Distasteful corporate funeral oped
The editorial by Knight Foundation CEO and former publisher of the Miami Herald, Alberto Ibarguen, about the slaughter of five newspeople in their newsroom in Annapolis last month, offended me on three levels.
First, I spent five years in newsrooms without any security at all and the only time I ever saw publishers in any of them was when they were passing through to their own offices, telling reporters to clean up their desks (an empty desk is evidence of a corporation-approved empty mind), or haranguing an editor on a story that offended one of their friends at the Chamber of Commerce or the Country Club.
Second, I knew a young woman of a nervous nature who, after hiding under her desk while a gunman went through her office killing her workmates, had a breakdown from which she never completely recovered, a breakdown that was periodically reignited by events that shocked her but would probably not shock you.
Third, for corporate journalism "leadership" to use the murders of these five local newspeople as an excuse for taking another cheap shot at bloggers revealed to me the vulgarity that kind of "leadership" cannot hide anymore than it can hide its corporate contempt for its employees. Dredging up this tired old concept of "community journalism" is actually a bit of corporate sadism because thousands of communities across this country have lost the newspapers that covered their news and the corporations who bought and closed them and fired the "community journalists" are not about to give them back, regardless of the size of the crocodile tears shed by a bigshot at the Knight Foundation.
We only know one citizen of Annapolis. While in Congress he made three unsuccessful assaults on the Endangered Species Act. We are glad he no longer represents this congressional district and wish him no luck at all in his horse-racing and lobbying careers.
Why does the Merced Sun-Star, which comes to resemble the Modesto Bee more and more, day by day, carry a column by a former publisher of the quite distant Miami Herald? It cannot be explained except in terms of the national interests and pretentions of the failing McClatchy Co., a Delta catfish that tried to swallow the Knight-Ridder whale.
For that matter, why does our local newspaper list Ken Riddick, Publisher & President. Joe Kieta, Editor, curiously the same men in the same positions at the Fresno Bee, 60 miles from Merced. Below, readers will find an article by anonymous sources at the Fresno Bee ("Staff reports") describing a management strategy I titled Editorial musical chairs to service debt on the Knight-Ridder Deal-- wmh. This is the exact opposite of supporting local journalism.
We would have preferred an editorial that would have helped us understand the SB555 PACE Program Resolution, why County Treasurer/Tax Collector Karen Adams opposes it, and how hard the providers are lobbying local governments to keep it and extend it despite the upward ratcheting of interest rates to the unincorporated regions of the county. We are constantly bombarded by telephone calls from energy-savings companies hawking their wares. We would all like to save energy and save on energy costs, but we need information that is not just advertising.
All this corporate journalism leadership robs the dead of their dignity. Fortunately, there are articles in the Capital Gazette that do honor to its dead, but I thought the Baltimore Sun's interview of Phil Davis, a Capital police reporter, gave us the reality.
Phil Davis, a Capital crime reporter who was in the building at the time of the shooting, said multiple people were shot as he and others hid under their desks. He said there was a single male gunman.
“Gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees,” he wrote on Twitter. “Can’t say much more and don’t want to declare anyone dead, but it’s bad.”
“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload.”
Davis later told The Sun it “was like a war zone” — a scene that would be “hard to describe for a while.”
“I’m a police reporter. I write about this stuff — not necessarily to this extent, but shootings and death — all the time,” he said. “But as much as I’m going to try to articulate how traumatizing it is to be hiding under your desk, you don’t know until you’re there and you feel helpless.”
Davis said he and others were hiding under their desks when the shooter stopped firing. Then police arrived and surrounded the shooter.
--Kevin Rector and Nicolas Bogel-Burroughs, Baltimore Sun, June 29, 2018
Knight-Ridder, the corporation that funded the foundation through the sale of its newspaper chain to the McClatchy chain, ruined the life of one of California's and the nation's best investigative journalists, Gary Webb, probably to preserve its access and collaboration with the CIA. Webb tied the importation of cocaine and the resultant crack epidemic that killed thousands of young, mainly African-Americans, through overdoses or gunfire, to the CIA's determination to protect the Nicaraguan Contras' drug trade.
After publishing Webb's series, Dark Alliance, under government pressure Knight-Ridder executives repudiated it and Webb. Alexander Cockburn covers the story at the bottom of this post. One cannot imagine a worse betrayal of American journalism than what this chain did to an honest, courageous reporter. It is extremely distasteful for the CEO of its charitable foundation to intone hypocritically over the graves of five journalists murdered in their newsroom by one more armed white American man carrying around an insane grudge.
Support local news — it’s crucial to our lives and our democracy
The murder of five people at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was tragic. It was also a powerful reminder that local news organizations are the bedrock of engagement in a democratic republic. They inform citizens in local congressional districts, mayoral regions or neighborhood councils — the basic units of government. They are open and available; even the doors of the Gazette’s office were glass.
The Gazette tells its community’s everyday story, every day. Who did what, what the Board of Ed or city council did, what streets are closed, where buildings will be built, who won the game, who got married and what’s the latest joke in town. Consumers of local newspapers — or local radio, online or television news operations — like the Gazette judge the reliability of the publication because they live the paper’s stories. The citizen is the ultimate fact-checker — and it couldn’t be more different than the distant report from national news centers, or the anonymous or unverified writings that flood the Internet and social media.
At the beginning of our republic, media’s reach was local and largely verifiable. But for the last couple of decades, local news has been under financial stress, as readers have embraced opinion and commentary served up on the Internet and cable TV, disconnected from the geographical location of the news consumer.
Unlike European and Latin American newspapers, the holy grail of American journalism has long been the full, accurate contextual search for truth, regardless of ideology. In providing the public with accessible insights into the arguments at the core of our republic, the Founding Fathers formalized the role of the press as the staging ground for the middle, a written and spoken battlefield where wars of words are waged until common ground is reached.
This tendency toward the middle, toward principled compromise based on common interests and promoted by a local press, is the genius of American democracy. Americans ultimately reject extremes, often tempering the power of an executive with one ideology by installing a legislature with another, tuning out or voting out voices that lead to the edges.
Yet today, our collective ability to engage in principled compromise is waning.
Local radio, television, Internet and newspaper reporters have not been immune from anti-news media sentiment. They are not distinguished in attacks on journalism; by design, they are exposed to their readers which, until Thursday, seemed a good thing to ensure authenticity. And that shouldn’t change.
Traditional American news reports of the kind The Gazette produces daily provides a shared basis of fact on which to debate decisions; the foundation for democratic decision-making. That’s worth preserving — no matter the platform — because it’s exactly the place where we can start rebuilding the trust that has crumbled on the national scene. They are where people in towns with different views can feel part of the same community, not just the same tribe.
While the maddening evil of last week’s attack captured headlines, the existential threat to local news is rooted in the collapse of the ad-based business model that sustained local news for more than a century. Local publications have gone digital but mostly haven’t found the way to build a robust business online, despite hundreds of experiments in membership, event sponsorships and advertising. With scale and an ability to target audiences precisely, the Facebooks and Googles have captured close to 90 percent of new digital advertising revenue over the last decade.
For the last 25 years, print, television and radio news companies have squeezed operations to stay profitable, while still serving the communities they cover. Having been an early part of that trend, I know personally what an increasingly difficult task it has been to balance business need and still be true to the news mission. More recently, private equity investors have entered the field without any evident sense of news mission, eliminating staff and news production to levels that effectively have turned huge swaths of our country into local news deserts, unable to keep tabs on government and corruption, or even cover daily life.
Meanwhile, some news companies, such as McClatchy, owner of this newspaper, are working to reinvent the newsroom and the news products that are credible and essential for a 21st century audience. Dozens of papers nationwide have joined the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative, that helps advance digital transformation of local news. And many dozens of nonprofit news organizations have sprung up locally across the country.
Alberto Ibargüen, former publisher of the Miami Herald, is president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
What to do? If you want to support your community, subscribe to your local paper and demand more coverage. Support local public radio news or nonprofit news outlets that are filling critical gaps in coverage. You can find nonprofit organizations across the country through NewsMatch.org. Foundations should follow the lead of community foundations in San Diego and Hartford, which helped launch the Voice of San Diego and Connecticut Mirror, or like the Houston Endowment’s early support for the Texas Tribune. These online publications have added critically to local knowledge.
Many foundations have begun to invest in journalism. I applaud that and urge that they fund journalism, not advocacy. And then there are the digital platforms, the accidental publishers of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat that take, repurpose and present the work of others without sharing profits with news producers or assuming responsibility for the veracity of the information they present. That needs to change by pressure from the market or, heaven help us, from government.
I live in Miami and have worked in newspapers here for many years. I used to marvel at the fact that only 90 miles away from Florida, in Cuba, people might be shot or jailed for doing what we were privileged to do because we practiced journalism in the United States. That’s a distinction worth preserving.
Our Say: Please help stop the madness that killed five at Capital Gazette newsroom
http://www.capitalgazette.com/opinion/our_say/ac-ce-our-say-20180706-a-2...Top of Form
Anyone expecting national consensus to come from the death of five community journalists in Annapolis will be sorely disappointed. We can’t even agree on the question, let alone the answer.
If there were going to be agreement on what to do about gun violence, it would have come after the death of school children in Newtown. If we could reach a common ground that mental health was the problem, we would have found it after the murder of movie patrons in a theater in Aurora, Colorado.
If we were going to meet someplace in the middle on assault-style weapons, surely it would have been after the gunfire stopped at a country music festival in Las Vegas. There isn’t even concurrence on what language to use to describe the weapons.
Five journalists were killed in a rampage that will change forever what it means to be from Annapolis. This can’t be undone. We’ll be the headline until the next mass casualty caused by insane anger or hate or illness or whatever it was that motivated Jarrod Ramos.
Annapolis always will be that place, the site of a horrible death for five good people.
We can’t speak for Rob Hiaasen, Gerald Fischman, Wendi Winters, John McNamara or Rebecca Smith. We can’t speak for their families.
We can only hope they will agree with this simple statement: This madness must stop.
Let’s find a way to stop people who wander in and out of the attention of authorities, terrorizing people along with the way with hateful behavior — but never quite crossing the line into something that would lock them behind bars or place them safely within the care of a psychiatric hospital.
Our society has to be capable of surveying the long and growing list of victims of mass shootings and come to grips with a pretty straightforward idea: A mounting death toll is not a price we’re willing to pay for putting the Second Amendment above all other freedoms.
This newspaper is not wise enough to figure this out. So we’re calling on people smarter than us to help Rebecca, John, Wendi, Gerald and Rob.
To Gov. Larry Hogan: We challenge you to use your unique position as the moderate Republican governor of a Democratic state to take the lead. Please, help ensure there are no more Ramoses, someone who harassed people for years — people who found no adequate way to stop him.
To House Speaker Mike Busch, state Senate President Mike Miller and Attorney General Brian Frosh: Set aside partisan politics, even during this election, and help the governor make this happen.
It’s a pretty big mission, we know. It won’t be easy. We can’t offer many suggestions.
But there is a simple reason why you should take on our challenge. Lives depend on it.
Rob Hiaasen, journalist killed in Maryland newsroom shooting, had deep South Florida ties
As a newspaper writer and columnist, Rob Hiaasen relished exploring the everyday absurdities and joys of life: choosing a spirit animal, calling his mother in Florida on Sundays, the small pleasures of ignoring the headlines while in the barber chair.
Hiaasen, who had deep family and journalism roots in South Florida, was a rare voice in the media — warm, witty, often comforting. It was silenced on Thursday when he was murdered along with four other staffers in the newsroom of a Maryland newspaper.
"He had a zeal for writing and finding good stories," said Jon Morgan, a former editor at the Baltimore Sun who worked with Hiaasen. "On the darkest days of cutbacks and layoffs in journalism, Rob was an inspiration."
Hiaasen, 59, had worked as a columnist and editor for the Capital Gazette in Annapolis since 2010. But his connections to South Florida were lifelong. He grew up with his brother, Miami Herald columnist and author Carl Hiaasen, in the Fort Lauderdale area and worked at the Palm Beach Post in the 1990s.
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"He was a beautiful writer. People liked to talk to him. He was so nice and funny and smart and self-deprecating," said Tom O'Hara, the former managing editor at the Post. "I just loved editing his stories."
At the Gazette, Hiaasen served as assistant managing editor, and penned a weekly features column. In many ways, it was the opposite in tone of his brother Carl, who specializes in skewering political fat cats under his famous journalism mission statement to "kick ass."
"He loved the mission of journalism and he loved the idea of working at a paper like the Gazette, doing hometown news, which is the core and the heart of our business," Carl Hiaasen said on Thursday night. "He was a remarkable brother and a remarkable man."
Rob Hiaasen did his share of hard-edged news but he also was never afraid to have fun and take risks, like when he wrote a column about yearning for better spring weather in Maryland. His solution: He donned a snorkel and went for a dive — in the snow in his backyard.
"When you find yourself pining for the sun by snorkeling in the snow — and you think Weber grills talk to each other — it’s time to stop. Or go on vacation," Hiaasen wrote.
In 2010, in between journalism jobs, Hiaasen went back to school, to become a substitute teacher. He wrote about the experience in a column for the Washington Post. Hiaasen was a tall imposing figure but at heart a big teddy bear of a man more intimidated than the kids, at least at first.
"The hardest part was the first time I walked into a classroom,'' Hiassen told NPR, "wondering what I'm going to say that's going to set the tone, so they have a productive day."
Hiaasen was hired at the Palm Beach Post in the 1990s to cover county government but displayed a writing flair that begged for better material than millage rates. "We used to always laugh at his three-paragraph anecdotal leads," said O'Hara.
He later moved to the features department and met his wife, Maria Hiaasen, at the newspaper. He then spent 15 years at The Baltimore Sun, where his curiosity was never sated by the city life buzzing around him.
One day, while walking to lunch with colleagues, he spotted a Korean couple picking up fallen nuts from the ginkgo tree outside the Sun newsroom. That turned into a column about the history of the Asian delicacy — and meeting new friends.
"He had the eye to spot that. He struck up a conversation and he got a great story out of it," said Morgan, the former Sun editor. "It was very typical of him."
As a longtime journalist, he was also keenly aware of the dangers of the profession throughout history. In 2006, he chronicled the dedication of a memorial commissioned by the Freedom Forum, which studies media issues — the monument honored journalists killed on the job.
Nancy Ancrum, the Herald's editorial-board editor, said the deaths of Hiaasen and his Maryland colleagues felt like losing family members.
"We are devastated at the loss of Rob Hiaasen. Carl is family. And when family is in pain and grief, so are we," said Ancrum. "We also mourn the four other victims because journalists are family, too. We wish Carl and his loved ones a measure of peace in the face of such senselessness."
In 2003, Hiaasen won a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He also taught journalism at the University of Maryland.
He and his wife have three children. He is also the uncle of Scott Hiaasen, Carl's son and a former Herald investigative journalist who is now an attorney in Miami. Scott Hiaasen is married to Jenny Staletovich, who covers the environment for the Herald.
Scott Hiaasen called the loss to the family "crushing" and said his uncle was an inspiration — and not just to his own journalism career.
"He was so proud to help young writers," said Scott Hiaasen, who started as an intern at the Palm Beach Post in the 1990s. "I got to share a newsroom with my uncle. Not many people can say that. We talked every day. Swapped stories. He helped teach me to be a reporter."
Alexander Cockburn on the Death of Gary Webb, ‘a Very Fine Journalist Who Deserved Better Than He Got’
With a new film out about Webb, Kill the Messenger, we look back at Cockburn’s testament to the investigative reporter.
By Alexander Cockburn and Back Issues
A new film,
Kill the Messenger, tells the story of Gary Webb, who as a reporter for the San Jose Mercury-News in the mid-1990s wrote a widely read series on the CIA’s relationships with Los Angeles crack dealers and the Nicaraguan Contras. Webb’s investigation earned him the wrath of the US government and its mainstream media abetters, who sicced vengeful journalists on Webb’s trail—devoting far greater resources to poking holes in Webb’s story than they ever had or have since to investigating the actual thrust of his claims. As The Nation’s Greg Grandin writes, “Webb was open to attack because the Los Angeles Times alone assigned seventeen reporters to leverage the inherent mysteries of the national security state to cast doubt on Webb.” Hounded out of journalism and into a deep depression, Webb committed suicide in December 2004. The following month, Alexander Cockburn—co-author, with Jeffrey St. Clair, of Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press (1999), partially about Webb—published this column:
* * *
Few spectacles in journalism in the mid-1990s were more disgusting than the slagging of Gary Webb in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. Squadrons of hacks, some of them with careerlong ties to the CIA, sprayed thousands of words of vitriol over Webb and his paper, the San Jose Mercury News, for besmirching the agency’s fine name by charging it, in his 1996 “Dark Alliance” series, with complicity in the importing of cocaine into the United States.
There are certain things you aren’t supposed to mention in public in America. The systematic state-sponsorship of torture by the United States used to be a major no-no, but that went by the board this year (even though Seymour Hersh treated the CIA with undue kindness in The Road to Abu Ghraib). A prime no-no is that the US government has used assassination down the years as an instrument of national policy; also that the CIA’s complicity with drug-dealing criminal gangs stretches from the Afghanistan of today back to the year the agency was founded, in 1947. That last one is the line Webb stepped over. He paid for his presumption by undergoing one of the unfairest batterings in the history of the US press. His own paper turned on him.
Friday, December 10, Webb died in his Sacramento apartment from what seems to have been a self-inflicted gunshot blast to the head. The notices of his passing in many newspapers were as nasty as ever. The Los Angeles Times took care to note that even after the “Dark Alliance” uproar Webb’s career had been “troubled,” offering as evidence the following: “While working for another legislative committee in Sacramento, Webb wrote a report accusing the California Highway Patrol of unofficially condoning and even encouraging racial profiling in its drug interdiction program.” The effrontery of the man! “Legislative officials released the report in 1999,” the story piously continued, “but cautioned that it was based mainly on assumptions and anecdotes,” no doubt meaning that Webb didn’t have dozens of CHP officers stating under oath, on the record, that they were picking on blacks and Hispanics. There were similar fountains of outrage in 1996 that the CIA hadn’t been given enough space in Webb’s series to solemnly swear that never a gram of cocaine had passed under its nose but that it had been seized and turned over to the DEA or US Customs.
In 1998 Jeffrey St. Clair and I published Whiteout, a book about the relationships among the CIA, drugs and the press since the agency’s founding. We also examined the Webb affair in detail. On a lesser scale and at lower volume, Whiteout elicited the same sort of abuse Webb drew. It was a long book stuffed with well-documented facts, over which the critics vaulted to charge us, as they did Webb, with “conspiracy-mongering,” even as they accused us of recycling “old news.” (The oddest was a multipage screed in The Nationflaying us for giving aid and comfort to the war on drugs and not addressing the truly important question, Why do people take drugs? As I said at the time, To get high, stupid!)
One of the CIA’s favored modes of self-protection is the “uncover-up.” The agency first denies with passion, then later concedes, in muffled tones, the charges leveled against it. Such charges have included the agency’s recruitment of Nazi scientists and SS officers; experiments on unwitting American citizens; efforts to assassinate Castro; alliances with opium lords in Burma, Thailand and Laos; an assassination program in Vietnam; complicity in the toppling of Salvador Allende in Chile; the arming of opium traffickers and religious fanatics in Afghanistan; the training of murderous police and soldiers in Guatemala and El Salvador; and involvement in drugs-and-arms shuttles between Latin America and the United States.
True to form, after Webb’s series raised a storm, particularly in the black community, the CIA issued categorical denials. Then came the noisy pledges of an intense and far-reaching investigation by the CIA’s Inspector General, Fred Hitz. On December 19, 1997, stories in the Washington Post by Walter Pincus and the New York Times by Tim Weiner appeared simultaneously, both saying the same thing: Hitz had finished his investigation. He had found no link, “directly or indirectly,” between the CIA and the cocaine traffickers. As both Pincus and Weiner admitted in their stories, neither of the two journalists had seen the report itself.
The actual report, so loudly heralded, received almost no examination. But those who took the time to examine the 149-page document—the first of two volumes—found Hitz making one damning admission after another, including an account of a meeting between a pilot who was making drug/arms runs between San Francisco and Costa Rica with two contraleaders who were also partners with the San Francisco-based contra/drug smuggler Norwin Meneses. Present at this encounter in Costa Rica was a man who said his name was Ivan Gomez, identified by one of the contras as the CIA’s “man in Costa Rica.” The pilot told Hitz that Gomez said he was there “ensuring that the profits from the cocaine went to the Contras and not into someone’s pocket.” The second volume of Inspector General Hitz’s investigation, released in the fall of 1998, buttressed Webb’s case even more tightly, as James Risen conceded in a story in the New York Times on October 10 of that year.
So why did the top-tier press savage Webb and parrot the CIA’s denials? Another New York Times reporter, Keith Schneider, was asked by In These Times back in 1987 why he had devoted a three-part series in the Times to attacks on the Iran/contra hearings chaired by Senator John Kerry. Schneider said such a story could “shatter the Republic. I think it is so damaging, the implications are so extraordinary, that for us to run the story, it had better be based on the most solid evidence we could amass.” Kerry did uncover mountains of evidence. So did Webb. But neither of them got the only thing that would have satisfied Schneider, Pincus and all the other critics: a signed confession of CIA complicity by the Director of Central Intelligence himself. Short of that, I’m afraid we’re left with “innuendo,” “conspiracy-mongering” and “old news.” We’re also left with the memory of some great work by a very fine journalist who deserved a lot better than he got.
Editorial musical chairs to service debt on the Knight-Ridder Deal -- wmh
Modesto Bee editor Kieta leaving for same position at Fresno Bee
BY BEE STAFF REPORTS
Joe Kieta, The Modesto Bee’s editor and senior vice president, was named Friday to the same position at The Fresno Bee.
Since arriving in 2012, Kieta has worked to quicken the pace of the newsroom’s digital transformation, establishing itself as one of the the leaders in McClatchy for audience growth.
He also helped shepherd award-winning investigative and accountability journalism, including a series of stories that detailed the exceedingly slow pace of justice in Stanislaus County courts.
\A 2014 series that examined how local businesses were hit with predatory lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act won a McClatchy President’s Award, the company’s highest journalism honor.
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"I will deeply miss Modesto and working with our incredible team here," Kieta said. "It’s a bittersweet moment, for sure, but I’m excited to take on a larger role."
Tim Ritchey, The Bee’s general manager, said the company would move quickly to find a new editor.
"Joe’s contribution to advancing the digital transformation at The Modesto Bee has been significant,” Ritchey said. "He has built a strong foundation for our future and leaves a highly skilled and focused team in place."
In concert with this announcement, McClatchy has announced a new regional structure to enhance news collaboration.
Regional publisher Gary Wortel explains, "as part of the next stage of Newsroom Reinvention, we are moving to a regional editor structure that will allow us to innovate faster, collaborate more effectively and serve our readers better. We know we are stronger when we work together."
The regional structure will begin in the West and the Carolinas.
Lauren Gustus, editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, will become regional editor over California and Boise. While day-to-day operations in each newsroom will still be run by the local editor, regional editors like Gustus will oversee groups of newsrooms, ensuring that they innovate, collaborate and drive toward a digital future.
Kieta currently oversees the Merced Sun-Star newsroom, and this will continue in his new role.
McClatchy, which owns The Bee and four other daily newspapers in California, is in the first stages of a regional approach to collaborate more effectively and serve readers better.
The move to Fresno will reunite Kieta with Ken Riddick, who joined The Fresno Bee as president and publisher in October after serving in a similar role at The Modesto Bee for more than three years.