Media Hamper Search For NU President;
No Surprise: Midlands Weather Always Changeable;
Terry, Smith Lobbyist-Paid Junkets Inexcusable

First, the hiring of a new University of Nebraska president.

Among the significantly important issues which the 2014 Nebraska Legislature must deal with a 60-day session:

Will the Legislature restore to the elected members of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents their constitutionally-mandated authority to supervise administration of the University?

That authority was substantially diminished by the Legislature in 2007,  ordering the regents to hold a public hearing when, in their search for a new president of the four-campus system, they have reduced their search list to four candidates—four candidates who are willing to be publicly identified as seeking to become president of the NU system.

The flaw in this four-candidate publicity should have been obvious to the Legislature:

Only one of the four will, of course, be selected as president of the system—in this case, to succeed J. B. Milliken who has resigned to take a job heading the City University of New York.  The three rejected but publicly-identified candidates pay a heavy price for their unsuccessful effort to serve as president of the NU system—nationwide publicity as candidates who didn’t make the grade but were willing to leave their current jobs.  Hardly a help to any possibility of further career advancement.

Better Candidates May Not Apply

But there is an even bigger flaw in the current law—a law which, predictably, is strongly supported by Dave Bundy, publisher of the Lincoln Journal Star and president of Media of Nebraska.

“’The fewer people involved in picking such leaders, the fewer questions get asked and the fewer points of view that are represented,’ said Bundy.

Bundy’s remarks constituted something of an insult to the board of regents, implying that the news media will ask tougher questions than the regents would ask.

The potentially even more troublesome situation created by the present law requiring the public hearing; i.e., the possibility, if not the new certainty that the law discourages other potentially strong candidates from seeking the Nebraska position.

Candidates who might be more attractive to the Board of Regents but who are not going to risk their chances for advancement in the college administration world by entering in a process by which they run the risk of being identified in the academic world as an “also ran” in the Nebraska search for a new president.

But, defenders of the present system presumably would argue, if these reluctant candidates are so well qualified, wouldn’t one of them likely be the winner?  Possibly.  But if two such entered the competition under the present law, one of them would surely be labeled a loser.

Sharp Contrast With U.S. Judge Selection

In summary, the legislature has an opportunity to let the elected regents perform their constitutionally-mandated duties without the news media becoming involved and making it more difficult for the board of regents to attract the strongest candidates.

What some news media spokesman have done to the process of selecting a new University of Nebraska president—a process which so far as I’ve been able to determine—representatives of the news media is not challenging.  A recent World-Herald news story reported that 20 or so applicants are seeking to replace U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon when he retires to “senior judge” status in October.

Neither in the news story or its editorial page is The World-Herald campaigning for disclosure of the names of the applicants.   A few of the applicants have chosen to identify themselves, but the large majority publicly remain unnamed and will presumably continue to be unidentified as the Justice Department goes through the process of choosing a candidate for President Obama to nominate for approval by the Senate.

Why news media spokesmen have declined to become involved in this withholding of information from them and the public is something that some qualified spokesman for the news media might be asked to answer.

Don’t hold your breath until that happens.

* * *

Changeable Midlands Weather No Big Deal;
Does Reporter Know Our Weather History?

The headline read: “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?”

Then The World-Herald reporter suggested that the Midlands take on the personality of whatever domineering weather force “is careening through the neighborhood.”

The truth, of course, is that Midlands weather is customarily fickle, winter as well as summer.

Let’s take a look at the larger, longer weather pattern in the Midlands, and the contrasts between some years and others:

Are today’s journalists unaware of the Blizzard of ’75 or the weather in the 1930s when in two back-to-back years, the Midlands temperatures one July rose above 100 degrees each day for nearly the entire month and, in a back-to-back year, fell below zero for nearly the entire month of January?

Apparently some of today’s crop of newspaper people haven’t heard the old saying that goes something like this: “So you don’t like the weather we’re having? Wait an hour.”

* * *

No Acceptable Explanation Available For
Lobbyist-Paid Junkets For Congressmen

This journalist’s appraisal of the recent performance of U.S. Representatives Adrian Smith of Scottsbluff and Lee Terry of Omaha in regard to accepting the favors of lobbyists to campaign fund-raising trips to posh resorts:

In Smith’s case, totally disgusting.

In Terry’s case, possibly totally disgusting if we knew all the details as we do about a Smith junket, reported with those details on the front page of The New York Times six days before The World-Herald chose to take a look at the resort entertainment of members of Nebraska and Iowa Congress.

Three of the four Nebraska and Iowa senators reported taking no such trips, while Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer reported a single trip which did not appear to involve lavish entertainment.  Representative Jeff Fortenberry of Lincoln and Senator Mike Johanns of Lincoln were reported to have taken no so-called “destination fund-raisers.”

The New York Times report on a Representative Adrian Smith junket:

The headline read:  “A Loophole Allows Lawmakers To Reel In Trips and Donations”

The story started:

“After some time in the hot tub, an evening cocktail reception and a two-and-a-half-hour dinner in a private dining room named Out of Bounds, Representative Adrian Smith, Republican of Nebraska, made one last stop, visiting the lounge at the Four Seasons Resort hotel here to spend more time with the lobbyists and other donors who had jetted in from Washington, D.C., to join him for the weekend get-away.”

Smith Understandably Declined Comment

The World-Herald story six days later did not report all the details of The New York Times front-page account of the lavish entertainment of Representative Smith (who understandably declined comment on the whole subject in contrast to Terry who went on at length defending such junkets).

The Times story went on for nearly a full inside page on the entertainment lavished on members of the Congress and at resorts like that of the Four Seasons at Vail, Colorado and 20 or so other posh resorts at which named members of Congress have been entertained as guests of lobbyists.

Terry Says Junkets Are ‘Work’

The World-Herald reported Representative Terry and “family” had been entertained at the Cloisters, a five-star resort on an island off the coast of Georgia.

Terry tried to defend the outings as not worthy of all the news media attention.  He said:  “I’m not sure that a politician raising money is ‘man bites dog.’…

“I felt like it is more work than anything else.”

So being lavishly entertained on money contributed by people from whom you are asking campaign contributions has become the acceptable norm?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Terry has a chance to defend that position in his campaign for re-election.

* * *

This Week’s Smorgasbord:
Support Jays But Don’t Go Overboard;
I Doubt God Gets Involved In Sports

Today’s smorgasbord is a tough one to prepare because there are so many items that seem to me to be of interest, including, of course, some comments on the world of sports.  Enjoy (I hope!).

–I was glad to see Creighton University basketball coverage get back to something more appropriate than the overdose which dominated The World-Herald’s sports section before the Georgetown game.

I’m a Bluejay fan, but I do think you can overdo the adulation if you are publishing a newspaper which serves not only Bluejay fanatics.

Creighton is off to a splendid start in the Big East, but there is a wide, wide world of sports out there.  For example:

How about a story about Wichita State, a member of the conference which Creighton left to join the Big East and a team compiling a remarkable record—one of the absolute best in the country—this year.

–The headline read:  “Is God interested in who wins big game?”

My quick and accurate, as I see it, response:  No.

A front page story on the Living section of The World-Herald said that a poll indicated that “49% of Americans believe that ‘athletes who pray are more likely to win.’”

Some athletes clearly believe in Devine intervention, as evidenced by pointing skyward after a successful play or before attempting a game-winning field goal.

It seems to me that even an omnipotent God would have more serious things taking up his time than the fate of a given player’s or team’s success in athletics.

–Will state officials, including the governor and legislators, please decide quickly what to do about the state airplane.  Who should own it, should we buy a new one, on and on ad nauseam.

My advice:  Buy a new airplane, fix its ownership whatever it seems appropriate and get on with considerably more serious business.

–Caroline Kennedy, granddaughter of the assassinated president, isn’t the first Kennedy to become involved in controversy as our ambassador to an important American ally.

She has gone public in her opposition to the Japanese custom celebrating an annual dolphin hunt and eating the meat.  (One Japanese editor wrote an article expressing curiosity as to whether the ambassador ate beef or pork.)

Caroline’s grandfather Joe Kennedy was recalled as United States Ambassador to Great Britain because of remarks widely interpreted as questioning whether Adolph Hitler was a threat to peace in Europe.

–Another suggestion for state officials:  Don’t waste time trying to find a better state slogan for greeting visitors as they drive into Nebraska.

“Nebraska…the good life” does the job very well, as The World-Herald suggested in a recent editorial.

There comes to mind an old saying in regard to this and a number of other things on which public officials seem to me to be wasting precious time:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

# # #

 

This entry was posted in Column. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply