Tag Archive: media

Russia jails freelance photog; Russian media blackout photos in protest (UPDATED)

UPDATE 24 October 2013: Russia has dropped piracy charges against the 30 Greenpeace activists, including photographer Denis Sinyakov. They are now charged with “hooliganism,” which seems to be similar to a charge of “disorderly conduct” in the US. Lenta has the news in Russian.

UPDATE 29 September 2013: There’s now website gathering signatures of support and money for the legal defense fund (via Yandex and Paypal) for Denis Sinyakov: FreedomDenisSinyakov.ru

Original: This week Russian security forces arrested 30 Greenpeace activists who were protesting oil drilling in the Arctic. The group, comprising people from 18 nations, used a boat to approach a drilling operation, and a few members tried to board the platform. The activists were arrested and may be charged with piracy in addition to other crimes (though Putin questions the piracy charge).

Among those arrested was freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov, a Redux contributing photographer, who now faces months in prison. Reporters Without Borders has condemned Sinyakov’s arrest and sentence, calling it an “unacceptable violation of freedom of information.” Sinyakov has worked as a photographer for Greenpeace in the past, in addition to regular assignment work for Reuters and AFP. Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy has a petition asking for the release of Sinyakov, and Greenpeace has a petition asking for the release of all the arrested activists.

In protest of Sinyakov’s arrest, major independent Russian media sites have blacked out their photos today. As seen in the screenshots above, Dozhd, Novaya Gazeta, Russian Reporter, Ekho Moskvy, Znak, Lenta, Russkaya Planeta, and others have joined the call to release the photographer.

Brauer’s back in Russia July 30-Aug. 11 — and the next exchange is accepting applications, too

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be returning to Russia next week to take part in the Bilateral Presidential Commission Mass Media Sub-Working Group meeting (that’s a ridiculous mouthful…). Last year, I was one of 12 journalists from the US that participated in the inaugural US-Russia Young Media Professionals Exchange (the second exchange will happen in a few months, and applications are being accepted until August 9), administered by the International Center for Journalists and funded by the Knight Foundation. Now, as part of a continued cooperation and dialogue between the Putin and Obama administrations, this meeting next week will be an opportunity for delegates from newsrooms, academia, and government, in both countries to talk about the business, process, and nature of journalism in both countries. I’ll be representing the other journalists who went on the exchange last year to talk about what went right and what went wrong on the exchange.

I’ll be in St. Petersburg for a couple of days and then available Aug. 3 – Aug. 10, tentatively planning to head north from St. Petersburg.

A bit about the exchange: Twelve Americans traveled to Moscow and worked in newsrooms there for 3.5 weeks (I was at ITAR-TASS Photo; others were at Kommersant, Ogonek, Moskovskii Komsomolets, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and other major news organizations in the country) and twelve Russians came to the US to work in newsrooms here, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Seattle Times, and the Miami Herald. It was a phenomenal opportunity to take my previous life as a Russian major and mix it with my current life as a photojournalist.

My experience in Moscow involved working closely with editors in the news and assignment desks at ITAR-TASS Photo and go on daily assignments alongside the agency’s wire photographers. You can see some of the images I took during my time in Moscow and a reporting trip to Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia, above. The nature of these daily assignments was quite interesting, especially coming from a background of newspaper and magazine photography in the US. The majority of the assignment work I saw involved a press conference, media availability, or official opening or tour. Access to politicians and businesses was extremely limited and heavily negotiated for each assignment. ITAR-TASS is a state news agency, but their operating budget, from what I understand, comes entirely from photo licensing and sales. Images of Putin and Medvedev, of course, are the biggest sellers, but the agency frequently covered opposition politicians while I was there. An editor told me the market for those types of images was generally limited to publications in Moscow and outside of Russia. I also got the opportunity to talk extensively with photographers from ITAR-TASS and other Moscow publications, sharing what it’s like to work in the US and learning about being a photojournalist in Russia. Many expressed frustration about the subjects their papers covered, how politics is reported in the media, lack of access on all types of stories, general suspicion of journalists and photographers (one photographer told me about getting harassed while taking pictures of holiday lighting in a busy shopping area of Moscow).

We also had substantial opportunity to meet with editors and journalists at many newspapers in Moscow, though most of these were state-run operations. When asked about their approach to the news, an editor at Komsomolskaya Pravda said, “We support the President,” and said that stance is what guides the newspaper’s reporting. Other reporters at that publication and elsewhere told us that the relationship with the administration was a bit more complicated than that. While living in China, I became accustomed to the Chinese way of controlling the media through daily directives of what can and cannot be published. I expected that something like that would exist in Russia, but in talking with editors and reporters, heard of no such centralized control of newsrooms. Rather, reporters we spoke with seemed to have a general sense of what news would and wouldn’t fly in daily editorial meetings, not unlike newsrooms in the US. Of course, they said their editors would rarely approve a story critical of the administration, but even one of the largest newspapers in the country isn’t afraid to criticize Putin’s party or investigate murders of journalists. That editor, Pavel Gusev, told our group that he had no problem printing journalism critical of the administration, so long as it could be backed up with facts and honest journalism.

One of the biggest shortfalls of the exchange was that we did not have any official meetings with independent and opposition journalists and publications. This was to be expected, but there was opportunity to arrange those sorts of meetings on our own. Online and social-media focused journalism and blogging is a significant force in Russian politics and society, and I only saw glimpses of that.

Definitely consider applying for the next exchange. It is scheduled for this fall, and the deadline for applying is August 9, 2013.

“How the media inflated the fall of Saddam’s statue” – Pro Publica and the New Yorker

Google image search for: saddam statue taken down

Google image search for: saddam statue taken down

The toppling of Saddam’s statue turned out to be emblematic of primarily one thing: the fact that American troops had taken the center of Baghdad. That was significant, but everything else the toppling was said to represent during repeated replays on television—victory for America, the end of the war, joy throughout Iraq—was a disservice to the truth. Yet the skeptics were wrong in some ways, too, because the event was not planned in advance by the military. -Peter Maass, The Toppling: How the Media Inflated the Fall of Saddam’s Statue in Firdos Square

Peter Maass, writing jointly for the New Yorker and Pro Publica, has just published a fascinating investigation into the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. I haven’t gotten through the whole article yet, but it’s well worth a read. The piece features interviews and anecdotes from a few photographers on the scene, including Jan Grarup, Gary Knight, Laurent Van der Stockt, Seamus Conlan, and their perceptions of the event as it unfolded.

NGOs and Journalism: Nieman Journalism Lab Explores the Blurry Lines of NGO-Produced Journalism

In early 2009, the think tank POLIS together with Oxfam published a report warning that international coverage is likely to decrease under the new public service broadcasting regime being worked out in the U.K. And in 2008, the U.K. tabloid the Daily Mirror said as part of the latest round of job cuts they were abolishing the post of foreign editor altogether. Meanwhile, citizen journalists and NGOs have been rushing to fill the gap. The mainstream media, getting free filmed reports and words, often sees this as a win-win situation. This raises three key issues:

  • Do these new entrants to humanitarian reporting mean that we are seeing more diverse stories being told and more diverse voices being heard? Does the fundamental logic of reporting change?
  • Are viewers/readers aware of the potential blurring of the lines between aid agencies and the media when NGOs act as reporters?
  • How are aid agencies being affected by citizen journalists acting increasingly as watchdogs?

-Glenda Cooper in When lines between NGO and news organization blur

The Nieman Journalism Lab has recently been publishing an intriguing series of articles exploring the relationship between the media, NGOs, and journalists, especially as more and more international and investigative journalism is produced, funded, and distributed initially or in cooperation with NGOs and charities. There’s much to read here, and I’ve only just started, but it’s a necessary conversation to have as news organizations drop foreign and investigative bureaus and turn to advocacy organizations for reporting. Be sure to check out all the articles:

This is a touchy subject, because of the moral ambiguities inherent in partnerships between NGOs (which generally advocate particular agendas/causes) and journalists or journalism organizations (which strive for editorial independence and objectivity). In the past few years mainstream NGOs have been producing some stellar work. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) has been producing strong photography, for instance, and VII recently partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross for a compelling global documentary effort. A Developing Story chronicles more journalism produced by NGOs. Ultimately, I think the responsibility for journalistically-sound reporting funded by NGOs will rest on the shoulders of the journalists working with the NGOs, who must make sure that their reporting is a truthful representation of the subject being reported according to long-established rules of journalism ethics.

Your idea to save journalism will not work because…

After a recent entry in the neverending debate on the death of journalism and how to save newspapers, Metafilter user fightorflight took a page from an old antispam email forward (which in turn might well be based off of sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein’s solution to fan mail) and developed this standard response letter. A shortened version:

Check as many as apply:

Your [idea] advocates a

	( ) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) crowd-sourced

approach to saving journalism. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won’t work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws owing to the avaraciousness of modern publishers.)

	( ) It does not provide an income stream to the working 
	( ) Nobody will spend eight hours sitting in a dull council 
	    meeting to do it
	( ) Users of the web will not put up with it
	( ) Print readers will not put up with it
	( ) Good journalists will not put up with it


Specifically, your plan fails to account for

	( ) The existence and popularity of the BBC
	( ) The massive tedium of investigative journalism
	( ) Editorial departments small enough to be profitable are too 
	    small to do real reporting
	( ) Reluctance of governments and corporations to be held to 
	    account by two guys with a blog
	( ) The tiny amounts of money to be made from online ads for 
	    small sites


and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

	( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none 
	    have ever been shown practical
	( ) Society depends on journalists producing news that few 
	    readers are actually all that interested in, quite 
	( ) Having a free online "printing press" doesn't turn you 
	    into a journalist any more than your laser printer did
	( ) Citizen journalists are almost as good as citizen dentists
	( ) You are Jeff Jarvis


Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

	( ) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
	( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person 
	    for suggesting it.
	( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and 
	    burn your house down!

- posted by fightorflight on Metafilter

Read on »

Dispatches: Mort Rosenblum on dying newspapers

This may be a dead horse, but I’m going to keep reading about it. Dispatches co-founder Mort Rosenblum penned a great rebuttal to those crying for the death of old media. It starts:

Here’s a hair-raising snippet from the towering babble of media debate, signed by a Richard Sine, that argues journalism schools should be abolished:

“You can pick up most media skills on the job, or with a few hours of instruction. If you screw up, nobody dies, and nothing collapses.”

Someone fired back a single-word rebuttal: Iraq. Dead right. And that barely touches the surface.”

-Mort Rosenblum / Dispatches

Well worth a read.

Techcrunch writer Paul Carr comes up with a striking example of the danger of an unmediated, everyone’s a publisher style of news and information. A baseless ZDNet article accused Yahoo of giving thousands of Iranian’s confidential information to government authorities after recent protests in the country. Techcrunch itself has shown severe lapses in journalistic diligence this year.

And I guess I don’t want to suggest that just because something’s written in a newspaper it must be true. James Fallows points out that the celebrated newsrooms of yesteryear, if they ever existed, are but shadows of their former selves. In this case, the Washington Post failed to exercise basic fact checking in its lead editorial on the Obama Nobel announcement.

Remember, though, the media isn’t the message. There’s still a lot of good journalism being done both by online-only organizations and by print publications. What’s really to be criticized here is lazy journalism lacking in rigor.

Maybe February is the cruelest month instead

I’ve just been catching up with my rss feeds, and the NPPA news feed is not making for fun reading. A few more friends have been laid off from their newspaper jobs this week, and they’re not alone:

  • The Rocky Mountain News has just announced that tomorrow will be their last edition. PDN, who called the paper one of the best to shoot for, has a roundup on PDNPulse of twitter activity from inside the newsroom during the announcement. I Want My Rocky, a community of former staffers, has coverage, as well. The newspaper has been in operation longer than Colorado has been a state.
  • Both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, the city’s two major papers, are bankrupt.
    The Denver Post, the Rocky’s joint operating partner, has cut senior editors at the paper as a cost savings measure.
  • The San Antonio Express-News has cut 75 newsroom jobs.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle faces “job cuts, buyer, or closure.”
  • The Journal Register Company, which owns 20 dailies and 159 other newspapers, has filed for bankruptcy.
  • The Chicago Tribune has cut an additional 60 newsroom jobs, after about 200 were cut or bought out in three rounds of layoffs in 2008. They are still making payments to freelancers, however.
  • The Los Angeles Times has cut another 70 newsrooms jobs and 230 elsewhere in the company. This after all the hubbub a while back about their website revenue matching the cost of operating the newsroom.
  • Belo Corporation, owner of the esteemed Dallas Morning News and other newspapers, announced an additional 500 job cuts throughout the company.
  • The Austin American-Statesman, which is currently for sale, is offering voluntary early retirement to employees over 55.
  • The Capital, in Annapolis, Maryland, will cut 111 jobs throughout the company.
  • The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Virginia, cut 30 jobs and axed a couple sections.
  • The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is still up for sale, with closure looming closer.
  • I know I’m missing some, leave any more casualties in the comments. Or check out Paper Cuts for more newspaper layoff numbers.

    China’s Underpants On Fire in an Inauspicious Start to the New Year

    Fireworks bounce off highrise apartment buidings during Lantern Festival celebrations in central Haerbin, Heilongjiang Province, China.

    Fireworks bounce off highrise apartment buidings during Lantern Festival celebrations in central Haerbin, Heilongjiang Province, China.

    The first I learned about the tragic CCTV fire in Beijing was reading about it here in Matt’s post, despite being an 8 or 10 hour train ride from Beijing. That’s because, with only a few exceptions, the news was absent from China’s television and newspapers. News media and online forums and blogs were issued a gag order of sorts by the government, prompting one internet forum to cull it’s 2000 message thread down to 9. That night and the next morning, I saw nothing on Chinese television or in the newsstands about the fire.  The New York Times describes the Chinese domestic media blackout, which drew much anger from the public online and led many to snark that CCTV (China’s notoriously controlled and ironically named state media) created the biggest story of the new year and then failed to cover it.  The title of this post, by the way, comes from some Beijingers’ nickname for the iconic CCTV towers (which didn’t burn): Big Underpants.

    I was in Haerbin that night, a bit to the north of Beijing, where Lantern Festival celebrations were in full swing. The fireworks were shooting up between the buildings, as in the picture above, but it was nothing like the view from an apartment building in Beijing:


    The Big Picture has a few shots of the blaze and aftermath in their Lantern Festival post, and there are also numerous firsthand accounts with pictures and video that have made their way online. Some of the other heavy-hitting China blogs have their own analysis: Black and White Cat compares CCTV coverage early in the night with picture-less coverage after midnight, Danwei aggregates links and translates some reports, Chinasmack has additional pictures and more information on the censorship, and Shanghaiist has even more pictures.  The Architect’s Newspaper Blog also has extensive coverage of the fire and its aftermath.

    CCTV eventually came clean and acknowledged responsibility for the fire, which killed 1 firefighter and injured others.  The television company hired a company to set off several hundred large fireworks to mark the holiday, but did so without a permit, which has now resulted in 12 people being arrested (the BBC has more details) including the chief of CCTV’s building construction.

    And for good measure, here’s a post from Alex Pasternack in 2007 about the significance of the building and the process of its construction.

    The Obama-meter

    While a lot of the coverage of the new American administration is pretty similar between various media organizations, publications, and websites, there are a few projects that seem new and different. One such, the likes of which I’d not seen before, is the St. Petersburg Times’ Obama-Meter. A small army of staffers have sliced and diced all of the campaign promises, arguments, and factoids spit out by the Obama administration and other prominent government officials, and rendered them in easy to understand, but well-cited, snippets which are then judged on truth and follow-through. As of this writing, 5 of about 500 campaign promises have been kept, 14 are currently in the works, 1 has ended in compromise, 1 has been stalled, and none have been broken. Here’s the paper’s explanation of how the whole thing works. The Truth-o-Meter is a similar project, with 41 pages of American politicians’ statements rated for truth and accuracy, ranging from pants-on-fire style “felony cherry picking” on the part of a Republican Party of Florida anti-Obama mailer to the truth of McCain’s statement that “Obama’s no maverick”.

    This seems like a perfect marriage between the internet audience’s demand for quick facts and newspaper journalism’s ability to leverage a large staff’s investigative wherewithal and institutional memory. What’s more, it’s great to see a newspaper stepping up as a political watchdog in such an accessible, easy-to-digest, and generally factual way. This is a welcome change to the past decade or so of punditry’s stranglehold on American political discourse. In my mind, the media should always occupy an adversarial role in political affairs, regardless of whether or not the politicians in question are generally liked or disliked. This role might even be more important with an overwhelming popular administration, in that positive media and public opinion might serve as distraction from pernicious political maneuvering going on behind the scenes, such as was the case directly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

    While we’re at it, New York magazine recently published an interesting behind-the-scenes feature on what goes into making some of the New York Times innovative web packages. Slashdot’s mention of that article also clued me in to a former New York Times staffer’s discussion of his work with the paper’s Cybertimes group in the mid-90s. All of this is especially interesting in light of Michael Hirschorn’s speculation in the Atlantic Monthly that the New York Times might cease operations as early as May 2009.

    2008: Year in Pictures, part 3

    Continuing our roundup of “Photos of the Year” lists (previous Parts 1 and 2):

    (Thanks again to Filmoculous’ huge and growing 2008 List of Lists for some of these; there are a couple I didn’t list, CollegeHumor.com and the Village Voice’s NSFW New York Photos of the Year, because they seemed so out of place here…)