Pity the plight of poor Anthony Comstock. The man H.L. Mencken described as “the Copernicus of a quite new art and science,” who literally invented the profession of anti-obscenity crusader in the waning days of the 19th century, ultimately got, as legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield would say, “no respect, no respect at all.”
As head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and special agent for the U.S. Post Office under a law that popularly bore his name, Comstock was, in Mencken’s words, the one “who first capitalized moral endeavor like baseball or the soap business, and made himself the first of its kept professors.”
Continue reading “The Censor’s Dilemma”
Perhaps the most distasteful national omelet we’ve been served during the past four years has been the one that has mixed together an unsavory combination of three ingredients: fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.
While many express growing concerns and look for ways to deal with them, that may be difficult – if not impossible – as long as we use these terms without any agreed-upon definitions that set useful boundaries and are easy to understand among the public at large. The alternative is to continue repeating the mantra “fake news-misinformation- disinformation” so often that it loses meaning, or using the terms interchangeably so that they become permanently blurred in our minds.
Continue reading “Guardrails for Describing Fake News, Misinformation, and Disinformation”
With a start of a new year, some notable public attitudes about critical institutions seem to be on a downward trend. These include traditional media, like newspapers, broadcast stations, and cable networks, which are often thrown together in opinion polls aimed at gaining key insight into their credibility with audiences of readers and viewers.
The Edelman Trust Barometer found only 46 percent of Americans trust traditional media. This is the lowest number recorded since the data was first tracked two decades ago. It found 58 percent of Americans believe that “most news organizations are more concerned with supporting one ideology or political position than with informing the public” and found over half also think that the Fourth Estate is “trying to mislead people by saying things they know are false or gross exaggerations.”
Continue reading “Why Distrust of News Needs More Sophisticated Analysis”
Two hundred and thirty-one years ago this week, Congress passed a collection of amendments to the U.S. Constitution, 10 of which would become the Bill of Rights. Foremost in the Bill of Rights is the First Amendment, which allows Americans to worship how they please, speak their minds openly, and have their voices heard by their government.
Our Founding Fathers, in their infinite wisdom, also included in the First Amendment the right to a free press. They understood that our democracy could not survive without the freedom to report the news without fear or favor. The times may have changed; that principle has not.
Continue reading “First Amendment Still Shines During Toughest of Times”
From shifting commercial placements to premature newspaper endorsements, this year’s early balloting procedures are having a massive effect on media operations. Political strategists are figuring out how and more importantly when to place ads in this unprecedented season of extensive early voting.
The Halloween weekend deluge of campaign ads just before Election Day on Nov. 3 may be meaningless if up to half of voters have already cast their ballots. In a related vein, the ripple effect of advertising decisions also affects ad timing for down-ballot races, where voters may need more coaxing.
Continue reading “Early Voting Brings New Media Challenges In Advertising and Editorial Endorsements”
Whatever happens with police reform legislation in Congress, there is no reason to expect that protection of reporters and media will figure into the proposed “best practices” of how journalists should be treated during tense and often violent situations such as we’ve seen in the past month. Generalized protections already exist in the First Amendment, but as the brutal incidents of the past month show, law enforcement officers can recklessly bypass those enshrined barriers.
A slew of reports – some of them admittedly self-pitying – emerged in recent weeks with frightening details about how print and electronic journalists have been attacked by law enforcement officers. It appears that sometimes reporters were singled out as they sought to cover the protests and demonstrations that erupted around the world after George Floyd’s death-by-knee in Minneapolis.
Continue reading “Ending the Media Versus Police Tumult”
are living in challenging times for those who depend on the work of a free
press. Every day, journalists across the
globe encounter censorship, harassment, and violence. In every part of the world, authoritarian
rulers are increasing their grip on the press, trying to prevent reporters from
holding the powerful to account.
The Washington Post
is sadly familiar with these attacks.
Our reporter Jason Rezaian was arrested and held inside Tehran’s
notorious Evin Prison for 544 days, even though he had committed no crime. We are grateful that he is now free and back
at The Washington Post, where his
writing often focuses on the importance of press freedom.
Continue reading “An Independent Press: Essential to Our Democracy”
There is a saying
that goes, “Everybody has a story to tell.”
My own NAB Show
story began a decade ago – almost to this day, in fact – when I spoke at my
first show as the new president and CEO.
On that morning, I shared the story of broadcasters’ unrelenting
commitment to always be there for their communities … to inform them … and to
It is a
deep-rooted commitment that manifests itself in many ways that often go
unnoticed – in ways that have become ingrained in everyday life for millions of
turn on the radio to find out what the weather is like before heading to work …
to learn how to help their neighbors in need … or to listen to the great
personalities who seem like old friends.
They turn on their televisions to watch their favorite local news anchor
and to get an unbiased report of what is happening in their communities.
Continue reading “Broadcasting Today: Energized by Innovation”
The news media’s
annual celebration of Sunshine Week, which takes place March 10-16, has always
called to mind the importance of access to government information, transparency
of public records, and the idea that the free flow of information is an
essential element of “good government.”
Created by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) in 2005, the event was timed to coincide with the March 16 birthday of Founding Father James Madison, a strong supporter of the Bill of Rights. It has always been envisioned as a celebration of the Freedom of Information Act signed into law on July 4, 1966, which outlined mandatory disclosure provisions for federal documents and records.
Continue reading “Who Will Keep the Sun Shining?”
Free Speech Week has always been a time to celebrate freedom of expression. This year, however, perhaps there should be an element of somber reflection amid the festivities. It’s worth remembering, after all, that the exercise of free speech can have life-or-death consequences in certain parts of the world. How thankful we should be that freedom of speech and freedom of the press can be exercised in this country without fear of such extreme retaliation.
The sad case of Jamal Khashoggi brings this into sharp relief. The disappearance and murder of the Washington Post contributing columnist, which the Saudis now admit occurred at the hands of their own operatives, happened just three weeks before Free Speech Week, October 22 – 28. He joins a long list of journalists from around the world who have disappeared or been killed while working in pursuit of the truth, who spoke out too stridently or too frequently against corrupt government leaders and their abuses of power.
Continue reading “Free Speech Week: Celebrating, Reflecting”