Want Better Journalism and Less B.S.? Demand Stronger Public Record Laws.

“Even if you despise the media, you should be rooting for more government transparency. Some of the worst journalism happens when no one has hard evidence one way or another and the only sources are government press releases and anonymous officials. Take for example the months of speculation surrounding the death of U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, all of which was enabled by erroneous government statements and the fact that Capitol Police records and autopsy reports were confidential. As I wrote then, “In a vacuum of primary sources, bullshit will prevail. If you want faster, more accurate reporting, demand better public record laws and more transparency from officials.”
The power-hungry demagogues and partisan pundits trying to tear this country apart dream of a perfectly fact-free environment where anything can be claimed and nothing can be confirmed. Strong public record laws are the antidote to the farces and tragedies they would inflict.”

Getting Trump Was More Important to Some Journalists Than Getting the Story Right

“”The end of the long inquiry into whether Donald Trump was colluding with Russia came in July 2019, when Robert Mueller III, the special counsel, took seven, sometimes painful, hours to essentially say no,” former New York Times reporter Jeff Gerth writes at the beginning of his detailed analysis. His old employer was at the center of the frenzy and its editors still defend their efforts, he adds. “But outside of the Times’ own bubble, the damage to the credibility of the Times and its peers persists, three years on, and is likely to take on new energy as the nation faces yet another election season animated by antagonism toward the press. At its root was an undeclared war between an entrenched media, and a new kind of disruptive presidency, with its own hyperbolic version of the truth.””

“It’s really hard to get to any sort of truth if you bypass accuracy.
“My main conclusion is that journalism’s primary missions, informing the public and holding powerful interests accountable, have been undermined by the erosion of journalistic norms and the media’s own lack of transparency about its work,” Gerth writes in the afterword to his Russiagate post mortem. “One traditional journalistic standard that wasn’t always followed in the Trump-Russia coverage is the need to report facts that run counter to the prevailing narrative.””

Major Media Outlets Condemn Continued Prosecution of Julian Assange

“The editors and publishers of The New York Times and several major European media outlets have released an open letter condemning America’s prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Assange faces 19 federal charges of espionage and hacking for his alleged role in helping Chelsea Manning get access to classified military reports from the Iraq and Afghan wars. Those charges were filed in 2019, but a superseding indictment from the Justice Department filed in June 2020 added more details and accusations (but not new charges), claiming Assange recruited hackers and directed them to targets. The Department of Justice’s position is that Assange is a hacker, not a journalist.”

“Leaders at The New York Times and The Washington Post have long opposed Assange’s indictment for the potential chilling effect. If Assange can be imprisoned for publishing classified documents, then couldn’t the editors of the Times or the Post or any other media outlet who also published these documents face the same fate?

In order to get around these First Amendment concerns, the justification for Assange’s prosecution is that he doesn’t qualify as a journalist. He is not a “legitimate” journalist. The problem with that argument is that it gives the government the authority to define who does and does not qualify as a journalist, which itself would seem like a violation of the First Amendment’s protections. There is no “legitimacy” distinction in the First Amendment. Journalism is an activity, not just a career. Many, many people have engaged in various forms of journalistic activities without being credentialed reporters for media outlets.”

This Court Case Could Make It a Crime To Be a Journalist in Texas

“At the core of Villarreal’s misfortune is a Texas law that allows the state to prosecute someone who obtains nonpublic information from a government official if he or she does so “with intent to obtain a benefit.” Villarreal operates her popular news-sharing operation on Facebook, where her page, Lagordiloca News, has amassed 200,000 followers as of this writing.
So to jail Villarreal, police alleged that she ran afoul of that law when she retrieved information from Laredo Police Department Officer Barbara Goodman and proceeded to publish those two aforementioned stories, because she potentially benefited by gaining more Facebook followers. Missing from that analysis is that every journalist, reporter, or media pundit has an “intent to benefit” when she or he publishes a story, whether it is to attract viewers, readers, or subscribers. Soliciting information from government officials—who, as Villarreal’s case exemplifies, sometimes feed reporters information—is called a “scoop,” and it’s not new.

Yet it was an argument that, in some sense, resonated with Judge Priscilla Richman, the chief jurist on the 5th Circuit, who almost certainly voted in favor of reconsidering the court’s ruling. “In fact, Villareal’s [sic] Complaint says that she ‘sometimes enjoys a free meal from appreciative readers, . . . occasionally receives fees for promoting a local business [and] has used her Facebook page [where all of her reporting is published] to ask for donations for new equipment necessary to continue her citizen journalism efforts,” she wrote in August, rebuking Ho’s conclusion. “With great respect, the majority opinion is off base in holding that no reasonably competent officer could objectively have thought that Villareal [sic] obtained information from her back-door source within the Laredo Police Department with an ‘intent to benefit.'”

Such an interpretation would render the media industry an illegal operation, and everyone who participates—whether they be conservative, liberal, far-left, far-right, or anything in-between—criminals. “Other journalists are paid full salaries by their media outlets,” writes Ho. Can confirm. Is that somehow less consequential than receiving free lunch or getting a new spike of followers on a social media platform (which is something that many journalists employed full time also set out to do)? “In sum, it is a crime to be a journalist in Texas, thanks to the dissent’s reading of § 39.06(c),” Ho adds.”

Opinion | Taxing Tech Companies for the Failure of the News Industry Is Just Unfair

“Klobuchar modeled her bill on Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code, which through a compulsory negotiation and arbitration set-up forces Google and Facebook to pay qualifying Australian news organizations (from both print and broadcast) about $150 million a year. The rationale behind the Australian shakedown and the proposed American one goes like this: News headlines and snippets on Google and Facebook have enabled the companies to convene mass audiences and abscond with billions in advertising revenues that were once the news industry’s near-exclusive franchise. This shift in advertiser preference from newspapers and TV to Google and Facebook has led to financial pain for many (but not all) news vendors. Given journalism’s high value as a public good, Google and Facebook must pay for the damage they’ve caused and help steer the news industry back to something close to the status quo ante.”

“the Klobuchar bill unjustly punishes the tech giants by making it prop up an industry that has largely failed to address its business problems and has been decaying for decades. It’s not clear whether these subsidies will restore the news business to health, and it appears likely that the act would serve as a prelude to direct government subsidies to save the news — another bad idea. Finally, the bill resembles a reparations package, which is unfair because the tech giants didn’t cause the news industry’s decline. They only contributed to it.
It would be nice to blame all of the news industry’s problems on the tech behemoths, but the undoing of the newspaper industry began well before the web’s advent. Newspaper circulation’s per capita decline started in the post-WWII era, as did the industry’s share of ad spending, thanks to competition from radio and TV. Total advertising revenue peaked in 2005. Some savvy newspaper investors, like Warren Buffett, predicted the industry’s coming decline in 1992, a good half-decade before the commercial Internet was a thing. The newspaper audience and ad buyers had already begun migrating to other mediums, like TV and cable.

One enduring myth of the Internet’s rise is that it caught the news industry by surprise. But that just isn’t so. The historical record shows that starting in the 1970s, they invested deeply and experimented widely on the electronic delivery of news and ads to homes (Viewtron, QUBE, Extravision, Gateway, Interchange, and many other systems) in hopes of inventing something like the web. What prevented them from dominating the electronic space was that the emerging, off-the-shelf technology and the open architecture of the Internet allowed open entry into the news and advertising market — no government licenses or big newsprint presses were required. Winning in this arena meant competing with all comers, and the news business proved to be a bad competitor. Google, which was founded in 1998, had the best ideas on how to sell ads in the space, and by 2012 its ad revenue surpassed that of the entire U.S. newspaper industry.

The rise of Google and then Facebook did parallel the decline of newspaper revenues, but it would be a mistake to say one caused the other. As analyst Kamil Franek points out, Google and Facebook did not build their success by “stealing” newspaper advertising. They did it by disrupting the advertising universe with systems that allowed for more efficient and cheaper ways to attract prospective customers. For better than a century, the ad business had followed the dictum attributed to department store magnate John Wanamaker, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Internet advertising deflated Wanamaker’s wisdom by making it knowable which half was wasted. Web advertisers could finally measure the successes of their campaigns and refine where to advertise next. The web also proved to be a bargain for advertisers, as better and better ad performance became cheaper and cheaper: Total advertising as a percentage of GDP dropped 25 percent between the 1990s and the aughts. Google also created new places to advertise, such as on games and on smartphones. Benedict Evans, another analyst, holds that somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of Google and Facebook’s ad business came from companies that had placed no print advertising outside of the Yellow Pages.”

“The alarmists were right all along”: A Moscow journalist on Putin and the new Russian reality

“For a long while, Russia has “flooded the zone” and bombarded the population with so many contradictory accounts of reality that they weren’t sure what to believe, or they were too cynical to believe anything. But now it’s full Orwellian control of reality, and that’s a much heavier lift because it’s not about undermining consensus, which is easy; it’s about enforcing one.”

“I have to be honest, there were a handful of people here who have been warning about this for a long time, who were telling people like me that this was going to be a fascist dictatorship one day, and we’ve been dismissing these people. We were like, “Come on, Putin is a cynic, he’s evil in so many ways, but at least he’s a rational guy. All he wants to do is get himself insanely rich. He’s not going to do anything really drastic.”
But we were all fucking wrong. The alarmists were right all along, and almost every one of them is either dead or in jail or exiled.”

“we’re in uncharted waters. All these major foreign media outlets, like the New York Times and the BBC, are fleeing Moscow. That’s never happened. The New York Times has had a bureau in Moscow throughout the entire 20th century, including three revolutions and two world wars and the entire Cold War. But now Moscow isn’t safe for the New York Times. I really don’t have the words to describe how unpredictable this situation is.”

The long reach of Belarus’s repression

“The most egregious case happened in May, when Belarusian fighter jets diverted a Ryanair plane that was flying over Belarus en route to Lithuania from Greece and forced it to land in Minsk. Officials claimed (with laughably flimsy evidence) they had received a credible bomb threat against the plane. It was merely a pretext to arrest a prominent Belarusian opposition journalist, Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend, who were aboard the flight (along with 170 other passengers).”