Friday, May 6, 2011

American Views on Killing Osama

The good people at, well, GOOD (an organization of individuals, businesses, and non-profits) put together a snappy-looking infographic on American opinion after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. I found it useful for general summary purposes. The layout is pretty neat too!

(Click on the graphic to enlarge the image)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

This movie sums up a good amount of what we have learned in class

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Perfect Coda to the Course

"Not only did we kill bin Laden, we killed him in Abbottabad. Abbottabad sounds like the name most New Yorkers would have invented for the fictional place they would have loved to kill bin Laden in."

Monday, May 2, 2011

Another Case of the Made-Up Quote

Megan McArdle of The Atlantic published an opinion piece today about her hesitance to share in the celebration of Osama's death. She supposed that something was amiss when she saw the following quotation appear in her Twitter feed:
"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King, Jr
Turns out, the quotation was just what she suspected: a fake. Read the rest of her follow-up post here:

Osama bin Laden death and network news/social media

I thought several parts of the linked article demonstrated several elements of news making that we have talked about through out the class. I thought that the following excerpt was especially important:

"Reactions were sudden and stunned. Twitter said that it had recorded more than 4,000 Twitter messages per second at some times during Mr. Obama's address.

The confirmation of Bin Laden's death led the major television networks in the United States to dust off the briefing books that they had prepared years ago for the occasion, and led major newspapers to queue up the obituaries that they had written long ago."

Is the news cycle really as fast as we think

Couple of random things. First in response to Max's photo op post- the kill was planned for Saturday but for unknown reasons was pushed back until Sunday. (according to CNN). Second- I know we have been talking about how fast the news cycle is but last night was complicated the issue. While at a country concert I actually found out about the killing from military personnel who had found out from their friend's in the Middle East before the story broke. I could be wrong as I was not near an actually computer but a quick search on my phone resulted in old theories for the first 5 minutes after finding out.

Lastly. This is an interesting article on the fake photos already circulating and the social impact of this event (on the royal honeymoon).

Drudge Losing His Edge?

Drudge is best known for having breaking news first, even if it is sometimes inaccurate. However, last night when the White House announced its late night news conference on national security, Drudge did not cover it and appeared not to be paying attention. While Fox News and NBC News were reporting that the Bin Laden had been killed, Drudge's headline and picture were about Donald Trump, and there was no mention of the breaking news. Drudge did have many links to the Bin Laden story once Obama announced the news, but Drudge not having any information on the breaking news when other media outlets clearly knew what was going on raises some questions about whether Drudge is losing his edge in being the first to have breaking news.

The End

Breaking news is ragged, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be...


Contribution data
As was the case in 2004, majorities of the national and local journalists surveyed describe themselves as political moderates; 53% of national journalists and 58% of local journalists say they are moderates. About a third of national journalists (32%), and 23% of local journalists, describe themselves as liberals. Relatively small minorities of national and local journalists call themselves conservatives (8% national, 14% local).

Internet journalists as a group tend to be more liberal than either national or local
journalists. Fewer than half (46%) call themselves moderates, while 39% are self-described liberals and just 9% are conservatives.

Among the population as a whole, 36% call themselves conservatives – more than triple the percentage of national and internet journalists, and more than double the percentage of local journalists. About four-in-ten (39%) characterize their political views as moderate, while 19% are self-described liberals, based on surveys conducted in 2007 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.


I don't know if this was the video Maddie was trying to post, but here's a pretty good example of first reports being incorrect, or in this case misspoken. In the video they accidently say "President Obama is dead" rather than "Osama bin Laden."


The news of Bin Laden's death yesterday came eight years to the day of the "Mission Accomplished" photo op. Maybe it would be an appropriate scene today...

A Great Photo

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Stage One Crisis Reporting

Some information may be inaccurate...

President Obama on Death of Osama bin Laden

One Word Comment on the Killing of Bin Laden

Al Jazeera Uses Magic Quotes on Osama

In its breaking news piece on bin Laden's death, Al Jazeera immediately downplayed the significance of the US military victory:

US president Barack Obama is due to make a statement shortly in which he is expected to announce the death of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda.

Obama's address was due at 0300GMT from the White House.

Qais Azimy, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said that Afghan officials have confirmed that Bin Laden had died and that his body was with the United States.

Officials would not confirm whether he had been killed in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and said that the death of the al-Qaeda leader was more of a "symbolic victory", as he was no longer directly connected to the group's field operations, Azimy reported.

Twitter and Osama

According to an article on TechCrunch, "News of Osama Bin Laden's Death Spreads Like Wildfire on Twitter." As the author writes, "Wow this news isn’t even out and it is already old news." (Read the full article here:
Facebook is also littered with updated statuses regarding Bin Laden's death. The internet has allowed this news - which is currently minimal - to spread exponentially. If something similar were to happen ten or twenty years ago, most people would not know about the death until the morning.

Osama Bin Laden dead, says US government official

The New York Times published an article stating that the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks has been killed. President Obama to make further announcements later tonight.

The link is here.

Donald Trumps Face Speaks for this video in its entirety

Why so passive?

After buddying it up with Strunk and White this past semester, I can't help but notice reporter's excessive use of passive voice in article headings. I found this article, which states:

"Nielsen's thesis is that the passive voice -- which is usually frowned upon by people who love good prose -- enables headline writers to "front-load" their heds with the key concepts from the story, making it easier for people scanning those headlines (as search results or feed headlines) to pick out their meaning more quickly."

An interesting thought, and maybe it will help me get over my annoyance of titles like this one (published in the New York Times on May 1): Costly Afghanistan Road Project Is Marred By Unsavory Alliances

2011 White House Correspondents' Dinner

This video shows President Obama's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. In his speech President Obama jokes about a number of current events and pokes fun at many pop-culture figures. Particularly amusing is the introduction in which he makes fun of Donald Trump and the birth certificate controversy. As interesting as his speech is the reactions of the variety of recognizable people in the audience.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Obama Visits Tuscaloosa, Alabama After Deadly Storms

One of the President's duties is to appear on the scene of a national disaster to show sympathy and to speak about what the United States will do to help during the rebuilding process. This video is clearly framed in a way that will help Obama's 2012 campaign. The video shows him eagerly shaking hands with residents, speaking with them personally, speaking to an elderly woman in a shelter, and picking up a small child in a shelter. These images are photo opps for President Obama, which show his compassion. These make him look like a hands-on leader who is not above talking to the average American.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Donald Trump said...

Just kidding, this isn't about the Donald--as amusing as he can be--rather something we touched on a while ago: the debt ceiling. We're getting close to the limit, Congress is going to vote soon to raise it, that vote will be unpopular and there will be a fight over whether to add conditions or not.

The Congressional Research Service released a report today about what might happen in the limit is reached.

The report is long, complicated, a little scary, and pretty dull. Dave Weigel, a Slate blogger formerly of the Washington Post summarized the report.
The prediction: unprecedented difficulties and structural crises, possible Treasury emergency moves, problems with entitlement payments. The usual
Weigel's pithy summary indicates at least two facts: first, there is an appetite for somewhat wonky news, and second, even that market likely prefers short pithy analysis.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Donald Trump's Gold Apartment

For reals.

Accuracy and Bias

I. Scandals and Conspiracy Theories

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

II. Another Look at Crisis Coverage

III. Viral Misinformation
IV. Fraud

IV. Forms of Bias

Defamation of a businessman

Recently, the Washington Post published several stories regarding a lawsuit brought against Washington City Paper (a tabloid) by Washington Redskins owner and businessman Dan Snyder.
In an opinion article, Dan Snyder claims that the paper has yet to issue an apology or retract the false and damaging statements made to his character in a November 2010 article.

A great example of what makes a defamation case. He goes to great extent describing his motivation and intent.

"For more than eight months, the same writer at this tabloid blogged or wrote about me. In producing more than 55 pieces, only three times did this particular writer bother to call my staff to check facts. The reporters of The Post and other papers know that my communications adviser, Tony Wyllie, is available 24-7 to respond to questions about me and the Washington Redskins. This writer, however, chose not to call to check the facts before he wrote an article last November that contained so many false assertions."

The link to his opinion is here.

Barack Obama Releases Birth Certificate, Donald Trump 'Proud'

Another Brilliant Political Move by Obama?

President Obama has already been influencing the 2012 Republican field in creative ways. He has praised both Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman--arguably his two strongest competitors in the general election--so that their conservative opponents in the Republican primaries can attack them for being liked by Obama. Obama's praise could come back to hurt him in a general election fight, but Obama thinks that by praising Romney and Huntsman he will hurt them with the political right, and they will not be able to win the Republican nomination.

Today Obama made what is probably another brilliant political move aimed at influencing the Republican field. Obama finally released his long form birth certificate today. The administration claimed that there were more important issues to focus on, and they wanted the issue to go away. However, over the past several weeks Donald Trump has made Obama's birth certificate his issue and has demanded that the White House release it. Now that the White House has released it, Trump can claim victory. Obama's birth certificate was only a serious issue for the far right of the Republican Party; however, these voters are very likely to participate in Republican primaries. Trump will likely become even more popular among the far right because he was the one who finally "forced" Obama to release his birth certificate. This new higher popularity may make Trump more likely to run.

The Obama reelection team would love for Trump to run. Trump has so many issues and has such a tendency to say stupid things that Obama would love to run against him in the general election because it would be a landslide. By releasing his birth certificate after Trump "demanded" it, Obama not only helps to end conversations about whether he was born in the United States but also makes it more likely that Trump will run for President.

Crowdsourcing Strengthens Journalism, says NYU Prof

In this course we have often discussed the pros and cons to new media outlets (blogs, social media, etc.), but in this recent piece Jay Rosen, NYU journalism professor of 25 years, seems to definitively answer the question--The more people who participate in it the stronger the press will be.

Here is an excerpt of his argument:

"According to the internet’s one percent rule, a very small portion of the users will become serious contributors, which is still a lot of people. Let’s say you’re a beat reporter who has a niche blog on the local public schools (like this one) with a loyal user base of 10,000. If the one percent rule is accurate, 100 of those loyal users are likely to become heavy contributors if given the chance. They should be given that chance. It will strengthen the site. That’s what I believe. But we still don’t know much about how to make these pro-am combinations work, because for a very long time the news system was optimized for low participation. Switching it over is extremely difficult work. Even CNN’s i-Report, which claims 750,000 contributors worldwide, is poorly integrated into the main CNN newsroom. In what Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, calls the “mutualization” of journalism, most of the big discoveries lie ahead of us. We ought to get cracking.

You can read the full article here.

Take That Orly Taitz

Obama finally released his birth certificate this morning. In referring to the debate about where he was born and whether or not he is eligible to serve as president, he was quoted as saying, "We do not have time for this kind of silliness." Touche.

More info here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More on Gabby Giffords

After what felt like much debate, Gabby Giffords' doctors have given her formal permission to attend her husband's shuttle launch (the Endeavor) this Friday. It should be interesting to see how the media respond to her physical appearance (because, realistically, we all know that's what they'll mention the most). Because her recovery has been kept rather quiet and visually undocumented, people probably aren't fully prepared to see a Gabby other than the one we saw last, before the shooting occurred.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Onion Parody Featured as fact in New York Times Article

Apparently, the New York Times referenced a magazine with President Obama on the cover as fact that the Onion released as a parody. The New York Times issued a correction on Sunday to the error. Yahoo News picked up on the story and featured it in its scroller today. The Yahoo article also references James O'Keefe, who we discussed in class. Here is the full article from Yahoo News (it's pretty short):

A nice example of where parody/comedy mixes with real journalism.

Readings for Wednesday, April 27

Public Figures' Private Lives

In class we discussed the ethical boundaries of covering public figures. The British royal weddings serve as a good case study.

... opinion polls saying that barely a half of the British are interested in the wedding, and only a third are certain to watch it on television. Councils report a north-south divide in applications to hold street parties—and far fewer overall than when Prince William’s parents wed in 1981.

What is going on? Most simply, experience has taught the British that to cheer a royal wedding today is to risk feeling a chump tomorrow. After decades of royal divorces and marital wars conducted by tabloid leak or tell-all book, sighing over a new princely union requires a Zsa Zsa Gabor-like leap of faith.

Perhaps, optimists might also hope, the British feel a twinge of collective remorse over the short, pitilessly scrutinised life of Prince William’s mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Perhaps the public simply want to give two young people some space.

Read more at Set the Royal Family Free


Ethics Code of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Study Confirms That Fox News=Misinformation

Although this study is neither new nor surprising, it is interesting to see again the effect media can have on people.

A University of Maryland study published in December 2010 found that people in the survey who had the most exposure to Fox News were more likely to believe falsehoods and rumors about national and world affairs when compared to those who paid attention to other news outlets.

For example:
  • 91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
  • 72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
  • 72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
  • 60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
  • 49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
  • 63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
  • 56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
  • 38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
  • 63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)
Read the full study here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Return of the FCC Indecency Policy?

As we have discussed in class, there are a variety of rules governing broadcast media. This article in the Huffington Post discusses the Obama administration's desire for the SCT to reinstate a policy allowing regulators to fine broadcasters for airing indecent material.

The administration is seeking the high court's review of appeals court rulings that threw out the Federal Communications Commission's rules against the isolated use of expletives as well as fines against broadcasters who showed a woman's nude buttocks on a 2003 episode of ABC's "NYPD Blue."

Last year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York threw out the FCC policy, saying it was unconstitutionally vague and left broadcasters uncertain of what programming the agency will find offensive. The challenge to the FCC rules arose over celebrities' use of the F-word and S-word on live awards show programs.


For many years, the FCC did not take action against broadcasters for one-time uses of curse words. The policy flowed from a 1978 Supreme Court decision that upheld the FCC's reprimand of a New York radio station for airing a George Carlin monologue containing a 12-minute string of expletives in the middle of the afternoon.

But, following several awards shows with cursing celebrities in 2002 and 2003, the FCC toughened its long-standing policy after it concluded that a one-free-expletive rule did not make sense in the context of keeping the air waves free of indecency when children are likely to be watching television

Readings for Monday, April 25

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obama's Facebook Town Hall

Kind of a long video, and pretty similar to his past town halls and speeches, but worth a look. Funny introduction by the President who introduced himself as "the guy who got Mark [Zuckerberg] to wear a jacket and tie."

Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at

Pt. 2
Watch live streaming video from facebookguests at

Not-so-true stories: 7 authors who were charged with deceit

The recent Greg Mortenson scandal sparked MSN to publish a list of the most famous deceitful authors. Here are the top three:

"1. James Frey
The most famous of recent memoir-fabricators is Frey, who was lambasted by Oprah Winfrey after he admitted his book "A Million Little Pieces" contained embellishments. The Smoking Gun called into question his dramatic account of hitting a police officer with his car while high on crack, as well as other details. Future editions of the book contained an apologetic note from Frey, and his career continued. Most recently, the film adaptation of his young adult novel "I Am Number Four" (a collaboration Jobie Hughes) hit screens in February.

2. Herman Rosenblat

After her trouble with Frey, Winfrey should have been on the lookout, but who could doubt Herman Rosenblat? His "Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love That Survived" told the emotional tale of how he survived Buchenwald thanks to a young girl who visited daily to pass him food through the fence. Years later, the two met again on a blind date in New York City, and married. It was "the single greatest love story" Winfrey had ever told on the air, the talk show host proclaimed. Unfortunately, it wasn't actually how Rosenblat met his wife, though he was a concentration camp survivor. Ultimately the books cancelled.

3. Margaret Seltzer

Writing under the pen name Margaret B. Jones, Seltzer penned a memoir about growing up in the rough neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, where she ran drugs for the Bloods. She even described how her foster-brother Terrell was gunned down outside their home. But Seltzer never lived in foster care; she grew up in Sherman Oaks, far from the mean streets she described. She never sold drugs. She wasn't even half Native American, as her character claimed. In the end, her own sister called attention to the fiction."


Insight in 140 characters or less

From Larry Sabato:
"We have to cover Trump because he's moving up in polls!" Um, he's moving up because you're covering him so much.

Says a lot about early polls, name ID, and media coverage.!/LarrySabato/statuses/60324728077950977

Tech-savvy Obama in an arcane system

The Washington Post published an article today on President Obama's recent comments on the horrible state of IT within the White House, the Pentagon, Homeland Security, and other offices.

"When we came into office, Federal IT was undeniably broken" - White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra

The article is here

Stewart and Colbert

Not all interviewees prove to be easy target. John Yoo, January 11, 2010:

  • The program’s clearest focus is politics, especially in Washington. U.S. foreign affairs, largely dominated by the Bush Administration’s policies in Iraq, Washington politics and government accounted for nearly half (47%) of the time spent on the program. Overall, The Daily Show news agenda is quite close to those of cable news talk shows.
  • The press itself is another significant focus on The Daily Show. In all, 8% of the time was made up of segments about the press and news media. That is more than double the amount of coverage of media in the mainstream press overall during the same period.
  • A good deal of the news, however, is also absent from The Daily Show. In 2007, for example, major events such as the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse were never discussed. And the shootings at Virginia Tech, the most covered story within a given week in 2007 by the overall press, received only a cursory mention.
  • Republicans in 2007 tended to bear the brunt of ridicule from Stewart and his crew. From July 1 through November 1, Stewart’s humor targeted Republicans more than three times as often as Democrats. The Bush Administration alone was the focus of almost a quarter (22%) of the segments in this time period.
  • The lineup of on-air guests was more evenly balanced by political party. But our subjective sense from viewing the segments is that Republicans faced harsher criticism during the interviews with Stewart. Whether this is because the show is simply liberal or because the Republicans control the White House is harder to pin down.

  • Most of those who regularly watch O’Reilly (63%) and Hannity (65%) are 50 or older; 44% of the public is 50 or older. By contrast, the Daily Show and Colbert Report have the youngest audiences of any outlet included in the survey. Large majorities of those who say they regularly watch the Colbert Report (80%) and the Daily Show (74%) are younger than 50; 55% of public is 18 to 49.
  • Entertainment is by far the biggest reason why regular viewers of the Colbert Report and the Daily Show tune into those programs; 53% of the regular Colbert audience and 43% of the Daily Show audience say they mostly watch those programs for entertainment. Yet entertainment also is a factor for many regular viewers of morning news shows (18%), readers of USA Today (16%) and other audiences.

Stephen Colbert

Lyn Westmoreland's Appearance on "Better Know a District" -- Or, "Don't Do This."

ColbertPAC (h/t Caroline Nyce):

Actors and Politics

Actors, actresses, and other celebrities have often used their fame as a platform from which to make political proclamations. One noteworthy example is Sean Penn, who frequently makes political statements. In 2008 at Coachella music festival, Sean Penn added himself to the lineup to make a speech. According to a article,
The actor, who baffled many when his name showed up on the lineup for this year's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., plans to board a fleet of biodiesel buses and take about 300 people on an 1,800-mile trek across the U.S., ending in New Orleans.


As the biodiesel buses make their way across U.S. cities, the plan is to have its members volunteer for local organizations or do whatever they feel inspired to do.

With the goal to "encourage individuals to take individual actions," the caravan will stop at campgrounds where they'll be joined by musicians, activists, artists, filmmakers and guest speakers.
Although this article provided positive commentary regarding Penn's plan, many observers were less supportive, as evidenced in this video of the speech titled "Sean Penn telling Coachella to join cult?"

Monday, April 18, 2011


The first half of the Daily Show that reaired last night was Jon Stewart mocking Glenn Beck and the interview is with Jamie Oliver about being banned by LAUSD....

This is episode is basically the entire class rolled into 22 minutes

Final Paper

Answer one question

1. Drawing on what you have learned in the course (including the Jones book), write a postscript to the Salzman book that revises and extends its analysis. That is, what did the book miss, botch, or fail to anticipate?

2. On the National Mall last October, Stewart and Colbert held a “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” ( In light of what we have covered inclass (especially Salzman and Jones), explain:

  • What were they trying to accomplish?
  • How did they try to achieve their goals?
  • To what extent did they succeed?
  • What could they have done differently?

3. You are the press aide for a political figure who will appear on either Colbert or The Daily Show within the next two weeks. (Pick someone who has not yet appeared on this program for real.) Explain:

  • Why would it be in this person’s interest to appear?
  • How would you prepare this person for the interview?
  • What has happened to comparable political figures who appeared on this program? What lessons can you draw from their experience?
  • What questions would Stewart or Colbert ask? Why?
  • How would you promote the appearance?
  • How might the interview go badly? What would you do then?

Be specific in answering these questions.

  • Exams should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and no more than five pages long. I will not read past the fifth page..
  • Cite your sources. You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a reference list. In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style). The endnotes or reference sheet will not count against the page limit.
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
Return exams to me no later than Monday, May 2. Papers will drop a grade point for one day’s lateness, a letter grade after that.

The Making of the Daily Show

NPR Fresh Air: Terry Gross Interviews John Stewart (Oct. 2010): "The Most Trusted Name in Fake News"

A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Daily Show. Terry Gross, as per normal, asks him insightful questions about his role in the current media. (Though it's also the only time I've heard her giggle..she has a mega crush on him).

They discuss the "Rally to Restore Sanity" in detail and Stewart talks about his motivations. (For those writing their next paper on the subject).

2011 Pulitzer Prizes Announced

The Pulitzer Prizes were announced this morning for the year 2011.

Awards of note: the Los Angeles Times for Public Service (coverage of corruption in the City of Bell); David Leonhardt at the New York Times for Commentary; and no award for Breaking News Reporting (even in quite an eventful year).

A full rundown can be found here.

The Daily Show

Nixon on Laugh-In:

Stewart did not invent comedic use of news video:

Interrogating Multiple Witnesses: Stewart v. CNBC, March 4, 2009
Cross-examination: Rove, September 3, 2008

Summarizing the evidence: Iraq, August 25, 2005

Closing Statements: August 25, 2005

John Stewart on Crossfire

A popular clip from the 2004 election season with a head to head of the Daily Show and CNN - John Stewart on Crossfire, in a discussion about reporting and interviewing techniques. John Stewart vents and criticizes Crossfire for wasting an opportunity to provide a service that Americans need.

Stewart begins to criticize the format of Crossfire, saying "You're doing theater when you should be doing debate" 6:57

After being asked which presidential candidate, upon winning would provide The Daily Show with the most comedic material Stewart says, "The absurdity of the system provides us with the most material" 10:19

A Jewish Al Jazeera?

There has been some talk lately of the development of a news organization to serve as the Jewish alternative to Al Jazeera. Israeli billionaire Alexander Machkevitch has stepped up to the plate to finance this endeavor, but is there enough support? In this article from the Jewish Week, Machkevitch noted that “every day we see that information is more powerful than military troops or many networks provide information that divides people. We want to provide information that will unite people.” What a noble idea... Also take a look at this more recent article, which attempts to analyze the viability of the project in terms of sustainability and global relevance.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

D.C. Teachers' Union Rally Outside the Washington Post

The D.C. teachers’ union staged a rally on Friday claiming Kaplan—the for-profit educational services division owned by the Post Co.—influences the editorial positions of the Washington Post. Teachers believe the connection between the Washington Post and Kaplan creates a conflict of interest that slanted the coverage of D.C’s education reform. The teachers’ union believes the newspaper focuses on the importance of testing while dismissing the importance of teachers because test preparation and other Kaplan services account for 62 percent of the Post Co.’s revenue. In true protest form, the rally included a stunt for the media—in this case, a giant inflatable rat.

Coverage of the rally by the Washington Post can be found here.


James Rainey writes at The Los Angeles Times:

Several big news organizations fell for a stunning, albeit fake, piece of business news this week — that General Electric would voluntarily pay the government a $3.2-billion tax "refund."

Some news-types responded to the hoax with indignation, others bemusement. Both those groups must have been outnumbered, though, by the resolute. This couldn't, wouldn't … shouldn't happen again.

But, take notice, newshounds: The tricksters and political pranksters have numbers. They have big plans. They embrace a lawless tradition and an outlaw code. They will be back. And they are fairly certain you can be had.

In many cases, they will be right. Fake news may not be inevitable. But it will always find a pathway, particularly in the frantic chase that is journalism in the Digital Age. All harried journalists can do is take a moment, breathe deeply and make that extra confirmation phone call, because the next $10,000 Donald Trump restaurant tip, campaign to blockade oil spills with human hair or School for Panhandlers (all fakes swallowed, whole, by some of the media) is just beyond the next deadline.

The responsible group was US Uncut.

The group that staged the fake GE tax-return stunt came together only in the last couple of months, inspired by an article in the Nation magazine that urged activists to build progressive equivalents to the conservative "tea party" movement. "We don't just have a spending problem in America, we have a revenue problem," said US Uncut spokesman Ryan Clayton. "It's not the teacher and cop and their salaries that are the problem. It's the corporations that aren't paying taxes that are the problem."

With a bit of advice from the Yes Men, US Uncut put together its fake press release and dummy GE website (only one letter different than the corporation's actual URL) in about 10 days.

Media organizations that fell for the fakery — including Associated Press and its many clients, who at least briefly picked up the story (including, for just a few minutes, the business page of — didn't do enough to verify the veracity of the emailed press release.

The fake looked and sounded like the real thing, said Tom Kent, standards editor for AP. He declined to give specific details about who failed to verify the news. "If we had followed our procedures this would not have happened," Kent said.

The double-time pace of the news industry has only kicked up a notch in recent years, with reporters rushing to tweet, blog and write the news before the competition. Being first can mean the extra clicks, and ad dollars, that might keep an outlet alive.

The Power of Mockery

"Ridicule is man's most potent weapon," wrote Saul Alinsky. Salzman makes a similar point in his discussion of media events. And now Nicholas Kristof writes at The New York Times:
The juiciest story behind the Middle East uprisings doesn’t concern Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s “voluptuous” Ukrainian nurse or C.I.A. bags of cash. Rather, it’s the tale of how a nonviolent revolutionary strategy crafted by Serbian students and an octogenarian American scholar came to challenge dictators in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and many other countries.

This “uprising in a bottle” blueprint was developed by the Serbian youth movement, Otpor, to overthrow Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. One of Otpor’s insights was that the most effective weapon against dictators isn’t bombs or fiery speeches. It’s mockery. Otpor activists once put Milosevic’s picture on a barrel that they rolled down the street, inviting people to hit it with a bat.

Otpor’s strategy mirrors one promoted by a rumpled Boston academic named Gene Sharp, who is little known in America but inspires tremors among dictators abroad. Sharp’s guide to toppling despots has been translated into 34 languages so far and was widely circulated in Egypt last year in Arabic.

After Otpor toppled Milosevic, it began to hold seminars for pro-democracy activists from other parts of the world, including many from the Middle East.


Toppling dictators is only one application of this kind of grass-roots movement. One of the most exciting trends in the struggle against poverty and social pathologies such as crime is the use of similar youth-owned movements to change cultural norms from the bottom up.

Tina Rosenberg, a longtime writer and journalist who contributes to the Opinion section of, offers a brilliant look at bottom-up initiatives to achieve social change in her new book, “Join the Club.” My favorite example has to do with teenage smoking.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, nothing seemed to work to dissuade teenagers from smoking. Television commercials warned that smoking kills you or turns your teeth yellow, but teenagers felt invulnerable. And with adults united in disapproval of teenage smoking, what better way for adolescents to rebel than to cough their way through a cigarette?

Then in the late-1990s, some frustrated anti-smoking campaigners showed teenagers how cigarette companies were manipulating them into addiction. Starting in Florida, the teenagers then designed a series of funny and withering commercials, many based on prank phone calls.

One depicted a couple of teenagers telephoning an ad agency that promoted cigarettes. The kids tried to give the agency a prize for killing teenagers in large numbers, flummoxing the staff.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Animals Affected by Japan Nuclear Accident

Here is a video clip from CNN that offers much of what people want to see in news reports. This story is about pets that have been left in the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which is uninhabitable. Many owners left their pets in the area because they had no choice, or because they did not know how long they would be gone.

This clip will capture viewer interest because of the imagery of abandoned homes and emaciated pets who are often chained in yards. People are attracted to disasters like the Japan Tsunami. Further, Americans are still looking on in curiosity at the effects of the nuclear accident. Many may be thinking about American nuclear power in the context of this disaster. People are also usually sympathetic of children, the elderly, and animals because of their vulnerability. These animals appear helpless and many of them are cute. They capture viewers' hearts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More Jamie Oliver

One of the featured shows on today is Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. The name of the episode, "Maybe L.A. Was a Big Mistake" and the tag-line "Jamie brings his message of healthy food for all to Los Angeles, but must leap over some meaty diplomatic hurdles," suggests that his publicity stunt was successful.

"Unpaid" Blogger Files Class-Action Suit Against HuffPo

Earlier in the semester, we discussed the distinction Huffington Post has made between its bloggers and staff writers--one group is paid while the other is not. On Tuesday, former HuffPo blogger Jonathan Tasini filed at $105M suit against the blogging platform and news source.

Huffington Post argues that bloggers are permitted to use their platform to share ideas, much like a guest on a TV show.

Spokespeople for the site compare HuffPo to many other unpaid group blogs, but is this different because of the AOL merger? Did HuffPo profit from the work of those that went unpaid?

Entertainment, News, and the Media

Case studies of show business, advertising, and news under the same roof:

A reality food program becomes part of the news

Radio and comedy

Will Rogers as precursor both to Rush Limbaugh and Jon Stewart:

Lenny Bruce:

Mort Sahl:

Daily Show with Cramer