We altered or fabricated five events: Sen. Joe Lieberman voting to convict President Clinton at his impeachment trial (Lieberman actually voted for acquittal); Vice President Cheney rebuking Sen. John Edwards in their debate for mentioning Cheney’s lesbian daughter (in fact, Cheney thanked him); President Bush relaxing at his ranch with Roger Clemens during Hurricane Katrina (Bush was at the White House that day, and Clemens didn’t visit the ranch); Hillary Clinton using Jeremiah Wright in a 2008 TV ad (she never did); and President Obama shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (it never happened). […]
The fake images were effective. Through random distribution, each fabricated scene was viewed by a subsample of more than 1,000 people. Fifteen percent of the Bush subsample (those who were shown the composite photo of Bush with Clemens) said they remembered seeing that incident at the time. Fifteen percent of the Lieberman subsample (those who were shown the altered screen shot of his impeachment vote) said they had seen it. For Obama meeting Ahmadinejad, the number who remembered seeing it was 26 percent. For the Hillary Clinton ad, the number was 36 percent. For the Edwards-Cheney confrontation, it was 42 percent, just seven points shy of the percentage who remembered seeing the DeLay/Schiavo episode.
When we pooled these subjects with those who remembered the false events but didn’t specifically remember seeing them, the numbers nearly doubled. For Bush, the percentage who remembered the false event was 31. For Lieberman, it was 41. For Obama, it was 47. For Cheney, it was 65. For Hillary Clinton, it was 68.
It’s difficult to estimate the total number of Juggalos. The 2009 Gathering of Juggalos had 20,000 people in attendence. The most recent ICP album sold about 50,000 copies in the first week. But let’s be conservative and go with the 20,000 estimate. (I actually suspect it’s much higher than this.)
Nightline cites only 3 instances of reported Juggalos actually murdering anyone. To be charitable, let’s assume there are 10 people who are both Juggalos and murderers. That would mean AT MOST .05% of Juggalos are murderers. Granted that’s a significantly higher percentage than the US population at large (there were 16,272 murders in 2008 and the US had a population of about 305 million). But less than 1%, at most, isn’t exactly cause for alarm. And I would think Arizona’s finest would be better served by realizing that 99.94 percent of murders are committed by non-Juggalos and adjusting their law enforcement priorities accordingly. (As I write this, the number of murders committed per year by Toby Keith fans is currently unavailable.) […]
And a preemptive response to the inevitable jokes about how Juggalos (re: poor rural teenages who don’t fit in) deserve imprisonment, death, or worse for their fashion-sins: go right right ahead and fuck off and die already.
Across the board, the reporting of public news companies reflects a new, if unsteady reality. In short, that reality is one of profit. Not the big profit of 20-percent-plus profit margins — the envy of many other industries — that were a truism as recently as five years ago. Now, the profit’s more tepid, mostly in single digits: The New York Times, 8 percent; Gannett, 8 percent, McClatchy, 1.5 percent. Expectations run that news companies will show a five to 10 percent profit for the year, absent unforeseen calamity.
But that mild profit is good news. Recall that a year ago, much of the industry was in freefall. A number of companies — stunned by the quick near-Depression downturn of ad revenues — went operationally into the red. They responded with draconian cuts in staff and newsprint, and as the recovery has emerged, they’ve positioned themselves as smaller but profitable companies, though their first-quarter revenues still largely lagged the first quarter of the horrific Q1 2009. Wall Street has rewarded them with improved credit ratings and advanced share prices. There seems to be, say investors, some future here. This week’s tenacious auction in Philadelphia with lenders led by the Angelo Gordon private equity company — now a big player in the U.S. daily business — winning the papers with a $135 million bid only reinforces the notion that newspaper valuation may have been trashed too much.
The Faster Times, an online newspaper launched in July 2009 (tagline: “A new type of newspaper for a new type of world”), has introduced a new kind of investigative model for that new world. The initiative allows readers to vote on one of three topics they want to see taken up by a staff reporter, and then help shape the investigation itself. […]
After the readers select the topic, Apple aims for an open-source investigation unfettered by newsroom walls that, while it will not necessarily compel contributors to post their findings publicly if they’d rather e-mail the tips in privately, the fact that the investigation itself is ongoing will obviously not be top-secret. By making their reporting visible along the way, they hope to attract more reader-contributors.
I criticize Obama frequently, and complain about mainstream media’s tendency to do what Jay Rosen calls he said, she said journalism. I’m often galled by NPR’s practice of the technique (particularly their refusal to call torture torture)
So I was please this morning to hear this report today on Morning Edition: Obama is requiring all hospitals who receive Medicare or Medicaid funding must allow same-sex couple visitation rights. And specifically, I was happy to hear Morning Edition’s journalists calling out conservative spinmeisters on their bullshit. They get both sides of the story, but do what reporters should do when one side of the story is blatantly wrong: they check the facts and provide context.
They call on J.P. Duffy, vice president for communications at the Family Research Council, to comment on the new memo:
Most hospitals, he said, have no restrictions on same-sex visitation.
But Dr. Jason Schneider, former president of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, said that unless a hospital has a formal policy allowing same-sex visitations, gay couples can run into trouble.
“One person in a hospital can make a huge difference — a security guard, a front desk clerk looking at a same-sex partner and saying, ‘You don’t have any right to go back there,’ ” Schneider said. “So I think this directive gives weight to the importance of recognizing the variety and the breadth of how people define families.”
It’s a move that Duffy of the Family Research Council calls “a big-government federal takeover of even the smallest details of the nation’s health care system.”
But this isn’t the first time a president has used Medicare funding to expand access to hospitals.
When President Johnson signed Medicare into law in 1965, many hospitals were racially segregated. That new law said hospitals that received federal Medicare dollars would have to integrate.
This is a commendable move by the Obama administration, and a good example of journalism providing context and fact checking instead of just “telling both sides of the story.” Bravo.
David Forbes is an Asheville, NC based journalist and blogger. He’s a senior journalist at The Mountain Xpress, a regular contributor to Coilhouse (both print and online), and runs his own blog The Breaking Time. You can find him on Twitter here. As a fellow media-geek I asked David to chat with me about WikiLeaks, the future of journalism, and Government 2.0.
Klint Finley: Personally I don’t think there’s one single future for journalism, but many different futures. I think WikiLeaks is one of journalism’s futures – what do you think?
David Forbes: I would agree that there’s not one single future, just as there’s not one single past for journalism — is made up of many different methods of pursuing and conveying information. WikiLeaks represents that raw, juicy information aspect, and there is a role for that, though it’s more limited in impact that some of its apostles may think.
There’s also a desperate thirst for analysis and context, for putting information together in ways that Wikileaks can rarely do.
Above: short version of the “Collateral Murder” video
Well, it seems like they’re trying to do more of that now, with the collateralmurder.com site and all.
A bit yes, but it’s still not their strength, and I don’t think it ever will be. As the release of that video shows, their strength is in finding what others can’t find. Ironically enough, the best analysis of that video has been done by some of the more traditional journalists (in their training at least) who’ve moved well into new media and can use their own contacts and info to put all of this into context.
I’m not sure, but it seems like they were initially trying to be a resource for journalists instead of an actual source of journalism. But they weren’t get the response they were hoping for so they’re doing journalism themselves now.
Jay Rosen called them a “stateless press” which I thought was really interesting.
It is, and does play to that part of journalists’ minds that sees themselves as an investigative society beyond borders.
On a side note, journalism is a capricious field, and what wisdom there is remains usually of the least conventional. For example, this week news emerged that NPR has doubled its market share over the last ten years, to the point where it exceeds network TV news. By a lot of the narratives about “new media” radio’s a dinosaur, and that wasn’t supposed to happen. But it has.
Oh wow, that’s interesting. I knew they’d been growing for the past few years. I wonder if that has to do with increased commute times for American workers.
Partly, yes, but moreso I think it’s that they’ve moved fairly aggressively into new media, enough not to get left behind, and people are thirsty for succinct analysis of the glut of information out there.
So let’s imagine for a moment a scenario in which virtually all professional news organizations have gone out of business. There’s just no business model for them, and all that’s left is “citizen journalism.” (I don’t think it will come to that, but let’s just pretend.)
As a professional journalist yourself do you think “citizen journalism” could step in to fill that gap? Do you think out of work journalists would keep doing journalism on the side, for instance?
Ah, a good hypothetical. No, I don’t think they could, much as plenty of professional journalists are salaryman hacks and plenty of citizen journalists are quite good.
The value of professionalism is underrated, and most news orgs don’t help themselves by having become extremely stodgy, but investigative skills don’t come overnight, and the sort of combined knowledge and contacts some sort of organization has is invaluable.
I think, in that hypothetical, it would quickly “re-professionalize” The best citizen journalists would find backers or form organizations and another system – perhaps bounties for really valuable pieces- would come along to provide the resources.
Yeah, that’s part of why I think it’s an impossible scenario – at least a few people are going to make money some how.
How much investigative work do modern journalists do? It seems a lot of the leg work is actually done by non-profits, advocacy groups, people like that, before journalists even get started.
It depends on the modern journalist. Sadly, a lot of more corporate papers have ditched much of their investigative arms, but plenty, especially locally owned papers or alt weeklies (like the one I work for) are actually going into it more heavily because there’s a hunger for it. Sure, non-profits and advocacy groups will usually do some of the legwork, especially in the initial stages, but at best they’ll only have a piece of the puzzle. Even on basic news stories, plenty of journalists still spend a lot of time chasing down statistics, facts, harassing contacts. A lot of this doesn’t get seen outside, because what the public sees is a very small chunk that’s been battered into a coherent narrative.
A mentor of mine put it best “investigation is following up 10 leads and having nine of them go nowhere.”
Can give any examples from personal experience of doing investigative work.
This was a case where the investigation had to be done extremely quickly. So I ended up heading to neighbor’s houses, talking to them, getting them to make introductions to others. Turned out one of them had snapped some pretty gripping photos of the arrest. I then uncovered the ruling striking down the old flag desecration law, and found out that the deputy shouldn’t have been responding to a call within the city anyway. The charges were dropped, but it’s an example of how investigative journalism works: the information was there, some of the neighbors had pieces of it, but it still had to be pulled together, put into a whole, added to, etc.
I don’t know if you can speak to this, but how is Mountain Xpress doing through this period of… adjustment… for the newspaper business? Alt weeklies have been amongst the hardest hit. Are you/they doing anything interesting to adapt and weather the storm?
We’re weathering it fairly well. That’s in part because the paper has a lot of loyalty in the area and a lot of support from the communities here. But we’re also adapting from the news end. Now when a news story breaks we’ll have it up on Twitter ASAP, and we’ve worked on building our news hashtags and put those feeds up on our main site. Then we’ll have a blog post, then an in-depth print article
Hell, I’m Twittering news from local government meetings (as my outside Asheville followers are no doubt weary at me for). But I think that “all of the above” approach is necessary to survive. Media changes, the need to deliver stories doesn’t.
Right – I think the hard part though is figuring out how to monetize new media. It’s obvious that you’ve got to be everywhere these days – but paying the bills gets harder and harder.
Are there any particular journalism start-ups or experiments that you find particularly exciting?
Well, you mentioned Wikileaks, and that’s one. I find some of the hybrid experiments interesting: the all-online Seattle Pi has developed a pretty extensive stable of “neighborhood bloggers” I think using Twitter for that quick-hit news (and feedback) is fascinating.
I think, in Seattle, the West Seattle Blog is even more interesting. But the PI is interesting in that it’s a very well established paper daily making a huge change in how they operate.
I’ll have to check that out: good local media is priceless, and I’m glad it seems to be making something of a comeback. The future of the PI will be interesting to follow too: they’re making some interesting steps, but I wonder if a corporate-owned paper can be as adaptable as they need to be.
I’m also really interested to see how the NY Times semi-permeable pay-membrane works out.
Ah, the NY Times. The journalism nerd in me loves them, though I gritted my teeth at the “pay membrane stuff.” Last year, I think someone found that for what it costs to supply all their subscribers, they could buy every last one of them a Kindle.
One of the problems I see with monetization… even if you can get people to pay monthly fees for access or whatever, I don’t know if that will cover the sorts of expenses newspapers have. Newspapers have typically lost money on subscriptions and made up for it with ads.
Indeed they have. One of the problems, I think, is that corporations began buying newspapers and seeing them as just another asset. Newspapers, except for rare boom-times, aren’t meant to make huge amounts of money; they make slow, steady profits instead. Also, many got used to being the only game in town and alienated a lot of smaller advertisers, instead of finding ways to build them into a network that could better endure shaky times.
Ironically, a similar thing happened in the banking industry: this pursuit of massive profits inspired a lot of dumb, risky decisions because parts of the economy apparently can’t work unless they’re making ridiculous amounts of money.
I actually really like the idea of the pay membrane – I hope it works out. But I don’t think it will be their only or even main source of revenue.
So shifting gears a little bit. You’ve been following the “Government 2.0” debate on your blog. First of all, can you sum up what “Government 2.0” is concisely?
Basically it’s technologists looking to revolutionize government with, as one might expect, technology. Gov 2.0, in theory at least, would be more accessible, transparent and allow people and government to better coordinate to solve problems and get needed information. And that “in theory” absolutely has to be stressed.
How do you think that fits into what you do as a journalist?
This is one of those areas where it affects me at multiple levels. As a journalist, I know how difficult needed information can be to get and obviously freeing that up would be a major boon to my profession, and most citizens. The political observer in me — which is informed in part from seeing government up close as journalist — has some major criticisms of Gov 2.0.
And what are those?
Oh my, where to start. The Gov 2.0 people for the most part genuinely want to do good, and they’re brilliant. Some of this stuff — like making case law and legislation massively more accessible — will be a big boon. But they’re largely well-heeled business and government types. These are people for whom government’s already working pretty well.
I would’ve killed at the Gov 2.0 conference to see one community organizer up there, talking about how this could help people who aren’t remotely linked in to all this shining technology. Transparency’s great, but there’s already more information out there than ever before about how government operates. There need to be ways to connect people to actually use that information and to press for needed change — basically tomorrow’s political machine. Politics is a fight, it is always and only a fight, whatever form it may take and whatever people may tell you otherwise. I don’t think most of the Gov 2.0 people really comprehend that yet and until they do, we’ll see some fancier tools and more info, but government will continue to be largely as it is now.
I’ve gotten very cynical, myself, about how much transparency and all that actually matters. We know so much about what happened during the Bush administration, and yet nothing was done about and nothing is being done about it.
Well it ended up playing a major role in routing his party in the elections and has led to the reversal of many of their policies (though not nearly enough, by many counts). But yes, it’s a stark example of the limits of transparency when not backed up by the power to make it count.
Hm, well, let’s try to wrap this up with something a little more positive.
Surprise musical number? I’m a terrible singer.
Yeah, I’m only good at making noise so that’s out.
OK, so let’s try and end with this question… If you could tell everyone who reads this to go out and do one thing after reading this, what would it be?
Pay attention to as much of the world around you as you can for one day. That means politics, art, fashion, weather, everything. Then pick a definite course of action to improve things from where they are right now. That’s vague, I know, but basic observation is a good start. I think there’s a grand world coming and we’re fortunate to live in very interesting times. But that same potential means upheaval and uncertainty. We’re going to need everyone engaged and ready to fight like hell in their own way, and taking a good look around is the best first step.
, the problem is that whatever Iceland does, it can’t change the 500-pound gorilla of international media law: the principle that publication happens at the point of download, not the point of upload. The poster child case for this principle is Dow Jones & Co., Inc. v. Gutnick, a case that reached the High Court of Australia in 2002. In that case, Gutnick sued Barron’s Online for publishing an allegedly defamatory article about him, and despite the fact that no one in Australia other than Gutnick’s lawyers actually read the offending article, the judges unanimously ruled that Australian laws applied, and thus Dow Jones (publisher of Barron’s Online) was liable to Gutnick. At least at the time, the High Court of Australia was the highest court worldwide to hear a case involving this issue, and for better or worse, its ruling has carried the day in similar cases around the world since. […]
With the Gutnick ruling setting the current paradigm for international jurisdiction, the IMMI is not nearly the journalistic fortress it’s meant to be. Plaintiffs will still be able to sue in a libel-friendly jurisdiction (like London, for example) and thereby circumvent all the protections the IMMI is meant to offer. To be sure, if the publisher and his assets are entirely within Icelandic jurisdiction, the plaintiff may not be able to do much about the publication.
I pitched the whole world on Dolly Freed. Seriously, every magazine you can think of and a hundred more.
Nobody was interested in a profile of a woman who used to eat roadkill, make moonshine, and sit around reading Sartre with her alcoholic and probably-genius father, a woman who later went on to get her GED, put herself through college, and become a NASA rocket scientist who helped figure out the mess behind the Challenger explosion before turning her back on that world for a life that felt more authentic and invigorating.
Yeah, I can’t see the appeal whatsoever.
So after months of rejection, I bought myself a website about and used it to self-publish a long-form feature story about a month ago, called “Finding Dolly Freed.” […]
So did Radiohead journalism succeed? I guess it depends on the definition of success. In the strictest sense of the word, yes, it worked: I recovered my costs. Yet you could look at the visitor-donation ratio — 160 of more than 5,000 visitors contributed — and extrapolate that this doesn’t appear to be a sustainable model, at least not in its current form. I choose to look at it this way: 160 people sent money they didn’t have to spend, to a person they didn’t even know — that, to me, is wondrous.
Someone else may find a better way to indie journalism in this form — I hope so. I’d be thrilled to see an independent self-publishing model fly, but if you’ll allow me a dogmatic moment here, for it to be truly meaningful the journalism must be inviolable: Story and storytelling matter but so does the journalist and whether he/she has built the story on a foundation of reporting and integrity. Institutional backing confers credibility, but in the wilds of the Internet, you’re on your own; trust begins and ends with you and your standards and approach.
On Tuesday, the Icelandic parliament is expected to introduce a measure aimed at making the country an international center for investigative journalism publishing, by passing the strongest combination of source protection, freedom of speech, and libel-tourism prevention laws in the world.
Supporters of the proposal say the move would make Iceland an “offshore publishing center” for free speech, analogous to the offshore financial havens that allow corporations to hide capital from authorities. Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?