Category Archives: journalism

A Mother’s Loss

The following Letter to the Editor was published today, April 27, 2018 in the Kansas City Star.  I wrote it after reading the tribute to Barbara Bush on April 21.  The essay/editorial struck a cord that is worthy of noting.  Please read.  Thank you to the KC Star for including it in today’s edition.

Mary Sanchez’s sympathetic and empathetic column concerning Barbara Bush is a testimony to the strength of character not only of Mrs. Bush, but her mom and all of us who experience the loss a child. (April 21, 11A, “Remembering Barbara Bush, grieving mother”)

My experience was a miscarriage of twins. But that was half a century after Robin Bush’s death and Sanchez’s mother’s first late-term loss. I was fortunate to have a community that understood it was a loss and allowed me to grieve.

Another generation later, our daughter-in-law lost a daughter, Faith, at 17 weeks. Fortunately, she was supported by a medical team that understood the need to allow her and her husband time with the daughter.

Loss is painful, but grieving is a process that one must experience, and a medical team that understands that need is exceptional.

Sanchez’s words and her insight concerning Mrs. Bush are evidence that our culture is learning to honor painful life experiences appropriately. Thank you for sharing such a personal and perceptive tribute to Mrs. Bush, but also to your own mom and all mothers who know the loss of a child all too soon.

Susan Annette Smith Warrensburg

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Filed under Family Notes, journalism, Religion

In reply: “Gone Missing” Letter to the Editor

In Re: Curriculum for the 21st Century: a reply to C.D. Rinck Sr.’s Letter to the Editor, March 21, 2018.

D. Rinck of Mission, KS, has a valid point. He asked, “ What happened to all those government checks and balances I was taught in high school?”

He goes on reflecting on his own education, “”They must have suffered the same fate as diagramming a sentence as I learned in English Class.”

Rinck should be concerned. Having taught for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015, I have taught both—how to diagram sentences and the US Constitution. I also taught journalism.

The Constitution provides the clear separation of powers as a means of preventing any one branch from taking control. The checks and balance system is critical to a democracy including the republican democracy of the United States.

At no point should one branch have power over any other branch. In Sen. Jeff Flake’s comments to the National Press Club last week, the same topic of checks and balance is referenced.

Flake said, “Defending democratic institutions ought not to be a controversial idea, and hasn’t been until very recently. But recognizing that our institutions are under threat from within, with clarity, seems to me a basic obligation of the Article I branch of government—the congress, whose power is, in theory, equal to that of the president’s…”

Jennifer Rubin, from The Washington Post, was published in the KC Star editorial, “The problem: Flake can’t win in today’s Trump GOP” also focused on checks and balance.

American textbooks include the principle of checks and balance as a primary theme to be taught in civics and government classes. The class used to be taught juniors not freshmen as it is today. (And as an aside, I question whether freshmen are developmentally prepared to discuss the theory or to fully comprehend the value of the US Constitution.)

The American checks and balance system has also included an additional watchdog—freedom of speech that includes professional journalism. I taught journalism as the social responsibility as I was taught at MU during the mid-1970s. Journalists are to report the news objectively not subjectively, unless in editorials.

Our schools must teach students how to be critical readers, good communicators, and independent thinkers. I am concerned that emphasizing technology education and student achievement testing undermines what education must be.

Language curriculum needs to include sentence diagramming again. Diagramming teaches students how words communicate. Students need to understand value of the word, the difference in denotative and connotative meanings, and how to write clear statements. Sentence diagramming teaches analysis of language.

An example of applying critical reading and understanding language’s structure as evidenced in today’s KC Star article, “Trump’s phone call to Putin raises hackles,” about the President congratulatory phone call to Putin included one biased word: stubborn. Look at the paragraph.

“Trumps comments came five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other “malicious cyber-attacks.’ It widened what has become a familiar gulf between the Trump administration’s tougher actions and words toward Russia and Trump’s own stubborn reluctance to criticize Putin.”

Let the facts speak without adding the opinion.

Of course, our school’s curriculum and the emphasis placed on education must be a priority for our society, too. Our students will be left behind if the curriculum does not teach the skills to be critical readers, analytical thinkers, and good communicators.

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Filed under Education, History & Government, journalism

Read the news carefully

Reading this morning’s KC Star on-line, two articles had paragraphs that need careful reading. Both caught my attention by the words that could easily be skipped yet need careful reading.

First, in the news article, “Where’s Gov. Greitens? Not with Trump this visit” (March 15, 2018, p.4), about one third the way down, after explaining that Greitens did not greet President Trump in St. Louis like he did on the other two Missouri stops, came two paragraphs:

“Trump instead was welcomed by Attorney General Josh Hawley, the state’s top law enforcement official and the Republican front runner to challenge U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in the fall.”

This paragraph is a simple statement of the situation as a news report is designed to be, with the exception of one word “instead.”

That word becomes loaded with meaning when a news report last week stated that Trump asked certain state Republicans not be included—names not included.

In that previous news report, the comment was included that Hawley had not been invited to greet the president. The paragraph in today’s article implies that Hawley was invited to greet the President.

Hmmm. I would like a clarification, at least of when Hawley was included in the meet and greet.

The article continues with the next paragraph that is a quote from Trump:

“The state of Missouri was very good to me, I’ll tell you,” Trump said during a visit to Boeing. “And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job. I can tell you that. Just met him at the plane.”

Close reading of the President’s quote causes more concern for me as a reader.

First, the President said the state of Missouri was very good to me. The historic records can prove just how good when looking at the election results.

By going to the Secretary of State’s official website for the general election results of November 8, 2016 the results are posted:

Republican Trump/Pence took 56.772% or 1,594,511 votes

Democrat Clinton/Kaine took 38.135% or 1,071,068 votes

Libertarian Johnson/Weld took 3.466% or 97,359 votes

Additionally there were 45,667 votes cast for a total of 2,808,605 votes cast.

Yes, by the numbers, Missouri was good to Trump during the election.

But on with the President’s quote:

“And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job. I can tell you that. Just met him at the plane.”

Those short sentences are worth reflection. Look at the sentences in reverse order.

Trump just met him at the plane. Just? At? How much knowledge can one gain in that moment of meeting.

The middle sentence, “I can tell you that”, is clear enough as Trump is being quoted. But, look again at that first brief statement:

“And Josh, I think, is doing a fantastic job.” Even Trump’s own statement creates questions. He just met him. He thinks Hawley is doing a good job. But the qualifier ‘fantastic’ is Trump’s descriptor for what he thinks is the job Hawley is doing.

Where are the facts? Two small paragraphs in the first third of a news article is loaded with implicating statements. The reader has a responsibility to reflect on these words.

Journalism is reporting the news based on various elements such as timeliness, significance, proximity, prominence (i.e. name recognition) and human interest (as identified at http://www.pbs.org/now/classroom/lessonplan-05.html).

The active reader needs to be aware of these elements and to consider them as filters as to how a story is reported. Knowing this, the two paragraphs in this article are just part of the story, but need careful reflection by Missourians.

The second KC Star March 15, article to read carefully is in the Opinion section, “GOP’s Hawley launches campaign we don’t need” by Melinda Henneberger. Remember, this is an opinion or editorial.

Henneberger has an opinion, but she does develop that opinion with facts concerning candidate education and historical quotes. Yet, buried in the middle of the article is a paragraph for careful reading and reflection:

“Yet both there [out East] and here in the Midwest, where I grew up, blue and red bubbles are harder to penetrate because any news we don’t want to hear, we increasingly choose not to hear.”

Regardless of one’s political preference, referred to as ‘blue and red bubbles’, the message in Henneberger’s editorial is that we, the people, are making the conscious decision of what to hear or not to hear.

In casual conversations, opinions are voiced easily. The concern is how solid is one’s opinion based on facts, not hear say.

Read carefully.

Look for concrete support in an article.

Look beyond the headline grabbing attention.

Look at what is not being said.

Read carefully.

Do not just scan the headlines.

Take time to read the full story whether in print or on-line.

If you have questions, ask or look for answers.

Hennenberger’s article is an opinion, but read it carefully. Make the choice to know the facts. Do not choose to you do not want to hear.

The KC Star’s front page includes the teaser headline, but choose to ‘hear’ the story and turn to page 4. The headline develops into more than a story on Greitens non-appearance, but also a story about an election and the President’s knowledge.

Then choose to read on. Read others’ opinions and reflect.

Choose to read carefully.

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Filed under History & Government, journalism