You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
Alumni question WKU journalism school's name change
 Aaron Mudd  / 

Bob Adams

Since 1968, when Bob Adams became adviser to the College Heights Herald, he’s watched Western Kentucky University’s journalism program grow to become a place that regularly produces award-winning journalists.

Now in retirement, Adams worries that WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting may be losing focus on what gave rise to its success as it pursues a name change to the School of Media.

The change is among the business items WKU’s Board of Regents will take up during its third quarterly meeting Friday.

“I hate to see them bury it at this point,” said Adams, who’s affectionately referred to as “Mr. A” by his former students. “To me, it doesn’t make any sense to take the most visible part of the program and bury it into something that has a vague definition at best.”

Adams is one of several WKU journalism alumni concerned that the school is abandoning its long-standing commitment to teaching the discipline in favor of growing student constituencies within the school, such as film.

Robert Dietle, the school’s interim director, told the Daily News that film is currently the most “dynamic” program the school offers.

Journalism, as far as majors go, is now third in size, and the name change is meant to more fully capture the scope of the school’s programs, Dietle said.

Dietle pushed back on claims from alumni, some of which have been made in letters sent to campus leaders, that the decision has been rushed or signals some desire by the school to put journalism on the back burner.

“What puzzles me is the feeling that the name change somehow deemphasizes journalism,” Dietle said.

A Board of Regents agenda item explaining the name change notes that faculty in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting unanimously agreed to the change.

Dietle said faculty have been discussing the topic for years and that there’s a popular feeling among them that the current name doesn’t accurately reflect the school.

About a year ago, Dietle said, faculty began discussing an idea to switch to the School of Media and continued discussing it regularly before unanimously approving it in April.

In response to petitions from alumni, Dietle said faculty recently held another vote and “the decision was this was the name they wanted.”

Dietle further added the school is taking a page out of the playbook of other journalism schools that made similar changes. The goal is to emphasize to students that they’re going to have a highly marketable set of skills regardless of the program they choose.

“This is not a faculty that takes these things lightly,” Dietle said. “I do think this faculty has proven its commitment to journalism over the years.”

Dietle asked alumni to trust in the faculty members’ decision and added that, while he understands yearning for the past, “Nostalgia is not a plan for the future.”

Still, several of the school’s alumni have made their opposition clear.

WKU alumnus Al Cross, a well-known Kentucky journalist and the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, wrote a letter addressing Phillip Bale, who chairs WKU’s Board of Regents. Bale did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment for this story.

Like Adams, Cross raised concerns about faculty, administrators and regents viewing journalism as “a declining discipline.”

“I find especially objectionable a proposed name that lumps journalism in with the vague catch-all ‘media’ – a term that is often used carelessly, even by journalists and academics,” Cross wrote.

Cross added that the news media’s poor job of differentiating itself from other kinds of media and separating fact from opinion has spurred distrust among the public. Further, its business model, based largely on advertising revenue, has been disrupted by the rise of online information media, especially social media, he wrote.

“When a university maintains a School of Journalism, it is saying that journalism is a public good,” Cross wrote. “When it removes the word from the name of a J-school, it is saying something else, something that can easily be inferred as a lack of confidence in journalism as an essential servant of democracy. So, if the name of the School is to be changed, let it be the School of Journalism and Media.”

Cynthia Mitchell, a 1983 WKU journalism graduate, now coordinates Central Washington University’s Digital Journalism program. She shared a similar view about the school dropping journalism from its name.

“That is a program that put Western (Kentucky University) on the national map,” she said. “I think it diminishes it.”

Greg Bilbrey, editor of the Daily News in Robinson, Ill., and an adjunct instructor of journalism at Eastern Illinois University, worried the name change might backfire and repel students interested in studying journalism. He is a 1981 WKU journalism graduate.

“I hear about journalism from students and faculty at both the high-school and college levels, and interest in journalism as a career is actually increasing,” Bilbrey wrote in an email to the Daily News. “... So, if the name change to ‘School of Media’ is a marketing strategy intended to broaden the school’s appeal, it may backfire among potential students coming to WKU having developed a passion for learning journalism because of its heightened profile and their heightened sense of its importance.”

Bilbrey added “Journalism programs must not be subsumed by dubious marketing strategies at the very time they need to be most visible, vital and vocal.”

Alan Judd, an investigative journalist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also wrote a letter to Bale opposing the name change and said he received a response from Bale, which he characterized as “noncommittal.”

“It appears to be predestined,” Judd said. The issue, he said, “feels to me like there is a disconnect between the university and alumni.”

Senate confirms Glasgow native Kelly Craft as US ambassador to UN

WASHINGTON – The Senate has confirmed Kelly Craft to become the next U.S. envoy to the United Nations despite Democratic concerns about her inexperience and potential conflicts of interest.

Craft, a longtime GOP activist and native of Glasgow, is currently U.S. ambassador to Canada. She was confirmed 56-34, ending a more than seven-month vacancy in the key diplomatic position.

She and her husband, Joe Craft, have donated millions of dollars to Republican political candidates, and she will be first major political donor to occupy the top UN post for any administration. Joe Craft is the chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the largest coal producers in the country.

In her confirmation hearing, Craft vowed to continue the efforts of President Donald Trump’s first ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to push for reform at the world body and to fight against anti-Israel resolutions and actions by the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.

During Haley’s tenure, the administration withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council and the UN educational and scientific agency for adopting positions it deemed to be hostile to Israel.

Trump nominated Craft to replace Haley after his first choice for the job, former State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, withdrew from consideration. Haley stepped down from the post in December.

Democrats criticized Craft at the hearing for previous remarks she had made doubting the causes and severity of climate change and suggesting that climate change skeptics have valid arguments. They were also concerned about possible conflicts of interest as she holds extensive investments in fossil fuels.

Craft said at the hearing that she acknowledges the “vast amount of science” regarding climate change and the role humans have played.

“If confirmed, I will be an advocate for addressing climate change,” she said.

The Democrats have also expressed concerns about her time away from Canada during her tenure as ambassador. Craft testified that all of her travel had been approved in advance by the State Department, that much of it was work-related and that she and her husband had paid for all personal trips.

A report issued by the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, just before the vote called Craft “inexperienced,” ‘’unknowledgeable” and “outmatched.” The report said Craft’s “lack of diplomatic or substantive policy experience” could threaten her ability to forcefully represent and defend U.S. national interests against other powerful nations.

“Never in our nation’s history have we nominated such an underqualified person to this critical post,” said Menendez.

Republicans, including her home-state senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, came to her defense.

“During her tenure as ambassador to Canada, America’s relationship with our northern neighbor was tested,” McConnell said in a floor speech before the vote. “A number of challenging policy hurdles threatened to trip up progress on several important issues, including trade negotiations. But by all accounts, Ambassador Craft’s involvement led to greater cooperation.”

As ambassador, Craft played a role in facilitating the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, Trump’s long-sought revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

It was also a low point in relations between the two counties. Last year, Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.

Couple report gunfire from man claiming Bigfoot sighting
 Caroline Eggers  / 

National Park Service officials are investigating an incident in which a man allegedly shot at “Bigfoot” in one of the park’s campsites Sunday.

There were at least two adult witnesses.

Madelyn Durand drove to Mammoth Cave National Park with her boyfriend, Brad Ginn, this past weekend to spend time outdoors before returning to school at Western Kentucky University, she told the Daily News.

After hiking for hours Sunday, they set up a tent in the park’s backcountry campsite. Ginn was asleep by 11 p.m., but Durand couldn’t sleep because she heard people intermittently yelling “like a big ‘woop.’ ”

“It was still far away and I figured it was just people at the other campsite drinking and getting loud,” Durand said.

But near 1 a.m., she saw flashlights and heard loud voices. Durand and her boyfriend exited their tent and found a man with whom she assumed was his young child.

The man claimed something wrecked his campsite, and “he also showed us (his) gun and told us he hopes we have some kind of weapon” before walking away, Durand said.

Durand and Ginn climbed back into their tent to discuss the potential danger of the situation, and within five or 10 minutes the man and child returned to their site. The man yelled “there it is” and shot his gun, Durand said.

“He had shot to the side of our tent about 20 yards away,” Durand said. “We got out of the tent and were asking him what it was he just shot at and he claimed Bigfoot ran toward him so he just shot. We shined our flashlights toward where he said it was and there was absolutely nothing there.”

The strangers then left the scene. The young couple decided it wasn’t safe to remain in the park, and packed up and hiked the 5.3-mile trail back to their car.

Durand said she feared for the safety of the man’s child, nearby campers, her boyfriend and herself.

“Hiking for hours in the dark with a man who was shooting at nothing was scary,” she said.

They called 911 during the hike and met with park officials near their car.

Park law enforcement rangers responded around 2 a.m. to Sunday’s incident, which is still under an active investigation, according to park spokeswoman Molly Schroer.

About a decade ago, Congress passed a law allowing loaded firearms into national parks, but the discharge of a firearm remains illegal.

Guns are not allowed in federal facilities within the park, or on any cave tours, cave tour buses or in concessions-operated facilities, according to Schroer, who said “possession of a firearm within the national park is legal as long as the individuals follow Kentucky state firearm laws.”

Since the law was enacted in 2010, there have been three other known incidents of guns being fired within Mammoth Cave National Park. There were two discharges related to poaching, and there was a visitor suicide, according to Schroer.

It is illegal in most states to carry a gun while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, but Kentucky state statutes do not explicitly forbid it, according to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association.

Sunday was the first time Durand and Ginn camped together.

“We were just looking for a nice little adventure before school started up at WKU,” Durand said.

Appeal heard on Boucher sentencing issue
 Justin Story  / 

CINCINNATI – A panel of three federal appeals judges heard arguments Wednesday on whether to uphold Rene Boucher’s 30-day sentence for tackling U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Bowling Green.

Boucher has served the 30-day prison term, which stems from the 2017 assault on the junior senator.

The two were neighbors in the Rivergreen subdivision at the time of the incident.

Boucher pleaded guilty to a count of assaulting a member of Congress and was sentenced last year.

Federal prosecutors sought a 21-month sentence for the retired physician and appealed the 30-day sentence imposed in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green.

On Wednesday, special prosecutor Bob Wood and Boucher’s attorney, Matt Baker, argued their positions in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Wood said the 30-day sentence amounted to a “slap on the wrist” and that similar assaults prosecuted in the federal court system involving federal officials netted longer punishments for those convicted.

“The punishment was considerably uncommensurate given the seriousness of the injuries,” Wood said at the beginning of his 15-minute oral argument.

Wood noted that Paul suffered multiple rib fractures and contracted pneumonia after the assault that took place on his property.

Responding to a question from Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch about whether he believed the 30-day sentence imposed by Special Judge Marianne Battani was an abuse of her discretion, Wood said that Battani appeared to consider testimony from witnesses who described Boucher’s initial arrest on a state misdemeanor charge of fourth-degree assault.

Because Paul is a federal lawmaker entitled to certain protections under federal criminal law, federal sentencing guidelines advising a punishment in the range of 21 months should take precedence, Wood argued.

“(Boucher) clearly knew who his neighbor was,” Wood said. “This isn’t a case where a judge could say that, while it lacked political motivation, the defendant clearly did not know who he was attacking.”

Baker argued that Battani did not act arbitrarily when imposing the 30-day sentence.

During his 15-minute oral argument period, Baker likened the assault to any of a number of misdemeanor assault cases that would be heard by a Warren District Court judge.

“I think of this case as a garden variety assault case,” Baker said. “This case is much like a lot of what happens in district court ... but it does involve a U.S. Senator, so that’s what makes it unique.”

Prior court testimony and filings in the case indicate that piles of brush and yard debris stacked on Paul’s property near the property line he shared with Boucher were at the root of the incident.

Baker characterized the incident as a “dispute among neighbors.”

Senior Judge Eugene Siler Jr. asked Baker whether he believed a sentence of probation would have been reasonable for Boucher, and Baker responded that the decisions of the trial court that originally considered the evidence are entitled to a lot of deference.

Questions from Siler and Judge John Nalbandian pursued a line of inquiry regarding whether enough consideration was given to Paul’s injuries when Boucher was sentenced, as opposed to Boucher’s professional background and lack of criminal history.

“There are a lot of (first-time offenders) who have a great background,” Siler said.

During his response, Baker noted that Paul’s injuries did not lead to any overnight hospital stays, the senator returned to work quickly after the assault and he took no pain medications afterward.

“I count Senator Paul as a friend of mine, I don’t know if he feels the same way about me anymore,” Baker said.

Baker maintained that Battani acted justifiably and gave full consideration to the testimony and evidence presented before her in arriving at the sentence she did for Boucher, which also included a $10,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.

Baker also mentioned a number of federal cases involving white-collar crimes and child pornography allegations in which judges imposed a sentence that deviated downward from advisory sentencing guidelines.

During a four-minute rebuttal period, Wood argued that Battani gave little weight to the senator’s injuries and the seriousness of the offense when she sentenced Boucher.

The federal appeals court will issue a ruling at a later date.

Austin Anthony  

Rene Boucher