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Mistakes were made 

Just like every professional person and business executive can make mistakes, so can journalists and their bosses. For example:

 Have you heard enough about our vice president accidentally shooting one of his buddies on a quail hunt and not informing the press for 44 hours? I have, even though I’m no fan of Dick Cheney. Neither are most of those young reporters at the White House, and while the shooting happened Feb. 11, the TV news programs, newspapers and magazines are still boring us because they didn’t find something that kept them from learning about the shooting so late.

In 1897, President Grover Cleveland found he had cancer, and he got doctors to operate on him while on a private ship. No one ever heard about it until 1917. Without saying a word, President John Kennedy equipped and sent an army of Cuban exiles into the Bay of Pigs to get rid of Cuba’s Fidel Castro. It was a total disaster, and here we are 35 years later with no relationship with Cuba.

There’s really nothing new about secrecy in Washington, D.C.

 AETN in Conway has a one-hour monthly program for Governor Huckabee to answer questions from people throughout the state. Steve Barnes, a first-rate journalist, presents the questions to the governor and asks a few himself. Unfortunately, the station is not operating the program as it should. Last week’s program was a sample.

Barnes’ first question was about an admirable Democrat-Gazette story Feb.12 that revealed the governor had made dozens of out-of-state trips in State Police airplanes since 2002 at the cost of $485,000 for the taxpayers. The governor criticized the story and raved for 15 minutes.

Quite correctly, the story tells us that Huckabee is traveling because he’s president of the National Governors Association, and he wants to find out whether Americans really want him to run for president in 2008. Personally, I think his travels make Arkansas look good. And I don’t care that he travels in airplanes. After all, he’s not rich, and surely we wouldn’t want our governor to leave the state Capitol the amount of days he would have to if he had to travel by car.

Anyway, Barnes should have cut him off even though it’s hard to do to a governor. The idea of the program is for people to call in and talk directly to the governor, but it almost never happens because the station’s staff seems unable to put the telephone talker on a speaker so the governor and the people watching at home can hear what is said. As it is, teen-age volunteers, probably not too up on state government, are answering the phones and quickly writing the questions and passing them to Barnes. Often the notes aren’t clear, and Barnes has to guess what the caller wanted to say, and, of course, the caller can’t discuss it with the governor.

AETN should fix this because it can be a good and useful program. If they don’t have the equipment to allow callers to actually talk to the governor, then they ought to bring up two or three newspaper editors or county or city advocates from different parts of the state to help Barnes shoot the questions to the governor.

 Denmark is a northern European country with a constitutional monarchy and a population of about 2.5 million fewer than New York city. Ninety-five percent of Danish people are Evangelical Lutheran and 2 percent are Muslim. Its people are known for satire, so they weren’t surprised when last September the nation’s biggest newspaper published some critical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, including one that showed the father of Muslims wearing a lighted bomb in his turban.

Very little was said about the cartoons until October when some Muslim clerics and ambassadors in Arab countries denounced the cartoons and asked for an apology from the paper and the Danish prime minister. The newspaper refused because Denmark has freedom of the press, and the prime minister said he wouldn’t meet with them because the country could not interfere with newspapers. So come December, many Muslim preachers and surely al-Qaeda leaders told Muslims to destroy Danish embassies and create riots. Innocent people have been killed, and the newspaper editor and the cartoonists have hidden because they have been threatened with death.

American newspapers have published this story but only two or three have ever printed the cartoons so we could really know what it is all about. This makes no sense to me. Sure it’s distasteful to attack anyone’s religion, but the obligation of our free press was to show their readers what was causing things like worldwide rioting and killing.


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