So here I sit in a really uncomfortable folding chair, in the Ferris High School commons listening to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Sheriff Ozzie Knezovitch, try to avoid explaining why they think any 18 year old should be allowed to buy an assault weapon. Right now she is blaming the FBI for the Parkland Shooting and defending the open sale of weapons to children as a Second Amendment right.
These kids aren’t letting her get away with her deflections. She’s asking the kids to explain why they are so violent? Tone deaf.
She makes sure to repeat at every opportunity her support for the Second Amendment unrestricted.
My local newspaper won’t give a centrist Democrat the column space it does to an untrained right-wing hack. They limit me to a 200-word letter once a month, that must still compete with every other letter writer to see newsprint. So I am choosing to put my monthly 200 words right here instead. Here is February’s installment of 200 words: Let’s do a little thought experiment for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and local GOP voters. Let’s imagine that the only difference from today is that the electoral college vote matched the popular vote and Hillary Clinton is sitting in the Oval Office. Robert Mueller still investigates Russian interference in the election. He releases his 13-count indictment of Russian hackers. In response, President Clinton does absolutely nothing. Would Representative McMorris Rodgers still be sitting on her hands? Would Leader McConnell or Speaker Ryan or Reps. Nunes or Gowdy stand silent? Of course not. Holy hell would break loose, right? Yet in our reality, the leader of CMR’s party, Donald J. Trump sits in the White House, tweeting and trolling while Rome burns. CMR sits mute while Putin steals our democracy. Now imagine that you always vote Republican. You believe in traditional Republican values. The 2018 election approaches. Do you still vote for a representative who would sacrifice our democracy to curry favor with an adolescent who stumbled into the White House 3 million votes short of a real majority? Are you going to vote for a woman who enables Russian trolls to sabotage our elections just because you always vote Republican? Jim Wavada The Alsatian Diaspora
I was a working, bona fide and credentialed journalist once. I reported the news in my community. I got paid for it.
Since my high school years in local reporter Dorothy Powers Junior Press Club in Spokane, WA., I decided I would become a reporter. After all, it was Superman’s day job, right?
I worked hard as a kid. I excelled in English class. I enrolled in my high school journalism class, which became my favorite part of the school day. I learned the inverted pyramid structure of writing. I learned and applied the grammatical rules in the AP Style Guide. I learned interview and note taking techniques. I learned to appreciate the value of a good editor and how to be one.
My MOS (military occupational specialty) in the U.S. Navy was Journalist. I was proud of my rating and relished the opportunities to develop my professional chops with the written word. I wrote hundreds of mundane press releases for hometown newspapers announcing promotions and awards for the local boys. I learned the style differences required for radio and TV news scripts by writing and editing evening television newscasts for AFRTS (Armed Forces Radio and Television Service) , and hourly news capsules for base and shipboard radio programs.s
After my military service, I earned my dual degree in journalism and political science.
I went to work for three local weekly newspapers over a period of a dozen years. I worked my way up from cub reporter to editor at the latter two newspapers. I even won some regional awards for excellence in reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).
I had an official press pass from the SPJ as well as one from the local press club and press credentials issued only after an interview by the local police department. These credential were not easy to acquire. They acknowledged that I had invested years in the education and professional work experience to claim the title journalist, and that I was gainfully employed by a legitimate news organization. I was a bonafide, working journalist.
So here’s the point of all this personal history. In all my years as a professional journalist, not once was I told by any of my bosses to be “fair and balanced.” Not once.
That’s not because these publishers and editors expected me to take sides or slant my reporting left or right. Quite the opposite. They were all silent on this point because they firmly believed that fairness and balance was not my responsibility as a professional reporter.
Instead, they required me to be accurate and comprehensive. I was taught that whether my writing is fair or balanced is the reader’s call, not mine. My employers had no intention of trusting me or any other reporter to decide what’s fair or what constitutes balance. Those are value judgments for our readers to make, not journalists or their editors.
My publishers and editors were very adamant, however, that my work be accurate and comprehensive. Like most people on the planet, they believe there are objective facts to be reported and that no issue in the public domain is a simple as it might first appear to be.
Think about it for a minute. If I commit to reporting all the facts of an incident or situation accurately, if I portray the larger context comprehensively, I have done my job. I have given my readers the tools they need to reach their own conclusions about the event I am reporting.
My reporting may well be perceived by the reader as fair and balanced. Great. Or it may not, if that reporting contradicts a reader’s closely held values. As a professional reporter, fairness and balance is not my call. That’s the reader’s call.
In fact, filtering my reporting to include only that which I consider “fair,” and reaching past the facts of a situation in an attempt to achieve what I think is “balance,” would be a violation of the journalistic ethics I learned in school.
In school we were taught to faithfully report the five Ws and the H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Answering these questions is the foundation of any reporting. For most news, the pursuit of the first four Ws is straightforward. Reporting that last W, why, and the how of a complex event can be more challenging.
Professional journalism has an answer for this. It’s called attribution. As a journalist you ask someone clearly in a position to know the why and how and you quote them. You don’t speculate or opine yourself. You learn who the available authorities are on the topics of your reporting, and you seek them out for comment. You ask them the why and how questions and report their responses.
So when some news organization tells you they are fair and balanced, what they are really telling you is that “we don’t trust our readers to judge the facts and determine what is fair and balanced.” Or they might be telling you that they don’t feel the need to do the hard work or invest in the newsroom personnel to provide accurate and comprehensive reporting when they can simply proclaim themselves fair and balanced.
As a reader, a consumer of news reporting, I prefer old fashioned, professional journalism. Give me the facts, all of them. Present the context for the issue being reported. I will decide what’s fair and how important balance is to my understanding of the subject of the reporting.
March 21, 2017
I’m not one of those people with instant recall for big numbers. I just know when big is big and I am moved by big numbers. The big numbers moving me right now, are the number of refugees created by the war in Syria. That’s the war that sucks up lots of weapons and ammunition, artillery, rifles, even drones, missiles manufactured in the U.S., Russia and Israel. We are feeding a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of innocents and left hundreds of thousands more refugees. All at a profit to these merchants of death.
The other big numbers I think about are the tax dollars, millions of them every weekend to wrap our president in a cocoon while he flies from Washington, D.C. to Florida to golf and hold court at his southern White House. The reported cost is $3.5 million per weekend trip.
President Trump has not mentioned the Syrian refugees except as part of his ban to keep us safe from having to see any of them in America. So he works on tax breaks for arms manufacturers and merchants, while ignoring the gigantic human toll this indifference is taking.
So what if hundreds of families are murdered and made homeless, it’s important that we send our draft-dodging, tax cheating, pathological liar of a president to Florida to golf on the weekends and show off for the wealthy members of the Mara Lago resort, his people.
In just two months, this orange wonder has spent more on travel to Florida than it would take to feed every refugee in the Sudan and Syria. Big numbers. He likes big, you know. Like him, I don’t know the exact numbers. Maybe I should. Maybe we all should.
Or we could just go play a round of golf. My handicap is Yuge! Big number.
March 16, 2017
Sean Spicer, Donald Trump’s beset press secretary, is stuck with unenviable, essentially impossible task of trying to push the narrative that this erstwhile administration’s problems do not begin and end in the Oval Office and the West Wing of the White House.
Spicer, his blood pressure almost visibly rising, stands, a dumbstruck amateur, in front of a room of genuine professional journalists (despite White House attempts to contaminate the press pool with hacks from alt-right media outlets), and tries to deflect and dissemble over the CIC’s current late night conspiracy theory cum libel cum threat cum whine.
Spicey squeals about a lack of balance in reportage. Balance is indeed the problem, but not in the press pool. The balance problem is in the official residence in the wee hours of the morning. Spicer and other sad defenders of the President must deal with an emotionally unbalanced, some would say unhinged, boss.
We seriously ought to be scouring the legal reasons for impeachment and ask ourselves if emotional illness or mental incapacity is one of them and how it can be invoked to put the wheelhouse of our ship of state back in sane, balanced hands.
March 12, 2017
I’ve been waiting. I knew it would be coming. Today it broke into public view. A letter in the Spokesman-Review. It is the public claim that criticizing President Trump will drive some ambivalent Trump voters deeper into Trump’s alternate reality. The claim is those voters who chose Trump last Novemeber as some kind of protest vote will not feel any buyer’s remorse and vote to turn him out of office in the next general election. The claim is they are so irritated by the drumbeat of criticism against the man for whom they voted that they will be driven even deeper into the Trump camp.
This argument is clearly aimed at trying to tamp down public outcry against the “deconstruction of the state,” and the misogyny, racism and contempt for facts that characterizes Trump’s increasingly ALT Right administration.
It’s nonsense. This argument is like saying I will become inexorably bound to my recently purchased lemon of a car if several mechanics tell me the catalytic converter is overheating, the air bag has life-threatening defects and the wheels are about to come off. My response, according to this Trumpian line of logic, would be to ignore the mechanics and become ultra-loyal to my lemon.
So don’t relent. Continue to rise up and speak out against the insanity of this electoral college perversion of the voters’ choice.
This whining about Trump protest is testament that the absurdity of this poor voter choice. Our long and loud protest is bringing home to some those guilty voters the consequence of their careless protest votes. They are feeling beseiged by the angry response of the majority, their fellow citizens, to their own ill-considered votes. Sometimes guilt is a good thing, especially if it changes future behavior for the better.
Ignore the whining of the Trumpistas, keep your protests going loud and clear. Give no quarter to Trump voters, who need to be educated before the next election. Offer to teach them. Support their moral and civic course correction with facts and logic. Make them think before they vote again.
March 2, 2017
Earlier this week we learned from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC a heretofore unreported story that the New Yorker is working that may finally be the smoking gun that brings the Trump kleptocracy down.
The allegation being investigated as I write this is that in 2014 Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross participated in a Russian money laundering scheme that netted Trump’s real estate enterprises a $60 million profit on a sham real estate deal in Florida.
This cash scoop was a pretty clear transfer of funds from a Putin crony in the KGB directly to Donald Trump. That’s because, as reported by Rachel Maddow, the Florida property in question cost Donald $20 million in 2012(?). He never occupied or sold the property nor did any improvements to it. He sold the property to this Russian oligarch for $100 million dollars in 2014, a $60 million profit. The Russian buyer never occupied the property and in fact demolished it shortly after purchase.
So the question remains, what was the intent of this transaction that clearly transferred $60 million to Donald Trump from this Russian oligarch through a loan authorized by Wilbur Ross, the billionaire who is co-chair of the board of the Bank of Cyprus, which is well known for laundering billions for Russian oligarchs.
I am going to track down a tape of Rachel’s report and personally attempt to verify the facts of this situation and pass on what I learn about this crime in this space. I will also add links to other sources who are actually spending resources to investigate this felony and Trump’s and Ross’s involvement in it.