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Archive for May 2010

We need well-done news stories more than ever, but will we get them?

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The media-reform activist organization, Free Press, has set up a press-bashing site called mediaFail, offering minimal instruction about what constitutes a bad news story versus a good news story. Thus we must assume those all-knowing Internet media critics who nominate bad news stories at mediaFail have a disciplined, instructive sense of what’s good and what’s bad.

So what is a good (meaning well done) news story? My answer revolves around three important concepts: useful information people don’t know, adversarial purpose, and appropriate, meaningful context.

Eight years ago, my university’s journalism school gave an award to Tom Wicker of The New York Times. Wicker’s “In The Nation” column ran in The Times from 1966 through 1992, and his columns were sufficiently critical of Richard Nixon to earn Wicker a place on Nixon’s enemies list.

In accepting our modest award, Wicker said, “Find out what you can and tell the people what you know.”

That’s what good journalists are trained (and love) to do — find out stuff. (Other occupations, such as scientists and explorers, do that too, but journalists do it in a hurry, on deadline, hoping sources aren’t lying, and … make mistakes in doing all that.) Wicker, and journalists everywhere, get that: People need accurate information from credible sources — that’s the traditional content of good news stories. But that’s changing, it seems.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 24, 2010 at 8:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Free Press’ mediaFail site a bad idea from a good organization

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Read a news story you didn’t like? See a news story you think really sucked? See any news product you believe represents a failure of the American news media (no matter what your standards are and whether they’re valid)?

Well, get your dander up and head on over to mediaFail and vote against that mediocrity. There, the site says, you can “Expose the Worst of American Media. Find It. Post It. Fail It.”

This site, a project of the highly respected media reform group Free Press, allows irritated readers and viewers to log in, post a link, give the story a failing grade and, lo, let the nasty comments flow.

Free Press bills this site as a route to a better media system. I disagree. Vehemently.
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 19, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Louisiana’s Vitter again screwing around with hypocrisy

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Y’all remember my good friend Sen. David Vitter, he of the errant penis. You remember the Louisiana senator who described himself as “a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history.” And you’ll remember that “his phone number was among those on a list of client numbers kept by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam, who is accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington,” sayeth The New York Times.

But what you may not remember is I twice encouraged S&R readers (here and here) to forget Vitter’s penis and follow his money. As I wrote two years ago, “Sen. Vitter’s ‘serious sin’ has nothing to do with sex. It’s the sin far too many senators and members of Congress seem to commit with corporate abandon: ‘Give me money to get elected and I’ll make sure you go to the head of the line for federal cash.'”

Vitter is a fixer. He gets campaign contributions, particularly from Louisiana construction and defense contractors, and, lo and behold, those donors get money from the feds.

Now he’s back in the hot water, this time over donations from … a dry cleaning firm?
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Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

May 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized