Michael Brown Was Adult Not “Teenager”


Is 18 the new 17¾?

The media, for one reason or another, has been infantilizing Michael Brown, the 18-year-old St. Louis man killed by a police officer last August 9. Many outlets are referring to him as a juvenile rather than as an adult.

Mediaite’s Eddie Scarry first raised the error and the Associated Press ended up changing two of its stories as a result. Not only has AP never justified its original decision … it’s continued the practice. Even Reuters’s doing it.

Some, like the conservative blog Hot Air, suggested that some kind of calculated narrative is at work. However, if that’s the case, it certainly isn’t borne from liberal bias: Fox News has also referred to Brown as an “unarmed black teenager”… a… few times … over.

Given how pervasive the practice is, it’s hard to believe that it’s accidental.

So. Obvious question: why?

I asked AP’s Alan Scher Zagier, Global News’s  Erika Tucker and The Washington Post’s Mark Berman for their take (Tucker, Berman and Zagier have all made the association). Neither has responded yet.

Brown, who, according to his mother, apparently turned 18 and graduated high school almost simultaneously, has been portrayed by family and those who know him as a “kid”. Perhaps the media is simply projecting the image of a young man who was still very close to teen culture. But that would still make little sense. I don’t recall news outlets ever dismissing hard data, such as an age, for softer characteristics like reputation and looks.

Facebook: Users Toaster-Dumb, Don’t Know ‘The Onion’ Satire


From Forbes:

“Founded in 1988, The Onion is a parody news organization that publishes fake articles like “Busch Gardens Unveils New 9,600-Mile-Long Endurance Coaster” and “LensCrafters, Pearle Vision Agree To Prisoner Exchange.” The Onion’s websites hit around 11 million total unique visitors per month and a lot of the traffic is driven by Facebook. Many gullible Facebook users believe that the headlines for these articles are true so the social network company is testing out a ‘[Satire]’ tag in front of links to satirical content.

Facebook said that it is adding the [Satire] tags because of feedback that it received from users wanting a way to “distinguish satirical articles from others.””


Ombudsman: NPR Made “Fundamental Failure”


From NPR:

“The story itself—about the data mining by a small Massachusetts company that purports to show a correlation between the Snowden leaks and cyber-security measures taken by al-Qaida—generated little reaction when it first ran August 1. But since the story was attacked August 12 by Greenwald in The Intercept, an online publication he co-founded, and again on television, scores of listeners have sent emails and tweets angrily turning on NPR and Temple-Raston.

“As a 35-year NPR supporter and member,” wrote Heidi Schlossberg of Littleton, Col, in a typical message, “I am going to cancel my support unless you fire Dina Temple-Raston as well as transparently inform those of us who trusted you who at NPR are the shills for the NSA and our government. . . .I am so disgusted with you I don’t have sufficient adjectives to describe my horror at what you allowed.”

After doing my own research, I strongly agree with the critics that the story committed a fundamental failure in not noting that both the company, Recorded Future, and a second company that aided it, ReversingLabs, have ties to the United States intelligence community. Temple-Raston and her editor, Bruce Auster, agree, too, and say that what happened was an oversight on deadline.

Any of us can make a human error, and I find no intention to deceive, as Greenwald charges with no proof. I also disagree with his contention that the story swallows the government’s case that the Snowden leaks seriously damaged the ability of the United States to monitor al-Qaida communications. Instead, this was a small story on what today is a small historical point; in fact, by the end of the story that small point is largely dismissed by a leading expert as possibly interesting but not terribly relevant.”


Cop Name Behind Michael Brown Shooting Revealed But…


(Photo credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Robert Cohen/Associated Press)

CNN Money reported today that the Anonymous network revealed on Twitter today who it believed was behind Michael Brown’s shooting. The group had pressed Ferguson’s police department to reveal the name of the officer … or else.

Well, after or-else-ing things out it only took a few hours before their Twitter account was suspended. While Ferguson police still hasn’t confirmed the individual’s identity it has indicated that the individual named by Anonymous was not the correct one.

The Columbia Journalism Review published an interesting article concerning the legality of withholding the officer’s name.

The author, Jonathan Peters, an attorney, mentions two particular laws that police can use as justification to withhold the officer’s name. The “Missouri Sunshine Law”, Peters reports, carries a subsection which states the following:

“if any portion of a record or document of a law enforcement officer or agency (…) contains information that is reasonably likely to pose a clear and present danger to the safety of any victim, witness, undercover officer, or other person (…) that portion of the record shall be closed and shall be redacted from any record made available pursuant to this chapter.”

The other subsection deals with the public right to know versus the well-being of the officer:

In making the determination as to whether information contained in an investigative report shall be disclosed, the court shall consider whether the benefit to the person bringing the action or to the public outweighs any harm to the public, to the law enforcement agency or any of its officers.

The law definitely is on the side of the police force because, as Peters says, “(t)he language is broad enough”.

Soledad O’Brien Asked If Al Jazeera Partnership “Creep You Out”

Soledad O'Brien

(Photo Credit: Lauri Lyons)

One of the most important topics when it comes media literacy is the subject of funding. More than ever laypeople get to learn in great detail who owns or bankrolls media companies: that’s a testament to the work of media watch groups like FAIR, which has fought to bring to light this kind of information –the type big media companies often don’t want scrutinized.

Financial relationships are important to understand what one’s consuming. Whoever deposits money every other week into the bank account of those employed at, say, USA Today,  wants to make sure its staff promotes or defends the management’s vision of the world.

A great example of how ties can affect the nature, or the downright validity, of a story is the recent case involving NPR and a piece it published about the supposed effect of Edward Snowden’s leaked information. The story revolved around the work of Recorded Future and ReversingLabs. The groups claimed that, thanks to data they gathered, they could prove that as a result of Snowden’s involvement, “al-Qaida dramatically changed the way its operatives interacted online.”

Well … funny story: as it turned out, Recorded Future and ReversingLabs … drum roll … “have ties to the United States intelligence community.” The story never mentioned it. The oversight was such that NPR’s ombudsman, a role the organization has experienced some difficulties with as of late, spoke out against the article.

Yeah, context is everything.

This brings us to Soledad’s interview with conservative radio talk show host, Hugh Hewitt.

Continue reading

Amazon Taking Earrings Off for New Fight, Versus Disney


Gone are the days of Amazon not making a profit for its first seven years while sipping on lemonade with its feet up.

Fresh off its ongoing beef with Hachette, the Jeff Bezos’ property is now locking up with Disney over what Deadline reports to be how much to price DVD titles such as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Maleficent and Muppets Most Wanted.

While Deadline states that the “titles are finding their way into Amazon competitors such as Best Buy and Target via DVD and Blu-Ray, but they are not being sold on Amazon”, my eyes noticed a different story: none of the retailers mentioned are selling the films yet. They’re all offering them as pre-orders.

Still, this new confrontation is revealing. New York Times’s David Streitfeld laid out Bezos’s financial thorn in a very straight-forward way.

“Amazon does not want to be seen as hostile to content creators, one of the four groups it says on its investor relations web page it is expressly set up to serve. But it also has to price their creations cheaply enough to draw hordes of consumers, while at the same time making enough of a profit to satisfy investors.

It is a complicated balancing act. Some argue it is impossible. Amazon just surprised Wall Street by saying it may lose more than $800 million this quarter, potentially wiping out its profits for the last three years, partly because creating video content is expensive. The prospect of this unexpected loss has raised questions about whether Amazon’s money-losing ways are finally catching up with it — and whether that is the real reason it is making new demands on publishers like Hachette.”

Amazon is that kid that’s been partying up all night at their parents’ house and, frantically the next morning, yelling at drunken party members to wake up–the same drunken party members it was drinking tequila out the ear lobes a few hours before.

The book-and-whatever-else store has also just woke up.

Hopefully for its sake, when the piper needs to be paid the parents at the door will be whoever raised Miley Cyrus and not Tiger Mom.

Burger King Stopped Marketing Campaign Over Williams Death



Ad Week reported this morning that, on Monday evening, Burger King quickly halted  a Twitter marketing campaign upon news of Robin Williams’ death.

The Promoted Trend, Ad Week reports, had probably cost the fast food company in the neighbourhood of $200,000.

A spokesperson told the website that the last minute pullback was “out of respect for Robin Williams and his fans.”

While I’m sure that at least one person in BK’s marketing department has a heart, it’s also Advertising 101 to stray away from sad folks. A 2001 research studying how TV viewers manage recalling (or not) commercials explains why advertising in the midst of saddening news is as useful as wishing Donald Sterling a Happy Kwanza. Continue reading

GQ Magazine Pimps Out, No, Gives Advertisers Access to “Elite” Readers


From Ad Week:

“Here’s the pitch Conde Nast’s GQ magazine is giving marketers: Spend at least $100,000 with us and get access to 57 “elite” GQ readers who will help promote your brand across print and digital. The program, called GQ57, is the magazine’s latest effort to tap digital-ad budgets by enlisting readers, according to Chris Mitchell, VP-publisher at GQ, part of Conde Nast.

The 57 will be tapped to help amplify marketing campaigns through their own social media feeds, by producing custom content for GQ and their own websites, and by appearing in print ads, according to Mr. Mitchell. Four men from the GQ57, for instance, are slated to appear in a custom advertising campaign for retailer Express in GQ’s September issue. The campaign includes print pages as well as an extensive digital component, with an interactive shoppable mosaic, display ad units and video interstitials. (…)

Asked whether the GQ57’s bloggers will disclose the promotional nature of their work, a spokeswoman for GQ said they will be transparent about collaborating with GQ and its advertiser.”


CNN Host Tweet Earns Him Malling

Last week, CNN personality Chris Cuomo became embroiled in a Twitter brouhaha over what he said at the end of an interview with Pope Francis’s spokesperson. His comments were innocent enough: he asked the spokesperson to send the pontiff his regards.

The gesture itself didn’t generate as much outrage as how the New Day host justified his show of courtesy. After a Twitter user voiced  discomfort with how he closed the interview, Cuomo answered this:


Media maverick, Glenn Greenwald, then entered the fray and paid his two cents:


To which Cuomo replied:


It’s important to mention here that Cuomo is a devout Catholic. His wife spoke with Diane Sawyer 6 years ago and commented, pretty innocently during a fluff piece, that “He (Cuomo) goes to church every Sunday”.

Could his religiousness have brought out this accrued cordiality on his part? Not unreasonable to think so, but a bit of an overreach to extrapolate anything harmful from it. Cuomo’s record is pretty solid.

On more than one occasion, he explained pretty efficiently why conducting an interview with his brother, New York governor Andrew Cuomo, wasn’t unethical: Continue reading

UPDATE: FBI No Longer Interested in Rating Own Media Coverage


A few days ago, I brought up this article about the FBI’s desire to rate news coverage of itself. It turns out that, for some unexplained reason, the agency’s no longer interested in the exercise.

“(T)he agency quietly dropped the task from a public affairs contract solicitation on Wednesday without explanation, according to contract documents.”

Of course, the FBI monitoring people isn’t exactly news:  it famously wiretapped Martin Luther King’s conversations and monitored other public figures. In addition, the agency’s previous director, Robert Mueller, even publicly called for all Internet providers to record their customers’ comings and goings online.

With so little information about the affair, I won’t make wild speculations on why it felt the need to monitor coverage of itself and why, so suddenly, it felt it was no longer necessary. Because the next step would be to rush to Comic-con dressed up as Agent Scully. Or something. Neither activity is my style.