5 x 8: Where are the parents?


Again and again last night, the officials and residents of the East Side of Saint Paul wondered “where are the parents” of the kids who are running amok in their neighborhoods. A community meeting was called last night after a man was beaten into a coma by a gang.

One woman said the cops need to have the authority “to thump some heads,” the Pioneer Press reported.

Anyone else?

“What are you going to do about those parents that let these kids run the streets? I’m a responsible parent. Why aren’t they?” one resident asked, according to MPR News.

That’s when Teena Potts stood at the microphone and reminded the room that working parents can’t be home all day to supervise their children. She said she’s the mother of one of teenagers arrested in the assault of 26-year-old Ray Widstrand.

Police say Widstrand wandered into a gang fight and was beaten and kicked, and left with near fatal brain swelling. Potts said her son should be held responsible if he committed a crime, but she also criticized people who were judging parents.

“When I’m at work my kids stay home,” she said. “When I’m at work and my son leave the house, I don’t have control of that.”

These themes aren’t limited to Saint Paul, of course. In Indianapolis it’s been a violent summer, too. There were calls to mirror a California law that would send parents to prison for the crimes of their children. An Indianapolis Star editorial poked holes in that idea:

Most research on the topic has found problems with the approach. A lack of consistency in enforcement is chief among them. Parents rarely go to jail for their children’s actions. Fines also are infrequent. A 2006 study, for example, by Leslie J. Harris of the University of Oregon School of Law found that Oregon’s much touted parental accountability laws were almost never enforced. Passing accountability laws do send a strong message to parents about their responsibilities. But the lack of enforcement tends to quickly undermine that message.

Outside Boston — Concord-Carlisle — a bullying episode has Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss wondering the same thing: where are the parents?

This is where the crisis comes in. Sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman — whose book, “Playing to Win,” is about kids and competition — said that as much as parents hover and fret when their kids are small, they tend to look aside as kids grow older. She advises parents to learn more about their teenagers’ friends, to understand their group dynamics and family situations.

And Englander says parents should realize that the answers won’t always be pleasant. “We have to understand that as part of adolescence, sometimes things really get out of control,” she said. “Even good kids can make mistakes.”

On the other hand, she said, teenagers really do care what their parents think.

“They’re terrified of violating rules that they know are extremely important to their parents,” Englander said. So if they believe that treating people well is their parents’ top priority — more than grades or sports or college admission — they’ll listen.

None of this, of course, can solve the ills being caused by the teenagers on the streets of the East Side. Wherever the parents are, they’re going to stay there in the short term.

Anybody got another shot-term solution short of “busting heads?”

“I can’t arrest our way out of this problem,” the city’s police chief said.

Related violence: What really happened to Terrance Franklin? Three months and counting (Twin Cities Daily Planet)


A few of us in the newsroom were wondering when the former NPR ombudsmen would say something about the current NPR ombudsman’s “dispute” with his employers. The answer is: now.

Edward Matos-Schumacher torched an award-winning NPR series alleging South Dakota officials were making money by removing Native American children from their homes. NPR questioned his methodology and motives.

It’s playing differently between the two previous ombudsmen. Yesterday, Jeffrey Dvorkin suggested the “flawed” series had much to do with newsrooms chasing awards.

… will the Peabody and Kennedy awards committees now demand that NPR return these prizes? Or should NPR do the right thing and return them? But to do that would be to confirm the Ombudsman’s conclusions. At a time when reputations are on the line, there seems to be little inclination to make amends. What a dilemma!

News organizations in general are obsessed with awards. At a time when public admiration for journalists and journalism continues to sink, media organization are convinced that somebody out there must love them.

Indeed, journalists give themselves awards more than any other professional group – an indication of a high level of professional anxiety. My sense is that awards are more about giving the journalists some props while ignoring public criticism.

Dvorkin’s successor– and Matos-Schumacher’s predecessor — Alicia Shepard sees it differently. She still hasn’t personally given an opinion, but called the ombudsman’s work “flawed” in tweeting a link to a Poynter column so stating:

Perhaps the most glaring flaw of his critique is a lack of Native American voices. He imports their voices from the original NPR report, as well as a follow-up talk-show conversation. But nowhere does he bounce his findings or theories off of the people who are at the heart of the story.

Janice Howe, the grandmother whose painful narrative of losing her four grandchildren to foster care was part of the NPR story, called Schumacher-Matos. In the introduction to his report, he describes her story as “unsubstantiated” and “based largely on hearsay.”

In response to her call he wrote, “I do not know the full truth about what is happening on the ground in South Dakota. My investigation focused on NPR’s adherence to its own journalism standards, not on the state, or the Indian Child Welfare Act, or government policy concerning Native Americans.”

Schumacher-Matos inadvertently seems to erase the connection between the current foster-care system endured by so many Native American children and a history of forced separation. While he is right to point out that you can’t simply assign racist motives to state officials running the social-service system in South Dakota, you likewise can’t insist that Native Americans’ past experience of suffering has no connection to their present experience.

What most everyone seems to agree on is the danger that NPR will soon drop its ombudsman.


Martin Richard was one of the people killed in the Marathon bombings, less attention has been devoted to his sister. That changed yesterday — the four-month anniversary — when the family released this picture of Jane.

Courtesy family of Jane Richard.

The family writes:

But it is not all heartbreak for our family, as we are making progress on this long, difficult and painful road forward. After three months in hospitals and hundreds of hours of physical therapy and other work at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Jane was discharged a few weeks ago. That night was the first time any of us slept at home in our own beds since before the bombings. We left home together on April 15th, and we were determined that none of us would sleep at home until all of us could do so. As so many things have been, returning home without Martin certainly made that important milestone bittersweet, but we know he was with us, as he is every moment of every day.

Jane continues to be an incredible source of inspiration – and exhaustion. The loss of her leg has not slowed her one bit, or deterred her in any way. As we knew she would, when we finally returned home, Jane walked into the house with the aid of her crutches, but under her own power. She has since received her prosthetic leg. And while she is getting more comfortable with it, she is also limited with how much she can wear it at any one time. When she is able to have it on, she struts around on it with great pride and a total sense of accomplishment. Her strength, balance and comfort with the leg improve every day. Watching her dance with her new leg, which has her weight primarily on the other leg, is absolutely priceless.

As for the rest of us, we are still dealing with our injuries and their impact on our lives. But we are also making progress, and just like Jane, we each endure the occasional setback here and there along the way.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts State Police has tried to bury the trooper who released photos of the suspected Boston Marathon bomber. Sgt. Sean Murphy was upset when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appeared in a flattering photo on the cover of Rolling Stone.

The State Police assigned him to midnight duty in Athol, the Massachusetts equivalent of Siberia.

So the people of the town have erected “Welcome Sgt. Murphy” signs on lawns and across the highway he’ll be patrolling.

“I think we all felt that this was a gracious way to welcome the Sergeant,” selectwoman Susannah Whipps told the Boston Globe. “If he was feeling at all down about driving in to a new town for an overnight shift, we thought a sign here or there would give him a boost.”


Related: Work begins as oil sands pipeline gains fast-track approval (Midwest Energy News)


Over the years on NewsCut we’ve discussed whether taxes can reasonably do two things — change behavior and solve a perceived problem. Politicians pass taxes to get money and get get political cover by citing a benefit. Can the state theoretically solve its budget gaffes, for example, by raising taxes on cigarettes and insist it’s a way to get people to stop smoking? Or does the state need its citizens to light up?

Today, NPR reports, on another tax that’s run afoul of its own intent — gasoline taxes. Ostensibly, it would motivate people to be more fuel efficient. It worked, the network reports, people are using less gasoline by buying more fuel-efficient cars. The federal government even gave them more money to do so.

But the gas tax is taking in less money now because people are using less gas. Wasn’t that the idea?

Instead, some states have been considering — but not yet implementing — a fee-per-miles-driven approach to raising money. Theoretically, that should also get people driving fewer miles, too.

Bonus I: We’ve never needed you more, Kid President.

Bonus II: Driven to help: Derbying for a Cure raises funds for Eva Hoaby (Perham Focus)

Bonus II:Tick Tock (Tales of the Road)


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday Roundtable guests consider Ted Koppel’s recent Wall St. Journal op-ed in which he argues that the recent closure of U.S. embassies across the Middle East was part of America’s “chronic overreaction to terrorism.”

Second hour: There is an ongoing heated debate between agriculture lobby groups and animals rights activists over activists recording animal abuse on farms. When it comes to the humane treatment of agriculture animals, who cares about it, why, who is monitoring it?

Third hour: A recent article in the New York Times Magazine is stirring a debate about the “opt-out” generation – wealthy, ambitious women who “opted-out” of the workforce to raise their children – wanting to come opt back in. Did these women lose out when they decided to be stay-at-home moms? Is there a bigger picture?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Yo-Yo Ma on “Art for Life’s Sake.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Ten years ago this week, the lights went out for millions in the U.S. and Canada. What did we learn from the 2003 blackout?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Affordable Care Act gives employers an incentive to cut the work hours of part-timers below 30 per week to avoid the requirement to provide those workers with health insurance. Employers are struggling with the choice. MPR’s Catharine Richert will have the story.

This week, North Carolina adopted new voting rules. Among them: voters must show a government-issued photo ID at the polls. But hundreds of thousands of registered voters don’t have one. And most of them are poor, rural, and racial minorities. Rural North Carolina voters will talk to NPR about the new voting policies today.