M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘original-reporting

Judge allows media to live-tweet Sandusky hearing

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Senior Judge John Cleland has reversed himself and says he will allow news organizations to report the preliminary hearing for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky  through Twitter, email and text messages.

Pennsylvania law bans “transmission of communications from the courtroom by telephone, radio, television, or advanced communication technology,” but at a hearing Monday requested by news organizations, Cleland appeared to carve out an exception for live electronic text reporting, deciding that the ban applied to “neither ‘tweeting’ or the simultaneous transmission of a reporter’s account or impression of events as they occur in the courtroom.”

The state rule is intended to bar “an audio and/or visual record” of events, Cleland ruled — not the actual reporting of the news.

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Written by Alex

December 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Reporting: New diet rules curb Meals on Wheels

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared.

Federal guidelines meant to help Americans eat healthier foods are straining Meals on Wheels and other nonprofits already laboring to make sure the elderly get enough to eat at all.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels in Honolulu, Hawaii, already has a waiting list of 90 people, most of them elderly, who have asked for food the organization can’t afford to provide.

The program can always use more volunteers, but what it really needs now is money. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

November 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

Reporting: For some churches, the Internet clicks; for others it doesn’t

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a long piece examining how religious institutions regard the Internet and especially social media:

[T]he Catholic Church has a long history of being an early adopter of new forms of media, going back to the 1920s, when Catholic priests pioneered radio evangelism, Campbell said.

At the same time, other religious institutions, especially traditional U.S. Protestant denominations, are still sorting through the challenges as well as the opportunities posed by the Internet, and particularly social media, according to church leaders and administrators.

“I think there’s a lot of groups trying to figure it out,” said John Davidson, a fundraising and ministry consultant for churchextension.org, which supports the ministry of the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.

I talked to the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, the “innovation leader” at LifeChurch.tv, a very sophisticated worldwide online ministry. He pinpoints the divide this way:

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Written by Alex

November 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

Development of a news story: Is Obama’s high-speed rail a ‘train to nowhere’?

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a piece looking at the status of President Obama’s ambitious project to bring high-speed rail — think Japan’s bullet trains — to most of the country by 2034.

The assignment was to write about the ballooning costs estimates for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, which has been widely covered. So the challenge was to find A) a new angle on a story everyone already knows about and B) a way to make an infrastructure budget story — a known click repellent — interesting.

The first part was relatively easy: Let’s put the California project into a national context and see what, if anything, it says about Obama’s overall plan. The second part was a little harder.

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Written by Alex

November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

Crackheads aren’t coming to get you

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I tell MSNBC's Craig Melvin why sentences for crack will be closer to penalties for powder cocaine.

Cross-posted from msnbc.com’s Open Channel investigative blog, where it originally appeared:

No, thousands of “crackheads” aren’t going to start flooding America’s streets Tuesday.

That’s just one of several myths that have surrounded the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s vote in June to make federal sentence reductions retroactive for current prisoners convicted of crack possession or use.

What happens Tuesday is that some eligible federal prisoners who have petitioned for reduced sentences under rules Congress passed last year can begin being released. Those rules sought to address a disparity that meant crack offenders were given the same mandatory five-year minimum sentence as were offenders in possession of 100 times as much powder cocaine.

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Written by Alex

November 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

Development of a story idea: Rooting for the home team? There’s a PAC for that

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Over at msnbc.com, where I hang my professional hat, I have a piece today examining the intersection of big-time sports and political activism in Washington:

If you’re among the many Americans who believe lobbyists are part of what’s wrong with this country, you should know this: If you’ve ever gone to a football, baseball, basketball or hockey game — or even watched one on TV — you have your own special interest groups pushing your agenda in Washington.

Even Ralph Nader is working for you. …

Leaders of the groups push a number of different agendas — fighting soaring ticket prices, league lockouts and television-rights deals that black out some fans, among others — but they come together on one issue: what they see as the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s exploitation of athletes and fans for profit.

Many believe the answer is to scrap the Bowl Championship Series, which purports to pit the two best college football teams in the country for the national championship, even though its postseason matchups are determined by pollsters and computers, not by on-the-field competition.

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Written by Alex

October 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

Reporting: Romney campaign again puts Mormon faith in spotlight

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared

Infobox: Mormons and evangelicals

By Alex Johnson
msnbc.com

Four years ago, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took time from his Republican presidential campaign to talk at length about the role of religion in America and in his life.

It is entirely appropriate to ask “questions about an aspiring candidate’s religion,” Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a sober, here’s-what-I-believe address in College Station, Texas, in December 2007.

This time around, the same questions are being asked: Are Mormons really Christians? Should evangelical Christians refuse to even consider voting for them?

But this time, Romney’s response is very different.
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Written by Alex

October 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Live blog: Amanda Knox arrives home

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Over on msnbc.com’s FieldNotes, fellow reporter Kari Huus and I are live-blogging Amanda Knox’s  return home to Seattle. You can follow the story here.

Written by Alex

October 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Reporting: Majority of states line up to ditch No Child Left Behind

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Since President Barack Obama announced last month that he would allow states to request waivers from mandatory participation in No Child Left Behind, at least 27 have already signaled that they will ask to opt out.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan — who had to follow No Child Left Behind when he was CEO of Chicago schools — isn’t just offering the waivers. He’s actively encouraging education officials to apply for them, he says, because it’s “fundamentally broken.”

What officials want to fix is the rigidity of the current law, which set standards so restrictive that entire schools are deemed to be failing if only a relatively few students don’t meet test standards.

Under current rules, a school’s success is based on a statewide test that assesses 40 categories. If just one subcategory — such as students with disabilities or those who are economically disadvantaged — doesn’t make its federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark, then the entire school fails.

What do you think? Who should measure how well our schools are doing?

Full story (Alex Johnson/msnbc.com-NBC News special report)

Written by Alex

September 30, 2011 at 7:41 am

Update: Two terror threat subjects could be Americans

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Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET: NBC’s Pete Williams reports that U.S. officials believe two of the three men mentioned by their intelligence source could be Americans who flew from Dubai.


Over at msnbc.com’s Open Channel investigative blog, I’ve rounded up what we’re hearing from intelligence sources on the terrorism threat against New York and Washington:

Senior officials told NBC’s Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, and terrorism analyst Roger Cressey that al-Zawahiri has had only limited involvement in al-Qaida operations, knowing he is the primary U.S. target after the killings of Osama bin Laden in May and top al-Qaida strategist Abu Abd al-Rahman Atiyyat Allah last month.

“Bin Laden was more involved in al-Qaida operations” than al-Zawahiri has been since he took over as al-Qaida’s No. 1, a senior official said. “He’s too busy trying to stay alive.”

Read the full post

Written by Alex

September 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

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