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White noise

by YES! Staff

Media News & Reports

When we started this newspaper the president was George W. Bush. Washington was a remote place, and the leader of the free world was notoriously disdainful of the press, going so far as to tell reporters in the White House press pool that he didn’t read their stories. And the Bush administration made sloppy attempts to manipulate the media discourse, in one instance funneling $241,000 to conservative commentator and former High Pointer Armstrong Williams, who championed the president’s No Child Left Behind Act. The Obama administration, it turns out, has embarked on a far more sophisticated campaign to destroy the Fourth Estate. The administration has set out to demonstrate just how irrelevant the press is by distributing video clips to its supporters, setting up a special website with live video and frequently updated reports for the inauguration — essentially creating its own news service. The administration’s other strategy is to take the information that was once controlled by a handful of national newspapers and broadcast entities, and disseminate it to the lowliest of journalistic organs. We never got a press release from the Bush administration, but the White House Media Affairs Office sends me an e-mail roughly every 24 hours, including weekends. Whether it’s good for the media or not, it’s certainly interesting when the White House Media Affairs Office forwards the USA Today reporter’s pool report at 4:35 p.m. on Friday. For the non-initiated, a pool report is basically a reporter’s organized notes. When press access is limited, the chosen reporter is obliged to widely share his or her notes so that other reporters can draft their own stories. For a taste of it, USA Today’s David M. Jackson sent this pool report to the White House at 3:50 p.m. It begins, “POTUS participated in a planning meeting on hurricane preparedness at FEMA in advance of the unofficial June 1 start of hurricane season. No news, no color.” Jackson sets the scene: “At 3:15 p.m., 55 minutes after arriving at FEMA’s southwest HQ, the president spoke for about five minutes in a room called the National Response Coordination Center. He sat at head of long table with 19 others from a variety of federal agencies. Among them: Brennan, Napolitano, Jones, FEMA’s Craig Fugate, Geithner, Donovan, Vilsack, Chu, Orszag, Jt Chiefs vice chairman Cartwright, reps from HHS (Corr), DOT, DOD (Lynn), VA, NORAD, National Guard, DOJ, Army Corps.” We’ll skip POTUS’ remarks, which are unremarkable. The dispatch ends: “Pool was out after about 6 minutes and back to motorcade — which was uneventful in both directions. Left White House at 2:15 and returned at 3:30.”  — JG The ‘U’ word A UNCG professor claims the Raleigh News & Observer no longer uses the word “undocumented” due to backlash from its readers. Nolo Martinez, who also serves as the assistant director for the Center for New North Carolinians, made the statement during a public forum on education opportunities for undocumented students in Winston-Salem on May 27. Martinez said people get angry when news outlets use the word “undocumented” rather than illegal, but semantics are very important. “When you label someone, you deny them,” Martinez said. In a May 2008 opinion piece, N&O Public Editor Ted Vaden pointed out that two past N&O headlines that used the words, “illegal” and “aliens” prompted reader protests. The News & Observer did not comment on this report. Alejandro Manrique, executive editor of Qué Pasa said coverage of immigration issues by the state’s newspapers reflects larger national trends of using the words “illegal” and “aliens.” The policy at Qué Pasa is to use the word “undocumented” when referring to people unauthorized to be in the country. “It’s a lack of accuracy and precision to call people ‘illegals’ or ‘aliens,’” Manrique said. “The way you fight stereotypes is to tell the truth. It’s not true to say they’re illegal. No one is illegal by definition.” Manrique also participated in the May 27 forum. He said the term, “illegal alien,” is a way to strip a person of their humanity. Manrique praised The New York Times for its practice of mostly using the word “undocumented” rather than “illegal” or “aliens.”— KTB In through the outsource For their May 26 editions, John Adamian, the group managing editor of Connecticut’s ***Hartford Advocate***, ***New Haven Advocate*** and ***Fairfield County Weekly***, outsourced much of the writing to freelance journalists working in India. Eleven scribes from the subcontinent covered topics as diverse as local live music, restaurants, news, sex advice and cars for the alternative weekly chain without stepping foot in the state. They placed ads on the Bangalore and Mumbai pages of Craigslist, hired the best they could find from more than 100 applicants and stamped each piece with a “Made in India” logo. A wrap-up article by the staff of the New Haven paper made it clear that the experiment was a one-off stunt and not an indication of the future of the medium. “Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price,” it said. “Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what’s lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence.” See for yourself at www.newhavenadvocate.com — BC

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