Out of money, out of time, and in a coma (5×8 – 2/12/14)

Muhammad Shahzaib Bajwa, 20, was spending a semester in an exchange program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, when the car he was in struck a deer. Though he was alive and talking when he reached a hospital in Cloquet, he choked on blood there and went into cardiac arrest, the Associated Press says. He was resuscitated and transferred to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth. He’s been in a coma ever since.

What should the hospital do with Mr. Bajwa? His student visa expires at the end of the month. The hospital wants to send him back to Pakistan.

His bills have reached $350,000 and his health insurance is tapped out, according to the family.

“If we take him back to Pakistan this is certainly pushing him toward death,” his brother tells the AP. “We don’t want him to die in a miserable condition in a third-world country. It’s better if he stays here.”

The police had to be called to a West Fargo arena Sunday morning, the Fargo Forum reports. As usual, at a fight involving youth sports, it was the adults who were the problem.

“There was a dispute between a set of parents and an opposing coach. Words were exchanged, and they eventually had a small fight that took place in the locker room,” said Assistant Chief Mike Reitan of the West Fargo Police Department.

The kids in the tournament were 7 and 8 years old.

NPR is not typically a go-to source for sports coverage. Its audience, the experts say, don’t really care for sports that much. That makes it tough for someone to be a sports reporter at NPR and now the network is losing Mike Pesca.

Pesca is leaving for Slate because, Business Insider says, he wants to be able to provide an informed opinion.

Pesca’s show will run about 20 minutes in length each day, with the host likely interviewing several guests about two or three of the day’s big news stories. Since 2009, Pesca has been a co-host of Slate’s weekly sports podcast, “Hang Up and Listen,” which is currently ranked by iTunes as the 80th most popular audio podcast.

While his old employers at NPR discouraged reporters from expressing their opinions — so as not to give the appearance of bias — Pesca said he won’t shy away from putting his own personal spin on the day’s news at Slate.

“I think that on NPR, the word opinionated is seen as a pejorative because opinionated on radio usually means forceful, unfair, or incurious,” Pesca said. “I want to have an opinion or a take, but I want to be more curious than opinionated.”

Pesca’s plight represents a challenge for mainstream media. He’s got the knowledge to be informed, but there’s always someone out there ready to twist any sign of an informed observation into proof of bias. As a result, upstarts are siphoning off the best and the brightest.

Update Check out Pesca’s farewell letter to NPR staff. (h/t: Romenesko)

From: Mike Pesca
Date: February 12, 2014 at 12:16:11 AM GMT+4
To: News
Subject: Goodbye #longreads

I have worked at NPR for 10 glorious years and I have the clock radio to prove it. Because my anniversary gift, which edged out tongs, an electric bug zapper and tasteful turquoise earrings, is compatible with the iphone, but is not specifically compatible with the iPhone 5, I had a choice. Quit now or work five more years to qualify for the iPhone 5 adapter. It was a tough decision, not made any easier by the fact that NPR owns my iPhone, so if I left I’d have to surrender that anyway. By the way – everyone talks about healthcare portability; what about email and cell phone numbers? We need a COBRA for @npr.org addresses.

Now, this idea of surrendering your cell phone – that’s not sad. To me it’s turning in your microphone that’s fraught with symbolism. …

I want to emphasize that while there is no single reason why I’m leaving, a big one is that they’re paying me to. But also there’s a smaller, more subtle reason, and I hope you’ll indulge me as I try to explain what it is.

Kronos. I hate Kronos. If anyone asks why I’m leaving tell them that I cannot take Kronos for one more minute. Named for the mythological being who castrated his father and ate all of his children, Kronos was my downfall, my Waterloo, my No Gun Ri, my I’d Rather Eat Pants. Can’t enter a time in a line without a punch? No I can’t, or at least I won’t have to anymore you obdurate, nonsense-spewing compu-demon.

During my time at NPR I feel that I have reported, written, interviewed, and tracked for free, my pay has been in recompense for filling out time sheets and filing expense reports.

Fun Fact: Did you know that actuarial tables predict that by 2074 journalism will consist of a single reporter and 4000 social media strategists to retweet him? Fun Fact.

I started at NPR when a new show called Day to Day decided to hire a wet-behind-the ears kid who believed in the magic of sound. When he died of an as-yet unexplained outer ear infection they hired me instead. JJ Sutherland was the producer, Jay Kernis the imagineer, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. Alex Chadwick was the host of the show and he encouraged unconventionality, creativity, whimsy and risk taking. Madeleine Brand, Martha Little, Luke Burbank, Jeff Rogers, and Neal Carruth also enthused, nurtured, goaded and peer-pressured.. That show was a great Petri dish for me and radio, thanks to the efforts of many many others (like Kathryn, Martina, Alex, Jacob, Karen, Hippólito, Laura, Chip, Poncho, Sven, Ki, Steve, Jeremy, Rob, Nihar, “The Gooch”, Alicia, Ki, Unctuous Lorenzo and the Big Man.)

Fun Fact: Since 2007 Italy has had 5 different Prime Ministers, NPR 7 acting or permanent CEO’s. Italy is still up 1-0 in Bunga Bunga however.

I helped out on a show called The Bryant Park Project, which is remembered a little like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica. Hugely ambitious but you might not want to listen to it. Still some great talent there: Caitlin Kenney, Ian Chillog, Dan Pashman, Win Rosenfeld, Matt Martinez, this chick named Rachel Martin. She was fairly talented, NPR let her go soon thereafter.

But the real joy of my radio career has been working with the affable geniuses of the NY bureau. Robert Smith is not only the best reporter, he is in possession of the most diagnostic mind there is about radio. He shows that creativity and order are not enemies. (I do not embody that particular dichotomy). David Folkenflik is the consummate journalist; one who knows that if he were to hold other journalists to his own high standards of consummation very little journalism would be consummated. No, Zoe Chace is not from Chicago but has become like a sister to me. She is constitutionally unable to make boring radio.

Elsewhere on the organizational chart Steve Drummond was a booster and a great generator of ideas and insights into the color palette of Barney Miller. (50 Shades of Brown). Quinn O’Toole was the best editor I ever had. Here’s why: HE KEPT THE JOKES. This seems to be some sort of editing dictum, that says: “if it’s 8 seconds long we can just lose the jokes. “We can…”, Quinn rightly pointed out, “But that would make it a little worse.” Also, if Quinn said the line wasn’t really working I’d always believe him. I want to thank Tom Goldman for being the home to my away in every 2-3-2 series; the kiss-cam to my t-shirt cannon.

My editors Uri Berliner and Denise Rios shared a trait within the NPR corps that qualified them to be sports editors- they were the ones who knew how much a free throw was worth. They were both great collaborators.

Note to Robert Smith: It’s 1 point.

I also wanted to thank Robert Siegel and Steve Inskeep. I know we are not a star system but if we were these two guys would be the Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks of NPR. In fairness, Steve never starred in a gender-bending sit-com opposite Peter Scolari, though Robert DID carry on a life long affair with Katherine Hepburn. Both Steve and Robert would frequently implicitly or explicitly endorse much of my on air merriment. Approval at this level is really encouraging. Robert, in particular had this habit of emailing me about certain stories I reported, a citation of the Sports Illustrated article from 1968 at the ready. I’d look it up in the SI archives, he’d always be right, and I’d always be edified.

Fun Fact: At this Moment David Sweeney is two sentences into his “All-Staff” about overly long farewell emails.

A few years ago, before Planet Money gave Adam Davidson the outlet he needed, thus sating his ambitions for a month or two, he would make this analogy about buggy whip manufacturers. He’d say that even if you were the best buggy whip manufacturer in the world, when the buggy went away so did your business. He was really talking about radio, or maybe the city of Cleveland, hard to tell now that I think about it. I love Adam, and think he’s a brilliant guy, but, for the record, I don’t think radio or NPR is in the buggy whip game. I think we’re the best broadcaster in the USA. Also, former buggy whip maker Timken Co. has a market cap of $5 billion, so, Adam’s analogy, there’s that.

But I have always wanted NPR to be a weeee bit more ambitious or daring, to be willing to take risks outside our comfort zone. So I’m leaving to do a daily podcast about things other than sports, though sometimes sports, because I like sports. My new email is Mike.Pesca@slate.com which will give you some idea of where I’ll be working. I’ll also continue on chatting with Rachel on a weekly basis, and talks are ongoing about my doing other public radio things as well. I will probably continue to appear on cable television, which for you interns is like SnapChat but with a bigger screen. This twitter account should have details.

As I say, I’m leaving because I was paid to do so, and because I’m excited for this new phase. But I will miss working for a place that I am so proud of, that puts out a product that I routinely am in awe of, and that carries such tremendous social cachet in certain precincts of Brooklyn. But of course what I’ll miss most is the people. And the iPhone 5.

Thanks for a tremendous decade,

Mike Pesca

More media: The nation’s newspapers are facing their own “Car Talk” dilemma. Garry Trudeau is ending the daily Doonesbury comic strip to devote his attention to a TV show. But papers face a decision: Eliminate Doonesbury entirely, or pay for “reruns”? Mankato Free Press editor Joe Spear faces a political call on the question.

More sports: If baseball isn’t the national pastime, then why do athletes from other sports want to be baseball players?

If a woman is impregnated by a rapist, should he have parental rights. Minnesota and North Dakota are two of only 18 states in the country that don’t automatically limit or eliminate any parental rights for rapists. Five states of the states are considering changing that, the Washington Post reports. Minnesota isn’t one of them.

Opponents say it’s unfair to remove the rights in cases where individuals haven’t been found guilty of rape. But proponents point to the statistics surrounding rape. About 2 in 3 rapes were not reported to police between 2006 and 2010, according to a Justice Department analysis. Even among those who do report the crime, convictions are often hard to secure because evidence can be hard to produce.

In early December, an Albert Lea woman posted this picture on Facebook, which James Kenison from MedCity Hovercraft saw. He enlisted the help of his dad, Douglas, to rescue three deer who were stranded on a lake for several days. It got a little attention from local media, but now it’s about to take off. GoPro released the video yesterday.

More news from a frozen lake: Have you ever wondered about the people who try to drive on a barely-frozen lake? Us, too.

More Good Samaritans: Are you a good Samaritan? (Public Insight Network).

Bonus I: Photographer Travis Hodges was skeptical about joining Twitter. He decided he would only do it if he could use Twitter as a creative tool, and as a way to meet people in real life, the BBC says. So began Travis’s “Follow Me” project – a way of meeting and getting to know people before photographing them.

Bonus II: With a pilot shortage looming, airlines defy all economic laws and keep wages at rock bottom. (Blogging at FL250).

Bonus III: A little more than three years ago, Dallas city councilman Joel Burns took the country by storm when he delivered this surprising moment on the subject of bullying.

Last night he announced he’s resigning his seat and moving out of Texas to attend the Kennedy school at Harvard, suggesting we haven’t heard the last of him.


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. (Rebroadcast)

Second hour: Three views of JFK. (Rebroadcast)

Third hour: British journalist Simon Winchester dives into the history of his adopted homeland to explore the men who created the United States of America. Researching inventors, explorers and big thinkers – Winchester looks at what it took to make the country we know today. (Rebroadcast)

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – America Abroad: Women’s rights after the Arab Spring. Barbara Bogaev, host.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The U.N. has been helping move hundreds out of the city old city of Homs in Syria, but thousands remain, including the sick and injured.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Students around the country are enjoying snow days, lots of them. And that’s left school administrators scrambling. NPR considers how all the winter closings will affect the rest of the school year.