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Archive for April 2009

Buff News: Find foot. Take aim. Fire.

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I had been the scheduled guest today on “IMportant People” (sic), an online collaboration between students in a course taught by a colleague and The Buffalo News on Buffalo.com. “IMportant People,” according to a house ad in today’s News, is “a weekly lunch hour, live-chat interview series featuring some of Buffalo’s best and brightest …” Yep, I had been scheduled to appear today.

My colleague told The News that his class had scheduled a media critic from Scholars and Rogues as a guest. He invited The News to send a representative to join in as a co-guest. It would have been a wonderful opportunity for The News — and me — to talk about western New York’s largest newspaper in the context of the larger turmoil surrounding the industry. But The News yanked the microphone, er, the keyboard, out of my hands.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 29, 2009 at 11:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Free Internet news! Free! (But at what cost?)

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I expect the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a newspaper I’ve long admired, to go belly up — even though I have no specific information about its finances and whether it is, indeed, in danger of folding.

But this week, it gave its product to me for free. I would have gladly paid up to 5 cents to read just one of its stories. But the JS didn’t charge me. What kind of business model allows me to consume a product for free?

I learned of the story through an e-mailed version of Romenesko, the legendary (or infamous, depending on your POV), media news page at Poynter. org, the Web site of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank.

The Poynter e-mail contained this tease: “Wisconsin university football coach bans student reporters (http://www.jsonline.com/business/43539347.html).” I clicked on the link and —ta da — there it was, a story written by JS reporter Don Walker. Free. Didn’t have to pay a penny. And I would have. Gladly.

I know this isn’t a rare phenomenon. I suspect you’ve read news for free online, too. Bet you kinda expect it to be free, even demand that it be free. Perhaps you think it’s some kind of birthright. But in the long run, if you do not pay for the product of professional journalists, you will lose one of your best defenses against secrecy, corruption, and tyranny.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 24, 2009 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Carlin was right: Stop bleeping fuck and its profane cousins

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There are some wonderfully descriptive and colorful words I’d like to hear on television. I know that they’re being uttered; after all, most of us can read lips to a certain degree.

Our ears may hear bleep, but our eyes see lips moving that say shit, asshole, fuck, cocksucker, and motherfucker. Sometimes our ears will gather additional evidence. They will hear mother followed by bleep instead of fucker. Sometimes the ears will detect ass followed by bleep or bleep followed by hole but never the compete asshole. But the ears never hear cock followed by bleep or bleep followed by sucker because, it seems, Almighty Television Execs think cocksucker is so reviled a concept as to ever be partially bleeped.

I rarely view pricey premium channels such as HBO or Showtime. But my friends who can afford such luxuries assure me that there’s rarely if ever a bleep to be heard. It’s shit and fuck and motherfucker and cocksucker, etc., as far as the eye can see (or, rather, the ear can hear).
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 16, 2009 at 9:40 pm

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Press overuses anonymous military sources in Phillips’ rescue

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Many folks like a good shoot-’em-up Tom Clancy novel, filled with supersecret spy stuff, technologically amazing weapons, and daring young men and women outfitted in black with killing gizmos of all kinds. So, too, do some folks like movies that show ultra-military sophistication and operations, many adapted from those same Clancy novels.

In novels and movies, presumably, no one really dies if fictional operational details are revealed.

But should we be reading details of real, life-at-risk military operations, such as those found in The Washington Post and The New York Times and other press outlets regarding a kidnapped merchant marine captain? Especially when those stories carry not a single named source?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 13, 2009 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Political donations down; special-interest lobbying up: Why’s that?

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At the moment, it’s a bad time to be a political fundraiser. The deep pockets of corporate and other donors normally counted on to keep the election money machine well-oiled have suddenly gone shallow.

According to Paul Kane and Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post, donations are down — way down. Consider the first two months of 2005, 2007, and 2009: $48.8 million in ’05; $41.6 million in ’07; and a paltry $30.7 million this year. That’s expected, write the Post reporters, in the early months of odd-numbered years after presidential or mid-term contests.

It’s known as “donor fatigue.” It’s particularly bad at the moment because so many candidates dunned so many donors in an election year that saw the presidential election cost more than a billion dollars.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Saving newspapers requires hiring, not firing, journalists

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Each time a newspaper’s corporate owners — and these days, most never worked as journalists — cut the editorial staff, the paper’s readers lose access to a mind and a pair of eyes that keep watch over government, business, and the public’s interests.

Until the discovery of newspapers as profitable cash cows by Wall Street more than four decades ago, newspapers were owned by people who had 1) worked as journalists, 2) understand the community the paper served, 3) believed in the public service mission of journalism, and 4) understood the need for an appropriate profit to maintain that mission of serving the public interest.

Those owners and publishers understood what they were selling — the ability of their editorial staffs to tell both wanted and needed stories to their readers about their communities. They knew that readers wanted and would buy their papers for sports, Dear Abby, and crossword puzzles. But they also knew their readers needed and would also buy well-done, “eat-your-spinach” stories about corrupt government and its agencies; misbehaving businesses; shenanigans of politicians; and fire, court and police activities. But that’s all changed now.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

April 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized