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Archive for May 2007

Court backs school journalist: Good news for student journos?

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Should a high school senior who writes an incendiary column for his school paper be considered a full citizen worthy of First Amendment protection against school officials censuring his work?

Despite previous U.S. Supreme Court rulings to the contrary, at least one state court says “yes.” [Read the unanimous decision.]

Should student journalists in the other 49 states, who face censorship under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hazelwood decision, expect to see this affect them any time soon?

Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 24, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Senator’s attack on Carson’s “Silent Spring” political, misguided

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What is the truth about the science generated by Rachel Carson in “Silent Spring,” her landmark book about chemical pesticides that gave birth to the environmental movement?

It’s an appropriate question, because an Oklahoma senator is holding up a resolution that would honor Ms. Carson on the 100th anniversary of her birth. Republican Tom Coburn, who is a physician (and prefers to be addressed as “Dr. Coburn” on his Senate Web site), says he will block the bill. Carson’s work amounted to “junk science” that unfairly and inaccurately pooh-poohed what he calls lifesaving pesticides, he says. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 23, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Fewer newspaper reviews, criticism erodes life of the mind

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I saw a movie last night. It sucked. And: I read a book last night. It was great.

That’s the extent of my abilities as a reviewer. Like many of you, I know when I like something and I know when I don’t. But my ability to tell you, before you go see it or read it, why you should or shouldn’t is limited. I have no background in film history or criticism. I don’t follow film (or theater or modern pop music or avant-garde art) closely. I know a thing or two about books, but even there I don’t have the expertise to offer cogent criticism beyond those areas I’m supposed to know as a journalism prof.

When it comes to penning criticism of such things, I suspect many folks think they can do it as well as the professionals. Given the supposedly democratic, interactive nature of the Internet, amateurs like me can expose themselves to “art” and promptly go online to tell all who would attend why the author is a moron, the musician can’t play worth a damn or the movie doesn’t have enough car chases or really big explosions.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 21, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Save the whales? Been there, done that

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If you’re mesmerized by televised efforts to escort a female humpback and her calf back to the Pacific Ocean from their less-than-idyllic swim 90 miles up the Sacramento River in California, you’re an overly sentimental sap. You’ve been suckered by the media — again.

You’ve heard of these whales, no doubt. With no young blonde women in kidnapped-or-missing distress this week, the whales are the media’s darlings of the moment.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 19, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The future of news: Death or democratization?

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When newspaper editors retire, they usually have a few cogent things to say. Doug Clifton of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is no exception. His bottom line: 1) Journalism is essential to the well-being of democracy and 2) the Internet is going to kill it.

Says Mr. Clifton, an editor I’ve always admired:

Journalism, I would argue, provides the lubricant that keeps the wheels of democracy spinning. It is the ultimate check in our system of checks and balances. It evens the contest between the haves and the have-nots. Even with its countless flaws, its frequent excesses, its sometimes mindless pursuit of the trivial, journalism ensures balance in society’s balance of power.

The business model of newspapers — provide content for people to read so that advertisers will pay to put products and services in front of those people — is being shredded by the Internet’s predilection that “all content is free.” That’s not good, he says, “[b]ecause without journalism, democracy and civil society will falter. ” A nice and valid sentiment, but how applicable is it today? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 15, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Oil CEO fingers refining profits for higher gas prices

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I drive past the same gasoline station (er, “convenience store”; we don’t have gas stations any more) each morning en route to work. In January, unleaded regular cost $2.24 a gallon there. This morning, it cost $3.09 — a 38 percent increase.

So I’m pissed. And, if you live in the United States, where part of our genetic coding is imprinted with “drive anywhere any time in anything,” you’re pissed, too.

We have reasons, of course. “My income isn’t rising anywhere enough to offset that added cost” — particularly if we commute appreciable distances. “How come inflation is only about 2.5 percent this year (the lowest rate in four years) but gasoline price inflation is about 15 times that?”

And: “How come oil-company profits are so (insert favorite expletive here) high?” (ExxonMobil reported $39.5 billion in profit for 2006, the highest corporate profit ever.) And: “We’re getting screwed somehow.”

We smell conspiracies.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 14, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Got an opinion? Attach your real name to it

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Back in my days as an editorial-page editor in New England, I would eat breakfast in the same diner each morning. And, each morning, the diner regulars and not-so-regulars would grace me with their learned opinion of my bylined commentary or editorial of the day before:

“That was just plain wrong.” Or the Leno line: “What the hell were you thinking?” Or the ever-popular “That’s bullshit” and “You’re a moron.”

Then, in I-know-better-than-you fashion, they’d tell me what the column or editorial should have said. I’d take out my reporter’s notebook and write down what they were saying. They’d notice and ask what I was doing.

“Well, your point is interesting,” I’d say. “I believe in running opinion on the editorial page that disagrees with our editorials or my columns. So I’m going to put your opinion in the paper. All I need is your name, please.”

None of them ever offered a name. None was willing to attach his or her name to an opinion in public. None stood up for what he or she believed. That’s the point Tom Grubisich makes about Internet opinion in today’s Washington Post. Internet opinion or commentary is much like that diner: No real names required.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 14, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Uncategorized