So you want a ‘robust, independent press’? Good luck with that.

Given fragmentation of audiences, diversity of media platforms, frequently clueless ownership, and devaluation of journalism by the public, what should journalism schools be teaching today?

From time to time, especially during election seasons, this phrase is often uttered:

America needs a robust, independent press.

Examine the critical words. A robust press? Meaning a press “strong, healthy; vigorous … able to withstand or overcome adverse conditions”? An independent press, one “free from outside control, not depending on another’s authority”?

CATEGORY: JournalismIf reasoned people are calling for a robust, independent press, then they must be arguing that America does not have one.

The press, defined by me as journalism practiced primarily by the nation’s daily newspapers, has been eviscerated by changes in technology and ownership over the past few decades — as well as by the erosion of display advertising, its principal revenue machine for more than a century. The press’s robustness and independence are challenged by those fiscal and executive realities.

To paraphrase Bob Garfield, “The future of the journalism we actually consume hinges on the ability to somehow underwrite it.” It’s clear, sadly, and has been for at least two decades, that mass-market advertising will no longer pay the bills as well as allow for investment. Worse, news companies have been giving away news for free. Consumers expect that now. They resist attempts to charge them for news.

So what about this “robust, independent press?”

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To get rid of a barbarian, pay him off


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The total number of votes cast in the primaries in swing states:

Democrats Republicans
Florida: 1,664,003 2,276,926
North Carolina: 1,076,699 1,109,048
Virginia: 778,865 952,714
Ohio: 1,192,815 2,011,357
Wisconsin: 1,000,703 1,083,574

If Trump wins those five states, he’ll have 276 electoral votes and become President of the United States. Continue reading


Refugees: an American fail


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We have accepted more than 100,000 Somali refugees since 1991. In the last 25 years, 50 of them have become terrorists. That’s 0.05%, which is good, but not good enough for us. We want zero terrorists, including those who go back to Africa to kill people. We don’t want African people to die either. That is our strength, no quarter, no shadowy corner where the darkness can hide from the light. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Public Idiot

Pay-to-play GOP debates

bjc9anecLast night Donald Trump made an interesting proposal: CNN should pay $5 million for Trump to participate in the next GOP debate on December 15. The money would not go to Trump, but to a charity for veterans. Here’s the proposal in his own words:

So maybe, how would you like to do this. Fox, for the first debate, ended up with 24-25 million viewers, maybe the largest show in the history of cable. CNN had 23 million people, it was the biggest show in the history of CNN. This isn’t me, this is from showbiz. Okay? The biggest ratings in the history of CNN.

They cover wars, they cover this, they cover that.

How about, the next debate is with CNN. Now you have to tell me, because I know what they’re going to say. Ohh Trump is chicken, how about I tell CNN (who doesn’t treat me properly, they don’t). Right? They really don’t.

How about I tell CNN that I’m not going to do the next debate. I’ll tell you the problem. This is a nice thing…

How about we do this with CNN, I won’t do the debate unless they pay me $5 million. All of which money goes to the wounded warriors and the veterans. Seriously! I would love to do it.

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Between war and peace: NATO, Russia, and the dumpster fire in Syria


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First let us remember our fallen brothers. One Russian airman (possibly two) and one marine are dead. Let’s be quiet for a moment and think about that. For their families, none of this will ever make sense. None of this will ever be justified. This is what war is, families torn apart by violence. The people of Russia have courageously stood up for our shared values, truth, reason, love, and peace, and now their sons are dead. They will not be returning home as their families prayed that they would. Let us honor their spirit and remember their unflinching devotion to Russia and to our collective safety as global citizens.

The Russian military command sees this conflict very differently than we see it in the West. They share our concern regarding global terror. They have been attacked from the shadows by psychopathic cowards just as we have. They understand that a bunch of deposed Iraqi power junkies are using misinformation to lure Muslim youth into a demented suicide pact. They understand that the misinformation itself is crowdsourced, has been propagated for decades by irresponsible hatemongers, just as racist propaganda has been disseminated worldwide throughout history and continues to fester in the shadows. Continue reading


Help me Governor McCrory, you’re my only hope


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The Syrian refugees who are currently undergoing a two year vetting process had nothing to do with the attacks in Paris. They are the Albert Einsteins trying to get out of Nazi Germany, and we are stopping them. This is how we lose the war. We burn a whole city to get revenge on two already-dead homicidal maniacs. There are a limited number of brainwashed suicide bombers. Remember Japan. It’s an act of desperation. It’s the hallmark of a General out of options. Continue reading


Land of the free, be brave.


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I am a proud Democrat. I think the Democratic Party started with a Virginia planter and Renaissance man named Thomas Jefferson. I am not proud of TJ for owning slaves. Slavery is an abomination, the antithesis of everything for which the Democratic Party stands. Jefferson himself was an abolitionist, describing slavery as holding “a wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go.” He also believed that emancipation would result in a large scale race war which would destroy America, his beloved experiment in liberty.

I believe otherwise. I believe that if one allows a man to stop being a wolf and become a fellow Renaissance man, he will do exactly that. I believe this has been proven time and again during the intervening centuries. I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I have read Max Weber. I understand that every moment is valuable, not only in the present, but also for the fruits it may bear, properly invested, in the future. Continue reading


American Exceptionalism: It’s the economy, stupid


Image courtesy of Pew Research

My grandfather was a union-buster at Hanes Dye and Finishing Company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He got his degree on the GI bill after World War Two and worked his way up through the company, all the way to executive vice-president. He was one promotion away from the presidency. He could have made Hanes Dye the best chemical company in the world. Instead they made him the straw boss. Continue reading


Journalists’ use of anonymous sources now an epidemic of deceit

Too many news organizations, despite their own policies, grant anonymity far too often, allowing sources with agendas to escape responsibility for what they say.

Two words in a news story should forewarn you that what you read is unlikely to be The Truth.

… anonymity because …

Those two words appear in sentences like these:

From Al Jazeera: The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

From an AP story: … who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

And, just this morning, from an AP story about captured Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala: The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the Libyan’s whereabouts publicly by name.

Anonymice — what I call sources who will not speak unless journalists allow them to remain nameless (and therefore blameless) — do not and should not inspire trust. The careless use of anonymous sources presents consequences and challenges for journalists and readers and viewers alike. Gratuitous, careless, and amateurish use of anonymice frustrates journalism educators like me, too: It’s a bad habit students often try to imitate.
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Local newspapers: fewer reporters = less content = declining revenue

Corporate owners treat news as “product.” As a result, the industry is on life support.

by Patrick Vecchio

I can’t remember how young I was when I fell in love with my local newspaper. It started with a comic strip: Mandrake the Magician. I would wait on our front porch for the newspaper boy, spread the paper on the floor and read Mandrake on my hands and knees. As I grew older, my interest expanded to different sections of the paper. By the time I reached high school, I was reading it from front to back. I loved it.

I never left my hometown, and after studying journalism in college, I began working as a reporter at a tiny daily newspaper about 20 miles away. Continue reading

'Premium content': What is it, who decides, and how?

I detest the phrase premium content. Like much of the poorly thought-out jargon descended from news management gurus and consultants, its definition lies in the mind of the speaker. It’s not alone: For example, product has replaced news as the reason for a journalism organization’s existence. Add repurposing to the list of agenda-hiding argot that hides a rarely disclosed intent.

I’m not sure what premium content is. But I’m dead sure I won’t be able to see it unless I’m willing to pay for it. That’s one yardstick for the premium goods: stuff you’re willing for pay for online vs. stuff that’s offered free. But that definition doesn’t tell you what you’ll get when you decide to buy. Continue reading

Nota Bene #124: I'm a Doctor, Not an Engineer

“I don’t believe in this fairy tale of staying together for ever. Ten years with somebody is enough.” Who said it? Continue reading

The Komen "reversal": a crushing failure of America's newsrooms

Yesterday I attempted to shed a little light on the PR crisis strategy behind the Komen Foundation’s sudden Planned Parenthood “backtracking.”

Contrary to what Komen’s highly-paid PR crisis hacks and gullible headline writers at newsdesks around the nation would ask you to believe, The Susan G. Komen Foundation does NOT promise to fund Planned Parenthood in the future. They promise to let PP APPLY for grants in the future. Applying and receiving are different things, as anyone who ever applied and got rejected for a job ought to know. Continue reading

Nota Bene #123: Behold the Chickenosaurus

“There ought to be limits to freedom.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #122: OWStanding

“When I lie on the beach there naked, which I do sometimes, and I feel the wind coming over me and I see the stars up above and I am looking into this very deep, indescribable night, it is something that escapes my vocabulary to describe. Then I think: ‘God, I have no importance. Whatever I do or don’t do, or what anybody does, is not more important than the grains of sand that I am lying on, or the coconut that I am using for my pillow.'” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #121: Birds of an Ancient Feather

“Television is an invention whereby you can be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.” Who said it? The answer is at the end of this post. Now on to the links! Continue reading

Nota Bene #120: Crazy Ivan

“If you can make a woman laugh, you’re seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s earth.” Who said it? Continue reading

Jaycee's story more important than tracking Casey Anthony

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Where in the world is Casey Anthony?

I don’t know, and I don’t care, and I think the media pursuit and frenzy over this question is both bizarre and foolish. Her parents care, and that’s appropriate. Likely the plaintiffs in the various lawsuits care because they have to serve her under the court rules. But the media frenzy, with more than likely a number of blank checks ready to be written, hurts journalism as a profession.

In stark contrast to the Anthony is kidnap victim Jaycee Dugard. What an amazing woman, she’s a true profile in courage and grace. She went through 18 years of hell, captured by a pedophile and his sidekick–his equally sicko wife. Diane Sawyer’s ABC interview was probing and often disturbing as Jaycee calmly related the day to day horrors of her existence during her imprisonment. ABC paid for her story, and likely People did, too. Continue reading