Checkbook journalism, basement millennials, confronting the achievement gap (5 x 8 – 11/5/13)


Some journalists may talk about a public’s right to know but when it comes to big news, money talks.

The parachutists who fled their wrecked planes over Superior, Wis., over the weekend have cut a deal with NBC News. The survivors can do radio and newspaper interviews — as one of them did with All Things Considered host Tom Crann last evening. But one newspaper says the deal does not allow the parachutists to be interviewed on non-NBC TV stations nor can video of the incident be shown elsewhere under terms of the deal, according to the Washington Post.

The group was reportedly looking to make $150,000 for their account, although nobody is saying if they got that much. A report says they got at least $100,000 (NBC has posted video and images here). On Facebook, the skydiving group called the reports “wildly inaccurate.”

None of the participants is required to say anything to anybody and they’re entitled to make money off their misfortune. But should news organizations be buying their silence?

The Washington Post says:

Mainstream news organizations typically frown on paying sources, lest the payments taint the sources’ veracity or color the news outlet’s objectivity in reporting the story. Although some news organizations, such as the National Enquirer and, pay for news, checkbook journalism is considered unethical by the Society of Professional Journalists and other professional news organizations.

NBC News’s agreement with the sky divers follows last week’s disclosure that the news division is negotiating an exclusive documentary deal, reportedly for more than $100,000, with the family of Hannah Anderson, the teenage girl who was kidnapped this summer by a family friend who had murdered her mother and brother.

Once the video was put out there, crowdsourcing the accident’s cause ensued in NBC’s comments area.

Watch the video, it’s easy to spot the cause. Three people out the right side door hanging off the wing strut causes the plane to veer right and down because the center of gravity has shifted and the additional wind drag. It was probably impossible for the pilot to hold steady, had the other plane not been there this plane would have started to spiral out of control.

Ever note how the barnstorming wing walkers usually stayed centered on the upper wing? One person walking out along the wing isn’t too difficult to control but three people?

Recipe for disaster with or without the other planes involvement.

The heavy yaw on the rudder of plane #1 is clearly visible.

Glad everyone made it… Phew one hell of a ride. The two planes just lost track of each other.

I almost had the same thing happen just out shooting war birds… the t34 my camera plane lost track of the p51 we where photographing. Next thing I know we are rolling to evade.

When you have a lot of jumpers on the step and your near the service ceiling of the plane.

the drag of the jumpers slows the plane down. So to keep your airspeed up you start descending.

I’m not positive, but I’m sure that the plane that looks like its climbing up is in actuality being descended on to.

The group was on NBC’s Today Show this morning for their “exclusive” interview.

“I thought it was a joke,” one chutist told Matt Lauer, “and not at all appropriate.”

“I watched the plane blow up in flames, I knew the pilot was still in there. So I chased the airplane to see if the pilot got out (in free fall),” Barry Sinex said. “Once the pilot got out, I chased him to make sure he had his chute on.”

All of them said they would parachute again. “It’s just part of who we are,” Sinex said.

“Originally, I assumed Blake was dead because we didn’t hear the plane flying,” said Patricia Roy. “Normally it’s pretty loud, and I didn’t hear the plane flying at all. It’s like, ‘Oh my God, he’s alive. This is awesome.’ It’s like, ‘Don’t screw this up now, buddy.”’

Blake Wedan, who landed the crippled plane, called it one of his better landings. “I had to look at all my control surfaces and make sure they were all there… and they were there so I knew I could fly it,” he said. “Looking at it now, there was a lot more damage than I thought.”

The Today interviews are here.


Boston Globe columnist Jennifer Graham sets the generational powder keg ablaze in a takedown of millennials, whom she describes as “the new American idle,” following a report that 15 percent of them are not working. She acknowledges the economy is partly to blame — thanks to old people working longer. But in her column this week she says millennials are victims of their parents’ success:

In pregnancy, “nesting” is a mammal’s proclivity to burrow into a home, surrounded with comfortable things like twigs and leaves. Once our national nesting habits expanded to include pillow-top mattresses and media rooms with big screens and theater seating, we might as well have hung a sign over our kids’ doors, saying, “Abandon all ambition, ye who enter here.”

More so than previous generations, millennials incubated in beauty and comfort and spaciousness unknown to their parents at that age. There was no Rachael Ray or Martha Stewart then. There were no four-car garages, master suites, and cathedral ceilings unless your name was Kennedy or Bush. There was lime-green shag carpeting in ’50s-style ranches with bedrooms the size of today’s walk-in closets. In quarters that close, kids couldn’t wait to move out at 18, even to the shabbiest of apartments.

“The millennials, alas, are trophy kids, a generation spawned not for their usefulness at harvest but because they look so precious in those matching pajamas from Hanna Andersson,” she says.

A Millennial makes a fascinating observation in the comments section, however. They’re burned out. Already.

I often wonder if one reason Millennials (which I am on of) are suffering from burnout. From the time they are toddlers they are being prepared for a successful life. I had hours of homework in middle school, took honors classes, got great grades and joined many extra curricular activities so I could get into college (and get a scholarship).

Then in college I took a full course load, worked two part time jobs and did an internship, and participated in campus activities – all so I could support myself and find a job after college. By the time I graduated I was exhausted – and I know many peers who felt the same way. I was lucky enough to find a job right after graduation and never moved back in with my parents. But about 8 years out of college, i feel like I was duped into never getting a break.

Millenials may be seen as lazy, and some are entitled, but it is only because they were shoved into activities from the time they were little. I think the lack of drive comes from two places, burn out and never having to possess drive before. When parents are the ones pushing you all your life, it is hard to develop self motivation, which is why I think I have this self motivation. I put the pressure on myself rather than my parents putting it on me. However, to keep up with peers, I still ended up feeling burned out.

Our parents never had to keep up the kind of schedule we Milllenials do/did.

On the other hand: They’re not so bad:


Mayor R.T. Rybak last week announced his post-mayoral gig would focus on running an organization to solve the “achievement gap,” the difference in student performance among racial/ethnic groups of students.

Writing on MinnPost today, Jeff Kolnick, a professor of history at Southwest Minnesota State University, says “the solutions too often focus on the public schools alone. Reformers target teachers, or administrators, or the teacher unions, or the need for more charter schools, or the necessity for more and better testing, or the pressing need for tablet computers in every classroom. Rarely do Minnesotans focus on racism and discrimination.”

It is, he contends, a “larger struggle against racism.”

Once they complete their education, they graduate into a state that rejects them and provides too few openings for joining the middle class. They experience a Minnesota that discriminates against men and women of color for jobs and health care and they live every day with police and sheriff departments that racially profile with impunity.

To solve the achievement gap, Mayor Rybak and his allies need to confront and root out racism and discrimination in the same forthright ways that Hubert Humphrey did in the 1940 and 1950s. Without this commitment, we can open as many charter schools as we want, we can bust the teacher’s union and fire all the teachers, we can revamp the systems of teacher training and collect as much data as we want, and we will still be left with one big gap — the racism gap.


For veterans undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation who have lost their driver’s licenses, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says, bicycles can be much more than a mode of transportation.

A program to help the vets started when one started picking bikes out of dumpsters and dropped them off at the local VA clinic.

Rick Cherone, a Vietnam veteran from New Berlin, began picking up bicycles he saw in garbage bins, repairing them and dropping them off at Milwaukee’s VA hospital. Then two peer counselors at the VA opened a small bicycle repair shop where four veterans are learning bike repair skills.

Cherone, 67, a combat medic who earned two Purple Hearts, was treated for post traumatic stress at the VA. He met other veterans there going through programs and “they’d try to get them jobs, but guys would say, ‘I don’t have a license.'”

“I made a promise to the Lord, in a foxhole, that if I survived Vietnam I’d help veterans,” Cherone said in a recent interview in his garage where numerous bikes in various states of repair littered the floor.

The bikes help veterans get around. Cherone says it’s been good therapy for him, too.


Zach Sobiech lost his battle with cancer in May but his song, Clouds, is living in new forms. The Twin Cities Gospel Choir and Jearlyn Steele made it into a gospel song at a fundraiser for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund on Saturday night, the Pioneer Press reports. The Stillwater student was given the Dreammaker Award, which was accepted by his parents.

Related: Cancer scare led Minnesota man to deface monument (Billings Gazette).

Bonus I: You may recall the story of Seth Collins, who’s been traveling the country leaving big tips in each state for servers in restaurants to honor his dead brother. His stop in Minnesota left a tip for a server at the Eagle Street Grille in Saint Paul. Collins has now made it to California.

Bonus II: Heavy Meddle: Am I Obligated To Tell People I Have Cancer? (WBUR’s Cognoscenti)

Should the House vote on nondiscrimination legislation?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Innovative cities.

Second hour: Lodro Rinzler, teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, author and columnist

Third hour: A recent article in The Economist stated “…al-Qaeda franchises and jihadist fellow travelers now control more territory, and can call on more fighters, than at any time since Osama bin Laden created the organization 25 years ago.” We’d like to talk about how the group has grown, the locations that currently serve as home base and training ground, and the impact on the U.S. Lastly, what does the current situations say about the U.S.  “war on terror?”

MPR News Presents (12 p.m. -1 p.m.): From the Intelligence Squared debate series: “Do Red States Have a Better Future?”

The Takeaway (1 p.m. to 2 p.m.): Once a Republican stronghold, the state of Virginia might be straying from its Southern roots. Why a liberal Democrat might win the Virginia governors race, and what it might mean for the future of the GOP.

All Things Considered(3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.): An update on Election Day in Minneapolis.

Passwords. We have them for our email, our smartphones, our social networks. Remembering them and keeping them all straight can drive us crazy. Could our fingerprint or even our voice be the way forward? Companies all over Silicon
Valley are betting they are. NPR covers the promise of biometric ID’s.