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Abolish the NCAA (cont.)

As if we needed any more evidence that the NCAA is a corrupt and destructive organization, here is the word from the horse’s mouth: comments by Walter Byers, the former long-time executive director of the NCAA, who died recently at age 93. In his New York Times obituary, Byers is described as both a creator and a destroyer — he is hailed for having “forged a moneymaking colossus” only to see the NCAA develop into a racket that Byers himself considered “corrupt and unfair.”

Some excerpts from the obit:

Mr. Byers is often given credit for coining the term student-athlete, and it’s possible he did (he was known to deflect both credit and the spotlight), although, as he put it in his 1995 memoir, “Unsportsmanlike Conduct,” “We crafted the term student-athlete, and soon it was embedded in all N.C.A.A. rules and interpretations.”

And this:

But as his tenure grew closer to its end, he viewed the college sports landscape with increasing cynicism, recognizing, he said, that the high stakes of the sports business had led to rampant corruption, made the notion of amateurism quaint and outdated, and gave an air of hypocrisy to the N.C.A.A.’s insistence on maintaining it.

In 1984 Mr. Byers told The A.P. that he believed that 30 percent of big-time college athletic programs were cheating and that he despaired of bringing the problem under control. He suggested the creation of an “open division” within the N.C.A.A., in which colleges could opt to operate their sports teams as semiprofessional programs.

“I don’t think the fabric of higher education as we believe in it and would like to see it function in this country can stand the strain of big-time intercollegiate athletics and maintain its integrity,” he said in a subsequent interview with Sports Illustrated.

former NCAA exec director Walter Byers

former NCAA exec director Walter Byers

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Epistemic injustice in the academy: an analysis of the Saida Grundy witch-hunt

profdaly:

I rarely share this space with outsiders, but I think my readers will appreciate this commentary on some recent issues at Boston University. I did not write it, but I find it cogent and informed.
~The Journalism Professor

Originally posted on The Academe Blog:

Guest blogger Arianne Shahvisi is an assistant professor of philosophy at the American University of Beirut, and has recently written commentary for the New Statesman, Jacobin, Open Democracy, and Truthout, centered on issues surrounding race, class, gender, and borders.

Last month, Saida Grundy, an incoming sociology faculty member at Boston University, tweeted a set of remarks and rhetorical questions regarding white supremacy, slavery, and misogyny in the US. In other words, a trained sociologist of race made some observations centered on race that were perfunctory and impassioned (as tweets invariably are), but nonetheless cogent. And that really should have been the end of that.

Instead, her comments were met with a barrage of hate from ostensibly offended right-wing campus groups, and a subsequent outpouring of solidarity from Twitter users citing #IstandwithSaida. The episode culminated with a condescending letter from the Boston University administrators who have just hired Grundy, in…

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Sy Hersh’s latest expose: Did Obama mislead about bin Laden’s killing?

By Christopher B. Daly

Before deciding that veteran investigative reporter Sy Hersh has become the crazy uncle of American journalism, it might be worth considering whether he might be right about the bin Laden killing.

Earlier this week, Hersh unloaded a 10,000-word alternative history of the 2011 raid on that compound in

White House photo, by Pete Souza.

White House photo, by Pete Souza.

Abbottabad, Pakistan. In the official version, a U.S. Navy Seal team risked their lives in a dangerous raid into hostile territory to swoop in, find bin Laden, and (when he made a false move) execute him. It was a major gung-ho moment for the Obama national security team. Even conservatives briefly had to salute the president for having the nerve to order the raid.

Now comes Hersh, the fabled investigator who first came to prominence in 1969 when he broke the My Lai massacre scandal, who says he was dubious from the outset about the Obama team’s story. Hersh argues that his reporting points in another direction. He asserts that bin Laden was effectively in the custody of Pakistan’s intelligence service and that the Pakistani military agreed to stand aside while the Seals pulled off the fatal raid.

The Obama administration quickly pushed back. So did some American journalists, such as Peter Bergen of CNN.

Then came a second wave of articles covering the controversy, raising such questions as: if Hersh’s story is so great, why wasn’t it published in The New Yorker (which is Hersh’s institutional home base)? Here’s a version by the always interesting Gabriel Sherman in New York mag. The most disappointing point raised in Sherman’s fine piece was the no-comment by David Remnick, the top editor of The New Yorker. (Come on, David.)

Before coming to any conclusions, everyone should settle in and prepare to do a lot of reading. I would also recommend paying particular attention to someone who really knows what she’s talking about: Carlotta Gall, who was the New York Times‘ bureau chief in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2013. During those dozen years, she too was on the trail of bin Laden, and she followed leads into the lawless “tribal areas” between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Fearless, tough-minded, and thoroughly empirical, Gall is skeptical about the Hersh’s story but points out that it tracks some of the rumors, leads, and facts that she heard while in the region. In a piece for the Times magazine posted yesterday, Gall wrote that she “would not dismiss the claims immediately.”

Here she is talking to John Hockenberry today on his NPR show “The Takeaway.”

And an update: TNR offers an explanation for why Hersh is so isolated in this instance.

To step back a bit, here’s my view about Sy Hersh: he is a national treasure. Even when he gets things wrong (as he sometimes has over the decades), Hersh performs two important public services:

1. Never trust the official version.

2. When in doubt, dig in and do your own reporting.

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Media mashup

By Christopher B. Daly

A couple of recent developments need noticing:

–The NYTimes’s redoubtable foreign correspondent John F. Burns is retiring. In an unusual note about personnel matters published in today’s paper, the Times gives Burns a fond salute.

Also not to be missed: Burns’ last story was a colorful account of the re-burial of English King Richard III. At the end of his final piece, Burns closes with a “kicker” in the form of a quote — “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Not original, of course, but a nice touch.

–The Times flooded the zone in the East Village yesterday to cover the gas explosion and building collapse. By my count, there were 18 reporters and photographers involved (judging by bylines and photo credit lines), not to mention all the nameless

Victor J. Blue/NYT

Victor J. Blue/NYT

editors. Among the team of metro reporters was Tatiana Schlossberg, whose role is featured in the Times’ “City Room” blog. Which is fitting, since she is the daughter of one prominent New Yorker (U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy) and the granddaughter of another prominent New Yorker (Jackie O).

–The gang at Vice Media, the unshaven new news organization, has found a big new platform for distributing its news reports: HBO. Plans call for a daily newscast from Shane Smith and his band of disruptors.

Raising the question: who is NOT a journalist these days?

Shane Smith in a suit.

Shane Smith in a suit.

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Cronkite didn’t do it all alone: RIP, Sandy Socolow.

Let us note the passing of one of those people you never hear about who work behind the scenes to make sure the news keeps coming to you. Today’s Times brings news of the death of Sandy Socolow, the longtime CBS News exec who produced many of Walter Cronkite’s shining moments.

From the Times obit:

Mr. Socolow worked for CBS almost without interruption from the mid-1950s until 1988. He arrived as a writer for the morning news and shortly thereafter began working with Cronkite, first on a midday news program and later on “Eyewitness to History,” a series of news specials that evolved into a weekly prime-time half-hour that lasted until the “CBS Evening News,” with Cronkite in the anchor seat, expanded to 30 minutes, from 15, in 1963.

For several years Mr. Socolow was a co-producer of the “Evening News,” in charge of, among other things, Vietnam coverage; according to CBS, he was the New York segment producer of the shocking 1965 report by Morley Safer that showed American Marines setting fire to Cam Ne, a village near Da Nang, and that helped awaken Americans to the escalating calamity of the war. Mr. Socolow produced Cronkite’s coverage of the moon landing in 1969. In 1971 he hired the program’s first female producer, Linda Mason.

He became vice president, deputy news director and executive editor of CBS News in New York, and in 1972 was involved in one of the news division’s most controversial episodes. Less than two weeks before the presidential election, the “Evening News” broadcast Cronkite’s two-part summation of the unfolding Watergate story, largely following the reporting in The Washington Post by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Sandy Socolow, second from left, with Walter Cronkite, left, in 1970. The two later worked together on coverage of the Watergate scandal.  Credit Dan J. McCoy, Walter Cronkite Papers, UT Austin's Briscoe Center for American History

Sandy Socolow, second from left, with Walter Cronkite, left, in 1970. The two later worked together on coverage of the Watergate scandal.
Credit Dan J. McCoy, Walter Cronkite Papers, UT Austin’s Briscoe Center for American History

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Place your bets! When will NYT hit 1m digital subscribers?

By Christopher B. Daly

From today’s business pages, more good news (if you hunt for it) for the country’s most important institution of journalism. In a report on its own financial performance, tucked demurely inside the Business report, the New York Times reveals two key fact:

1. Digital advertising revenue is up!

2. Paid digital subscribers are up!

In today’s story, you have to hunt to find the good news, buried under the usual gloomy headline about the NYTCo’s overall performance. The main headline is — as usual — that profits slipped a tiny bit, mainly because of the continuing inevitable endless decline in print advertising and a small downturn in the money coming in from people who pay for the print edition. So what?

If you read the details of the company’s 4th-quarter results, you can find lots of good news:

–Online advertising rose 19 percent in the 4th quarter. (Yes, that includes some gain from “native advertising,” but if that’s what it takes to float the Times‘ boat, so be it.)

–The number of people who pay to subscribe to the Times online rose soared from 760,000 a year earlier to 910,000 at the end of 2014. That’s an increase of 150,000 new, paying customers, or 20 percent!

When you look at that part of the business — which is, after all, the future — the Times looks very much like a going concern. In fact, the Times‘ executive in charge of the business side, Mark Thompson, stuck his neck out and predicted that the Times will reach the 1 million milestone in paid online readers sometime in 2015. Care to wager on what day that will happen?

I’ll put my money on Sept. 18. That’s the date in 1851 when the New-York Daily Times was first published, saying about itself:

“. . . we intend to issue it every morning . . . for an indefinite number of years to come.”

And, for perspective, here is the 10-year chart of the NYTCO’s stock performance. Two things strike me. It’s hard not to notice that the stock plummeted in the Great Recession and that the Times is now up off the mat and fighting back. I now wish I had had the courage to buy some in 2009 — I could have doubled my money!

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 10.52.54 AM

[P.S. IMHO, the existential goal of the Times should be this: find enough digital revenue to pay for the cost of running the newsroom. Everything else is a distraction.]

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Journalist Ben Franklin inspires India’s PM

By Christopher B. Daly

imagesBy one account, India’s Prime Minister, Narendi Modi, has drawn inspiration from the life story of Ben Franklin — colonial-era printer, proto-American journalist, and publishing success.

In a recent radio address in conjunction with President Obama’s visit to India, Modi hailed Franklin.

. . .your question is, who has inspired me. I liked reading as a child. And I got an opportunity to read the biography of Benjamin Franklin

“And I tell everyone, we should read Benjamin Franklin’s biography. Even today, it inspires me. And Benjamin Franklin had a multi-dimensional personality. He was a politician, he was a political scientist, he was a social worker, he was a diplomat. And he came from an ordinary family. He could not even complete his education. But till today, his thoughts have an impact on American life,” he added.

It is unclear (to me, at least) whether Modi is referring to Franklin’s famous “Autobiography” or to one of the many fine biographies of BF (although most of the best ones were written long after Modi’s childhood; my favorites are by Isaacson and Brands.) If it’s the “Autobiography,” then Modi is probably referring to young Ben’s ferocious program of self-improvement and his determination to rise from beyond-humble beginnings to make something of himself. Indeed, 44-benjamin-franklin-1706-1790-grangerthe circumstances of Ben’s early life in Boston, as the 15th child in his father’s large family, were those of deep poverty in a distant fragment of the British Empire. Yet, by the end of his long and remarkable life, Franklin was one of the most accomplished and celebrated figures on the planet.

Need inspiration?

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