Category: Free Speech

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 2)

June 2009, the future of 21st Century journalism moves with protestors across Iran’s capital. In an area somewhat removed from the commotion, philosophy student Neda Salehi reportedly steps from a car and is soon shot by a sniper. A bystander videos her death and uploads it to YouTube. The moment becomes the rallying point for demonstrators in the country and for spectators from around the globe. It is a seminal moment of change for the news media.

The next night, June 21, I write

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Responsible Reporting Section 2 ‘The New Journalisms’: Chapter V

Last Sunday, we interrupted our weekly serialization of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, because of Father’s Day. Another interruption comes July 12, during San Diego Comic-Con. This week’s return completes the last of five journalisms, and the one that more than any other can lead to irresponsible news reporting.

Timing is interesting in context of the landmark Supreme Court ruling just two days ago that opens way for marriage between people of the same gender in all 50 states. There is a force of collective will washing across the Internet that could cause some journalists to bow before social pressure rather thcan offer probing analyses in second-day stories. For example, I see lots of quick criticism of the dissenting judges that doesn’t delve into the Constitutional concerns they raise, nor negative implications for rights-gainers with respect to taxes or other legal constructs. How much does the mob’s mood influence followups? My concern is process, and I express here no opinion about the ruling—just timing and context with respect to today’s mob journalism excerpt. 

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Is It Perspective or Deception?

Yesterday, I started a discussion with a BetaNews commenter identified only as John. He responded to a story I posted here as “Apple Music Takes from Artists to Give to Subscribers“, which at BN followed another appearing on my site as “Apple Music Will Surely Succeed“. The cross-posting with different headline and art keeps with my December 2014 advice: “Writers, Own Your Content!” Comments funnel to BN, which is good for audience building there.

The commenter first accuses me of being a troll and then, based on my response, of being deceitful because of my writing style. You be the judge. I see the exchange as being hugely relevant to what should be good online journalism, and it may reflect two different and (hopefully) valid perspectives—reporter’s and reader’s—about what that should be. 

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Flickr a Day 98: ‘NgaNga’

Dramatic is my reaction to this protest shot from Freedom II Andres, in Makati City, Philippines, on Oct. 4, 2013. The second “Million People March” rallied against the country’s so-called pork-barrel scam that a Philippine Daily Inquirer investigative series exposed about two months earlier.

The photographer’s name is appropriate for a protest shot like this one, and spotlights his family heritage. The second of four sons, “we are all named Freedom“, he explains, “simply because our father was one of the student-activists of his time in the 1970s, when Filipinos fought against the dictatorship of then president Ferdinand Marcos”. 

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Rolling Stone Story Undergoes Brutal Forensic Analysis

The symbolism is recognizable, but as what depends on the eventual outcome. Dateline April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday, “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report” posted to the magazine’s website. The holiday celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection, following crucifixion. The Washington Post and several other organizations crucified Rolling Stone in December 2014 for long-form news story “A Rape on Campus”. The exhaustive autopsy of the story’s reporting and publication is another another crucifixion, arriving on a day that celebrates resurrection, salvation. Will RS have the one by voluntarily inviting the other?

“A Rape on Campus” spotlights the alleged sexual assault of a University of Virginia student identified as Jackie. The investigative report paints a campus culture of acceptable assault without reproach or reprisal. But the veracity of Jackie’s account later collapsed. Rolling Stone sought outside examination, which by itself demonstrates just how strongly the magazine strives to report responsibly. 

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My Goddamn Problem

Three months ago, I commanded: “Writers, Own Your Content!“. Some of my best tech-industry news and analysis is gone from the Web—six years of posts—because of corporation changes; one employer was acquired, while the other restructured. The sites I managed vanished. Now I defy good SEO practice and double post content to my work website and to my personal one. Art typically is different, and headlines are never the same.

Reader reaction to one recent headline just shocks me, and makes me chuckle. 

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Why is Tim Cook’s Personal Life News?

My colleague Mark Wilson takes on the task I failed to (but should have) in commentary: “Apple’s Tim Cook is gay—the fact it needs to be announced shows what’s wrong in tech“. The CEO’s admission, in a Bloomberg-Businessweek opinion piece, isn’t surprising. The news media’s overglowing reaction is the shocker, as Mark observes: “Websites have practically fallen over themselves to heap their praise on the announcement”.

What? Are bloggers or reporters afraid they might appear to be homophobic if neglecting to add their voice to the echo chamber? Many news writers called Tim Cook’s announcement courageous. This morning, in chat, I told Mark: “Your response to it is hugely courageous”. He chose not to join the echo chamber and even to risk recriminations for rightly questioning why so much news space was given to Apple’s CEO. 

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Twitter betrays You

Today, over at BetaNews, my colleague Mark Wilson asks:
Twitter may be within its rights to block ISIS beheading content, but is it right?” The social service did more—suspending accounts for some users who shared the gruesome video depicting the slaughter of front-line journalist James Foley, who was held in captivity for about two years. Mark writes:

Twitter has a responsibility to allow events to unfold without intervention. The sheer number of people using the site means that it is possible to get a fairly balanced view of what is going on in the world—do a little research and you should be able to find supporters of every side of just about any story or argument. But for this to work, censorship just cannot happen.

I agree but see far darker implications with respect to news reporting. 

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Twitter's Defiance is Good News

I love Twitter, all the more since Eric Snowden’s revelations about the U.S. government’s secret spying program. The company largely stands apart from other techs’ positions, but not completely. In December, I scolded Twitter, along with Apple, Facebook, Google, and a smattering of others for their “disingenuous and self-serving” call for global government surveillance reform.

Today, Twitter tweaks the government regarding an agreement that expands disclosure of information requests, including those that fall under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In a startling act of defiance, Twitter chooses not to disclose the number of FISA and other national security-related requests, contending they’re scope is an “overly broad range”.

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This is How Free Speech Dies

“The foundation of Groklaw is over. I can’t do Groklaw without your input”, Pamela Jones writes today. “It really was a collaborative effort, and there is now no private way, evidently, to collaborate”.

She responds to recent revelations that the U.S. government reads your email: “The owner of Lavabit tells us that he’s stopped using email and if we knew what he knew, we’d stop too. There is no way to do Groklaw without email”.