So here’s a question for the Paper of Record: Can a reporter ethically accept a gift from a company he covers if the reporter gives it to a family member, or a friend? We ask because superstar tech reporter Nick Bilton admitted to doing so—or at least attempting to—on last week’s episode of Leo Laporte’s "This Week in Tech" podcast. Here’s what Bilton said:
The Supreme Court is set to review the case of Freddie Lee Hall, a mentally retarded man in Florida who was sentenced to death for participating in a rape, robbery, and two murders. They tackle two main questions: How high an IQ should be necessary for capital punishment? And is IQ measurement even precise enough to be used in cases like this?
In the aftermath of the revelations about the NSA's secret spying programs, there is plenty of anger to go around. American citizens are pissed that they were spied on. European governments are pissed that they were spied on. Nobody, it seems, is happy with being spied on. So why is spying such an accepted institution?
Jonah Lehrer, promising young golden boy of Gladwellian think-journalism, has had a bad eight months. Caught plagiarizing himself last June; soon after, caught fabricating quotes, and forced to resign from his plum gig at the New Yorker, and rapidly cast out of the chosen fold to wander the wilderness as a sort of fallen angel. Even the Knight Foundation, which just this week paid Lehrer $20K for his big mea culpa speech, is already saying that it regrets doing so. Some are urging him to donate the money to charity. All in all, his no doubt meticulously-planned return to the spotlight has fallen flat.
The overwhelming majority of messages I got in response to Peter Bouckaert's call for an email campaign were critical of Gawker's decision not to honor the Richard Engel media blackout. But not all of them. Somalia Report publisher Robert Young Pelton, a longtime freelance reporter, wrote me to alert me to Bouckaert's campaign and to tell me that "having been kidnapped and involved in dozens of corporate bungled kidnaps, I can say there is no evidence that keeping things quiet does anything than protect the corporate image and pocketbook." Pelton is has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Somalia, Chechnya, and elsewhere. He was the first American to discover an injured John Walker Lindh and interview him near Mazār-e Sharīf. Pelton was kidnapped and held for ten days in 2003 by a right-wing Colombian paramilitary group. I asked him to put his thoughts into a longer email.
When we published reports on Monday that Richard Engel and his crew had gone missing in Syria, it was over the objections of Engel's employer NBC News, which had been trying to enforce a media blackout on Engel's situation. That was an unpopular decision in some quarters, and it sparked a discussion on the Vulture Club, a Facebook group focusing on war-zone reporting moderated a Human Rights Watch staffer named Peter Bouckaert. Bouckaert urged Vulture Club members to email me and ask me to take the Engel post down. Below are some of their notes.
Last Friday, the Tampa Bay Times published a nuanced and heartbreaking feature story about Gretchen Molannen, a 39 year-old Florida woman with a condition known as "persistent genital arousal." Molannen described how her condition—likened to constant, unceasing physical arousal without any of the accompanying mental or emotional arousal—forced her to masturbate for hours on end and virtually destroyed her personal and professional life. The day after the story was published, Molannen committed suicide. A local blogger says the paper has "blood on its hands." It does not.
So, Fox News has, excruciatingly, just broadcast live video of a man committing suicide after a car chase. Fox anchor Shep Smith said afterwards that the network was on a five-second delay, but that the video got through regardless. A network technician being too slow on the button is not the real issue here. The real issue is that car chases aren't worthy of live television (and this might be the thing that brings them to an end).