Category: About News

Philandering Politicians Can’t Hope That Reporters Won’t Care

Came across an academic article saying public officials no longer have private lives off limits from prying media and opposing political campaigns — to the detriment of public service. It was published in 1998.

Imagine how things are now with heightened divisive politics, partisan news media, uncontrolled social media and a never-ending list of politicians whose horrifying activities in their private lives demand public scrutiny.

The question of when the private lives of politicians deserve public exposure is a perpetual one for the press. It has arisen lately with the cases of U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (OK, actually zero question here) and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who admitted last week to marital infidelity. Read more.

No Haven on Campus: Sad to See College Newspapers Disappearing

I no longer ask my classes “When was the last time you read a newspaper?” It’s roughly equivalent to asking “How many of you came to class today in a stagecoach?”

Generation Z gets its news online. That’s one big reason that a growing number of college campus news outlets have reduced the frequency of their print editions, or have abandoned them.

The Auburn Plainsman announced Thursday that its weekly print publications are done. Editor Jack West correctly noted the irony: Most of his readers will read the announcement online.

What’s happening among campus newspapers reflects what’s happening among professional newspapers. Except college publications can’t try to save themselves with paid subscriptions because they place their editions around campus for free reading. The pandemic has severely limited the number of students walking on campus, not to mention the ability to sell advertising, but the larger forces working against print products have been conspiring since before COVID-19.
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Warning: If You Get Chills Reading This, Keep It to Yourself

Got a great job for you. It’s in journalism. Never mind that if you take it you can’t publicly support a political candidate, donate to a political campaign, make money on the side without your boss’ approval, date someone you met on the job or accept a small token of thanks from a subject grateful for your hard work.

Here’s something else that many news organizations say you can’t do in your personal life: express a political opinion on social media. Read more.

No Easy Way to Make Fox News Change Its Bad Behavior

No one is more responsible for the devastation to life and property at the U.S. Capitol than the criminals themselves, but retributions are under way against parts of the media environment that allowed it and even encouraged it.

Under public pressure, and perhaps stunned by events, major social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have temporarily or permanently suspended selected accounts, including the president’s, deemed to potentially incite violence. Amazon, Apple and Google essentially shut down Parler, a social media platform popular with conspiracy theorists.

It’s not as clear what to do about traditional news media, such as Fox News, that also stirred unfounded anger with repeated lies by opinion hosts, commentators and guests about the validity of the presidential election. Read more.

How the News Media Can Vaccinate Against Misinformation

The looming public distribution of COVID-19 vaccines offers great optimism for ending the pandemic. But doing so requires a substantial majority of the population to acquire immunity either by contracting and recovering from the disease or by getting a vaccine.

Good luck with that, everyone. We live in a society where we can’t even agree that the coronavirus is real, much less that we all ought to wear masks and get vaccinated.

Making matters worse are the approximately 39 percent of Americans who say they probably or definitely will not seek a COVID vaccine, according to a Pew Research survey in November. If that number holds or goes up, that could be an obstacle to achieving the desired herd immunity that protects everyone.

The success of COVID vaccinations will hinge greatly on effective public messaging by health officials and government leaders. The news media will play a crucial role, as well.
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Rebuilding Local News? Start With Local Control

A coalition involving the National Newspaper Association, the Institute for Nonprofit News and a dozen more news organizations recently rolled out an ambitious plan to channel $3 billion to $5 billion dollars from the government, businesses and philanthropies into local journalism.

The plan for newsroom funding, called Rebuild Local News, comes as local news organizations in many communities are crumbling. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that more than one-quarter of the nation’s newspapers had disappeared during the past 15 years.

As policymakers, news organizations, advocates and community members think about how to save news organizations that can (and should) be saved and how to replace those that can’t (or shouldn’t), it is vital to remember that simply “providing the news,” shouldn’t be a journalistic organization’s only responsibility. Local news organizations also must be committed to a community, promoting inclusive dialog to help them see and solve local problems. Read more.

When a News Website Is Not Really a News Website

Apparently, I shouldn’t be wondering about the agenda of my city’s newly elected mayor or what improvements I can find at the renovated public library down the street. Apparently, I should be thinking instead about the awful “C” rating given to Democratic Colorado governor Jared Polis by the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, D.C., for poor fiscal management.

Because that was the top story when I visited the news website of the South Birmingham Times on Thursday (and on Friday!)

The site is one of nearly 1,300 pretend local news sites launched by a company called Metric Media in the past several years. That’s about twice as many as the nation’s largest newspaper chain.

Alabama has 20 of them, according to The New York Times, with seemingly legitimate and neutral names such as the Tuscaloosa Leader, the Jefferson Reporter and the Decatur Times. Read more.

Rage Over “Rage”: Bob Woodward Makes a Debatable Decision

I at first disagreed with the criticism that investigative journalist Bob Woodward should have gone public right away with Donald Trump’s taped interview comments about the deadliness of the coronavirus in early February. Instead, Woodward held them for publication in his book “Rage.”

The claim is that Woodward would have saved lives if the public had known Trump had been lying when he repeatedly downplayed the danger during the virus’ early stages in this country. But after three-plus years of relentless conning and fabricating, I don’t think people still trusting Trump for health information would have believed Woodward anyway. Read more.

This Commentary Is Excellent, According to Sources

President Trump claims The Atlantic “made up” its aghasting Thursday night report that the president has privately referred to dead American soldiers as “losers” and “suckers.” The magazine didn’t, as shown by subsequent confirmations by The Associated Press and other outlets. But it’s harder to refute claims of falseness when, as was the case here, a news organization relies solely on anonymous sources.

“These weak, pathetic, cowardly background ‘sources’ do not have the courage or decency to put their names to these false accusations because they know how completely ludicrous they are,” a former deputy White House press secretary tweeted Thursday night. Even some members of mainstream media, while praising The Atlantic’s reporting, called on the sources in the story to come forward.

Journalists have debated the ethics of this kind of attribution forever. They’ve also used it forever.
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With Huge Stakes, Maybe Media Will Cover Campaigns Right This Time

Donald Trump has presided over multiple crises in America, but don’t forget that Joe Biden has said some stupid things during campaign speeches.

I have just engaged in a prevalent failing of the mainstream political press: false equivalency, which means to give a similar volume of attention to two dissimilar and unequal sets of facts in order to appear fair and balanced. You might recall “But her emails…” from the presidential campaign coverage of 2016.

As we head toward an obviously monumental presidential election on Nov. 3, nonpartisan political reporters are doing their best to avoid their highly consequential mistakes of 2016 and some previous election cycles. With such a stark contrast between the two presumptive nominees – uh oh, I may have just engaged in the also common press failing of tempered euphemism – the stakes couldn’t be higher for the performance of the press over the next three months.
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