Optimistic update, and Media Monday

My advisor sent a great letter to the committee and e-mailed it to me, as well. I had expected (from previous university bureaucracy experience) to get a defensive response from him, but instead he wrote a wonderful “mea culpa” letter where he urged them to let me have the major and claimed full responsibility for the misadvising. THEN, ALL-CAPS lady called me at home — from her home — to update me on the fact that she had received his letter in support and that she also knew that mine had arrived in her office. She will call me tomorrow afternoon, she said, with the results.

At this point, I’m just flabbergasted that what seemed like such a bad experience has actually brought the good out in two of my advisors. My advising experiences were all soooo negative at AU that I have just expected the worst of everyone here.

Since it’s Media Monday, I want to offer this as something that hacked me off today. Generally, I’ve started to enjoy “Anderson Cooper 360” for what it is — magazine journalism — and I really liked Friday’s “special edition” on the book Blink and how split-second decisions can really change your life. Today was another special edition on traffic and driving called “Life in the Fast Lane” — probably partly inspired by the L.A. chase and shooting thing that’s been dominating the news today, though most of the stories were packages, and, therefore, could be much older. Anyway, it wasn’t badly done — they considered a range of traffic and driving stories (and the issues within those stories). What bothered me today was a packaged story with all-purpose CNN newsman Gary Tuchman, where he interviewed the family of a man, Jack Snook, who was shot and killed after a road rage incident. The man who shot him is in custody. Here’s what got me:

TUCHMAN: TUCHMAN: In this case police say the men exchanged gestures in their vehicle. And that Jack Snook and his wife both got out of his car. The suspect’s lawyer says his client fired the gun to defend himself. Jack Snook’s loved ones say it’s an assassination.

CARA SNOOK (mother): I can’t comprehend it. I walk around my house and I keep waiting for him to walk through the front door, and he’s not. [1]

Now, what bothers me is that Tuchman (Tuck-man) says “assassination,” and it’s right over a shot of the man accused of the crime standing in court, but then provides no clip from the family that backs that charge up. I think if you’re going to use a term as loaded as “assassination,” you’ve got to back that up with something — someone in the family saying, This man murdered my son, he shot him in cold blood, etc. If, as it sounds like, it was all part of an escalating feud that Snook was actively participating in, it’s a tragedy, it’s a crime, but it’s not an assassination.

What I need is for people to THINK before they use certain words. Then, I need them to accurately cite everything, even in TV journalism.

One last Media Matter for today: The New York Times has published a fascinating article and list of suggestions that it has received from a newly released report (.pdf) by an internal committee formed “in response to a broader assault on the credibility of the serious news media,” according to Allan M. Siegal, committee chair and assistant managing editor. Among the suggestions are many that I find both fascinating as a reader and a little bit scary as a (recovering) journalist, including: “Use the Web to provide readers with complete documents used in stories as well as transcripts of interviews.” Wouldn’t that be fascinating? But would it also be damaging? I think I’d take much different notes, and perhaps ask much different questions, if I thought that anyone would be reviewing my interviews at a later date.

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