July 10th, 2016
Newspaper RIP

Just how powerful is social media?   Today it is the most powerful force in communications, and newspapers and other traditional media outlets are learning that hard lesson every day.

The Kansas City Star, which used to dominate and influence millions of people in the Midwest, was forced to humble itself and completely remove a guest column by a woman first on its Web site and then in print on Saturday that suggested women could take any steps to avoid being raped.

In the column posted on the Star’s Web site titled “Women can take action to prevent rapes,” the author, a female teacher with more than 25 years experience, suggested that women should avoid getting so drunk that they don’t know what is happening.

“I empathize with women who have been raped,” wrote the author.  “I would also like to remind men that ‘no means no’ (and if someone is too drunk to say no, then no is implied); that no matter what a woman wears or does, she isn’t ‘asking for it.”

The Star’s publisher eliminated the offending column and penned a lengthy mea culpa after the social media uproar over “victim shaming.” It was a humbling act by a once-powerful newspaper.

Tony Botello, who operates the most influential blog in the KC area, Tony’s Kansas City, summarized it expertly:  “In the final analysis, the editorial snafu offers another look at the fading impact of the newspaper and the continued rise of social media outrage influencing not only the nation’s politics but also so-called opinion makers.”

The Pitch, an alternative weekly in Kansas City, quickly attacked its McClatchy-owned rival on its Web site, labeling the column “victim blaming.”

“To the editors of the Star: What were you thinking when you signed off on this victim-blaming bullshit?” asked the Pitch’s Justin Kendall (LINK).

Tony Berg, who took over the helm as president and publisher of the Star in January,  apologized for the incendiary column. It should be noted in the past few years the Star has eliminated hundreds of editors and journalists from its staff who might have questioned the tone of the column.  Berg’s entire newspaper career has been on the business side of operations.

“The column explored the understandably sensitive issue of rape,” wrote Berg. “In hindsight, it should never have been published.”

It used to be that traditional media outlets such as newspapers, radio and TV outlets dictated the news.  Today, however,  social media influencers (many anonymous) often dictate and censor what information can and cannot be seen.

Voltaire would not be pleased.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
— Voltaire


2 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    What does the author of the column have to say? I saw the article online, was surprised by the tone, but moved on to other things. Others did not.
    What would William Rockville Nelson have to say?

  2. Kevin says:

    The column in question is no different than telling people not to leave their kids in a unlocked, running vehicle while running into a convenience store. If the car gets stolen, it’s not the parent’s fault, but it a stupid and potentially illegal thing to do.

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    It has been called “appalling journalism.”

    That might be considered a positive comment regarding an editing trick inserted into a documentary on gun ownership that has come to light.

    Long-time NBC Today Show star and anchor at all three major networks, Katie Couric, now with Yahoo! News, is being severely criticized for highly questionable editing in her documentary titled “Under the Gun” after it was revealed an eight-second pause was inserted to make it look as if the people interviewed could not answer her question (LINK).

    Luckily for the individuals being interviewed, one person was wise enough to record the Q&A (LINK TO AUDIO). Otherwise, questioning the bubbly media icon would have been virtually impossible and fruitless.

    Couric was executive producer, host and narrator of the piece.  Anti-gun activist Stephanie Soechtig produced and directed it.

    In the documentary, a group of Virginia gun owners was asked by Couric: “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”

    Not only did Couric/Soechtig insert a pause (8-10 seconds), but they also inserted “B” roll of the gun owners taken before the interview even began.  There is little doubt the editing was clearly designed to make it look as if Couric’s tough question made them speechless and uncomfortable.

    Couric is now calling the edit an “unnecessary mistake,” according to an individual with knowledge of her thinking (LINK).

    In an official statement, Soechtig countered, “my intention was to provide a pause for the viewer to have a moment to consider this important question before presenting the facts on Americans’ opinions on background checks. I never intended to make anyone look bad and I apologize if anyone felt that way.”

    Couric now says she supports Soechtig’s statement “and am very proud of the film.” However, a few days later she admitted she regretted how she portrayed gun activists (LINK).

    However, the National Review and Washington Post now say Couric should be fired over the deliberate misrepresentation (LINK).

    This is a classic reason why at Bottom Line Communications we strongly advise clients to always record media interviews.  Without actual audio evidence (below) the Yahoo! crew would have denied inserting the pause.

    However, with the evidence journalism takes another huge credibility hit.


    Published May 29, 2016 at 8:30 am - 2 Comments It has been called “appalling journalism.” That might be considered a positive comment regarding an editing trick inserted into a documentary on gun ownership that has come to light. Long-time NBC Today Show star and ...


    In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious.

    When rankings for the best “J” schools in the nation are posted the University of Missouri is almost guaranteed to be in the Top 10 or Top 5.  However, that may have all changed due to the actions of a single media professor during the recent student uprising at the school.

    A Mass Media Professor, Melissa Click, is shown in a video asking for “muscle” to remove a student photojournalist, Tim Tai,  who was working for ESPN and in a public place.   It is a horrible act by a college professor and shows a total disregard for the Journalist’s First Amendment rights, which is against what the school has taught for decades.

    “Who wants to help me get this reporter out of here? I need some muscle over here,” says Click.

    A video of Click’s actions against Tai has gone viral and has well over 500,000 views (LINK) on a single site.  The New York Times has written an extensive story about her actions.

    What was once a sympathetic media for the protesters has now changed with the actions of students and faculty against them.

    Technically some have pointed out Click works in the Mass Media Division of the Department of Communications in College of Arts & Sciences, which is separate from the J-school.  However, she is listed on the School of Journalism’s site (LINK), which tars the entire Journalism program whether it deserves it or not.

    Click had earlier Tweeted out that she she was looking for coverage of the event by Journalists.  Later on she is clearly leading the charge against other Journalists with total disregard for their rights to cover the event.

    With the resignation of the school’s President and Chancellor the University of Missouri is clearly being painted as a college where the inmates are running the asylum.   Rather than act like a Professor, Click and other faculty members have clearly shown they were behind the student protests against the administration.

    If the University of Missouri doesn’t hire a crisis communications team immediately its entire image for producing quality Journalism graduates could likely be tarnished forever. If the school was wise it already had a crisis communications plan in place for such an incident, but that is unlikely.

    The first move would be to remove Click. But that would be a stop-gap measure since a faculty member helping foment the disturbance was an indictment on all the faculty.  The school hired her, and whether tacitly or not, approved of her actions.

    A statement issued today by the Dean of the Journalism School denied she was part of the faculty and sounded as if her days as a professor at Missouri were numbered. Click has also been forced to apologize in an attempt to save her job and resigned her “courtesy” appointment to the J-School.

    However, a Kansas City reporter told BLC that the protesters are refusing to speak with local reporters and will only do interviews with national media outlets.  That is the kind of move that will turn sympathetic local media against them now and in the future.

    It’s a bad move.



    Published November 10, 2015 at 10:23 am - 5 Comments In Journalism circles, having a degree from the University of Missouri was often a ticket for success. It is not only the nation’s oldest Journalism school, it is also one of the most prestigious. When rankings for the best ...