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How the Washington Post pulled off the hardest trick in journalism

It would be trite to force an Amazon metaphor onto the Washington Post in my first column just because they are both owned by the same rich guy. And for that reason, I will do it. The Washington Post is the media equivalent of Amazon’s chain of physical bookstores: it pretends it’s a cleaned-up version […]
Posted: January 23, 2020, 5:32 pm

On women in top jobs, the Financial Times continues to be an unexpected leader

Gender representation at the very top of the journalism pyramid has been deeply unequal since…forever. At The New York Times, the CEO, the publisher, the top editor, and the No. 2 editor are all men. Only one woman has been the top editor in the paper’s history, and that did not end well. The three...
Posted: January 23, 2020, 3:36 pm

Want to work with another newsroom? Here’s the ‘No. 1 key to success’

A version of this story ran in our weekly newsletter on the transformation of local news, Local Edition. You can subscribe here. Working with other people in your newsroom is bound to be tough at some point. But most of us keep at it because the work is rewarding and also they pay us. Collaboration […]

The post Want to work with another newsroom? Here’s the ‘No. 1 key to success’ appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: January 23, 2020, 2:00 pm

China arrested 8 for spreading ‘hoaxes’ about what is now known as coronavirus. What happened to them?

Coronavirus, which has killed at least 17 people and landed in the United States this week, is the newest source of misinformation sparking health fears worldwide. The most surprising aspect? In China, it can also get people arrested. On Jan. 3, Agence France Press reported that police forces from Wuhan, the capital of the Chinese […]

The post China arrested 8 for spreading ‘hoaxes’ about what is now known as coronavirus. What happened to them? appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: January 23, 2020, 1:15 pm

Democrats say Trump is trying to “cheat” in 2020. He’s not the only threat to the election.

In recent days, President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial has been framed, in many quarters, as a programming clash with the 2020 election—a distraction felt especially acutely by the senators/jurors who would rather be out on the campaign trail. Yesterday, however, the election was front and center as top Democrats opened their formal case for Trump’s removal. Adam Schiff—who spoke on the Senate floor for nearly two and a half hours without a break—accused Trump of soliciting help from Ukraine in order to “cheat” in 2020. Liberal pundits were fulsome in their praise of Schiff’s performance. His “cheating” line echoed through subsequent headlines and coverage, including on the front page of today’s New York Times.

“Cheating,” of course, is far from the only threat to the integrity of America’s elections in 2020. Since the turn of the year alone, we’ve seen a number of alarming stories about vulnerabilities in the country’s electoral architecture, and foreign actors’ plans to exploit them. Election-security experts warn that electronic voting equipment looks susceptible, both to technical glitches and to cyber attacks. (The Kremlin is already thought to have manipulated voting infrastructure in all 50 states, though no vote tally, it seems, has yet been affected.) Congress has put aside cash to fight this sort of thing, but top Democrats fear the money will not be spent wisely, and say much more needs to be done, regardless. Our defenses against Russian interference attempts—be they through hacking or the coordinated dissemination of false and/or compromising information about candidates—have improved since 2016, but weak spots remain, and Russia’s tactics are reported to be more sophisticated this time around. Last week, the Times reported that Russian hackers already breached Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company at the center of Trump’s smears against Joe Biden; it’s not yet clear what they were up to, but the pattern looks similar to what we saw in 2016, when Russia hacked and spread the private emails of top Democrats. Russia isn’t the only foreign threat we face. China, North Korea, and Iran—with which the US hardly has good relations right now—could all try to wreak havoc as America starts to vote.

ICYMI: Dead and spun, a story in three meetings

Threats to the fairness of the vote are coming from inside the house, too. Domestic actors from across the political spectrum have proved themselves more than capable of mimicking Russia’s informational techniques. Other ills—efforts to prevent citizens of color from voting, for example—have older roots. (On Monday, Kristen Clarke, a top civil-rights lawyer, told MSNBC’s Ali Velshi that when it comes to voter suppression, “In many respects, we have slipped back to the Jim Crow era.”) Often, these threats are intertwined. As Errin Haines reported recently for CJR, disinformation campaigns are often targeted at Black voters. Newsrooms—which tend to be less diverse than they should be—often fail to catch such tricks. Shireen Mitchell, an expert in the field, told Haines: “Unless you’re on Black Twitter, you don’t hear the conversations.”

As stories like the ones mentioned above (all of which ran in major outlets; some at real length) show, news organizations are covering the range of challenges facing the vote this year. (To add another example, Slate recently launched “Who Counts?”, a project that aims to amplify issues around voting rights.) The problem is more that such coverage feels atomized, when it should add up to a single, urgent national conversation. Sometimes, it can feel siloed, too—a priority for cybersecurity correspondents, maybe, but less so for political reporters and pundits, who obsess over the state of the horse race without reflecting at much length on whether the track is even. The Times’s Burisma story, for example, caused alarm and even cut through on cable news. But it was quickly lost to our all-consuming news cycle.

As 2020 has approached, we’ve passed up several opportunities to center the specter of foreign election interference, in particular. When the Mueller report was published last year, coverage in the aftermath focused less on its findings about Russian meddling, and more on passages containing new details of possible obstruction by Trump. Later, when Mueller testified to Congress, he noted himself that his findings on Russian interference had been “underplayed to a certain extent,” even though “they’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it during the next campaign.” Much of the press, on that occasion, seemed too underwhelmed by the dull “optics” of his testimony to care much about what he had to say.

Likewise, the long-running impeachment story has offered us repeat opportunities to shape a national conversation on election threats, which are, after all, what the impeachment story is principally about. We’ve taken some of those opportunities. But too often, we’ve let the central facts slip into the background, diluted by “bothsidesism” and talk of polls, process, and more.

The media needs to do a better job of connecting the dots between Trump’s conduct with Ukraine and the other election challenges we face, and it needs to do so before such threats materialize, rather than in reaction to them. And newsrooms, if they haven’t already, need urgently to plan for what they’ll do if—or, more likely, when—malicious actors, foreign or otherwise, try to use them as a funnel for stolen information. Belching it out day and night, as we did with Democrats’ emails in 2016, won’t be good enough.

The press may at least get more of a heads up this time than it did in 2016. In recent days, Shelby Pierson, the intelligence community’s top election-security official, has promised greater transparency around impending threats this time around; “Transparency enables resilience,” she told NPR yesterday. “The more that we talk about the threat, potentially the more we empower voters.” It’ll be the media’s job to communicate such warnings to the public (without being overly credulous of the official line, of course). We could start by maintaining our focus on the warning on display in the Senate right now. It’s not biased to advocate for a level playing field.

Below, more on the election:


Other notable stories:

ICYMI: Brazil’s attack on Greenwald mirrors the US case against Assange

Posted: January 23, 2020, 1:00 pm

Fox News dominates impeachment trial coverage » The scourge of ‘both-sides’ analysis » Is Serial for sale? » 

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Doing the math on our division Where are Americans going for their impeachment coverage? The answer is Fox News. Kind of. Let me explain. When early Nielsen TV ratings came out for Tuesday’s opening day of the Senate […]

The post Fox News dominates impeachment trial coverage » The scourge of ‘both-sides’ analysis » Is Serial for sale? »  appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: January 23, 2020, 12:52 pm

Intimidation is a form of violence

Earlier this week more than twenty thousand people, many of them armed, converged on Richmond, Virginia, to protest legislative efforts meant to reduce gun violence. Those efforts include a one-per-month cap on handgun purchases; universal background checks; and limits on firearm possession in public spaces, to be determined by local governments. The Virginia General Assembly […]
Posted: January 22, 2020, 7:48 pm

Dead and spun: a story in three meetings

April 12, 2019: The new chief executive of G/O Media, the company that used to be Gawker, addressed his new staff in a makeshift auditorium around the central stairs of our Flatiron offices. Jim Spanfeller looked like the main characters from Caddyshack melded together, and had the demeanor of a personal injury lawyer. It was […]
Posted: January 22, 2020, 5:05 pm

Here’s how The New York Times tested blockchain to help you identify faked photos on your timeline

Can blockchain save journalism? The Magic 8-Ball’s best answer thus far appears to be “Outlook not so good.” Cryptocurrency hype has receded; an Ethereum token, which would have cost you $1,438 two years ago, can now be had for $166. Changing currency doesn’t seem to change anything fundamental about the news industry’s struggles. But if...
Posted: January 22, 2020, 3:36 pm

Public infrastructure isn’t just bridges and water mains: Here’s an argument for extending the concept to digital spaces

Our friend and colleague Ethan Zuckerman has written an important piece I’d like to draw your attention to. In a piece for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia, he lays out what he calls the case for digital public infrastructure. (He also published a summary of it here; the main piece is kinda long.)...
Posted: January 22, 2020, 3:00 pm

Brazil’s attack on Greenwald mirrors the US case against Assange

Over the years, Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald has made more than a few enemies. What some of his fans and supporters see as a crusade for truth and justice can strike others—including those who become the targets of his journalistic crusades—as needlessly hostile and potentially biased. But there is one enemy that has stood out among all the others of late, and that is Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, whose government has been the subject of wave after wave of coverage by Greenwald, all of it negative (with good reason, Greenwald would no doubt argue). Now, the Brazilian leader has struck back with force: On Tuesday, prosecutors charged the Intercept writer with aiding a criminal conspiracy for his role in the hacking and leaking of cellphone messages belonging to members of Bolsonaro’s government.

The Intercept has published a number of articles based on the leaked messages, stories that raised questions about a corruption investigation involving some of Brazil’s most powerful players in both business and politics. As the New York Times describes, the stories questioned the integrity of the judge who oversaw that investigation, a man named Sergio Moro, who is now Bolsonaro’s minister of justice. The case resulted in a number of powerful businessmen and political figures going to prison, including former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a popular leftist. His departure in turn created an opening for Bolsonaro, a man who is often compared to Donald Trump because of his right-wing leanings and his use of social media as a weapon for pursuing vendettas against the media and others. Last year, he called Greenwald a derogatory term and warned that he “might wind up in jail.”

The criminal complaint filed against Greenwald says that the Intercept’s Brazilian operation, which he founded, didn’t just receive the hacked messages and then publish some of them in news stories. Instead, it argues that Greenwald cooperated with the hackers, and that he therefore played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.” Among other things, the prosecutors say Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives of leaked material in order to make it more difficult to connect them with the leaks. They also argue that the Intercept writer was in communication with the hackers while they were listening in on private conversations through apps such as Telegram, and that therefore he had ceased to operate as a journalist and instead became a member of a criminal conspiracy.

ICYMI: Why the Left Can’t Stand The New York Times

This strategy—trying to paint a journalist as an active participant in a crime, as opposed to just the recipient of leaked material—is clearly a heinous attack on freedom of the press protections, something journalists and anyone in favor of free speech should be up in arms about. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The case against Greenwald happens to be almost a carbon copy of the Justice Department’s argument in the affidavit it filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange last year, which contains more than a dozen charges under the Espionage Act. Just like the Brazilian government, US prosecutors try to make the case that Assange didn’t just receive leaked diplomatic cables and other information from former Army staffer Chelsea Manning, but that he actively participated in the hack and leaks, and therefore doesn’t deserve the protection of the First Amendment.

Regardless of what we think of Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, this is an obvious attack on journalism, just as Brazil’s legal broadside against Glenn Greenwald is an obvious attack by Bolsonaro on someone who has become a journalistic thorn in his side. A man who helped win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on leaked documents involving mass surveillance by US intelligence, files that were leaked to him by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. And the charges come even after Brazil’s Supreme Court ruled last year that Greenwald could not be prosecuted for the hacking case because of press freedom laws. In a statement, Greenwald called the Brazil charges “an obvious attempt to attack a free press in retaliation for the revelations we reported about Minister Moro and the Bolsonaro government,” and said he and the Intercept plan to continue publishing. And so they should.

Here’s more on Greenwald and the Brazil case:

  • Outrageous assault: Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement: “The United States must immediately condemn this outrageous assault on the freedom of the press, and recognize that its attacks on press freedoms at home have consequences for American journalists doing their jobs abroad.”
  • A threat to democracy: The Electronic Frontier Foundation said: “It is a threat to democracy when authorities use cyber-crime laws to punish their critics, as the Brazilian government has done here with Glenn Greenwald, and it discourages journalists from using technology to best serve the public.” The Brazilian authorities used anti-hacking laws to charge Greenwald, just as US prosecutors did with Assange.
  • Sham charges: The Freedom of the Press Foundation, which Greenwald helped found, said in a statement: “These sham charges are a sickening escalation of the Bolsonaro administration’s authoritarian attacks on press freedom and the rule of law. They cannot be allowed to stand. We call on the Brazilian government to immediately halt its persecution of Greenwald and respect press freedom.”
  • Shooting the messenger: In an editorial on the case, the New York Times said the Brazilian government’s filing of charges against Greenwald is “an increasingly familiar case of shooting the messenger and ignoring the message,” and a dangerous threat to the rule of law. The paper also said that while Trump hasn’t made a dent in press freedoms in the US, “his outrageous attacks on reporters… have provided encouragement for the likes of Mr. Bolsonaro.”

Other notable stories:

  • In a story that sounds like the plot of a spy novel, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had his smartphone hacked after he clicked on a video link that was sent to him during a WhatsApp chat with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a report in The Guardian. The paper’s investigation says the message Bezos opened from the Saudi leader contained a malicious file that infiltrated the Amazon founder’s phone and extracted “large amounts of data.” What kind of data was taken and what happened after that remains unknown, the Guardian said, but several months later there was a report in The National Enquirer about Bezos’s divorce, a story that included private text messages sent by the Amazon CEO.
  • The staff of the alt-weekly Miami New Times and the Phoenix New Times announced on Tuesday that they plan to unionize, part of a wave of unionization that has moved through a number of media outlets over the past several years as financial pressure has forced owners to make broad cuts. “We do this work because we love it,” the Miami and Phoenix group said in its mission statement. “But we often find that we do this work in spite of low pay and substandard benefits, inconsistent mandates from management, steady turnover, and insecurity about the future.”
  • After a number of somewhat embarrassing incidentsincluding a recent column from Bret Stephens called “The Secrets of Jewish Genius,” which cited a discredited study published by a white supremacistthe Opinion section of the New York Times will now be overseen by standards editor Phil Corbett, the same way the rest of the paper is. In an email, executive editor Dean Baquet, managing editor Joe Kahn, and Opinion editor James Bennet said opinion writers are different from news staff, but their work “is rooted in common standards for accuracy, fairness, and integrity.”
  • Senator Bernie Sanders apologized to former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday for an op-ed written by one of his campaign surrogates that claimed Biden has a “big corruption problem.” Sanders told CBS News that “it is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared.” The opinion piece was published in The Guardian and was written by law professor Zephyr Teachout. In the article, she claimed that Biden “has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans.”
  • According to a report by Axios, a number of digital media outlets turned a profit in 2019, in some cases for the first time ever. Those publishers include Business Insider, The Information, Vox Media, Axios, and Politico, said media reporter Sara Fischer. Outlets that expect to turn a profit this year include The Athletic, BuzzFeed, and Vice, the Axios report said. The Athletic also just closed a new funding round of $50 million that theoretically values the company at $500 million, Fischer reported. Meanwhile, there are reports that Spotify could acquire The Ringer, the podcasting production company founded by former ESPN host Bill Simmons.
  • Bloomberg has launched a vertical devoted to environmental news called Green, a site that editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said he hopes will become a symbol of the climate-change revolution. “We want Bloomberg Green to be the indispensable guide to anyone who wants to understand this great transition,” he wrote in an opening letter. Meanwhile, a group of independent climate reporters have launched their own portal, called Drilled News. The group will produce the Drilled and Hot Take newsletters and sponsor the Heated newsletter written by Emily Atkin, and is part of the Covering Climate Now project that CJR helped launch last year.
  • Documents released in a legal case in Puerto Rico, one involving seven university students who are on trial for participating in a nonviolent protest two years ago, show that Facebook gave the government’s Justice Department access to private information posted by student news outlets, according to a report from The Intercept. The case has raised fears among civil liberties advocates of a return to a dark time in Puerto Rico’s history when police routinely targeted citizens for surveillance.
  • Apple reportedly considered allowing iPhone users to encrypt backups of their devices that are stored on the company’s iCloud remote servers, but dropped those plans after the FBI complained that offering this service would make it more difficult to access data during its investigations, according to six sources familiar with the matter who spoke with Reuters reporter Joseph Menn. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the company’s handling of the encryption issue or any discussions it has had with the FBI.
  • Quibi CEO Meg Whitman lashed out against the media at an “all-hands” staff meeting last Thursday, according to a report from The Information. The site said that Whitman made an analogy between reporters who cultivate sources and sexual predators who prey on underage victims, according to two people who heard her comments. Whitman was reportedly upset because someone leaked an internal memo from the company’s chief financial officer about a recent fundraising.

ICYMI: How the New York Times verified the Iran missile-strike footage

Posted: January 22, 2020, 12:45 pm

An impeachment media diet calls for moderation » A Hillary scoop » Is The Ringer for sale?

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, click here. Your guide to a healthy media diet And we’re off and running. The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is underway and so is the exhaustive media coverage. The major networks are interrupting programming and putting their superstar […]

The post An impeachment media diet calls for moderation » A Hillary scoop » Is The Ringer for sale? appeared first on Poynter.

Posted: January 22, 2020, 12:30 pm

When a woman faked her abduction, the Mexican press turned on her

It started with a text. “Mom this man looks suspicious and rude,” wrote Laura Karen Espíndola, a thirty-year-old resident of Mexico City, in a WhatsApp message. It was close to nine o’clock on a night last December. Half an hour earlier, Espíndola had texted her mother to say she’d boarded a cab and was on […]
Posted: January 22, 2020, 11:55 am

Podcast: Guns, Puerto Rico, & American labor

What do we miss when we obsess about Trump? The answer, it turns out, includes some of the most important stories of our time. On this week’s Kicker, Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of CJR, speaks with David Begnaud, lead national correspondent for CBS This Morning and anchor of CBS News Radio’s Reporter’s Notebook; Steven […]
Posted: January 21, 2020, 8:51 pm

This former HBO executive is trying to use dramatic techniques to highlight the injustice in criminal justice

The true-crime boom seems to have no end in sight. While crime reporting has long been a staple of newspapers and television news, the podcasting boom has unleashed a torrent; there are now more than 1,300 true-crime shows listed in Apple Podcasts. Lists of “best true-crime podcasts” can stretch to 25, 40, 50, or more....
Posted: January 21, 2020, 7:42 pm

To boost accountability reporting, journalists in five states will get pro bono legal support

Accountability journalism is fueled by access to public records, documents, and data — stories like how a state government relies on secretive software to do most of its work, or how government agencies overcite terrorism as a reason to withhold records. Public records can even, in some places, tell us how local officials spend their...
Posted: January 21, 2020, 5:21 pm

Would acquiring The Ringer move Spotify to the top of the Podcast Pyramid?

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 242, dated January 21, 2020. The Ringer and Spotify. On Friday evening, at the top of a long weekend — a time slot known in some cultures as “News Dump O’Clock” — The Wall Street Journal dropped a mighty curious story with considerable implications...
Posted: January 21, 2020, 4:54 pm

Cutting through the ‘legalese’ of Trump’s impeachment

Last month—as the House of Representatives prepared to impeach President Trump, setting up his trial in the Senate—Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, laid his cards on the table. “I’m not an impartial juror,” he told reporters. Nevertheless, as the trial began last Thursday, McConnell, along with every other senator, swore an oath to do “impartial justice” in the process. Richard W. Painter, who served as White House ethics chief under George W. Bush, accused him of perjury. Yesterday, more evidence emerged that McConnell is—as he previously admitted—helping coordinate Trump’s defense. Ahead of a vote on them today, McConnell revealed his rules for the trial: each of the two parties will get twenty-four hours for its oral argument, but must use that allocation across two calendar days. In light of their late start time, proceedings could stretch past midnight. Elsewhere, the Washington Post reported that if the Senate ends up voting to hear from witnesses (John Bolton, for example), McConnell will likely “ensure that those individuals are questioned in a closed-door session rather than a public setting.” Last night, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s chief legal analyst, reacted to the developments. “I don’t have a problem with the president talking to the senators of his own party; that’s just realism,” Toobin said. “The problem is that they are setting up a process that is a farce.”

Such opacity isn’t limited to the trial itself; top Republicans in the Senate are acting to limit transparency on its margins, too. Last week, it emerged that reporters covering the trial would likely face much tougher restrictions than normal on their interactions with senators. The details remained murky, but on Thursday, several journalists reported that police officers had curtailed their conversations with senators, including a few who had been happy to talk to them. Capitol Police also gave senators cards suggesting phrases that they might use to tell reporters to go away, including “You are preventing me from doing my job” and “Please do not touch me.” (Some senators didn’t need the prompts: when CNN’s Manu Raju tried to question Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, she called him a “liberal hack,” and hurried off.) Today, reporters will have to file through a magnetometer before they can enter the chamber. Inside, even the camera angles will be controlled by the Senate; according to Michael M. Grynbaum, of the New York Times, “even sedate C-SPAN is aggrieved” by that decision. (For all the platitudes about the trial being a “made for TV” moment, TV, it seems, will not be permitted to make it one on its own terms.)

ICYMI: Why the Left Can’t Stand the New York Times

As Grynbaum notes, such restrictions represent a departure for the normally cordial Senate, suggesting that “the bash-the-press mentality that led the White House to kill off the daily briefing and strip reporters of their credentials has now crept into” Congress, too. Trump, at least, is explicit about his hatred of the media. As his impeachment trial starts in earnest, there is a worry that the Senate’s war on transparency will operate in the shadows—fought not in ALL-CAPS Twitter screeds, but in the language of decorum and procedure. That could add a patina of legitimacy and fairness to Trump’s rank impulses.

As part of the “decorum,” senators will have to sit in silence during the trial, “on pain of imprisonment”; unlike their counterparts in the House, Senate Republicans won’t be able to pepper proceedings with Fox-friendly sound bites. That’s not to say there’ll be no Foxiness on display; the president, as ever, is keen to litigate his case on TV as much as in the courtroom. Outside the chamber, some of Trump’s most ardent defenders from the House—Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, John Ratcliffe, and others—will act as surrogates for his defense team. Inside the chamber, Trump will call on a formal legal team that, collectively, has averaged roughly one Fox appearance per day in the past year. In addition to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel; Jay Sekulow, a personal lawyer to the president; and Pam Bondi, a White House adviser, it will include Kenneth W. Starr (of Clinton-impeachment and being-fired-from-Baylor fame), Alan Dershowitz (of closeness to Jeffrey Epstein fame), and Robert Ray (of… me neither). Appearing on Fox on Sunday morning, Ray thanked host Maria Bartiromo for inviting him on her show so often. “If not for you, I don’t know that I would have come to the president’s attention,” he said.

Even on the president’s end, some of the usual, easy-to-spot bombast has put on a smart suit for its court appearance. Touring cable news over the weekend, Dershowitz advanced a measured, legalistic rationale for what he sees as the inadmissibility of the impeachment articles. (Justice Benjamin Curtis, who defended Andrew Johnson during his impeachment trial in 1868, is not a normal fixture on the Sunday shows.) And yet his core argument, that abuse of power isn’t impeachable unless criminal, is far from a consensus view. Similarly, Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes write in The Atlantic, the White House’s initial formal filing in the trial, which it entered on Saturday, looked “a little more lawyerly” than Trump’s campaign rallies—and yet “the message is unchanged. It’s not a legal argument. It’s a howl of rage.” The Post reached the same conclusion on reading Trump’s first full legal brief, which followed yesterday, calling it “a legalese version of the scorched-earth rhetoric commonly used in the president’s Twitter feed.”

As the trial proceeds, we’ll likely see Trump’s defenders try plenty more stonewalling and dissembling under the cover of “legalese.” Senate Republicans, for instance, may call for Hunter Biden to testify under a principle of witness “reciprocity”—a move that would, in practice, only lend institutional credibility to water-muddying smears. The press will need to be extra-vigilant, and call these moves for what they are. So far, pushback has been reasonably robust. Last night, after McConnell revealed his rushed trial timetable, Carl Bernstein referred to him, on CNN, as “Midnight Mitch.” On MSNBC, Neal Katyal, a top Trump-impeachment enthusiast, told Rachel Maddow that “The only things that happen at midnight are trash collection and the execution of prisoners.… Major government decisions and trials don’t happen at that time.”

But such vigilance is not, on its own, sufficient. As the trial progresses, the press also needs to center the facts of the case, and on that score, we could be doing a better job. Scrutinizing procedural skulduggery is important, but it is not an end in itself—process is only valuable to the extent that it brings facts to the fore. If we obsess over process too narrowly, then we abet those—inside and outside of the Senate—who want the facts forgotten. For them, the process is the point.

Below, more on impeachment:


Other notable stories:

ICYMI: How the New York Times verified the Iran missile-strike footage

Posted: January 21, 2020, 1:09 pm

A novelist’s enduring words

Nevil Shute is probably best known for his postapocalyptic 1957 novel On the Beach (spoiler alert: everyone dies), and his work is mostly ignored these days, but his writings are cited in the Oxford English Dictionary 547 times. (Shakespeare is quoted more than 32,000 times, so don’t get too excited.) Of those 547 Shute citations, […]
Posted: January 21, 2020, 11:55 am

New Jersey’s effort to strengthen local news finally gets its first $1 million

It took almost five years and the amount was winnowed down from a dreamy $100 million to just $2 million, but it’s finally happened: On Thursday, New Jersey governor Phil Murphy released the first $1 million in funds for the Civic Information Consortium, a nonprofit initiative that seeks to strengthen local news and civic participation...
Posted: January 17, 2020, 6:33 pm

Covering Germantown: the road to community engagement

With colored pencils and sharpies scattered across a table, residents of Germantown, a majority-African American neighborhood in Northwest Philadelphia, narrated images they had drawn as part of a focus group discussion. On one side of a paper, where several had made line drawings of police cars or guns, participants had drawn how they felt their […]
Posted: January 17, 2020, 5:00 pm

What do we want? Unbiased reporting! When do we want it? During protests!

The new decade is just days old, but in one respect it is already shaping up like the last one: with mass protests around the world. Rallies for democracy overseas and anti-war demonstrations in the U.S. arrive after a year that saw people take to the streets over issues including human rights abuse, corruption and...
Posted: January 17, 2020, 4:16 pm

Instagram is busy fact-checking memes and rainbow hills while leaving political lies alone

Instagram fact-checking hits some bumps. A Photoshopped image of some painted hills by a graphic designer was declared “false” by one of Instagram’s new fact-checking partners, spurring fears that artists’ work on the platform would be more broadly blocked. (The Next Web: “Instagram’s decision to hide photoshopped images is a disservice to art.”) “We will...
Posted: January 17, 2020, 3:08 pm

Is this video “missing context,” “transformed,” or “edited”? This effort wants to standardize how we categorize visual misinformation

One thing you learn when you start fact-checking is that, while some things are clearly true or false, there’s a lot that falls in between. What seems like a binary is often more of a messy spectrum: “factually accurate but deeply misleading,” “got the numbers wrong but the broader point is correct,” “there are some...
Posted: January 16, 2020, 7:55 pm

YouTube’s algorithm is pushing climate misinformation videos, and their creators are profiting from it

When an ad runs on a YouTube video, the video creator generally keeps 55 percent of the ad revenue, with YouTube getting the other 45 percent. This system’s designed to compensate content creators for their work. But when those videos contain false information — say, about climate change — it’s essentially encouraging the creation of...
Posted: January 16, 2020, 5:25 pm

Jack Dorsey has revealed the secret way to get verified on Twitter (kinda)

There are few questions I get more often from journalists and other Nieman Lab readers than this one: How do I get verified on Twitter? Stores may not take checks anymore, but that blue check is still valuable currency on social media. While it’s supposed to simply indicate that Twitter users really are who they...
Posted: January 15, 2020, 5:00 pm

Putting news on stage: Bringing journalism back to the theater as a public space

The town crier is long gone. Every journalist is hardwired to seek out the largest possible audiences. Why would a reporter want to go out and tell their story to a bunch of actual people in a room when they could put it online for the whole world? And yet that’s what’s happening. Newsrooms across...
Posted: January 15, 2020, 3:27 pm

Newsonomics: Worried about Alden taking control of Tribune? It’s already pulling strings inside

Missiles and drone strikes may have temporarily driven everyone’s eyes elsewhere — including those in the news industry — but the new decade’s big story in the news business looks a lot like the old one’s: Local journalism is spiraling downward — and picking up speed. In newspapers, the focus is on Tribune Publishing and...
Posted: January 14, 2020, 8:39 pm

The new CEO overseeing The Guardian has a Ph.D. in cell biology and neuroscience

The Guardian has a new business-side leader: Annette Thomas, a veteran of the academic publishing world, will assume the role of CEO of Guardian Media Group in March. When she does, she may well be the only head of a major media company to also have a Ph.D. in cell biology and neuroscience. Thomas might...
Posted: January 14, 2020, 5:09 pm

In the U.K., one podcast is betting young adults will want a heap of Broccoli Content on Sundays

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 241, dated January 14, 2020. Slate’s Slow Burn will return to politics for its fourth season. This is a Hot Pod ~exclusive~: After shifting subgenres and taking on the Biggie/Tupac story with Joel Anderson at the helm for its third season — which has...
Posted: January 14, 2020, 3:54 pm

Foundation grants have strings attached, and nonprofit journalists sometimes don’t like being told what to do by them

As advertising revenue dries up and goes out of style, news outlets increasingly look to foundations for support. And foundations are paying up: Journalism philanthropy has nearly quadrupled since 2009, and when the Institute for Nonprofit News surveyed its members on their finances last year, it found that on average 43 percent of their revenue...
Posted: January 13, 2020, 7:20 pm

In India, news aggregator apps are struggling to find a path to sustainability

Three years after venture capital cash led to a round of app releases, celebrity endorsements, and rapid customer acquisition, some of the major news aggregation apps in India are going through a period of reckoning. Why? The promise of digital advertising at scale hasn’t delivered, user consumption patterns have shifted to video, and new apps...
Posted: January 13, 2020, 4:00 pm

G/O Media still wants to revive Deadspin — but in Chicago

Deadspin, the once-revered sports blog rendered mute by a staff revolt in October, is about to enter a new stage of existence: moving to Chicago, being put under The Onion’s corporate structure, and suspending negotiations with the union that represents its old staff, according to a letter obtained by The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Mullin....
Posted: January 10, 2020, 6:33 pm

“Rated false”: Here’s the most interesting new research on fake news and fact-checking

What better way to start the new year than by learning new things about how best to battle fake news and other forms of online misinformation? Below is a sampling of the research published in 2019 — seven journal articles that examine fake news from multiple angles, including what makes fact-checking most effective and the...
Posted: January 10, 2020, 4:48 pm

“Warts and all”: Facebook will continue to allow politicians to lie in their ads

“People should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all.” Facebook’s announcement this week that it’s banning deepfakes ahead of the 2020 election didn’t exactly leave people cheering, especially since it also repeated that it will continue to allow politicians and political campaigns to lie on the platform (a...
Posted: January 10, 2020, 3:25 pm

“We’ve seen hate becoming mainstream”: This news site aims to tie together the intel on extremism

In 2012, when Nick Martin heard the news that a man named J.T. Ready had murdered four people and killed himself in Arizona, he was stunned. Martin — then a reporter at Talking Points Memo in New York — knew Ready from college; they’d both gone to Mesa Community College. Ready was president of the...
Posted: January 9, 2020, 6:35 pm

International publishers will charge for more content and launch more daily news podcasts this year

Nieman Lab’s not the only one that does predictions for 2020 (oh hey, check out our predictions for 2020!): The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford has a report out today that’s the product of a survey of “233 digital leaders from 32 countries” on what they expect to see in 2020...
Posted: January 9, 2020, 4:27 pm

With its new ad-targeting tech, Spotify is sharpening its platform power in podcasting

On Wednesday, Spotify announced what’s undoubtedly its next major step in the platform’s on-going advance into podcast territory: the launch of its very own proprietary podcast advertising technology. It’s being called Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) — a conspicuous echo of Dynamic Ad Insertion — and at the outset, the ad technology will only be applied...
Posted: January 9, 2020, 3:55 pm

Six months in, here’s how the Florida news outlets’ climate change partnership is going

What started out last summer as a partnership among six Florida news organizations to cover climate change in the state has now tripled in size, with 18 organizations — usually competitors with one another — now working together. “On this one issue, we’ve decided to drop the guns and share consistently,” said Alex Harris, the...
Posted: January 8, 2020, 5:23 pm

Don’t expect McConnell’s Paradox to help news publishers get real money out of Google and Facebook

In political science, Fenno’s Paradox holds that Americans generally hate Congress — but tend to like their own local member of Congress. In media, there’s no fancy name for it, but it’s well established that people generally hate “the media” — but tend to like their local newspaper just fine. Mash those two together and...
Posted: January 8, 2020, 5:05 pm

Facebook bans deepfakes, but lots of other manipulated videos are still allowed

The Washington Post first reported late Monday, and Facebook confirmed, that the social media company will ban manipulated videos it considers “deepfakes.” Here’s how Facebook defines that: — It has been edited or synthesized — beyond adjustments for clarity or quality — in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone...
Posted: January 7, 2020, 3:42 pm

Foresight is 2020: Here are the big podcasting stories we expect to be covering this year

Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is issue 240, dated January 6, 2020. Good lord, it’s 2020. I didn’t life plan this far ahead! What happens now?? Anyway, we’re fully back in business, and we’re going to spend our first public 2020 issue going over the major story threads we think will...
Posted: January 7, 2020, 3:39 pm

The Sigma Awards are a new successor to the Data Journalism Awards

The Sigma Awards is a new international competition marking the most outstanding examples of data journalism. It will help fill the void left behind by the Data Journalism Awards, which since 2012 had been run by the now-defunct Global Editors Network. “A bunch of us were very sad the Data Journalism Awards died, so we...
Posted: January 7, 2020, 1:12 pm

The neutrality vs. objectivity game ends

In 2020, news organizations will stop playing the neutrality vs. objectivity game with journalists of color. Okay, that’s an aspirational declaration — but we have to start somewhere right? Trust me — every person of color in your newsroom has a story about how a manager questioned either their news judgment, their diction, or whether...
Posted: January 4, 2020, 2:34 am