Updated Aug. 31, 2015
When journalists make the news as much as they cover it, something has gone wrong. Lately in Egypt, journalists have been in the headlines with disturbing regularity.
On Saturday two Al Jazeera journalists, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian cameraman Baher Mohamed, were again sent to prison after being retried on charges of broadcasting false news. The two, who had spent more than 400 days in prison, were widely expected to be cleared of charges. Instead, they received a 3-year sentence. Mohamed received an extra six months for possession of a spent bullet casing.
Unfortunately the two are not alone. The Committee to Protect Journalists says Egypt remains one of the world’s leading jailers of media workers (22 at last count, up from 12 in March).
Celebrated blogger Alla Abd El Fattah in February received a five-year sentence for what prosecutors called illegal protest. Reporters covering mass protests in Cairo this January were questioned and detained; one was handed over to pro-government demonstrators, who dragged her to the ground, punched and slapped her, she reported. The crackdown came days after President Albdel Fattah Al-Sisi promised to release several jailed journalists.
It was also Cairo in 2011 where 60 Minutes reporter Laura Logan was gang raped by a crowd of protestors while covering the Arab Springs uprising.
Except for a brief hiatus after the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, journalists in Egypt have had negligible media freedom. For years, they have faced harassment and obstructionism when reporting. Their stories can be weighty, such as the killing of 20 protesters at the rallies in January. Or, as I know well, the topics can be politically benign — like whether garbage pickers outside of Cairo have any legal claim to land on which they are squatting.
This week, journalists have been robbed of a guilty pleasure. In several months, we will no longer wrap ourselves in frayed bathrobes, sip a stiff cup of joe, click on the tablet and enjoy — nay, really savor — watching our profession get lampooned.
Most of us, we’ll quickly add, get our daily dose of Jon Stewart after consuming the news in less comedic ways — online, in print and on our Twitter feeds. (And most of the 2.2 million viewers watch the show the morning after it airs, online or on social media.) But now that the master of the “epic takedown” is set to step down as anchor of The Daily Show, who will make journalists laugh at ourselves? And who, by virtue of his sheer universality, will goad us into being better journalists?
Oh, sure, sure. Some of us take contumacious pleasure in seeing Stewart skewer politicians whom we cannot because doctrines of journalistic fairness and balance forbid it.
As Stewart told PBS’s Bill Moyers in 2003, four years after becoming Daily anchor:
“I can’t tell you how many times we’ll run into a journalist and go, ‘Boy, that’s . . . I wish we could be saying that. That’s exactly the way we see it and that’s exactly the way we’d like to be saying that.’ And I always think, ‘Well, why don’t you?'”
Breaking news hits. Bullets fly, people are panicked, and your newsroom kicks into high gear. It’s the moment journalists brace themselves for, but will your digital media strategy pan out?
Kiplinger Fellow Sue Allan might have had that thought in October — albeit fleetingly — when an Ottawa gunman went on a killing rampage at the National War Memorial and then opened fire in the nearby Parliament building.
The managing editor of digital for Maclean’s was en route to the magazine’s Ottawa bureau when the shooting began.
“I opened the door to discover my colleagues running out,” she said. “For about 30 seconds, I wondered if I should press ahead with (my) appointment — Maclean’s publisher was in town. (In fact, the meeting did go ahead, just without me.)
The next few minutes were devoted to alerting the Maclean’s newsroom in Toronto and recruiting resources.”
Soon much of the city, including the bureau office, was in lockdown. Sue worked to setup a central contact list of the magazine’s key reporters and editors, as well as at sister radio and TV stations.
“Although our Ottawa building would end up on lockdown into the late evening, my colleagues kept finding a way out to report,” Sue said.
The magazine’s digital coverage centered on its live blog, using ScribbleLive to stream news content and tweets. They also used SoundCloud recordings collected on the scene. Here’s how the Maclean’s staff approached its digital coverage:
The jubilation of a football victory over arch rival Michigan and a looming Big Ten championship had barely set in for this year’s highly ranked Ohio State Buckeyes when the team and university community received the tragic news that a senior player had taken his own life.
Defensive lineman Kosta Karageorge had gone missing on Wednesday, the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday and a few days before the season’s final home game against the Wolverines. His mother had reported her concerns to police. The family’s worst fears were realized on Sunday when Karageorge’s body was found off campus, death by an apparent gunshot wound.According to information released by the family prior to his discovery, the 22-year-old, who also wrestled for the Buckeyes, had suffered a number of concussions during his football playing days, one as recently as last month. His mother said he had bouts of confusion. The effects were reportedly getting worse. He ended a text message to his mother saying, “I am sorry if I am an embarrassment . . .”
The decision to report on suicides has always been a tough ethical dilemma for journalists. The death of Karageorge is another in a continuing line of self-inflicted deaths that call on the media to act responsibility with their coverage. But the line of responsibility isn’t etched in stone. It’s not as easy as it seems; in my 35 years as a journalist the policy has been all over the place, usually created by editors, subject to change.