So I hear my ears shudda been burning last night: A periodic examination of the media and journalism in the public interest

A few weeks ago I asked the Slabbed Nation exactly how much independent news and commentary was worth. This is not a one and done conversation by any stretch as I absolutely intend to continue having it with those of you that have exhibited the courage to hit the “Post Comment” button and the thousands of you guys that stop here everyday satisfying the need to know what is going on in this area.

So yup, my ears should’ve been burning last night but they weren’t (more on that later) but the events again begs the question exactly how much is independent news and commentary worth? Today, the PBS show Frontline provides the backdrop because I was too riveted by excellent TeeVee journalism last night for my ears to burn as we again examine that question. First we start with this gem I’ve been holding for a few months:

N.F.L. Pressure Said to Lead ESPN to Quit Film Project ~ Ken Belson and James Andrew Miller

On Thursday, ESPN, which has spent heavily in recent years to build its investigative reporting team, abruptly ended its affiliation with “Frontline,” a public affairs television series that was weeks from showing a jointly produced two-part investigative project about the N.F.L.’s contentious handling of head injuries. The divorce came a week after the N.F.L. voiced its displeasure with the documentary at a lunch between league and ESPN executives, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

It is a fundamental law of the media industry that when you add advertisers you add sacred cows aka topics that will never be covered because of those sacred cows. Throw in other contractual relationships like the one between ESPN and the NFL and the conflict between journalism in the public interest and $$$$$$$ becomes acute.

Frontline is donor funded and while that can also lead to conflict between journalism and the (new) Benjamins typically any strings are attached on the front end of the journalism thus the potential for conflict is less. It shows in the reporting.

So as the parent of a high school football player, I watched last night’s two part Frontline series on concussions in the sport of football and how the NFL reacted to the science in what has turned into a 19 year saga with great interest. I was not the only person riveted by the 2 hour documentary as the peeps over at Columbia Journalism Review were similarly impressed:

And then there’s the NFL, which Frontline conclusively shows covered up the crisis for years. It hired an unqualified, NFL-loyal doctor to head up its committee and pooh-pooh the evidence for more than a decade. It attacked and belittled scientists like Omalu and McKee. Its commissioner, Roger Goodell, won’t admit that playing football is linked to brain damage, despite the fact that forty-five of the 46 brains of dead football players that have been studied have had CTE.

Goodell is shown to be particularly awful: a real villain, along with his hand-picked doctor Ira Casson. It will be a shame if Goodell survives long in his job after Frontline’s film. I’d like to know where the Department of Justice is on this scandal.

So again I ask, how much is independent news and commentary worth?  One way we can answer that question is to examine how a local media outlet with a skin in the game handled the runup to the show:

‘Frontline’s’ ‘League of Denial’ examines NFL’ s head-injury crisis ~ Dave Walker, Tee Vee Reporter for NOLA Media Group

So at NOLA Media Group this story was not a sports story it was a Tee Vee story.  Imagine the internal conversations that happened before the powers that be at NOLA Media Group assigned it to Walker instead of Jeff Duncan in sports. Gotta give NOLA Media Group some credit here because they covered the show while walking the tightrope.  Tightrope?? Lest we forget:

Payton breaks from coaching (frequently) to put squeeze on press ~ Mike Freeman

My second-favorite story: There is a former writer for the Times-Picayune who left that newspaper to work for When the writer, now working for the website, wrote something critical about Reggie Bush, he and the site were both suddenly banned from covering practice.

The Saints argued it was a fringe site, but the organization had credentialed the site for the previous several years without an issue. It wasn’t until the Bush criticism came that the ban was put in.

From my perspective as a parent of a scholar-athlete the information I learned last night about concussions and football is close to priceless. It takes courage to tackle hard topics, especially when one of the parties central to the theme is “mean and bitchy” like Team Goodell and the NFL.

Speaking of Roger Goodell, it was he that sacrificed Sean Payton and the Saints at the altar of NFL player safety public relations last football season all while continuing to publicly deny there was any concussion problem in former NFL players. The irony of Goodell using the CBS Morning Show in New Orleans during Super Bowl week earlier this year to issue such denial is rich indeed. The National Football League is absolutely Darwinian from top to bottom.

How much is independent news and commentary worth? On the local level here is what’s possible. Or to turn the question around what is the price of ignorance?  For football players like Junior Seau and Mike Webster that price was steep.

I highly recommend last night’s show and it can be found online at PBS. The scenes that I thought were especially interesting can also be found in dedicated blog posts at the PBS Frontline website on the show:

Anyone seen Chris Rose lately?

To be continued.

17 thoughts on “So I hear my ears shudda been burning last night: A periodic examination of the media and journalism in the public interest”

  1. Nuclear waste dumping? Horn Island drilling and Kemper plant over-billing. Does the Mississippi Energy Institute have any good ideas (see link below). It’s President, Patrick Sullivan was on the state board that voted for the beef plant fiasco, so they do have experience in bad projects that cost the taxpayers millions. Kemper will cost us billions. Its hundreds of times worse than the beef plant. If Mr. Sullivan would like to debate these issues, I would be happy to oblige.

  2. And in this corner we have Stan “Stop Richton Salt Dome Rape” Flint from 30 years ago (guessing on time frame ) and in the other corner we have a Haley clone named Williams-R who just wants to figure an angle to make money. The MEI will spend what ever it takes to discredit the facts from any opposition in the way of their pursuit of wealth thru cronyism. When the people of South Ms. become aware of how they are being manipulated just in the case of the Kemper fiasco there will be an uprising. We need more people like Stan Flint to get the facts out everywhere possible so to counter the money changers that do not have any interest in seeing the lifestyle of the average person in this state get any better, only their own. We also need blogs like to keep the independent news coming to us without the pressure of the big boys and their CONsultants manipulating it like they did at the Sunherald by getting that McPaper to shut down the anonymous comments about their activities. We all must do our part or become slaves to things like an inflated power bill. As all of the political jabber heats up about cheap energy for our future, good jobs in nuclear waste storage, crude oil being organic, remember one thing that was said by someone I do not know “Politicians are just like diapers,they both need changing regularly and for the same reason. I think it is past time for change in our state.

      1. Watch this video on Southern Company. What’s for certain is the fact that the rate payer has been screwed by Ms. Power and the politicians along with their yes men on the PSC have arranged this. Kemper needs to be on Slab’s radar because I believe the fur is getting ready to fly and this will end up being the biggest F in rip-off the public in the history of the state. There is a whole bunch of good information available on the Bigger Pie Forum website. Hey ,if we do not mind paying for a power generation plant that cost 20 times more to construct than the same size natural gas fuel plant then all is good. We have been mislead to a tune of about $5 billion with the meter still running. I want my money back and I am MAD AS HELL.

      2. Doug, I don’t know if you got this info or not, but I got some startling news today from someone in the know. Jennifer Wilder, who was imprisoned for sexual battery of a minor, and who was pardoned by Fat Man before he left office, is now working at the DMR in the Wetlands Division that is headed by John McKay’s buddy, Mr. Boyd. I think this woman has connections to Vicksburg (if informant is correct) to a large political donor. Ain’t it great that we are just one big family here in Mississippi? We are even willing to hire convicts and treat them like our family! We give them jobs (that anyone off of the street with credentials could not get) that are not even advertised! And we let them work in the “upper” offices with the brass!!! Boy, aren’t those “good ole boys” just great humanists???? Well Bless Their Hearts.

            1. Oh the stories from my 15 years auditing K-12s that I could tell. One that I can tell is this one from Gulfport from a few years ago when the ex shrimp bowl queen was getting it with one of her students. The kid even went on the Clarion Ledger comments section to the story on her arrest to defend her. The sex must’ve been good huh.

          1. That clip states the facts. My question is: Since the DMR works with children and interacts with students from schools, Ocean Springs Research lab, etc, why would they hire someone with a known perpensity for children?? Wouldn’t that put them in a dangerous position? What if this person decided to have sex with a student that was on a work program there?
            I thought Phil Bryant thought that our children should be put first. Doesn’t look like he gives a flip about that now??? Pardon, or no pardon – she still did the deed and was only pardoned through political connections in my opinion. The public should be in an uproar about this.

          2. I am a technical kind of guy so I believe the technical answer is that this charge “never occured” in the eyes of the law. Reality however, is a different color.

            What I am starting to see regarding the new hires and the women who are perceived as being in “the in crowd” is a fairly consistent trend pertaining to a standard physical profile. The data generally is trending one direction…………….of course this is my personal opinion.

        1. That’s the word I got about a week ago. I made a post about it. No word on the connections but it would not be right if there weren’t any. 🙂

          1. The rumored political connection is the missing piece of the puzzle here. Melissa Scallan just confirmed for me that Wilder is employed at DMR.

  3. Last night in Bay St. Louis we witnessed a terminal case of the Herod Complex–you know, I hate the message so I’ll disparage the messenger. To attempt to discredit a media outlet because they didn’t like the information did no harm to the messenger, but sure did reveal how “small” some members of the city council are in the Bay. That, of course, is usually the path those of that ilk take when they have no defense for their actions or in this case failure to act.

    By the way, you gotta hand it to Hancock County Sheriff Adams. Reported in the Sea Coast Echo today he has found a way not to cut any of his staff or deputies–he has just pulled all security detail off of the Courthouse and Government Complex on Highway 90 where the Supervisors meet. Beat 4 Supervisor Seymour says that may have to look into hiring private security for themselves. Now, who would have an axe to grind with them–they’re such nice guys!!

    1. Herod Complex? You learn something new everyday. 🙂

      Personally I’d like to thank those that put Slabbed over Tuesday night. You learn much about politicians by how they react to transparency. The ones that protest and complain are the ones I keep a close eye on as a rule of thumb.

  4. The Herod complex is an old one ,Doug. But then I am older than you. Remember Herod? He didn’t like John the Baptist’s message about his adulterous affair, so, at the request of his paramour’s daughter, he had him beheaded. And when a politician doesn’t like what is reported about them, they try to discredit the reporter. Problem is facts are facts, and we got the numbers from them. And I would venture a guess that the one delinquent utility customer that protested so loudly the other night would have never paid up if she had not been exposed.

    1. one delinquent utility customer that protested so loudly the other night would have never paid up if she had not been exposed.

      Uh huh. It will be interesting to see who else paid up (or not), especially considering the City is evidently issuing debt to cover their cash flow problems.

  5. Hiring Jennifer Wilder takes the cake. This is even worse than DMR hiring Lucas and other high-dollar employees without advertising to the public. She may have the educationl background but hiring a convicted sex offender is the height of ignorance, stupidity and any other derogatory adjective you can think of pertaining to this selection. She may have been pardoned by former Governor Barbour but in most people’s minds and any way you slice it, she is still a sex offender.

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