Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Journalism is dying

Journalism has never been easy. When I was an undergraduate student, I originally intended to get a double major in communication and political science. I reasoned that would give me the understanding necessary to effective on both sides of the political events curtain. But after taking a variety of journalism classes, I concluded that journalism wasn't for me because I wanted to share my opinion freely and journalism, as I had been taught, was issue neutral. So, I stuck with the minor and moved on.

Fast forward about twenty years and we now have a very different paradigm. There are very few "journalists" whose political preferences I am unable to ascertain by simply listening to them speak or reading their words. That, I would contend, is not how it should be.

When Walter Cronkite told a story, the viewer didn't know if he was happy to report it or disgusted. He always kept his personally feelings out of the work he did. Many of the contemporaries in American media don't even appear to try to do so. Their disdain for one issue or one person become palatable. They parade the scalps of political adversaries around like championship winning team might a trophy. Its disgusting and bad for journalism and bad for democracy.

These "journalists" claim they are just holding people accountable, but are they really? I don't think so. What they are doing is subjective and agenda seeking. Rather than direct their ire indiscriminately, they pick and choose whom to be critique and with how much vigor.

Take for example a local print reporter who seems hell bent on destroying any man she deems behind the times of her feminist ideology. Her stories regularly talk about issues she is clearly passionate about such abortion rights, equal pay for women and other such causes. She is drawn to the slightest hint of misogyny or psuedo-misogyny like a shark to drop of blood. Once she gets the scent, she is relentless. She will dig and dig until a story is created, even when one does not exist. And why? Certainly it is not to serve the public's interests.

Let's be clear, this happens on all sides of the political spectrum. I consume a lot of media from a variety of sources. I agree with some and disagree with others. My goal, as a news consumer, is not to agree, but instead to better understand not just what is being thought, but how and why. As I follow peddlers of opinion disguised as news, trends become clear, just as it clear that no "side" is immune.

You see, journalism is dying. As the readership and viewership continues to decline and unsustainable business model collapses under its own deteriorating weight, the powers that be in contemporary media are grasping for any straw, no matter how weak and no matter how foolhardy. The dramatic shift towards the subjectivity of the news product it delivers is the main entree of the menu entitled, "how to kill an otherwise noble profession."

There are a plethora of studies and reports that speak to the dire nature of media industry. Newsrooms are being cut in half or more on a regular basis. Media oligarchs are pushing harder and harder for anything that might save their dwindling empires. All the while, the American public is divided and distrusts. Surveys by Pew and Gallup, and many more, speak to the amazing level of distrust Americans have in the media, especially those in the center and the right of the ideological spectrum.

Regrettably, I don't believe a course correction is likely. Allowing so-called journalists to be simultaneously activists has let a genie out of a bottle with no intentions of ever going back in. Calls to objectivity would be met with revolt and claims of censorship or the defanging of the media. As Mr. Cronkite insightfully observed, "Objective journalism and the opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine." Amen.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

End the Presidential Monopoly

This will be short and to the point, but I gotta say it.

Iowa is nothing special. There is nothing uniquely American about New Hampshire. South Carolina is not a bellwether.

Every four years presidential politics seem to feed off these three states as piglets do to a sow's teet. Well, its time for the other 47 states in the country to finally say enough is enough. The presidential calendar must be reworked so that every state has a chance at being the darling of the presidential season now and again. Here is my proposal.

First, break the country into five regions. Each region would have 10 states (except Mid-Atlantic/Northeast which also would have DC) so that each region is of equal size. The regions would be:


  1. Alaska,

  2. California,

  3. Hawaii,

  4. Idaho,

  5. Montana,

  6. Nevada,

  7. Oregon,

  8. Utah,

  9. Washington, and

  10. Wyoming

North Central/Great Lakes

  1. Wisconsin

  2. Minnesota

  3. Michigan

  4. South Dakota

  5. North Dakota

  6. Iowa

  7. Indiana

  8. Illinois

  9. Ohio

  10. Pennsylvania

Mountain west/Southwest

  1. Colorado

  2. New Mexico

  3. Oklahoma

  4. Texas

  5. Kansas

  6. Arizona

  7. Arkansas

  8. Louisiana

  9. Nebraska

  10. Missouri


  1. Mississippi

  2. Tennessee

  3. Alabama

  4. North Carolina

  5. South Carolina

  6. Florida

  7. Kentucky

  8. Georgia

  9. Virginia

  10. West Virginia

  1. Massachusetts

  2. Maryland

  3. New Jersey

  4. New York

  5. Rhode Island

  6. Connecticut

  7. Delaware

  8. Maine

  9. Vermont

  10. New Hampshire

  11. District of Columbia
Now, by computer randomization order the regions one through five. Within each region use the same process for the individual states for numbers one through ten. To create the calendar for the primaries/caucuses, simply align region/state position with the round number. The rounds would be as follows:

  • Round 1 - Top states from each region, first Tuesday after first Monday of February

  • Round 2 - States 2-5 from regions 1-2, first Tuesday after first Monday of March

  • Round 3 - States 2-5 from regions 3-5, first Tuesday after first Monday of April

  • Round 4 - States 6-10(11) from region 1-2, first Tuesday after first Monday of May

  • Round 5 - States 6-10(11) from regions 3-5, first Tuesday after first Monday of June
There you have it. A completely impartial and fair way of nominating presidential candidates. Why is this so difficult?! Do you have any thoughts?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Compassion and Foregiveness

When I got word of the arrest of Idaho State Senator John McGee, I was elated. McGee and I have had a less than civil history, mostly due to his insistence on being a jerk to me without missing an opportunity. My elation was undeniable and my wife ate my lunch and pointed out that my reaction said more about my character than his. She was right and I was wrong.

As much I have personally disliked McGee, I am sorrowful that these events have occurred. No one deserves this and it really shouldn't be wished on anyone. I for one feel sorry for his wife and kids the most. However, I also feel bad for him. He may have some flaws, but we all do.

As a Christian, I desire what is best not what is worst. I have made many mistakes in my own life and I really wouldn't want to be dragged through the mud for them. McGee will get what is coming to him politically, that is just the way it goes. Still, I hope that some sort of healing can take place and perhaps everyone involved will be better for it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Future of the WAC

Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman reported today that the WAC would be adding Seattle University as another non-football playing member. To set the record straight, I believe that Karl Benson is a phenomenal commissioner. I think that he has done a great job for the WAC and shown his fighting spirit. With that said, the WAC is in big trouble, but its not really Benson's fault.

While the WAC was able secure a bowl tie-in with the H-Bowl for another year, this is really not anything to be too proud of. Yes, the H-Bowl is fun for those of us in Boise, but it isn't really a destination bowl. The recent H-Bowl games have been very competitive and exciting games, but there isn't any guarantee that'll continue. Point is, H-Bowl ain't gonna save the WAC.

With so few football playing schools in the WAC (post-2012) you have to start wonder about the viability of the conference from a football perspective. I have no doubt that it could continue to operate and have a degree of success as football-less conference, especially given the strength of Utah State and others in men's basketball. However, the role of the football-less western-US conference is being pretty well occupied by the Big West and West Coast Conferences.

Add to this the fact that LA Tech will continue to be even more pressured to move to a more regionally appropriate conference with the economic realities facing state budgets, including in Louisiana. The Sun Belt or Conference USA would be a much better fit and I don't think that is debatable.

I don't think it is unreasonable to foresee a future where the MWC poaches the last couple above average programs from WAC (namely USU and maybe San Jose State) and the reality starts to set in even more deeply. If that happens, it probably isn't unreasonable to see the remaining western schools (assuming that LA Tech has bailed, which they will) to merge with the Big West and form a super basketball conference.

Where does that leave the remaining football playing schools? Well, the U of I will be in a tough spot. The experiment in the Sun Belt a few years ago was a disaster and not going to be repeated. Vandal alums are very reluctant to return to the Big Sky, despite the fact it may be the best post-WAC alternative. NMSU and the Texas schools will likely find a new home someplace more regionally appropriate as well.

This is all speculation, but the fact is that the WAC, as it will be comprised in 2012, won't be viable or financially solvent for very long. Unless something else happens (like the MWC getting raided by a new PAC-16), there isn't much likelihood that the future will be as bright as the once bright past of the WAC.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Redistricting Recap

On Tuesday the Idaho Redistricting Commission assembled. I watched nearly the entirety of the festivities from home via Idaho Public TV streaming video and in the afternoon in-person at the Capitol. On Tuesday evening I also attended the public hearing, which was quite fascinating especially when juxtaposed with the public hearing in Caldwell the next evening.

The hearing in Boise was lightly attended. There were a few lobbyists in attendance and few other unrecognizable observers. Beyond that there was a handful of Democratic operative-types, including House Minority Caucus Chair, Brian Cronin. On the Republican side, there were a few as well, including former GOP Ada County Commissioner, Fred Tilman. However, beyond a couple of Ada County Democrats testifying and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, there really weren't any "partisans" there to speak. In fact, not a single partisan Republican spoke up.

Compare that with the event in Caldwell the following night where the GOP were out in force. They made many demands upon the Commission, including keeping districts in-place for current legislators, which by the way is totally against the law. While some people, including Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas (through a letter), requested that city districts be created, there was a sense that the GOP as a party did not support such a plan. More on the city versus county debate later.

Another interesting voice came from that of Boise Chamber VP Ray Stark. He advocated for Ada County have nine full districts within confines of the county. Not a bad idea if you live in Ada County (which I do). However, he did have a map, which I couldn't see, so maybe his "plan" isn't as good as the overall idea. That said, he also addressed the issue of Congressional reapportionment. He said that the Chamber supports simply moving the line in Ada County further west in order to pick up more population. This is where Ray and I disagree. The fact is that there is absolutely no reason to divide Ada County. While it has been done in the past, doing so again would, as I've stated before, simply be political maneuvering with the intent of minimizing the impact of Ada County (and the City of Boise) in any one Congressional District. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised that if Ada County is divided once again that it results in a lawsuit.

As for drawing maps, it was reported by Dan Popkey that GOP Commission Chairman Evan Frasure had done some doodling of his own and shared it on the Maptitude server. What he likely didn't know was that doing so attached your name to the shared plan, not just the name of the plan itself. As disclosure, I saw his map and saved a copy of it just in case, which turned out to important as you'll read in a sec. Popkey went on to report that Commish Frasure's snafu was unintentional (or so he says) and asked for it to be removed. Unfortunately for Commish Frasure, the cow was out of the barn. The map has been re-uploaded by another user and has been titled in such a way to let other users know who the original author was.

Taking a bit closer look at Commish Frasure's map, which had been derided by a couple of testifiers at the public hearing on Tuesday in Boise, you can understand why. There were literally over a dozen examples where Commish Frasure chose to cross county boundaries to connect legislative districts rather than try to complete the entire district within one county. Most egregious (from a Boise perspective) was the decision to take the Boise Highlands, Warms Springs Mesa, and Harris Ranch precincts into Boise COUNTY.

This gets me back to the debate of cities versus counties. While Ada County Deputy Clerk Phil McGrane pointed out on Tuesday in the public hearing the city boundaries move, the fact is that cities represent the ultimate, "community of interest." Maintaining communities of interest is supposed to be one of the highest priorities of the redistricting process, behind not dividing counties needlessly and most importantly having equal population. Taking part of the City of Boise and moving it into Boise County makes no sense, especially when it isn't necessary. Urban and suburban areas are unique and have very different cultures than the rural communities. That is why places like Caldwell, which according to the last Census was right around the 45,000 mark for population and also happens to be the target population for a legislative district, should be a district in and of itself.

There will be more to come, but the fireworks have started.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pay to Play Brought to You By the Tea Party

If you have a student-athlete in the Meridian School District, make sure you tell the next Tea Party Patriot you see, "THANK YOU!" Thank you, for forcing my family to pay $100 for my middle or high school student to participate in athletics. You see, thanks to the Tea Party and Austin Hill stridently opposing the recent school bond levy election, the District is being forced to adopt a Pay to Play scheme in order to maintain its school sports.

There is nothing more patriotic then telling the poor kid he can't play middle school football because his mom and/or dad can't afford to fork out the dough. After all, elitism and exclusivity is the American Way! Just think, if you have a family with four students between 6th and 12th grade and each of your students play a sport in the fall and in the spring, you'll be lucky enough to pay $800! That's a bargain compared to the $25 the levy would have cost!

Now, Austin Hill and the Tea Party Patriots, as great as they are, don't deserve all the credit! No way! Our wonderful Anti-Education Legislature definitely should be given a nice slap on the back for a job well done. Instead of taking advantage of numerous alternatives to raise revenue without raising taxes they knew, in their infinite wisdom, that the best solution was pass the buck. So again, THANK YOU!

Alright... I'm done being snarky. Seriously though, pay to play? Yeah, its come to that in Meridian. Its a shame.

Monday, June 6, 2011

MWC Logo Redesign and BSU's Real Goal

Today the Mountain West Conference revealed a redesign to it's logo. Apparently the new logo has earned plenty of criticism. I for one think it is okay. Not really an upgrade from the old one, but not a downgrade either. It is probably appropriate to have a new one considering the amount of change in membership the conference is going to experience in the next few years.

BSU President Bob Kustra seemed to be tickled to be finally realizing his goal of getting BSU into the MWC when asked for comments today. He kept saying it was his goal all along and he couldn't be happier. I don't think that is true. I think President Kustra could be much happier. While the MWC is an upgrade for BSU athletically and academically, it isn't where BSU hopes to live out the rest of its days. While BSU would likely be more enthusiastic about the future of the MWC if Utah, BYU, and TCU (in 2012) hadn't decided to bail the fact is that BSU never planned to stay forever.

With the MWC, BSU gets the benefit of better regional competition and a better perceived visibility. I actually think that as long as the MWC has the awful TV deal it has, BSU is going to have lost on that part. That said, the WAC will likely have to renegotiate its TV contract soon with the departure of BSU and then Nevada, Hawaii, and Fresno State (more on the future of the WAC in a future post). If Craig Thompson, MWC Commish, is smart, which he is, he'll try to his best get the MWC in the same sort of spot in the ESPN lineup as the very capable Commish Karl Benson did for the WAC. Some people are calling the MWC, WAC 2.0. They may be right, but WAC 1.0 was good for BSU and there is little doubt the new version will be any worse.

Now, as I've been saying the MWC or WAC 2.0, whatever you wanna call it is an upgrade, but its not the destination. It is like stopping in Prosser on your drive to Seattle from Boise. Yeah, it has lots of nice things to offer, but you wouldn't want to be stuck there. BSU wants to make it to Seattle as a conference member of the PAC 12 (16). Becoming a member of the PAC 12 is the real goal. Doing so achieves many things that BSU desires. It gives them more credibility than any success in the MWC could ever earn. Most importantly, it finally puts BSU as the indisputable leader of the State of Idaho's public post-secondary institutions. The Vandals will never be PAC 12 caliber. This would be the final step and it can't come soon enough to those of us BSU alums that had to grow up listening to our U of I neighbors and friends put down little BJC. If BSU gets invited to PAC 12, and at some point it will, BSU will not just be the little engine that could, but it'll become the little engine that did.