Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Former Ill. Gov. Edgar on Politicians Molding the Media, Blagojevich Retrial

Former Ill. Gov. Jim Edgar speaks to graduate journalism students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on May 4 about the relationship between politicians and the press, and about the odds that former governor Rod Blagojevich will be found guilty in his corruption retrial.

For those who like to play “what if,” imagine this scenario.

Jim Edgar, the Republican Illinois governor from 1991 to 1999, leaves office with a high approval rating. He’s generally well-respected by the media and the voting public. In 2003, U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald announces he’s not going to run again, which inspires President George Bush to call Edgar and ask him to run for the seat.

Edgar says yes. Despite running in a Blue state, because of his generally positive reputation as governor and center-leaning Republican, he wins the race in a landslide and becomes the next Illinois senator.

That’s not what happened. While Edgar left office with a 60 percent approval rating, and was asked by President Bush to go for the senate seat, Edgar declined.

Instead, Alan Keyes ran against Barack Obama. Keyes had extremely little credibility in Illinois, especially in Chicago, where he had adopted legal residence only just before the election. The race was no contest for Obama, who easily won with 70 percent of the vote. But being the presidential catapult the Illinois senate seat turned out to be, it’s obvious how different American politics could have been if Edgar decided to run.

“I remember a couple of times they tried to get me to run for the senate, and I decided against doing it, and some of the media guys from Chicago said ‘You’re right, we’re a lot nastier than we used to be,’” Edgar said to the small class of University of Illinois graduate journalism students in early May.

He’s now a distinguished fellow of the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) at the U of I. The position affords him the opportunity to talk to journalism students about the power of media from a very different perspective – a politician dependent on the media to carry a message to the public.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Radical New Mission for Drones: Helping Journalists find Truth

Drones are mostly associated with the ongoing war in Afghanistan and Pakistan – where they continue to shoot missiles and drop bombs on the insurgency. Between 1,492 and 2,378 died from drone attacks in Pakistan between 2004 and May 24, 2011, according to theNew America Foundation, and the number of drone attacks have more than doubled under the Obama administration.

The drones present serious concerns for the Pakistanis about their own safety and sovereignty, and have sparked protests at the UK parliament.

The military-industrial complex and global politics have greatly advanced both the application and development of military drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), as they’re called in military parlance. A large, jet-powered stealth drone played a majorrole in tracking down Osama bin Laden. Now there’s entire military expos dedicated solely to UAVs.

But armed conflict and espionage are not a drone’s raison d'ĂȘtre. Strictly speaking, a drone is simply an unmanned vehicle that guided remotely, or is self-guiding. And just as the advancement of drone technology has increased the military’s capabilities, those advancements have trickled down to the private commercial sector.

With a little know-how, a resourceful civilian – or journalist -- can order “off-the-shelf” components and make and fly a drone.