White Noise: News from Inside the Media Bubble
Movin’ on up
Mosi Secret, an award-winning writer at the Triangle’s Independent Weekly, has accepted a position at ProPublica, a non-profit organization devoted to investigative reporting. Secret will join an all-star staff of investigative journalists culled from the country’s top daily and weekly papers. ProPublica was founded and funded by financiers Herbert and Marion Sandler, who has pledged $10 million a year of foundation money to finance the group’s work. The Sandlers have been major contributors to Democratic candidates, leading some critics to question the impartiality of their enterprise. If newspapers and magazines interested in ProPublica’s output can satisfy their concerns about bias, they will be able to publish the organization’s articles for free.
Creepy pen pal
With frightening echoes of Son of Sam and the Zodiac Killer, the Fayetteville Observer received last week an anonymous letter from a writer purporting to be the murderer of Spc. Megan Lynn Touma, the pregnant soldier found dead in a Fayetteville hotel room. The letter, according to the Observer was signed with a symbol similar to the one written in lipstick on a mirror at the crime scene, a ploy pinched wholesale from the Zodiac Killer. The anonymous letter writer also claims to have killed before and that he will do so again, that the cops are inept, and that this particular killing was a “master piece” [sic]. Fayetteville police acknowledge that this is a lead, but that they have doubts as to the veracity of the message. “There is absolutely no reason to believe there have been any other killings or that any other killings have occurred related to this so-called confession,” a department spokesman said. The Observer received the letter last Wednesday, but held off on running the story at the behest of police. After a tipster described the similarities between the symbol on the letter and the one at the crime scene, the newspaper went ahead with the story. “We wanted to be responsible stewards of the information, to weigh our obligation to inform the public with the possibility of the damage we could do,” Executive Editor Brian Tolley said.
Shari’a, we don’t like it
Facing South, the blog of the Institute for Southern Studies in Durham, with which I hold a nominal professional affiliation, ran an item on June 19 entitled “Blackwater defends embrace of Islamic law,” based on the North Carolina mercenary outfit’s recent PR offensive with the Raleigh News & Observer’s editorial board. In a transcript published by Facing South, Blackwater CEO Erik Prince responds to a question by Executive Editor John Drescher about why the company wants Islamic Shari’a law to apply in a civil lawsuit brought by the widow of a US soldier killed on one of the company’s planes in Afghanistan, essentially saying that the matter is so legally complex that only lawyers would understand. Drescher apparently wasn’t having it. “I’m a citizen who read the case, and North Carolinians are very patriotic,” he says. “We’re going to write on a motion you all have filed, so you need to know where my line of questioning is. Very patriotic people. It’s hard to read – to be honest with you, it’s hard to read that brief as American citizens and not be insulted by it. Here you have an American company operating a plane with six Americans that crashed in Afghanistan. As far as I know, there’s no Afghanistan citizen involved in this in any way, shape or form.”