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Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

In local Blue Ridge news, the Rolling Stone “Rape on Campus” trial is winding down. UVA Associate Administrator Nicole Eramo is suing the iconic rock magazine for 7.5 Million in a defamation lawsuit. Our little Cville courthouse has been hosting lots of Yankee traffic this week because Eramo, who was the person in charge of coordinating the school’s response to students claiming sexual assault or harassment, would like to prove the reporter and editors acted with malice.  

“Actual malice is a legal standard, loosely defined in this scenario to mean that Rolling Stone knew that information they were publishing was false, but they proceeded to publish it anyway.” 

Yesterday Sean Woods, an editor at Rolling Stone for 17 years, took the stand. And we learned that he meant to add an addendum to the original article, stating that the other witnesses refused to be interviewed in person for fear of reprisal (meaning their corroboration of “Jackie’s” statements after the alleged rape were hearsay). He really meant to add this, but he forgot!

This would seem unlikely. I might forget where I left my cellphone, but every editor I ever knew would never forget something like that. You must be a little OCD to be an editor; in fact, you may have to be certifiably OCD to do that kind of work. However, Woods stood by his criticism of the administrator, stating Eramo was a public figure and therefore subject to scrutiny…which is almost like saying, “Yeah we screwed up, but so did she, nah nah nah.” Oh and he also tried to resign, but they didn’t let him.

I wonder if being forgetful is the same as being malicious, only in a passive aggressive way?

Now y’all know I’m a card carrying feminist, a proud “nasty” woman, and if a woman cries rape, or “He kissed me against my will with a mouth full of Tic Tacs,” I will tend to believe her. But when the Columbia School of Journalism investigated this infamous rape on campus article and found it to be riddled with problems, I had to think twice. Or, as the Flapper always said, “Believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear.”

The problem of confirmation bias – the tendency of people to be trapped by pre-existing assumptions and to select facts that support their own views while overlooking contradictory ones – is a well-established finding of social science. It seems to have been a factor here. Erdely (the reporter) believed the university was obstructing justice. She felt she had been blocked. Like many other universities, UVA had a flawed record of managing sexual assault cases. Jackie’s experience seemed to confirm this larger pattern. Her story seemed well established on campus, repeated and accepted.   http://www.cjr.org/investigation/rolling_stone_investigation.php

Journalists everywhere have learned their lesson from this case. Just because someone sounds like they are telling you the truth and only the truth, and you want to be sensitive to a rape victim, you must still verify the story. Even though independent news outlets have been gobbled up by mega media corporations, and so many beat reporters have been eliminated from courthouses and borough halls, and the world of “putting to bed” a story at midnight in newsprint, has changed to an online rush of clicks and scathing comments…this one basic truth remains. 

I was taught to get at least 3 corroborating interviews on any story. Fact checking is a basic technique that we the readers must demand, particularly considering our own confirmation bias, in this world of Trumped-up half-truths. I thought you might enjoy some of my old campaign buttons.  http://www.poynter.org/2016/its-time-to-fact-check-all-the-news/426261/  img_5487

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What does the number six, a pen and Salman Rushdie have in common? Easy, they are all trending on Twitter.

And the reason is one of America’s highest literary awards, PEN’s Freedom of Expression Courage Award, was given to the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and consequently, in protest for the seemingly “gleeful” way the mag treats Muslims, six authors are boycotting the big gala. Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner, and Tayie Selasi will not be present next week at the big fete, and Salman Rushdie has just one message for them:

“This is a clear cut issue,” he wrote. “The Charlie Hebdo artists were executed in cold blood for drawing satirical cartoons, which is an entirely legitimate activity. It is quite right that PEN should honour their sacrifice and condemn their murder without these disgusting ‘buts’.”

The Hebdo killings, Rushdie wrote, is a “hate crime, just as the anti-Semitic attacks sweeping Europe and almost entirely carried out by Muslims are hate crimes. This issue has nothing to do with an oppressed and disadvantaged minority. It has everything to do with the battle against fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”     http://scroll.in/article/723627/salman-rushdie-slams-fellow-writers-for-boycotting-ceremony-to-honour-charlie-hebdo

It seems absurd to me that an award in the field of journalism, for speaking the truth, for freedom of expression and not being restricted by a country’s government, would create such a controversy at this prestigious American institution.

A Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian, has been languishing in an Iranian jail for over nine months. President Obama put his name on the national news cycle at the Correspondent’s Dinner. Gathering information as part of your job should not result in jail time, should not put you on a fatwa list, and should not get you gunned down in your office.

Yesterday I saw the Helen Mirren movie with a friend, Woman in Gold. The atrocities of Nazi Germany were portrayed in flashbacks. The Austrians never thought this could happen to them, and yet we saw sane, seemingly normal people standing by, silent, while Jewish people were humiliated in the street, had their stores closed and their artwork confiscated. In fact, Nazi soldiers were welcomed as they invaded their country. Silence and indifference.

When we start to restrict freedom of expression, we begin to silence freedom.

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From Dictionary.com

Whistleblower: a person who informs on another or makes public disclosure of corruption or

wrongdoing.

Leaker: a disclosure of secret, especially official, information, as to the news

media, by an unnamed source.

What we end up calling Edward Snowden says alot about us. After watching a replay of Meet the Press, where David Gregory interviewed the Guardian reporter, Glenn Greenwald, who is responsible for Snowden’s stories about our government’s secret agency and its “broad overreach,” I was actually appalled to find them both at each other’s throats. Two grown men,

“To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?” Gregory asked with his best boyish grin.

Even though there was a slight satellite delay, Greenwald shot right back, calling him out on even suggesting, as one journalist to another, that they should be criminalized for doing their job! He explained that Snowden had offered his information to The Washington Post, before going to the UK…and he said he asked The Guardian to screen what they published – not to jeopardize our country’s security. Then, a few minutes later, Gregory read Greenwald’s further tongue lashing right out loud on Meet the Press, from a Twitter feed:

“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”

OK, so it’s now 4 am and I am not going back to bed!

That darn red cardinal is still slamming his body on my window, despite our attempt to make him feel like he was approaching a Smurf airfield.

photoThe sleep fairy has eluded me once more.

So Gregory said he’s not embracing anything, just asking the question that was “out there.” And Greenwald, who is also an attorney, further tweets about Gregory,  ‘does he publicly wonder if DC officials should be prosecuted for lying to Congress?’ And this morning Greenwald really gets the coffee flowing in my veins by Tweeting:

“It’s awful how Snowden is traveling through countries with no freedom! Now: back to our debate: should US journalists be arrested? #Sorkin

It’s like a Wimbledon match for journalism! IMHO, the best quote about my profession is, “The purpose of journalism is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” So here is a good wrap-up of this tele-computing exchange across the pond; http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/06/23/david-gregory-whiffs-on-greenwald-question/

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling comfortably afflicted! And if you’d like to know how it all got started: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/11/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-profile

Once we start accusing, threatening (yes, even in a veiled way –  “to the extent that you have aided and abetted” – I love how one reporter compares that to asking the question with no good answer – “Have you stopped beating your wife?”…) and yes, maybe even arresting investigative journalists, we might just as well pack it in as a democracy.

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As I watched LiNa, the oldest competitor (29) to play in the Women’s Finals,  win the French Open, I was ecstatic. She had that star quality, like Federer or Baryshnikov, to make their sport/art look easy. At one point, as LiNa was tossing the ball into the air to serve, a Chinese fan yelled something from the stands. She let the ball drop. The announcer, with a French accent, said that the Chinese fans have not yet learned “…the rules of deportment in tennis.” Silence, s’il vous plait.

Unfortunately, leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, bankers and traders abandoned their own set of rules of conduct. The SEC and the Feds remained silent as we slid deeper into a recession. Reagan had opened the playground to deregulation, and there was no adult supervision; players became greedy, and lost sight of the bigger picture. Can you tell, Bob and I watched the HBO movie this week, adapted from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book, Too Big to Fail? It is a must read, or see.

Bob's dessert cell pix

But back to the anniversary dinner from the last post. I didn’t take my camera, at Bob’s request. A wedding rehearsal, golfers, and a family of geese were traversing the green outside Fossett’s window. While savoring the Chef’s tasting menu, a woman was arriving late to the table of six next to us. Every single man at the table stood up as she approached, which led Bob to say, “You don’t see that too often anymore.” Well maybe not, but in the South you do. Our head waitress greeted us by name… deportment can most definitely be a cultural thing. An older woman I respect once told the younger Bride to watch how a man treats the wait staff at a restaurant, that and the way he behaves with his mother are the single best, earliest predictors of his character.

LiNa, when asked about her age said, “Age just paper.” Maybe the global financial crisis is just paper, or  maybe the media needs to keep putting names and faces to the problem, to shine some light on Obama’s team, still trying to right this ship of unemployment and debt  statistics that is listing our great country toward a banana republic. Because following Palin’s mystical bus tour around just doesn’t cut it. And we all know that silence and indifference are the two key ingredients to any economic or societal meltdown.

One of my favorite NYTime’s columnists, and like Sorkin, a reporter with a mind and a conscience, Nick Kristoff says it best about “Our Fantasy Nation” today.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/opinion/05kristof.html?src=tptw

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