Monday, March 12, 2007

Once Around the News Cycle

NEWS: Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards says Jesus would be appalled at how the United States has ignored the plight of the suffering and that he believes children should have private time to pray at school.

Edwards, in an interview with the Web site, said Jesus would be most upset with the selfishness of Americans and the country's willingness to go to war "when it's not necessary."

Views: What would really appall Jesus is the state of American political discourse, including invoking his name to underscore your own political ambitions. Talk about trolling for endorsements. And this from a guy who had to fire a couple of bloggers for their anti-Catholic rants.

News: Speaking of political discourse, a story written for the McClatchy Newspapers wonders if the 2008 campaign will test the privacy of candidates' personal lives.

Views: You mean beyond what we know already? Let's see, three Republican candidates have eight marriages among them (John McCain, two; Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich, three each). John Edwards lives in a lavish 28,000-square-foot house on 102 acres in North Carolina while decrying poverty. Hillary Clinton is, well, Hillary Clinton. If you believe the Washington Times and Fox News, Barack Obama was raised as a Muslim fanatic. Giuliani had a widely reported extramarital affair. Mormon Mitt Romney's great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12. Stay tuned.

News: Speaking of religion, a company in Stockton is having priests bless bottled water and selling it as Holy Drinking Water. Price: 99cents a pop. The label warns that "if you are a sinner or evil in nature, this product may cause burning, intense heat, sweating, skin irritations, rashes, itchiness, vomiting, bloodshot and watery eyes, pale skin color, and oral irritations."

Views: There's nothing quite as special as the marriage of religion and entrepreneurship. Look at the bucks Mel Gibson made with "The Passion of the Christ." Look what L. Ron Hubbard did with Scientology. I read about a guy who was selling Ziploc bags of Israeli dirt for $20. And consider the folks over at Kentucky Fried Chicken. When they introduced a fish snacker sandwich recently, they asked Pope Benedict XVI to bless it. John O'Reilly, chief marketing officer for KFC, said the sandwich should prove especially popular on Fridays, when Catholics traditionally don't eat meat in the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. What's next, communion wafers brought to you by Wonder Bread?

News: Why did it take the media so long to expose the shabby treatment of veterans at Walter Reed Hospital? Common Cause advocacy vice president Celia Viggo Wexler tells Poynter Online: "With all the cutbacks in both broadcast and print newsrooms, the emphasis on entertainment and `news you can use,' and the bottom line over solid, investigative journalism, there is little incentive for reporters to go the extra mile and find good stories, stories they might not be able to report because they take too much time or they may rock too many boats, or are `too depressing' for the demographic the news outlet is seeking to court."

Views: That's a popular sentiment but one that doesn't hold a lot of water. While megapapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times have the staffs, time and money to delve into big stories, cash-strapped and understaffed small papers have been bringing home the trophies as well. The Pulitzers for investigative reporting in two of the last three years have gone to Nigel Jaquiss of Willamette Week, in Portland, Ore., for his investigation exposing a former governor's long-concealed sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl, and to Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr of The Blade in Toledo, Ohio, for their series on atrocities by Tiger Force, an elite U.S. Army platoon, during the Vietnam War. Which goes to prove that good reporters get good stories no matter what the external pressures are.

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