The future of journalism is Beyoncé.
FJP: All hail Queen Bey.
The future of journalism is Beyoncé.
FJP: All hail Queen Bey.
In which we pull together different voices talking about the relationship between reporter and sources, and discover there’s a grudging admiration for the oft-maligned TMZ.
Brian Stelter: Any time the NFL is the story, the networks’ coverage of the story is very closely watched, because ESPN, CBS, NBC, and FOX all have multi-billion-dollar contracts to carry NFL games. Their news divisions have to cover the news, but their parent companies have to protect their investments in football.
Stefan Fatsis: [I]t’s no surprise that NFL-owned media would tiptoe around stories questioning the integrity and credibility of the NFL. The [Ray] Rice case is a reminder of how the nearly $10 billion-a-year NFL’s rise to cultural prominence has allowed it to shape the message transmitted to fans, both through its quasi-journalistic arms and through multibillion-dollar deals with other media.
Kelly McBride: [But] this is a much different story than if the Super Dome was ready for the Super Bowl or even if the NFL is ignoring the data on concussions… This is a story about the culture of the NFL. It’s hard for journalists because they are a part of the NFL culture.
Margaret Sullivan: In some ways, this is the eternal problem of the beat reporter (or specialized writer or critic): When you cover a subject for many years, familiarity can turn into friendship.
Michael Hiltzik: To a certain extent, journalists have always been at risk of becoming “captured” by their sources, or their subjects; it takes a high degree of professional discipline to fight the magnetic tug, and the best journalists make their careers that way. But the closer one is to the center of power, the less inclined one might be to write a report that will get one bounced from the inner circle.
Stefan Fatsis: [B]y hiring veteran reporters at their proprietary websites and cable networks — at higher salaries than those paid by the newspapers and magazines where the reporters formerly worked — the NFL and other pro sports leagues have managed to reduce the amount of critical daily reporting and commentary. That might not be the direct intention, but it’s the result.
Dave McKenna: The chosen few disseminators of football intelligence are multimedia stars today, with gigs in print and online and on TV and radio, and with huge Twitter presences… The NFL need only filter the message of a very few folks to shape the entire national discussion.
Stefan Fatsis: Like Wall Street and other big institutions, the NFL prefers and… facilitates access reporting. It’s good business. The steady flow of information on the ESPN ticker keeps NFL fans engaged with the product and wanting more of it. As far as accountability journalism is concerned, it seems like no coincidence that the Rice story broke thanks to the gatecrashers at TMZ — a bunch of outsiders who have much to gain from knocking pro football down a peg, and are willing to write checks to buy up the sort of photos and videos that tarnish the NFL’s vaunted shield.
Michael Hiltzik: The sports leagues and companies that set up their own news outlets pretend that their only goal is to provide useful information to fans, customers or members of the public who can no longer get it from a fragmented news industry. That’s a scam; powerful entities have always resented having their public statements filtered by skeptical intermediaries in the press — or worse, having their secrets exposed.
David Zurawik: TMZ did the job the mainstream sports media failed to do in showing us the ugliness of this incident.
Amanda Hess: What makes TMZ so effective? Unlike prosecutors (who hedge their bets to ensure they only prosecute people who juries will convict) and league officials (who are invested in selling athletes as heroes), TMZ has an economic imperative to administer uncompromising takedowns. And unlike traditional journalistic outlets, it’s willing to pay for tips, tapes, and documents to back them up.
Mark Mravic: [TMZ] is applying to sports the hardcore tabloid-type approach that has worked so well for them when they are covering celebrities. And there really hasn’t been an outlet that’s been doing that in sports. It shows what can be done when you can actually start digging around and you’re willing to pay a lot of money for things — if that’s exactly how TMZ is getting these clips.
Michael Hiltzik: That’s why outsiders are often responsible for the biggest news breaks. Watergate was initially exposed not by members of the White House press corps, but by a couple of police reporters named Woodward and Bernstein. The Ray Rice video wasn’t acquired and aired by members of the NFL press corps, but by the scandal-mongering upstart TMZ.
Stefan Fatsis: It’s also fair to say, though, that the Rice video has changed how Roger Goodell’s NFL will be covered going forward. The league’s media lapdogs have started barking, and they might not stop until the commissioner is gone.
In an interesting take on the magazine-as-incubator, Alyssa Rosenberg reacts to the recent news that the (very-loved liberal policy magazine) American Prospect is cutting down its staff and scaling back to a quarterly publishing schedule. Rosenberg points to the long list of all-star journalists who started their writing careers at the Prospect and how—though their careers were essentially incubated at the magazine—their growth did nothing to save the Prospect itself:
Vox.com co-founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias may be among the most prominent Prospect alumni, but they are hardly alone. Former Prospect editor Ann Friedman (who gave me my start in culture criticism with an assignment about movie superheroines) is now a columnist for New York magazine. Education journalist Dana Goldstein, Alaska Public Media reporter Alexandra Gutierrez, MSNBC’s Adam Serwer, Slate writer Jamelle Bouie, UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg and the Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard are just some of the many, many journalists who have done stints there.
As wonderful as that roster is, being an incubator publication is a difficult place to occupy in the journalism ecosystem. Unlike Silicon Valley incubators, which stake young developers for a share of their future profits, the Prospect does not get part of what its alumni earn in the future. An excellent reputation and ongoing goodwill do not necessarily translate into piles of cash.
But we can also come at this argument from a long-term and slightly more optimistic view of the value of incubating young writers as Ezra Klein does in his reflection on his own career that began the Prospect’s blog, Tapped:
The combination of TAP’s culture and Tapped’s medium created a place where young journalists could go and experiment with policy journalism on the web. And some of those experiments worked. It turned out health-care policy could really appeal to readers. It turned out the internet loved charts. It turned out that policy writing could be short, or even just a link. It turned out that a conversational tone didn’t destroy the writer’s authority. It turned out that blogs benefitted at least as much from diligent reporting as magazine articles. Those experiments now inform journalism in places ranging from the Washington Post and the New York Times to Buzzfeed and Business Insider. Tapped’s style of policy journalism is everywhere now.
As for Vox, well, two of the three founders are Tapped alumnus. Without Tapped, there would certainly be no Vox.
And in so doing, we realize that when journalism is viewed as a community of public informants (rather than a battle between publishers) the legacy of one publication can and does lead to incredible value.
For all those who have Q’d us about where to start with gear, here’s an excellent set of tools recommended by the Director of Digital Media at Columbia J-School.
My video students at Columbia Journalism School are trained on the Canon C100. It is a great camera, but the $5K+ price tag makes it impossible for most to purchase one for themselves. Also, that figure does not include microphones, tripods, and other accessories necessary to produce professional-quality video.
With some compromises in ergonomics and picture quality, the list of gear below should be an affordable alternative for any video student or recent grad. This gear will give you high-quality visuals, clean sound, and reliable stabilization. I hesitate to call this a starter kit, as you can shoot a feature documentary with this set up.
Camera: The conventional wisdom with video gear is to invest in lenses and peripherals. These items will last you years, while cameras get updated and replaced constantly. I still recommend DSLRs for video journalists starting out. They are cheap. Their sensors are big, the low-light performance is fantastic, and they double as great stills cameras (ironically, an often overlooked benefit). I have years of experience with Canon gear, so I recommend their products. But Sony, Panasonic, and others all offer up great solutions. Shop around. This is a great time to buy.
I recommend two entry-level DSLRs to my students. The Canon T5i w/ EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 w/ EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens. The T5i has a flip-out screen, but the SL1 is smaller. In terms of image quality, they are the same. My SL1 is so small that I can comfortably carry it with me everywhere I go.
If you can afford it, I recommend getting the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. This is my go-to lens for all my documentary work. It is pricey, but it is a great investment. You will grow with this lens. If you do purchase the 24-105, be sure to get the Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera (Body Only) or Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR Camera (Body Only) to save some money.
Do not forget to buy some extra batteries for your shoots. You can go for the more expensive Canon option or save some money going with a third-party brand. And be sure to get protective filters for your lenses: the Tiffen 58mm UV Protector Filter for the kit lens or the Tiffen 77mm UV Protector Filter for the 24-105 lens.
Audio: The most important part of producing great video is getting great audio. Audio gear can be very expensive and there are many options on the market. But the gear below was specifically designed to work with DSLRs. This set up will transform your DSLR into a fully-functioning video camera:
- Tascam DR-60D to Camera Essentials Kit
- Rode VideoMic Pro Compact Shotgun Microphone
- Rode VXLR - Mono Mini-Jack to XLR Converter
Your mics go into the DR-60D and then that signal is fed into the camera. Or, when you really want to just go small and stealth, the Rode VideoMic Pro can plug directly into your DSLR (as pictured above). Also, the Tascam DR-60D can be used alone as a great field audio recorder.
My most expensive audio recommendation is the Sony ECM-77B - Lavalier Microphone. This is the microphone I use for all my interviews. It plugs directly into the DR-60D. There are much cheaper lav mics available, but IMHO, the low audio quality is not worth the savings.
Support: You need a good tripod and monopod to get steady shots. Tripods go from super cheap to insanely expensive. I recommend spending a little more now for gear that will last you years. I always shoot with the Manfrotto Fluid Monopod with 500 Series Head and Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Head & 755XB Tripod. They are not the cheapest options, but you will have them for years.
I hope this list helps.
Iranian spies appear to be engaged in their most elaborate and persistent effort yet to dupe lawmakers, journalists and defense contractors into revealing email addresses, network logins and other information that could be used to collect intelligence.
A three-year espionage campaign, believed to have originated in Iran, has used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to trick victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere, according to iSight Partners, the company that uncovered the campaign.
Using fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, the attackers have built an elaborate universe of fake personas bolstered by secondary accounts all for the purpose of garnering the trust of their targets, according to a report issued by the company.
“We’ve never seen a cyber espionage campaign from the Iranians as complex, broad reaching and persistent as this one,” says Tiffany Jones, senior vice president of client services at iSight “The dozen or so primary fictitious personas have done a pretty successful job over the last few years in gleaning thousands of connections and ultimately targeting legitimate individuals through their social media networks.”
The spies also created a fake news organization, NewsOnAir.org, owned and operated by a fake media mogul named Joseph Nillson, whom they illustrated using a photo of Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The news site is populated with articles ripped off from CNN and the BBC appearing beneath the names of NewsOnAir “reporters.” Once those stories are published, Twitter and other social media accounts associated with the fake identities link to them, making the operation appear legitimate.
So, journalism as spycraft. Targets, according to Wired, included “the U.S. military, Congress and various think tanks, along with journalists, defense contractors in the United States and Israel and members of U.S. and Israeli lobbying groups. They also targeted victims in Saudi, Arabia, Iraq and the United Kingdom.”
Charles Davis, VICE, Survey Says: Journalists are Old White Cowards.
Researchers Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver from Indiana University recently published their findings in the report "The American Journalist in the Digital Age" based on interviews with over 1,000 American journalists working in all different fields. The results, including how they feel about controversial reporting practices, their job autonomy, and job satisfaction, are quite surprising when compared to survey results from 10 and even 30 years ago.
My personal picks for must-read nonfiction from 2013.
Conor Friedersdorf from The Atlantic released a comprehensive list of his favorite reads from 2013 and categorized them by topic: “Man Vs. Nature,” “War and Peace,” “Science and Beyond.”
Going through the list is quite possibly the best way to lose track of several hours of your day today.
FJP: Some of my own favorites in this list of favorites include Learning about Humanity on Public Transportation by Chris Gethard, The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show by Martin Douglas, and A Pickpocket’s Tale by Adam Green. Hopefully you’ll see some of your favorite pieces on the list and discover many more to add to your own reading list. —Mariana
“Let’s see what’s in the paper today.” He reaches across the table for Tadeo Martínez’s newspaper. “Is there a story we could go out and cover?” he asks. He studies the front page and shakes his head in disapproval. “Incredible,” he says. “This is a local paper and not one story about Cartagena on the front page. Tell your boss, Tadeo, that a local paper should have local front-page news.
“Nothing here,” he mumbles as he turns the pages. “Let’s see, something here. Stove for sale, unused, unassembled stove. Must sell. Call Gloria Bedoya, 660-1127, extension 113. This could be a story. Should we call? I bet there’s something here. Why is this woman selling a stove, why is the stove unassembled? What do we know from this about this woman? Could be interesting.” He pauses, waiting for us to get excited. But no one seems to be interested in finding out why a woman is selling an unassembled stove, especially when we can keep listening to him.
Gabo sees stories everywhere. During the next three days he says “eso es un reportaje” (that’s a story) constantly. I realize that Gabo is full of nostalgia. He misses being a reporter. “Journalism is not a job, it’s a gland, “ he says.
— Ann Friedman, The New Dream Job, Columbia Journalism Review