Whither the media? Recent national, regional and local gaffs…

Monday, September 25th, 2006


Newsweek, in their Oct. 2nd issue lead story “The Rise of Jihadistan” reports on Afghanistan’s continuing “reversal of fortunes”:

Jabar Shilghari, one of Ghazni’s members of Parliament, is appalled by his province’s rapid reversal of fortune. Only a year ago he was freely stumping for votes throughout the province. Today it’s not safe for him to return to his own village.

Taliban gather with impunity:

“One year ago we couldn’t have had such a meeting at midnight,” says Sabir, who is in his mid-40s and looks forward to living out his life as an anti-American jihadist. “Now we gather in broad daylight. The people know we are returning to power.”

While the madministration continues to ignore the growing problem:

Some critics point to a jarring mismatch between Bush’s rhetoric and the scant attention paid to Afghanistan. Jim Dobbins, Bush’s former special envoy to Kabul—he also led the Clinton administration’s rebuilding efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and Somalia—calls Afghanistan the “most under-resourced nation-building effort in history.”

of this burgeoning narco-state:

NATO officials say the Taliban seems to be flush with cash, thanks to the guerrillas’ alliance with prosperous opium traffickers. The fighters are paid more than $5 a day—good money in Afghanistan, and at least twice what the new Afghan National Army’s 30,000 soldiers receive. It’s a bad sign, too, that a shortage of local police has led Karzai to approve a plan allowing local warlords—often traffickers themselves—to rebuild their private armies. U.N. officials have spent the past three years trying to disband Afghanistan’s irregular militias, which are accused of widespread human-rights abuses. Now the warlords can rearm with the government’s blessing. Afghanistan is “unfortunately well on its way” to becoming a “narco-state,” NATO’s supreme commander, Marine Gen. Jim Jones, said before Congress last week.

Where’s the gaff?

For the next week, newsstands around the world will shout “Losing Afghanistan”, acknowledging America’s madminsitration’s failure. Domestically, for casual consumers, the reality-based meme that the US Afghanistan effort is lost will not be visually reinforced. Instead, Newsweek will feature the “feel good” family-friendly Annie Leibovitz cover.

Another MSM failure, another “Nothing to see here, move along, move along…”


Blue-bee Anglico joins with Exile on Jones Street’s Kirk Ross in highlighting our local McClatchy-owned news properties death pirouettes.

Anglico (Jim Protzman) writes News and Observer’s publisher Orage Quarles with his concerns in “It ain’t just me:

What on earth is going on with your newspaper? It’s like the wheels are falling off … and a once-admired institution is devolving into a parody of itself.

Your editorial page is good for maybe one strong opinion a month, if that. Your political reporters carry water for Art Pope and the John Locke Puppetshow nearly every day. You have a staff columnist who recycles right wing talking points from the Carolina Journal as often as not. And now you’re selling the front page of what used the be the only decent paper in Chapel Hill.

I know, I know, these are “economic decisions.” Of course they are. They’re the natural consequence of the decisions your company has made. This is what happens when a newspaper goes from standing for something to standing for nothing in the course of a couple of years.

Kirk Ross, former Chapel Hill News reporter, notes in “Less News is bad news”:

So McClatchy and the N&O management have finally implemented the next phase of their plan to turn their community weeklies—the Chapel Hill News, the Durham News and the Cary News into something closer to a shopper than a newspaper. All three have started running front page ads as of this weekend—chewing up more of the dwindling news hole and, frankly, insulting the readers by saying ‘hey you’re getting a free paper so suck it up.’

and further cautions:

We are all losers in this and the N&O is going to one day realize it made not just a horrible error in judgement, but that it has ruined a newspaper with a great tradition of journalism, independence, and commitment to community. Unlike Dow Jones, whose overly-clever management royally screwed up the paper in the 80s, the N&O can’t just turn around and sell…

To McClatchy, the Chapel Hill News is property, not a community institution.

I’m enjoying my stint as a CHN “My View” columnist but the recent moves to close the CHN online archives, the new front page advertising and McClatchy’s disdain for one of the pillars supporting our community is troubling.


I’m a fan of UNC’s Daily Tar Heel. Former editor Ryan Tuck’s reforms have not been for naught. Local kid gone big, editor Joe Schwartz, has not only picked up the reins but has made some interesting, innovative changes that have vitalized the DTH institution. Yes, I miss the front page City column and regret the diminishment of town-oriented analysis, but, with some exceptions, this years DTH is doing well.

One exception, as Jake Anderson underlines in his recent DTH LTE Bush isn’t seeing a spike in approval, nor should he:

The DTH should be ashamed for its story on the Bush approval “spike” in N.C.

For one thing, the poll cited was commissioned by the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a right-wing think tank chaired by a former North Carolina Republican Party chair, and funded by the N.C. Republican Party’s biggest donor.

The DTH failed to report other approval rating polls, most of which showed very different results.

Hey guys, it’s a Pope-lar problem; McClatchy property the News and Observer just apologized for making the same kind of mistake.

Hat tip to Matt Gross’ Deride and Conquer for stirring the pot.

NextBus Recap – The story so far…

Monday, May 8th, 2006

[UPDATE:] The proposal.

What would it take to build our own bus ETA notification and Internet hotspot system?

Twenty-four hours into blogging about the NextBus system, what have we learned? What’s the alternative? How large of an opportunity have we missed?

What have other folk said about NextBus?

Why is the town concerned about cellphone charges? What kind of deal did we make?

Alameda California’s ACTransit signed a deal with NextBus is January, 2006. Did we get as good a deal?

May 8th I had an opportunity to speak with one of the folk from ACTransit who negotiated their great deal.

ACTransit got for their $1M:

  • NEW: 54 signs, 125 vehicles, 13 routes
  • EXISTING: 46 signs, 74 vehicles, 12 routes
  • 7 years of support for their existing and new infrastructure.

Chapel Hill?

  • 14 signs, 83 vehicles, 26 routes, unknown warrantee.

What does the Daily Tar Heel have to say?

Why NextBus? What about the strange coincidence involving NextBus’ 2002 campaign contributions to Rep. Price?


Bob Avery, the town’s IT director, came through this evening with additional documentation of the Real-Time Passenger Information System and Automatic Vehicle Location system for Chapel Hill Transit.



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