Archive | Press

NYT Policy on Illegally Acquired Documents

The NYT‘s environmental blog, Dot Earth, covered the disclosure of e-mails and other files from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, noted that the files are available on various other website, but did not reproduce any files on its site.  As Andrew Revkin explained in the post:

The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is a change in policy for the NYT?  Hasn’t the Grey Lady published illegally obtained documents on national security and other matters in the past?

As I posted earler this morning, there are reasons to believe these documents were released by an internal whistleblower, rather than an external hacker.  If so, would the same considerations apply?  My initial thought is that arguments against publishing hacked documents might not apply to those disclosed by a whistleblower.  In any event, it seems these documents contain substantial material of legitimate public interest, and this interest is not diminished by the way in which the documents were obtained.  I readily concede that if the documents were stolen, as it appears, the individual responsible should be prosecuted, but this is a separate question from whether to disseminate the contents of the documents themselves. [...]

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The Psychology of a Terrorist

There seems to be a strange subtext in some press stories hinting that the suspect in the Fort Hood shootings, Nidal Malik Hasan, had psychological problems or motivations of a kind that would somehow render his acts inconsistent with terrorism or with Islamic terrorism. Does the press realize that the psychological profile of a typical suicide bomber or religious mass murderer is hardly one of complete normality?

The scholarship on the psychological makeup of terrorists is somewhat spotty, but in his 2005 Journal of Conflict Resolution article reviewing the literature, Jeff Victoroff identifies the following four characteristics in “typical” terrorists:

a. High affective valence regarding an ideological issue

[here Islam, jihad, or the Iraqi or Afghan Wars]

b. A personal stake—such as strongly perceived oppression, humiliation, or persecution; an extraordinary need for identity, glory, or vengeance; or a drive for expression of intrinsic aggressivity—that distinguishes him or her from the vast majority of those who fulfill characteristic a

[here probably strongly perceived oppression, humiliation, or persecution]

c. Low cognitive flexibility, low tolerance for ambiguity, and elevated tendency toward attribution error

[here there is alleged rigidity in personal relations consistent with low cognitive flexibility and low tolerance for ambiguity; we do not yet know if there was attribution error, such as unreasonably blaming Americans or Jews]

d. A capacity to suppress both instinctive and learned moral constraints against harming innocents, whether due to intrinsic or acquired factors, individual or group forces—probably influenced by a, b, and c.

[here we have not only Hasan’s actions as evidence, but also his words and the words of some of his friends]

Jeff Victoroff, “The Mind of the Terrorist: A Review and Critique of Psychological Approaches,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 49: 3-42, 35 (Feb.

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Left/Right bloggers agree: Economy will be top issue in 2010. Disagree on WH war on Fox

This week’s National Journal poll of political bloggers asked “What will be the top two issues in the midterm elections?” Enormous majorities on both the Left and the Right picked “Economy/jobs” as the expected top issue. On the Left, “health care reform” came in second, far ahead of the third-place “deficit/big government.” The issues of Afghanistan and Cap & Trade were very far behind. The picks on the Right were similar, expect that “deficit/government” was the choice for 2d place, with health care in third.

I wrote: “All these will be big, but the ballooning deficit and the unemployment rate will probably be of interest to the largest number of voters. Afghanistan/cap-and-trade/health care will probably motivate lots of base activists from both sides.”

The second question was “On balance, does the White House’s decision to take on Fox News help or hurt President Obama?” Eighty-seven percent of the Left, but only 18% of the Right thought it helped. I was among them: “It turns out that all those folks with ‘dissent is patriotic’ bumper stickers who worried about the president trying to shut down criticism were just a little ahead of their time. Obama’s stature is diminished in the short run, but Fox’s reporting is so harmful to the WH (Van Jones, Anita Dunn, etc.) that they may have figured some short-term cost is worth it if they can convince the more pliant folks in the MSM not to follow up those stories.” [...]

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Revising Web-based Newspaper Articles Without Informing Readers – NYT Edition

The original version of an NYT story on President Obama’s visit to the dover Air Force Base included a paragraph characterizing the trip as a staged event, “intended by the White House to convey to the nation that Mr. Obama was not making his Afghanistan decision lightly or in haste.”   At some point, however, this paragraph was removed from the story, and yet there is no indication that any change was made, as Ed Morrissey reports on Hot Air.

As with a similar incident at the Washington Post, the NYT may well have had a legitimate reason for the change. For instance, the paragraph may have been unsourced conjeccture on the part of the reporter, and thus an unfair characterization of the White House’s intent.  I am certainly willing to give the White House the benefit of the doubt on a matter like this. But whatever the reason for the change, the NYT should have disclosed that changes were made and that it had decided to excise information included in the original story.  As I wrote before:

This is not the first time I’ve noticed the web site of a prominent news organization failing to disclose that it had edited the web-based version of a story after initial publication. . . .  Is this now common practice? If so, it seems to be a major failing. Responsible bloggers routinely disclose anything more than the most minor stylistic and typographical revisions to published posts. I would think newspaper websites could do the same. Indeed, shouldn’t newspapers at least match the disclosure norms observed by bloggers? After all, they’re the real journalists.

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Are Books the New Magazines?

According to Tina Brown, they are – in an interview in today’s Financial Times about her website, The Daily Beast.  This is an elliptical addition to Eugene’s posts about e-books and new legal book technologies.

I’m sure many legal academics, myself included, have wondered how, along the way in the last couple of years, things seemed to shift so that no one seems to read one’s academic articles anymore.  Our legal academic audience, in my highly anecdotal take, seems to want to read either blog posts or books.  I’m not quite sure why this is, but I Sense This In The AcademicoSphere.

Here is Tina Brown on the topic of websites, magazines, and books.  It’s quite a good interview on the founding and progress of the Daily Beast.

Given her record, it is startling when [Tina Brown] announces that she sees no future for long-form magazine pieces “of the old kind”, outside the pages of The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, and proclaims that “books are the new magazines”.

However, Daily Beast writers are to be encouraged to “exercise their narrative journalism muscles” through a tie-up with Perseus Books to produce books of no more than 50,000 words.

“People’s time spans are so short, they either want a short ‘nerve centre’ piece immediately, or they want a short book they can read on a plane,” she says. “A lot of stuff about the [financial] meltdown I would have liked to be marinated over three or four months, but I didn’t want to wait a year and a half.”

The model, which will be tested in January with a book by John Avlon called Attack of the Wingnuts , will be to launch e-books for Amazon’s Kindle or Sony’s Reader, and then to print paperbacks for titles that have

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Appellate court dismisses Dan Rather’s lawsuit against CBS


More than two years after Dan Rather filed a $70-million lawsuit against CBS for breach of contract and fraud, a New York Supreme Court appellate division has tossed out his claim.

The ruling, handed down today, dismissed Rather’s claims that CBS News broke his contract and committed fraud by sidelining him in the wake of a controversial story he reported about President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era service in the Texas Air Guard.

Here is much of the opinion:

Rather v. CBS Corp.

Supreme Court of New York
Appelate Division, First Department
September 29, 2009


This action asserting breach of contract and related tort claims arises out of a September 8, 2004 broadcast that plaintiff Dan Rather narrated on the CBS 60 Minutes II television program about then President George W. Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard. Rather alleges that CBS disavowed the broadcast after it was attacked by Bush supporters, and fraudulently induced him to apologize personally for the broadcast on national television as well as to remain silent as to his belief that the broadcast was true. Rather alleges that, following President Bush’s re-election, CBS informed him that he would be removed as anchor of the CBS Evening News. Rather claims that although his employment agreement required that, in the event he was removed as anchor, CBS would make him a regular correspondent on 60 Minutes or immediately pay all amounts due under the agreement and release him to work elsewhere, CBS kept him on the payroll while denying him the opportunity to cover important news stories until May 2006 when it terminated his contract, effective June 2006.

Rather commenced this action against CBS Corporation, Viacom Inc., and individual defendants Leslie Moonves, Sumner Redstone and Andrew Heyward in September 2007.

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