Speculation and fear-mongering: a short comparison of American and Canadian breaking news coverage

 
I’ve been listening to some Australian news coverage (← Australia’s ABC News livestream) of the just-finished hostage situation in downtown Sydney, Australia, this morning and was reminded of Al Jazeera’s short comparison of American and Canadian television reporting (embedded above) in the wake of the Parliament Hill shootings in Ottawa, Canada, earlier this year. The video is an eye-opening look at how much speculation and fear-mongering figure into American breaking news coverage.

On this subject, take a look at On The Media’s Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook. Here’s one of the program’s segments on why they made the handbook, and it’s well worth a listen. The handbook always seem to be right when you look back at breaking news coverage. Here are my three favorites, all of which applied in this case: “News outlets will get it wrong,” “There’s almost never a second shooter,” and “Don’t trust anonymous sources.”

Keeping that handbook in mind, my two favorite places to read breaking news are MetaFilter and Reddit (beware of Reddit detectives, by the way). In today’s case, both offered up-to-the-minute links to news reports and press conferences as they happened, as well as rumors getting passed around and debunking or critical analysis of the rumors. Reddit, also, usually has comments from people very close to the incident. Here’s the most active Reddit post (Here’s a comment that had news before most anywhere else; On The Media’s handbook applies. Here’s a comment that had information quickly with better source attribution. Here’s a comment from someone who was locked into a nearby library during the hostage situation.), a Reddit Live post (better than the active post for a distilled look at information as it becomes available), and the MetaFilter post (comments there are always at a higher level than anywhere else on the web). From those two sources, you can always find links to live streams from local news, by the way.

My other favorite source for breaking news, the New York Times’s Lede Blog, has ceased operation. The Times still periodically does live coverage of breaking news, though, often aggregating links to other news coverage of the event in question. In this case, I couldn’t find live coverage at the Times, though they did link to the Sydney Morning Herald’s live updates.

“AfroMaidan” and other foreign media perspectives on Ferguson

Screenshot of Svobodnaya Pressa article calling Ferguson protests "Afromaidan." Article date: Aug. 13, 2014. Screenshot Nov. 25, 2014.
Screenshot of Svobodnaya Pressa article calling Ferguson protests “Afromaidan.” Article date: Aug. 13, 2014. Screenshot Nov. 25, 2014.

It’s always fascinating to see a foreign perspective on domestic news, and Ferguson is no exception. A number of news outlets have collected observations, some recent and some from August, on how the press outside of the US is covering the events that have unfolded since Michael Brown’s killing by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Predictably, some Russian state media have taken an opportunity to skewer the US, saying the protests are a sign of a coming race war. In August, for instance, Svobodnaya Pressa called the protests “AfroMaidan” (a reference to Euromaidan) with a subhed saying that the events are lesson for the world in American-style democracy (screenshot above). Max Seddon, writing for Buzzfeed and who you should follow on twitter if you’re interested in Russia, has another good roundup of Russian coverage of Ferguson, including translations of Russian memes and online jokes about the events.

Buzzfeed translation of Russian nationalist joke about Ferguson protests.
Buzzfeed translation of Russian nationalist joke about Ferguson protests.

According to the Washington Post, British publications have sent their war correspondents to cover Ferguson and they’ve drawn comparison to police response after 2011 riots in London (wiki). And the LA Times and Hollywood Reporter look at coverage from China, England, Russia, Japan, and Germany, though the Washington Post has better links to original reporting from those countries. In addition to the countries already mentioned, Al Jazeera shows what the media in Turkey, India, and elsewhere, have said about Ferguson.

Foreign Policy’s coverage of how Ferguson is covered from afar should not be missed, also. The piece offers a historical perspective, looking at how worldwide media, including the African press, covered early civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama.

Slate has a short piece on China and Iran’s coverage (here are English versions of heavy Iran coverage), which linked to the Wall Street Journal’s look at how China’s government has commented on Ferguson.

Related: Here’s Vox’s take on how US media might cover Ferguson if it happened in another country. The piece is in the same vein as Slate’s excellent “If It Happened There” series, which has a new entry today: America’s Annual Festival Pilgrimage Begins. Another photographer has been arrested while covering the news in Ferguson. And be sure to check out my previous posts on Ferguson: Court orders Ferguson police not to interfere with photographers and Ferguson: a fascinating and troubling study of visual politics, race, the police, and the media.

Court orders Ferguson police not to interfere with photographers

As the news heats up again in Ferguson, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Missouri issued three orders to Missouri State Highway Patrol, City of Ferguson, and County of St. Louis, stating that police agencies must not interfere with those photographing or otherwise recording in public places. The specific language states that these police agencies are prevented from “interfering with individuals who are photographing or recording at public places but who are not threatening the safety of others or physically interfering with the ability of law enforcement to perform their duties.” The NPPA Advocacy blog has a short background on the cases that led to these orders, as well as links to the three orders.

Though these orders were in place over the weekend, at least one journalist, Trey Yingst, was arrested on Saturday for allegedly failing to disperse when asked by law enforcement. police have been ordering people not to stand on streets, but Yingst was not, according to an ACLU of Missouri statement about the arrest that says that eyewitness accounts of the arrest and video recordings show Yingst exercising first amendment rights to take video while standing on a sidewalk.

Poynter has a good page full of information for journalists heading back to Ferguson to cover the news as it unfolds, which also links to information about what you should do if you get arrested in Ferguson.

Related: Check out Poynter’s story about local high school student journalists covering the events in Ferguson. It’s a fascinating view on the news told by those who are living in the middle of it. One particularly interesting story from Kirkwood (High School) Call highlighted by Poynter focused on students from Ferguson facing difficulty getting to school when protests erupted.

And check out my previous post on the visual politics of Ferguson coverage while you’re at it.