— SchoolofInformation (@umsi) January 16, 2015
— CNET (@CNET) January 19, 2015
— SchoolofInformation (@umsi) January 16, 2015
— CNET (@CNET) January 19, 2015
By Jessica Johanson-Kubin
“At this stage, I can offer nothing more than my word,” declares a cool voice. “I am a
senior government employee in the intelligence community…and contacting you is
extremely high risk.” Laura Poitras, the director of this film is reading
communications sent by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
While the content of these messages could stand on its own as a thrilling tale, the
film effortlessly frames it in such a way that the viewer gets to see the transition
between documentary, action flick, and even investigative journalism.
Going into the theater, I was expecting to learn a few things, be entertained, and
maybe even have reason to question the extent of the role of the U.S. government in
anti-terrorism efforts. However, after watching it, I was shocked to learn the extent
of the civilian monitoring. Poitras follows an 8 day interview with Snowden and
Guardian in a secret hotel room in Hong Kong as the truth about the NSA’s
monitoring program unfolds.
Anything can be intercepted and used to spy on citizens, we soon learn. Snowden
first seems quite paranoid as he types his password under a heavy blanket. He
unplugs his hotel phone because it can be used to listen in on private conversations.
But as the story advances and as Snowden discloses more and more, we see that his
fears are actually reasonable and well founded.
Surprisingly, Snowden appears to be a well socialized, normal man, if one who feels
like he and the rest of the U.S. citizens are being taken advantage of by the
government. He doesn’t want to be the center of attention, nor does he even want
the newspapers to mention his name until the story has broken. This shows his deep
commitment to the public interest and differentiates him from Julian Assange,
founder of Wikileaks, who enjoyed his fame and used his skills to garner personal
At one point, the hotel fire alarm goes off and the tension in the hotel room is
palpable, even through the screen. Snowden glances around the room uneasily and
declines to evacuate until he has confirmed with the front desk that the alarm is
legitimate. It turns out to have been a test. The tension fades, but the memory of it
remains etched in the minds of both the viewers and Snowden.
After the release of this movie, Poitras found herself on a Department of Homeland
By Margaret McClain
Divya Arya, a multimedia correspondent with BBC focusing on India, discussed the effects gender and violence has had on reporting of gender violence in our COMM class Monday. Specifically, Ms. Arya argued the prevalence of Indian sexual abuse and how these events alter the international image of Indian women. A central focus of Arya’s discussion is the dangers the single story western media created concerning Indian gender violence. Western broadcasting gaze has focused on gender violence, particularly after the 2012 Delhi gang rape, which became international news and drew protests from around the world. Since this, Western media continues to focus on gender violence particularly in cases of group rapes, honor killings, or homicides after an alleged rape. The linkage of Indian women with gendered violence has altered the image of Indian women internationally and has casts Indian women as victims of “an oppressive culture”.
Divya’s own reports show her efforts to combat the single story. Arya’s India’s Long, Dark and Dangerous Walk to the Toilet and Why are Indian women being attacked on social media? highlight the reality Indian women face whether from how Indian women deal with social media to how women tackle the dangers of using the bathroom. Her discussion focused on the need for more stories in the media concerning positive images of Indian women, and how empowerment is central to this. She noted that the lack of empowerment within Mizoram has negatively impacted the women there after showing the class a BBC video on the area.
A key focus of her discussion is the differences in news coverage between Indian media and Western media, specifically on how sex is reported. She compared cases of sexual abuse in both the United States and India and how the resulting media coverage varied between the two. India’s broadcasting focused considerably less on stories of sex-related stories as compared to the United States. The United States has a fascination with sex, seen in the case of the Sayreville hazing incident. Western media tends to be more biased towards alleged perpetrators, particular in cases involving minors. Recently, the coverage focuses on how perpetrators have had their lives ruined by media coverage or the rape allegation itself. She warns against further coverage of sexual abuse in this manner for fear of creating yet another single story.
Ms. Arya has challenged single stories working for the BBC as a correspondent for the past seven years reporting for both a domestic and international audience. She shared her tips with our class when it came to reporting in multimedia formats, such as how context in news reports changes based on the audience. She addressed that stories aimed at an international audience need more context and more attention to details such as the addition of geography, language, and cultural norms. Comparatively, she pointed out how useful connectivity is for reporters. While discussing a previous piece on homeless people in Delhi she discussed how living the experience created a richer story and created further connections between her and the story. Currently, Divya has accepted a Knight Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan where she continues her work researching media coverage of gendered violence.
Hope you all enjoyed the field trip. As some of us discussed after the film, it does indeed reveal the existence of a hitherto unknown second leaker within US intelligence, who revealed the figure of 1.2m on government watchlists. Apparently those details were redacted until the film’s premiere. There’s a New Yorker profile of Laura Poitras here, if anyone wants to know more about her methods.
Ahead of Monday’s class, our class guest, BBC Journalist Divya Arya, asks that you read the following pieces so we can discuss how violence affects women’s lives and reporting on that
3) Benghazi and the Bombshell (NY magazine)
Do make sure that you have questions for Divya about her work. And remember that projects will be due on Dec 1st and 3rd, so please start collaborating with your group members to make sure you have something to present by then! Pic courtesy of BBC.
If anyone is interested in hearing Rick Kaplan speak about his network news and being a consultant to Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom, do come along to my 1pm class in North Quad Room 1110. Otherwise, see you all tomorrow at the Michigan Theatre at 345… or as close to 4 as possible!
Does “universal suffrage” include the right to nominate? In Sept. 2014, the people of Hong Kong occupied the streets to protest China’s decision to have a Nominating Committee choose two to three electoral candidates to run for Hong Kong’s Head of Government in 2017 before the general public could vote on them. Protestors accuse China of reneging on its promise to give the people of the former British colony genuine democracy so they would have decision-making power regarding their future.
Come join a lawyer, a political scientist, and a journalist in a panel discussion as the pro-democracy protests (“Umbrella Revolution”) enter their eighth week in Hong Kong.
Professor of Law, UofM Law School
Associate Professor, UofM Dept of Political Science
Director, Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies
UofM Howard R. Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism
Former NPR & BBC Foreign Correspondent
**SUVAI Indian will be served!**
Being stopped at Detroit airport because his name was on a terrorism watchlist inspired artist Hasan Elahi to create this tapestry, made up of 32,000 photos of “the buildings he’s visited, the beds he’s slept in, the food he’s eaten, the toilets he’s used, the roads he’s travelled on.” More on surveillance art in this fascinating piece in The Intercept.
For Monday, please read the following:
1) Obama’s Orwellian Image Control (NYT)
2) Off the Bus (AJR)
3) Campaign Reporting as Foreign Beat (PressThink)
Also please write a blogpost on the institutional factors guiding journalists within the US. How much freedom do they have to operate? What kind of unseen pressures are there on US journalists to stay within the Bubble? What happens to those who transgress? How does the Obama administration compare to its predecessors? (For Monday 17th Nov)
by Megan Doyle
On Monday, Petra Bartosiewicz came to speak to our class about the US War on Terror.
Petra is a freelance writer who “got her start in journalism at The New York Observer and later attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.” “She has written for numerous publications, including The Nation, Mother Jones, The New York Times, Salon.com and Hustler, and has worked in radio for the weekly program, This American Life.” She has won several awards and fellowships for her writing. She is currently working on a book called “The Best Terrorists We Could Find,” “an investigation of terrorism trials in the U.S. since 9/11,” set to be released in 2015.
Petra has established herself as a niche reporter, covering the one issue in depth. She has become somewhat of an expert on the War on Terror. She referred to herself as a “legal beat reporter without a newspaper,” in that she covers everything on the subject from a legal perspective, but because she remains freelance, she can sell her individual stories to different publications. For instance, she explained how she came to write a few articles for the Associated Press – she was simply present at the right place and time, they were understaffed, and she was knowledgeable on the subject.
Her writing tells a narrative that criticizes the American government for the targeting of marginalized yet criminal people and coercion into fake terrorist plots. However, she was quick to clarify that she did not set out with the agenda to critique the U.S. government. She explained that she uses primarily government documents and facts to build a story, and then she allows the reader to draw their own conclusions about what happened. This is imperative in such a sensitive topic as terrorism, where “ambiguity is the rule” and one may never know the whole truth.
Petra’s body of work covers ethical issues such as the effect of the War on Terror on civil liberties. Her talk with us centered largely around related themes in her work. She discussed what she called a “preventive paradigm,” in which the U.S. government seeks to take preventative action against potential terrorists despite the fact that this goes against everything that is historically upheld in the American justice system, that one is innocent until proven guilty. We further discussed the conflict between the War on Terror and due process, particularly in that due process is being threatened by these preventative counterterrorism actions.
Thank you, Petra, for taking the time to meet with our class! We expanded our knowledge and broadened our minds as a result of our discussion. Your insight was invaluable to our learning.
That’s one statement made by USA Today’s Susan Page, which we will be discussing on Wednesday. The reading is:
2) US Surveillance Harming Journalists and Lawyers (ACLU/HRW)
3) Where’s the Justice at Justice? (NYT)
And for more on our fantastic class guest, Petra Bartosiewicz, her website is here.
Assignment for tomorrow: How has your country been affected by the War on Terror? In what way did it reshape its ties with the US?
That was one of the takeaways from a panel at the Web Summit conference, where Storyful chief exec Mark Little said, “Social media has proved to us that the breaking news model is broken for good. It’s broken as a concept.”
“As a business, it’s a really good business. But the concept that you, with the flashing ‘breaking news’ on the screen are going to be the first to break something is completely bullshit, because someone out there has witnessed it.”
“The key thing for us is to find the first piece of content that will define a story: the video, the tweet… we have 40 journalists looking in real-time for the original source,” he said. “For us the most important thing is who’s the person on the ground with the camera-phone standing there right now.. Authenticity has replaced authority as the new currency of this environment.”
It’s worth reading this Guardian piece which underlines many of the themes we have been discussing, including the bypassing of traditional news organizations, the overabundance of content and the role of journalists as filters.
Our guest on Monday will be Petra Bartosiewicz, so please do the following before class:
1) Listen to her This American Life “The Arms Trader”
3) Read her LA Times Editorial, “A Permanent War on Terror”
4) Draft three questions for her.
Have a nice weekend!