Looking Good on Radio
NPR reported last summer that John Inverdale, BBC radio’s announcer at the 2013 Wimbledon tennis matches, said that eventual singles champion Marion Bartoli might have been encouraged by her father to practice hard because she was “never going to be a looker.” Inverdale attempted to apologize by saying Bartoli “is an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes.”
(Later he explained that the public image of tennis players is that they are “six-feet-tall Amazonian athletes,” but “Marion, who is the Wimbledon champion, bucks that trend.” He finally said she is a “fantastic example to all young people” and she proved that “it’s attitude and will and determination together, obviously with talent that, in the end, does get you to the top.”)
The BBC said the “looker” remark “was insensitive and for that we apologize.” Bartoli said, “I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact.” She added, “Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No…Have I dreamt about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely yes.”
Indian Flood Journalist All Wet
Global journalism watchers remember an Indian television reporter covering the deadly floods in northern India last spring while he was perched upon the shoulders of a man laboring to carry him over the waters. Agence France Presse later reported that the journalist, who faced a lot of criticism, said he was hoisted by the man “as a sign of respect.” He said the man wanted to show his appreciation because “it was the first time someone of my level had visited his house.” He said people were wrong to think of him as “inhuman” because he was “actually helping some of the victims there.”
The journalist also blamed his cameraman for sabotaging his career. He was supposed to be shown only from “the chest up,” he said.
Although he eventually admitted “it was the wrong thing to do,” it’s clear that the person who did him the favor of carrying him was head and shoulders above the reporter.
Journalism and Activism
In one of its articles about the hearings involving Private Manning, who provided classified information to WikiLeaks, The New York Times used material from a blog by Alexa O’Brien, and identified her as an “activist.”
O’Brien demanded a correction and, in a letter to The Times, she described her journalistic credentials. She said “I find the term activist used here by Mr. Carr and Mr. Somaiya—pejorative.” She added that her Manning coverage had resulted in her getting a nomination for the “2013 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (not for activism)” and a grant from the Freedom of the Press Foundation “for my coverage of the Manning trial (not for activism).”
The Times responded by correcting its original article and adding that “While Ms. O’Brien has participated in activist causes like Occupy Wall Street and US Day of Rage, she also works as an independent journalist; she is not solely an activist.”
It’s worth wondering, however, if The Times thought the reporting of an “activist” was more trustworthy than that of a journalist….
The Independent British national newspaper reports that, last summer, media mogul Rupert Murdoch wrote a letter to the British House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee to complain about the Scotland Yard (Metropolitan Police) investigation into the phone hacking activities of the media he controls. He called the investigation “excessive” and slow.
But in a secretly-taped talk to employees of The Sun (one of his British national newspapers), Murdoch was more explicit. “It’s a disgrace,” he said. “Here we are, two years later, and the cops are totally incompetent. The idea that the cops then started coming after you, kick you out of bed, and your families, at six in the morning, is unbelievable. But why are the police behaving in this way? It’s the biggest inquiry ever, over next to nothing.”
Although, Murdoch later apologized for his comments, it is clear where his reporters and editors got the idea that hacking phones and paying for news was next-to-nothing in importance and an acceptable journalistic practice.
Journalism Is Verification
Mark Twain is quoted as saying that “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” Even today, with an uncountable number of news sources, it is possible to exaggerate in the same way.
When NBC News Capitol Hill reporter L. Russert reported on Twitter that Rep. Bill Young, the most senior Republican in Congress had died, only minutes later Fox News reported the same and then other people and media started retweeting the item.
Turns out the story was not true.
Admittedly, Young did die within hours, and apologies for the error came promptly as did corrections.
But the incident gave Twitter users the opportunity to scorn Russert and the media that copied his report.
Journalism 101: A tweet is not news until it’s verified.
Pay to Play in China
The New York Times reported that Chinese media are so used to getting paid for positive coverage that some even “have rate cards listing news-for-sale prices.”
“If one of my companies came up with a cure for cancer, I still couldn’t get journalists to come to the press conference without promising them a huge envelope filled with cash,” the paper quoted an investor saying. Depending on the prominence of the coverage (in number of pages, video interview minutes, etc.) the cost can be in the thousands of dollars. A positive reference in Workers’ Daily, The Times said, would be $1 per Chinese character. If a company official wants to be in an exclusive interview for a news program it may cost the equivalent of $9,000, The Times said.
All this is happening while the Chinese government is censoring the Internet and putting dissidents in jail.
These new capitalist communists are something else, aren’t they?