Craig Newmark is the introvert who founded Craig’s List. Now he is turning his attention to the needs of organizations seeking to do excellent news reporting and fact checking. The story appeared in NiemanLab:
In recent weeks, Newmark’s foundation has given $1 million gift to the Poynter Institute for a chair in ethics and a $500,000 donation to Wikipedia for its anti-harassment Community Health Initiative, after giving Wikipedia $1 million last June. Those gifts look like they be might be just a start of his news/information-centric philanthropy; Newmark now tells me he is committing to give away, at this phase of his philanthropy, another $3.5 million. Those further gifts — to companies in the news and information sphere — will be announced over the next weeks and months. Taken together, we’ve got to be impressed with this renewed spurt of news-oriented philanthropy and the big subscription upticks we’ve seen post-election.
Lee Camp offers clips of “mainstream news” that will leave you shaking your head:
Smithsonian.com looks back to how the American media covered the rise of Hitler and Mussolini:
How to cover the rise of a political leader who’s left a paper trail of anti-constitutionalism, racism and the encouragement of violence? Does the press take the position that its subject acts outside the norms of society? Or does it take the position that someone who wins a fair election is by definition “normal,” because his leadership reflects the will of the people? These are the questions that confronted the U.S. press after the ascendance of fascist leaders in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
How does the press cover a rising dictator? Not as a “dictator.”
Dorothy Thompson, who judged Hitler a man of “startling insignificance” in 1928, realized her mistake by mid-decade when she, like Mowrer, began raising the alarm.
“No people ever recognize their dictator in advance,” she reflected in 1935. “He never stands for election on the platform of dictatorship. He always represents himself as the instrument [of] the Incorporated National Will.” Applying the lesson to the U.S., she wrote, “When our dictator turns up you can depend on it that he will be one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.”
Why should we distrust big media? I’m still sorely disappointed that much of big media rooted against Bernie Sanders, contributing to his defeat. But, of course, Big Media simply moves on, often taking sides rather than reporting. Check out this photo of the same paper, The Wall Street Journal, spinning the same story in two different ways to two different markets, trying to make Trump more palatable in two disparate places.
Glenn Greenwald: Journalists must not give Hillary Clinton a Free Ride, despite the danger of a Trump Presidency
At Truthdig, Amy Goodman interviews Glenn Greenwald, who urges that journalists vigorously investigate Hilary Clinton. That is their job, even though her opponent is a madman.
Here you have Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton having this Clinton Foundation, with billions of dollars pouring into it from some of the world’s worst tyrannies, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and Qatar and other Gulf states, other people who have all kinds of vested interests in the policies of the United States government. And at the same time, in many cases, both Bill and Hillary Clinton are being personally enriched by those same people, doing speeches, for many hundreds of thousands of dollars, in front of them, at the same time that she’s running the State Department, getting ready to run for president, and soon will be running the executive branch.
John Oliver warns us that the death of newspapers makes us all far more vulnerable to political corruption
Here is yet another excellent video by John Oliver. This issue of the defunding of responsible newspaper reporting, and the lack of investigative journalism effects you and me every day. The answer, I believe is public funding of legitimate media, because it is a common good that can no longer sustain itself. Oliver’s ending video is a very sharp sword. We are living in dangerous times where no one is babysitting most of those in power at all levels of government. We can’t have a democracy without the Fourth Estate. We are rapidly approaching the time when we won’t have a Fourth Estate, merely a shell of what it used to be. This is an extremely complex and serious issue. Thank you, John Oliver for given it the spotlight. Please share.
For more on this loss of serious reporting, consider the writings of Robert McChesney and John Nichols, including Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America.
I spoke with John Nichols a few years ago about the loss of reporters:
I realize that I probably look obsessed due to my many posts about government corruption. Perhaps that is because I saw it first-hand when I worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri. That was back in the late ’80s, when William Webster served as Missouri Attorney General. My job required me to prosecute consumer fraud. That’s not quite how it worked, however. If the target was a significant contributor, I would be given lots of excuses that good cases were “not good cases.” I resisted for many months, documenting my cases as best I could and refusing to close good files–this behavior confused me at first, but then it became all too clear. Ultimately, several substantial cases against major contributors convinced Webster to transfer me out of of the Trade Offense Division. Because I refused his transfer, Webster fired me.
Little did I know that my experiences would become a focus for the 1992 Missouri Governor’s debate. The debate featured Mel Carnahan (the Democrat) versus William Webster (the Republican). Prior to this debate Webster had held a 20-point lead. The election occurred two weeks after this debate, and Webster conceded by 7:30 pm on election night. During the debate Carnahan blistered Webster with accusations much of the night. You’ll get a flavor for this well-deserved barrage if you watch the first 5 minutes–I was discussed beginning at the 3-minute mark. One other Assistant Attorney General also took a bold stand. After it became clear to him that the office was corrupt, Tom Glassberg resigned, immediately driving to Jefferson City to file ethics charges against Webster. Tom wrote a letter defending my reputation and his letter was published by the Post-Dispatch. It was letter I will never forget. A few sentences were read at the Governor’s Debate.
Those were intense times for me, of course. You can’t solve problems like this in a day. It requires immense patience and diplomacy, and bucking the system is risky. When you start resisting, you quickly see who has both a conscience and a backbone. When I see the constant stream of money for political favors stories, I’m disheartened but resolute. Corrupt money and power are formidable, but they can’t prevail where good people organize. I’m sure that my time as an AAG was formative, and it continues to drive me forward.
One last thought is a sad one for me, however. During the Webster scandal, the St. Louis Post Dispatch was an aggressive newspaper that did real investigative journalism thanks to excellent reporting by several reporters, including Terry Ganey. The Post-Dispatch no longer does significant investigative journalism, as is the case with most newspapers. Reporters across the country are being laid off by the hundreds, and this has led to a huge news vacuum. These days, we simply don’t know what is going on in most corners of our government. Many stories don’t see the light of day, and the mass media offer no local alternatives (local TV “news” tends to be a joke). Hence my non-stop interest in media reform through organization such as Free Press. Media Reform and Election Reform need to be fixed before we can meaningfully address any other issues. That has so sadly become apparent.