I was shocked this week that The New York Times denied that President Barack H. Obama was the source of recent national security leaks, judged so serious that Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed two independent Special Prosecutors.
For a moment let's forget the leaked information and its potential harmful effects on our nation's safety.
Time to go to school. Old School. Listen up journalism students , you don't talk about confidentially-sourced information.
Once you start eliminating sources, you start narrowing the field of sources. If you invoke the privilege of protecting your source, you cannot and must not identify whether a source was, or was not, the source of your story.
For example...a reporter is asked if Mr. Smith is the source for a story. The reporter responds, "No."
Next a reporter is asked if Mr. Jones is the source. The reporter invokes his constitutional right not to reveal a source.
Well guess what. You just gave up a source. Hand in your journalism card. You're fired.
That's why I never agreed to talk to a source, "off the record."
A source once gave me information he said was, "off the record." The information was something I already had been given by another source. The second source confirmed the story and served as confirmation. I aired the story.
I received an almost immediate phone call from the second source screaming that I had betrayed him. I engaged in a long conversation in which I tried to explain that I had not.
From that day forward I never talked to a source, "Off The Record."
Sources talk to a reporter because they want to.
When asked if I would hold information, "off the record," I always said, "no." Instead I told sources that the information they were offering up was, "Not For Attribution."
I used to engage in camouflage. I would call or visit sources who could have information about my story with the sole purpose of protecting my primary source.
Any source had to trust me and know that I would not give them up. But if a source was willing to talk, that source had to know they had some exposure.
That is why the New York Times decision to eliminate the President as a source is so disturbing. The Times made it easier to identify the real source. A really bad decision from one of the bastions of American journalism.
If you choose to share this information, please know this story is not, off the record.
It's, "not for attribution."
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Pennsylvania's 2012 General Primary (that is the proper name) will be held next Tuesday and election officials will begin asking voters for proof-of identification. A lack of proof will not result in a voter not voting. It's just a test for what will happen in November's General Election. The General assembly passed and Governor Tom Corbett signed into law tough new standards requiring voters, especially first time voters to prove they have the right to vote at a particular polling place.
Republican supporters say it will cut down on voter fraud. Democratic detractors say it will disenfranchise minority and senior citizen electors.
More and more this is beginning to look like a circular firing squad.
Under the Motor Voter law, citizens can register to vote when they apply for or renew a driver's license. You simply answer "yes" when asked if you want to use your information to register to vote. You then pick a party.
The information is then transmitted to the 67 county Boards of Election. After a series of mailings to determine the accuracy of your information and conducting a verification of your address, your application is approved or rejected. 99% of all Motor Voter Applications are approved.
Here's my problem; come November you will need to bring your photo driver's license to verify your identity and right to vote. But by applying for a license, "YOU'VE ALREADY COMPLETED THIS STEP."
When I first worked for the Board of Election in Luzerne County, I was determined to stamp out voter fraud, insisting that every regulation be followed before a voter registration was approved. My much wiser staff promptly told me to "knock it off." While filling out a registration form is not brain surgery, voters make mistakes. Some are dumb. Some are really dumb. They aren't criminal and a trained election professional can quickly determine if a voter registration application is valid. The goal is always to get the voter to vote.
In a dispute over voter registration that occurs on the day of a primary or election, a voter can vote a provisional ballot. It won't be counted unless the voter furnishes proof, within six days, of their right to vote. The ballot is counted after all the other votes are counted. What does this mean for the voter? Everyone will know how that person voted. So much for a secret ballot.
One election, our office presented a voter to the Court of Common Pleas. Acting as both advocate and adversary we presented the facts to a County Judge. The facts showed the voter was not registered and ineligible to vote. Three minutes later the voter left that Judge's chambers with a court order allowing her to vote.
For years, the gold standard for identifying voters at the polls was the voter's signature. The signature you use is immediately compared to the signature on file. It's not perfect, but it is pretty darned good. It's quicker. You lose more voters who won't stand in long lines than you will by requiring them to produce a voter identification.
We'll see how the new system works.
Right now it's a regulation right out of the the Department of Redundancy Department.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Holden represents the newly configured 17th Congressional District which now includes large portions of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties. The ten term incumbent faces a primary challenge from Attorney Matt Cartwright of Moosic.
Holden is immensely popular in the southern throes of the new 17th. He's a "blue dog" Democrat, a Democrat who can get Republican votes. In 2004 Holden defeated Scott Paterno (yes that Scott Paterno) to win re-election.
Cartwright enters the race as a well funded challenger. He has used an almost nightly, "The Law and You" segment on television to make this a close contest.
Holden needs to hang onto his base in the southern portions of the 17th and chip away at Cartwright's popularity in the north.
The easiest way to do this is to debate Cartwright. But Holden says, "no."
He didn't just decline a debate invitation. He didn't even respond to the League of Women Voters request.
Holden was a virtual unknown in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when the gerrymandered 17th became law earlier this year. His best hope was to introduce himself and appear as a strong legislator ready to help his new constituents. One of the easiest ways to do that; debate.
Holden's refusal makes him appear weak.
I think it will cost him re-election.
With apologies to Kenny Rogers, "you've got to know when to "hold-en" and know when to "fold em."
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Now I do.
M.I.A. is Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam. She is a 36-year old British rapper who decided to twist the arm of fate in an effort to get more than her allotted fifteen minutes of fame.
Yes America M.I.A. is the artist (really?) who flipped America the bird during the televised halftime show of Super Bowl XLVI.
(Yes Roger Goodell, I said, "Super Bowl." Come arrest me.)
That's what got me thinking.
If you use the phrase, Super Bowl while advertising your business without the expressed written consent of the NFL, a flock of angry lawyers will descend upon you like white on rice.
But if an "artist" uses the longest of digits to substitute for the two most heinous words in American culture, expect feigned shock and awe. "why, how could she do this?"
After all M.I.A. was just expressing her right of free speech; her creative energy.
We just cannot interfere with that.
As Colonel Potter used to say, "mule fritters!"
This wasn't the first time this has happened.
Remember Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction?"
It is not the last time it has happened because I'm pretty sure that Clint Eastwood's commercial for Chrysler was a big old middle finger at someone.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
9:05-The President is introduced by the Sergent-at-Arms.
9:10-The President takes his spot at the podium.
9:11-The President announces he's taking requests, but will begin with Barry White's, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love."
He's backed up by the Supremes (Court).
Film at 11.
Sunday, January 22, 2012
On the same day that legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno died, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona announced she would resign from Congress.
Love him or not, a large part of the Joe Paterno narrative includes this question, "did he stay too long?"
Did the party pass him by?
You can count the list of major college football coaches still coaching at 85 on one finger.
Some have concluded Paterno's age was the reason he did not act more decisively in the child sex abuse scandal. A singular focus on football blacked out everything else. By the time he realized the magnitude of the controversy it was too late.
His offer to retire at season's end was met with a, "thanks but no thanks," from the University's Board of Trustees. Paterno was fired on November 9, 2011. "Get your stuff and leave," they said. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
A lung cancer diagnosis followed.
He died today. Some say it was a broken heart.
Flip the coin over and witness Gabby Giffords.
Just a little more than a year after she was shot in the head at point-blank range by a lunatic would-be assassin, Giffords announced today that not only will she not stand for re-election, she is resigning her seat. In a message posted on her website, the Democrat said, "I have more work to do on my recovery so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week."
Her action clears the way for a Special Election to fill the remainder of her term.
Giffords' story is one of true inspiration.
I have little doubt that had she stayed and run for re-election she would have won.
Voters would find it distasteful to throw her out of office for something that was not her fault, despite her difficulties.
In the end she put those voters and their needs ahead of her own. I will grant you she says she needs to focus on recovery. She could have stayed, could have run, could have won.
It's just a remarkable study in contrast.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Almost every crime story has a photo of a suspect.
The photos are mugshots.
Law enforcement agencies routinely release them these days. Back in my day they did not.
Of course in my day, reporters walked to work and home in ten foot snow drifts, uphill, both ways.
We prayed for footage of suspects. We wanted the , "Perp Walk."
There's nothing fair about a perp walk. It's part public humiliation and part public relations. But it made my job easier. In a perp walk, law enforcement walks a suspect publicly so the media can get the much sought after picture. The media is tipped in advance.
Toward the end of my television career, I took my son KC (Kevin Christopher) to work with me. I was scheduled to do an interview with NASCAR Driver Bill Elliott. Awesome Bill from Dawsonville was my son's favorite driver.
In what was more rule than exception I got pulled off that story in Dunmore and instead was assigned to cover the arrest of an arson suspect in Lewisburg. Forget that it was a 90-mile drive. I had to disappoint my boy.
But he went along for the ride and witnessed a little known secret of the news business that we still laugh about.
The preliminary arraignment of the suspect was held at a Magistrate's Office in a strip mall. While we were set up to get pictures of the alleged arsonist, the trip from police cruiser to the front door was less than ten feet.
That was not enough time to get the pictures needed to do a full story. If the walk out of the Magistrate's office to police cruiser was the same few seconds, we faced a serious problem in trying to tell the story.
So here's the secret:
WE LOCK DOORS.
That's right when the police are inside, reporters or photographers routinely locked the doors of police cruisers with the sole purpose of getting the extra time for the pictures we needed.
When the Lewisburg officers led the arson suspect out of Court and back into their cruiser, they couldn't get in. For some reason the cruiser doors were locked. They were so unsuspecting, they had to scramble to find the keys to unlock the door. All that time, the cameras rolled.
Now reporters and photographers never let on. But a young boy couldn't help but smile and maybe even laugh.
His innocence almost proved our guilt.
What's the penalty for felonious mopery with intent to gawk?