May 8, 2019
Good morning! Here are some of the media stories that are catching our attention today.
A great day for press freedoms
The important and unlikely release of these journalists continues to be cause for celebration.
A day later, and the world continues to celebrate the release of two jailed Reuters reporters. We cannot overstate how important — and unlikely — this all is.
Just two weeks ago, it looked as if Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo would spend the next seven years in prison. Detained in Myanmar since December of 2017 for writing about the state security forces executing 10 Muslim Rohingya during a military operation, the two seemingly were out of options save for a presidential pardon. Their final appeal had been denied.
But they, along with 6,518 other prisoners, were freed Tuesday by President Win Myint during a mass amnesty that is a tradition during Myanmar’s New Year.
After 511 days, the men were reunited with their families in this in this touching video captured by Reuters.
This was a great day for press freedoms. Media around the world, especially Reuters, deserve credit for continuing to shine a light on this case for the past 18 months. The two also were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their work, further calling attention to their plight.
But the work is far from done.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 63 journalists across the globe remain missing. Five have been killed in 2019. And 250 were imprisoned in 2018. In addition, 34 were murdered in 2018, an 88 percent jump from the year before.
The One Free Press Coalition can now remove Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from May’s “10 Most Urgent” list, which highlights journalists who are incarcerated, under threat or facing injustice. Sadly, there will be others to take their place when a new list comes out next month.
Maligned in black and white
A new Poynter story examines recent apologies issued by white Southern newspapers for racial coverage.
In January, the Orlando Sentinel wrote an editorial apologizing for its role in fanning the flames of racial violence during the 1949 Groveland Four case, in which four African American men were wrongfully accused of raping a white woman.
That Sentinel editorial was just the latest in a series of similar apologies by Southern newspapers that had committed a host of sins, including the support of lynchings, a failure to shine a light on segregation, and reporting failures during the Civil Rights Movement.
Do Southern papers now owe their readers and the public an apology? That’s the topic of an incredibly-detailed four-part series by Mark I. Pinsky on Poynter.org.
“They are acknowledging — belatedly — what their forebearers did and did not do in covering racism, white supremacy, terror and segregation over the past 150 years,” Pinsky writes. “Some newspapers … had especially grievous sins to confess.”
Alexa, which paper did a good job?
A tech reporter finds two things: the freedom to cover his owner, and oh yeah, that our devices are definitely spying on us.
Jeff Bezos. (Photo: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx)
A sharp eye by CNN’s Oliver Darcy noticed that, earlier this week, Washington Post tech writer Geoffrey Fowler wrote a story about how how Alexa and Siri have been “eavesdropping” on us. Why is this interesting? Because Alexa is a device by Amazon … which is owned by Jeff Bezos … who owns The Washington Post. The column goes on to tell readers how Amazon might be watching you more than you might think and that it might capture private conversations.
Fowler wrote, “Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I review all tech with the same critical eye.”
Communicator in chief
‘A lot of people take their frustrations out on the communications team, but Trump will always be the communications director.’
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders speaks with reporters outside the White House last week. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tells Politico’s Nancy Cook how President Donald Trump’s administration can better communicate with the media and get their message out.
“We’ll spend a little more time being proactive, and a little less time being reactive,” Mulvaney said. “We’ve got a great message to sell.”
But there appears to be one problem with getting the president’s message out: the president. One former White House official told Politico, “Whatever Trump tweets out that morning will be the headline, regardless of what the communication plan is. A lot of people take their frustrations out on the communications team, but Trump will always be the communications director.”
CNN buyouts raise alarms
The company’s leadership assured it was simply business as usual.
More than 100 employees at CNN have opted for buyouts. Variety reports that parent company WarnerMedia is trying to shed $170 million in debt. Deadline writes that these moves do not involve layoffs and are consistent with similar buyout offerings at HBO and Turner — two other properties of WarnerMedia.
This anchor is out
A Baltimore news anchor lost her job after asking a question on air that seemed sexist and racist.
Mary Bubala, an anchor at WJZ in Baltimore, is no longer with the station after she asked a question about race, gender and leadership in regards to the mayor of the city. The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik reported that during an on-air interview with a Loyola University Maryland professor last week, Bubala asked, “We’ve had three female, African-American mayors in a row. They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Is this a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”
A video of the question surfaced on Twitter and there was immediate blowback. Bubala apologized on Twitter, but the damage was done. Station general manager Audra Swain said this week, “Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee. The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”
Bubala gave another lengthy apology to the Sun on Tuesday. She said she made a “mistake in the language” and apologized for “any hurt I unintentionally caused.” She went on to say she wanted to give an on-air apology, but was not allowed.
She wrote, “Unfortunately, I now stand in the path of the tornado. WJZ was forced to let me go. I am saddened and shocked by this decision.”
A curated list of great journalism and intriguing media.
- Why is Sinclair Broadcasting Group snatching up regional sports networks? The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss explains.
- Fact-checking the president done by a … robot? Jonathan Rouch writes in The Atlantic about computer scientists getting in on the act of fact-checking.
Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Poynter training:
- Covering the 2020 Census — Chicago (workshop). Deadline: May 10.
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