Archive for the 'News' Category

Breaking news in Haiti!

Breaking News: Something Happening In Haiti

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Don’t get fooled again


The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania has created a great classroom Internet news tool, FactcheckED. It has very practical advice for helping students detect fraud in political advertising and propaganda. Another good source for researching PR and spin is the site, PR Watch.
FactcheED provides this simple and awesome checklist for detecting bias…

A Process for Avoiding Deception

1. Keep an open mind. Most of us have biases, and we can easily fool ourselves if we don’t make a conscious effort to keep our minds open to new information. Psychologists have shown over and over again that humans naturally tend to accept any information that supports what they already believe, even if the information isn’t very reliable. And humans also naturally tend to reject information that conflicts with those beliefs, even if the information is solid. These predilections are powerful. Unless we make an active effort to listen to all sides we can become trapped into believing something that isn’t so, and won’t even know it.

2. Ask the right questions. Don’t accept claims at face value; test them by asking a few questions. Who is speaking, and where are they getting their information? How can I validate what they’re saying? What facts would prove this claim wrong? Does the evidence presented really back up what’s being said? If an ad says a product is “better,” for instance, what does that mean? Better than what?

3. Cross-check. Don’t rely on one source or one study, but look to see what others say. When two or three reliable sources independently report the same facts or conclusions, you can be more confident of them. But when two independent sources contradict each other, you know you need to dig more deeply to discover who’s right.

4. Consider the source. Not all sources are equal. As any CSI viewer knows, sometimes physical evidence is a better source than an eyewitness, whose memory can play tricks. And an eyewitness is more credible than somebody telling a story they heard from somebody else. By the same token, an Internet website that offers primary source material is more trustworthy than one that publishes information gained second- or third-hand. For example, official vote totals posted by a county clerk or state election board are more authoritative than election returns reported by a political blog or even a newspaper, which can be out of date or mistaken.

5. Weigh the evidence. Know the difference between random anecdotes and real scientific data from controlled studies. Know how to avoid common errors of reasoning, such as assuming that one thing causes another simply because the two happen one after the other. Does a rooster’s crowing cause the sun to rise? Only a rooster would think so.

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Guns and cameras

I was once on a panel with Lance Strate. He is a thoughtful, smart media ecology expert who recently wrote a provocative blog on the Virginia Tech murders. He is not the first to equate guns with cameras (Susan Sontag and Paul Virilio have each made the connection on a deep level), but I thought he made some particualry sharp observations about the manner in which news media allow themselves to be exploited by sensationalism. I encourage you to read the entire post.

Lance Strate’s Blog Time Passing: Guns and Cameras:

Guns and cameras are both media of communication, as McLuhan makes clear in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man where he includes chapters on the photograph, motion picture, television, and weapons–both guns and cameras are extensions of the human body, guns extending the fist and fingernail in their offensive capacities, cameras extending the eyes in their voyeuristic capacities. Both guns and cameras are means by which we mediate between ourselves and elements of our environment, they go between us our environment, and in doing so keep the environment as a distance from ourselves. Guns and cameras are both methods by which people communicate, sending messages to their target, and to bystanders alike–that is why we have phrases like, “the shot heard around the world” after all. Guns and cameras are both weapons, both used to attack and cause harm (e.g., the paparazzi, the private detective stalking the adulterer), both used to control and imprison–that is why we talk about cameras using words like shoot, snapshot, load (the film), capture (the subject, the moment), etc.–this is a deep metaphor that reveals an often-unconscious understanding of the link between the two technologies.

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Fake news out-duels “real” news


The PEW Research Center has released its latest study that correlates what people know and how they consume news media. Turns out not much has changed since the advent of 24/7 cable news, but the most interesting tidbit is that those who watch the so-called “fake news”- The Daily Show and Colbert Report- are the best informed. (I knew it!)

Summary of Findings: Public Knowledge of Current Affairs Little Changed by News and Information Revolutions:

There are substantial differences in the knowledge levels of the audiences for different news outlets. However, there is no clear connection between news formats and what audiences know. Well-informed audiences come from cable (Daily Show/Colbert Report, O’Reilly Factor), the internet (especially major newspaper websites), broadcast TV (NewsHour with Jim Lehrer) and radio (NPR, Rush Limbaugh’s program). The less informed audiences also frequent a mix of formats: broadcast television (network morning news shows, local news), cable (Fox News Channel), and the internet (online blogs where people discuss news events).

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Is it really only getting worse?


Truthdig – Interviews – Media Critic on Why It’s Only Getting Worse:

Once upon a time, TV news put journalists on camera. Today, cable news has on-air “talent”—who are “cast,” not just hired. A Walter Cronkite would have big trouble getting a job today in TV news. But an actor? No problem. CNN a few years ago cast a former actress from “NYPD Blue” as one of its “Headline News” anchors. At Fox News, where lip gloss and blond hair go further than a background in journalism, I could find no proof to the charge that executives reviewed audition tapes of potential female anchors with the sound turned off.

Jeff Cohen, a founder of FAIR, has been one of the best media watchdogs of the era. His new book, Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media, is out. It’s probably a good read (and funny too, I’m sure), but I wonder if it’s worth caring anymore about how bad cable news is. Do people really care what they say? Do these networks really have that much influence on people’s opnions? I’m thinking out loud here, but I’m guessing that we place more importance on this kind of programming than the actual impact. I wonder if these networks exist within a self-genereating reality and the Internet will bypass them as it has with newspapers. What do you think?

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News war


Watch it online.

FRONTLINE: news war: introduction | PBS:

Bergman traces the recent history of American journalism, from the Nixon administration’s attacks on the media and the post-Watergate popularity of the press to new obstacles presented by the war on terror and changing economics in the media business and the Internet. The topic has special resonance for Bergman, whose career as a journalist for FRONTLINE, The New York Times, ABC News and 60 Minutes has included reporting on the issues that are critical to the current controversies. “There has been a perfect storm brewing in the world of news,” says Bergman. “Not since the Nixon administration has there been this level of hostility leveled at news organizations. … [But] unlike the confrontations of 35 or more years ago, today’s news war sees the very economic foundations of the business shifting.”

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And now for this entertainment break…

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Mapping corporate media


“We report. You Decide.”

Wondering where your news comes from? One of the underlying principles of a “propaganda environment” is an information complex in which the values of the system are internalized. Remember that traditional media are corporations in the business of selling programming, including news. One of the criticisms of traditional media (as opposed to networked media or citizen journalism) is that they generate their own reality: they define what is “information,” not the reverse (i.e. the Fox News slogan, “We report. You Decide.”). Only rarely do the carefully orchestrated presentations of news get unhinged: natural disasters and major events like 9/11. I found it curious, though, that within 12 hours of the airplanes hitting the WTC, news companies had already edited amateur video into a narrative that looked like a film trailer. This is an example of how events are made into packages.

Anyhow, below is an interesting map of the interlocking interests between news companies and other major multinational corporations. For a detailed map of corporate board rooms, go here. The following is a snapshot that is a couple years old, and some of the members will have changed by now, but you will get the picture.

Project Censored Media Democracy in Action:

A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests. The following are but a few of the corporate board interlocks for the big ten media giants in the US:

New York Times: Caryle Group, Eli Lilly, Ford, Johnson and Johnson, Hallmark,
Lehman Brothers, Staples, Pepsi
Washington Post: Lockheed Martin, Coca-Cola, Dun & Bradstreet, Gillette,
G.E. Investments, J.P. Morgan, Moody’s
Knight-Ridder: Adobe Systems, Echelon, H&R Block, Kimberly-Clark, Starwood Hotels
The Tribune (Chicago & LA Times): 3M, Allstate, Caterpillar, Conoco Phillips, Kraft,
McDonalds, Pepsi, Quaker Oats, Shering Plough, Wells Fargo
News Corp (Fox): British Airways, Rothschild Investments
GE (NBC): Anheuser-Busch, Avon, Bechtel, Chevron/Texaco, Coca-Cola, Dell, GM,
Home Depot, Kellogg, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Motorola, Procter & Gamble,
Disney (ABC): Boeing, Northwest Airlines, Clorox, Estee Lauder, FedEx, Gillette,
Halliburton, Kmart, McKesson, Staples, Yahoo,
Viacom (CBS): American Express, Consolidated Edison, Oracle, Lafarge North America
Gannett: AP, Lockheed-Martin, Continental Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Prudential, Target,
AOL-Time Warner (CNN): Citigroup, Estee Lauder, Colgate-Palmolive, Hilton

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Spin of the week


Man, these guys could spin Hitler into a saint. Nice work!

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Balancing industry against science

Discussing a report that shows a consensus in peer-reviewed journals that there is global climate change, Gore says the mainstream media has failed to report this, and have continued to seek “balance” as bias. Read on…

Gore says media miss climate message – Nashville, Tennessee – Wednesday, 02/28/07 –

He noted that recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its fourth unanimous report calling on world leaders to take action on global warming.

“I believe that is one of the principal reasons why political leaders around the world have not yet taken action,” Gore said. “There are many reasons, but one of the principal reasons in my view is more than half of the mainstream media have rejected the scientific consensus implicitly — and I say ‘rejected,’ perhaps it’s the wrong word. They have failed to report that it is the consensus and instead have chosen … balance as bias.

“I don’t think that any of the editors or reporters responsible for one of these stories saying, ‘It may be real, it may not be real,’ is unethical. But I think they made the wrong choice, and I think the consequences are severe.

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Another small step for citizen journalism

Tonight at 11, news by neighbors / Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming:

Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month’s layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won’t be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.

But Spendlove said that the station’s “business model” hadn’t been working for years, and that “covering one-eighth of the Bay Area” is neither a moneymaker nor even an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.

So the next step in Channel 50’s evolution will be a nationally watched experiment in local television coverage. Over the next few months, the station’s management plans to ask people in the community — its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others — to provide programming for the station.

Is this citizen journalism, or just asking consumers to produce their own content for free? It’s both really, and it should be viewed as an evolving situation that is more and more common. If the consumers are the producers, ultimately this is a good thing. In the early days of punk there was a breakdown between audience and performer, and it was liberating. Of course, in the end it’s quality that counts, and that remains to be scene

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Forecasting media weather


“You don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows,”
Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan

Eat The Press | Fox Takes Fair And Balanced Look At Weather “War”…With One Side | The Huffington Post:

FNC’s “Fox & Friends” host Steve Doocey did a piece on the “War over the Weather” this morning in advance of Friday’s United Nations report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with guest Sen. James Inhofe, ranking minority member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (and formerly its highly underqualified chair), so Inhofe could once again hold forth on his views on climate change and global warming, namely, that it’s entirely normal and natural and not at all a man-based problem and anyone who suggests otherwise is a nefarious tool of the radical left. For his part, Doocey offered leading questions which also called out the “left wing”, creating a segment that was actually not at all unlike an informercial.

Does The Weather Channel (TWC) have a political agenda? Well, yes. It’s a business and makes money from advertising. But when Fox News Channel (FNC) accuses it of a “far left agenda” because its meteorologists acknowledge global warming, the implication of the finger pointers is that they are free of their own bias. I never thought weather could become a Rorschach test of ideology, but I suppose in a Stalinist political environment, anything is possible. For a clear understanding of how the FNC gyroscope is spun by Republican operatives, filmmaker Robert Greenwald’s Outfoxed documentary is an excellent case study of how precisely reality can be constructed by a news agency. Debunking the human contribution to global warming is akin to viewing humans as beings who eat but never excrete.

You need a weatherman to tell which way the digital wind blows

TWC represents itself through multiple segments and the ads it sells. But for the sake of analysis, I’ll focus on the network’s chief communicator, the weatherperson.

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Continue reading ‘Forecasting media weather’

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Social news network

The folks at Media Channel have created News Trust, a social news network. What is “social news”? Building on the new paradigm of collective, self-organized intelligence that is the Web 2.0, readers can rate what they are reading as “trustworthy.” The old paradigm based on advertising determines what’s popular by what people buy, or the consumer patterns of a particular demographic that also reads the news service. So rather than voting with your dollars, at News Trust you vote with your intelligence. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure if I agree with the premise that an informed citizenry necessarily creates democracy. There’s also the issue of pedagogy and education. Just because someone can read facts doesn’t necessarily translate as action or democracy. Still, grassroots media services like this are absolutely necessary to balance large corporate media organizations that tend to filter according to their own operating paradigm in the service of capital rather than humans (or nature).

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Fake news

At least with The Daily Show fake news is funny. Not so with “Video News Releases” (NVR), which are bogus news packages created by PR companies that run during regular news programs as if they are legitimate news. This has been a growing phenomena that needs curbing. Click below for more:

Free Press : No Fake News:

Local Television’s Dirty Little Secret

For the second time this year, Free Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) have revealed that corporate propaganda continues to infiltrate local television news across the country.

Stations are slipping corporate-sponsored “video news releases” — promotional segments designed to look like objective news reports — into their regular news programming. This deception is illegal under FCC rules.

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Top censored news stories

Here’s another opportunity to read about the top 25 censored news stories from project censored. Here’s a snip, click the link to read what’s on the rest of the list.

News & Culture | Censored news stories:

1. Net Neutrality

Throughout 2005 and this year, a largely underground debate has raged regarding the future of the Internet. More recently referred to as net neutrality, the issue has become a tug of war with cable companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers (ISPs) on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely ignored in the headlines until 2006. And except for occasional coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television remains hands-off to this day.

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Evil Muslim kids will destroy us

Evil Muslim Kids

Here’s an image from the New York Post editorial: “A Dark Globalism.” It was the featured image in the print version. You have to click through the embedded slide show to get to the picture. It reminds me of the wicked kid trope in recent horror films, as if Muslim children are inherently evil. This is another example of how the so-called “war on terror” (a term that seems less in vogue these days) is ideologically reduced to a horror movie.

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Top 25 Censored news stories of 2007 news stories of 2007


It’s that time of year: Project Censored has issued it annual report of top censored stories. The verdict? Read on…

Project Censored Media Democracy in Action:

Top 25 Censored
news stories of 2007

#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media

#2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran

#3 Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger

#4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US

#5 High-Tech Genocide in Congo

#6 Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy

# 7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq

#8 Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act

#9 The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall

#10 Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians

#11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed

#12 Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines

#13 New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup

#14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US

#15 Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research Partner

#16 Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal Court

#17 Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda

#18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story

#19 Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever

#20 Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem

#21 Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers

#22 $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed

#23 US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe

#24 Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent Last Year

#25 US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region

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Space cat-det

space-cadetAs a Leo and space cadet, I thought I was the planet’s biggest astro-cat, but I’m outdone once again by the wonderful folks down in Florida who have their paws on the world beat of high weirdness, Weekly World News. As the paper warns its audience, “the reader should suspend disbelief for the sake of enjoyment,” a truism embracing the “truthiness” of our age. Of course the disclaimer is just a ruse. It’s all true, man, I know it! After all, isn’t this the daily intelligence report that reaches the President’s desk with his morning Postum?


officials were embarrassed
this week to announce the
Space Station is infested
with mice.
Project Manager Terry
Duckworth told Weekly
World News, ‘The female
mice escaped from one of
our onboard experiments
and the male mice came up
on a Russian supply ship,
hidden in the cargo
hold. Now we have a big
predicament — what we call
UMP, or Unauthorized Mice
Pairing. You might say,
‘Houston we have a pest
problem.’ But I won’t.’
The mice have chewed
through wires and
insulation, and the patter
of their feet has disturbed
astronauts as they’ve

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Duh! It’s the Media’s Fault You’re Losing the War

MSNBCNBC reports the latest blame game: the war in Iraq is the media’s fault. Kinda funny since the mainstream media, thanks to the Pentagon, is generally only allowed the US military’s POV (point of view). I suppose you could blame the government’s PR handlers for losing the war. After all, bombs don’t kill people, cameras do. Right? See, it is Vietnam all over again (for lame excuses, that is).

sfreporter-th.jpgAnyhow, there are actually valiant journalists going out and reporting as fairly as they can given the circumstances. My colleagues and friends at the Baghdad Project photographed and interviewed Iraqi civilians without censoring any views. Some even expressed gratitude for the invasion (this was in the early days of the war). Reporter Zelie Pollon and photojournalist Laurent Guerin (a French veteran of the Lebanese civil war) performed a valiant job under dangerous circumstances, which shows that if you let journalists actually do their jobs, perhaps you would have the proper intelligence necessary to make an honest decision before you start the next war. (Of course that also means you would have to read some history and learn about the country you are targeting, too, before killing 30,000 people in the name of peace).

Oh well. If you feed disinformation into the corporate media, and the corporate media reports that disinformation uncritically (i.e. Judith Miller at the NY Times), then you should also blame bad disinformation for the war. If you believe your own lies repeated in the media, and then claim that you were misled by your own lies, well then, we call that an echo chamber (and that is the most G-rated comment I can make given the true incompetence of the situation).

Debate rages over media’s role in Iraq war – Nightly News with Brian Williams –

“Are the images Americans are seeing from Iraq due to the level of violence or is it just the messenger? And, as President Bush suggested Tuesday at a White House news conference, are the media also being used by the insurgents?”

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Weekly Meme – As of today you are additionally $30,000 in debt

Death and TaxesThis morning you woke up buried in $30,000 more debt, thanks to the new Congressional budget, and what you will pay in taxes to cover it.

This image, created by the artist mibi, does a nice job of mapping out what taxes actually pay for. Guess what the big circles represent… The image speaks volumes that can leave one utterly dumbfounded and momentarily speechless.

Follow the link to see a bigger version:

deviantART: Death and Taxes: … by ~mibi

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