Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 3, 2007


Host: Christina Estes

Journalists Roundtable


  • Don't miss HORIZON's weekly roundtable where local reporters get a chance to review the week's top stories.
Guests:
  • Mark Brodie - KJZZ Radio
Category: Journalists Roundtable

View Transcript
>>It's Friday, August 3, 2007. At the end of the week where the Valley mourned over the deaths of four journalists in the crash of two news choppers in Steele Indian Park, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary report. In the wake of the Minneapolis bridge tragedy, the governor orders all Arizona bridges be inspected, and an update on the new law that stopped illegal immigration from getting benefits. That's next on Horizon.

>>Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

>>Christina Estes:
Good evening. I'm Christina Estes and this is The Journalists' Roundtable. Joining me to talk about these and other stories are Mark Brodie of KJZZ radio, Matthew Benson of the "Arizona Republic" and Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services. It's been one week since two television news choppers collided in mid-air while covering a police chase. Today the initial federal report was released. And let's start with you Mark. What did the NTSB preliminary report find?

>>Mark Brodie:
Well basically they said they don't know what happened. There were no signs of distress, no erratic movements, nothing out of the ordinary that would lead them to believe one thing or another caused this collision. It seems as though they more or less where they were a week ago.

>>Christina Estes:
We want folks to make sure they know this is a preliminary report. One of the reasons that they come out with at least the preliminary report is in part to satisfy us, because we all are searching so much for answers. But really to fully understand everything that took place, they say it could be nine months down the road.


>>Mark Brodie:
Months and months. They had a team of investigators doing interviews of eyewitnesses and looking through some of the wreckage at the park. But as you said, this is just sort of a preliminary report, this is what we found so far. But the final report coming months and months down the road.

>>Christina Estes:
And Howie, you've also looked over that report. There was a little bit of information, at least according to what eyewitnesses are telling investigators they saw as far as the positioning of the Channel 3 and Channel 15 choppers.

>>Howard Fischer:
They interviewed the police officer who was flying the other helicopter that was actually at a lower level who said that when he looked, they seemed to be a reasonable distance from each other, there didn't seem to be any problems. He looked away for a minute coz the guy was hijacking another car. When he looked back, he saw the helicopters had smashed into each other. One hung in the air for a minute and then plummeted. The problem with finding any of this stuff out is you can only do so much reconstructing. You see these things on TV, they take the plane, put it in the hanger. They look for scratch marks, where did the blade of one hit the skid of another. Sometimes you're stuck with, when everything else is eliminated, what do you have left? You may have pilot error left. How do you prove that? These crafts don't carry black boxes, there's nothing in there to talk about the relative distance, who went into whom. All you can do is use the sort of bits and pieces to figure out what did happen. And sometimes you're just left with no answers.

>> Christina Estes:
Matthew, I know you came to Arizona a couple years ago from Colorado. Denver has a lot of choppers in the air there. I don't know maybe what experience you had there when it came to TV news choppers covering news. But wondering if anybody seems to think this might affect the future of news coverage.

>>Matthew Benson:
That's hard to say. Obviously something like this out of the aftermath and something like this you hear a lot of talk about we have too many choppers in the air, we should have pool coverage. There's been a lot of talk about, should we have so many choppers chasing a police chase? Is that really a worthy pursuit? I think we'll have a lot of talk about it, but I doubt we'll see much change.

>>Howard Fischer:
That's the issue. That's sort of like saying the three of us have to pool our coverage of something the governor is doing. This happens on rare occasions when you have a very small room or something like that. Everyone wants their own angle. Everyone thinks they've got something specific. KTAR radio thinks they have something different than KFYI radio. "The Arizona Republic" thinks they have something different than the "Arizona Daily Star." Each is trying to get that half a point share boost on the others and the advertising revenues that come with it. Nobody will give up their independence on it.

>>Matthew Benson:
The fact this is such big news is because it is so rare. It doesn't often happen. You don't often have news choppers crashing into each other. So I think that speaks to the relative safety of how these folks operate.

>>Mark Brodie:
The other thing I think you might see -- there's been a little bit of talk of this, not like whether or not pooled coverage, not quite a lot of it yet -- is the issue of does there need to be more oversight when there are a lot of helicopters in one area. The F.A.A. will clear all the helicopters to go into a particular area. Once they're there it's up to the pilots and people on board to make sure they know where everybody else is. There's been a little bit of talk of does there need to be more oversight when they're in close proximity?

>>Howard Fischer:
But who's going to watch? When you're talking about those kinds of distances, radar doesn't do any good. Ground-based radar might say you need to move 12 feet to the left. You have a pilot in an impossible situation. The pilot is trying to go ahead and keep an eye on what's on the ground, listen to his or her photographer in the back, go ahead and listen to traffic control, listen to the police reports, keep the chopper positioned so that the camera that's mounted under the nose is in the right position. This is an almost impossible situation. But as long as it's legally allowed, unless we're going to ban it - I'm no big fan of the government banning anything in terms of journalism -- then you're going to have this.

>> Christina Estes:
I think Matthew made a good point. One of the reasons we've heard so much about it, not only because it happened here and resulted in the deaths of four journalists here, but because it's so rare. That's what made it national and even international news. I want to touch on the subject of pool coverage. Howie, would you be willing to have somebody go and cover something and then share their notes with you or vice versa?

>>Howard Fischer:
Not just no but hell no! The problem is it does happen. For example, the president comes to town and is talking to a small group of 30, 40 people. There's an understanding you will do pool coverage. They'll send in one radio reporter who will share a tape, one TV reporter who'll share a tape and one print reporter and perhaps one still photographer. Generally speaking why would I want it? The governor has a press conference every Wednesday. Mark goes, Matt goes. You can share your notes but unless you're there to ask your own questions, to get an idea of the tenor, to find out what's happening, I'm sure Matt doesn't want to just wait in the press room, wait for me to bring my notes and type them up and say, here, Matt, you can have this and you figure out what the story is. It doesn't work that way. There's no reason for that. Look, the fact that we're journalists, we're all egotists. We like our names on stories, we like our tag lines on an audio report.

>> Christina Estes:
We like to take ownership. It's our story.

>>Howard Fischer:
Right. If we didn't have a big ego we would be in another business.

>>Christina Estes:
Mark doesn't have a big ego, usually. Would you do pool coverage?

>>Mark Brodie:
I think it kind of depends. I've been in situations where we all have pool coverage out of necessity. If it's a controlled environment, if it's a press conference, that would be a better situation than to have maybe one-on-one interviews or you're out in the field covering stories. Because at a press conference, you know, you might not be able to ask a question. But there's a control, there's certain number of people who will be available to talk, a certain amount of time for how long you have. Out in the field maybe if I'm there I would talk to somebody. Whereas if somebody else was there they would talk to somebody else and not ask the same question that I would want. I think in general pool coverage isn't a great answer for a lot of journalists but in some situations it can be better than others.

>>Christina Estes:
Let's move on to another tragedy that's really prompted some reaction from our governor - that's the Minneapolis bridge collapse. And Howie, I know that you had a little issue with the, what the governor is calling for.

>>Howard Fischer:
It's not what she's calling for, it's what she's not calling for. Everyone assumed she's ordered the 4,700 bridges inspected. No. She's ordered a review of the inspection records of the 4,700 bridges. In other words, we'll go back and look, oh, we did this bridge here, this bridge there. Only if they think there's a sign of trouble will they actually physically inspect them. I even asked Diane D'Angelo from ADOT, what about the three state bridges that are the same design? Are you definitely physically going to inspect those? Not necessarily. This is a lot of hoopla over nothing. Every bridge in Arizona on the state highway system is inspected every two years. They go and look as much as you can tell. When bridges are painted you can't necessarily see stress fractures and everything else. What does this mean? I think our governor is doing what every other governor is doing, trying to cover her fanny, if you will, in case something goes wrong. They can say, look, I took action. There's less here than meets the eye.

>> Christina Estes:
Go ahead, Matthew?

>>Matthew Benson:
The fact is Arizona bridges rank second in the country in terms of their structural integrity. So that's the one thing I got out of this. Arizona's bridges, they ranked an A minus according to the civil engineers group who does these surveys. Arizona's bridges, compared with Rhode Island where 50 percent of the bridges in Rhode Island are structurally deficient, that to me says Arizona is in a lot better shape than virtually every other state.

>>Howard Fischer:
That becomes an interesting question, this term structurally deficient. Forty-two bridges in the state highway system are structurally deficient. If you ask ADOT, they say that could mean the pavement just isn't quite up to standard. I don't know what else it means. I think one of the things we need to do as journalists is go out and quite frankly get a list of those structurally deficient bridges, not that any of us are engineers, but figure out, well, so what is wrong with these? Why aren't we doing more? Why are there structurally deficient bridges anywhere in the country?

>>Mark Brodie:
I think the thing about those definitions, I think you hit on it, is they don't necessarily mean what you think they mean. Some of them mean that only certain vehicles can go over them. Or they can only hold certain amounts of weight. Doesn't mean they're going to collapse tomorrow. Just means certain things can or can't go on them at certain times of the day or year.

>>Howard Fischer:
The other funny thing was, ADOT people were assuring us that all Arizona bridges were built to federal standards. Well, so was the one on 35 W. Gee, that makes me feel a lot better.

>>Christina Estes:
Mark, you mentioned coming across some information. I think the national bridge inventory, something close to that. And the Republic did an analysis of bridges in Arizona. They were actually citing more than 7,000 bridges and finding that two percent in Arizona were structurally deficient compared to the national average of 12 percent. Does that make you guys feel any better?

>>Mark Brodie:
I think Matt hit it on the head. Arizona's bridges are doing a lot better than a lot of bridges, at least according to the inspections that they've had than a lot of other bridges in other states. You think about some of the reasons. They're probably a lot newer, especially compared to places like Rhode Island, which has been a state for a lot longer than Arizona. The weather here apparently, without a lot of precipitation or snow or ice on these bridges, a lot of engineers are saying that's contributing to why Arizona's bridges are doing better.

>>Howard Fischer:
The other piece that gets lost in all this, when we lose bridges in Arizona, it's not because the bridges fail structurally. It's the water coming down after a storm that undermines the embankments. Take a look at what happened. Back in 1980 we lost 7th street, 7th Avenue, we've lost the I-10 bridge. We've lost bridges up over I-17. They closed the Gila River bridge on I-10 going down to Tucson, because they were afraid that was washing out. That's a whole different problem. That doesn't deal with the issue of structurally it's sound. It's just, oh, the piers don't attach to anything anymore.

>> Christina Estes:
It's another example of why we should avoid the water during all that severe weather, like D.P.S. suggests. Which transitions nicely into a story that Howie doesn't care about. Photo radar on the loop 101. You're not a fan of it. D.P.S. is taking control now of the lights on the Loop 101. Have you accepted it? Still opposed to it?

>>Matthew Benson:
I don't think anyone has the choice. If you drive in the state, I think the message is get used to it. These cameras are back on, on the 101 and they're coming statewide per the governor's mandate. You can expect to see them on highways all over the valley.

>>Howard Fischer:
I love the fact that since the state took it over, it used to be when you drove into Scottsdale there used to be a single sign - photo enforcement. Now there's a sign before every radar unit. ‘Radar ahead.' I'm sorry, any moron who gets a ticket now deserves it and probably deserves to lose a license. If you can't see the sign that says there's photo radar, it's built into the pavement, you don't even need an officer there, and you're still speeding? I'm sorry, why is this moron driving?

>>Mark Brodie:
Not only is there one sign, there's two signs before each one. There's one I think a quarter mile away and one a couple hundred feet away. If you don't see the big camera on the white pole sticking out of the ground, you've got to see one of the two yellow signs before you actually come to it.

>>Matthew Benson:
But when you're whipping by so fast like I am --

>>Christina Estes:
Talking on the phone, doing whatever else that you're doing. Perhaps that's the problem.

>>Matthew Benson:
It goes by in a blink.

>>Christina Estes:
Let's move on to another subject that is in the news. This week we learned exactly how many people in Arizona have been denied state benefits under a new state law targeting undocumented immigrants. Matthew, this is something you've covered. Tell us about the numbers.

>>Matthew Benson:
Basically this is Proposition 300 passed by voters last November. We got our first look at kind of a snapshot at how many folks are being affected here. Nearly 5,000 individuals have been turned away from state financial aid, from in-state tuition, adult education - some various programs. Now, it's not as many people as some of the folks, some of the opponents of this measure had anticipated. But it's still a pretty healthy number for the first nine months.

>>Howard Fischer:
One of the interesting things, though, is that a lot of this covers community colleges and universities and adult education. Up until recently a lot of them weren't even asking for verification, particularly the adult education, which is why we have a new bill this year. It will be interesting to see the next report covering the second half of the year, do the numbers increase. Because if you go in for adult education, up until this new law takes effect, they say are you a citizen? Si. I mean, it's sort of a joke in a lot of ways. So we really don't know what the effect of these laws have.



>>Christina Estes:
The other thing that some folks may point out to the low number or the perception of it being a low number is because there was so much coverage and so much publicity about it that it really probably scared a lot of people off. And they didn't then pursue some of those services.

>>Matthew Benson:
That's the point that Rep. Steve Gallardo of Phoenix makes. He opposed Proposition 300. He says the real figure here is the one we don't know. How many students decided not to apply to Arizona college for tuition, for financial aid, because they knew the law was coming on board. That figure may be several times the 5,000 we have at this point.

>>Howard Fischer:
But until Congress adopts something like the Dream Act, that basically grandfathers all these kids in. If they were brought here at a young age, if their parents paid taxes a certain number of years, it doesn't matter. As much as Steve Gallardo may make a point about these kids coming in innocently, they are here illegally. The voters of Arizona looked at the ballot measure. It was combined with two other things, adult education and subsidized childcare. They said by a large margin, we don't want these kids getting subsidized higher education. They didn't say you can't attend college. It simply says you pay the same fee as if you were coming here from California. The voters have made up their mind.

>>Mark Brodie:
Another issue along these lines, I seem to remember some debate when this was passed, about some folks who were concerned it wasn't going to be able to be implemented. Colleges and universities and other organizations that offer adult education or childcare wouldn't either know how or wouldn't be capable or just wouldn't do it, they wouldn't ask about citizenship. So I think supporters are probably happy at least that these numbers show that somebody's asking somebody something.

>>Christina Estes:
You know, I just had a friend who tried to apply online to Phoenix college to take a Spanish class. And he was asked to prove his citizenship in a nutshell. So he needed to actually fax in a copy of his license and/or Social Security card. He initially went online and applied and they said until you prove that, you've got to pay the out-of-state tuition. At least that issue has been resolved as far as the implementation goes. You mentioned Congress. We all know Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. But we've got some movement with Senators Kyl and McCain. Talk to us about that, Mark.

>>Mark Brodie:
Well, the bill is, I don't know a whole lot about this particular bill. But Senators McCain and Kyl both, who are very involved in the last time that we were talking about this, which didn't go so well for them or for people who want Congress to offer immigration reform. I think the main issue on this, or one of the main issues, at least according to Senator Kyl, is that the bill as it's been proposed is not the way that this bill will end up. I mean, that's kind of obvious for any bill that goes through any legislative process. I think one of the things that he's saying is that all the items and provisions in this bill theoretically could stand on their own. It's not comprehensive as the last one was. Not everything is tied together like the last one was. If somebody decides this is a deal breaker they could theoretically take it out and go along with the rest of the provisions and get something done.

>>Christina Estes:
It was almost like they said who wants what and everybody said I want this and this and they threw it together.

>>Matthew Benson:
It involves Senators Lindsay Graham, Jon Kyl and John McCain, three senators who got blasted from the right for being in favor of amnesty and too soft on the border. Now they come out with this bill, which is all enforcement. I mean this is 700 miles of fence, 14,000 border patrol agents, 300 miles of vehicle barriers. So it's sort of their answer to all that criticism.

>>Howard Fischer:
Except for the fact that that's not an answer to two big problems. Number one, employment. We have anywhere from 12 to 20 million people in this country illegally, a good number of them working, a good number of them supporting the economy. There's nothing there that deals with what happens to them. They're not going to pack up and go home. And what happens to the jobs that they're holding? We have in Arizona full employment. I mean, unemployment rate in the Valley is 2.9 percent. Anybody who wants a job can get one. If all the people who are holding the jobs illegally disappear, you know, I don't know what that means. How does that drive up wages? So there's nothing in this package here that deals with that. I know that's the stuff that, like you say, Kyl and McCain took the heat from the right wing on, how can you say we're going to deal with guest workers? We don't need a guest worker program or we don't need to normalize relationships in terms of the people who are here. But at some point you do need to deal with it. Any bill that deals only with enforcement, they'll pick and choose a little bit. The $3 billion bill that got out of the House or the Senate a week or two ago certainly can pick on the edges. But you need something more comprehensive. Otherwise you'll keep having the problem.

>>Christina Estes:
Does Congress need something more comprehensive if states like Arizona and, there's more than 100 cities and states coming up with their own things. Does Congress need to act?

>>Howard Fischer:
You have two issues there. Number one, states and cities have done it. Look what happened to Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Federal judge struck down that law and said cities and states cannot do anything on that. Number two is, even if Arizona tried, what kind of guest worker program, even if Janet Napolitano and Jim Weiers and Tim Bee got together and came up with a guest worker program, we can't bring guest workers in from Sonora without federal approval. Some things require a federal solution.

>>Christina Estes:
Mark, will we see comprehensive federal immigration reform? Or do you think it's a lot of cause?

>>Mark Brodie:
Oh man, let me look into my crystal ball, sources tell me probably not. It's been one of those issues that it hasn't happened yet. We're however many months away from the presidential election and already in the heat of the Presidential election, I can't imagine this will be a real great issue for a lot of members of Congress to try to take up in the next, however long. You guys might disagree. It hasn't happened yet. I'd be surprised if it happens before the election.

>>Howard Fischer:
His point is valid. The closer we get to the election, the less likely it is to happen. The ideal time for this to happen is when they killed the last comprehensive bill because people had enough time to recover. The closer we get to election, we got people running for president and people running for re-election. Gabby Giffords is already running for re-election for Congress. Tim Bee, who's the Senate President, is "testing the waters" for his run to Congress. This is going to be real hard to do now.

>>Christina Estes:
We'll be discussing it for quite a while. The governor on the immigration issue sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security. And again, not a big fan of this letter, are you, Howie?

>>Howard Fischer:
It's not a question of the fan of the letter. Everybody knew -- let's back up half a step. Operation Jumpstart was designed to be a temporary stop-gap solution. We need to hire something like 6,000 more border patrol officers. Takes a while to find them, train them, put them on the streets. So what they decided was put 6,000 National Guard troops along the border in support roles, to do administrative things, to do surveillance, to free up the border patrol officers doing that to go out and actually catch people crossing the border illegally. It was supposed to be temporary - 2,400 here in Arizona. Well guess what, the first phase is over. Now it's down to 1,200 here in Arizona. The governor says, wait, you can't do that. Don't take away the other 1,200, because we need more. Now, border patrol is working as fast as it can. I talked to Homeland Security officials who said we're on target for having upto 18,000 border patrol officers. This is temporary. The governor can whine all she wants. Maybe there's a bit of squish room in here, but this was never meant to be a permanent solution. This governor and these guys know it, she knows her weak political point is on the border. She had opposed Proposition 200 four years ago because she said, oh, people don't want to crack down on illegal immigration. Well, the voters slapped her down on that. Since then she's recognized that she needs to look strong on immigration if she has any political future. That's why she's sending this stuff off.

>>Christina Estes:
We have very limited time left. I want to end with either a laugh or a groan. Matt, quickly tell us what happened with the Elections Commission this week.

>>Matthew Benson:
You're talking about the Clean Election Commission?

>>Christina Estes:
Twenty seconds.

>>Matthew Benson:
Yes. This is the commission that oversees candidates and their spending and fundraising and all that minutiae. In their annual report they had a $2 million accounting mistake. They basically spent $2 million more than they said they spent in their report.

>>Christina Estes:
So everyone makes mistakes. Lessons learned. Thank you so much. We will be back next Friday with another edition of the Journalists' Roundtable. Coming up next on Now, is there new legal hope for detainees at Guantanamo Bay? That's next on Now. I'm Christina Estes. Have a great weekend.

What's on?

Content Partner:

  About KAET Contact Support Legal Follow Us  
  About Eight
Mission/Impact
History
Site Map
Pressroom
Contact Us
Sign up for e-news
Pledge to Eight
Donate Monthly
Volunteer
Other ways to support
FCC Public Files
Privacy Policy
Facebook
Twitter
YouTube
Google+
Pinterest
 

Need help accessing? Contact disabilityaccess@asu.edu

Eight is a member-supported service of Arizona State University    Copyright Arizona Board of Regents