Screen shot by Carlene Variyan, as posted on Twitter
No, folks, this is not 1948.
Within moments after CNN announced with urgency and breathtaking inaccuracy that the Supreme Court had overturned “Obamacare” Thursday morning, Twitter was chattering about it under the hashtag #cnnfail.
Had this been 1948, the damage would have been relatively contained to the consumers of one product. It was the Chicago Tribune that inaccurately reported the defeat of President Truman. He made it famous by smiling and holding the paper aloft for photographers. Otherwise, only a few people who got that first edition would have known about it. The paper quickly followed up with a corrected edition.
Had this even been 1981, the damage would have been minimal. When John Hinckley Jr. fired shots at President Reagan, several media sources reported that White House Press Secretary James Brady was dead. The mistake has been debated in journalism schools and is generally known, but in 1981 there weren’t many alternative ways to get the news. The story was corrected and people moved on.
No, this is 2012. CNN didn’t just report the wrong outcome of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decision in years. It sent that wrong information out to smart-phones in the pockets of countless average Americans, ringing alerts that made them look. There was no way to miss this one.
And even though it corrected the error seven minutes later, it couldn’t stop the avalanche of social media chatter that, while mostly snarky, was filled with the kind of sage wisdom one expects to hear in the halls of journalism schools.
Among the snarky was this message to CNN reporters from Elizabeth Weitzman, telling them not to worry: “Even if you lose your job, you can still have health insurance.”
Among the sage was this from James Poniewozik: “Report it right but 2 minutes late, no one will care in an hour. Report it wrong 2 minutes early, no one will forget.”
Anyone who reads the first pages of the 192-page ruling can quickly see what happened. Right on the second page, it says Chief Justice John Roberts finds, “… that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.”
That looks like a rejection of the individual mandate.
It isn’t until page 4 that you find Roberts saying, “the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause.”
I have some sympathy for the reporters trying to quickly make sense of it all for CNN. You don’t have to work long in this business before making embarrassing mistakes. However, that doesn’t make them any less serious, or less damaging to your reputation.
The good news for CNN is that the public has a fairly short memory. I didn’t see a lot of Twitter talk recalling that NPR falsely reported in 2010 that Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been killed in the shooting that injured her in Tucson.
The bad news is that it will exist forever on the Internet. Today the news media is more competitive than ever before, and there is an urgency to be first. But the old-fashioned rules and virtues of good journalism also apply as never before.
As John Schwartz of the New York Times tweeted, “He who hesitates is smart.”
Who will hear them when they cry out?
The lives of teenage prostitutes revolve around two types of people — those who see them only as objects to satisfy their own urges, like urinals in a time of urgency, and those who make money off of them every time one of the men with urges comes along.
I just finished writing a Deseret News editorial reacting to a joint FBI and local law enforcement operation over the weekend that nabbed 104 alleged pimps and “rescued” 79 teenage prostitutes nationwide. I put quote marks around “rescued” because even the FBI admits some of them may be lured right back into prostitution.
Some have been in the sex trade since age 11. Many of them were troubled to begin with, living in abusive situations at home. The pimps lured them through social media or other places young people frequent. They befriended them, gave them drugs and shelter, then locked them into lives of abuse, false love and dependency.
If you’re a child, boy or girl (two of those “rescued” were boys), pimps aren’t your only worry. I’ve interviewed police who routinely pretend to be young teenagers online in chat rooms. They generally don’t have to wait long before someone much older comes along and wants to make friends and arrange a meeting. To cops, finding these guys is as easy as picking garbage from the gutter.
And then there are the relatives, baby sitters and other people in positions of authority. I’ve seen studies that show 80 percent to 90 percent of assaults on minors happen at the hands of someone the victim knows, or a family member.
These problems aren't new. If they were, children wouldn't grow up hearing fairy tales of boys and girls being chased by wolves, eaten by mean old witches or pursued by giants who hide in the leafy heights of a beanstalk.
But today the problems come with a new twist. Children and teenagers must be ready to run from ravenous wolves who can change their appearance and demeanor at will, who can turn from friendly cyber-chatters into wicked witches in an instant and who chase them with a desire to grind their bones for their own gratification.
``Little Red Riding Hood,'' ``Hansel and Gretel'' and ``Jack in the Bean Stalk,'' all have happy endings. The children run away. They chop down the giant stalks. But in real life this isn't always true. Even if they run away, they never will approach life the same way. And unlike in fairy tales, the homes they return to may be filled with the kinds of demons who made them vulnerable in the first place.
Who will hear them when they cry out? That’s the trouble. Given enough abuse, they may not know they need to cry out.
As FBI Acting Executive Assistant Director Kevin Perkins told CNN, “rescuing” them is just the beginning. “This is a very difficult task. These children are very damaged -- very harmed, and they need a great deal of help…”
Watch the video below. This is one law-enforcement roundup without any quick happy endings.
Fire threatens homes in Saratoga Springs.
As I write this, more than 1,000 people are being evacuated from Saratoga Springs, Utah, because of a fast-moving fire. Officials say people who were shooting near the landfill accidentally started the blaze. The outside temperature is about 90 degrees and rising.
All of which has me thinking about nutty state lawmakers.
I’m usually not so critical of the group Utahn vote to represent them at the state Capitol. Jokes at their expense are cliché and generally ill-informed. I know a lot of lawmakers, and they're good, sincere people. But why on earth did they vote last year to liberalize fireworks laws around the two big July holidays?
I know the stock answer. Utahns were thumbing their noses at the old, more restrictive law. They were driving to Wyoming and buying the whiz-bang fireworks and setting them off back in Utah. That meant Utah businesses were losing money to Wyoming businesses just across the border, and the state was losing out on some sales tax revenue.
Exactly how much is not known. My guess is it wasn’t much, and it certainly wasn’t enough to justify the heightened risk of a fire.
The Saratoga Springs fire was not started by fireworks. It was, officials say, an accident. But fireworks and accidents are close cousins, and conditions are ripe for a dangerous reunion next month.
It doesn’t take much of a mistake to lose control of fire. My South Jordan neighborhood learned this last month when an accident caused a three-alarm blaze that ended up threatening several homes and a golf course.
Human nature being what it is, some people will always push limits. If the speed limit is 65, people set their cruise control at 70, knowing police probably won’t bother with a little extra speed.
And so, when the law suddenly allows certain kinds of aerial fireworks that can shoot up to 150 feet, well, some people will still get the illegal kind that shoot even higher. Who’s going to get a tape measure to check? And with all the stuff flying through the air, who will distinguish between the legal and illegal kind?
I get the arguments about needing to celebrate our nation’s freedom and the pioneers’ entry into the Salt Lake Valley. Those holidays are among my favorite each year.
One year was an exception, however. It was the year a bottle rocket landed in a bush outside our home and set it ablaze. Without alert and quick-thinking neighbors, our house would have been gone in a hurry.
Lawmakers this year revisited the law and set stricter time limits for when people can legally use fireworks. That’s not enough.
Since the Legislature didn’t address this in its recent special session, it’s up to cities and counties to impose restrictions. The folks in Saratoga Springs and here in my neighborhood know that heat, wind and fire is not a knock-off of a ‘70s pop group. It can ruin a fun time in a hurry.
As campaign tactics go, heckling can be among the most dangerous. A quick-witted candidate can wield a well-timed comeback as a sharp sword, disarming the assailant and turning the battle quickly in his or her favor.
Years ago, as the story goes, the first woman to serve in the British House of Commons, Mary Astor, was making a statement on agriculture when she was interrupted by none other than Winston Churchill, who wondered aloud whether she even knew how many toes a pig has.
“Why don’t we take off your shoes and count them,” she reportedly said, not missing a beat.
More recently, Maine Gov. Paul LePage was speaking at a university when a heckler yelled that he should “tax the rich.” As the Bangor Daily News reported, LePage responded, “I would love to tax the rich if we had any in Maine.” He used the comment as a springboard to talk about how taxes in his state are too high.
In comparison, the carefully scripted, stay-on-point, control-the-sound-bites campaigns waged by modern presidential candidates seem only befuddled by disrupters.
Which is why the tactic seems to be working, on both sides.
Hecklers took center stage in the campaigns this week as Mitt Romney not only accused Barack Obama of orchestrating efforts to shout him down at campaign appearances, he admitted he was doing the same to the president.
Strange things happen when politicians are certifiably honest. The gasps are audible. It’s as if a mechanic has just told you nothing is wrong but he’s going to replace something anyway just to get your money. You’re not sure whether to scream or applaud.
Romney had taken to either rescheduling events or not announcing them ahead of time, keeping the protesters guessing. He diverted an appearance at a Wawa store in Quakertown, Pa., to a different Wawa store to avoid the cries of several Democrats who have been shadowing his campaign like a swarm of irritating bees.
With a dash of socially appropriate concern, Obama adviser David Axelrod condemned the anti-Romney protests, posting on Twitter, “Shouting folks down is their tactic, not ours. Let voters hear BOTH candidates & decide.”
That’s when Romney not only fess’d up, he used military terms. America, he said, “has a long history of heckling and free speech.” He said he doesn’t believe in “unilateral disarmament,” but would welcome some sort of peace agreement to stop the interruptions.
Meanwhile, the war rages. Romney’s people are even Tweeting about attempts to disrupt Obama as they occur.
In the middle of all this, a journalist decided to heckle the president during his announcement of a new policy on illegal immigrants.
What in the name of the late Rodney King is going on here? Can we really not just get along?
Or, perhaps more to the point, can either side really make any political headway using this tactic?
The answer is yes, if either side would come up with the kind of snappy comebacks that turn the tables. This becomes more difficult as protesters grow louder. The best Axelrod could manage to Romney supporters whose shouts made it hard to hear at a recent event was, “You can’t handle the truth, my friends.”
That’s pretty lame. He at least could have said something political, such as, “Once Obamacare kicks in, maybe we can find you folks the right medication.”
For their part, Romney could always say, “Once I’m elected and we find you a job you’re qualified for, I promise not to retaliate by coming down and playing with the Slurpee machine.”
OK, those are pretty lame, too, but it’s not my place to give advice that helps either side.
We can’t all be Mary Astor or Winston Churchill, who traded barbs several times.
Astor once reportedly heckled Churchill, “If you were my husband, I’d put poison in your tea.”
To which Churchill responded, “If I were your husband, I’d drink it.”
Ah, for the statesmen, and women, of old.
What does Roger Clemens’ acquittal, handed down Monday, mean for the integrity of sports?
Just asking that question presents problems. It can be read as an assumption the court got it wrong. So let me restate it.
What does the government’s inability to obtain convictions in either the Clemens case or the case against Barry Bonds (other than on one count of obstruction of justice, which is under appeal), and the recent decision not to charge cyclist Lance Armstrong mean for the integrity of sports?
Keep in mind that George W. Bush, when he was president, devoted part of a State of the Union address to performance-enhancing drugs. Some athletes, he said, are sending the message “that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character.” High school athletes were supposedly using banned substances because they were seeing professionals perform amazing, age-defying feats.
Will young athletes now assume they can get away with it? Or will they believe Clemens was innocent and use that as an argument for relying only on good old-fashioned hard work and training?
My guess is they will assume Clemens got away with something.
Other high profile athletes — Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, to name two — have admitted using performance-enhancing drugs. That means prosecutors were not simply off chasing phantoms. An entire era of baseball history is likely to be defined by suspected steroid use, with the records set during those years forever under suspicion.
Coming up with convictions, though, has been harder than getting that elusive final out in the World Series.
Have prosecutors simply blown it? Or is it too hard to actually prove that someone used banned substances, unless her name is Marion Jones?
In Clemens’ case, the defense was able to cast doubt on the prosecution’s main witness, Clemens’ old strength coach, Brian McNamee. He was the only one who would have had first-hand knowledge of Clemens’ steroid use, and he had changed his story over the years. That was enough to cast a reasonable doubt.
For the jury, that is. The court of public opinion is something else.
Remember, the eight men who supposedly rigged the 1918 World Series as members of the Chicago White Sox were acquitted in court. They were, however, banish from the sport for life by the commissioner of baseball.
“Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked ballplayers and gamblers, where the ways and means of throwing a game are discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball,” wrote the commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has filed a formal accusation against Armstrong that could strip him of his Tour de France victories.
As for Clemens, he still has to face the judgment of Hall of Fame voters. His pitching statistics alone would make him a shoe-in. Will doubts about performance enhancement negate those?
And will the smoke around all the steroid talk in big-time sports send the right message to young athletes, even if prosecutors have been able to uncover very little fire?
Somehow, I doubt it.
Fireworks and the national anthem before a Real Salt Lake game.
Francis Scott Key still rules. That’s good news for Flag Day.
The Internet has been chattering a bit lately with the question of whether the United States ought to change its national anthem. This week, Rasmussen Reports released a survey that said a whopping 82 percent want to keep “The Star-Spangled Banner” right where it is.
Why would anyone want to change it? The No. 1 reasons seems to be that it’s impossible to sing. You start with a quick trip to the musical basement, and by the time you reach “rockets red glare” you’re on a fast-moving elevator to the top floor, which launches you into the air somewhere around the “land of the free-e-e-e-e!” That’s if your voice hasn’t croaked by then.
On NECN.com, writer Greg Wayland quotes the artistic director of the Berklee College of Music American Roots, Matt Glaser, as calling it a mess — deadly and plodding in terms of musical artistry.
And the words are apparently so confusing even singers like Christine Aguilera can’t get them right at the start of football games.
The songs often mentioned as replacements are “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America.” But the irreverent site policymic.com (warning, the site contains some offensive language), also suggests Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Neil Diamond’s “America” and some jaw-droppers like Green Day’s “American Idiot” (imagine how proud that would make you feel during Olympic medal ceremonies).
This sounds like a ridiculous topic, but the “Star-Spangled Banner” has been the official national anthem only since 1931.
Still, as much as I like “America the Beautiful,” I side with the majority in the Rasmussen Reports poll. (An unscientific Fox poll found 91 percent in favor of keeping it, high notes and all.) Forget about artistry, the song is full of history. The flag Francis Scott Key saw over Ft. McHenry is on display in the Smithsonian to remind us that we’re not just singing words.
Besides, if you want an easy national anthem to sing, go live in one of those sissy countries.
The profanity littered streets of Middleborough.
In an age when the red-state, blue-state divide could be assumed to correlate fairly well with a list of people who support a crackdown on media obscenities and those who think it was the FCC, and not Janet Jackson, who had a problem, we can thank little Middleborough, Mass., in the heart of a blue state, for injecting some sanity.
The last Census counted 23,116 souls there, making it the kind of place where restless youth may feel there is little to do but congregate downtown and in parks and throw vulgar terms through the air as though they were footballs.
Washington Post blog calls them a 'refiner's fire'
Daniel Burke writes that missions strengthen faith, despite forcing young men and women to endure hardships. He cites scholarly studies and quotes people who served missions. As someone who served a mission years ago in Sweden, I found it interesting.
To read it, press this link.
Book says Mitt's service would be asset as president
I'm posting a piece below that was emailed to me by someone at Newsandexperts.com. It's about Ross H. Palfreyman. He's the author of a book titled, "Two years in God's Mormon Army."
Palfreyman argues that people would have a better image of Mitt Romney if they understood his Mormonism better. I present it without comment, except to say that I don't know how any candidate could explain this as part of a campaign. Enjoy.
"Critics say the presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney seems “stiff” and out of touch. Some say it’s because of his immense wealth. Ross H. Palfreyman, a Mormon author of Two Years in God’s Mormon Army (www.mormonarmy.net <http://www.mormonarmy.net> ), thinks it’s something else.
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Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist of the Deseret News. He has nearly 40 years experience as a reporter, editor and editorial writer in Oklahoma, New York City, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. He also has been an adjunct journalism professor at Brigham Young and Weber State universities.