Journalism is Dying By Its Own Hand

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The news media is about as popular as a first-century tax collector. This probably isn’t breaking news if you are a consumer of journalism, or what passes for journalism.

According to a recent Gallup survey, a mere 36 percent of respondents said they had “some level of trust” in the media to report news accurately. That’s the second-lowest level in the history of polling. Just 7 percent of respondents said they had “a great deal of trust” in news reporting.

The real tragedy of this survey is that the news media won’t pay any attention to it, assuming, as it almost always does, that people are either too daft to understand subtlety and nuance or they’re simply wrong on the issues. If these morons don’t like our coverage, who needs them?

I think we understand just fine what this poll reveals and Americans are well aware of what’s going on.

At some point, the national media, and assorted local outlets, decided that their primary responsibility was no longer to merely cover the news, opting instead to serve as members of the resistance, advocates, or activists.

Politicians understand this. In fact, they’ve become used to it. How else would you explain House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s comments the other day, when she admonished reporters for not giving her party enough of an assist with its lavish spending proposals?

“Well, I think you all could do a better job of selling it, to be very frank with you,” Pelosi said.

This is an extraordinary statement when you think about it. The U.S. Speaker of the House, not some Banana Republic militarist, actually thinks promoting her legislative agenda is the media’s job. Where in the world did she ever come up with such an idea? From a media that has been more than happy to promote past agendas. That’s where.

Truth is now subservient to political agendas; not the agendas of politicians, but the agendas of news organizations and individual reporters.

We don’t need to go back very far to understand why just 7 percent of those surveyed have “a great deal of trust” in the news media. From the phony, “Border patrol whip migrants” story, advanced by the national media and the Biden administration; to Katie Couric’s admission in her memoir that she edited out parts of an interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg – who was critical of athletes kneeling during the national anthem – to protect the aging justice; to the New York Times overstating the number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S. by some 800,000 (the real number is more like 63,000); there’s plenty of evidence. And this was just within the last two weeks.

There are still good reporters and solid news organizations doing good work. I know and worked with some of them and they’re still fighting the good fight. But their work is often overshadowed by pundits and commentators pretending to be journalists, by activist reporters who see nothing wrong with using their platform to advance an ideology, and by a media establishment that values firstness and clicks over correctness.

It’s fair to ask why I spend my days preparing college students to be journalists while, at the same time, decrying the profession. There are days when I ask the same question.

The answer is journalism needs saving and is worth saving. Yes, the so-called Fourth Estate might look more like an ice fishing shed at the moment, at least in the eyes of consumers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be salvaged.

Sadly, community newspapers, the last bastions of local news coverage, are disappearing. About 1,800 local papers have closed or merged in the U.S. since 2004. Eventually, all local papers will go digital, if they’re still around.

Still, even though the delivery systems change, there will always be a need for honest, truth-seeking, truth-telling journalism.

But if the profession is going to regain the public’s trust, it needs to take some serious inventory and acknowledge its failings. And printing a retraction doesn’t qualify as honest self-reflection. I’m more interested in the reporting that led the retraction.

The Gallup survey would be a good place to start. The news media should look at these numbers, acknowledge its predicament and ask some difficult questions. Or, it can ignore them, at its own peril.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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The Lie About Border Patrol Agents is Still a Lie

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Simply saying something over and over doesn’t make it so. I know because I’ve tried it. No matter how many times I say, “I’m a good golfer, I’m a good golfer,” the reality is I still stink, as anyone who has seen me on the course will verify.

Yet, the George Costanza it’s-not-a-lie-if-you-believe-it strategy is alive and thriving in the highest levels of government and media.

For Exhibit A – and there are others but we’ll just stick with this one – let’s examine the “Border patrol agents on horses seen whipping migrants” story. The problem with this story is it never actually happened but the president of the United States, his administration, and too many media outlets pretended it did.

At a press conference on Friday, President Biden threatened border patrol agents.

“It’s outrageous. I promise you those people will pay.” Pay how and for what, we’re not sure.

“It was horrible to see what you saw, to see people treated like they did — horses nearly running them over, people being strapped,” Biden said.

Here’s the problem, Mr. President. I didn’t see it and neither did you or anyone else.

What we did see is a photo of border patrol agents on horseback twirling reins, which are used to steer a horse. Not that anyone would mistake me for Roy Rogers, but I know that much. There are no photos of agents whipping migrants. None. Nor is there any video, in an age when there’s video of everything.

The photographer, Paul Ratje, who took the controversial images to which the president and his acolytes refer, told KTSM TV in El Paso that he never saw agents whipping anyone.

“Some of the Haitian men started running, trying to go around the horses,” Ratje, told the TV station. “I’ve never seen them whip anyone…He was swinging it, but it can be misconstrued when you’re looking at the picture.”

Ratje’s images were published on Sunday. On Monday, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended border patrol agents, saying they often use long reins to control horses to keep people from coming too close and getting seriously injured. But by Tuesday, Mayorkas said he was “horrified” by the images. By Wednesday, there was an investigation underway and the agents involved were on desk duty.

What changed? There were no new photos. The skeptical me wonders if Mayorkas got a phone call from someone in the White House Monday night encouraging him to take a second look at the photos and come up with a different interpretation. In other words, look at the photo as you would Monet’s “Impression, Sunrise” and see whatever you like.

Another consequence of this false story – other than truth itself – is that border patrol agents are no longer allowed to use horses. It should be noted that mounted law enforcement officers are not new. Horses have been used, mostly for crowd control, in big cities throughout the country for decades. They’ve used horses on the border because agents are often traversing unpaved roads and paths. No matter. As long as we’re reacting to something that never happened, we need to keep up the pretense. Let the investigation continue and never let the facts get in the way.

It seems that the story in Del Rio, Tx. – the real story, the worsening border crisis, the humanitarian catastrophe – was generally ignored by the media and political class until Ratje’s photos went viral. Why?

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that border patrol agents whipping migrants is an attractive narrative for those who favor lax immigration or open borders policies. Besides, the truth is far too embarrassing.

Now, according to Mayorkas, some 12,000 unvaccinated, COVID-untested Haitian migrants who showed up in Del Rio have been transferred into the country’s interior. So much for “Your journey will not succeed,” as Mayorkas had warned.

Vice President Harris, who was put in charge of getting control of illegal immigration at the border, has said next to nothing about the crisis, which she helped create. However, she did weigh in – surprise – on the photos of border patrol agents on horseback, saying they evoke “times of slavery.”

To recap, the Biden administration made the choice to perpetuate a false story, declare war on its own border agents, show the U.S. as a racist, intolerant country, and ensure that the media is sufficiently distracted by the lie thus diverting attention from the overarching issue which is this – if you don’t have a secure border, you will eventually cease to have a country.

Political expediency defeats reality, again.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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Threats and Insults Won’t Get People Vaccinated

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I happen to believe vaccines are a good idea. That’s why I got one.

Everyone in my family is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Furthermore, a lot of what I hear as justification for not getting vaccinated is nothing more than kooky talk, based neither in fact nor reality – from the DNA manipulation conspiracy theory to microchip implantation paranoia.

By the way, if the government wants to shoot a chip into me so I can be tracked, go right ahead. You’re likely to be very disappointed by what my day-to-day routine reveals.

However, legitimate skepticism – and no, not all skepticism is fueled by whacky conspiracy theories – about vaccines is understandable, given the conflicting information we’ve received since the beginning of the pandemic. But anyone who dares express concern about the current policy is labeled a heretic.

I wrote a piece a few weeks ago in which I questioned the timing of booster vaccines which, as it turns out, was also questioned by infectious diseases experts and officials at the Food and Drug Administration, two of whom have since resigned. A reader emailed and insisted that by merely raising the issue, I will be responsible for future COVID deaths among the unvaccinated.

This sort of either-you-agree-with-me-or-you’re-a-murderer method of debate makes it a bit difficult to have a reasonable discussion. Worse, it only makes skeptics more skeptical. True, there’s a certain portion of the population that is so dug in at this point that nothing anyone says or any evidence presented will change hearts and minds. But there are others who are legitimately conflicted and confused, due in no small part to what our public servants, elected officials and media have been telling them.

In his mostly awful and strangely angry speech on vaccine mandates last week, President Biden said, “We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.” He had just said that vaccinated Americans face no health risk from the virus. It’s this kind of muddled messaging that only gives more ammunition to the resistant. If I’m one of the 80 million unvaccinated Americans listening to the president, I’m less motivated to run out and get vaccinated than I was before he started talking.

A pandemic is a fluid situation. Most reasonable people understand that guidelines and recommendations can change based on updated information. But if the goal is really to motivate unvaccinated Americans to get a least one dose of a vaccine, portraying vaccine skeptics as potential killers or misguided morons is a curious strategy. And the media isn’t helping.

Last week, Rolling Stone ran with, and other left-leaning media outlets shared, a story about Oklahoma hospitals being overrun by patients who overdosed on ivermectin, a drug commonly used to treat parasites in animals and, in some cases, in humans, according to the FDA. The drug has also been advocated by vaccine skeptics as a COVID treatment. The problem with the story, which was originally reported by KFOR TV in Oklahoma, is it wasn’t true. The hospitals themselves refuted the report.

A story such as this only sees the light of day because it wasn’t properly vetted and worse, because those who reported and shared it were predisposed to assume it was – and wanted it to be – true.

Just this week, CNN host Don Lemon called unvaccinated people “stupid” and called on the vaccinated to “start shaming them.”

Americans generally distrust politicians and the media isn’t far behind. Again, if the goal is to get the unvaccinated to join the rest of us, bogus news stories, divisive rhetoric and “hot takes” from bloviating pundits aren’t going to cut it.

Human experience tells us that attempting to legislate behavior only makes the reluctant less likely to cooperate. If you doubt this, try telling your teenage daughter she should dump her boyfriend. You’ll be responsible for the most star-crossed love story since Edward the VIII first asked Wallis Simpson to join him for tea and scones.

About 74% of the U.S. population over 12 years of age has received at least one dose of COVID vaccine. Most experts agree that we need to get to around 80% to have some form of herd immunity.

If we’re going to get there anytime soon, more education and less scolding would be a good start. And we would do well to remember the “We’re all in this together” pandemic mantra that was popular once upon a time. It seems to me a much better approach than “Get on board or else.”

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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And They Came For the Leprechaun, Too

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I’m right infrequently enough that I like to point it out when it happens. This time, I wasn’t only right. I was downright prophetic.

A few weeks ago, in a column about “cancel culture,” I touched on the elimination of certain team mascots as a capitulation to toxic wokeism. I jokingly mentioned that someone ought to take a look at the Notre Dame leprechaun. Turns out, someone did. Poor little fella.

Not that anyone listens to me, of course. Plus, if there’s one thing we know about members of the woke left it’s that they have no sense of humor. So, either they took me seriously and decided to grab their proverbial pitchforks and descend – virtually, of course – on South Bend, or more likely, they concluded, on their own, that the leprechaun should be planted in a shallow grave underneath the nearest rainbow.

In a study of mascots – not a joke – Quality Logo Products ranked Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish leprechaun, bless his little green drawers, the fourth-most offensive college mascot in the nation. Fourth is not good, at least not out of 128 Division I mascots. The top three offenders all had some sort of Native American theme. The poll, which had appeared on Quality Logo’s website, has since been taken down.

The Irish news website has now taken out its shillelagh to have a go at the leprechaun. Niall O’Dowd writes, “Let’s face it, the fighting Irish leprechaun hardly reflects well on the Irish no more than the dreadful term “Redskins” reflected on American Indians.”

As for what should happen to the leprechaun, O’Dowd continues, “He needs to retire to Gloca Morra where there’s a twinkle in every eye and a begob and begorrah on everyone’s lips and a drink in every hand served by a bosomy barmaid who sings “Toor a Loora Loora” on demand.

But it seems the leprechaun isn’t all that keen to walk off into the Emerald Isle sunset just yet. Notre Dame has officially declared this whole affair, “Malarkey!”

“In both the upraised fists of the leprechaun mascot and the use of the word ‘fighting,’ the intent is to recognize the determination of the Irish people and, symbolically, the university’s athletes,” the university said in a statement.

Hopefully, this sets the record straight for those who incorrectly assumed the leprechaun is making fists because he had one too many Kilkenny Cream Ale’s and went looking for trouble.

If you’re still not convinced, you can take it up with the leprechaun himself. He has his own Twitter account.

Kudos to Notre Dame and its supporters for not caving. I, while not a Notre Dame fame, happen to love leprechauns, even the pugnacious ones, and was only persuaded recently that they aren’t real. I’m still not convinced.

Not only did the leprechaun and Fighting Irish faithful refuse to give in, they apparently put the fear of the Almighty into the good folks – or just folks – at Quality Logo Products, who reposted the survey minus the “most offensive” category. And it gets a little sillier, if that’s possible. The company posted its survey methodology.

“The study participants were 55.4% male, 43.6 female, and 1% non-binary. They ranged in age from 18-79, with a median age of 36. In terms of sexual orientation, 85.1% identified as heterosexual, 2.8% as gay or lesbian, 10.9% as bisexual and the remaining 1.1% preferred not to say.”

This is important information because when analyzing any survey about mascots, my first question is always, how many bisexuals were polled?

We should just be glad that the leprechaun has stood up to the haters. He realizes that it never ends with just leprechauns. It’s only a matter of time before they come for Pistol Pete, the Demon Deacon and Purdue Pete, no relation to Pistol. What then? Do we really want to live in a world where Willie the Wildcat and Sammy the Spartan live in constant fear of exile or worse?

“No!” I say. Stand firm, all of you big-headed and sometimes unrecognizable mascots. Keep fighting the good fight, Stanford Tree and Western Kentucky’s Big Red, who looks suspiciously like McDonald’s Grimace. We have your back, or your front. It’s hard to tell the difference.

Nevertheless, for inspiration, look to the leprechaun, while you still can.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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A COVID Booster? Not So Fast.

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Yeah, I’ll get the booster. I might even ask for a double, just in case.

The CDC, which is now running the country, told me I need it and very few, including the media, have the temerity to take on the CDC.

“A booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability,” the CDC announced Wednesday.

Good enough for me.

Not so fast. This just in, as we say in the news business.

Some other scientists, who are pretty smart and don’t work for the government, are highly critical of the Biden administration’s push for booster shots.

“People are still highly protected against severe disease, hospitalization, and death. This is what vaccines are supposed to do,” said Dr. Anna Durbin, a vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University, CNBC reported.

Durbin also said that any so-called “breakthrough” infections are presenting as nothing more serious than a moderate cold. Even the FDA agrees and maintains that boosters might be more appropriate for folks who are severely immunocompromised, according to the report.

“There isn’t enough data to support the third booster for all at this point,” Dr. Priya Sampathkumar, an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic, told CNBC.

I’m not a scientist, but Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic seem like pretty reliable sources for medical information.

I believe in science. Whose science am I supposed to believe? I’d really rather not have some strange emergency-approved cocktail injected into my body if it isn’t absolutely necessary. I’ll deal with the cold. On the other hand, I realize that rejecting our government’s advice is akin to asking for a course of leeches instead of a vaccine. I’m also aware that such a stance could get me banned from social media, which I might care about if I was on social media.

In the spring, I had the vaccine, administered at the local public library, which seemed like a sketchy choice of venues to inoculate the citizenry. Who knows where those books have been?

More interesting than the shot itself was the 15-minute, let’s-see-if-anyone keels-over waiting period. I had a bit of a cough that day, though I had tested negative for COVID. I stifled the cough for obvious reasons. Clearly, if the overseers thought I was too far gone to be useful, my organs would be ripe for the harvesting. The government has been looking for an excuse to get its hands on my pancreas. I also hadn’t ruled out the possibility of a “Soylent Green” situation; a shout-out to my conspiracy theorist friends out there. By the way, the dystopian thriller was set in 2022. Look it up and beware of Sloppy Joe.

I left the library with no side effects. I did, however, get a sticker and my vaccination card; each verification that I have been vaccinated and am therefore better than those who remain skeptical and unvaccinated.

As an aside, I do wonder how many boosters it will take before the TSA eases up on mask mandates, which have now been extended until at least January.

The airlines are vigilant about masks, less so about getting you to your destination on time. The heightened vigilance makes sense because flight attendants have a lot less to do now that they’re no longer serving snacks. They do warn you that if you fall asleep and your mask falls below your nose, they will not hesitate to wake you. I saw it happen the other day. A guy across the aisle was in his fourth REM cycle when the flight attendant shook him by the shoulder. He was startled.

“What?! What?! Mom?”

The flight attendant pointed to her nose, which I suppose is now the universal signal to pull up your mask. So, if you’re playing charades, you’ll have to come up with something else.

Still, the question remains. To booster or not to booster? I might wait on this one, let it marinate a bit. Wait for some other smart people to weigh in. As we’ve already learned, there’s nothing more helpful during a pandemic than a multitude of conflicting opinions.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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The ‘Woke’ Cabal Must Have Missed Super Mario

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I haven’t weighed in on the whole “cancel culture” business for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it’s so stupid.

First, they came for Aunt Jemima. Then Dr. Seuss, Dumbo, and, worst of all, the beloved but lecherous Pepe Le Pew who, according to the New York attorney general, seems to have inspired the state’s current governor and his active hands.

Sadly, I learned only recently that the Land O’ Lakes lady has become another casualty of toxic “wokeism.” I always found her such a peaceful, calming presence on my butter. She managed to take my mind off the fact that her rich, creamy brew is slowly killing me.

But there’s another figure the culture police have either missed or ignored. Surely, he has been a source of amusement for decades. Have they not seen him and summoned the requisite phony outrage to make him disappear? Will there be no day of reckoning for Super Mario?

If you haven’t seen Mario, of video game fame, or need a reminder of what he looks like, google him and take a peek. I’ll wait. Now, tell me if you’ve ever seen an Italian who looks like that. I have not and I’ve seen a lot of Italians.

Mario has it all – the huge moustache, the overalls, and look at the schnozz on him. Just because he’s Italian he has to have a nose like an awning?

According to my exhaustive research, Mario doesn’t have a last name but he does have a twin brother – Luigi. Of course. Never Steve or Tom. What I would have given to be in on that meeting at Nintendo. It probably went something like this. (I’ve taken the liberty of translating from the original Japanese.)

“OK, let’s give him a brother. What do you think? Luigi, Guiseppe? How about Gogootz or Stunod?

“Nah. Too ethnic. He’s an overweight Italian plumber. Let’s go with Luigi.”

And while we’re at it, it’s my duty as an Italian-American to point out that the cartoon chef on my pizza box looks suspiciously like Mario; same enormous mustache, same nose. The only difference is he’s wearing a little chef’s outfit complete with hat. I’ve been to that pizza place many times and I’ve never seen anyone in the back who looks remotely like that. Last time I was in to pick up a pizza, I studied the picture on the box. There he was, staring at me, mocking me, with his goofy smile, clearly subservient as he holds his pizza in the air.

As an aside, I also feel the need to say a few words on behalf of my Irish friends. Somehow, the University of Notre Dame has been able to fly under the “woke” radar but isn’t it time we deal with the nickname and mascot – the “Fighting Irish” and the fist-making leprechaun? The only thing missing from the logo is the backstory. I’m sure the leprechaun had a few too many, went looking for trouble and happened to stagger into the Notre Dame/Vanderbilt game.

“What are…you…looking at?”

Fighting Irish, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians. The Washington Redskins are already dead and buried. To be safe, we should just eliminate all mascots that refer to humans. Let’s just stick with animals and weather events — Lions, Tigers, Thunder, Hurricanes. We can’t offend the animals or weather. At least I don’t think we can offend animals. Some look pretty offended already. North Carolina’s Rameses the ram seems perpetually belligerent while it’s clear that Navy’s Bill the Goat would rather be anywhere else.

But rams and goats are small potatoes compared to portly Italian plumbers who toil in virtual servitude for video game conglomerates. I suppose if I were to put together a small cadre of Italians to complain we could take Mario for a ride, so to speak. If cancel culture has taught us anything, it’s that it only takes a small but shrill group of malcontents to undo tradition and come up with a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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The Media is Missing the Story on Violent Crime

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“It’s interesting when people die,” wrote Don Henley in the anti-media-sensationalism song “Dirty Laundry” back in 1982. Not much has changed since. There are more media outlets and platforms than ever, but tragedy still sells.

Mass shootings generate extensive media coverage, and understandably so. Murders committed in unusual or sensational circumstances get covered because true crime with a twist is interesting.

The problem with violent crime, especially if we rely primarily on one news source for our information, is that we tend to see the world through a straw.

According to FBI numbers, there were 25% more murders in 2020 than in the previous year. Through the first three months of this year, shootings are up 18% compared to last year. Among big cities with violence issues, Chicago leads the pack. In the first six months of the year, Chicago has seen some 336 homicides – 33% more than in 2019. You’ve never heard about most of these shootings and you’ve heard even less about incidents in which there were no fatalities.

A study in the journal of Preventive Medicine, released in October, looked at the way media covers shootings and found that news reports place a “disproportionate emphasis on fatal and multiple shootings, while also focusing on uncommon victims, such as women.”

The authors of the study interviewed a number of physicians who treat gunshot victims.

“I am particularly saddened when I find there was no media reporting on the shootings that have caused injury and death to my patients, which is most often the case,” said the study’s lead author, Elinore Kaufman, MD, an assistant professor of Surgery in Traumatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The study also pointed out that while mass shootings get most of the media coverage and, I would add, attention from politicians, shootings in the study that involved multiple victims made up only 22% of the total.

In big cities such as New York, Chicago, or Philadelphia, where I worked as a reporter for many years, you can’t cover every homicide. I’ve covered more murders than I can count, but in just about every case, there was some angle – multiple victims, unusual circumstances, location – that made it newsworthy. And yes, demographics played a role then and they do now. A fatal shooting in a wealthy suburb in more likely to make news than a similar crime in the inner city.

The Preventive Medicine study looked at 1,801 victims of intentional shootings and found that only about half were covered in the news. Of these victims, about 83% were Black, but just 49% made the news.

Here’s an example of the kind of story that makes news.

A few weeks ago, we took our daughter to Annapolis, Maryland to begin life at the U.S. Naval Academy. The USNA calls it “plebe week” as families descend to watch their children take an oath and dedicate themselves to the service of the country. It’s a grand, star-spangled ceremony.

Michelle Cummings came to Annapolis to see her son Trey’s Induction Day. Trey is a Navy football recruit. But on June 29, two days before the ceremony, Michelle was shot and killed as she sat on the porch of her hotel – a stray bullet, police said, fired by a fugitive who was aiming at two people inside a vehicle. The alleged shooter had been on home detention but cut off his ankle bracelet May 3.

The story made national news. Take away the Naval Academy angle and does the national media tell this family’s story? You still have a victim, a grieving family and a shooter who shouldn’t have been on the street. A tragedy by any definition.

These types of stories, and the statistics that represent the thousands of other victims who never made news, invariably lead to a debate about firearms, background checks and banning certain types of weapons. It’s always the lowest hanging fruit.

I’m far more interested in an honest discussion among the media and elected officials about why we’re killing each other and about shining a broader light on the problem, rather than focusing on specific incidents that advance political narratives. It seems to me the same media that see themselves as advocates for social justice might have a hard time explaining why the majority of shootings involving Black victims never get reported.

It takes a lot less work to report on symptoms rather than underlying causes. It’s much easier to nurture a climate in which cops are the enemy and to lead every discussion about violent crime by talking about guns rather than the criminals who use them. Focus on the unusual, the shocking, the politically expedient.

There’s a term for this – dirty laundry.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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Welcome to a World Where Ethnicity is Relative

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I confess that I had never heard of Oli London.

London is a British-born “influencer.” I’m not sure how one becomes an influencer but London, who identifies as “non-binary” and “transracial” is an influencer. I’m pretty sure I’m not an influencer. I am sure that I’m white, as is London.

“Hey guys, I’m finally Korean. I’ve transitioned!” London recently announced.

Yes, thanks to 18 plastic surgeries and a fractured take on ethnicity, London is now Korean, at least according to London. But the transition has come with a price – death threats and estrangement from family, London said.

Various published reports indicate that, for some reason, London wanted to look like Korean popstar Park Jimin. This created somewhat of an uproar and triggered another debate over cultural appropriation.

In a culture in which gender is a matter of personal preference, why not ethnicity?

To be clear, London is no more Korean than I am, which is not at all. London claims to have a genuine love for the Korean culture which, plus the surgeries, is enough, at least by London’s standards for racial identification.

I suppose London could have skipped the surgeries and simply declared Koreanness, much in the way Michael Scott, in an episode of The Office, declared bankruptcy. Scott simply announced, in a very loud voice, to his employees, “I declare bankruptcy!”

London claims to have invented transracialism. Sorry, Oli, you didn’t. Transracialism is neither new nor unique. In 2017, a white man named Adam, from Tampa, Fla., announced to the world that he would henceforth live as a Filipino and changed his name to Ja Du. When asked, “Why?” Ja Du said he identifies with the Filipino culture.

“Whenever I’m around the music, around the food, I feel like I’m in my own skin,” he said.

You might also remember Rachel Dolezal, who ran a Washington state chapter of the NAACP. For years, she represented herself as a black activist, until it was discovered that she was actually white. Both her parents were white. Dolezal didn’t understand why this was a problem because she identified as black. So, Oli, you’re way behind the curve. When the Dolezal story broke in 2015, she was excoriated, lampooned, and called a fraud. In retrospect, she now looks like a visionary.

I happen to love Scotland. Therefore, I plan to put on a kilt, knee socks, complete with sgian-dubh, and change my name to Angus MacDougall. By modern standards, this will make me a bona fide Scotsman.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Aberdeen. I was struck by the sudden realization that no matter how I alter or adorn myself, I still won’t be a Scotsman and thus will not be competing in the sheaf toss at this year’s Highland games.

Disappointing as this is, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s the truth, not just my truth but truth. “I am what I am,” as Popeye said. There’s wisdom in Popeye if you can look past the sailor suit and freakishly oversized forearms.

Why should I care if Oli London wants to be Korean? What’s the harm? Fair questions. After all, aren’t London, Ja Du and Rachel Dolezal free to be whoever they want?

The problem, it seems to me, is that we’re on dangerous ground as a society when we view something as objectively true as one’s ethnicity as subjective. (We can have the gender discussion another time.)

Cultural identity is important as are discussions about culture as it relates to education or economics. But if the outcomes are not as favorable for a particular group, transracialism allows us to simply change teams. It’s a slippery slope and a short journey to ridiculousness.

Should my white daughter declare herself a Pacific Islander in order to qualify for a minority scholarship? If culture and ethnicity are subjective and pliable, why not? There doesn’t seem to be much daylight between that and a white woman claiming she’s black so she can work for the NAACP.

So, given where we are, Oli London isn’t really that countercultural after all, which might be the most disturbing part of the story.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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We Can Change the Language of Abortion, But Not the Reality

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We use euphemisms to soften reality. We do it all the time when forced to discuss things we would rather not discuss or even acknowledge. Death comes to mind.

I’ve completed an exhaustive study and determined that death affects one out of one human beings. Still, we’d rather not talk about it or we try to make it a bit more digestible. After all, it sounds much nicer to say he’s “passed away” than he’s dead.

Employers are good at this. “We’re going in a different direction” is much more polite than “You’re fired.”

Much of our interaction with our kids is laced with euphemisms. When my daughters were young, I found myself adopting certain euphemisms into my daily lexicon. I can remember, when I worked for the Justice Department office in Philadelphia, excusing myself from an important meeting by saying, “I need to find the ‘potty.’”

The problem with euphemisms is they can be used to deceive others and even ourselves. History is replete with state-sanctioned euphemisms designed to camouflage the truly horrible. For example, the “Final Solution” made for much better propaganda fodder than the “systematic murder of six million Jews.”

Today, in the U.S., discussions about hot-button issues such as abortion are often lessons in euphemistic gymnastics, performed with amazing skill and dexterity in the White House briefing room.

A few days ago, a reporter asked President Joe Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, a very direct and simple question. Does the president believe “a 15-week-old unborn baby is a human being?”

The answer ought to be just as simple, especially for anyone who is aware of ultrasound technology.

Instead, Psaki answered, “Are you asking me if the president supports a woman’s right to choose? He does.”

That wasn’t the question and Psaki knew it. But to answer “yes” would have been an admission of what an abortion is and what it entails. It’s much easier to couch support for a barbaric procedure in terms such as, “a woman’s right to choose” and “reproductive rights.” You can change the language but you can’t change reality.

It seems we’ve crossed yet another weird sociological and moral threshold when the leader of the free world, for purely political reasons, refuses to admit that a 15-week-old unborn baby is human. For an administration that often scolds its critics for failing to consider science, it seems more than willing to ignore biological reality. If you’re interested, WebMD offers this description of an unborn 15-week-old:

“Look closely, and you’ll be able to see a network of fine blood vessels forming. Baby’s muscles are getting stronger, and they are testing them out by moving around, making fists, and trying out different facial expressions.”

That certainly sounds like a human to me.

The reason the reporter’s question was relevant and posed to Psaki in the first place was that in the fall, the U.S. Supreme court is scheduled to hear arguments on Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks. In the past, the president, through spokespeople, has called such prohibitions on abortion “an assault on women’s rights.”

Such language has been part of the abortion debate for decades. Proponents of legal abortion would like you to believe that what is at stake in the Mississippi case and other similar cases is a woman’s “right to choose.” There’s nothing new about this defense, of course.

What is new is that we know a lot more about unborn babies than we did in 1973, when the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade.

We know that some 62 million abortions have been performed in this country since 1973 and we can clearly see, through scientific innovation, the humanness in an unborn baby.

But for Psaki to admit than a 15-week-old unborn baby is human would be to admit that abortion and the administration’s support of it really isn’t about choice at all, no matter how much it tries to euphemize its way around the issue.

Because if it is, then we inevitably have to answer the question, “What choice have we really made?”

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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Jon Rahm Story More Overreaction Than Cautionary Tale

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Try to hit a golf ball. Go ahead. It’s just sitting there, on its little tee, smiling at you. It looks easy. It’s not.

Golf is an excruciatingly difficult sport to play, much less master. At the professional level, it’s really hard to win a golf tournament. Harder still to win a PGA tour event. There are dozens of very accomplished golfers who go their entire careers without winning a tournament. For PGA tour pros, you’re not out there playing for Team X against Team Y. It’s you against 150 other guys, and you have to beat every one of them.

Jon Rahm is one of the best golfers in the world. Last weekend, at the Memorial tournament in Ohio, he was in the middle of the round of a lifetime. He had already made a hole-in-one and had played his way to a six-shot lead. With only one round remaining, unless he was abducted by aliens in the middle of it, Rahm was going to win the tournament and $1.6 million. Then, in a society that has become increasingly hysterical and overreactive, we witnessed, in front of network TV cameras, a hysterical overreaction.

Rahm, it was learned during the day, tested positive for COVID-19 and would therefore be “withdrawn” from, i.e. kicked out of the tournament.

PGA officials dismissed Rahm with as much ceremony as Michael Corleone dismissed longtime consigliere Tom Hagen in The Godfather – “You’re out, Tom.” – and with even less tact. They grabbed Rahm, on live television, while he was still on the course, and delivered the news. Understandably, Rahm was visibly shaken though gracious in his post-ejection comments to the media.

Aside from the PGA’s sausage-fingered handling of the matter, it’s fair to question whether such a drastic step was necessary.

Golf, more than any other sport is, even under normal circumstances, socially distanced. In fact, part of the appeal of golf, at least for me is its social distancing. For PGA tour golfers, during tournament play, they’re on the course with their caddies, their clubs and their thoughts. That’s it.

Since President Biden and Dr. Fauci gave us permission to go out and play, I see people, every day, outdoors, at the park, in the grocery store, in church, without masks, functioning normally. (And by the way, if you’re vaccinated and it makes you feel better to wear a mask, or two masks, or a space helmet, go for it. Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.) But how many of those people have been tested for COVID or vaccinated, or might be walking around asymptomatic as Rahm had been? We assume a certain level of risk when we leave our homes.

It appears Rahm was not vaccinated, though that hasn’t been confirmed. I’m not sure why he wasn’t vaccinated, but that’s his choice. I say this as someone who is vaccinated. But Rahm is a healthy, 26-year-old athlete. His chances of dying from COVID are, according to the CDC, in the neighborhood of one percent or less.

But what about him transmitting the virus to someone else? It’s a fair question but the wrong one, at least in this case. The question should have been, could he play one round of golf without putting anyone else at risk? Yes, he could have.

Yet, Rahm was exiled and within the aftermath came a fair amount of victim-blaming by the media. Rahm’s story is now a “cautionary tale” or, as New York magazine wrote, “a great vaccine PSA.”

Yes, if only he been vaccinated, this entire fiasco could have been avoided. Possibly. But perhaps Rahm, as a healthy 26-year-old, didn’t feel comfortable receiving a vaccine approved for emergency use. In fact, the lack of full FDA approval is what’s holding many American adults back from getting vaccinated.

Perhaps the Rahm story will inspire a more reasonable response the next time something like this happens and there will be a next time.

In a June 8 Yahoo sports column, Henry Bushnell asks, “If Rahm felt well enough to play, and if his competitors were either protected by vaccination or unconcerned by the virus to an extent that they would refuse vaccination, why couldn’t Rahm play on?”

An excellent question. At least someone other than Rahm is asking.

Copyright 2021 Rich Manieri, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. You can reach him at [email protected]

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