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Wyoming Battle: Right to Privacy vs. Public's Right to Know

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 10:58am
Corey HutchinsNovember 21, 2014Columbia Journalism Review

The nation’s least populous state may become the next battleground pitting a citizen’s right to privacy against the public right to access information. At issue is a debate over whether to amend the Wyoming state constitution. The new language would provide that “the right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest." “I’m worried that a constitutional right to privacy may result in a lot of … documents being locked up,” said Jim Angell, director of the state press association. “Everybody has a right to privacy, right? And what about crime reports involving public officials? Will they ever see the light of day? There’s a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy — I see a lot of trips to court over this.”

Third Owner in 16 Months for Guild Members in Worcester

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 9:18am
StaffNovember 21, 2014Woscester Telegram & Gazette

The Guild-represented Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Mass., is becoming part of the Gatehouse family, the third owner of the paper in 16 months. The paper is one of 36 owned by Halifax Media Group that is being sold to the parent company of Gatehouse. Boston billionaire John W. Henry bought the T&G from the New York Times Co. in August 2013 as part of a $70 million deal that included The Boston Globe.Henry retained the Globe, but sold the T&G in May to Halifax. At the time of the purchase, Halifax Media, founded in 2010 by three private equity firms, said it acquired the T&G because it has a bright future and significant value.

Despite Fat Buyout Offer, Layoffs Likely at New York Times

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 8:59am
James WestNovember 21, 2014Mother Jones

The New York Times indicated Thursday that it's getting close to a round of forced layoffs of its journalists. The newsroom-wide email sent Thursday morning, obtained by Mother Jones, details responses to employee questions about a scheduled buyout program from Janet Elder, a deputy executive editor at the company. The email states that, "the most frequently asked question is about scale and whether or not there will be enough buyouts to avoid layoffs. Given that the buyout window is still open, it's hard to have an absolute answer to that question just yet. Early efforts to handicap the outcome regrettably point to having to do some layoffs."

2012 Broun Winner Rod Nordland Lands 'Major' Book Deal

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:30am
Kara Bloomgarden-SmokeNovember 20, 2014The New York Times

Rod Nordland, Kabul bureau chief for The New York Times and winner of the Guild's 2012 Heywood Broun Award, has signed what is reported to be a "major dead" with HarperCollins imprint Ecco to expand on a series of stories he wrote last year. The book, tentatively titled The Lovers and slated for publication next October, grew out his coverage of a Romeo and Juliet-type tale of a young Afghan couple from different ethnic sects, struggling to stay together despite the danger and threat of death that their union poses. “She is his Juliet and he is her Romeo, and her family has threatened to kill them both,” Mr. Nordland wrote in one of his stories about star-crossed lovers Zakia, 18, and Mohammad Ali, 21. Photo: Nordland accepting the Broun award in 2013.

New Tumblr Blog Outs Public Officials Who Refuse Comment

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:15am
StaffNovember 20, 2014Center for Public Integrity/Tumblr

A pair of Center for Public Integrity staffers posts to Tumblr that, "We’ve noticed that lately, whether it’s an investigative, nonprofit newsroom like us, an international outlet like the New York Times, or newer media like Politico or BuzzFeed — when journalists call, officials are choosing to comment less for on stories on the record." Responses include:  “The official did not return request for comment.” “The agency declined to comment for this story.” “They did not respond to several emails and phone calls requesting comment.” "No matter the wording, each of these statements means the same thing — we don’t want to publicly answer questions. This Tumblr is our way of shining a light on just how often that happens."

Why Screwing Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 10:33am
Kevin DrumNovember 20, 2014Mother Jones

As labor unions have declined in numbers, so have labor voices in the media. Pew Research found that labor leaders were only 2 percent of the sources for economic stories today. It wasn't always this way. Union leaders like John L. Lewis, George Meany, and Walter Reuther were routine sources for reporters from the '30s through the '70s. And why not? They made news. The contracts they signed were templates for entire industries. They had the power to bring commerce to a halt. They raised living standards for millions, they made and broke presidents, and they formed the backbone of one of America's two great political parties. They did far more than that, though. As historian Kim Phillips-Fein puts it, "The strength of unions in postwar America had a profound impact on all people who worked for a living, even those who did not belong to a union themselves."

Featured Title: How Screwing Labor Unions Screws the Entire Middle Class

Uber Uses 'God View' Tool to Track BuzzFeed News Reporter

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 2:55pm
Johana Bhulyan & Charlie WarzelNovember 19, 2014BuzzFeed

Uber has stepped in it again. After apologizing for one executive's comments threatening to smear reporters who write critical stories about the transportation company, Uber now acknowledges that it is investigating another executive for tracking a BuzzFeed News reporter without her permission. Tracking customers is easy using an internal company tool called “God View" (see illustration), two former Uber employees told BuzzFeed. They said God View, which shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees. Drivers, who operate as contractors, do not have access to God View.

Featured Title: Uber Admits Using 'God View' Tool to Track Reporter's Movements

DC Labor: NewsGuild Fires Up Picket at Washington Post

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 2:43pm
Chris Garlock & Robert StruckmanNovember 19, 2014DCLabor.org

“We really should have brought a fire barrel,” laughed NoVA president Dan Duncan as dozens of Washington Post staffers, fellow Guild members and supporters tramped in a tight noontime picket line Tuesday bundled up in winter coats, hats and scarves against the biting cold. “The louder we chant the warmer we’ll be!” shouted Guild Bargaining Committee member Tim Smith as colorful balloons bobbed in the icy wind on 15th Street. “Negotiations are in a really really tough place,” Guild Co-Chair Frederick Kunkle told Union City. Post management “has dumped a lot of terrible take-backs on the table,” including freezing pensions and attacks on retirement benefits and job security. “We’re just going to keep mobilizing to make this be a place where we can take a stand for treating workers fairly.”

Cold Temps Don't Chill Energetic Picket Outside WashPost

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 3:20pm
StaffNovember 18, 2014NewsGuild-CWA

On a sunny but chilly and windy lunch hour, dozens of Guild members at the Washington Post and supporters sent another clear message to owner Jeff Bezos and the paper's bargaining team: Post employees are united and prepared to fight all threats to their retirement security, as well as other unfair and unreasonable company demands. Tuesday's rally was the second major demonstration in less than a month in front of the Post building in downtown Washington. A brass band accompanied workers as they chanted and marched in solidarity. See more photos on the Guild's Facebook page


Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt on Journalists

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 9:04am
Ben SmithNovember 18, 2014Buzzfeed

A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company. The executive, Emil Michael, made the comments in a conversation he later said he believed was off the record. In a statement through Uber Monday evening, he said he regretted them and that they didn’t reflect his or the company’s views.

Chicago Guild Stands with Former S-T Reporter McKinney

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 4:17pm
David PollardNovember 17, 2014Chicago Newspaper Guild

Chicago Guild President David Pollard weighs in on the controversial departure of veteran Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney. "He did his job well, reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly in Springfield politics," Pollard writes in an open letter to members. "But as the recent Illinois gubernatorial campaign heated up, some politicos in that race didn’t like what they were reading under his byline. There were no inaccuracies in his reporting, but still their influence made its way to his superiors at the Sun-Times who wanted him not to pursue these kinds of stories regarding this candidate during the gubernatorial race."

Chicago Guild Stands with Former S-T Reporter McKinney

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 4:17pm
David PollardNovember 17, 2014Chicago Newspaper Guild

Chicago Guild President David Pollard weighs in on the controversial departure of veteran Chicago Sun-Times political reporter Dave McKinney. "He did his job well, reporting on the good, the bad and the ugly in Springfield politics," Pollard writes in an open letter to members. "But as the recent Illinois gubernatorial campaign heated up, some politicos in that race didn’t like what they were reading under his byline. There were no inaccuracies in his reporting, but still their influence made its way to his superiors at the Sun-Times who wanted him not to pursue these kinds of stories regarding this candidate during the gubernatorial race."

Reuters Dodges the Issues in Talks with New York Guild

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 4:08pm
StaffNovember 17, 2014The Newspaper Guild of New York

In a late October meeting with the Guild Bargaining Committee (pictured during a break in talks), Reuters representatives "had almost nothing to say about the issues we’ve told them are of paramount concern – job security, medical benefits and restoring differentials. The meeting confirmed what we already knew from their proposals: management has little regard for Guild members," the local reports. For instance, "On the vitally important topic of job security, management had no response to the Guild’s efforts to learn exactly how much the company relies on stringers and contract workers. In our previous session, the Guild spent a significant amount of time discussing management’s extensive use of “permalancers,” stringers and subcontractors, a practice that undercuts the integrity of our work. It transfers work from Guild members to people who are paid less, get none of our contract’s benefits and protections, and have no real connection to the company. It is critical to protecting our employment security, and it may be a violation of the law."

Featured Title: Reuters Response to NY Guild Boils Down to 'No Comment'

Thousands Rally in Quebec to Support CBC & Radio Canada

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 3:59pm
StaffNovember 17, 2014Canadian Media Guild

The Canadian Media Guild describes "an incredible afternoon Sunday," Nov. 16, as members joined with thousands of Radio-Canada/CBC supporters marching through the streets of Montreal and other cities to demand increased support for public broadcasting. Good union jobs and quality programming have been lost due to severe cuts, and more cuts loom. Photo: Guild members in Ottawa joined an Ottawa/Gatineau contingent organized by a new citizens group “CBC I care” at the Montréal rally.

Featured Title: CMG Members, Supporters Rally to Save Public Broadcasting

Remembering the 1994 San Francisco Newspaper Strike

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 3:50pm
Carl HallNovember 17, 2014Pacific Media Workers Guild

San Francisco newspaper workers have staged only a couple of strikes during the past 80 years, and they had a sort of accidental quality. In 1968, a few roving pickets from a Mailers Union strike at the Herald Examiner came up from LA, and somehow got a two-month strike going at the SF metros. Guild members carried signs declaring solidarity with the LA mailers, but legend has it that even while they kept marching round and round, journalists and front-office workers kept asking one another, “What’s a mailer?” In 1994 the issues that drove us out into the rainy streets were even more obscure. But at its heart, the strike was about solidarity.

Featured Title: Solidarity the Winner in 1994 San Francisco Newspaper Strike

FBI's Media Masquerade Rightly Infuriates Journalists

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 3:41pm
Lena WilliamsNovember 17, 2014Right to Report

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but that depends on who’s doing the imitating and why. Consider, for example, the bizarre case that recently came to light of the FBI posing as a reporter for the Associated Press. To lure a teenager suspected of sending bomb threats by email, an FBI agent sent the boy a fake AP story with built-in tracking software, leading to his arrest.In a letter to the New York Times,  FBI Director James Comey defended the sting as "proper and appropriate" and said that while a higher level of approval would be necessary for such techniques today, they would still be "lawful." But as Lena Williams, the Guild's Right to Report blogger, says, "lawful" doesn't make it right.

Featured Title: FBI's Media Masquerade Rightly Infuriates Journalists

New Media Celebrates Gains While Its Journalists Suffer

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 3:30pm
Jeff GordonNovember 17, 2014United Media Guild

Times are good for New Media Investment Group, parent company of GateHouse Media, whose growing empire includes the United Media Guild-represented State Journal-Register, Rockford Register Star, Pekin Daily Times, Freeport Journal-Standard and Peoria Journal Star. "Times are good for executives like Josh Trust, recently promoted from his post as the Register Star publisher," writes UMG President Jeff Gordon. "Times are not as good for our members at these newspapers, who work in stripped-down newsrooms while enduring eternal wage freezes." Facing those conditions, members at Gatehouse papers rallied Oct. 27 and continue to engage their communities in their fight for fairness. Photo: Rally in Springfield, Ill.

Featured Title: Guild Members at Gatehouse Step Up Fight for Raises, Fairness

Syracuse University Disinvites Journalist Over Ebola Fears

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:22am
Jim RomeneskoOctober 17, 2014JimRomenesko.com

The Washington Post’s Michel du Cille was supposed to critique student portfolios at Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications this week, but the university told him today to stay away. The reason: The photojournalist was in Liberia last month covering the Ebola crisis. “I am pissed off,” says du Cille, who returned from Liberia 21 days ago. “I am disappointed in the level of journalism at Syracuse, and I am angry that they missed a great teaching opportunity. Instead they have decided to jump in with the mass hysteria.”

Reporting on Ebola: How Journalists are Trying to Stay Safe

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:14am
Zoe MintzOctober 17, 2014International Business Times

During the 13 days she spent covering the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guardian newspaper journalist Monica Mark took every precaution. She checked her temperature every morning, every night and at any moment she felt the slightest twinge or ache. She hired a driver to avoid a taxi that could have been contaminated with someone exposed to the virus. In-person interviews were conducted at a distance. Washing her hands and boots with chlorine became second nature. So did wearing long johns and long-sleeved shirts in West Africa’s blazing heat. Wiping sweat off her brow was out of the question. Mark is among dozens of journalists who have traveled to West Africa to report on the Ebola outbreak that has killed thousands and continues to threaten the lives of health workers, family members and children. But the job has put journalists in the crosshairs of a virus that has a 70 percent mortality rate. NBC News freelancer Ashoka Mukpo reminded the world of this when he was diagnosed with the deadly virus on Oct. 2 while covering the outbreak in Liberia.

National Press Club Events Should Never Be 'Off the Record'

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:26pm
Lena WilliamsOctober 16, 2014NewsGuild-CWA

An "on the record" Press Club event, a 2013 panel discussion about media consolidation sponsored by the Guild. Columnist Lena Williams is at table, second from left.


The National Press Club won’t come right out and say it erred in allowing the media to be muzzled at an event featuring Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria. But journalists’ outrage over the off-the-record speech Oct. 8 is forcing the club to review its policies about renting its meeting rooms to speakers who don’t want their comments reported. The club violated its own principles by letting the International Stability Operations Association place last-minute media restrictions on Ford’s speech. No press at an institution dedicated to America’s free press? The century-old club for journalists and communications professionals was publicly excoriated in social media forums and news reports after Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that he was barred from reporting on Ford’s speech because it was off-the-record. “It’s unseemly for current and former government officials to be hobnobbing privately with government contractors,” Milbank wrote immediately after the event. “But it’s a whole other level of outrage for them to do it at the National Press Club – a century-old shrine to the free press – and to forbid journalists to report what they say.” He’s right and the Press Club knows it. Myron Belkind, president of the Press Club, all but admitted so when he called for a review of the club’s policy on room rentals during a Board of Governors meeting Oct. 10. Because Ambassador Ford’s speech was booked by a private company, Belkind said the Press Club didn’t set the rules. “When the event is ours, the ground rules are ours,” he said. “When the event is organized by an outside group, they establish the ground rules. It is rare for events here to be off-the-record. Rare, but it does happen.” I don’t want to sound sanctimonious, but off-the-record speeches should never be held at an historic bastion of press freedom whose stated mission is to “enhance the profession of journalism.” In news reporting, if a source asks to go off the record, reporters can choose to accept or deny the request, and the source can choose to speak out or not. Reporters had no such choice at the Press Club on Oct. 8. They were blindsided and mislead by the group of defense contractors sponsoring the event, according to Milbank. A news release issued by the International Stability Operations Association said nothing about media restrictions. The event was listed on the Reuters news wire. But when reporters and camera crews showed up, an ISOA official turned them away. After protesting, Milbank was told he could listen to Ford’s remarks as long as he didn’t write about them. It’s not the first time the Press Club has come under fire for silencing the very people it exists to serve. On February 2009, David Plouffe, Barack Obama’s campaign manager, delivered an off-the-record speech in a club meeting room rented by Georgetown University. When word leaked out that the event wasn’t on the record, journalists protested and the Press Club president sent a letter of complaint to Plouffe’s agent. But Plouffe didn’t budge, and the club allowed the event to go on as scheduled – with Milbank in the audience wearing what the Huffington Post described as a “a make-shift sandwich board that read, ‘I’m non-Plouffe-d’ on one side and ‘un-Plouff-able’ on the other.” The Press Club hosts more than 2,000 events a year. It depends more than ever on revenues from its event business, as members’ dues have declined along with jobs in the media industry. Milbank reports that membership has dropped to 3,100 from a high of 5,500. And 1,400 of today’s members, nearly half, are public relations professionals. From a financial standpoint, it’s easy to understand why the club doesn’t want to be too picky about who can book events at its downtown Washington headquarters. But it must be picky. Having built its prestigious reputation hosting presidents, world leaders and newsmakers of every sort, the club can’t afford to put a “for sale” sign on its principles. Belkind, the club president, says newsmakers, book tours and press freedom events are always on-the-record. But that’s not enough for some club members, who believe the policy should apply to any and all individuals or groups that book events. “If you rent here, it’s open to the press,” National Press Club member G.Wesley Pippert told the club’s annual meeting on Oct. 10. Pippert, a retired UPI reporter who was the wire service’s senior Middle East correspondent in Jerusalem, said visitors to the club “must adhere to its press freedom ideals.” Members were rightfully dismayed that the club’s leadership was slow to respond to Milbank’s column and a mention in Politico. “The Press Club was silent on that and our reputation took a big hit,” former club President Jonathan Salant said at the meeting. Even so, the Press Club seems ambivalent about how to handle future bookings. Belkind said it’s possible the club will ask clients to seek permission in advance to hold an off-the-record session. That’s not good enough. The Press Club should bar off-the-record events on its premises, period. It has the clout, prestige and leverage to demand that outside companies adhere to the basic principles of a free press and the public’s right to know. Washington is full of hotel meeting rooms that organizations and speakers can rent and turn the press away. But the press should never be turned away from the Press Club.