Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande College teammates and classmats in 1953. Photo: Life magazine

Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande College teammates and classmates in 1953. Photo: Life magazine

Several of you have asked about my documentary “They Could Really Play the Game: Reloaded.”  It’s about legendary college basketball scorer Bevo Francis and his Rio Grande University team.

This unlikely team, from an impossibly small college in rural Appalachia, saved their school from going broke 60 years ago. They also helped revive America’s love affair with college basketball after a nasty national gambling scandal in the early 50’s involving players from several major schools.
In the process, Francis destroyed almost every major scoring record in college basketball. Imagine a player averaging 47 points a game in the days before the 3-point scoring line and one-and-one free throw. That was Bevo Francis. Imagine a player who broke the 100 point per game scoring mark twice in his college career. That would be Bevo Francis too. Whenever someone called Bevo a star, he was the first to say he owed his success to his teammates.

 

Chris Hedrick, WOSU, CoJMC, R. Bruce Mitchell, Diana Markley Guidas and so many others contributed their talents to the documentary.

 

We don’t sell copies of the documentary, but click on the “Watch on Vimeo” link below and you, as well as people everywhere can watch it for free. Many viewers on public television have seen the documentary and liked it. I do this now because Bevo has been battling cancer. He deserves to be remembered for what he accomplished. He also needs your prayers. I hope you enjoy.

 

Spread the word and send it forward.

 

 

Station: PBS — 2013 Documentary Teaser from Blue Skies HD Video & Film on Vimeo.

unpaid-internshipsA court victory for unpaid interns today and possibly a wake-up call for corporate America. Yesterday, New York federal judge William Pauley ruled in favor of  two interns suing Fox Searchlight over the internship programs of Fox Entertainment Group. The Hollywood Reporter says the court’s summary judgment was also certified as a class action  The lawsuit was filed two years ago by interns Alex Footman and Eric Glatt who worked on Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan and claimed the company’s unpaid internship program violated minimum wage and overtime laws.

Fox issued this statement to The Hollywood Reporter on the ruling: “We are very disappointed with the court’s rulings.  We believe they are erroneous, and will seek to have them reversed by the 2nd Circuit as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, an opinion article from the Guardian newspaper on unpaid internships prompted an interesting discussion among colleagues in our college this past month.

In the article author David Dennis notes that media companies that rely on unpaid interns marginalize the voices of low-income communities and minorities. A graduate from Northwestern University, David writes: “And therein lies the issue with unpaid internships. The practice of asking recent graduates to spend their days working for free while paying rent and living in a city like New York is a barrier for entry to students from mid- to lower-class backgrounds.”   

Specifically, Dennis wrote that unpaid internships become barriers for low-income and minority candidates access to their professional fields because they can’t afford to work for free without incurring debt. This, argues Dennis means we have less diversity in the media.

Dennis writes: “Recently, I wrote about how stories of crime in New Orleans or Chicago’s Southside are under-reported on the national level, and one of the reasons is the fact that voices from these areas aren’t making it to the national conversation to influence the direction of national discourse. Media workplaces are becoming populated by those who can afford the jobs. Those who can’t are being shut out.  How many journalists can say they have firsthand knowledge of the mentality of someone from the inner-city? Many of these voices have been muted just because they simply can’t navigate the landscape of privilege that most modern journalism encourages.”  

I agree with Dennis’ opinion on unpaid interns. The International Business Times recently mentioned a well-known 2010 report by the Economic Policy Institute whose authors argued  persuasively, that “the choice to take an internship is not only contingent on a student’s qualifications, but also his or her economic means, thus institutionalizing socioeconomic disparities beyond college.”

unpaid-intern-2I also believe some for-profit companies use unpaid interns to save labor costs. There are recent legal cases to back this observation and to disprove it.  I believe this is, in part,  due to poor Fair Labor Standards Act enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor regarding unpaid internships. I also believe this hurts those businesses who try to compete while providing paid internship opportunities.

Something else is hidden in the unpaid intern debate. My belief is that unpaid internships are a double whammy for some college graduates. They struggle to get jobs because the services they’re qualified to provide employers are already being provided by unpaid interns.

I said I agreed with Dennis’ views against the inequity of unpaid internships. Not everyone sees it that way.  Click here to see  how Denver Fox affiliate KDVR “Everyday Show” co-hosts Chris Parente and Melody Mendez put their spin on the topic of unpaid interns.

My response to KDVR:

 “I watched your treatment of this issue from your morning show. If you think a part of an unpaid intern’s job is to fetch coffee and dry cleaning for employees at Fox31 I would advise my students from interning at your TV station. That’s an exploitative mindset. An internship should provide students the opportunity to gain real world observations, experience and contacts in a professional workplace that ties directly to their future professional interests. They’re not unpaid personal assistants. So, please keep the focus on providing interns opportunities that will make them better potential future employees and managers for Fox31 and get your own coffee and dry cleaning.”

KDVR host Parente appeared to struggle in his understanding of the Dennis article. Parente incorrectly referred to Dennis as a woman and a “journalism ethics expert. Dennis is actually creative director at The Smoking Section website and a freelance writer.

Mendez commented that she once had an unpaid internship in college AND worked a part-time job. “It is possible to do both,” said Mendez.

To opinions such as Mendez’, Dennis wrote: “All of my classmates were qualified to work in any newsroom or publication in the city, but those who could afford the lifestyle got their feet in the door with internships. Sure, it’s possible for someone to work 40 hours a week without pay while also waiting tables at night, but it sure is easier when you don’t have to worry about earning a living – or paying student loans.”      

I’ll go one step more on unpaid internships- 

According to the Department of Labor internships in the “for-profit” private sector are most often viewed as employment. This means interns in the “for-profit” private sector who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the  minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over forty in a work week.

Here’s the U.S. Department of Labor’s six criteria for-profit companies must meet in order to legally use unpaid interns:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to
training which would be given in an educational environment;
2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern;
and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the
internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist says the U.S. Department of Labor and the for-profit company may use unpaid interns. Otherwise, minimum wage and overtime provisions do apply to the intern. Or as Judge Pauley wrote in his opionion which sides with the unpaid interns in the “Black Swan” case:

After going through the experiences of Footman and Glatt on Black Swan, here’s what Judge Pauley concludes:

“Considering the totality of the circumstances, Glatt and Footman were classified improperly as unpaid interns and are ‘employees’ covered by the FLSA and NYLL. They worked as paid employees work, providing an immediate advantage to their employer and perfomed low-level tasks not requiring specialized training. The benefits they may have received — such as the knowledge of how a production or accounting office functions or references for future jobs — are the results of simply having worked as any other employee works, not of internships designed to be uniquely educational to the interns and of little utility to the employer. They received nothing approximating the education they would receive in an academic setting or vocational school. This is a far cry from [the Supreme Court's decision in]Walling, where trainees impeded the regular business of the employer, worked only in their own interest and provided no advantage to the employer. Glatt and Footman do not fall within the narrow ‘trainee’ exception to the FLSA’s broad coverage.”

The latest court ruling means a victory for those who argue against unpaid internships, particularly when they may involve doing work that other employees are paid for performing in other work settings. It may also signal the court’s willingness to limit, even end unpaid internships used as a guise by some employers to limit their labor costs as well as employment opportunities for students and other qualified workers.There will be more legal battles on this case and victory for the plaintiffs is far from certain at this point.

I’ll sum it up with the ending of the International Business Times article on unpaid internships because it captures the “anecdotal reality” many recent college grads may be living. It uses HBO’s hit drama “Girls,” character Hannah who works as an unpaid publishing intern, despite having graduated college two years earlier. After she’s told by her parents that they will no longer fund her post-collegiate escapades, Hannah explains to her boss that she can no longer afford to work for free. His reply? “I’m really going to miss your energy.”

 

I woke-up to this sad news today:
Tornado chaser Tim Samaras shows the probes he uses when trying to collect data from a tornado. This photo was taken May 26, 2006, in Ames, Iowa. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Tornado chaser Tim Samaras shows the probes he uses when trying to collect data from a tornado. This photo was taken May 26, 2006, in Ames, Iowa. Photo: Charlie Neibergall/AP

***BREAKING NEWS*** Storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son Paul Samaras and Carl Young all died in El Reno during Friday night’s tornadoes. Tim Samaras was a well-respected chaser who was familiar to many viewers because of his appearances on The Discovery Channel. In a Facebook Post Tim’s brother Jim thanked mourners for their condolences.
Click here to see a video about Samaras.
My sincere condolences to the families of Samaras and Young.  Tim Samaras was as educated, informed and prepared to chase storms as anyone who has done so. That a tragedy like this could happen speaks to the violent unpredictability of severe weather.

The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettis, photographer Brad Reynolds and a storm chasing crew was also hit by one of Friday’s tornadoes and suffered mild injuries. Their large SUV was lifted and tossed 200 yards off the highway. “That was the scariest moment of my life,” Bettes told the Associated Press. “I had never been through anything like it before, and my life passed before my eyes.”

Before this tragedy struck, and just after the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes hit last month, I discussed storm chasers with CoJMC colleague Rick Alloway. We both marveled at the video and photos storm chasers captured of tornadoes. We also wondered how long it would be before a storm chaser died getting too close, or getting hit by a destructive storm.
The day before Friday’s  Oklahoma tornadoes that killed storm chasers Tim Samaras, Paul Samaras and Carl Young, the National Weather Service warned there would be more tornadoes and severe storms — and there were.
Large clouds are seen as a tornado passes south of El Reno, Oklahoma May 31, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Bill Waugh

Large clouds are seen as a tornado passes south of El Reno, Oklahoma May 31, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Bill Waugh

This is my experience as a reporter who has chased and reported on many tornadoes and other powerful storms across Kansas and Missouri, Michigan and Ohio. I’ve seen first hand what they can do. No amount of experience can predict a powerful storm that is inherently unpredictable. There is the distinct thrill of the chase. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush to witness the destructive force of nature play itself out in unpredictable ways. It’s impossible to ignore one’s own mortality in the face of such raw, natural power. There is no assurance though that when a storm chaser says they know what they’re doing, that they won’t be maimed or killed when they chase a powerful, unpredictable storm. They can be killed or injured by the storm’s high winds, flying debris, lightning, hail and flash flooding. 

When this happens, when a storm chaser is injured or killed, what do the storm chasers say? Will they take responsibility for their own faulty judgement, even if it’s in the name of saving other lives? What safety guidelines do news and weather organizations have for their own employees or subcontractors who chase potentially deadly storms?
"That was the scariest moment of my life," the Weather Channel's Mike Bettes said after he and his crew were hit and suffered minor injuries as they tried to outrun a tornado they spotted in El Reno, Okla.

“That was the scariest moment of my life,” the Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes said after he and his crew were hit and suffered minor injuries as they tried to outrun a tornado they spotted in El Reno, Okla.

This is the fourth year the Weather Channel has sent out crews to actively hunt tornadoes. Originally, the Weather Channel storm chasers were embedded with a government research team. In the past two years though, says the Associated Press, the Weather Channel has sent its own crews out alone to hunt storms. Bettes’ white vehicle is emblazoned with the phrase “tornado hunt” and the network’s logo.

It’s fair to ask- Is the Weather Channel chasing tornadoes or television ratings?

Weather Channel spokeswoman Shirley Powell said it was too too early to tell how the close call involving Mike Bettis and his storm chasing crew will affect the network’s tornado coverage, but it will be under review. “Tornadoes are violent and unpredictable, but covering them keeps the public at large informed and, as a result, safer,” she told the Associated Press.

I disagree. I believe weather forecasting has gotten to the point where people can be sufficiently warned about an approaching storm without  storm chasers personally verifying the potential destructiveness of the storm. That was most certainly the case with the National Weather Service warnings that preceded last Friday’s Oklahoma tornadoes. In this era of drone aircraft, is there any reason a human storm chaser should put themselves in harm’s way to chronicle a destructive storm, unless, that is, they have a hidden death wish? I know this may sound harsh to some, but that’s my belief based on my experience chasing storms.
Another sad part of this is the proliferation of so-called for-profit storm chasing enterprises over the past decade. It’s become a potentially profitable tourist industryhere too. It only guarantees that more people will/have unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way as they compete to get closer to storms that kill.
Harold1

Former Kansas City, Missouri Fire Department spokesman Harold Knabe.

When a good man goes, not everyone knows. So let me tell you about Harold Knabe. He was a good man.

Knabe died last Saturday in a North Kansas City hospital. He was 75-years-old and unknown to the latest generation of Kansas Citians.

For many of us though who worked in Kansas City’s news media, or were members of the audiences we served, Harold Knabe (pronounced Ka-knob-be) was known by just about everyone. He will be remembered for many things.

Knabe loved firefighting. He devoted 32 years of his life to a profession that was more a calling than a career to him. As spokesman for the Kansas City Missouri Fire Department, Knabe was one of the most trusted public servants the city ever knew. Just ask any reporter, videographer, photographer, or assignment editor who worked for KCTV, KMBC, WDAF, KSHB, the city’s radio stations, the Kansas City Star or Kansas City Times in the late 1970’s through the early 1990’s. If Knabe said it, it was accurate.

Harold Knabe worked for the KCMO Fire Department for 32 years before retiring in 1992.

Harold Knabe worked for the KCMO Fire Department for 32 years before retiring in 1992.

Whenever a major fire erupted in Kansas City, Knabe was on the scene, night or day, in searing heat and bone-chilling cold, to brief the news media. He told us what had unfolded, who was involved, how many were injured, who had died, survived and been saved.

Harold was known for his honesty, compassion, and a deep sense of humor. He had patience with young reporters, like me, when we were rookies and had much to learn in our early reporting careers.

That’s not to say Knabe wouldn’t let a reporter know if he felt they had been careless or callous, especially when it involved the fire department he served.

Case in point: Two years ago I interviewed Knabe when I was given the opportunity to return to Kansas City and work on a special report for KCTV and the Kansas City Star.

The report was on the 30th anniversary of the 1981 Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapse. It was the worst structural collapse in U.S. history. It claimed the lives of 114 people and badly injuring 200 others who where at a Friday night tea dance when the hotel’s skywalks suddenly fell into the crowded lobby below.

I covered the Hyatt skywalk tragedy for KCTV that warm July night and saw Harold Knabe work non-stop for 10 hours at the scene. He consoled survivors, gave news conferences every half hour, and updated the growing media pack from across the region and country with the latest information as the disaster’s death and injury toll rose higher.

Harold Knabe and wife Kari.

Harold Knabe and wife Kari.

Thirty years later, I asked Harold about that terrible night. Amidst the dying and dead, and heroic rescue efforts by firefighters, medics and other emergency personnel, Knabe confided in me that he only lost his temper once. He said it happened when one of the “national” reporters asked which firefighter was the biggest hero. You’ll have to click here to see Harold Knabe’s description of his response.

After the news special aired on KCTV in 2011, I received an e-mail from Harold’s wife Kari. She wrote:

“It really has meant so much to have you contact him (Harold) & stay in touch.  I have to also thank you for having him meet you at the station (KCTV) – I cannot begin to explain how much his spirits have been lifted by seeing his old friends & meeting new ones!  I know this experience has been tough on you, as well as on Harold, but I appreciate you recognizing his invaluable contribution during this tragedy & including him in this memorial special!”

Harold Knabe established several public fire safety programs in his role as public information officer for the KCMO Fire Department.

Harold Knabe established several public fire safety programs in his role as public information officer for the KCMO Fire Department.

Harold Knabe had an abiding love for his fellow firefighters. It’s the kind of love that comes from working in a profession where you know your colleagues would risk their life to save yours. Firefighting is a profession in which you would risk your life to save a colleague, or the life of someone else. It’s a brother and sisterhood defined by knowing, and being haunted by memories of fellow firefighting colleagues who died protecting the communities where they live and work.

Harold Knabe died on April 20, 2013 eight days after his 75th birthday.

Harold Knabe died on April 20, 2013, eight days after his 75th birthday.

As a reporter I rarely use the terms “hero” or “heroic” to describe the feats of others. Firefighters though do fall into the “hero” category for me.

What else do you call someone willing to rush into a burning building, to risk their life, to save the life of another, usually a complete stranger? I’m sure there were times when Harold Knabe would rather have been the one fighting a fire to save a life rather than telling the news media about it.

I saw the tears well up in Knabe’s eyes in late November of 1988.  Early that cold morning, Knabe was the first to tell the news media six KCMO firefighters, two captains, four firefighters, had been killed fighting an arson fire at a southeast side construction site.

When the firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze they didn’t know 22,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate used for road demolition was stored in sheds next to the fire scene. The firefighters died instantly when the first of the two sheds exploded. The explosion vaporized two fire department pumper trucks, emitting a shock wave so powerful it shattered thousands of nearby windows and knocked me out of bed at my home five miles away.

Harold knew many of the firefighters who died that chilly, grey autumn morning. Yet he pushed past his emotions, working all day long to update the news media and their audiences with the latest information about one of the worst firefighting tragedies in American history.

These events may explain why Harold Knabe helped establish several fire safety educational programs in Kansas City and had a significant role in establishing the Firefighters Memorial Fountain.

Harold Knabe, a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

Harold Knabe, a devoted husband, father and grandfather.

I remember shaking Harold’s hand as we parted ways following our KCTV interview two years ago. We hadn’t seen each other in 22 years.

I watched Harold walk slowly to his car that hot July afternoon, across the sun baked asphalt. I thought it might be the last time we’d see each other.

When people get older, thoughts like that cross minds more frequently. We have done the personal math and realize more years are behind us now, fewer years are ahead. Harold was 73.  He had been fighting health issues. I was 55.

Another thought crossed my mind that day; How blessed was I and so many others to have known Harold Knabe the firefighter. Mostly though, Harold Knabe was a dear friend.

A good man has gone, but won’t be forgotten.

John Rinkenbaugh also writes about Knabe’s death. 

The snow-covered view out my Andersen Hall window at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy

The snow-covered view out my Andersen Hall window at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photo: Barney McCoy

In Lincoln, Neb., the snow that pummeled this stretch of the Midwest yesterday has given way to sunshine.

UNL classes have resumed. Despite the usual weather related accidents, traffic has returned to near normal. Businesses are open. Life is good again for most of us.

Snowmageddon” was the term some used to describe the weather event dubbed “Q” by the Weather Channel.

To be sure, it was a significant snowfall, but not as bad as some meteorologists claimed it would be. We received about 6 inches of snow. Other parts of the region received up to 20 inches of snow.

Nor was the storm, as nasty locally as some gleamy-eyed TV news anchors and reporters made it sound on Wednesday and Thursday.

Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear much about the benefits of this storm; The badly needed moisture it brings farmers, ranchers, gardeners, and municipalities that have been locked in a serious drought for almost a year. The latest reports say more than 75 percent of Nebraska is in an “exceptional drought” which is worse than an “extreme drought.”

The insulated coating of snow that protects the seeds planted for the coming year from direct exposure to freezing conditions. A chance for corn farmers to have moist soils this spring to get their crops planted and off to a healthy start. That’s a good thing too.

We need these benefits of a big snow more right now than the temporary transportation inconveniences and ever present dangers associated with navigating snow-covered streets and roads.

Last season, Nebraska’s corn crop took a quarter billion dollar loss due to the drought.  Ranchers were forced to sell cattle because the drought dried up the grass they feed on. Cities like Lincoln are talking stricter water conservation measures and higher costs for water users. Other places worry there may not be enough water available at any price if the drought persists.

This moisture, from this snow, may help keep the drought-driven crop and livestock losses we had last year from happening this year.

The region still needs four to eight inches of new moisture to free us from the drought. Keep in mind that experts say it takes roughly a 10 inches of snow to equal an inch of moisture; More if the snow is powdery and dry, less if the snow is wet and heavy.

Let’s hope more moisture, in any form, arrives soon. Meanwhile, let us tolerate, even enjoy, what nature has delivered to our doorstep.

Manti Te'o Photo: US Presswire

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o (Photo: US Presswire)

It’s the dangerous side of sloppy journalism and poor independent fact checking.  Often, the size of the news organization has no bearing on who gets facts right, or in this case, gets it wrong. And some news organizations wonder why the public’s perception of their credibility keeps slipping.

It happened this week with the surprising revelation by Deadspin.com that Manti Te’o, Heisman Trophy finalist from Notre Dame University, was tied to a hoax. The hoax was that Te’o’s girlfriend died from leukemia. It was a false story amplified by news organizations who accepted fantasy as fact. The fake story played on the sympathetic emotions of millions of people.

Deadspin.com reported that it could find no record of the existence of Te’o’s alleged girlfriend Lennay Kekua.  Te’o claimed she had died Sept. 12 of complications from leukemia.

What’s unclear at this point is if Te’o was part of the hoax or victim of it.

Despite conflicting information in Manti Te'o's story, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick stands by him. Photo: US Presswire

Despite conflicting information in Manti Te’o’s story, Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick stands by him. (Photo: US Presswire)

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told the news media Wednesday that Te’o was a victim of the hoax. Swarbrick said Te’o only had phone or online conversations with Kekua but had never met her in person. There’s some confusion here, at least according to an article written by South Bend Tribune reporter Eric Hansen last October.

In the article, Hansen described Te’o’s first face-to-face meeting with Kekua  after the 2009 Notre Dame- USC football game.

Wrote Hansen:

“Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes. They could have just as easily brushed past each other and into separate sunsets. Te’o had plenty to preoccupy himself that November weekend in Palo Alto, Calif., back in 2009.” 

My question to Hansen: @hansenNDInsider Did you independently verify dead girlfriend claims when you wrote the Oct. 12 story?  I’ll let you know if I get an answer.

CBS also displayed this photo of the ficticious Kekua several times throughout the Morning Show report.

CBS also displayed this photo of the fictitious Kekua several times throughout the CBS This Morning show report. (From: Deadspin.com)

The myth wasn’t only perpetuated by the South Bend Tribune, the newspaper closest to the Notre Dame hoax story. The fake story was also given national life by Sports Illustrated, CBS, Fox Sports, ESPN, the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times.

As Deadspin reported: “Te’o’s story moved beyond the world of sports. On the day of the BCS championship game between Notre Dame and Alabama, CBS This Morning ran a three-minute story that featured a direct quote from Lennay Kekua:

“Babe, if anything happens to me, you promise that you’ll stay there and you’ll play and you’ll honor me through the way you play.””

See CBS report on Te’o

Today, CBS reporter Chip Reid appeared on CBS’ This Morning again with a story explaining the latest in the hoax story. “It turns out we were all duped,” said Reid. He didn’t explain if he had ever independently fact checked the story before originally reporting it.  (The report has since been pulled from the Internet by CBS.) 

Who knew what, when?
According to Swarbrick, Te’o told Notre Dame on Dec. 26th that he had recently learned Kekua never existed. Notre Dame sat on the news until after Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama in the Jan. 7th BCS National Championship Game. Swarbrick said the university did so to independently investigate Teo’s’ claims. Swarbrick added that a motive for the hoax was unclear.

What is clear is that, until the Deadspin report, news outlets didn’t fact check the story. If they had made a few phones calls the hoax would have been revealed immediately.  

The news media would have discovered:

  • Lennay Kekua was a fictitious name
  • She never dated Manti Te’o

According to the Deadspin article:

  • Lennay Kekua never existed
  • She was never in a car accident
  • She never battled leukemia and never died
  • She wasn’t a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when she and Te’o, according to the South Bend Tribune, “exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers that fateful weekend three seasons ago.”

A story as popular and widely reported as this, and no news organization flagged the inconsistencies in it until Deadspin reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey started asking questions.  Their answers, with solid attribution, told them the Lennay Kekua story was false.

What Burke and Dickey did was admirable. It was also basic, solid journalism. That’s what journalists are supposed to do every day. Burke and Dickey kept digging though. I suspect they’re still digging hard today to find out the motive for the hoax. For this Burke, Dickey and Deadspin.com deserve praise for excellence in journalism.

By the way- Wednesday night it appeared the South Bend Tribune had pulled Eric Hansen’s October 12th story about Manti Te’o from its online archives. It’s been restored now and you can see it here. 

  • Or you can read Hansen’s story which also appeared in the Irish Sports Report.
  • Or you can see the full version of his story that I captured below complete with my mark-ups raising questions about Hansen’s missing source attribution or information in conflict with Te’o’s present claim that he never met Lennay Kekua in person.

What Dreams May Come Manti Te'o Article

Bank-of-American-New-York-City-Branch-RainingOn the cusp of the 2008 financial meltdown I wrote about Merrill Lynch’s $50-billion sell-off to Bank of America, America’s second-largest bank. The move, according to the New York Times, was an attempt between the two companies to avert a “deepening financial crisis.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was wrong. So were thousands of Bank of America investors. The financial crisis had already arrived at Merrill Lynch.

Merrill’s fourth-quarter loss in 2008 was expected to be $9 billion. According to court papers, the losses were actually closer to $15.84 billion.  The financial hit forced Bank of America to get a second, $20 billion taxpayer bailout, and fueled a 93 percent drop in B of A’s share price over the following six months.

Crying foul

merrill-lynch-logoFast forward to September, 2012 when a federal court judge approved a $2.4 billion settlement Bank of America reached with disgruntled investors to resolve securities fraud litigation over the 2008 Merrill Lynch takeover.

According to Reuters, Bank of America investors claimed in court filings that Bank of America directors, including former Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis, misled shareholders about Merrill’s losses.

According to court documents, those Merrill Lynch losses peaked at $15.84 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008. It included $3.6 billion in bonuses Merrill was doling out to employees at the time.

More litigation

Additional legal settlements involving Bank of America’s representation of Merrill’s losses in 2008 are pending. There’s also a $1 billion suit filed by the Department of Justice last October alleging fraudulent loan practices.

Bank of America this week agreed to pay another $11.6 billion to settle Federal National Mortgage Association’s claims and to resolve problems over the collapse of distressed mortgages, most of them made by B of A’s acquisition of Countrywide Financial.

Today, Bank of America stock is selling ($11.63 a share) at a 65-percent discount over what it was worth before tanking in late 2008

I was leery enough in September of 2008 to express my doubts about the wisdom of the U.S. taxpayer funded bailout support for the so-called “too big to fail” banks.  I was also leery of the B of A purchase of Merrill Lynch. I wrote:

Under the latest deal the New York Times reported that Merrill’s so-called “thundering herd” of 17,000 brokers will be combined with Bank of America’s smaller group of wealth advisers and called Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.  After this latest announcement, Merrill Lynch’s new Wealth Management title could be the biggest stretch of the decade.

More than five years later, the biggest stretch of the decade continues.

Two cases against Bank of America

Bank of America Securities, Derivative and Employee Retirement Income Securities Act litigation, 09-02058, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

Nancy Rothbaum v. Kenneth D. Lewis, CA4307, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).

    

President Barack Obama's "fiscal cliff" update announcement on Dec. 31, 2012 was covered by every major cable and TV news operation with the exception of ABC News.

President Barack Obama’s “fiscal cliff” update announcement on Dec. 31, 2012 was covered by every major cable and TV news operation with the exception of ABC News.

NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox?  They were all there Monday providing live coverage when President Barack Obama delivered remarks saying it looked like an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff was “in sight.”  One exception: ABC News. The network was missing in action in covering the first tangible sign that an agreement might be hammered out between Democratic and Republican party leaders in the U.S. Senate. This has been a story that has dominated national news headlines.

“I realize,” said Mr. Obama, “that the last thing you want to hear on New Year’s Eve is another speech from me, but I do need to talk about the progress that’s being made in Congress today.” The president added that any deal is not yet complete and work continues.

President Barack Obama's "fiscal cliff" update announcement on Dec. 31, 2012 was covered by every major cable and TV news operation with the exception of ABC News.

Even Chicago super station WGN interrupted regular programming to keep viewers updated on the very real political drama. (Transcript of President Obama’s remarks)

Visibly absent: ABC News.

While every other TV and cable news operation devoted live, breaking coverage to the president’s remarks, ABC stuck with “The Chew,” a cooking show that’s part of the network’s regular daytime program schedule.

I tweeted several ABC News staffers to ask why the ntwork didn’t provide live coverage for the president’s remarks. Jonathan Karl, ABC News’ senior political correspondent tweeted this reply: “Not a lot of news … we would have taken the remarks if he was announcing a deal.”

 U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves the Senate Chamber early Tuesday. Photo: New York Times

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leaves the Senate Chamber early Tuesday. Photo: New York Times

Early Tuesday, the Senate approved a bipartisan agreement on a 89 to 8 vote. The House gave final approval Tuesday night to a bill blocking income tax hikes for about 99 percent of U.S. households, but allowed rates to rise for those with incomes above $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for couples.

Senate and House Republicans, in a notable move, were forced to abandon their party’s opposition to higher taxes.

So, what was happening at ABC on Monday when the other TV and cable news operations broke from regular programming to televise the president’s remarks? ABC audience members were treated to The Chew’s tour of soap star Julie Marie Berman’s (Lulu Spencer on General Hospital) home and her chicken pizza recipe. The Chew, an ABC program, was busy promoting another ABC program (General Hospital) at the time of Obama’s remarks.

ABC broadcast a segment   of The Chew featuring "General Hospital" soap opera star Julie Marie Berman's chicken pizza recipe while President Barack Obama told American's on the other TV networks that an agreement on the "fiscal cliff" budget negotiations was within sight.

ABC broadcast a segment of The Chew featuring “General Hospital” soap opera star Julie Marie Berman’s chicken pizza recipe while President Barack Obama told American’s on the other TV networks that an agreement on the “fiscal cliff” budget negotiations was within sight.

Not withstanding Karl’s reply, I wonder why ABC News stayed on the sidelines here? Who made the decision? Was ABC afraid of losing ad revenue by cutting away to Mr. Obama’s announcement? Why didn’t ABC run a crawl telling viewers they could watch the president’s remarks on the ABC News website?

If the president’s remarks on fiscal cliff developments didn’t warrant live coverage by ABC, what does? Isn’t staying on top of a major news story important enough to justify breaking in with live coverage.

Fair questions to ask. These are critical budget negotiations. They are a measure of how effectively elected members of Congress represent their constituents,,and special interests.  The negotiations also had a direct affect on the finances of all Americans. If no deal was reached, taxes would jump by $3,400 on average for American households, according to a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

The overall budget deal by members of Congress also impacted milk prices, unemployment benefits, and Medicare patient fees.  A political impasse, or going over the so-called “fiscal cliff” might also have re-triggered a national recession.

The Chicago Tribune put it this way:

“Unless an agreement is reached and approved by Congress by the start of New Year’s Day, more than $500 billion in 2013 tax increases will begin to take effect and $109 billion will be carved from defense and domestic programs

Though the tax hikes and budget cuts would be felt gradually, economists warn that if allowed to fully take hold, their combined impact — the so-called fiscal cliff — would rekindle a recession.”

In other words, this was a newsworthy and timely event. From the president’s remarks came important information regarding progress of the Senate negotiations that the American people should know about. A great strength of television is its ability to inform viewers about news events such as these when they take place. Many, perhaps most TV viewers depend on news operations to provide them with timely, breaking news as it’s happening, not after it’s happened.

In this case, news trumps entertainment. ABC should have covered the president’s press conference. I believe ABC let its viewers down by not providing live TV coverage of the president’s press conference.

Former President Harry Truman said “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” The implication of Truman’s words were that if you can’t cope, leave the work to someone who can.

I do wish that ABC had gotten out of “The Chew” kitchen to cover the breaking news on Monday.  If it can’t, perhaps ABC viewers will look elsewhere for a news operation that can cover breaking news live when the need arises.

1987 in New Mexico on vacation with Joanne. On this trip I realized Joanne was the woman I wanted to marry and spend my life with.

1987 in New Mexico on vacation with Joanne Lohr. Joanne was the one who snapped this pic. On this trip I realized Joanne was the woman I wanted to marry and spend my life with.

It didn’t start out this way. Our first Christmas/holiday greeting card was meant to be a simple way of keeping in touch with family and friends.  It was accompanied by a one page letter updating folks on our highlights and some low lights during the past year. Joanne and I started the greeting in 1987, the year I began dating my wife Joanne.

Ireland in 1988, the year I proposed to Joanne.

Ireland in 1988, the year I proposed to Joanne.

The next year I proposed to Joanne in Ireland. We were married in 1989.  We welcomed our first daughter Emily into this world in 1990, followed by our second daughter, Marian in 1994.

Since 1989, I use a camera timer to get our annual holiday shot. I’ve propped the camera on rocks, chairs, tables and railings, but mostly used a tripod to get the photos.

Time captures the changes in our family each year. Our babies became girls and are now young women. Joanne is still as beautiful inside and out as the first time I fell in love with her.

You can click on the photos below to see them in full-size renderings. We began with film and have been digital for several years now.

These past two years, our son-in-law Dan Glover, Emily’s husband, joined the annual greeting card tradition. We couldn’t dream of a better son-in-law. Pets are also a regular part of the McCoy holiday photo show.  Each photo brings back memories of the places we have lived, jobs we worked, schools we attended, friends we have known, family and friends we miss or have lost, heartache and joy.  What I remember best are the friends and family we have spent time with all these years. These memories are most enduring of all.

Joanne and I honeymooned on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in 1989.

Joanne and I honeymooned on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in 1989.

What began as a whimsy, has turned into a family tradition. I’m the grouchy (I just want it to be perfect and eventually resign myself to admitting it is what it is.) one who sets the camera shot and timer before racing to stand with the family as the photo is snapped.

To Joanne, Emily, Marian and Dan,

 I apologize for being a grouch. I hope it’s worth putting up with me so that we can keep the tradition alive.  One of these years I hope you girls will take over this tradition. 

And friends- We have two questions as we look back over the past 25 years.

  1. Where did the time go?
  2. How have we been so blessed by so many wonderful, wonderful friends and family?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays wherever you are.

Emily Louise McCoy brightened our holiday in 1990 in Beverly Hills, Michigan.

Emily Louise McCoy brightened our holiday in 1990 in Beverly Hills, Michigan.

1991 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1991 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1992 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1992 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1993 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1993 Beverly Hills, Michigan

1994, We moved to Haslett, Michigan and welcomed Marian McCoy into the world.

1994, We moved to Haslett, Michigan and welcomed Marian McCoy into the world.

1995 Haslett, Michigan

1995 Haslett, Michigan

1996 Haslett, Michigan. We lived in a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by forests, wetlands and Lake Lansing.

1996 Haslett, Michigan. We lived in a beautiful neighborhood surrounded by forests, wetlands and Lake Lansing.

 

1997 Haslett, Michigan

1997 Haslett, Michigan

1998 Haslett, Michigan- Our backyard.

1998 Haslett, Michigan

 

 

 

1999 Haslett, Michigan

1999 Haslett, Michigan

2000 Gahanna, Ohio with our first dog Magger.

2000 Gahanna, Ohio with our first dog Magger.

2001 Gahanna, Ohio

2001 Gahanna, Ohio

2002 Gahanna, Ohio with our new cat Mesa.

2002 Gahanna, Ohio with our new cat Mesa. Those are real snow flakes.

2003 Gahanna, Ohio. It's tricky getting pets to sit still for family photos.

2003 Gahanna, Ohio. It’s tricky getting pets to sit still for family photos. How do you like that lawn chair stuck in the tree behind us? 

2004 Gahanna, Ohio. Emily is 13 years old and taller than Joanne.

2004 Gahanna, Ohio. Emily is 13 years old and taller than Joanne.

2005 Gahanna, Ohio. Packing up and preparing to move to Nebraska.

2005 Gahanna, Ohio. Packing up and preparing to move to Nebraska.

2006 Lincoln, Nebraska where I began teaching journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Joanne began working as a Realtor at Woods Bros.   Realty.

2006 Lincoln, Nebraska where I began teaching journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Joanne began working as a Realtor at Woods Bros. Realty.

2007 Lincoln, Nebraska

2007 Lincoln, Nebraska

2008 Lincoln, Nebraska. I look so stern.

2008 Lincoln, Nebraska. I look so stern.

 

2009 Lincoln, Nebraska. Emily is a freshman in college. Marian is a freshman in high school.

2009 Lincoln, Nebraska. Emily is a freshman in college. Marian is a freshman in high school.

 

2012 Lincoln, Nebraska. We said farewell to beloved Magger this year.

2012 Lincoln, Nebraska. We said farewell to our beloved dog Magger this year.

 

 

2012, We welcomed Dan Glover, our new son-in-law into the family with pride and love. This was taken at Dan's parent's home near Baldwin, Kansas.

2012, Joanne, Marian and I live in Lincoln, Nebraska. Emily is wrapping up college at the University of Kansas. We welcomed Dan Glover, our new son-in-law into the family with pride and love. This was taken at Dan’s parent’s home near Baldwin, Kansas.

2012- Joanne and Barney are empty nesters in Lincoln with cat Mesa and new dog Makai. Marian is a freshman at KU from which Emily graduated last May with a Journalism degree. Son-in-law Dan is finishing his Pharmacy degree at KU.

2012- Joanne and Barney are empty nesters in Lincoln with cat Mesa and new dog Makai. Marian is a freshman at KU from which Emily graduated last May with a Journalism degree. Son-in-law Dan is finishing his Pharmacy degree at KU.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

timephotographers

Newtown, Conn. – Jordan Stofko, a seventh-grader at Newtown Middle School who also attended Sandy Hook Elementary, was interviewed with her father near her home on Friday, December 14, 2012. Photo: Danny Ghitis/Novus Select

As journalists we are frequently taught to ask questions first and decide later what to use.  It’s good advice I share with my students.

In today’s Internet fueled news world though the Sandy Hook massacre should give journalists something on which to reflect- Is it appropriate to interview children?

Admittedly, this is a difficult question for news organizations, news managers and journalists to ask in the midst of any breaking news story. The demand, both internally and from audiences, to know what’s happening immediately and from multiple sources has never been greater. Conversely, lost credibility from poor or questionable reporting to journalists and organizations for which they work has never struck faster. 

That’s why I believe it’s more important than ever to have ethical discussions about how reporting is handled before, during and after breaking news events. There should also be better transparency by news organizations in explaining to viewers, listeners and readers why they choose to cover major stories the way they do as they cover those stories. Not afterwards.

ethicsTime’s TV critic James Poniewozik had a recent article “Kids at Tragedies: Turn Off the Cameras” on this topic.

Writes Poniewozak-

“An 8-year-old kid is not a media-savvy spokesperson under the best circumstances. Under the worst circumstances talking to them live on camera, when they’re still processing a nightmare and are speaking words they can’t edit or take back—is unconscionable. This is true even with a parent’s permission, even if the kid is willing, even if he or she “seems fine.” You do not know how fine that kid is. No one knows how badly affected a child is moments after surviving a mass murder: not a psychologist, not a parent, certainly not the stressed-out reporter sticking out a microphone.”

AccuracyI would add the word “accuracy” to this discussion.

In tragic situations I covered as a reporter ( 9-11, Hyatt Regency skywalk collapse, post-war Balkans, refugees, drive-by shootings witnessed by kids, etc.) witness accounts and their accuracy may vary widely given the physical and psychological impact they have on witnesses,,and those claiming to be witnesses for the purposes of publicity when they are not.

I encourage news organizations to discuss the ethical implications of interviewing children before, during and after the reporting unfolds.

Here’s a great ethics decision making guide from the Poynter Institute’s Bob Steele. It recognizes that we all have different intuitive reactions to news events based on our own past personal experiences. It encourages discussion and reflection be involved in newsroom decision making, and that doing so is likely to result in better ethical decision making. The process isn’t perfect, nor do I think it can ever be when covering breaking news. I do believe it’s a far better ethical decision making process than no process at all.

Guidelines  
The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, as Poniewozik points out, also has outstanding guidelines for journalists interviewing children in tragedies: “Avoid interviewing children at the scene. They are very likely in shock and need comfort, not questioning… find a quiet place to talk away from the chaos of emergency personnel and other victims.” Above all: “Traumatized people often make poor decisions. Be prepared for adults or children to change their minds once the interview is complete. If this happens, don’t use the material.”

Good advice. What do you think? Can we all practice this?