr. Obama will curb their rights of gun ownership. “He’s a gun-snatcher,” the Times quoted a gun shop owner in Houston as saying. “He wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force.”

Admittedly, not all gun buyers currently opening their wallets are likely to be infected with such a level of right-wing hallucination, but even at the fringes this impulse is not logical. Guns were hardly an issue for Mr. Obama during the campaign, and his infamous comment about people who “cling to guns and religion” was a ham-fisted way of expressing sympathy for those in depressed rural areas, not a contemptuous promise to change their ways.

Gun owners survived the Clinton administration and they will survive the Obama administration. Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time defined gun ownership as an individual right, not a collective one, a ruling that would be binding on any president. Regardless of what might be proposed in the way of new gun laws, the basic right will remain inviolate.

Mr. Obama preached nothing but moderation on the campaign trail, despite Republican efforts to twist his words. He is also smart enough to know that he will be a one-term president if he really could gut the Second Amendment.

The United States is a free country and it will remain a free country. People are free to flock and buy guns if they want to, but this boomlet is no more sensible than the run on duct tape at another paranoid moment in recent memory.

My response:

I read your editorial of 9 November,  “Off target: America’s gun-buying spree makes no sense,” and must respectfully disagree with both your portrayal of gun owners and of our legitimate concerns.
In the editorial, you quote someone as saying: “He [Obama] wants to take our guns from us and create a socialist society policed by his own police force.”

Firstly this is a caricature. While such foaming at the mouth idiots exist, they exist in every community. If I tried I could find equally daft people on the fringes of every issue. Second, this smear tactic is typical from the MSM. Whether through simple ignorance and lack of exposure on the part of their reporters and editors to firearms, or irrational fear of them, the MSM misunderstand gun owners and quote the most extreme person they can find rather than someone expressing a rational and healthy concern about the left’s long-running campaign to incrementally strip us of our firearms rights.

I not only voted from President-elect Obama, I campaigned for him. And yet I too will be stocking up on some items I anticipate will be banned or made difficult to obtain. While gun control was not a signature issue of the campaign, there are many Democrats in congress who feel much more passionately about the issue than Barack Obama, Speaker Pelosi being among them. It will take a real effort on behalf of Mr. Obama to say no to his own party on these issues and I remain highly skeptical of his ability and willingness to do so.

You’re right in that it is a paranoid fantasy to think there will be large-scale gun confiscation. However I fully expect a new “assault weapons” ban to be passed within the next year or so. The issue is too important to too many urban Democrats to pretend there will be no attempts at further unnecessary regulation.

The so-called “assault weapons” ban outlawed many guns and gun-related items which firearms enthusiasts routinely use, including standard-issue magazines on literally hundreds of firearms. People I know are starting to stock up on are precisely these sorts of items, available again after the gun-banning portion of the law was allowed to sunset. We also expect  a potential new tax on ammunition or firearms, as well as other decidedly anti-gun measures.

What your editorial shows is that like many who don’t participate in the sport, you simply don’t realize there are several million sportsmen in the country who use firearms for things besides hunting. For many of us, competition handgun shooting, rapid-fire (not fully automatic)  tactical pistol and rifle competition and other sports, even Olympic pistol shooting, require the exact sorts of weapons, magazines and gunsights which the AWB made illegal.

We people, your law-abiding neighbors, co-workers and friends, are tired of having to defend our constitutional rights from assault or having to explain to people why we should be able to participate in sports we have enjoyed for decades.

The question often posed by anti-gunners is: “as long as you can own a six-shooter and a hunting rifle why do you care what else we ban?”

The answer to this is simply that the question itself displays a vast misunderstanding of the literally hundreds of different shooting sports which use firearms other than these two types. We should no more have to justify this than you should have to justify your love of cars that travel in excess of 65 mph.

We have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms. That right was established both to provide for personal defense as well as a curb on the ability of a strong central government adopted in 1789 to impose tyranny on a disarmed populace.

The vast majority of us are not foaming-at-the-mouth reactionaries, we do not hide in bunkers, we do not look for “black helicopters” or anything else the lunatic fringe are reported to believe in. We come from all political persuasions and are members of both major parties.

The mainstream media need to stop unfairly and inaccurately portraying us as lunatics. The caricatures are both factually incorrect and deliberately misleading to your readers.

Hat tip: GOAL

Edit* A careful reader of this letter alerted me to the fact that I was incorrectly naming the Brady Hangun Control Act when I meant to refer to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. I have changed the text to correct this error and thanks to the person who corrected me.

Posted in Barack Obama, Election 08, Guns Dammit!, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Stooping to their level

Posted by Bill Nance on October 8, 2008

While the Bill Ayers issue is pretty much a red Herring as far as I’m concerned it’s hardly surprising that the Republicans, in the last days of a campaign where they are getting stomped, are stooping to using the tactic of guilt by association.

But frankly I expect better from people on the other side, especially Andrew Sullivan, who continues to hold himself out as virtuously defending honesty and integrity.

At issue is the following post from his blog, entitled: “McCain’s last black votes.”

Says Andrew: “They just evaporated. And deservedly so.”

The gist of this non-story is that in 1991 John McCain wrote a letter asking the State Department to look into a case brought against an American being held in Thailand on heroin trafficking charges. Allegations had been made that the American in question, one James B. Fowler, was the target of a frame-up resulting from his participation as a witness in a murder-for-hire case. Army prosecutors were concerned at the time of the trial that Fowler might be a target for retaliation as a result of his participation in the trial, and had forwarded those concerns to McCain.

Fowler was a Vietnam Vet and former Alabama State Trooper, and McCain indeed wrote a letter on his behalf to the State Department, asking them to look into the matter and report their findings to him. Senators do this sort of thing for Americans all the time, regardless of circumstances. There is nothing to show Fowler received anything more than cursory attention from McCain’s office.

Again, this was in 1991.

In 2005, Fowler revealed that he had been the State Trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson, a civil rights protester, in a 1965 “police riot” (my term) which immediately preceded, and many say provoked, the famous civil rights march on Selma, Alabama.

The shooting itself was never investigated by the Justice Department and Fowler went on to live his life, unquestioned about the shooting, until he revealed in an interview with a newspaper that he had indeed been the one who pulled the trigger that night back in 1965. Fowler has been charged with murder in the case and is scheduled to go on trial soon.

Now according to Andrew Sullivan this somehow reflects poorly on McCain.

WTF?

Was Sullvan so prescient that in 1991 he knew, or can reasonably expect that McCain knew, about an alleged (and never charged) murder had taken place in Alabama in 1965 and this same James Fowler was the man who was suspected in the case which the Justice Department never investigated?

I’m really getting rather tired of Sullivan’s preachiness about the integrity of the press, the need for disclosure and the horrors of the McCain campaigns lies, while at the same time he engages in this kind of cheap guilt-by-association stunt.

McCain has giant red bulls-eyes painted all over him. There’s no need to stoop to this silliness. It makes Sullivan look like a fool and only serves to give credence to the conspiracy theorists on the right.

Andrew, please, do us a favor and stop calling yourself a journalist. You’re an opinion writer. And this kind of stuff makes your opinions less credible by the day.

Posted in Election 08, Journalism, News & Analysis, Politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »