The reality is that it is possible to both protest government intrusions on press freedom and to condemn bad journalism of the sort practiced by Jonathan Karl. It's important for protect journalism from official control for the same reason that it's important for media outlets to do a good job.
From Free Press's helpful explainer of the AP phone records scandal, noting the legal background: Smith v. Maryland — In this 1979 decision, the Supreme Court found that people have no expectation of privacy when it comes to the numbers they call because they understand it has to be transmitted through a third party (telephone company). Thus, the [Digital Media Law Project] notes, "the government can obtain that information simply by issuing a subpoena to a telephone company or other third party." As Mr. Bumble says, "If the law supposes that, the law is a ass–a idiot." Everyone who wouldn't […]
The New York Times' September 26 coverage of Barack Obama's UN address on Arab democracy, free speech and violence included a good sampling of the distortions, double standards and bigotry often present in U.S. corporate reporting on these issues. Helene Cooper's news report (9/26/12) explained that Obama's speech was a "strong defense of America's belief in freedom of speech," challenging "fledgling Arab and North African democracies to ensure that right even in the face of violence." According to Cooper, Obama also "asserted that the flare-up of violence over a video that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad would not set off a […]
The Supreme Court decided on Thursday that lying about medals and military service, while "contemptible," is protected under the First Amendment's free speech clause. The court said the federal "Stolen Valor" law was overly broad and imposed a chilling effect on free speech. This news enraged Rush Limbaugh, who responded on is radio show with disdain, facetiously wondering, "I don't know if they legalized pedophilia or not." An interesting non sequitur, but back on point: Limbaugh's comprehension of freedom of speech has always been a crabbed affair, pretty much limited to the view that he and his conservative allies–people who enjoy […]
Conservative talker Rush Limbaugh used to tell his listeners that the government was trying to silence him, based on a completely bogus tale about what the Fairness Doctrine would do. This time around, it's an ad campaign by the liberal group Media Matters for America directed at some of the stations that air Limbaugh's show. The group is encouraging citizens to contact stations and let them know they object to Limbaugh's degrading, sexist comments about Sandra Fluke. So what's the controversy? Fox News host Bill O'Reilly thundered (3/22/12) that "the far-left is a primary source of censorship in America." He […]
The Winter Garden is one of New York City's largest and most beautiful indoor public spaces. Graced by giant palm trees that would look impressive on Sunset Boulevard and a vast skylight that provides year-round balmy sunlight, this crossroads of Manhattan's Battery Park City became a symbol of Downtown's rebirth when it was reconstructed after being devastated in the September 11 attacks. Yet this crucial community gathering space–which provides a much-needed public square that's hospitable throughout the year–is actually privately owned by Brookfield Office Properties, a multinational real-estate developer that owns the World Financial Center that the Winter Garden is […]
When former FAIR staffer Sam Husseini found out that Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Sa'ud would be speaking at the National Press Club, he thought it might be a good chance to ask a tough question. The National Press Club apparently didn't like that idea. Husseini writes: Before the end of the day, I'd received a letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club "due to your conduct at a news conference." The letter, signed by the executive director of the Club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules prohibiting "boisterous and unseemly conduct or language." Want […]
One more thing about free speech hero Michael Bloomberg's shutdown of Occupy Wall Street. During the early morning raid on the Occupy Wall Street camp journalists were blocked from covering much of what was happening. Josh Stearns from Free Press has a rundown–as he points out, "By dawn, 10 journalists, including reporters from NPR, the Associated Press and the New York Daily News, had been arrested." There was a good local TV news segment about the media clampdown, courtesy of the New York NBC affiliate. It's rare to see an image like this on your TV screen (click the image […]
The New York Times, writing about Bloomberg's crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, said this: For the mayor, a champion of the First Amendment…. I am not sure what is required to deserve the title of "champion," but was it a different Michael Bloomberg who was mayor during the 2004 Republican convention, which saw mass arrests, preventive detention and surveillance/infiltration of protest groups? What's next–Bloomberg the Fourth Amendment champion?
If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in "freedom" stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He's the one who should be in jail. –Joe Klein, Swampland (12/1/10) Actually, Julian Assange didn't leak anything–he can't, because he didn't have access to classified documents. Someone (or someones) who did have such access leaked those documents to Assange's WikiLeaks, which, as a journalistic organization, made them available to the world, both directly and through other media partners. This distinction, which is widely ignored in commentary on […]
The list of First Amendment-trampling rules for Guantanamo reporters makes for dispiriting reading in today's New York Times (7/21/10)–e.g., "If information the government deems protected is inadvertently disclosed, the Pentagon can order reporters not to reveal it." But perhaps the most discouraging part of Jeremy Peters' article is the list of reporters who fell afoul of a rule requiring them to refrain from publishing "secrets" that have already been widely reported: "Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star, Steven Edwards of Canwest and Paul Koring of the Globe and Mail in Toronto." What do three […]
Media Detector, a New York Times blog, has a post today (6/14/10) about a comic book adaptation of James Joyce's Ulysses that Apple is insisting be bowdlerized before it can be turned into an app for the iPad–replacing an image of a bare-breasted "milk lady" with a close-up of her face. While calling Apple's decision "disappointing," artist Robert Berry told Media Detector he did not feel "remotely censored by Apple." "It's their rules," he said. "We're coming to their dinner party at their house." When you watch TV on your Sony television, you're not attending a dinner party at Sony's […]