Sunday, April 17, 2005

The presentation by Nexstar CEO Perry Sook at the Wachtavia Conference Wednesday (read more about it in the April 16 Turner Report) was fascinating in more ways than one, but most intriguing was Sook's take on the latest Nielsen ratings.
Sook crowed about how KODE and KSNF had held their own during the February sweeps. But if the Nielsen ratings are so important to him, then why is Nexstar no longer paying for Nielsen's ratings, or at least that is my understanding.
Also, even a cursory examination of the most recent Nielsen ratings show that the Nexstar stations were getting their clocks cleaned by KOAM. If the ratings have held their own, or are up, as Sook seems to be saying, then that would seem to indicate that Nexstar's decision to pull its programming off Cable One in Joplin, Miami, and Independence, actually helped bring in more viewers. That seems rather hard to believe.
Sook also said during the Wachtavia Conference that Cable One in Joplin had lost 20 percent of its subscribers...from what he had been told. He didn't say where the information came from, and it could be true, but it also sounds like Sook is attempting to shore up his position with investors and is hoping that either cable caves in to Nexstar, which seems unlikely at this point, or other broadcasters decide to try the same tactic. If that happens, then Nexstar, and Sook, are going to end up in the driver's seat.
Kenneth Choe, the attorney who has joined Webb City High School teenager LaStaysha Myers' First Amendment lawsuit against Webb City R-7 Superintendent Ron Lankford, High School Principal Steven Gollhofer, and Assistant Principal Jeff Thornberry, has represented the American Civil Liberties Union in a number of important cases involving gay and lesbian rights.
In this instance, Choe and Joplin attorney William Fleischaker will defend a 15-year-old heterosexual who was not allowed to wear t-shirts to support her friend, Brad Mathewson, during his battle to be allowed to wear gay pride shirts to school.
One of the most publicized cases in which Choe has been involved has been the effort to win benefits for same-sex couples in Oregon. The ACLU was dealt a blow in that case this past week when the Oregon Supreme Court delayed a ruling in the case. The ACLU's lawsuit was thrown off course after Oregon voters barred same-sex marriages, similar to decisions made by voters in Missouri and Kansas.
The lawsuit was filed March 24, 2004, brought a group called Basic Rights Oregon to help nine same-sex couples who wanted to be legally married. The publicity surrounding the lawsuit was a driving force behind the constitutional amendment that barred same-sex marriages. After the amendment passed, ACLU lawyers changed their tactic to seek civil unions, in which same-sex couples would be guaranteed the same privileges as traditional couples. That change, though, resulted in the court's decision to delay the case, saying that this was not what the case was initially about.
Choe has also been involved in a Maryland lawsuit that challenges a state law barring gay marriage.
The Webb City case is not the only recent case in which he has been involved in a school-related controversy. KLFY, a Lafayette, La., television station, reports Choe suffered a recent setback in that community.
The ACLU took the case of a seven-year-old who was disciplined after telling his classmates that his parents were gay and then attempting to explain to them what that meant. His teacher sent home a letter saying that kind of discussion would not be tolerated in her class.
The boy's lesbian parents, Sharon Huff and Heather Manley, asked for an apology from the Board of Education, which voted 5 to 3 not to offer that apology.
School officials said the child was not punished for talking about gays, but for other reasons which they did not go into. The ACLU indicated it is considering filing a lawsuit against the school board.
Choe and the ACLU have also had a major victory recently. The Texas Civil Liberties Dispatch, a newsletter for the Texas ACLU, said, "Another case resolved without judicial intervention involved a high school in McAllen that prohibited a group of students from starting a group around issues of concern to lesbian and gay youth and their allies- Helping Unite Gays and Straights (HUGS)."
The article said Choe wrote a letter to Principal George Padilla protesting the decision. Two weeks later, Padilla said it had all been a misunderstanding and the students "certainly had a right to be recognized as a student organization."
The Neosho Daily News reports that former O'Sullivan Industries executive Gary Reed Blankenship will have a pretrial hearing May 26 in Newton County Circuit Court. Blankenship is charged with possession of child pornography, promoting obscenity, and enticement of a child in connection with another of Diamond police officer Jim Murray's Internet stings.
State Representative Kevin Wilson, R-Neosho, addressed the ongoing education situation during last week's Carthage Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues breakfast, according to an article by Carthage Press Managing Editor Ron Graber.
Wilson said the discussions have put rural and urban areas on one side with suburban districts on the other and said no incomplete and unfair plan would be pushed through just to get something done.
"We owe it to the kids of Missouri to make sure we get this one right," Wilson said.
While Wilson was saying all of the right things about education at the breakfast, the Press article quoted Rep. Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, as feeding some red meat to the business audience. talking about the changes that have been made concerning worker's compensation and lawsuits that make Missouri "more hospitable for business."
Hunter said more needed to be done to curb problems with insurance costs and unemployment. I have the feeling he was referring to the costs of unemployment to businesses, not the cost of not having a job to families across Missouri.
The article also quoted Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, as saying, "It has been an amazing year," after he proclaimed that the legislature is working to make the state more attractive to businesses.

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