Lying Media Bastards

September 8, 2006

Journalists Under Fire

A few stories lately about American reporters in trouble of various stripes.

First of all, we’ve got Josh Wolf, a freelance video journalist and blogger in the Bay Area. In July 2005, he filmed anti-G8 protests in San Francisco, and editted the footage together into a news report that he posted on his own website. The FBI took an interest and demanded that Wolf turn over the raw footage from the protest, claiming that they thought it showed an attack on a police car that took place during the protest. Wolf claimed that he did not film this event, and that anyway he was protected by a California law that says that reporters can protect their sources, and that they are not required to turn over notes or unpublished materials. The FBI is claiming that this is a federal case because the SFPD receives federal funds, and a SF police car was attacked. Wolf refused to turn over the tapes or testify before a grand jury, and was put in prison for contempt. Wolf was recently released on bail after over a month in jail.

To my surprise, mainstream reporters have been on Wolf’s side; they often take a disdainful tone towards amateur/indy/blogger journalists. I could easily have seen them try to distance themselves from Wolf, arguing that he’s not really one of “them.” But both the Society of Professional Journalists and Reporters Sans Frontieres have spoken out in his defense, with the SPJ even putting up $30,000 for Wolf’s bail. And this case does have wide potential repercussions for the press. If the federal government can really claim that their partial funding makes a local case federal, than every state shield law protecting journalists can easily be made null and void. Even worse, if the federal government can demand every reporter to turn over their notes or videos, then every journalist in the country is a de facto agent of law enforcement.

Obviously, Wolf will face another hearing at some point, but I haven’t found any info on that.

After his release, Wolf said that he has started developing a non-profit aimed at giving a public voice to people serving time in prison.

For more info, you can check the “Free Josh Wolf Wiki” which contains many articles and discussions about his case (not all supportive of Wolf, I’m surprised to say).

Next up, we’ve got reporter Greg Palast and his producer Matt Pascarella. In August, Palast and his news team filmed a report about Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. The story covered alleged corruption in the government’s planning for the disaster, and the inexplicable manner in which some New Orleans residents can’t return to their own homes, even though those homes weren’t damaged in the flood (watch the story or read the transcript here and here).

Now, Palast and Pascarella are facing “criminal complaints” from the Department of Homeland Security, for “filming a sensitive national security site owned by Exxon”, according to Palast’s website. I read the transcript and watched part of the report, and I didn’t see anything about Exxon. But law enforcement does overreact these days when people take photos of anything that might remotely be considered a terrorist target. Hell, in 2004 the city of New York proposed banning all photography in the subway system.

Needless to say, Palast is probably not hatching a terrorist attack on the United States.

And finally, we have a bizarre case in which a major corporation is spying on reporters. Hewlett-Packard hired Private investigators to find out who from the company’s board might be leaking info to the press. As part of their efforts to do this, the investigators tricked the cellphone companies of nine different reporters into giving out those reporters’ private phone records (as well as the phone records of one of the board members). For some reason, the press keeps referring to what the PIs did as “pretexting” when it seems more like lying and fraud to me (e.g. setting up a fake email account, pretending to be one of the journalists, and asking the journalist’s phone company to give them a copy of their phone bill).

Ironically, it sounds like the investigators were hired in hopes of preventing reporters from writing negative stories about the HP directors, but this story will keep the criticsm up for quite some time.

Posted by Jake on September 8, 2006 9:33 pm

8 Comments »

  1. Seriously? You are saying it is surprising that “mainstream” reporters are against the jailing of a man for taking video in public. I’m so sick of this martyrdom complex people like you have. As if bloggers are some class of persecuted heroes.

    Comment by LMB Zombie — September 9, 2006 @ 6:14 am

  2. Woah man, it surprises me, and I’m no blogger. It’s like Jake said, bloggers aren’t always taken as professional. Sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for reasons like: it doesn’t have a mainstream title attached to it. And, since the guy who was sent to prison was independent, what do many people have to gain from helping him out? They already have people like Judith Miller to crowd around if they want better known examples of this..

    ~Alyssa

    Comment by Alyssa — September 9, 2006 @ 11:25 am

  3. This is covered in CNET news, SF WEEKLY, San Francisco Chronicle, Time Magazine, I could go on. According to Jake we shouldn’t give a shit about one guy. There are wars, natural disasters, and disease out there which should be taking up the precious headline space, not one guy with some legal issues.

    Comment by LMB Zombie — September 9, 2006 @ 3:09 pm

  4. what’s your fucking deal brendan? why so hostile?

    did jake’s liberal commie pinko blog threaten you? is that why you’ve wrapped yourself in a nice comforting blanket of reactionary asshole?

    or are you a fucking coward? ’cause i’ve seen you allude to the fact that you know jake, and his brother. i’m damn sure you wouldn’t act like such a piece of shit to either of them in person. get a fucking grip on yourself and stop being a troll.

    Comment by kitkat — September 10, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  5. He hasn’t had a consistent opinion on anything for years. “Liberal commie pinko”…are we in a time warp? You didn’t say anything about my point, just bitch and moan. Argue a point. Do we spend headline space on individuals or on the important stuff…as Jake has so vehemently argued? You can’t have it both ways. Asking someone to stand by their words is not being hostile. I am one of the libertarian democrats, the few the proud. Try displaying some intellectual curiosity and engage in an actual debate instead of holding Jake’s hand like you’re his mommy.

    Comment by LMB Zombie — September 10, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

  6. oh, yeah, i forgot; i’m a bitch on heels who emasculates the men around me.

    yeah, i forgot about some of your “points”. asking susan to marry you was something really worth responding to.

    as for this? i think you’re wrong about josh wolf. i do think people should care about josh wolf, but not because he’s a blogger (yawn). the government widely abuses federal grand juries and turns them into giant fishing expeditions to gather and collect as much evidence about as many things as possible. for instance, if you receive a subpoena to a federal grand jury you have no right to have a lawyer present. you also do not have the right to take the 5th ammendment. the prosecuation may offer you immunity, which means nothing, because that only means your actual words cannot be used as evidence against you. (e.g. you say, “i buried the treasure at x.” the police find treasure at x. you can still be convicted of stealing the treasure, they just can’t use the words, “i buried the treasure at x.”)

    furthermore, you can be jailed for the entire duration of the grand jury in a measure to “coerce” you in testifying, and if another grand jury is called for the same crime, you can expect to sit in jail again, and again.

    this is a huge violation of civil liberties, and taking into account that josh is a reporter (independent or not), the idea that any media person on the street can effectively become an agent of law enforcement is something average and ordinary people should care about.

    anyway, i’m not sure what kind of “consistent opinion” jake is lacking and frankly, why do you even care? jake’s powers of influencing public opinion are pretty small; maybe you should take some of your bullshit over to ann coulter or some other right wing asshole you proud libertarian democrat you.

    Comment by kitkat — September 10, 2006 @ 9:12 pm

  7. woah. so much hostility.

    but, kitkat has a point. you really do seem to enter these threads just to start trouble.

    as for engaging in serious debate, why don’t you start us off with a discussion topic, instead of a rant. might i suggest the following, which is a much more civil re-framing of your comment:

    “As blogging has become more widespread, major media outlets are beginning to see the parallels between their own work and that of independent internet freelancers. As a result, it is not surprising to see them jumping to the aid of Josh Wolf, and I predict that such actions will be common in the future, leading to a symbiotic relationship between established and independent media outlets.”

    Comment by jeremy — September 14, 2006 @ 8:12 am

  8. I completely admire you’re ‘fuck unrealistic victimization attitude,’ but out of many things that I’ve read, Jake’s blog would probably be one of the later places I’d look at. I bet you give other people shit too, but the Tucker Max approach, while amusing in the frustration I’m sure it causes when people writing back to you is seen, probably gets a bit tired. I have the feeling that you don’t believe half of what you write, but you’re a badass devil’s advocate. Anyway, Jake’s neat. That’s all.

    Now, call me out on pandering to an internet pop-culture audience for mentioning ‘Tucker Max’, and I’ll ask you to do me.

    ~Alyssa

    Comment by Alyssa — September 14, 2006 @ 12:39 pm

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