Post/Times’ stories powerful; but are they ethical?

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL// Post/Times’ stories powerful; but are they ethical? If a piece of journalism is so powerful that it captures the national conversation and results in positive reform, should it be immune from criticism for bias and inaccuracies?
That question is raised by a potent one-two punch administered by the Washington Post and The New York Times this month following up on the unrest in Ferguson, Mo.

The myths of Ferguson’s media coverage

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / If readers have the idea that Ferguson, Mo. is an angry, mostly segregated black community, they could be forgiven because that is how the community was portrayed in the New York Times a week after riots broke out. In fact, though, Ferguson is one of the most integrated places in the St. Louis area.

Ferguson protests and the First Amendment rights

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Police appear to be violating the First Amendment rights of protesters and journalists in Ferguson by arresting and targeting journalists and by turning the right to assembly into a daytime-only right.

“Police and officials in Ferguson have declared war on the First Amendment,” said Gregory P. Magarian, a law professor at Washington University Law School. “Since Sunday’s police shooting of an unarmed student, Michael Brown, local officials and law enforcement have blatantly violated three core First Amendment principles: our right to engage in peaceful political protest, the importance of open government, and the freedom of the press.”

Hard choices for journalists covering Ferguson

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEOL / The police shooting of a teenager in Ferguson, Mo. and the looting that followed are presenting hard decisions for journalists covering this small suburban town that never expected to be an international dateline. How should the media cover this explosive story of race, rioting and alleged police brutality that unfolds in a sea of angry demonstrators and a Twittersphere of information and disinformation? Here are some of the issues.

False equivalencies undermine Gaza debate

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / As a liberal academic and a former liberal editorial writer, it is painful to watch as many liberal academics and a few liberal journalists impose false equivalencies upon Israel. Israel is just like the Nazis, some suggest, including most recently the African National Congress. Israel is just like South Africa during Apartheid, others say. Israel should be boycotted just like South Africa say those who support the “BDS” movement to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. And recently, with the terrible violence in Israel and the Gaza strip, the blame Israel game has reached new heights. Never mind that it was Hamas firing missiles into Israel that started the violence, or that Hamas places its weapons near civilians, schools and hospitals, or that Hamas vows to drive Israelis into the sea, or that Israel warns civilians when it is about to bomb. Israel is far from perfect. But Israel is not South Africa during Apartheid. Israeli law’s recognition of the rights of Arab citizens is significant and does not compare with Apartheid. Nor is Israel exterminating Palestinians. Any suggestion that it is acting like Nazi Germany is uninformed to say the least.

First Amendment is no refuge for Clippers owner’s remarks

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Whether viewed from a legal, moral or ethical vantage point, the lifetime ban that NBA commissioner Adam Silver imposed on racist Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was just and correct. After Silver announced the punishment, the Twittersphere exploded with claims that the NBA had violated Sterling’s First Amendment right to free speech. The problem with that argument is the first word of the First Amendment: Congress.

Power of one pen

Adam Nagourney of The New York Times demonstrated the power of one reporter and one video this week with his story about defiant rancher Cliven Bundy’s racist remarks suggesting blacks were better off as slaves picking cotton. The New York Times was late to the story of Bundy’s refusal to follow federal grazing laws and…

Journalism’s infatuation with Glenn Greenwald

BY WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The journalism world’s embrace of Glenn Greenwald and his advocacy reporting is now complete with the award of the Pulitzer Prize to the Guardian for Greenwald’s disclosure of Edward Snowden’s NSA secrets. As with many youthful infatuations, the journalism world has rushed headlong into this relationship without listening to the alarms that surely went off in the heads of veteran journalists.

GJR publisher highlights undisputed points

BY WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Top editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have written a letter to the editor of the Gateway Journalism Review taking issue with a recent story about the paper’s “Jailed By Mistake” investigation. The GJR is publishing the entire letter to provide the newspaper a full airing of its views and because the letter is an extraordinarily detailed defense of a major newspaper project.

Social media campaign by former Post-Dispatch writer alleges mistakes in series about mistakes

BY WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The “Jailed by Mistake” project published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this past fall had all of the earmarks of enterprising journalism in the public interest. By the time the project went to press Oct. 27, the Post-Dispatch reported that 100 people had been arrested in error over the past seven years and had spent a collective 2,000 days in jail. But in the months since publication, a former Post-Dispatch editorial writer who went to work for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay meticulously documented what he thinks were mistakes in the series about mistakes. The top Slay administration official, Eddie Roth, has gone about it in an unorthodox way: He has published a series of criticisms on his Facebook page that have run even longer than the original series.