Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Beating a dead horse at The Post-Star

by contributor Mark Wilson

Part of a series on the troubles at The Post-Star and its parent company Lee Enterprises.

Post-Star Editor Ken Tingley is charging into the Valley of Death once again. In the latest effort to rescue up the battered image of daily newspapers, Mr. Tingley’s Sunday column contrasted newspaper reports on unfolding events in the Boston area last week with information posted to social media outlets. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, he generalized that, “the beauty of print journalism is [that] you get to check and recheck your facts. There is time to evaluate and debate the context of a news story, where it should be played and even which words should be used.”

Even if you discount the obvious embarrassment of the New York Post's two glaring front page falsehoods, Mr. Tingley seems to have already forgotten the mistake made by the Associated Press—the service that the Post-Star relied on heavily for its coverage of the bombing, siege and manhunt—when it erroneously reported the imminent arraignment of both suspects on Wednesday. Had the rumor moved over the wire at press time, it is likely that understaffed newspapers like the Post-Star would have run it. Mr. Tingley also conveniently ignores the fact that his editors, under the Post-Star brand, retweeted the AP’s announcement of the bogus news story, immediately and without independent verification or subsequent retraction.

The real lesson from last week—one evidently lost on Mr. Tingley—is that in news gathering nothing beats an eye-witness account. Sadly, it is a resource that newspapers and their hired wire services are less and less able to afford. Fortunately, if you can tolerate all the derivative nonsense, such accounts may often be found on the internet.

In concluding his Sunday column, Mr. Tingley expressed his hope that “maybe there is a place for a plodding old war horse like the daily newspaper after all.”

It is a fittingly dated metaphor: The last US Army horseback cavalry charge took place seventy one years ago on the Bataan Peninsula, Philippines. Today’s military horses are used for reenactments, parades and funerals.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eliminate background checks for people who work with kids?

Please help me understand something. If I'm missing some key piece of the puzzle, educate me.

I've been a sports coach for many years. In order to get into coaching, I had to submit to a background check. In order to continue coaching, I've had to get a new background check every two years. This is required by the state for the schools I've coached at and by the league my club plays in.

I've never heard any coach or parent complain about this burden. I've never heard anyone say, "It's only going to hurt law-abiding people because the bad guys aren't going to follow the legal route anyways."

Nobody is under the delusion that this background check will reduce incidents of crime against kids by coaches to absolute zero. Nobody says, "If football imposes a background check, then the bad guys will just seek access to kids via baseball or music or scouting. So why bother?"

People realize that although the background check won't eliminate all crime, it will reduce the amount of low-hanging fruit. And the cumulative effect will reduce - not eliminate but reduce - the bad guys ability to commit crime simply by diminishing the opportunity.

Every coach I know accepts this as a reasonable burden to increase (not guarantee) safety.

I've never heard any calls to scrap this background check.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tyranny, freedom, liberty and bloody hypocrites

Please refresh my memory. 

Those of you who've spent the last few weeks bleating hysterically about 'tyranny,' where were you when Bush and his cronies were ramming through the "Patriot Act"  and general ramping up of the national security state (admittedly with the craven complicity of Democrats)? If an armed populace is really supposed to protect us from governmental tyranny, what were you doing under the Bush regime? A few of you spoke up about this but most of you were silent or approving. Certainly no one entertained any 'Second Amendment solutions.'

Those of you who've spent the last few weeks going on about the Constitution, where have you been on the Gitmo kidnappees? What about all of Bush's skirmishes in the war against civil liberties? What about the avalanche of restrictions on voting rights (I'm pretty sure that's in the Constitution too)? A few of you have spoken up but most of you have been silent or approving.  

(Just an FYI: the Bill of Rights and the rest of the Constitution applies to gun owners. Without question. But it also applies to non-gun owners. It applies to gays. It applies to Latinos. It applies to women. And it includes the 2nd Amendment but there's more... read it some time)

Those of you who've spent the last few weeks intoning about threats to freedom and liberty, what you were doing when fanatics demanded we turn the Middle East into a glass bowl or to round up all the Muslims and throw them into camps? A few of you spoke up but most of you were silent and some of you were even part of the frothing, bigoted mob.
Some of you are okay with tyranny and with infringements of liberty, freedom and the Constitution when it's others, but as soon as it *your* hobby/fetish/rights being affected, no matter how minimally, suddenly it's a deluge of indignant outrage.
But guess what. If  you're going to give the finger to everyone else's desire for freedom and constitutional rights, don't be so surprised if they give it right back to you.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

When 'Never Again' happened again

This essay is part of an occasional feature on this blog that presents compelling stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, IsraelStine and the Trumped Up Enemy of the Month. A list of all pieces in this series can be found found here..

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwandan genocide during which at least 800,000 people were murdered. It was one of the world's worst atrocities of the century and certainly the worst to be covered during the age of cable news television. It occurred a year, almost to the week, after politicians and dignitaries in Washington solemnly promised 'Never again' while inaugurating the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 2004, I wrote a long series of essays on the occasion of the 10th anniversary which gave a lot of information and background about the genocide.

They are as follows (yes, I know the images do not work):

-Ten years later (an intro)
-Pre-genocide history
-How the genocide unfolded
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 1)
-Myths and realities about the genocide (Part 2)
-The genocide's orphans
-Hate media and their role in the genocide
-International law and American law on genocide
-Post-genocide justice
-The post-genocide government
-Lessons and conclusions