Blaring Bannon coverage begs question: What’s happened to journalism?


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BANNON TOPS HEADLINES BUT WHY?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, I want to take a look at a story that developed last week, but I want to look at it in a little different way today. The story has to do with a book entitled “Fire and Fury” written by Michael Wolff. If you remember, last Wednesday, there were excerpts released from this book in The Guardian, which pitted Steve Bannon against Donald Trump, Jr. against the president, himself.

The way I want to take a look at this story, Harry, is the fact that, last Wednesday, suddenly, tabloid journalism seemed to supersede the actual news of the day.  

DR. REEDER: I’m not really interested in getting into the internal squabbles between the fired Steve Bannon and the Trump administration and Bannon’s assertions and Trump’s responses because I think that’s part of the problem – how the news went to this, not as an item story, but as the blaring headlines. Entire cable news companies – these were cable news companies that had dismissed Steve Bannon as a right-wing bigot and now, all of a sudden, he is their patron saint because of the stories that he’s providing.

FREEDOM OF PRESS IS CRUCIAL BUT SO IS RESPONSIBILITY

What I want to really get to is this: We are living in a country in which, in the ordering of our freedom with a Constitution, there was the establishment of a Bill of Rights and the First Amendment, with its six affirmations, were crucial. And the result of those six affirmations and the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights was the protection of and the encouragement of the free exercise of religion – and, therefore, the ministry of the church, in general – because they knew a nation governed by law required morality.

You can’t have morality and the value of law without the acknowledgment of a law-giver and the state said, “We are not the law-givers. The law-giver is God, Himself, so we want the free practice of religion to establish a morality in this nation that allows us to function.”

Secondly was the free practice of the press. The notion was that there would be responsible journalism. There was the desire that out there would be journalistic ethics and journalists who took their vocations seriously and that their desire was to get the news and an analysis of the news before the people.

Now, the ethic of journalism was that you report the news on one page and you do analysis on the other. Well, we are at a point now where the journalism that you would have seen as you checked out of the grocery store counter, which was the tabloid journalism of freakish news, has now become mainstream journalism and this becomes a specimen of that for examination.

WHAT ABOUT REAL STORIES?

Here, we are, a new year has just begun, a significant event is taking place, North and South Korea are actually having talks. Now, I don’t know what’s going to take place in the conversation, but that’s newsworthy. Also, this country just passed a sweeping tax reform bill and there is still a discussion: Is this helpful to everyone, is it not helpful, what is this going to do for our nation and for the working class of our nation? That kind of reporting needs to be done.

And, by the way, let’s go beyond that, Tom: There’s a gigantic story that’s taking place, even at the loss of life right now in Iran, where there are these Iranian protests for freedom that’s taking place very similar to what happened in 2008 and 2009. Will we respond in the same way in which we just kind of dismissed it and did not support this grass-roots movement looking for freedom and democracy?

And, by the way, I’m not talking about nation-building – I’m talking about just affirming. Will our country speak words of support as happened in Europe years ago under Ronald Reagan when these movements took place?

Tom, there are all kinds of stories that are out there: the need for a comprehensive infrastructure program, domestically – our roads, our bridges, our highways – all of those things need to be addressed. That’s what journalism ought to be doing in a responsible use of its protected freedom and, instead, we’ve got tabloid journalism. Again, I feel like I’m standing next to the counter checking out at the grocery store and over here is Variety with some grotesque story and that’s exactly what is taking place in the newspapers, in the blogosphere, and on cable news and absolutely dominating the broadcast news – or what’s called the “mainstream broadcast news” – in our country.

WHERE HAS JOURNALISM GONE?

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, who’s winning the battle, though? We see, The New York Times, they’re losing so much money now, they’re actually having to lease out office space in The New York Times building.

DR. REEDER: What I would hope is that, newspaper-wise – and you would hope in terms of cable news and you would hope in terms of broadcast news – that someone would say, “You know what? We are not going to make the news. We don’t see ourselves as part of the news. We are actually going to report the news and here is another section that we are going to provide editorials from our news agency and op-ed opposition editorials to our news agency, but we’re going to separate those two and over here is reliable news reporting.”

The Jack Webb approach to journalism – just the facts, ma’am – if, somehow, we could have those who would just say, “Here is the news. We are going to report the news.”

Honestly, the closest thing I see to news reporting is one program on television right now and that’s The Special Report Program and, even that, I can’t say is really the prototype of what I believe ought to be present and what we desperately need in terms of journalism, journalistic ethics and some journalistic endeavor in print, digital and broadcast to say, “Here is the news. Yes, we have an editorial department, but here is the news.”

I know every reporter has a world and life view and a bent, but the ability to exercise discipline and say, “Here is what happened. Here’s who did it. Here’s what happened. Here’s what you need to think through. And, by the way, we have an editorial on this that’s coming up in the next program but here is what actually happened.” I don’t know of anyone doing it.

To answer your question, Tom, I do believe there’s a market for it. I believe that people would respond to it – that kind of clear communication – if it could be done.

TOMORROW’S THOUGHTS ON CHARITY DONATIONS

TOM LAMPRECT: Harry, we are out of time for today. Tomorrow, I want to look at a story out of The Free Beacon. The National Endowment for the Humanities has handed out, just last month, nearly $13 million for 253 different projects.

DR. REEDER: Now, Tom, this is going to be an interesting story that we’re going to do. Like today’s story, we may come at it differently than everybody else tomorrow and, let me say it this way, I am going to make a proposal tomorrow that my mother would be very proud of me. You will find out what that is and why I would say that tomorrow.

DON’T FORGET THE GOOD NEWS

Tom, may I end up by saying can I tell you one of the great privileges I have as a pastor is I get to report the news – it’s called “The Good News.” It’s called the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I can get up on a mountain and proclaim good news.

We who are in our sin helpless and hopeless, there is a God who loves us, who sent His Son and, even though His wrath is declared against those who would contradict Him in sin, His love has been displayed to save sinners through his son, Jesus Christ.

And you can come to Him no longer helpless – the Holy Spirit can give you the power to come to Christ and serve Him. No longer hopeless, the righteousness of Christ can surround you and the blood of Jesus can wash away your sins and I want to report that news today.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin. Jessica is editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News. Jessica has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

7 hours ago

VIDEO: Prisons could be built with COVID-19 funds, Shelby endorses Katie Britt for Senate, Brooks battles with Swalwell as a new poll shows big lead and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Will Alabama really use COVID-19 relief funds to build prisons?

— Does Katie Britt’s entering of the U.S. Senate race shake things up, or has U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) already won this race?

— Can U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) keep the more radical members of the Democratic Party at bay?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by former U.S. Attorney Jay Town to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who want to use the illegally acquired tax returns of the uber-wealthy to push for higher taxes. He argues the released returns show that we should implement a flat tax and do away with all deductions.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

10 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

12 hours ago

State Rep. Pringle pushes to ban critical race theory in public schools — ‘Woke culture indoctrination,’ ‘Needs to be stopped in its tracks’

Last week, Florida’s Board of Education banned so-called “critical race theory” from its public schools, and it is a move State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) hopes to follow in Alabama.

Critical race theory, a belief that racism is ingrained in some of America’s sacred institutions, is widely panned by critics because it distorts and weaponizes history for political gain.

Friday, Pringle discussed his prefiled bill for the Alabama Legislature’s 2022 regular session to prohibit critical race theory from being taught in Alabama’s public schools.

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“It’s simply a bill that says in public education, you can’t teach or indoctrinate our children with critical race theory,” he said. “People are waking up all around the nation to how bad this stuff is. I mean, this is woke cancel culture gone completely amuck. They want to completely disregard our 14th and 15th Amendment rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. If you don’t agree with them — here’s what’s crazy: They want to send you to a reeducation camp. Think about that, a reeducation camp. Don’t they do that in China, Russia and North Korea?  That’s how bad this stuff is. Either you agree with them or you have to be sent off to a reeducation camp.”

“This is just indoctrination — the woke culture indoctrination of our children,” Pringle continued. “That’s all it is and it needs to be stopped in its tracks. I mean, our children need to learn history and we ought to open a frank discussion about history — the good, the bad. But this is not about good or bad. This is teaching our children that our nation is a bad nation, is an evil nation and is not the great country that we live in. We are the safest, freest people in the world and that’s what our children need to learn.”

“Do we have problems? Yeah,” he added. “Have we done bad things? Yeah. But we’re still the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

According to the Mobile County Republican lawmaker, the response to the effort thus far has been positive and supportive.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

15 hours ago

Why Sylacauga marble is known around the world

If you’ve ever visited the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and stared up at the translucent marble ceiling, you’ve witnessed a piece of Alabama history. The ceiling is made of white marble mined in Talladega County’s Sylacauga (appropriately known as the Marble City).

In addition to lending its natural treasure to some of the nation’s most notable buildings, Sylacauga also holds the title for having the longest deposit of marble in the world. The bed of stone runs 32 miles long, a mile and a half wide, and more than 600 feet deep. The marble found in this quarry is especially desirable for two key characteristics: its purity and its durability. When paired together, these distinct qualities make Alabama marble some of the most desired in the world for large-scale buildings and monuments, as well as homes and sculptures.

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The History of Alabama Marble

sylacauga marble

The Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Marble is formed when limestone is subjected to extreme pressure and heat. In Sylacauga, the conditions are perfect for the formation of metamorphic marble. Sylacauga’s massive deposit was first discovered by Native Americans, but it wasn’t quarried until 1834, 20 years after army surgeon Dr. Edward Gantt stumbled upon the vein while passing through with General Andrew Jackson’s army.

In the years that followed Gantt’s discovery, Sylacauga’s marble business thrived. More quarries popped up, mining the marble for everything from funerary monuments to building projects to sculptures. By the 1960s, the use of the quarried marble shifted toward the utilitarian. Rather than being mined in huge chunks for building material, the marble was being ground down for use in products like cosmetics, diapers, magazine paper, fertilizer, fiberglass, toothpaste, and chewing gum. In 1969, marble was named Alabama’s state rock.

A Timeless Treasure

Sylacauga Quarry (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

Today the charge for Alabama marble is being led by the Swindal family, who own Alabama Marble Mineral & Mining Co. (AM3). AM3’s 50-acre quarry in Sylacauga is the world’s only supplier and leading distributor of Alabama marble. Owner Roy Swindal’s goal is to reintroduce the world to Alabama marble, once again marketing it as a prized material for both commercial and consumer construction. According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History, around 30 million tons of marble have been pulled from the ground in Sylacauga since 1900. The Swindals hope to add to that number by continuing and improving upon the state’s tradition for many years to come.

Marble Mania

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Sculptor Enzo Torcoletti at the Sylacauga Marble Festival (Sylacauga Marble Festival/Facebook)

It’s only fitting that a town built on marble pay tribute to the stone that brought its success. For the past 13 years, the city has celebrated its marble mining heritage with the 12-day Magic of Marble Festival. The festival, typically held in April, features several activities and events that are all free and fun for the whole family. Festival participants can take a tour of operational quarries and visit the Gantts/IMERYS Observation Point that overlooks the town’s historic first quarry. The creative side of marble is put on display at Blue Bell Park, where 25 sculptors create original pieces made entirely of marble. On the final day of the festival, the finished pieces are displayed and sold at nearby B.B. Comer Library. Other activities include a 5K run and a scavenger hunt.

If you can’t wait for next year’s festival and you want to see Alabama’s famous white marble in action now, there are several locations around the state to see it put to good use. In Birmingham, try the John Hand Building, Wells Fargo headquarters, City Federal building, or the Chamber of Commerce. If you’re in Montgomery, don’t miss the “Head of Christ” sculpture at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. It was created by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti, who also happens to be the artist behind Birmingham’s Vulcan.

(Courtesy of SoulGrown)

16 hours ago

The economics of paying ransom

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the hacker group DarkSide disrupted gasoline supplies across the Southeast. The company caused a stir by paying a 75 Bitcoin ransom to DarkSide. America historically has been opposed to paying evildoers, as reflected in the slogan, “Millions for defense, but not one cent in tribute,” and President Jefferson sending the Navy and Marines to fight the Barbary Pirates.

Ransomware raises many economic issues. A first question is, do hackers ever give the data back if paid? DarkSide provided Colonial Pipeline a key to decrypt their data. According to Proofpoint, this is the norm: 70% of ransom payers got their data back, 20% never got their data back and 10% received a second ransom demand.

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From an economic perspective, this is not surprising. About two dozen groups, identifying themselves by name and known to insurance companies, carry out most of the sophisticated attacks. Insurers would never recommend payment in the future to a group which has reneged. The hackers must deliver as promised to make money.

Some have suggested making payment of ransom for cyberattacks illegal. If no one ever paid ransom, the hackers could not make money. Refusing to pay ransom though faces two significant economic challenges.

The first is time consistency. Kidnapping illustrates this concept. Before an event, the incentive exists to say, “We will never pay ransom.” If the bad guys believe this, they will never invest the time, effort and expense to stage a kidnapping. Once they hold hostages, however, our incentive changes; negotiating just this one time now makes sense. Our policy to never pay ransom is not credible.

Collective action poses the second challenge. Businesses collectively have an interest in not rewarding cybercrime, yet individual businesses suffer these attacks. A business which does not pay ransom benefits other businesses, creating the challenge. Why should Continental Pipeline suffer losses to make other businesses less likely to be attacked?

Why do businesses pay ransom? Reports mention several factors. A business may face a closure of unknown length and cost. Customers’ personal information will be sold if ransom is not paid, leading to fines and bad publicity. And the hackers might sell proprietary information to competitors.

Good economists know better than to second guess business managers’ decisions. Decisions to pay ransom often involve the business’ executives, its insurance carrier and tech security experts. They know the options and likely costs and should make a good decision, despite the pressure of a crisis.

Insurance companies and government regulations reduce organizations’ vulnerability to hackers, which is good. But what about channeling President Jefferson and going after the hackers? Most of the hacker groups operate in Russia, which provides Safe Haven as long as the hackers do not target Russian companies. Some law enforcement options may exist. Federal prosecutors apparently recovered most of the Bitcoins paid to DarkSide.

Crime is a very costly way to transfer wealth. Stolen merchandise typically sells for one-third (or less) of market value. A criminal might have to steal thousands in property to net $1,000. Ransomware appears much more wasteful than traditional theft. Consider just the value of the time Americans spent searching for gas during the disruption. Remember then that the ransom was about $4.4 million.

Cybercrime makes us poorer. The hackers and defenders at tech security companies are highly skilled computer programmers. But instead of making new apps or games, they are hacking or defending existing computer systems. Add to this the service disruption during cyberattacks, the reduced use of technology for fear of being hacked and the time spent on security training. The costs may be $1 trillion annually, or one percent of global GDP.

We must guard here against comparing the real world to an imagined utopia. We cannot costlessly protect our property from thieves or our computers from malware, or make people no longer willing to steal from others. Economics teaches that there are no perfect solutions in life, only tradeoffs. Vigilance, antivirus programs and backup are the tradeoffs we face with cybercrime.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.