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Archive for October, 2015

My drugs have not improved, but my earworms have.

Here’s how my stem-cell-harvest drugs work (besides supposedly stimulating release of my stem cells for the next day’s harvest): I get the shot of Mozobil at 10 p.m., then head home exhausted after about 15 1/2 hours at the hospital, ready to sleep. Depending on how long it takes me to settle in and what we need to talk about, I crash hard sometime between 11 and midnight. Then about 1:30 or so, I wake up suddenly, as if someone came into the room and shook me hard. Then I try to fall back asleep. Then the earworms invade.

Sometimes I fall back asleep (and then wake up, as if startled again, at 3 or so). Sometimes I give up after 15, 20 or 30 minutes and get up to blog until I think I can get back to sleep again.

I don’t play much music myself. But I hear songs on TV or movies or when Mimi plays her iPhone as we’re driving. From one of those sources, I get my earworms, usually songs I don’t like. I can’t recall what the song was in July, the first time we tried a stem-cell harvest, but it was an annoying song and tortured me all week.  (more…)

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Sarah Karp story

America needs skeptical, curious reporters reading through boring reports to find seeds of potential stories.

That’s how Sarah Karp of Catalyst Chicago dug up the Chicago Public Schools corruption story that produced a scandal and a guilty plea to criminal charges. I won’t detail the story here, but I encourage you to read the account by Sam Levine of Huffington Post.

I’ll just make a few points that concern me about the current and future state of journalism:

  • Metro daily newspapers, which for decades produced the best investigative reporting on local schools, government and corruption in cities across the country, missed this story. Including one that long proclaimed itself the “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” The Chicago Tribune (which dropped that boast in 1976) and Chicago Sun-Times have cut their reporting staffs so severely that, even when Karp flagged the story to their attention, they didn’t pounce.
  • Niche organizations such as Catalyst Chicago are doing important work to fill watchdog gaps as newsrooms shrink (and to shine lights in corners newsrooms traditionally missed).
  • Niche organizations face their own financial challenges. The Levine piece notes that Catalyst has cut back, too.
  • Governments at all levels continue trying to limit public access to the types of records that drive this kind of watchdog journalism. We need to be vigilant in defending sunshine laws.

Somehow watchdog reporting continues. My former Digital First Media colleagues at the Torrance Daily Breeze in California won a Pulitzer Prize this year for more investigative reporting on corruption in local schools. But one of the members of the winning team, Rob Kuznia, had left the newspaper for a public-relations job by the time the prizes were announced.

The supply of investigative journalism, especially at the local level, has never been able to keep up with the demand. And I’m pretty sure we are falling further behind.

But I have boundless admiration for the journalists who continue this important work in difficult circumstances and uncertain times. We need more reporters like Sarah Karp reading those boring reports.

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Facebook debate

My Facebook profile photo

My Facebook profile photo

Whether you regard Facebook as a beneficial, benign or sinister force in media, your vision probably rests in part on the value of all that data the digital behemoth has about us.

At least 10 Facebook posts this week by me, or posts on my wall by friends, have included some combination of the words Royals, Mets, World, Series, baseball and #TakeTheCrown. And I’ve “liked” many more posts and comments by friends who share my excitement and interest about the World Series. And my profile photo on Facebook shows me wearing a Royals hat. That’s a lot of data telling Facebook what I might have been planning to do tonight.

I do show some political interest on Facebook as well. But any posts I’ve made about the current crop of Republican presidential have been critical or sarcastic in nature and tone.

But when I went to Facebook tonight (to post something about the World Series), Facebook suggested I let my friends know I’m watching the Republican debate. Um. no.

I’m not worried or optimistic that Facebook knows what to do with all that user data it has.

Earlier posts about Facebook

(starting with one just two days ago):

Facebook sucks, except when it doesn’t, like on my birthday

Updated tips for Facebook engagement by newsrooms

Lots of precedent for media dependence on Facebook, including cautionary tales

Why does Facebook keep ignoring my choice of ‘most recent’ posts?

‘Remember when?’ photos have great engagement potential

Facebook engagement lesson: ‘It’s about community’

Community fun drives Facebook engagement

Jeff Edelstein’s Sandy engagement shows how to use Facebook during a big story

Facebook news-feed changes mean newsrooms need new engagement strategies

Facebook engagement tips already working for Register Citizen, Middletown Press

Correction on AP photos: Newsrooms don’t have rights to post them on Facebook

Why does Bill Keller write about Facebook without trying to understand it?

Facebook engagement tips: Use breaking news photos and calls to action

Engage on community Facebook pages, not just your page

Romeo and Juliet on Facebook: great fun and community engagement

Reach out through Facebook to gather information on tragic stories

 

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Many journalism ethics decisions are difficult. This one is not: If you don’t know whether the family knows of a newsworthy death, you should wait to report it.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Edinson Vólquez pitched Game One of the World Series last night, shortly after his father’s death. Reports conflicted initially on whether the pitcher learned of Daniel Volquez’s death in the Dominican Republic before the game, as reported by ESPN, citing an unnamed source, or was not told of the death until after he left the game after six strong innings, as Fox reported on its telecast.

The Royals said Vólquez’s wife called General Manager Dayton Moore with the tragic news shortly before the game and asked that he not be told until he was finished pitching.

News organizations reported the death while Vólquez was pitching, apparently before he knew the news. I think that was the wrong ethical decision. (more…)

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Facebook birthdayFB Teresa SchmeddingI whine a lot on Facebook about the user experience there. But not on my birthday.

(Well, a little the morning after my birthday, but more on that later.)

On my birthday yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the well wishes of friends, family, former colleagues and people I’ve never met who somehow connected with me digitally. It’s a wonderful experience and a challenge to keep up with just “liking” each birthday wish, let alone responding to them.

I spent my birthday in the hospital, starting my second stem-cell harvest, so it’s been doubly meaningful (I’m back for more harvest today). A hospital is a boring place to be a patient, never festive on the oncology floor, no matter how kind and attentive the staff (and the staff at Our Lady of the Lake have been terrific). (more…)

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Mimi and I saw “Rock the Kasbah” Sunday. I don’t cover entertainment much here, so I’m not going to write much about the movie itself. For that, I recommend David Corn’s excellent piece in Mother Jones.

Parween Arghandaywal pronounces words during English class at the University of Nebraska Omaha for visiting Afghan teachers in 2002. (Omaha World-Herald Photo by Bill Batson, used by permission)

Parween Arghandaywal pronounces words during English class at the University of Nebraska Omaha for visiting Afghan teachers in 2002. (Omaha World-Herald Photo by Bill Batson, used by permission)

The movie took me back, though, to one of the most meaningful experiences of my career. The Bill Murray character in the movie, Richie Lanz, discovers and provides an opportunity for an Afghan girl with an enchanting voice, Salima Khan, played by Leem Lubany.

As I watched Salima pursue opportunity, at risk of her own life, in an oppressive culture, I remembered the courageous Afghan women I was privileged to cover, and spent most of a month with, back in 2002, when they came to Nebraska for a teacher training program. The women taught surreptitiously when the Taliban prohibited schooling for girls. They learned more English than I learned Dari, but through interpreters and their ability to communicate passion and courage across the language barrier, they touched me as deeply as any sources I ever worked with. I think of them every time I read of a bombing at a school in Afghanistan, and hope they are all safe and continuing to teach. (more…)

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Stubbornness can lead to some outstanding journalism. But it also can cause journalists to stand by stories that need to be corrected or re-examined.

I think it’s time to say the New York Times is just being stubborn in its refusal to update or correct its inaccurate 2007 story about Pari Livermore.

Nonprofit chroniclesNearly three months after Nancy Levine, a potential client of Livermore’s, called to Times editors’ attention the failings of the 2007 story, five different journalists have investigated Livermore’s matchmaking efforts and the “charitable” donations she asks clients to make in return for her service. (And I’m not counting August and October posts on this blog.) All of the investigations, including a post Sunday by Marc Gunther in Nonprofit Chronicles, have found the same thing: Livermore’s favored “charity,” Spotlight on Heroes, has never been registered as a charity.

Unless all of these investigations are wrong, the Times should correct its story.

The technicality Times editors cite in not correcting or even re-examining the 2007 Times story by Stephanie Rosenbloom is that it did not mention Spotlight on Heroes. But the whole premise of the story was Livermore’s blend of matchmaking and philanthropy. The story referred to the 2007 Red & White Ball as a “charity event,” even though 2007 promotional materials for the ball directed ticket buyers to make out their $175 checks to Spotlight on Heroes. I don’t know of any journalism ethical code, including the Times’ Standards and Ethics, that doesn’t require correcting errors, and that “charity event” reference clearly was an error, even if you don’t think a fundamentally flawed eight-year-old story needs deeper re-examination. (more…)

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