deadlines amuse me

exploring how the world works and why it works that way …

Archive for November 2010

Time for journalism schools to unpack the tension between objectivity, subjectivity

leave a comment »

Q: What’s the most effective way to piss off a journalist?

A: Lie to her.

Result: Moral outrage on her part – followed by determined, disciplined digging into why the lie and who benefits from it. And outrage, being an emotion, often leads to subjective judgments.

Finding lies and telling people about them are what good, progressive journalism programs must teach, even the programs with a conjunction and the word communication (mass, strategic or otherwise) in their names. Communicators, be they journalists, public relations practitioners, advertising agency executives, government or corporate representatives, or bloggers should not get away with lies. Or prevarications. Or evasions. Or deceits. Or no comment.

But we all know that someone with an agenda, someone who is willing to break the spirit or letter of the law, will lie to protect that agenda or advance it. It takes an experienced, well-trained journalist to detect the lie and find a truth in its stead. (Yes. I know: People who are bright and observant but who are not journalists can detect lies, too. But do they do it for a living? Make a career of it? For low pay and a lack of respect from the people who benefit from being told of the lies?)

Enter the journalism schools – the really good, properly focused ones, the ones not preoccupied with teaching the latest social media techniques, or having the best possible technology, or demanding faculty spend more time cranking out papers for peer-reviewed journals rather than teaching how to detect the lies.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 25, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Presidential candidates’ date with destiny: Ethanol subsidies expire Dec. 31

leave a comment »

Sooner or later, they will all obediently troop to Iowa. Presidential wannabees of all stripes will march through diners and farms, pressing the flesh and taking the ethanol pledge. Flip-flops may occur, depending on whether someone is 1) leading in the polls, 2) trailing badly, 3) outside Iowa, or 4) speaking after the Iowa caucuses.

We need to support ethanol. Al Gore said that. In fact, he’s always saying that.

I support ethanol and I think it is a vital, a vital alternative energy source not only because of our dependency on foreign oil but its greenhouse gas reduction effects. John McCain said that in 2006.

But in a 2000 debate with George Bush, McCain said: We don’t need the subsidies and if it wasn’t for Iowa being the first caucus state no one on this stage would support ethanol. To which Bush replied: I support ethanol, I completely support ethanol, John. And I’d support it whether or not Iowa was first. But McCain elsewhere said this: Ethanol makes a lot of sense.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 18, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Running for president? Accomplish these tasks — but quietly

leave a comment »

If you wish to run for president in 2012, you must accomplish several tasks designed to magnify your influence before your formal announcement.

And you must be careful about it. You don’t want the public to know. That’s because while you’re doing these often ethically spurious but entirely legal acts, you want the public to believe your political intentions are altruistic. You would be president, you will publicly and loudly proclaim, because you wish to do the work of the American people.

Let’s use former Massachusetts governor and Olympics savior Mitt Romney as an example. Why Mitt? Because he so badly wants to be president of these Disunited States, and because he’s ahead of others in doing the tasks.

Task one is obvious: Raise money. Gobs of it. But direct public contributions to candidates regulated by the Federal Election Commission will not produce enough money to really make a run for the presidency. About two-thirds of the $1.64 billion raised by House and Senate candidates for the 2010 midterms came from individuals, the rest from PACs, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That’s lots of money, but expect serious presidential candidates in 2012 to each raise a billion dollars — or more. After all, President Obama raised $745 million in 2008.

So where will the money come from?
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tracking independent political spending harder since Citizens United

leave a comment »

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — striking down bans on independent spending by unions, corporations, and individuals — continues to ripple through American politics, especially at the state level.

A new blog — The Money Tale — at the National Institute on Money in State Politics makes this abundantly clear. Writes researcher Anne Bauer:

Prior to the ruling, 24 states banned independent expenditures by unions, corporations, or both. Since the ruling, all 24 have dropped their bans following court challenges, rulings by attorneys general, or through legislation.

That means it’s even harder to find publicly accessible data on independent political spending in state races.

Campaign cash for federal races — the presidency and members of Congress — has been tracked for a decade by the Center for Responsive Politics (recently named to the inaugural list of institutions comprising a new journalism ecosystem). But the interpretation has often been done by people like me — using the CRP’s opensecrets.org site. Similarly, I’ve used reports at followthemoney.org as background for commentary on state elections and referenda.

But that was before Citizens United. Now, at either the state or federal level, can we calculate which is larger: The total of publicly accessible, legally required reports of contributions to candidates — or the the total of anonymous, unreported, publicly unaccessible spending legitimized by the Supreme Court?
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 12, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Discourse dies. Congress changes. But money wins again.

leave a comment »

Intelligent, civil discourse died this political season. It has been slain by a ruling class eager to make us fear what we don’t know, to hate whom or what we do not understand. And that class, consisting of perhaps 400 individuals or families, has succeeded beyond its most selfish dreams.

Come Tuesday, voter turnout will be low. Pundits will offer reasons: mid-terms draw fewer voters; voters are too busy; voters are turned off by “complicated” issues; voters can’t find the truth amid the shouting and naysaying. Or no one really gives a damn.

The House and Senate may switch poles from blue to red; it will not matter. Discourse is dead.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Dr. Denny Wilkins

November 1, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized