Rumors crossing into journalism

The internet can serve as a vast gossip network, a way to spread rumors and falsehoods.  That’s bad in itself, but especially when the falsehoods get taken up by the ostensibly legitimate press.  And people and their reputations can get hurt in the process.  That’s what happened to South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.  Kathleen Parker tells the story:

The rumor — that Haley was about to be indicted for tax fraud — was so delicious that other bloggers, tweeters and even some mainstream media outlets felt compelled to repeat it.

Except that it wasn’t true. Not even a little bit. Some twit apparently thought it would be fun to start a rumor and see what happened next. . . .

The New York Times tracked the path of the Haley/tax rumor to show how quickly it traveled from a small spark in the fevered brain of a political enemy into a bonfire of inanity. It began with a blog item, then was tweeted by the Hill, a Washington political newspaper, and reported in a short article by the Daily Beast.

All of this happened March 29 between 12:52 p.m., when the blog post went online, and 1:12 p.m., when a reporter for USA Today decided to call Haley’s office and actually find out if the story was true. Give that reporter a raise! But the rumor was retweeted at 1:14 by a Washington Post reporter and later picked up by online outlets Daily Kos and the Daily Caller. By 3:29, the Drudge Report linked to the Daily Caller article featuring the headline: “Report: DOJ may indict SC Gov. Nikki Haley for tax fraud.”

The next morning, The State, South Carolina’s largest newspaper, had a front-page story. All in a day’s whisper.

What is abominably clear is that this sort of thing can happen to anyone at any time. And much worse things can be said that can’t easily be disproved. Haley extinguished this fire by releasing a letter from the Internal Revenue Service stating that there was no investigation.

via Whispering campaigns can take flight in new media – The Washington Post.

E-books are increasing reading

E-books and e-readers are increasing the amount of reading that is going on.  People who get a Kindle are reading more than they used to, including reading books that aren’t electronic.

A fifth of American adults have read an electronic version of a book in the last year, a trend that is fueling a renewed love of reading, according to a new survey.

The portion of e-book readers among all American adults has increased to 21 percent from 17 percent between December and February, due in large part to a boom in tablet and e-reader sales this past holiday season.

All those devices are turning some consumers into super readers, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. E-book readers plowed through an average of 24 titles in the past year, compared with an average of 15 for readers of physical books.

“Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers . . . They are avid readers of books in all formats,” said Lee Rainie, director of research at Pew.

Curiously, e-reading somehow sparks a love of books in any format. Even as e-readers are downloading books on computers, tablets and smartphones, they are also checking out more books at libraries and buying more at bookstores and online. About nine in 10 e-book readers said they have also read printed books in the past year, Pew reported in its survey of about 3,000 people 16 and older.

via Survey finds e-readers are spurring consumers of books in all formats – The Washington Post.

I find that happening with me.  I read a lot, of course, as a literature teacher and someone who wants to keep up with things.  But ever since my wife gave me a Kindle–which as an old-school print guy I was skeptical of at first– I find myself reading much more for fun (bringing back pleasures that got me into the literature profession in the first place).  I can crank up the type-size so that I can read on the treadmill (which re-enforces that good habit I’m trying to cultivate) and instead of aimless surfing on the computer or watching television, I am now reading novels. Also books don’t cost as much when you download them, further liberating my reading impulses.

What I’m enjoying is not novels of ambitious literary merit–that’s more like work–but books that give me an interesting imaginative experience.  They have to be well-written with a certain measure of complexity, otherwise they can’t hold my attention, so genre fiction and bestseller fare doesn’t always do it for me.  But I’ve found some gems that I think I’ll be blogging about.

By the way, with my Kindle I’ve signed up for Amazon Prime, giving me the ability to “check out” books from Amazon’s virtual library for free.  Unfortunately, the pickings seem pretty slim.  I did find a couple of excellent reads:  Moneyball and Hunger Games.   (More on the latter later.)  If anyone has found other good books in that library–ones that meet my criteria–I’d be glad to learn about them.

Anyway, if you have broken down and bought an e-reader, has this “kindled” your reading?

Holy Week radio

The talk radio show Issues, Etc., has a great line-up for Holy Week.  This would be a good time to check it out and to see what the big deal is about that program.  It airs live from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Central Time and can be heard on the web, as well as a number of radio stations across the country.  (Go to the website for a list of stations that carry it.)  The daily programs are archived on the website, so you can listen to them at your leisure.  (And check out the iPhone and Android apps, the latter of which is a creation of Michael O’Connor, who goes to our church.)

Here are the topics and guests for each day of Holy Week:

Monday, April 2–The Events of Holy Week.  Dr. Paul Maier of Western Michigan University

Tuesday, April 3–The Last Supper According to Luke’s Gospel.  Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary

Wednesday, April 4–The Last Words of Jesus from the Cross.  Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran-Hacienda Heights, CA

Thursday, April 5–The Passion of Christ.  Dr. Norman Nagel of Concordia Seminary

Friday, April 6–The Hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”  Pr. Will Weedon of St. Paul Lutheran-Hamel, IL

Saturday, April 7–Luther on the Passion of Christ.  Pr. Paul McCain of Concordia Publishing House

via Steadfast Lutherans » Issues Etc. — Talk Radio for Holy Week.

For those of you who are fans, what would you say is so special about Issues, Etc.?  What would you say to convince someone–say, who is not a Lutheran–to tune in?

Rush Limbaugh goes too far

Radio talker Rush Limbaugh has his schtick, but when he targeted a college student who had been agitating for free contraception–calling her a “slut” and a prostitute and telling her to post her sex videos on the internet–he surely crossed a line.  Nine sponsors have cancelled advertising on his show.  Conservative candidates and politicians are distancing themselves from him.  He has since apologized, but the fallout remains.

I’ve heard it said that Rush’s obnoxious behavior towards women may drive them away from conservatism and Republican candidates, thus contributing to the re-election of Barack Obama.

Rush has certainly made conservatism more popular among the masses, but has he become a net liability?

Limbaugh says apology to Georgetown student was sincere, jokes about sponsors abandoning him – The Washington Post.

 

UPDATE:  Now 27 of his advertisers have pulled out!

Issues, Etc., returns to KFUO

The saga of Issues, Etc., after much drama, is moving to a happy resolution.  The confessional Lutheran radio show  was booted from the LCMS-owned radio station KFUO for its uncompromising theological stands, sparking an uproar that, arguably, contributed to the election of new, more conservative leadership in the church body.  After being killed off, Issues, Etc., hosted by Todd Wilkens and produced by Jeff Schwarz, rose from the dead on the Internet, raising their own money and purchasing some time from another St. Louis station.

But now the program is coming back in triumph to KFUO AM.  (Though the Missouri Synod sold the classical FM station, it still owns the AM facilities.)  But the program will retain its internet presence, its own funding, and its independence.  Paul McCain tells the tale:

It was, to say the least, a horrendously bad decision when Issues, Etc. was removed from KFUO AM. Issues was, by far, the most popular show on KFUO and the only theological programming The LCMS was producing of this depth and substance.

After that most unhappy incident, Issues Etc. went on to establish itself as a strong, independent voice for confessing Lutheranism. I officially learned today that they are returning on March 12 to KFUO AM in syndication which will allow them to retain total control over their content, while giving the St. Louis and KFUO AM listening audience access to two hours of programming, Monday to Friday.

This is great news! Here is the press release.

“Issues, Etc.”, a radio talk show produced by Lutheran Public Radio and hosted by Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod Pastor Todd Wilken, will begin broadcasting live Monday, March 12 from 3-5 p.m. CST weekdays on KFUO, 850 AM in St. Louis. “Issues, Etc.” has been broadcasting on KSIV, Bott Radio Network in St. Louis since June 30, 2008. KFUO is owned and operated by the LCMS. The popular radio show aired for more than 15 years on KFUO. However, the LCMS cancelled the program on March 18, 2008.

“By purchasing airtime on KFUO instead of KSIV, we will be able to offer ten hours of live programming each week to St. Louis area listeners instead of five hours of programming. KFUO also provides a stronger signal for our listeners in southern Illinois,” said Jeff Schwarz, general manager of LPR.

“We will not become employees of KFUO or the LCMS,” said Pastor Todd Wilken, host of Issues, Etc. “Lutheran Public Radio and KFUO are totally separate entities. When listeners donate to KFUO, they won’t be supporting LPR and vice versa. It is vitally important for us to have complete editorial control and financial independence from the LCMS.”

via The Boys are Back in Town – Issues, Etc. Returns to KFUO AM Saint Louis | CyberBrethren – A Lutheran Blog.

Oklahoma and the “conservative life”

Last Thursday the Washington Post had a big feature article–on the front page, no less–about Washington, Oklahoma, which is just down the road from where my wife’s father and brother live.  The article was focusing on Oklahoma as a Super Tuesday state and as one of the most consistently Republican states in the union, voting for George W. Bush at a rate of 65.6% and for John McCain at the exact same rate of 65.6%.   The little town of Washington, population 600, was targeted, I guess because it has the same name as our nation’s capital, and it was presented as exemplifying “the conservative life,” whatever that is.

The stereotypes and condescension abound, presenting the folks of Washington as an exotic tribe, as in a National Geographic special.  But the reporter, Eli Saslow, has a way with description, and his details made me nostalgic for my own Oklahoma roots growing up:

What you see is Sid’s Easy Shop opening downtown each morning at 6, where Sid will sell you gas, rent you a movie, make you a new set of keys or bring your soda to one of the classic red booths preserved from the 1950s. The post office, its roof painted red and white to reflect the stripes of the American flag, opens for business a few hours later. Next door to that, Casey operates her coffee shop with the help of her husband and five kids, who take turns working the register, Yes Sir and Yes Ma’am, and sell T-shirts imprinted with the phrase “Make God Famous.”

What you see is a parade of several dozen well-wishers lining the street and stretching out their hands to the bus every time one of the varsity high school teams leaves to play a road game, and a few hundred people gathering for community workdays to fix up the Little League field so Washington doesn’t waste money on parks and rec. Almost all of the houses in town are single-story ranchers, and more than 70 percent belong to married couples — few Hispanic, fewer black, none Muslim and none openly gay.

What you see are calves dropping in the spring, coyotes circling at night, shooting stars, roaring tornados and thick flocks of birds migrating across skies that round over the horizon.

And yet, the article itself has details that show the folks of Washington are more complicated than he lets on.  The town has no diversity, with few Hispanics and Blacks and no Muslims, the article complains, but it turns out that the rancher being interviewed is Chickasaw, whose ancestors came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  I suspect the same could be said for many of the other Washingtonians.   So Native Americans don’t count in the diversity requirements?

It also turns out that the rancher, described riding his pickup to check on the cattle, went to college, worked in St. Louis, and now telecommutes with a financial company.  The preacher in the story with the alarmingly conservative congregation turns out to be from Chicago.

As for Oklahoma being so Republican, the fact is, just a few decades ago, Oklahoma was purely Democratic.  When I was growing up, there was not even a Republican party organization in the county.   All local elections were decided in the Democratic primary.  I don’t think I ever saw  a Republican, except on TV, until my cousin married one.  (There were some in the family who thought such a mixed marriage would never work, and we were all surprised to learn what a nice guy he was.) Back in the 1960s, Oklahoma was famous for its “Yellow Dog Democrats,” meaning that people would vote for a yellow dog if he was a Democrat.

The people condescended to in this article used to be the base of the Democratic party.  Judging from other liberal rhetoric, I thought “the conservative life” was represented by “the 1%,” the rich, the corporate oligarchs.   The people presented as primitive and retrograde in this article are closer to poor.  I thought liberals championed the poor.  Why are they making fun of them?

The Democratic party would do well to ponder why states that were once solidly in their pocket have gone Republican.  The hints are in the article. The people here are zealously against abortion.  They worry about moral values.  Their families are central to everything they do.  They know about family breakups, their teenagers using crystal meth, and crime problems from bitter experience, and they hate the breakdown in social order that these represent and that have reached even Washington, Oklahoma.  But they are proud to be Americans, volunteer to fight their country’s wars, are fiercely independent, and are ardent in their faith.  There was a time when you could be a Democrat, a liberal even, and hold to all of this.

Why has Washington, Oklahoma, become so strange, so alien, regarded as both scary and comical, to today’s liberal establishment?

via To residents of another Washington, their cherished values are under assault – The Washington Post.


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