Saudi Arabia’s war on witchcraft: This Atlantic article discusses the Saudi effort to eliminate witchcraft in the country, employing Harry Potter sounding agencies to catch magic doers. At first glance, the headline seems ridiculous to westerners, and it’s a little hard to put aside cultural differences on this one. I read this from the perspective of how a journalist who likely does not believe witches and sorcerers are ruining Saudi Arabia handled speaking with subjects who deeply believe this is a problem. On one hand, Americans learned a long time ago how witch hunts end up, on the other hand, many, many countries believe magic exists. Who’s to say who is right or wrong in this situation? Live and let live, but how do you report on it without seeming like a jerk? This is a pretty good example.
Lady Journos: In this Poynter interview, my two favorite things are combined: journalism and women. Two recent J-school grads started up a longform outlet for ladies, something severely lacking in the media. As the interview with the founders, Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz, points out, in 2012 Harper’s had 76 bylines by men and 17 by women, The Atlantic had 176 men and 47 women, and The New Yorker had 445 men and 160 women. It’s no secret that men dominate the media (a new golden age??), so The Riveter is a refreshing start up. “The Riveter is an important project because women’s voices are important. They have to be represented in the important genre that is longform.” Yeah!
Girl Power: Speaking of women, Mayor Menino declared Aug. 23 Girl Power day in Boston. The power of a lame duck politician is literally boundless. The best part of the whole thing (besides ample excuses to listen to the Spic Girls) is the pen Menino used to sign the proclamation. Where can I get one of those?
The preferred pronoun is a non-problem: The New York Times published an article discussing how different media outlets are handling Chelsea Manning’s announcement that she prefers female pronouns and a new name. The wikileaker was sentenced to 35 years in prison this week, and made the announcement following the sentencing. The AP Style book advocates using the pronoun the article’s subject prefers, yet AP will stick with gender neutral pronouns. The New York Times will stick with male pronouns until Private Manning begins a physical transition, saying the sudden change would confuse readers. NPR is disregarding Manning’s request, keeping male pronouns and using the name Bradley. The media is showing its age by not using Manning’s preferred pronouns; it is showing the overall ignorance toward gender and trans* issues. Wikileaks and trials aside, if a she says she’s a she, she’s a she. No questions asked.
How Laura Poitras helped Snowden spill his secrets: In what I expected to be a look at the decision to publish sensitive security documents and give a leaker a national platform, Peter Maass takes a sort of weird approach to his New York Times Magazine article about the journalists behind the Snowden story. Maass pays more attention to Poitras’ intense fear of GPS location, which I understand is why Snowden chose her, than the complicated and life-threatening decision to take on a story exposing secrets of the United States government. Maass paints Poitras and her semi-partner Glenn Greenwald in a weird light, exposing little about why this story came about. He focuses intensely on the how (who called who, where they went), which is less interesting than the why. Maass is an investigative journalist and this clearly comes through in his very detailed information, but for me, it was not the right information. I recommend reading this article for background, but I wish it had done more through the ten-page web spread to really shed some light on why these two somewhat vilified reporters took on this story. Side note: Maass writes “The kitchen clock is off by hours, but no one notices.” I stopped enjoying the story at this point because all I could think was that the reporter noticed that the clock was wrong, which indicates that someone has noticed. Picky I know, but it’s things like these that get me.
Where are they now?: Jim Romanesko published a follow up on the former Boston Phoenix writers and what they’ve been doing recently on his revered media blog. As a former Phoenix intern and freelancer, I was so happy to see this check-in with some of who I would name the best journalists in Boston. Many landed at Boston Magazine, and are making it rock harder than it ever did. Some are doing their own thing, and making money doing it (which is so very hard). Chris Faraone, who gave me one of the best compliments of my career thus far, said something that really rang true for me: “Money was always tight, so we wouldn’t always be able to bring in freelancers and interns who we wanted there full-time, but they stuck around anyway, and in a lot of cases became part of the family. I’m one of those people, as I started freelancing hip-hop articles for the paper about six months before coming on as a staff writer.” He absolutely hit the nail on the head. I played such a tiny, tiny part at the Phoenix, but I do feel like the journalists there helped me realize that I can do this, and do it well. I forced myself in there for a short while, and though I remained very much on the fringes, I loved every second of it. Glad to see great people still doing great things. Another side note: the man who made me so anal about sentences like Maass’ clock one started at the Phoenix before becoming a narrative great. Kudos to Mark Kramer.
State Police fail to report rape of a woman picked up by a gypsy cab in South Boston: The Herald reported on Friday morning that the Massachusetts State Police failed to alert the public that a woman was raped in Newton in the gypsy cab that picked her up in the Seaport District of South Boston. Long called law enforcement’s “no-mans land,” State and Boston Police have argued in the past about who is responsible for the area, Boston Magazine says in a follow up article. It makes me sick and sad that this happened in the first place, but it is absolutely imperative that the public know about incidents like this, isolated or not. The State Police have vowed to change reporting policies, taking blame for the failure and saying they will report things like this immediately in the future. Mayor Menino’s spokespeople are calling for concurrent jurisdiction. Where do we go from here?
The Opt-outs want in: The New York Times Magazine revisited the opt-out women, those who left their high-power, high-paying jobs to be stay at home moms, exploring whether or not they made the right decision. The piece is interesting and well researched, showing both women who deeply regret their choice and those who have never been happier. Feminism is about choices, whether or not they turn out to be right for whoever is making them.
A rebuttal: The Atlantic published a rebuttal to the Times Opt Out piece, calling it bad social science. I think the Opt Out piece definitely has flaws, but the Atlantic missed the point. It’s not necessarily a cautionary tale for women to stay in the work force, but a follow up on a trend that, because of the economy, went by the wayside.
So I creep: The NSA creeps on us, we know that now. Every week, the scope of their snooping broadens, but how much does it really matter? This New York Times article deals with peripheral creeping, noting that the NSA can’t necessarily target American citizens except for that they kind of can. Basically, the system allows the agency to look at American emails (etc.) if the subject or content is about the targeted person (not a citizen). It allows them to hone in on a target through the people surrounding them. It’s an interesting perspective and interesting method.
The Patch problem: Patch will lay off hundreds and majorly scale back in the coming weeks, according to this Tech Crunch article. The state of journalism is sad, and no one knows how to fix it. I feel strongly about the importance of quality local news, but it’s hard to turn out good reporting without proper funding. From this article, it sounds like the leadership at AOL/Patch is unstructured and unsure.
Will Al Jazeera U.S. be the next big thing in news?: Former Al-Jazeera Chief Wadah Khanfar told the Huffington Post that if the station has any hope of succeeding in American cable news, it has to break the mold completely. Khanfar basically said the station has to go completely “Newsroom,” and screw the ratings, only reporting on serious news. They have to ask the hard questions, and not pander to a sensationalist tone. No commentary-as-news, just news. Granted they have enough money to stay afloat without CNN ratings, I think Khanfar is 100 percent right. I’ll be watching.
The sexist language of the Weiner scandal: Between speculation on why Huma Abedin is sticking by her husband amidst the sexting scandal and Barbara Morgan’s slutbag meltdown, a debate that should be focused on one man has turned on the women in his life. Mary Elizabeth Williams makes a great point in her Salon article that the Weiner issue has highlighted the way that we talk about women: we call them slutbags, desperate, victims. In general, we judge them on their sexual integrity. But who are the collective we to judge?
Bulger Trials: Here’s a good rundown of the trial so far. After the 34th day, the government and defense have rested their cases and Whitey Bulger won’t testify. I’ve been following closely, and I just can’t see where the defense is going with their witnesses. Monday marks the start of closing arguments, so maybe we’ll find out then.
Briefs from Ohio: The Cleveland Plain Dealer let go of 50 staff members, new and old. They did it over the phone (ouch). Newsrooms are in a sad state today. Ariel Castro was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years after kidnapping the three Ohio women. He says he is not a monster and no one believes him.
[Busy week, guys! Sorry for the lack in perspective]