Journalism

Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 30, 2008

Alan Rusbridger, who edits the British Guardian, thinks fear of libel lawsuits from big corporations may have contributed to journalists' failure to adequately report on the dangerous economic decisions that led to the recent implosion of the global financial system. In an article for the New York Review of Books, he recounts his own paper's "most recent serious brush with the British defamation laws" earlier this year when it was sued for libel by Tesco, one of the largest public companies in Britain and the fourth-largest retailer in the world.

The case centered around a report in the Guardian in which Rusbridger admits that the newspaper got some of its facts wrong. It reported correctly that Tesco was using complex financial deals to avoid paying taxes, but its reporters misunderstood the particulars of the arrangement, and "the sums avoided were much less than we had supposed."

The ensuing libel lawsuit from Tesco consumed more than a million dollars in legal fees, and threatened to go to millions more before it was settled out of court.

Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 30, 2008

Aside from the recent shoe-tossing incident when Bush visited Iraq, there's hardly any coverage of Iraq anymore, as Megan Garber points out in the Columbia Journalism Review. "Per studies from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the war regularly wins less than two percent of the weekly U.S. news hole," she writes. "And complacency shouldn't keep us from being fairly shocked when, after Iraq's cabinet approved a 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S.

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 28, 2008

"In the usual process," writes Greg Mitchell, "the U.S. government -- and media here -- are playing down questions about whether Israel overreacted in its massive air strikes on Gaza, while the foreign press, and even Haaretz in Israel, carries more balanced accounts. The early reports on Sunday already reveal the bombing of a TV station and mosque and preparations for an invasion." Mitchell cites eyewitness accounts that describe morgues full of civilians, along with editorial stating that Israel's bombing of Gaza "within the span of a few hours ...

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 27, 2008

David Roberts, an environmental writer for Grist.com, has written a great critique of the coal industry's "clean coal" campaign, pointing out that "it's an obvious scam -- easily exposed, easily debunked. Just because it's obvious, though, doesn't mean the media won't fall for it. Indeed, the entire 'clean coal' propaganda push is premised on the media's gullibility." Roberts notes, as have others, including a recent report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), that "the companies funding 'clean coal' PR aren't spending much on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) research." They have therefore made no progress in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that make coal a potent cause of global warming. The concept of "clean coal" was invented to answer concerns about global warming, and its advocates play a rhetorical game of bait-and-switch on precisely this topic. When pressed about how coal can be clean, Roberts observes, "they revert to the other definition of 'clean' -- the notion that coal plants have reduced their emissions of traditional air pollutants like particulates and mercury (as opposed to greenhouse gases)."

Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 10, 2008

"There is a fierce battle going on over what kind of a CIA director Barack Obama should appoint, when he should close the prison camp at Guantanamo, and whether there should be a full scale investigation (and possible prosecution) of the torture advocates in the Bush administration," notes Charles Kaiser in the Columbia Journalism Review. Unfortunately, reporting on this issue in the New York Times and elsewhere has been flagrantly one-sided, from a position that falsifies the facts and defends torture. "Most of the Times's sources don't think that anyone who formulated or acquiesced in the current administration's torture policies should be excluded as a candidate for CIA director, or prosecuted for possible violations of criminal law," Kaiser writes. A recent story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, for example, falsely repeated John O. Brennan's description of himself as a "strong opponent" of torture, even though "most experts on this subject agree that Brennan acquiesced in everything that the CIA did in this area while he served there."

Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 06, 2008

Jesse Eisinger was one of the few financial reporters to sound an early warning about Wall Street's financial meltdown. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, he explains that business reporters failed to see it coming because "the people who have gravitated to business journalism didn't get into journalism for the same reasons that people in political journalism tended to get into journalism. ... It's not necessarily fired by a sense that we should right society's wrongs. ...

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on December 06, 2008

CNN has announced that it will cut its entire science, technology, and environment news staff, a move that Christy George of the Society of Environmental Journalists called "disheartening." Other networks have also been slashing science and environmental jobs, including NBC Universal's The Weather C

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on November 25, 2008

"Dan Abrams, the chief legal correspondent for NBC News who recently lost his prime-time cable news show, is forming a consulting firm that he hopes will connect a global Rolodex of media experts with businesses that need strategic advice," reports Brian Stelter. "The firm, Abrams Research, may resemble a narrowly focused version of 'expert network' firms that connect investors to industry experts.

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on November 22, 2008

Psychiatrist Frederick K. Goodwin, who hosts a popular show on National Public Radio called "The Infinite Mind," earned "at least $1.3 million from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers, income not mentioned on the program," reports Gardiner Harris.

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Posted by Sheldon Rampton on November 19, 2008

TokyoThe Associated Press recently conducted a study of news consumption by young people which found that participants "showed signs of news fatigue; that is, they appeared debilitated by information overload and unsatisfying news experiences. ... Ultimately news fatigue brought many of the participants to a learned helplessness response.

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