Thursday, September 28, 2006

Shoot the messenger

The last people who should take a shoot-the-messenger stand are journalists, but here's Pete Bronson arguing exactly that. I vowed I wasn't going to react to Bronson here in this blog, because it would take too much damn time. He's become more ludicrous and irrelevant and detached from reality over the years, but today's column just got me.

So he goes after the New York Times for reporting on Sunday that a national intelligence estimate concluded that the US invasion of Iraq has helped to expand, not limit, global terrorism. Bronson's take? "I found out terrorism is all our fault. The radio news and the New York Times says so."

Peter, it's not the Times saying this, it's dozens of independent intelligence analysts saying so in the NIE. He says such disclosures only help terrorism. Bull. The American people have been sold a bill of goods by the Bush adminstration. Thousands have died because of it, but people like Bronson would only like to see this continue, because even discussing options only encourages the terrorists. It's such nonsense.

(PS -- as if to prove how irrelevant Bronson is, his column is not linked from the the "Opinion" front page on the Enquirer web site.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More awards the Enquirer didn't win (features)

The Enquirer's shallow Life section is not among the nation's best features sections in 2006. That's according to the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors. See their list of the best here. The AASFE also recently named the best writers for 2006; none are from the Enquirer.

How not to write a news story

"Everyone avoids Mason judge" is a good story told badly. It takes at least 20 paragraphs to get to the what-the-hell-is-going-on part. The judge -- George Parker -- even gets to respond to allegations of his misconduct before the allegations are explained by the Enquirer. In print, the Enquirer does one of those bizarre things where it devotes a big chunk of the front page to tell you about the story, but then makes you go to another section to actually see the story. In this case, the story is buried at the bottom of the Metro page. Due to a lack of space and a lack of talent, the Enquirer continues to have trouble dealing with complex subjects. Their strategy is to dumb them down to the point where they're unreadable.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

More awards the Enquirer didn't win

Best food sections among American newspaper (a PDF file). It's not impossible for an Ohio paper to win big awards, because The Akron Beacon-Journal won in its category. It's a shame the Enquirer has rolled back its coverage of food. The Wednesday food section has been cut back considerably over the years, and is mostly just articles the Enquirer finds on the wires. Restaurant reviews are handled well by Polly Campbell, but she gets no room to write. The bulk of the reviews are done by mostly incompetent freelancers who like everything. The dining section of the Enquirer web site is actually full of giddy reviews by the idiots at Cin Weekly. The editors of the Enquirer treat this city like it's Chillicothe, rather than a 2-million pop urban center.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Do you think this might be a story?

A state audit has found $1.4 billion in questionable spending by Hamilton County Job and Family Services -- yes that's billion. It could be the largest case of misspending by a local government in Ohio.

But you won't read much about it in the Enquirer. The Columbus Dispatch got the scoop on this one. The Enquirer put half a story on its local page, without the vital details the Dispatch managed to uncover. For the front page, the Enquirer chose to tell us something we already knew, that gas has gotten cheaper. Lacking any sense of curiousity or skepticism, the Enquirer continues to chase the obvious, and in the process gets scooped on a major story in its own back yard. It also continues to make bad decisions about which stories deserve the front page.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anything for a buck

Since I almost never read the ads in the paper, I just saw this in Monday's edition -- a two-page full-color ad (pages A6 and A7 in Monday's paper) from Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, makers of Enzyte penis-enlargement pills, "An open letter to Jim McNair."

McNair is a business reporter who's hammered Berkeley in the past for bad advertising and unseemly sales tactics. It started with this story, and then this. The legal troubles led to big layoffs, and finally the attention of the feds. Federal authorities raided Berkeley's offices in March 2005, more lawsuits and finally indictments. In January, four former executives at Berkeley agreed to plead guilty to charges they conspired to defraud consumers through the sale of more than $100 million worth of sexual aids and other herbal supplements. (This story is just a taste of what McNair has written). It's unlikely Berkeley officials would have been prosecuted without McNair's reporting.

The two-page ad contains the signatures of all Berkeley employees and blatantly implores McNair to write more positive things about the company. It offers free 60-day trials of Berkeley products, via a coupon, and says "please report your results either to us, or directly to Mr. McNair."

If the Enquirer had any integrity at all, it would not have accepted the ad. Berkeley can write letters to the editor, and can sit down with McNair anytime they want to tell their story. Accepting money to run this ad says the Enquirer's advertising department finds fault with Mr. McNair's reporting, and wants to set the record straight, so to speak, without interference from the newsroom. The advertising department -- and ultimately the publisher -- allowed Berkeley to go around McNair to give a one-sided account, and to plead with McNair write more positively about the company.

This is unbelievable. Does the Enquirer need the money this badly, that it would impugn the integrity of its news operation?

Monday, September 11, 2006

What we remember

Why is it so important to write about what people remember about 9/11? I know -- because the Enquirer doesn't have any staff to do any actual reporting on the matter. To observe the five-year anniversary of 9/11 (the Enquirer makes an art of covering anniversaries, rather than doing anything original), the paper asked readers to send in recollections. About 150 did, and those are transcribed for our reading displeasure.

Now, I hate anniversary stories, but I'll say, yeah, this is a big one, and one that about every newspaper is allowed to work with. But what the Enquirer did was just lazy. And what they did on the editorial page was even worse. Three editorial writers give their remembrances. Their opinions are just about worthless. This is what the rest of the world did -- commenting on how the US responded to the attack and whether the world is safer. Editorial pages are supposed to take on tough questions, collect information from disparate sources and make sense of it all. The Enquirer just makes nonsense out of this.

I mean, Jesus -- on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, we get a front page story about laundry. Can the Enquirer get any worse?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Happy happy, joy joy

Do the editors at the Enquirer have any sense of skepticism? Plastering the news of plans for a $600 million development in Newport across the front page ignores the fact that these are just plans -- there's no development agreement in hand, the developers still need to acquire land (the city says it will not use eminent domain), and there appears to be a need for some significant public investment in this, which the article fails to specify. And while it is reported that Corporex ran away from The Banks development, no other mention is made of the company's checkered past.

This is just an example of the "good" news that Enquirer editors loves to emphasize. Iraq news gets buried, and since the emphasis is on finding good news, there's almost no investigative work being done by the Enquirer. There is no sense of skepticism at all in this paper; any and every expression of doubt is suppressed in favor of looking for the silver lining in everything. Even the editorials are limp-wristed: Today's editorials take on the ACT and SAT tests (frankly, I've read this three times and I can't figure out exactly what the point is) and urge people to support the United Way (wow, there's a controversial stand!).