Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Digging Out of the Media Goodness Pile

Photo of Katie Couric with $15 million on her foreheadThe media goodness pile is getting deep and wide on the messy desk of Daughter Number Three. Here goes:

Michael Massing, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, says that Katie Couric's salary is more than the budgets of NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered combined. And not only that, but "NPR has seventeen foreign bureaus (which costs it another $9.4 million a year); CBS has twelve. Few figures, I think, better capture the absurd financial structure of the network news." (via BoingBoing guest blogger Jesse Brown)

Today's Star Tribune had a nice package of two reprinted op-eds, both related to the recent ACORN story: Sometimes the News Is Incredible and Congress Really Spit This One Up. "Incredible," by Rex Smith of the Albany Times Union, points out that the mainstream media's slow response to the story wasn't because of some "liberal" bias, but rather that the ACORN video first appeared on the often-suspect Drudge Report, and then on Glenn Beck's show -- not exactly an endorsement of its factualness. "Talk shows, right or left, aren't where reporters look for stories," Smith writes. He closes by saying the media landscape has obviously changed, and "traditional media need to pay attention to nontraditional sources, even those with axes to grind." In "Spit This One Up," Tom Blackburn of Cox Newspapers pointed out the hypocrisy of Congress unfunding ACORN in the blink of an eye, when the Pentagon has all sorts of processes to help defense contractors who rip off the taxpayer for a lot more money.

Well, Blackburn may get his wish. Ryan Grim writing on the Huffington Post says the anti-ACORN bill Congress passed "applies to 'any organization' that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency.... In other words, the bill could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex. Whoops." A quick analysis of companies that would be caught in the same net included Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, with 20 fraud cases against them collectively. Grim also reports that if the law only applies to ACORN and not other companies, it would probably be illegal because that would be a bill of attainder -- specifically barred in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution.

The Sept. 20 Pioneer Press had a troubling article by Mara Gottfried on the Ramsey County gang database. Much as we all want gang members to be arrested when they break the law, this database sounds a bit too much like the old saying, "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out -- because I was not a socialist" etc., until they came for me and there was no one left to speak. The county uses a list of 10 criteria, and if a person meets just one of them, he (and it is primarily he) is put on a list of gang members. According to defense attorney Bruce Nestor, "There [is] no way to find out why they made the claim. There's no way to challenge it once you're in the database." One of the criteria is being photographed with gang members. Who are in turn defined by the same database... and the circle starts over.

A moving op-ed in the Sept. 20 Star Tribune told the story of Julia Barton, a St. Paul mom with a child born with a heart defect. In Documents Mounted. Good Thing I Kept Them, Barton tells about the box of paper she keeps in the basement to document everything about her child's near-death, hospitalizations, and the incredible hassles with getting her insurance company to pay for it. She writes, "We have private insurance, but it is not enough, since some of the specialists who treated him were 'out of network.' Who knew we were supposed to check the credentials of the person running the heart-lung bypass machine during the surgery?" Two years later she was still getting bills from an air ambulance company, despite faxing them and sending them registered mail with proof of payment.

The same issue of the Strib had a very even-handed review of the Massachusetts health care model by reporter Chen May Yee. Significantly, Yee reported, "A poll last year by the Harvard School of Public Health found that 69 percent of Massachusetts residents supported the health reform law, up from 61 percent just after it was enacted" in 2006. So it seems the more people know the new system, the better they like it.

Finally, I got quite a laugh from this graphic on the Colbert Report last night (Sept. 22). It seems Ridley Scott is making a movie based on Monopoly:

Orange Monopoly-type card with the Alien bursting out of the Uncle Moneybags' chest

Whew. That's enough for one night. And now it can all go into the recycling pile!

1 comment:

Ms Sparrow said...

Wow, you have been a busy gal!