Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

American Media, Journalists Stampede to Love Obama; Healthy?

November 18, 2008

Perhaps it was the announcement that NBC News is coming out with a DVD titled “Yes We Can: The Barack Obama Story.” Or that ABC and USA Today are rushing out a book on the election. Or that HBO has snapped up a documentary on Obama’s campaign.

Perhaps it was the Newsweek commemorative issue — “Obama’s American Dream” — filled with so many iconic images and such stirring prose that it could have been campaign literature. Or the Time cover depicting Obama as FDR, complete with jaunty cigarette holder.

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008; C01

Are the media capable of merchandizing the moment, packaging a president-elect for profit? Yes, they are.

What’s troubling here goes beyond the clanging of cash registers. Media outlets have always tried to make a few bucks off the next big thing. The endless campaign is over, and there’s nothing wrong with the country pulling together, however briefly, behind its new leader. But we seem to have crossed a cultural line into mythmaking.

“The Obamas’ New Life!” blares People’s cover, with a shot of the family. “New home, new friends, new puppy!” Us Weekly goes with a Barack quote: “I Think I’m a Pretty Cool Dad.” The Chicago Tribune trumpets that Michelle “is poised to be the new Oprah and the next Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis — combined!” for the fashion world.

Whew! Are journalists fostering the notion that Obama is invincible, the leader of what the New York Times dubbed “Generation O”?

Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. “OBAMAISM — It’s a Kind of Religion,” says New York magazine. “Those of us too young to have known JFK’s Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us,” Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it “BAM-A-LOT.”

“Here we are,” writes Salon’s Rebecca Traister, “oohing and aahing over what they’ll be wearing, and what they’ll be eating, what kind of dog they’ll be getting, what bedrooms they’ll be living in, and what schools they’ll be attending. It feels better than good to sniff and snurfle through the Obamas’ tastes and habits. . . . Who knew we had in us the capacity to fall for this kind of idealized Americana again?”

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Washington Post Admits Lack of Objectivity In Obama Coverage

November 8, 2008

By Deborah Howell
Washington Post Ombudsman
Sunday, November 9, 2008; Page B06

The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.

My assistant, Jean Hwang, and I have been examining Post coverage since Nov. 11 last year on issues, voters, fundraising, the candidates’ backgrounds and horse-race stories on tactics, strategy and consultants. We also have looked at photos and Page 1 stories since Obama captured the nomination June 4. Numbers don’t tell you everything, but they give you a sense of The Post’s priorities.

The Washington Post

The count was lopsided, with 1,295 horse-race stories and 594 issues stories. The Post was deficient in stories that reported more than the two candidates trading jabs; readers needed articles, going back to the primaries, comparing their positions with outside experts’ views. There were no broad stories on energy or science policy, and there were few on religion issues.

Bill Hamilton, assistant managing editor for politics, said, “There are a lot of things I wish we’d been able to do in covering this campaign, but we had to make choices about what we felt we were uniquely able to provide our audiences both in Washington and on the Web. I don’t at all discount the importance of issues, but we had a larger purpose, to convey and explain a campaign that our own David Broder described as the most exciting he has ever covered, a narrative that unfolded until the very end. I think our staff rose to the occasion.”

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The Meltdown of the American Media

November 5, 2008

More than the economy has melted down. What remains of big media credibility has also liquefied and won’t recover anytime soon, if it ever does.

Don’t take my word for it. The ombudsman for The Washington Post acknowledges that conservatives have a point when they claim an imbalance in coverage of Barack Obama and John McCain.

By Cal Thomas
The Washington Times
In her Nov. 2 column, Deborah Howell writes, “…it’s true that The Post, as well as much of the national news media, has written more stories and more favorable stories about Barack Obama than John McCain. Editors have their reasons for this, but conservatives are right that they often don’t see their views reflected enough in the news pages.”

What might be “their reasons”? There is only one answer: Too many journalists have been in the tank for Mr. Obama and wanted to see him elected president. Some Post reporters (Ms. Howell doesn’t say how many) “complained to me that suggestions for issues coverage have been turned aside” in favor of horse-race coverage, despite reader complaints about too much coverage of the race itself and not enough of the candidates’ positions on the issues.

Journalism is the only profession I know that ignores the wishes of its consumers. If a department store found that most of its customers preferred over-the-calf socks to ankle-length socks, would that store ignore customer preferences for the longer socks because the president of the company preferred the ankle-length style? Not if the store wanted to make a profit in the sock department. Yet journalists have this attitude: “we know what’s good for you, so shut up and take it.”

Ms. Howell calls this arrogance….

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Human Rights and Journalists Under Siege in Vietnam, Russia, China and Elsewhere

October 16, 2008

Vietnam has tried, convicted and jailed  reporters for several reasons.  Just this week, reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper was sent to jail by Hanoi’s people court.  He wrote stories about government corruption.   During the Beijing Olympics, China instituted temporary Olympics-related regulations that guaranteed reporting freedoms for foreign media — but these freedoms did not apply to Chinese journalists. In Russia, according to Human Rights watch, journalists and human rights activists are under siege.  “Human rights activists and journalists are the ones who bring to the public’s attention the failure of governments to live up to their promises of justice and rights protection made in national law and their obligations under international human rights treaties,” Amnesty International said. 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at ... 
Reporter Nguyen Viet Chien from the Thanh Nien newspaper at Hanoi’s people court. Chien was sentenced to two years in prison for his coverage of a major state corruption scandal and also jailed his police source for one year.(AFP)


Amnesty International: On Russia

Recent attacks on independent journalists and human rights activists illustrate the risks under which they work in Russia, Amnesty International said on the eve of the second anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. The organization urges the Russian authorities to end impunity for violence against human rights defenders and the media.

“Human rights activists and journalists are the ones who bring to the public’s attention the failure of governments to live up to their promises of justice and rights protection made in national law and their obligations under international human rights treaties,” Amnesty International said.

“However, it is the human rights activists and journalists in Russia who too often themselves face harassment by the authorities and even become victims of human rights abuses themselves.”

In a country where TV and many other media outlets are controlled by the state, there is less and less space for independent reporting. Those journalists who attempt to report independently are obstructed from conducting their professional work and they may face intimidation and possibly prosecution. For example, the radio station Ekho Moskvy was repeatedly asked to provide transcripts of their programmes to the prosecutor’s office in relation to preliminary investigations into allegations that they had aired extremists’ views.

The space to express critical views in the Russian Federation has been gradually and progressively curtailed in recent years.

“Two years after the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, human rights activists and journalists are still at risk in the Russian Federation, in particular in the North Caucasus region. They may be abducted and tortured, have their property attacked, receive death threats or killed in suspicious circumstances,” Amnesty International said.

Anna Politkovskaya was murdered on 7 October 2006 in the centre of Moscow. Two years after the killing, three people accused of involvement in the crime are in detention, but her murderer is still at large and there has been no independent investigation into those who may have ordered the killing.

“Anna Politkovskaya was one of those courageous people who tirelessly stand up for those who have suffered human rights violations. She was in all likelihood killed because of this,” Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International urges the Russian authorities to ensure on all levels that justice will be done in regard to her murder and to demonstrate clearly that there is no impunity for attacks on human rights defenders and journalists. The human rights organization will continue to follow the case closely and will continue to call for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders in the Russian Federation.


The disputed killing in police custody of Magomed Evloev, owner of an independent Ingush website, on 31 August 2008, needs to be investigated with utmost impartiality, to ensure that the circumstances under which he died are brought to light and that those who are responsible for his death are charged and tried in accordance with the law.

On 25 July 2008, human rights defender Zurab Tsechoev, working for the human rights organization MASHR (peace) in Ingushetia, was taken away from his home in Troitskaia, Ingushetia by armed men, thought to be federal law enforcement officials. A couple of hours later he was found on a roadside near Magas, the capital of Ingushetia, with serious injuries. He had to be hospitalized. Amnesty International calls for the perpetrators of this act against Zurab Tsechoev to be identified and to be brought to justice.

Late on 1 August 2008, an arson attack was allegedly made on the flat of human rights defender Dmitrii Kraiukhin from the town of Orel in the Central Russian Federal District. The arsonists had also allegedly tried to block the entrance door. Luckily, Dmitrii Kraiukhin was reportedly not in the flat, but his relatives who were, were able to alert the fire brigade in time. So far, to Amnesty International’s knowledge, no criminal investigation into this case has been undertaken, as the authorities allegedly considered the damage too insignificant to warrant a criminal investigation. However, this is not an isolated incident as far as threats to Dmitrii Kraiukhin are concerned.

On 14 August 2008, unknown assailants threw a brick through the window of the flat in Nizhnii Novgorod where human rights activist Stanislav Dmitrievskii lives. Luckily, nobody was hurt. At the same time, the entrance of his apartment building was covered with abusive language and threats against Stanislav Dmitrievskii. A criminal investigation into this attack has been opened.


Human Rights Watch: On China

The Chinese government should extend without limitation the temporary Olympics-related regulations that guarantee reporting freedoms for foreign media, and apply them to Chinese journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The regulations are set to expire on October 17, 2008. The Chinese government should extend without limitation the temporary Olympics-related regulations that guarantee reporting freedoms for foreign media, and apply them to Chinese journalists, Human Rights Watch said today. The regulations are set to expire on October 17, 2008.

Official logo of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games

The temporary regulations were adopted in January 2007 as part of the Chinese government’s commitments to improve its human rights record, a key aspect of its 2001 bid to win the 2008 Summer Olympics. Human Rights Watch has documented the flawed implementation of these regulations, which were supposed to give foreign journalists greater freedom to travel and interview people across China, in two reports detailing the abuses and harassment of foreign correspondents.

Chinese government officials who have suggested that the regulations may be extended past October 17 include State Information Office Minister Cai Wu, who said in December 2007 that, “If practice shows that the regulation will help the international community to know China better, then it is a good policy in accordance with the country’s reforms and opening up.” Asked on October 7, 2008, about the likelihood of the regulations being extended, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Qin Gang stated: “China’s principle of opening up stays unchanged [after the Olympics].  “Foreign media and journalists are welcome to report in China as always.”

“While there were serious problems in implementing Olympics-related media freedom regulations, they did mark a new and much higher standard in Chinese law for reporting freedom,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But keeping the regulations in effect and extending them to Chinese journalists would be one of the most important legacies of the Games.”

For more of Human Rights Watch’s work on media freedom in China, please see the following:

� October 11, 2008 op-ed by Phelim Kine in The Wall Street Journal, “Censorship Isn’t Good for China’s Health,” at: � August 2007 report, “‘You Will Be Harassed and Detained’: China Media Freedoms Under Assault Ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games,” at: � July 2008 report, “China’s Forbidden Zones: Shutting the Media Out of Tibet and Other ‘Sensitive’ Stories ,” at:

Vietnam Convicts, Imprisons “Whisle Blowing”
Reporter Who Found Government Corruption

For Journalists in Pakistan, That’s the Way It Is

January 31, 2008

By Nicholas Schmidle
The Washington Post
Publication date Sunday, February 3, 2008 (in “Outlook”)
The police came for me on a cold, rainy Tuesday night last month. They stood in front of my home in Islamabad, four men with hoods pulled over their heads in the driving rain. .
The senior officer, a tall, clean-shaven man, and I recognized one another from recent protests and demonstrations. Awkwardly, almost apologetically, he handed me a notice ordering my immediate expulsion from Pakistan.

Rain spilled off a nearby awning and fell loudly into puddles.
I asked, somewhat obtusely, what this meant. “I am here to take you to the airport,” the officer shrugged. “Tonight.”
The document he’d given me provided no explanation for my expulsion, but I immediately felt that there was some connection to the travels and reporting I had done for a story….

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