Friday, September 30, 2011

DeKalb prosecutor targets journalists for subpoenas

Chicago Judge Robbin Stuckert expects to rule by November 8 a case that an attorney for press interests says would violate Illinois' Reporter's Privilege Act.

At issue is DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell's argument that journalists must turn over their notes from jailhouse interviews with suspects if subpoenaed.

Campbell conceded that journalists have "a competing interest" but he argued that State's Attorneys have an obligation to "prosecute cases as thoroughly as possible."

He did not explain why law enforcement or prosecutors have so little resources that independent information from reporters woould be needed to fully investigate criminal cases.

The Reporter's Privilege Act generally protects journalists from being required to divulge information they gather in the performance of their work.

American Public Media funded for 'citizen sources'

It's less 'citizen journalism" than growing sources, but a $4.1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced this week could greatly expand the voices, tips and reportinig on local and regional levels.

CPB "officials said the grant will add 100,000 more people to the network to share information with 50 more newsrooms," reported Brett Zongker of the Associated Press. "It will fund mobile apps to share content and tools to vet information from participants."

It's unclear where the funding will originate to pay the reporters and editors required to verify sources' information or to use news judgment in determining what's verifiable news and what's not. However, any help to improve local and regional journalism is welcome, of course.

Curiously, the money, to be spent over two years, if going to American Public Media and neither PBS nor NPR.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nielsen contradicts Pew on online news use

More than 13 times as many U.S. Internet surfers list pornography and other miscellaneous uses than news, according to a new Nielsen report on social media summarized by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Further, Americans spend more than 22 percent of their web time on blogs and social networks.

Just 2.6 percent of the online audience noted "current events and global news."

This contradicts recent Pew research that shows that reading news online is becoming a regular American pastime. Internet news readership is increasing among consumers of all ages, Pew reports, and 75 percent of online Americans look for news on the web. Other figures suggest that up to 78 percent of Americans look for news online and 21 percent of social users are “News Junkies,” constantly looking for breaking information on the web.

Nielsen's report is being received with more than a little doubt.

"Skeptical readers may note that blogs could relate to news, and portals post news stories, so take that into account," writes Poynter's Steve Myers, who listed Nielsen's findings:

Activity % of Internet time spent on it
Other (including porn) 35.1%
Social networks & blogs 22.5
Online games 9.8
Email 7.6
Portals 4.5
Videos/movies 4.4
Search 4.0
Instant messaging 3.3
Software manufacturer 3.2
Classifieds/auctions 2.9
Current events & global news 2.6

Meanwhile, the New York Times this week noted the supposed drift away from mass-market news could be tied to a fragmentation of the Web.

David Carr writes, "Like newspapers, portals like AOL and Yahoo are confronting the cold fact that there is less general interest in general interest news. Readers have peeled off into verticals of information — TMZ for gossip, Politico for politics and Deadspin for sports, and so on."

SPJ's Quill offers good 'toolbox tips'

Jamie DeLoma's "Digital Media" column in a recent issue of Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists, offers eight solid suggestions.

"The web offers journalists countless free opportunities to enhance their reporting," says DeLoma, a Hearst copy editor and Quinnipiac Unievrsity jorunalism professor. "The biggest hurdle facing them is knowing where to find the most relevant and timely information. Google should be part of every journalist's e-toolkit."

He outlines and explains Google highlights Reader, Uncle Sam, Squared, Patents, News Archive Search, Trends, Flu Trends and Labs.

"Journalists should also build the most popular social media entities, including Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, into their own custom wire services with news coming in about the subjects they are most interested in," he continued. "New, more dynamic sites are developing by the day, and it is critical to stay connected with the latest sites and applications in the news-gathering arena. Don't fear the developments, but embrace them."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Murdoch, news & democracy

Apart from the eventual outcome of investigations on multiple continents about News Corporation's alleged criminal invasions of privacy, media kingpin Rupert Murdoch has changed journalism, politics and governance, according to columnist John Buell, author of Politics, Religion, and Culture in an Anxious Age and a teacher at Cochise College in southeastern Arizona.

"Murdoch feeds but also reflects a politics of demonization not unique to the United States but exceptionally potent here," Buell writes. "Thus to a greater extent than in most modern democracies, such questions as whether one inhaled marijuana or had a mistress pass for informed and important political debate."

That's a general observation. A specific variation exists, too, Buell says.

"Fox has been an amplification machine for the notion that the U.S. is broke and government, just like today's families, must retrench," Buell writes. "This analysis is only half right. Middle- and working-class families are broke, but the federal Government can borrow money at historically low rates. If it does not borrow -- or tax corporate and wealthy savings -- and spend, we may be sunk.

"The notion that the U.S. is broke is absurd," he added. "If we are broke now, we were much more broke in the years following WWII. Yet in those years the U.S. growth rate topped that of the Reagan era and the fruits of growth were much more equitably distributed.

"The corporate culture of News Corp/ reflected Murdoch's broader political ideals and affected its journalistic practices," Buell continued.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Associated Press blasts Kentucky athletics for denying student journalists access to players

As the Western Courier recently published, the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) and the Associated Press Sports Editors organizations both have blasted University of Kentucky athletics for revoking the student newspaper's access to players.

After Kentucky freshman forward Anthony Davis Tweeted a welcome to walk-ons Brian Long and Sam Malone, Aaron Smith, managing editor of the Kentucky Kernel student newspaper, sought confirmation of that news from the players themselves. So he looked up their phone numbers in the school directory and contacted them, said Kernel Editor-in-Chief Taylor Moak.

Then DaWayne Peevy, associate athletic director of Media Relations, contacted Smith to inform him that the newspaper was no longer invited to a special, one-on-one media interview with the players the next day because Smith had asked the players for interviews without first getting permission from Media Relations.

APME president Hollis Towns wrote Kentucky Director of Athletics Mitch Barnhart that the action “amounts to no less than an attempt to bully the newspaper into submission and to censor news concerning operations of the University of Kentucky athletic department.”

Meanwhile, Student Press Law Center attorney Adam Goldstein said the university's actions boil down to one.

“People seem to be struggling with the nuances of athletic regulations, but the simple question at the core is: Can the government punish someone for asking a question?” Goldstein said. “Any answer that defends Media Relations for what they did here requires you to answer in the affirmative. The idea that punishing people for asking questions should ever be OK is irreconcilable with any First Amendment precedent in history.”

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gov't not liable for TV station excluding Green Party from debates, court rules

Just because a broadcaster is licensed by the federal government -- and even when a significant amount of its funding comes from government -- doesn't mean the government is responsible for what shows -- or doesn't show, according to U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman in Chicago.

On August 18, Gettleman dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Green Party in 2010 against WTTW-TV (Window to the World Communications, Inc.) for excluding Green gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney (shown above during a campaign stop in Macomb) and U.S. Senate candidate LeAlan Jones from debates the PBS affiliate telecast.

The Green Party sued on the grounds that its First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights were violated.

The Green Party has been recognized by the state of Illinois as an established political party since Whitney in 2006 received more than 11 percent of the votes for governor.

In a five-page opinion, Gettleman dismissed the case on the grounds that the defendant is neither owned by the government nor was it acting as an arm of the government. WTTW is a non-profit corporation.

A footnote in the decision says that the court would be disinclined to force Whitney or the Greens to pay attorneys’ fees to the defendants.

Meanwhile, it seems that earnest journalists must now shoulder a heavier burden in justifying to the public any editorial decisions to ignore or exclude "recognized," legitimate or long-shot candidates for political office, whether Whitney, Republican Ron Paul or Democrat Dennis Kucinich.