2020's News is Already Pressing.
Back to work after a bleak start to the new year.
I’m Scott Nover. Welcome back to Pressing, a newsletter about press freedom. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you can do so here and receive this letter in your inbox every Tuesday morning as well as special features for paid subscribers.
This is the 28th issue of Pressing and it’s great to have you with me. Please send me feedback, thoughts, suggestions, and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If We Inch Toward War…
While I was enjoying time off with family and friends, the world became decidedly less safe. After the New Year, President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. While Soleimani was no doubt a dangerous and evil actor, Trump’s decision to assassinate him has already escalated tensions between Iran and the United States.
“Trump and his administration have insisted that they killed Soleimani to avert an ‘imminent’ attack, but they’ve yet to provide specific evidence of this to the public, the press, or, it would seem, Congress,” wrote Columbia Journalism Review’s Jon Allsop. “Footage of Trump saying [he acted ‘to stop a war’] rolled at the top of TV news shows, without anchors adding adequate context. Stenography is never good journalism. When it comes to war, it’s unforgivable, and that’s before we get started on this administration.”
The job of journalists — especially at crucial moments like this — is to pry, to ask questions and demand answers, to point out holes in what the government and other powerful actors say. But it’s also our jobs to be human, to value humanity and tell human stories; not be cold, or jingoistic, or gush over “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.” It’s not our job to root for or romanticize war. This very human essay about watching Soleimani’s death unfurl on Twitter, written by Bridget Read in New York, spoke to me: “If cable TV in 2003 made Iraq look like a place where no one lived, Twitter made it seem like it wasn’t even really there.”
If we inch toward war, continue to demand transparency from our government. The job of journalists is not to cheer military action, it’s not to make bold statements to sound like an expert, and it’s not to assure the public we’re headed for war or stable in our peace. The job of journalists is to offer context, detail, and truth. It’s the job of journalists to demand transparency and accountability. I’d argue it’s the job of journalists to help us — if it’s not already futile — retain our collective humanity.
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Headlines From Around the World
The New York Times: He Mocks Saudi Arabia on YouTube. Yes, He Fears for His Safety.
The New York Times: It Seemed Like a Popular Chat App. It’s Secretly a Spy Tool.
The Washington Post: Thailand wrongfully convicts a journalist over two words
The Los Angeles Times: ‘Fake news’ has killed Nigerians. Can a bill stop the violence?
The New Yorker: The Saudi Sentences in Jamal Khashoggi’s Murder Case Are a Mockery of Justice
BBC: Russian journalist out of a job after asking Putin question
Engadget: Wikipedia wins its battle against censorship in Turkey
India Today: Indian BJP official slammed for “offensive, tasteless, deplorable” Twitter poll about journalist
Where Did All the Saudi Bots Go?
If you missed my latest essay for Pressing, it’s an interesting one! I wrote about Twitter’s effort to purge state-controlled bots and my own run-in with suspicious accounts after I reported on the fallout from Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination last year.
You can read it here by subscribing to the paid version of Pressing… or check it out on Medium, where I republished it.
Trouble in the United States
Associated Press: California newspaper ends print publication after 161 years
HuffPost: Death Of A Freelancer
Baltimore Business Journal: Baltimore Sun journalists pursue local ownership amid hedge fund fears
Lynchburg News & Advance: Losing One of Our Own at the N&A
Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Dispatch announces move of print production to Indianapolis, affecting 188 jobs
New Mexico Daily Lobo: University of New Mexico Journalism Department rebuked by professional organizations
A Top 10 List You Didn’t Expect
The website iMediaEthics picked the 10 major media lawsuits of 2019. Because everyone loves a list, here they are:
Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the The New York Times was reinstated
Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard
Cindy Yang sued The Miami Herald
Geoffrey Rush won big in a defamation suit against The Daily Telegraph
Rep. Devin Nunes sued Esquire, CNN, and Twitter, among others
The BBC settled with former Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko
Somerville, Massachusetts Mayor Joe Curtatone sued Barstool Sports for recording him without consent
Mississippi man Derrick Evans sued HuffPost after Brett Kavanaugh reporting
Covington Catholic student Nicholas Sandmann sued the Washington Post, CNN, and NBC for defamation
Radio host Dean Obeidallah sued the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer and won $4.1 million
Here’s the full list and write-up with links if you want to learn more.
The Final Word
It’s been a dark newsletter, so here’s something to laugh at:
“A reporter won the lottery and quit her job, live on air — only to find the payout was about $5,500.”
Thanks for reading Pressing today and always. Like what you read and want to support me? Consider a paid membership here. Otherwise, I’ll see you on Tuesday! Send tips and feedback to email@example.com.