Five at 8 – 11/5/09: No time for Blom

1) What would get 1,224 people to join a Facebook “event?” Practically anything but this one is serious. In Duluth, the people threatened a boycott of advertisers of KBJR TV if it aired an interview with Donald Blom, the man who abducted and killed Katie Poirier from a Moose Lake convenience store more than 10 years ago. It worked. Late yesterday the station’s news anchor, Michelle Lee, sent an e-mail to an organizer saying the story was yanked:

“We never intended to broadcast the interviews from Donald Blom or give a platform for his rants. Our goal was to inform the Northland about his court petition to be returned to Minnesota. Out of respect to the Poirier family our story has been pulled and I will be putting this into context for our viewers and apologize to the Poiriers tonight at ten.”

There’s an ethical decision-making example here, and it’s not an easy one. If you think you’ve got news, when do you withhold it out of deference to a family? Who controls the “off” button on the TV?

Blom, by the way, is being held in a high-security prison in Pennsylvania, and wants to be moved closer to home. (h/t: JP Rennquist)

2) The fight in the Washington Post newsroom last week has got journo circles all atwitter about the ‘good old days’ when reporters roamed the earth cold-cocking each other, or at least it seems that way the way they tell it.

But at least it’s led to everyone telling their favorite newsroom fight story. Here’s one from former NPR — NPR! — ombudsman Jeffrey Dworkin.

At NPR the level of civility was much greater. I only witnessed one serious confrontation when a very nice woman in the support staff of the news department developed a serious case of hatred for her supervisor. Nothing would reconcile them.

It ended one day when the lady in question walked in to her supervisor’s office and showed her a .357 magnum in her purse. The gun remained in the purse and no shots were fired, thankfully. But I heard a scream, went into the office, saw the gun and called security. She was escorted off the premises in about 5 minutes.

I believe she found another job working in some government department on the other side of Washington, DC.

Confessional: I threw a sleeve of Ritz crackers at Mark Zdechlik once. But I was just kidding. It fell short, struck the cubicle wall of reporter Catherine Winter and exploded — the first Ritz Cracker Stun Grenade.

Surely there are fistfight stories in other businesses.

3) A company in Japan has invented glasses that will translate foreign languages. Originally, the BBC, the glasses were going to be a tool for salespeople. A customer’s records could be beamed into their eyes. They’ll cost about $100,000. Good luck getting reimbursed from your FLEX account.

More tech: Google today is unveiling a dashboard today which will review how much information about you the behemoth is collecting.

Even more tech: The Motorola Droid debuts. The best smart phone on the market? No.

4) Go ask Alice. From American Public Media’s “The Story.”

Carolyn Schapper was a 30-something Army sergeant serving in Iraq, and the only woman in a unit full of men in their teens and 20s. One day her convoy was approached by an Iraqi boy selling bunnies. Carolyn tried to dissuade one of her fellow soldiers from buying one, but Carolyn was soon reluctantly holding a white rabbit on her lap as the convoy headed back inside the wire.

The bunny was a hit as soon as it arrived at the base – the soldiers called it Combat Infantry Bunny, or CIB, for short. Soon it became Carolyn’s job to care for CIB. And before long she realized the bunny was saving her from her loneliness and isolation. Carolyn talks with Dick Gordon about how her unlikely relationship with a rabbit changed her experience of the war.

Find the bunny:


5) What’s involved in being a great orchestra conductor? You just get up there and wave your arms around, right? The musicians are busy looking at their music, aren’t they?

Perhaps not. (h/t: Open Culture)



Last month the FBI made arrests in a fraud case that allegedly involved tricking people into revealing their Internet passwords or other information. How careful are you to protect your identity online?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: John Hope Bryant rose from a childhood of poverty to become a social entrepreneur and an advocate for financial literacy. In a new book, he argues that the best type of leadership is based not on fear, but on love.

Second hour: George Halvorson, Chair and CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. His new book is “Health Care Will Not Reform Itself.”

Midday (11 a.m. -1 p.m.) – First hour: Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, answers questions about the H1N1 flu.

Second hour: Harvey Cox, Jr., Baptist minister and retired Harvard University professor, speaks live at the Westminster Town Hall Forum in Minneapolis. Cox is the author of the new book, “The Future of Faith.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Talking race. Has it changed in the last year?

Second hour: In case you didn’t get enough of the non-stop pontificating in the wake of Tuesday’s elections of relatively few significant races, here’s another hour of it.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – State officials are scrambling to respond to new CDC guidelines that say health care workers treating H1N1 patients need to use protective respiratory masks. Minnesota’s supply of the masks is running out and groups are fighting over how the remaining devices will be distributed and what will be used in their absence. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will have that story.

MPR’s Elizabeth Baier has a profile of the violin repair program at Minnesota State College – Southeast Technical in Red Wing. It’s the only program of its kind in the country. In it, students learn about tools, wood, trees and basic maintenance and repair for the whole string family.

We’ll have another episode in our series stress-testing the economic recovery. This afternoon the spotlight falls on Brainerd., the area that once boomed with lake home construction. And manufacturing companies offered some good paying jobs. But both of those industries have taken major employment hits. Now there may be signs of a recovery, but it depends on whom you ask. Employers are growing more confident even as workers see no end in sight to tough times.

NPR will have and entire hour analyzing the war in Afghanistan.

NPR’s Adam Hochberg will profile one of Rep. Jim Oberstar’s favorite programs — the Essential Air Service program, in which the government funnels millions to airlines to run mostly-empty planes to middle-of-nowhere airports.

  • GregS

    “Who controls the “off” button on the TV?”

    The same argument could made for pumping sewage through the fresh water system, after all, who controls the spigots?

    People have an expectation of clean, potable water from their faucets. They also have an expectation of clean, consumable programming from broadcasters.

    So who decides what is consumable?

    Look at what’s happening in Burnsville. The engineers and scientists proclaim “the water is fine” as the public holds its nose and refuses to drink it.

    Ultimately, it is the customer, the public, who decides.

  • Bob Collins

    I’m trying to wade through the metaphor (get it?)

    Of course in this case, it isn’t the customer who decides. It’s the customer deciding for other customers, isn’t it?

    You may not want to find out what’s behind Donald Blom’s court petition, but what if someone else is? You certainly have the right to shut off that which you don’t want to hear, but do you have the right to shut off that which others do? That’s the issue. I don’t know the answer.

    Generally, I’m not a big fan of advertiser boycotts because they’re not about individual choice. To me they run counter to the basic underpinnings of an open society.

    They also tend to lead to that which the very same people say they don’t want — advertisers controlling content. I don’t really see how you can have it both ways in that case.

    Blom is a despicable person; there’s no argument about that. Carolyn Lowe had a segment on WCCO with him a few years ago and I don’t believe there was any advertiser boycott then.

    A few years ago, people organized a boycott of business in Stillwater. Why? Because Stillwater is home to Rep. Michele Bachmann and they disagreed with her.

    The greater question is what are the limits — or are there limits — of grieving families on the choice of others.

    Back when the I-35W bridge collapsed, people naturally went to look at it. But the families of the victims insisted they not be allowed to, so they were moved farther away.

    It’s a very, very difficult issue, I think. It doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. In many ways this leads back to yesterday’s discussion on Alicia Shepard’s column.

  • GregS

    “I’m trying to wade through the metaphor (get it?)”

    (Groan) 🙂

    But why does covering Blom’s court petition necessitate airing an interview with Blom himself?

    Would the station consider airing an interview with the judge or lawyers in the case? Or put another way, (Big yawn..zzzzzz)

    I am getting this “we got it, so we have to air it” vibe.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t really know since I couldn’t see the piece. IIRC, he acted as his own attorney at his trial. Is he still? I don’t know.

    I would think it highly unlikely that a judge hearing the case would go on camera to discuss it but I suppose there’s no harm asking that.

    Was this an investigative piece that gives us new information about one of the most sensational crimes in Minnesota history — one that led to legislative changes in the state? Or was it a “things are slow, let’s put a little snap into things by sticking a guy everybody hates on the telly”?

    I don’t have the answer to that.

  • GregS

    “I don’t have the answer to that.”

    Fair enough, but no matter what someone like Blom says, it is still he who is the story

  • Jamie

    “Or was it a “things are slow, let’s put a little snap into things by sticking a guy everybody hates on the telly”? “

    The answer to that question: It’s Sweeps month!

  • Michelle

    I can assure I worked on this report for nearly five months. During that time I learned DB is petitioning the Pennsylvania Courts to return to the Minnesota Prision System. I also learned he is working on another appeal of his conviction. That is news. Whether his petition or appeal has merit is up to the courts to decide. My research included many interviews with people associated with this case. As a result of what transpired last week the public is now aware of these developments. Again I regret any pain I may have caused the Poirier family as that was not my intent.


  • JP

    Thanks Bob, that was a classy touch giving me a little shout out as the source of your tip. Me? A little less classy, I googled myself this morning to see if anyone else had picked up this opinion piece I did last week. Not likely, I know. But I figured I’d have a look.