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Katie Leaves Today -- Finally

I'm not sure if it was the 20 people wearing t-shirts thanking her for saving their lives. Or maybe the adoring shots of her parents watching as Martina McBride sang an ode to women everywhere. Or Ann Curry pretending she's not pissed off and passed over.

Whatever it was, NBC's three-hour sendoff this morning for Today show co-host Katie Couric -- Did you hear she's going to anchor evenings at CBS in September? -- brought to mind that old Country & Western tune: How Can We Miss You, If You Won't Ever Leave?

At least, we'll get a brief break from Katie-mania as the titan of morning TV takes off June to prepare for succeding dan Rather as the face of CBS News.

In case you missed the paper today, I prepared my own tribute to Her Perkiness, balanced by columnist Sue Carlton's much better-written and more respectful tribute. And in case this morning's lovefest wasn't enough, here's a link to NBC's online shrine to its departing icon and her farewell speeches.

I know the Katie hype has been unbearable -- a traveling colleague even called me this morning from Arkansas to insist I denounce the shameless feteing -- but such displays are to be expected for the woman who upgraded the female role on morning TV shows and logged a marathon 15 years on that timeslot's highest-rated program. (also, according to the New York Daily News, the network sold 25 percent of its ad space for today's show at double the usual rate -- $110,000 per 30-second spot)

See ya later Katie. Here's hoping you ignore all of us and make folks care about the evening news again.

Walking the Walk on Journalism Ethics

From the moment I met Post Register executive editor Dean Miller at a get-together for ethics fellows at the Poynter Institute, I knew this was a guy with a sharp ethical sense and energy to bring that to his news report.

But I was still impressed after perusing the Newsroom Ethics Web page he created for the Idaho Falls paper, which walks the walk on accountability and ethics in a way few newspapers manage -- even as the internet forced mroe accountability than manistream journalists have ever faced.

There's a simple reason why big journalism institutions find it so hard to be transparent about sticky ethical situations: It gives power to the public, which expects consistency, fairness and accountability in such decisions.

That's why it's so remarkable that Miller has offered such a comprehensive site, including a list of stories affected by their ethical codes, a list of ethical conflicts disclosed by staffers and a list of the newspaper's transgressions -- including his own attempts to pass along story ideas on a school district race he had recused himself from handling because his wife was one of the candidates (according to the Web site, his fellow editors told him providing the story ideas was inappropriate, regardless of their quality).

Miller even advises complaining readers to contact another news outlet if they fail to sufficiently address a complaint!

Newspaper veterans know Miller is letting himself in for a deluge of nonsense from cranks who will never be satisfied with the paper's coverage. But he's also setting a standard for disclosure and transparency that is groundbreaking for its candor and aggression.

I just hope he's rewarded with the appreciation from readers that he deserves.

Net Neutrality Debate Distorted to no One's Surprise

I wrote a little while ago about the little-known issue of net neutrality -- the idea that telecom companies may be forced by law to treat every Internet company using its pipeline the same regardless of financial or political ties.

If conducted honestly, it's a heck of a debate: do you leave the Internet unregulated and let big telecom companies cut huge deals to give faster access to companies which pay them bucketloads of money? Or do you preserve the level playing field for small fry online providers by forcing regulation on a largely-unregulated space?

Unfortunately, there are groups who are not interested in an honest debate, attempting to confuse consumers by only tellnig part o the story. One ofthese groups is Hands Off the Internet, a group with a grass-roots sounding moniker which is founded and funded by AT&T, BellSouth, Cingular wireless, Alcatel and many other companies which stand to make loads if Congress doesn't act on Net Neutrality legislation.

The group has TV ads telling consumers Net Neutrality will force consumers to pay for the next generation of the Internet. As if the telecom companies behind Hands Off the Internet won't spread the cost of whatever they spend on improving their Internet infrastructure to their customers -- while also charing a premium for the fastest access.

It's a dishonest con playing off the fact that most consumers still have no idea what Net Neutrality means. Too bad these guys couldn't find a more truthful way to safeguard their bottom line.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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