posts about or somewhat related to ‘reporting’

New York Times reporter James Risen, via Twitter.

James Risen recently won the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Journalism Award for excellence in journalism.

The Pulitzer Prize winning national security reporter has long been hounded by the US Justice Department to disclose his confidential sources from his 2006 book State of War.

As the Washington Post wrote back in August, “Prosecutors want Mr. Risen’s testimony in their case against Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA official who is accused of leaking details of a failed operation against Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Risen properly has refused to identify his source, at the risk of imprisonment. Such confidential sources are a pillar of how journalists obtain information. If Mr. Risen is forced to reveal the identity of a source, it will damage the ability of journalists to promise confidentiality to sources and to probe government behavior.”

While accepting the Lovejoy Award, Risen had this to say:

The conventional wisdom of our day is the belief that we have had to change the nature of our society to accommodate the global war on terror. Incrementally over the last thirteen years, Americans have easily accepted a transformation of their way of life because they have been told that it is necessary to keep them safe. Americans now slip off their shoes on command at airports, have accepted the secret targeted killings of other Americans without due process, have accepted the use of torture and the creation of secret offshore prisons, have accepted mass surveillance of their personal communications, and accepted the longest continual period of war in American history. Meanwhile, the government has eagerly prosecuted whistleblowers who try to bring any of the government’s actions to light.

Americans have accepted this new reality with hardly a murmur. Today, the basic prerequisite to being taken seriously in American politics is to accept the legitimacy of the new national security state that has been created since 9/11. The new basic American assumption is that there really is a need for a global war on terror. Anyone who doesn’t accept that basic assumption is considered dangerous and maybe even a traitor.

Today, the U.S. government treats whistleblowers as criminals, much like Elijah Lovejoy, because they want to reveal uncomfortable truths about the government’s actions. And the public and the mainstream press often accept and champion the government’s approach, viewing whistleblowers as dangerous fringe characters because they are not willing to follow orders and remain silent.

The crackdown on leaks by first the Bush administration and more aggressively by the Obama administration, targeting both whistleblowers and journalists, has been designed to suppress the truth about the war on terror. This government campaign of censorship has come with the veneer of the law. Instead of mobs throwing printing presses in the Mississippi River, instead of the creation of the kind of “enemies lists” that President Richard Nixon kept, the Bush and Obama administrations have used the Department of Justice to do their bidding. But the effect is the same — the attorney general of the United States has been turned into the nation’s chief censorship officer. Whenever the White House or the intelligence community get angry about a story in the press, they turn to the Justice Department and the FBI and get them to start a criminal leak investigation, to make sure everybody shuts up.

What the White House wants is to establish limits on accepted reporting on national security and on the war on terror. By launching criminal investigations of stories that are outside the mainstream coverage, they are trying to, in effect, build a pathway on which journalism can be conducted. Stay on the interstate highway of conventional wisdom with your journalism, and you will have no problems. Try to get off and challenge basic assumptions, and you will face punishment.

Journalists have no choice but to fight back, because if they don’t they will become irrelevant.

Bonus: The NSA and Me, James Bamford’s account of covering the agency over the last 30 years, via The Intercept.

Double Bonus: Elijah Parish Lovejoy was a minister in the first half of the 19th century who edited an abolitionist paper called the St. Louis Observer. He was murdered by a pro-slavery mob in 1837. More via Wikipedia.

Images: Selected tweets via James Risen.

If You Suddenly Find Yourself Covering Gender-Based Violence
Ray Rice’s assault on his wife put domestic violence front and center of the news where it’s being covered by many who have no experience reporting on the issue.
Enter WITNESS’ guide for conducting interviews with survivors of gender-based violence. It’s an important resource for those thinking of interviewing survivors about the issue, or reporting on gender-based violence more deeply.
Via the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma:

The Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is an illustrated how-to resource for documenting the stories of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence safely, effectively and ethically.
Designed for human rights activists, advocates, citizen journalists and filmmakers, the guide covers prep and planning for conducting and sharing interviews, and helps navigate the terrain of social stigma and shame, threats of retribution by perpetrators and/or institutions that may wish to bury the story and the imperative to ensure the emotional and physical safety of interview subjects.

The guide can be downloaded here. A companion video series can be viewed here.
Image: Cover detail, via WITNESS.

If You Suddenly Find Yourself Covering Gender-Based Violence

Ray Rice’s assault on his wife put domestic violence front and center of the news where it’s being covered by many who have no experience reporting on the issue.

Enter WITNESS’ guide for conducting interviews with survivors of gender-based violence. It’s an important resource for those thinking of interviewing survivors about the issue, or reporting on gender-based violence more deeply.

Via the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma:

The Guide to Interviewing Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence is an illustrated how-to resource for documenting the stories of survivors of sexual and gender-based violence safely, effectively and ethically.

Designed for human rights activists, advocates, citizen journalists and filmmakers, the guide covers prep and planning for conducting and sharing interviews, and helps navigate the terrain of social stigma and shame, threats of retribution by perpetrators and/or institutions that may wish to bury the story and the imperative to ensure the emotional and physical safety of interview subjects.

The guide can be downloaded here. A companion video series can be viewed here.

Image: Cover detail, via WITNESS.

Russian Hackers Stole a Billion Passwords. You Won’t Believe What Didn’t Happened Next

A team of hackers based in south central Russia stole over a billion passwords from sites large and small, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The breach, conducted by a hacker group called CyberVor and discovered by a computer security firm, is the largest known to date but continues a trend of mass credential theft:

In December, 40 million credit card numbers and 70 million addresses, phone numbers and additional pieces of personal information were stolen from the retail giant Target by hackers in Eastern Europe.

And in October, federal prosecutors said an identity theft service in Vietnam managed to obtain as many as 200 million personal records, including Social Security numbers, credit card data and bank account information from Court Ventures, a company now owned by the data brokerage firm Experian.

The CyberVor hack appears impressively large (1.2 billion accounts stolen from 420,000 sites) but a number of commentators are skeptical that the breach is as extensive as the Times reports.

At Forbes, Kashmir Hill questions Hold Security, the firm the Times sourced its information to, for withholding information about what sites were hacked, and standing to benefit from the breach itself:

Panic time, right? You can’t even change your passwords to protect yourself because you don’t know which websites are affected or if they’re still vulnerable. This is the worst kind of news, spare on details and causing a panic without offering a solution. Oh wait, but there is a solution! You can pay “as low as $120″ to Hold Security monthly to find out if your site is affected by the breach [1]. Hold Security put a page up on its site about its new breach notification service around the same time the New York Times story went up.

Then there’s the issue of what CyberVor is or isn’t doing with the stolen user names and passwords.

Via Lily Hay Newman at Slate:

Strangest of all, the Times reports that the hackers are mainly just using the credentials to hack social media accounts and spam them. Which is weird, because when criminals steal valuable things, they usually try to sell them. Or if they steal things that give them access to money they take the money. So maybe the credentials aren’t that valuable on their own.

Russell Brandom at The Verge points out that CyberVor may have purchased the bulk of the credentials off the black market which, while serious, isn’t as disastrous as a full-fledged, successful botnet attack.

Still, the breach is a strong reminder of our collective vulnerability, and underscores the inadequacy of username password combinations. Increasing one’s personal digital security requires a few extra steps. While not foolproof, Newman offers some sensible recommendations:

The key is adding extra layers of protection. Using a password manager, or at least randomly generating strong passwords, eliminating duplicate passwords used on multiple accounts, and adding two-factor (or multi-factor) authentication everywhere it’s offered are all readily available steps that can help you protect yourself.

Takeaway: Digital security threats and the cybercrime that accompanies it cost the global economy somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 billion per year and affects tens of millions who have personal information stolen.

That said, articles such as this one from The New York Times oversells (1.2 billion credentials stolen!) and under-delivers (but we can’t tell you who might be at risk). With scant details on what individuals can do outside of paying its primary source for an audit, the worry is there’ll be a lot of hype with very little information to take action on.

1. Forbes clarifies that $120 is a yearly monitoring cost at $10/month.

[T]o be honest, there aren’t a lot of jobs that are cooler than being a reporter. I mean, that’s what Superman was.

— John Horton, former columnist for The Plain Dealer, to Poynter, before adding, “I miss the daily challenge that you had, the feeling that you were doing something larger that made a big difference, fighting that fight every day. I think journalism is one of the few jobs that really has that aspect to it.” How mass layoffs in 2013 changed the lives of former Plain Dealer staffers.

Something pretty interesting has happened to sports opinionating in recent years. You can see it in the torching of Sterling just as you can see it in R*dskinsgate and the fight to end NCAA amateurism and the welcoming of openly gay athletes and the defense of Richard Sherman. A certain opinion — and I’d argue that this is, in nearly every case, an opinion that falls on the lefty side of the political spectrum — is articulated. It surfs Twitter. The opinion builds momentum until it becomes, with a few noisy exceptions, the de facto take of the entire sportswriter intelligentsia (perhaps the wrong word).

That opinion then becomes something like a movement. Pressure is exerted on people and institutions — in this case, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Sterling’s fellow-owners, even Michael Jordan. The sportswriterly consensus doesn’t necessarily match the fans’ take — see the case of NCAA amateurism, where I’m pretty sure the writers are ahead of many or most of their readers. But watching the speed with which this happens has been astounding. It’s something like the sports-page equivalent of community organizing.

Veteran readers of the sports page know that social justice wasn’t always Topic A, and if it was, it was often that only for a few lonely crusaders. What changed?

The Day There Was No News

On April 18, 1930, the BBC decided there was no news worth reporting. Solution: the then eight-year-old broadcaster played piano music instead.

If only there were a Monty Python reenactment of that.

In Praise of Sources

Robots Reporting Earthquakes
Via Slate:

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s temblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.
If that sounds faster than humanly possible, it probably is. While the post appeared under Schwencke’s byline, the real author was an algorithm called Quakebot that he developed a little over two years ago. Whenever an alert comes in from the U.S. Geological Survey about an earthquake above a certain size threshold, Quakebot is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the LAT’s content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

Interested in – or freaked out about – robots writing your news? Check our Robots Tag.
Image: Screenshot, text I received from my brother Peter this morning. – Michael

Robots Reporting Earthquakes

Via Slate:

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s temblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.

If that sounds faster than humanly possible, it probably is. While the post appeared under Schwencke’s byline, the real author was an algorithm called Quakebot that he developed a little over two years ago. Whenever an alert comes in from the U.S. Geological Survey about an earthquake above a certain size threshold, Quakebot is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the LAT’s content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

Interested in – or freaked out about – robots writing your news? Check our Robots Tag.

Image: Screenshot, text I received from my brother Peter this morning. – Michael

Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.

Janet Malcom, The Journalist and the Murderer, via Slate. The Storytellers: Walter Kirn gets taken in by a con man.

So begins a review in Slate of Blood Will Out, a new memoir by Walter Kirn about his relationship with Clark Rockefeller, a real life Mr. Ripley who impersonated a famous name, lived the high life and was eventually charged on kidnapping and murder charges. Kirn’s book explores how, as a writer, he was taken in by the faux Rockefeller. Or, more precisely, by the German-born Christian Gerhartsreiter who successfully played a Rockefeller in New York City social circles.

But while Kirn explores why and how he was taken over a decade-long relationship, let’s go back to Malcom’s original quote, to the journalist as con man, to his or her relationship with sources, and why sources should talk with reporters.

In the wake of NSA revelations, national security journalists have spoken about their increased difficulty reporting the news (see here, here and here). And with the Obama administration’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers you can see why that would be the case.

So why should sources talk to reporters? It’s an important, unasked question, says Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley:

When you think about it, that question goes to the foundation of the entire edifice of a free press. And that foundation, at the moment, is shaky.

Let’s back up. No honest press, whatever its sense of mission and however firm its legal protections, can outperform its sources. It can’t be any better, stronger, braver, more richly informed, or more dedicated to broad public purpose than the people who swallow their misgivings, return the phone call, step forward, and risk embarrassment and reprisal to talk to the reporter.

The mythology of journalism enshrines the sleuths, sometimes the editors, even the publishers, but sources are really the whole ball game. Press freedom is nothing more than source freedom, one step removed. The right of a news organization to tell what it learns is an empty abstraction without the willingness of news sources to tell what they know.

Considering how important sources are, it’s stunning how little affection they get and how flimsy the protections are that anybody claims for them.

Give Wasserman’s article a good read.

It moves well beyond national security issues as it explores, again, why when a source’s quote can be nitpicked a thousand different ways — in “the online multiverse, and his or her words, motives and integrity will be denounced or impugned, often by pseudonymous dingbats, some of them undisclosed hirelings” — he or she should ever want to talk to the news media.

Verification Handbook
In times of crisis our social spaces become troves of information. Misinformation too as journalists and ordinary citizens try to make heads and tails of what’s going on around them.
Enter the European Journalism Centre which just released the Verification Handbook, a collection of essays and case studies from journalists at the BBC, Storyful, ABC and other news organizations.
In their introduction to the collection, Craig Silverman and Rina Tsubaki write:

A disaster is no time to try to verify on the fly. It’s not the moment to figure out what your standards and practices are for handling crowdsourced information. Yet it’s what many - too many - newsrooms and other organizations do.
Fortunately, an abundance of tools, technologies and best practices have emerged in recent years that enable anyone to master the new art of verification, and more are being developed all the time.
It is, in the end, about achieving a harmony of two core elements: Preparing, training and coordinating people in advance and during an emergency; and providing them with access and resources to enable them to take full advantage of the ever-evolving tools that can help with verification.
The combination of the human and the technological with a sense of direction and diligence is ultimately what helps speed and perfect verification. Admittedly, however, this is a new combination, and the landscape of tools and technologies can change quickly.
This book synthesizes the best advice and experience by drawing upon the expertise of leading practitioners from some of the world’s top news organizations, NGOs, volunteer and technical communities, and even the United Nations. It offers essential guidance, tools and processes to help organizations and professionals serve the public with reliable, timely information when it matters most.

The online edition is here. ePub and PDF versions are coming soon.

Verification Handbook

In times of crisis our social spaces become troves of information. Misinformation too as journalists and ordinary citizens try to make heads and tails of what’s going on around them.

Enter the European Journalism Centre which just released the Verification Handbook, a collection of essays and case studies from journalists at the BBC, Storyful, ABC and other news organizations.

In their introduction to the collection, Craig Silverman and Rina Tsubaki write:

A disaster is no time to try to verify on the fly. It’s not the moment to figure out what your standards and practices are for handling crowdsourced information. Yet it’s what many - too many - newsrooms and other organizations do.

Fortunately, an abundance of tools, technologies and best practices have emerged in recent years that enable anyone to master the new art of verification, and more are being developed all the time.

It is, in the end, about achieving a harmony of two core elements: Preparing, training and coordinating people in advance and during an emergency; and providing them with access and resources to enable them to take full advantage of the ever-evolving tools that can help with verification.

The combination of the human and the technological with a sense of direction and diligence is ultimately what helps speed and perfect verification. Admittedly, however, this is a new combination, and the landscape of tools and technologies can change quickly.

This book synthesizes the best advice and experience by drawing upon the expertise of leading practitioners from some of the world’s top news organizations, NGOs, volunteer and technical communities, and even the United Nations. It offers essential guidance, tools and processes to help organizations and professionals serve the public with reliable, timely information when it matters most.

The online edition is here. ePub and PDF versions are coming soon.

The First Annual FJP Absolutely Arbitrary Best of Everything List: 2013 Edition

As 2013 comes to a close, we see best of lists everywhere and think we should create one of our own. As de facto head of this operation I put forth The First Annual FJP Absolutely Arbitrary Best of Everything List: 2013 Edition.

So while arbitrary, these are things we bandied about during the year.

We read/watch/listen a lot. We sit around and talk about how we consume a lot.

We talk about how to digest what we consume. We talk about healthful media diets.

Jihii leads this charge and keeps us honest and relatively sane. Meanwhile, we eat the news.

So here are things that didn’t make the Tumblr but occupies what we read, watched and talked about over the last 365 days. They’re the oddities and peculiarities that caught our interest. Obviously there’s much more but in the spirit of occupying attention for a few moments before passing it along, here’s our abbreviated – and arbitrary – hit list. – Michael

Most Important Presentations on the NSA, Surveillance, What it All Means, Why it Matters and Why You Should Order a Tinfoil Hat Now
Tie, Jacob Applebaum (video), Glenn Greenwald (video) and the Guardian (interactive).

Best Reflection on Women and the Internet
Quinn Nortan, Online and Offline Violence Towards Women.

Best Interview Where the Interviewee Takes Over and Explains Why Western Democracy is a Sham, UK Edition
Russell Brand v the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. See also, Brand’s follow-up on his comments.

Best Explainer for Why All Language is Metaphor
The Economist, The impossibility of being literal.

Best Comic Reflecting How Social Media Influences Our Reporting
xdcd: Social Media.

Best Debate Over Punctuation Marks
The Apostrophe, Slate versus The New Republic.

Best MacGyvering by Citizens when Their Government Shuts Down the Internet During Protests
Vice, Protesters Are Dodging Sudan’s Internet Shutdown with a Phone-Powered Crowdmap.

Best Five Percent of the American Public
The Verge, Study says five percent of Americans find the internet pointless.

Best Ad About Covering Up Poo Stink
PooPourri with this ad about covering up poo stink.

Best New Google Streetview Map
Google, Large Hadron Collider

Best Example of Drinking on the Job
My Drunk Science. Honorable mention: Drunk History and My Drunk Kitchen.

Best Demonstration of Social Media in the 16th Century
The Economist, How Luther Went Viral.

Best Explainer on Whether You’re an Internet Addict
Pacific Standard, We Are All Internet Addicts Now—Just Don’t Call It That.

Best Example on the Highs and Lows of Covering the Marijuana Beat
Center for Investigative Reporting, High on the job.

Best Demonstration of Google’s Global Reach
Techspot, Five-minute Google outage reportedly caused 40% drop in global traffic.

Best Example of Moore’s Law Presented in One Image
Singularity Hub, Moore’s Law is No Joke – Pile of Electronics from 1993 Fits in your Palm Today.

Best Way to Incarcerate A Large Portion Your Population
The Register, Jail time promised for false tweets in China.

Best City in which to Shoot Ruin Porn
Detroit: See here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Best Waiver a University Makes Students Sign
TIME, Chinese University Asks Students to Sign ‘Suicide Waivers’.

Best Humblebrag about a Newsroom’s Excellent Multimedia Reporting
New York Times, The Year in Interactive Storytelling.

Best Use of Sponsored Content
NSA, as Placed on 60 Minutes. See also, On The Media, The Verge, and The Wire.

Best documentary about corporate spin, lawsuits and the media that we should have known about and finally just saw on Netflix.
Big Boys Gone Bananas.

Best representative segment of FOX News being FOX News
Spirited Debate, Reza Alslan interview.

Best Analysis of CNN Jumping the Shark
John Stewart, Good Thing Versus Bad Thing. See also, Jay Rosen on why he no longer bothers to criticize CNN.

Best Art Hack of How the Contemporary New Cycle Works
Jonathan Chomko, News Machine.

Best #Hashtag Conversations on Media, Culture and Society
#NotYourAsianSideKick. Runner Up: #NotYourNarrative.

Best Best of Lists, Journalism and Storytelling Style
Various: Check Josh Stearns on online storytelling, Nieman Storyboard on best narrative, Electronic Frontier Foundation on how MENA activists are fighting governments, Slate on crime reporting, and, of course, Longform’s Best of 2013.

Shield Law Protecting Established Journalists and Bloggers Passes Senate Committee →

Wikileak-type organizations, not so much.

Via the Los Angeles Times:

Journalists and bloggers who report news to the public will be protected from being forced to testify about their work under a media shield bill passed by a Senate committee Thursday.

But the new legal protections will not extend to the controversial online website Wikileaks and others whose principal work involves disclosing “primary-source documents … without authorization.”…

…The final hurdle for the Judiciary Committee was defining who is a journalist in the digital era.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to “real reporters” and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website.

"I can’t support it if everyone who has a blog has a special privilege … or if Edward Snowden were to sit down and write this stuff, he would have a privilege. I’m not going to go there," she said.

Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a “covered journalist” as someone who gathers and reports news for “an entity or service that disseminates news and information.” The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any “legitimate news-gathering activities.”

But the bill also makes it clear that the legal protection is not absolute. Federal officials still may “compel disclosure” from a journalist who has information that could stop or prevent crimes such as murder, kidnapping or child abduction or prevent “acts of terrorism” or significant harm to national security.

FJP: TL;DR? Seventeen year olds are on their own. Ditto sites that host primary source documents like Wikileaks. Because there must be a responsible adult intermediary (read: liable) between information and the public.

For what it’s worth, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press says that while the bill isn’t as inclusive as it would have liked, it generally likes the bill.

shortformblog:

So NowThisNews has an Instagram channel, and while they’ve been shooting a lot of video over this way, yesterday they posted something pretty mind-blowing. Here’s an Instagram infographic about civilian casualties in Afghanistan which is at once informative and well-produced. They’ve packed a lot into 15 seconds.