April 13, 2007

Couric's Obama podcast altered in web version

Katie Couric's April 11 podcast essay about whether the U.S. is ready for Barack Obama because he has prayed in a mosque has been significantly altered on the website version. The changes that were made are noted in bold. The text was edited by Greg Kandra, a seasoned writer and producer at CBS News who is now the editor of Couric & Co.

The controversial Obama essay aired the same day that the news was widely distributed that Katie Couric and her staff had plagiarized her April 4 notebook podcast.

Here is the piece as it now appears on the web. I have put the original text in orange. The orange text does not appear on the web.


Is America ready to elect a President whose connections with Islam were the subject of rumor and innuendo? who grew up praying in a mosque?

Barack Obama has arguably the most diverse religious background of any candidate, ever. He was raised in Indonesia by a Christian mother and Muslim stepfather, and attended a Catholic school, but while growing up, also studied Islam. That background sparked rumors that he had studied in a radical madrasa, or Koranic school – later disproved . Obama is now a practicing Christian. rumors that his campaign denied declaring that Obama is now a practicing Christian. l

Last month, the Los Angeles Times interviewed a person people who grew up with Obama. In the LA Times article he said, "We prayed in the mosque, but not seriously," noting that Obama also prayed with his Catholic schoolmates. In a later Chicago Tribune article, however, the source said he was not certain whether they prayed together. this sentence was not aired

It's too soon to know what America will decide about Barack Obama or his background.

But it's not too soon to wonder if America will see that background as an asset...or a liability.

Also note that the website is now handling the podcasts differently. Before April 4, the complete text of the podcast was posted. After that, the only podcast post that has the complete text is the one from April 11 with the corrections.

Is CBS scared that more people will check the text of Katie Couric's podcast with other materials? Kind of weird. This action seems to reflect the rather weak and defensive action CBS has taken throughout this problem.

April 12, 2007

Couric does not admit essay was plagiarized

The way the Katie Couric plagiarism issue has been playing out is fascinating. Pundits are ready to spear Don Imus, but at least he has acknowledged and apologized for his vile comments. Couric is the managing editor of her program, but she has yet to say that anyone on her staff has done anything wrong. She has not acknowledged that she didn't have the 'thoughts' she was supposed to have when she read her notebook video blog, "In the Stacks," on April 4. She is completely silent. Maybe this is how CBS thinks the story will be buried.

A few women bloggers have thought that reporting Couric's plagiarism is symptomatic of a male dominated culture going after the first woman who has anchored the evening news. This is not true. Couric is a journalist and should be held up to a journalist's ethical standards, which are the same for men and women. I think women who hide behind that kind of feminism don't quite get it.

Why didn't other people who are interested in books, libraries, and children wonder where Couric got her information? Radio and TV journalists know that their stories evaporate into the media ether the moment they're aired -- for most of the people listening. So maybe no one else thought to check out her facts. Wouldn't a librarian somewhere -- even at the American Library Association -- want to at least read the study so they could be prepared respond to it?

My husband says that no one cared to bother to check out Couric because everyone is just listening and reading their own stuff. Okay, we're all guilty of that. But was no one else in this case curious about where information is coming from, who is gathering it, and who is interpreting it? That is a bigger issue here.

Also, did the CBS producer think that she could get away with plagiarizing because the Couric video blog is not aired on national network television? Instead, it's sent out to affiliates and plays on some radio stations as well. Those of us in the heart of the heart of the country only count when it comes to ratings..?

When I was editing an alumni magazine, we had to spend hours proofreading and checking material. It's critical that no one's name is misspelled. But occassionaly there was some grammar error by mistake. On a rare occassion, I'd hear from an older alumni who would call me to task for that error. Maybe all those eagle-eyed readers are fading and being replaced by hecklers, rather than thoughtful critics or curious media consumers.

My experience on print publications is that people rarely ever write to praise articles in an issue. Praise would be nice, too.

So, I'll commend Couric for pursuing the network anchor position. I just wish she had the journalist's sensibility and writing ability that I once thought was part of the job description.

April 11, 2007

Couric's library piece sounded odd to me

Katie Couric’s "In the Stacks" notebook commentary from April 4 about children and libraries intrigued me, since I’m interested in children reading, public libraries, and technology. After hearing the piece on the First Light radio program early in the morning, the commentary stuck with me while I was more awake. I try to keep up on information about these topics as a library advocate and patron, high tech parent, and reviewer of children’s books. Since I was not familiar with the study she mentioned, I wanted to find Couric’s source. I checked the web looking for it. After viewing the video on the CBS website, I noticed she didn’t cite a specific study. In further research, I found Jeff Zaslow’s column, "Of the Places You'll Go, Is the Library Still One of Them?" which mentioned similar material.

For his Wall Street Journal’s online Career Journal.com column, Zaslow interviewed several people and referred to sources to back up his claim that children are using libraries less for books and more for technologies, but that they’re buying more books. I emailed him for the exact source connecting children, libraries and technology. He responded quickly with the materials.

I’m not in complete agreement with how Zaslow interprets the library focus group study cited in his column. But that’s ok. There’s another study that is a more solid report on how people are using libraries, which is even more revealing. Check out Households’ Use of Public and Other Types of Libraries: 2002 published by the National Center for Education Statistics out of the U.S. Department of Education published in January 2007. I hope to comment on it in another post.

Zaslow is a well-known reporter. His piece was on the Wall Street Journal website, not some obscure publication by an unknown writer. So it’s particularly odd that those who are putting together the CBS Evening News believed no one would see the connection between what they wrote for Couric and what Zaslow wrote. To be fair, since I never saw the written version of Couric’s piece until today, I didn’t completely comprehend how word-for-word it was. Just that it seemed quite similar.

Zaslow and WSJ have been gracious about noting the plagiarism, which is professional and impressive.

When I was a college journalism professor, I emphasized the serious nature of plagiarism to my students. Unfortunately, some of the students learned the hard lesson that I do take it seriously. I hope they were saved from worse problems later in life, like the one the unnamed producer is learning. I hope that person can recover with grace.

I am surprised at how much Couric, listed as the program's managing editor, trusts her staff.

Why isn’t an editor checking over producers’ stories? Someone should have asked the producer the source of the information. There are no definite sources mentioned, which was what clicked with me in the first place. I know the commentary is just over a minute, but that’s enough time to cite a source.

I appreciate how Katie Couric seems to be growing into her job at CBS. But this offense is both sad and revealing about Couric and the staff at the evening news. Maybe they’re short staffed. Maybe they’re not following up really well. I hope they can solve the problems. I want to support a woman anchor on the evening news.

Here's perhaps the most complete story on the Couric issue as reported in Newsweek/MSNBC.

Check out the "Finding My Voice" blog with a good perspective on why the CBS Evening News has a real problem.

April 10, 2007


Doing taxes involves mostly organizing. Even though I spent several months following the Fly Lady lifestyle, I am still not very organized. So the initial part of gathering everything together for taxes is hard. This year I'm back with TurboTax, which makes the math part and the forms issues much easier. Also, for the first time there's a program that calculates cost basis for stocks. Yeah! (my enthusiasm probably qualifies me for a finance geek...now I just need to make lots of money) Also, every time I open another one of the Important Tax Documents I am struck that the envelope has a direction on how to open it. Taxes are hard enough, so why do so many companies put extremely important information into oddly shaped envelopes which require a three-step process just to open them? I realize that these things save money and trees and are easier for printers. But who cares about the people who use the information? I am always terrified that I am going to tear a W-2 and have to send it in with lots of tape. Not red tape. Just tape, kind of like a Frankenstein W-2 with lots of seams that are fixed.

So I pull here, tear there, and then run my finger under another seam. Sometimes, then I cut myself and have to find a bandage. Who writes these directions? Who opens these things?

April 09, 2007

The Roots Below & Perfect Eggs

Last week, I spent some time preparing for the school's science night. This year, the parents decided to present many easy science experiments for the students to try out, instead of having kids do poster displays. This ended up being more fun and educational for the students than last year's pairing of older kids who took over the science projects from their younger partners. I am not so sure the current trend of partnering kids from lower and higher grades in school works as well as the educational experts and media are touting. I can list at least five examples where it didn't work for several students during the last year.

Other parents did projects on litmus paper, paper airplanes, mobius strips, water on pennies, gloppy stuff, bacteria from ears grown for a week, and more.

I put together a table on plants and herbs. Children and adults were impressed with the length and detail of the roots of two-week old bean plants. It's always a revelation to see what you've only sort of imagined. They all also took pleasure in smelling the 10 herbs I brought from my garden (which were growing even tho the temperatures have been below freezing). I found it interesting to talk with Japanese and Indian parents about their culinary experiences with some of the herbs, particularly Chinese garlic, lemon balm, and mint. One mother suggested lemon balm could possibly be substituted for lemon grass in recipes. That would be helpful as this herb that smells like extremely strong Lemon Pledge to me is growing somewhat like a weed in the yard. Lots of plants are growing weedy. Gardening is about controlling nature.

In my attempt to control cooking, I have found that using the Eggsact Eggtimer is the only way I have ever been able to get great (maybe not perfect) hard boiled eggs. I should have written about this before Easter. But thought I would put this in today for future reference. The egg shaped thing goes in with the eggs when you start cooking them. It gets a darker colorer as the eggs are cooked longer and the water gets warmer. When it has completely changed color, the eggs are ready. I also learned last week that putting salt in the water prevents the eggs from seeping too much, if they do crack while boiling. We had fun color Easter eggs. It was the first time my son figured out how to make two-colored eggs. He made a U.S. patriotic red, white and blue egg and a Mexican flag colored egg, too.