Why the Gawker case could set a dangerous precedent

gawker1-1Gawker’s prob­lems began in October 2012, when the gossip site ran a por­tion of a sex tape fea­turing wrestler Hulk Hogan, which Hogan claimed vio­lated his pri­vacy and infringed on his publicity rights.

It was later revealed that Sil­icon Valley bil­lion­aire Peter Thiel—an out­spoken critic of the website—provided finan­cial backing for Hogan’s suit, which came to a close ear­lier this year, when a Florida court ruled in Hogan’s favor and the jury handed down a $140 mil­lion ver­dict that ulti­mately doomed the media company.

Here, Dan Kennedy, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Jour­nalism and a nation­ally known media com­men­tator, weighs in on the effect of shut­tering the gossip site on the broader media land­scape and the “trou­bling” mechanics behind the suit that served as its demise. Its ter­mi­na­tion, he says, could empower “wealthy inter­ests” to use the legal system to drive media orga­ni­za­tions out of business.

Read the rest at news@Northeastern.

Advertisements

Slides for my AEJMC talk on recording and transcribing

Doing this on my phone. I’ll try to pretty this up later, but for now, just click here.

Peering into the post-Roger Ailes future of Fox News

Roger Ailes.
Roger Ailes in 2013. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Roger Ailes is out at Fox News. The media tycoon resigned on Thursday, just two weeks after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a law­suit alleging sexual harass­ment. Ailes, the founder and now former CEO of Fox News, had a long his­tory in Repub­lican pol­i­tics before building Fox News into a media pow­er­house. Here, Dan Kennedy, asso­ciate pro­fessor in the School of Jour­nalism and a nation­ally known media com­men­tator, talks about Ailes’ swift down­fall and what his depar­ture may mean for the future of journalism.

Mar­garet Sul­livan of The Wash­ington Post wrote, “Two weeks. That’s all it took from Gretchen Carlson’s filing a sexual harass­ment suit against Fox News chief Roger Ailes to the evi­dent demise of one of the most pow­erful fig­ures in Amer­ican media and pol­i­tics.” Are you sur­prised at the swift­ness of the inves­ti­ga­tion and Ailes’s ulti­mate resignation?

I’m sur­prised and I’m not sur­prised. We talked about this recently on WGBH-TV’s Beat the Press. At the time we were all in agree­ment that if no other women came for­ward, then Carlson’s claims were likely to fizzle into a he said/she said standoff. As it turned out, numerous other women emerged to level serious accu­sa­tions of sexual harass­ment against Ailes. Once that occurred, it was only a matter of time before he’d be shown the door.

Read the rest at news@Northeastern.

What does Facebook Live mean for journalism?

Diamond Reynolds, who live-streamed the last moments of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, on Facebook Live. Photo (cc) by Laurie Schaull.
Diamond Reynolds, who live-streamed the last moments of her boyfriend, Philando Castile, on Facebook Live. Photo (cc) by Lorie Schaull.

In April Facebook Live was launched, allowing users to broadcast live and tap the social media giant’s colossal audience. But it was last week, as the world now knows, that Facebook Live had its watershed, technology-transforming-history moment in the broadcast of Philando Castile’s final moments as filmed and narrated by his girlfriend after he was shot by a police officer.

To understand what Facebook Live might mean for newsrooms, Storybench sat down with Northeastern University journalism professors Dan Kennedy and John Wihbey.

Read the rest at Storybench.

What’s next for #NoVoteNoBreak?

Two of my Northeastern colleagues and I analyze the fallout from the House Democrats’ #NoVoteNoBreak sit-in over gun legislation. It’s a golden oldies get-together: one of my colleagues, Bill Fowler, was a professor of mine back in the day; and the piece was pulled together by Thea Singer, with whom I worked at the Boston Phoenix 25 years ago.

A digital toolkit for better recording, better transcribing

reel-tape
Photo (cc) 2014 by darkday

Before the emergence of digital tools, recording and (especially) transcribing an interview was a tedious affair. The little micro-cassette tapes were of dubious reliability—and yes, I once had one fail on me during a crucial and contentious encounter. Transcribing was worse, as you’d sit there constantly hitting the “play” and “rewind” buttons, an imprecise process that risked damage to the tape.

I’ve been all-digital for maybe 10 years now. But I didn’t really begin upping my game until I tested my little Olympus recorder in a New Haven hotel room one morning in 2011 only to discover that it was pining for the fjords.

Since then, I have assembled a digital recording toolkit that I hope will be useful for journalists. By now, of course, nearly all of us are recording interviews on our smartphones. But I’ve been surprised by reporters who’ve told me their transcription technique consists of nothing more than playing back the audio on their phones. These tips, I hope, will make it easier for you to record and transcribe.

Read the rest at Storybench, part of Northeastern University’s School of Journalism.

Northeastern j-students expose flaws in public records law

Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 9.06.13 AM
Still from a video produced by Northeastern journalism students. Click on the Globe version of the story to view it.

Our journalism students at Northeastern made a big splash over the weekend. Professor Mike Beaudet’s investigative reporting class partnered with The Boston Globe and WCVB-TV (Channel 5) to produce a story showing that the majority of the state’s 351 cities and towns failed to respond to public records requests.

Here is the Globe version of the story, written by staff reporter Todd Wallack. Here is the WCVB version, helmed by Beaudet, who was recently hired as an investigative reporter at the station.

Despite an intense focus on the state’s extraordinarily weak public records law (here is a letter written earlier this year by the Northeastern School of Journalism faculty and published by the Globe, the Boston Herald, and GateHouse Media community newspapers), 2015 is drawing to a close with the Massachusetts House having passed an inadequate reform bill and the Senate not having acted at all.

Let’s hope that in early 2016 the Senate fixes what the House got wrong. And congratulations to our students on a great job.

The Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief comes in from the heat

b_kirtzBy Bill Kirtz

Journalism’s toughest assignment?

Being The New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief is right up there when the same story gets you called both a self-hating Jew and a Zionist mouthpiece.

After three and a half years in the hot seat, Jodi Rudoren leaves more concerned than ever about the “dueling narratives” that prevent Israelis and Palestinians from understanding each other.

“There’s a growing sense of hopelessness on both sides,” she told a Northeastern University audience last week, and “very few agreed-upon facts.”

She analyzed that political situation recently in the Times.

Rudoren, who will become a deputy editor on the Times’ foreign desk, is no news novice. She’s been the paper’s education editor, deputy metropolitan editor, and Chicago bureau chief after six years at the Los Angeles Times.

But she still finds it “bizarre” to be excoriated for writing too much about people who commit acts of violence. “This is myopic,” she said. “We have to know their motivations. We humanize them. We don’t glorify them.” Referring to the shooter in the recent Colorado Springs attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic, she asked, “Don’t you want to know who Robert Dear was?”

She called empathy a key to being a journalist—and being a human being: “If empathy’s only for one side we’re in big trouble.”

Rudoren rebutted critiques of Times stories that are based on numbers or the ratio of victims to attackers. She called it “simplistic. Numbers don’t tell the whole story.” She said it’s more important to write about the few who perpetrate violence than about their many random victims.

One of her stories drawing intensive fire from both sides profiled a family of Palestinian stone throwers.

“Children have hobbies, and my hobby is throwing stones,” she quoted one as saying.

Some pro-Israeli readers mistakenly thought that she thought it was a hobby, Rudoren said.
But not to worry: Palestinians hated the story too, she said.

Reporters are routinely chastised for not doing the impossible: putting a complicated story into full context.

Recalling critiques for not going back in Middle Eastern history every time she’s on a tight deadline and word count, she quipped that every 800-word story should note, “Abraham had two sons.”

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

A note on style

From the time that I began writing Media Nation in 2005, I’ve been following the Associated Press Stylebook. I don’t particularly like it. In many ways, it’s the least common denominator of styles. But it is what we teach at Northeastern, and I thought I should model good behavior.

Now I’m moving on. As some of you know, I’m writing regular commentaries for WGBH News, which uses the Chicago Manual of Style (more or less). Among other things, that means italics for the titles of newspapers, books, movies, and the like; Oxford (serial) commas; and an after an s apostrophe, as in Fred Jones’s car rather than Jones’. (No italics for the titles of reference books, in case you were wondering.)

I happen to prefer these differences. Chicago is what we used at The Boston Phoenix, and what is used at most magazines. More to the point, the switch will make it easier for me to repost my WGBH stuff to Media Nation, which I do for archival purposes, and for the folks at WGBH to scrape Media Nation. I also occasionally write for The Huffington Post, whose style guidelines are similar to those at WGBH.

Now I’ll just have to remember the differences between Chicago and AP when I return to teaching next year.

The Boston Phoenix’s archives are coming to Northeastern

350x439.aspx
Issue of Nov. 17, 2006

In case you haven’t heard, there’s big news about the late, great Boston Phoenix and its related properties — WFNX Radio, Boston After Dark, the Phoenix papers of Portland, Providence and Worcester, and Stuff and Stuff at Nite magazines.

On Friday, The Boston Globe reported that Phoenix publisher Stephen Mindich is donating all of the archives to Northeastern University. The performance of the Phoenix’s website, which is still live, should improve over time. The long-term vision is even more exciting: We hope that every print edition of the Phoenix/Boston After Dark going back to 1966 will be digitized in a searchable format.

Mindich’s gift has been in the works for a year (I’ve dropped hints here and there), and we are finally able to go public. The Globe story is more than kind regarding my own modest role. I put Stephen together with Northeastern archivist Giordano Mecagni, and they did the rest. I am so proud of the 14 years I worked for Stephen, and I’m excited that this incredible resource will be available for years to come.

Here is an excerpt from Stephen’s farewell message, published in the Phoenix’s final issue on March 14, 2013:

What I can and will say is I am extremely proud, as all of you should be, of the highest standards of journalism we have set and maintained throughout the decades in all of our areas of coverage and the important role we have played in driving political and socially progressive and responsible agendas; in covering the worlds of arts and entertainment, food and fashion — always  with a critical view, while at the same time promoting their enormous importance in maintaining a healthy society; and in advocating for the recognition and acceptance of a wide range of lifestyles that are so valuable for a vibrant society.