Reporting on a war that isn’t a war: USA vs. ISIL

Now that the USA and the coalition of the hesitant are stumbling toward the objective, NBC reporter Elizabeth Chuck had good reason to wonder “Why the Obama administration keeps saying ‘degrade and destroy’.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest finds the phrase “brimming with meaning.” Chuck did not. The strategy of air strikes on the black-flagged beheaders of ISIL (or ISIS or just the Islamic State) seems to be “in tatters” according to the UK’s The Guardian. Has Chuck’s question received a good answer?

Ferguson aftermath, two months later

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// Two months after Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, St. Louis remains at the vortex of a media whirlwind of live streaming video, social media, traditional media, national media and slanted cable and online outlets.

For this journalist of four decades, the coverage of such an important national story in our hometown is by turns exhilarating, anarchic, frustrating and frightening. Sometimes it seems like a shining example of a community working through deep, festering problems in a democratic fashion. At other times it feels like a mob as nasty Tweets on multiple hashtags fly by faster than they can be read.

Risen stirs the White House, again

A recent Google news search shows no new information about Jeffrey Sterling, the Missouri resident and former CIA agent accused of leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen.

By SCOTT LAMBERT// That doesn’t mean nothing has happened with Sterling. An upcoming meeting may mean a date for trial will be set soon. Once that happens, Sterling may get his chance in court.

Until then, members of the press get to sit back and watch the sniping between James Risen toward President Barack Obama and Obama toward the press in general.

Jeter launches website to give a voice to athletes

By SCOTT LAMBERT// New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter didn’t spend a lot of time retired before he started a new career.

After a hall of fame baseball career that saw Jeter act cautiously around the press, Jeter announced he’s going to become a member of the Fourth Estate – at least the sports end of it. Jeter launched the Player’s Tribune, a web site dedicated to allowing athletes the chance to speak out in their own words, therefore bypassing the gatekeepers that are sports media. The masthead of the web site describes the aim of the site as:

“The Players’ Tribune aims to provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation and to publish first-person stories directly from athletes.” (site here)

Journalism 2014: On the Road to Irrelevance?

By GEORGE SALAMON// “Journalists have no choice but to fight back because if they don’t, they will become irrelevant.” James Risen, NYT investigative reporter
What are they supposed to fight against? Fellow journalist Lindsey Bever of the UK’s Guardian spelled it out: “Committing an act of journalism could soon become an imprisonable offense.” That’s so because Risen refused to name sources for his report on a botched CIA operation in Iran (in his 2006 book “State of War”) in court and may soon go to prison rather than “break his vow of confidentiality.”

China déjà vu all over again

By WILLIAM A. BABCOCK// For those of a certain age, the ongoing protests in Hong Kong bring back unpleasant memories of June 4, 1989.

The Tiananmen Square Massacre, as it is referred to in the United States, also started with peaceful protests. In the end, though, tanks and armed Chinese military units ended up killing between 600 and 3,000 protesters in and around the world’s largest public square. And as the Chinese government has consistently censored news of that bloodbath, few Chinese citizens know what transpired then in their own capital.

When the whole truth is the first casualty: Reporting on Israel-Gaza

By GEORGE SALAMON// Reporting on Israel-Palestine, especially during the August exchange of rocket attacks from Gaza and Israel’s bombing of the densely populated strip, drew criticism from supporters of one side and those on the other. Since declaration of the ongoing cease-fire, things are not improving. Both sides insist that reporting generally ignores the whole truth, especially the part they deem central to understanding the “real” issues at the root of the conflict. This is a case where critics are right much of the time.

In Ferguson aftermath, don’t wait for “real change”

By GEORGE SALAMON// “American society is a sort of flat, freshwater pond, which absorbs silently, without reaction, anything which is thrown into it.” Henry Adams

The great grandson of John Adams and grandson of John Quincy Adams would still be right today about America except for the “silently, without reaction” part. America reacted to the Ferguson shooting of African-American Michael Brown by a white Ferguson cop on August 9th in reams of newspaper comments and posts on internet blogs. The media responded as well, reporting and then analyzing accurately and thoroughly on a few occasions, hastily and mindlessly on many more. (Media coverage has been and continues to be assessed in the pages of GJR.)

Sterling’s trial press coverage turns right into left and left into right

By SCOTT LAMBERT// Weeks ago, lawyers for Jeffrey Sterling asked appeals courts to send his case back to the district court so his espionage trial could begin. As this happened, the press heated up its coverage of the coming trial and the future of both Sterling and reporter James Risen.

For the last couple of years reporters have concentrated on Risen’s refusal to disclose the source of his book chapter about a failed CIA plot directed at Iran. Stories are now starting to question the actual case against Sterling, who is accused by the government of providing the information to Risen.

What is surprising is that conservative pundits are defending President Obama for the espionage prosecution, while liberal pundits are criticizing him.

A new outlook for NPPA

By SARAH GARDNER// It’s a cliché that journalists, whose lives are based on storytelling and presenting news and information, are not good at communicating with one another.

On a small scale, as in a daily newsroom, or on a larger scale, as in a national organization, that weakness is evident. On Sept. 11 and 12, 22 executive board members, region chairs and student chapter representatives from the National Press Photographers Association met in St. Paul, Minn. The goal was to bridge the gap between the national organization and its members, and rejuvenate its members — professionals and students alike.