A call for responsible reporting of irresponsible speech

For generations, American journalists have been fooling themselves – and their audience. Unwittingly perhaps, but still fooling themselves. On the one hand reporters – whether print, broadcast, cable, or social media – have trumpeted their U.S. Constitutional, First Amendment “right” to have the personal, individual freedom to report on and publish virtually any and every…

Is environmental reporting improving?

Are the media doing a good job of covering the environment? Answering this question is not as easy as it might seem.  Following Earth Day in 1970 the media ratcheted up their environmental coverage. But many legacy media today, nearly a half-century later, no longer have environmental reporters, or if they do, such journalists often…

A foul call

Sports reporters are having a heyday with Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley’s recent post-season slide into New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.  Most sports media pundits agree Utley went in too late and too high. As a result, Tejada’s right leg was broken. Sports pundits now are debating whether or not Major League Baseball’s chief…

Times fails media ethics 101

BY WILLIAM A. BABCOCK// Just when you thought it safe to follow the news without yet another Ferguson-related story, the New York Times and Fox News have entered the mud-fighting fray.

Fox’s Howard Kurtz, hardly an unbiased Fox News Channel journalist, accused the Times of making a “reckless move” in publishing the approximate address of Darren Wilson, the police office who shot and killed Michael Brown in August.

Redskins and Chief Wahoo – What’s a journalist to do?

By WILLIAM A. BABCOCK// How should the media portray Indian nicknames and logos? Before even going there, consider:
• A few years ago the journalist telephoned the chief of Minnesota’s Ojibwa Nation. He told the chief he was reporting on Native American gambling. The chief immediately responded, “Stop right there. Only you liberal white boys call us ‘Native Americans.’ It’s ‘Indians,’ got it?”

• A young woman from a Midwest Indian reservation was asked in class what she thought about the Cleveland Indians baseball cap with the toothy, red-skinned, feather-bedecked “Chief Wahoo” logo. She responded, “That’s the most popular cap on our reservation; it’s worn by lots of kids. We know the logo’s stereotypical. We’re not stupid. What’s the big f***ing deal?”

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.

Embattled L.A. Clippers owner has a right to privacy, too

By WILLIAM A. BABCOCK / For anyone spending the past few days in a cave, the person in the eye of the latest media storm is Donald Sterling, owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. Sterling ignited the race card, and the media suddenly have diverted their eyes from the Ukraine, a missing airplane and a South Korean ferry. Race is America’s trump card. It’s the nation’s third rail: touch it and you die. Sterling’s racist comments recently were recorded by his girlfriend, V. Stiviano, and released by TMZ on Saturday. Three days later, NBA commissioner Adam Silver called for NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the Clippers, banned him for life from any association with the league and fined him $2.5 million. Now Sterling’s remarks were inappropriate, racist, odious, vulgar and hurtful. But they were made in the privacy of his own home, and recorded without his knowledge or consent.

Ombudsmen in decline: An ominous trend for American press

One year ago, Rem Rieder in USA TODAY wrote about ombudsmen, the individuals (often called “readers’ representatives” or “public editors”) employed by newspapers to keep a vigilant eye on the paper’s journalism and report the findings to readers. Rieder painted a discouraging picture, noting that just half as many ombudsmen were working in U.S. news organizations as was the case a decade ago – and that more than a dozen media organizations axed the position following the 2008 recession. This, Rieder reported, even though a handful of new ombudsmen positions were being created in newsrooms in other nations.