"They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out," said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. "But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.
At another point, a manager at the FAA's Kansas City center said police "did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn't want media in there."
Law enforcement put FAA staffers in an awkward position with this request. The FAA (obviously) has nothing in the rule books that provides for blocking First Amendment-protected activity. While there would be the heightened danger of collisions if police helicopters were also in the area, it's not like this sort of situation hasn't been handled without incident before. (See also: news coverage of every demonstration/riot/police pursuit to this point.)
No, law enforcement simply wanted to keep news coverage to a minimum and control the narrative through the indiscriminate use of tear gas, a ridiculous (and unconstitutional) "five second rule" and the casual detainment of reporters at ground level.
St. Louis police claimed over and over and over again that the no-fly zone was for "safety," citing a single incident where a police helicopter was allegedly shot at -- an incident that only existed in the minds of those looking to keep the press from circling overhead.
[P]olice officials confirmed there was no damage to their helicopter and were unable to provide an incident report on the shooting. On the tapes, an FAA manager described the helicopter shooting as unconfirmed "rumors."
Small concessions were made when law enforcement realized what it was asking for was impractical (and mostly illegal). As one news director pointed out, his crew was eventually told it could fly over Ferguson but only at an altitude above 3,000 feet -- not exactly a height that produces optimal (or even usable) footage.
Whatever your stance on the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson, the fact remains that nearly everything local law enforcement did in response was poorly thought-out at best, and an outright abuse of power at worst. Officials have lied to the public, paywalled public documents, released information in a purely self-serving fashion (and over the objections of Eric Holder and the Justice Dept.) and approached the citizens they serve as an occupying force, rather than trusted allies.
The Northeast Ohio Media Group last week posted a video of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and challenger Ed FitzGerald meeting with the editorial board, then took it down without explanation and replaced it with an audio recording.
The governor and FitzGerald shook hands before and after the interview, but that was the extent of their interaction. FitzGerald, dressed in a suit and tie, seemed to be on the edge of his seat the entire time, eager to land a punch whenever possible. Kasich, open collar, sans tie, often slouched while using a second chair's armrest for extra comfort...
FitzGerald tried repeatedly to draw Kasich into a one-on-one debate. Each time, Kasich refused to take the bait. When FitzGerald turned to his left to try and catch Kasich's eye, the governor stared straight ahead or off to his other side…
Kasich declined to answer any question that FitzGerald posed directly. He only would answer when an editor or reporter in the room repeated FitzGerald's question.
The closest thing Ohioans got to a televised debate in this year’s race for Ohio governor was a video posted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The PD recorded their joint editorial board interview with John Kasich, Ed FitzGerald and Green Party Candidate Anita Rios and posted it online.
In the video, we got to see FitzGerald fired-up and on message while Kasich slumped in his chair, refused to acknowledge the other candidates and ignored repeated attempts by PD staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs.
You have posted on your web site our copyrighted video of an endorsement interview in the Ohio governor’s race. You have not asked for, and we have not granted, the rights to use our property, which was illegally copied from our website.
We insist you delete the material immediately. We have registered the copyright, which means your illegal use of it entitles us to statutory damages, which can be quite steep, and recovery of all fees we pay our attorneys as we compel you to adhere to the copyright law.
We protect our copyrighted material with great vigor. You have posted it illegally. We expect immediate action in removing the video from your site.
PlunderBund clearly has a solid fair use defense, but it really doesn't matter at the moment. The site has taken down the video. If that were the end of the story, it would still be highly questionable and a seriously misguided attempt at "protecting" the Cleveland Plain Dealer's intellectual property.
But that's not the end of it. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has taken down the video it created and replaced it with an audio recording. [Here's an archive.org capture that contains the now-removed references to the CPD's video recordings.] Why would it remove its own video? If PlunderBund's account of the video's content is accurate, John Kasich's behavior during this session bordered on the insolently childish. Watching a politicial candidate exude boredom and disdain is hundreds of times more effective (and potentially damaging) than hearing it. An audio version of this "interview" is a defanged version.
But that's probably the way the CPD and its parent media group want it. After all, the Plain Dealer endorsed Kasich in 2010 and again shortly after Kasich's petulant, barely-there appearance at the NOMG-hosted endorsement interview. If you're looking for a reason why the video is gone and only the audio remains, that seems like a good place to begin. It also seems likely that's why the "VP of Content" is cleansing the web with mostly baseless legal threats.
There's nothing more hypocritical than a media group that thrives on First Amendment protections acting like a censorious thug in order to protect its own access and interests. The editorial board endorsed a candidate who spent most of his allotted time acting like a sullen teenager enduring a family vacation and now it doesn't want anyone to see its anointed pick in all his disinterested "glory." That's pathetic.
This article is republished from The Conversation under its Creative Commons license. On a side note, apparently, The Conversation is now moving into the US after focusing on the UK and Australia in the past -- and that's pretty cool, because it's a great site.
If extreme polarization is now an enduring feature of American politics — not just a bug — how does that change the game for journalists? I have some ideas, but mainly I want to put that question on the table. “Conflict makes news,” it is often said. But when gridlock becomes the norm the conflicts are endless, infinite, predictable and just plain dull: in a way, the opposite of news. This dynamic has already ruined the Sunday talk shows. Who can stand that spectacle anymore?
A recent task force of American Political Science Association put it this way:
The United States used to be viewed as a land of broad consensus and pragmatic politics in which sharp ideological differences were largely absent; yet, today, politics is dominated by intense party polarization and limited agreement among representatives on policy problems and solutions.
In a fascinating paper on “philanthropy in a time of polarization,” three authors — Steven Teles, Heather Hurlburt and Mark Schmitt — take up the question. They point out that leaders in these grantmaking foundations operate from assumptions that extreme polarization can be overpowered by “strong ideas and persuasive research…[that] will motivate elected officials” to act. They believe in the message of bipartisanship and urge foundations to “stay above the political fray.”
The way Obama’s health care reform became law shredded that script. Elites in Washington believed that a compromise would emerge by “combining a broad goal favored by liberals with ideas traditionally supported by conservatives.” Nothing like that went down. One side passed the bill. The other demonized it and continues the fight to this day. Teles, Hurlburt and Schmitt write:
Foundations have traditionally seen themselves as part of civil society – as mediating institutions that form a bridge between dispassionate knowledge and political advocacy. Their resources, many in the sector have hoped, could fund objective, nonpartisan research that would take the edge off partisan conflicts and pave the way for broadly accepted social progress.
That view of American politics no longer makes sense. Nothing has taken the edge off partisan warfare, least of all “objective, nonpartisan research."
Is ‘objectivity’ in journalism dead ?
It’s tricky to compare foundation officers and journalists because officially the mainstream press has no theory of change, no policy agenda – indeed, no politics at all. Officially, journalists are merely out to get the story, tell the truth, inform us about what’s going on, and in special circumstances share their opinion.
But anyone who observes its work cannot help but notice that the Washington press corps shares a certain world view, analogous in many ways to the typical foundation officer’s. (Steve Coll moved easily from the Washington Post to the New America Foundation and on to the deanship of Columbia Journalism School. Walter Isaacson, editor of Time magazine, CEO of CNN, is now president of the Aspen Institute.)
Here are some of the components of this shared world view. Recognize them?
“Successful candidates move to the middle…”
Politicians who know how to get things done cut deals among insiders on both sides of the aisle. (Ronald Reagan working with Tip O’Neill is the usual reference point.)
To “cede the ideological center” is the political mistake par excellence.
And as Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein wrote in the Washington Post:
‘Both sides do it’ or ‘There is plenty of blame to go around’ are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias.
What if the ideological center is effectively gone? What if striking deals with insiders from both parties no longer describes the way the world works? For as authors Teles, Hurlburt and Schmitt put it: “Pundits who say that ‘nothing can get done without bipartisan support’ no longer have the evidence on their side.”
What are the options?
Under these conditions, political journalists have a choice. They can try to muddle through with the framework they had before extreme polarization became too obvious to ignore. If they take this route, they will write well-informed articles about the trend. They will report the data about polarization without drawing any conclusions about their own practices. Or, they can recognize that they too have a world view, and that its assumptions have gone bust.
If they choose the latter, what then?
Instead of trying to stay in the middle between polarized extremes and avoid criticism, political journalists and their bosses could recognize that there is no escape from charges of bias because these charges are just a further aspect of polarization. If you’re going to be attacked anyway, might as well let it rip.
That’s what the Washington Post did when earlier this month it hired Chris Mooney to cover the environment in blog form. Mooney is the author of two books — The Republican War on Science and The Republican Brain (subtitle: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality) — that leave no doubt about where he stands. In announcing his appointment, the Post described Mooney as a writer with a distinctive voice and a consistent argument: “that people’s preconceptions – political, religious, cultural – color the way they view science.”
Being transparent about point of view is the honest approach for reporters
Newsrooms are better off with reporters who know their beats, nail their arguments, make clear where they’re coming from and meet high standards of verification, always. Intellectual honesty is a more reliable basis for trust than a ritualized objectivity. A clear voice is more valuable than a nonpartisan veneer.
Calling out falsehoods that have gotten traction is another thing journalists can do once they realize that extreme polarization is a feature, not a bug. Ever since the fact-checking site, Politifact, won the Pulitzer Prize for “separating rhetoric from truth to enlighten voters,” fact checking has become routine in the coverage of politics. Now the press needs to take the next step: identify the worst offenders, deny them respectability and platform, raise the cost in reputation for relying on falsehoods: in a word, fight. “Detached from the partisan fray” won’t cut it.
The non-profit investigative newsroom, ProPublica.org, calls what it does “accountability journalism.” It is the only kind of journalism ProPublica is interested in doing. Here’s how they describe it:
Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with ‘moral force.’ We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
That is a view of the world as strong as polarization is deep. Political journalists need to adopt a similar view or they will slide into irrelevance. There is one other option: savvy analysts of the game. Winners and losers, who’s up, who’s down, strategy and tactics. That really isn’t journalism, though. It’s scorekeeping.
Patrick O'Neill, over at The Daily Dot, has a scoop about Verizon getting directly into our game: tech blogging. It's launched a brand new tech news website, called SugarString, which apparently is supposed to compete with other tech news sites. Now, I know that some are immediately skeptical just based on the fact that Verizon is launching a news site -- but I don't find that alone particularly troubling. In fact, I think many companies should be producing good, relevant content, because good content is good advertising. Hell, a decade ago, I was very involved with a great news site that Nokia put together called TheFeature, which involved a really spectacular group of writers covering news and commentary about the coming mobile world (sadly, TheFeature was basically wiped off the internet, though the archives can still be found). But, at least there, we had free reign to write about anything we thought was interesting at all. There was no pressure or influence from Nokia at all -- at least none that I ever felt. And, honestly, I think more companies should be engaging with people with good content.
But, of course, this is Verizon, so its good intent is undermined by something silly. And, in this case, the something silly is that anyone writing for SugarString has to agree not to write about net neutrality or government surveillance, two of the biggest, most important tech topics these days. From our standpoint, I guess that takes away "competition" (though, amusingly, it does appear like at least one story on the site is a warmed over version of something that we wrote a week ago, but made more clickbaity with a "list") on two of the main stories we cover, but it really does raise questions about why anyone would ever trust the site in the first place, when, from the very outset, Verizon has made it clear that its editorial control will be focused on staying away from any stories that Verizon doesn't like.
O'Neill found out about the site, and the restrictions, when he was recruited from The Daily Dot to see if he wanted to write for the site, via its editor Cole Stryker. Stryker seems like an odd choice as the editor, as the author of an entire book about anonymity and privacy online, who we interviewed a few years ago. You'd think that among his areas of focus would be things like government surveillance. And, amusingly, many of the stories on the site do dance around that topic, without getting anywhere near how Verizon might be involved:
Virtually every story currently on the front page of SugarString—articles about GPS being used by law enforcement, anonymity hardware enabling digital activists, and artists on the Deep Web—would typically include information on American surveillance of the Internet and net neutrality to give the reader the context to make sure she’s fully informed.
But none of articles do that. At best, they dance around the issue and talk about how other countries aside from the U.S. conduct surveillance. That self-censorship puts blinders on the reader, never giving her all the information she should have—information that, not coincidentally, tends to make Verizon and other powerful interests look very, very bad.
There's plenty of talk lately about the importance of trust in journalism today (even if it's tricky to measure). I think it's absolutely possible for a big company to create great editorial content that builds up trust (we did with TheFeature those many years ago). But part of that is not denying reality or putting stupid, trust-destroying restrictions on the effort. Verizon appears to have failed that simple test, and with that, it takes away a big part of the trust that any such site would need.
Okay, let's get this out of the way first: as you'll quickly see, there is no way to write this post without someone accusing us of being hypocritical -- so we're going to just get it out of the way upfront and note that that's absolutely true, as the article we'll be linking to also admits that such hypocrisy is occasionally necessary in reporting. We hope that the reasons for why we're doing this post are clear in the text below, so going hogwild in the comments claiming hypocrisy won't be particularly productive. We know. We get it.
This post really is not about GamerGate. It is really about ethics in journalism (I know, I know). We have no real interest in writing about the whole GamerGate thing at all, because almost none of it is interesting and almost all of it is incredibly, mind-bendingly stupid, no matter what position you're arguing. So, I'm really hoping -- while recognizing this hope will likely not be realized -- that the comments on this post won't actually be about GamerGate or any sort of debate about the merits of one side or the other, but rather about what this article is really about, which is the journalism coverage.
With that out of the way, as noted, we haven't been covering "GamerGate" at all, in part because the whole thing is just kind of ridiculous. There are a lot of wild accusations being thrown around on all sides, and a lot of really bad actions and statements by a lot of people, leading to lots of other wild accusations. Some of the accusations are true, some are not true, many are wildly misleading. But the other reason we haven't been covering it is because it's covered to death everywhere else -- to an almost insane level. And that's what we're talking about today, based on a great article by Jason Koebler over at Vice's Motherboard, noting that so much of the coverage exists because writing something about GamerGate appears to drive a ton of traffic. And in the stupid click-driven world that many publications live off of these days, you do what brings in the traffic (disclaimer: see point 1 at the very top of this post):
The dirty secret here is that, unlike a story about Ebola or Monica Lewinsky or basically anything else anyone writes about, writers and editors can be assured that their GamerGate coverage gets a disproportionate amount of traffic. As far as online journalism gambling goes, it's one of the safer bets you can make.
That's because GamerGate story readership isn't the general public: It's the people who are in the movement itself. For proof of this, look at the fact that the vast majority of GamerGate coverage have hundreds and even thousands of comments—almost all of them from people in the movement.
But it's not just about GamerGate. It's about the way that online news has developed into this traffic-whoring stage, with lots of publications all rushing to cover "the thing that will bring traffic."
Apple announcing an iPhone is news, sure. But Apple announcing an iPhone and breathlessly writing 50 blog posts and a ~live blog~ and an instant analysis and hot takes is when reporting stops being reporting and starts becoming the journalistic equivalent of putting chips on every single number in roulette hoping Reddit or Facebook or someone else picks your story to win that day’s internet traffic lottery.
And, you know, it's not just tech journalism either:
They're all attempts to "win the social media lottery" to have a story go "viral" and suddenly have a lot more traffic.
Frankly, this is stupid. And it's something (again, disclaimer above) we mostly try to avoid. There are a few of our regular critics who accuse us of being traffic whores ourselves (and I imagine a few of them may be rushing to comment as such on this article). They claim that we write what we write to get traffic. But here's a dirty little secret for you: if you want a lot of traffic, writing about intellectual property law, free speech, international trade agreements and regulatory capture isn't the best way to get it. We've never covered a big Apple event. While we'll occasionally attend an event, we tend to write about it a day or two later, after we've had a chance to let things sink in. And we try (though we don't always succeed) to provide a different take on things. We add our opinion (or, as the critics explain, we "spin" or report things in a "biased" way). We try to only write about stories that we actually think are interesting (and, even then we only get to about a third of the stories we actually think are interesting).
As a result of that, I hope that the people who read this site tend to be more loyal and actually more interested in what we have to say (and often more willing to join in the discussion and join the larger community). But, that's not how many media publications work today. It's all about the "metrics" -- the number of visitors, and with the social media firehose so big, the focus has been moving aggressively towards that viral lottery. That's not to say we don't keep tabs on our own traffic -- because of course we do. But we know that getting a big story on Reddit means a flood of people who visit for 30 seconds and move on. Our loyal readers are the ones who stick around, and hopefully it's because we're not providing one of fifty different stories about the same damn thing with the same "journalistic" take (i.e., without any color, without any opinion and without any heart). Our position may not be great for advertisers. I've had discussions with potential advertisers, explaining how we have a really loyal community, and most of them don't seem to care. They just want bigger numbers, even if those bigger numbers are meaningless, because the audience doesn't give a shit. I would think that having a loyal, interested and committed community would be a lot more interesting to advertisers, but so many play the same stupid numbers game, and that leads so many publications to do the same.
There are a few publications that have clearly recognized that the hamster wheel chase of rewriting the identical story over and over again while adding nothing new is not worth it. It's been great to see and I've been encouraged by some publications that have really focused on building a loyal audience through doing something different and providing more value. But, for many, it's all about a single metric: traffic. Then it starts to feel a lot less like journalism or something socially valuable. It just feels like... well... a game.
For years, we've talked about how few seem to recognize that real journalism is about the community, not about "the news." I'm hopeful that more people begin to recognize this. And for all the hypocrisy in this post (disclaimer 1), consider part of this hypocritical post to be an attempt to share why we do what we do -- and why we don't do certain other things that we'd consider to be just cynical clickwhoring.
If we want to have a discussion about "ethics in journalism" perhaps it should start with a discussion about all of this.
from the from-edward-r.-murrow-to-walter-o'brien dept
We've written a few times now about Walter O'Brien, the claimed inspiration for the CBS primetime TV show Scorpion. As our reporting has shown, a very large number of the claims about O'Brien's life simply don't check out when you look into the details, and in many cases appear to be flat out false. As we've said repeatedly -- though people keep bringing this up -- we don't care at all about Hollywood folks exaggerating a "based on a true story" claim. What concerns us is (1) the journalistic integrity of those engaged in promoting the false claims about Walter O'Brien for the sake of a TV show and (2) the fact that O'Brien has been using this to promote his own business, which may lead people to giving money to him under questionable pretenses. Each time I write about him, more people who have known him in the past come out of the woodwork to repeat the same claims: nice enough guy, but always massively exaggerating nearly everything.
In this post, however, I want to focus on the first part of my concern: the journalistic integrity question. Three of the main articles often cited in support of O'Brien's claims both come from "CBS News." They're actually local CBS affiliates, rather than the main CBS News, but they're clearly trading on the CBS News brand, trust and credibility, and yet they're so ridiculous as to raise serious questions about CBS's journalistic standards.
First up, we've got an article from CBS 2 Los Angeles, with news "reporter" Crystal Cruz. Like many such stories, it brings up the bogus "4th highest IQ in the world" which has already been shown to be false in our last post. It also ridiculously claims that Scorpion is "a billion dollar business" which, again, there is no evidence to support at all. Then there's this:
“The naval bases in Afghanistan, we predicted the drug lords could do biological warfare to the water supply to the base and put arsenic in the water supply to the base, and we predicted that three months ahead, before it happened,” O’Brien said. “It changed military policy because of it, and that saved over 400 lives.”
As this is being discussed in the video version, it shows a map of Afghanistan, which only serves to reinforce the fact that Afghanistan is a landlocked country. Naval bases aren't particularly useful there. Yes, there was a Navy presence -- and the Marines are a part of the Navy -- there really isn't what most people would consider to be a naval base. But, more importantly, the US military also doesn't use local drinking water because of their fear of contamination in the first place. They bring in bottled water for drinking. There are some reports (from UNICEF) of arsenic-contaminated water in Afghanistan, but it's from local mining operations, not any reports of sabotage by "drug lords." A reporter might have looked into all of this, but CBS wants to promote its TV show.
The Baltimore affiliate of CBS News, WJZ had a piece written by "reporter" Linh Bui repeating a bunch of claims about Walter that are dubious, at best. The whole "fourth highest IQ in the world" is there, of course. She also claims that Homeland Security found O'Brien in the 1980's, despite it only coming into existence after 2001. She quotes O'Brien saying that he's "stopped wars" without ever actually doing any fact checking to see if there's any basis for that at all.
More recently, Boston's WBZ, the local CBS affiliate, had its Emmy winning news anchor Kathryn Hauser claim that Walter' O'Brien helped find the Boston marathon bombers. Again, there has been no evidence that we've seen to date that comes anywhere close to supporting that claim. There was a TV interview that suggested that the FBI likely used software that was like software that O'Brien created (though, we've yet to see any evidence that Walter actually has created such software in the first place). But over time, that claim has continued to morph into this claim that he actually helped find the bombers. You'd think, that with Hauser actually being in Boston she might have gone and asked local law enforcement if there was any truth to the claim at all. But she didn't.
It's pure speculation as to why she didn't, but it's hard not to notice that all three of these reports are posted to CBS News sites and the TV show is airing on CBS. Comments on the latter two stories have pointed out problems with O'Brien's story, but no corrections or followups have been forthcoming. Because that would take actual reporting -- and would contradict the narrative that parent company CBS is selling.
Two other stories that had financial ties to the show have both put up notices pointing out concerns raised about his claims, but neither has been able to find any followups. The first was an article by CNET's Tim Stevens, which repeated some of Walter's usual claims, but after a few people contacted him, he (unlike others) was quick to admit that he may have made a mistake in taking O'Brien at his word and appended an update to the story. Since then Stevens has requested followups with O'Brien, all of which appear to have been ignored. CNET is... owned by CBS. Then there's Fast Company, where Susan Karlin wrote a similar profile of O'Brien, again repeating many of his claims. However, after people questioned it, she too was quick to add a note that many of O'Brien's claims have been questioned and there are "inconsistencies" in his story. Karlin also notes that she has contacted CBS and O'Brien along with other show producers for comment, but appears not to have received any follow up either. As we noted in our last post, Fast Company produced the Techmanity conference where O'Brien was one of the featured speakers.
Still, I appreciate Stevens' and Karlin's willingness to admit that they may have been taken in by O'Brien's claims, and it's quite telling that it appears that O'Brien and CBS are unwilling to do any followups with those who question the details. The really questionable activity is by CBS News itself for simply refusing to acknowledge the questions and simply repeating questionable claims about O'Brien that help the CBS primetime lineup.
Say what you want, but one thing has become abundantly clear since the whole Ferguson debacle began: the people running and policing that city aren't interested in your concerns. Throughout this entire process, the city and its police force have obfuscated the facts and people involved in the shooting of a civilian, they have cynically released information and videos when it suits them, and they've treated journalists covering the story with the kind of contempt they normally reserve for their own constituents. And now, utilizing a method previously beta-tested by both local and federal law enforcement agencies, they've decided the best way to respond to the ongoing outcry is to try to charge insane amounts for FOIA requests.
Officials in Ferguson, Missouri, are charging nearly 10 times the cost of some of their own employees' salaries before they will agree to turn over files under public records laws about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The city has demanded high fees to produce copies of records that, under Missouri law, it could give away free if it determined the material was in the public's interest to see. Instead, in some cases, the city has demanded high fees with little explanation or cost breakdown.
In one case, it billed The Associated Press $135 an hour — for nearly a day's work — merely to retrieve a handful of email accounts since the shooting. That fee compares with an entry-level, hourly salary of $13.90 in the city clerk's office, and it didn't include costs to review the emails or release them.
Allow that to sink in for a moment and marinade in your brain juices: information that could be given for free if it was of public interest is instead being billed at ridiculously high rates. Does anyone seriously want to argue that more transparency out of the Ferguson government isn't in the public's interest? Of course not. This is all about intimidating journalists and trying to put roadblocks in front of likely damning information. Ferguson has a public relations problem in the truest form and their strategy appears to be to freeze out journalists trying to provide information to the public. That won't win them any friends.
And don't think that this strategy is used rarely.
The Washington Post was told it would need to pay $200 at minimum for its requests, including city officials' emails since Aug. 9 discussing Brown's shooting, citizen complaints against Ferguson officers and Wilson's personnel file. The website Buzzfeed requested in part emails and memos among city officials about Ferguson's traffic-citation policies and changes to local elections, but was told it would cost unspecified thousands of dollars to fulfill.
Inquiries about Ferguson's public records requests were referred to the city's attorney, Stephanie Karr, who declined to respond to repeated interview requests from the AP since earlier this month. Through a spokesman late Monday, Karr said Missouri law can require fees but she didn't address why charges specific to the AP's request were nearly tenfold the lowest salary in the city clerk's office. Karr said searching emails for key words constitutes "extra computer programming" that can bring added costs.
Searching emails by keyword now equals "programming?" Brilliant! Although I suppose it's not as egregious as suggesting shooting unarmed civilians equals "policing."
If you've paid attention to anything tangentially related to technology news over the past couple of weeks, you're probably familiar with "bendgate", the feverish reaction to the realization that Apple's newest iPhone 6 Plus includes the feature of a bending case if you accidentally sit on it or something. As an Android loyalist, these reports have been an endless source of entertainment thus far, but even that has now been trumped by Apple's reaction to the issue. Apparently the company has decided that the best response to a technology news organization's reporting on the bendy Apple phones is to threaten to freeze that publication out of future bendy phones and likely-bendy Apple events.
Computer Bilde, a German site, put up a video showing the new iPhone bending and reporting on it. That's when they received a call from a local Apple guy.
The German PR department of the company reacts in a disturbing way: Instead of answering the questions about why the iPhone 6 Plus is so sensitive, a manager called COMPUTER BILD and told us, that COMPUTER BILD will not get any testing devices and no invites to official events any more.
How very Apple of them. It apparently is time to remind Apple that it makes products. It is not the corporate embodiment of Judge Smails threatening to keep honest reporters out of its country club. This idea that journalists who report to the public about very real issues with Apple products should no longer get access to reporting on Apple products is a strategy doomed to failure. Once the word is out that only favorable reports on Apple products are allowed, then nobody is going to trust the reports any longer. That means less sales, since people won't trust the information on the products they'll be receiving. And it won't even stop the independent reviews, any way. Computer Bilde made the point nicely in an open letter to Tim Cook.
Dear Mr. Cook: Is this really how your company wants to deal with media that provide your customers with profound tests of your products? Do you really think that a withdrawal of Apple’s love and affection could have an intimidating effect on us? Luckily we do not have to rely on devices that Apple provides us with. Luckily, a lot of readers are willing to pay money for our magazine to keep us independent. So we are able to buy devices to do our tests anyway. Even devices of manufacturers that seem to fear COMPUTER BILD’s independent judgement.
Even if we are quite dismayed about Apple’s reaction, we won’t give up our principles: We will continue our incorruptible tests that have the same high reputation in the german media-landscape as Apple has for its products. So far. We congratulate you to your fine new generation of iPhones, even if one of them has a minor weakness with its casing. But we are deeply disappointed about the lack of respect of your company.
Nice attempt at strong-arming the press, Apple. Too bad it will accomplish nothing except to build distrust of your brand.
We've been writing a bit about CIA director John Brennan and his continuing to misrepresent the truth and outright lie. As you probably know, back in March, Senator Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA had spied on the computer network being used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the CIA's torture program. As Feinstein revealed, while the computers had been set up by the CIA (for security reasons), there was a written agreement that everything on them would be considered the Senate's, and that the CIA was not to look at them. The CIA violated this agreement, after realizing (upon being questioned in a Senate hearing) that the Senate had in its hands a draft of the so-called "Panetta Report" -- an internal review of all the documents the CIA had given to the Senate staffers, which more or less confirmed all their findings about the CIA torture program. Apparently, the CIA never intended to turn over that report to the Senate staffers, but did. Rather than realize its mistake, the CIA then snooped on the network and more, including Senate staff emails.
When Feinstein first revealed this, Brennan insisted:
"Let me assure you the CIA was in no way spying on [the committee] or the Senate."
That was a lie. Soon after, Brennan tried to release his side of the story, which we noted actually appeared to confirm nearly all of the details of Feinstein's story. And yet, the mainstream press dutifully reported that Brennan had "denied" Feinstein's claims. He did not. He denied claims she did not make in a such manner as to look like he was denying her actual charges.
After the CIA's Inspector General Report came out, confirming all of Feinstein's claims (and much more, including that Brennan's CIA had further misrepresented the truth in trying to claim that it was the Senate staffers themselves who had broken the law), Brennan sent an apology letter. And yet, he's spent the last few weeks denying he lied, claims that are completely undermined by the CIA itself.
So here's the thing: why won't the press say that Brennan lied?
Dan Froomkin, over at the Intercept, recounts most of this history in what he calls an "anatomy of a non-denial denial," and then raises the point of why won't the press actually call out Brennan for lying:
The reason you so infrequently see the word “lie” in elite media news stories is that the editors generally take the position that even when someone has said something clearly not true, a reporter’s use of the word “lie” — rather than, say, “misspoke” or “was incorrect” — requires knowledge of the subject’s intent to deceive. And a fair-minded journalist, they argue, can’t be sure what’s going on in someone else’s head.
But when someone who has so clearly uttered a non-denial denial has to go back and explain how he intentionally responded to an accusation in a very circumscribed or elliptical way, and how that answer was mischaracterized as a denial — and how he made no attempt to correct the record – isn’t that prima facie evidence of intent to deceive?
Even though the non-denial denial isn’t in itself strictly speaking a lie, when examined in context, isn’t that exactly what it is?
Froomkin notes, (as we did at the time in part, thanks to his own research) that most of the press just ate up Brennan's initial denial (which, as we stated, actually confirmed the details, while denying stuff Feinstein did not accuse the CIA of doing). Only a few put in some caveats:
Politico, the New York Times, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal all pretty much cast Brennan’s statements as a blanket denial.
But, as he notes, it didn't matter. Brennan got what he wanted. People thought he denied it, and now he can deny denying it, and pretend he's been telling the truth all along, when he's been doing nothing but deceiving pretty much everyone to avoid admitting the truth. That's called lying. And the press should call it that.
Froomkin dreams of a day when the non-denial denial is no longer an effective tool -- and for that to happen, the press will need to actually not fall for tricks like this. And they could start by calling a lie a lie.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would resign yesterday, after serving as the nation’s top law enforcement official since President Obama came into office in 2009. Holder will leave behind a complex and hotly debated legacy at the Justice Department on many issues, but one thing is clear: he was the worst Attorney General on press freedom issues in a generation, possibly since Richard Nixon’s John Mitchell pioneered the subpoenaing of reporters and attempted to censor the Pentagon Papers.
Holder presided over the largest legal crackdown on journalists’ sources in American history. Under his watch, the Justice Department prosecuted more sources and whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined, and many of those cases directly led to surveillance of reporters. In one, the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed twenty Associated Press phone lines, gathering information on over one hundred AP reporters. In another, the Justice Department accused Fox News reporter James Rosen in court documents of being a “co-conspirator” and “aiding and abetting” State Department employee Stephen Kim in violating the Espionage Act. Both moves by the Justice Department were personally approved by the Attorney General.
After a loud public backlash, the Justice Department recently tightened its media guidelines, but that hasn’t stopped them from attempting to force one of the nation’s best national security reporters, New York Times’ James Risen, into jail for refusing to testify against an alleged source. In Risen’s case, the Justice Department caused the most damage to reporter’s privilege in decades when it convinced the Fourth Circuit to do away with the privilege in its jurisdiction altogether. Shamefully, Holder’s Justice Department argued in front of the Court of Appeals that not only did Risen not qualify for reporter’s privilege, but the privilege did not exist at all, literally comparing reporters who protect sources who tell them about sensitive information to receiving drugs from a drug dealer and refusing to talk about it.
Despite all this, Eric Holder had previously promised that, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail.” How the Justice Department could pursue contempt of court charges against Risen but keep him out of jail was unknown. But now that Holder is stepping down, the Justice Department is not obligated to abide by his promise.
And often forgotten in the Justice Department’s awful crackdown on the press, is its sprawling, four-year grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing classified State and Defense Department documents in 2010 and 2011, under a “conspiracy to commit espionage” theory where WikiLeaks may or may not have asked source Chelsea Manning to send them the documents. Many have referred to it as the largest investigation of a publisher in American history.
Despite the fact that the investigation has been widely condemned by legal experts and Constitutional scholars—former Times general counsel James Goodale said Holder might as well be investigating WikiLeaks for “a conspiracy to commit journalism”—recent court documents show the grand jury is still active.