MEDIA MEMO NO. 3: For the media and President Trump

February 22, 2017

Having heard some of President Donald J. Trump’s news conference on February 16, and having seen and read dozens of media stories about the first month of President Trump’s presidency, here five words of advice for both parties.

Stop fighting. Get along. Collaborate.

First – to the managers, directors, editors, publishers and reporters who comprise the media in 2017: To turn one of Brooke Gladstone’s phases a bit, you have the government you deserve. Public opinion survey after survey shows that distrust of the media, and a belief that the media is biased, are both at all-time highs. President Trump’s election came about, in part, as a result of that distrust. So if you’re unhappy about the outcome, you’ll find one leading cause for it just by looking at a mirror.

A lot of media analysts have stated this as well, as have countless editors and reporters working within the profession. One is Derek Thomspon, senior editor of The Atlantic and author of Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. Below is a link to his article citing four main reasons for the distrust. There are more reasons, but this is a strong starting point.

Billy Graham has been on the Gallup Polls as one of the “Ten most admired men in the world” for the past 60 years. His son, Franklin Graham, has a blunt assessment that concurs with President Trump: The media is lying. When the occupant of the White House and major religious leaders agree on an issue as important as this, the owners and managers of newspapers, television news-gathering divisions, and news-based websites had better take notice and change their ways.

Let’s also admit the obvious:  All too often, today’s media has become the pawn (willing or unwitting) of special interests. The WikiLeaks revelations from John Podesta’s emails included the existence of a lengthy list of media members who were “friendly” to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. It also revealed details about a huge party which dozens of media on her “friendly” list attended, around the time Clinton announced her candidacy for President in Spring 2015. Gallup and other polls show that the public believes the media supports the Democratic Party, by a margin of 3.5 to 1.

 

aaaa-trump-wisconsin

A screen shot of Fox News’ coverage of President Trump’s speech on August 16, 2016

One way the media could begin to redeem itself is to change its direction and focus. Don’t be overly concerned about the White House, but instead look at the plight of the average Jane and Jose in our land. It’s quite telling that Margaret Sullivan, public editor of The New York Times, admits that her newspaper made a mistake by not thoroughly covering the Flint, Michigan, water contamination crisis.

Part of what made journalism great in the last quarter of the 20th century was its ability to focus on what Ed Murrow and Fred Friendly (creators of “See it Now,” the first in-depth television news program) called the little picture. This concept of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” as stated in a column in the Chicago Evening Post 125 years ago, is something still taught in journalism colleges and universities across the country.

It’s time to refocus. How many more Flints are out there in the nation? If the media returned to a vital role of being a champion of the little people, its reputation would improve.

Now, let’s look at what’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in the Executive Office Building, and elsewhere in the Trump Administration, with respect to the media and the practice of journalism.

Mr. President: You gave a prescient speech about six months ago on the campaign trail. On August 16, in Wisconsin, you said this:

Every day you pick up a newspaper, or turn on the nightly news, and you hear about some self-interest banker or some discredited Washington insider says they oppose our campaign. Or some encrusted old politician says they oppose our campaign. Or some big time lobbyist says they oppose our campaign.

“I wear their opposition as a badge of honor. Because it means I am fighting for REAL change, not just partisan change. I am fighting – all of us across the country are fighting – for peaceful regime change in our own country. The media-donor-political complex that’s bled this country dry has to be replaced with a new government of, by and for the people.
(Emphasis added.)

You not only won the election, you defeated the very complex which you eloquently identified on the campaign trail. Now you face a new challenge – Working with at least a portion of the enemies you conquered. Some of them are political. Some are donors. And some are members of the media.

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The editorial page “spoof” describing the beginning of (what it hoped would be a fictional) Trump Presidency. This was published as a mock front page in The Boston Globe in April 2016.

Whether or not the media deserves it (in my humble opinion, most don’t), as a statesman and the leader of the world’s greatest democracy, you need the media to report, accurately and fairly, upon your administration and its accomplishments. If democracy is to grow and thrive around the world, then the U.S. media is in a unique position — has a unique responsibility — to broadcast truth and light in places where all too often there are only messages of hate and doom.

They don’t get it. They don’t understand that your usage of Twitter belongs in the same category at John Kennedy’s employment of live TV news conferences or FDR’s radio fireside chats. You are utilizing a newer medium to communicate directly to improve the lives of the people – the oppressed, the downtrodden, and those who seemingly have had no voice and no way to improve their own lives.

Because they don’t get it, you need to exhibit both exceptional leadership and exceptional restraint in showing them a path towards some degree of collaboration and respect for each other.

Here’s a suggestion – Try some one-on-ones. Invite new NBC News President executive Noah Oppenheim to the White House. Have dinner with the New York Times’ Dean Baquet.  Do a two-for and have both Marty Baron (executive editor) and Jeff Bezos (owner) of The Washington Post over for a conversation.

Let them realize that you understand the business challenges and pressures they face. Give them an opportunity to have an exclusive and see if they are willing to work with you or continuously write or broadcast story after story which attacks you.

You have proven that you don’t need the media to campaign and win an election. However, governing is easier if the public isn’t divided and walled off into dozens of “echo chambers” where everyone is seeing and hearing nothing but their own point of view.

Something beyond winning or losing an election is at stake here. E Pluribus Unum should be more than just a motto.  Extend an olive branch from your position as the victor. Media leaders would be wise to accept that offer. Then, just maybe, we can obtain some equilibrium in a land that’s becoming increasingly less civil and more hostile.

Our first president could have been a king, but he wanted a democratic republic to govern the land. George Washington said, “While a courteous behavior is due to all, select the most deserving only for your friendships.”

Try imitating President Washington’s advice, at least for a while, with respect to the media, President Trump. Give them some courtesy, and offer an opportunity for them to change course. It’s in everyone’s best interests – including the nation — that this happens.

shamina merchant john kerezy

John Kerezy with Ohio State University student Shamina Merchant at a presentation at Cuyahoga Community College in spring 2015

I am an associate professor of journalism/mass communications at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). These views are my own, and not those of Tri-C.

SOURCES:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/09/why-do-americans-distrust-the-media/500252/

http://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/rev-graham-trump-says-what-we-all-know-news-media-has-been-lying-fake-news

https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/08/17/donald-trump-speech-with-transcript-the-decisive-moment/

http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/the-rules-of-civility-and-decent-behaviour/

Hanson, Ralph, “Mass Communication,” Sage Publications, sixth edition, pages 127-128

https://ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org/2016/11/28/fake-news-trumps-true-news/#more-2748

ALSO VISIT:

https://jkerezy.wordpress.com/2015/09/02/media-memo/

https://jkerezy.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/media-memo-2/

 

 

 

 

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Prayers for this election

September 24, 2016

There are times when those who believe in Christ Jesus might forget the words in 1 Peter 5:7,  “Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

With this foremost in mind, here are a few guidelines in prayer and in action for believers as we watch the 2016 Presidential Campaign wind down to its final days, beginning with the first Presidential Debate on Monday night.

  • PRAY FOR THE VOTERS

For nearly 230 years, the U.S. has depended upon civic involvement through voting to determine our leaders. We have held debates, shed blood, and changed our governing document – the Constitution – to allow more and more Americans to cast ballots in elections and chose the course of this land. Let’s pray that voters will seek to discern between truth and falsehood, put the national interest above self-interest, and seek God’s wisdom (James 1:5)

Image result for intercessors for america pray elections

  • PRAY FOR THE MEDIA

Many times in the 2016 election cycle, the media and its coverage has become just as controversial as our two major candidates for office. At their core, media outlets should remember their highest obligation is to accurately inform and report on events – not to become supporters and/or endorsers of any one candidate or party. “Seek the truth and report it” is the first cannon of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Pray that truth in reporting for the remainder of this election will become a high value, and that bias will decrease or even disappear. Let’s also pray that messages of hope – optimism for our future – will receive time and attention as well.

  • PRAY FOR THOSE RUNNING FOR OFFICE

Candidates, family members, and top campaign aides become the subjects of microscopic inspection during campaigns. This intense scrutiny discourages some very well-qualified civic leaders from even seeking elected office. Every candidate, indeed every elected and potential leader in our nation, needs prayer support. Let’s pray that candidates for office would surround themselves with Godly advisers, and that the candidates would focus on issues and not on negative attacks that only further soil public discourse. Let’s pray that candidates would be courageous and stand for right and righteousness, even if it’s unpopular.

  • PRAY FOR GOD’S WILL TO BE DONE

Many reading this learned the Lord’s Prayer at one point in their lives. “Thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” is Matthew 6:10. As believers pray about national elections, we should also make our own desires subservient to God’s ways and His will. Our heart’s longing should be for God’s purposes to come about in our cities, states, and nation.  Let’s pray that the U.S. would rturn from evil, and seek first the kingdom of God. Let’s pray that the election results would please God, and that He would see a change and release blessings and favor over our nation once again. Finally, let’s pray that God would be honored in the entire election process.  (More reading in Proverbs 8:15, 21:1, Daniel 4:25, and Romans 13)

CLOSING THOUGHT: Pray that as November 8 arrives, we would see candidates and a country more God-like in word, thought and deed.

 

NOTES/SOURCES

Some content excerpted David Butts “Election Prayer Guide” and the National Day of Prayer Task Force.  © 2014 Harvest Prayer Ministries, Prayer Connect magazine

https://www.getouttheprayer.com/pray-over-our-elections/

 

http://www.poynter.org/2013/about-this-blog/217393/


History, videos, and lesson plans on Presidential debates

September 17, 2016

A resolution. A constructive speech either in favor of or in opposition to the resolution. Evidence supporting contentions in the speech. Direct cross examination of each other. A clash on issues raised. Rebuttal and summary speeches.

All of these are standard fare for high school and college debaters. And nearly none of these will happen on Monday, September 26, when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump meet at Hofstra University in New York for the first of four debates (three Presidential, one Vice Presidential) this fall. The 2016 Commission on Presidential Debates series will begin 56 years to the day after the first-ever televised Presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy in 1960.

In fact, virtually all Presidential debates have lacked the elements that comprise a debate. Some news observers and even one of this year’s moderators, Chris Wallace of Fox News, are instead calling these events simultaneous news conferences.

Back in 1960, there were far fewer media choices. Seeing the major candidates standing toe to toe and responding to a reporter’s questions was fresh, new and exciting. About 70 million Americans tuned in on that September night in 1960, the largest audience ever to watch a televised event at the time.

Image result for kennedy nixon debate
Donald Hewitt of CBS, who produced that first debate, talked about its significance in an interview 40 years later for Joe Garner’s book Stay Tuned. “It was like Miss America. You picked the more attractive of the two men. That’s how Jack Kennedy beat Richard Nixon….,” Hewitt said. “Jack Kennedy making speeches is a bore. Jack Kennedy debating Richard Nixon is an event.”

Even more important, according to Hewitt, was the confluence of political leaders and television executives. The Nixon-Kennedy debates radically transformed the landscape of American politics. “In the middle of this thing, the politicians are looking at the television executives and thinking, those guys have a reach in everybody’s living room,” Hewitt explained. “The television executives are looking at the politicians and saying they are a source of unlimited advertising dollars. That a bottomless pit.”

“That night changed the face of American politics That was the night that television and politics eyed each other, flirted with each other, got engaged, and eventually got married,” Hewitt added. “And because of that you cannot hold office in the USA or even think of running for office unless you’ve got the money to buy television time. Politics in America is now a money game, and it all weaned off  the night of the first television debate.”

Hewitt was right. In the 2012 election cycle,  candidates for all federal offices in the U.S. spent seven billion dollars on campaign activities.  The plurality of those billions were devoted to purchasing television ads. Even with the rise of the internet and mobile media, TV is receiving the lion’s share of campaign dollars. Ask anyone living in a “battleground” state (such as Ohio) what commercials are running on television right now — they’ll tell you.

Here is a link to the video which accompanied the book “Stay Tuned” about the 1960 Presidential debates. You’ll see Walter Cronkite, Hewitt, and — of course — Nixon, Kennedy, and debate moderator Howard K. Smith.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Zk9RiFRHw&noredirect=1

THE NEW NIXON: A notable outcome from first Presidential debates: Richard Nixon abhorred future one-on-one clashes with an opponent as a result of the 1960 election. When he re-entered the political realm and won the Republican Party’s nomination for President in 1968, he eschewed debates and instead produced live “made for television” events called Man in the Arena. Today we would call these programs part political advertisement, part infomercial, and part reality television. It was a precursor to another form of political TV which became quite common in the 21st century, the town hall meeting. Producing Man in the Arenawas a young television expert who had learned his craft with the Mike Douglas show, Roger Ailes.

Ailes selected about 20 “man in the street” panelists for the program, some of whom would ask questions of Nixon and also make brief statements about conditions in America in 1968. Bud Wilkinson, a regular on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and former Hall of Fame college football coach, hosted the program. Nixon and Wilkinson engaged in friendly banter at the beginning of each broadcast. It worked, as viewers came to see Nixon as a fighter for the middle class. In November 1968, Nixon outpolled both Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace to become the 37th president of the U.S.

The New York Times’ Tom Wicker called the Man in the Arena television programs a “masterly new political concept.”  The viewing public thought that Nixon was being questioned freely, “while running little risk of a hostile inquiry, a damaging answer, or some other mistake,” Wicker wrote. Nixon would hear nothing of a debate in the 1972 Presidential election. But after Watergate and Nixon’s departure in 1974, there was a consensus among the Republican National Committee and the Democratic Committee that there should be debates.  Thus — starting in 1976 — we’ve had at least one debate in every election cycle ever since. It took some time, but the Commission on Presidential Debates was formed in 1987 to “…provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” It governs the debates today.

TRANSFORMING MOMENTS

It’s really impossible to prove whether a candidate might win or lose an election as a result of or more Presidential debates.  Those conducting polling in 1960 reported that a vast majority of undecided voters that year ended up casting ballots for Kennedy. Yet no one could prove whether the debates tilted a “scale in the minds” in Kennedy’s favor.

Most Presidential debate observers do point to a few poignant moments in debate history. The first was in 1976, when reporter Max Frankel of the New York Times asked a question about US-Soviet Union relations of President Gerald Ford. Frankel was a member of three-reporter panel, plus moderator Pauline Frederick of National Public Radio. It was the second Presidential debate, taking place in San Francisco in October 1976. Ford’s response to Frankel was a gaffe, insisting that Poland was a free nation at the time. It was not, and the misstep might have cost Ford the election. See the clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8rg9c4pUrg

In the first 1984 debate between President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale, Reagan was hesitant and halting, and looked even older than his 74 years of age. Although Reagan was ahead in the polls, voters were wondering if he was up to four more years of the physical and mental challenges of the Presidency. In the second Presidential debate in Kansas City, the “Great Communicator” masterfully turned reporter Henry Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun’s question about his age into a response so funny that even Mondale laughed at it. Reagan then paused and reached for his glass of water to let his zinger linger. He won re-election in a landslide the following month. See the clip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoPu1UIBkBc&feature=youtu.be

There was a Cleveland connection to the 1988 Vice Presidential Debate, which was held early in October in Omaha. Northeast Ohio Cong. Dennis Eckart was an “opponent stand in” for the Democratic nominee, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, for practices ahead of the clash. After the debate, Cong. Eckart told local media outlets that, in fact, the Democrats had anticipated that Senator Dan Quayle, Republican VP candidate and Bensten’s opponent, might attempt to compare himself to John Kennedy. Watch Senator Bentson’s double response – first to Quayle’s statement, then to his ‘unfair’ retort afterward:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ5CIkSlUFI

NOTE: in the 2012 Vice Presidential debate, VP Joe Biden echoed this with a remark to Republican Candidate Rep. Paul Ryan about tax cuts: “Oh, Now You’re Jack Kennedy?”

Here’s a link to a web page explaining the formats which will be used for all four of the presidential debates in September and October 2016:
http://www.debates.org/index.php?page=2016debates

LESSON PLANS

If you are a teacher in grades 3 to 6, and are planning a lesson in language arts or civics, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library has some great resources on Presidential debates. The link below includes objectives and outcomes, connections to curriculum standards from National Standards for Civics and Government and from NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts for grades 4, 5, and 6.  Here is the link:

https://www.jfklibrary.org/Education/Teachers/Curricular-Resources/Elementary-School-Curricular-Materials/Televised-Debates.aspx

Here are some good additional links to lesson plans and resources for many different grade levels:

https://debate.uvm.edu/dcpdf/cpd2000.pdf

http://lessonplanspage.com/sslaelectionscandidatedebatesidea48-htm/

The link below is a terrific resource for using all aspects of the election in the middle school and high school classroom:

https://teachingbeyondthetextbook.wordpress.com/tag/presidential-debates/

SOURCES

http://mediamatters.org/video/2016/09/04/fox-s-chris-wallace-its-not-my-role-presidential-debate-moderator-be-truth-squad/212845

Garner, Joe “Stay Tuned: Television’s Unforgettable Moments,” © 2002 Garner Creative Concepts

http://www.politico.com/story/2013/01/7-billion-spent-on-2012-campaign-fec-says-087051

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/5/27/1388297/-1968-Richard-Nixon-stuns-the-political-media-by-listening-to-voters

For information about the Commission on Presidential Debates, transcripts, video excerpts and more, link here: http://www.debates.org/

www.jfklibrary.org

Pictures from: History.com and the Reagan Presidential Library


President Obama’s community college plan: Ponder, but act too!

January 17, 2015

America has always been a nation which invests in its future. In the early 19th century, Congress funded roads, canals, and other transportation infrastructure to spur development and reduce the cost of goods and services. We subsidized railroads in the latter half of the 19th century, and funded what became known as the interstate highway system in much of the 20th century.

We are also concerned about the welfare of its people, having faith that an educated population results in a better citizenry and country. When tens of millions of American servicemen returned home from World War II, it was the GI Bill (formally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act) which provided tuition assistance to attend college or obtain technical training. More than 7.5 million Americans took advantage of the GI Bill. (Its vestige is with us today in the tuition assistance which armed forces veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan employ for higher education.)

Although it had flaws, the GI Bill helped establish a sizable educated middle class and enabled the U.S. to emerge from the post-World War II era as the world’s leading economy for nearly 50 years. Notable is the fact that the G.I. Bill was a bipartisan effort, accomplished as a world war approached its end. Harry Colmery, then a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former American Legion commander, was the principal author and advocate for the legislation. President Roosevelt signed it into law in late 1944.

In this context, President Obama is proposing to provide free higher education at community colleges across the U.S. It makes sense. If you haven’t heard about it, here’s a link to the video the White House released last week:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-QDfEMXAgk

The long lens of history supports this type of investment in human capital which our country has made in the past. Concomitant with the GI Bill was the ascendancy of the U.S. system of higher education. Prior to the two World Wars of the 20th century, Europe was considered the center of collegiate learning. But by the ’60s, the United States led the world in the percentage of its population earning college degrees.

Somehow, that was expected in America. For hundreds of years, the U.S. has regarded higher education as a public good. Our nation believes that each generation would advance – intellectually, economically, culturally and socially – beyond the one before, and higher education institutions would help champion this advance. We were the “best and brightest” on the planet. We tamed the atom, broke the sound barrier, cured polio and other diseases, and sent humans to the moon and back.

Well, we’re not the best and brightest anymore. Depending upon the source, the U.S. now ranks between 15th and 20th in the world in the percentage of our adults obtaining a college degree. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) placed the U.S. 19th out of 28 countries in college completion in its “Education at a Glance” report, released in September 2014.

The OECD measures education investment and the performance of wealthier democracies. Higher education levels are associated with higher earnings (no surprise) but also with better health, more community engagement, and also more trust in governments, institutions and people.

Against this backdrop comes President Barack Obama’s proposal. It’s an intriguing one, and it should spur some deep intellectual analysis and spirited discussions at a critical time for our nation.

EXPECTATIONS, FUNDING, AND A SHRINKING MIDDLE CLASS

Our nation’s residents long for college completion. A late 2012 Lumina Foundation survey with the Gallup Poll showed that 97 percent of Americans believe it is important to have a certificate or degree beyond high school. In the same survey though, only 26 percent of respondents believe that the cost of higher education is affordable to anyone who needs it. And just 27 percent believe that the quality of higher education is worse today that it was in the past.

Here are some additional facts we – as a nation – should consider:

  • Public funding of higher education is declining dramatically. As recently as 1985, state and federal support provided more than 80 percent of revenues at public higher education institutions.  That percent is now below 60 percent nationally, and below 50 percent in many states.

higher ed two

  • Individual students are shouldering an ever-increasing percentage of college costs. The chart below show’s a “net revenue per student” figure which accentuates the fact that U.S. college students have now borrowed $1.2 TRILLION to cover higher education expenses. Students graduating with $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 in debt is quite common today.

higher ed one

  • The middle class is shrinking. Median household income “peaked” at just over $56,000 in 1999, and it has been going downward every year since then.

declining middle class

LET’S PURSUE IT

President Obama’s plan, as unveiled and expanded upon, is well worth deliberating. This writer would make suggestions for improvements. There should be economic means testing, and the concept of a payback (such as through community service) could move the plan from paper to reality.

Facing facts, the political gridlock in Washington, DC might make ANY compromise impossible in 2015. But let’s hope our nation’s political leaders give this proposal a try. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain when our nation invests in improving the educational attainment of its citizens. If we remain in the bottom third of democratic nations in our citizens’ college completion rate, that bodes ill  for our future.

NOTE – There are many good articles out there on this topic, but I want to draw your attention to Debbie Cochrane and her work at The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS), a non-profit education advocacy program.

http://views.ticas.org/?author=13

LINKS AND SOURCES — Read more at:

http://www.businessinsider.com/r-us-falls-behind-in-college-competition-oecd-2014-9

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/12/obama-joined-republicans-unveiling-free-community-college-plan

http://www.vox.com/2015/1/9/7520969/free-college-obama-politics

http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/galluplumina-foundation-poll-reveals-public-perception-higher-ed

http://www.luminafoundation.org/news-and-events/gallup-lumina-foundation-poll-reveals-need-for-higher-education-redesign

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/2014/07/23/avoid-turning-into-a-scary-student-loan-stat

http://billmoyers.com/2013/09/20/by-the-numbers-the-incredibly-shrinking-american-middle-class/

*     *     *     *     *

You will be seeing more blogs on this site, either from me or from my students, in the weeks ahead. My family situation underwent a significant change around October 1, which affected my blogging output.  Perhaps I’ll address this further in a future post.

Finally — Please do share this posting.  The greater the discussion about the idea of free community college and the need for our nation to improve its college completion rate, the better.


Failing the sniff test

August 15, 2014

Lessons learned – so far – in Ferguson
Could Euclid, Maple Heights, Garfield Heights be next?

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When the Freedom Riders attempted to desegregate Montgomery, Ala. in May 1961, Police Commissioner L.B. Montgomery let the assembled segregationist mob first beat up and then chase away the dozen reporters present at the bus depot.  Once the media was absent, the mob then attacked and viciously beat the Freedom Riders.

Older Americans, and those of us with a sense of history and justice, can’t help but recall this when reading accounts that the police in Ferguson, Mo., attacked members of the media  and destroyed their video cameras earlier this week.

aa periphery 1

City officials and the assembled police forces — from Ferguson, St. Louis and elsewhere – have failed the sniff test. From the moment a white Ferguson Police Department officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an African American in a predominantly African American community, nearly a week ago, police and city officials have acted with dogged determination to cover up the incident and close ranks under the guise of public safety.  This cascade of ever-greater “public safety” steps, militarizing an already-tense situation, are all too reminiscent of the tactics segregationists employed in the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.   

From the onset, police explanations of Brown’s slaying don’t seem to be accurate. Multiple eyewitness accounts state that Brown was in the middle of the street, holding up his hands and saying “don’t shoot,” as he was gunned down. The Ferguson Police Department’s report, which claims that the officer shot Brown after the teen had disobeyed an order and initiated a scuffle, apparently has no corroboration whatsoever.

Additionally, Ferguson has failed to properly communicate in this crisis. At the bottom of this piece is a link to a blog from a retired safety chief, and his experienced observations are titled “Deafening Silence in Ferguson.”

Let’s look at a few facts:

  • Michael Brown was unarmed
  • Brown was shot multiple times
  • Police barred any community access to the first public event, a Sunday news conference, following Brown’s shooting
  • Nearly a week after the incident, police and other officials are refusing to offer additional basic details of the incident, such as the name of the officer involved. (NOTE – Name was to be revealed on Friday, August 15, but that has not happened as of the publication of this post. We did hear a new story — that Michael Brown was a suspect in a convenience store robbery — on Friday, however.)

The acronym DWB, driving while black, aptly applies to Ferguson. A 2013 Missouri Attorney General report shows that blacks are nearly seven times as likely to be stopped by police in Ferguson than whites. They are twice as likely to be arrested in traffic stops.

aa periphery 2

Ferguson could be Euclid, Ohio. Or Maple Heights, or any ‘first-tier’ suburban community in America where the population has changed from a white majority to an African-American majority, but yet the vast majority of the power structure is still in the hands of whites.

In such cities, elected officials and their safety forces bear a huge burden. They should be taking extra steps in community engagement, community communications, and in preparedness for crisis situations.  

They should also be working assiduously to become more just communities.  Back in 2007, the City of Euclid was found guilty of violating the U.S. Voting Rights Act. It took more Justice Dept. legal action, but eventually both the City of Euclid and Euclid School Board developed just ways of publicly electing leaders. African Americans now serve on both the school board and City Council there.  This could help ensure that a similar tragic situation doesn’t ensue. As we learned (or thought we’d learned) from 50-plus years ago, the U.S. Justice Dept. SHOULD intervene and take action when civil rights are being violated.

Finally, of course one cannot condone looting and violence that stemmed from this tragedy. However, if the Ferguson Police Dept. and City of Ferguson had been doing their duty of community engagement in the years and months before August 8-9, perhaps little or none of this violence would have resulted.

Instead, our nation is watching 1961 replay, sadly, in 2014.

* * * * *

 As a follower of Jesus Christ, I’ve asked myself “what should I do” in such a situation.  This blog is one response.

Asking for action is a better one.  I’ve sent an email to the Attorney General of the State of Missouri and the U.S. Department of Justice, asking them for a full and fair investigation into this shooting.  Links to the web sites are at the bottom of this email, if you wish to do the same thing.

 Here’s the third thing – President Obama, the appointment of a presidential commission to examine and improve race relations in the U.S. is LONG OVERDUE. High-minded people of all races and creeds, studying and working together, can certainly come up with some great solutions to the racial issues which are still causing serious damage to our nation. Mr. President, having your daughters Sasha and Malia living in a far less prejudiced and more just country would be a terrific legacy.

Additionally, Scripture from Romans 13 and Philippians 4 comes to mind. Read the chapters if you wish.

SOURCES (pictures in this blog are from two of the sites below)

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/highwayhistory/road/s27.cfm

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1ac38722-23c4-11e4-8e29-00144feabdc0.html#slide0

 http://ago.mo.gov/VehicleStops/2013/reports/161.pdf

http://fromtheperiphery.com/?p=62

http://www.chiefb2.com/2014/08/13/deafening-silence-ferguson/

LINKS IF YOU TOO WANT TO CALL FOR ACTION

MISSOURI:  http://ago.mo.gov/contactus.htm

US DEPT. OF JUSTICE, EASTERN MISSOURI:  jan.diltz@usdoj.gov


Stop with the lies

January 21, 2013

Nearly 100 years ago, journalism organizations adopted principles of conduct for the profession.  The American Society of Newspaper Editors and SPJ, the Society of Professional Journalists, have similar codes of ethics.  Both organizations advocate for seeking the truth, and reporting it.  Below is an excerpt from the SPJ code:

“Journalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. Journalists should:

  • Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible.
  • Diligently seek out subjects of news stories to give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.
  • Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability.

Significant errors of fact, as well as errors of omission, should be corrected promptly and prominently.”

So the news emerging last week about Manti Te’o’s non-existent “girlfriend” means that Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and other media outlets have become more obsessed about telling a good story than they are concerned about accuracy and correct sources of identification.

I’m sorry, media apologists, but any 12-year-old who knows how to use Google images could have figured out that Manti Te’o’s girlfriend simply did not exist.

Don’t muddy the water with discussions about hoaxes. Read the actual interview notes. Mr. Te’o, along with his father, said things that simply cannot be true.

Here’s just one small example: Imaginary girlfriends don’t visit the house.  Check out the stories for yourself.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-football/news/20130117/manti-teo-girlfriend-hoax-quotes/

http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/8859077/manti-teo-notre-dame-fighting-irish-denies-being-part-hoax-late-girlfriend

Until and unless the media starts taking responsibility, follows its own rules, and makes accuracy a high priority once again, journalism will continue in its downward spiral.  Journalists should never accept lies.

*     *     *

Today we remember the life work of civil rights advocate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  One of the many profound things Dr. King said was this: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Professionals who practice journalism in 2013 should heed his words.


TRANSPARENCY…Bogus drugs, milk on steroids, more

December 4, 2007

TRANSPARENT TALK 2/5/08

Perhaps you’ve seen the Malaysian Palm Oil Council’s TV ad, touting their product’s natural benefits. The ad’s tagline is “A Gift From Nature…A Gift From Life.” The ad’s high production values and feel-good music make you warm and fuzzy about the product. See their ad at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zZIoqeuJf4

Look closer. You’ll discover that some oil-palm plantations are planted in illegally-cleared natural rain forests. In Indonesia, adjacent to Malaysia, oil-palm plantation development is destroying species’ natural habitat. So how truthful and transparent is the Malaysian Palm Oil Council campaign? It’s so deceitful that the United Kingdom’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled the ad misleading. Similar “bogus” environmental advertising and public relations campaigns are taking place all over globe. See this link for details:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120163622342426091.html?mod=djem_jiewr_mk

But it’s not just dishonesty over the environment that’s worrisome. Watch what happens in the US whenever there is an FDA ruling or a research finding that’s potentially adverse to a drug manufacturer’s profits.

Recently Merck & Co and Shering-Plough Corp, co-marketers of the cholesterol drug Vytorin, spent nearly $200 million on TV ad campaigns. Some of the commercials also touted the benefits of Zetia and Zocor, the two drugs that make up Vytorin. Suddenly the two companies suspended the TV ads. Next they placed full-page ads in major newspapers assuring the pubic about the safety of their drugs.

Why the abrupt about face? An extensive study of 720 patients with high cholesterol showed that NEITHER drug reduces fatty plaque build-up in the arteries.

So why was there was a 21-month time lag between the study’s conclusion and its release? The two companies, Merck and Shering-Plough, conducted the study. Perhaps they needed the time for legal consultations, while the ad and marketing campaigns touting the cholesterol-lowering benefits of these drugs continued unabated. See this link for specifics:
http://mobile.adage.com/html_article.php?li=14767a97

The Challenge

In our 24/7 real-time world where information is instantaneous, transparency in communications, government, and the marketplace of ideas is more critical than ever. We need more light on ever more complicated subjects. We need less obfuscation. This blog is one person’s cry – a trumpet call – for more transparency and truth in corporation and ad agency board rooms, in the ranks of public relations practitioners, and in the halls of government.

Deceit is wrong. Deceit can be deadly. Delaying “bad news” condemns others to injury or worse. I’ll look for examples of less-than-transparent communications. I’ll point them out. And I’ll plea for more transparency and honesty in the public marketplace.

King Solomon had it right. He wrote this, 2,500 years ago: “Buy truth and do not sell it; get wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

What’s in Your Milk?

Jeanette Drake teaches public relations at Kent State University and is an ardent homegrown foods advocate. She and many others are rightly concerned about the contents of our food supply. Did you know that the milk you put on your breakfast table probably contains steroids? How would you feel about the producers of milk keeping that fact from you?

That’s just what is happening. Multinational agricultural biotech corporation Monsanto Corp. is lobbying state legislatures and regulatory agencies to allow it keep this little fact off your milk carton label: cows being fed recombinant BGH (rBGH) are producing your milk.

Canada and the European Union have banned the usage of rBGH due to animal welfare concerns. Scientists in these countries and in the US believe intake of rBGH increases the risks of cancer and antibiotic resistance in humans. Monsanto spent more than $3.6 million for lobbying in 2006 in the US, and – you guessed it – Monsanto makes and sells rBGH to milk producers.

Drake chronicles it all in this January 30, 2008, op-ed column in the Akron Beacon Journal. Here’s the link:
http://www.ohio.com/editorial/commentary/14897161.html

Ben & Jerry’s has weighed in on this: They are opposing Monsanto’s efforts to conceal the presence of rBGH in labeling. See the FORBES article here:
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2008/02/05/ap4614209.html

Do We Choose our Leaders in Secret?

I live in a suburban bedroom community, Broadview Heights, Ohio. Recently a Council Representative resigned. By the City’s charter, the current members of Council must choose a successor.

I learned that the Council President, Don Sopka, plans to have Council members cast paper ballots in a behind-closed-doors session to fill the vacancy. Our Founding Fathers would be rolling over in their collective graves if they knew this. I’ve emailed Mr. Sopka, suggesting that the public’s interest would be best served if the members of Council cast their votes by voice vote, with each Council person going on record for or against the successor Council rep., in a public setting.

We need more sunshine: it’s the ultimate disinfectant in government, as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said.If you agree, please drop an email to Mr. Sopka at:
sopkad@aol.com

If you have a suggestion for TRANSPARENT TALK, please email it to me at
john.kerezy@tri-c.edu.

JKerezy