Tag: Tom Arenberg

Policing the Truth: Yes, the Cops May Be Lying

Whenever a large-scale crime of violence grabs national media attention, it’s gut wrenching to watch those interviews with grieving families and witnesses. It’s only natural to think, “Leave those poor people alone.”

But reporters have reasons for doing it. Here’s one: To try to figure out if the police are lying to everyone.

We are seeing this now with the mass murders at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Interviews and social media videos have shown that early law enforcement accounts of quick confrontation and bravery by officers were bogus. Read more.

D.C. Dinner of Journos, Pols and Celebs Was Black Tie and a Black Eye

The news media that cover the White House have a really great plan for combating the common public perception that they are elitist and out of touch with the rest of the world.

They hosted a black-tie dinner in Washington to schmooze and hobnob with government leaders and politicians. Really.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner returned Saturday night after a two-year absence because of the pandemic. The gala event featuring Beltway journalists, leading political figures and celebrities presents such a terrible picture.

The message to media consumers (and haters) says this: The D.C. press and politicians are quite cozy, actually, and what we see 364 days a year is just a game they play to fulfill prescribed roles and maintain access. It makes one wonder if the independent and sometimes adversarial relationship that’s needed to produce accountability journalism truly exists in untempered form. Read more.

Photos We Don’t Want to See, But Maybe Should

We spent part of Monday’s media ethics class talking about dead bodies.

The topic was prompted by some gut-wrenching social media photos of fatalities from Russia’s special operation to liberate Ukraine. (That’s how I’m referring to Vladimir Putin’s immoral invasion of a sovereign nation just in case Putin reads the Arenblog and decides to poison my Diet Coke.)

My very smart students nicely framed this longstanding dilemma of whether and when to publish such photos. Respect for the victims, compassion for victims’ families and the danger of exposing audience to upsetting images all dictate not to publish. But showing the truth of war – so that citizens of the world might insist their nations never engage in it – demands no withholding.
The New York Times picked its side of one such debate on Monday. 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 Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Careers in Journalism

A remarkable student finished my News Writing and Reporting class this past semester with an A-plus. She wants to practice law.
Another remarkable student also finished with an A-plus. He wants to work in sales.

Journalism is freakin’ doomed.

OK, two anecdotes do not a crisis make. But I wish — unrealistically, of course — that all the talent I see in my courses would want to choose journalism as a career.
Read more.

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.

In the Middle of Protests, Reporters Find News — and Danger — on the Streets

Hey students: Are you interested in a career in journalism? This exciting field offers not only low pay, long hours and no job security, but also the chance to go to dangerous places where everyone hates you. Sound good?

Recent street protests in Minneapolis and other cities have illuminated the risks that journalists face when they report from the scene of civic unrest. At least six reporters have suffered physical harm in Minneapolis, primarily from getting hit with crowd control ammunition, according to reports on the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker website. One photographer was permanently blinded in one eye from a rubber bullet, according to her social media post. In an especially alarming case – because a clearly identified journalist was singled out – a police officer used a baton to strike a cameraman. Read more.