White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
Of tempests and teapots
Not that anyone but a small handful actually pay attention to this sort of thing, but a minor shitstorm on News & Record Editor John Robinson’s blog erupted after it was reported in this paper that Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer does not fact-check the information presented in the Jerry Bledsoe series “Cops in Black and White,” which thus far has encompassed more than 50 installments over nearly two years. That’s kind of a big deal. Hammer compares Bledsoe, who is writing as a freelancer and not a staffer, to wire services like those provided by the Associated Press and The New York Times, saying, “I took no specific actions as editor-in-chief of The Rhinoceros Times which relate to fact checking what appeared in his series or to corroborate the facts which appear in his series. Similarly, newspapers throughout the country do not routinely corroborate facts they obtain from other news sources.” For the record, we here at YES! Weekly routinely fact-check not only our local columnists but also our syndicated writers – even Alexander Cockburn makes mistakes. At any rate, Robinson’s post elicited 140 comments from the usual cast of characters, and the action bled over into Ed Cone’s blog, eliciting 55 comments. Nothing was resolved. And this is why we call this section “White Noise.”
It’s not easy to get into the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. We should know – we’ve been trying for the last three years. Last weekend, while we were nursing the sting of our latest rejection, four papers out of the 11 that applied made the membership grade. Lansing, Michigan’s City Pulse got the nod, as did Hilo’s Hawaii Island Journal, Calgary’s Fast Forward and Las Vegas CityLife, Congratulations to all the new members, especially Fast Forward and CityLife, who got in despite some thorny ownership issues. Meanwhile, we’ll be taking some of what we learned in Philadelphia and applying it to our own paper. After all, there’s always next year.
The long and winding road to document authentication
As summer commences, scurrilous information from obscure sources is likely to surface and receive play from partisans intent on staining the reputations of the two major-party presidential contenders. Think Swift Boat redux. Now, enter “The Kenya Connection,” a column by Daniel Johnson published in January in the New York Sun which draws some loose conspiratorial thread between Sen. Barack Obama, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, the National Muslim Leaders’ Forum and the tribal massacres last fall in the homeland of Obama’s father. Johnson’s column references a purported “electoral pact” between Odinga and the Kenyan Muslim leaders promising that, “if elected, he would establish Sharia laws, not only in the northern and coastal regions where Kenyan Muslims are concentrated, but throughout the country.” Wikileaks.org, an outfit that relays sensitive (and un-vetted) documents to journalists, released the memo in November 2007, according to a Monday e-mail from Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, who describes it as a forgery. Assange writes that at the time of the release Wikileaks noted several factors that called into question its authenticity, but partisans ran with it while ignoring the organization’s analysis. Now a second memo, in which Wikileaks puts more stock, has surfaced that contains a pledge to investigate instances of Kenyans being renditioned as part of the Global War on Terror. Whew! And what does this have to do with Obama? Back to Johnson: “In August 2006, Mr. Obama visited Kenya and spoke in support of Mr. Odinga’s candidacy at rallies in Nairobi.” Citizen journalists interested in picking up the investigative trail are directed to wikileaks.org.