Tag: About News

The Famous Case of the Free Press and the Atomic Bomb

A New York state judge’s order last month prohibiting The New York Times from publishing memos written by a lawyer for the political spying organization Project Veritas blatantly violates the First Amendment. But not every court case seeking to dictate press publishing decisions is as laughably wrong as this one.

Take, for instance, the case in which publication might have meant the end of mankind. True story.

In 1979, The Progressive, a politically liberal magazine based in Wisconsin that still exists today, planned to publish an article detailing how a hydrogen bomb works. The U.S. government went to court to try to prevent publication. It’s a notable case in the legal history of prior restraint. Read more.

One News Media Bias That Isn’t Debatable

The innocent, young, attractive, white woman was missing, and presumably dead, the victim of homicide. Local and national media pounded the story with daily coverage.

This is, of course, the case of Gabby Petito.

And Mollie Tibbetts. And Natalee Holloway. And Chandra Levy. And others.

The equivalent case of a missing Black woman? Couldn’t find one.

HBO is currently showing a documentary series called “Black and Missing.” It features the founders of the Black and Missing Foundation and makes the basic point that news media and law enforcement pay more attention to missing white people, especially females, than to missing Black people. Sociologists and media often call this Missing White Woman Syndrome. Read more.

After Mass Shootings, Public Safety and Good Journalism Collide

In the aftermath of the fatal shootings at Oxford (Michigan) High School last week, CNN’s Anderson Cooper continued his practice of recent years of not reporting the name of the shooter. This is becoming an increasingly popular editorial decision among news media.

The main reason for this is that, according to research and anecdotal evidence, most mass shooters commit their acts in large part to gain notoriety. Further, there’s evidence that fame for one mass shooter can motivate future ones.

But naming the shooter can serve a public benefit, as well. Read more.

Sin and Confession: Newsrooms Revisit Some Major Failures

The Washington Post on Nov. 12 took the highly unusual step of overhauling two articles that had been posted on its website since 2017 and 2019, respectively. Recent events had suddenly called into question the accuracy of the articles, which reported on the identity of a confidential source who supposedly contributed salacious information about Donald Trump that was contained in the infamous and since discredited “Steele dossier.” The Post removed large portions of the articles, changed the headlines, removed a companion video, and appended editor’s notes. About a dozen other, related stories were corrected, as well. The Post’s editor offered public explanations on various platforms.

This got me to thinking about previous famous situations in which a news organization belatedly found fault with its coverage of a high-profile subject and decided it needed to take corrective action. Read more.

Staring Death in the Face – Voluntarily

Reporters witness more death than they want to, be it war, disaster, disease, crime or accidents. It’s a whole different jolt to the conscience, though, when a death is scheduled and government sanctioned.

Members of the media are standard witnesses whenever a state – at least in this country – carries out a death penalty. This was in the headlines in Alabama 10 days ago when state news organizations unsuccessfully protested a decision by the state Department of Corrections to allow only one media witness to the lethal injection of an inmate. The DOC cited pandemic safety measures.

The media’s interest in attending such events in numbers isn’t because they want a sensationalistic headline. Rather, it’s a watchdog role. “We are there to observe and report on the most powerful thing the state can do to a person,” said Kent Faulk, the managing producer for state news for the Alabama Media Group and a former colleague of mine. “We need to make sure they are held accountable, doing things the way they are supposed to.” Read more.

Sources Should Be Sources, Not Editors

I’d have posted this sooner but I was waiting on Adam Schefter to edit it.

Schefter, a National Football League “Insider” reporter for ESPN, became a target of widespread derision within the journalism community this week when the LA Times reported that Schefter sent an entire draft of a pending news story about NFL collective bargaining to a key source for review. It happened 10 years ago but is in the news now because Schefter’s action was revealed in emails that are part of current court litigation involving the key source. Read more.

In a Disaster, Media Heroism (aka Craziness) Has Its Limits

When a natural disaster strikes a community, residents go to shelter. Public safety workers and journalists go to work.

News organizations usually prioritize the safety of reporters in the field during such events. Often, it’s the reporters who will push the limits on safety in order to deliver vital news to the public. Ethical managers talk them out of it.

But there’s no shortage of instances of reporters subjecting themselves to the brutality of nature to report a weather story. Their aim is to show the public the truth about the conditions. Their critics call it reckless showboating. Read more.

Pay-for-Say: Buying Interviews Is a Bad Idea

Paying for information is a much frowned-upon practice in journalism. Fortunately, it rarely happens.

Except, of course, when a media organization pays for a newsworthy photo or video.

Or for breaking news tips from sources (think TMZ paying police officers).

Or to cover a source’s pre-interview expenses.

Or for subject experts to appear regularly on shows.

Or for coaches and athletes to do weekly programs.

Or for event broadcast rights.

The latest incarnation is emerging in the world of sports, where college athletes can now make money from endorsements, appearances and interviews. Read more.

Is This Champion a Quitter? Glad to See the Media Say No

Among a cascade of memorable Olympics stories over the years, I especially remember the tale of a guy who finished last.

During the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Great Britain’s Derek Redmond tore a hamstring muscle in the middle of his 400-meters semifinal and collapsed. He got up and, in anguish, began limping toward the finish line. His father rushed from the stands and onto the track, grabbed him, and propped him up as he tried to complete the race. Near the end, the father let go of him, and Redmond hobbled across the line on his own to a standing ovation. Today it remains a famous moment of determination and inspiration.

But really, he probably should have stayed down and let the medics come get him.

I contrast that story with the decision of four-time gold medal winner Simone Biles to withdraw during the gymnastics team finals last week at the current Games in Tokyo. After an unexpectedly flawed rotation on the vault, Biles said stress and mental health concerns prevented her from continuing in that and other events (though she did rejoin for the balance beam competition on Tuesday). Read more.

The Best Thing About This Post: It’s Free

To get background for this article, I wanted to read a particular article about news organizations removing their website paywalls so people could see important COVID-19 stories for free. But it was behind a paywall. I now have a new classroom example of a paradox.

Many major news organizations that require digital subscriptions to view content generated much debate about the wisdom of their making COVID-19 coverage available to anyone who clicked. They cited a vital public service mission of delivering potentially lifesaving information to their communities. Critics argued that they sacrificed much-needed new revenue that would have helped to pay for continued work on this and other essential topics. This debate arose again last week. Read more.