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How user comments got ruined--and what to do about it

September 29, 2016 - 3:25pm
More and more news sites are shutting down the troll-ridden comment sections on their articles, but my experience as co-founder of a religion website that helped pioneer these kinds of online comments makes me think the troll infestation didn’t have to happen, and that news sites can and should preserve this valuable service. We all know about the ugliness that...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

September 29, 2016 - 12:40pm
In this week's Lower Case... via scmgibbons, Reddit The Atlanta Constitution 4/13/78 The Spokesman -Review (Spokane, Wash.) 6/8/75 Want to see more regrettable headlines? Check out the Lower Case archives.

Covering a potential terrorist attack? Keep these things in mind

September 29, 2016 - 6:50am
Terrorism relies on the spread of fear, so any publicity—from journalists or otherwise—threatens to play into its aims. The ability of terrorists to disseminate information and recruit has only gotten more powerful with the rise of social media. In the past month, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism has published three reports on how journalism should cover terrorism. We’ve also...

In a Los Angeles neighborhood, teen reporters give a paper unique access to its community

September 28, 2016 - 12:15pm
Earlier this month, reporter Samantha Silva sat with Juan Méndez and Josefina Rizo in the living room of their  Los Angeles home. She was there to interview the couple about their 16-year-old son, José Juan Méndez, who was fatally shot in February during an encounter with police. Méndez, who police say was armed and driving a stolen car at the...

Six lessons from a five-year FOIA battle

September 28, 2016 - 9:26am
I filed my first Freedom of Information Act request on February 1, 2012. I was 26 years old, and chasing a story about my father’s med-school classmate, Dr. Paul Volkman, who had been convicted of a massive prescription drug dealing scheme the previous year. The aim of the request was simple: I wanted to see the evidence the jury saw...

Employment picture darkens for journalists at digital outlets

September 27, 2016 - 2:00pm
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released a chart showing the total number of employees working in the newspaper industry is now lower than those working in the “internet publishing and broadcasting” sector. Given the struggles of the newspaper industry, and the increasing popularity of “digital native” news publishers, such figures may seem intuitive. Yet it only...

Sizing up Lester Holt's low-key debate performance

September 27, 2016 - 11:12am
Nothing Lester Holt did Monday night could have made every viewer happy; the role of debate moderator is a thankless one. But with a steady, if at times quiet, performance in front of tens of millions, the NBC anchor did a solid for a press chagrined again and again throughout this campaign.  Holt mostly left the debating to the candidates,...

Your copy will blow if you overuse this word

September 27, 2016 - 6:50am
It really blows out there.  Republican senators, one article said, need to “get back home and campaign for re-election against the political headwinds created by Trump.” A columnist wrote: “Neither Hilary [sic] Clinton nor Donald Trump is a political genius, so either one of them could face even stronger headwinds than Obama has.” In one PBS NewsHour, it was almost...

Facebook is being taken somewhere it never wanted to go

September 26, 2016 - 3:30pm
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has hit a rough patch in his quest to prove to the world that his company is a technology platform rather than an editorially driven, sentient publisher of the world’s self-expression, which carries a social responsibility beyond its next earnings call. First came the removal of the Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut of a girl...

Expect a fresh debate storyline from the same Donald Trump

September 26, 2016 - 12:20pm
The through line of many previews for Monday night’s presidential debate is Donald Trump’s unpredictability. “Which Donald Trump will show up?” CNN asks. “[Hillary Clinton] is mentally readying herself for multiple Trumps,” adds The New York Times. “Will Trump lose his cool, be impatient, be too subdued or be crass?” NBC’s Chuck Todd said Sunday on Meet the Press. “Or...

‘The Narrative’ derails proportion, drives fear after terrorist attacks

September 26, 2016 - 7:53am
One evening in July, I was lying in bed thumbing through TV channels when news of the atrocity in Nice flashed on the screen. Transfixed by the rolling coverage, I watched as information trickled in --of a maniac in a truck, mowing down families celebrating Bastille Day on a crowded promenade. I kept watching as the picture crystallized, becoming more horrific...

A week with CNN's Corey Lewandowski

September 23, 2016 - 2:32pm
Partisan hackery is a feature, not a bug, of many cable programs, and networks’ stables of on-air analysts are filled with thoroughbreds. CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski is not unique in that regard. What makes Donald Trump’s former campaign manager different from his counterparts on the split-screen is threefold: He has a non-disparagement agreement with his former boss; he will continue...

'There's gotta be a better way': Ethical dilemmas surround eyewitness video

September 23, 2016 - 11:37am
Allison Griswald was relaxing in her apartment after a long July day at work when she heard a popping sound coming from the street outside. She went to her living room window, and after a few minutes she picked up her phone and began to record. As police cars sped down the road, sirens blaring, it became clear something dramatic...

Livestreaming terror: The nebulous new role of platforms

September 22, 2016 - 2:15pm
n 2013, two men murdered off-duty British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London.  As Rigby was being attacked in the street, bystanders were tweeting about it. One onlooker recorded a video of one of the attackers—with blood still on his hands—talking about why he had carried out the killing. A research project by Britain’s Economics and Social Research Council that...

Fanning the Flames: Reporting on Terror in a Networked World

September 22, 2016 - 2:15pm
Executive Summary Terrorism is a brutal and violent practice, but it is also a media phenomenon. Terror is vital news: a dramatic, important story that the public needs to know about and understand. But terrorism also relies on such publicity to disrupt society, provoke fear, and demonstrate power. This problematic relationship predates digital technology. In 1999, American historian Walter...

Survey: Less trust in media on historically black campuses

September 22, 2016 - 12:07pm
Students at historically black colleges and universities have a low level of trust in the press and are more likely than students at non-HBCUs to favor restrictions on press coverage of campus protests, according to a report released this morning by the Knight Foundation and the Newseum Institute. The report is part of a Knight-funded research program on campus free...

A pregnant reporter talks about covering the Zika outbreak in South Florida

September 21, 2016 - 1:28pm
Sammy Mack covers the health beat for WLRN, the NPR member station in South Florida. That means she’s been reporting on the Zika virus since early summer, when health officials began warning that they expected an outbreak to hit Florida. Locally acquired infections did appear in mid-summer, and Mack has been following the response from public officials ever since. While...

Headlines editors probably wish they could take back

September 21, 2016 - 12:06pm
In this week's Lower case...   Buffalo Courier-Express, 6/23/77   Tonawanda (NY) News Frontier, 1/18/75   Newsday, 7/13/77   Want to see more regrettable headlines? Check out the Lower Case archives.

When important investigative reporting must compete with Brangelina

September 20, 2016 - 7:26pm
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold broke the story today that Donald Trump used more than $250,000 from his charitable foundation to settle legal disputes for his for-profit businesses. In other news, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from Brad Pitt. Can you guess which story got more attention? . @Fahrenthold just dropped maybe the most substantive AND colorful Trump story of...

Big lie, little lie, and the media’s role in telling the difference

September 20, 2016 - 2:41pm
Before Donald Trump disavowed birtherism during a media-enabled infomercial for his hotel on Friday, BuzzFeed was already calling him out. “Three lies about birtherism to look out for in Donald Trump’s speech,” read the title of its preview. The headline of a front-page analysis in Saturday’s New York Times used similar language: “Trump Gives Up A Lie but Refuses to...