Expanding crimes

A statement from the head of the News Media Alliance:

Journalists across the country work hard every day to gather and report the news for their communities. Unfortunately, the highly polarized political climate has put the safety of journalists at risk. The News Media Alliance applauds Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for bicameral introduction the Journalist Protection Act, which would give federal prosecutors the power to prosecute those who attack or intimidate journalists while they are attempting to do their jobs. We hope that with the bill’s enactment, journalists will be safer on the job and can focus on informing the public and enhancing the public discourse, which are critical to a functioning democracy.

What is the Journalist Protection Act? Something called The Independent reported Thursday:

Today Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA-15), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) reintroduced the Journalist Protection Act to make a federal crime of certain attacks on those reporting the news. This reintroduction is happening during Sunshine Week, when the importance of access to information is recognized. A free press is critical in helping to shine light on our government and illuminate the challenges facing our country.

The Journalist Protection Act makes it a federal crime to intentionally cause bodily injury to a journalist affecting interstate or foreign commerce in the course of reporting or in a manner designed to intimidate him or her from newsgathering for a media organization. It represents a clear statement that assaults against people engaged in reporting is unacceptable, and helps ensure law enforcement is able to punish those who interfere with newsgathering.

Both before and since taking office, President Trump has blatantly stoked a climate of extreme hostility toward the press. He has called the press “the enemy of the American people,” and described mainstream media outlets as “a stain on America.” He once tweeted a GIF video of himself body-slamming a person with the CNN logo superimposed on that person’s face, and retweeted a cartoon of a “Trump Train” running over a person with a CNN logo on its head.

Such antagonistic rhetoric encourages others to think, regardless of their views, that violence against journalists is acceptable. Last April, the international organization Reporters Without Borders dropped the United States’ ranking in its annual World Press Freedom Index by two points, to number 45 overall, citing President Trump’s bashing of the media.

“From tweeting #FakeNews to proclaiming his contempt for the media during campaign rallies, the President has created a hostile environment for members of the press,” said Swalwell. “A healthy democracy depends on a free press unencumbered by threats of violence. We must protect journalists in every corner of our country if they are attacked physically while doing their job, and send a strong, clear message that such violence will not be tolerated. That is what my bill, the Journalist Protection Act, would do.”

In March 2017, OC Weekly journalists said they were assaulted by demonstrators at a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach, CA. The following August, a reporter was punched in the face for filming anti-racism counter-protestors in Charlottesville, VA. At a rally hosted by the President in El Paso, TX just last month, a man in a Make America Great Again hat attacked a BBC reporter and yelled expletives directed at “the media.”

“The values celebrated during Sunshine Week – accountability through transparency, access to public information, and freedom of the press – are under attack like never before,” said Blumenthal. “Under this administration, reporters face a near-constant barrage of verbal threats, casting the media as enemies of the American people and possible targets of violence. This bill makes clear that engaging in any kind of violence against members of the media will simply not be tolerated.”

“Over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers had the foresight to recognize the importance of a free press to a fledgling democracy,” said Menendez. “Now, more than ever, their importance can’t be overstated. Despite the dangerous rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration, and yet another disturbing attack on a journalist covering a MAGA rally, the press is not the enemy of the people. A free, and independent press—a strong Fourth Estate—is essential to the American people and our democracy, ensuring an informed public and holding those in power accountable. We cannot condone any physical attacks on journalists or members of the media.”

The bill is supported by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and by News Media for Open Government, a broad coalition of news media and journalism organizations working to ensure that laws, policies and practices preserve and protect freedom of the press, open government and the free flow of information in our democratic society.

“American journalists are facing assaults, threats, intimidation and even murder simply for fulfilling their First Amendment duties by reporting the news,” said Bernie Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild, a division of the CWA. “The Journalist Protection Act strengthens the free press that’s essential to our democracy.”

“Now more than ever, our industry needs the Journalist Protection Act to ensure both our members and their equipment have an extra layer of defense from attacks,” said Charlie Braico, president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians, also a CWA division. “It’s also another way of saying in these turbulent times that yes, the First Amendment matters – and it’s worth protecting.”

“A journalist should not have to worry about threats of harassment or physical attacks solely for doing their jobs and informing the public,” said Melissa Wasser, Coalition Director for News Media for Open Government. “Forty-eight journalists faced physical attacks while gathering and reporting the news in 2018, as documented by the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. More than two dozen newsrooms have received hoax bomb threats, disrupting their operations. Not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened. The Journalist Protection Act would not elevate journalists to a special status, but rather would ensure they receive the same protections if attacked while gathering and reporting the news.”

One of those sponsors’ names might seem familiar to you. The Western Journal explains why:

A reporter who has chronicled one senator’s threat to call the police on him for doing his job is now pointedly asking a question of that same senator, who supports the proposed Journalist Protection Act.

This week, New Jersey Democrat Bob Menendez used “Sunshine Week,” an annual event to support the right of the American people to know what goes on in government, to cite his support of the bill that would make “certain attacks on those reporting the news” federal crimes.

Menendez said the importance of the media “can’t be overstated.” Menendez implied that abuse of journalists was a one-party issue, attacking President Donald Trump for “dangerous rhetoric,” and citing Trump’s reference to the media as “the enemy of the people,” according to The Hill.

That set Henry Rodgers to tweeting a very pointed question.

“Remember that time you threatened to call the police on me for asking you if you would vote for the Green New Deal last month? I’m a credentialed reporter. So this applies to me as well, right?” asked Rodgers, who works for The Daily Caller.

Last month, Rodgers and Menendez had a run-in at a Washington Metro station. Rodgers was asking about the Green New Deal.

“Not interested,” Menendez said in comments Rodgers recorded.

“I have nothing to say to The Daily Caller. You’re trash. I won’t answer questions to The Daily Caller, period! You’re trash! Don’t keep harassing me or I’ll call Capitol Police!”

However on Tuesday, Menendez saw the role of the media in more glowing terms.

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The murder of comedy

Who is Bubba Clem? Read on:

I host a comedy-driven radio show for guys. Until Sunday, no one confused it with something that should be taken seriously. Given my on-air name, “Bubba the Love Sponge,” I assume most people get the joke. We are rude, sometimes profane.

Tucker Carlson called into my satellite radio show regularly from 2006-11, and like all my guests, he adopted an edgy comic persona for the broadcast. He said really naughty things to make my audience laugh, and they did. The 100 or so shows we made with Mr. Carlson weren’t a secret.

Do I really need to go into the rich history of insult comedy? Lisa Lampanelli, Andrew Dice Clay, Rodney Dangerfield, even Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog. Comedy breaks taboo subjects that release the unspoken into the air in ways that are, dare I say, funny.

To be sure, we say really mean things on my radio show, and we laugh instead of getting mad. Why do we allow things to be said in comedy that wouldn’t be acceptable elsewhere? Believe it or not, scientists have studied comedy for an answer, and they found one. It’s called benign violation. We laugh when social norms are exceeded—the violation. But it’s not permanently harmful—it’s benign. No one called into my show authentically outraged about what Mr. Carlson said—not once—because everyone knew we were goofing in the spirit of the show.

To understand the mood of today, the only name you need to know is Lenny Bruce. A brilliant and shocking comic, Bruce was arrested over and over for obscenity—jailed for saying the wrong words. In New York he was convicted and died before his appeal could be heard.

Mr. Carlson is being smeared by a new generation of speech police for a new crime—refusing to give in to a small group of political activists who love all forms of “diversity” except of political thought. They take his comic words of a decade ago, reframe them as hateful, and require adherence to their demands. They attack the advertisers that simply want a chance to sell things to his audience, and threaten them with reputational destruction by public shaming unless they repudiate him. In the marketplace of ideas, these guys are shoplifters.

This is not only unfair but makes the world a sadder and angrier place. It’s a violation. There is nothing benign about falsely calling a good man a misogynist or a racist to force your politics on the half of the American public that rejects them.

If Mr. Carlson’s detractors think the way to counter his wit is to close him down by blacklisting him, I am afraid they’ll be disappointed. The chest-beating of the thought police will only help him grow. Americans love the underdog, and we love the unfairly maligned. Most of all, we love to be entertained. The people who hate Tucker Carlson are elevating him.

Did you hear the one about the political activists who decided to win on the strength of their own ideas, rather than smearing those they opposed? Me neither—and that’s no joke.

(Some) local journalism shrinkage

The Associated Press goes to Waynesboro, Mo.:

Five minutes late, Darrell Todd Maurina sweeps into a meeting room and plugs in his laptop computer. He places a Wi-Fi hotspot on the table and turns on a digital recorder. The earplug in his left ear is attached to a police scanner in his pants pocket.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, represents the press — in its entirety.

He is the only person who has come to the Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to, the only one who will report on their deliberations about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Last September, this community in central Missouri’s Ozark hills became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, it joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

The reasons for the closures vary. But the result is that many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died.

In many places, local journalism is dying in plain sight.

The Daily Guide, which traces to 1962, served the twin towns of Waynesville and St. Robert near the Army’s sprawling Fort Leonard Wood. It was a family owned paper into the 1980s before it was sold to a series of corporate owners that culminated with GateHouse Media Inc., the nation’s largest newspaper company.

As recently as 2010, the Daily Guide had four full-time news people, along with a page designer and three ad salespeople.

But people left and weren’t replaced. Last spring, the Daily Guide was cut from five to three days a week. In June, the last newsroom staffer, editor Natalie Sanders, quit — she was burned out, she said. The last edition was published three months later, on Sept. 7.

“It felt like an old friend died,” Sanders said. “I sat and I cried, I really did.”

The death of the Daily Guide raises questions not easily answered, the same ones asked at newspapers big and small across the country.

Did GateHouse stop investing because people were less interested in reading the paper? Or did people lose interest because the lack of investment made it a less satisfying read?

GateHouse said the Daily Guide, like many smaller newspapers across the country, was hurt by a dwindling advertising market among national retailers. It faces the same financial pressures as virtually every other newspaper company: Circulation in the U.S. has declined every year for three decades, while advertising revenue across the industry has nosedived since 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

The challenges are especially difficult in smaller communities.

“They’re getting eaten away at every level,” said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst at Harvard’s Nieman Lab.

The Daily Guide supplemented its income through outside printing jobs, but those dried up, too, said Bernie Szachara, president of U.S. newspaper operations for GateHouse. Given an unforgiving marketplace, there’s no guarantee additional investment in the paper would have paid off, he said.

Szachara said the decision was made to include some news about Waynesville in a weekly advertising circular distributed around Pulaski County.

“We were trying not to create a ghost town,” he said.

To residents of Waynesville, the loss of their newspaper left a hole in the community. Many are still coming to grips with what is missing in their lives.

“Losing a newspaper,” said Keith Pritchard, 63, chairman of the board at the Security Bank of Pulaski County and a lifelong resident, “is like losing the heartbeat of a town.”

Pritchard has scrapbooks of news clippings about his three daughters. He wonders: How will young families collect such memories?

Other residents talk with dismay about church picnics or school plays they might have attended but only learn of through Facebook postings after the fact.

“I miss the newspaper, the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee and a bagel or a doughnut … and find out what’s going on in the community,” said Bill Slabaugh, a retiree. Now he talks to friends and “candidly, for the most part, I’m ignorant.”

Beyond the emotions are practical concerns about the loss of an information source.

Like many communities, Waynesville is struggling with a drug problem. The four murders last year were the most in memory, and all were drug-related.

Without a newspaper’s reporting, Waynesville Police Chief Dan Cordova said many in the community are unaware of the extent of the problem. Social media is a resource, but Cordova is concerned about not reaching everyone.

It isn’t just local residents who notice the absence of community-based journalism. As the newspaper industry has struggled, a host of philanthropic efforts have begun to fill at least some of the gaps.

Whether any of those efforts ever help Waynesville and small towns like it remains to be seen.

After the Daily Guide folded, Waynesville briefly had an alternative. A local businessman, Louie Keen, bankrolled a newspaper, the Uranus Examiner, that was delivered for free. It was shunned by local advertisers and lasted just five issues.

I have a copy. It’s pretty hysterical. I think Keen, owner of Uranus Missouri (think of a somewhat tasteless Wisconsin Dells attraction), may be a bit too cutting-edge.

So Waynesville is left with local radio and Maurina’s Facebook site. He says that for journalism to survive, reporters need to get back to the basics of being at every event and “telling everyone what the sirens were about last night.”

As “small newspapers wither and die, that’s going to cause major problems in communities,” he said. “Somebody needs to pick up the slack and, at least in this community, I’m able to do that.”

Part of the problem with reporting like this is its lack of attention to bad business decisions of the now-closed newspapers’ owners. It’s ironic the first time I saw this was on STLToday.com, the website of the St. Louis Post–Dispatch, owned by Lee Newspapers, which has cut back its Wisconsin State Journal severely because Lee purchased more newspapers than it should have purchased. Like every other media outlet, newspapers are businesses first and foremost, and if they’re not bringing in more (advertising and subscription and single-copy sales revenue) than is going out, they’re not going to survive indefinitely. This cynical writer wonders how many people who bemoaned the departure of their local newspaper actually paid to read it or advertise in it.

It’s not as if the news goes away if the local newspaper goes away. Maurina is trying to do something about that, and it may well be that newspapers need to think about alternative forms of delivering their news. (Particularly since the U.S. Postal Service decided earlier this year that delivery of the mail was optional in bad weather.) My prediction, though, is that unless Maurina comes up with a revenue source, he’s not going to be Waynesboro’s journalist for very long.

 

Without “Deadline USA,” this list is useless

Armond White:

Turner Classic Movies just premiered a month-long series, Journalism in the Movies, but its ballyhoo has a truth-in-advertising problem. Promos for the 21 films being shown promise “to defend Democracy” and to “dispatch facts, not fiction. What drives us? The truth!” These Hollywood fantasies made during the 1930s through the 1970s cover the hacking trade, from newspaper to television, from All the President’s Men on up. But TCM’s celebration comes at the wrong time.

Journalism is now at its least trustworthy. It has entered a new phase of Yellow Journalism, which one broadcaster aptly characterized: “All restraints are coming off now; it’s no accident that public opinion of media is at its lowest point.”

Despite such widespread disapproval, TCM positions its regular anchor Ben Mankiewicz as a hardnosed cheerleader. Hailing from a family of Hollywood Democrats and the son of Frank Mankiewicz, press secretary for Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, the host boasts about his favorite films in the series: Citizen Kane (co-written by Mankiewicz’s uncle Herman Mankiewicz), All the President’s Men, Sweet Smell of Success, Ace in the Hole, His Girl Friday. TCM’s programming includes interview presentations with famously liberal CNN mouthpieces Anderson Cooper and Carl Bernstein (former Washington Post mascot), who routinely use TV face time to proclaim their partisanship.

By avoiding any alternative or original perspective on journalism or movies (no Mollie Hemingway, Pete Hegseth, or James O’Keefe permitted), TCM reveals its liberal bias. Democratic-party media wonks officiate as if that’s all there is to contemporary journalism. Naïve film lovers might be especially susceptible to this partiality, believing it was normal — or Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang’s 1956 thriller that anticipates Norman Mailer’s New Journalism).

Divided into sections — “Journalism and Politics,” “Newspaper Noir,” “TV News,” “Newspaper Comedies,” “Reporters at War,” “N.Y. vs. L.A.” — Mankiewicz’s beloved journo films promote professional cynicism. There’s gossip (Sweet Smell of Success); skullduggery (Ace in the Hole); unnamed sources (All the President’s Men); inappropriate workplace sexuality (His Girl Friday); and the megalomania (Citizen Kane) that’s applicable to moguls from William Randolph Hearst to Jeff Bezos. But you must figure that out yourself, and given the age of these films, it’s a distant alarm that fails to address the modern habits that force the public to be wary of media agendas: The way opinion is now presented over facts and editorializing replaces reporting indicates institutional self-infatuation. There’s a reason the term “fake news” has taken hold, and Hollywood is partly to blame.

In Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s classic 1920s newspaper comedy The Front Page, the unscrupulous editor Walter Burns declares that “there’s an unseen hand that watches over newspapers.” This kind of self-mythologizing has ruled the newspaper genre and even infected the attitude of hero-worshiping readers who regard papers of record with religious authority. Our vainglorious media’s thin-skinned reactions to the “fake news” charge shows in the abiding affection for the hardboiled yet self-aggrandizing The Front Page and made it adaptable to changing times — it was first filmed in 1931, then 1975, with sex-role-reversal adaptations filmed in 1940 and 1988.

At its beginning, Hollywood’s newspaper genre was personified by the whippersnapper nerve of bantam 1930s reporter icon Lee Tracy, whose only Oscar nomination came decades later, ironically for playing a dying U.S. president in The Best Man. Tracy, the cocky herald of an openly indecent profession now commanded by self-proclaimed sophisticates, is suspiciously absent from this series. TCM shows journalistic wrongdoing only as an aberration rather than the psychotic norm it has become. Its programming concept cannot escape the professional-class narcissism that is always with us.

After Robert Redford (Lee Tracy’s temperamental opposite) enshrined himself as Watergate reporter Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men, then informed the New York Times of the Pentagon Papers in Three Days of a Condor, he directed Lions for Lambs, using the Iraq War to expose journalistic duplicity through a reporter played by Meryl Streep (who later showed her true bias by deifying Washington Post owner Katharine Graham in The Post). Redford then revived “Woodstein” egotism by sentimentalizing disgraced newscaster Dan Rather’s shameless narcissistic posturing with Cate Blanchett as his CBS producer in Truth.

Given this evolution, journalism as depicted in Hollywood (much as in real life) no longer simply provides news; it has brazenly shifted its mission from objectivity to advocacy. We no longer have stalwart Humphrey Bogart in Deadline U.S.A. but arrogant Tom Hanks in The Post and sanctimonious Mark Ruffalo in Spotlight — portrayals that promote the #resistance media combine. A character like Sally Field’s egoistic careerist in Absence of Malice would be inconceivable in today’s Hollywood.

TCM’s nostalgia is stealth activism; Hollywood’s liberal drift is emphasized while journalism’s craven ruthlessness — Nathanael West’s shocking point in the newspaper melodrama Miss Lonelyhearts (1958) — is ignored, just like the contemporary outrages of newspapers and media outlets that operate as partisan platforms.

The mainstream media have misled the public by championing political bias, often hiding sources of information for their own benefit. Today’s covey of mainstream journalists don’t follow a code, but they all hold hive-mind political perspectives, and they command the same status, prominence, and wealth that high-profile journalists always have. The history of journalism in film is based in narcissistic opportunism, and the difference between the media and the public comes down to a class war. It goes back to ex-newsman and novice screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz’s famous 1926 telegram beckoning newsman Ben Hecht to Hollywood: “Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots!”

Some of the TCM offerings may be casually enjoyed, but critical thinking exposes fundamental cracks in the genre: TCM promotes only the profession’s trickster moralism and its delusion of modern knight’s gallantry. Since journalists have become incapable of fairness, this series is difficult to watch; its nostalgia is unhelpful, starting with the most disingenuous and lugubrious of all journalism movies, All the President’s Men. (The damnable film, which inspired generations of wannabe investigative reporters and led to the disaster of adversarial journalism, deserves a separate essay.)

Will celebrating journalism in the movies during the era of fake news inspire self-reflection from either Hollywood or the press, or accountability to the public? Or will TCM turn America’s most cynically abused readership into equally cynical sycophants?

I’ve maintained here that there is little quality entertainment about journalism, because journalism is boring to watch take place. (Typing? Page layout? Video editing?) The ultimate journalism movie moment is still from “Deadline USA,” a movie about the potential last day of a newspaper and its … doing its job:

This makes me smile

As I wrote here last week, I have practically overdosed on high school and college sports on the radio this winter.

Last week, I announced six games. The previous week, I announced five games and then an entire day of high school wrestling.

I thought I was done with high school sports, until I was assigned to do something I have never done before — an Illinois high school boys supersectional game between East Dubuque and Chicago’s Providence–St. Mel, which you can hear yourself at 5:45 Central time on SuperHits106.com.

While doing a little research on East Dubuque’s opponent, I found a list of Providence–St. Mel’s famous alumni, which includes Lee Loughname, trumpet player for my favorite rock group, Chicago.

As you can imagine, this news does …

… and makes me think of other songs of Chicago’s that have been used as sports bumpers, or should have been:

A scoop about Scoop

Axios:

Jonah Goldberg is leaving National Review in the coming months to start a new conservative media company with Steve Hayes, who was editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard when its owner shut it down in December.

Details: Goldberg and Hayes tell me they plan a reporting-driven, Trump-skeptical company that will begin with newsletters as soon as this summer, then add a website in September, and perhaps ultimately a print magazine.

  • Hayes, the likely CEO, and Goldberg, likely the editor-in-chief, are the founders.
  • Hayes tells me about the startup, which doesn’t have a name now: “We believe there’s a great appetite on the center-right for an independent conservative media company that resists partisan boosterism and combines a focus on old-school reporting with interesting and provocative commentary and analysis.”

Hayes and Goldberg are seeking investors.

  • Goldberg joined National Review in 1998 and was the founding editor of National Review Online. He’ll continue as a fellow for the National Review Institute.

The reason to be skeptical about this has less to do with the anti-Trump conservative bent as the media environment into which Scoop will be born, from which Hayes’ Weekly Standard just exited. Non-partisan and non-ideological media are doing poorly these days, so bringing another media company into this atmosphere seems like a dubious idea.

That is a bigger issue than the “Trump-skeptical” viewpoint. Whether you like Trump or not (and recall Trump deserves praise when he does good things and criticism when he does bad things), at some point — 2021 or 2025 — the GOP will become a post-Trump party. Then what? Does the GOP revert to Reaganesque optimism and belief in free markets and free trade? Does it delve further into opposition to the idea that those from outside this country might have something positive to bring here?

Fun with microphones

This time of year is crazy busy for sports announcers. (Which is why I’ve been posting infrequently recently.)

Consider my own recent and anticipated future schedule:

  • Feb. 11: Boys regular season game, scheduled several times due to weather.
  • Feb. 12: Girls regional quarterfinal game. (In my mother’s hometown while my parents were where I live.)
  • Feb. 13: Women’s basketball tournament game in Menomonie, four hours north. (By bus, which rolled back into town at 1 a.m.)
  • Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day? No, regular season boys finale.
  • Feb. 15: Girls regional semifinal.
  • Feb. 16: All day broadcast of the state individual wrestling tournament.
  • Feb. 18: Girls regional final game in La Crosse.
  • Feb. 19: Boys regional quarterfinal in La Crosse, same high schools. (Which should have been a doubleheader, but I’m sure some Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rule prohibits that.
  • Tonight: Girls sectional semifinal game in Madison. (Don’t tell Paul Soglin.)
  • Tomorrow night: Boys regional semifinal game.
  • Saturday: If the local team wins tonight, a girls sectional final game in Elkhorn in the afternoon, and whether or not that game takes place, a boys regional final game somewhere.

Maybe this kind of overscheduling (which gives the lie to the phrase “part-time”) leads to bad judgment reported by Sports Illustrated:

A high school basketball announcer in Indiana has resigned after ruthlessly criticizing a player who dunked in the final seconds of a game.

The incident occurred on Friday night in a game between Fort Wayne’s Homestead High and Norwell in the small town of Ossian. The Homestead Spartans, the visitors, were well on their way to victory when senior Trent Loomis dunked in the final seconds. He hung on the rim for just a moment and was given a technical foul by an overzealous ref. That’s when the announcer went off.

“Loomis gets two, but then he gets tech-ed up for being a jackass,” the announcer said. “Stay classy, Homestead. May you lose in the first round like you always do. Typical Homestead attitude. No class whatsoever. What else is new? Congratulations, you didn’t even cover the damn spread.”

Wellscountyvoice.com, the site that broadcast the game, apologized for the outburst and said the unnamed announcer had resigned his post.

The whole thing is just so absurd. How could an adult ever think it was OK to go off on a kid like that, especially for something as mundane as hanging on the rim for half a second? Judging by the last line, maybe he had a little money on the game. Do they really have spreads on high school games in Indiana?

SPEAKING OF ANNOUNCERS BEING JERKS

A Kansas radio host is in hot water after he was seen on camera at Monday night’s Kansas-Kansas State basketball game taunting a Wildcats player by pointing to the box score.

That’s Nate Bukaty, announcer for Sporting KC and host of The Border Patrol on 810 WHB. The moment quickly became a widespread meme and his co-hosts showed him what it’s like to be on the other side.

Bukaky later tweeted that (1) he was watching the game as a fan and not a broadcaster and (2) he “thought I was having [a] bit of fun, but that’s not how it came off,” and he apologized.

The unnamed former announcer evidently figured out he’d gone too far since he resigned two hours after the game ended. It looks like a classic case of an announcer getting too wound up in the team he’s announcing. In such a case, the announcer is serving neither his listeners nor his employers (and by extension advertisers who pay money to sponsor the broadcast.)

To the southwest of Presteblog World Headquarters Iowa football and basketball announcer Gary Dolphin has had an interesting year, starting with this:

Longtime Iowa radio broadcaster Gary Dolphin has been suspended from calling the team’s next two men’s basketball contests after critical comments that were inadvertently aired during Tuesday’s Hawkeye win over Pitt.

The announcement was made by Learfield Sports Properties, which broadcasts Hawkeye sports events.

Dolphin, in his 22nd season as the Hawkeye play-by-play announcer, apologized on air after Tuesday’s game when it came to his attention that his words during a commercial break were heard by radio listeners.

Dolphin was talking with his broadcast partner, former Hawkeye player Bobby Hansen, about how well Pitt’s freshmen guards were playing in the first half.

“How do we not get anybody like that?” Dolphin said. “It’s just year after year after year. Go get a quality piece like that. Just get one! They’ve got three or four.”

Hansen, who was not suspended, seemed to agree with Dolphin, echoing: “Go get a key piece like that.”

But Dolphin compounded matters by singling out Iowa junior guard Maishe Dailey. Dailey had four points and one turnover Tuesday.

“We get Maishe Dailey,” Dolphin said in a tone of disgust. “Dribbles into a double-team with his head down. God.”

After the game, Dolphin told the Register: “We want them to win so bad, sometimes we get frustrated when they’re not playing well in certain stretches.”

Iowa rallied to beat Pitt 69-68 and remain unbeaten on the season. The No. 15 Hawkeyes open Big Ten Conference play with a 7 p.m. home game Friday against Wisconsin before traveling to Michigan State for a 5:30 p.m. game Monday. Learfield will announce Dolphin’s replacement for those games later.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta was made aware of Dolphin’s comments during the game and had a statement ready to be issued as soon as it was over saying he would “evaluate the comments” after listening to the audio.

In a news release Wednesday, Barta said: “Gary knows we are extremely disappointed in the comment he made about Maishe Dailey and the impact his remark had on our players and staff. The two-game suspension is a result of those comments, as well as some ongoing tensions that have built up over the past couple of years. This time away from the microphone will allow a chance to work through some of these issues. I truly appreciate the time and energy Gary puts into promoting Hawkeye athletics.”

Dolphin is also the play-by-play voice of Iowa football. He hosts the weekly in-season call-in shows for Hawkeye football coach Kirk Ferentz and men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery.

“We unfortunately encountered a technical error at our network broadcast operations center that allowed off-air comments to be aired during a portion of the first-half commercial break,” Learfield Vice President-Broadcast Operations Tom Boman said in the news release. “We thoroughly reviewed the situation here at our Broadcast Ops center to ensure this doesn’t happen again, and we’ve also been communicating closely with Gary Barta and his administration, the entire broadcast team and our local Hawkeye Sports Properties staff.”

That led to the speculation that there is a feud between Dolphin and Hawkeyes men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffrey, and that that feud led to this:

Back in November, Iowa Hawkeyes’ multimedia rights holder Learfield suspended long-time Hawkeyes’ radio announcer Gary Dolphin for two games after remarks of his criticizing the team’s recruiting and the play of some specific players (guard Maishe Dailey in particular) were picked up on a hot mic. That proved controversial, though, as one Iowa booster even launched a radio ad criticizing Dolphin’s suspension. Well, Dolphin’s now been suspended again, for the remainder of the season this time, and what’s at issue is what he said about Maryland player Bruno Fernando after Tuesday’s Hawkeyes-Terrapins game, comparing him to King Kong. Here’s audio of that via Chris Hassel (the former ESPN anchor who now works for CBS Sports HQ and Stadium):

Hawkeye Sports Properties, the multimedia rights manager for University of Iowa Athletics, today announced it has suspended play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin indefinitely through the remaining basketball season. The decision follows an inappropriate comment made by Dolphin during Tuesday’s broadcast of the Iowa men’s basketball game against Maryland.

Gary Dolphin issued the following statement: “During the broadcast, I used a comparison when trying to describe a talented Maryland basketball player. In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player. I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended. I wish the Iowa Hawkeye players, coaches and fans all the very best as they head into the final stretch of the season. I will use this as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn more about unconscious bias.”

For the remainder of the basketball season, Jim Albracht and Bobby Hansen will serve as the radio announcers for Iowa’s men’s basketball games.

Dolphin may not have meant anything related to race with his comments, but comparing an Angola-born basketball player to a gorilla-like monster is obviously going to take some flak, especially considering the long and troubled history around references comparing black people to primates (something that cost Roseanne Barr her TV job last year). And while Dolphin has a lot of supporters from all his years calling Iowa athletics (he’s in his 22nd year calling the Hawkeyes’ football and basketball games), and while many of them are insisting that this couldn’t possibly be racist, someone who’s been broadcasting this long probably should know better than to bring up primates. (But, he also should have known better than to say “jigaboo” in 2011.) To Dolphin’s credit, his statement does recognize that his remark was inappropriate, and his desire to learn more about unconscious bias is positive. But that doesn’t suggest that he didn’t deserve punishment here.

Whether the rest-of-the-season suspension is appropriate can be debated a bit more, and there’s no clear guideline for just what punishment is appropriate for racially-associated remarks. Those have sometimes led to suspensions and sometimes led to job losses, but other times, an apology alone has proven enough for the employer. And something noteworthy here is that Iowa athletics director Gary Barta is again not offering much comment; Barta was criticized the last time Dolphin was suspended for referencing “ongoing tensions” in a release and then declining all further comment, and the Hawkeyes have now put out a statement attributed to no one, with Barta again declining further comment. Here’s that statement:

“The University of Iowa athletics department supports Hawkeye Sports Properties decision to indefinitely suspend radio play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin.

The University of Iowa athletics department values diversity and is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all members of its campus community.”

… In terms of the overall cultural and broadcasting landscape at the moment, it definitely seems reasonable to suspend Dolphin for these comments, and he should have known better than to make this reference. Whether a suspension for the remainder of the year is appropriate can be debated, but there’s no clear answer there. But it is disappointing to see Barta and the Iowa athletics department again doing everything they can to avoid really commenting on this or answering questions. Yes, this decision was supposedly made by their radio partner, but it’s unrealistic to think that the athletics department wasn’t involved or at least consulted. And they should be willing to defend their position here. Instead, we just get an unattributed statement and a “No further comment,” and that’s not the best way to handle anything, much less a sensitive broadcasting situation.

The Des Moines Register then reported Wednesday:

Longtime Iowa broadcaster Gary Dolphin will return from his suspension for Iowa’s spring football practices, and will be on the mic for both football and men’s basketball games next season, Hawkeye Sports Properties announced Wednesday.

Dolphin was suspended from men’s basketball broadcasts twice this season, most recently after referring to Maryland star Bruno Fernando as “King Kong” following a Feb. 19 game. He has been replaced by Jim Albracht for the remainder of this basketball season. …

Dolphin accepted his punishment, saying in a university news release: “During the broadcast, I used a comparison when trying to describe a talented Maryland basketball player. In no way did I intend to offend or disparage the player. I take full responsibility for my inappropriate word choice and offer a sincere apology to him and anyone else who was offended. I wish the Iowa Hawkeye players, coaches and fans all the very best as they head into the final stretch of the season. I will use this as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn more about unconscious bias.”

But the decision did not sit well with a large portion of the Hawkeye fan base. Nor did Barta’s refusal to speak about the reasoning for it. That unease has remained for five days.

Dolphin was previously suspended after making disparaging comments about Iowa guard Maishe Dailey during what he assumed was a commercial break in a November game. …

“When one of our own attacks one of our players the way he did, it’s inexcusable,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after that episode.

McCaffery has not spoken about the latest suspension. The No. 21 Hawkeyes are 21-7 after a loss at Ohio State on Tuesday, with three regular-season games remaining.

McCaffrey may have declined comment because he’s got his own issues, as the Register also reports:

Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery has been suspended for two games following his post-game tirade directed at an official.

Iowa announced the suspension on Wednesday afternoon, shortly before athletic director Gary Barta was expected to appear in a media availability. Those games include Saturday’s home finale against Rutgers and the March 7 road game at Wisconsin.

The release said the Big Ten supported Iowa’s decision and that University of Iowa would also be fined $10,000 as a result of McCaffery violating the league’s sportsmanship policy.

The Toledo Blade’s Kyle Rowland and others observed McCaffery cursing out an official following Iowa’s 90-70 defeat against Ohio State on Tuesday. McCaffery was heard repeatedly shouting expletives and calling the official a “cheating (expletive)” and a “(expletive) disgrace.”

In the prepared release, Barta said, “Following the basketball game at Ohio State, Coach McCaffery made unacceptable comments to a game official in the hallway headed to the locker room. Fran’s comments do not represent the values of the University of Iowa, Hawkeye Athletics, and our men’s basketball program.”

“Fran immediately accepted responsibility for his comments and understands the severe implications of his remarks. Fran fully understands this suspension and penalty imposed by the Big Ten Conference. Fran continues to have my full support moving forward.”

McCaffery said in the release, ““I am in total agreement with the suspension by Iowa Athletics and the fine levied by the Big Ten Conference. My comments directed toward a game official were regretful. I apologize to Big Ten Conference officials, Iowa Athletics, my players and staff, and the tremendous Hawkeye fans. This behavior is not acceptable and I take full responsibility for my inappropriate comments.”

Both events came together during the Wednesday afternoon press conference reported on by KWWL-TV:

Hawkeye Sports Properties announced today that it will reinstate play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin beginning with coverage of football spring practice. Dolphin will also return for the 2019-2020 football and men’s basketballs seasons.

Dolphin has served as “Voice of the Hawkeyes” since 1996. Dolphin was suspended on Friday through the remainder of the men’s basketball season for an inappropriate comment during the February 19th broadcast of the Iowa men’s basketball game against Maryland.

Dolphin and University of Iowa Director of Athletics, Gary Barta, [held] a press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this afternoon.

In the news conference, Gary Dolphin said (despite rumors) there hasn’t been any attempt to get rid of him as an announcer. Barta says he will remain the Hawkeyes’ announcer because “he would never intentionally hurt someone.”

Barta told those at the news conference that he apologizes for the department’s delay in talking about the suspension. He said there were many conversations over the weekend and they delayed media until today to not take away from the team’s game last night.

Barta said the program can move forward and use it as a teaching moment. He says he recognizes that Dolphin’s comment (whether intended or not) can be offensive, especially in the eyes of a black athlete.

Dolphin said he did ask for a shorter suspension and he was unhappy but he doesn’t think it’s unfair to sit out the rest of the basketball season. He said he’s focused on looking forward.

Dolphin said he has a “good” relationship with head coach Fran McCaffery. Dolphin said he apologized to McCaffery Thursday night per a phone call for “being a distraction to the program.”

Coach McCaffery apologized during the news conference saying his emotions got the best of him. He said he was defending his players and he won’t stop defending them.

 

When you’ve lost your own state’s media …

Vermont journalist Paul Heintz has a rejoinder to those who think only Republicans hate the news media:

In the fall of 1988, Bernie Sanders charged up the stairs of a Montpelier bar to the Vermont offices of the Associated Press, followed by CBS News reporter Harry Reasoner and a camera crew from “60 Minutes.”

Sanders, who was running for a U.S. House seat, was steamed that the AP had skipped his news conference earlier that day at a farm in central Vermont. Once again, Sanders thought, the mainstream media had ignored the problems plaguing America — and refused to cover his proposed solutions.

“If you’re getting screwed by the media, you don’t have much recourse,” Sanders wrote of the incident in his 1997 memoir, “Outsider in the House.”

This time, Sanders thought he had recourse, in the form of a national reporter he hoped would cover the snub and his subsequent confrontation with AP bureau chief Chris Graff. “I could expose the AP to the world,” Sanders wrote. “It was delicious.”

Graff remembers it differently. “He had been embarrassed,” Graff told me years later. “He holds a press conference and not one reporter shows up.”

Such has been the story of much of Sanders’s political career. Since he mounted a failed 1972 bid for the U.S. Senate on the left-wing Liberty Union Party ticket, Sanders has been underestimated, underappreciated and often ignored by the press. He has long maintained that if the media would only cover what he has to say, the American people would embrace it — a theory that was bolstered by his surprising success in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

But Sanders’s remedy for what ails the media — uncritical, stenographic coverage of his agenda — betrays a misunderstanding of the role of a free press. And his dismissal of legitimate journalism not to his liking as “political gossip” bears a troubling resemblance to what another politician refers to as “fake news.”

Like most of Sanders’s political positions, his views on the media have remained remarkably consistent over his nearly five decades in public life.

In an essay published 40 years ago in the Vanguard Press, a since-shuttered Vermont alt-weekly, citizen Sanders argued that the television industry’s corporate owners were seeking to “use that medium to intentionally brainwash people into submission and helplessness,” creating “a nation of morons.” He bemoaned the “psychological damage that constant advertising interruptions have on the capacity of a human being to think.”

Eighteen years later, Sanders argued in “Outsider in the House” that “Television, which provides instantaneous coverage of earthquakes thousands of miles away, seems to have ‘missed’” the “precipitous decline” of the nation’s working class.

“One of the greatest crises in American society,” Sanders added, “is that the ownership of the media is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.”

Many of those views now seem prescient. Corporate consolidation has decimated U.S. newsrooms, contributing to a 23 percent decline in journalism jobs over the course of a decade. The rise of right-wing propaganda outfits such as Fox News and Sinclair Broadcasting has validated Sanders’s thesis on the influence of corporate owners. And reporters’ obsession with the political horse race and the latest clickable micro-scoop has come at the expense of a serious discussion about public policy.

Though Sanders understands the problem, his solutions leave something to be desired. The way the senator sees it, the job of a journalist is merely to transcribe his diatribes unchallenged and broadcast his sermons unfiltered.

“He would not be happy with anything that did not basically publish his press release in its entirety — word for word, quote for quote,” said Graff, who spent nearly three decades reporting in Vermont for the AP.

Back when Sanders held regular news conferences in Vermont — it’s been a few years — he typically refused to answer questions unrelated to his chosen topic of the day. That’s problematic for local reporters, who rarely have the opportunity to quiz the members of Congress they cover without spokespeople running interference.

At a 1985 forum on the media, the late Vermont political columnist Peter Freyne complained to Sanders, then the mayor of Burlington, that he had reneged on his promise to hold regular press conferences, pointing out that “When asked a question you don’t want to answer, you leave the room.”

Sanders’s response? An ad hominem: “Peter, you are basically a gossip columnist.”

Decades later, Sanders hasn’t changed. During my time covering him for Seven Days, a statewide weekly based in Burlington, the senator has refused to answer questions I’ve posed on topics ranging from gun rights to the Syrian civil war to drone strikes on American citizens — hardly “political gossip.”

Sanders has always preferred to bypass the news media in order to stay on his chosen message. That’s why he hosted his own cable access show as mayor, his own talk radio show as a member of the House and his own podcast and social media empire as a senator.

In December 2015, as Sanders’s first presidential campaign was gaining traction, the candidate returned to familiar rhetoric, accusing the networks of engaging in a “Bernie blackout.”

Back home, Vermont news organizations were suffering from a different kind of Bernie blackout: For more than two years, he refused to speak with VTDigger or Seven Days, and he refused to appear live on Vermont Public Radio’s marquee call-in show, “Vermont Edition.”Unlike the “corporate” media he loathes, it should be noted, the three news outlets are nonprofit or locally owned.

The boycott coincided with aggressive reporting the three organizations conducted on his wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders’s, troubled presidency of the bankrupted Burlington College, which prompted an FBI investigation.

In January 2018, nearly three years after Sanders blacklisted Seven Days, his spokesperson finally granted me an interview. But the offer came with a caveat: The senator would not answer questions about “political gossip” or members of his family.

Such conditions are unacceptable to ethical news organizations, so I declined the offer — but I showed up anyway to Burlington International Airport, where the interview was to take place. As I followed him to security, I asked when he’d finally grant us a real interview.

“I don’t talk to gossip columnists,” he said. “I talk about issues.”

No, Sanders talks about what he wants to talk about, which apparently is only himself.

Why People Hate the Media, Chapter 9,222

Facebook Friend Michael Smith:

The Smollett fake attack has now devolved to where all these fake attacks go to live an eternal life – to Ratherland.

Ratherland is that imaginary place created by former CBS anchor Dan Rather, where things are “fake but accurate” and even when disproved, are kept alive because they represent a “greater truth”.

Here’s the process:

1 – Person fakes an outrageous situation (almost always one with political benefit).

2 – Media and politicians immediatley jump to virtue signal by siding with the “victim” and running feet of columns and hours of broadcast coverage.

3 – Situation proves to be faked or untrue.

4 – Rather than chastising the perpetrator, the media and politicians immediatley blame people for noticing it is fake.

5 – Perpetrator disappears from the news, relegated to page 27 below the fold.

6 – Media and politicians claim that even if the situation was faked, the conditions exist in America for such a situation to happen, so even if it didn’t, we should treat it as if it did (a GQ writer actually stated such).

7 – You are a racist homophobe if you think differently.

8 – Welcome to Ratherland!

Progressives claim that an event that never happened somehow proves their points and supports the idea that they are better, more compassionate and more woke than you are. Members of the media are now claiming they are the victims.

I saw another tweet that cluelessly claimed the right is using the Smollett situation to blame all people who report such crimes and how bad it is to generalize one bad apple to represent the whole barrel. Wonder where they were when anyone who didn’t jump on the Smollett bandwagon was being called a racist homophobe.

And yet a whole political movement is bases on nothing but claiming your opponent is bad because you want them to be. This is why honest debate is impossible today – in true Kafkaesque fashion, no matter what you do or what you say – even (especially) if you don’t say or do anything, you are guilty.

And if you are guilty, you are shipped off to Ratherland.

Game nights

Readers know that I have covered, either in print or on the air, high school sports since I first got into journalism for pay (such as it is).

Frederick M. Hess and Amy Cummings:

In the long shadow of this week’s Super Bowl, high-school football drew some unflattering attention, including headlines such as “As the Super Bowl Approaches, Is High School Football Dying a Slow Death?” (the Guardian) and “Rams’ Run to 2019 Super Bowl Reveals Cracks in Football from High School to the NFL” (Forbes).

Such stories are hardly surprising. In recent years, high-school sports have had a tough go of it. Football’s concussion problem has spawned headlines such as CBS’s “Young Athletes Abandon Football as Concussions Rock High School Teams.” But it’s not just football. The indefensible actions of some pro athletes, especially with regards to domestic violence and sexual misconduct, have colored views of sporting culture more generally. Meanwhile, for many progressives, sports are seen as celebrating problematic notions of competition, toxic masculinity, and gender segregation.

Indeed, school sports have served as a convenient punching bag for advocates and academics who tend to regard athletics as a cultural backwater. Amanda Ripley, a senior fellow at the “social change” organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, has made “The Case against High-School Sports” in The Atlantic, blaming sports for mediocre U.S. performance on international tests. And Brookings Institution education scholar Mike Hansen has lamented that sports are “distracting us from our schools’ main goals.”

The manifold benefits of school sports can too readily get lost, especially the crucial role that athletics can play in supporting academic success and building character. Given all the negative attention, it might surprise you to learn that participation in high-school sports has actually risen steadily over the past four decades. The National Federation of State High School Associations reports that participation in high school athletics has risen from 40 percent of high schoolers in 1980 to 52 percent in 2015.

Given the pervasive gloom and hand-wringing, the question arises: Why is participation in sports growing? Well, for one thing, a look at some of the most widely cited scholarly studies on high school sports tells a story very different from the popular narrative of violence and misbehavior.

Despite assertions that sports distract from academics, there’s evidence that they can just as readily complement the scholastic mission of schools. A widely cited 2003 study by Oxford University’s Herbert Marsh and the University of Sydney’s Sabina Kleitman in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology reported, using nationally representative longitudinal data, that participating in high-school sports had a positive effect on academics in high school and college. Students who played high-school sports got better grades, selected more challenging courses, had higher educational and occupational aspirations, were more likely to enroll in college, and had higher levels of educational attainment. What’s more, these results held up across socioeconomic status, gender, race, and ability.

A decade ago, in the Economics of Education Review, Mathematica’s Stephen Lipscomb used a fixed-effects strategy to test whether participating in high-school sports affected academic performance. He found that sports participation associated with a 2 percent increase in math and science test scores and a 5 percent increase in bachelor’s-degree attainment expectations. Other scholarship has reported that participating in high-school sports significantly reduces a student’s likelihood of dropping out of high school and, for young women, that it is associated with higher odds of college completion.

None of this is remotely new. Three decades ago, Alyce Holland and Thomas Andre published an influential review of the research on high-school extracurricular participation in the American Educational Research Journal, reporting that participation in sports was associated with higher self-esteem and feelings of control over one’s life. In a finding that won’t surprise many who’ve participated in sports, they found that athletics participation was also correlated with improved race relations and heightened young-adult involvement in political and social activities. Educators and reformers who are seeking ways to promote values such as self-control, responsibility, and good citizenship should keep in mind that schools already house programs with a track record of doing just that.

Sports also provide the opportunity for young athletes to interact with an adult role model in a shared endeavor outside of the home. Especially given that more than a third of school-age children live in single-parent households, sports afford athletes a chance to forge relationships that they might otherwise lack. This can be especially pivotal for young men who don’t have a father or other male authority figure in the home.

The point is not to make outsize claims about the restorative powers of school sports. These studies all have methodological limitations, and we should not treat the results as gospel. Meanwhile, there are real physical risks in some sports, some of the benefits are due to self-selection, some poorly run sports programs do breed destructive behavior, and there are times and places when school sports can clash with education’s academic mission.