In due time

The tragedy in Orlando, a vigil in Little Rock, and knowing when not to post something.

My post this week was going to be about online hate speech, and how attempts to regulate it can inadvertently do harm to the marketplace of ideas. It’s a commentary I stand by, and will share with you at the appropriate time.

The day of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States* is not that time. It’s not chilling of speech by some homophobic terrorist; it’s just not being tone-deaf. This can wait.

Don’t misunderstand – this is not one of those “don’t politicize tragedy” refrains. In the wake of another mass shooting, The Onion shouldn’t be ringing true. ‘No way to prevent this,’ says the only nation where this regularly happens.

The Orlando shooter had been questioned by the FBI at least twice since 2013 and was previously on the terror watch list. He legally purchased the AR-15 assault rifle he used to shoot over 100 people in rapid succession. The same weapon used to kill elementary school children at Sandy Hook, movie goers in Aurora, college students in Oregon, and public health workers in San Bernardino. (By the way, even if he had still been on the terror watch list at the time of the purchase, it still would have been legal.)

I make a concerted effort to empathize with people who hold differing viewpoints. And the gun culture is one I’ll admit having great trouble understanding. But it sure seems like we should at least be able to agree that a person with such a history so easily purchasing an assault rifle is problematic. After our politicians’ “thoughts and prayers,” perhaps we could fix it?

And while empty platitudes from politicians who intend to do nothing are aggravating, we shouldn’t so callously dismiss those whose genuine thoughts and prayers are what they can offer. People who are at the same time comforted and mobilized by the healing and intercession found in prayer. People who would be physically serving the families of the victims if they could.

I just got back from a vigil on the steps of the Arkansas state capitol (pictured above). A few hundred people, led by Little Rock’s LGBT community, sang, hugged, cried, and prayed. Right now, many of them are gathered to watch the city’s bridges become illuminated in rainbow colors. It won’t change what happened. The families of the victims in Orlando will probably never know it occurred. And after a day like today, it’s still intrinsically important.

We’ll pick up this conversation again. In due time.

 

*At least by a lone gunman in a single attack. There are some pre-20th century incidents that could be included depending on your definition.

What was Clickworthy in 2013: The Boston Marathon Bombing

As runners crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon, bombs detonated, killing three and wounding 264. Days later, a shootout between the suspects and police led to a daylong manhunt that shut down an entire metropolis. The circumstances were horrific, but there was little doubt that the events of that week in Boston were the most interesting of 2013 to those of us who observe the news media in action.

I Tweeted extensively that week, and have compiled them in a Storify which you can view here. Focusing on the role of the media in the story, it captures the pace well, I think.

bostonstorify

That week, we saw news organizations at their best and worst. NBC News (Pete Williams in particular) and the staff at the Boston Globe were roundly praised for being both timely and accurate. Local broadcast affiliates were tremendous, and their streaming platforms withstood heavy demand better than perhaps any event to date. Others, led by television’s go-to breaking news source, stumbled. Media critics on the coverage, and CNN’s awful performance. (David Zurawik, The Baltimore Sun) (David Carr, The New York Times)

What to say of the new players in breaking news? A lengthy but excellent read on how Reddit, Twitter, and other social media broke news, both real and imagined. (Jay Caspian Kang, New York Times Magazine)

And then there was the New York Post’s infamous (and probably libelous) post-bombing cover. (Andrew Beaujon, Poynter)

RELATED: Rolling Stone wins the most controversial magazine cover of the year, with this glamour shot of alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. (From DylanMcLemore.com)

But are we being to hard on the press scrambling for information in the moment? What it’s like for reporters who are trying to cover a manhunt. (Brian Stelter, The New York Times)

We would later learn much more about the Tsarnaev brothers, thanks to a Boston Globe investigation published at the end of the year.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share what was perhaps the finest contribution of the press to its public. One day after the bombing, a Boston Globe columnist wrote for an entire city. Beautiful and heartbreaking. (Kevin Cullen, The Boston Globe)

What Was Clickworthy in 2013
Feature: Surveillance, Snowden, and the Press

[Clickworthy] The media scramble to report on Obamacare decision

“We’re not racing you”; in a decision this long and complicated, “no one will remember if you move this story first or we do,” but the “only thing anyone will ever remember is if we f*** it up.”

A lot happened in 15 minutes at the Supreme Court June 28. The Court issued its Opinion on the controversial Affordable Care Act, and reporters quickly attempted to boil it down to a simple yea or nay. Constitutional or not. Problem was, the opinion was lengthy, and the first two pages didn’t quite synch up with the remainder. I’ve already documented the flubs by CNN and Fox News, blowing the call in a (misguided, I would argue) attempt to be first.

Over the holiday, Tom Goldstein, the publisher of the now-on-the-radar SCOTUSblog, provided a behind the scenes glimpse at the chaos of those 15 minutes. In his account, we discover the struggle just to get access to the Opinion of the Court, how interpretive errors were made, and how even the White House couldn’t get a clear answer as to what had just happened.

The story is fascinating, and Goldstein’s critique of gathering and dissemination by various news outlets is balanced and wise – pretty good stuff from someone who reminds us at beginning and end that he is not a journalist. The only way we know it’s true? No true eyeball-seeking journalist would ever publish such a quality piece at 10 p.m. on a Saturday of a holiday weekend. Hat-tip to Jay Rosen at NYU for keeping the scanners on while we were barbequing.

CNN, others in media, blow Supreme Court decision on healthcare… So now can we get some responsiblity in reporting?

My television tuned to the network morning programs; my browser displayed a handful of news sites and Twitter. With breakfast in hand, I was in full breaking news mode Thursday morning, awaiting word of the Supreme Court’s opinion on the Affordable Care Act. More simply, healthcare reform; more partisan, Obamacare.

A few minutes after 9 a.m. central time, every major news network was on the air, trying to be the first to summarize the 193-page opinion. CNN, the former cable news king now in dire need of ratings, was the first major source to make a declaration. Individual mandate: Unconstitutional. Healthcare law: Thrown out. On-air, online, on social media, through email blast, CNN was ready to celebrate an all-out, multi-channel, breaking news of the year scoop!

Except they were wrong. A misreading of the opinion, they claimed.

Individual mandate: Constitutional. Healthcare law: Upheld.

Courtesy Gary He (http://twitter.com/garyhe)

CNN wasn’t alone (though they were certainly most prominent). Fox News displayed the incorrect opinion on a banner during their live television coverage. A number of Republican political figures jumped the gun in celebration. Others goofed. Read all about it.

It used to be that getting a scoop mattered. Beating a competitor by an entire day in a printed newspaper really meant something. But today, when information is disseminated over various channels within minutes (or seconds) of each other, does being first really mean that much? Is it worth being wrong? Ask CNN. Sure, the tagline could have read: “We get you the news 11 seconds before the other guys.” Enviable, to be sure. Instead, they made “The most trusted name in news” read like a relic from a time when their newsroom had some sense.

Continue reading “CNN, others in media, blow Supreme Court decision on healthcare… So now can we get some responsiblity in reporting?”