Trump, twitter, transparency and trouble

Commentary by William H. Freivogel During the presidential election, critics of the media maintained the press paid too much attention to Donald Trump’s tweets. Focusing on the tweets let Trump set the day’s news agenda and gave him oodles of free coverage, the critics said. Five months into Trump’s presidency it is the president’s lawyers,…

Scandals will fade but lobbying still drives the Missouri legislature

By ROY MALONE / A series of sex scandals that revealed tawdry affairs among top officials in Missouri’s state capital made for titillating reading this summer and stirred up a controversy about journalistic ethics. Sex scandals in Jefferson City are nothing new, say veteran statehouse reporters. Bad behavior by lawmakers and lobbyists has plagued the legislature for a century. What is new is the social media technology that ensnares straying legislators and the willingness of the press to name names. The decision by the Post-Dispatch’s veteran and highly regarded statehouse reporter, Virginia Young, to name a female aide of the governor’s who was involved in a night of hard drinking, attracted national comment and criticism.

One year later: Media ignore their Ferguson failures

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The Justice Department’s twin reports on Ferguson this March raised two disturbing questions about the media: How did so many news organizations fail for so long to realize that “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” was a myth? How did so many news organizations fail for so many years to uncover deeply unconstitutional police and court practices? One would hope those questions would prompt soul-searching. For the most part, they haven’t. The national media are on to the next police shooting with no sign of introspection. False or misleading stories from last summer remain online uncorrected. Social media also barrel ahead, clinging to preconceived ideologies in a cyber-world that is often fact free.

Anonymous poster must be ID’d

WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / The Illinois Supreme Court ruled this week that a northern Illinois public official must be told the name of an anonymous poster to a newspaper website who likened the politician to former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, the child sex abuser. The decision means that the anonymous poster cannot dodge a libel suit by hiding behind anonymity. The Illinois high court ruled unanimously in favor of Stephenson County Board Chairman Bill Hadley, who has been demanding to know the identity of the poster for four years. Under the decision, Comcast, which provides the poster with internet service, would be required to turn over the poster’s identity.

Facebook v. Science

By BEN LYONS / Social media have helped us cocoon ourselves into comfortable ignorance of “the other side” — so goes the prevailing notion of the last few years, since Facebook has been king. A team of researchers at Facebook published an article Thursday that claimed to detail how much the site contributes to political echo chambers or filter-bubbles. Published in the journal Science, their report claimed Facebook’s blackbox newsfeed algorithm weeded out some disagreeable content from readers’ feeds, but not as much as did their personal behavior. A flurry of criticism came from other social scientists, with one, University of Michigan’s Christian Sandvig, calling it Facebook’s “it’s not our fault” study.

Twitter explodes with invective, partisan comment after Ferguson shootings

By WILLIAM H. FREIVOGEL / Twitter provided the earliest reports of the shooting of two police officers in Ferguson this week. It also provided the forum for invective, hate and partisan reaction. President Barack Obama used Twitter to condemn the shootings and conservative critics condemned Obama for relegating his response to Twitter. Fox commentators blamed Attorney General Eric Holder’s report last week on unconstitutional police practices in Ferguson for creating the atmosphere in which the officers were shot. On Fox, Jeff Roorda, the head of the St. Louis police union said the resignation of Ferguson Chief Tom Jackson wasn’t enough for protesters, commenting, “They didn’t get what they wanted when Tom stepped down. They got it late last night when they finally, successfully shot two police officers.” Protest leaders and the Brown family condemned the violence in press conferences and on Twitter. But social media critics of the Ferguson police filled Twitter with invective about the police shootings being just in light of the death of Michael Brown. Meanwhile the Twitter handle for police supporters #bluelivesmatter was trending.

Media coverage of Ukraine’s crisis: War for people’s minds

It now is evident that Ukraine has been noted on the world’s map by a vast majority of Americans. From “somewhere near Russia,” it has moved to “between Russia and the European Union” – and this awareness happened thanks to coverage in all renowned national and local media in the United States and beyond. Since December, Ukraine’s political crisis has shown how some media play with information and how journalism is dependent on geopolitics.