“The rise of the misinformed is now the largest obstacle for success for journalists today (outside the concerns that relate to publishing). If people don't trust the news, you don't have a news business.” Thomas Baekdal writes a strategic analysis for media companies to earn their readers’ trust, looking at data from PolitiFact to understand how misinformation spreads and what journalists can do to stop it.
As newsrooms disappear, veteran reporters are being forced from the profession. They dedicated their lives to telling other people’s stories. What happens when no one wants to print their words anymore?
Inside the Snitch Tank. After his arrest for the worst mass shooting in Orange County, CA history, Scott Dekraai poured out his feelings to a jailhouse informant. But instead of nailing down a death-penalty conviction against a confessed killer who was arrested with murder weapons in his car, the bugging of Dekraai’s cell touched off a legal storm over prosecutorial misconduct and the misuse of jailhouse informants which has delayed justice and drawn national attention. The Orange County Register has set up an extensive website to accompany their ongoing investigation and report.
The Best American Crime Writing Series (renamed The Best American Crime Reporting in 2006) ran from 2002 to 2010 and presented the finest in true crime journalism. Many of the stories are available from the online magazines in which they were first printed or from other legitimate sources. Links to all 105 available stories appear below the fold. I have previously presented links to the stories from the 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 editions. Some of those links have gone bad, so they have been reworked. [more inside]
Marlene Sanders’ Feminist Legacy [Slate obit] - "She wrote of her accomplishments: 'As I look back on my career, the women's movement provided an exceptional point when time, place and position all came together to give me the power and focus to contribute to the country’s awareness of the status of women.'" [more inside]
The Final Rhapsody of Charles Bowden by Scott Carrier [Mother Jones] [warning, descriptions of graphic violence] [more inside]
Mother Jones reports on Bill O'Reilly's claimed experience in combat zones, reaching conclusions like one of his claims "is at odds with news reports from the time—including the report from his own bureau." O'Reilly responded, and Mother Jones factchecked his monologue. Meanwhile, a veteran CBS News reporter weighed in, backing the work by Mother Jones.
Brian Williams, Under Scrutiny, Will Take Leave From ‘NBC Nightly News’ [New York Times]
Brian Williams, acknowledging that the scrutiny and criticism he was attracting was becoming a distraction for his network, said on Saturday that he was stepping aside as anchor of NBC’s “Nightly News” for the next several days.[more inside]
Ebola and the Construction of Fear by Karen Sternheimer (Everyday Sociology)
"Sociologist Barry Glassner, author of The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are Afraid of the Wrong Things, explains how misguided panics are not just benign opportunities to prevent something horrible, but can divert attention and public funds away from more likely threats. He notes:[more inside]Panic-driven public spending generates over the long term a pathology akin to one found in drug addicts. The money and attention we fritter away on our compulsions, the less we have available for our real needs, which consequently grow larger (p. xvii).
Westerners are so convinced China is a dystopian hellscape they’ll share anything that confirms it. [more inside]
"On Monday, veteran Washington Post editor and New Yorker contributor Marc Fisher published a deeply reported, scrupulous Columbia Journalism Review cover story on how the Internet’s metabolism and economy [including instant-headline video start-up NowThisNews], which places a premium on being first to a story and on attracting clicks, has led to compromises when it comes to the whole accuracy thing. As if on cue, a fun news story has been making the rounds in the past few days: A survey found that 11 percent of Americans believe that "HTML" is a sexually transmitted disease. Other findings included that 20 percent believe a "motherboard" is a cruise-ship deck and 15 percent believe "software" is a type of clothing. The survey itself... may not exist." -- TNR on the Circular Fact Checking ecosystem of online news reporting.
Since the first stirrings of the Nieman Foundation’s narrative writing program nearly 20 years ago, the staff has tended a treasure trove of resource material devoted to excellence in journalistic storytelling. Much of that material went online first via the Nieman Narrative Digest and, in 2009, here at Nieman Storyboard. Storyboard 75 represents some of the most popular posts from our archive so far. Essays, interviews, how-to’s and analyses of narrative journalism.
Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
Shooting The Messengers
So, what guides a journalist's decisions in these unlovely places? The frequently repeated maxim that "no story is worth dying for" rings a little hollow. The awkward truth is that, in this field, personal bravery is simultaneously discouraged and rewarded.[more inside]
Five reasons why news outlets are even worse than you think. Brett Arends describes five corrupting influences that keep the public from getting the facts. [more inside]
Last month, HBO Documentaires released "Which Way Is The Front Line From Here? The Life And Times Of Tim Hetherington." It is a "posthumous recounting of one of the most impressive photojournalism careers to date." "'Restrepo' director has sorrowful Sundance return. [more inside]
The Art Of Making Magazines "By making what they call "not a how-to book, but… a how-to-think-about-it-book," they help us look at something we've probably been taking for granted: What is a magazine?"
In July 2007, NPR published a two part series (direct links: 1, 2) about a four year old uninvestigated rape case at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Sparked in part by a 2006 report (pdf) from Amnesty International that included a startling statistic: "One in three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime," NPR's investigation led to the reopening of the case and Congressional hearings. In February 2011, Harper's published an update of sorts: Tiny Little Laws: A Plague of Sexual Violence in Indian Country (Via)
The Hemingway Papers: The legendary writer’s reporting from the Toronto Star archives, featuring historical annotations by William McGeary, a former editor who researched Hemingway’s columns extensively for the newspaper, along with new insight and analysis from the Star’s team of Hemingway experts.
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, a documentary by Ben Niles. "Invention for 900 Hands", a nine-part series in The New York Times. "K 2571: The Making of a Steinway Grand", an article in The Atlantic Monthly. [more inside]
Should a Wash Post writer take one toke over the line to build trust to get the story? The Washington Post has a strict policy that its reporters not engage in anything illegal to get a story. Does that include taking a hit on a joint or pipe if it will get the subject of the story to open up? Not surprisingly, the reader poll had over 70% say, I'd hit that.
The poor in Ethiopia are often unable to buy newspapers, so they 'rent' papers for 20-30 minutes at a time from local entrepreneurs.
MSNBC reports: Msnbc TV host Keith Olbermann was suspended indefinitely on Friday for making campaign donations to three Democratic congressional candidates, apparently in violation of NBC News ethics policy. [more inside]
Kevin Kelly has posted a list of what he believes are the best magazine articles ever.
Restoring Journalism Maureen Tkacik talks about her life as a journalist, the nothing-based economy, and the future of journalism. She suggests abandoning authority and productively channeling narcissism. (via 2p & dd) [more inside]
The Google/China hacking case, or "How many news outlets do the original reporting on a big story?"
"The symbiotic relationship between the press and the power elite worked for nearly a century. It worked as long as our power elite, no matter how ruthless or insensitive, was competent. But once our power elite became incompetent and morally bankrupt, the press, along with the power elite, lost its final vestige of credibility." "The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News" by Chris Hedges.
Is there something you wish would be reported comprehensively by mainstream news media, even though they won't likely touch the topic? Try open-source reporting. From the 2006 experiment NewAssignment, professional journalists, non-profits seeking crowdfunding, and the Internet public have collaborated to do in-depth investigation and reportage of whatever people were interested in. Jay Rosen, founder of ExplainThis, the newest site in crowdsourced journalism, wants a way to answer questions that are too complicated for a Google search. Will these things deliver well-researched thoughtful analysis, or will they be no match for the Green?
John McPhee writes about basketball, headmasters, oranges, tennis, hybrid airships, nuclear weapons, bark canoes, Alaska, the Swiss Army, the merchant marines, dissident Soviet artists, shad, long-distance trucking, and - Pulitzer Prize-winningly - geology (282kb PDF). He discusses his work here. [more inside]
Long form journalism on the Web is "not working." - TIME.com Managing Editor Josh Tyrangiel ..Among the detractors of this statement is David Sleight, Deputy Creative Director of BusinessWeek.com: "Really? It’s 2009 and we’re still having this conversation?" Scattered industry advice on this topic varies from moderate to extreme, and while web analytics paint a convincing picture of web readers, some wonder if long form journalism has EVER worked. Of course there seem to be other factors at play, like methods of presentation and quality of content.
Journalism and complex public issues - a British newspaper editor's travails
Can nonprofit news models save journalism? The advertising-supported, for-profit institutional model of journalism (skip this ad) is on the wane. Except for a few large and successful outlets, investment in comprehensive reporting has suffered from a shrinking bottom line, even as the hoped-for development of citizen journalism has been generally underwhelming. But some see a solution taking shape in not-for-profit, independent, citizen-supported online news organizations that would employ skilled professional journalists. Pointing to the encouraging recent growth of NPR and PBS as news outlets, many industry thinkers are starting to agree that "The only way to save journalism is to develop a new model that finds profit in truth, vigilance, and social responsibility." Editors are beginning to experiment with models like that of Paul Stieger's ProPublica (a sort of reporting clearinghouse), Geoff Dougherty's ChiTown Daily News, The NYC Center for an Urban Future's City Limits, and Scott Lewis' Voice of San Diego. Great idea - will it work?
In a recent Wall Street Journal story asking if Obama is "too fit" to be president, the reporter uses a Yahoo! message board to find sources (Google cache of the post). (via DF)
Journalism. There have been lots of complaints in the US about reporters not asking the tough questions, especially when they contradict the prevailing view, or the current administration's view. Here are some reporters who won't accept a weasel answer.
Unembedded reporters in Iraq: Fadel al-Badrani, Dahr Jamail, Nir Rosen, Christopher Allbritton. Where they go, what they see, and what they report on gives words to the photographs at Crisis Pictures (warning: some photographs may upset you, and the site has an obtrusive agenda) .
Journalism is an increasingly deadly profession. Statistics vary. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports 36 deaths in 2003 while the International Press Institute documents 64 deaths. Iraq was the most life-threatening country, but the Philippines and Columbia remain some of of the most dangerous places to be a reporter. Four media deaths at the hands of US military in Iraq continue to spark controversy, and a Global Day of Mourning and Protest over the U.S. "abject failure" to probe the Palestinian Hotel deaths is scheduled for April 8. This year, Haiti appears to be another hotspot. The International News Safety Institute offers safety tips and member advice on how to stay alive.
The dicey dynamics of exposing untruths. An interesting bit in the Columbia Journalism Review on why journalists tend to focus on politicians' small lies and let the big ones slide.
Search the New York Times website for any occurrence of the words "Valerie Plame" during the last week...and you'll find nada, zilch, zip. The so-called "paper of record" has remained totally mum on what may be one of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration yet. You can read about it at Newsday, CBS, Time, and The Nation, and it's been mentioned on NBC... but not a word from the New York Times (save for a reference to it last week by syndicated columnist Paul Krugman, and a wire service story today; neither of those pieces mentions Plame by name). The Times' news and editorial divisions are asleep at the switch on this story. Maybe the Jayson Blair scandal was a distraction from the deeper problem: a paper that is so concerned with being balanced and respectable, it refuses to cover any politically controversial stories. You can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to ask why the Valerie Plame news blackout. Or just click this link a few dozen times to send 'em a message.
Elliott could no longer bear the waste. He had six staff and a budget of £3.5m a year. He had a potential client group of 25,000 users ... but at the end of all his work and all that public money, the total number of detox beds he was able to provide was five. The Guardian reports from the front-line of the drugs war. (part two) You may have no interest in Drugs or the UK but read this superb piece for a profile of a bureaucracy in farcical, tragic, total collapse.
Times Reporter Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception The New York Times runs a long article detailing its preliminary findings in the matter of Jayson Blair, The Times' young staff reporter who made up sources, facts, and anecdotes in potentially hundreds of stories. Does this investigation help the Times avoid permanent disgrace? Or does this just confirm what you've always thought about the Times? Slate magazine is attributing part of the problem to affirmative action (Blair is black). Is AA relevant here?
BBC News reporters' weblog on the war is closed. It was a great example of how the idea of weblog can be used in mainstream media. (Although it lacked hyper-links) In it's last instalment, reporters record some final impressions and look back at what it was like reporting the war. The daily archives are available on the right column of the page.
Though you won’t hear about them, there are dozens of Pentagon P.R. officers embedded with reporters in Iraq.
The idea of weblogs has defenitely inspired BBC Online news for making the following pages:
Jimmy Brelsin has been taking stabs at Catholic Church over the last two days (the bishops are abusing money this time). As one of the last true beat reporters in NYC, if not the nation, he's been writing for underdogs for over 40 years. Fairly well too.
10 Days in September: Inside the War Cabinet The Washington Post today publishes the first of an eight-part special series, by investigative reporters Dan Balz and Bob Woodward, on the US government's -- and more specifically, the Bush Administration's -- initial response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out, and is supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by multiple participants. This is what journalism at its best is all about...
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