Today’s Media: Often Pandering to Bias and Ignorance

  by Walter Brasch   The Texas board of education didn’t find anything wrong with a world geography textbook that said slaves from Africa were workers, but that immigrants from northern Europe were indentured servants. This is the same school board that five years ago demanded that textbooks emphasize that slavery was only a side issue to the cause of the civil war, and that Republican achievements be emphasized in political science and civics textbooks. For good measure, the officials also wanted a “fair and balanced” look at evolution versus intelligent design or creationism, and that global warming is only a theory, overlooking substantial and significant scientific evidence. Because Texas adopts textbooks for the entire state, and there is minimal … Continue reading

Downsizing the News Media; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

      by Walter Brasch   (Part 2 of 2) For more than a decade, advertising, circulation, and news quality in both print and electronic media have been in a downward spiral. That spiral has twin intertwining roots. The first root is the rise of social media. The complacent and stodgy print media were slow to catch onto the concept and rise of social media and its influence upon a generation that conducts its life by a fusion of smart phones to ears. When owners figured out they needed to have a digital presence, they first gave away content in a desperate bid to keep readers, and then began to charge for it to those who didn’t have subscriptions. … Continue reading

Downsizing the News Staff; Downsizing Quality and Credibility

  by Walter Brasch   (Part 1 of 2) On Monday, Nov. 2, every National Geographic staffer was told to report to the magazine’s Washington, D.C., headquarters the next day to await a phone call or e-mail from Human Resources. Ever since Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox corporation bought the magazine in September, there were rumors the new owner would maximize profits by terminating employees. Those predictions came through when Management fired 180 people, and told dozens of others they were being offered “voluntary buy-outs.” The corporation also announced it was eliminating health coverage for future retirees and was freezing all pensions. Management told the public there would be no loss of quality, but it’s hard to believe those claims … Continue reading

Snuggling Up to Celebrities Not Part of Journalism Training

  by Walter Brasch   One of the basic tenets of journalism ethics and practices is that reporters must keep their distance from news sources. They’re allowed to be friendly. They’re even allowed to share a meal with a news source. But, they must be independent. It’s a “Caesar’s wife” thing—they must be above suspicion. This past week, Lara Spencer, co-anchor of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America,” snuggled up to Donald Trump. In a photo posted to Instagram, she is seen with her left arm around Trump’s shoulder, her right hand across his stomach. Both are looking at each other and smiling. Spencer posted the following message to the photo: “Can’t beat having the REAL DonaldJTrump on.” She added the emoticon … Continue reading

These Judges Don’t Put Defendants into Prison

  By Walter Brasch   HARRISBURG, Pa.—By Tuesday’s election, the seven candidates for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will have spent about $10 million. Their expenditures can be seen in lawn signs decorating almost every part of the state’s landscape, in millions of full color postcards, some as large as 8-1/2 x 11, mailed to almost every voter in the state, and in TV ads. They have already spent about $4 million for TV ads, many promoting each one’s own qualifications, most of the ads attacking the other candidates. There are three vacancies on the Court because two of the justices had to resign over scandals. One justice used her staff to do personal work for her. One justice was implicated … Continue reading

The 24/7 Election and Media Carousel

by Walter Brasch   The national news media—and their sidekicks, the cackling pundits—had been asking the same questions the past six months. “Will he? Won’t he? Should he? Shouldn’t he? Can he? Can’t he?” The “he” is Joe Biden. The vice-president said numerous times he was still thinking about running for president, but hadn’t made up his mind. The Biden question kept the media busy speculating about an issue that even Mr. Biden couldn’t answer, nor should he have been forced to make a commitment in the media’s time frame. This past week, he decided not to run for the presidency. Although Biden explained his reasons, the media can now spend a few weeks asking the question, “But what if … Continue reading

‘Paging Dr. Doctivity’: Medicine Evolves Into a Business Model

      by Walter Brasch   Beneath a three-column headline in my local newspaper was a barely-edited press release. That’s not unusual. With the downsizing of newsrooms, there’s more room for wire service soft features and press releases. But this one caught my attention. SystemCare Health in New Jersey promoted a graduate of a college in my town to the lofty position of Senior Director of Doctivity. I checked the dictionary—“Doctivity” didn’t exist. I checked WebMD, the website for amateurs to learn the meaning of unpronounceable medical terms—and how to recognize their symptoms and treatments. Nothing there. That left SystemCare Health’s website, which spewed a barrage of buzzwords and useless gibberish, the kind that people in marketing and business … Continue reading