Tag Archive: media
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.
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:
- NGOs as newsmakers: A new series on the evolving news ecosystem
- Kimberly Abbott: Working together, NGOs and journalists can create stronger international reporting
- Simon Cottle and David Nolan: How the media’s codes and rules influence the ways NGOs work
- Natalie Fenton: Has the Internet changed how NGOs work with established media? Not enough
- Saving us from noise that kills: NGOs as news coordinators in a networked public sphere
- Bringing NGO news into the mainstream: The case of OneWorld.net and Yahoo News
- Glenda Cooper: When lines between NGO and news organization blur
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.
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 journalist ( ) 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 honestly ( ) 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
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.
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 Denver Post, the Rocky’s joint operating partner, has cut senior editors at the paper as a cost savings measure.
I know I’m missing some, leave any more casualties in the comments. Or check out Paper Cuts for more newspaper layoff numbers.
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.
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.
- The Sydney Morning Herald’s Photos of the Year (warning: there’s music)
- The LA Times’ Best Photography of 2008, including World Photography, National Photography, California Photography, Sports, and more.
- Vanity Fair’s Year in Pictures, Parts 1 and 2
- The Big Picture’s Year in Photographs, part 3
- UNICEF’s Photos of the Year (including an honorable mention for Melissa Lyttle)
- The possibly soon-to-be-closed Rocky Mountain News’ Year in Photos
- The Independent on Sunday’s World News Pictures of the Year
- Wired.com’s Best (Reader) Contest Photos You Never Saw
- SportsShooter’s Top 5 Cool Things for 2008 by the Click‘s Trent Nelson (dvafoto was listed for November! Thanks, Trent!)
- Huffington Post’s 10 Worst Media Moments in 2008
(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…)
Part of dvafoto’s continued roundup of the Year in Pictures lists (Part 1), here are a few more:
- Time’s Pictures of the Year (including one by previous dva interview subject Matt Slaby and Alixandra Fazzina’s excellent picture mentioned here previously)
- The Boston Globe’s Big Picture Year in Photos, part 1 and part 2. Part 3 will be published soon.
- Reuter’s 2008 Pictures of the Year.
- Agence France Presse’s Photos of the Year (possibly not official).
- The Telegraph’s various pictures of the year categories: Violent Conflicts, Natural Disasters, Spectacular Images, Royal News, and, um, Pets, among others.
- The Smoking Gun’s Mugshots of the Year.
- Discover Magazine’s Top 10 Astronomy Pictures of 2008.
- National Geographic’s Top 10 Photo Galleries of the Year.
- National Geographic’s Best Animal Wildlife Photos of 2008.
- And, for completeness’ sake, the Flickr group 2008: A Year in Pictures.
There were two photo-related winners, the faked photo of antelope running under a train in western China (the Guardian has some background) and an unfortunate conflation by the Press Gazette in the UK of an accused serial killer with the Bishop of Norwich by way of a headshot. Mugshot’s the right jargon for that, but seems inappropriate, given the circumstances…. An excerpt:
The Eastern Daily Press has apologised after confusing the Bishop of Norwich with serial killer Steve Wright, known as the “Suffolk strangler”. The paper printed a letter from Rupert Read of the Eastern Region Green Party calling for brothels to be closed following the Ipswich murders saying: “Surely that is the best memorial to the women who died at the hands of Steve Wright (pictured)..” But the EDP printed a picture of the Bishop of Norwich, the Right Rev Graham James, with his dog collar clearly visible, instead of Wright. The paper has printed an apology and has agreed to make a donation to a Christian group that helps prostitutes of which the Bishop is a patron.
By the way, Regrettheerror seems to have a book out.