Monthly Archives: July 2013

The surveillance state dodges a bullet

By Christopher B. Daly 

imgres3It was disappointing to see the vote in the House on a measure to rein in the NSA fall a bit short on Thursday. It was particularly disappointing to see my own Rep., the rookie Joe Kennedy, vote on the wrong side. (Was he taking one for Obama? Not worth it. Here’s a tip, Joe: Never vote with Michelle Bachmann.) Interesting to note that many of the Democrats in favor were members with tremendous seniority — they have seen presidents come and go, they are not afraid to buck the party’s floor leadership, and they have been lied to so many times by the surveillance state that they have just had it.

On the plus side, this rather hurried attempt to rein in the surveillance state came darn near passing. Getting 205 votes in the House is not nothing, and it certainly sends a powerful signal around Washington and the world.

Here’s coverage in today’s Times, Post and the Atlantic.

A look ahead, from the Times (quoting Rep. Jerry Nadler):

At the very least, the section of the Patriot Act in question will be allowed to expire in 2015, he said. “It’s going to end — now or later,” Mr. Nadler said. “The only question is when and on what terms.”

 

Secret stuff. You probably shouldn't even be looking at this.

Secret stuff. You probably shouldn’t even be looking at this.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Journalism, Politics, President Obama

Does James Risen need a “shield law”?

By Christopher B. Daly 

The New York Times has an editorial worth reading today about one of its reporters, James Risen, who is facing a court order to reveal his confidential source for a book that he wrote in 2006. At issue is a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals late last week that explains the whole case. The upshot: based on the Supreme Court’s erroneous ruling in the 1972 Branzburg case, the Circuit Court said the journalist has no choice: when the government demands to know who your source was, you have to spill the beans, or go to jail (and then spill the beans, I guess, unless the government plans to jail journalists for life).

As I have argued here and here and here, SCOTUS got Branzburg wrong, so it is hardly surprising that its progeny are similarly wrong. In my view, the First Amendment, when properly understood, would provide journalists all the protection they need to protect their sources. Until that 1972 error is corrected, we will continue to see these kind of rulings, and journalists — regrettably — will have to go to jail.

Here’s the Times editorial:

A Terrible Precedent for Press Freedom

By 

An egregious appeals court ruling on Friday has dealt a major setback to press freedoms by requiring the author of a 2006 book to testify in the criminal trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency official charged with leaking classified information. The ruling and the Justice Department’s misplaced zeal in subpoenaingJames Risen, the book’s author and a reporter for The Times, carry costs for robust journalism and government accountability that should alarm all Americans.

A federal district judge, Leonie Brinkema, was mindful of those costs two years ago when she ruled that a qualified reporters’ privilege to protect confidential sources, grounded in the First Amendment, applies in criminal cases and declined to compel Mr. Risen to reveal a confidential source in the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former C.I.A. employee. The 2-to-1 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which overturned Judge Brinkema’s sound decision, relied on an overly sweeping reading of a murky 41-year-old Supreme Court decision that has been rejected by other federal appellate courts. The ruling also failed to respect the nearly universal consensus among states that there is a common law privilege for protection of reporters’ confidential sources.

The third member of the panel, Judge Roger Gregory, got it right, calling his colleagues decision a real threat to investigative journalism. “Under the majority’s articulation of the reporter’s privilege, or lack thereof, absent a showing of bad faith by the government, a reporter can always be compelled against her will to reveal her confidential sources in a criminal trial,” Judge Gregory wrote in a forceful dissent. “The majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press, and, in doing so, severely impinges on the press and the free flow of information in our society.” Judge Gregory found that the government has ample evidence to proceed with the prosecution without forcing a reporter to choose between protecting sources or going to jail.

The precedent set here is especially troubling since the Fourth Circuit, where the ruling applies, includes Maryland and Virginia, home to most national security agencies. If left to stand, it could significantly chill investigative reporting, especially about national security issues.

It was dismaying that the Justice Department issued a statement approving of the court’s wrongheaded legal conclusion barely a week after Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. announced new guidelines that are supposedly designed to better protect the news media from federal investigators in leak cases. But the department also said it was “examining the next steps in the prosecution of this case.” That should include withdrawing its demand that Mr. Risen testify about his sources.

This issue tests the new guidelines and their promise not to threaten journalists with jail for doing their jobs, except in “extraordinary” circumstances. If he has any intention to live up to that pledge, Mr. Holder should reopen the question of Mr. Risen’s subpoena.

4 Comments

Filed under Journalism, journalism history, Uncategorized

Did Bradley Manning aid the enemy?

By Christopher B. Daly

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning — who has admitted that he was the source for the Wikileaks disclosures of classified information — now faces a court martial on charges that he violated the Espionage Act, and he found out yesterday that the judge in his case will not drop the charge that he “aided the enemy.”

I do not know if he had the intent to do so, and I take no position on that.

But I do fault the news media for covering that decision and accepting the charge at face value. News reporters are supposed to pursue the 5W’s (who, what, when, where, and why — along with their pal “how”)

In the Manning case, there are some unasked questions:

WHO? In 2009, when Manning made his leak, who was “the enemy” of the United States? We had not declared war on any nation. We were conducting hostile actions against two entities: Al Qaeda, a criminal gang of religious fanatics who can barely mount an operation, and the Taliban, which is a political movement in certain parts of South Asia that sometimes uses terror tactics against the U.S. military (only because it is occupying parts of South Asia)  and others. So, what “enemy” did Manning supposedly give aid to?

HOW? How did those disclosures help any state that is an enemy?

It could well be that military prosecutors have evidence of answers to those questions, but I have not seen any, and I am disappointed that the news media have not demanded answers.

4 Comments

Filed under Journalism

For Hemingway’s birthday, visit his papers

By Christopher B. Daly 

This Sunday, July 21, is the birthday of Ernest Hemingway — journalist, novelist, man of letters, beau ideal of a certain interpretation of masculinity. He would have been 114.

There are probably lots of ways to observe his birthday: you could go out and kill a top predator (like a lion or marlin), or you could go drinking and get a bartender at a famous bar to name a drink after you, or you could run with the bulls at San Fermin, or you could try to write ten simple declarative sentences in a row.

Alternatively, you could “visit” with Hemingway by rummaging around in his vast trove of papers and photos, which are archived as the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Much of the Hemingway collection remains to be digitized, so the only way to see most of those documents and objects is to visit the JFK Library, which would not be the worst thing — it sits right over Boston Harbor. But if you visit the website, you can click on the “media gallery” and cruise through Hemingway’s own photos.

If the heatwave continues, try looking through the photos that feature Hemingway in the Alps. He is somewhere in this group bobsledding in Montreux. Enjoy.

EHPH-06901_lres

[Postscript: The Hemingway Collection site also offers an explanation for why the collection is housed at the JFK Library, which is not an obvious connection. I have not done any research into this question, so I can’t evaluate the accuracy or completeness of this version, but it’s worth reading.]

Update: The Boston Globe reports that the JFK Library has digitized the scrapbooks kept by Hemingway’s mother, which document his childhood. The Library has posted them on the website, too.

scrapbookcover2

Leave a comment

Filed under history, Journalism, journalism history

American revolution based on avoiding surveillance

By Christopher B. Daly 

During the current revelations about the extent of routine surveillance being conducted on American citizens by agencies ranging from the NSA to the Postal Service, it might be worth recalling how this liberty-loving country was founded.

In the 1760s and early 1770s, a growing minority of British colonists living in North America were developing longer and longer lists of grievances against the Crown and Parliament. These Whigs (or patriots) looked for ways to turn their concern into practical action to resist what they considered abuses of their rights as Englishmen.

Recognizing the power of information and coordinated action, they formed Committees of Correspondence — first in Boston and later in all the colonies. They eventually became tantamount to shadow governments, but they

Sam Adams, enemy of the surveillance state.  National Portrait Gallery

Sam Adams, enemy of the surveillance state.
National Portrait Gallery

began as a mechanism for sharing information, views, and debates. Immediately, the founders recognized a problem: most of the mail that passed through the British postal system was routinely read by postmasters. So, if the Whigs were going to get organized on a continental basis, they needed to find a way to escape from that surveillance if they were to avoid arrest and punishment.

The answer was the Committees of Correspondence, which developed a shadow post office to serve their needs. When one committee had an important message to send to another, the members dispatched a private post rider, who carried the message on horseback — from Boston to New York, say, or from Baltimore to Savannah. Alternatively, they might dispatch a loyal Whig aboard a ship carrying the printed or handwritten messages on his person.

One famous case in point: after the dumping of the tea into Boston Harbor in December,

Paul Revere thwarted postal surveillance.  By John Singleton Copley

Paul Revere thwarted postal surveillance.
By John Singleton Copley

1773, the Boston Committee of Correspondence dispatched none other than Paul Revere to carry the news to Manhattan. That was a trip of more than 200 miles by horseback, which Revere completed in less than a week, over pretty rough roads, as winter was settling in. Long before his famous ride to Lexington and Concord, the Boston copper- and silversmith made other, lesser-known but essential rides for the cause.

 

From the patriot point of view, this system was a clever, heroic, and indispensable work-around that was a vital means for advancing the cause of liberty.

From the British point of view, of course, this was an illegal conspiracy to commit treason. 

[Postscript: As soon as the revolution began, the (illegal) Continental Congress began trying to conduct foreign affairs in hopes of drawing other nations into the revolutionary battle against Britain. The Congress set up a “Committee of Secret Correspondence,” led by Benjamin Franklin. Members began reaching out to contacts in Europe, but of course they could not use the British postal system and the new revolutionary government had not established its own. So, they turned to private couriers, who carried the committee’s secret messages. Later, this committee was renamed the Committee for Foreign Affairs. Thanks to the U.S. State Dept Office of the Historian for that one.]

1 Comment

Filed under broadcasting, First Amendment, history, journalism history, Politics

Review of “Covering America” in Journalism History

I am posting this review of my book in the scholarly journal Journalism History here, because the journal charges a lot for access.

Journalism History 

Vol 13 (4), Winter 2013, p254-255

CA cover final 2Daly, Christopher B.

Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism.

Amherst and Boston: UMass Press, 2012. 535 pp. $49.95.

           

Many a teacher of journalism history has heard students complain about how dull or inaccessible they find any one of several available media history textbooks. And many a journalism instructor has agreed with his or her students’ complaints about de-contextualized dates and names of publishers and their historically significant newspapers strung through those tomes. Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism addresses these complaints. In Covering America, Christopher Daly has wrapped the story of American journalism from the colonial period through the digital age into a carefully researched, beautifully written, and memorable account of how news reporting mostly has grown as well as improved during the span of three centuries as innovators have exploited new technologies, constitutional protections, government subsidies, cultural trends, and business formulae to maintain their financial independence and journalistic standards while serving their readers and audiences ever more efficiently.

            Daly, an associate professor of journalism at Boston University with twenty years of experience covering New England for the Washington Post and writing for the Associated Press, concentrates in Covering America on newspaper, television, and digital news with only occasional references to early twentieth-century magazines and rare mentions of public relations and advertising. His focus is the changing and expanding definition of news over time. Daly admits that in Covering America, unlike Frank Luther Mott’s or Edwin Emery’s geographically broader approaches to journalism history, he emphasizes journalism originating in New York— although Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago receive some attention when media in these cities contribute to the overall narrative. This exclusion of examples of western and southern journalism, however, contributes in two ways to the success of Covering America. It greatly reduces the clutter and detail that overwhelms so many students, and it allows Daly to hold the social, political, economic, and technological context constant as he explains the challenges and opportunities printers, for example, faced at roughly the same time and place. Rather than grasping at data, the reader finds the overall historical patterns of journalism more apparent and memorable.

            In describing his history as narrative, Daly accurately describes his method of organizing this book, which is apparent from the opening paragraph of his introduction through his final chapter on “Going Digital.” Covering America, not unlike other journalism history texts, begins with Benjamin Franklin, but does so with a narrative lead one might expect from a short story or magazine feature:

             On an early spring night in 1722, a young man hurried along the narrow streets of Boston, trying not to be seen. He was not a spy or a thief. He only wanted to be a writer. Just sixteen years old, Ben Franklin was hoping to get his writing published for the first time, and he had chosen a risky, roundabout route to do so.

 Daly then notes that young Franklin was “skulking” around the shop of the New England Courant, owned by his brother James, in order to slip a manuscript under the door for his older brother to discover and, he hoped, to print. In this description of Franklin’s actions, Daly finds several defining characteristics of American journalism still at work today: printing was a private business, journalism was open to the young with raw talent, and the pleasure of publication drives journalists into the field.

            In the first chapter on the “Foundations of the American Press, 1704-1763,” after explaining the organization of the print shop, its products, and its method of production, Daly returns to Franklin as an example of printers during this period of six decades before the American Revolution, devoting eleven of the chapter’s twenty pages to detailing his biography, readings, head for business, popular writings, and principles of journalism in his “Apology for Printers.” Within this chapter, Daly also describes the John Peter Zenger trial and acquittal for seditious libel, noting that Franklin helped Zenger obtain his attorney. Franklin receives briefer mentions in several more chapters, reminding readers the interconnections always present as journalism is transformed over time. This pattern of focusing on one or two individuals as representative of journalists from particular periods is a device of narrative compression that Daly uses in each of the chapters in Covering America. As Daly develops an overarching narrative to describe 300 years in the development of American journalism, he inserts short narratives of innovative journalists and publishers who exemplify traits of the period being described. This is how readers receive substantial information about Benjamin Day, James Gordon Bennett, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Paine, Horace Greeley, Joseph Pulitzer, Ida B. Wells, William Randolph Hearst, Adolph Ochs, Henry Luce, Harold Ross, David Sarnoff, William Paley, Walter Winchell, Walter Lippmann, Dorothy Thompson, Edward R. Murrow, Ernie Pyle, John Hersey, A.J. Leibling, David Halberstam, Truman Capote, Gloria Steinem, Katherine Graham, Ted Turner, Al Neuharth, and other journalistic innovators who so comfortably populate Daly’s story of the news.

             Covering America would vastly improve the student experience of an often unappreciated journalism history course, particularly at the undergraduate and master’s levels. Journalism students will leave a class after reading Daly’s book with a clear understanding of the methods and values of the field they will soon enter. They will also gain some confidence that journalism will continue even if paper and ink disappear.

 Joseph Bernt, Ohio University

Leave a comment

Filed under broadcasting, Covering America, First Amendment, history, Journalism, Photojournalism, Uncategorized

Review of “Covering America” by J&MC Quarterly

I am posting this enthusiastic review in the scholarly journal Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly because the journal charges a lot for access.

Book Review:

CA cover final 2Covering America: A Narrative History of a Nation’s Journalism

Reviewed by Giovanna Dell’Orto (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA)

 

This engrossing, wide-ranging history of American journalism from

the colonial era to the present makes a tremendous contribution to

mass communication education by being that rarest kind of

textbook—one that reads like literature instead of CliffsNotes.

Covering all the bases, from the Zenger trial to the Huffington Post,

and with excursions into much lesser known histories across news

media, Covering America makes perfect and enjoyable mandatory

reading for undergraduate and graduate classes in journalism history.

Christopher Daly, an associate professor at Boston University’s

Journalism Department, approaches this monumental historical

survey with the reportorial flair appropriate for a former Associated

Press and Washington Post journalist, which sets it apart from more

pedagogical classics like Emery, Emery, and Roberts’s The Press

and America. Literally from the first line, Daly grabs the reader with

striking, cinematic details that make the past come alive. Page 1

opens with a teenage Benjamin Franklin skulking along the dark

streets of eighteenth-century Boston, trying to put one over his

brother in order to start his writing career—and the readers are

hooked, be they scholars who have been teaching colonial journalism

for years, like this reviewer, or freshmen who might have never heard

of Franklin.

Similarly intimate visual vignettes are peppered throughout the next

nearly five hundred pages, including an iconic Ed Murrow “sitting on a

bench in a White House hallway, chain-smoking Camel cigarettes” as

FDR decides how to react to just-received news of Pearl Harbor. At

the other end of the press–government relationship spectrum, we are

treated to the image of President Nixon dancing at the White House

wedding of his daughter at the very same moment when “the

typesetters and pressmen at the [New York] Times started printing”

the Pentagon Papers stories.

Most helpful for classroom use, in all these cases and across the

volume, Daly assumes no prior historical knowledge on the readers’

part, and retells the basics of U.S. history through the eyes of the

journalists and media owners who put its first draft in front of the

American people. Most chapters even conclude with short summaries

of how their main characters—from Franklin to David Halberstam—

ended up, much like the end titles in documentaries, so that no gaps

are left in a remarkably comprehensive story.

Some journalism historians might object that this volume skates very

close to the “Great Men” tradition. The narrative focus is unabashedly

on the major figures that made journalism what it is (and yes, for the

vast majority of the three hundred years covered it was mostly white

men). As Daly puts it repeatedly, social, political, economic, and

technological developments influenced the shape of journalism, but

for the major shifts to happen, “somebody had to do something.”

Since this book’s main audience is not the specialist, focusing on the

adventures of those various “somebodies” at the expense of scholarly

interpretative controversy seems an effective trade-off for terrific

storytelling that gets the major points across memorably.

In addition, the book does make two fundamental conceptual

arguments that give it depth and a unifying thread. Daly argues that

journalism has been central to the history of the country. From the

early Republic Party press all the way to today’s blogs (which, as

Daly notes, are not that different), the media history narrated in the

volume shows how journalism helped shape American life.

Sometimes, it has done so with nefarious effects, but also with a

“long tradition of service to humanity.” That service, however, has

recurrently been imperiled by the practice of journalism as a

business.

The most heartfelt, compelling question raised is the strange bed

fellowship of journalism and money. At the end of chapter 12, which

focuses on the Pentagon Papers and Watergate and is perhaps the

book’s best, Daly reflects on what he feels was the “apotheosis” of

the raison d’être for independent, aggressive journalism: “Build a big

enough audience so that you can make enough money to tell anyone

to go to hell. The risk of such an attitude is sounding arrogant, but

without it there is no real journalism.” But money, as the book shows,

is not always a journalist’s friend—not when it has meant

acquiescence to governmental or corporate interests, not when it is

intended to fatten shareholders’ wallets instead of newsgathering

operations, and not when it is made by pandering to the evil twin of

mass interest, the enduring prurient passion for celebrity scandals

and gore.

For an overview book, the level of detail is astounding, especially

since it does not detract from the narrative flow. With illuminating

forays into law, technology, and policy making, readers are

introduced to pamphleteers, editors, reporters, columnists, and

broadcasters, from Thomas Paine to Matt Drudge by way of Horace

Greeley, Ida B. Wells, Adolph Ochs, Harry Luce, and less obvious

figures, such as Harold Ross and Walter Winchell. From the smelly

printing equipment in colonial shops to the Supreme Court justices’

opinions and the account behind the iconic napalm-burned

Vietnamese girl photograph, there are no major stories left untold.

Striking quotes straight from the media—the Liberator’s opening

editorial, Ernie Pyle’s Captain Waskow’s tribute, Earl Caldwell’s

report of the King assassination—enrich the atmospheric narrative.

Until, that is, the digital era: The one major criticism of this volume is

that its treatment of what Daly calls the last major period of journalism

history, the digital revolution from the mid-1990s onward, is

unsatisfactorily perfunctory. The entire digital era gets a twenty-page

chapter that does not even mention such critical developments as the

rise of fake news shows or shattering scandals such as the Jayson

Blair affair, which is hinted at in the conclusion.

Writing what amounts to a history of the present is certainly difficult,

but the end of the book feels abrupt, and the first decade of the

twenty-first century deserves the same lively, in-depth study as the

other eras so masterfully narrated. Despite that shortcoming, this

volume is a top-choice main history textbook and reference work for

journalism educators, researchers, and students at all levels.

Leave a comment

Filed under Covering America, history, Journalism, journalism history