We all know internships are the best way to get a job in media, right? Er, not so much, according to this interactive chart via LinkedIn.
The research doesn’t even delve into the issues of paying interns or what, if anything, you can get from working in digital media. If you scroll down and click through the Media/Entertainment category you’ll see that:
- In Sports, Publishing, and Media Production, there are lots of internships available (as any job board search will show) but very few actually turn into full time positions.
- If you want to get into broadcast as a journalist, you’re in even worse luck: few opportunities, and of those, you have almost no chance of getting a job.
For communications and journalism majors starting school this season, that can be discouraging. But it’s also the nature of the industry. Scrolling over Financial Services, you might be wont to change majors. But big accounting firms, for example, recruit their interns and breed them into full time employees. It’s sort of like being in the military, you pass one test, or grueling six month program, and move up the ranks.
In news and publishing, it’s a little harder. Some solutions:
What are your internship woes? Let us know in the comments or @10,000Words.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
She and two other activists, who also got jail terms, were arrested in February
The Vietnamese authorities displayed their warped sense of justice again on 26 August when a people's court in the southern province of Dong Thap sentenced blogger and pro-democracy activist Bui Thi Minh Hang to three years in prison at the end of a summary trial that violated defence rights.
Two other activists who were tried with her, Nguyen Van Minh and Thi Thuy Quynh, were given jail terms of 30 and 24 months respectively. All three were convicted of “causing public disorder” under paragraphs (a) and (b) of article 245 of the penal code.
The authorities deployed major security measures at the trial and prevented more than 200 people, including friends and relatives, from attending. Around 40 bloggers who went to the courthouse to support the defendants were roughed up and arrested by police, who confiscated mobile phones, cameras and other electronic devices.
Four defence witnesses were also prevented from attending the trial, in which the prosecution used rigged evidence. Bloggers who were present at Hang's arrest said they were pressured by police to make written statements identifying her as the instigator of the alleged “public disorder.”
“This latest jail sentence, imposed in complete violation of defence rights, is further evidence of the Vietnamese authorities' contempt for freedom of information and for those who try to use this freedom,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific Desk.
“We call for the immediate release of Hang and all the other bloggers who are being held for political reasons.”
Hang has staged four hunger strikes since her arrest on 11 February, when police detained her and around 20 other activists as they were on their way to visit the family of the jailed human rights lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen. Most of them were released after about 12 hours.
The first time Hang's daughter was allowed to see her since her arrest was on 18 August.
Vietnam is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Amid censorship, arrests of journalists, and a steady flow of government propaganda, one news outlet in Zimbabwe is boldly getting on with business. The Source is Zimbabwe’s first business news service and is operating across the country, breaking stories and covering that country’s struggling economy. “We are not an underground service,” says Nelson Banya, a former Reuters correspondent who is now the top editor, sitting in his brightly lit office in bustling Harare. “We are registered. We comply with the law… Our strength is that economic news is kind of viewed as less threatening.”
Even as a growing number of authoritarian regimes crack down on the political press, business news is thriving. And the coverage is more vigorous than might be expected. Enterprising journalists are exposing mismanagement and unearthing shady business deals—and even at times exposing official corruption—that otherwise might never see the light of day. While other journalists face censorship, jail, or worse, business journalists are eschewing political stories to provide news and statistics on markets, business deals, and international trade.
The expansion of economic and business journalism is not a substitute for truly free and independent media. But it is a sign that—even in the most repressive environments—the demand for trustworthy information is strong and growing. And the demand comes not just from investors and citizens trying to keep track of what’s going on in these fast-changing markets, but also from governments, who themselves rely on the press for up-to-date information.
“Economic players are not going to operate in an environment where you can’t get accurate and credible information,” says Michelle Foster, an international media consultant and trainer who specializes in the business sustainability of media. “Freedom of information related to business is a critical component for businesses in making a decision to invest in a country.”
It remains to be seen whether the tolerance for business news will expand to the political realm and to increasing freedoms overall. Press freedom around the globe has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade, Freedom House reported in its most recent annual report, Freedom of the Press 2014. The report goes on to say that the proportion of the planet’s population living in countries with free media remains stuck at 14 percent.
Countries from Asia to Africa to Eastern Europe have all seen increased demand for business and economic information that often collides with restrictive press laws and practices. The business media has attracted local as well as foreign investors, who see this area of the media market as not only meeting a strong demand, but less risky as an investment.
Governments need an accurate picture of business activity in their countries, and businesses themselves need information about market conditions and about their competitors. For media development organizations, this provides a target of opportunity. Working with journalists and news outlets that specialize in business coverage can help improve the quality of news media in general, and business coverage can also provide a means for engaging the private sector with media and media development.
All over the world, the journalism of business is booming—online business magazines alone number in the hundreds. This is true even in countries with less than free news media:
- In China, the daily business publication Caixin is doing top-notch reporting, online and in print.
- In Zimbabwe, as noted above, the business news service The Source is operating throughout the country with no interference from the government of Robert Mugabe.
- For Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has announced the launch of a $10 million program, the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa, to strengthen economic and business coverage.
- In Russia, the daily business newspaper Vedomosti has been operating for 15 years even as general news media has struggled under government control.
- In Cambodia, a handful of business publications have sprung up.
- Latin America boasts several strong, successful business newspapers, such as Brazil’s Valor Econômico and Argentina’s Ambito Financiero.
- In Malaysia, BFM 89.9 started out as a business news radio station in 2008 but has begun to branch out into other subjects, including a recent report on the problems of indirect censorship for news media.
Within their focus on business, economics, and finance, media outlets such as these also engage in investigative journalism that can uncover corruption.Asking Touch Questions in China Enterprising journalists are exposing mismanagement and unearthing shady business deals—and even official corruption—that otherwise might never see the light of day.
“China doesn’t want the spread of fake pharmaceuticals,” says Joyce Barnathan, president of International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and a former correspondent for BusinessWeek based in Hong Kong. “Areas of investigative journalism are thriving.”
Since 2007 the ICFJ has operated a highly popular global master’s degree program in business journalism at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The program is run in partnership with Bloomberg and has received funding from Bank of America. Bloomberg journalists teach in the program, and there are Bloomberg business computer terminals available to the students, which gives them business data in real time. Barnathan attributes the interest of these U.S. financial institutions in the program to their realization that “these are the emerging business leaders” in China.
“The business press has improved markedly in the last five years,” Barnathan says. “Business reporters ask tough questions now.”
Jane Sasseen, a longtime journalist and now executive director of the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, taught financial journalism at Tsinghua in the fall of 2013. Even though political reporting is strictly controlled, the Chinese authorities “understand they need more economically literate reporters who can write about the economy… global trade and how the global economy works,” Sasseen said in an interview. “There’s a lot more freedom and flexibility around that.”
She found the students enthusiastic about the subject. “They’re hungry. They’re dying to understand the way the world works.”
Sasseen taught an introductory unit on the stock market, giving each of her students an imaginary $1,000 to buy a stock portfolio. But she had to begin by explaining what a stock market is and where you get the information about the stock as well as other basics of economics: “How do central banks work? Why is monetary policy important? How to read a financial statement? How do markets work?”
The students learned that information about Chinese companies—even those controlled by the government—is available online if the companies file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, even if that data is not available in China.Business journalism in China has become more professional and that there has been greater interest in coverage of environmental issues.
Sasseen says she has seen accurate reporting in the Chinese business press but somewhat less deep coverage than one would see in U.S. business publications. “Stories tended to be weaker on analysis, on explaining the difficulties a particular company’s strategy or a proposal might face. That’s one of the most important things we focused on in teaching all our courses.” On the other hand, she says, she has noticed an increase in investigative reporting about the environment and services.
A Chinese journalist who requested anonymity concurred, saying that business journalism in China has become more professional and that there has been greater interest in coverage of environmental issues lately.
Tsinghua’s graduates are in high demand by employers, Barnathan says, calling them “the hottest hires in Chinese media.” The students receive hands on and practical instruction in English, which is attractive to Chinese media organizations as they go ever more global in their ambitions.
One Chinese business journalist, Hu Shuli, has made her mark internationally. In 2011, Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world, calling her “a paragon of reporting brilliance in China.”
In 1998, Hu founded the business magazine Caijing (whose name translates as “Money and Economy”). A decade later she and many members of the staff left Caijing following a dispute with the publisher. The ostensible reason had something to do with the shareholding structure of the ownership, but she had been overseeing hard-hitting investigative journalism and exposing corruption.
She and her colleagues launched Caixin (“Money News”) in 2009, and it has been producing well-respected business journalism ever since. Caixin’s coverage doesn’t shy away from touchy subjects. For example, an article in June 2014 detailed an investigation into possible racketeering by executives of the state-owned CCTV and raised questions about the lack of a firewall between CCTV’s advertising and editorial operations.Defying the Odds in Zimbabwe
In Zimbabwe, where the government of Robert Mugabe has closed the media space, The Source is thriving. The business news service was launched in October 2013 with support from the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Dutch Foreign Ministry via the European Journalism Centre (EJC).
“It borrows from the Chinese model. You can see real progress in China,” says Josh LaPorte, the EJC’s country project manager for Zimmbabwe, who was key to getting the project off the ground. “It’s a way to spread journalism’s wings.”
The Source’s stringers around the country learn their craft on the job and write stories outside of the area of business. “It does raise the bar of journalism in general,” LaPorte says.
The Source is set up with two seasoned media hands in the Harare bureau and a dozen stringers spread out over the rest of the country to cover local economic news. Mainstream media are clients, and they judge their success by how many of their stories get picked up by other media. During an interview in Harare, Banya flipped through a binder of stories that were broken by The Source and then carried or followed up by local newspapers. He pointed proudly to a single page in the Zimbabwe Mail where two prominent stories were attributed to The Source.
“We’ve been quite happy because we’ve never gotten so much pick up in the local press.” Banya says. “We have a stringer in virtually every town in the country. Zimbabwe hasn’t seen anything like it. There has been very little coverage of the rest of the country, outside the capital. Our view is that a lot of big things start as a series of small things.”
“Zimbabwe is a country that needs (foreign direct investment). Potential investors are looking for trustworthy information.” Banya says. “The economy is now more important than politics. The players in the local economy are starved of economic data.”
“There is also a lot of confusion about policies. We try to keep people informed and on track about changing policies, present as clear a picture as we can of the investment climate.”
Banya says that so far the government has not placed restrictions on his team’s reporting or censored any of The Source’s reports.” The biggest obstacle has been starting a new service, getting our brand recognized,” he says. “We have a fairly litigious government, but we have had no lawsuits.”
He is not sanguine about the prospects of continued freedom, however. "Economic conditions are worsening. If things go badly, the government can lash out… For now, we enjoy peace, but I wouldn’t bet on that continuing forever.” LaPorte says The Source is supported through 2015 under a five-year project of the Dutch Foreign Ministry via a consortium of Dutch NGOs called Press Freedom 2.0. The consortium has about 20 million euros in funding, and the portion for Zimbabwe is about 2.2 million, about half of which is for The Source.
Business journalism presents an opportunity, LaPorte says, because “there is such a gap in Zimbabwe.” The journalism schools “were horrible as a recruiting ground as they had been devastated,” he says. Under Mugabe, attacks on independent media had made it “so nobody wanted to be a journalist anymore.” Journalism schools were mainly churning out people who would become government spokesmen, so they recruited in business schools and taught business students how to write.
The Source is registered as a trust, and to sustain itself in the future it will likely have to rely on the use of public money—what LaPorte called “public venture capital”—to eventually create a for-profit enterprise.Working in Other Difficult Media Environments
Other examples of business news organizations operating in difficult media environments can be found in a variety of places, including Russia and Cambodia. In its chapter on Russia, Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press 2014 says:
Meaningful political debate is mostly limited to weekly magazines, news websites, some radio programs, and a handful of newspapers such as Novaya Gazeta or Vedomosti, all of which are aimed at urban, educated, and relatively well-off Russians. Although these independent outlets are tolerated to some extent, the main national news agenda is firmly controlled by the Kremlin.
The daily business newspaper Vedomosti has been around since 1999. It was founded with the support of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times and is now owned by Sanoma Independent media, billed as the largest publisher in Russia. According to its website, Vedomosti sees its mission as informing “readers on a daily basis about the most important economic, political, financial and corporate events.”
In Cambodia there are a variety of publications covering business news, according to media consultant Michelle Foster, who has worked there. Some of the strongest business reporting is in Chinese, Foster says, adding “and the major investor in Cambodia is China.”
It’s a measure of the importance of media to functioning markets and the private, commercial sector that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would invest $10 million to improve news media in Africa. The press release announcing the initiative in February 2014 says:
Timely and accurate reporting of business and financial matters play a critical role in advancing efficient markets and is a key driver in supporting economic and social growth. Strengthening business and economic news coverage, expanding training programs for journalists and providing greater access to reliable data about Africa are frequently cited as important enablers to the continent’s continued development.
Bloomberg’s initiative includes partnerships with universities in Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria and will focus its energies on mid-career fellowships for journalists, sharing journalistic best practice at forums, and offering cross-disciplinary education.
“Reliable data and financial analysis bring transparency to markets and promote sound economic development—and they can help keep Africa growing and creating opportunity,” Bloomberg said in the initiative’s announcement.
Bloomberg’s involvement in business journalism education at Tsinghua University in China and his newer initiative in Africa serve as clear examples of what the private sector can do to help develop sustainable news media. The media development community would do well to reach out to other businesses and engage them in the effort to improve and support media around the world.
This article originally appeared as a briefing paper for the Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy and is reprinted here with permission. CIMA Senior Director Mark Nelson contributed to this report from Harare, Zimbabwe.
Don Podesta is manager and editor at CIMA. At the Washington Post he served as an assistant managing editor, deputy foreign editor, and South America correspondent, covering Peru’s war against the Shining Path guerrilla movement and drug violence in Colombia. Before that, he worked as an editor or reporter for the Washington Star, Minneapolis Star, Miami Herald, and Arizona Republic.
This project was produced by News21, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Sheriff Mike Lewis considers himself the last man standing for the people of Wicomico County.
“State police and highway patrol get their orders from the governor,” the Maryland sheriff said. “I get my orders from the citizens in this county.”
With more states passing stronger gun control laws, rural sheriffs across the country are taking the meaning of their age-old role as defenders of the Constitution to a new level by protesting such restrictions, News21 found.
Some are refusing to enforce the laws altogether.
Sheriffs in states like New York, Colorado and Maryland argue that some gun control laws defy the Second Amendment and threaten rural culture, for which gun ownership is often an integral component.
They’re joined by groups like Oath Keepers and the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, both of which encourage law enforcement officers to take a stand against gun control laws.
The Role of a Sheriff
Lewis and some other sheriffs across the nation, most of them elected by residents of their counties, say their role puts them in the foremost position to stand up to gun laws they consider unconstitutional.
“The role of a sheriff is to be the interposer between the law and the citizen,” said Maryland Delegate Don Dwyer, an Anne Arundel County Republican. “He should stand between the government and citizen in every issue pertaining to the law.”
While the position of sheriff is not found in the U.S. Constitution, it is listed in state constitutions: Article XIV of Colorado’s, Article XV of Delaware’s, Part VII of Maryland’s and ARTICLE XIII of New York’s. Nearly all of America’s 3,080 sheriffs are elected to their positions, whereas state and city police are appointed.
When Lewis was president of the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association, he testified with other sheriffs against the state’s Firearms Safety Act (FSA) before it was enacted in 2013. One of the strictest gun laws in the nation, the act requires gun applicants to supply fingerprints and complete training to obtain a handgun license online. It bans 45 types of firearms, limits magazines to 10 rounds and outlaws gun ownership for people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
After Lewis opposed the FSA, he said he was inundated with emails, handwritten letters, phone calls and visits from people thanking him for standing up for gun rights. He keeps a stuffed binder in his office with the laminated notes.
“I knew this was a local issue, but I also knew it had serious ramifications on the U.S. Constitution, specifically for our Second Amendment right,” said Lewis, one of 24 sheriffs in the state. “It ignited fire among sheriffs throughout the state. Those in the rural areas all felt the way I did.”
In New York, the state sheriff’s association has publicly decried portions of the SAFE Act, legislation that broadened the definition of a banned assault weapon, outlawed magazines holding more than 10 rounds and created harsher punishments for anyone who kills a first-responder in the line of duty. The act was intended to establish background checks for ammunition sales, although that provision hasn’t taken effect.
A handful of the state’s 62 sheriffs have vowed not to enforce the high-capacity magazine and assault-weapon bans. One of the most vocal is Sheriff Tony Desmond of Schoharie County, population 32,000. He believes his refusal to enforce the SAFE Act won him re-election in 2013.
“If you have an (assault) weapon, which under the SAFE Act is considered illegal, I don’t look at it as being illegal just because someone said it was,” he said.
Desmond’s deputies haven’t made a single arrest related to the SAFE Act. Neither has the office of Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum of Ulster County. Van Blarcum said it’s not his job to interpret the Constitution, so he’ll enforce the law. But he said police should use discretion when enforcing the SAFE Act and determining whether to make arrests, as they do when administering tickets.
In Otsego County, New York, population 62,000, Sheriff Richard Devlin takes a similar approach. He enforces the SAFE Act but doesn’t make it a priority.
“I feel as an elected official and a chief law enforcement officer of the county it would be irresponsible for me to say, ‘I’m not going to enforce a law I personally disagree with,’” he said. “If someone uses a firearm in commission of a crime, I’m going to charge you with everything I have, including the SAFE Act. I won’t do anything as far as confiscating weapons. We’re not checking out registrations. People that are lawfully using a firearm for target shooting, we’re not bothering those people.”
Colorado made national headlines when 55 of the state’s 62 sheriffs attempted to sign on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of several 2013 gun control bills in the state. The most-controversial measures banned magazines of more than 15 rounds and established background checks for private gun sales.
A federal judge said the sheriffs couldn't sue as elected officials, so Weld County Sheriff John Cooke and eight other sheriffs sued as private citizens. Cooke was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which a federal district judge threw out in June. He and the other plaintiffs are preparing an appeal.
“It’s not (the judge’s) job to tell me what I can and can’t enforce,” Cooke said. “I’m still the one that has to say where do I put my priorities and resources? And it’s not going to be there.”
Cooke has won fans with his opposition. He, like Maryland's Sheriff Lewis, keeps a novel-thick stack of praise and thank-you notes in his office. He’ll run for a Colorado Senate seat in November and is endorsed by the state’s major gun lobby, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.
Lewis, who is running for re-election this year, said sheriffs have a responsibility to push against what he sees as the federal government’s continual encroachment on citizens’ lives and rights.
“Where do we draw a line?” he asked. “I made a vow and a commitment that as long as I’m the sheriff of this county I will not allow the federal government to come in here and strip my law-abiding citizens of the right to bear arms. If they attempt to do that it will be an all-out civil war. Because I will stand toe-to-toe with my people.”
But Maryland Sen. Brian Frosh, an FSA sponsor and gun-control advocate of Montgomery County, said Lewis’ understanding of a sheriff’s role is flawed is flawed.
“If you are a sheriff in Maryland you must take an oath to uphold the law and the Constitution,” said Frosh, now the Democratic nominee for Maryland attorney general. “You can’t be selective. It’s not up to a sheriff to decide what’s constitutional and what isn’t. That’s what our courts are for.”
Bronx County, New York, Sen. Jeffrey Klein, who co-sponsored the SAFE Act, agreed that sheriffs who refuse to enforce laws they disagree with are acting out of turn. Constitutional sheriffs are not lawyers or judges, Frosh said, which means they are following their convictions instead of the Constitution.
“We had lots of people come in (to testify against the bill) and without any basis say, ‘This violates the Second Amendment,’” Frosh said. “They can cite the Second Amendment, but they couldn’t explain why this violates it. And the simple fact is it does not. There is a provision of our Constitution that gives people rights with respect to firearms, but it’s not as expansive as many of these people think.”
But sheriffs have the power to nullify, or ignore, a law if it is unconstitutional, Maryland Delegate Dwyer said. He said James Madison referred to nullification as the rightful remedy for the Constitution.
“The sheriffs coming to testify on the bill understood the issue enough and were brave enough to come to Annapolis and make the bold stand that on their watch, in their county, they would not enforce these laws even if they passed,” said Dwyer, who has recognized the sheriffs for their courage. “That is the true role and responsibility of what the sheriff is.”
Rural versus Urban Divide
Some rural sheriffs argue that gun control laws are more than just unconstitutional — they’re unnecessary and irrelevant. In towns and villages where passers-by stop to greet deputies and call local law enforcement to ask for help complying with gun laws, they say, firearms are less associated with crime than they are with a hunting and shooting culture that dates back to when the communities were founded.
Edward Amelio, a deputy in Lewis County, New York, shares that sentiment. There’s no normal day for Amelio, who has patrolled the 27,000-person county for eight years. But he usually responds to domestic disputes, burglaries and car accidents. That’s why he considers the SAFE Act unnecessary.
“We issue orders of protection and some contain a clause the judge puts in there saying a person’s guns are to be confiscated,” Amelio said. “That’s mostly when we deal with guns.”
Zachary Reinhart, a deputy sheriff in Schoharie County, New York, said he responds to a wide variety of calls, too.
“Our calls range from accidental 911 dials to domestic disputes to bar fights,” he said. “You can’t really typify a day at the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office. It’s all pretty helter-skelter.”
Violent crime also isn’t common in Wicomico County, Maryland, where Lewis is sheriff. He receives daily shooting reports from the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which are not available for public disclosure.
“You always see ‘nothing to report’ in the eastern region, in the southern region, in the northern region, in the western region,” Lewis said. “But the Baltimore central region? Homicide after homicide after homicide.”
Even though there are few gun crimes in rural areas, Sheriff Michael Carpinelli in Lewis County argues that people need guns for self-defense.
“People rely on the police in an urban environment to come and protect you all the time,” he said. “People who live in a rural area also rely upon the police, but they realize that they live further out from those resources and that they may have to take action themselves.”
Duke law professor Joseph Blocher said gun culture has varied in urban and rural areas for centuries.
“It has long been the case that gun use and ownership and gun culture are concentrated in rural areas. whereas support for gun control and efforts to curb gun violence are concentrated in urban areas,” he said. “In the last couple decades we’ve moved away from that towards a more-centralized gun control.”
Lewis bemoaned lawmakers who craft gun-control legislation but are ignorant about guns. “They have no idea between a long gun and a handgun,” he said. “Many of them admittedly have never fired a weapon in their lives.”
But Klein, the Bronx County senator, said he does understand the gun and hunting culture in upstate New York.
“Growing up, my father was in the military,” Klein said. “When I was younger, I had a .22-caliber gun. In the past, I’ve gone pheasant hunting, quail hunting. It’s great," he said. "I mean, there’s nothing that we do in Albany, especially with the SAFE Act, that in any way takes away someone’s right to own a gun for hunting purposes.”
Oath Keepers and CSPOA
If former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack had it his way, there wouldn’t be a single gun control law in the U.S.
“I studied what the Founding Fathers meant about the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, and the conclusion is inescapable,” said Mack, the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA). “There’s no way around it. Gun control in America is against the law.”
He knows his no-compromise stance has cost him and the CSPOA the support of some sheriffs and law enforcement organizations around the country. And it’s resulted in civil rights agencies labeling CSPOA an anti-government “patriot group.”
But Mack, the former sheriff in eastern Arizona’s rural Graham County, is not letting up. His conviction is central to the ideology of CSPOA, which he founded in 2011 to “unite all public servants and sheriffs, to keep their word to uphold, defend, protect, preserve and obey” the Constitution, according to his introduction letter on the association’s website.
CSPOA also has ties to Oath Keepers, an organization founded in 2009 with a similar goal to unite veterans, law enforcement officers and first-responders who pledge to keep their oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Mack serves on the Oath Keepers Board of Directors.
Oath Keepers is larger and farther-reaching than CSPOA, with active chapters in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and an estimated national membership of 40,000. Its website features a declaration of “orders we will not obey,” including those to disarm Americans, impose martial law on a state and blockade cities.
CSPOA grabbed media attention in February with a growing list of sheriffs — 484 as of late July -- professing opposition to federal gun control. Detailed with links beside each name, the sheriffs’ stances run the gamut from refusals to impose a litany of federal and state gun-control laws, to vague vows to protect their constituents’ Second Amendment rights, to law critiques that stop short of promising noncompliance.
Only 16 of those 484 are listed as CSPOA members.
Some sheriffs perceive Oath Keepers and CSPOA as too radical to associate with. Desmond, of Schoharie County, New York, is known around his state for openly not enforcing provisions of the SAFE Act that he considers unconstitutional. Still, he’s not a member of either organization.
“I understand where they are, I guess, but I just have to worry right here myself,” Desmond said. “I don’t want to get involved with somebody that may be a bit more proactive when it comes to the SAFE Act. I want to have the image that I protect gun owners, but I’m not fanatical about it.”
Mack is familiar with that sentiment. He suspects it’s hindered the growth of CSPOA.
“This is such a new idea for so many sheriffs that it’s hard for them to swallow it,” Mack said. “They’ve fallen into the brainwashing and the mainstream ideas that you just have to go after the drug dealers and the DUIs and serve court papers — and that the federal government is the supreme law of the land.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights nonprofit that classifies and combats hate and extremist groups, included both CSPOA and Oath Keepers on its list of 1,096 anti-government “patriot” groups active in 2013. Both groups have faced criticism for their alleged connections to people accused of crimes that range from possessing a live napalm bomb to shooting and killing two Las Vegas police officers and a bystander in June.
Media representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center did not return phone calls and emails requesting comment.
Franklin Shook, an Oath Keepers board member who goes by the pseudonym “Elias Alias,” said the organization doesn’t promote violence, but rather a message of peaceful noncompliance.
“What Oath Keepers is saying is ... when you get an order to go to somebody’s house and collect one of these guns, just stand down,” Shook said. “Say peacefully, ‘I refuse to carry out an unlawful order,’ and we, the organization, will do everything in our power to keep public pressure on your side to keep you from getting in trouble for standing down. That makes Oath Keepers extremely dangerous to the system.”
The Future of Gun Control Laws
Self-proclaimed constitutional sheriffs hope that courts will oust gun control measures in their states — but they recognize that may not happen. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of gun control legislation in Maryland, New York and Colorado have been, for the most part, unsuccessful.
In New York, five SAFE Act-related lawsuits have yielded few results: One lawsuit resulted in an expansion of the magazine limit from seven rounds to 10, but the rest of the measures were thrown out and are awaiting appeal; a similar lawsuit was stayed; a third was thrown out and denied appeal; and two additional lawsuits have been combined but are stagnating in court.
Plaintiffs in the Colorado sheriff lawsuit are preparing to appeal the decision of a federal district judge who in June upheld the constitutionality of the 2013 gun control laws.
A lawsuit seeking to overturn Maryland’s assault weapons and high-capacity magazine bans went to trial in July, but the judge has yet to issue a ruling.
“My hope is that the governor will look at it now that it’s been a year plus and say, ‘We’ve had some provisions that have failed. Let’s sit down and look at this and have a meaningful conversation.’” New York's Devlin said. “I personally don’t see that happening, but I’d like to see that happen.”
Emilie Eaton is a News21 Hearst Fellow. Jacy Marmaduke is a News21 Peter Kiewet Fellow. Sydney Stavinoha is an Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation News21 Fellow.
Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried about the Libyan media, which continue to be targeted amid the chaos of the worst political and military crisis in Libya since the fall of the Gaddafi regime in August 2011.
Controlled by the government-backed Zintan brigades since Gaddafi's overthrow, Tripoli international airport has now been seized by the Misrata brigades and their allies in the course of the “Libya Dawn” campaign launched on 13 July. As the situation gets more complex by the day and the authorities struggle to win legitimacy in the face of destabilization by militias and other armed groups, the media, by being manipulated or physically attacked, find themselves at the heart of this political and military anarchy.
Condemning the use of news media as propaganda tools and to foment divisions, Reporters Without Borders reiterates the need for the utmost independence, impartiality and professionalism on the part the media in their reporting, especially during political and military crises, when the role they should play as objective sources of news and information is all the more crucial.
“It is crazy and deeply regrettable that the principles for which the Libyan people fought in the revolution three years ago, including freedom of information, are again being flouted,” said Reporters Without Borders assistant research director Virginie Dangles. “The original surge of hope has gradually been replaced by a new dark page in Libya's history. Journalists are being persecuted, assaulted or killed, and the media are prey to constant attacks or are being used to help generate biased news coverage.”
Attacks, assaults and manipulation
One of the latest media to be targeted is the privately-owned satellite TV station Al-Dawliya (Libya International), located on the airport road in southwestern Tripoli, which was surrounded by cars belonging to “Libya Dawn” militiamen on the night of 25 August, a representative of the station said. The militiamen overran the station, ransacking its offices and seizing most of its equipment and files. By chance, no employee was present at the time except a security guard, who was able to warn its staff that an armed attack was under way.
An unidentified video posted on Al-Dawliya's Facebook page shows military men outside the TV station's ransacked studios with a car on which “Fajr Libya” (Libya Dawn) is written. The man shooting the video can be heard describing the TV station as “corrupt, shameful and seditious” and those responsible for the attack as “brave and courageous heroes.”
The attack follows threats against Al-Dawliya and many of its employees. Its board is headed by Mahmoud Jibril, a former chair of the National Transitional Council and president of the National Forces Alliance (NFA), a liberal party critical of Libya's Islamists, and by Abdel Majid Al-Mligta, a senior NFA official and brother of Othman Al-Mligta, who heads Al-Qa'qa'a, one of the powerful Zintan brigades.
The attack on Al-Dawliya came just days after two of its producers, Osama Rashid and Mohamad Al-Sa'di, were kidnapped by the “Shuhada Janzour” brigade in the western Tripoli district of Janzour on the night of 17 August. At first, they were just stopped and questioned at a checkpoint, but when it emerged that they worked for Al-Dawliya, they were insulted and beaten, and then detained. They were finally freed after being mistreated and roughed up for five days. Rashid said they owed their release to the intervention of Nizam Al-Tayyari, who is the head of the board of the state-owned TV station Al-Rasmiya and one of its anchors. Rashid said Tayyari convinced the militiamen that the two producers were not responsible for Al-Dawliya's support for “liberal” sectors and its anti-Islamist editorial line.
Al-Assima, another privately-owned TV station, was attacked again on 24 August, just hours after the final Libya Dawn assault on Tripoli airport. Armed men stormed into headquarters at around 4 a.m., ransacking and destroying equipment and files and setting fire to the control room. No employee was injured but the station is still unable to broadcast. Headed by Jum'a Al-Osta, Al-Assima is well known for supporting the NFA and Jibril and has been the target of repeated physical attacks for nearly two years.
In a separate development, the broadcasts of Al-Rasmiya and another state-owned TV stations, Al-Wataniya, were stopped on 20 August at the behest of the transitional government's information ministry, which asked the Egyptian state-owned TV satellite company Nilesat to stop carrying their signals.
This decision was taken after Al-Wataniya was overrun on 4 August by a militia controlled by Abdelraouf Kara, an Islamist ally of the Misrata brigades during the past two months of fighting in Tripoli, who ordered Al-Wataniya not to broadcast the new parliament's inauguration in the eastern city of Tobruq.
Ever since then, Al-Wataniya has remained under the control of Kara and his militias, including the “deterrent forces” and the Nawasi brigade, which has turned it into their propaganda mouthpiece. Several sources also claim that, after being arrested or kidnapped, many journalists have been taken directly to a secret Tripoli prison operated by Kara.
As for Al-Rasmiya, despite being the Libyan parliament's official mouthpiece, the station had not been broadcasting the sessions of the new parliament that was elected on 25 June. Violating its statutes, the TV station's Tayyari-led board refused on the grounds that the new parliament was not legitimate.
Ever since then, Al-Rasmiya has just been covering the Libya Dawn campaign, thereby becoming a completely one-sided and illegal news outlet. According to one of its leading presenters, Ahmad Ben Ashour, 21 of its journalists resigned just before satellite transmission was stopped because of its “manifest support for extremists and armed militias.”
Although Nilesat transmission was ended at the government's request, Al-Wataniya and Al-Rasmiya quickly resumed broadcasting by using the satellite frequencies of the children's TV station Libya Al-Atfal.
Reporters Without Borders urges all parties to the current fighting to immediately cease all attacks against journalists and to respect the principles of media independence and neutrality and the essential watchdog role that the media should play in their news coverage.
RWB also urges the Libyan authorities to deploy all necessary resources to end the physical attacks on journalists and their news media, and to guarantee the safety of all Libyan and foreign reporters.
The Knight News Challenge released a report this week on “Lessons Learned,” from past projects. The report, completed in a collaboration with Arabella Advisors, uses survey and interview data with 2010-2011 winners and is a great resource for anyone looking to submit a proposal for the next challenge — or anyone thinking of starting a news focused project in their newsroom.
1) Figure out what kind of manpower you need. You can mix full time staff with volunteers, but you definitely need a dedicated, paid, group of people to be focused on the project all of the time. Passion is always a plus. We all have a passion for journalism and innovation, so much so, that it’s kind of a boring trait to have. But nothing gets people motivated like being compensated fairly for their time. Think about this in the newsroom: you want more interactive data visualizations. You can’t just ask someone to do it in their free time if you’re serious about increasing the use of them on your site. You need to give someone more money to launch that project or hire another team member.
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.