A landmark Center for Public Integrity investigation detailing controversial denials of black lung benefits to coal miners has been honored with a Pulitzer Prize.
The winning series, “Breathless and Burdened: Dying from Black Lung, Buried by Law and Medicine,” was a year-long investigation by Center reporter Chris Hamby illuminating how doctors and lawyers working at the behest of the coal industry helped defeat benefit claims of coal miners who were sick and dying of black lung disease.
One part of the three-part, 25,000-word series was produced in partnership with the ABC News Investigative Unit, whose work included an in-depth Nightline segment. The series won in the category of Investigative Reporting.
The Pulitzers, administered by Columbia University, are widely considered the most prestigious prizes in journalism. The award, announced this afternoon, marks a first for the Center for Public Integrity.
“The Center for Public Integrity could not be prouder of this incredible honor — our first Pulitzer Prize as one of the leading nonprofit, digital, investigative news organizations,” said Bill Buzenberg, executive director. “I want to pay a special tribute to investigative reporter Chris Hamby for his non-stop dedication to the black lung project over the last year. Without his incredible efforts on behalf of sick and dying coal mine workers, we would not have won this singular prize. One result of his work is that miners with black lung will finally be getting the financial benefits they deserve.
Hamby reviewed thousands of pages of previously hidden legal filings and created original databases. His reporting revealed that industry-hired lawyers withheld key evidence in miners’ cases, and doctors at the John Hopkins Medical Institutions consistently denied the existence of advanced black lung on X-rays – even when other experts saw evidence of the disease. Hamby traveled to Appalachian coal country, interviewing miners sick from black lung, and survivors of those killed by the lung disease.
“This was more than just a project to me," Hamby said. "I spent a lot of time in West Virginia with people who were slowly suffocating to death and they had been essentially screwed by a system that was completely stacked against them and they had no recourse. These are some of the most voiceless people in the country."
Hamby, 28, is a Nashville native and holds a masters degree from the University of Missouri and a bachelors from the University of Richmond. He knew he wanted to be a reporter from the age of 16. His first full-time journalism job was with the Center, where he was an intern in 2010.
So what's next?
"I want to continue to tell stories that give power and say to the voiceless and hold the powerful entities, be they public or private, responsible," he said.
Following the reports, Johns Hopkins suspended its black lung program, U.S. senators began crafting reform legislation, and members of Congress asked for a federal investigation. In addition, the Department of Labor announced procedural changes in the federal benefits system that deals with black lung claims, changes that could help miners navigate the complex benefits system.
"This is a richly-deserved honor for one of the most meaningful pieces of journalism I have ever seen," said Ronnie Greene, the project's editor.
"Chris built this story entirely from the ground up, beginning with reporting trips to Appalachian coal country, where he heard miners talking about a disease that was killing them, and the system that was defeating them a second time. He followed that trail to some surprising findings about the forces pushing back. It's the best we can do as journalists."
Also nominated as finalists in this category were Megan Twohey of Reuters for her exposure of an underground Internet marketplace where parents could bypass social welfare regulations and get rid of children they had adopted overseas but no longer wanted, the stories triggering governmental action to curb the practice; and Cynthia Hubert and Phillip Reese of The Sacramento Bee for their probe of a Las Vegas mental hospital that used commercial buses to "dump'' more than 1,500 psychiatric patients in 48 states over five years, reporting that brought an end to the practice and the firing of hospital employees.
"Breathless and Burdened" is a product of the Center's workers' rights unit. Founded in January 2010 and led by senior reporter and editor Jim Morris, the unit has produced major investigative work on subjects such as the international marketing of deadly asbestos; worker and public safety hazards at the nation's aging oil refineries; and regulatory lapses that put temporary workers, coal miners, contract laborers and others at risk. The Center is among the few U.S. news outlets committed to in-depth, investigative reporting on worker health and safety and economic justice issues.
The Pulitzer Prize is the latest in a string of honors for Breathless and Burdened, and the Center’s body of 2013 work.
“Breathless and Burdened” also earned the Edgar A. Poe Award for national reporting from the White House Correspondents Association and the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, among other national honors.
“Secrecy for Sale” was honored by Investigators Reporters and Editors and also received the business/economics reporting prize from Scripps Howard.
In addition, the Center was presented on Friday with a George Polk Award for its “After the Meltdown” series, which revealed that many of the major players responsible for the 2008 financial crisis have faced few consequences for their actions.
Other Pulitzer Prize winners for Journalism include the Washington Post and The Guardian for their revelations of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency.
Congratulations to all of this year's Pulitzer Prize winners.
A conservative political action committee called "Stop R.E.I.D. PAC" is the latest target of the Federal Election Commission's name police.
Paul Stoetzer, a senior campaign finance analyst at the agency, recently told Stop R.E.I.D. PAC treasurer Dan Backer that he must "change the name of your political committee so that it does not include the candidate's name" — unless the outfit is authorized by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., which it's not.
Fat chance, says Backer, a Virginia-based lawyer who's riding a measure of fame as the driving force behind McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court case that ended aggregate limits on campaign contributions to candidates, PACs and party committees earlier this month.
Backer told the Center for Public Integrity that the committee's name is, technically, Stop Reckless Economic Instability Caused by Democrats PAC. Therefore, he said, its acronym "happens to coincidently match the name of a particular candidate who the PAC sees as epitomizing all that is wrong with America."
It's the latest nomenclatural go-around between federal regulators and Backer, who has made a cottage industry out of challenging federal election laws and regulations. He has also drawn the FEC's ire of late for his involvement with groups named "Stop Pelosi PAC" and "Stand With Rand PAC."
As with Stop R.E.I.D. PAC, Backer has argued that these names don't clearly identify a specific candidate and therefore don't violate federal law — Stand With Rand, for example, could just as well reference economic theorist Ayn Rand, he said.
Beyond issuing warnings, the agency, to date, has not taken public action against Stop Pelosi PAC, Stand With Rand PAC or Stop R.E.I.D. PAC.
Asked about the flap, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said: "Frankly this is not something we've discussed, and I don't think it's something we'd comment on. Sounds like it's between the group and the FEC."
Backer has until May 22 to formally respond to the FEC's inquiry.
Backer formed Stop R.E.I.D. PAC on March 11. He organized it as a hybrid super PAC — a single committee that operates both as a traditional PAC, which may make limited donations directly to political candidates, and a super PAC, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to independently advocate for or against candidates.
Through March 31, it raised about $3,700 and spent $1,900, according to federal filings.
Backer says that to date, the PAC has raised about $20,000 from 1,000 contributors. Filings covering the year's second quarter aren't due to the FEC until July 15.
In part three of our Personal Essay Markets series, we got the inside scoop from another 15 pubs on what editors are looking for in a personal essay.
With mags ranging from Psychology Today to Southwest Airlines’ Spirit, you’re sure to find at least one venue that appeals to you. Perhaps you have a food-related story? Here, a Saveur editor shares her pitching advice:
Saveur – “Memories” and “Essay”
Foodies will appreciate these personal essay columns that involve a truly remarkable story, however large or small the scale. “Memories” is a story told about the past. “Essay” is a personal perspective on food, dish, person or ingredient, but it’s a story that isn’t past tense.
Length: 1,000-2,000 words
Pay: $1 a word
Assigning editor: Betsy Andrews, BETSY dot ANDREWS at BONNIERCORP dot COM
Andrews’ advice: “It’s best to submit “Memories” pieces or “Essay” pieces on spec. If there are recipes we can get out of them, that’s great but not necessary. We have published many, many stories about writers’ immigrant grandmother and their food, so think outside the box in terms of subject matter.”
For pitching tips from other pubs, read: Personal Essay Markets: Part III.
The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
At Poynter, Rick Edmonds does us the favor of examining new numbers from the Newspaper Association of America on how newspapers performed financially in 2013. NAA’s totals suggest “the best performance since 2006″ — which is still a revenue decline, of 2.6 percent year-over-year. The highlight is continued (relative) strength in circulation revenue, which was up 3.7 percent to $10.87 billion. (That total includes print subscriptions, single-copy sales, and digital paywalls.)
That’s the best spin. For the pessimist living in your cold, black heart:
— Print advertising revenue continues its massive slide, down another 8.6 percent in 2013 — another $1.6 billion gone missing. An annual decline in the high single digits has become the norm; you don’t hear people talking about getting back to par, as you did three or four years ago. NAA’s release notes that print advertising now “makes up less than half of total revenue,” which is true. But that’s not because of the strength of everything else; it’s because print advertising is in a state of collapse that isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
— Digital advertising — once touted as the savior of the business — was up a measly 1.5 percent. To put that in context, through Q3 2013, Nielsen estimated the online display ad market was up 32 percent. The broader online advertising world keeps growing; newspapers’ share of it keeps shrinking. (And much of that digital advertising number for newspaper still includes a lot of print advertising with a digital throw-in. Only 24 percent of what NAA counts as digital advertising is digital-only advertising.)
— Those two numbers combined mean that, in 2014, American newspapers still get 83 percent of their advertising revenue from print.
I feel confident in saying that newspaper print advertising will decline again in 2014, most likely in the high single digits again. Digital advertising will continue to muddle along with a slight increase. The key question for 2014 is whether circulation revenue gains can continue. It’s the only thing providing meaningful resistance to that ad decline.
Industry-wide, there’s probably some growth left, if only from more papers adding paywalls. Most American dailies still don’t have them (roughly 900 out of 1,400), despite the boom of the past two or three years. Many of those are small or weak enough that a paywall might be a hard sell, but there are still some candidates out there, and one could expect a boost in circ revenues just from them.
But for individual newspapers with existing paywalls, it’s a very real question. Are the John Patons right that digital subscription revenue is a one-time gain, destined to plateau or even fall off? If that’s true — and I think for many newspapers it is — you could easily see a bigger overall revenue decline in 2014 than in 2013.
(Just to get my predictions for these numbers next year on the record: print advertising down 9 percent; digital advertising up 1 percent; circulation revenue up 2 percent; new/other revenue up 6 percent; overall revenue down 3.5 percent.)
First, let me say what it’s not. It’s not a paywall. Let me say that again: It’s not a paywall! We’re not asking you to pay for stories, and we’re not turning on a meter that stops you 10 stories into the month. Everything that’s free on Slate will remain free for all Slate readers.
Instead, Slate Plus offers extras and opportunities, enhancements to the regular Slate experience.
For $50 a year, Slate superfans will get some additional content, but the biggest pitch seems to be a general closeness to the brand. Pre-show parties at live events! Private Q&As! Ask Dana Stevens that question about the cat in Inside Llewyn Davis that’s been killing you for months! Help David Weigel decide who to profile next! It’s a behind-the-scenes pitch that’s reminiscent of some parts of Times Premier. In both cases, I’ll be curious to see how much of an audience there is for that in-the-newsroom vibe, which has been talked about (mostly by journalists) as a premium upsell for years, but for which there haven’t been a lot of successful models.
Slate Plus also promises a better experience of current Slate content — paginated stories will default to a single page, podcasts will be available in ad-free versions, and the comments interface will be better. In a sense, that part is similar to The Dallas Morning News’ “premium experience,” which also promises the same content in a more easily digestible package. (I’d imagine it’s also a sign paginated stories aren’t going anywhere for the proles anytime soon.)
In its combination of VIP club, improved experience, and keeping content free — and in its $50-a-year price tag — Slate Plus most closely resembles TPM Prime, the upsell at Talking Points Memo.
In any event, I think the key value proposition for Slate Plus isn’t single-page stories or a pre-show spritzer with Emily Bazelon — it’s just the fact that it’s an opportunity for people willing to pay to do so. There are Slate superfans whose relationship with the site stretches more than a decade. Slate’s done a good job of pushing the personalities of its writers, which strengthens those reader–website connections. I suspect for many who sign up for Slate Plus, the decision will be less of a cost–benefit analysis and more of a “sure, they’ve given me a lot of good stuff over the years — I’ll throw them some coin.” Think of people who give to their local NPR station: It’s not really for the totebag.
Historical note: Slate, back in the day, was an early mover on asking readers to pay for online news, putting up a 20-bucks-a-year paywall from 1998 to 1999. (Some late ’90s Newsonomics for you: Monthly uniques dropped from 500,000 to 400,000 with the paywall, which got somewhere north of 20,000 takers.)
The good news from last week was that 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the Obamacare-created exchanges. The not so good news is that because most of us have to buy coverage from a private insurer, we will always have to be vigilant to make sure our medical claims get paid and that an insurance bureaucrat miles from where we live doesn’t succeed in denying coverage for medically necessary care.
While we’ve heard a lot recently about the growing number of folks who are at long last able to join the ranks of the insured, we haven’t heard much at all about the important provisions of the law that make many of the previously common industry practices unlawful.
Among other things, insurers can no longer refuse to sell us coverage because we’ve been sick in the past or even take the status of our health into consideration when figuring out how much to charge us for a policy. They also can’t charge women more than men or older folks more than three times as much as younger folks. And they must allow young adults to remain on their parents’ health plans until age 26.
The reason health insurers discriminated against women and people of a certain age as well as anyone not in tip-top shape was because their discriminatory underwriting practices enabled them to sell policies with relatively low premiums to people who were least likely to need medical care. And for the big for-profit insurers that now dominate the industry, those practices made it much easier for them to meet Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.
Don’t think for a minute, though, that the large institutional investors that own health insurers’ stock these days are cutting the companies any slack when it comes to their profit margins.
As I’ve often said, the one thing most health insurers know how to do is make money. They make billions off of us every year. Obamacare won’t change that. In fact, because Congress succumbed to pressure from the industry’s lobbyists and ditched plans to create a “public option” to compete with insurers, billions more in premium revenue and federal subsidies will flow to them for years to come.
But investors and Wall Street financial analysts look far more closely at profit margins and earnings per share than total revenues.
To keep Wall Street happy, insurers undoubtedly have begun shifting resources from their underwriting departments to their so-called medical management teams. I’m confident that people who work in medical management are under more pressure than ever from the executive office to avoid paying claims whenever possible.
That has been my fear since the reform law was passed and the consumer protections went into effect. So it’s especially important now to scrutinize those “Explanation of Benefits” statements our insurers send us after we get medical care.
Insurers know that many if not most of us do little more than glance at them before throwing them away. They’re hard to understand by design. If you can’t decipher them, chances are you’ll give up and just hope that your insurer and health care providers are treating you fairly and that you are not being billed for care that your policy should cover.
Numerous studies over the years have shown, however, that patients have at least an even chance of prevailing if they go to the trouble of appealing a claim denial or a ruling by somebody in medical management that your doctor-ordered care was not medically necessary.
The most recent proof of that came last week in a Capital Public Radio story out of Sacramento. CPR found after analyzing several years of data compiled by California’s insurance department that patients won about half of the appeals they filed with state regulators after getting a claim denial from their insurer. CPR also noted that a 2011 GAO report based on data from several states prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act found that patients were successful between 39 and 59 percent of the time when they appealed directly to their insurer.
Many patients who don’t succeed that way, however, go the additional mile of reaching out to their state insurance departments or their state legislators or members of Congress — or even the media. That enhances the chances their insurers will agree to pay the disputed claims.
“When appealing to a third party (such as the state insurance commissioner), patients also were often successful in getting the service in question — winning as many as 54 percent of such decisions in Maryland, for example,” CPR reported.
Bottom line here: With profit margins under pressure because of Obamacare, insurers likely will be denying more of your claims and inserting themselves even more between you and your doctor when it comes to medically necessary care, but you should never take a “no” as the final answer. Appeal — and be a squeaky wheel — whenever you get a denial. Chances are that if you do, you’ll get the care you need, and get your insurer to pay for it.
The idea came to Marten Blankesteijn as the team behind Blendle, a new Dutch newsreading platform that allows readers to pay by the article, was out for beers one Friday night: Readers should be refunded if they don’t like an article for any reason.
“When my co-founder first proposed the idea, I thought he was crazy,” Alexander Klöpping, Blendle’s co-founder told me. “After a half hour I started to understand and after an hour I thought, Yeah this really might be one of the most important parts of the product.”
Blendle takes content from 15 or so of the Netherlands’ top newspaper and magazine publishers and allows users to buy stories individually, with just a click, no matter where they were originally published. The publishers set the price and take 70 percent of the revenue while Blendle takes the other 30 percent. But Blendle needed a way to convince readers that they weren’t risking too much by, say, clicking on that overwrought trend piece about gezichtshaar. (That’s Dutch for facial hair.)
There will be a limit to how many times a user can get a refund based on a ratio of how many stories they actually pay for — so the more you spend, they more you can return. When a reader asks for a refund, Blendle always asks why they want their money back, a feature that Klöpping said has already shown some worthwhile insights. For instance, many readers thought they were paying too much for short articles. “That tells us maybe we should do something about the pricing,” Klöpping said.
Still, while Blendle thinks the return policy will increase engagement, many publishers remain skeptical. Blendle is still in beta, and Klöpping said it’s too soon to tell if the policy was actually making a difference since it had changed how the refunds worked a number of times during the beta process. (Blendle is scheduled to go fully live a week from today, on April 28.)
“We have some reservations toward that specific feature,” said Han-Menno Depeweg, digital publisher of NRC Media, which publishes NRC Handelsblad, one of the Netherland’s largest daily newspapers. “It’s one thing to give readers’ their money back if there are technical issues or something is wrong with the formatting, but it’s another if they don’t like the content,” Depeweg told me. “As a publisher, we don’t want to give back money.” (Despite its reservations, NRC Media has decided to offer the refunds.)
The publishers are also still figuring out what the proper price point is for an article. TMG Media, which publishes De Telegraaf, the largest newspaper in the Netherlands, is initially selling shorter articles for €0.10 ($0.14) and longer pieces for €0.25 ($0.35), said Bart Brouwers, the company’s head of business development.
“All the publishers are in the same boat, and I have really no clue for what would be a reasonable price for an article,” Brouwers said. “Could you ask more for a column or ask more for a feature story? And something that’s exclusive for you? Does that have more value than other articles? That’s part of the experiment.”
With a population of only 16 million, the Netherlands is a small country, but according to the European Journalism Centre, a paid newspaper is read in about half of all Dutch households, though newspaper readership has declined in recent years. Since the bottom hasn’t fallen out of the print newspaper business, publishers there have been slow to innovate in the digital space, said Klöpping. “In Holland, basically we had a situation where all newspapers were for a long time very comfortable doing their paper subscriptions,” he said.
“We have iPad apps where we can read the PDF per issue or get a subscription, but that’s really it,” Klöpping added, noting that the papers have free sites, but there is less online content and it is completely different than what you’d read in print. “There’s no metered pay walls. There’s nobody like the Guardian, putting it all online for free and making money from the advertising. That’s just not going on in Holland. They now do feel the crunch of getting smaller circulation and they do feel the pressure to be a little bit more innovative.”
The race to make Dutch journalism more digital
RELATED ARTICLEGetting personal: A Dutch online news platform wants you to subscribe to individual journalistsAs a result, there’s been an explosion of attempts to innovate digitally in the Netherlands. Blendle is one of a handful of Dutch platforms — eLinea, MyJour, and Yournalist are among the others — that are attempting to bill themselves as a central place for users to read news from multiple publications. If Blendle is an iTunes for news, eLinea would be Spotify — users pay €9.99 ($13.80) per month for unlimited access to the the content it offers. Yournalist also follows the Spotify model, but it’s still in development. MyJour, similar to Blendle in that you pay by the article, also recently introduced the ability to also return articles.
Many within the Netherlands say Blendle is one of the most promising of the platforms as it’s “technically, organizationally, and marketing wise the best at this moment,” said Brouwers. He added that Klöpping, who regularly appears on Dutch television, has become the face of media entrepreneurship in the country.
RELATED ARTICLEA Dutch crowdfunded news site has raised $1.3 million and hopes for a digital-native journalismStill, there’s no guarantee that Blendle, or any of the other platforms, will be successful. TMG is participating with all of them as part of a yearlong experiment, Brouwers said. The publishers need to find other forums of revenue, and they’ve decided that it’s worth seeing if any of the third-party news reading apps will take off.
“We need those partners because they’re more flexible than we are at the moment,” Brouwers said. “They’re more entrepreneurial than we are at the moment. What we see happening is that they are taking steps that we’re not capable of at this moment, which is a shame. But still, it’s the case, and that’s why really we want to give it a chance. But still, we’re not really certain if this is going to work either for us or for the resellers themselves.”
But they might not need the partners for long. A number of publishers are in the process of developing a platform called Newz that will act as a central clearinghouse for the news organizations to send their content to the third-party applications. Newz is six to nine months away from being completed, but it ultimately could pursue additional third-party applications to sell the content to or even become a consumer-facing product.
Blendle is generating excitement in the Netherlands, however, and many are anxious to get access, said René van Zanten, director of Stimuleringsfonds voor de Pers, a government-funded body that provided Blendle with €200,000 in seed capital. Blendle has also received funding from private investors, and Blankesteijn and Klöpping “have put in a lot of money ourselves,” Klöpping said.
“Everyone is exchanging passwords to see what’s going on,” van Zanten said. Though his fund has also provided capital to other journalism startups, he said Blendle’s model of paying by the article is more likely to work than a single flat fee because news organizations would rather readers pay for a subscription to their publication.
“For most of them that’s more than 10 euros a month,” van Zanten said. “They think they will lose the subscriptions. It’s a very defensive point of view, but they’re not willing to go along with that, or they’ll only provide a few articles per day, but people will get tired of it and they’ll prefer something like Blendle where they can get anything they want.”
One of the other features that sets Blendle apart, van Zanten noted, is its social focus. In addition to sharing articles on Twitter and Facebook, readers can see what stories their friends and other people they follow are reading.
Klöpping says the group is focusing now on getting the platform off the ground in the Netherlands, but is already looking at other similar countries in Europe where they could expand. “What we’re paying attention to is countries where they have newspapers that don’t have a lot of content online for free,” he said. On a recent trip to the United States, Klöpping also met with a number of news organizations to discuss possibly having their content be available to readers in the Netherlands via Blendle. He would not disclose who he met with, but said “you can guess the big names.”
Photos courtesy Blendle.
A recent deal announced by inflight entertainment company Global Eagle and digital content provider Magzter will give airlines—and their passengers—access to thousands of local, regional and international magazines.
The initial rollout of the service will be made available to Global Eagle’s airline partners Dubai-based Fly Dubai and Brazil’s largest carrier, TAM Airlines. continued…
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Reporters Without Borders has learned with “immense relief and great joy” that four French journalists who had been held in northern Syria by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) since June 2013 – Didier François, Edouard Elias, Nicolas Hénin and Pierre Torres – were released at the Turkish border last night.
“To say we are delighted by their release is an understatement,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. “It is deeply satisfying to now know with certainty that the support committee's optimism was not unfounded and that the four hostages have recovered what they should never have lost – their freedom"
“The optimism did not of course prevent concern. The families, colleagues and friends were confident that the hostages would be eventually be released but no one knew when and after how many more months in captivity. Would the Islamist group holding them decide to keep them under its control until the end of this terrible conflict in Syria? It was a possibility. Could the worst take place? In this sort of case, only the definitive release of the hostages and their return to a safe place can end the anxiety.”
Reporters Without Borders pays tribute to the efforts of their families, their colleagues, the support committee led by French journalists Florence Aubenas, Serge July and Karen Lajon and all those who, like RWB, defend freedom of information.
“Our thoughts go out to all the other journalists still held hostage in Syria and to the more than 100 news providers who have lost their lives covering the Syrian conflict,” Deloire added.
Nine foreign journalists and more than 20 Syrian news providers are still held hostage or are missing in Syria, while around 40 Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists are being held by the government.
Just over two months after publishing its first revelations about the NSA’s mass surveillance program, First Look Media’s The Intercept is taking a break. Well, sort of.
The newest member of the team (that we know of), built around former Guardian journalist and Edward Snowden cohort Glenn Greenwald, is editor-in-chief John Cook of Gawker. And on Monday, April 14, Cook took to the Intercept’s blog to explain why there hasn’t been a whole lot of action from The Intercept’s reporting team.
The main reason for the lack of reporting coming out of the team, which also includes Liliana Segura formerly of The Nation, is that they launched before they were 100 percent ready to launch. That is, they started posting stories detailing the NSA’s surveillance and other government programs before they were fully staffed and had a long-term vision for what The Intercept should be. Wrote Cook:
Until we have completed the work of getting staffed up and conceptually prepared for the launch of a full-bore news operation that will be producing a steady stream of shit-kicking stories, The Intercept will be narrowly focusing on one thing and one thing only: Reporting out stories from the NSA archive as quickly and responsibly as is practicable. We will do so at a tempo that suits the material. When we are prepared to publish those stories, we will publish them. When we are not, we will be silent for a time, unless Glenn Greenwald has some blogging he wants to do, because no one can stop Glenn Greenwald from blogging.
So there you go. The Intercept’s decision to go live was based on a broader obligation to just start reporting, “not based on an assessment that everything that one needs for the successful launch of a news web site — staff, editorial capacity, and answers to questions about the site’s broader focus, operational strategy, structure, and design,” said Cook.
Personally, I appreciate the sentiment that the website and editorial strategy don’t have to be perfect in order to set up shop. Ezra Klein‘s Vox did something similar and dubbed the site’s first iteration “a work in progress,” almost as if to invite criticism. The idea that The Intercept — even with such a specific topic focus — should have hammered out every single detail about what it wanted to be before launching is unfair. But, I can understand the complaints around the Web that The Intercept’s design is boring at best, given the $250 million eBay founder Pierre Omidyar funneled into the project. For all we know, though, part of their silence could be allowing for a total makeover.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
There’s a new and mysterious political animal roaming on the Montana plains, where one of the hottest U.S. Senate races is brewing.
A super PAC called the “Big Sky Freedom Fund,” based in Billings, Mont., isn't indicating who its leaders are or who it's backing.
It only says it intends “to raise funds in unlimited amounts” and to explicitly call for the election or defeat of federal candidates, according a registration form letter filed this week with the Federal Election Commission.
One clue does exist, though: The name of its treasurer, Nancy Watkins — the only person named on its FEC filing — suggests the group will have a pro-Republican orientation.
The Florida-based Watkins ranks among the GOP's most prominent campaign accountants. Her other clients includes the likes of Rep. Michele Bachmann’s leadership PAC, former Ambassador John Bolton’s super PAC and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts’ Ending Spending Action Fund super PAC.
Watkins — who, along with her husband, also raised at least $100,000 for President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, according to Texans for Public Justice — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Bowen Greenwood, the executive director of the Montana Republican Party, told the Center for Public Integrity that he was unaware of the new super PAC.
“I’m afraid I don’t have any information on that,” he said.
The race for Montana's U.S. Senate seat — long-held by Democrat Max Baucus, who resigned earlier this year to become the next ambassador to China — is already attracting significant out-of-state interest despite the state's small voting population.
Republicans need to pick up six Senate seats to wrest control of Congress’ upper chamber away from the Democrats this fall — and many hope that Montana will be one of them.
Democrat John Walsh, the state’s former lieutenant governor, is currently serving as the interim senator. He faces a primary challenge on June 3, and the winner of that race is expected to square off against Republican Steve Daines, the state’s current lone congressman.
Already, American Crossroads — the super PAC juggernaut co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove — has reported spending about $150,000 on ads attacking Walsh.
And Americans for Prosperity — the nonprofit supported by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch — has also spent about $400,000 on ads thanking Daines for voting against President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law, according to the Billings Gazette.
Lauren Passalacqua, a spokeswoman for Walsh's campaign, said she was unfamiliar with the Big Sky Freedom Fund but said Walsh's opponents were "threatened by John and the good work he’s doing."
"We expect a lot of dark money groups to try to buy this election for Congressman Steve Daines," she added.
The newspaper industry narrowed its total revenue loss in 2013 to 2.6 percent, the best performance since 2006, according to figures released today by the Newspaper Association of America.
Online news has certainly come a long way from the early days of the Internet when many were skeptical of the credibility of online-only news operations.
The recent announcement that the Alaska Dispatch, a born and bred, online-only news operation, will buy the McClatchy-owned Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest daily newspaper, sent more than a few ripples through the news industry. continued…
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Reporters Without Borders is worried by the criminal proceedings that the CAR authorities have initiated against three journalists and urges the media and the transitional authorities to defuse the tension in their relations.
Last week, two newspaper editors were arrested and taken before a judge on charges of libelling President Catherine Samba Panza in articles. They are now being held in Bangui prison. A warrant was issued for the arrest of a third journalist, who is on the run.
The arrests were carried out although the newspapers had already been suspended by a special court of peers, which includes representatives of the Observatory for Central African Media (OMCA) and the Union of Central African Journalists (UJCA).
“While deploring the quality of these articles, which the UJCA president himself described as worthy of ‘gutter press,' we are disturbed to see journalists detained for offences that have been decriminalized for nearly ten years under the 2005 press law,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa Desk.
“We would also like to know the legal grounds used by state prosecutor Ghislain Gresenguet for issuing the warrants for the arrest of these three journalists, inasmuch as the main person concerned, the president, did not bring a complaint against theses publications.”
Arrested on 14 and 15 April respectively, Le Palmarès editor Régis Zouiri and Le Peuple editor Patrick Stéphane Akibata appeared in court on charges of “insulting the president,” “defamation,” “public insult” and “attacking internal state security” and were then taken to Bangui prison.
Only the last of the four charges should be the subject of criminal proceedings. The third journalist, currently on the run, is Ferdinand Samba of Le Démocrate.
During the hearing on 8 April before the court of peers, attended by the deputy prosecutor, Le Peuple and Le Démocrate were sentenced to suspensions of one and two weeks respectively.
It is essential in the CAR's current political and security crisis that the media and the authorities should each respect the roles and responsibilities of the other. The media's right to freedom of expression is balanced by the duty to be accurate, to gauge the right tone to use, to verify sources and to corroborate facts.
At the same time, it would benefit the transitional authorities, which have duty to restore the rule of law as quickly as possible, if they were to ensure that the existing national laws are applied rather than misused for short-term objectives.
The Central African Republic fell from 65th to 109th position in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. This was the biggest fall of any of the 180 countries ranked in the index.