Getting Your Thoughts on Arizona’s Immigration Law

Arizona’s illegal immigrant law won’t kick in until summer, but there’s already heated debate on both sides going on in the courtroom, in Congress and in towns across America.

WTOP TALKBACK: What’s your opinion of Arizona’s immigration law?

Take a listen to my two reports and let me know what you think!

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 1:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Developments in the Brian Betts Case

Three arrests Monday and one Tuesday in the murder of DC Middle School Principal Brian Betts.

Alante Saunders, Sharif Tau Lancaster and Deontra Gray, all eighteen years old, are charged with first-degree murder and armed robbery.

And Lancaster’s mother 46-year old Artura Williams, is charged with using the principal’s credit card the day after he died.

WTOP’s team coverage begins with what police believe is the motive.

Take a listen and let me know what you think (my wrap is the last one)!

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Should Parents Spank Their Children?

A study from Tulane University this month finds children who are spanked frequently as toddlers are more likely to be aggressive when they being kindergarten.

“Toddlers that are spanked more frequently at age 3 are at increased risk for being more aggressive at age 5,” said Catherine Taylor, assistant professor of Community Health Sciences at Tulane and lead author of the study. “We found this to be true even after taking into account other factors that might have explained this association such as the parents’ level of stress, depression, use of drugs or alcohol, and the presence of other aggression within the family.”

The researchers studied 2,500 mothers and found 54.4% spanked their children at least once per month, 45.6% reported no spankings.

WTOP TALKBACK: Do you think spanking a child is an acceptable form of discipline?

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

New Tarmac Rules Meant to Make Air Travel Smoother

On Thursday, new rules will go into effect that set a three-hour time limit for airlines to keep passengers on the tarmac to take off or land. 

Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters that airlines who violate the policy do so at their own peril.  The fine could run $27,500 per passenger.

“There will be strong enforcement,” LaHood told reporters in a conference call. “I just think that has to part of our plan to make sure that passengers understand and that airlines understand we’re serious about this.”

After three hours, planes must return to a gate unless the flight’s captain decides its unsafe to do so or it would interfere with airport operations.  The rule also requires airlines to provide passengers with working toilets and, after two hours, food and water.

WTOP TALKBACK: What’s the worst experience you’ve had with an airline? Take a listen to my reports and let me know what you think!

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Are You Prepared for the Next Supreme Court Nomination?

If you aren’t ready, why not? Remember the old Boy Scouts motto: “Always be prepared”. Nothing could be more true for a producer. If you can’t be prepared for what you know is coming, then you’ll be lost when the unexpected hits. And trust me, it will happen!

If the past is any indicator, President Obama will name his nominee around mid-May, so you should begin your homework now.

Who’s on the President’s list? Here’s a list I’ve compiled from several news outlets:

1) Elena Kagan, Solicitor General

2) Judge Diane Wood ot the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

3) Judge Merrick Garland of the DC Court of Appeals.

4) Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan

Those four are considered the frontrunners.  Does that mean you prepare for only these four?  NO!  Like a Professor who provides 8 essay questions and says 4 will show up on the final exam, you could “guess” and prepare for 6.  But, what happens if you’re wrong? The A+ student is ready for all 8 options. The A+ producer is the same.

Here are the other “less likely” names on the list: Janet Napolitano, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Cass Sunstein, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.


Very good question. There are several categories of people you can target.

1) Supreme Court Watchers: These people are often either lawyers who argue before the Court frequently. It’s up to you to do the homework, but here’s one freebie: Thomas Goldstein. He’s a Supreme Court specialist at Akin-Gump in Washington DC and he runs He’s a highly sought after guest and he’s always insightful into Supreme Court matters.

2) Constitutional Scholars: These are people who follow constitutional issues, not necessarily the Courts. They comment on the key issues and how someone reads the Constitution. Law school professors often call this “Constitutional Interpretation” and some categories include: Literalism, Normative, Original Intent.

3) Professors of Law: These people teach law, teach the Court and follow current events. Two schools with great resources are Georgetown and Stanford Universities. In fact, Stanford has it’s own Supreme Court Litigation Clinic with several great professors who follow the courts.

4) Think Tanks: Many of them have constitutional law guys. But do your research! Several think-tanks have specific political tints.

5) Journalists: There’s good news-bad news here. Journalists who follow the Court will not give you a partisan analysis, but there will not likely be much analysis either. Reporters don’t state their opinion, they just state the facts. Nonetheless, Joan Biskupic covers the Court for USA Today and Linda Greenhouse at Yale University use to cover it for the New York Times.

6) Former Clerks: Lots of these former clerks are now lawyers and Professors, but I separate them here because every one of these potential nominees have had clerks. Who knows Merrick Garlan or Diane Wood better than a former clerk who worked for them? 


The best resources available come from newspapers, radio and TV. Go into the archives for the Washington Post, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and see who they quote in Supreme Court articles. You can similiarly go into the archives for CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS, PBS, ABC. Go to their websites. Or consider Lexis-Nexis. It’s a paid service and it’s not cheap, but you’ll get access to more data than you can handle. If you don’t want to pay, don’t worry. Lexis-Nexis offers free access to TV Transcripts for the major news outlets. Surf around the ‘Net and you’ll find some good stuff. The same applies to radio outlets like CBS, CNN, ABC, and Fox News.   Or, go the library and do some digging. Go back to your college roots.

My home always has a huge stack of newspapers, transcripts and lists piled up. That’s how my Rolodex has 2,500 names and growing!


Three places are the best way to track down phone numbers for any topic: Google,, White Pages. Lets say you want to find me: Ari Ashe. Where is WTOP? Washington D.C. Google it and you find my work number is 202-895-5000. How about where I live? Go to and type my name in. You’ll find me. And then go to the White Pages, type in my name and city. You’ll find me. Not every source will have their number listed, but many do.


Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Some of Ari Ashe’s Reporting

Here’s some stuff from Thursday night from the WTOP Talkback on whether you think Congress should pass a financial reform bill.  Also below are a couple of reports for Saturday evening about the iPhone 4G prototype.  One report focuses on whether this was a PR stunt or genuine mistake and the other is about lessons each cell phone user can take from the story.

Take a LISTEN and ENJOY!

930 PM LIVE on Financial Reform
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1030PM LIVE on Financial Reform
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1130PM LIVE on Financial Reform
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Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  

What Kind of Car Do You Drive?

A new Associated Press-GfK out reports 38-percent favor US cars while only 33-percent prefer Asian brands, a significant improvement for Detroit compared to four years ago.

In a December 2006 AP-AOL poll, 46 percent said Asian countries made superior cars, while just 29 percent said American automakers did.

Sales tracking firms have confirmed that Toyota’s market share has gone down while Detroit’s Big Three rose in the last month.

You can

WTOP TALKBACK: What kind of car do you drive? And which companies do you think make the best automobiles?

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I Can’t Believe It’s Not Salt!!

The Institute for Medicine, which advises the FDA on health issues, is recommending the agency set mandatory limits for the amount of salt in food.

“We believe we can achieve some substantial voluntary reductions,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We are shaping a strategy, and that strategy involves working in partnership.”

But that doesn’t make some happy.

“This needs to be a mandatory standard,” said Dr. Jane E. Henney of the University of Cincinnati, who headed the IOM’s study. Because salt is so “ubiquitous, having one or two in the industry make strong attempts at this doesn’t give us that even playing field over time. It’s not sustainable.”

The average American eats more than double the recommended sodium levels in a given day. And the American Medical Associate predicts 150,000 lives could be saved per year if Americans cut their sodium intake by one-half.

Government guidelines set 2,300 milligrams of sodium as the maximum daily intake. But the IOM says people need just 1,500 a day for good health, and even less if they’re over 50.

WTOP TALKBACK: Do you think the FDA should regulate the salt content in the food you eat?

Take a listen and tell me what you think!

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gun Policy in the Mid-Atlantic

WTOP TALKBACK: What’s your opinion on gun policy in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia?

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Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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DC School Principal Killed: The Inside Story You Don’t Know

If you live in the Washington DC Metro region, you’ve probably read that a DC School Principal was killed last night, and sources are saying it looks like murder. Brian Betts was a long-time Montgomery County Public School official, who moved to Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson about 18 months ago after Michelle Rhee personally lobbied for him. A colleague found him dead inside his home around 8pm last night.

You can read more at , but here’s the “BEHIND THE SCENES” story inside the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center.

WHEN DID WTOP LEARN ABOUT THIS STORY: I received a newstip around 11:45pm last night over e-mail about a murder on Columbia Boulevard in the same home where Erika Smith was killed. I started to GOOGLE around to confirm the address she provided on e-mail was as the 2002 murder. Just as I confirmed that, I received a second call about Mr. Betts around 12:05am.

This woman, whom I’ve chosen not to identify publicly, told me her husband works in the Montgomery County Public School system and he was at the home of a school official who is dead. She told me his name was Brian Betts and he was the Principal at Shaw Middle School (she mistakenly thought it was in MoCo). She told me her husband’s name and said WTOP’s Kate Ryan (a former public school teacher) would want to call him. I spoke this woman for about 10 minutes and took detailed notes.

KNOWING YOUR REPORTERS: A good producer knows his/her reporters. Some hate working off the clock and others understand that BREAKING NEWS isn’t a 9a-5p term. Kate Ryan is a pro’s pro and she left the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center less than an hour earlier. I knew she’d still be awake at 12:15am and she’d want to know about a potential breaking story on her Maryland beat. She picked up and I shared with her all the information I obtained. I gave her the Montgomery County Public School official’s cell phone and she called him, while I spoke to the Police Public Information Officer (aka media relations person) on duty.

We reconvened about 15 minutes later at 12:30am. Police wouldn’t confirm anything other than a death on Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring. This officer would not confirm any identity, motive, murder or an exact address to match to Erika Smith’s old home. Kate Ryan spoke to the MoCo School Official and told me that Betts was found dead inside the home. She also told me Betts spent many decades in Montgomery County and then Michelle Rhee lured him away to work at Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson about 18 months ago. This school official was too emotional and didn’t want to be quoted.

So I asked Kate, “You tell me, ‘Do you think we have enough to go on-air?'”

She replied, “No, not without police confirmation. Neal Augenstein should look into it at 4am.”

She also said I should call another higher-up officer at Montgomery County Police.

TALKING TO POLICE- WHAT TO ASK AND HOW TO ASK IT: When I got off with Kate, I called this Montgomery County Police officer on his cell phone. After apologizing for calling so late, I brought him up to date on what I knew so far. He told me there was a “suspicious death” at 9337 Columbia Boulevard in Silver Spring, Maryland. This was confirmation that it took place in the same home as Erika Smith’s murder in 2002. That’s a story in-and-of itself. He also said he was not releasing any identities because next-of-kin had not been notified yet.

Here’s where the school lesson for today comes folks!

I responded by asking, “I will not report any names or motives until next-of-kin is notified and you give me the heads up. I give you WTOP’s word. But later when you release the identity, will you be releasing the name ‘Brian Betts’ and will the investigation lean towards murder?”

He answered, “Let me put it this way, if you went in that direction, you wouldn’t be on the wrong track.”

I followed up, “And if we were to say this was the Principal at Shaw Middle School, would I be mistaken?”

“I’m not up at 1 o’clock in the morning for no reason,” was his repsonse.

That told me everything I need to know. As a producer and reporter, you need to know WHAT to ask and HOW to ask it. What he didn’t tell me was just as important as was he did tell me. Now I had my confirmation, just off the record.

WHAT WILL I REPORT: It’s 12:50am and I have a full story, but can I report all of it? NO! I gave my word to police I wouldn’t release his name until he gave us the nod. All that other information was “off the record” until further notice. This Montgomery County Police officer was writing a press release and all it would say was a “suspicious” death at 9337 Columbia Boulevard. But, my research, talks with Kate Ryan and this officer ALSO told me it was Erika Smith’s home. Those are the only two nuggets I can report. Nothing about Brian Betts or his job.

At 1am, we reported the suspicious death and link to Erika Smith.

TEAMWORK, TEAMWORK, TEAMWORK: You’re probably asking yourself: Wasn’t there already teamwork with Kate Ryan? Yes! But I’m referring to working with our television partners at ABC7. One of their producers called around 1:10am, just minutes after the story aired about the suspicious death. At this point, it’s a “WTOP EXCLUSIVE”, so do I share our information with another news outlet? Yes! They are our partners, we share news content, help each other out and work as a team. Two heads are better than one. I shared our information, both public and private, and we agreed to work together and share any new details with the other. Now WTOP has double the resources than before.

LESSON OF THE DAY: Oh so many we can take from this story for journalists and journalism students. Here they are:

1) Be persistent: Many tips don’t turn out into anything, but you never know when you hit the jackpot. The first email at 1145pm peaked my curiosity. When I got a second call on it, my curiosity became determination. Now I know something has happened and it’s news. If the caller is accurate, it’s a HUGE story.

2) Getting sources: You shouldn’t report stories based on one source. What if that woman was wrong? If I killed off Brian Betts and he turned out to be alive, then I look stupid and WTOP looks stupid. You always want at least two sources who’ll corroborate the same story.

3) Asking the Right Questions: Sometimes sources won’t release information, but that doesn’t mean you’re powerless. If you think that your information is right, then try asking it in a different way. “Would I be wrong if…” or “When you do release the information, will you be saying…” Make the source comfortable that you won’t report the information until it’s official, and keep your promise! Otherwise sources will remember and be reluctant to help you in the future.

4) Next-of-Kin: If the worst crime in journalism is to convict a suspect on-air before a trial, then number 2 (or even 1a) is to report someone is dead prematurely. If he’s not dead that’s awful and even worse, you don’t want the person’s spouse, child or parent to learn about it from the media. That’s cold and insensitive. The police should be able to let the family know first before it’s splashed across the airwaves.

5) Using Your Resources: I used Kate Ryan, ABC7, Montgomery County Police and a public school official. They told me what I could say and what I couldn’t say. Get the story out there, but only tell the story you can tell.

6) Keep Your Team Informed: Kate Ryan and I spoke multiple times between midnight and 1am. ABC7 and I spoke multiple times between 1a-130am. WTOP’s Morning Drive Producer Mike Jakaitis and I did a full de-brief and I answered all his questions. When I left, Mike knew the full story. I went to sleep knowing this would be a BIG story, the question was just when.

Questions or Comments? Feel free to E-Mail Ari , post a comment on this blog, or send a message on Facebook or LinkedIn .

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 1:35 am  Comments (1)  
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