Department of Justice

Journalists hit with tear gas, other stuff, while covering Ferguson decision

Good morning. Here are nine media stories.

  1. How news outlets covered Ferguson decision

    The news media's demand for information was the "most significant challenge encountered in this investigation," St. Louis County prosecution Robert P. McCulloch said Monday while announcing a grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. (Poynter) | Al Tompkins dug into the grand jury report. (Storify) | Some highlights from the testimony. (AP) | I watched CNN last night and saw reporters get hit with smoke and/or tear gas (St. Louis County Police said they used both, smoke first). | CNN's Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo got hit by tear gas. (Mediaite) | Protesters grabbed and broke a Fox News camera. (Gawker) | CNN's Stephanie Elam said a man looting a cell-phone store threatened her. (@StephanieElam) | Later CNN showed her dodging airborne stuff from protesters. | Who were the "hipster bearded security guys" guarding her? (@clarajeffrey) | Sara Sidner got hit by a bottle, says she's OK. | One of many amazing photos by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Robert Cohen: "Protesters seen thru shattered window of county police car." (@kodacohen) | "Nearly every major news organization has reporters on the ground, some with upward of two dozen staffers." (Politico) | Kristen Hare's Twitter list of journalists covering STL and Ferguson. | Front pages from around the country this morning. (Poynter) |

  2. News Corp invests in another digital real-estate business

    It bought 25 percent of Elara Technologies Pte Ltd., which owns India's (AP) | It bought Move, Inc., which owns, in September. (News Corp)

  3. News sites among slowest to load

    Catchpoint Systems measured how quickly some big sites loaded, and found news sites were among the slowest. "The Financial Times took about 29.5 seconds to load, followed by Bloomberg's pages, which averaged about 27 seconds. CNN (18.8 seconds), The Wall Street Journal's homepage (18.6 seconds) and (17.9 seconds) rounded out the top five." (Adweek)

  4. The "Hunger Games" layoffs

    Managers at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have "put reporters into competitive 'pools' and asked them to prove their 'merit' to the organisation, challenged to hit benchmarks against their colleagues, or face the sack." (BuzzFeed)

  5. Two thirds of BuzzFeed's traffic comes from mobile devices

    And people who read on those devices are twice as likely to share content as those who read on desktop. (Gigaom)

  6. Pro-independence newspaper is popular in Scotland

    The National's print run will be 100,000, up from the 30,000 it planned at launch yesterday. (The Guardian) | Also in British newspapering: Tindle Newsapers launches four weeklies, three of which are revived local papers. (PressGazette)

  7. Eric Holder's legacy, media edition

    If the outgoing U.S. attorney general wants to recast his press-freedom legacy, "he will have to unpave a long road of specific policies laid down by the DOJ during his tenure, not simply express remorse and draw up broad new guidelines." (CJR)

  8. Politico hired a talent recruiter

    Katy Theranger will help the organization "hire the most talented editors, reporters and newsroom staff," a job once left to editors but one that may change as "candidates may come from untraditional places or from technical spaces outside news," the American Press Institute's Tom Rosenstiel tells Erik Wemple. (WP)

  9. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's third edition (Courtesy the Post-Dispatch)

Ben Mullin's job moves is on vacation this week. Load him up for his return: Corrections? Tips? Please email me: Would you like to get this roundup emailed to you every morning? Sign up here. Read more


FBI impersonated an AP reporter

Good morning. Here are 10 media stories.

  1. FBI impersonated AP reporter

    FBI director James B. Comey wrote a letter to The New York Times saying an undercover officer investigating some bomb threats "portrayed himself as an employee of The Associated Press, and asked if the suspect would be willing to review a draft article about the threats and attacks, to be sure that the anonymous suspect was portrayed fairly." (NYT) | Statement from AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll: "This latest revelation of how the FBI misappropriated the trusted name of The Associated Press doubles our concern and outrage, expressed earlier to Attorney General Eric Holder, about how the agency's unacceptable tactics undermine AP and the vital distinction between the government and the press." (AP) | Previously, we learned the FBI "created a fake news story on a bogus Seattle Times web page to plant software in the computer of a suspect." (The Seattle Times) | Comey says the operation "was proper and appropriate under Justice Department and F.B.I. guidelines at the time" but a letter the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press wrote Comey and Holder yesterday says attorney general's guidelines "restrict the circumstances under which FBI agents may impersonate the news media during the course of an investigation." RFCP asks the FBI to "release additional information regarding when and under what circumstances it uses links to what are or appear to be news media websites to digitally impersonate the news media in the course of criminal investigations." (RCFP)

  2. BuzzFeed doesn't do clickbait

    "If your goal — as is ours at BuzzFeed — is to deliver the reader something so new, funny, revelatory, or delightful that they feel compelled to share it, you have to do work that delivers on the headline’s promise, and more," EIC Ben Smith writes. (BuzzFeed) | Smith links to an interview I did with Nilay Patel in July: "Most clickbait is disappointing because it’s a promise of value that isn’t met — the payoff isn’t nearly as good as what the reader imagines," he said. (Poynter) | In September, Sam Kirkland argued that cheap content -- "takes," for instance -- are an opportunity for publishers "to be exposed to news that matters, too — the stories that might be less likely to take off on Facebook." (Poynter) | "OH YEAH???" the Internet cried in response. | "Confused by people who think pointing out low-brow articles BuzzFeed publishes refutes @BuzzFeedBen's point." (@pkafka) | I am not confused. Write an article with "BuzzFeed" and "journalism" in the hed or tweet and watch the snide remarks fill your @ column.

  3. NBC News financed a tunnel under the Berlin Wall

    The news organization in 1962 paid 50,000 Deutschmarks for exclusive film rights to a group of Germans and Italians who were trying to dig their way out of East Berlin. "The story was told in NBC News' documentary 'The Tunnel,' which was meant to air on Oct. 31, 1962 but was held after NBC came under pressure from the State Department not to exacerbate tensions after the Cuban missile crisis." The documentary aired Dec. 10. (NBC News) | The Berlin Wall fell on Nov. 9, 1989, and you do not have to listen to the Scorpions to commemorate it, but no one's going to judge you if you do.

    Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

  4. Matt Taibbi will talk about his departure from First Look today

    He's scheduled to appear on HuffPost Live at 3:30. (HuffPost Live)

  5. Metered paywalls work better than hard paywalls

    73 percent of "global newspaper companies" polled by Peter Marsh and the International News Media Association say they have some sort of paywall in place. And "Retention rates appear to be significantly higher for newspapers that use metered pay models as opposed to hard paywalls." (INMA, via The Guardian)

  6. Tampa Tribune ceases publication of Hernando Today

    "A tough newspaper advertising climate made the printing and distribution of the twice-weekly newspaper cost-prohibitive, said Ken Koehn, managing editor of The Tampa Tribune." (Koehn's byline is on the article.) (Hernando Today) | The Tribune competes with the Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns and which has had troubles of its own. Tribune officials "declined to return calls from the Tampa Bay Times to discuss the status of Hernando Today or other publications." (Tampa Bay Times)

  7. More trouble at the OC Register

    Two shareholders claim the newspaper's parent company, Freedom Communications, is "insolvent" and ask for it to be placed in receivership. Gustavo Arellano: "The most interesting part of the complaint, however, is how much of the complaint remains redacted and under seal. One section, for instance, has the titillating headline 'Defaults and Liens Under the Company Pension Plan.'" (OC Weekly) | "Freedom spokesman Eric Morgan called the petition 'meritless and unfounded.'" (LAT)

  8. Front page of the day, curated by Kristen Hare

    Australia's Daily Telegraph fronts news about AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd with a typeface that recalls the band's logo. It is important to note that prosecutors in New Zealand dropped the murder-for-hire charge that let a thousand "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" jokes bloom, though! Rudd "still faces charges of possessing drugs and threatening to kill," Rose Troup Buchanan reports in The Independent. (Front page via Kiosko)


  9. Speaking of typefaces

    Dylan Lathrop writes about ITC Serif Gothic, a typeface shared by "Star Wars" and "Star Trek." "It also doesn't hurt that The Verge logo is based on the same font," Lathrop writes. (The Verge)

  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin

    Leah Kauffman, Robert McGovern and Matt Romanoski have joined Philly Voice. Previously, they were executive producers at ( | Marina Marraco will be a reporter at WTTG in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a reporter at WESH in Orlando. (Media Moves) | Scott Levy is now news director at WIVB in Buffalo. Previously, he was news director for WTAJ in Altoona, Pennsylvania. (TV Spy) | Job of the day: ASNE is looking for an executive director. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

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Police shouldn’t harass reporters, Obama says

Good news for media organizations: The police shouldn’t be able to bug you while you work, the president says.

Apparently exempt from that guidance: the federal government. In the past two years, the U.S. Department of Justice has secretly seized AP phone records and tried to force New York Times reporter James Risen to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him, and the FBI has called a Fox News reporter “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator” in another leak case.

The Obama administration has prosecuted more people under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Risen called it “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.” It’s even tightened access to White House photos.

But cops, though, they should totally back off. Read more


Attorney general pledges he won’t jail reporters for ‘doing their job’

The New York Times | USA Today | Politico

In a meeting with journalists to discuss Justice Department media guidelines Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told participants, “As long as I’m attorney general, no reporter who is doing his job is going to go to jail. As long as I’m attorney general, someone who is doing their job is not going to get prosecuted.”

The attorney general “was not discussing any particular case,” Charlie Savage reports a Justice Department official said, but Savage’s New York Times colleague James Risen is fighting an order to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him. In March, Risen said the Obama administration is “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation.”

The Justice Department said Holder’s remarks restated a “longtime assertion that, as long as he is in office, no journalist will be prosecuted or go to prison for performing ordinary news-gathering activities,” Kevin Johnson reports in USA Today.

The New York Times did not attend the meeting, Savage reports. Hadas Gold reports some names:

Among the members of the press who attended were Bruce Brown, Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; Kurt Wimmer, General Counsel, Newspaper Association of America; Karen Kaiser, General Counsel, Associated Press; Steve Coll, Columbia School of Journalism; Jane Mayer, New Yorker; Bill Keller, The Marshall Project; Susan Page, USA Today; Gerry Seib, Wall Street Journal; Robin Sproul, ABC News; Ken Strickland, NBC News; and Leonard Downie, The Washington Post.

Media reps at the meeting “urged a reconsideration of some aspects of the regulatory language” Justice proposed, Gold reports in Politico.

Specifically, journalists took issue with the clause stating that journalists would be protected from subpoenaes or searches for actions taken in the course of “ordinary newsgathering.” Their concern was that by adding “ordinary” to the regulation, it would give prosecutors latitude to define some kinds of newsgathering as not ordinary and therefore go after reporters.

Read more

What the DOJ’s new guidelines mean for journalists

The U.S. Department of Justice’s new revised guidelines tightening government access to journalists’ records officially take effect this week. Yet the protections are not absolute, leaving some important exceptions in the hands of the Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder to circumvent the safeguards, particularly when it comes to classified information deemed potentially harmful.

The guidelines specifically aim to shield journalists from “certain law enforcement tools,” the department noted, including subpoenas, court orders and search warrants that “might unreasonably impair ordinary newsgathering activities.” Read more

The sign that serves as the backdrop for press briefings at the Department of Justice is seen before a press conference Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

DOJ releases new rules about obtaining media orgs’ records

The New York Times | Associated Press

The U.S. Department of Justice Friday released new rules for how it will try to obtain records from journalists in the future. They “create a presumption that prosecutors generally will provide advance notice to the news media when seeking to obtain their communications records,” Charlie Savage reports.

The Justice Department didn’t win rave reviews last May, when news broke it had seized AP phone records without notifying the organization. Read more

1 Comment

James Risen asks Supreme Court to hear his case

The New York Times | Politico | The Washington Post

In a petition filed Monday, New York Times reporter James Risen asked the United States Supreme Court to hear his case, in which he asks not to be compelled to testify in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer accused of leaking information to him.

An appeals court declined to hear Risen’s case in October.

“This case has been transformed into a potential constitutional showdown over the First Amendment and the role of the press in the United States because of the Obama Administration’s aggressive use of the powers of the government to try to rein in independent national security reporting,” Risen told Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. Read more


DOJ agreement should clear way for Gannett-Belo deal, companies say

Gannett | Department of Justice | The New York Times

Gannett Co. and Belo Corp. announced Monday that they have reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that should clear the way for Gannett to purchase Belo as announced in June.

The $1.5 billion sale and assumption of $715 million in Belo debt would expand Gannett’s TV holdings from 23 to 43 stations, the media companies said last summer.

The proposed agreement emerged at the same time as the filing of a civil antitrust lawsuit Monday in the District of Columbia’s U.S. District Court to block Gannett’s acquisition of Belo. The agreement — which would resolve the concerns alleged in the lawsuit — would require Gannett and third-party operator Sander Media LLC to divest themselves of Belo-owned KMOV-TV. Gannett already owns KSDK-TV in the St. Louis market. Read more


Former FBI agent pleads guilty to helping AP, possessing child porn

Indianapolis Star | The Huffington Post

Donald John Sachtleben has signed plea agreements in two cases: One for possessing child pornography and another in which he’s accused of giving information about a terror plot to “a reporter from a national news organization.” Sachtleben, a bomb technician who worked at the FBI as a contractor after he retired in 2008, passed on the information to a reporter nine days before feds filed the child porn charges, Jill Disis reports.

Last May, the government developed an intense interest in the Associated Press’ sources for a story that detailed how the CIA stopped a bomb plot in Yemen. It secretly obtained phone records from AP reporters and editors, an action that started a national conversation about how the government should interact with journalists who receive leaked information.

The Huffington Post has Sachtleben’s plea agreement, which says his emails and text messages with “Reporter A” were “obtained from SACHTLEBEN’s electronic devices.” Sachtleben’s agreement calls for “43 months for the national security related charges and 97 months for the child pornography charges,” Disis writes.

Related: What journalists need to know about the Justice Department’s seizure of AP phone records | Feds explain why they grabbed AP records without negotiating first | CIA had told AP that security concerns about its story were ‘no longer an issue’ Read more


DOJ asks for more information about Gannett-Belo deal


Gannett and Belo “received requests yesterday for additional information and documents” from the Department of Justice, Gannett says in a press release. Gannett announced in June it would buy Belo for $1.5 billion, nearly doubling the number of TV stations it owns.

This so-called “Second Request” is a “standard part of the DOJ review process,” Gannett says, adding that it still expects to close the deal by the end of 2013.

Some petitioners filed requests with the FCC opposing the deal; the Department of Justice recently filed a motion to block a proposed merger between American Airlines and US Airways. Read more


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