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White Noise: News from inside the media bubble

by the YES! staff

Getting rough on reporters

It’s always nice to see our fellow alt-weeklies win one, so we were pleased to hear that Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas had dismissed misdemeanor charges against Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, executive editor and chief executive officer respectively of the Phoenix New Times. According to editorandpublisher.com, Lacey and Larkin were arrested on Oct. 18 on the charge of unlawful disclosure of grand jury information after publishing details of a subpoena issued by special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik demanding reporters’ notes and, more disturbing, the identities of the paper’s website readers and their surfing habits. Wilenchik had been appointed to investigate allegations that the Times had violated the law in publishing the home address of Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2004. Whether they did or not will remain the subject of after-hours, law-school cocktail hour conversation as the case, along with Wilenchik, was dismissed on Friday and the reporters released, with Thomas stating in a press conference that the whole affair had been “badly mishandled”. Nice to see the law restrain itself without requiring the ACLU to step in. – DR

Journalists protected from testifying, bloggers not

The US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve a federal shield law for journalists on Oct. 16 with the passage of the Free Flow of Information Act. The law would protect many journalists engaged in the act of newsgathering from testifying in a court of law. Judges could still compel journalists to testify if all other avenues of obtaining evidence had been exhausted, or if national security were at stake. Oh, and the law only protects people who practice journalism for a living – sorry, bloggers. The Free Flow of Information Act is still a ways from becoming law; the Senate and the president still have to ratify it for the directive to become official. But last week’s vote is still significant because it marks the first time a federal shield law has graduated from committee. – AK

Bad politics, bad science

The statement by Nobel-winning scientist James Watson, who co-discovered the DNA helix to the Sunday Times of London earlier this month expressing the opinion that African intelligence is genetically inferior unsurprising spurred a firestorm of outrage and torpedoed what’s left of Watson’s career. For those who have had international news tuned out for the past few weeks, Watson reportedly said he’s “inherently gloomy about the prospects of Africa, because all of our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says its not really.” The scientist issued this curious apology: “I cannot understand how I could have said what I am quoted as having said. To all those who have drawn the inference from my words that Africa, as a continent, is somehow genetically inferior, I can only apologize unreservedly. That is just not what I meant. More importantly, from my point of view, there is no scientific basis for such a belief.” Considering the bigotry of Watson’s initial statement, the opprobrium expressed by Joseph Graves Jr., dean of university studies and professor of biological sciences at NC A&T University, on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” was relatively mild. “This seems to be an example of a person making a series of personal claims that are in opposition to genetic science,” he said. “The case for genetic science has never been made, and in fact, theoretically makes little to no sense. On the other hand, the environmental case for differences in intelligence has been made many, many times.” – JG

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