What was Clickworthy in 2013: Surveillance, Snowden, and the press

Shield laws were a major subject of conversation in 2013. They exist in 40 states to protect journalists from court orders to reveal confidential sources. The idea is that in order for the press to fulfill its watchdog role, dig up the truth, and expose corruption, it must be seen as autonomous. If journalists are but one subpoena away from spilling the beans, then the press is little more than an arm of the government… and then what source with something to lose is ever going to speak out?

As we learned in 2013, shield laws get confusing when a journalist’s work crosses state lines, and that even when a subpoena is eventually overturned, the professional damage may already be done. (Lauren Kirchner, Columbia Journalism Review)

The Guardian
The Guardian

And what of perhaps the biggest story of the year – the expansive surveillance of U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency? What if Edward Snowden did not choose to reveal his identity? What if the Washington Post’s Barton Gellman had to protect the source of leaks that threatened national security? Nevermind Snowden’s primary confidant, Glenn Greenwald, the American citizen living in Brazil writing for a British newspaper. British authorities, by the way, exercised prior restraint, destroyed Guardian computers, and detained Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, under anti-terrorism laws. So while we’re not unjustified in our concern for U.S. policy, we can remain thankful for the First Amendment’s prominence in our jurisprudence. (Alan Rusbridger, The Guardian)

RELATED: The NSA surveillance leaks in-brief

Never in U.S. history has a journalist been tried for passing along information that someone else stole. The press actually doesn’t have many rights beyond those of ordinary citizens – but rebuffing subpoenas and publishing stolen information are two pretty nice cards to have in a muckraker’s back pocket. You try keeping that nice stereo your sketchy friend sold you for ten bucks…

But in 2013, the Justice Department pushed back against those rights in an attempt to prevent the leaking of unseemly information to the press. The DOJ’s actions, as luck would have it, were leaked.

Continue reading “What was Clickworthy in 2013: Surveillance, Snowden, and the press”

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.


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

What was Clickworthy in 2013

Back when I had time to blog, I’d occasionally write quick comments about popular topics circulating around the Internet, usually highlighting one article, essay, or video in particular that had an especially interesting or useful take on said issue. I labeled the posts “Clickworthy,” and if you search for that tag, you’ll find them.

If you follow me on Twitter (which you should!), you know that the Clickworthy principle captures most of what I do there. But alas, 140 characters doesn’t leave much space for introspection (or even a summary).

So, in the spirit of the overused year-end list, I have combed through a year of Tweets to present to you a lists of links that promise to be entertaining, informative, sometimes both, and occasionally neither. Without further ado, What was Clickworthy in 2013.

Clickworthy 2013 Features:
Boston Marathon Bombing  |  Surveillance, Snowden, and the Press

Continue reading “What was Clickworthy in 2013”

[Clickworthy] The NSA surveillance leaks in-brief

The disclosure of classified documents revealing the breadth of the National Security Agency has garnered a great deal of attention from people of varying political persuasions and interest levels. And while I’m interested in what that means for journalism – a profession already targeted for surveillance, as we’ve learned through this past month of scandal – for now I’ve created this Storify to recap the major developments and must-read articles (it may be updated as needed):




Click the screenshot for the rest of the story.

* It was during this process that I realized the inability of my site to embed Storify posts. Quite a shame. If you’re a tech guru that knows a workaround that won’t look horrible (like Storify’s built-in exporter), let me know in the comments.

[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.

[Clickworthy] Isolating ourselves behind a Facebook Wall

The problem […] is that we invite loneliness, even though it makes us miserable. The history of our use of technology is a history of isolation desired and achieved.

What Facebook has revealed about human nature—and this is not a minor revelation—is that a connection is not the same thing as a bond, and that instant and total connection is no salvation, no ticket to a happier, better world or a more liberated version of humanity.

The impact of technology on interpersonal relationships has been a favorite research topic of students who often find themselves in the middle of the phenomenon. Last year, at least half of my students’ communication research papers dealt with Facebook to some extent, half of those making social media the primary focus of the paper. How does Facebook affect friendships? Business communication? Marketing efforts? When something new comes along, we are curious about these things.

But at the base of it is our relationship with other people and the impact that has on ourselves. Facebook, after all, is about “friends,” right? Do we find social sustenance in curating our public profile, in interacting with one another on a virtual wall? Or, do we overuse a technological advancement meant only to complement our relationships as a replacement for the real face-to-face event?

Why do we allow technology – even technology with social intent – to leave us lonely? Social beings left unfulfilled by our own decisions.

Stephen Marche explored these psychological inconsistencies in a cover story for the Atlantic. I picked it up on a newsstand earlier this week and couldn’t put it down. This isn’t surface drivel about a pop topic. Marche throws data at you left and right as he contemplates a lonely world full of distant friends and the effort we endure to create polished virtual selves. He references a number of studies, using words like “longitudinal” along the way. It reads like a literature review stripped of parenthetical citations and laced with philosophical ponderings.

You’ll have to set aside a decent amount of time for the full read, but it’s well worth it. From a feeling of despair, Marche goes further to understand effective use of mediated technologies and a reordering of priorities.

Read the story. You’ll be ready to text, tweet, or wall post your way to something meaningful… like a cup of coffee with an old friend you realize you only know through a timeline.

Clickworthy Bonus: If you enjoyed Marche’s writing, are nowhere near retirement, and like being angry with your elders, read this essay from the April edition of Esquire.

[Clickworthy] Catering to the middle works, at least for Politico

Partisan news websites tend to attract similarly partisan audiences, according to a report released today by comScore (as reported by Poynter). Selective exposure is nothing new. However, one website in the study aims for the middle of the ideological continuum and hits it, with great traffic to boot.

The audience sample for Politico in February was 29% Democrat, 29% Republican, and 42% independent. The share of minutes spent on the site overwhelmingly belonged to independents (66%), while Democrats and Republicans again were evenly split (17% each).

The other sites in the study – a selection of left and right-leaning sources – failed to match Politico’s balance, and in most cases, its traffic.

The ones that did attract more visitors were two ideologically opposed news aggregators – The Huffington Post (the study measured only it’s Politics page) and Drudge Report – sites with a long lineage of selective linking to other people’s work. HuffPo produces at least some original content (they even nabbed a Pulitzer last month), but the vast majority of their work remains rewrites and reposts. Even moreso for Drudge.

The study is interesting because claiming the middle has recently been viewed as a losing fight. As American politics continue through a phase of increased division, partisan news organizations have seen the gains, while traditional institutions have seen audience share wilt away. When Fox News and its conservative slant captured a mammoth market share, MSNBC responded by acting as a liberal counterweight. CNN, on the other hand, determined that more success would be found in presenting a balanced look at the day’s events. CNN was dead wrong, and has gone from a close second to a distant third.

So it’s nice to see Politico performing well, particularly in the partisan pig slop that is the Internet. Perhaps it is a small sign that the tide is turning back to a desire for information over self-satisfying infotainment.