WFPL Columns

Here is a complete list of all the WFPL columns I published from February 2013 to August 2014.

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Book reviews

Here are links to all the reviews I’ve written for the Courier-Journal since 2012.

  • Review of Mario Livio, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein – Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013) in the Courier-Journal, 13 September 2013.
  • Review of Alex Stone, Fooling Houdini, Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind. (New York: Harper, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 26 July 2013.
  • Review of Elena Passarello, Let Me Clear My Throat: Essays. (Louisville: Sarabande Books, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 19 April 2013.
  • Review of Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. (New York: Nation Books, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 8 March 2013.
  • Review of Al Smith, Kentucky Cured: Fifty Years in Kentucky Journalism. (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 4 January 2013.
  • Review of Hedrick Smith, Who Stole the American Dream? (New York: Random House, 2012), in the Courier-Journal, 18 January 2012.
  • Review of Gene Robinson, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage. (New York: Vintage, 2013) in the Courier-Journal, 19 October 2012.
  • Review of Tony Wagner, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. (New York: Scribner, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 7 September 2012.
  • Review of Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012) in the Courier-Journal, 29 June 2012.

A new gig at WFPL; conservatives & the CJ

I now have a freelance position as WFPL’s media critic. My first column about the lack of student perspectives in local media coverage has already been posted. Because I submit my writing for the WFPL staff to post instead of posting it myself, the gap between writing and posting is long (several days — an eternity in news time), which means I’m not able to quickly comment on Louisville news media events as they happen. For instance, the resignation of John David Dyche brought up a lot of issues about the definition of censorship, media dominance, and the obligations of local media.

From my perspective, it seems that many (but not all) conservative critics of the Courier-Journal are not upset that the newspaper is biased, but that it has a specifically liberal bias. These particular critics demand that the CJ publish more conservative columnists, even though it already carries George Will, Thomas Sowell, and Cal Thomas. They demand that the CJ stop publishing its own editorial opinions (something every newspaper around the United States does) and start publishing conservative editorial opinions. Nevermind that the CJ’s letters to the editor are routinely conservative; nevermind that the CJ routinely publishes conservative political cartoons. The idea is not just that bias must be eliminated, but that all liberal thought must be eliminated.

Having read Dyche’s rejected column, I’m not sure why the Courier refused to publish it. The public reasons given by Platt seem insufficient and inconsistent. That said, I’m also not sure why Dyche quit. He should have given his column to another local media outlet and then made a public stink about it until the CJ either apologized or severed their relationship. It hurt his case (and his cause) for Dyche to take his ball and go home.

Now imagine the same situation in reverse: suppose Thomas Frank wrote a scathing column critiquing the Wall Street Journal, the WSJ refused to publish it, and Thomas Frank stormed off in a huff. How would the conservative world react? “Too bad,” they would say. “It’s their newspaper and they have a right to control their content. If you don’t like it, start your own newspaper!”

And that’s exactly what I would say to John David Dyche and the conservatives of the Metro Louisville area: start your own newspaper. If you sincerely believe that the Courier-Journal is out of touch and out of tune with the mindset of area residents, then what an incredible opportunity this is for you to start your own print version of Fox News and attract all those angry former CJ subscribers. As Glenn Beck discovered, there’s gold in them thar hills!

Consolidation and conglomeration

Directly related to our recent discussions in Journalism 1 about consolidation/conglomeration and its impact on the news media:

Media Consolidation Infographic

Source: Frugal Dad.

To this I would add that here in Louisville, Clear Channel Radio runs seven different stations. Main Line Broadcasting runs five radio stations. WHAS-TV is owned by Belo; WLKY is owned by Hearst; WAVE is owned by Raycom; and both WDRB and WMYO are owned by Block Communications — which has an agreement to share programming with WBKI. None of the corporate parents are headquartered in Louisville.

For an example of how consolidation/conglomeration can lead to both better efficiency (and higher profitability) as well as decrease diversity, just take a look at these websites with identical format & design for different newspapers all owned by Gannett:

Did you know that DealChicken is a Gannett company? That explains why the CJ (online and print) has DealChicken ads everywhere. And did you know that Gannett is a partner in the MetroMix project, which runs lifestyle websites targeted towards the 21-to-34-year-old demographic in dozens of cities? That’s why you suddenly find yourself on MetroMix when searching the CJ site for concert listings or movie schedules.

Even LEO is no longer locally owned. It’s part of a national company called SouthComm which owns more than a dozen free weeklies, although you’d be hard-pressed to find evidence of the chain imposing anything on LEO. The websites for SouthComm’s various properties all have their own design & format (unlike Gannett’s), and their obsessively local focus probably keeps management from imposing any top-down marketing schemes.

Obviously it’s not possible to generalize about all corporate-owned media outlets. Without working at each one and observing the flow of leadership firsthand, it’s impossible to say if the owners are making content decisions or leaning on reporters who cross the corporate line. But it is safe to say that the primary concern for each of these organizations is and always will be the bottom line; the old Bingham “reputation for placing principle before profit” is long dead.

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