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Scott Morgan

Freelance Reporter. Radio Journalist.

TOt4E: Journalism As the Year Rolls Over

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Twenty-seventeen was a weird year for journalism. At least in the United States. A renewed vigor for journalistic prowess and integrity met a president who openly hates journalism itself. Or, at least, that’s his public stance.

So what will journalism bring about, and what will it bring upon itself, in 2018? How the hell do I know, I’m a reporter, not a crystal ball. But I do have my thoughts …

Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Journalism, What It Is, What It Was. Listen here, and please share, comment, and subscribe to my blog for updates.

TOt4E: We’re All Connected. So Where Is Everybody?

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A major irony in journalism these days is that we live in a world of open, free-flowing, abundant information — and yet it’s harder and harder to get hold of anybody.

Right at the time in history when we need a well-armed press more than ever.

Check out my latest episode of Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Getting Through To People.

Don’t forget to like, share, and comment. Thanks for listening.

Podcast: Bias In the Press

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December 11, 2017

Liberal media? Conservative media? Not the point. But perception of bias,  it turns out, is a pretty big deal.

4th web buttonEpisode 2 of Thoughts On the 4th Estate: Bias In the Press

What are your thoughts on my thoughts? Comment, subscribe, share, tell the world. And be good to the world too.

Convo: Episode 1 ~ The National Conversation On Sexual Harassment

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Logo design by Scott Morgan

I’m not trying to overwhelm you, dear reader, with podcasts, I promise.

But I’m excited to announce my first professionally produced podcast for my NPR member station. KETR. Convo is a podcast of discussion and curiosity on a timely topic of social importance.

For my first edition, I wanted to understand better why we are having an engaged conversation about sexual harassment now, as opposed to the many times it could have happened before.

My conversation is with Dr. Sharon Kowalski, an associate professor of history and director of the gender studies program at Texas A&M University-Commerce. I’m glad to say our conversation was enlightening (at least for me), nuanced, and thoughtful.

Episode 1 of Convo is available at my station’s website, KETR.org. Click the hyperlink to have a listen and be part of the Convo. I’d love to know what you think.

 

 

 

Contain Your Surprise: I’ve Started a Podcast

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December 4, 2017

Today I launched my new podcast, Thoughts On the 4th Estate. I’d explain further, but I imagine the title is fairly comprehensive as far as what it’s about.

Thoughts is a short podcast, though. Typically between 4 and 8 minutes. Something more than musings and less than a treatise. I hope you listen and I hope you like. I’ll be putting a new one up once a week. And it’s not just for colleagues, either. If you’re interested in commentary on society, please check it out.

Click here or click on the banner above to take you to the podcast homepage (which will be more relevant as the catalog builds).

 

For now, listen to Episode 1: Why Does the Press Get Such Bad Press? right here:

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my thoughts. Also, please subscribe to my site so you can stay up with new postings as they become a thing. Be good to the world.

Journalism vs. Nationalism

September 7, 2017

Yesterday, the BBC reported that an Indian journalist named Gauri Lankesh was found shot to death in the Karnataka state. No motives were mentioned, but Lankesh was a progressive journalist critical of Hindu nationalism. It’s not hard to connect the dots, considering journalists in India are increasingly targets of Hindu nationalist radicals.

Back here in the United States, we’ve all been involved in the topic of nationalism and the press in 2017. So far, the U.S. remains a comparatively safe place for reporters and social critics. A lot of people hate those of us with a press badge, but we don’t generally tend to be targets of assassins.

In terms of journalists being killed, national boundaries don’t matter. I’ve written before about the fact that in so many parts of the world, calling yourself a reporter is a lot like being a deer and buying a vest with a bullseye on it. It’s often dangerous work done by courageous people armed with what remains the deadliest commodity on the planet — the questioning of an idea.

I’m grateful that despite obvious tensions, journalists and nationalists in the United States tend to keep their hands off each other. I wish the same to continue, and I wish it for the rest of the world. There are a lot of dark corners on this planet that need some light. Especially where they’re more likely to be snuffed out.

Is It a Documentary? Or Clever PR?

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I love documentaries (try to contain your surprise). It’s one of the best things about the Internet Age, being able to watch some documentaries on the interwebs. To me, “Netflix and Chill” actually means chillin’ with some documentaries on Netflix.

But while I’ve certainly seen some excellent docs on Netflix (Resurrect Dead was a fantastic investigative story; The Keepers, ditto), I do get annoyed with the programs that look like documentaries but seem to be thinly veiled PR campaigns.

I’m not stupid, I’m pretty aware people use “real life” to sell ideas and doodads. But to me, masking PR campaigns as documentaries is a dick move. Ads and commercials might be a little annoying, but I can respect them for at least being honest ‒‒ Coca-Cola wants my money and they don’t hide that fact, and I appreciate their naked capitalism.

And by the way, no, I’m not being paid by Netflix. I just don’t hide that I love it.

What triggered this essay is a handful of films labeled as documentaries I’ve seen on The ‘Flix recently. One is called Pet Fooled, which talks about the importance of an actual meat diet (as opposed to dry kibble) for dogs and cats. I happen to agree, and my dog gets meat without loads of filler and byproduct. But the presentation, despite that I believe in what the filmmakers are saying, feels awfully like a sell-job for a particular brand of raw meat pet food they mention a lot.

A similar thing happens in exactly the opposite direction in What the Health, in which the filmmaker chronicles his path to veganism. I’ve nothing against vegans, I used to be one for many years. And I believe strongly in a good, plant-heavy diet for people. But there’s a lot in this film that doesn’t stand up to tight scrutiny, and in the end it just feels like a rant. Personally, I don’t believe in anyone who claims to have all the answers to something as complex as nutrition and health.

A more subtle example of PR is Flatball, a film about Ultimate Frisbee. Ultimate’s a great game and lots of fun, and yes, it does deserve a little more recognition after, what, 40 years? of relative obscurity, but the film is less a documentary history of a sport than a PR campaign designed to get people interested in joining teams. That’s a fine thing to do, for the record. I’ve played Ultimate, and it’s a lot of fun, but I’m bothered by the very subtle way this purported documentary seems to be trying to push our “hey, what’s this cool thing?” button.

I suppose I’d pick on Michael Moore for calling his extended-dance-mix YouTube video essays documentaries, but he’s not a Netflix entity, he’s already established, so ….

If I have a point, it’s that journalistic integrity suffers enough from shortsightedness, mistakes, and mishandling of information. We don’t need quasi-documentaries muddying up waters that are supposed to be the very waters that wash away muddiness. Just try to be mindful of when you’re being led by the hand towards the cash register.

PS ‒‒ Exit Through the Gift Shop doesn’t count because it’s a brilliant hoax, and I’m going to be very up front in telling you to watch it, because it’s awesome.

Reporting in a Time of Hate

August 17, 2017

Note: Sadly, I didn’t know I’d need to update this on the same day I wrote it. Today, someone driving a van in Barcelona killed and hurt dozens of people. It happened after I published. But it’s just as sickening.

Hate is not an easy thing for reporters to contend with. As professionals, we have to be dispassionate, no matter how bad it gets. Our job is to show people what’s happening, not what we think is happening and certainly not what we think about it.

But we’re people too. We feel it when something like Charlottesville happens. Or Manchester. Or any of the unfortunately large number of other events in which people decided to punctuate their beliefs with weapons and horrible words.

We feel it when irrationality leads to sentient creatures getting hurt. It hurts us to report these things. It hurts to quash the bile we feel, but it’s something we need to do. I love my job. But I haven’t loved every day on it.

In the wake of this most recent reminder that hatred, irrationality, and evil are still alive and well in the United States, perhaps its time to try to remind myself, my colleagues, and anyone else why journalistic integrity and grit really are so important:

  • Journalists tell stories because stories need to be told.
  • Stories need to be told because people need their stories to be heard.
  • People need their stories to be heard because they need to know that their pain, their struggles, their fears are not happening in the dark.

One of the great ironies in journalism is that reporters are endlessly cynical people, yet we care very deeply for the betterment of the world. We do what we do because we believe it’s the right thing to do. Voices need to be heard, and we’re the mechanism through which those voices get heard.

I hope the world understands, we don’t enjoy covering things like hate rallies and terrorism. But we do enjoy knowing that we contribute to the conversation; and we especially enjoy knowing that these stories we tell about hate and violence are making other people mad enough to stand up for what’s right.

 

Lessons in Gun Politics (a.k.a., A Study In Nuance)

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August 1, 2016, was the day publicly funded four-year colleges in Texas were mandated to allow properly credentialed faculty, staff, and students to carry concealed firearms on campus. Exactly one year later, that law has been applied to community colleges in the state.

So I spoke to some folks at Paris Junior College about how they feel about it. The answers I got were quite nuanced. There was fear of the unknown and an understanding that protection in the event of an incident might be necessary.

Doing stories like these is an immensely interesting and satisfying part of my job. It’s always fascinating to hear the thoughts of those on the front lines of public policy. And these stories reinforce the need for me as a reporter to always be open-minded; to never go into a story with preconceptions about what people are going to say.

For more on the story, including more in-depth thoughts from those with whom I spoke, click here.

 

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