Running for the Golden Parachute
The Colorado Springs-based United States Olympic Committee is back in the news again, but not for the gold medals draping the necks of athletes in Sydney, Australia. This time, it has to do with the $587,000 golden parachute the USOC has planned for former USOC director Dick Schultz, who left the sports organization in February to make way for a major staff overhaul.
Citing a memo from the USOC's accounting firm, Arthur Anderson, the Salt Lake Tribune this week reported that the payment to Schultz could have serious consequences for America's premier amateur sports body. For one thing, it could jeopardize the nonprofit's tax-exempt status.
"The IRS permits only personal economic benefit that is necessary to accomplish the activities of the charity," writes Tribune staffer Christopher Smith.
Though Schultz left the USOC nearly eight months ago -- in the wake of the Salt Lake City Olympic bribery scandal -- he is already being paid $600,000 for "consulting work" through the end of this year, in addition to the half-million-plus "deferred compensation" package. The decision to grant the package came at a time when the USOC's CEO, Norman Blake, began cutting staff positions in an attempt to streamline the organization.
Interviewed in Sydney, the Trib quoted Blake as being confident the matter will be resolved and that the organization's nonprofit status will not be questioned. Check out the story at: www.sltrib.com/09232000/utah/25661.htm.
Death and Statistics
As most of the major media falls into its robotic, he-said-she-said campaign mode, in which reporters simply dictate rhetoric from the major candidates, a few media outlets have decided to tackle some issues with their own independent research.
Case in point was a front-page article in the Friday, Sept. 22 New York Times that focused on capital punishment's effect on the murder rate.
Guess what? There isn't one. At least there's no evidence based on crime statistics that the death penalty has ever had an effect on the murder rate, according to the article by reporters Ray Bonner and Ford Fessenden.
The study backs up what death-penalty critics have been saying for years -- that state-sponsored execution serves as no deterrent for capital crime, which is usually committed without thought of the consequences.
The article duly notes there are other reasons why some support capital punishment -- the right of victims' families and society to see a punishment that matches the crime, for example. But the study will likely give death penalty opponents some ammo as they try to convince legislators that capital punishment is either too costly or too cruel to be practiced by the government.
Media 'NAB'bed in San Fran
What? You didn't hear about the protests in San Francisco last weekend against the National Association of Broadcasters on your local network affiliate? Hmmm. Wonder why not.
There were at least enough wacky people (about 2,000, according to organizers) holding signs and chanting angrily and getting arrested to warrant at least a few colorful, if not dismissive, TV reports. It's the kind of stuff the networks love when the chanting protesters are chained to someone else's door.
You can get at least a glimpse of the goings-on last weekend on at www.sf.indymedia.org, a Web site run by the San Francisco-based Independent Media Center, the group that organized the protests against the NAB.
Here's a short list of newsy happenings: Roughly 1,000 people marched in protest and attended a concert and rally; nine people were arrested the night before the NAB convention; four other activists locked themselves together during a sit-in at the convention hall, among other tidbits.
The protesters are mad that NAB's massive lobbying arsenal is pushing legislators and regulators to give more of the public airwave to large corporations and virtual table scraps to community, public interest and educational broadcasting.
More interesting than the protest, however, is the increasing tendency for groups such as the IMC to generate their own media via the Web. Equipped with camcorders, laptops and microphones, IMC activists suck up the sights and sounds of protest -- speeches, direct actions, confrontations with police, etc. -- then download the visual data to the IMC website.
IMC has a long way to go. Few people will see this footage compared to the audience of even one local network affiliate. But as it grows, and technology develops, such video coverage should prove interesting to viewers who will no longer have to rely on edited-down sound bites from a cynical press corps.
Don't expect such coverage to be objective or fair, though -- it's not trying to be. But it is far less watered down and offers an interesting chance for a direct interaction between media and viewer. My favorite involved the arrest of a lawyer for one of the NAB protesters. Video footage of the arrest online was followed by a healthy, e-mail debate from viewers who had very different takes on who should be blamed for the altercation. Stay tuned.