Sunday, November 15, 2009

Public Radio: Do local news or die

I just joined up to attend an online seminar on The Future of News.

I couldn't agree more with the general manager of Milwaukee Public Radio who says, "The whole area of upgrading local reporting at public radio stations is absolutely vital to our survival. If local stations are simply going to be downloads of national programs from NPR, PRI or any other source, we will find ourselves disposable in the future.”

More about the conference here in the publication for public broadcasting.

Much of the focus will be on a newly released Columbia J-School report, The Reconstruction of American Journalism.

The authors write: "“The failure of much of the public broadcasting system to provide significant local news reporting reflects longstanding neglect of this responsibility by the majority of public radio and television stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Congress."

They conclude: "Local news coverage remains underfunded, understaffed and a low priority at most public radio and television stations, whose leaders have been unable to make or uninterested in making the case for investment in local news to donors and Congress."

My only problem is, while they're holding the conference, I'll be up to my neck doing local news!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

19,000 KSFR newscasts!

I've been thinking a bit about KSFR's fund-raiser coming up in a few weeks (it starts September 20) and about what the News Department has done during that period.

I surprised even myself. Since we started seven and a half years ago with an emphasis on local news, we've done some 19,000 newscasts, 10 to 11 times a day, weekdays, plus a Saturday news roundup.

We produce a full hour at noon weekdays and a full local-international broadcast at 7 a.m.

And this is everyday.

When it snows, we have to leave home extra early to meet our a.m. deadline. We've been on air even when other staff members couldn't dig out to come to work.

That's not all. We've broadcast every municipal, county and primary election returns live -- often simulcasting them with the community television station. We've broadcast several town halls during the presidential campaigns so Santa Feans could sound off after they hear the candidates speak at their debates.

Wow and double wow. Kudos to my absolutely dedicated team of a dozen volunteers, plus me and Dan Gerrity.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Public radio reach expands

Public radio continues to grow.

The latest Arbitron report (for the full year 2008) shows that public radio stations increased their overall weekly reach, rising from 11.2 percent of the population in 2007 to 11.8 percent in 2008. Increases were seen in all demographics and age groups, especially among women 18-24 and 35-54.

Arbitron says the lion's share of public radio listening comes from adults 35+.

Men 55 to 65+ still are the top audience, followed by women in those same age groups.

The News/Talk format is still the most dominant, followed by News/Classical music. News/Talk gets more than half the public radio listeners around the nation.

As for public radio's share of allradio listeners, the numbers vary. The highest is 10.6 percent in the Pacific Northwest. Next are 8.3 percent in the South Atlantic, 7 percent in the East North Central, and 4.4 percent in the Mountain region, which includes New Mexico.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On reporting about swine and seasonal flu

I'm on a jag about flu.

We'll urge people to get their flu shots, of course. But the question that's always bugged me is, how can 30,000 Americans die a year and I haven't even heard about one, much less known one -- especially after all my years? Now, they're saying 40 percent of us will get, if not be killed by, swine flu.

As I've written before, I regularly challenge the state health department about their reporting of deaths. Last year, they reported that in one month alone, 19 New Mexicans had died from flu and pneumonia complications. I asked: "How many died of flu by itself?" "A couple," they replied. Why lump the numbers together? To make them more compelling?

The CDC says seasonal flu hits the young and the elderly the most. Even the CDC, and the state health department, will admit it's difficult to define the precise cause of death in the very young and the very old, two population groups susceptible to pneumonia, to which flu is just one contributor, but not the only one.

So I raced to the phone several years ago when I ran across a paper by a CDC research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (one of the most respected medical-research journals anywhere). The editors don't publish garbage.

The paper reported on a huge effort by CDC to get health departments in a dozen states to step up their efforts to separate actual flu deaths from all others, then count the number of young people (0 to 18) who actually died of flu. The number was 143. Remember, this is one of two most susceptible age groups.

Extrapolate the numbers anyway you wish. It's nigh impossible to arrive at 30,000 total deaths with such a low rate among one of the two groups most likely to die of seasonal flu.

You watch for it -- the media will dutifully report this fall that more than 30,000 Americans die each year of flu.

KSFR News may say that, as well. We can't disprove it.

But neither can they prove it.

I'll remain healthfully skeptical.

No hysteria, please

Ambulance chasing, aircraft crashes, swine flu...

We don't do hysteria at KSFR News. At least we try not to. In fact, I think we may go out of way to avoid the news items that seem to want to lead to hysteria.

When the four teens from Santa Fe were killed in a head-on collision. We didn't air the tape of the 911 call.

When the state police helicopter crashed in the mountains above Santa Fe, I thought about asking state police for the taped communications between base and copter. But I chose not to. When other outlets put the audio on their websites, morbid curiosity led me to go there and listen to them (maybe to get a new angle to cover the story?). But KSFR did not air them.

There's enough anguish in the actual fact of those types of events that would not be better served by repeating raw, emotional details -- at least not for us.

So, what about swine flu?

Each year when flu season comes along, I grit my teeth that even talking about it and promoting the fact that the flu shots are ready will add to hysteria. Of course, we'll urge people to get their flu shots. But I'll do it while also asking the question, do 30,000 Americans really did from flu each year? I've never known or heard of one. So, I challenge the state health department about their numbers all the time. Last year, they reported that in one month alone, 19 New Mexicans had died from flu and pneumonia complications. I asked: "How many did of flu by itself?" "A couple," they replied. Why lump the numbers together? To make them more compelling?

Now, we're confronted by not one but two types of flu. Will swine flu be more deadly? The hype makes it sound that way. Who will be more susceptible to it, the young and elderly or somewhere in the middle. The early evidence suggests it will be those somewhere in the middle.

And how many will die? It's always seemed like 30,000 Americans falling to seasonal flu each year is a lot, although I spoke with a statistician recently who says for a population our size, it's not many at all. If it's not many at all, why the hysteria? Many times more people die in auto crashes.

Yes, we'll report about swine flu. I'll even see how the state's emergency preparedness people are getting ready.

I just hope that whatever we report on KSFR News will contribute to education, not to hysteria.

Robin Lustig of BBC news has these thoughts about swine flu on his blog.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

G'bye, Walter

I've read the tributes to Walter Cronkite but they can't surpass my own memories.

As for where news was and is now, Ted Williams of Associated Press sums it up nicely.

"At the end of last year, according to Gallup, 31 percent of Americans considered the Internet to be a daily news source, a 50 percent gain since 2006. That's almost 100 million people actively reaching out to get their news rather than flipping on the TV and waiting for it to come to them.

"Nightly American comfort, Cronkite style, is a thing of the past, if it ever really existed at all. Perhaps, in the Age of Many Voices, comfort and reassurance is not meant to be our lot. Maybe that's just the way it is."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pub radio listeners

Been away for awhile, but a new study caught my attention.

What technologies are public radio listeners using, or drifting to?

The upshot is that more than three-quarters of 30,000 listeners surveyed showed they still like and use the old fashioned radio.

But the study commissioned by the Public Radio Program Directors Association shows some other trends:

-- Listening to streaming radio is growng

-- Cell phones are ubiquitous, and the iPhone is owned by half of them

-- Satellite radio has not made much headway, with only 12 percent saying they have one.

-- Only 3% own an HD radio. As for very likely, somewhat likely or not likely to buy one, they were split almost evenly in thirds.

The point about cell phones and iPhones is an important one and should cause more programmers, especially news directors, to push their audio out to these phones.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Associated Press vs You Tube vs Embedders

First, understand that You Tube allows posters of videos to allow anyone to take those videos and embed them on their own websites. That's part of the user agreement.

You (poster/account holder) hereby grant each user of the YouTube Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Website and under these Terms of Service. The functionality in the last line is the "embed" code adjacent to each video. If the code is there, another website may use that code (the functionality) to embed the video on their web site.

Ok so far.

Now, Associated Press has gotten miffed at a radio station in Tennessee for embedding codes of Associated Press videos on You Tube on the station's web site.

Here's how PC World covered the story.

And for added emphasis, here's an embedded Associated Press video for you to understand what the content is, where it came from and the functionality (embedded code) of the You Tube posting by AP.

Click twice on the video image to go to the Associated Press pages on You Tube. To the right of the video, you'll see the "embed" code. If it's not there, then they've taken it down. If they've taken it down, you didn't see the video above.

Easy as that to understand.

By contrast, the Reuters You Tube site does not offer an embed code. So there is no way to post their videos directly on another website.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Media as lobbyists?

Interesting take from Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano on the recent session of New Mexico's legislature.

"So who was successful in getting legislation passed this year? The only lobbyist that don't even have to register as lobbyists in New Mexico, The News Media. In news papers, TV, blogs, and live blogging the press pushed for Live web cams in the legislature, open conference committee meetings, double dipping legislation, and ethics reform. Now don't get me wrong, I sure other people cared about these issues as well, but the news media hounded law makers on these issues relentlessly. Even the death penalty legislation was not hurt by the media stories on the issue."

Should the media be registered as lobbyists?

"...when the legislature listens to the media, when they are lobbying on these issues, are they now beholden to the media?"

This is a fascinating opinion that we'll follow up on with the sheriff.

The CS Monitor is dead. Long live the CS Monitor -- online

After 100 years, the Christian Science Monitor has folded. It's daily print edition is no more. But print will continue in a weekend form -- we suspect for the time being, at least.

The daily Monitor does survive, however, online.

The paper's editor reasons that, "two million individuals now engage with us online each month, about 40 times the number that have been subscribing to the print daily. We are linked deeply and extensively across the Internet. People who never picked up our newspaper read Christian Science Monitor articles online..."

Is there a lesson here for broadcast? Yes, and I hope we pick up on it faster than we're doing now.

With the small amount of time and resources at KSFR's disposal, we're trying to be "more than just radio.

We have done podcasting of audio for years. They're at,

We've found a way past the limitations of our web service provider to do more than put one piece of audio on a news page. (Check out KSFR's You Tube offerings that we post on many of our news pages. Here's a recent one:



Recently, we began a breaking-story service on Twitter.



Unlike the percentage growth of the Monitor's, KSFR's online audience is still puny.

We'll be watching to see if we can grow that audience and succeed at being more than "just radio." If not, what happens when the radio tower lights dim?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"We can't talk to the media"

Here we go again.

Not long ago, I reported that the FCC was in Santa Fe to brief the public on the coming transition to digital TV. But no one showed up -- except KSFR's reporter. Interview about what the representative was to tell the audience (if an audience had appeared)? Nope. "We can't talk to the media."

Then there was New Mexico's new commuter rail line. Would a trainsman speak with our reporter on tape? No. "We can't talk to the media."

Now comes the U.S. Census Bureau to Santa Fe to recuit people to pound the pavement in 2010 for the census count. It could have been a good news story since, a few weeks before, a similar recuiting episode elsewhere in New Mexico turned out thousands of job seekers. KSFR's reporter showed up to find that, "We can't talk to the media." Seventy five people are taking a test with more to come later in the day and the representative can't talk to the media. After they made several phone calls to regional headquarters, the local agent did speak with us. But it took some doing.

Listen to our full report here. (Sorry, it's You Tube but we have only audio). After the interview, I spoke with our reporter about the incident.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Blogs are now officially "in"

Check out the new White House web site. Clean, welcoming.

And the White House blog.

Times are changing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

If only on 9/11

This story raises the eyebrows again, seven years-plus later.

Man suspected of fraud flies away.

FAA loses track.

In minutes, two fighters are looking into his empty cockpit.

Minutes! Two fighters! Small plane, not several commercial jets!

Is anyone else trying to connect the dots?

More here.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Murdoch media's muddled minds

An editorial in the the Dec. 9, 2008, Wall Street Journal is being touted by the New Mexico Republican Party. It has to do with the former federal prosecutor for New Mexico who was fired after not playing political ball with Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Republican Congresswoman Heather Wilson.

Both tried to talk with Iglesias, when he still had a job with the Bush administration, about a federal grand jury probe of prominent New Mexico Democrats, including Manny Aragon. No need to go into the details of the investigation here because the details are not the point of this comment. The point is that some time after those phone calls, and after Republican political appointee David Iglesias lost his job, Aragon and others were indicted, tried and found guilty.

But back to the Wall Street Journal and Iglesias.

The Journal editorial says it's good that Iglesias was fired because he wasn't the right prosecutor to " root out endemic political corruption in the state."

Bosh. Leaks months before indicated a grand jury investigation was under way.

Iglesias claims and the record of a congressional inquiry shows that Domenici complained to Karl Rove and others that Iglesias did not respond to questions from Domenici and Wilson in October 2006, before the general elections. His comment could have led to "political hay" in favor of Republicans. Iglesias followed the rules of the Department of Justice in not speaking to anyone about the grand jury deliberations.

It's clear that Domenici and Wilson broke the rules of the House and the Senate in bringing up something they shouldn't even have known about.

Rules of the House require a member of the House to file an ethics complaint in a matter of this kind. No complaint was filed against Wilson. Hence, the House Ethics Committee did not follow up.

The rules are different in the Senate. Anyone can file a complaint against a senator. The advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington did that. The Senate Ethics Committee looked into the matter and "admonished" Sen. Domenici for trying to speak with an independent federal prosecutor about a matter under investigation.

Domenici subsequently announced, in the fall of 2007, he would not run for office again, claiming that a fatal, deteriorating brain condition put his ability-to-serve at risk. (As he was leaving office, Domennici in November 2008 disclosed his condition had either gone away or had been misdiagnosed.)

The Wall Street Journal: "Ater Mr. Iglesias's departure, the U.S. Attorney's office issued indictments in and won two major corruption cases, and the new U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, Greg Fouratt, has picked up the pace."

Blog: Iglesias had the investigation underway and Fouratt finished it.

The Wall Street Journal: "All of this looks like vindication of the decision to nudge Mr. Iglesias out the door. Every President is charged with enforcing the law and that sometimes requires removing individuals who resist certain law enforcement priorities. We said at the time that Mr. Domenici crossed a line in lobbying Mr. Iglesias, but it turns out he was right about the possible corruption to explore."

Bosh PLUS baloney. The grand jury was investigating and compiling information months before the Domenici/Wilson talks with Iglesias. After Iglesias was fired, the investigation continued to be built by the new prosecutor.

Rupert Murdoch: Get your timeline straight.

Interested in the whole editorial?

NM Vindication - Remember that U.S. Attorneys hoohah

January 9, 2009 –

Governor Bill Richardson says it's all a matter of timing -- that if only the feds had wrapped up a corruption investigation into his New Mexico Administration by now, he'd be cleared and would be winging his way to Washington confident of Senate confirmation as the next Commerce Secretary. Instead, he withdrew his nomination earlier this week.

And maybe he's right about timing. But we'd dial the clock back not to August, as the national media have in clucking that Barack Obama has a sloppy vetting process. Rather, go back to December 7, 2006. That's the day the Bush Justice Department dismissed U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico. His dismissal, along with that of six other U.S. Attorneys, set the stage for a political firestorm when Democrats claimed the firings were proof that the Bush Administration was "politicizing justice."

Mr. Iglesias put himself at the center of that storm by claiming he was fired because he hadn't pursued voter fraud cases vigorously enough. He also claimed he had been pressured by two Republican Members of Congress to speed up a public corruption investigation shortly before the November elections handed Democrats control of Congress. Those Republicans were Senator Pete Domenici, who has since retired, and Representative Heather Wilson, who ran for his seat and lost.

Democrats eventually ran Attorney General Alberto Gonzales out of town. But the nub of the criticism of Mr. Iglesias -- that he wasn't the right man to root out endemic political corruption in the state -- was never substantially refuted. Mr. Iglesias did nab a pair of state Treasurers. He compelled one to plead guilty to an extortion charge and indicted the other on nearly two dozen counts of corruption. He lost in court on all but one count.

Ater Mr. Iglesias's departure, the U.S. Attorney's office issued indictments in and won two major corruption cases, and the new U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, Greg Fouratt, has picked up the pace.

The investigation that derailed Mr. Richardson involves political donations from David Rubin and his Beverly Hills-based company, CDR Financial Products Inc., in 2003 and 2004 that total $100,000. Those donations were given to campaigns Mr. Richardson ran that registered Hispanic and Native American voters, among other things. And they came at about the same time that CDR won a lucrative contract from New Mexico.

All of this looks like vindication of the decision to nudge Mr. Iglesias out the door. Every President is charged with enforcing the law and that sometimes requires removing individuals who resist certain law enforcement priorities. We said at the time that Mr. Domenici crossed a line in lobbying Mr. Iglesias, but it turns out he was right about the possible corruption to explore.

As for Mr. Fouratt, he wasn't appointed by President Bush. He was appointed about a year ago by a panel of federal judges. The veteran prosecutor and former U.S. Air Force officer doesn't seem interested in meeting political timetables and rarely talks to the press. We hope that after being sworn in on January 20, Mr. Obama gives Mr. Fouratt all the time he needs to finish his investigation.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Deliver KSFR news on a CD?

I've joked with tongue in cheek before about the problem newspapers have -- printing yesterday's news on paper and delivering it the next morning. The analogy is delivering KSFR's Monday newscasts on a CD to your doorstep Tuesday morning.

I love newspapers, but they're really beginning to feel the pinch.

The Albuquerque Journal is cutting back 10 staffers in its newsroom. They didn't say what percentage that represents.

And the Journal says it will stop home deliveries in 30 non-metro communities. Rack sales there, too.

The cutbacks at the Journal will include home delivery and rack sales north of Las Vegas, including Raton; east of Moriarty on Interstate 40, including Santa Rosa, Tucumcari and the northeast corner; much of the east side, including Clovis, Portales, Artesia, Carlsbad, Hobbs, Lovington, Alamogordo, Tularosa and Carrizozo; and the southwest corner, including Deming, Lordsburg and the Silver City area, Fantl said.

The company said those areas represent a small percentage of its total circulation. The newspaper will continue home delivery and single-copy sales in Santa Fe, Las Vegas, Taos and Espanola, western New Mexico including Grants and Gallup, the Four Corners area, Roswell in eastern New Mexico, the three-county area around Albuquerque and south to Las Cruces.

More on that and other newspaper woes here.>