Category Archives: Journalism

Notebook: A Kill Team and a HST killer quote

Rolling Stone has produced the journalism other haven’t — or won’t. They’ve tackled the worst known war scandal since Abu Ghraib with their coverage of “The Kill Team.”

The mag published the photos of soldiers posing with their random kills. The photos I haven’t seen in any other U.S publication. The mag wrote about the Pentagon’s efforts to confiscate the photos — an effort to  quell the fallout, which came anyway, and looks worse with the cover-up.

Well, the fallout and great narrative came at the hands of this magazine journalism and a list of muckrakers including the author, Mark Boal, and dating back to Hunter S. Thompson.

Read it.

Unquote” the Good Doc

Reading a punch of prose from Hunter S. Thompson is like downing shots of Wild Turkey. His style wakes you up, makes you feel a bit more alive.

Here’s an Unquote” of his pitch to write for the Vancouver Sun circa 1958:

“The enclosed clippings should give you a rough idea of who I am. It’s a year old, however, and I’ve changed a bit since it was written. [Benign enough start, but keep reading.] I’ve taken some writing courses from Columbia in my spare time, learned a hell of a lot about the newspaper business, and developed a healthy contempt for journalism as a profession.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to write for you.”

An Unquote” worth a drink

The disconnect from this fact in the Libyan war coverage makes The Tank want to pour another shot of Wild Turkey.

In Time, where complacence often reins, this upcoming Unquote” fact was in a story about energy, and probably not alluded to in the old guard’s war “reporting.”

“Libya: The site of the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, the nation remains largely underexplored.”

It’s a fact which makes the Tank think about John Perkins’ “Confessions of an Economic Hitman.” He would say this U.S.-led effort wreaks of an ulterior motive to grab at the country’s resources. A strategy he documented from his first-hand experience in the book how similar tactics occurred in Indonesia, Panama, Ecuador, Columbia, and later, Iraq, and others.

Somewhere, the World Bank, the IMF, the Rand Corp., Bechtel and Halliburton prepare business operations and light up for profits in Libya.

G

Advertisements

Looking for a bigger picture

One news story this week has captured my attention more than any other — and it isn’t the war in Libya or the continuing fallout from the triple disaster in Japan.

It’s the U.S. court-martial of Spc. Jeremy Morlock for the indiscriminate killings of three unarmed Afghan civilians last year. He said, “the plan was to kill people.” But that isn’t really it.

What’s grabbed my attention was how the U.S. newspapers I read avoided publishing the photos the unit took of the “disconcertingly satisfied” soldiers posing with their kills.

The New York Times wrote about how the photos could divide the Afghan and U.S. governments at a crucial time in the war, but didn’t link the photos online. The St. Paul Pioneer Press picked up the Times’ story, but no photos either. The Minneapolis Star Tribune didn’t pick the photos or the story.

The German news magazine Der Spiegel published the photos on March 20. The Times’ story said “it was not clear how Der Spiegel obtained the images.” It also said, “a military judge had prohibited the release of the photos.”

But newspapers have shown they aren’t beholden to the directives of the U.S. government with their extensive coverage of the Wikileaks documents this winter.

The Tank just read about a book that included some 1970s history about how the editor of the New York Times refused to stop publishing the Pentagon Papers after Nixon’s administration threatened the newspaper with a violation of the Espionage Act. (Ironically, that’s the same charge the Obama administration is purportedly exploring the use of with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange.)

Morlock was sentenced to 24 years in prison Wednesday. The Pioneer Press continued to cover it; the Star Tribune again had nothing. The largest newspaper in Minnesota failed to include what the Associated Press called “some of the most serious criminal allegations to come from the war in Afghanistan.”

There is a precedence, however, with main newspapers ignoring damaging photographs. In 2004, when photos of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison went public, London’s newspapers displayed them across their front pages and continued in full color on inside pages. The Tank saw this coverage on London’s Tube. Back in the U.S. the next day, only below-the-fold follow-ups from the U.S. papers.

Why is this? If Der Spiegel has the photos, U.S. news organizations could probably get them from Der Spiegel if they credit where they came from. There has to be more here. But since we’re not in the newsrooms of the major papers, the Tank will hope for answers later.

But if you don’t want to be beholden to the sometimes limited coverage of our nation’s newspapers, click here to see the photos. They aren’t pretty, but they help tell the story and they should have been run with the articles.

G

Drum beats louder

Nearly a year  has passed since the Tank made Ecuador a routine dateline, and the former reforestation project we worked at has announced some exciting developments.

Planet Drum, a non-profit based in San Francisco, has been reforesting the coastal ridges of Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, and a site we worked on has been completed with more than 500 native trees. These species will help the hillsides fight the erosion that devastated Bahia de Caraquez during El Nino more than a decade ago.

They also have a steady flow of volunteers, and this guy still running the show in the field.


Orlando! Todo lo que es el  hombre, err, all that is man.

Orlando and the rest of Planet Drum are planting 4,000 trees this rainy season. 4,000! That’s manly — and womanly.

Feels good to have contributed; feels good to know they are continuing and improving. To read more, go here.

Unquote” Plummer

A great Sports Illustrated article about former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer included his moving quote from his eulogy of former teammate and deceased U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman.

“I was in the store the other day and I saw People magazine, and it had the cover of the 50 most beautiful people in the world, or America, and there was a picture of Pat,” Plummer said. “It was kind of ironic because I really looked and said, What is beauty? Is beauty a pretty face, a nice smile, flowing hair, nice skin? Not to me, it’s not. To me beauty is living life to higher standards, stronger morals and ethics and believing in them, whether people tell you you’re right or wrong. Beauty is not wasting a day. Beauty is noticing life’s little intricacies and taking time out of your busy day to really enjoy those little intricacies. Beauty is being real, being genuine, being pure with no facade — what you see is what you get. Beauty is expanding your mind, always seeking knowledge, not being content, always going after something and challenging yourself.”

Blogroll update

When the Tank’s links include a connection to a conservative commentator — Robert Novak — who died 18 months ago, the time is ripe to update the list.

People might not click on them, but the Tank is proud to have included Wikileaks years before it reached the front pages and top stories of mainstream news. And Al Jazeera as U.S. cable companies were (and still are) denying the Qatar-based news organization from airing its English TV station on its programming packages.

It’s been a while since the Tank has clicked on them, and was saddened to see Cagle’s best political cartoons through MSNBC either gone or moved. Other casualties include alternative news sources such as Guerrilla News Network and Real News as well as a blog from talented foreign journalist Dahr Jamail.

The Tank was pleasantly surprised to see Owl Farm Blog from Hunter S. Thompson’s wife, Anita, still alive and well. As I listen to new sounds of Chris & Thomas, Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Anita posted some Gonzo journalism from its founder, HST:

“Music has always been a matter of energy for me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel.”

It’s ironic because when I’m not transcribing interviews for stories during the day, I’m listening to music. I’m with HST, it’s fuel. It was also ironic this evening. While I was checking out “Entertain Me or Else,” a blog from my friend Will A, also still alive and well,  Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” played through my headphones. It was fitting because we got fuel from that tune in Duluth circa 2009.

Some other blogroll updates include John Rash, a Star Tribune editorial writer, who had this nice observation, “The CNN identity crisis could also be seen in recent appearances of its current star Anderson Cooper. In the course of two weeks, he got beaten up by Pee Wee Herman in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, then took real punches from pro-Mumbarak mobs in Egypt.”

Rash had this too, “USA Today has five foreign correspondents, according to American Journalism Review, and 27 entertainment reporters, according to a leaked staffing chart.”

Another new link is to “The Enlightenment of Gray,” a blog from college friend Blake Hendrickson. He resides in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and it’s certainly enlightening to get his non-ethnocentric comments.

Another final newbie is Basetrack, the Web site the Tank wrote about two weeks ago. It was from journalists embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan before the U.S. government shut them down a few weeks ago. Although it’s stagnant now, I wouldn’t have known about the lack of success of drone attacks without their Facebook link to a Washington Post story.

The story, which brings up some noxious numbers, said 119 drone attacks, costing $1 million each have killed only two senior-level terrorists.

That’s scary, and with a diversified information list — err, blogroll — we now know such things.

G

Not bad number: A value on online news

$315,000,000

The price of AOL’s acquisition of Huffington Post is a not so bad number. Media critics have derided the move as a foretelling of value put on straight content and not journalism, but it’s at least a value put on information after a time when many were writing the obituary for newspapers and other news gatherers.

News flash to some: There is value in news. And to a certain extent, this business transaction shows it.

News aggregators such as HuffPo have raised ire from me for mashing up stories from news services with a line of their own reporting. Casual readers think it’s Huffington Post doing the bulk of the reporting, but that’s not the case. Prominent stories on HuffPo tonight are from AP and Reuters. But that is changing to a certain extent.

The New York Times had a Sunday front-page story a few weeks ago about how HuffPo, Taking Points Memo and Politico each have small armies assembled and ready to tackle the 2012 presidential election. They are new news sources on big stages.

There are also fewer and fewer stories about newsrooms being gutted. In actuality, it appears that many newspapers have weathered the recession and have retained staff.

That isn’t the perception, however. One source for a story I’m working on asked who the editor is I’m working with because “there has been a lot of turnover there in the last few years.” I happen to know this newspaper well, so I listed off nearly all of the senior editors, all but one have been there for more than three years.

That’s good news for journalists and readers. That doesn’t mean that newspapers are a growth industry, but as the AOL/HuffPo deal shows, there are new news groups in new mediums.

One example of the new horizons was Basetrack, a website of journalists imbedded with a U.S. military battalion in Afghanistan. The Knight Foundation-funded outfit provided updated information on the battalion through social media for the families and friends of the soldiers as well as news consumers. They provided information on the battalions whereabouts and missions.

Basetrack’s work was featured on NPR’s show The World last week. Family members talked about how the site kept them in touch with their loved ones.

But on Feb. 7,  the military, which originally asked Basetrack to report, shut them down for “security reasons,” according to the Nieman Journalism Blog and other sources.

Basetrack might not have been the end-all in new media, and neither is the AOL-Huff Po deal, but it shows that journalism isn’t dead. It’s evolving.

G