Exclusive Interview With Dr. Paul Schum
I crashed an ethics party the other day. I heard that they were serving up free lessons in journalism ethics as part of Ed Manassah’s growing program over at Bellarmine, so I showed up uninvited. Plenty of big names in the room. At my table Wednesday were WHAS-TV’s Rachel Platt and community activist Christopher 2X. The conversation was stimulating, engaging, and often dealt with difficult issues. One issue was the way journalists must, as part of their duty, intrude upon the privacy of regular people in extraordinary, tragic circumstances.
What we didn’t know was that an extraordinary feat of journalism was taking place right down the road. The Lexington Herald-Leader, this week, is publishing a story that stretches into six parts and required 3 1/2 years to report. There were 8,000 photos shot to tell the story of a mother’s voyage through Fayette County Drug Court. One reporter, one photographer. There’s multi-media, slide shows complete with music and interviews with the subject.
It’s unheard of for a newspaper to throw this amount of resources into a single story. It’s Pulitzer-worthy work, but more interesting is the way the piece was put together, and it’s all chronicled in various parts of the paper. The paper’s “Behind the Headlines” blog gives an excellent, detailed account.
Expect plenty of national notice for the series.
A Really, Really Bad Idea. Try to imagine what might happen if, say, the Courier-Journal and WHAS-TV and all the locally-owned Clear Channel radio stations had the same ownership. Or, worse, if that same company also controlled WAVE-TV. That would become a possibility if the FCC relaxes media ownership rules, which is what FCC chair Kevin Martin wants to do. Independent reporting would be the first casualty. Jobs would be cut. A corporation could control the debate on local issues. It’s scary, but if the Martin has his way, the rules could be relaxed this year. It’s a partisan issue, with Republicans lined up in support. The Dems won a similar battle three years ago. Expect a fight. And hope Democrats win. Call your Congressman. (New York Times).
Politicians Lie. Film at 11. The firestorm over our senior Senator being caught in a lie is big news. McConnell, caught on camera, lying about a propaganda campaign initiated in his office. Imagine that. The C-J editorial board weighs in today.
Gutless. McConnell’s fib was a subplot in the saga of the S-CHIP funding bill, which passed in both Houses but was vetoed by the President, supported by hard-core Republicans like McConnell. And every other Kentucky GOP politician — after all, the bill does include a big tax on tobacco. In Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate, it was disappointing to hear Beshear’s response to the S-CHIP question. He said that while he supported the health care initiative for children, he’s against hitting up smokers to pay for it. Fletcher jumped on Beshear for supporting the bill, because of the tobacco stipulation. Maybe we should advertise Kentucky’s charm this way — Kentucky, a place where politicians still fear big tobacco.
It All Depends on Why You’re Asking. McConnell’s most likely opponent in 2008, when he’s up for re-election, is attorney general Greg Stumbo, who told the Herald-Leader’s Ryan Alessi this week that he’s had an easier-than-expected time raising money for a Senate run, with $100,000 already in the bank. He’s expected to make a final decision after he does polling in November. Of the fund-raising effort, Stumbo, who ran as the #2 candidate on Louisvillian Bruce Lunsford’s gubernatorial ticket last spring, said “Nobody’s turned me down yet. That’s kind of a breath of fresh air. When I was calling for Bruce Lunsford’s and my campaign, I was getting cussed out every other phone call. So it’s been fun again.”
Still Going On. The gubernatorial race has been such a one-sided affair that lots of folks have quit paying attention. The latest bad news for Ernie Fletcher is this morning revelation in the Herald-Leader that not just a handful of people, but more than 250 people who gave money to his 2003 campaign have written checks to Steve Beshear this time. Ouch. There are even more so-called “smart-money” folks who have given to both candidates.
Debate Central. You won’t hear complaints that candidates for office not debating enough. Apparently last night’s bout between A.G. candidates Stan Lee and Jack Conway, televised on WLKY-TV, didn’t merit coverage by state newspapers. Not a single mention in the C-J or Herald-Leader.
Not Getting Along. When Fletcher and McConnell appeared together in Louisville to tout the UPS expansion this week, LEO’s Stephen George went along, but he wasn’t too happy about it.
You haven’t seen my byline in LEO in a long time, but this week I worked with editor Cary Stemle to produce a little 3,000-word cover story on the library tax referendum. All those words, and we still didn’t get into all the odd subplots of a complex story.
My opinion is that the referendum, calling for an occupational tax that will raise $40 million a year and create a separate library taxing district, will not pass when voters go to the polls Nov. 6. Take a look at the story – I think it’s a pretty balanced look at both sides of the issue.
No one disputes the need for some financial help for the library system, but a lot of voters are against taxes – of any type. There have been just enough missteps made by the library supporters, along with a media-friendly bulldog firing up the anti-tax forces in Chris Thieneman, that will probably doom the tax. If that happens, we may get to see if Councilman Hal Heiner’s plan to move the Library Improvement Plan forward has the support of the Metro Council.
I’m working on some other ideas for LEO, including the return of the “Media” column. If you’ve got some ideas that need exploring by “Louisville’s Media Critic” send them to email@example.com.
– Rick Redding
Remember Louisville’s controversy-stirring Brand Aid from a few weeks ago? Greater Louisville Inc’s strangely conceived attempt at a branding campaign dogged other metro areas and caused many of Louisville’s city leaders a bit of understandable embarrassment.
Take a look:
Kudos, cheesy guys!
Thieneman Presents Stance Against Louisville’s Library Tax
Chris Thieneman appeared on WAVE-TV’s Hot Button Editorial segment to present his case against the library tax.
Frosty Treatment: Don’t let this one go under the radar — last week Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office sent an e-mail accelerating the GOP’s campaign to slime Graeme Frost, a 12-year-old whose story illustrates why the S-CHIP bill that Mitch opposes is a good thing. The New York Times adds to the furor exposed first in Kentucky by PageOne. Oh, yes, the bill calls for a tax increase on tobacco.
Another Scapegoat? Are illegal immigrants the next frontier for the haters in our world? In Lexington, there’s a brewing controversy over a bus line that brings Mexicans to town, because A.G. candidate Stan Lee, with no evidence, said the buses import illegal aliens and drugs. Lee might want to compare notes with Metro Council member Doug Hawkins, who admits he doesn’t know how bad the illegal immigrant problem is in Louisville, he just wants to stop giving them services.
Sports and Politics do Mix. Billy Reed’s got more good news for Steve Beshear, comparing him favorably with Kentucky’s rock star coach-of-the-moment, Rich Brooks. He sees Ernie Fletcher more in the mold of disgraced ex-coach Hal Mumme. Does that mean Ernie will surface in a few years as the governor of New Mexico?
Late to the Game. Ad agencies in Louisville are playing catch-up in the move to the Web, according to a story in Business First by Terry Boyd that’s getting plenty of attention in ad circles. Boyd gathered some pretty interesting statistics, and opinions, from six local agencies. Like, did you know, that Internet advertising generated $4.9 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year, 26 percent more than the same period a year before. Meanwhile, newspaper advertising is stagnant. You can’t really tell from Boyd’s story, but Power Creative, which has 160 employees working in five Louisville buildings and the region’s largest IT staff among agencies, is closest to “getting it.”
Last Friday, news director Aaron Ramey packed up a few boxes and left the WHAS-TV studio for the last time, much to the delight of many staff members. Ramey, who was brought to WHAS by former general manager Bob Klingle 2 1/2 years ago, was responsible for many changes to the station’s policies, its look and personnel.
Many of those happy to see Ramey go — he’s moving on to a similar position at the NBC affiliate in San Antonio — criticized his uncommunicative management style, and the departures of anchor Jean West and reporters Kerri Richardson, Tim Seymour and Jenny McLendon in recent months all may have had something to do with getting along with Ramey. It was the news director, too, who pushed for WHAS’ oft-criticized “Breaking News” theme, which pushed reporters to appear on camera at crime scenes, even when no other media outlet found the stories important enough to cover at all.
WHAS’ general manager Mark Pimental, whose TV background has been in news, now has an opportunity to bring in a news director of his choosing, and there’s optimism in the newsroom that the new blood will be warmly received, no matter who it is.
One of Ramey’s last moves at WHAS-TV was to hire new reporter Adrianna Hopkins from WGXA in Macon, Ga. A 2005 graduate of the University of North Carolina, she’s spent the last year at the Fox affiliate in Macon. She starts at WHAS on Oct. 31.