Jamie Kelly

Much like life in the state of nature I am nasty, brutish, and short.

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Being first vs. being right first

CNN and the Associated Press should already know this, but hardly anyone will remember if you were first to get the story right, and hardly anyone will forget if you were first and got the story wrong.

And talk about wrong: Having someone under arrest is a binary state—either law enforcement officials have someone in custody or they don’t. And in this case, despite repeated claims from CNN and the AP, there was no one in custody.

As Amy Davidson perfectly puts it in the above-linked New Yorker blog post:

There was a moment, between two and three o’clock on Wednesday, when the phrase “conflicting reports” seemed inadequate to describe the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.

The reports and their conflicting nature prompted a surprisingly sharp statement from the FBI pointing out the unintended consequences of reports like the AP and CNN’s, and the...

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Where is the line between informing and exploiting?

How much coverage is too much, and when does the saturation of coverage of an event like the Boston Marathon bombing inadvertently serve the goals of the attackers? It’s an excellent question asked by Kate Gardiner about the coverage of the explosion on Monday.

My reply was simple—perhaps simplistic, actually—we need to draw a line between informing the public and exploiting the victims of this attack. But neither she nor I really know where that line is.

The distribution of news has fundamentally changed in the nearly 12 years since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. It isn’t worthwhile to list all of the changes, but the rise of mobile phones with video cameras and social media—especially Twitter—have made...

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Why the AP was right to stop saying “Illegal immigrant”

The Associated Press announced this month that from now on, “illegal immigrant” is no longer the correct style. It’s a change that’s been a long time coming, and one that could have a major impact on the debate over immigration. And it’s the correct move because it offers reporters a chance to clarify and inform, rather than inflame.

Perhaps not surprisingly, not everyone is thrilled with the change. At the New Republic, John McWhorter writes that it’s a crime against logic, because people who enter the U.S. without proper permission are, prima facie, illegal immigrants, and that we use adjectives like “convicted” to describe people already.

His argument that the basis of the change is the slogan that “A person shouldn’t be called illegal” is a straw man, though. The change in style has the effect of being more humane,...

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CNN says it doesn’t support rapists, evidence says otherwise

Apparently CNN is denying any slant toward the rapists in its coverage of the Steubenville, Ohio rape trial, and the reporter involved is offended anyone would think she supports rapists.

Fair enough—I seriously doubt she does support rapists, and I doubt that she thinks rape is a good thing. But it doesn’t change the fact that within a minute of appearing on camera, she talks about how emotional it was to watch two boys believe they were watching their lives crumble before their eyes. Let’s go to the video tape.

(Start at 1:15)

I’m sure it was a very emotional moment, and there is some journalistic value in describing the defendants' reactions. But, as I pointed out before, this crosses that line. It makes her appear to be much more concerned with the impact of a rape on the men who committed it than on the young woman who was raped.

And indeed, she...

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Hypocrisy, cowardice and the Cherokee Scout

It didn’t really surprise me when Cherokee Scout editor Robert Horne resigned. Sometimes you do something and it renders you ineffective. He did the right thing, and it cost him his job.

At least he can leave North Carolina with his head held high, and with some well-deserved kudos from his publisher:

“We wish Robert well in all his future endeavors,” said David Brown, publisher of the Scout and Journal. “He’s a good man who has done a lot of positive things for the area that should be remembered.”

Brown on the other hand, gets to stay in North Carolina and hang his head in shame. That shame isn’t just because he backed down and licked the sheriff’s boots when confronted with controversy. No, he gets even more shame because of the ad he posted today on JournalismJobs.com. That ad begins:

Have you always wanted to be the editor so you...

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Media, rape culture, victim blaming and Steubenville

A friend of mine asked an insightful question on Tumblr about how we’ve gotten to the point where young men would feel that raping an unconscious woman is acceptable.

The concept of rape is unfathomable to me: I can’t wrap my brain around what would drive a man to put his penis into something that wasn’t actively interested in having a penis put into it. What drives a person, seeing an unconscious person, to think “you know what sounds like a good idea? Putting my penis into that person.”
Where did we fall apart as a society to a degree where shoving your dong into people became a thing? Where our sexual response is so screwed up that uninterested people give us raging boners? Have we gotten ourselves so twisted up with sexual taboos and edicts that we demonize consensual behavior and give genuinely fucked up actions a pass? Are dudes being somehow taught that the world somehow...

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Media mishandling of a rape verdict

The Steubenville, Ohio, rape case has been media catnip for months now—it has so many elements that make it compelling: cover-ups, fallen teenagers, social media misbehavior, &c. It draws people in.

There’s been less focus on the victim, which is unsurprising—it seems that a lot of network and cable journalists and talking heads are more interested in the impact of the rape on the culture of the town (which is very interesting, but secondary), and on the effect on the football team, particularly the two players accused of rape. That is less interesting, unless we talk about how the team culture enabled and protected them—made them feel that of course they could sexually assault a young woman. But that hasn’t been the narrative.

One CNN anchor today spoke about how the verdict possibly ruined the boys' lives, and how it was sad to see so much...

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In defense of publishing data on gun ownership

There is nothing wrong with a newspaper asking for, and then publishing a list of all the people in the community who have applied for or have received a permit to carry a concealed weapon, as long as that information is a matter of public record. Doing so endangers no lives, and is as benign as publishing information about property tax rolls, which in most areas is available online freely. Those listings include the name of the homeowner, as well as the assessed taxable value of the home. When people come into contact with the government—arrests, marriage certificates, home purchases, bankruptcies and foreclosures, to name a few examples—that information is public record. Some identifying data, such as birth dates and Social Security Numbers, are redacted, and that makes sense. Public information isn’t meant to invite fraud. But it is meant to be available to the...

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Cowardice is not a journalistic value

Romenesko pointed to this truly jaw-dropping note from a newspaper in North Carolina, which apologizes to the public for requesting the records of gun ownership in the county. It also apologized to the sheriff—the one who refused to follow the public records law—and withdrew the request.

It seems like there was a fair bit of outrage over the request, which was apparently leaked by the sheriff. Besides outrage, the publisher and editor were apparently threaten with both physical harm and a boycott of advertisers.

I understand trying to back away from controversy, but from what I can gather, the paper was trying to do a story on whether the sheriff was following the law when issuing gun permits, and ended up being bullied into letting him violate the public records law. That isn’t just bad journalism, it’s cowardice.

I feel bad for the people who worked there....

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Tech journalism still must die

From an article in—of all places—the New York Times about the announcement of the PlayStation 4 from Sony.

The console itself was never shown during the two-hour presentation. No release date was given, although before the Christmas holidays is a good possibility. No price was mentioned.

So essentially, the paper of record went to an event where Sony said “We’re going to have this fantastic new console with all of these great features,” but didn’t answer the questions that actually matter to the people who’d buy such a console.

Of course, so did nearly every other member of the tech media.

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