Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Lord Could Not Be Reached For Comment

Wolf Blitzer Gets A Dose of Religion from an Atheist

Tug McGraw once said "Ya gotta believe."

Well, not everybody, as Wolf Blitzer found out on CNN yesterday while chatting with a Moore tornado survivor.

Blitzer asked her: "You gotta thank The Lord, right?"
The response, in the nicest way: "I'm actually an atheist."

And she was quick to add: "I don't blame anybody for thanking the Lord."

Blitzer can say amen to that.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Same-Sex Donations Come to the Web

amfAR Makes Sure All Couples Can Reveal Their Charitable Side

Like other charities, amfAR, the AIDS research group, lists titles in a dropdown menu on the form for people making an online donation. But theirs has a twist: For the first time I saw the options "Mr. and Mr." and "Ms. and Ms."

I guess it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given that 11 states allow same-sex marriage, with a 12th, Minnesota, joining the roster in August. And given that amfAR's work obviously resonates with the gay population, such an option would appear to be a no-brainer.

Not so fast. I checked some other gay nonprofits to see where they're at. Lambda Legal doesn't have a dropdown menu, but it does have  a space to fill in a partner's name. At Gay Men's Health Crisis, no "Mr. and Mr.," but you can identify with such titles as "Admiral," "Cantor," "Madam," or "Bishop" (good luck with those), while the Human Rights Campaign just wants first and last names. Maybe that's just HRC's way of trying to guilt spouses into donating too.

Oklahoma City Station Shows Why Numbers Matter Following Tornado

KFOR Falls Victim to Running With Faulty Tornado Death Toll

Not sure if it was a question of wanting to be first, but KFOR-TV, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, was a little too jumpy today in wanting to revise the casualty count from the tornado that devastated Moore yesterday.

The station has actually been doing yeoman work over the last 24 hours, as evidenced by what I've seen on the live stream. But this morning, it's website said the death count had gone from 51 to 91, vaguely attributing that jump to the medical examiner's office.

Ordinarily, that should be enough to go on. However, others were not so quick. The Daily Oklahoman was sticking with 51, as did KOCO, the ABC affiliate. That turned out to be the right move, as the death toll was revised downward to 24.

How did that happen. As KFOR briefly explained on its website, officials were double-counting. Fair enough, if somewhat irresponsible on the part of authorities. But before the station reported that number, it should have dug a little deeper. Where did another 40 bodies emerge from? Reporters were continuously on the scene at Plaza Towers elementary school, the scene of the worst devastation. However, no one reported a steady stream of bodies being removed, even though it was apparent the effort there was one of recovery rather than rescue not long after the storm.

These are things that matter. It's of small comfort that not as many people perished in the storm. But it would be even more wrenching for people still looking for loved ones or trying to account for a relative's whereabouts to fear the worst when they hear the death toll take a big jump like that.

We saw this during Katrina and Sandy. It happened after the Boston Marathon bombings. Lots of information being bandied about, but not enough facts to back it up.

I've been there. I know how it is. It's the instinct of any reporter to want to be first. But it's so much more important to be right. It's troubling that in times of crisis, it's a lesson the media needs to keep learning over and over again.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Scott Turow: Shadow Chicago Bureau Chief for The New York Times

Best-Selling Legal Thriller Scribe Nails Down Two Stories in One Day for Gray Lady

Every newspaper relies more heavily on freelancers nowadays. Nature of the beast in the business nowadays, such as it is.

But not every newspaper is able to attract and pay best-selling authors to write for them. Thankfully, The New York Times is not every newspaper.

In today's edition, author-lawyer whirlwind Scott Turow appears not once, but twice. The first appearance is a book review of The Third Coast, which Turow describes as an "engrossing, wide-angled cultural history" of Chicago in the mid-20th century by Thomas Dyja.

Not to be outdone by himself, Turow then appears in the sports section, for an essay on why it was probably a good if not popular idea for Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls to not play during the playoffs and not risk coming back too soon from A.C.L. surgery. If that meant the Bulls would succumb to the Miami Heat in the playoffs--and they did--so be it for the longer-term payoff.

Turow, as you can surmise, is from Chicago. Sure, there are other qualified people who can write reviews and essays about all things Windy City. But they haven't written 10 books that have been translated into 20 languages and sold 25 million copies and spawned a few movies.

Nothing like a little star power to keep people from turning the pages so fast.