Morning Mediawire: Polk Award winners united by 'the struggle for truth'

For years, Iona Craig has been covering one of the most godforsaken places on earth: A beautiful land, where early coffee cultivation began, riven by cholera and a devastating proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It’s a war in which U.S. weaponry and ordnance is helping flatten the country.

On Tuesday, Craig won one of the most prestigious awards in journalism for her determined, difficult and unflinching writing for The Intercept from rarely covered Yemen. Craig went to a village and encountered horrors from what President Trump called “a highly successful” Navy SEAL raid.

“The SEAL raid happened three days before I was due to leave,” Craig told Poynter last March. “So yes, it was coincidence. I just happened to be there.”

On Tuesday, Craig thanked “the people of Al Ghayil in Yemen who opened what was left of their doors to me and told me their stories.”

The struggle for truth connected many of the George Polk Award in Journalism winners — from bursting through Trump administration distractions, the official story on the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, the web of lies by Harvey Weinstein and the empty righteousness of Judge Roy Moore. Other winners covered the plight and flight of the Rohingya, the shrinkage of Lake Chad, a modern-day slave auction in Libya or visits with the white nationalists behind the march on Charlottesville.

Here’s a full list of Polk winners.

Set your calendars: The Pulitzer Prizes will be announced on April 16. 

Now, welcome to the Poynter Morning Mediawire. Here are a few stories that you may need to know about this morning:

QUICK HITS

SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM: Andrew Ross Sorkin proposes a way to bypass a dithering Congress to make AR-15 sales harder: Cut off the credit cards. He notes that Apple Pay, Square and Pay Pal don’t allow gun purchases on their services. Extend that, he suggests, to Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. Put it in the terms of service.

PUMMELED BY PRO-TRUMP TROLLS: They knew this was coming. Those grief-stricken students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, raising their voices to protect school-kids in hopes that another school massacre could be avoided, knew they would become targets of Russian bots and the extremist right. Splinter’s David Uberti chronicles the trolls. The Parkland students say they will continue to support America’s kids despite the hoax-filled attacks. Late Tuesday, an aide to a Florida GOP state representative was fired after he suggested that the Parkland students were actually actors brought in after the tragedy.

NPR HARASSMENT REPORT: Attempts to stop inappropriate behavior by NPR’s former top news executive were like playing “whack-a-mole,” NPR Board Chairman Paul Haaga says. "Remonstrations were effective in stopping one behavior, but not in stopping all behaviors that should have stopped," Haaga told NPR on the release of an internal report. "We didn't know that he was going to solicit dates outside NPR." That news executive, Michael Oreskes, was forced to resign on Nov. 1.

FOX NATION: Fox News has announced a streaming network of content for viewers who would pay a monthly fee, a la Netflix or Spotify. This has been the kind of move CNN has put off. “The bosses at Fox News,” responded Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple, “have decided the country needs more Hannity.”

IMPERSONATOR ACCOUNTS: They wreck people’s lives. They operate in violation of Facebook and Twitter policy. But the New York Times found little had been done to stop millions of “bot” accounts that impersonate real people — and lead people to think the worst of real people from fake imitator accounts. The accounts, Russian and otherwise, helped Donald Trump in 2016 and may wreck the 2018 elections, prosecutors say. After the story broke, the hashtag #TwitterLockOut began trending amid reports that Twitter moved to erase bots.

43 JOBS CUT IN OMAHA: Lower ad revenues and higher newsprint prices were cited for the cutbacks at the Omaha World-Herald. They are among 148 staff reductions and the elimination of 101 vacant positions throughout BH Media, which is owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway. The company owns 31 daily newspapers and websites, including The World-Herald, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Tulsa World. It also owns weekly publications and the ABC affiliate in Miami.

UNION DRIVE: Employees of Mic.com are the latest to seek union representation at their jobs, Maxwell Tani reports. Editorial staff at Vice, the Huffington Post, Thrillist, and Vox Media all successfully unionized. The editorial members of the Los Angeles Times voted to do so as well.

TOO BIG TO REGULATE? The decade-long case between Google and a couple who developed a price-comparison search tool prompts the question: When does a mega-company’s behavior become so brazen that it violates the law? From the NYT’s Charles Duhigg.

Atlantic MLK coverATLANTIC TO PUBLISH COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE ON MLK: The Atlantic announced a special issue on the slain civil rights leader, with articles from Rep. John Lewis, National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward and Vann R. Newkirk II, who helped put this issue together. A sample: Editor Jeffrey Goldberg on the chasm between racial optimism and reality.

HANDS OFF MY SMARTPHONE: Sacramento State University is revising its newly announced visual and sound productions policy after concerns were raised that the policy — which would have placed restrictions on campus media production — is unconstitutional, the State Hornet reported. A Feb. 8 policy change would have been applied to anyone creating visual and audio content on campus — including students filming on their smartphones.

WHAT YOU DON’T SEE: After the cameras go off, an army of poor, elderly South Koreans clean the Olympic venues, a sign of the nation’s aging workforce and crisis of care for its older people. “Knees. Shoulders. It all hurts,” said one worker, Lee Seon-dae, 68. “I’m too tired to do this.” The Washington Post’s Chico Harlan and Yoonjung Seo report.

PICTURE BOOK: CJR on the spread of fake news, told in graphic form:

CJR cartoon

New on Poynter.org

  • Gannett reported disappointing fourth-quarter results as gains in its digital businesses fell far short of covering deep declines in advertising and wobbly circulation revenues.

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