Category: About News
Journalism standards need defending in this climate of assault and deterioration, but I never imagined that would include hordes of professional journalists going on social media to meanly bash the daylights out of some college students who work for a campus newspaper.
Such was the reaction to an editorial published Sunday in The Daily Northwestern, the news outlet for Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, that apologized for its coverage of student protests at a campus speech by Jeff Sessions, the former US attorney general and US senator from Alabama.
The protesters accused Sessions and the Trump administration of racism and fascism, manifested primarily in their anti-immigration policies. The Daily published photos of protesters climbing through windows and engaging with police, then followed that up by texting to some protesters to ask if they would consent to interviews. You waiting for the controversial part? For the mistake that required the apology? That was it. Read more.
Everyone recognizes the financial distress of most news organizations today. But a speaker at an academic seminar I attended this summer – the founder of a nonprofit news website that covers Vermont – took it a dramatic step further: She believes it is no longer possible to make a profit from reporting news at the local and regional levels. Well, yikes.
That assessment drew disagreement from some other seminar speakers, but it’s nonetheless clear that journalism needs some new business models. One emerging model is the nonprofit news outlet, such as the one in Vermont and BirminghamWatch (which you are reading right now and to which I have donated). Read more.
It must be frustrating for The New York Times to do such exceptional journalism (for instance, here and here) and then to get beaten up mercilessly on social media because of its handling of a routine story. It’s a reminder that, of course, there’s really no such thing as a routine story, especially if you live in the middle of a political maelstrom, as the Times does every day.
The Times is catching some heat for its headlining and framing of a Wednesday story about contact between the Ukraine whistleblower and Congressman Adam Schiff. Some supporters of President Trump, who likely would have done this no matter how the story was presented, are distorting the article as evidence of collusion between the whistleblower and Schiff.
This unfairness aside, there’s no question the Times is having a real bad run lately. It has gotten justified public criticism for several things.
The recent news that political supporters of President Trump have been searching social media channels for offensive posts by journalists who work for certain national media brought understandable alarm and companion rhetoric from the targeted organizations. Media objections that such dirt digging intends to punish and discourage aggressive reporting are correct, but the better response would have been: “Have at it, and let us know if you find anything.” Read more.
This week’s child sex trafficking charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein are a testament to the impact of investigative reporting, in this case by determined journalists from The Miami Herald, who dug through documents, tracked down victims and told a story not only of horrendous crimes but also of enablers and leniency from the court system. It wasn’t easy. Investigative journalism never is. And alarmingly, it’s getting harder to do.
Uncovering malfeasance is becoming more difficult for multiple reasons. Start with rising government restrictions on access to information (laws and court rulings), non-compliance with open-records statutes, and threats of costly lawsuits by news subjects. Further, the boffo investigations by major national outlets are not being replicated to the same extent at the local and regional levels. The well-documented shrinkage of newsrooms across the U.S. has taken a big bite out of community watchdog journalism, reflected not only in fewer staff to do the job but also in newsroom priorities.
Very few people knew just how devastating was the June 2008 fire at the Universal Music Group’s archives that destroyed the master recordings of thousands of musical artists – from Count Basie to Snoop Dog, Chuck Berry to Nirvana.
The company made sure.
In fact, it took 11 years before the public began to fully understand the loss. The New York Times Magazine revealed the losses in its story published June 11, 2019..
The story is worth reading for many reasons – as an accounting of what happened, and insight into the magnitude of the losses that go beyond the mere millions of dollars and cents.
But there’s another way to read the story — as an example of public relations scheming. The Times’ story points out many places where Universal’s public relations staff did its best to hide the extent of the losses — to itself, to the music makers who entrusted their original master recordings to the company and to the public. Only with insurance filings did it seem to reveal the losses. Read more.
How much do average news consumers care about how stories actually come to be?
The New York Times is banking on them caring enough to invest 30 minutes of television time a week to watch those stories come to life.
“The Weekly,” which debuted last week on FX, chronicles the work of Times reporters as they chase down stories. Read more.
Whenever White House adviser Kellyanne Conway appears on a TV news or talk show, I switch the channel to more useful programming, such as the Home Shopping Network selling something in which I have no interest. Conway, who traffics in distortion and lies, is among the media circuit regulars who has spawned industry debate as to whether some people deserve an interview and appearance ban. A combative December appearance by Conway on Chris Cuomo’s CNN news talk show, for instance, produced a live, long and lively argument between Cuomo and CNN news anchor Don Lemon.
A more recent repeat of the same issue, but involving a more offensive individual, occurred two weeks ago when conservative commentator and author Ben Shapiro, who could less politely be described as a hateful troll, was aggressively questioned by an interviewer on a BBC politics show. Shapiro, who unlike Conway does not advise a national decision maker (but who is popular enough that he filled the lecture room at a February appearance at the University of Alabama), abruptly walked out of the interview on live TV. Nesrine Malik, a columnist for The Guardian, wrote: “No matter how much those with regressive, prejudiced or simply dishonest views are challenged, it is pointless if they are constantly provided a venue. It is the platform that legitimizes them, not how they perform when they are on that platform.”
The New Orleans newspaper war ended Thursday with the owner of The New Orleans Advocate buying The Times-Picayune, or, as one writer put it, with David conquering Goliath. That’s true — if Goliath were missing one arm and one leg. Read more.