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:


Anonymous Sources


Washington Post/2005

Following our class discussion on anonymous sources, here’s a poem on the use/abuse of anonymity in the New York Times.   The most recent Public Editor blog, by Margaret Sullivan, on the use of anonymous sources is here.  She too mentions the @NYTAnon twitter feed.   I’ve put a link to the class slides in Ctools, and hopefully the readings (up to page 181 of Amnesia) will be there within the next day or two.

ASSIGNMENT:  Write a 500 word post on the use of sources and the level of danger they face in your chosen country. You can write about sources in general, or you could write about one specific example where an anonymous source was used or a source’s identity was divulged perhaps unwillingly or at a cost.   Remember to source each statement, and link to your sources within your post. (to be posted by Jan 20th at 8am)

And finally, on the topic of free speech, here’s a warning one publisher to her journalists to stop swearing in the newsroom. Apparently, the cause of the cursing is likely to be the disappearance of junk food from the newsroom vending machine.  No junk food.  No swearing.  Doesn’t sound much like a newsroom to me.



AFP/Martin Bureau

AFP/Martin Bureau

The new Charlie Hebdo has been printed with the Prophet Mohammed on the cover.  The cartoonist who drew the picture, Renald Luzier, explained it at a press conference where he repeatedly broke down.  “It was not the front page the world wanted us to make, but it was the one that we wanted to make,” he said. “It was not the front page the terrorists wanted us to make, because there are no terrorists in it, there is just a man crying, a guy crying – it’s Mohammad.”

In the US, the Washington Post printed the picture, so for the first time depicted the Prophet Mohammed, while for its part the New York Times did not take this step, but instead warned about the possibility of reprisals.

In Hong Kong, a pro-democracy tycoon who runs the Apple Daily newspaper, Jimmy Lai, had a petrol bomb thrown at his house, sparking a #jesuisjimmy hashtag, while a German correspondent in China wrote this sobering account of the arrest of her Chinese assistant.   Before Thursday’s class, please read the first 82 pages of the People’s Republic of Amnesia, and make sure that you have filed your first blogpost by 8am.




After a weekend of extraordinary rallies attended by 3.7m people in France, here’s the cover of the new Charlie Hebdo magazine.  The latest reports say that three million copies will be printed.



Charlie Hebdo’s lawyer, Richard Malka, said it will carry cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, “We will not give in otherwise all this won’t have meant anything,” he told France Info radio on Monday, which broadcast from the magazine’s heavily guarded temporary offices at Libération newspaper.

“Humour without self-deprecation isn’t humour. We mock ourselves, politicians, religions, it’s a state of mind you need to have…..The Charlie state of mind is the right to blaspheme.”   Meanwhile, as the Obama administration regrets not showing up at the march, questions are being asked about exactly who was ‘supporting’ press freedom.  Question is: was it really a solidarity march for them or a photo-op?


And to finish, a quick reminder that tomorrow’s class will be a WordPress session in the Mac lab on the 2f of the Modern Languages Building.   Come armed with your own wordpress site.


Welcome to Comm 439!

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Welcome to Comm studies 439!   This is a class website, and I’ll be posting assignments, reading lists, random thoughts and other general info here.

On a day we should all be thinking about media freedom, here are some cartoon tributes to the murdered Charlie Hebdo journalists in France.   Interesting to see which news outlets refused to publish the cartoons – AP, CNN, The Daily Telegraph, New York Daily News and many others, while the Washington Post, Buzzfeed and Huffpost were among those that did.  As for the New York Times, there was a lot of back-and-forth, as described by Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who explained the thinking of Editor Dean Baquet, “I sought out a lot of views, and I changed my mind twice,” he told her, “It had to be my decision alone.” He decided against, citing the sensibilities of Muslim readers, “We have a standard that is long held and that serves us well: that there is a line between gratuitous insult and satire. Most of these are gratuitous insult.”


On another topic, there are some great opportunities for student journalists on the horizon – there’s a position at Michigan radio for students with work/study funding which would allow for some writing and reporting experience.    Also the deadline is approaching for the Pulitzer Center’s student fellowship.  Email me for more details, or I’ll post shortly.  And finally, the deadline is fast approaching for the AP paid internship over the summer, which offers posts all over the US as well as Bangkok; Berlin; Johannesburg; London; Mexico City; New Delhi; Paris; Rio de Janeiro; Seoul and Tokyo.   Start filing your applications now!