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Journalism

Transformation in channels of news delivery and the ascendence of the blogger-reporter raise challenges for citizens and the Republic. The JUST Journalsim Section examines the nascent obligations of those who shape public opinion and purvey "news" in emerging media.

Marty PerlmutterPatricia Mendoza

Journalism

Tuesday
May222012

Murdoch’s Pride Is America’s Poison

Bill Keller
The New York Times, May 5, 2012

Jennifer S. Altman/Contour by Getty ImagesI would never suggest that what is now called “the mainstream media” — the news organizations that most Americans depended on over the past century — achieved a golden mean.… 

But we try to live by a code, a discipline, that tells us to set aside our personal biases, to test not only facts but the way they add up, to seek out the dissenters and let them make their best case, to show our work. We write unsparing articles about public figures of every stripe — even, sometimes, about ourselves. When we screw up — and we do — we are obliged to own up to our mistakes and correct them.

Fox does not live by that code. (Especially the last part. In a speech at the University of North Carolina last month, Ailes boasted, “In 15 years, we have never taken a story down because we got it wrong.” Gosh, even the pope only claims to be infallible on special occasions.) For a salient point of reference, compare Fox’s soft-pedaling of the Murdoch troubles with the far more prominent coverage in The Wall Street Journal, which has managed under Murdoch’s ownership to retain its serious-journalism DNA. Read more…

Tuesday
May222012

After 7 Years, No End in Sight to Phone Hacking Scandal

Ravi Ssomayia
The New York Times, May 16, 2012

LONDON — The phone hacking scandal that shook Rupert Murdoch’s global media empire and hit the heart of the British government began quietly on a Monday in 2005, when aides to the British royal family gathered in a palace office appointed with priceless antiques to air suspicions that their voice mail messages had been intercepted.

Noah Berger/Associated Press

Seven years and dozens of arrests later, the day after the latest criminal charges were brought, information from the police, prosecutors and investigators indicated Wednesday that the investigations are likely to go on for years, with no obvious end in sight.…

There are three current police operations, Scotland Yard confirmed: Operation Weeting, which is examining illegal voice mail interceptions, currently employs 95 officers and staff members and has made 22 arrests; Operation Tuleta, which is looking into computer hacking, employs eight and has made three arrests; and Operation Elveden, which is exploring illegal payments by journalists to public officials, employs 29 and has made 28 arrests. Read more…

Tuesday
May222012

Ex-Murdoch Editor Brooks, Five Others, Charged Over Phone-hacking Scandal

msnbc.com, May 15, 2012

"I have concluded ... there is sufficient evidence for there to be a realistic prospect of conviction,"Alison Levitt, the principal legal adviser to Britain's Director of Public Prosecutionssaid in a statement.  Read more…

Tuesday
Apr172012

Media Influence: The Mohamed Merah Affair

Corine Ganem
April, 2012

After the shock caused by the Toulouse shooting on March 19, 2012, the unanimous reaction was solidarity with the Jewish victims' families.  This attack was soon proved to be connected with the slaying of three French paratroopers, who were Muslims, while a fourth soldier, from Guadeloupe, was left in coma.  Silent, dignified marches took place in Toulouse and Paris, with banners that read: "In France, they shoot Blacks, Jews, and Arabs."  

Pundits keep debating how Merah could have reached this point. Did recent fictional works–"La désintégration", which describes the rise of radical Islam in the suburbs; "Les hommes de l'ombre", which starts with a terrorist plot during the French Presidential election campaign–play a part in Merah's thinking?

Mohammed Merah claimed that he had sought revenge for France's military involvement in Afghanistan, and for the murder of Palestinian children by Israeli forces. He confided having watched on TV news about the shooting rampage in Afghanistan, the previous week. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict being also a major theme in the French media, he may well have been comforted in his beliefs by the coverage of such controversial issues.

Real-time broadcasting leaves us little time to think critically. The information conveyed or withheld shape our world vision. Was Merah a loser, or a monster? Was he manipulated? Who helped him edit the film sent to Al-Jazeera? All these questions are voiced on websites, blogs, and Twitter, expressing a healthy skepticism, sometimes exposing contradictions and lies in mainstream media. Out of these multiple voices, some truth may emerge. 

Sunday
Apr152012

Frederic Helbert Tweets

Frederic Helbert
Twitter, March 21, 2012

La police, les autorités, annonceaient une traque, une chasse longue. Elle savait qu'elle serait courte. Enquêteur ##DCRI

The police, the authorities, said that the hunt would be long.  They knew it would be short... 

Les forces de sécurité et politiques ont mené une vaste "opération" d'enfumage alors qu'ils préparaient leur opération. #Toulouse

Security forces and political [authorities] have been throwing up a big smoke screen while building their operation. #Toulouse

Sunday
Apr152012

Who Gets to Be French?

Karl E. Meyer 
The New York Times, April 11, 2012

Four members of Parliament belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party[,] in a joint statement,... insisted that Mr. Merah “had nothing French about him but his identity papers.”

Nonsense, retorted the left-wing journal Libération: “Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster.” A childhood friend of Mr. Merah provided a poignant elaboration: “Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France.” Read more...

Sunday
Apr012012

Al Jazeera Not To Air French Killings Video

Al Jazeera Europe, March 27, 2012

Al Jazeera has said it will not air a video that it received showing three shooting attacks in Toulouse and Montauban in southern France this month. The network on Tuesday said the video did not add any information that was not already in public domain. It also did not meet the television station's code of ethics for broadcast. Read more...

Sunday
Apr012012

Commentary: BFM TV, i-Tele and France 3 mistakenly announce Mohamed Merah's Arrest

Julien Bellver
Translated and adapted, April 1, 2012 from Ozap.com, March 21, 2012

On March 21st, since the start of the RAID’s operation at 3:00 am, news channels competed for the hottest scoops and exclusive testimonies. Following statement of Home Secretary Claude Guéant and the information recorded on the spot by their special correspondents, they proposed special editions for more than ten hours. At 2:17 pm, BFM TV announced the arrest of Mohamed Merah: “According to [reporter] Rachid M’barki, the suspect would have been arrested”.  The news was stated in the conditional tense, however the text scrolling at the bottom of the screen read, “Mr Merah, alleged Toulouse and Montauban killer, has been arrested by the RAID in a building in Toulouse.” At 2:21 pm, the information was passed on by i-TELE, and soon Le Point followed suit. At 2:35 pm, France 3 confirmed that the suspect had surrendered to the  French security services, “unarmed, without violence, and without any condition”. The news was relayed by social media, until it was refuted by LCI a few minutes later. Read more (in French)...

Sunday
Apr012012

Video: BFM TV, i-Tele and France 3 Mistakenly Announce Mohamed Merah's Arrest

Saturday
Mar242012

Top Tweet on Gaza Proven False

HonestReporting.com, March 12, 2012

Two photos tweeted in the past 24 hours, both allegedly depicting the results of Israeli air strikes in Gaza in recent days, have been proven false...The original tweets, however, have already been picked up by hundreds of others and continue to circulate around the web, despite having been thoroughly disproved. Read more...

Monday
Mar122012

Truthiness in Journalism: The Lifespan of Facts and Future of History

Marty Perlmutter
March, 2012 

A recent article chronicles the butchering of facts for the sake of assonance and drama in a supposed nonfiction feature. John D’Agata wrote a story about a young man’s suicide in Las Vegas and committed a variety of  “factual inaccuracies” which disqualified the piece for publication in Harper’s Magazine. It was published in The Believer. Jim Final, fact-checker, researched the story and initiated a multi-year dialogue with D’Agata, pointing out the inaccuracies and seeking an accounting. The result is a book entitled “The Lifespan of a Fact.” This dialogue underlines an issue whose ramifications can be witnessed nightly on broadcast “news” that seasoned journalists argue imperils journalism and the Republic.

Facts become clay to be molded into story with impunity. D’Agata writes that as long as a story “is believed by somebody, I consider it legitimate potential history.” The detailed dialogue between a fact-obsessed journalist and self-described “artist” highlights what ought to be a bright boundary between reporters of “fact” and creators of story. The job of the journalist is to to be fiercely committed to truthful representation of Fact, and to be in no way influenced by agendas political, creative or commercial to shade or alter these. Period.

The alternative, in George Orwells’ words, is this: “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world…Lies will pass into history.” Some of the very people who might most decry the vicious crimes of Stalin now replicate the sin in the form of “news” that is anything but.

Monday
Mar122012

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

Arthur S. Brisbane
New York Times, January 12, 2012
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.  Read more...
Thursday
Mar012012

The End of Truth 

Charles P. Pierce
Esquire Magazine, January 12, 2012 

Covering a presidential campaign on a daily basis has become so impossible that daily political journalism is very close to becoming a detriment to self-government. The people doing it are working in a dynamic that makes thoughtful consideration of what is true and what is false almost impossible.… The pack is bigger and more unruly. Everybody's on deadline all the time. (Twitter! File for the blog! Generate Content Across Many Platforms!) There are more - and, occasionally, better - watchdogs, especially on the Intertoobz, but even a lot of that is now hyper-amplified heckling. The marketing people are better at their jobs than the journalism people are at theirs. Read more...

Thursday
Mar012012

Dying for the Truth: Drug Cartels Target Journalists in Mexico

Helena Hyvönen
European Journalism Centre, November 1, 2011 

Early last September, two female journalists were found dead in a park in Mexico City. The crime was attributed to the work of drug cartels. Ana María Yarce Viveros, the founder of the weekly magazine Contralinea, and Rocio González Trápaga, a freelance journalist, were kidnapped after leaving work on 31 August and were strangled to death later that night. Their murders brought the journalist death toll in Mexico to 80 since the year 2000. Read more...

Thursday
Mar012012

Exploring Truth in ‘Journalism’ 

Renee Loth
Boston.com, February 12, 2010 

JAMES O’KEEFE III, the conservative activist famous for his undercover videos of ACORN, gets arrested after entering Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office with three others disguised as phone repairmen, cameras rolling. He says his tactics are well within the tradition of “investigative journalism.’’

…No wonder Americans are misled and confused by the new media landscape - or just cynical and switched off. Last year the Pew Research Center’s biannual survey found the lowest level of trust in the news media in over two decades. Only 29 percent believed the media generally “get the facts straight’’ - the worst ranking Pew has ever recorded. Read More...