CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the build-up to the U.S. presidential inauguration

Based on the levels of violence and tactics used by both police and protesters at U.S. protests in 2020, and during the riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, journalists reporting from upcoming political events and protests should be aware of and consider the following risks: Firing of rubber bullets, baton rounds, and projectilesLiberal use of pepper spray and tear gas Verbal aggression and physical attacks from protesters and militia groups The potential use of live ammunition by the police and/or protesters The dangers associated with attacks on buildings, vehicles, and barricades The dangers associated with rioting, looting, and arson The use of water cannons and long-range audio devices by the police Potential vehicle ramming of crowdsArrest and detention

Source: CPJ Safety Advisory: Covering the build-up to the U.S. presidential inauguration – Committee to Protect Journalists

Years ago, I would have expected safety precautions and other warnings to reporters who were covering elections in a dangerous foreign country. But this is the United States. If you’re a journalist, the article is filled with helpful advice. I’m just sorry to see it issued for our country.

When I was in high school, I went with the band to participate in the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. Somewhere I have a photo of all of us posed on the Capitol steps. Now, that entire area is roped off, so to speak, as a red zone that few people can enter. There are national guard troops everywhere. If you’re a tourist, you probably won’t see anything. If you’re a reporter, you might see more than you can tolerate, and your life and your press freedom will be on the line.


My father, mother,  uncle, and I all taught journalism courses. There’s no way we could have prepared our students for this. Berry College, where I taught, really doesn’t look like the kind of environment for training prospective reporters how to be Navy Seals.


When politicians eat crow, are they happy?

I’ve never eaten crow, figuratively or literally so I had to Google “eating crow” to see what it tastes like. One answer on a Q&A site said crow tastes a lot like an owl (well, that’s helpful) or like a duck without the grease. When I was in high school, a lot of my friends hunted ducks and they pleased my mother no end by ringing the doorbell and handing her a lot of duck corpses. I knew how to clean ducks, but I was in college, so mother got stuck doing it.

With that in mind, when the growing list of interwoven, atrocious news stories finally comes to an end, the politicians who end up eating crow might have a pretty good meal–a little gamey, perhaps–but not so bad. It’s too bad crow doesn’t taste like chicken since many of the politicians mentioned in recent news were either acting like chickens (scared) or running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Have you noticed? Every day’s news is weirder than it was the day before. In fact, it all reads/sounds like satire, like some Peter Sellers or Jim Carrey or John Cleese movie.  There’s no way everyone out there is telling the truth or even knows what it is. That means, we’re going to need a lot of crows.

As it turns out, crows are smarter than a lot of people in Congress. What a shame to kill them, broil them and feed them to all the liars. How did things come to this?

I guess it’s our fault, the voters, that is. We elected these people. And now, look at the mess they’ve made. I have no idea how to fix it, though I do thinking that eating crow might seem like a reward opposed to, say, fear and trembling and/or jail time. Apparently, we haven’t been minding the store. Out employees–Senators and Representatives–have been doing what they want rather than listening to us. That’s insubordination at best.

Do you have a solution for the mess in Washington, D.C.? Term limits is my solution because it keeps people who are supposed to be working for us from becoming all-powerful millionaires at our expense. No doubt, their staffs keep crow in the freezer just in case.



Slanted news isn’t news, it’s propaganda

Those of you who’ve read this blog for years know that I was a journalist and a college journalism teacher as was my father before me. We grew up in another era, one in which opinion in a newspaper was confined to the editorial page. Those who wrote news stories were–as we said back then–supposed to leave their opinions at the door.

These days, it’s hard to find the truth because the major news outlets are biased in favor of Trump or those who oppose Trump. My wife and I–she was a newspaper reporter–have caught news outlets (AKA propaganda sheets) focused on both sides the aisle slanting the news. We watch an event or a speech live, and then the outlet reports it incorrectly, sometimes making up quotes that weren’t in the speech.

We saw on Facebook yesterday and today how damaging skewed news can be. Many of us were debating what appeared to be the taunting of an Indian elder in Washington, D.C. by a group from a Catholic school that was in town to speak out against abortion. Our first impression–based on how the news was reported–was that the school group verbally attacked others and was rather smug about it.

Today we learn that everything about the incident we thought we knew yesterday was wrong. That is, the news report made it appear that the school group verbally attacked the Indian when this was not what happened. In fact, the school group, who was already chanting after the formal end of their march, saw the Indian chanting, and when he came over to them, they thought he was chanting with them. They didn’t realize until they saw the news that the media viewed them as white kids making fun of a well-known Indian elder.

My initial perspective was that the kids had run amok and shouldn’t have been making fun of the Indian. Others used the incident as a springboard to criticizing the Catholic Church, suspecting that taunting the Indian was something the church believed in. Others said that since their kids were supposed to be representing a church school, they should not have worn the MAGA hats because they were in town to protest abortion and not as Trump supporters.

Even though the Catholic diocese has apologized to the elder, the media who put their agenda up as more important than the actual news should be the ones apologizing, both to the kids who were under fire for being white and conservative and to the readers for skewing the story so that it matched their political agenda.

The political arena is volatile enough these days without news outlets published biased reports. They think they are helping the political parties they agree with when, in fact, they are hurting the country. Journalists are supposed to present the facts and allow their readers to decide how they feel about what happened. Today’s media appear not to trust the readers because they hedge their bets by using propaganda rather than truth.

They are discounting all of us.



Visiting the Vietnam War Memorial

“If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

“Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

“And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.”

Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978
The Wall-USA

My wife and I see our reflections in the Vietnam War memorial last summer as I find the name of a high school classmate who died there.

I remember because it’s impossible to forget.

I remember that when Maya Lin’s design for the wall was unveiled in 1981, it generated a lot of controversy for it was nothing like any memorial the public had ever seen. I liked it immediately and was relieved when it wasn’t changed or belittled by the close placement of other statuary. The Vietnam War was nothing like any war the public had ever seen, in part because we saw it on television in our living rooms, tallied successes and failures in body counts, and reacted and ultimately protested when–after initially supporting Hồ Chí Minh’s fight against French colonial rule–the U. S. became in involved in a new North-South civil war that seemed to have no end.

The body count is displayed on this wall and cannot be ignored. The wall was dedicated in 1982 and has, in the years since, become a site that draws people to it, where people see the names of the dead whom they knew and simultaneously see themselves reflected back by the mirror finish of the black granite. The wall currently has 58,318 names on it arranged in calendar order to match their dates of death.

I finally visited the wall last June on a family trip to Washington, D.C. I knew one name on the wall, an old friend from high school. I didn’t trace the name as many people do. I couldn’t. As you can see in the photograph, Mike’s name looked back at me while I was taking the picture. Perhaps, if I read them all, I would find other names I know, but I can’t. My consciousness isn’t deep enough for such knowledge.

The wall’s impact was overwhelming.