Tag Archives: journalism

National Press Club raises concerns about Trump’s ‘fake news’ label

The National Press Club raised concerns this week about President-elect Donald Trump’s continual use of the phrase “fake news” to criticize news stories that he disagrees with or that displease him.

In his Jan. 11 news conference, Trump refused to field questions from certain reporters, accusing one journalist of working for a “terrible” organization and referring to an outlet represented by reporters at the event as “fake news.”

For the record

National Press Club president Thomas Burr responded with the following statement:

With the proliferation of false news stories dotting the Internet, it is important for American leaders to discern the difference and not intentionally conflate misleading and fake stories from dogged and investigative news that is fundamental to our country.

It is dangerous and unhealthy to declare a news item as “fake news” to distract from facts that you may not like or don’t favor your perspective.

Our incoming president must treat the news media as the vital cornerstone of our democracy that it is. To label something as “fake” in an effort to undermine news outlets endangers the trust granted journalists by the public and is antithetical to our country’s values.

To be sure, news organizations make honest mistakes and when they learn they’ve done so, they correct them.

That is entirely different from web sites that deliberately disseminate false information.

The president-elect appears to be conflating the two in an attempt to discredit news organizations whose coverage displeases him.

Doing so may foment a dangerous disrespect for journalists who, however flawed, are merely doing their best to inform the public.

Presidents shouldn’t get to pick and chose which reporters’ questions they will answer based on what news outlet for which they work. Doing so now is inappropriate and will do unprecedented damage to our democracy.

About the National Press Club

The National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists.

Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club works to promote freedom of expression and transparency at home and abroad.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, a nonprofit affiliate, equips news professionals with the skills to innovate, leverages emerging trends, recognizes innovators and mentors the next generation.

Press advocates denounce Egypt’s arrest of Al-Jazeera producer on fake news charge

Egyptian authorities must release Al-Jazeera news producer Mahmoud Hussein immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Officials initially questioned Hussein on Dec. 20 when he arrived in Egypt on a family visit from Qatar, where he is based, according to reports.

Hussein was arrested on Dec. 23, Al-Jazeera said.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry confirmed in a Dec. 25 statement published on its website that Hussein was being held on charges of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos.”

The ministry said Hussein worked with Al-Jazeera to produce fake documentaries about the country’s institutions. Authorities ordered him to be detained for 15 days pending investigation, Al-Jazeera reported.

In a statement on its website, Al-Jazeera described the charges against Hussein as fabricated and said it was concerned for his safety.

The arrest comes after Al-Jazeera broadcast a documentary, “Al-Asaker” (The Soldiers), in November, about conscription in Egypt. The documentary was criticized in Egypt by government officials and local media, who said that it attempted to incite against the armed forces and allegedly used fake footage.

On Dec. 25, pro-government and state-run media broadcast police videos of Hussein that they described as confessions. A narrator in one of the interviews, which were filmed in several locations, claimed that the videos showed evidence against Hussein.

Two of the videos showed him standing by production equipment that he said Al-Jazeera asked him to keep in his family’s homes after the broadcaster was forced to close its Egyptian office in 2013.

“Egyptian authorities are waging a systematic campaign against Al-Jazeera, consisting of arbitrary arrest, censorship and systematic harassment,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “Egypt must release Mahmoud Hussein immediately and ends its crackdown on the press.”

Al-Jazeera closed its Egypt offices in 2013 after they were raided and shut down by authorities, CPJ documented at the time. In the past two years, three Al-Jazeera Arabic journalists have been sentenced to death in absentia and three journalists from Al-Jazeera English were sentenced for up to 10 years in jail in Egypt for “aiding a terrorist organization,” spreading false news, and working without a license, according to news reports. They were later released.

Egypt has 25 journalists in jail in relation to their work, according to CPJ’s annual prison census.

Kelly: Trump coverage was like ‘television crack cocaine’

Megyn Kelly says Donald Trump tried unsuccessfully to give her gifts, including a free stay at one of his hotels, as part of what she called his pattern of trying to influence news coverage of his presidential campaign.

In her memoir Settle for More, to be released today, Kelly says Trump may have gotten a pre-debate tip about her first question, in which she confronted him with his critical comments about women.

Her book also details the insults and threats she received after Trump’s tirades objecting to her reporting.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the book over the weekend.

Kelly, host of Fox News Channel’s The Kelly Report, said Trump routinely attempted to gain favorable treatment from other journalists and commentators.

“This is actually one of the untold stories of the 2016 campaign: I was not the only journalist to whom Trump offered gifts clearly meant to shape coverage,” Kelly said. He also attempted to woo them with praise, she said, adding, “This is smart, because the media is full of people whose egos need stroking.”

“Trump tried to work the refs, and some of the refs responded,” she said.

When it became obvious that some reporters were “in the tank” for Trump, she alleges in one chapter, “certain TV hosts” would work with the candidate in advance on occasional Trump criticism so they would appear unbiased. She didn’t identify them by name or media outlet.

Resisting Trump’s attempts to buy her goodwill with an offer to comp her “girls’ weekend” stay at his downtown New York City hotel or fly her and her husband to visit his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida was an easy ethical decision, Kelly wrote.

More difficult was rejecting the ratings bonanza the colorful GOP contender could deliver with his “unscripted, unguarded” approach that made for great TV but was the equivalent of “television crack cocaine,” Kelly wrote.

She and her producer agreed they had to provide balance and be judicious in their coverage, asserting this was not a “directive to cover Trump negatively or to ignore him.”

It was at the first GOP primary debate last August that Kelly questioned Trump about derogatory comments he’d made about women. The day before, Trump had called Fox News executive Bill Sammon to say he had heard that Kelly’s first question would be a pointed one aimed at him, she wrote.

““How could he know that?’ I wondered,” Kelly said, not answering the question but clearing her Fox colleagues on the debate team of any suspicion of leaking it to him. Trump was agitated out of proportion in the phone call, she wrote, calling it “bizarre behavior, especially for a man who wanted the nuclear codes.”

Kelly was cast by Trump as his nemesis after the first GOP debate in which she asked him about labeling women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump called her questions ridiculous, adding, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Before another Fox debate, Kelly recalled being backstage with her family and getting an unsettling insight on how her children were being affected by the harsh rhetoric.

“I’m afraid of Donald Trump. He wants to hurt me,” she quoted her 5-year-old daughter, Yardley, as saying. When Kelly told her that wasn’t so, the child replied, “Well, he wants to hurt you, so he wants to hurt me too.”

Judge drops riot charge against Democracy Now! journalist Goodman

Democracy Now! reporter Amy Goodman won’t face a riot charge stemming from her coverage of a protest against construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota, with a judge saying Monday that there was no cause for it.

Judge John Grinsteiner refused to sign off on the misdemeanor riot charge, which prosecutor Ladd Erickson had pursued after dismissing a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge against the journalist on Friday. However, authorities would not rule out the possibility Goodman could face other charges.

Erickson has said Goodman was acting like a protester when she reported on a clash between protesters and pipeline security last month. Her defense attorney, Tom Dickson, maintains Goodman was doing her job.

The protests have drawn thousands of people to the area where Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners is trying to wrap up construction on the $3.8 billion, 1,200-mile pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents of the pipeline worry about potential effects on drinking water on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and farther downstream, as well as destruction of cultural artifacts.

Goodman is one about 140 people who have been charged in recent weeks with interfering with the pipeline’s construction in North Dakota.

After the judge’s decision Monday, Erickson referred questions to Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Donnell Preskey. Asked whether authorities would pursue other charges, Preskey said, “It’s all under review.” She would not elaborate.

Goodman told reporters outside the courthouse that Grinsteiner’s decision was a “vindication for all journalists and a vindication for everyone.”

Dickson said prosecutors are wrong to continue to pursue charges against Goodman.

“The first charge was frivolous and the second charge was even more frivolous,” Dickson said. “Enough is enough. They need to let it go.”

An arrest warrant was issued for Goodman after she reported on a clash on Sept. 3, when Standing Rock Sioux officials said crews bulldozed several sites of “significant cultural and historic value” on private land. Energy Transfer Partners denies those allegations.

Law enforcement officials said four security guards and two guard dogs received medical treatment. A tribal spokesman said six people were bitten by guard dogs and at least 30 people were pepper-sprayed.

Goodman, who is based in New York, said she “came to North Dakota to cover this epic struggle … what we found was horrifying.”

About 200 protesters gathered outside the county courthouse Monday as Goodman was set to appear for a hearing that never happened. Many held signs that included, “This is not a riot.” About 100 officers in riot gear were stationed outside the courthouse to monitor those protesters.

Morton County sheriff’s spokesman Rob Keller confirmed one man was arrested on charges including disorderly conduct.

Authorities said pipeline protesters earlier Monday briefly blocked a Bismarck-Mandan bridge across the Missouri River. They dispersed when ordered by law officers.

Carlos Lauria, senior Americas coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said any charges against Goodman are an attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of “significant public interest.”

Goodman’s show airs daily on hundreds of radio and TV stations and over the internet.

It’s not the first time Goodman has had a brush with the law while covering events. She and two of her producers received $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota.

St. Paul and Minneapolis agreed to pay a combined $90,000 while the federal government agreed to pay $10,000. The lawsuit named the federal government because a Secret Service agent confiscated the journalists’ press credentials.

Goodman said at the time the money would go “to support independent, unfettered” journalism about such events.

Arizona Republic breaks 126-year tradition, endorses Clinton

The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890 and until this week had never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. On Sept. 28, following the first presidential debate on Sept. 26, the newspaper endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and declared the Republican nominee “not qualified.”

The newspaper said its history of backing GOP candidates reflected “a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.”

But “This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.”

The newspaper, which endorsed Clinton in the state primary over Bernie Sanders, said, “The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting.

Hillary Clinton understands this. Donald Trump does not.”

The editorial decision brought praise and criticism, including from some readers who canceled subscriptions.

Phil Boas, who manages the Republic‘s editorial page, told USA TODAY, “We’re getting a lot of reaction both locally and national. I don’t believe true readers of the editorial page are surprised by all this at all, because over the past year we have been writing scathing, scalding articles about Donald Trump.”


Write an essay, win a newspaper in Vermont

The owner and publisher of a Vermont weekly newspaper is extending an essay contest to find a new owner for it after failing to get enough entries.

Ross Connelly had hoped to get at least 700 essays from which to pick a winner to own the Hardwick Gazette but said that he had received fewer than 100 since the contest started June 11.

The entry fee is $175. Contestants are expected to write up to 400 words about their skills and vision for owning a rural weekly newspaper in Vermont.

Connelly announced in the newspaper that he was extending the contest by 40 days.

“Besides garnering a number of excellent essays, the contest to this point makes a strong case there are people in this country and elsewhere who recognize the importance of a community newspaper, and have the skills and drive to be successful running one,” he wrote.

The deadline to enter is Sept. 20.

The winner would assume ownership of the newspaper and its historic building, equipment, website and proprietary materials needed to operate the business. The newspaper is printed offsite at a press not owned by it.

Connelly and his late wife, Susan Jarzyn, bought the newspaper in 1986 after moving to Vermont from Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. She died in 2011, and he has said he would like to retire.

He had been unsuccessful selling the newspaper so he came up with the essay contest.

If he doesn’t receive at least 700 entries, he’ll refund the entry fees. He also has the option to extend the contest another 20 days.

Journalists advised to wear body armor at Republican National Convention

A global technology firm is recommending that journalists covering the Republican National Convention wear military-grade body armor.

The recommendation from Global Journalist Security — found in an update following the shooting of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana — advised the wearing of body armor by those covering events in the RNC’s 1.7 square mile “event zone” in Cleveland.

The convention is beginning today, with a surprise visit expected from Donald Trump.

GJS, described on its website as a “forward-looking, technology-oriented hostile environments training and consulting firm” for news and nonprofit organizations, has security advisers at the convention, including some who are trained military personnel with medical training.

The firm expressed concern with safety in Cleveland.

Ohio is a conceal and carry state and many Republican leaders have expressed support for the decision to allow people to carry guns in the area around the Quicken Loans Arena.

GJS cautioned, “Sidearms including revolvers and semi-automatic, high-capacity pistols like Glocks may be carried beneath the clothing of a concealed-carry permit holders. Both sidearms and long guns including semi-automatic, high-powered rifles may be carried openly. Both concealed- and open-carry weapons will be permitted within the 1.7 square mile RNC ‘Event Zone.’ A number of groups from different political perspectives have already indicated they are planning armed demonstrations. The potential for tragic incidents or even armed clashes along with confusion by police and others about threats should not be underestimated.”

The Cleveland Police Department is preparing for mass arrests. An announcement said the law enforcement can house more than 975 detainees at a time and local courts will be kept open 20 hours each day of the convention, with 12 judges working 10-hour shifts.

GJS encouraged journalists to “report to us or relevant press freedom groups incidents involving journalists’ mistreatment, injuries or arrests. We will issue reports as needed on this information in addition to sharing information with press freedom groups.”

Did you know?

Guns are allowed in the “event zone” at the Republican National Convention but rules state that gas masks are not allowed, neither are knives measuring more than 2 inches, large backpacks or ice coolers.

LA Film Critics: ‘Spotlight’ is best film

The high-octane “Mad Max: Fury Road” might have driven off with the most awards, but the Los Angeles Film Critics Association had another in mind for its top film of the year: “Spotlight,” the comparatively subdued drama about the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into sex abuses in the Catholic Church.

LAFCA is one of the highest-profile regional critics groups, but often strays from the mainstream in its annual awards choices. Only once in the past 20 years has the LAFCA Best Film winner gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar.

There was no clear favorite this year, and LAFCA honored a vast variety of some of the year’s best films further reinforcing the narrative that the Oscar race is still fairly undefined.

“Mad Max: Fury Road,” picked up three honors — the most for any film — including best director for George Miller, best cinematography, and best production design. But the dystopian rager, which the National Board of Review chose as their best film earlier this week, got second place to Tom McCarthy’s “Spotlight,” which also won for its screenplay.

Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s dark animated film “Anomalisa” also got multiple awards, including best animated film and best music/score for composer Carter Burwell, who was also recognized for “Carol.”

Acting awards were given similarly out of the box choices. Michael Fassbender won best actor for portraying the tech titan in “Steve Jobs,” while Charlotte Rampling picked up the award for best actress for her role in the marital drama “45 Years.”

Michael Shannon won best supporting actor for playing the predatory real estate broker in the housing bubble film “99 Homes,” and Alicia Vikander won best supporting actress for her performance as the beguiling Artificial Intelligence creation in “Ex Machina.”

“Amy,” about the life of late pop star Amy Winehouse, won best documentary, and “Son of Saul” picked up best foreign film.

Director Ryan Coogler also won the LAFCA new generation award for “Creed,” a continuation of the Rocky Balboa saga.

“Carol,” Todd Haynes’ 1950s-set romance, which dominated the New York Film Critics Circle Awards this past week was practically shut out, aside from Burwell’s co-win for score and a host of runner-up awards, including director and production design.

The awards-friendly “Joy,” “The Revenant,” “The Danish Girl” and “Room” were nowhere to be found in LAFCA’s choices. Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” was recognized only for Ennio Morricone’s score as the runner-up to Burwell’s compositions.

Ultimately, the awards race continues to be wide open in nearly every category. The competition will heat up this week though, when nominees are announced for both the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Golden Globes.

On the Web…


Barbara Walters looks back at past ‘American Scandals’

Though the fog of time may have clouded certain details, a parade of past scandals that each seized the public’s attention ring familiar to this day.

There’s Lyle and Erik Menendez, privileged sons who offed their parents in their Beverly Hills, California, home in 1989. Jean Harris, the girls’ school headmistress whose lover, celebrity diet doctor Herman Tarnower, was found shot dead after she visited him in 1980, landing her in prison with a murder conviction. Televangelist Jim Bakker and wife Tammy Faye, who built a faith-based empire before sexual and financial misdeeds wrecked their PTL Club money-machine and put him in the slammer.

Barbara Walters was there to cover these and other shocking events. Now the veteran journalist is updating the stories on American Scandals, a nine-segment series on Investigation Discovery.

“We had thousands of past ABC News 20/20 stories to choose from, and we brought some of them up-to-date by talking with subjects we could get to, as well as the people around them,” Walters said recently. “We’re exploring what is their life like now? What have they learned? And what can we learn from them?”

Fresh interviews supplement archival footage — some never before aired — which, viewed from as much as 30 years, often takes on new significance. “Footage from the past can look very different when viewed in the present,” Walters noted.

The series begins with the still-unsolved murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, whose lifeless body was found in the basement of her Colorado home in 1996, placing her parents, John and Patsy, under instant suspicion. Walters now talks with John, whose daughter would today be 25, about the lingering mystery and scrutiny that have plagued him ever since and that haunted his wife to her grave in 2006.

In its second episode, Scandals revisits perhaps the most galvanizing murder case of modern times — the vicious 1994 stabbings of Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson, the ex-wife of O.J. Simpson. Walters interviews Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin, 56, who now pronounces his host (acquitted in that trial but currently serving time on an unrelated robbery conviction) guilty of the murders.

Walters also takes a new, perhaps gratuitous, look at one of the era’s most despised figures, Mark David Chapman, who at age 60 is remembered all too well for gunning down John Lennon in front of his New York apartment in 1980. Walters interviewed  the assassin in 1992 and for Scandals has landed what she says is the first-ever interview with Chapman’s longtime wife, Gloria.

Another enduring couple: Mary Kay Letourneau, the former schoolteacher and married mother of four who was twice jailed for her affair with a sixth-grade student. Now 53, Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, 32, have been married for a decade with two teenage daughters of their own.

“My God, they’re still together!” said Walters, who interviewed the pair a few months ago. “They’re an old married couple!”

Though reigning for decades as one of ABC News’ biggest stars, Walters said she’s glad to find a berth on niche-cable network Investigation Discovery, which affords her room for weekly hour-long explorations.

“We don’t have a newsmagazine anymore,” she said, referring to ABC. “We have 20/20, but — they’re gonna mind my saying this — it’s changed,” having narrowed the general-interest format Walters presided over.

“What Investigation Discovery gives me is the opportunity to present a whole interview and bring it up-to-date,” she said.

Other episodes include a look at actor Robert Blake, who was tried and acquitted of the 2001 murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley.

On another, she sits down with Kimberly Mays, who was switched at birth in 1978 at a Florida hospital with another newborn, resulting in a notorious custody battle between her biological parents and Robert Mays, who raised her. “We searched all over and found her living in poverty in Clearwater, Florida,” said Walters.

That points to the effort required to produce American Scandals, she added proudly. “They’re difficult to do. You can’t just pull out an old interview and throw it on the air.”

Exposing Milwaukee’s sensational past

Just in time for Halloween come stories of ghosts, hermits, haunted houses and more. The Wisconsin Historical Society Press recently released Milwaukee Mayhem: Murder and Mystery in the Cream City’s First Century.

Author Matthew J. Prigge, best known as the host of WMSE program “What Made Milwaukee Famous,” compiled dozens of sensational tales of sex, accidents and arson for this unique collection. We talk to him about writing the book and some of those tales from the past.

Matthew, how did you ever come across so many unusual events? I had been collecting these weird stories for a while. While doing research in newspaper archives, I’d come across these strange headlines and odd stories that I didn’t really know what to do with. I started using them on my boat tours.

Your style is entertaining but always respectful of the people who lived these events. Did you have in mind the classic bestseller, Wisconsin Death Trip? That’s kind of the tone I was going for. There are other books like this, too, but most of them are kind of done in a more cheeky style. I didn’t want to treat it that way. I wanted to look at it more with the tone that they did at the time these events happened, to maintain that weird fascination when these stories were part of everyday life. 

You cover Milwaukee from 1846 to 1946? That was just the heyday of this kind of journalism. Once you pass the 1950s and ’60s the stories are more — if you want to call it, “professionalized” journalism. And also I didn’t want to get into anything too recent because a lot of the stories are downers about premature deaths and murders and suicides and bastards and things like that. Putting some distance between the reader and things in the book makes it a little more palatable.

Its organization seems designed for easy reading of a story or two before bed. Yeah, I wanted it to function as something you can pick up and thumb through or, preferably, read cover to cover. I didn’t put the stories in chronological order. I tried to have them flow from one to the next. I encourage the reader to go through from beginning to end, because I think there’s a story within the story, just in the way they’re ordered. But all the stories stand on their own. 

In researching period newspapers, did you get a sense that Milwaukee was a different kind of city back then? I think the writing was — they were very aware of the various “tribes,” if you will, the ethnic neighborhoods. Especially going back in the 1860s and ’70s, they usually would have referred to, “this German resident of this area,” or “this person was a Polish person.” I think the ethnic divisions were prominent.

And it was a much smaller city then, too. Yeah, the small town thing kind of shone through, in that a big part of a newspaper was devoted to local gossip. The story in my book on the rash of suicides in the 1870s, for example: They would print the person’s name and the address, and they put in the alleged reasons behind these acts, and they’d talk to the neighbors. It was very, very gossipy. I think these stories were what most newspaper readers would turn to first.

Are there sites related to your stories that readers can go see? There’s not too much standing. But it’s interesting just to know where the vice stuff was in relation to the bars and restaurants downtown, and city hall and the river. Even the site of the new basketball center — that was right in the heart of what they called “The Badlands,” with all the brothels and dance halls and opium dens. That part of the city got a lot more boring over the last century.

Besides adventure and horror, you include stories that are funny. Yes, my favorite is about a character in the 1870s. She was called “Rosina Georg, The Queen of Nights.” She inherited a saloon — a dance hall — from her husband when he passed away. 

Sometime early on during her ownership they passed a licensing law to run taverns. They wanted to deny her a license. She served underage people, it was one of the few places in the city where black and white people danced together, and there was a lot of sordid stuff that was allegedly going on. She ran this tavern in defiance of the city for years. She’d be raided, arrested, they’d give her a fine, she’d pay it and after leaving the courtroom go right back to running her bar. They could not get her to close this place down! 

One of the lines from the newspaper was something like, “She’s the one who runs the city; the mayor and the city council work for her.” The last time she was convicted for running a house of ill repute, she married one of the jurors from her trial and then left town forever.

In some ways she’d be a hero today. Yes. The newspapers didn’t condemn her. They treated her as a folk heroine. Of course, anybody who’s good for a couple stories every month — they wouldn’t pass judgment on that!