Charlie Hebdo haunts the media

By GEORGE SALAMON / When Islamist gunmen killed 10 journalists and two policemen in January at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine firebombed in 2011 for its irreverent cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, media reaction to the massacre immediately after was best summed up by the headline of an article in Reason magazine: “I’m all for free speech and murder is wrong, but…” In much of the media the “but” trumped admiration and respect for the slain journalists’ insistence that religions, along with other institutions and ideas, can and should be mocked and laughed at. Media might want to ask themselves if the “negative liberty” granted by the First Amendment allows exceptions for legally irrelevant categories such as “bad taste” or “bad judgment.”

Perfect storm reporting

By TONY LAUBACH / Several tornadoes hit the state of Oklahoma on March 25 in a regional outbreak of severe weather. In addition to the well-televised tornado hitting Moore, a city hit nearly half a dozen times since 1999, another tornado hit near Tulsa in northeast Oklahoma. This tornado was noteworthy largely due to the actions of a well-known storm chaser who took shelter beneath a highway overpass when the tornado got too close and he was unable to safely flee. His video of this event was posted within a couple hours and went viral almost immediately. In addition, the chaser sold his video to several major news organizations across the country. Highway overpasses are one of the most dangerous places to be during a tornado.

Missouri capitol reporters still trying to police their own

By TERRY GANEY / The reporters who make up the Missouri Capitol News Association recently came together to consider problems with one of the press corps’ members, the Missouri Times, a newly formed organ published by former Poplar Bluff Mayor Scott Faughn. The press group had put the Missouri Times on notice in late January. While one member of the press corps wanted to suspend the Missouri Times from the group, the vast majority agreed to give him more time to come up with a stronger written policy that separates the financial side of the Missouri Times from the reporters who cover the news.

How many Muslim readers hath the New York Times?

By GEORGE SALAMON / The decision of The New York Times not to depict the cover of Charlie Hebdo after ten of the French magazine’s journalists had been murdered by Islamic terrorists has drawn much deserved criticism in the United States and abroad, in comments from the editorial page editor of the Denver Post to a reporter’s charge of “cowardice” in the German newsweekly DER SPIEGEL. Within the ranks of Times editors the decision not to depict the cover, which showed a tearful Prophet Muhammad holding up a “Je Suis Charlie” sign, was defended by Executive Editor Dean Baquet: “My first most important job is to serve the readers of The New York Times, and a big chunk of the readers of The New York Times are people who would be offended by showing satire of the Prophet Muhammad…That reader is a guy who lives in Brooklyn and is Islamic and has a family and is devout and just happens to find that insulting.” Some might be surprised that among Brooklyn’s Muslim population (3.73% or 95,000 out of 2.5 million) there can be found a “big chunk” of the Times’ readership.

Parties and the press

By TERRY GANEY / The Jefferson City press corps has voted to give the Missouri Times until the end of March to clean up the news organization’s ethics mess or face the possibility of losing credentials to cover events in Missouri’s state capital. Ten representatives of wire service, print and broadcast news organizations met Monday to discuss the lobbyist-sponsored parties that Times’ publisher Scott Faughn had held for lawmakers at the newspaper’s office in Jefferson City. While some press corps members appeared ready to vote to take away the Times’ allocation of capital office and parking spaces, the group approved a motion giving it the chance to draft a newsroom policy of editorial independence as well as time to demonstrate that the lobbyist-sponsored parties were no longer taking place. Collin Reischman, the Times’ managing editor, told the group Faughn was not a journalist and was unschooled in ethics policies. And Reischman said Faughn was trying to hire a consultant to give advice on the development of a mission statement, an employee handbook and “best practices” that would prevent problems in the future.

Skeletons in the closet? Uncovering embarrassing Wiki edits by Pentagon, Congress

A recent movement to track in real-time edits government organizations anonymously make to Wikipedia has also turned up deep archives of changes made dating back more than 10 years. For instance, thanks to Jari Bakken, lead developer of a Norwegian parliamentary watchdog account, a database of 1,843 edits made at Pentagon IP addresses from 2004-2010 is now publically available.…

Convoluted story’s tragic ending reminds journalists to be human

The problems with Caleb Hannan’s article, titled “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” started almost immediately: “Strange stories can find you at strange times. Like when you’re battling insomnia and looking for tips on your short game.” That’s Hannan’s lead. The story he wrote about Essay Anne Vanderbilt proved to be strange, at the very least. It also was convoluted.

Pointing and clicking is not enough

AFP photographer Emmanuel Dunard’s photo of a praying Aline Marie at a Newtown, Conn., church brings up an issue where many photojournalists and members of the public disagree. Marie considered her praying outside the St. Rose of Lima church on the night of the shootings to be a private moment. She says she “felt like a zoo animal” when she realized that a number of photographers from across the nation and world were photographing her. In this and other similar circumstances, photojournalists often seem to think that a good photo trumps a person’s privacy. Accordingly, they often hide behind the “I’m shooting from a public space” rationale to justify their actions. But the “public space” position is a legal argument – and one that most members of the public either do not understand or with which they disagree.