By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Tag: Catherine Herridge

A federal judge’s civil contempt ruling threatens a free and independent press

Photo (cc) 2012 by Adam Katz

A federal judge reminded us all this week that journalists have no First Amendment right to protect their confidential sources. What is disturbing about the case at issue, though, is that it involves a civil case brought against the government rather than an alleged crime.

According to Alanna Durkin Richer and Eric Tucker of The Associated Press, investigative reporter Catherine Herridge must pay a fine of $800 a day, although that fine will not be imposed until she has an opportunity to appeal. The case involves a Chinese American scientist who was investigated by the FBI but not charged with any wrongdoing. That scientist, Yanping Chen, is suing the government and demanding to know who leaked damaging information about her to Herridge.

Herridge reported a series of articles about Chen for Fox News in 2017 and was recently laid off by CBS News.

Journalists in 49 states enjoy some level of protection in being required to give up their confidential sources. The two exceptions are Wyoming and the federal system. But even federal judges generally weigh the importance of the information sought against the chilling effect created by forcing reporters to break promises they made to their sources. A breach of national security resulting in criminal charges, for instance, would be considered a much higher priority than Chen’s civil lawsuit under the Privacy Act

Nevertheless, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper, according to the AP account, ruled that though he “recognizes the paramount importance of a free press in our society,” the legal system “also has its own role to play in upholding the law and safeguarding judicial authority.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed a bill on a bipartisan basis that would create a strong federal shield law called the PRESS Act. The bill awaits an uncertain fate in the Senate, according to Gabe Rottman, writing for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In any case, it strikes me that demanding that a reporter give up her confidential sources so a plaintiff can advance her breach-of-privacy lawsuit against the government is an abuse of the idea that the press ought to be free and independent, even if it doesn’t specifically violate the First Amendment.

Leave a comment | Read comments

How social media contribute to ‘remote-control terrorism’

b_kirtzBy Bill Kirtz

NEW YORK — Tracking “remote control terrorism,” showing climate change’s impact and following readers’ shifts to mobile devices were panel highlights at last weekend’s Columbia Journalism School reunion.

Top reporters stressed the so-called Islamic State’s ability to innovate, forge social media connections and take “credit” for terrorist attacks it didn’t plan.

NPR counterterrorism expert Dina Temple-Raston noted that while U.S. anti-terrorism efforts are a “matrix,” ISIS keeps experimenting and improving their outreach to alienated youths.

“Don’t over-ascribe associations” between ISIS and every case of violence, she said. “But they’re very careful to take credit” for such incidents.

Washington Post reporter Abigail Hauslohner expanded on that. “An obsessive focus on ‘who gives the orders’” for a terrorist attack misses the point, she said. You can find “inspiration online.” You don’t have to go to Yemen for training.

“The remote-control terrorist” is a new phenomenon, said Fox News chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. With social media, today’s teenagers can have “one-on-one intimacy” with ISIS recruiters without the need for face-to-face contact.

A former Al Jazeera English producer and host, Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, said that framing the war against terror as a “clash of civilizations plays into ISIL’s hands. Two to three weeks of incessant texting” can convince alienated youths to adapt terrorism as a way of defending their culture.

It’s not easy being green

Climate change is a concept that’s hard to grasp. But its effects are real, and ClimateWire editor John Fialka tries to deliver the message through stories that use popular-culture references.

An example this week cites “Game of Thrones”: “As fans well know, winter is coming. But they might not realize some people are using the HBO megahit’s catchphrase to spark a conversation about shifting weather patterns brought about by climate change.”

Former Associated Press environmental journalist Dina Cappiello said the topic is underreported because “politics dictates where the coverage goes.” Now with a public relations firm, she said 2016 presidential voters will focus on health care, the economy and their own jobs — not on the environment.

Serving the mobile audience

How to give time-starved mobile device clickers both what they need to know and what they want to know?

Lydia Polgreen, New York Times deputy international editor, said her paper’s “future lies in figuring out what 20 stories each reader wants to know.”

She said the Times hopes to provide a personal and a general experience. The challenge is how to preserve the serendipity of riffling through the paper and finding interesting stories about random topics — while giving them what they need to know.

Bill Kirtz is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén