Saturday, September 30, 2006
As I write this in the final moments of the month of September, my mind is with those journalists who have given their lives not just for the story but for the concept of the Fourth Estate. It means so much to so many, but at a grave price. This year, 20 journalists' deaths in Iraq have been recorded by the Committee to Protect Journalists. At the current rate, the number of journalists killed there in 2006 could surpass the previous wartime record of 24, set in 2004.
Earlier this year, Steffan Tubbs, a good friend was sent on assignment to Iraq. Aside from his broadcasts, he posted daily web dispatches and the occasional photo, including the one above of him in the center of his security detail. He wrote of late night patrols with Ghost Troop, the same unit ABC's Bob Woodruff and crew were with when their Humvee struck an IED. After learning that, I remember praying for Tubbs' safety. A week or so later he returned with incredible stories to tell and a newfound respect for our servicemen. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Conflict has been with American journalism since day one – from eyewitness reports of the first revolutionary battle in the Massachusetts Spy – to the present. Journalists will not put their pens and microphones down until the story is told, however great the risk. Abdel Karim Hamadie knows there is never a good month for journalists in Iraq. September was terrible. We can hope October will be better.
Friday, September 29, 2006
That is little consolation to the family of Emily Keyes. She's the 16-year-old killed when SWAT teams stormed the classroom where Morrison was holding her. After firing a shot at the advancing team, Morrison turned and leveled his gun at Keyes who was trying to flee.
The impact of Wednesday's shooting will be broad. For SWAT teams, it presents new procedural questions. In 1999, as National Guard troops enveloped Littleton neighborhoods around Columbine, SWAT teams were criticized for entering the school too slowly. The question being asked now is: did they move in too fast? Was their decision predicated in part on criticism from Columbine. That siege added a chapter to SWAT team manuals on hostage situations known as active shooter situations. The concept requires law enforcement to enter a school before a SWAT team is fully readied; if the shooter or shooters is killing hostages. Before the raid into the Platte Canyon classroom, Morrison had not killed any hostages. He had released four of them. Officers and deputies were presented with a new dilemma, however, when it became apparent to them he was sexually assaulting the remaining girls.
Until now, the most high-profile case Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener had dealt with was a triple homocide carried out by two teenage gunman. A forthcoming book, "Simon Says," by Colorado Springs journalist Kathryn Eastburn chronicles that bizarre story. Wegener will now have to justify his decision for SWAT teams to enter the classroom. Wegener knew his decision would weigh heavily -- his own son is a student at Platte Canyon High School.
Wegener did have control of his decision and whether it was justified will be the target of numerous post-operational reviews. What he had no control over, however, is an epidemic of school violence over the past decade.
This week, Colorado saw it's second school shooting. Today, the nation saw it's second school shooting of the week in Wisconsin. If you include the shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, there have been three in two weeks.
In the days following April 20th, 1999, in between my radio live shots, I would walk through the makeshift memorial that took up a corner of Clement Park adjacent to Columbine. In one direction, it stretched a quarter-mile. People from around the nation sent flowers, cards and placards they had signed. They pleaded for peace and an awakening to come from the darkness of that Tuesday morning. That was seven years ago. Why does it seem we are so quick to forget?
Seven years ago, I was reporting from
On Wednesday, a tidal wave of Columbine memories flooded audiences across the nation as gunman Duane Morrison took students at
Coincidentally, moments before I learned I would anchor KOMU’s national report for the first time, I got word from a colleague on the unfolding scene in the tiny mountain town of
The same haunting question asked throughout Columbine is being posed once again: why? Who was Duane Morrison and what were his motivations? Morrison had a criminal history, but only for minor offenses. Those who knew him say they never expected this. What compels a grown man to perpetrate such a crime? Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener thinks he may have an answer. The sheriff says Morrison left a suicide note. Wegener has yet to elaborate on what it says. Like Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Morrison may have addressed his motivations. Sadly, in the end, he had to address his emotions not only with words, but weapons.
***There are more blog entries to come on this topic. They have been delayed until now due to other stories Skamenca is working.***
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
What does this mean? The answer: with 30 million regular viewers network news is not dead. In 40 years, the Big Three broadcasts have lost about 50% of their audience. Considering how the news market has fractured with many options both on cable and online, this 50% drop could, and statistically, should have cut deeper.
That the networks are grappling for the top spot is encouraging, proof positive that resources can and probably will be used to enhance network broadcasts.
Below is the AP article...
NBC pulled ahead last week in the suddenly supercharged network evening-news derby, according to preliminary ratings.
"NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams" was the most-watched newscast for all five nights, ending the two-week winning streak posted by CBS anchor Katie Couric since her Sept. 5 debut, according to early Nielsen Media Research figures released Monday by NBC.
Final numbers for Sept. 18-22 will be out Tuesday.
The NBC newscast averaged 8.18 million viewers, while "CBS Evening News" drew an audience of 7.69 million, according to the preliminary ratings. ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson" was watched by 7.58 million viewers.
Last week, Couric's second on the job, "CBS Evening News" averaged 7.88 million viewers to edge past NBC's audience tally of 7.83 million.
In her debut week, Couric led the CBS newscast to its first weekly ratings win in five years with an average audience of 10.2 million, eclipsing NBC's 7.1 million and ABC's 6.9 million. NBC, the longtime front-runner, has placed first for 112 of the last 116 weeks.
CBS News President Sean McManus has reiterated that the focus of his network's new-look newscast is on "long-term developments, not the short term."
Friday, September 15, 2006
Whatever the case, the mayhem in
Monday, September 11, 2006
As promised: http://www.journalism.org/node/1839