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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



Nadir for the News: Hacking Decency

Rupert Murdoch and Prime Minister David Cameron have both struggled to tamp down outrage accompanying the spreading oil slick of News of the World's phone hacking scandal. Their efforts have delayed but not staunched the deluge. Britain's oldest, largest circulation weekly tabloid is now defunct. News Corp's bid for control of BSkyB has been withdrawn. Top management at News quakes and counter-punches as the government of the United Kingdom faces a crisis that has overwhelmed every policy initiative on the docket.

Britain has different regulations about press freedom and responsibility than the US. That gossamer legal sieve coexisted with cultural celebrity-obsession was a toxic cocktail that entailed co-optation of government by media as the ruling party became dependent on media support. Recent PM's have courted the tabloid press, winking at improprieties and compromising public media policy so long as dominant media supported incumbent administrations. Ongoing mutual corruption drew in the Metropolitan Police and now an entire government is under assault as a formal investigation proceeds and key appointments questioned.

Regulations aside, fundamental ethical issues emerge each day in hacking story revelations. What of the right to privacy? What moral principle could excuse hacking terrorist victims' phones? How could anyone argue the moral rectitude of exploiting dead soldiers' families? Outrage crescendos. This nadir in ethical media conduct  was enabled by a corrupt and fawning series of governments. A Utilitarian calculus led to this verge. Over that precipice we can all see the descent our media have undergone, accompanied by public taste and now by government itself. 


The Hacking Scandal and the Two Faces of Murdoch  

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal in Great Britain is getting juicier and more astonishing. The long-runner paper was summarily killed by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in an apparent damage-control attempt; the legal investigation is widening; and the list of the paper's purported snooping targets has widened to include crime victims, politicians and possibly police investigators and a former Prime Minister. Or even the Queen.   Read more...


Why We Need the Tabloids

The New York Times
July 19, 2011

AS long as we have had tabloids, we have had tabloid scandals.
Weighing in on the spate of scandals plaguing the British tabloid press, one commentator in 1936 acidly condemned what he called “the almost unbelievable indecency of the intrusion of the tabloid newspaper into people’s private lives.” Surely only the most degraded, low-minded people, he claimed, could produce this kind of news.    Read more...


The Phone-hacking Scandal:The Lowest Low

The Economist
July 7 2011

The phone-hacking saga jeopardises more than merely the News of the World: it threatens Rupert Murdoch, the press as a whole, the police and politicians.

UNTIL this week, the victims in the scandal over the illegal hacking of mobile-phone messages by the News of the World seemed mostly to be celebrities, royals and others too privileged to command much sympathy. For the tabloid, that was a useful mitigation in the court of public opinion, if not in law. No longer. The sordid antics of Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday paper—owned by News International, Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper outfit—look more promiscuous and more gravely criminal. And the circle of blame and taint is widening.   Read more... 


Jihadi Politics and the Ethics of Mutual Support

Marty Perlmutter
July, 2011 

The media gorges itself on embarrassment and titillation. Issues of planetary survival, nuclear disarmament, peace and mutual care are subordinated in public attention to tawdry revelations of sexual piccadillos by Congressmen, heads of the IMF, et al. One might almost imagine the distractions are orchestrated. Or is it just the triumph of the amygdala over the prefrontal cortex? Likely the latter.

The media feeding frenzy that surrounded recent non-issues, amidst clear and present dangers to the republic and species, may have been a betrayal of trust placed in purveyors of public information. Is it unethical to distract the nation at a critical moment with a story that has no moral, in any sense?

For some time we have stopped asking aloud, What are the obligations of the press? Is it possible to have democracy without a healthy, hectoring press? Who investigates the powerful? Who broadcasts the facts? Who jousts with government? Who can uphold our nascent culture of total disclosure? These are not competences of the Drudge Report, and seem not to be concerns of Fox "News." Amidst tides of digital transformation, informed citizens and government officials have a moral obligation to preserve the Fourth Estate: investigate and verify, disseminate news widely, re-broadcast fair responses. Here is the Commons crucial to our political survival. If the press becomes the unfettered home of titillation and distraction, and that alone, we face unprecedented danger. This is a moral matter, a matter of ought, not is, as we demand that the press go beyond sating the appetites of consumers.


Lawrence Lessig

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Insider Video of Glenn Beck Responding to Donald Duck Remix (2010)


Glenn Beck Not A Fan Of Fair Use; Claims US Gov't Paying Remixers To Create Anti-Beck Propaganda

Mike Masnick
October 15, 2010 

One of the good things about intellectual property issues is that it's really a non-partisan debate. While, in practicality, this seems to mean that both of the major political parties support bad copyright and patent law, at the very least, it leaves ridiculous political rhetoric out of the debates on things like copyright. But, sometimes, weird things happen.  Read more...



Of Vice And Men: Rep. Anthony Weiner vs. Bill Clinton Scandals

by Lizzie Manning | 3:40 pm, June 7th, 2011

"The final, and most relevant, point to us at Mediaite is the factor the internet played in both scandals. The Drudge Report was instrumental in breaking news about the Clinton scandal, and it was one of the first times an internet-based news source revealed something so significant. But the story was perpetuated by more mainstream media outlets. Weinergate was perpetuated to an almost unprecedented degree by the Internet. When my mother sends me a link to a news story she has found on a strictly online-based publication, you have to know that times are changing."



Must We Mean What We Say?

Marty Perlmutter
Spring, 2011 

What is the proper role of the Fourth Estate in a wired world? We find ourselves challenged by issues submerged in reports of terrorist manhunts and information leaks, Arab Spring risings and Presidential race vicissitudes, all tinged with ethical concerns. Are sources of public information obligated to strive for truthful and unbiased reporting?

Broadcast journalism is, in the words of Lewis Carroll, “shutting up like a telescope.” News bureaus close as bloggers replace reporters. Many who claim the journalist mantle say whatever they wish with little concern for verification. Media consumers tailor channels to their biases, ignore contrary opinion, and increasingly inhabit a hall of opinion mirrors. Concerned citizens have few means of knowing if what they hear is true. In a rush to devolution, a former bastion of our republic, free press possessed of the trust of its citizen-readers/viewers, is disappearing down a rabbit hole of unchallenged assertions.

For journalists and opinion-mongers in this brave new whirl, can we identify a duty of verification, or at least require that purported professionals say what they know is true? In a recent case, a Fox executive caught on tape admitted his outlet’s birther news reports were based on information known to be inaccurate. 

How do we know what’s real and what’s Drudge?  JUST proposes to explore the obligations of information providers, whether citizen or paid professional, and help articulate standards that are both ethically defensible and economically sustainable.

We believe that those who speak with the intent to alter others’ behavior must, indeed, mean what they say, and believe it to be true.


Government: FCC Commissioner Baker Exits Via The Revolving Door

Photo: Meredith Attwell Baker Credit: Federal Communications Commission

 Jon Healey
Los Angeles Times
May 11, 2011 |  6:10 pm

Good-government advocates often complain about the way top Washington policymakers cash in on their public service by becoming lobbyists for the companies they oversaw. This so-called revolving door spins a full 360 degrees, of course;  lobbyists often go to work in government. Either way, the moves raise uncomfortable questions about how legislators and regulators make their decisions. Are they acting in their constituents' best interests, or are they burnishing their prospects for a high-paying job on K Street after they leave government?


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