Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"This Instrument..."

A maddening schedule has kept me away from the keyboard, at least from blogging. There have been a couple requests to follow-up on my New York trip. It was stellar. Some of the details would be too cumbersome, but I hope to share a few anecdotes later. Let me begin though by congratulating Sarah Ashworth who was on hand to accept the award and Kyle Palmer, two colleagues who worked tirelessly on the "What's on the Line?" documentary. Both are consummate professionals.

The Edward R. Murrow awards ceremony was a blast with an all-star lineup including Brian Williams, Campbell Brown, Kate Snow, Soledad O'Brien, Gil Gross and many others. It was inspiring to be in a room with the creme de la creme of our industry, people who yearn to carry forth the spirit of true broadcast journalism. Unquestionably, the standards Murrow set forth are alive and well.

No doubt there are hurdles for our industry, the least of which is fragmentation with audiences getting their information in new ways, some still in their infancy. Perhaps we can view this new reality as a reminder that we in broadcast news must earn viewers' trust and interest. Otherwise, we as some scholars predict, face extinction. I'll leave you with an oft-quoted excerpt from Murrow's address to the Radio and Television News Directors Association 48 years ago. Its message is as important now as it was then in the early days our two mediums. Referring to television Murrow opined, "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Question and Answer

A comment two posts before this one asks why I'm in New York. Truth be told, a story brings me here. Aired last fall, KBIA's Sarah Ashworth, Kyle Palmer and I produced "What's on the Line?," a 30-minute documentary analyzing the threat from the New Madrid fault line. After Hurricane Katrina, we decided it imperative to look at the most active fault outside California. A little history explains why. In 1811 and 1812, the region was decimated by not one, not two, but three 7-8.0 earthquakes. Seismologists say it's only a matter time before the region rattles again. "What's on the Line" looked at how prepared the region -- spanning from south of Memphis to north of Saint Louis -- is for a major quake. What we found was the fourth most feared natural disaster in the United States could present first responders with colossal challenges and a death toll in the tens of thousands.

Earlier this year, we were informed the documentary won a national Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio-Television News Directors Association. So to answer the question, I'm here on behalf of the station to accept that award. I am still beside myself.

The trip, so far, has been unbelievably surreal, though that could just be explained by a severe lack of sleep and full agenda. On Friday, I had the pleasure of meeting and briefly visiting with two of the most esteemed investigative journalists in our country, Ed Bradley and Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes."

I've been to New York before. But this trip, despite the jam-packed itinerary, is truly wonderful. Thank you for the interest. I intend on writing a little about the dinner and banquet tomorrow evening.

Woes of the World

The long third-place member of the "Axis of Evil" has rocketed to the top of the list with its attention-grabbing tactics. If past United Nations resolutions elsewhere are any indication, yesterday's resolution against a nuclear North Korea and what exactly it means is hard to predict. It's incredibly difficult to enforce economic sanctions on a nation that has counterfeit American dollars as one of its past primary exports.

While coverage of the crisis has been solid, I've had a question bumping around in my head. Why aren't we journalists looking, not just at North Korea, but the tens of other countries believed to be enhancing nuclear capability?

The beginning of a new trend in coverage may have emerged in a startling report in today's New York Times. William Broad and David Sanger examine how as many as 40 nations may possess the ability to build a nuclear weapon. Hundreds of companies are seeking out uranium, the story reports, where only dozens did just a few years ago.

The nuclear issue on air and in print is only going to be amplified. In the coming weeks and months, perhaps we'll see a resurgence in coverage of another frightening element of our nuclear world. Since the 2004 election, we have heard little about what nations, including our own, are doing to reclaim thousands of unaccounted for "loose nukes." The story has sat idle for too long.

Friday, October 13, 2006

City Jitters

I write this from the 35th floor lobby of the Mandarin hotel on Central Park’s West Side. What a plush hotel, on one of the nation’s greatest parks.

It’s interesting to be here now. Let me quickly share a story from yesterday. Many New Yorkers still seem jittery after the Upper East Side plane crash Wednesday. On the shuttle in-bound from La Guardia we were about to enter the Queens-Midtown Tunnel which spits out a few blocks south of the UN. We were waiting to pay a toll when there was sudden “BOOM!” The concussion shook the van I was riding in. I along with the other Super Shuttle passengers, almost in unison, began asking “what was that?” People stopped in neighboring lanes began whipping their heads around. The episode became even more jarring when our native New York driver exclaimed “that was pretty crazy!” As we inched closer to the toll, I noticed a NYPD or Port Authority officer standing by calmly. A colleague walked up beside him, and the two began laughing. ‘False alarm,’ I thought to myself, though nonetheless a testament to the nervousness that seems ever present in this city.

Meanwhile cross-town, the United Nations Security Council could vote tomorrow on a resolution regarding North Korea. There are some very major implications there and I’ll share a few thoughts on how the story has been covered so far.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Need for Dialogue

280 rounds of .22 caliber ammunition and a semi-automatic rifle. That’s what police in Englewood, Colo., say they found in a suspended high-school student’s possession.

They say he may have intended to "shoot up the school and take hostages." The statement and others, about Englewood High school, which the teen attended, were made in recent days. Today, he was arrested trespassing on school grounds. The gun was in the backseat of his car. The school is five miles from Columbine High School in Littleton and 40 miles from last Wednesday’s shooting at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo.

Across the country in Nickel Mines, Penn., five Amish families are preparing simple funerals for their slain children.

All of us should be posing the question: what has sparked this violence? A national dialogue is needed to target this problem. We in the media should be part of the conversation to ensure we do not glorify these events only to encourage more like them.

It is not an issue to only be addressed by those affected. This is a national crisis. As demonstrated by recent shootings, no community is immune and a proactive response is needed.

Monday, October 02, 2006

An Exploding Epidemic

When I started this blog it was not my intention to write about school shootings on a near-constant basis. Yet again that is the topic of the day. Pennsylvania State Police report a number of people dead after someone commandeered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines. We’ll take a closer look at this story once more details emerge.

Four school shootings have dominated headlines on this continent in the past two-and-a-half weeks. This is the first time ever we’ve had so many school shootings in the United States, three to be exact, in less than one week. It is heartwrenching. Another day, another shooting. A new wave of school violence is upon us.

Convergence Revolution

Convergence is robust and happening in cities big and small. In Denver, reporters from the city's two major dailies appear on television. The University of Missouri’s morning daily, the Columbia, Missourian has a new service revolutionizing how people get their paper. It’s site reads: 'eMprint (Electronic Media Print) is a new hybrid digital publishing platform that merges the familiar qualities of a printed newspaper with the interactive features of the Web in a magazine-like format.'

The service is one of many new technologies being rolled out to generate interest – while newspaper circulations plummet. Convergence isn't coming. It's here. Longtime-Georgia-broadcaster-turned-blogging-media-critic Dick McMichael is exploring the topic. He even suggests a book might be in order. It could be a hot seller. Outside of college texts, it is uncharted territory, probably because changes are so rapid, no one’s writing about it in-depth for fear their book will be outdated soon after a printing run. The trend is so encompassing the University of Missouri has added it as a sequence, right alongside its three historic sequences of broadcasting, print and advertisting. In a sign of the times, Yahoo! even recruited former NBC war correspondent Kevin Sites for a feature known as Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. He now files his reports online.

The trend will undoubtedly continue and we'll follow the big developments here.