The debate over free speech vs. censorship, plus a suspension in Seattle and Magic recipients

May 6, 2019
Category: Newsletters

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May 6, 2019

Good Monday morning. We have a busy week in media ahead, including expected updates on the shakeups at CBS News. There’s lots to sort through from the weekend, including Facebook bans, a controversial Washington Post correction and a troubling story out of Seattle involving the suspension and investigation of a reporter.

Let’s start with the Post correction that leads into a bigger story about Facebook bans

The Post gets into semantics

The Washington Post had to issue a correction after it labeled Louis Farrakhan ‘far right’ instead of the more accurate ‘anti-Semitic.’

Last week, The Washington Post wrote about Facebook’s ban of several extremists and faced heat on social media for labeling Louis Farrakhan as “far right,” along with Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos. It soon followed with this correction:

“Correction: Louis Farrakhan is an extremist leader who has espoused anti-Semitic views. An earlier version of this story and headline incorrectly included him in a list of far-right leaders.”

Some, such as The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro, criticized the Post for calling Farrakhan “far right.” For this story, however, what does it matter? He’s being banned for being an extremist with hateful views, not for leaning right or left. Anyway, that brings us to …

Does hate speech equal free speech?

Social media companies are faced with being labeled responsible monitors or outright censors.


(AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

Should Facebook ban anyone for expressing an opinion just because that opinion might not be popular with the masses? True, Facebook is not bound by the First Amendment. It’s not a government entity. It’s a private company and can do whatever it wants. But if speech is not inciting violence or putting anyone in harm, should someone be banned even if those opinions are outrageous, hateful or false? Or, to use an old saying, isn’t hate speech a part of free speech?

Speaking on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” Shapiro said he is against speech that promotes violence, but said, “I’m troubled by the fact that Facebook can’t articulate a clear standard by which it decides to gets to stay and who gets to go.”

On the same panel, Kmele Foster, host of “The Fifth Rail” podcast, said speech can be dangerous but added, “It’s far more dangerous to engage in censorship. It’s far more dangerous to have a culture that is so opposed to having anyone with unsavory views.” Foster said he doesn’t agree with hateful speech, but added, “Sunlight is often the best disinfectant.”

On the other side, author and former Washington Times columnist Amanda Carpenter, during one of her regular CNN appearances last week, said, “I think there needs to be pressure on social media companies to take some kind of responsibility, some kind of liability to allow this kind of talk to forge. If you can target me for an ad for mouthwash, you can get that scum off your platform.”

In-depth opinion

The Washington Post is showcasing longform opinion writing, this time with an essay on Spain’s far-right party.

Washington Post’s Opinions has published the second installment of its new longform journalism initiative. These essays with graphics, extensive analysis and commentary allow authors to go in-depth on a range of topics, including politics, foreign policy, health and more.

This month’s essay was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Applebaum, who charts how Spain’s far-right Vox party has divided the country, while connecting with nationalist movements in Europe and the United States. She writes:

“In a way, it is the ultimate irony: The nationalists, the anti-globalists, the people who are skeptical of international laws and international organizations — they, too, now work together, across borders, for common causes. They share the same contacts. They tap money from the same funders. They are learning from one another’s mistakes, copying one another’s language. And, together, they think they will eventually win.”

Suspended in Seattle

The Seattle Times is investigating one of its reporters for inappropriately messaging a woman on Twitter.

The Seattle Times has suspended one of its reporters after he allegedly sent an inappropriate Twitter direct message to another journalist.

Talia Jane, a Brooklyn-based journalist, shared on Twitter a direct message exchange she had on Twitter (warning: graphic content) early Sunday morning with Seattle Times reporter Mike Rosenberg. At first, the exchange was about the media business, but eventually included a sexually explicit message according to the screenshots in Jane’s thread. She reported the conversation to the Seattle Times.

On Twitter, the Seattle Times released this statement:

“Earlier today, The Seattle Times was made aware of allegations of sexual harassment against a news employee. We have suspended the employee pending an investigation by our human resources group. As this is a personnel matter, we will have no further comment on this at this time.”

Also, according to a screenshot from Jane, Seattle Times executive editor Don Shelton wrote her:

“I wanted to update you that we have suspended the reporter who sent you the inappropriate messages on Twitter while we investigate the situation thoroughly. Thank you again for bringing this to our attention so we could deal with the situation. We are taking this very seriously and do not tolerate this kind of behavior.”

Rosenberg has deleted his Twitter account. Crosscut’s Lilly Fowler reports that she spoke to Rosenberg, who did not deny sending the message, but claimed it was intended for someone else. Jane wrote several more tweets about the incident Sunday evening, including responding to some who thought she should not have outed the reporter for his messages.

Skipper and Horowitz get into DAZN

The two former ESPN execs have been paired up inside the sports streaming network.


John Skipper, former president of ESPN. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Jamie Horowitz, fired two years ago as president of Fox Sports National amid accusations of sexual harassment, has landed a new gig. He will head up American and Canadian content for DAZN, a sports streaming service. He will report to former ESPN president John Skipper, who was Horowitz’s boss at ESPN. Skipper resigned abruptly from ESPN in late 2017, he later said, because of a cocaine addiction and an attempted extortion plot.

Horowitz’s career at ESPN included creating the successful debate show “First Take” and several other shows. That led to Fox Sports hiring him to run Fox Sports 1, a cable network designed to go up against ESPN. But Horowitz was fired in 2017 after just two years at Fox Sports.

He recently has been consulting for DAZN, which is reportedly investing $12 million in this new venture. DAZN streams live sports for a monthly fee and operates in nine countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, where it is the No. 1 sports platform. As of now, the U.S. service streams live boxing and mixed martial arts fights. (Here’s pronunciation help.)

 

Brown Institute says the Magic words

Winners of this year’s grants include ProPublica’s Trump Town project.

The Brown Institute for Media Innovation, a collaboration between Columbia Journalism School and Stanford University’s School of Engineering, has announced its 2019-20 Magic Grant recipients. The institute awards $1 million in grants and fellowships to fund unique projects that foster new tools and ways of storytelling in journalism.

One of the winners is a project that is already underway: “Trump Town” by ProPublica contributing reporter Derek Kravitz (the project’s bylines also include Al Shaw, Claire Perlman and Alex Mierjeski). The project is collecting data on the Trump administration’s current and former appointees, including their jobs, specific offices, employment history, lobbying records, government ethics documents, financial disclosures and, in some cases, résumés. It could be the basis to track future administrations, as well.

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Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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