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Not the best week for journalism

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Hello once more. I’ve returned from my unannounced and sudden hiatus to discuss yet another issue in the complicated and conflicted realm of journalism. Essentially, three important figures in journalism died in the past week, two literally.

First, Brian Williams, host of the NBC Nightly News, long respected newsman with a penchant for storytelling, for building drama and evoking emotion while remaining as unbiased and unflappable as possible, has been accused embellishing, even lying, about some of his past experiences. After recalling a story that occurred 12 years ago where he flew in a military Chinook helicopter during the 2003 Invasion of Iraq that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and forced to land, military members questioned his retelling of the sequence of events. He later admitted he “made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago,” and took himself off the NBC news desk. Of course, as per usual in these situations, it was not enough for the viewers, or for NBC. He has since been suspended for six months from NBC, and all of his past work, particularly his time with Seal Team 6 and in Hurricane Katrina, are now being put in the cross-hairs. If other inconsistencies are found, his career, for all intents and purposes, may be over.

While this happened, CBS news correspondent Bob Simon was killed in a horrible-looking car crash in New York City at the age of 73. While I can’t say I singled Bob Simon out as one of my idols in journalism or writing, a car crash seems a mundane way to go for a man who barely escaped Saigon and the Hanoi offensive in 1972. Then again, he apparently wasn’t wearing a seat belt while being driven around in the livery car, so maybe his balls were just too big for this world in the end.

And the next day, the NEXT DAY people, New York Times columnist David Carr dies of currently unknown causes at 58. Carr was someone I enjoyed reading. He was very forward-thinking early in his career, and he had a bluntness to his writing that I appreciated. Plus, his path to get to where he was, recovering from alcohol and drug addiction the way he did, simply had me rooting for him for years.

In Simon and Carr(funkle) we lost two excellent journalists who were willing to explore the hard topics, be they political or personal. These were two big names in the industry who will not be so easily replaced, and their impact, particularly with Simon’s work in the Vietnam War, cannot be measured. But even with these two deaths, the Eye of Sauron remains on Brian Williams as the world retroactively analyzes his entire career.

When it comes to Williams, I don’t feel like I can say anything one way or another, and I don’t know if I can call incorrectly remembering events that took place 12 years ago a damning lie that should ruin a man’s career. My respect of the man’s past work is still set a bit too high on the pedestal for me to simply rip it down like the Berlin Wall. Besides, there are more than enough studies on memory and how we can misremember the events of a traumatic, emotionally charged occurrence, and its certainly possible this happened here. I have never been one to crucify a person for one mistake; we as human beings can try to be as careful as we can, but mistakes are inevitable. If this is truly a case of incomplete recall, then I believe Williams should be excused, forgiven and allowed to return to the fold and the industry.

But if the scrutiny of his career finds other issues, confirmed examples of embellishing, juxtaposing or flat-out falsehood, then a lot of questions have to be asked. Why were his stories not more scrutinized? Why did it take this long for someone to step out and say something? How far back does this go? And, of course, why?

Fact checking in the industry has been failing for years, and this is hardly the first example of it doing so. But pinning all of the little white lies of journalism on that alone is not enough. The majority of the responsibility for telling a truthful tale falls on the storyteller. And in this instance, it seems Brian Williams has failed. Hopefully, this is the first time this has happened, and it will be a slight blemish on a sterling career, instead of the Jenga piece that brings down the tower.


Written by mlogli

February 14, 2015 at 3:59 pm

Another bad day for journalism

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As I’m sure my Chicagoan readers are aware, the Chicago Sun-Times just did something very stupid today. They got the entire photography staff, including those from the suburbs, and laid off every single one. Counting some of the part-time staff and freelancers that may or may not have been affected, anywhere from 20-30 people just lost their jobs today.

The writers’ union (and yes, believe it or not there is one) has already begun to file a lawsuit against the media company. Even if it succeeds, I don’t know why one would want to work at a company that just laid off some of its greatest talents. The Sun-Times was always known for its sports coverage, including beautiful photography. Now a line of freelancers will take their place, and reporters will be expected to take their own photos with cell phone cameras, as well as relying on the video producers.

Protip: Video is not the same as photo.

In the short-term, this move saves a lot of money. Sun-Times probably cut a cool $1 million of expenditures out of their budget, including insurance costs since they won’t have to cover that for freelancers. Long-term…hoo boy.

This should be obvious to most people, but I’ll bring it up anyway: cell phone pictures cannot come even close to the quality created by an actual camera. This will be noticeable from the first issue after this layoff. And actually taking these photos, and using the right cameras, does take a specially trained person with an artistic eye, a knowledge of angles and lighting, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of when the action is going to happen. People who aren’t trained in this simply cannot do this job correctly, and they cannot do the job with tools ill-suited to the task at hand. Taking a high-quality journalistic photo, like this, or this or even this) is not something a person with a Nikon handheld can do.

I hope this does not become a trend for other newspapers. It is merely another step down as print products continue to deteriorate in quality. So long as consumers demand a “free news” product, this trend will continue to the point where news media will be bought out by entrepreneurs and companies and turned into propaganda…wait…

Or it could deteriorate to the point where a major news event will be simply missed because of understaffing and poorly-educated hires. I shudder to think of how, say, the Boston Marathon bombing would have been covered if a bunch of idiots were stuck trying to articulate the horror of that day, misleading the public at every turn with false leads and misinformation. You either get the New York Post, CNN, or Reddit.

At some point, I hope people are fed up enough to realize that good journalism requires some sort of cash flow behind it. I would rather a good newspaper be funded by the people than by Rupert Murdoch or the Koch family.

Written by mlogli

May 31, 2013 at 3:21 am

Falling off the fiscal cliff

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Good news everyone! The fiscal cliff is coming! And we’re about to fly right off it like an action movie.

What does this mean? Basically, at the end of the year, the Bush-era tax cuts will expire. This, combined with various other spending cuts, will supposedly trim the national budget while incurring more revenue. However, this is happening mostly because Obama and Republicans can’t agree on a new budget plan, which they have to do since the Republicans still control the House.

I don’t see any plans going through before the end of the year though, since Obama refuses to make cuts on social programs like Medicare and Republicans refuse to increase taxes on the wealthy. Not even Dikembe Mutumbo can save us from this crisis.

If Obama doesn’t compromise, especially after winning the second election already, he looks like a strong leader. If the Republicans don’t compromise, they will be inevitably blamed for what will happen as a result. Many experts agree that not coming up with a plan will reverse a lot of the positive economic growth that has taken place over the past few years, and possibly send us into a worse position than we were in four years ago.

That being said, I don’t see either side compromising enough to make this happen. Especially since it’s the Republicans who need to fold, and the Republicans who are going through a bit of an identity crisis right now. I hope it does get fixed, but I will be bracing for the worst.

Written by mlogli

December 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm

No dogs like Hot Doug’s

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I love this place. I haven’t been back here since I came back from Indiana. And today I got to go again with a new friend.

Hot Doug’s is off N. California in Chicago, and they do it right. There’s almost always a line, even when it opens. And Doug, the owner, sits behind the counter and takes all the orders. It’s a special little place and I have a lot of good memories there. Even got to meet WGN newscaster Robert Jordan one time.

They had a lot of crazy specials on this trip, featuring game meats combined with many different food groups, and I usually only get one, but since I brought a newbie, I shelled out for three special sausages and a corn dog.


So from left to right:

Portabella mushroom and swiss cheese pork sausage with anchovy mayonnaise, shiitake mushrooms sauteed in duck fat and crispy fried onions: This was pretty rich. You could taste the duck fat on the mushrooms, and combined with the mayo it was a heavy dog. But if you were used to the taste, it was pretty delicious. The onions added a nice crunch. You also have to be a bit of a mushroom fan. You barely taste the anchovy so don’t let that throw you off either. They just add a little bit of smoky goodness that really takes it to the next level on this one.

Apple and Cinnamon pork sausage with pear creme fraiche and goat cheese: This was the most unique sausage I’ve ever had at Hot Doug’s, and I’ve tried the rattlesnake. If it was possible to make a dessert out of meat that wasn’t a terrible Epic Meal Time video, it would taste like this. I know it was apple and cinnamon, but it reminded me of Christmas. There was a sweet and savory mix to this sausage, and the pear and goat cheese on top (which had melted a bit) almost seemed like a whipped cream frosting. It was extremely creative, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to be extremely adventurous.

Cherry-infused venison sausage with pumpkin cream sauce and bonvallis mahon cheese: I do not know what that cheese is. I have not looked it up either, though it did look like a light shredded cheddar. I didn’t get much of a pumpkin taste out of the sauce either, though it was creamy and good. No the key to this one was the sausage itself. It had a unique texture, thanks to the cherries you could literally pick out of the sausage. And it tasted like it was roasted over a fire (which isn’t a usual request for these dogs). Overall, my least favorite of the three, but still very good.

There was also a corn dog back there. I think they have the best corn dogs in the world, and they are consistently delicious. Plus they’re cheap, so there’s really no reason to not get one.

I still have to go back when they have the kangaroo and yak sausages on the menu again, so hopefully that will be soon! But another excellent trip accomplished. Plus, we got to see some news copters and trucks near the elementary school doing a story about the teacher strike. Hooray CPD!

Written by mlogli

August 30, 2012 at 9:04 pm

What NATO was really about

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As expected, most of the mass media outlets focused on the arrests, the injuries, the violence and the police in their NATO coverage. I don’t blame them really; that’s what sells newspapers and it is newsworthy information.

But a few isolated incidents may have blown NATO coverage out of proportion.

As I said in my last post, my friend Sean and I went into the NATO protests Sunday to try to find out more about those protesting and what they wanted. The video from that event is now up and running for those who want to see it. For a different look at the NATO protests, click the link here.


Written by mlogli

May 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Sexual harrassment at 6 years old

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As I stroll through Google News in the morning, I sometimes come across interesting stories. When I read about a 6-year-old in Colorado who got kicked out of school for sexual harrassment, I had to find out why and how that could possibly be.

Answer: he sang LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.”

Now the police won’t go into the details, but if that’s all he did…then…really guys? Really? Like that kid has any idea what the hell he’s saying? I know I sure didn’t know what the hell I was saying when I was 6 and singing Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta.” or Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” or Nirvana’s “any song they’ve ever done ever.”

Did the person he harassed report him? If it was another 6-year-old, how the hell does THAT kid know what sexual harassment is? If a teacher saw it and reported the incident, that teacher must not be very good at her job. Think about it. Kids at that age are in “monkey-see monkey-do mode” anyway. The kid has no reason to think far past the lyrics of that song beyond just saying them to look cool. Why punish a 6-year-old for being a 6-year-old?

Now if he did the “wiggle wiggle” that would still be hilarious, but a bit more serious. Still, no reason to send a kid home, just set him aside and explain why that’s inappropriate behavior. That should have been done the FIRST time this happened. But it shouldn’t have gotten to this point regardless.

Really, this is just silly now.

Written by mlogli

May 4, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Where does the news come from?

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Usually when a story pops up on my newsfeed, I can kind of understand where it comes from. While journalism can rile up the public and create fear, it can also be used to reflect what we are afraid of.

But what bothers me the most is a story about studies that are periodically released from different organizations. These are often medical in nature, sometimes interesting and valuable, and in a few cases completely fabricated or blatantly untrue.

This week a study was released by the Journal of the America Medical Association claiming that the number of babies addicted to pain-killers from birth had gone through the roof in the past 10 years. To be specific, this study claims that about 3.4 of every 1,000 babies were born with an addiction in 2009, according to this guy.

Suddenly, the story explodes, with Anderson Cooper immediately getting a drug-addicted mom on the show faster than Usain Bolt runs a 50m dash. The different stories on the study discuss the impact this has had on hospitals and their neonatal units, on the nurses and doctors, and particularly on Florida since it’s known as the “pill-mill” capital of the country.

While this is obviously a serious issue, as a reporter I always have my eyebrows raised and my skepticism shield at the ready whenever stories like this come out. Fortunately this is a reputable source (though I can’t find the actual study anywhere…if someone can let me know) and in general I trust that kind of thing. What surprises me is how quickly the study has blown up and become news.

Sometimes in situations like this, journalists have no idea when a story is going to be big. The public will take a topic and run with it, and this seems like one of those times. I just hope there’s no corrections that run for the study later, or that it isn’t used too heavily as a fearmongering tool.