Here are some media stories of note for the weekend of December 7-8, 2013:
China's crackdown on foreign journalists reveals much about the thinking of the country's new leadership, writes Evan Osnos for The New Yorker.
The threat to expel foreign journalists (largely by failing to renew their visas) is the clearest indication yet of the approach leadership will be taking to their self-perceptions as they confront their challenges. The leadership is indicating that reporting about the sudden financial gains by individuals is a great threat and worth sacrificing the larger goals of the country in order to avoid the telling.Reuters looks at how
former Chinese piracys haven now pay to legally licence the content but also employ people to sleuth the Internet and identify pirate sites to close. It is part of a new arrangement in China designed to respect copyright and vilify the violating operations.
Robert Mahoney, the deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, writes on the chill
on the British press, exemplified by this week's Commons committee appearance by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. Mahoney argues the effort by authorities to deal harshly with the Guardian's publication of surveillance secrets leaked by Edward Snowden sends a signal to other regimes: "If the editor of a national newspaper in a country with a functioning democracy and 300-year-old tradition of a free press can be threatened and bullied, what more does an autocrat need to do except invoke national security and cite the British example?"
Jack Shafer, the media columnist for Reuters, worries that any effort
by the Federal Trade Commission to regulate sponsored content could have more serious consequences than leaving it alone. Shafer speculates that the reader/advertiser/publication symbiosis may have broken down, but that is no reason to permit the FTC to determine how to fix it. At the very least, it will have to be more gentle on journalism than it has been on advertising.
For Friday, December 6, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
Kenya has a new media bill and it is not good for journalists.
Organizations and individuals face significant fines for breaching a code of conduct that stipulates a need for accuracy, fairness, independence and integrity. While that code sounds good in principle, the government itself will control who sits on a tribunal to oversee the code.
Journalists believe the bill was in response to their coverage earlier this year of hefty raises MPs awarded themselves. Legislators are among the highest-paid in the world, earning about $15,000 a month. A journalist earns about $200 a month, on average, while the typical Kenyan earns about $1,500 a year.
The bill passed Thursday without amendments. The Standard newspaper asserts it will suffocate investigative journalism in the country.
Upworthy is in the spotlight lately for sporting viral-worthy content, in particular the catchy headlines for its catchy videos. It notes it writes about 25 of them for each post, mainly to see what hooks a quick audience. Its reach totals 87 million visitors monthly, up from a mere five million at the start of the year.
But the site has decided to share some insights, and mount some defences, in an Upworthy Insider post
on what goes viral. It isn't the headline writing. It's the quality of content and the fact people share. While clickbait works initially, it isn't sustainable. Upworthy says its curators comb through countless videos to select five to seven each week to share. That's very selective curation.
Tracie Powell, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review,
examines the consumer confusion about native advertising/sponsored content. This week the U.S. Federal Trade Commission held a workshop to look at whether this phenomenon might be posing a problem for consumers in distinguishing advertising from editorial content.
Powell writes that the researchers told the workshop what the publishers didn't: That, yes, consumers aren't typically aware of paid content, that they skip past the labels on the material, and that in their minds a story is a story if it looks like a story.
Here are some media stories of note for Thursday, December 5, 2013:
We've heard it repeatedly: Television is dead, people will use their laptops, tablets and smartphones now to watch video. Well, not exactly. In fact, not at all. Television (at least in the U.S.) is hot, except that it's hot in a timed-oven kind of hot, with personal video recorders delaying the viewing. Once you look at the PVR-delayed consumption, and video-on-demand consumption, television viewing is up. Live-TV viewing is slightly down, but delayed-TV viewing is well up. Peter Kafka of AllThingsDigital notes
that the numbers don't necessarily serve television's industry well (advertisers have yet to pay well for those time-delayed viewers), but it's clear TV is liked. It's just on our timetable now, he says.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission's workshop Wednesday on native advertising was touted as a watershed event in which government would put on the table its concerns about the blurry lines between editorial and advertising. But the FTC chair, Edith Ramirez, didn't suggest new regulations
were coming. She did say, though, that some forms of sponsored content have transgressed appropriate boundaries and misled consumers they are editorial and not advertising content. She promised continued vigilance on the issue. AdAge noted the vigorous defence
by the advertising agencies and online sites about their practices.
Ivan Verstyuk, a senior editor at the RBC news agency in Ukraine, writes about
the deeply troubled media business in his country. Paid-for news is routine and business interests are advanced without sufficiently critical faculties applied.
Countries feature different approaches to journalistic expression, as we know, but Foreign Policy outlines
the distinction between two countries that we might think would be pretty aligned and congruent. The U.S. and U.K., though, are tackling the leaks of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in radically different ways, and it is possible the U.K. could charge The Guardian for sharing its non-redacted files with The New York Times. It isn't what it published, but what it shared.
Here are some media stories of note for Wednesday, December 4, 2013:
Today is the day the U.S. Federal Trade Commission holds a workshop on native advertising. That sounds like the dullest possible combination, but its implications are enormous and the media business has prepared for it like a day on the stand as an accused. How this event goes could well determine the direction of regulation around sponsored content online and how consumers are protected as it is presented. The New York Post reports
on the Interactive Advertising Bureau's discussion paper on the topic, which indicates sponsored content will be the prime engine for digital growth in the years ahead: $4.6 billion by 2017, up from $1.6 billion last year.
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, was called to testify before a British Commons committee Tuesday to defend the news organization's release of surveillance secrets leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. He had to deal with fairly strenuous lines of questioning, among them one on whether he loved his country. The New York Times reports
on the pressures exerted on The Guardian since the revelations, including more than 100 contacts with authorities. Roy Greenslade of The Guardian
itself suggests Rusbridger didn't break a sweat.
Pierre Omidyar, the eBay founder who is creating an ambitious news organization, weighs in on
the recent case involving PayPal and an an attack on service by the Anonymous organization. The prosecution of those accused of the attack, and the issues related to disclosures by WikiLeaks, raise important questions on free expression that Omidyar believes have not been properly discussed. He understands the concerns about the damages of attacks on services, but also wonders the direction prosecutors will take on issues of the First Amendment in the digital age. Even though these cases appear extreme, they set a tone for press freedoms, he argues.
Readers note: I've started a blog with weekly (or thereabouts) media commentary, www.presswatching.com.
My first post discusses the Rogers-NHL deal and its implications for the CBC.
Some stories of note for Tuesday, December 3, 2013:
The unpaid/lowly-paid intern is a fact in media. In recent months there have been more calls, and some litigation, to change the plight of those who work at rates below the minimum wage for organizations that are not without means. Charles Davis, writing for VICE, examines the liberal-leaning media and their traits as intern employers. He finds more than a little irony.
The New York Times looks at the emergence of public-backed investigative journalism and the announcement Monday of uncoverage.com. The site will field pitches from journalists and crowd-fund stories and topics. The site promises more serious coverage, not celebrity journalism.
A U.S. Federal Trade Commission workshop Wednesday will discuss more formally the ethical issues for consumers of native advertising. The gathering won't deliver any findings immediately but will hear from interest groups on how this content might mislead or confuse consumers. Rick Edmonds, writing for Poynter, sets up the gathering.
For Monday, December 2, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
These have been rough days for journalists in Kiev, where protests in the streets met with police force and injured reporters and photographers. Olga Rudenko, writing for the Kyiv Post,
chronicles the clashes over the weekend in which at least 40 journalists were hurt. The Ukraine government has promised an investigation.
Bloomberg News has been in the news recently for concerns about how it is handling its presence in China. Today it seems the authorities are much more displeased than pleased, excluding Bloomberg's British political correspondent Robert Hutton from a news conference with the Chinese premier and the British prime minister. BuzzFeed reports
on the snub.
When you receive a trove of documents, should you share them? Last week PandoDaily's Mark Ames raised questions
about the fairness of former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald bringing the stash of Edward Snowden revelations to the new Pierre Omidyar-financed news operation. He even questioned whether Greenwald will have agency to publish all he wishes. Not surprisingly, Greenwald leapt to his defence and has crafted a lengthy FAQ
on this matter. It is not a pretty dispute.Journalism.co.uk looks
, a new database project underwritten by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help journalists look at relationships and connections in datasets. The project lets users input data and maps connections to produce a searchable database.
For the weekend of November 30-December 1, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
The editor of a magazine in India that has pushed for an end to sexual violence has been arrested in a sexual assault case. The Associated Press reports
Tarun Tejpal, editor of Tehelka, is accused of assaulting a female colleague earlier in November. He had earlier stepped down for what he said was a lapse in judgment.
Meanwhile, the Indian vice president has released a book
on media ethics, a series of essays by prominent journalists and officials. Hamid Ansari indicates that a stronger form of media self-regulation is needed to restore credibility or there will need to be government intervention to effect improvements. He argues media have lost their way into excessive commercialism, glamour and sensationalism.
The government of Pakistan is indicating
further measures are forthcoming on its freedom of information law. A code of conduct is also emerging in the country for its journalists. At a conference Friday, the government affirmed its commitment to free expression and to a strengthening of ethical practices.
For Friday, November 29, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
The months-long quest for British press regulation shows no sign of imminent settlement. The latest chapter features a letter from 100 prominent figures from the arts, science, academia and elsewhere who encourage publishers to sign on to a royal charter system. One year after the Leveson inquiry, there are no signs of consensus on the next steps.
Roy Greenslade, the venerable Guardian media columnist, notes that this new letter
adds to the pile. Those who have been victims of press misbehaviour have already suggested the royal charter, rather than the industry-created self-regulatory body, is the route to pursue. Among the signatories to the letter are some prominent journalists, including former editors and Nick Davies of the Guardian.
---Human Rights Watch reports
that four journalists have been killed in Iraq in the last month. Meanwhile, journalists there are facing prosecution for defamation for their activities and are subjected to increased harassment. Journalists report confiscation of equipment and arrests when they cover politically sensitive topics.
Alaa Abdel-Fatah, one of Egypt's most prominent bloggers, has been arrested under a new law that restricts protests in the country. A warrant had been issued for his arrest and Abdel-Fatah had indicated he would turn himself in to authorities, but instead his home was raided late Thursday. The AP reports
his wife was beaten in the raid and laptops were seized. Among other things, the new law requires a three-day notification of any protests.
For Thursday, November 28, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
The travails for Asian journalism continue.
The latest measure in the crackdown by the Vietnamese government on dissent involves new fines for criticizing the government on social media. While not necessarily criminal, the criticism would fall into a category of "reactionary ideology" and "propaganda against the state" and be subject to fine of 100 million dong (about $4700), Reuters reports.
The Japanese lower house, meanwhile, has approved a bill that would stiffen penalties for public servants for leaking secrets or for journalists obtaining them. The bill identifies 13 areas that now are classified. Public servants face up to 10 years in jail for betraying secrets and journalists face up to five years for obtaining those secrets through "grossly inappropriate" means. BBC reports
the bill now moves to the upper house, where it is expected to pass.
And China is boasting that it has cleansed the Internet of rumours and slander. Reuters reports
one of the government regulator's top officials has stated that efforts have been effective in the fight. When social media becomes a platform for criticism, the government works with local Internet providers to delete user-generated content deemed to politically sensitive.
For Wednesday, November 27, here are some media stories of note:
When CBS News placed Lara Logan and her producer on a leave of absence, it followed the completion of an internal report on their discredited 60 Minutes segment on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
That report by CBS' Al Ortiz, the executive producer for standards and practices at CBS News, found several disconcerting issues in the reporting and an inherent conflict for Logan that should have been avoided. Among other things, Ortiz concluded the program had the means to verify that the principal source of the segment, British security contractor Dylan Davies, was not telling the truth about what he witnessed the night of the attack. There were enough signs of trouble in the research to stop the report, but it sailed through the vetting process and aired.
Eric Wemple of the Washington Post examines the report
and the CBS response to it. Among his five points: CBS and 60 Minutes don't work together, a leave of absence is meaningless, the CBS chairman/60 Minutes produce should also be penalized, it's problematic to investigate the boss, and CBS would have been wise to release the report on the holiday weekend. Brendan Nyhan, writing for Columbia Journalism Review,
also criticizes how CBS News handled the controversy, including the scrubbing of the content from the Internet.
A photographer has been awarded $1.2 million
after a court ordered two news agencies to pay for images he took and they used without attribution from Twitter. The court concluded there were violations of the Copyright Act when images he took of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti were redistributed without appropriate compensation. Even though Twitter appears to be a public forum, the court indicated there remain in place requirements should anyone reuse content without permission. Guardian media columnist Roy Greenslade says
the case has the potential to set an important precedent, but notes it is subject to appeals.
In recent days USA Today and the McClatchy group of newspapers in the U.S. have clarified that they are not going to use handout photos from the White House (unless they are of significant news value). Andrew Beaujon, writing for Poynter
, notes their moves follow a dispute in which the White House restricted access for press photographers. News organizations protested the move.