Entries in Media (2)

Tuesday
Jan172012

Gawker, Denton and Daulerio Get Brian Williams/Lana Del Rey Fiasco All Wrong

REVIEWING THE NEWS: The gossip site and its founder, Nick Denton, draw line in the sand of journalistic ethics after posting Brian Williams' personal e-mail about Lana Del Rey.

 

By Kenny Herzog

 

Nick Denton's Gawker Media embodies the blogosphere's curious position as unfiltered aggregator of truth and unchecked court jester. REVIEWniverse has taken the company's principal domain, Gawker.com, to task in the past for the relatively victimless distinction of boasting less-than-credible musical taste. But yesterday, Denton and his new editor-in-chief, muckraking former Deadspin Editor A.J. Daulerio, imposed a substandard of poor journalism when they posted NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams' personal e-mail to Denton without consent. 

By now, you've all read that Williams wrote Denton on Sunday to join the chorus of boos hurled at last weekend's maligned SNL performer, pixie chanteusse Lana Del Rey. It was an informal, clearly personal and off-the-record correspondence in which Williams lamented that Del Rey was "the least-experienced musical guest in the show's history" and good-naturedly bemoaned that "it was a fallow holiday period for those of us who check your shit 10 times a day by iphone [sic]." And you also know that Daulerio, after what we presume was much discussion with Denton and Gawker staff, posted the e-mail verbatim on their site the following afternoon. Lastly, you've heard or seen that NBC PR (no doubt unhappy about the cross-contimination within their brand) sent Gawker a stern but reasonable demand to remove the item, and Daulerio merely updated his original story by making that correspondence public as well.

Frankly, this reeks more of Daulerio's recklessness than Denton's salacious tendencies. Either way, the gauntlet has been laid. It's clear that for Gawker (and as they go, so do countless apers), no friendship or set of basic personal or journalistic principles will stand between them and a childish impulse to determine what qualifies as "news," deliver it with irresponsible whim and no discernable point of view, and let others sort out the consequences and implications while they calculate Web traffic and turn it into liquid ad-revenue gold.

For any of us who've ever worked in a real newsroom or, as consumers, are simply adapting to the digital information age with a bit of blind faith, it's impossible to fathom that Denton and Daulerio's story could be planted with total transparency from the inside. It's depressing to consider the breakdown of accountability within an organization that, like it or not, influences more readers on an average afternoon than most major newspapers even reach in a week.

Gawker may have caught Williams in an untenable position by putting him at odds with his employing network, but something tells us we haven't heard the final word on all this. In journalism and in life, corrupting privacy and closely held relationships can have short-term gains, but almost always precipitates an eventual collapse of relevance and character. Daulerio better realize he's playing with the big boys now, because Denton's just a careless schoolyard bully.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: There has to be some kind of bar before it can be lowered.

DENTON AND DAULERIO RATING: 0/10

WE STILL LOVE BRIAN WILLIAMS RATING: 10/10

NO COMMENT ON LANA DEL REY BECAUSE THIS SITE'S EDITORS HAVE WILDLY DISSENTING OPINIONS RATING: We'll Publish Our Private E-mails About It Later/10

 

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Thursday
Oct202011

Graphic Gadhafi Death Video Makes Dubious Rounds

REVIEWING THE NEWS: No one is arguing that longtime Libyan autocrat Moammar Gadhafi needed to go, but there should be discussion about American media's gleeful release of a cell-phone video capturing him dead and bloodied.

By Kenny Herzog

We know the face, we know he's dead. Not sure we need freeze frames of it covered in blood.

 

Earlier today, Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril announced that his nation's recently deposed former ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, had been killed, adding, "It's time to start a new Libya." Within a short time, all major American TV and online outlets were reporting the news, and is if to say, "What, you don't believe us?" commenced broadcasting a graphic, bloody cell-phone video that allegedly captured Gadhafi's dead, stripped body as Misrata locals trounced on it in celebration. 

Amateur recordings of the video taken from TV on other people's phones have made it to YouTube, where they have mere hundreds of views now, but should reach in the hundreds of thousands soon enough, or at least until CBS, NBC, CNN or whomever posts their own official clip to the site. It's an incredible illustration of just how content spreads in our new world, bouncing forward, laterally and in reverse from one source to another like a chaotic lateral play at the end of a football game.

The video itself is also disturbing, gross and, yes, fascinating. Although I don't think NBC needed to air it, full screen, at 11:45 a.m., and then linger on a single close-up frame, in order for me to grasp the weight of what had happened, or the sheer truth of it. And it's unlikely that Reuters.com needed to actually freeze their streaming embed at strategic, gratuitous moments for me to identify the body was Gadhafi, and it was in fact absent of life. CNN, meanwhile, has had some interesting correspondence with their foreign dispatches, in addition to Hilary Clinton reacting in real-time to the rumors of Gadhafi's death. Not sure cutting to the crude, gruesome 80 seconds of revellers stomping on the slaughtered tyrant's corpse left me feeling anything but unnerved. 

All the aforementioned entities disclaimed what they were about to show, or what you were about to click and stream, with warnings of graphic content. But then they also still showed it, or practically dared you not to look. Chances are, little kids who come across it won't be able to differentiate between those images and the cartoonish violence they've grown accustomed to. And teenagers will probably pass it around on their smartphones and leer with morbid interest. That's what teenagers do. As for any adults who've come of age through various crises and adapted to new-media's porousness, hardly anything is shocking. But journalistically speaking, I'm just not sure what purpose rushing to release a video like the one in question actually serves. In fact, it could get confused in peoples' memories with similar images of bin Laden's body, despite very different political circumstances having led up to the al-Qaeda leader's capture. 

For me, it's a no-brainer that Gadhafi's death is incredible news with global implications, and something I feel obliged to report on in the wake of its credible confirmation. But not even for a second would I feel enough burden of proof to include the already infamous cell-phone video along with my reporting. I'd probably watch it, yes, and did. Sometimes that's an ugly responsibility that comes along with publishing information as accurate record of fact. And for those watching in Libya, and to their family and friends around the world, there's probably a different imperative to see it with their own eyes. It's only my editorial judgment that, as a member of American media communicating the story to an American readership who are largely geographically and culturally removed from Gadhafi's reign, the video in question adds little to it, and risks simplifying a massively historical incident into a series of polarizing images.

If you want to see them, that's your right, and the majority of Western broadcast and Web journalists have made it nearly impossible to avoid because of insecurity in their own reporting and some fuzzy commitment to transparency. It's only my suggestion that, removed as most of us are from the impact of Gadhafi's death, it's not going to deepen your understanding of its significance or get you closer to the issue. In fact, it will probably only widen the disconnect.

 

IN OTHER WORDS: Good riddance to Gadhafi, and onward for Libya.

GADHAFI AND "ALL THE EVILS" HAVING "VANISHED" FROM LIBYA: 9/10

AS WE'VE SEEN ACROSS THE WORLD, IT WILL STILL BE COMPLICATED: 4/10

YOU SAY GADDAFI.... EH, WHAT DOES IT MATTER? HE'S DEAD RATING: 10/10

GOOGLE IMAGE'S FIRST RESULT FOR "GADHAFI" BEING HE AND OBAMA RATING: Who's the Wise Guy?/10

 

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