Tag Archives: Politics

Former CBS President Andrew Heyward visits Cronkite School

Former president of CBS Andrew Hayward visited the Cronkite School on Tuesday to discuss the challenges facing the next generation of journalists.

Excited ASU students were given the opportunity to ask the veteran journalist questions ranging from the future of newspapers to how television news will innovate to keep pace with the internet. During the hour-long discussion, which was also open to the public, Heyward outlined his vision for the future with hints of both optimism and warning.

“Prior to the 1980s, newsrooms didn’t have to be profitable,” said Heyward. “They were ‘loss leaders’ that added prestige to the network. After that period there were all sorts of corporate changes. What’s harder now than it was even 10 years ago is the tremendous financial pressure that the newsrooms have. They are expected to do more with less.”

Despite these harsh realities, Heyward’s message wasn’t all bad. “The good news is it’s become significantly cheaper to produce and distribute news.”

Journalism is a far more welcoming field than it once was, according to Heyward. He said it offers a lot more reward for individual talent than it used to. As students scribbled furiously to keep up with Mr. Heyward’s rapid speaking style, he went on to say that journalists are no longer expected to fit into the cookie-cutter mold that was standard for old newsrooms.

In Heyward’s view, online startups like Vice, Vox and Buzzfeed are the future of print journalism. He believes that Vice is the most impressive of the three because they use old-fashioned reporting methods to craft their stories. “Something that’s very important to remember is it’s much easier to chase viewers away than it is to attract them,” he said. “You have to protect your core while going for more.”

On the innovation issue, Heyward explained the concept of a “social scanner.”  In much the same way as one would use a police scanner, newsrooms and broadcast stations can use a social scanner to form a two-way relationship with their audience by digging into social issues and other hot topics. “Local news has been floundering because their style is too formulaic. Wildfires and court cases only really interest those whom are directly affected by them. Running stories like that are easy, so in a way it’s reaching for the low-hanging fruit.”

In Heyward’s experience, there is a perception in the newsroom that being a reporter is an annoyance that one must simply get through, and that being an anchor is the big prize. He said in order to really improve the position that journalism is in, we have to create the mindset among professionals that being an anchor is the boring/unfulfilling role and that reporting is where the exciting, meaningful work is done.

“If there were more transparency in the process of news gathering/reporting between the professionals and their audience, it would increase journalist’s credibility and ease the perception that all journalism outlets are biased,” said Heyward.

In perhaps his most profound observation of the night, Heyward said that a journalist’s job is not to reveal truth, it’s to discover facts. This carries legitimate weight when you consider that what’s true to one person may not necessarily be true to someone else, so in order to cut through the bias, ignorance and personal perceptions, journalists must find the actual facts.

It’s difficult to tell exactly where journalism will go in the coming decades – even Andrew Heyward will confirm that. But there’s one thing he knew for sure: millennials are fortunate enough to be born at the most exciting and transformative period of journalism in centuries. Before departing the stage Heyward looked at the crowd and said, “I envy you.”

The irrigation challenge in America’s Southwest

After California Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory state-wide water restrictions in April, reducing our wet footprint seemed to finally become a topic of household discussion; not only in California, but across the nation. But with California grabbing all the water-related headlines, it’s made it difficult for less-populated states like Arizona and New Mexico to gain ground in the national water conservation discussion.

The entire Southwest is being effected by drought, not just the Golden State. It’s important that we as Americans give proper attention to the situation in Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas, which together are home to approximately 10 million people. Arizona in particular has an interesting irrigation system in place, known as the Central Arizona Project.

The CAP is a fresh-water canal that winds its way through the state, providing drinking/irrigation water to approx. 5 million of Arizona’s 6.7 million residents. Built in 1985, the CAP is a 336-mile system of aqueducts that divert water from the Colorado River and Lake Havasu. It serves as the “largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona” according to its website, http://www.cap-az.com.

Canals like this are a brilliant example of how we can keep the American Southwest inhabitable for generations to come, but only if we manage to sustain them. The reduction of water levels in the Colorado River has been a primary concern for the CAP, and its members are working to limit the use of river water by the people in the region.

The electrical plant which provides power to the CAP (thus enabling the CAP to pump water to its consumer base) has recently signed an agreement with the EPA to reduce its pollution output in order to remain open until 2044; after that, the CAP’s consumer base may have to pay higher rates in order to keep the canal system pumping water and thus providing power. The CAP’s annual report for 2014 is available here.

The canal cost the state of Arizona $4 billion to construct, and while that is a hefty sum, it’s an investment in the future. Citizens of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and California would be wise to contact their representatives and advocate for the construction of a canal on par with what Arizona has built. And with the five states listed above having a combined budget of $293.6 billion for 2015, it’s fairly evident that they could carve out enough money to build canals of their own (perhaps even conjoin them to create a sort of manmade mega-river, similar to the Colorado.)

If more states that rely on water from the Colorado River (especially those in the southwest) could construct a system of aqueducts on the same level as the CAP, then the next generation of Americans born in that region would need not worry about the source of their fresh water. All it takes is a slice of the state budget and voter initiative on the part of those who call our beautiful deserts home.

Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) and his office was unavailable for comment regarding the future of the CAP. To contact the Central Arizona Project with any questions or concerns, call (623) 869-2333 or email them at info@cap-az.com.

Sources:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._state_budgets

http://www.cap-az.com/index.php/public/annual-reports

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_population

Why Bernie Sanders is the best man for the job he’ll never get

Updated: June 20, 2015

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a rare bird in American politics: he’s an independent. And now, just like Ross Perot before him, he’s trying to prove that third parties still have a place in our political system. Until now, most people have only been exposed to Sanders though soundbites on social media, which have gained wide-spread acclaim. While I’m a firm believer that political issues should not be reduced to oversimplified statements, the points that Sanders makes are so spot-on that it’s hard to complain about their delivery method.

For example, Sanders points out that if the minimum wadge had kept pace with the rise of inflation over the past 50 years, it would currently be over $20 an hour. Also among his soundbite repertoire: “If you think it’s too expensive to care for veterans, then don’t send them to war” and “It’s not the Congress that regulates Wall Street, it’s Wall Street that regulates the Congress.” These are just a few of my favorites among dozens of valid statements regarding the serious problems in American society that no one seems to be addressing.

Despite his evident qualifications, there are many roadblocks that spell doom for Sanders in his campaign for the presidency. This is a shame, because its been over 20 years since an independent last made a run for the Oval Office. This country needs to break the stranglehold that the two-party system has had on American politics for the last 150 years.

Let’s address the issue of finances. According to wiseGEEK.com, a serious candidate must have at least $125-$175 million to have a chance at winning the White House. Sanders is off to a good start, having raised $1.5 million dollars in the first 24 hours of his campaign (more then any of the top GOP candidates managed in their first 24.) The problem is, he needs to not only maintain but exponentially increase that level of fundraising if he is to have a prayer against the deep pockets of Hillary Clinton and her family’s Foundation.

This is a problem area for Sanders, who has made it clear that he intends to win not through the aid of billionaires but the small contributions of ordinary citizens (which he’s been receiving.) According to Mic.com, Sanders is collecting an average of $43 per donation from supporters.

Second issue: his faith. Sanders is Jewish, which would mean he’d be the first Jewish-American president in U.S. history. That may sound like a big step forward for the Jewish community, but it is that very community that is raising doubts and even speaking out against Sanders (much like how the Catholics did against Kennedy.)

Reasons for this vary, but general consensus seems to be that the Jewish community isn’t sure they want Sanders to be the one to represent them on the national stage. It’s safe to say that the same would be true for any Jewish candidate, mainly because the first person of any faith or race to hold such a high office will always be the subject of scrutiny and disapproval from some within their own community.

Lastly, it’s already apparent that Sanders is running into the same obstacle faced by John McCain eight years ago: age. At 73, Sanders would be the oldest person to ever be elected to the presidency. The unfortunate truth is, Sanders doesn’t have the same charisma that launched other presidents into office. And in a country where style has always trumped substance, it’s not hard to see this being the final nail in Sander’s coffin.

Photo credit: https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1473648414/Picture_3_400x400.png

Procedure overshadows policy in immigration “battle”

Updated: June 5, 2015

How petty are we getting? I was under the impression that if Democrats and Republicans agreed on something, then it would get done (the few things they actually do agree on, that is.) But apparently this doesn’t apply to the crucial issue of immigration. Both Dems and the GOP have said that they are in favor of immigration reform, and yet they have completely halted any actual progress on passing a bill because they have slightly different ideas on how they would like to see it done.

To be accurate, a bill did pass the Senate 500 days ago, but it stalled out in the House, leading to President Obama threatening executive action in order to address the issue. And that brings us to tonight’s national address.

Honestly, I don’t even see why the mainstream media and politicians are making such a fuss over this executive action. We all knew it was coming, the president told us so himself multiple times. But of course we can’t even pass a budget anymore without shutting down the government for two weeks, so naturally Obama’s announcement is now undergoing the standard transformation from presidential duty to tyrannical power-grab.

This is Obama’s 193rd  executive order since taking office, which is nearly 100 less than his predecessor George W. Bush issued during his presidency (although you’d never know it by the way the Right have been talking.) Don’t think I’m only coming down on Republicans, either; this issue could have been handled better by both sides.

But when you get down to the most basic facts, the bare truth is that Republicans killed the immigration bill in the House, and that’s why tonight’s announcement was necessary.

The president approved of the bill that the Senate passed, and it also had the approval of all the Democrats in the House (not to mention a few House Republicans.) But thanks to the radical factions within the GOP, the bill was unable to pass the House and into law. These are the people who were bent on seeing Obama lose reelection in 2012 and are now determined to make him a lame duck president for the last two years of his “rule.”

This is very frustrating to see for someone such as myself, who voted a straight republican ticket in the midterms (no, really.) More importantly the people, the politicians and the president know that the reforms which will be pushed though the executive branch are both limited and temporary.

The only way to have long lasting and comprehensive reform is for Congress to pass a bill.

In truth, I voted a straight republican ticket in the hopes that the GOP would take back the Senate. Not because I think Republicans do a better job than Democrats, but because I knew that the GOP had a much better chance of winning back the Senate than the Dems had of winning back the House. I also understand that nothing would have gotten done in these next two years if the chambers remained devided.

Now the GOP has no excuse not to pass some sort of immigration bill (especially with the Supreme Court blocking parts the president’s executive action twice in the last six months.) If the Republicans continue with their policy of inaction, they’re going to show up to the 2016 presidential election empty handed, and that won’t resonate well with the voting public. People will look at the president and his party and say “Well, at least they tried something.”

From a purely objective standpoint, the president’s decision to push ahead with executive action was the right course to take, not just politically but also for the nation. Think of it as a tool to get the reform ball rolling. The president’s immigration strategy will go into effect this spring, and that will give the republican-controlled congress time to come up with a proper reform bill.

And the GOP will pass an immigration bill soon. How do I know? Because we’re talking about the people who’ve attempted to repeal Obamacare over 50 times since it was passed. The Republicans are going to want Obama’s reforms to go sooner rather than later.

This all may sound rather anti-GOP, but I actually believe this is a good thing. Republicans have a lot of good ideas when it comes to reforming our broken immigration system, and I believe they are going to pass a solid reform bill. Now that they won back the Senate, all they needed was for the president to give them a kick in the pants to get them moving. And Obama’s executive action will do just that.

Source(s): http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/wbush.html

http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/obama.html

Photo credit to blog.oup.com

“Dark Money” and its impact on recent midterm cycle

Updated: June 3, 2015

Dark Money is more than just a catchy phrase- it’s an emerging industry. Dark Money is a name given to 501(c)(4) organizations, which is the IRS code for nonprofits. The ingenious thing about these nonprofit organizations is they have been able to contribute unlimited amounts of money directly to political campaigns without having to reveal themselves as a donor. They can stay in the shadows because they are not being taxed on these contributions due to their nonprofit status with the IRS.

Let’s say (hypothetically) that Best Buy is a republican institution. The owners and CEOs at Best Buy have the power to set up a small nonprofit organization (a bakery for breast caner research, for example) and funnel massive amounts of money through said organization and into the war chests of republican candidates; all of which is legal.

If you think back to the previous midterm election cycle in 2010, the total amount of money brought in from sources outside the campaigns totaled $205,519,230. But as the popularity of Dark Money grew among private business owners and more organizations realized that they would not be audited by the IRS, the amount of revenue given to 2014 midterm campaigns by Dark Money groups came in at $545,605,510.

That’s a 376% increase in spending in just four years.

Now imagine what the Presidency will cost in 2016. Political scientists estimate that if a candidate were to enter the race for the White House today, they wouldn’t be taken seriously unless they already had at least $150 million in their coffers.

See what the experts at OpenSecrets.org have to say about Dark Money: https://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/nonprof_summ.php

It’s important to keep in mind that not all candidates who spend the most money on the campaign trail emerge victorious (the Tom Harkin/Joni Ernst race being the most pronounced example.) But in order for lesser-funded candidates to actually win these elections, the voters have to be willing to go the extra mile and do some independent research.

A good way to start would be looking at outside sources- internet, newspapers, public records at the library -for additional info on the candidates in question. This is a great alternative to relying entirely on campaign ads, where 5-10% of Dark Money groups can be found spending their dollars.

As my old PoliSci professor once explained to me, today’s voters have the power to change our entire political system from the outside if they really wanted to, but it would take a lot of work. The choice is ours, people. If we want to stop the influence of Dark Money spending, then let’s show the corporations and special interest groups that what they’re doing will no longer stand. Let’s elect candidates that we personally have found to be best suited for the job, not candidates who look/sound the best in TV and radio ads.

Another excellent way to get involved as a voter would be to visit your local IRS branch- easily found through a google search -and demand to know why they are only auditing 1% of all 501(c)(4) organizations (Dark Money groups.) A favorite saying of mine plays well at a time like this: “We used to live in a country where the voters picked the politicians. Now we live in a country where politicians pick the voters.”

But it dosn’t have to stay this way.

If you’re tired of corporations and wealthy special interest groups controlling everything from the White House to your Mayor’s office, then use your power as a voter to do a little independent research. If the big spenders start losing elections, Dark Money groups will vanish and it will be much easier for the average voter to be heard.

Statistics from Al Jazeera America and OpenSecrets.org were used in this report.

Photo credit to watchdog.org