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Victor Dorff
Victor Dorff is an educator, an author, a journalist, and a lawyer. He has taught First Amendment law to journalism students at New York University, Freshman Writing at the University of Southern California, and methods for teaching elementary mathematics to education students at California Lutheran University. He wrote and produced network television news for ABC in New York, was on the launch team of, and was's first Executive Producer. He currently writes books and teaches mathematics at a public charter school in Southern California and is doing research into the creation and maintenance of a culture of academic integrity in secondary schools. With his wife, Lisa Sonne, he co-founded and runs Charity Checks, the nonprofit that created in 1999 the first Giving Certificates. He sees all these things as elements of the core principals that underlie our society – freedom, intellectual creativity, and personal responsibility for ourselves and for each other.

Entries by Victor Dorff

Internet Television -- an Anniversary

(1) Comments | Posted November 23, 2015 | 10:13 AM

When the Boomers were watching television in the early 1960s, many of their parents tried to explain what a revolution the new technology represented. The stories my parents told of families sitting around the radio -- listening, not watching -- merged in my head with talk of log cabins and wagon trains to make the era before television seem like ancient history.

Today, the generation raised on YouTube, and now using Periscope, understandably have a similar view of the time before streaming audio and video meant you could watch Game of Thrones while waiting on line at the post office.

Monday's 20th anniversary of the first internet/television broadcast provides an opportunity to help put a little piece of history into perspective.

Television Meets Cyberspace

On November 23, 1995, the ABC News overnight program World News Now, where I was a broadcast producer, was the first to stream television live over the internet. The proof-of-concept project used a donated, dedicated T-1 line and a beta-testing video-conference software developed by Cornell University.

The idea for the experiment occurred to me nearly a year earlier, when I saw that our CBS competition was airing the first television reviews I had ever seen of World Wide Web sites. Watching that segment on CBS, an idea came to me with a single, simple thought: The new medium that was emerging before our eyes was already bigger than television; so, instead of putting the internet on television, we should put television on the internet.

To accomplish this, we partnered with the Global Schoolhouse (now, where Yvonne Andres was using the internet to connect youngsters in classrooms around the world, as part of an educational outreach program. She had access to the latest innovations in video conferencing software, and she was excited about the idea of showing what it could do.

Most of us were still using telephone modems to connect to the internet at a tiny fraction of the speed we consider standard today, but they didn't provide the reliability or the bandwidth needed to stream audio and video around the world. White Pine Software, which was preparing a commercial version of Cornell's video conferencing program, offered to provide a T1 line (the "gold standard" of connectivity at the time) to help us prove the potential of internet broadcasting.

World News Now executive producer Chris Antoniacci and senior producer Terry Baker had been remarkably supportive of this crazy scheme I had been pursuing for almost a year. They even found money in the budget for us to lease an Apple Mac desktop computer, which had the built-in ability to stream video. It had been the last piece of the puzzle.

"It can't be done."

All of this took about ten months of pushing and pulling, and it felt like we were getting really close. Then, I received a telephone call at home from a conference room full of ABC executives I had never met. It was 10 AM, but for me -- someone who worked the overnight shift -- it was the "middle of the night." I was still groggy when they started firing questions: "What makes you think you can broadcast your show over the internet?"

At first, I thought I was being scolded for not having asked permission properly, but it became apparent that their question was more technical. They believed it wasn't possible. I tried explaining what we had put together, but they kept telling me I needed this piece of equipment and that piece of software. Finally, I realized the answer to their question was simple: "We leased a Macintosh."

The ABC folks on the other end of the phone were silent for what seemed like a very long time. Then, a quiet voice from what sounded like the far side of the conference table said, "If he has a Mac, he can do it."

And the rest is history...

That was the last hurdle, and it was decided we would attempt the first live internet broadcast on Thanksgiving morning. One of the segments for that day was a prerecorded interview we had conducted over the internet. The video was very low quality, sort of like the television images sent back live from the first moon landing. The audio was almost the quality of a telephone line. The connection was only good enough for either moving pictures or sound. When the guest talked, the picture froze.

When World News Now went on the air that morning with Kevin Newman and Antonio Mora as anchors, there were about a half-dozen internet viewers scattered around the world -- Norway, Australia, Canada, the U.S. Not many people had that video conferencing software, but those who did knew that history was being made. They were actually watching live television on their computers.

Newman, who conducted the interview with Andres, asked questions that were penetrating at the time, but seem quaint today -- Do you think computers will someday be used primarily as communication tools?

Already a veteran newscaster, Newman remembers the surprise of seeing, for the first time, his viewers looking back at him on the computer screen. The experience changed his view of broadcasting, he says, because he realized the internet held the potential for a new level of interactivity that could change the broadcaster's relationship to the audience.

Although the quality of the transmission was poor compared to broadcast standard, I fully expected that the technology would improve very quickly. After all, I reasoned, it was in my own lifetime that it had taken two people to tune a black-and-white television set -- one to sit on the sofa, and the other to stand behind the set (or on the roof) adjusting the antenna.

For me, the idea that we were broadcasting worldwide, directly to computer screens, without satellite feeds, was exhilarating. I already had visions of using the technology to broadcast inexpensively from remote places around the world. The next project, I thought, would be to provide live, gavel-to-gavel, internet coverage of the 1996 political conventions the following summer. The network could provide full coverage of the news without having to interrupt the revenue-producing prime-time lineup.

The future would have to wait.

Unfortunately, our experiment was short-lived, and a fuller realization of our visions of the future would have to be put on hold. Although World News Now could now be seen anywhere on the planet where internet was available, the decision-makers were unimpressed. They did not believe that anyone would ever want to watch television on a computer.

Without any promotion of the breakthrough, few noticed. The project was discontinued after about six months, and ABC did not broadcast its 1996 Presidential Election coverage globally.

The idea of internet broadcasting still seemed ridiculous to the people-in-charge. Even more ridiculous than thinking that, some day, radio listeners would be able to see the people talking to them.

Today, of course, it's hard to imagine a world where people...

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In Scotland, Hospitality is King

(1) Comments | Posted September 8, 2015 | 3:43 PM

The stately home at the core of Scotland's Isle of Eriska was a welcoming sight, standing at the end of a narrow road flanked by beautiful flowers and a variety of well-kept trees. The stress of flying across the Atlantic and driving across Scotland began melting away even...

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Je Suis Larry Flynt?

(0) Comments | Posted January 14, 2015 | 12:18 PM

There is a comparison to be made - not perfect parallelism, but a valid comparison -- between last week's slaughter of the Charlie Hebado staff in Paris and the 1978 assassination attempt that crippled Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. (Others have recently attempted to compare the...

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The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

(0) Comments | Posted November 6, 2014 | 1:57 PM

Rethinking the Unthinkable

Twenty-five years ago this week, the unthinkable happened. On November 9, 1989, East Germany opened the gates, allowing its citizens to travel west. The people celebrated by beginning the process of pulling down the wall that had separated them from the "free world" for decades.


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Bonaire: Fantasy Island, For Real!

(0) Comments | Posted July 9, 2014 | 12:38 PM

For most visitors, a trip to the Caribbean island of Bonaire is all about the diving, but the culture Bonaire is building - both in and out of the water - deserves some attention, too. The people of this tiny island appear to have incorporated a passion for sustainability into...

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The Tea Party and the Common Core: Right Answer, Wrong Reason

(1) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 11:31 AM

The new Common Core State Standards Initiative is getting a lot of attention, as states scramble to implement both the new instructional guidelines and the high-tech resources that will be required for the concurrent changes in testing.

These nationwide systemic changes have been moving rapidly with an ambitious...

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Luxury, Then and Now

(0) Comments | Posted April 24, 2014 | 4:21 PM

Thirty-five years ago, I enjoyed what I thought was the thrill of a lifetime when I flew the Concorde from London to the U.S. and made the trip in four hours. We flew twice the speed of sound at 60,000 feet, about half-again as high as conventional aircraft fly. Looking...

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A World Without Integrity

(1) Comments | Posted April 16, 2014 | 4:26 PM

The International Center for Academic Integrity has launched a contest that asks high school and college students to answer a provocative question: "What Would It Be Like To Live In A World Without Integrity?" The best response -- video or poster -- wins an iPad Mini.


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Whom Do You Trust

(0) Comments | Posted September 23, 2013 | 8:30 PM

Nearly three-quarters of college students surveyed said that they would lie on their resumes to get a job they wanted. When the employment services company ADP checked employment, education, and credential information on resumes, it found discrepancies 46 percent of the time. Add that to the...

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Cheating [Is] the System

(0) Comments | Posted June 24, 2013 | 6:51 PM

"We are trapped in the exam hall," said the text message. "Students are smashing things and trying to break in."

Clearly, the annual college entrance tests were not going as planned.

This year, 54 proctors from around China had been brought in to Zhongxiang with a mission: Prevent...

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Cheating Teachers Teach Cheats

(1) Comments | Posted June 3, 2013 | 11:08 AM

In conversations on campus about academic integrity, people tend to focus on one of two elements in the effort to stop cheating. One camp tends to see the solution in more effective policing of tests and heavier punishment of those caught cheating. Another wants to focus on the "cause" of...

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Cheating -- It's Not Just for Kids

(0) Comments | Posted May 15, 2013 | 6:36 PM

There are more reminders, this week, that academic dishonesty is not the exclusive domain of students (as if we needed reminding). In South Korea, the SAT had to be cancelled -- nationwide -- after prosecutors discovered that companies offering tutoring services had unauthorized copies of tests and other...

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Desperate Kid Cheats Under Pressure -- What Else Is New?

(4) Comments | Posted April 16, 2013 | 3:42 PM

I caught a kid cheating on a quiz in class last week. It was all fairly routine, until we had the expected conversation about why he shouldn't have done it. That part should have been a pro-forma exercise for both of us, but his comments made me realize we have...

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Cheating in Atlanta: A Teachable Moment

(0) Comments | Posted April 7, 2013 | 6:42 PM

The Atlanta school cheating scandal involving teachers and administrators has prompted a series of public responses that echo an explanation/justification/excuse often used in the context of why students cheat: The stakes were high, and the cheaters felt there was no other way to succeed.

Undeniably, students are...

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Nevada Educators Block Integrity Effort

(1) Comments | Posted March 11, 2013 | 1:22 PM

The key to creating a culture of academic integrity in a high school environment is getting everyone in the community to agree that it is a priority. Nobody expects convincing the students to be an easy sell, but who would have thought that the adults in the education system would...

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Cheating = Treason?

(1) Comments | Posted February 27, 2013 | 6:49 PM

A recent news story out of China reveals that academic integrity is truly a global issue. The report also makes it clear that there will always be some desperate students who cheat, regardless of the severity of the penalty for getting caught.

Under Chinese criminal law, buying the...

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Lance Armstrong Is Right About One Thing

(9) Comments | Posted January 18, 2013 | 9:27 AM

The "Lance Armstrong Story" has the potential to become a classic American literary tragedy, on a par with "Death of a Salesman." His deceptions and self-denial, combined with his fame and status as hero/icon, make him a perfect leading character, both deeply flawed and a product of his time and...

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When Did Cheating Become a Controversial Topic?

(12) Comments | Posted January 9, 2013 | 4:15 PM

Perhaps I am delusional, but I seem to recall a time when everyone agreed that cheating was wrong. Today, cheating seems to have evolved into an insidious disease infecting our society. As a result, it is now difficult to get a roomful of people to agree on what cheating is,...

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