Archive for January, 2016


Rack ’em!

rackupdate

You just can’t top this…


Yesterday, Florida Atlantic University miraculously found a new place for South Florida Gay News to distribute. All it took was the threat of topless women strolling around campus, handing out copies of a gay newspaper.

See yesterday’s post )

FAU had insisted it would take 16 months – until May 2017 – to “renovate” the single metal rack where SFGN offered free copies of its weekly issues. FAU has built parking garages quicker than that.

Now SFGN will have two campus locations: one outside the library, the other outside the student union. After a month of ignoring his efforts at compromise, SFGN editor Jason Parsley says FAU promised him those racks would be installed within the next 2-3 weeks.

“I’m happy we were able to resolve this issue so quickly,” Parsley says. “But in the future, I would advise FAU to respond to people in a timely fashion, in order to avoid a situation like this spiraling out of control.”

Yesterday, FAU’s student newspaper offered to help. Editor Emily Bloch says SFGN can borrow some University Press racks until SFGN’s racks are ready.

Parsley is pleased, and he has no regrets…

This was just one distribution point out of hundreds that we have here at SFGN. I could have just as easily said it wasn’t worth my time. While I’m sure FAU sees this differently, I saw it as First Amendment issue. And it’s important to remember the First Amendment is non-negotiable. Our freedom of speech and the press are two civil rights that nobody can take away.

So all’s well that started stupidly. Alas, tomorrow’s topless distribution protest has been called off.

Too bad, because I was really looking forward to FAU frat boys eagerly accepting newspapers from topless women, only to read them and realize, “Hey, this is gay!”


Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.

 

Nice rack

sfgn1

Staying abreast of the news…


On Wednesday, topless women will distribute a gay newspaper at a public university in South Florida.

Why? To defend a free press.

South Florida Gay News is the southeast’s largest weekly gay newspaper, but Florida Atlantic University only allows SFGN to distribute in a single spot on campus.

It’s a metal rack FAU built, which sounds generous until you learn the school banned SFGN from having its own racks. The school says it’s trying to “beautify” the campus by getting rid of ugly newspaper boxes.

That’s fine as far as it goes – those things are ugly – but earlier this month, FAU sent this poorly written email to SFGN editor Jason Parsley

The newspaper racks that was assigned for placing the South Florida Gay News publication were removed from the breezeway for renovation project. At this time we do not have an alternate location. Please suspend the delivery of the magazine until further notice.

Parsley inquired, “Do you have a timeframe on when the project will be complete?”

This is the full text of FAU’s reply: “The project is expected to be finished in May of 2017.”

That’s a long time to renovate a metal box. It’s also illegal, as we’ll see in a moment.

Parsley didn’t give up: “Are there other locations on campus where publications display their products?”

FAU didn’t give in: “Unfortunately the breezeway was the only location. I will let you know if we will identify other locations in the meantime.”

Parsley tried again, but FAU is no longer responding. On his own, he learned FAU also booted a couple other free publications. But they don’t cover news – they’re glorified shoppers – and they didn’t object.

So what’s going on here? I have a theory: FAU is banning several small publications to get to SFGN, and it has nothing to do with being gay.

sfgn2

The naked truth…


Two weeks before FAU ousted Parsley’s newspaper, he wrote this column criticizing his alma mater for violating Florida’s open-meetings law. (Parsley was editor of FAU’s student newspaper in 2007.)

Is FAU retaliating against SFGN? If not, this sure is a coincidence. Which isn’t lost on Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC.

“A public university can’t single out certain disfavored publications based on editorial content and give them inferior distribution locations – or none at all – to penalize or restrain unwanted messages,” LoMonte says.

LoMonte says the law is “murky” about public universities being required to distribute off-campus publications. But…

Once a college in fact has made the decision to allow newsracks on campus walkways, then there must be some reasonable justification for deviating from that policy unrelated to the publication’s content, and the speaker must be provided with some reasonable alternative way of reaching the audience.

If FAU is effectively banning the publication from campus, it would have the burden of showing that the decision is both unrelated to the publication’s content and that no alternative location exists, which would be awfully hard to do.

That’s “awfully hard” because only 16 days separate Parsley’s critical column and FAU’s ungrammatical emails. Plus, two daily newspapers aren’t being booted for renovations. LoMonte calls this “circumstantial evidence of a cause-and-effect” – and he says it’s “quite strong.”

So SFGN could sue FAU. And it might. SFGN’s publisher is an attorney who has gone to court over First Amendment issues before – and won. If a lawsuit happens, SMACK will help him apply to SPJ’s Legal Defense Fund.

But that could take months. We have a better, quicker idea.

sfgn3

How to get the circulation going…


If FAU doesn’t back down, SMACK will take off the gloves – and the tops. On Wednesday, volunteers will walk around campus handing out SFGN’s latest issue.

You can see the cover above. It’s about the Go Topless Movement, which seeks equal treatment under the law: If men can walk around bare-chested, why can’t women?

So it only makes sense that topless women will hand out the paper. Luckily, the forecast is sunny and 74 degrees. (This plan wouldn’t work at the University of Vermont.)

We’ll notify local media, and our volunteers will even hand-deliver copies to the office of FAU President John Kelly.

If campus cops arrest our volunteers, SMACK will throw their bail. And if everyone has a good time, we just might do this for every weekly issue of SFGN.

Or FAU can finally reply to Parsley and come up with a solution that won’t take 16 months. But now that we’ve organized all of this, I kind of hope they don’t.

update

Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.

 

Holy crap!

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Journalists who refuse to comment? Administrators who want to?


When the newspaper at Mount St. Mary’s University made national headlines this week, I wanted to congratulate the editors. Instead, I’m concerned about them.

I’m not worried the school will retaliate, even though the Mountain Echo‘s reporting resulted in this bizarre Washington Post headline

wphed

…because administrators at the small Catholic school in northern Maryland (2,200 students) seem have turned the other cheek. Meanwhile, the editors and their adviser have totally turned me off.

I started out totally on their side, too.

When I first heard about how they uncovered secret email exchanges between the school’s new president and administrators, I was prepared to be amazed. Those emails reveal the president was scheming to dismiss 20-25 freshmen he didn’t think were impressive enough.

“Put a Glock to their heads,” he allegedly told an administrator.

Mount St. Mary’s has no journalism school, and it’s private – meaning the student editors have little training and a lot to lose. Unlike public universities, they lack many Constitutional protections their public peers possess. They could easily get expelled.

With those scary facts in mind, I wanted to offer SPJ’s support. But then it got weird.

mary1

No comment, no confidence.


The Mountain Echo’s website lists no staff, no email addresses, and no phone number. The only way  to reach them is through this form. When I didn’t hear back, I contacted the school’s Media Relations office.

Given the hard-hitting story I was calling about, I didn’t expect good relations with media relations director Christian A. Kendzierski. I plainly told him that I defend student journalists who ethically investigate uncomfortable topics.

“Awesome,” he said. “That’s what student newspapers do.”

Then gave me contact info for managing editor Ryan Golden and newspaper adviser Ed Egan. Last night, they conference-called me, along with news editor Rebecca Schisler.

My first innocent question: Howdy, where’s the editor?

Uncomfortable silence.

“We don’t have a very conventional hierarchy.” Golden said. He gave a long explanation I couldn’t follow, but basically, he’s the editor. 

Odd, but whatever. I really just wanted to ask some questions so I could pre-empt any administrator who tried to undercut the story. Student journalists are bound to make mistakes, so if we can explain how those mistakes happened – that they came from inexperience and not malevolence – SPJ can still defend them.

I definitely had some questions…

  • Why wasn’t the university president interviewed? On Dec. 4, he agreed to talk, and the story didn’t run till this week. Yet in an “editorial statement,” you write, “The Mountain Echo denied this request,” partly based on “the professional advice of a third-party journalist.” Who was that?
  • Did anyone else hear the “glock” comment? You report in the story that the president said this “to a small group of faculty and administrators.” Only one administrator confirmed it and the  president denies it. Did you ask the others?
  • Who suggested sending the story to your sources? In yet another “editorial statement,” you write, “The Echo’s editorial board decided…the article should be sent to the Office of the President and the Board of Trustees for comment.” Journalists almost never do that. Why did you?

I didn’t get far before before Egan interrupted, “Where are you going with these questions?”

I don’t recall exactly what I said, because I was a tad discombobulated – I’ve only ever heard that from politicians, coaches, business executives, and administrators. Never journalists.

I offered to send Egan links to this blog and the SMACK homepage, and he promised they’d all call me back “in a few minutes.”

mary2

A half-hour later…


Golden called and said, “We have to postpone any comments for the time being.”

Really? Why?

“We’re just inundated with calls right now. But we appreciate your concern.”

You were just talking to me. Now you’re too busy to comment?

“We’ll make sure we’ll get back to you when we’re comfortable.”

Wait, now you’re not busy but you’re uncomfortable? Ryan, if you were reporting a story and you heard this, what would you think?

“I perfectly understand. But we will get back to you, I promise you that.”

When?

“Next week, maybe.”

Maybe?

“Thank you.”

Damn, I thought – I just got a slick brush-off from a college student. I was actually impressed. But of course, I was also confused.

mary7

What’s really going on?


Maybe the editors and adviser are simply freaked out by all the coverage. The president has called their story “innuendo” and “not accurate at all,” while the Board of Trustees has dismissed it as “a grossly inaccurate impression on the subject.”

Of course, the president and his allies have yet to explain away the “bunnies and glocks” comments – which likely means they can’t. But still, for young reporters, this is a lot of heat.

Then again, Golden didn’t sound at all freaked out when I spoke with him. And while the president and his allies have grumbled, they haven’t retaliated.

Obviously, Golden and Egan don’t want SPJ prying further, and Golden even said he’d read my post calling out student newspapers for doing dumb things.

I asked Kendzierski, the media relations director, what he thought was going on here. Obviously, he’s not what you’d call an objective observer. But what the hell…

His theory: “I fear the students are being misled.” Mount St Mary’s is in the middle of a nasty faculty fight over employee benefits. The school is cutting healthcare and retirement contributions.

The Mountain Echo covered the story in November – using only anonymous sources and not interviewing the president or any senior administrator who made the decision. The story is full of accusations that the other side never gets to address. Was that a rookie mistake or was it intentional?

Kendzierski thinks the students are being manipulated by faculty who want to embarrass the school so they can weaken the president who’s cutting their benefits.

I don’t know what to believe, because I usually figure that out by talking to both sides. Most times, the journalists open up and the administrators clam up. This is the first time in my six years on the SPJ national board where that’s been flipped upside down.

mary4

Mountain or molehill?


Here’s what I have decided: If Egan or Golden call me back, I’ll offer to send veteran SPJers to their northern Maryland campus. I’ll pay for pro journalists to train their staff – everything from investigative techniques to balanced reporting.

The Mountain Echo obviously has some brave and hard-working students, so this would be money well spent. And it’s theirs for a phone call.

Sure hope I hear from them.

 

Ha! Ha! That’s terrible!

laugh1

This joke is hilarious…


Q. What do you call a meeting of journalists who want to discuss the journalism in the student newspaper at a public university?

A. Closed to the public.

Welcome to Florida Atlantic University, which is a real funny place. Last semester, FAU appointed a Journalism Task Force of mostly faculty. Their mission: “Improve” the reporting in its student newspaper. But they closed their meetings to the public after I showed up at one.

“Your last visit caused concern for some faculty who felt it was disruptive to have a non-member of the task force at the table,” JTF chairman Neil Santaniello emailed me.

He added…

The Communication Department consulted with FAU General Counsel on whether the JTF meetings were open to the public. The interpretation we received: the task force is a fact-finding body, not a decision-making body. In short: JTF meetings are not public. The school director, David Williams, came to the same conclusion

That’s funny for three reasons…

  1. I sat in the back of the meeting and said nothing unless spoken to. How is that “disruptive”?
  2. Santaniello and three other JTF faculty members are former journalists who once quietly observed meetings themselves.
  3. FAU’s attorney is so wrong, it’s not even funny.

This joke is illegal…


“Under Florida law, advisory committees formed for the purpose of making recommendations are subject to both our open meetings law and the public records law,” says attorney Barbara Petersen, who’s also president of the First Amendment Foundation, based in Florida’s capital of Tallahassee.

In the nation’s capital, another attorney agrees.

“Legally, I think the answer is pretty clear,” says Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center in Washington, DC. “This is really a ‘task force’ appointed to participate in the decision process — it’s not just six people informally getting together for a brainstorming session.”

Because of that, “Under Florida law, it’s a public meeting and must comply with all of the legal formalities — including giving public notice and letting the public attend.”

I’ve twice emailed David Williams, the director of FAU’s Communication School. In an amusing twist, he refuses to communicate with me.

ck

This joke is sad…


After hearing these legal opinions, FAU administrators still didn’t open those Journalism Task Force meetings. Instead, they shut down the entire project.

Here’s the joint statement yesterday from arts and letters dean Heather Coltman and student affairs vice president Corey King

Due to the desire of some individuals to create unnecessary conflict that does not contribute to the progress of student journalism at FAU or aid in the progress of designing a better learning experience for students, we have decided to suspend the activities of the task force.

I’m fairly certain I’m one of those “individuals.”

I had threatened to crash the next JTF meeting and force them to arrest me, because that would’ve been hilarious: Journalists calling the cops to arrest a journalist trying to report on a meeting of journalists talking about journalism.

hahahaha

This joke is typical…


Weirdly, Coltman and King believe open meetings do “not contribute to the progress of student journalism at FAU.”

That confuses the SPLC’s Frank LoMonte…

Leaving the law aside, it’s ponderous why any discussion of the structure of a journalism program should exclude interested campus stakeholders. The biggest question would be: Why would you want to?

The reason we have a legal requirement to conduct meetings in the open is because closed meetings inherently breed distrust. Any decision produced by a meeting from which the public is purposefully and consciously excluded will be tainted by a cloud of illegitimacy.

Of course, if the real purpose of the Journalism Task Force was to scheme ways to gut the newspaper’s embarrassing coverage of FAU, then secret meetings make sense.

LoMonte and many others wouldn’t be shocked if the JTF was just the latest assault on a student newspaper that’s uncovered uncomfortable truths in the past – like its investigation of FAU’s Board of Trustees that found those 13 overseers of the school’s finances have personally accumulated “three bankruptcy filings, seven foreclosures, 21 tax warrants, and one federal tax lien.”

Now that’s good comedy.

hahahaha

This joke ain’t over.


The punchline here is: College media rarely “win” these battles, but if they always fight with a smile, they’ll never lose. In this millennium alone, FAU has, among other things…

  • tried locking students out of their newsroom
  • illegally frozen the newspaper’s budget
  • fired its adviser
  • threatened the editor with student conduct court if she met with that adviser even off campus

…yet FAU’s student journalists have always gotten the last laugh, then landed good jobs. That’s because you value most what you must fight to keep. And FAU loves to pick a fight.

“If there’s any university in America that has earned zero benefit of the doubt in its treatment of journalists,” LoMonte says, “it’s Florida Atlantic, with its deplorably long rap sheet of stonewalling and harassment.”

So if the students at FAU can win weirdly, you can, too. We’re here to help. Check out SMACK for details.


Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.

 

College media crystal ball

predictions

Click bait

Remember Melissa Click?


She’s the communication professor at the University of Missouri who asked for some “muscle” to oust a student journalist from a campus racism protest.

Now Missouri lawmakers want to muscle her out of a job. On Monday, 100 Republicans in the state’s General Assembly wrote a letter demanding the school fire her. On Tuesday, 115 faculty members wrote a letter defending her.

According to the Kansas City Star, lawmakers said Click’s outburst “served to inflame an already caustic situation that was clearly out of line,” while faculty simply called it “at most a regrettable mistake.”

So should she be fired? You could argue she’s been punished enough by the worldwide web, where she’s been mocked by memes and cartoons that will exist long after she doesn’t. (see below)

But here are three crucial questions. If the answers are all NO, then YES, Click needs to work somewhere else. Like China or Cuba.

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1. Is she sorry for what she did?


Or is she just sorry for what’s happened to her since?

A day after she became Internet Enemy No. 1 for trying to muscle out student reporter Mark Schierbecker, Click issued a public apology. But when Schierbecker dropped by her office for a personal apology, he told The Washington Post it didn’t go that well.

“She made no acknowledgement that what she did was assault,” he said. “She told me she had talked to another faculty member who is versed in constitutional law, and she said this professor had told her that it was kind of iffy as to whether faculty was allowed to enforce a perimeter like that.”

If Click still thinks that’s iffy, she should be fired in a jiffy. Otherwise, all she’s learned is: The next time I violate someone’s rights, I need to break their camera first.

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2. Did everyone else get the message?


If those 115 faculty members feel Click’s antics were “at most a regrettable mistake,” what’s the least they think it was?

And what about the other 1,290 faculty members who didn’t sign the letter? How many would choose a stronger word than “regrettable”? Like maybe “embarrassing”? Or “alarming”? Or “illegal”?

As these professors know from their own classes, you don’t enforce discipline just to punish one offender. You also do it to send a message to everyone else. Example: If one student flouts your attendance policy and gets away with it, guess how many show up to the next class?

If that’s vital for attendance, surely it’s the same for the First Amendment.

If Click’s punishment is essentially time served, that only make sense if she and her peers have literally learned their (civics) lesson.

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3. Will she talk to student media?


Besides doctors who smoke, I can’t think of a professional irony sadder than a communications professor who won’t comment.

As best I can tell, Click hasn’t granted a single interview to any news outlet. The least she can do is sit down with the student newspaper and TV station and talk about what happened.

If Click is truly sorry, and she’s truly an educator, she’ll make this a “teachable moment” for everyone – herself included.

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So what does Mark Schierbecker think?


Schierbecker and I exchanged emails, and he sounded more mature than those letter-writing lawmakers and professors. When I asked him if Click should be fired, he replied calmly and deliberatively…

I think she should immediately be suspended pending an investigation. Asking for her to be immediately fired goes too far in my opinion. Usually, there is due process and then a proportional response. I don’t know what the outcome of the investigation should be.

As for the rest of the campus, Schierbecker says, “Many professors seemed to really get it. They were truly horrified by Click’s actions.”

Finally, he reminded me that this isn’t just about him. Other journalists were actually attacked at the protest. But since his video went viral, he became the name.

“Reporters had their gear smashed and women reporters were picked up by the protesters,” Schierbecker says. “One man threw a backpack at a reporter’s face. He didn’t see that as a response that was overkill.”

Lot of that going around these days.

 

Bad press, hot mess

tracy1

A journalism professor was fired this week.


Everyone’s talking about it, but few are complaining about it.

Although he’s vowed to fight to get his job back, tomorrow is James Tracy‘s last day at Florida Atlantic University, an obscure state school between Palm Beach and Miami Beach.

So why has CBS News and NBC News covered his firing? Why has the story spread from The Washington Post to The Jerusalem Post?

Because Tracy accidentally accomplished something no journalist (or politician or celebrity) could pull off on purpose: Enrage both the liberal left and extreme right, plus most of the moderate middle. So basically, everyone.

Tracy is arguably the nation’s most-hated and best-educated conspiracy theorist. He’s paranoid with a PhD.

On his personal blog called Memory Hole, he insists “the federal government and its major media appendages” are behind almost every act of terrorism — foreign and domestic — in this country…

  • The 1993 World Trade Center bombing: “was in fact a FBI sting.”
  • The Boston marathon bombing: “finely tuned stagecraft” by the federal government to exert more “government-corporate manipulation.”
  • The San Bernadino shootings: “Clear evidence” of a government “drill gone live.”

But what got Tracy interviewed on CNN and mocked by late-night TV hosts a few years ago was this declaration: The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre “never took place.” It was really a “live shooter drill” featuring “crisis actors” hired by the federal government and covered up by national media.

That, of course, means those 20 children who the media said were shot dead are still very much alive. Which means their parents are part of the cover-up.

As offensive as that is, Tracy wasn’t fired. He was only “reprimanded” because…

  • He’s a tenured professor.
  • FAU is a public institution.
  • Faculty defended his right to free speech and academic freedom.
  • Everyone thought this would blow over.

Except it blew up. Tracy has gone from talking crazy to acting crazy.

Last month, on the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, two parents wrote a guest column in the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the daily paper closest to FAU. In it, Lenny and Veronique Pozner called for FAU to finally fire Tracy, claiming…

Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment. Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because we had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.”

Tracy replied on Facebook…

The local conspirators in Newtown, such as the alleged parents of the murdered children, including Lenny and Veronique Pozner, have made out very well financially, soliciting contributions from generous yet misinformed Americans, where the families have averaged more than $1,000,000 apiece.

That was enough for FAU, who many observers thought would nail Tracy for the harassment — but instead cited a paperwork problem. As The Huffington Post reported…

In a notice of termination obtained by The Huffington Post, the school chastised Tracy for failing to submit paperwork about outside employment or “professional activity” required of all faculty. Instead, Tracy provided a letter saying he shouldn’t have to fill out the forms, according to the notice.

So that’s as tidy a summary as this reporter can muster. If you’ve made it this far, ask yourself: Would you have fired James Tracy now? Before? Or never?

Me, I agree with firing him now.

That might seem like a weird thing to say on a blog that champions college journalism. But I look at it like this…

Journalists frequently investigate cops, doctors, and lawyers who defend their own kind even when they repeatedly screw up. These are compelling stories because they reveal professional hypocrisy, and because real people get hurt.

For noble reasons, I don’t want SPJ to become that kind of story. For greedy reasons, I don’t want to excuse bad journalists because it undermines SPJ’s credibility when we stick up for good journalists.

So besides Tracy tormenting grieving parents, here are four unreported reasons why I’m conspiring against him…

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1. James Tracy can’t write.


I doubt many of Tracy’s caustic critics and casual supporters have actually read his blog. I have. And it’s awful.

I’m even not talking about the content. I’m talking about the clarity. Tracy’s writing is impenetrable. Here’s one paragraph from a Sandy Hook post titled, Continued Ambiguity and Augmented Realities

Along these lines and despite countervailing facts and inconsistencies the official story of the Sandy Hook shooting is now part of the nation’s collective experience, consciousness and memory. To declare that the shooting “never took place” is cause for intense opprobrium in most polite circles where, in familiar Orwellian fashion, the media-induced trance and dehistoricized will to believe maintain their hold. Similarly, an individual who contends that Timothy McVeigh was an accessory in a much larger operation at Oklahoma City, Osama bin Laden was not responsible for the events of 9/11, or the World Trade Center Towers were brought down by controlled demolition is vigorously condemned for thought crimes against the state. Such are the immense dimensions of mass manipulation where fact and tragedy may be routinely revised and reinforced to fit the motives and designs toward a much larger apparatus of social and geopolitical control.

Interestingly, Tracy says he’s “misunderstood” by the general public. But if you can’t write clearly about a topic you know is controversial, maybe you shouldn’t teach others about writing.

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2. James Tracy hates the mainstream media.


But maybe that’s because he doesn’t understand it.

Tracy says he was “attacked” by Anderson Cooper in a 2013 broadcast. But the CNN anchor simply caught Tracy in a lie. Cooper said this about the Sandy Hook victims…

In his blog Tracy suggests they may have been, and I quote, “trained actors working under the direction of state and federal authorities and in coordination with cable and broadcast network talent to provide tailor-made crisis acting,” end quote. Tracy even cites a company called Crisis Actors that provides actors to use in safety drills and the like. Apparently, that is supposed to bolster his case. By the way, there is such a company, and they are appalled by his comments.

In a statement today they said, and I quote, “We are outraged by Tracy’s deliberate promotion of rumor and innuendo to link Crisis Actors to the Sandy Hook shootings. We do not engage our actors in any real-world crisis events.”

How did Tracy respond? He wrote an open letter to Cooper: “I challenge you to join me on a reportorial quest to Newtown and Sandy Hook in order to revisit and rigorously question the painful affair.”

Of course, that never happened.

Did Tracy really expect Anderson Cooper to hand him a microphone so they could jointly interrogate Sandy Hook victims? What reporter asks a controversial source, “Hey, wanna go interview some people with me?”

No journalist would do that, and no journalism professor would teach that. Yet Tracy closes his letter by boasting, “This could very well be a landmark event in investigative journalism.”

Elsewhere in the letter, Tracy complains that CNN pestered him after he refused to comment: “Your staff then repeatedly telephoned my residence, later filming in front of my home.”

That’s legal and common. Doesn’t Tracy understand how reporting works?

It’s hard to tell, because he can’t write: “Major news media operate in a de facto censorial fashion with the federal government to highlight certain phenomena while simultaneously rendering important artifacts down the memory hole.”

If you don’t like something and don’t understand it, why would you want to teach it?

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3. James Tracy isn’t a great professor.


He’s not a terrible one, either.

I asked several FAU alumni about his classroom demeanor and got a Goldilocks range of responses: hot, cold, just right. That’s typical of any professor who’s taught for more than a decade.

Those who took his classes years ago – from Introduction to Media Studies to Public Opinion and Modernity, among others – seem to have liked him more than those who have taken them recently…

He was incredibly strict and his class was challenging, but the content was actually fascinating and I really enjoyed his class. I think his craziness got a hell of a lot worse in the last few years.

One simply said, “That man is vile,” while another adored him…

I carry a lot of what I learned in his classes in my pockets everyday. Some it was far-fetched. Some if it not. All of it challenged me to rethink why it might be far-fetched, though, which forced me to consider common explanations we often take for granted. He was one of my favorite professors.

But because Tracy is such an unabashed conspiracy theorist, one professional editor who took his class eight years ago told me…

I honestly don’t remember him doing anything overtly weird. But because he had such a negative view of the media, it did make question whether or not I wanted to be a journalist.

…and that’s dangerous. If Tracy scares one college journalist out of the profession for reasons easily proven wrong — according to investigations by the same media he loathes — his downside swamps his upside.

There’s no shortage of engaging journalism professors who can enlighten without frightening. And in fact, some FAU alumni believe Tracy benefited from teaching in a Communication School that lacked many compelling professors – he was simply fascinating by comparison.

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4. James Tracy is delusional.


Tracy insists he’s the victim here…

“I was being publicly excoriated and my livelihood threatened for essentially doing what I was trained and hired to do — media analysis and criticism.”

But where’s the “analysis and criticism” in this

It is now beyond question that the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. all involved patsies, additional gunman and perhaps most importantly, mass media complicity to achieve their political ends.

“Beyond question”?

Even so, I defend Jim Tracy’s right to write. But harassing the parents of dead kids and getting paid with tax dollars while doing it? To quote Tracy…

“One is left to seriously ponder the informal yet persuasive constraints placed in intellectuals today who concretely address certain controversial issues and topics.”

Whatever the hells that means.


Michael Koretzky was FAU’s part-time newspaper adviser from 1998 until 2010, when he was fired. The staff asked him to volunteer, which he still does to this day.

 

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