Tag 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.

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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.

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Swine of the Week: Zell

The dark days of journalism are perpetuated by greedy businessmen — not newsmen — like Sam Zell.

Zell, this week’s Swine winner, bought the Tribune Company last December on the backs of the company’s employees. Zell financed most of the $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan, reports The New York Times.

The Tribune Company, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times among other newspapers, filed for bankruptcy Tuesday.

After finishing the December deal, Zell said, “I’m here to tell you that the transaction from hell is done.”

Harold Meyerson, a Los Angeles journalist, said Zell is “taking bean counting to a whole new level,” and “he’s well on his way to… destroying the L.A. Times.”

Sure, Tribune isn’t the only media company suffering, but Zell’s disdain for journalism is evident.

(Notice his final comment. …)

Whenever a businessman jeopardizes the future of journalism to benefit their checkbooks and not the First Amendment, they will find my scorn and a place in the Swine annals.

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