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Roundtable: Sanders' Legacy, Immigration Bill, Bitumen Oil Spill Exposed, Boston Media Madness
April 26, 2013 1:14 p.m.
Claire Trageser, KPBS News
Jill Replogle, KPBS Fronteras Desk
Bob Lawrence, writer
Related Story: Roundtable: Sanders' Legacy, Immigration Bill, Bitumen Oil Spill Exposed, Boston Media Madness
SAUER: Good afternoon, it's Friday, April 26th. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for being with us. Joining me on the Roundtable are KPBS reporter Claire Trageser.
TRAGESER: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Jill Replogle of the KPBS Fronteras desk.
REPLOGLE: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Susan White, Executive Editor of Inside Climate News.
SAUER: And media critic Robert Lawrence.
LAWRENCE: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: It's good to have you here. A steady hand on the tiller steering San Diego away from its characterization as Enron by the sea. That's how Jerry Sanders views his years in office. He inherited a fiscal nightmare from his predecessor who resigned, and it added up to years of belt-tightening. Sanders had his ambitions too. Claire, you caught up with him for a story on his legacy this week.
TRAGESER: He's now the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, and he took office in 2005, I believe. And so now he's back. He went to Italy for about -- a few months, I think, after he left office.
SAUER: Need a break after that long tenure.
[ LAUGHTER ]
TRAGESER: He said he made a promise to his wife when he ran for reelection, he would take her to Italy after the second term.
SAUER: One promise he could keep and be in charge without that messy council involved. So you wanted to discuss his legacy with him. Was that the main topic he wanted to focus on?
TRAGESER: Yeah, well, he said, and he's said many times before in other stories when he was leaving office about his legacy, but he didn't want to talk about his legacy, he doesn't care, it's up to the people to decide what his legacy is.
SAUER: Which is ultimately true, I guess. But he did get into it with you.
TRAGESER: Yeah, he was willing to go through and talk about a lot of the different projects he had undertaken, especially toward the end of his second term. The Plaza de Panama in Balboa Park, and the Convention Center convention, pension reform under Proposition B, and then the city's budget.
SAUER: Okay, and we had as you might expect with any mayor in a long tenure, a mixed record. Let's start with the balanced budget. And there's some controversy with Carl DeMaio at the time and Bob Filner who are saying we didn't have that surplus as Mr. Sanders said toward the end of his tenure.
>> Shortly after he left office, Sanders famously said the structural deficit is now history. Even at the time people were somewhat skeptical of that claim. But balancing the budget -- he wanted to be able to say I've done it, it's done, as he was leaving. Six months after that, the independent billion analyst released a report that said, well --
SAUER: Not so fast.
TRAGESER: And as I talked to Steve eerie, he said there was a rumor for a month and a half that we had a balanced budget, but that went away quickly.
SAUER: What is he saying now about all that?
TRAGESER: He says that given -- the reasons for the elimination of that balanced budget is because of the state redevelopment agency that took away redevelopment funding. So he says, you know, there's nothing he could do about that, which is true. So that's the reason why he lost his balanced budget.
SAUER: Now, ONE the major projects that did happen on his watch was the downtown library. What's our status with that?
TRAGESER: That's right. It's slated to be finished in July, I believe. So that seems to be on track. So he can count that one as a win. And he was talking about it's not just a building, it will be a great asset for students and there'll be a school attached to it, so a lot of different things will come from that library.
SAUER: Okay. And Bob?
LAWRENCE: Does he see that library as his monument?
TRAGESER: Well, he wasn't going to say anything about this is mine or -- he said my entire term was about the people and people coming together to get things done. So maybe he, does but he's not going to say whether he does or not.
SAUER: With the project, don't they wind up with a big plaque? And they have the mayor and the council members? Yeah, you can see that down there.
TRAGESER: That's true. I guess we'll have to wait and see then.
SAUER: And some unfortunately, City Hall, you walk into that building, which I think was basically a white elephant when it was opened way back when, and maybe they don't want their name and plaque on ones like that. What about Plaza de Panama? Not a check list in the win column there.
TRAGESER: Yeah, so he said his wife wouldn't let him read the newspaper while he was in Italy. But she did tell him kindly that, I guess -- or maybe not so kindly that the Plaza de Panama was thrown out by the Courts, basically. That a judge said no, the city cannot go forward with this. So that was one of his biggest projects. And right now, it seems like it's not going to happen in its original form. The city attorney said if the City Council changes some of the wording, we can still have it move forward. But Sanders told me even if it does, are he doesn't think that Irwin Jacobs will be involved, that he's finished.
SAUER: Right and he was pretty disappointed openly in your interview as you watch that.
TRAGESER: Yeah, it's a big project that he worked on for a long time.
SAUER: And the Convention Center expansion is still in the works.
TRAGESER: Yeah, it just survived a legal challenge over a hotel room tax to pay for it, that'll problem appealed. But labor has dropped its opposition to the project, which people consider a big plus for it as it goes before the California coastal commission. There was a nonlabor lawsuit over it to disclose its terms of its agreement with labor.
SAUER: Pension is the one that hasn't been smooth.
TRAGESER: Steve Eerie, the UC San Diego professor said Sanders did two types of pension reform. There was the 2-tiered pension which brought in new employees at a lower pension. And he said that that's really the one that Sanders is responsible for. Proposition B was more DeMaio's plan, and Sanders jumped on board with that, and they consolidated their pension reform plans. But Proposition B is also at least being stalled somewhat by legal challenges via the state public employment relations board. They said the city shouldn't be implementing prop B. That's just an advisory. The city doesn't have to listen to that. Now it's going to go before a state court of appeals, I believe.
SAUER: All right. Let's go back for a moment to Plaza de Panama. There was some news this week, mayor Filner presented his own plan.
TRAGESER: Filner during the campaign said why can't we just set up some parking cones and call the whole thing done? You don't want cars in Plaza de Panama? Set up some cones, make sure they don't go in there, that's it. And that's actually somewhat similar to the plan he proposed this week. He's saying to get rid of parking spaces in the central Plaza de Panama, but he will still allow cars to drive over the Cabrillo bridge except on weekends and holidays. Then he'll move some of the parking around to the -- the handicapped parking to one space, valet parking for the restaurants and other places to another space. But that's pretty much it. His plan is $5,000 as opposed to the $45 million Jacobs plan.
SAUER: Go ahead, Bob.
LAWRENCE: From what I've read, it seems like the handicapped parking area is going to be a long way from the art museum and the Timken. Am I right about that? What is the response?
TRAGESER: Yeah. The handicapped parking I think would move south of the Mingei museum, and the valet would move south of the Casa de Balboa. I've been trying to get someone to say what happens now? Can Filner just do this plan? Or does the City Council have to approve it? And even the city attorney's office said oh, we're not sure. We'll have to get back to you. So I'm still trying to figure out what the next step is. I already read in a UT San Diego story that the Cohen restaurant is not happy about this plan because it moves their valet parking from this nice spot in the front of their restaurants to a backdoor entrance. So you're having your car valet parked but walk income through the back. And maybe that doesn't create the experience that you want.
WHITE: Through the kitchen.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: If this moves forward, that would be a good plan to follow up with some of the disabled groups in town to say, hey, what do you think about this?
TRAGESER: Yeah, Filner is being smart about it. He's not saying this is it. He presented the plan to the planning committee, and then they offered suggestions. So he's at least giving the appearance that he's willing to work with people and not have it be exactly the way he's saying it will be right now.
SAUER: You talked with Carl Luna, political scientist, he called this emphasis on building monument type structures an edifice complex.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: What did he say about why San Diego mayors tend to do that?
TRAGESER: An interesting reason. Most San Diego mayors don't really go on to higher office. So what they do here is maybe how they will be remembereded. So he said that's why they might focus on building these buildings as a way to memorialize themselves. He actually also said, and this wasn't in my story, but he thinks that Sanders is focused so strongly on downtown and that helped Filner in the election because Filner's campaign was it's all about the neighborhoods, enough with this focus downtown. We have to revitalize the neighborhoods. So maybe that ended up helping Filner.
WHITE: That was what I found interesting about your story. But I don't know what Filner has done in the neighborhoods. Has he done much thus far?
TRAGESER: Well, he certainly at least has his press conferences all throughout San Diego in a variety of neighborhoods. And people joke about this Filner everywhere.
WHITE: Right, doing a lot of ribbon-cutting.
TRAGESER: He's around in all the different places. Maybe it's too soon to tell what he promised, for example, the skate part in City Heights, and that actually -- I don't think there was funding for that in his budget. But maybe as he goes on, we'll see more what his emphasis is as he's building things or where he's spending his money.
SAUER: What does he say he's going to do now as head of the chamber?
TRAGESER: Oh, Sanders.
SAUER: Yes, I'm sorry, Sanders!
[ LAUGHTER ]
TRAGESER: He's going to work -- he is happy to work with Filner on fixing up roads and promoting small businesses especially in the neighborhoods. And he just went on a trip to Mexico City, which I guess is an annual trip for the chamber, where they talk to Mexican leaders about how can we work with you and improve the border and things like that.
SAUER: All right. We're going to move onto our environmental tragedy of enormous proportions. Here's a programming note, a retrospective special featuring former San Diego mayors will air next Wednesday at 6:30 PM on KPBS television.
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer. My guests today on the Roundtable are Claire Trageser and Jill Replogle of KPBS news. Susan White, Executive Editor, Inside Climate News. And Bob Lawrence, writer and media critic. So the headline says it all: "The Dilbit Disaster." Susan, congratulations, you edited this remarkable tale which earned a Pulitzer prize in the category of national reporting last week. Tell us about the three reporters who pulled this disparate story together.
WHITE: Well, first off, we're a very small organization. We only have seven employees. We have a very tiny budget. So we pulled out all the stops for this. And the reporters included a 26-year-old reporter who has very little experience. She just -- Lisa Song. Sheave happens to be brilliant. She has a science degree from MIT, decided she didn't want to be a scientist, got a masters in science writing, and came to work for us. We had a veteran reporter, Elizabeth McGowan who had never been projects or narratives. And at the end of the project, we called in David Hassenmayer from San Diego. When I was at the Union Tribune, Dave was one of my reporter, and we worked very closely and very well together on many big projects. And we always used to talk about someday we're going to work together and we're going to win a Pulitzer!
SAUER: Well, you did! And you deserve special praise for your work. It's your third Pulitzer prize-winning story that you've been editor on. Of the others the duke Cunningham scandal for the Union Tribune, and a hospital flooded during hurricane Katrina. Well done.
WHITE: Thank you.
SAUER: Let's get into the dilbit story now. It chronicles an ecological disaster in Michigan that appears to be waiting to happen in other places. Tell us what happened there in southwestern Michigan.
WHITE: On July 26th, or perhaps 25th, we're not exactly sure, a pipeline ruptured near the calla mazoo river, and this is a river that over the years had been restored. It used to be one of those rivers that took all kinds of industrial waste. And this part of the river was in very good shape, and people there were very proud of it. So this pipeline ruptured and the company that owned the pipeline, Enbridge Incorporated, a Canadian company, really wasn't sure what had happened for many, many hours. So more than a million gallons of something called dilbit.
SAUER: What is it dilbit?
WHITE: In the U.S., we're accustomed to conventional oil. If you've seen in movies, they drill for oil, and it spurts out into the air. That's conventional oil. But the older supplies of conventional oil are running out. And so there are -- we're now extracting oil that's much more difficult to obtain. And in Canada, they have vast reserves of something called bitumen. And bitumen, you mine it like coal. It's usually the consistency of peanut butter. And obviously it doesn't spurt out. So to get it to go through pipelines, you have to dilute it with usually liquid chemicals usually made from natural gas. So this is what goes through the pipeline, and it's called diluted bitumen. So when this spill occurred, it was the first time that there had been a major dilbit spill in the United States. Nobody, including the company, really understood what was going on happen, because this was an entirely different thing. So the EPA shows up, and there is not even -- the nation's pipeline regulations are very loose. There wasn't even a requirement that they tell the EPA what was in the pipeline.
SAUER: So the feds didn't even know what was going through the pipeline.
WHITE: No, they just thought it was oil, and they were very confident. Because we have had a lot of oil spills. We all know about them, and conventional oil, they have all these techniques, the EPA figured we'll go in there, clean this up. It will be what we're accustomed to doing. It wasn't until about a week -- more than a week later that the EPA discovered that things were not going the way they normally do. Normally the oil floats on the surface of water and you can just scoop it up. Well, they thought the oil was clearing. At first they were saying wow, this is really great! They were scooping it up, and they didn't see anymore. And at some point, some workers went out into the water, they waded out into the water, and they realized everywhere they walked, oil was coming up from the bottom of the river.
SAUER: Walking on the peanut butter oil.
WHITE: Yeah. So what had happened, the chemicals that had been added evaporated into the air, which was not a good thing for the people who lived there. And the bitumen reconstituted and became thick and sank to the bottom of the river. The problem, a lot of people were evacuated, several hundred. But the health authorities, there's so little known about this, there are really no standards about exposure time, what is safe. The main hazardous chemical is benzene. And you know how much a worker can be exposed to safely, but how much can people be exposed to? They don't know.
SAUER: And the county health official in Michigan, he didn't even know the pipelineexisted, right?
WHITE: No. The pipeline had been there since the 60s. And it just hadn't come up. It was probably on some emergency plan somewhere that no one paid much attention to. So really they were unprepared, and when all these health experts came in and started monitoring things, they didn't have the best equipment quickly, they didn't know should we evacuate the people? Should we not? And here's this health administrator trying to the best of his ability figure out --
SAUER: What should be done.
WHITE: Yeah, what should be done.
SAUER: And there's no real way to know what should be done.
WHITE: But the interesting thing is that this has not made as much news, but there was a recent spill of diluted bitumen in Arkansas on March 29th. Far less oil. We sent a reporter there, and what was shocking to us is that they still don't have a consensus about what standards are safe for human exposure, they didn't have all the right equipment at the scene. And they're still struggling to clean it up. It went right through a residential neighborhood, very nice, pretty area where -- about 6 years old, really. Nice, pretty houses backing up against a wood.
SAUER: Tell us about the calla mazoo river.
WHITE: It was nice. The people that we talked to there, they were very, very proud of it because it had been cleaned up. It used to be a nasty river, and it was a place where people liked to fish and boat. And today, or at least the last time we were there, when you went to take your -- to go out into the river in your boat, you're allowed to go boating there now. But they have little signs saying if you get oil on you, here's some wipes to take it off of you or your boat. And the sad thing about that spill is the spill -- there is still oil in the calla mazoo. And the EPA people who were sent to the scene three years ago, two of them are still there. They have spent almost three years of their lives there. And the EPA just ordered Enbridge to do another cleanup, and they're going to dredge several miles of the river bottom. And they said -- someone there said in one of the EPA documents we obtained, it said that the oil in these spots was like tar paddies.
SAUER: What about the federal watchdog efforts regarding oil pipelines?
WHITE: Well, we first did a 3-part narrative about the Michigan spill. And then we've now been reporting on pipelines and pipeline safety for almost a year and a half. So after that, we just took all we learned and tried to figure out what was going on. And our regulations are very weak. The agency that handles them is understaffed and underfunded. And some of the people involved in the agency have very close ties to the industry. So getting the regulations updated has been very difficult. And so you really have essentially regulations that were written decades ago for conventional oil now being used for this.
TRAGESER: I was just going to say, the most -- this story is very startling in many different ways. But for me, reading it about the employees who are able to just ignore these alarms that are going off over and over and over again over the course of the weekend and say, oh, well, we'll just check in with it on Monday and they kept turning up the pressure because they thought that there was a bubble in the pipe so they turned up the pressure and we'll pop the bubble. And alarms are going off and off and off. And they never had to do anything about it. I mean, it seems like if alarms are going off, they should do something! Report that to someone.
WHITE: You're right! Well, one of the things we discovered is that pipeline technology is not that sophisticated. And the companies like to brag, they have been telling people along the keystone route, don't worry, we have this wonderful technology, and there will be alarms, and if there is a spill, we'll be able to detect it. Well, we learned that on the keystone, it will be several hundred thousand gallons of oil spilled before the technology kicks in. Because the technology is very crude. And so the pressure drop will be monitored, they'll be watching on their monitors, but to register, tell be several hundred thousands gallons of oil that are already out. We discovered -- Lisa Song discovered that there is another technology available. It's been used. It's not untried. And it can detect leaks as small as 3-5 gallon, which is -- but it's only used on about 1% of the nation's pipelines. And they don't like to use it, the operators don't like to use it because it costs more. And also you have to be very careful when you're using it. You could get a lot of false positives. So it requires more sophistication. But if you're living in an area like the keystone is going to go across the Oklahoma aquifer, eight states depend on that water for irrigation and drinking water. It's huge.
SAUER: It's a huge project. I want to ask you go one overriding question regarding the media. Why wasn't this story picked up and screamed from the rooftops across the country?
WHITE: Well, it happened right after the BP oil spill. And at the beginning, the EPA thought this was going to be easily cleaned up. And there were stories about it. But they didn't go deep into it. It was as if we all were operating, it was another oil spill, and that's the way it was treated.
LAWRENCE: As Steven Colbert said, the media can only overplay 1 story at a time.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: We'll get into that in a moment! Thank you very much.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer. Republicans did an about-face on immigration reform following their drubbing in last November's elections. They joined a bipartisan effort to tackle the problem in fundamental ways not seen since the Regan administration. Tell us about the gang of eight and what task they set for themselves regarding the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
REPLOGLE: The gang of eight! There was a funny joke I think on Colbert about the gang, yeah.
[ LAUGHTER ]
REPLOGLE: John McCain, Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, we've got Marco Rubio, the --
SAUER: Rising star of the Republican party.
REPLOGLE: Exactly, exactly. And this group is half Republican, half Democrat. Demonstrations have been trying to get immigration reform pushed through for a couple years. After the elections Republicans had a wake-up call and said we need to get our face on this and make it happen.
SAUER: So they came to a deal of sorts. What is in the bill?
REPLOGLE: Long, long, long. 844 pages long. And there is so much in it, it's just about everything you can imagine that has to do with border security and immigration reform. In terms of the big section and the most controversial, estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, the main path to citizenship would grant most of them registered provisional immigrant status, that's what they're calling it, as a first step toward getting a green card and eventually possibly citizenship.
SAUER: And securing the border is a huge part of this, is it not?
REPLOGLE: Yeah, so there are a couple triggers, and there's sort of a big debate in the Republican party at how strong those triggers actually are. But the bill says that the department of Homeland Security has to first present a strategy for securing the southern border and a fencing strategy. So they're going to add more fence in Arizona along the border. And that has to happen before they can start processing these registered provisional immigrants. And then they have ten years to make substantial progress on that before anyone can start applying for green cards.
SAUER: You and John Roseman of our staff did an analysis of what the bill will mean to various groups of immigrants and long-term residents. Tell us about that story and what you guys tried to get out of this complicated bill.
REPLOGLE: So the big category is people who have been there -- and long-term, you actually just have to have been in the country for December 31st, 2011, -- do I have that right? I think so. And you have to show that you've been continually present in the country. You have to pay a fine, $1,000, you need to show that you don't have more than three -- no more than two misdemeanors on your record. No felonies. And then you can apply for this registered provisional immigrant status. And that's going to give you a work visa, you can work, you can travel.
LAWRENCE: What do those rules do for people who, say, went back to Mexico to visit their mother at Christmas time?
REPLOGLE: Well, if you got caught coming back, so if you have on your record that you illegally entered the country, you're out of luck.
LAWRENCE: I'm talking about the provision that you have to show that you have never left the country.
REPLOGLE: Well, if you left the country illegally and came back illegally, presumably there's no record of you leaving the country. If you came back and got caught, trying to come back, then that's going to be on your record and -- there's a long section in the bill about what's going to be considered and not.
WHITE: Do I understand you right? If I'm an illegal immigrant here, it's going to be another decade before I can apply for this? For a green card?
REPLOGLE: Right, yeah. That's why they created this other registered provisional status which will give you the work visa.
WHITE: Okay, okay.
REPLOGLE: And then you will be able to travel outside the country.
LAWRENCE: Aren't there still Republicans who are saying no way?
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Let's talk about that a little bit. What about the politics of this as we move forward? In the Senate, which would be more amenable, you'd think.
REPLOGLE: Yeah, well, the Boston bombing, which we're going to talk about soon through a big wrench in this in many ways. The Republicans -- or not the Republicans, but the gang of eight hoped this was going to be the big news of last week, and clearly it wasn't. And the Senate judiciary committee had hearings on this, their first hearings earlier this week, and you heard some Republicans saying there's no way we can talk about this right now. We just had this incident where people -- immigrants in this country injured hundreds of people and killed many, and how can we talk about immigration reform? And on the other side you have people saying this is exactly why we need to reform our system and get some security in place.
SAUER: We have a caller who wants to join us. Enrique, go ahead.
NEW SPEAKER: My comment is, it's important that we all remember that currently there is no line for people to get into. For the overwhelming majority of these undocumented people, it's not a long line. There is absolutely no line. So what the people are looking for, and we're right on the frontlines, out in the desert, we see the bodies out there, the 10,000 that have died since the wall was put up. What they're looking for is a pathway to become documented. And if there's a long wait, that's fine. What they want to do is become documented. So it's important that we realize this. I think a lot of times people are saying why don't they just get in line like my uncle or neighbor did? Today, in today's world, there is no line.
SAUER: All right, thanks very much. Jill?
REPLOGLE: Well, speaking of the line, that's another thing that needs to -- well, it's not exactly a trigger, but the reason, part of the reason they put this 10-year wait for green cards for people who are in the country illegally now is to try to get through some of the backlog they have of people who are waiting in line legally for their green cards which is a very long list, especially if you're from certain countries.
SAUER: Let's talk about highly-skilled workers and that aspect of this debate. Isn't there some controversy about the path to citizenship for highly skilled workers? Unemployed engineers?
REPLOGLE: Yeah, there is. And maybe it's because I wasn't paying attention to it, but I actually haven't really heard too many people voice that problem of potentially foreign workers taking jobs away -- high-skilled foreign workers taking jobs away from American workers until this all came up. Because people like Microsoft and Facebook are hoping to -- they've doubled in this bill the number of high-skilled worker visas. So they want that to happen. But there's this other group that's said you know what? The people who take these visas tend to be working in companies doing lower-level engineering work, work that could be done by American workers, and they're actually companies that are outsourcing a lot of jobs and using this as an excuse to not pay American workers more and to hire younger workers who are taking lower salaries because they haven't been in the workforce very well.
TRAGESER: That was going to be my question. How do you define high-skilled worker, low-skilled worker, and agricultural worker? Are there going to be very specific definitions that you have to make this much or work in this type of place?
REPLOGLE: Well, there's a couple different -- there's actually a new category of visa they're looking at here. They want to, at least in this bill, move visas toward a merit-based system as opposed to a family-based system as it is now. So there's this complicated formula for points that you get depending on whether or not you have a doctorate or a masters. And if you're needed in certain sectors. But there is currently a definition of what a high-skilled worker is, yeah, for purpose of immigration.
SAUER: And then the dreamers. We have had -- the president instituted this Dream Act. Remind us what that was and how that may play into this.
REPLOGLE: Well, the Dream Act still does not exist.
SAUER: Right. But it was the executive order.
REPLOGLE: Right, right Obama issued an executive order which gives young people in this country who are brought here by their parents under the age of 16 --
SAUER: They have been here their whole lives, basically.
REPLOGLE: Exactly. They've gone to high school here. So they right now have some sort of provisional legal status. But that's an executive order. They'll get a 5-year path to getting their green card. So they've a shorter path. They still have to go through this registered provisional immigrant status. But they can get their green card in five years.
WHITE: The distressing thing to me in the latest round of debate over the immigrants who were involved, allegedly involved in the Boston bombing, is that it takes away attention from the fact that immigration reform is in the best interests of our country. And the majority of people are here working already. And there are so many tangible benefits to making their lives legal, and I keep thinking make to a story that Sandra Dibble wrote for the Union Tribune, and it was about a father and a mother who were deported. They had lived in the U.S. 20 years. They pay taxes, they owned a house, the father ran a landscape business and worked as a cook in a restaurant. The only reason we found out about this story at the time was that the children who were born in the U.S. were honor students at a local school, and the teacher was so distressed that she called the Union Tribune. And I keep thinking back, we want that father, he's living the American dream. We want those children, those are successful children. And instead, the parents were deported, the children were left in the care of an aunt, and the children had never even been to Mexico. They were American kids. So it was a really terrible thing. And I think of this being duplicated all across the United States. And these are the people that this is about. They're the masses.
SAUER: You see that kind of story all the time, do you not?
REPLOGLE: Yeah, definitely. But there are -- and I was reminded this the other day, there's still a lot of parts of the country that don't see that on a daily basis, I guess.
LAWRENCE: They don't get it.
REPLOGLE: Yeah, exactly. It's spreading, definitely, because you find -- one of our reporters at fronteras desk is currently in Wisconsin doing a story about Latinos working in the dairy business there. So it's not just on the southern border anymore. And also I read something else interesting today about if and when this gets to the House, it's going to be such a different situation because you've got a lot of representatives who do have local interests like that. They're in agricultural state where is they depend on Latino workers. But you're going to have other areas that are highly Republican and don't have a connection to this and are not interested at all in getting this passed.
SAUER: We're going to have to wrap it there on immigration reform.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable. I'm Mark Sauer.
(Audio Recording Played)
(Pick a little, talk a little, from the music man. )
SAUER: Well, that's a light-hearted intro into what's a very sad occasion, of course. We're talking about the tragic bombing in Boston last week. The smoke has not yet cleared on the terror attack, and the media storm struck. It was a fast-breaking story ultimately involving two bombs, three fatalities, 170 wounded victims, and an unknowable number of tweets, reports, conspiracy conclusions, conclusions. Upon far too many of them were just plain wrong. Bob, you've spent years critiquing television. You also wrote quite a lot about broadcast journalism. What's your first impression of everything we took in on this story?
LAWRENCE: As they used to say in political scandals, mistakes were made.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Yes, they certainly were!
LAWRENCE: And what's happened is -- I used to work for United Press. And we were judged there on whether you got the news out one minute before the AP, or one minute after the AP. That goes back a ways, but the rule still applies, in terms of the media today, and even more so. Because there are so many more people competing. Whether it's the wire services, newspapers, newspapers putting stuff on the web before they go to print, wall to wall cable, and all the social media who are a new element in all of this.
SAUER: Everybody wants to be first. And as we saw with CNN and the cable outlets, we weren't always right, were we?
LAWRENCE: No. And it used to be that if you're working for a newspaper, for example, as I did for many year, you would be working on a story, and you would hear something and decide, well, should that go in my story? And you had time to find out that it wasn't true. So then you kept it out.
SAUER: Make some calls, think about it, do some research.
LAWRENCE: Exactly. And today, that's not so. Because what happens, you turn on the television, or you go to one of the many news websites, and you find the story being assembled. There's an old adage, if you love the law or sausage, you don't want to watch either one being made.
SAUER: Right. But we can't help but watch this!
LAWRENCE: And the same is true of journalism now. If you love journalism and you love the news, and you love your country and you want to know what's going on, then it's very dangerous really to pay a whole lot of attention to all those news things because you've got web vigilantes, people who think they're going to track down the guy by being on Facebook or whatever.
SAUER: And let's talk about that. We had this spectacle of crowdsourcing last week. A San Diego state professor Eric frost who was involved with this, and his software was used by the FBI to take these massive amounts of images they had to create this basically 3-D movie, and at some point, they released these images out this.
LAWRENCE: The pictures were there, one of them was on the front page of the New York Post under the headline "bagmen."
SAUER: Was that ever wrong!
LAWRENCE: That was really, really wrong! That was just a couple of high school kids who had nothing to do with anything. And one of them went to the police to say I'm not that guy! I had nothing to do with this! I'm just your average high school kid.
SAUER: At some point, crowdsourcing becomes witch hunting.
LAWRENCE: It does. People become vigilantes. That's what happened in this case. And many mistakes were made by people who should know better. Most famously, John King on CNN reported that a dark-skinned male had been arrested. Fox and AP, and the Boston Globe picked it up!
SAUER: They all picked it up.
LAWRENCE: And they ran with it! And early in the day it was reported that another bomb went off on the JFK library on the Harvard campus. What happened, it was just a fire, accidental, nothing to do with anything. And so it just goes on and on. And I've come up with this idea that in a way, by watching the news like this, and watching it all develop, it's not faster. It's slower. Because you spend all your time on it.
SAUER: Uh-huh, right.
LAWRENCE: And at the end of the day, in you're really a news junkie and you want to see all this, and you go through all these false reports, you're watching the sausage being made, at the end of the day, what you end up with is the same thing that the person who goes about his business during the day and then sits down and watches the CBS evening news, and they learn in 15 minutes what you took all day to learn.
SAUER: Right. And went down several rabbit trails that were false.
SAUER: Claire, a big part of your job lately at KPBS has been social media, watching all the Twitter feeds. What do you think about what we saw last week on Twitter? There certainly is a use for this, but --
TRAGESER: Yeah, I think the point is that it's not going to be that way anymore where we can just check in at the end of the day and find out what the news is. It is instantaneous, it's happening all the time, and people want to be involved. And that's very a lot of people, their main way of taking in news, is something big happened? Oh, let me just check my Twitter feed and see what's going on. So I would hope that by now, news organizations would have adapted to this environment, but it seems like repeatedly in the past year, you know, we had the Supreme Court ruling on healthcare where they were saying that it had been rejected when it turns out that it hadn't.
SAUER: Right. And that came out the same way Bob was describing, instantaneously, to be first.
TRAGESER: But we're not going to get people to slow down or say take an hour and think about this. I think that it's just -- when a news organization tweets something, they need to imagine that tweet as the front page of the newspaper or something like that. Like giant headline, this is going to last forever. You're saying that this is true. If it turns out to not be true, you're going to have to live with it.
LAWRENCE: And the temptation is so great, and it's -- a lot of it is not necessarily the eagerness to be first. It's the dread of being last. And that's why they'll jump on the air with these kinds of things. And it's going to happen again. But I don't want to say it's all a bad thing. Just today, or yesterday, there was the news that on Facebook solved a murder. It was a murder that happened in 1968. Actually, it's a hit and run case that a little girl was killed in upstate Florida. A detective who have worked on the case posted a story about it on Facebook just within the last week or two. Somebody who had been connected with the case at the time saw this story, remembered something they had forgotten, called the police, solved the case.
SAUER: Ah! Well, there you go.
LAWRENCE: And this happened in 1968. And so -- it's both good and bad.
SAUER: Right. And all of us who worked in newsrooms, we want to be part of the big story. The adrenalin gets jumping, we've all felt that, and now with the social media, you're a publisher too! You're on Twitter, Facebook! So there is that urge and addiction for a lot of people.
LAWRENCE: Well, it is, and it's true whether they know anything or not.
SAUER: That's the problem.
WHITE: But the big question to me is how are news organizations supposed to adapt to this? If people want the news insanely, that means by nature of that, you don't have to time, you cannot go and check your sources to make sure that you're right. So what do people do? It seems to me that we're in a cycle that it's just going to keep happening.
SAUER: And then you have these comical things, John Stewart the other night with CNN folks are standing out there, and four times the woman said the canine dog is barking! My dog is a canine too, it turns on out. And the streets are deserted here in watertown. It's like a bomb went off. Yes? I think it did!
TRAGESER: There is something about forcing people who have nothing to say to continue to talk. And that seems to be what 24 hour cable news is.
LAWRENCE: Well, that's the flip side of CNN and Fox News. They got to report 24 hours a day.
SAUER: I'd like to thank my guests.