Breaking News


Pro-Russian gunmen fire at Ukrainian border guards/AFP


In tomorrow’s class, our guest Bill Foreman will be talking about how to cover breaking news and the role of wire agencies.  Ahead of the class, please read the following for discussion

Ukraine Delays Heavy Weapons Pullback, Blames Rebel Attacks(AP)

Ukraine Says Cannot Withdraw Heavy Weapons as Attacks Persist (Reuters)

Pro-Russia Troops Violate Truce Outside Ukraine Port City (AFP)

New Violence Belies Talk of Peace in Ukraine (NYT)

Thanks to Yardain Amron, for pointing out this interesting story about how Syrian human rights activists are appropriating ISIS imagery and videos to try to call international attention to the scope of the violence.


Press Freedom on the Decline

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Worldwide press freedom is on the decline, according to Reporters Without Borders.  Finland, Norway and Denmark have the freest media, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea are at the bottom of the list.  China slid to 176 out of 180, and the US dropped 29 spots to number 49 out of 180 countries meaning its press is less free than that in Burkina Faso, Salvador or Botswana.  Why the precipitous slide?

“We consider that the Obama administration has launched a war against whistleblowers,” [RSF US Director Delphine] Halgand said. “This year is a continuation of the concern we already expressed that national security protection has been more and more threatening freedom of information in the U.S.”

The organization is also concerned about the impact of Ferguson, where at least 15 journalists were arrested.

Last week, blogpost of the week was Collin Fifer’s on disaster porn.

Please come to class on time tomorrow, since we will be watching a film.

Reading: Dexter Filkins “The Forever War” 168-277

Into the Valley of Death (Sebastian Junger, Vanity Fair)

ASSIGNMENT: For Thursday Feb 26th 9 am:  How developed is citizen journalism in your country?   Write a 500 word blog profiling one prominent citizen journalist (extra credit if you manage to interview them!)  Make sure to also provide the context for your country, such as how many citizen journalists there are, what challenges they face and which social media tools are the most popular.   If there are no citizen journalists, write a piece analyzing the obstacles to the emergence of citizen journalism – or, if you have touched upon that before – whether there are prominent citizen journalists in exile.


Lessons in Dissent, and Advice for Journalists

How does a 14-year old mobilise tens of thousands to change government policy?  Find out by watching the film, Lessons in Dissent, which will be shown at UMMA on Friday followed by a q&A with the director.

Felix Salmon has been giving advice to young journalists (tl; dr:  Don’t do it!)

And now#AdviceForYoungJournalists is trending, some more useful than others.

For the next class, please read Woman’s Work and The Forever War (ps 1-86)

  • Assignment: Write a 500-word blogpost on your view of the limits of acceptability in reporting and showing death. Should the public see images of dead US soldiers and coffins? Should we be able to watch footage of executions by militant groups, or should we be protected from this by internet providers?

Brian Williams Remembers….



From The Wrap

From The Wrap

NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams is in serious trouble.    He’s had to apologise for falsely claiming that he was on a helicopter downed by Iraqi rocket fire in 2003, a claim he had publicly repeated on friday.   The scoop came from Stars and Stripes, which quoted his letter of apology saying,  “I spent much of the weekend thinking I’d gone crazy.  I feel terrible about making this mistake.”  He said he had “misremembered” what happened.

The apology still leaves many questions unanswered, with some still saying that Williams misrepresented what happened.  But now his credibility is badly damaged, and Twitter has been whooping it up with #BrianWilliamsMisremembers

Realise that I forgot to name a blog of the week last week.  I enjoyed Yardain’s post on access to information in Qatar, especially the time he spent poking around the government website.  This week, I liked Savannah’s post on how four years of drought in Syria may have been a factor behind the revolution.

  • READ: Nothing to Envy ps 221 to end
  • Close to the Action, AJR 2004
  • Embedistan: NYT series
  • Assignment: Write a 500-word blogpost about the control over coverage of conflict inside your country. Are journalists embedded with military groups? How much control over journalists do they exert? Is it safe for independent journalists to report without being embedded?   Is the situation the same for local journalists and international ones? If there is no conflict, write about what measures the government takes to control journalists.


North Korea Illustrated


I don’t normally link to the Daily Mail – really, I don’t – but there are some good pictures of North Korea there, taken by Simon Cockerell,  an extremely knowledgeable Beijing-based tourguide who has visited North Korea 150 times.


Apparently, the playgrounds are alarming.  Also worth noting is the instagram account of AP’s North Korea correspondent Eric Talmadge, which has some nice shots.  Including the traffic ladies in action.  (Click on it and you’ll see what I mean by going back in time).

For Tuesday’s class, read Nothing to Envy ps90-159

ASSIGNMENT: Pick one unusual or surprising story that upends popular preconceptions of your country. It could be a profile of an unusual person, or a more upbeat piece, or even a series of photographs or a video about your country.   Write a 300-word blogpost about the piece, describing the methods that journalist used to create a different perception of your country from the norm, and how successful they were.  (By Tuesday noon).





Who’s been reading my syllabus?

IFJ/ Hong Kong Press Photographers Association

IFJ/ Hong Kong Press Photographers Association

New report out on China christened “China’s Media War: Censorship, Corruption and Control” – sounds familiar?   In case you think these are only issues that happen overseas, the case of Barrett Brown appeared to have very little coverage in the US.   A journalist and former member of Anonymous, he was sentenced to 63 months in jail for “linking to hacked material” and fined $890,000.  In a statement after his sentencing, he wrote, ““Good news!  The US government decided today that because I did such a good job investigating the cyber-industrial complex, they’re now going to send me to investigate the prison-industrial complex.”

Meanwhile, this week we discovered that Google handed over emails and other digital data belonging to Wikileaks members to the US government, after a federal judge issued a search warrant.  It only took Google two-and-a-half years to get round to notifying Wikileaks.    Google blamed a gag order for its silence.   And finally, news that Facebook has been censoring images of the prophet Mohammed in Turkey, Alexis Navalny in Russia and Chinese dissidents. 

Blog of the week this week goes to Evan Hoye for his descriptions of the cost of internet access in Cuba.

Ahead of Thursday’s class:

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 300 word blogpost on access to information in your country? Is there access to government officials and government data, or are some media given privileged access? If so, who? Are all areas of the country open to the media, and if not, why not? Is access to all parties fair and equal? How does unequal access affect the reporting of your country and the international perception of it.

Golden age of investigative journalism?

We are living in a golden age of investigative journalism, according to Salon.   Here’s an interesting blogpost about how investigative journalism is making use of crowdfunding and data journalism projects. And news just out that Buzzfeed is setting up an investigative journalism unit in the UK, headed up by the woman who broke the Qatar World Cup bribery story that Collin and Yardain have also been following.

For Tuesday’s class, come prepared with questions about People’s Republic of Amnesia.

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 500-word blogpost about any interesting or important news story that has happened in your country in the past month. Try to write it in a news style, using the inverted pyramid model. Make sure that you give enough context so that people with no prior knowledge of the country can understand the importance of the story. The question you should always be answering: Why should anyone care about this story?



Freedom of the Press Under Siege

Image from

 Secretary of State John Kerry made a stirring speech about risks to journalists today, perhaps still regretting not having made the Paris march.   He said, “In our era, roughly two-thirds of the reporters who die violently are killed because of, not despite, their profession. They are attacked for what they have written, silenced for what they have witnessed, or kidnapped for the leverage their capture may provide. And in most cases, the perpetrators are not caught. The truth is that freedom of the press, whether symbolized by a pencil, a pen, a camera, or a microphone is under siege, purposefully.”

This coincides with new revelations in the Guardian that Britain’s spy agency, GCHQ, intercepted emails from journalists working for the world’s top news organizations.

Shout-out to Blog of The Week, Ella Alter, writing about a police raid on a Russian newspaper to seize their source list

READING for Thursday:  from page 182 of People’s Republic of Amnesia to the end of the book.

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 300-word blogpost describing an important piece of investigative journalism about your country. Was it by a local journalist or someone outside your country? What tools did they use? Did they use unusual techniques which could be seen as unethical elsewhere? If there has been little investigative journalism, write about the reasons for that.  (By Thursday 22nd Jan noon)

Approaching deadlines for:

Google journalism fellowship via the Nieman Lab (Jan 31st)

RTNDA Student Edward R Murrow awards (Feb 3rd)

University of Michigan-Pulitzer Center Student International reporting fellowship (Feb 9 2015)

On the application form found via the link, please pay special attention to the 250-word summary of the reporting project proposed and the budget. Submit a hard copy to the Department of Communication Studies, 5370 North Quad, and an electronic copy to the Pulitzer Center at: