Category Archives: media news

Rolling Stone did a hatchet job

The Rolling Stone retraction of a story it published alleging a gang rape at a college frat house presents a graphic lesson in Journalism 101.

Be sure you get all sides of the story before you go to press.

The magazine is paying a huge price in its loss of credibility. And it should.

It well might pay even more — as in financially — if it loses a planned lawsuit filed by some of the principals involved in the coverage of the bogus story.

The magazine reported a woman named Jackie was raped by members of a University of Virginia fraternity. However, the magazine didn’t bother to check with Jackie’s friends, or with the fraternity members, or with others who might be able to corroborate Jackie’s story.

It turned out that on the night in question, there wasn’t even a party at the frat house.

The story broke down.

The magazine issued a retraction and an apology.

And this story now has put the media under the looking glass once again.

What still astounds me is that the reporter, her editors and the “fact checkers” still are employed by the magazine. No one has lost his or her job.

I’m scratching my head over this one. I’ve seen reporters and editors fired for less than what happened at Rolling Stone. No one bothered to check the details of Jackie’s story? No one thought to ask the reporter to talk to the fraternity members? The reporter didn’t bother to do her homework?

Where I come from, they call such so-called reporting a “hatchet job.”

To retract a story is to admit that it is false, that it is bogus, that it doesn’t stand up to the basic test of good journalism. Rolling Stone has issued its retraction.

Why hasn’t it punished the people responsible for soiling the magazine’s credibility?

Blog streak looks like it's about to end

This blog post is going to be — and I’ll be fairly brief — about my blog.

High Plains Blogger has been on a roll of late.

It has set seven consecutive records for monthly page views and unique visitors. I’m quite proud of that streak, and I’ve been none too bashful about sharing the good news with my social media friends.

April isn’t looking so good. Just six days into the month and I’m sensing a trend that suggests my streak is going to stop at seven. That’s all right. I’ve enjoyed a good run and I’m hopeful it will resume soon.

This blogging adventure has pretty much consumed my life for the past, oh, couple of years.

I don’t have a full-time job. I’ve three part-time jobs — and I enjoy them all immensely. Two of them involve writing: One of them is for Panhandle PBS, based at Amarillo College; the other one, which I just started in early February, is for KFDA-NewsChannel 10, the CBS-TV affiliate in Amarillo. They’re both blogs. The PBS blog discusses public affairs programming; the NewsChannel 10 blog looks at on-going news stories in our region and the station is good enough to broadcast an on-air report based on the blog I’ve posted on the station’s website.

The third job is as a customer service concierge with a Toyota dealership here in Amarillo.

But writing is what I love to do. I was blessed to pursue a fulfilling career in print journalism. It was a 37-year run that ended in late August 2012. My work with public and commercial TV stations allows me to continue to working on my craft.

My first post-newspaper-career passion, though, is my own blog. I truly enjoy venting, ranting, raving, commenting, critiquing public affairs on my blog. Occasionally I veer into what my wife and I call “life experience.”

I guess the purpose here is to ask you to keep reading High Plains Blogger. If you think you want to share it with your friends, well, have at it. I’m anxious to reach more people and to have them comment on my musings.

Do not worry about hurting my feelings if you disagree with my particular political slant. Most of my neighbors and most of the people I encounter daily disagree with me. That’s the nature of living in this part of the world.

Let me know what you think.


'Kennedy whitewash' critique was expected

I knew this critique would come from those who opposed the late U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy’s view of government and the world.

It arrived from Brent Bozell and Tim Graham, two leaders of the Media Research Center, a conservative-leaning media watchdog organization.

These gentlemen were offended at the recent opening of the Edward Kennedy Institute and the ceremony that praised the Liberal Lion’s work in the Senate.

They called the event a whitewash, glossing over the many personal foibles — and the tragedy — that stalked Kennedy for much of his life.

I get that Bozell and Graham thought that the media should have told the rest of the story about Kennedy: the womanizing, the public intoxication, the overall bad behavior and, yes, Chappaquiddick.

The event at the Edward Kennedy Institute was meant to honor the man’s public service. The bad stuff happened off the clock. He was clearly a flawed human being — as we all are.

However, it is no mere coincidence that Kennedy had many friends with whom he shared little or nothing politically. His across-the-aisle relationships became almost legendary on Capitol Hill. Kennedy’s best friend in the Senate arguably was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican, who counseled his friend Teddy and became something of a father confessor to the youngest member of the Kennedy “royal family.”

Did the late liberal lawmaker fight hard for his beliefs? Yes, as Bozell and Graham noted in their essay. He savaged the late Robert Bork when President Reagan nominated him for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Kennedy’s ferocity against Bork has been matched in recent years by the right’s assault on, say, the president of the United States and any number of key appointees he’s sought to install in high office.

Watchdogs such as the Media Research Center do provide a valuable service to the public. They remind us that the media need to be monitored carefully, to ensure they tell the complete story. The left has its share of watchdogs, as does the right.

The unveiling of the Edward Kennedy Institute, though, was meant to honor one aspect of a senator’s public life. The private indiscretions remain part of the man’s larger legacy. I see nothing wrong with examining them both — separately.


Retracting a story is a huge deal

During my 37 years in print journalism, I had to write some corrections to news stories or editorials I’d written.

You get a fact wrong, you write a brief explainer of the actual fact. It usually goes into a file your editor would keep. I’ve written a clarification or two in my time. That’s when you report or commenting on an issue without using the proper context. Those, too, go into a file.

No journalist likes to write those.

A retraction? That’s a very big deal. That’s when you retract an entire story. It was bogus. False. It’s a firing offense. I’ve seen reporters lose their jobs because their files contained too many corrections or clarifications.

Rolling Stone magazine, a usually reliable journal, has retracted a story it published alleging that the University of Virginia fraternity house was the scene of a horrible rape in 2012. The magazine drew a scathing critique from the Columbia Journalism Review about how editors allowed the story to pass through various checkpoints before being published.

The writer of the bogus story, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, reportedly didn’t contact any of the alleged assailants.She acknowledges she relied too heavily on the alleged victim’s account of what happened.

One of the more astonishing elements of this story is that Erdely and the editors who worked on her story are continuing to work for Rolling Stone. She has apologized to the readers of Rolling Stone and has vowed never to make the mistakes she made while writing the article.


But can readers trust her fully again? Journalists are supposed to trade on the trust they build with their readers. That trust is built on the journalist’s ability to tell the truth, completely and fully and without a hint of doubt about the veracity of the story being told.

When a nationally known publication such as Rolling Stone retracts a story, it in effect is admitting it has inflicted a grave wound on that trust.

It’s a real big deal.


Indy Star goes out front with 'Fix it' editorial

Newspaper editorials have their place: usually on a page marked clearly as “opinion,” or “comment,” or “editorial.”

Except when the management of a newspaper decides an issue is so critical, so important and so compelling that they take that editorial to the front page, where everyone who sees the paper can see what’s on the editors’ minds.

The Indianapolis Star has gone out front in today’s edition with an editorial demanding that Indiana legislators and Gov. Mike Pence “fix” the state’s religious freedom law.

Good for the Star.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been seen by critics as a pretext to allow businesses to discriminate against citizens because of their sexual orientation. It protects them from lawsuits if they deny service to gay individuals. The LGBT community across the nation — and its allies — have unleashed a barrage of criticism against Indiana lawmakers and the governor for approving the bill and signing it into law.

The editorial’s headline screams “Fix This Now.” Pence is scheduled to have a news conference today to address the issue. It’s not clear whether he’ll seek to amend it, or whether he’s actually empowered to repeal it unilaterally.

The Star is asking for a new law to add to the religious freedom law that exempts LGBT residents from its provisions.

The bottom line here is the bottom line. The state is facing a serious economic impact if businesses pull out of Indiana. The NCAA men’s basketball Final Four tournament takes place next weekend in Indianapolis and the repercussions of this law can be significant.

The law looks to many folks — me included — like a pretext to sanction discrimination against a certain group of Americans. It shouldn’t stand as it is written.


How's this for demonization?

A new poll shows just how polarized and how angry some Americans have become toward the president of the United States of America.

Get a load of this: A Reuters/Ipsos survey suggests Republicans believe Barack Obama poses a greater threat to the nation than Russian strongman/president Vladimir Putin.

Pardon me while I catch my breath.


I’m better now.

One-third of Republicans believe Obama poses an imminent threat to the United States, outpacing the fear of GOP respondents about Putin’s threat to the country.

Reuters reports: “Given the level of polarization in American politics the results are not that surprising, said Barry Glassner, a sociologist and author of ‘The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things.’

“‘There tends to be a lot of demonizing of the person who is in the office,’ Glassner said, adding that “fear mongering’ by the Republican and Democratic parties would be a mainstay of the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign. ‘The TV media here, and American politics, very much trade on fears,’ he said.”

I reckon so.

Another interesting aspect of the poll is that 27 of Republicans see Democrats as an “imminent threat,” while 22 percent of Democrats believe the same thing about Republicans. Pretty close call on that one. That, too, reflects the polarization that exists today.

Fear is everywhere. It’s a bipartisan affliction — and it’s unappealing no matter who’s expressing it.

Frohnmayer: one of the 'great ones'

Sad news came recently from my home state of Oregon: One of the state’s true statesmen, Dave Frohnmayer, died of prostate cancer.

I had moved away from Oregon while he was serving as attorney general. But I surely knew of his reputation, which the editorial from The Oregonian newspaper outlines nicely:

The paper refers to Frohnmayer’s “blinding” resume.

This moderate Republican was a giant in a state that has produced its fair share of them. He served his state and his party with dignity and honor. He wouldn’t be a party to the viciousness so common these days.

In a state that has been embarrassed by its most recent past governor, John Kitzhaber — who resigned because of an ethics scandal involving his fiancée — Frohnmayer was a model of moral turpitude.

He had his personal health struggles. His children were afflicted with rare and fatal diseases. He carried on quietly and bravely.

He led a great educational system, the University of Oregon; he served  his state as attorney general, in its legislature, and as dean of the UO law school.

Indeed, it was while he was dean that I had the pleasure of attending an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Eugene, where he was among the panelists instructing journalists on how to use public records and obtain information to which we were entitled.

This was in the late 1970s. I was new to journalism at the time and I was enthralled by the man’s knowledge of open records and the ease with which he presented it.

Here’s my favorite part of The Oregonian’s editorial tribute to Frohnmayer. It says it all: “Frohnmayer was exceptional in making himself and his extraordinary deeds appear ordinary – and in inspiring others along the way to rise to their best. In that sense he was arguably Oregon’s most extraordinary regular guy.”


Note: This is a corrected version of an earlier blog post, which initially contained an error regarding Dave Frohnmayer’s service to Oregon.

HRC turns over 55,000 emails; Colin Powell, none

A friend distributed this tweet, from Joe Conason, a liberal columnist who wonders about the Hillary Clinton email flap.

“If Beltway press isn’t satisfied that @HillaryClinton turned over 55K emails, why don’t they care that Colin Powell turned over ZERO?”

I think I know the answer.

Colin Powell isn’t considering a run for the presidency in 2016; Hillary Clinton is likely to declare her White House candidacy in a month, maybe two.

That’s the reason for the interest.

Colin Powell served as secretary of state during the first term of the George W. Bush administration. He used a personal email account, just as Clinton did. In no way does that justify anything, other than to suggest that the media have this way of applying double standards whenever and wherever possible — and against whomever they feel like doing so.

I suppose if Powell, a retired Army general as well, were to decide to run for president, then he’d become fair game, too.

Getting yet another new lease

Chance meetings with friends can — and do — produce opportunities one never expects to receive.

So I was a few months ago when my wife and I stumbled into a meeting with a friend of mine who happens to run a television station here in Amarillo. That meeting has evolved into a marvelous opportunity for me to get back into the journalism game I “played” for 37 years.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing a blog for, the website for Amarillo’s CBS-TV affiliate.

News Channel 10 calls the feature “Whatever Happened To …” and it involves news stories I get to sniff out and write for the website. The stories are of an unfinished nature, the kinds of stories that gained traction, but might have dropped off the public grid. They involve promises and pledges. They seek to answer whether those pledges have been met. A recent story involved a cold case at the police department involving the disappearance of a 9-year-old boy in 1998; the boy, Dorien Thomas, would be 26 years of age and the police have found nothing, not a trace of him, since he vanished.

The chance meeting occurred in the summer of 2014. My wife and I were garage-sale shopping. We walked into the garage of Brent McClure, the general manager at News Channel 10. “Hey, what are you doing these days?” McClure asked. I said I was working a couple of part-time jobs, including a blogging gig at Panhandle PBS, the public TV station affiliated with Amarillo College.

“Why don’t you write for us?” McClure asked. Huh? Are you kidding? “No, I’m serious,” he said.

We chatted for a few more minutes, then we left. I told him I’d call him later.

Well, I did … later that day. My question went like this: “Hey, Brent, was that request for real or were you just making conversation?” He assured me he was sincere. With that, I made an appointment to visit him at his office, where we chatted in general about what he might want to create at the station. We agreed to take it forward, but not until McClure finished a couple of huge projects at News Channel 10.

Near the end of the year, we got back in touch. I drove back out to the TV station and we chatted more specifically. Then he made his pitch: Why not write a blog for our website? We then can take that text and we can develop an on-air news report and we can reference the “Whatever Happened To …” feature on; how does that sound?

The proverbial light bulb flashed on. I can do this. We shook on it.

I’ve been writing the blog since early February.

I’m still writing for Panhandle PBS, which I’ve been doing since October 2012, about two months after my daily print journalism career came to a crashing halt. That gig remains a huge kick for me and I enjoy the relationships built at Panhandle PBS. The beauty of writing for two TV stations — one commercial, one public — is that they aren’t competitors. The PBS work involves writing about public affairs TV programming; the News Channel 10 work involves more straight reporting, which I believe is a skill journalists never lose once they learn how to do it.

McClure’s hope, as I understand it, that we’ll be able to blend print and broadcast journalism into a new creature that hasn’t yet been defined.

I’m still trying to grasp the impact of all this. I tell people I see all over Amarillo how good it feels to get back into the game.

I am having a serious blast.