By SCOTT LAMBERT / Media coverage of Lebron James’ decision to return to Cleveland was over the top, but that’s what sports media do. Sports reporters have a difficult job. They are often dismissed by “real” reporters as the people over in the toy room, not really doing real journalism, just reporting about games people play. They work in a world where many of the fans, especially in today’s world where press conferences are often available to fans via online stream, often have the same expertise as the reporters. Thus, sports journaists must always work hard to stay one step ahead of their audience.
By GEORGE SALAMON / Edward Klein has long been nemesis to Hillary Clinton. Now his latest hit on the Clintons, “Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas” has just overtaken Hillary Clinton’s memoir “Hard Choices” in sales on the Times’ own bestseller list. How mortifying that Klein’s dishing of “implausible” dirt on both families was outselling the former Secretary of State’s own display of grand vision and noble compassion the Clintons sell as the raison d’ etre for past and future service in public life. It was too much for the Times’ reporters Amy Chozick and Alexandra Alter. In the second paragraph they label passages in Klein’s bestseller “implausible,” but don’t show us what makes them “implausible.”
The headline on p. A1 of the June 16 New York Times read: “Population Shifts Turning All Politics National.” The story by Ashley Parker and Jonathan Martin drew that conclusion from the results of two elections, the one in Virginia that cost Eric Cantor his position as majority leader in the House and one in…
By WALTER JAEHNIG / In late February, NBC’s “Today” show hired two teenage-looking actors (both aged 21 or older) and sent them to a liquor store in New Jersey. The actors loitered outside, asking customers entering the store to buy beer for them. All male customers refused, but several women took their money and purchased their six-packs. This was not a huge story and probably proved nothing. It did, however, stimulate discussion about the adult role in underaged drinking, especially when the “Today” staffers interviewed the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving about the implication that women were more willing than men to provide teens with alcohol. Television newspeople love this kind of story – and, because of their visual dimension, can do it very well. But news stories that involve reporters as active participants in making the news also raise ethical questions, as can be seen by the controversy resulting from KSDK’s investigation of security at five St. Louis-area schools.
By TRIPP FROHLICHSTEIN / This is the story of a good idea gone bad. It is the story of a series of mistakes made by a television station. And it is the story of lessons learned by a school district. On Jan. 16, KSDK Channel 5 (the NBC affiliate in St. Louis) was investigating security at five different schools in the area. One of those schools was Kirkwood High School. The station’s undercover effort would result in a lockdown at the high school, angering students, staff and parents and ultimately forcing an apology from the station. The details of this story are pieced together from interviews and previous accounts; Channel 5 officials, when asked for an interview, said the station had no further comment.
The Pulitzer and Polk committees had little choice, as most commentators say. They felt that they had to give their 2013 prizes for public service to the publications and reporters who broke one of the biggest stories of the year, the broad surveillance operations of the National Security Agency. But their decisions deserve second thoughts. Consequences figure in the committees’ thinking, and the disclosures have brought beneficial consequences by most estimates. President Obama has reacted by ordering a restructuring of the surveillance systems to limit reported abuses. And the press and public have learned much about what the U.S. government has been doing in secret. But some other consequences have been clearly harmful. Among them is the outrage in Germany, a prime ally and trading partner of the United States, over the N.S.A.’s gathering of electronic data from its ordinary citizens and spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel. She said angrily that “snooping among friends, that just doesn’t work.”
Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times since September 2011 and the first woman in that position, was fired by the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. on May 14. It was ugly. Some journalists referred to it as a defenestration. Ms. Abramson, in a commencement speech at Wake Forest University on May 19 called it “getting dumped.” It has created a huge buzz in the media. Within the first 24 hours after the event, not attended by Ms. Abramson, The Washington Post ran ten stories about it. Almost immediately columns appeared, telling readers what it “really” meant. As they say in New York City, Ms. Abramson’s home town, “Oh yeah?” Ms. Abramson charged that she was dumped so suddenly and unceremoniously because she complained about getting paid less than the male predecessors in her job. Mr. Sulzberger claimed she was let go because of her management style in the newsroom, a style described by adjectives like brusque, arbitrary, harsh, non-collaborative and despotic.
The social media firestorm that surrounded the decision by Southern Illinois University’s board of trustees to put off voting on a media fee for the 98-year-old Daily Egyptian newspaper caught university administrators by surprise. DE alumni from as far away as Iraq leaped to the paper’s defense, flooding social media, including the hashtag #savethede on Twitter.
By SCOTT LAMBERT / Jeffrey Sterling is the afterthought. The 1989 Millikin University graduate with a law degree from Washington University is now little more than a footnote as media rush to defend Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James Risen in his battle against the U.S. government.
By TOM EVESLAGE / Imagine, a resident of your community complaining to the city council that her free-speech rights were violated when the local newspaper edited her letter to the editor. If that’s not preposterous enough, how likely is it that the council would pass an ordinance forbidding the newspaper from editing any further letters without first getting permission from the city council? These are just fairy tales, at least when the professional media are involved. But student journalists at Neshaminy High School in suburban Philadelphia are fighting just such an unprecedented battle. And unless “government” officials in that public school come to their senses soon, a judge will be asked to intercede.