Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Katrina blows away truth, erodes media's credibility

Well, it looks like civilization didn't break down quite as much as we thought in the aftermath of Katrina. Many of the rumors of the worst behavior are proving unfounded. At least, that's what the newspapers tell me.

Here's the problem: it's not all the media's fault. When push comes to shove, journalists will print anything as long as it can be attributed to 'officials.' When you have Mayor Ray Nagin talking about dead bodies and rapes in the Superdome on Oprah, most reporters are inclined (no matter what they say) to take his word for it. In an industry where the scoop still reigns supreme, relying on official reports is a time-honored survival technique for reporters who don't want to get bawled out by their editors for getting 'beaten' by a rival newspaper.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rare piece of good news in Apple case

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press:

A state Court of Appeal, in an Apple Computer trade secret case, ordered the unsealing of documents that could be essential to determining whether subpoenaed reporters must identify confidential sources.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Newspaper blog saves lives

How often can you credit journalists with saving lives? It's a great feeling. Anyone who hasn't checked out NOLA.com since the hurricane should do so -- it's a shining example of journalism at its best.

As a side note, notice that, in the OJR interview, NOLA editor Jon Donley explains that, when push came to shove, the most efficient way to publish was via the paper's blog, once again proving that content (not flashy layout) is king.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

AP's asap = as superficial as possible

The Associate Press is launching a "younger audience service" to targeted at readers between 18 and 34 years old, according to this NY Times piece (registration required.)

The service is called asap, which is supposed to stand for 'as soon as possible.' But as far as I can tell, asap is really the AP news wire recycled and embellished with redundant multimedia bells and whistles.

This quote from 37-year-old asap director Ted Anthony pretty much sums it up for me:

"We're pushing the envelope in terms of some of the things The A.P. has done, but we're maintaining A.P. values, not being biased, getting our facts right, being fair, giving people their say," he added. "But the fact is, some of what resonates the most with this audience is not necessarily traditional journalism, and so it will be a hybrid."

So it will be the same, but it will be different. Gotcha.

Tangentially, the NY Times article about the new service illustrates the NY Times' attitude about the current media climate:

A prototype also included a photo essay on vendors of street food in cities around the world, a piece that highlights The A.P.'s global reach. While bloggers often write about domestic events, rarely do they venture out to report firsthand on the outside world. The A.P.'s ability to do this could underscore for readers the strength of traditional news organizations that can afford to base reporters around the world. (Emphasis added)

Did I miss the attribution in that sentence? Is this the AP's opinion or the Times'?

Besides that, I guess the Times isn't aware of the worldwide network of bloggers who have been exposing themselves to arrest and attack to report on what's going on around the world. Maybe they should do some reporting themselves.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cancel your Yahoo email account or end up in a Chinese prison

While that's unlikely to happen to readers in the US or other Western countries, it has happened to Chinese journalist Shi Tao, thanks in part to information provided by Yahoo to Chinese authorities.

From the CS Monitor piece:

Shi was arrested in November, and convicted in April of "providing state secrets abroad." He had e-mailed personal notes from a staff meeting about overseas Chinese returning for the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.


"We think Yahoo's role is very sad in this case, and we hope Yahoo reexamines its policies," says Abi Wright of the Committee to Protect Journalists, which has been following Shi's case for months. "But frankly, it isn't Yahoo but the Chinese authorities who are jailing this man, and we feel the focus of attention needs to remain on the authorities."

Katrina's aftermath and the administration's mistrust of the media

I signed off in July partly out of dismay following the attacks on London. Two months later, here I am, posting about another even more disturbing disaster -- the devastation in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.

The interaction between the press and the government during this crisis has been (and I suspect will continue to be) fascinating. But while reading a NYT piece about Bush's slap on the wrist to his crony, FEMA Director Michael Brown, a thought occurred to me that I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere (as usual please do correct me if I am wrong.)

What if the federal government's glacial reaction in the days following the disaster was caused, in some small part, by their complete mistrust of the media?

According to the story, Bush had been getting regular reports from Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff (as a blackly humorous aside, see New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial cartoonist Steve Kelley's take on TweedleBrown and TweedleChertoff.) Nevertheless he didn't know about the situation in the Superdome until an aide brought him a news report on Thursday.

Let that sink in -- Thursday. Two days after Bush magnanimously cut his vacation short and returned to the Oval Office, he didn't know what the rest of America knew. Why is that? Could it be, as Paula Zahn asked Brown, that he hadn't been watching TV? Or was it that Bush and his administration have such little regard for the news media that they dismissed what they were seeing? I really wish someone would ask him this question.