Saturday, January 30, 2010

DECEPTION: The Lessons of John Edwards

When I think of John Edwards, I am reminded of a 1967 film, “Guide for the Married Man.” In one scene, Ed (played by Walter Matthau) tells Paul (played by Robert Morse) that if his wife ever accuses him of cheating, “Deny, deny, deny.” Denial and deception are what John Edwards is all about. This week’s John Edwards headline (there’s something new every week about this guy) is that Elizabeth met the lovechild, and finally decided she had had enough. They’re now legally separated.

This is one of the more extreme stories of our time. We’ve seen sleaze and/or really poor judgment before (Bill Clinton?), but the American public has not had the John Edwards experience until now. Edwards was running for President as Mr. America, when behind the scenes he referred to some of his constituents as “fat rednecks,” instructed an aide to “handle it” when he found out his mistress was pregnant, and later made a sex tape with her. All of this occurred just as Elizabeth Edwards was battling cancer. Somehow John Edwards convinced himself that we Americans would not see beyond the fa├žade. We did. We do. He’s a low life.

What’s the lesson here? I think there are all kinds of messages that come through this story. For one thing, if you’re a high profile person today, and you consciously decide to do something stupid, the prolific nature of digital media is probably going to get you.The very media you depend on to market yourself to the country will be that which sends you into obscurity. This is just the story that media hungers for today. It has all of the ingredients: Politics, sex, tragedy, cheating, lying and deception. You could not make this up. Edwards underestimated the media, the risk he was taking and the collective wisdom of the American people.

But there are bigger lessons to be learned here for American voters. Edwards had the kind of movie star good looks and Clintonesque charisma that intoxicated voters. He preached a grass roots, populist-like agenda so appealing to middle America. He seemed to be ‘one of us,’ even though we knew of his $400 haircuts, 25,000-square-foot estate and multi-millionaire status. None of it mattered when we saw him announce his candidacy in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans outside of a house he was helping to restore from Hurricane Katrina. The lesson is age old: look beyond the obvious. What is behind the carefully coiffed and rehearsed image? As voters, we may have to demand a more intrusive investigation of our candidates. The new age debate about privacy may have to come to a halt at campaign time, and we may simply have to insist that we know more of a candidate’s personal life.

Had we done more digging, we would have uncovered the fact that Edwards was something of a high class ambulance chaser in his earlier life. He was a plaintiff’s attorney who represented a number of people who brought suits against doctors and hospitals after their children had been born with defects due to alleged mistakes made in the delivery room. Edwards made tens of millions of dollars with these cases, and legend has it that he was very dramatic in the courtroom. The story is told that in one of his closing arguments, he actually brought up the subject of his own son, who was killed in a car accident at age 16. There wasn’t a dry eye in the jury box. With his distinctive Southern accent and ability to deceive, Edwards was a powerhouse attorney, and one who collected one-third of each plaintiff’s favorable judgment. In some cases those judgments went as high as $25 million. You know that guy in your own community who goes on TV and says, “Hurt in a car accident? Get all you deserve and get it fast?” Essentially, that was John Edwards, and some of us might have cringed at his aggressive, manipulative courtroom tactics.

Had the media or even private citizens groups dug a bit deeper into Edwards’ personal life, we may have discovered the fact that Elizabeth Edwards was as ambitious as or more so than John. Now we know how badly she wanted to be First Lady. So badly that she stumped smilingly with Edwards on the campaign trail, never letting her image or her demeanor belie her rage about the affair she knew Edwards was having with Rielle Hunter. In the much ballyhooed, recently released book “Game Change,” authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann claim, “…that there was no one on the national stage for whom the disparity between public image and private reality was vaster or more disturbing.” Andrew Young, the aide who Edwards enlisted to pretend he was the father of Hunter’s child, paints a duplicitous picture of Elizabeth in his new book, “The Politician.” She comes off as temperamental, controlling and prone to histrionics. A recent piece in the New York Times seems to further that impression.

Does it matter to us, the voters, if Edwards cheats on his wife and lies about it, and that his wife is not what she seems? It does. We were supposed to have learned our lesson years ago from the Richard Nixon debacle. As it turns out, his own words revealed that he was racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic. We needed to know that, but we didn’t until he was dead. These are not the John Kennedy days, when a Presidential candidate can carry on secret trysts with lots of women and the press knows about it, but does not report it. We’re in the digital age. The press owes us full disclosure, and deep investigation. And we owe ourselves the discipline to pay attention to a candidate’s behavior and character. Had the stars aligned themselves just a bit off center in 2008, John Edwards would be President of the United States right now, moral warts and all. Presumably his secret squeeze and love child would be safely ensconced in an undisclosed location. Elizabeth Edwards would likely be berating the White House staff, just as she reportedly did to her husband’s campaign staff. And who would suffer most for their personal indiscretions and personality flaws? That would be you and me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE TIME TO ASK AND TELL IS NOW

It is hard to believe it was 18 years ago that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) was first suggested by then presidential candidate Bill Clinton. It was promoted as a way to overturn the ban on gay Americans serving in the armed forces. In truth, it was a continuation of our society’s unspoken declaration that homosexuality must be a dirty little secret. The very idea that a homosexual person must hide his or her identity in order to fight on the front lines or fly life-threatening war time missions is absurd. Not unlike now, Congress in 1992 was populated mostly by older white guys all in matching suits who generally purport to be heterosexual. The law of averages tells us there are most likely several gay members of Congress, but very few people run for office waving a rainbow flag.

Still, DADT was passed and has been in place ever since. Since 1993, there have been five legal challenges to the law, but all five were unsuccessful in Federal court. Still, it is Congress that has the power to kill DADT and allow gay people to serve openly in the military. About a year and a half ago, a Washington Post/ABC News poll revealed that fully 75% of American citizens favor the repeal of DADT. If Congress works for us, it would appear we have spoken and the law is outdated and discriminatory. And get this: in the poll, 64% of Republicans favored overturning the law, along with the 80% of Democrats. That is a very strong majority.

So, why is DADT still in place? First, many elected officials do not want to touch anything that remotely regards gay rights. Although our culture has come a long way in the last 20 years, Senators and House members are always focusing on re-election, and all things gay tend to be viewed as hot button issues that could be overly divisive. You may consider that avoidance short-sighted and not fully representative of your views/needs as a citizen, but politics are politics. Second, although more than 100 retired generals and military officials have supported the ban on DADT, current military powerhouses have been reluctant to commit to overturning the law.

Even those who support the ban have not taken aggressive action. President Obama devoted exactly two sentences to overturning DADT in his recent State of the Union speech, and failed to outline a specific plan or timetable. Some months ago at the annual Human Rights Campaign dinner in Washington, D.C. he stated that the ban would be repealed, but offered no plan to do so. Meanwhile, Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff finally came out in support of repealing DADT this month. Still, people in high places object. Senator Ike Skelton (D-MO), who was in on creating DADT in 1993, said this in an interview on C-SPAN: "I am personally not for changing the law.” His comments matter because he is the leading House Democrat on military policy.

Having lived long enough to see how these things go, I know that ultimately DADT will be obsolete and the law will be repealed. I don’t know when, but I feel confident it will happen. Social change that relies on governmental intervention comes slowly in our country. As recently as 1968, a law was finally passed that allowed black Americans and white Americans to get married. Still, every day that passes does so at the detriment of gay military personnel. Reportedly, the number of active duty military personnel discharged for violating the DADT policy is approximately 13,000. In the one year since Obama took office, 600 people have been discharged. Some military personnel are under investigation or awaiting a final decision on their cases. Watch:

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The only documented step toward ending the ban is The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (HR 1283), which would repeal the ban and allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. It was introduced in March, 2009 and now sits in committee. It could linger there for a very long time, but it is at least a tangible step toward justice.
Meanwhile, after Obama’s SOTU speech, here is what none other than Senator John McCain had to say:

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to repeal the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I am immensely proud of, and thankful for, every American who wears the uniform of our country, especially at a time of war, and I believe it would be a mistake to repeal the policy. This successful policy has been in effect for over 15 years, and it is well understood and predominantly supported by our military at all levels. We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our armed forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy.”

How is this any different from the days when black citizens were not allowed to drink from the same water fountains as white citizens? How is this different from Asian or Hispanic citizens who were forced to work in sweatshops earlier in the 20th century? What distinguishes this discriminatory law from the one that outlawed women from voting until 1919? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. DADT was a mistake when it was enacted, simply because it categorized gay citizens as somehow less than straight citizens solely because of their sexuality. Did someone forget to tell the U.S. government that sexuality does not define a person? Shame on the Clinton administration for launching something that so blatantly diminishes one entire segment of the population. Shame on his successor for ignoring the issue for eight years, and shame on Barack Obama for continuing to dangle a carrot in front of the gay community, but failing to commit to serious action to end the discrimination.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

THE SUPREMES JUST CHANGED THE GAME

Politics, big business, money and high technology. Now there is a recipe for power, right? Chew on that for a moment while we explore what happened in the Supreme Court this week.

The Justices this week amended a six decade old law that limits the amount of money that corporations or labor unions can contribute to a political candidate’s campaign. Until now, there were severe restrictions on such donations, particularly since 2002 when the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (more commonly referred to as McCain-Feingold) was enacted. This week, the Supreme Court essentially negated McCain-Feingold, and opened the door to a new era in which corporations and labor unions can spend as much of their organizational funds as they wish to ensure that “their” candidate is elected.

So what? Well, critics of the decision to reverse McCain-Feingold say this will severely inhibit the electoral process. Big business and labor will elect the President, while the common man, if you will, will have even less power and influence on perhaps the most important decision the citizenry makes.

The decision is the result of a suit brought by Citizens United, an conservative group that produced a film called “Hillary The Movie” during the 2008 campaign. The anti-Hillary film was shut down after a federal court ruled that the showing of this film violated the McCain-Feingold act. Because it was paid for by corporations in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general election, the court ruled it was in direct violation. Here is the trailer from the movie:

Supporters of the Supreme Court decision are leaning heavily on the First Amendment to the Constitution, somehow connecting the right of free speech with the right to spend massive amounts of money to ensure that a message is conveyed to the public. That is the sticking point in my mind. Since when is the amount of money someone spends to convey an idea commensurate with how much freedom he or she has to say it?

The Court was split 5-4 on this. Justice Anthony Kennedy, speaking for the majority opinion, said, "Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy -- it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people. Political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence.”

The great irony here is that this grassroots, non-profit organization, Citizens United, managed to open the doors for the biggest profit-making corporations in the world to spend astronomical amounts of cash to elect politicians that will favor their commercial agendas.

Something tells me when the founding fathers drafted the Constitution, they were not associating the amount of money someone had with the freedom that they had to speak up. It is the current Supreme Court that has now made that assertion, and it seems quite twisted. And how timely: For years then, according to the Court, America has been denying corporate America its right to express itself. It just so happens that right as corporations get to spend as much as they want to promote a candidate, technology is simultaneously sophisticated enough to spread their message to a wider audience in real time. In terms of the potential for special interest groups to sway an election, I'd call this moment a perfect storm.

President Obama is not pleased. Shortly after the decision was rendered, Obama said, "With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

With that he immediately issued a directive to Congress to start hashing this whole thing out in a bipartisan fashion and to push back against the Court’s decision. The trouble is that legal experts say there is not a whole lot Congress can do to counter the Supreme Court.

Talk radio is having a field day with this development. On Thursday, Rush Limbaugh pronounced Obama an “idiot who just happens to be President.” When Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the Court’s decision “undermines Democracy” and taints the electoral process, Fox's Sean Hannity used his airtime to launch personal attacks on Schumer, rather than to counter the Senator’s claims with a reasonable defense of the decision. Here is what Schumer said after the decision was handed down:

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Here is why this matters to you. For example, if the oil industry spends millions of dollars during a Presidential campaign, and its favored candidate wins, clearly the industry will have great persuasive power in Washington for the next four to eight years. That power easily can lead to legislation that favors the industry at the expense of your bank account. If the auto industry pushes its chosen candidate through, is it not possible it would use its newfound clout to see that certain safety or environmentally friendly features on cars may be eliminated, since the industry would prefer to spend less money manufacturing its vehicles?

And what about the airline industry? Currently in complete disarray, without even a person at the helm of the Transportation Safety Administration, what if it manages to maneuver a candidate into office? Will air marshals on domestic and international flights be eliminated to save money? Will airport security personnel be pared down to limit expenses? Will airlines manage to continue flying certain planes well after they should have been retired?

The Supreme Court’s decision is all about you. Everything that occurs in the upcoming elections this year and in 2012 is now likely to be highly influenced by corporate dollars and less influenced by you. The activity that occurs in an administration created by big business is likely to work against you, rather than for you. This brings us back to the strange bedfellows of politics, big business, money and high technology. Where do you and I fit in there? I can’t see that we do.
(Read the entire Supreme Court opinion on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission here)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

LIMBAUGH LAND: A VERY SCARY PLACE

On balance I have to say the American people usually get it right. Whether voting for a legislator or leader, or tuning in to a television program in large numbers, or even buying a consumer product en masse. Oh, I’ve had my moments of disappointment in Americans, like the time that jury found Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of two murders he obviously committed. Or the time that I witnessed America elect George W. Bush for a second term. But generally we Americans come through.

That is why I’m having such a hard time figuring out the Rush Limbaugh phenomenon. If you think phenomenon is too strong a word, let the numbers tell the story. Limbaugh is currently in the midst of a $400 million, eight-year contract, easily positioning him as the highest paid radio personality in the history of the medium. Nobody has an accurate handle on the size of his audience, but it is rarely estimated lower than 20 million listeners. Let me put that in perspective for you: In September, 2009, Nielsen Media Research put Oprah’s television audience at about seven million viewers daily. Limbaugh is heard three hours a day on more than 600 radio stations. The Armed Forces Radio Network broadcasts his show to military service personnel all over the world. It is highly possible that “Rush Radio” is heard by more human beings than anything else on the radio.

Limbaugh is the embodiment of the vulnerability of the First Amendment. He has twisted, distorted and maligned the most precious freedom we have – expression. His comments about the Haiti tragedy are probably his most heinous to date. So I am left to wonder, why are the American people not getting it right with this guy, when I generally trust that they do? What is it about this man that engenders such loyalty?

In case you’re one of the four Americans who haven’t yet heard Limbaugh’s outrageous post-earthquake comments, listen:

As one who communicates for a living, I support Limbaugh’s inalienable right to say such blatantly mean-spirited and hateful things in a public forum. I support it because if somehow Limbaugh’s right to express himself is limited, then so could my freedom or your freedom be limited. Freedom comes with a high price and in radio right now, the price tag is Limbaugh.

Still, many times when the man speaks, I cringe. Of the American military personnel who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Limbaugh said if the Americans are punished, “ we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?”

In 2006 when actor Michael J. Fox appeared in a campaign ad, visibly exhibiting the shaky symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, Limbaugh said, "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. . . . This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."

Limbaugh’s racist and sexist rants are now legendary. Of the black citizenry of the U.S., he once said, “They’re 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?” He labeled President Obama a “halfrican American.” Regarding unskilled laborers, Limbaugh is on record with this: “I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do -- let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work.” And, of the women’s movement, Limbaugh offered, "Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream.”

I could go on, but you get the picture. If you dismiss Limbaugh as simply an extremist fringe talking head, keep in mind those 20+ million devoted listeners. How many of them are buying into Limbaugh’s bigotry, hatred and negative rants? And how many others are those millions influencing by spreading the Limbaugh ideology? And what does it contribute to a civilized society? Often, Limbaugh is simply fueling the American fire of racism, frustration over unemployment, public disillusionment with government and widespread panic about terrorism. Limbaugh rarely offers reasonable solutions. Recently he told his listeners they should not worry about the cost of health insurance, simply because it costs less than buying a new car. Never mind that many of his listeners have never even owned a new car.

So, back to loyalty: I believe Limbaugh’s followers are loyal because he simply speaks up. Even in a culture that legally protects free speech, many Americans are afraid to voice their views for fear of being categorized, shunned or dismissed as extremists. Rush has no such fear. He has built his fortunes on the misfortunes of others, and he has been increasingly vocal about it for decades. Perhaps his listeners are living vicariously through Limbaugh. Or…more frighteningly, perhaps many of them truly believe what he says.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

BARACK & MICHELLE: 21ST CENTURY SUPERMODELS

He is rapidly becoming a fashion icon, a sort of 21st century standard-bearer for casual cool, but a guy who can also wear a suit in the classic tradition of Cary Grant. She is the definition of personal style and looks as ready for action in gym shoes and Capri pants as she does in a couture gown by a cutting edge designer.

Together or separately they’re easily too cool for school, as they say. If anybody can sell a product without saying a word, it is definitely these two. There’s only one problem. He is the President of the United States and she is the First Lady. And as we all know, while people in their position go political all the time, they never go commercial.

Until now. In New York this week, people in Times Square stopped hard in their tracks when they saw a billboard featuring President Obama modeling a Weatherproof jacket. Huffington Post reported Tuesday that Weatherproof purchased rights to the photo from Associated Press. The picture was taken when the President traveled to China in November.

The billboard comes right on the heels of PETA’s anti-fur ad featuring Mrs. Obama, alongside Oprah, Tyra Banks and Carrie Underwood. The copy reads, “Fur Free and Fabulous.”

So, how cool is that, that these two are using their clout and popularity to promote clothing sales and to stand up for the rights of animals? In two words – Not Cool. As if we haven’t dulled enough societal boundaries lately, now the first couple has become a sales tool. And to add insult to injury, neither of them authorized the use of their images for the sale of products or the promotion of social causes. PETA and Weatherproof each did this all on their own, without so much as seeking the approval of the Obamas.

Do we really want to see that much mixing of government and commerce? I don’t think so. It forces us to envision Nancy Pelosi selling Swiffer mops, or Barney Frank hawking condos in Boca. I’m telling you this: The day I see that whacked out Congresswoman Michelle Bachman in an ad for the America Rifle Association is the day I have to re-patriate myself to another continent somewhere.

There is no precedent for Presidents being used to sell outerwear, and there should not be. His job is to manage the system of government that allows for the free enterprise system. There are 300 million other Americans that Weatherproof can put on a billboard in the most high profile intersection in the country. Once we dull these lines, we open ourselves up to all types of complications. Less than ethical elected officials will be cutting quid pro quo deals with retailers and service providers. Manufacturers and other commercial entities will be working under the table with legislators to get them to push through legislation that is favorable to their industries. It is simply a design for disaster.

And what of the legal angle of all of this? Is this not a clear case of appropriation? Weatherproof clearly used Obama’s image for commercial gain, without getting a release to do so from the President. PETA used Michelle Obama to promote its cause, never seeking her permission. There are privacy laws in place in this country to protect high profile citizens from this exact thing.

Appropriation is clearly defined: Use of a person's name, likeness or identity for trade or advertising purposes without consent. Hell, Bette Midler sued Ford Motor Company for appropriation one time, when the car company hired a singer for one of its commercials, to sing a Midler song imitating Bette’s voice. She won. This is a tough law: Nearly a half century after Marilyn Monroe died, if you want to use her image to promote a product in 2010, you have to get the approval of her estate. Otherwise, you can be sued for appropriation.

The law is tried and true, and the fact that a retailer and an animal rights organization are thumbing their noses at it is a societal travesty. What next? Are attorneys going to decide they’re not well for the attorney/client privilege laws and just tell TMZ exactly what their high profile clients have to say about their cases? Are plastic surgeons going to dish to Perez Hilton about what their movie star clients had done to their faces? Where do we draw the line on who can use whom for commercial or social gain, while completely disregarding tradition, personal privacy, or even law? The Obamas are not Jon and Kate. The level of decorum afforded the President’s family is necessary in a civil society. The image of the U.S. has been roundly diminished worldwide – we just don’t need the President selling jackets on a billboard that sits on top of a Red Lobster. We just don’t.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

THE HIGH PRICE OF A GOOD STORY

By now, even the most apathetic media consumer among you knows that journalism is in a transitional period. Traditional media is not faring so well – newspaper circulation is at record lows, magazines have folded, network TV is constantly trying to find new ways to keep you tuned it as you gain more and more cable options. The most valuable capital to trade today is information, and the juicier the better. But with the intense competition among news and information outlets, how can anybody be sure to get the juice fastest and first? Well, to paraphrase an old adage – money talks and ethics walks.

It’s called “checkbook journalism,” and it seems to be more and more prevalent, even with old-line networks. As a journalist and a guy who teaches media ethics, I’ve been keeping a close eye on this for a few years now, but last week my eye almost got poked out (figuratively), when I heard that David Goldman and his son Sean were flown back to the states from Brazil on a jet chartered by NBC. If you are not familiar with the Goldman story, click here.

It is no coincidence that David Goldman (below left, pictured on the NBC plane with his son) sat down for a heart-to-heart with the Today Show’s Meredith Vierra just days after his return from Brazil. NBC paved the way with the free plane trip, and whatever other financial arrangements may have been made.
NBC denies it. The network claims its actions have been misinterpreted. The network spin goes like this: Goldman was booked for the Today Show interview before arrangements were made to fly father and son back to the U.S. It so happens NBC already had a jet chartered to bring it employees home for Christmas. A spokesperson for the network told Associated Press that the Goldmans were “invited on [the plane] as guests,” and the gesture had nothing to do with “booking strategy.”

Here’s my professional response to that: Uh-huh. Right.

Just days later, after man-child terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to blow up Detroit-bound flight 253, the American public was introduced to Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch airline passenger who reportedly threw himself on Abdulmutallab and averted the disaster. Schuringa appeared on CNN (right) to detail his ordeal. CNN reportedly paid a handsome sum to obtain cell phone photos of the scuffle, and denies that the payment had anything to do with booking Schuringa for his appearance on the network. Uh-huh. Right.

Why does it matter, you might ask? So what if a news organization pays for information? After all, the National Enquirer has been doing it for decades and has never tried to hide it. And do not write the Enquirer off so fast, as many are prone to do. The Enquirer is the publication that broke the whole John Edwards baby-daddy scandal. More recently, the Tiger Woods adultery story first appeared in the Enquirer days before any other news organization picked up the story. Still, is there something inherently sleazy about paying for interviews or information?

In a word – yes. Like anything else, when you grease somebody’s palm for whatever product, service or information they can offer, you have leverage on how they offer it. What you media consumers need is truth. That’s the real business of journalism. But when the source of that truth is paid for information, some media organizations may be prone to persuade the source to tell the story in a way that will garner the greatest readership, viewership of online hits. Then the truth is no longer the truth. It becomes a product that can be shaped, twisted or distorted to suit the media organization’s purpose.

News organizations will tell you they don’t pay for stories or interviews. They will tell you that they do indeed sometimes pay “licensing fees” for the use of photos or videos. Anyone who works in the media industries knows those fees actually buy the story. And the public is now savvy enough to know there is some worth to what they have to offer. After the CNN interview Schuringa made it clear that he would not appear on any other broadcast without being paid. And, as you may have noticed, Schuringa has all but disappeared from view. That is because it came out that CNN had paid a “licensing fee” for the use of the cell phone photo. Then Schuringa became too sticky to reasonably touch, so other media organizations took a pass on using him.

The bottom line: Here is who loses the most when the highly questionable practice of checkbook journalism is employed – YOU. The real truth about the events that happen in your world is harder and harder to decipher, and once seemingly reputable journalists or media organizations start paying for information, that information is instantly sullied, and the truth you need exceeds your grasp.