Kill the messenger!

Al-Jazeera’s journalists have suffered bombings, expulsions, censorship, threats, beatings, routine jailings and controversial incarceration by U.S. forces. Now, says an Associated Press report, “Al-Qaida sympathizers have unleashed a torrent of anger against Al-Jazeera television. They accuse the pan-Arab TV network of misrepresenting Osama bin Laden’s latest audiotape in the excerpts it aired.”

It’s often said if both sides dislike the way they’re portrayed then journalism is being done right. That’s too simple, of course — but the cliche bears a degree of truth.

Reporters Without Borders provided some context last year, on Al-Jazeera’s 10th anniversary:
“This satellite channel, beamed into the majority of Arab homes, took an immediate stand in opposition to traditional news broadcast by authorised media. On one hand its programmes regularly enraged Arab leaders for giving a voice to their opponents and to viewers themselves and because it raised political and social issues considered taboo in many countries in the Arab world.

“On the other hand, the US government frequently accused it of fomenting anti-American sentiment in the region and inciting violence against the US-British forces in Iraq….” 
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Murdoch and the WSJ: a stumbling block?


WASHINGTON – A federal communications regulator on Thursday said News Corp.’s proposed $5 billion acquisition of The Wall Street Journal’s parent company raises competitive issues nationally and in New York.

Michael Copps, one of five commissioners with the Federal Communications Commission, is asking Chairman Kevin Martin to open a proceeding to study whether the deal for Dow Jones & Co. is in the public interest and whether it will affect diversity and competition.

from an Associated Press story.  And here’s what Reuters has to report.

It’s about time.

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Charter should protect journalists

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms should be enough to protect journalists from being forced to give up their sources, lawyers for Montreal’s La Presse argued in Federal Court. The newspaper is trying to prevent a Federal Court judge from ordering two of its journalists to disclose the source of a document containing allegations against a suspected terrorist.

Here’s a link to the Canadian Press story.
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Trina McQueen award

The Association of Electronic Journalists announced a new award for Best Television News Information Program, named after Trina McQueen.

McQueen has been a reporter for Toronto’s CFTO; co-host of W5; a reporter and later executive producer for CBC’s The National; vice president of English Television News and Current Affairs at CBC and CBC Newsworld;  President and Chief Operating Officer of CTV Inc.; and is currently on the Board of Directors of CBC/ Radio Canada.

The award recognizes McQueen’s breadth of achievement, said the press release. It quoted RTNDA Canada President Bob McLaughlin: “Throughout her career she has helped promote excellence in journalism, raising the bar for broadcasters everywhere and we are delighted to name this award in her honour.” The first Trina McQueen award will be given next June.

A small quibble: the press release emphasized McQueen’s “firsts” as a female Surely, we are all past that by now?
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To Be a Journalist in Iraq …

Six Iraqi women who work in the McClatchy Newspapers bureau in Baghdad were honoured in New York with a “courage in journalism award.” Kudos to the New York Times for running the acceptance speech by Baghdad journalist Sahar Issa, speaking for the six, as an editorial. Excerpts:

“To be a journalist in violence-ridden Iraq today, ladies and gentlemen, is not a matter lightly undertaken. Every path is strewn with danger, every checkpoint, every question a direct threat.

“Every interview we conduct may be our last. So much is happening in Iraq. So much that is questionable. So much that we, as journalists, try to fathom and portray to the people who care to know…..

“…. since the war started, four and half years ago, an average of about one reporter and media assistant killed every week is something we have to live with. ….

“So why continue? Why not put down my proverbial pen and sit back? It’s because I’m tired of being branded a terrorist: tired that a human life lost in my county is no loss at all. This is not the future I envision for my children. They are not terrorists, and their lives are not valueless. I have pledged my life — and much, much more, in an effort to open a window through which the good people in the international community may look in and see us for what we are, ordinary human beings with ordinary aspirations, and not what we have been portrayed to be….” profiled winner Lydia Cacho from Mexico, who exposed a pedophile ring in Cancun.

Visit the International Women’s Media Foundation site for more information about these and other winners of the courage in journalism awards.
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Reuters’ new mobile toolkit

Reuters and Nokia have developed a new “mobile journalism” toolkit aimed at helping reporters file and publish text, photo, audio and video news stories from handheld devices, rather than laptops. An excerpt from the press release:
Helsinki, Finland – Nokia Research Center (NRC) and Reuters are working together on a mobile journalism project that could transform the way journalists file news reports when on the move.  The new mobile application is the first project to be showcased from a long term research collaboration that has been established between NRC and Reuters.  It centres around a lightweight toolkit that provides everything journalists need to file and publish stories from even the most remote regions of the world.
In a trial last summer select Reuters journalists used the technology to edit, combine and file text, images, sound and live and recorded video streams  from the field, said the release.  It said the toolkit is aimed first at professional journalists, but would suit “citizen journalism” in future. The technology involves the use of existing smart phones and, in the trial, GPS integrated video-streaming technology

Some footage and stills from the trial are here.

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Measuring online readers

The growth of online advertising is being stunted, reports the New York Times, because nobody can get the basic visitor counts straight. An excerpt:

Online advertising is expected to generate more than $20 billion in revenue this year, more than double the $9.6 billion it represented as recently as 2004. Nobody doubts that the figure will grow — particularly as advertisers hone their techniques for aiming messages to particular consumers — but the question remains how much the clashing traffic figures will hold the market back.

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Electronic media as the “fifth” estate

William Dutton, an academic and British Internet expert, has some interesting ideas about how a ‘fifth estate’ could support greater accountability in politics and the media. He gave a lecture to the Reuters Institute; the summary is on the Reuters site:

The media are often seen as central to democratic processes: a ‘fourth estate’ independent of government and other powerful institutions. Now, the Internet and Web are creating a new space for networking people, information and other resources. This network of networks has the potential to become an equally important ‘fifth estate’ which could support greater accountability in politics and the media. It could also have a much wider role in opening up to greater social accountability other institutional arenas, from everyday life to specialist fields like science.

This site includes links to the text and video of Dutton’s 50-minute lecture.
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Peeling the onion

A U.S. think piece asks of the phenomenon of a publication full of fake news that rivals America’s ninth-largest newspaper in circulation, “Is The Onion our most intelligent newspaper?”

An excerpt:

While other newspapers desperately add gardening sections, ask readers to share their favorite bratwurst recipes, or throw their staffers to ravenous packs of bloggers for online question-and-answer sessions, The Onion has focused on reporting the news. The fake news, sure, but still the news. It doesn’t ask readers to post their comments at the end of stories, allow them to rate stories on a scale of one to five, or encourage citizen-satire. It makes no effort to convince readers that it really does understand their needs and exists only to serve them. The Onion’s journalists concentrate on writing stories and then getting them out there in a variety of formats, and this relatively old-fashioned approach to newspapering has been tremendously successful.
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Saskatchewan ban on public servant interviews

A public affairs spokesperson says Saskatchewan’s health department has imposed a total ban on anyone giving media interviews, on any topic, to any journalist anywhere, for the duration of the provincial election. When I called about a story, I was told that to have a routine bureaucratic question answered, I would have to call the minister himself. The ban will only end with the vote in November.

I ran into this brick wall while researching a national issue that is arguably in the public interest, but which is administrative and has little or nothing to do with provincial partisan politics. Calling across the country, it seemed reasonable to me to expect public servants in every province to be able to simply respond to questions that are not directly political. But in Saskatchewan, I was told, partisan politics currently prohibits public servants from serving the public by answering routine questions from journalists.

Has anyone else run across such a strict and total ban in an election?
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