Monday, April 16, 2018

#METOO COVERAGE LEADS VARIETY OF PULITZER PRIZES

The revelations about sexual assaults and harassment that sparked the #MeToo movement took the top awards at the Pulitzer Prizes today with The New York Times and The New Yorker sharing the coveted Public Service prize for their reporting on the issue, while The Washington Post's revelations of Alabama senate candidate Roy Moore's alleged sexual harassment of under-aged girls won that outlet the Investigative Reporting honor.

Other winners included those covering the Trump Mexican wall issue, Russian interference in the U.S. elections, and the deadly South Carolina church killings. 

The awards spanned both newspapers and magazines with 13 different news outlets taking at least part of a prize. Multiple winners included The New York Times with three and The Washington Post and Reuters two a piece.

See the entire list HERE and video of the announcements below:

IT'S PULITZER DAY - LEAKS, MYSTIQUE AND "THE CABAL"

It's Pulitzer Prize day once again.

For years, this was my favorite story to cover when I was at Editor & Publisher, the once proud bible of the newspaper industry.

After we were lucky enough to get leaked finalist names for several years, it became something of a guessing game to see how many were correct. Most of the time we were on top of it, until the Pulitzer folks got wise and put the clamps on the leaks.

Known by many as "The Cabal," the leaks were the work of a group of Pulitzer jurors, some members of these committees that actually filter through the thousands of Pulitzer entries and provide three finalists for the 17-member Pulitzer Board to consider.

For years the group, led in part by former Washington Post ombudsman and D.C. news veteran Deborah Howell -- among others -- would hit the phones after the finalists were chosen and a printed list would eventually evolve. It circulated and found its way to me back in 2004.

After determining it was valid, Editor Greg Mitchell and I posted it online at E&P and found it was correct once the announcements occurred. "The Cabal" and its leaks continued for several years, but later died out due to tighter controls and newer jurors not interested in spreading the word.

Still, it has become clear that the Pulitzer Board itself is known to advise friends and colleagues if a win is coming. Past editors and winners have told me how they were informed hours -- even days -- before the big announcement, in some cases even receiving champagne from the top brass at their papers ahead of time.

Last year, The New York Times accidently let the word out online when it prematurely advised that its winners would be discussing their prizes later in the day.

It is interesting that nine of the 17 Pulitzer Board members work for news organizations that likely have entries in the competition. The past practice has required that they leave the room when categories in which they were finalists are discussed and voted upon. 

That has even extended to journalism and media companies that own many outlets. With so much consolidation, that can mean a lot these days.

For instance, Houston Chronicle Editor Nancy Barnes, a long-time respected editor, is on the board. But since her paper is owned by Hearst, which owns 24 daily papers and 25 U.S. magazines, she cannot be involved in the board deliberations if any of them are finalists.

The same goes for board member Aminda Marques Gonzalez, executive editor of The Miami Herald, whose owner is McClatchy, owner of more than two dozen daily papers. Those include the News & Observer of Raleigh, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer and The Sacramento Bee

The board, which met last week, then reads and decides what to award -- or not award. One of the beauties of the prizes is that the board has final say and can award prizes to winners who were not finalists, move entries around among the 14 journalism categories, give two awards in a category, or none.

With the leaks shutdown years ago, speculation is more difficult. but look for some Harvey Weinstein coverage to be in the running, along with Trump-related reporting and, hopefully, a handful of investigative issues.

The earlier Goldsmith Prize finalists often offer an insight. This year's nominees for that award ranged from addiction issues to Russia. Expect more of the same today.

Then there are always the little engines that could -- small papers that come out of nowhere to grab the prize and show size does not matter in these awards. Last year, the tiny Storm Lake Times in Iowa won for editorial writing with in-depth opinion on local agricultural issues.

It is that broad swath of contenders that make the awards that much more interesting, the fact that a small paper in Iowa competes against The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal -- and can sometimes win.

And let's not forget the non-journalism Pulitzers that are awarded in music, poetry, literature and drama.

With that, I will be tuning in at 3 p.m. today to the live announcements online and, as former Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler used to say, waiting for them to "change some lives forever."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

'INVISIBLE HANDS' FILM HITS CHILD LABOR ABUSE HARD

I was lucky enough to attend the premiere last week of a great new documentary on some of the worst child labor abuses worldwide, including in the United States itself.

Invisible Hands, which is directed by filmmaker/journalist Shraysi Tanden and produced by Charles Ferguson, shovels out the truth in a direct and sometimes upsetting approach. It reveals near slavery-like conditions for youngsters in India, China, Indonesia, Ghana, the Congo, and even the U.S.

The screening was appropriately held at the United Nations. 

And many American corporations, from Nestle to Philip Morris, are among the villains in this story, which shows their overworking of children in everything from cocoa bean fields to electronics factories. And here in America, the tobacco fields are causing health risks to some that surpass those of smokers.

Tanden's work is enhanced in many ways by her ability to speak with the very youngsters being exploited. 

See more on the film HERE. And you may see it at the Oscars next year.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

ANTI-DREAMERS NEWSPAPER CARTOON DRAWS ANGER, APOLOGY

I can usually find the humor and fair comment in a political cartoon, even if I don't agree with it.

But Wednesday's image in the Albuquerque Journal of two men robbing a couple at gunpoint and being referred to as "Dreamers," left me and many others puzzled.

As those following the recent DACA immigration debate know, "Dreamers" is the nickname given to immigrants who were brought here as undocumented children and have since grown into working, law-abiding adults. The DACA debate includes proposals to give them a path to citizenship.

Today's cartoon by Sean Delonas was seen by many as both offensive and a mischaracterization of who they are.

It brought swift online condemnation, as well as a note from Editor Karen Moses. See it below:

Political cartoons are often satire and poke at more than one point of view. I do not presume to know what cartoonist Sean Delonas was trying to convey in his cartoon that was published in Wednesday’s Albuquerque Journal. 

But on one level it appeared to us to be poking at President Trump’s rhetoric by portraying a quaking Republican couple who were painting Dreamers with a broad, totally false, brush.

Obviously, that was not the message received by many readers. Instead, many saw an extremely objectionable cartoon and thought that was the position of the Journal. It is not.

In hindsight, instead of generating debate, this cartoon only inflamed emotions. This was not the intent, and for that, the Journal apologizes. I repeat that the Albuquerque Journal does not condone racism or bigotry in any form.

I also want to reiterate that we do not agree with many of the opinions expressed on the editorial pages, which are intended to encourage debate. Also, the editorial board decides what to publish on these pages, and that is separate from the newsroom and its reporters. 

Karen Moses, Albuquerque Journal

Thursday, February 1, 2018

WHERE'S THE JANET COOKE MOVIE?

Janet Cooke
I recently went to see the new film, The Post, which documents the battle of The Washington Post, and to a degree The New York Times, over publication of the Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers were, of course, the secret classified history of the Vietnam War conducted over many years by the Defense Department and leaked in 1971 to the Times, and later the Post, by Vietnam veteran and military analyst Daniel Ellsberg.

With the likes of Tom Hanks as then-editor Ben Bradlee, Meryl Streep as Post publisher Katharine Graham and Steven Spielberg directing, the film was nothing short of fantastic. 

It told a great true story of how journalism is often needed -- then and now -- to uncover lies and deception at the highest offices of the nation. The movie, which I urge you to go watch, involves not only obtaining classified information, but disclosing what that classified information says.

In this case, the secret report revealed how the federal government had consistently lied to the American people about the war and the true difficulties that were being faced in battle and in opposition.

Like All the President's Men some 40 years earlier, which depicted the Post's uncovering of the Watergate scandal, this film is a great reminder of the need for a strong and demanding press. In both cases, the paper used secret sources to get the truth and faced public and legal battles from the White House. 

For years, both the Times and the Post have rightly pointed to these stories as examples of their success and dogged reporting. The two remain among the top news sources in the nation and have in recent years done some of the best reporting on Donald Trump, as well as the recent sexual harassment and assault cases that could well see some more Pulitzer Prize honors in the coming months.

But at the same time, both have a black eye in their history of a different sort that might deserve similar cinema examination.

In the Post's case it is Janet Cooke, while the Times stumbled with Jayson Blair. 

Jayson Blair
These infamous cases of reporters perpetuating serious public lies in their reporting, their forced ousters and the subsequent efforts by each newsroom to repair the damage with in-depth and humbling self-examinations are just as worthy of film scrutiny as the handling of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. 

This coming May will mark 15 years since the Blair scandal erupted at The Times, which revealed in a lengthy Mother's Day 2003 report how the young reporter systematically plagiarized, falsified and outright created numerous stories over several years.

The revelation of deceit and falsifications by Blair eventually led to his firing and the resignations of Times Executive Editor Howell Raines and Managing Editor Gerald Boyd. It also sparked the creation of the paper's Public Editor, an ombudsman-type position that helped keep the paper on the right track for more than 10 years before being eliminated in 2017.

An Independent Lens 2014 documentary, A Fragile Trust, examined the Blair story quite well. But to date no other docudrama style film has been made.

And its been nearly 37 years since Cooke was forced to return a Pulitzer Prize for her false story, Jimmy's World, about a non-existent, eight-year-old heroin addict. The front-page story began to unravel after the award sparked demands to find and help the youngster.

When Cooke eventually admitted her journalistic sin, she was let go and then-executive editor Ben Bradlee offered to resign, but was kept on the job.

Interestingly, it was the internal reviews by both papers that helped repair their damaged reputations. The Times' Mother's Day report spanned four inside pages, while the Post ombudsman of the time, Bill Green, was credited with writing one of the most in-depth investigations and reviews of any news outlet.

The Post, which hired the first-ever newspaper ombudsman back in 1970, eliminated the position a few years ago.

Cooke's resignation letter. Credit: Mike Sager
The idea of a Cooke or Blair movie is not to undercut the great accomplishments of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate stories. They remain important examples of investigative news and the need for such reporting -- especially at a time when so many in Washington, Donald Trump chief among them, are seeking to knock down true journalism.

You can include in that grouping Spotlight, the Academy Award-winning film from two years ago that highlighted how The Boston Globe broke the Catholic church scandal back in 2003. It won the Best Picture Oscar, while the reporting it was based on won the Pulitzer Prize.

But to look at the Cooke story or Blair's transgressions is important to remind people what can go wrong, and how these papers dealt with it and regained trust. A similar story was that of Stephen Glass, the fabricating writer from The New Republic who was the subject of the movie Shattered Glass after his fabrications were exposed in 1998.

A great lesson from that story was how the magazine disclosed his wrongdoing and bounced back with strengthened accuracy checks and new policies to guard against it in the future.

Of course, in the current anti-news frenzy there is a danger that many of those who scream "fake news" would use a Blair or Cooke flick to support their false claims. Still, it is a great opportunity to point out the need for such tight journalistic standards and the ability for newsrooms to admit mistakes and go about learning from them.

A Cooke film has been discussed and several scripts written, according to veteran producer Doug Wick, whose past work includes Gladiator and Working Girl. He still co-owns the rights to her story along with TV and film legend James L. Brooks, who's known for The Simpsons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Terms of Endearment. 

"We're still interested in it and if suddenly there is a perfect actress who means something it helps get it done," Wick told me in a recent interview. "It has been tricky to get the script exactly right. You don't have that much leeway because it is a tragedy. We keep revisiting it and looking for the right opportunity and that's always about the right filmmaker, and we are circling it. We haven't exactly discovered the right version to make it a great movie."

One of those who has been involved in trying to get a film made is journalist Mike Sager, who worked with Cooke at the Post, briefly dated her and has been in touch ever since. He penned a lengthy GQ piece about her in 1996 and another in 2016 in Columbia Journalism Review. He also received a portion of the $750,000 rights fees along with Cooke, according to a 1996 Los Angeles Times story.

"I think she probably has a conflicted view of a movie coming out and is not proud of that time in her life and wishes it would just go away," Sager said in an interview. "I would love it to happen, but I haven't seen an indication that anyone is willing to pick it up and run with it. If they are, they are welcomed to find me." 

As for Cooke, Sager said she remains somewhat secluded and has not done any interviews in years. She was unreachable for comment on the film idea.

Wick said one of the interesting parts of the story is the idea that Cooke was wrongly assumed to have "street cred" and connections because she was African-American. 

"Because she is one of the few African-American reporters there is a stereotyping and misunderstanding of her skill set," Wick said. "The assumption that she somehow would create street cred, that she of course would be the person who would know who is shooting heroin in the street ... the complicity with the Post that because she was black somehow she would have access to the black culture, which she had not grown up particularly connected with at all."

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

GOLDSMITH PRIZE FINALISTS ANNOUNCED; FUTURE PULITZERS?

As the Pulitzer Prizes inch closer for 2018 (the deadline for entries just passed and awards will be announced April 6), speculation is growing as to who is likely to take home the coveted honors.

Odds on favorites have to include coverage of the Trump-Russia story and the sexual assault and harassment scandals.

One of the hints of potential winners each year are the finalists for The Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism given annually by the Harvard University Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Those finalists were released today. See them below:

The six finalists for the 2018 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting are:

Asbury Park Press
Shannon Mullen and Payton Guion
Renter Hell
This investigation exposed the hazardous living conditions of thousands of tenants in New Jersey’s government-supported housing. As a result, the state issued more than 1,800 violations, and two state senators introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at fixing many of the issues brought to light in the series.

BuzzFeed News
Melissa Segura
Broken Justice In Chicago
BuzzFeed News investigated a Chicago detective accused by the community of framing more than 50 people for murder. The findings from the series led to the freeing of an innocent man from prison after 23 years, and authorities reviewed the cases of other prisoners.

Miami Herald
Carol Marbin Miller, Audra D.S. Burch, Emily Michot, and the Miami Herald digital team
Fight Club: An Investigation into Florida Juvenile Justice
This investigation found widespread beatings and brutality, sexual exploitation, and medical neglect in Florida’s juvenile detention centers. As a result, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice overhauled its hiring practices and created an Office of Youth and Family Advocacy to investigate complaints.

NPR and ProPublica
Nina Martin and Renee Montagne
Lost Mothers
The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world; NPR and ProPublica found at least half could be prevented with better care. This series tracked maternal deaths, saved lives by raising public awareness of complications, and prompted legislation in New Jersey and Texas.

STAT and The Boston Globe
David Armstrong and Evan Allen
The Addiction Trade
STAT and The Boston Globe exposed treatment centers, middlemen, and consultants that exploited people seeking addiction treatment, and has led to criminal and congressional probes. Stories ranged from insurance fraud schemes, to poor care at Recovery Centers of America, to patient health put at risk on the TV program Dr. Phil.

The Washington Post
The Washington Post staff
Russia
The Washington Post examined Russian interference in the 2016 election, possible links between the Trump campaign and Kremlin agents, and the United States’ response throughout 2017. The Post’s reporting contributed to the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Special citation:
The New York Times
Emily Steel, Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, Michael S. Schmidt, and New York Times staff
The Harassment Files: Enough Is Enough
By revealing secret settlements, persuading victims to speak, and bringing powerful men across industries to account, such as Bill O’Reilly, Harvey Weinstein, and Louis C.K, New York Times reporters spurred a worldwide reckoning about sexual harassment and abuse.


The winners will be announced March 6.

Monday, January 29, 2018

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES TURMOIL KEEPS GROWING

It is interesting what is and isn't being covered about the turmoil at the Los Angeles Times in recent weeks.

With a unionization vote and changes in both publisher and editor, the Times itself has been on top of the story, along with The New York Times, which ran a lengthy account this morning.

But few other national outlets have appeared to weigh in on the doings out west. It would seem to be of interest with claims of union-busting attempts, a "shadow newsroom" in the works, several sexual harassment allegations and the recently dismissed former publisher's "frat house behavior."

See the L.A. Times coverage HERE and The New York Times HERE. Ken Doctor, meanwhile, has a good account at Niemanlab.com.

The Wall Street Journal had a more limited story, while The Washington Post used an AP report.

C'mon CNN, MSNBC and Fox. Not to mention the networks and news magazines. What are you waiting for?