BEN LYONS / Hollywood still casts the media in powerful roles, even while satirizing their tabloidization. Journalists in film are capable of bringing down regimes and crushing Broadway shows single-handedly. But changes to the news environment have not gone unnoticed. Social media competes side-by-side with the New York Times. It’s no coincidence sensationalism has seeped back on-screen, where celebrity gossip and gory crime often displace serious issues and ethics are seen as quaint. While still incorporating our classic images of journalists, both heroes and fools, scriptwriters have updated Hollywood’s mirror to more accurately reflect today’s fragmented and sometimes troubling media landscape.
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.”
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
BY EVETTE DIONNE / Several prominent Stand Your Ground cases in Florida are raising questions about how the American media are covering race and intimate-partner violence. Michael Giles, a former Air Force member, who is black, shot and wounded three patrons outside a nightclub on Feb 6, 2010. Marissa Alexander, 34, a black mother of three, fired a warning shot at her husband on Aug. 3, 2010. George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic volunteer neighborhood watchman, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 21, 2012. Michael Dunn, a white male, shot and killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis on Nov. 23, 2012. These four cases serve as flashpoints for examining Stand Your Ground legislation, and, more specifically, how media are covering these cases.