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Things We’ve Learned From Frontline In The Past Year

Like I said in a previous piece, Frontline is actually a good program and consistently one of the best investigative journalism programs on today. NBC’s Dateline focuses on True Crime more than anything these days (Blame Ann Curry, as she ruined the program). CBS’s 60 Minutes tackles a lot of great topics that nobody else covers and they do get a lot of exclusive interviews, but their problem is time. Their segments usually run about 10-20 minutes depending on perceived importance for the night. The result is a very tightly packed together cliff note’s version of the topic. It’s still very useful, but they could benefit greatly from expanded segments.

Frontline on the other hand devotes almost an hour to each of their segments. The result is usually a thorough look at the topic with lots of time spent on gathering evidence, examining reasoning, looking at consequences, etc. Point is, you usually get a very good all-encompassing examination of a topic.

Here’s some particularly informing episodes from the past year that are worth a look at:

Flying Cheap:

Airing a year ago from when I’m writing and publishing this piece, this program is a hard look at the cost-cutting measures the airlines are currently employing. From regional airliners, to poor employee working conditions, safety bypasses, Frontline looks at the current state of the industry to see if we’ve reached our breaking point. The answer? Yes. Yes we are.


The Vaccine War:

Are they miracle cures, or are they simply contributing to new problems? The program goes in-depth into the controversies surrounding vaccines, examines what’s behind the controversy, and whether the claims are valid.  They present both sides very well, and it’s near-essential viewing for any parent.


College Inc.:

Examining a fairly recent trend in the education system, this piece looks at the pros and cons of the for-profit college industry. It also takes a look at the environment that has essentially created the need for these types of institutions due to the massive problems in government-run colleges.


The Confessions:

The tale of the Norfolk Four is told in this tale from our modern justice system. Essentially, the men were accused of a crime they didn’t commit since no real evidence was found against him, but were forced to confess due to the use of techniques by a local detective that would be controversial for use on terrorists. The result is a travesty of the justice system, these men’s lives, and of law enforcement, since the detective has recently be convicted of extortion charges.


Flying Cheaper:

A follow-up to their last report on the airline industry, this 20-minute episode looks at the trend of outsourcing maintenance in the airline industry. The result is a system that highly emphasizes profits over safety to the point where these centers will check off a plane as inspected when they haven’t even look at it simply to catch-up when they’re behind schedule. They’ll also use unauthorized parts on the planes they inspect.  Add to that the fact that they’re not well regulated by the FAA and the fact that most of these centers are US-based, and this is a very informative piece that shows you even more flaws with the airline industry.


Post Mortem:

Done by Lowell Bergman, aka Al Pacino from the excellent 1999 film, “The Insider,” this program looks at what happens to us after we die. Specifically the part that deals with coroners, aka the people that determine your cause of death. Did you know that 1,300 coroners in America are elected? What about the fact that many of these elected coroners don’t even have a scientific or medical background, despite the fact that their whole job is to officially determine how you died. Did you know that Michael Jordan’s father had his autopsy done outside on a hot South Carolina day, where his body was actively and rapidly decomposing? What about the fact that many of these coroner’s offices don’t have enough refrigeration space, so they’ll simply cremate the body after a couple of days? As a result, murderers go free, innocent people are sent to jail, and families are devastated. It’s a truly fascinating piece indeed.


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