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Candidates’ Forum: Missouri Governor’s Race

Posted by Grace Lillard on September 11, 2008

On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the second day of the J-School Centennial, the candidates for the Missouri gubernatorial race met on campus to take part in the first of a series of debates before the November election.  The combined reverence for this date and the nearby celebration of the history of journalism reminded everyone in the room that the fundamentals of democracy, anchored in free speech and press, must ultimately be upheld in order to preserve our great nation.

Moderator of today’s forum was David Lieb of the Associated Press.  The panelists included Terry Ganey, of the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Missouri Press Association; Jennifer Kovaleski of KOMU; Chad Day, of the Columbia Missourian; and Juana Summers of KBIA.

The four candidates began with five minute opening statements.  According to the procedure of drawing numbers, the Republican candidate, Kenny Hulshof, began the remarks.  His platform is one of “bold proposals” to inspire change in Missouri.  Hulshof stated that while he esteems his opponent, Attorney General Jay Nixon, the beauty of our democracy is that he can do so while disagreeing with him on certain issues.  Hulshof summarized that he can offer the people of Missouri a new direction, as an alternative to the old politics they are used to.

The Libertarian candidate, Andy Finkenstadt, followed.  Finkenstadt introduced himself as a computer software engineer who knows how to solve problems put before him and address any issue in a methodical way.  The name of the Libertarian Party, he said, is derived from the word “liberty” and therefore is the only party that seeks a world where all individuals are sovereign over themselves.  He promised the people of the state of Missouri the right to live in whatever manner they choose, as long as their actions do not encroach upon the rights of others.  “Your right to swing your fist stops at my nose,” Finkenstadt explained.  If elected governor, Finkenstadt would reduce taxes by reducing the size of government, in accordance with the Libertarian platform.

In his opening statements, the Democratic candidate, Jay Nixon, noted that on the anniversary of 9/11 we should all remember what it is that unites us as Americans, and put aside partisan attacks.  He said that the state of Missouri is at a crossroads, and that he can provide the best course of action to solve problems of rising health care costs, higher college tuitions, loss of jobs, and an inefficient elementary education system.

Completing the opening statements was Greg Thompson of the Constitutional Party.  His platform, he said, is founded on God and the desire to turn our country around.  The past decades have seen “an assault on our godly heritage” and increasing levels of corruption.  As Missouri’s leader, Thompson vowed to restore the idea of government serving the people, instead of the people feeling that they must serve their government.  He also emphasized the importance of seeing beyond the two party system.  “God,” he said, “will never honor voting for the least of two evils.”

As the rounds of questioning began, it was interesting to see how each candidate’s answers reflected his previously stated position.  For example, Finkenstadt responded to questions on health care, alternative energy, and education by saying that they should be allocated by the free market, and not by government design.  Thompson answered his questions from the viewpoint of placing the sovereignty of God first and taking control out of the hands of men.  Nixon and Hulshof comprised the norm of the Democratic/Republican debate, disagreeing to a point but remaining relatively close to the middle of voter opinion.

There was one opportunity for rebuttal offered after Nixon brought up a controversy between himself and his opponent Hulshof, on the issue of campaign contribution limits.  The air between the two became noticeably charged, and for a moment, it appeared that Nixon’s appeal to non partisanship might be put by the wayside.  After a neutralizing comment by moderator David Lieb to the effect that time would not allow for “a rebuttal to the rebuttal,” the atmosphere regained its peaceable nature.

I felt that today’s debate was a refreshing take on political discussion, giving people the opportunity to hear not from just two candidates, but from representatives of four different political parties.  As the afternoon demonstrated, the citizens of Missouri have four men eager and willing to lead their state on a new path towards the future.  November will tell whose direction the people will take.

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Enduring Values in Radio and Television

Posted by Becky Dale on September 11, 2008

As a broadcast journalism-hopeful student, I was excited to sit in on this discussion, but nothing could have prepared me for the intensely passionate words that passed around the beautiful lecture hall in Neff. As alums shared snippets of memories of various teachers and classes taken in that very room, everything became a bit clearer–these are real people, and one day I could join them.

But the topic of discussion was, fortunately for others, not my own inclusion to their ranks, but rather where my choice of work will take me in five, ten, twenty, fifty years. More importantly, what is happening in broadcast journalism today?

Two minutes behind schedule, Kent Collins commenced what would become a slew of speculations on the future of journalism with the assurance that “we’re on time” according to broadcast. After pointing out celebrities such as “the gury of all gurus” Rod Gillett, Collins deferred to chief editor of the MissouriNet Bob Priddy.

Providing a rather light introduction before the onslaught, Priddy reminisced about his own experience at  MU before shoving the cold, hard facts under the noses of all present: we are all “playing with a deck in which all fifty-two cards are wild.”

John Ferrugia contributed his own opinion: “news is a product.” He spoke about the awards that various news stations can receive and that, while the audience cares very little about the awards themselves, the standards they represent that each honored news station meets are of the utmost importance to viewers.

The goal of all journalism, regardless of medium, is to uphold the first amendment to ensure democracy.

Most people would agree. Voters glean their information from the Internet and television much more than from newspapers and magazines, though both are still viable options. Voters then take part in our fundamental democratic right–electing members to the great institution, the government.

Joe Bergantino took over for Ferrugia and agreed that news has become a product of marketing and advertising over the past thirty years. It is now necessary to return to our fundamental values. “Somebody had to hold the powerful accountable,” thus the creation of journalism.

We as journalists currently face “a crisis point in our profession,” says Bergantino. It is now time to return to our jobs as national watchdogs, rather than submit to those who would shape the news.

News Director for KOMU-TV Stacey Woelfel shared his own insights. The School of Journalism has had to change its teaching to keep up with technology and the enterprise companies. It has become difficult to keep in line with Radio and Television’s enduring values while keeping students marketable to those fields.

The conversation switched to the importance of content. “Content will sell,” says Ferrugia. “People want to know” and the journalist is a content-provider. After showing an excerpt from his own project on rape and sexual assault within the military, Ferrugia proudly announced a change in the institution. A sexual assault officer is now stationed in every military unit.

Stories like that are hard to come by, and what is more, economics drive stories. The “good” stories like Ferrugia’s cost a good deal of money and, more importantly, time. Few stations are willing to sacrifice so much for a story that might not sell to an audience. Furthermore, some journalists fear that management may choose not to air a story that would be unappealing to a marketing agency. One member of the audience, also a part of tv management, retorted, “if you can’t sell me” then it’s not worth airing. That seems to uphold the “good content sells” theory.

While the future remains largely unknown thanks to the rapid increase in technology like iPods, YouTube, and phones delivering news as well as the fast decline of traditional print, Bergantino identifies the challenge in prediction: “people will watch, the question is where.”

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Get ready to rumble!!

Posted by Jen Lee Reeves on September 10, 2008

I’m up early today because my mind can’t stop about all the cool stuff we’re planning this week. I was in the new building late last night setting up cameras for my big YouTube project. Alumni: Visit the YouTube/Apple tables where we have a camera set up to ask three questions:

*Where did you go after you graduated?
*What lessons have you learned in your career that you’d like to share?
*What is your fondest memory of the journalism school?

I recorded this little piece of video straight into YouTube last night — The audio is a little off, but I’ll work on that once my kids wake up and I can give them a couple of hugs before I leave the house for a long day.

Also, the coverage of the centennial continues since I last linked to a couple of websites. KOMU did a story on the centennial and a look at how journalism is changing. The project is reported by Ashley Reynolds (who graduates in December) and field produced with some help from Robert Kessler (who is a sophomore). Ashley put together a HUGE project researching autism and the many sides of that challenging illness. Anytime she takes on a project, you know it’s going to be big. If you’d like to meet her, let me know!

The Columbia Missourian previewed the centennial event in this article. Learn about a documentary viewing that is part of the centennial event, learn about the big barbecue that kicks off the centennial excitement tonight, an investigative journalism panel during the event, the centennial song, a comedic play on journalism ethics, and how the economy is keeping journalists from attending the centennial event. Be sure to click on the paper’s Centennial Visitor’s Guide link on the right hand side of this blog – It’s under the title “Helpful Links.”

If you know of any centennial coverage I’ve missed, let me know!!

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What Good Is Journalism

Posted by Jen Lee Reeves on September 8, 2008

KOMU is broadcasting a series analyzing what makes good journalism. The title comes from George Kennedy and Daryl Moen’s book with the same title. The first segment looked at Walter William’s Creed and the role it has played in journaism for 100 years.

Visit this link to see the story. I was really impressed to hear what some of the students had to say about our role as journalists in society.

The Columbia Missourian put together a fantastic guide to this week’s events for the centennial. Click here to see the guide and all of its offerings (I also included a link to it on the right hand side of this website).

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