December 8, 2016 Last Updated 8:47 am

The Washington Post attaches editor’s note to article on Russian interference in recent election

Morning Brief: ProPublica to establish ‘ProPublica Illinois’ unit and is searching for a Chicago-based editor; Vice Media in content partnership deal with The Guardian

There has been a story just sitting there, on The Washington Post’s website, that has had journalists uneasy since its appearance on November 24. This story by Craig Timberg, which accuses the Russian government of helping spread false news during the recent US election cycle. The problem with the story is that it mentions that one of the reporter’s sources was PropOrNot, an organization that remains anonymous to this day.

The issue of Russian involvement in the US election is a serious one. Many news sites have had to deal with DDoS attacks in the past year (including this one), generated from foreign soil but otherwise untraceable. Also, many journalists have had to deal with harassment online, though much of that is obviously originating domestically.

News organizations and the Democrats in Congress have called on the President to release any information he may have regarding evidence of foreign intervention in this last election, but so far there have only been accusations, little evidence. Timberg’s article was meant provide evidence, but only made the situation worse by accusing anyone who was critical of HRC of being “useful idiots”.

Here is an excerpt from the original article, and then the editor’s note that was yesterday added to the top of it.

The Washington Post, Craig Timberg:

Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say

wapo-ednoteRussia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia…

…There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders. The tactics included penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.

Editor’s Note:

The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. One of them was PropOrNot, a group that insists on public anonymity, which issued a report identifying more than 200 websites that, in its view, wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda. A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post, which did not name any of the sites, does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet, nor did the article purport to do so. Since publication of The Post’s story, PropOrNot has removed some sites from its list.

This story may be the best example of understatement I’ve seen from a US news site in quite some time. I wonder if the original story submitted held back this much, or whether it was even snarkier. I can imagine Adam Goldman, who wrote this, jotting down a few quotes here and there during his interview, paying close attention to those that seemed the most absurd.

The New York Times, Adam Goldman:

The Comet Ping Pong Gunman Answers Our Reporter’s Questions

cometpizza-300“The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent,” he said. However, he refused to dismiss outright the claims in the online articles, conceding only that there were no children “inside that dwelling.” He also said that child slavery was a worldwide phenomenon…

…He said he did not believe in conspiracy theories, but then added that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to be re-examined. He has listened to Alex Jones, whose radio show traffics in conspiracy theories and who once said that Mrs. Clinton “has personally murdered and chopped up” children. “He’s a bit eccentric,” Mr. Welch said.

Toronto Star, The Washington Post and Star staff:

Belleville woman helped cook up Pizzagate

Stefanie MacWilliams, a contributor to Planet Free Will, wrote an article last month that took off on social media. In it she recounted a man’s claims about a politically connected pedophile ring housed at the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlour in the U.S. capital…

…Despite the fallout of Pizzagate (as it’s come to be known) that resulted in an armed man entering Comet Ping Pong in search of alleged child sex slaves, MacWilliams said she has no regrets.

“I really have no regrets and it’s honestly really grown our audience,” she said.


Pope warns media over ‘sin’ of spreading fake news, smearing politicians

Francis told the Belgian Catholic weekly “Tertio” that spreading disinformation was “probably the greatest damage that the media can do” and using communications for this rather than to educate the public amounted to a sin.

Using precise psychological terms, he said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement.

The Argentine-born pontiff excused himself for using such terms in order to get his point across while answering a question about the correct use of the media.

“I think the media have to be very clear, very transparent, and not fall into – no offence intended – the sickness of coprophilia, that is, always wanting to cover scandals, covering nasty things, even if they are true,” he said.

“And since people have a tendency towards the sickness of coprophagia, a lot of damage can be done.”

The News Media Alliance obviously sees an opening with the election of Donald Trump to overturn decades of media regulations that have prevented newspaper companies from owning other local media outlets. It looks like they have enough allies in Congress to win their battle, but I have concerns.

The NMA sees this as a good time to loosen the reins on newspapers, but lessening media regulations will have the effect of allowing further media consolidation, including consolidation which might accelerate the demise of many newspapers.

News Media Alliance:

News Media Alliance Applauds Legislation to Repeal Cross Ownership Rule

Today, bipartisan members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced legislation to repeal the 41 year-old rule preventing cross ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market. In response, David Chavern, President and CEO of the News Media Alliance, released the following statement:

“We are pleased to see solid bipartisan support for commonsense legislation that reverses an outdated rule that does more harm than good. This Nixon-Administration rule has absurdly prevented investment in newspapers that have print, while digital-only properties have been free to invest (and be invested in) without restrictions. During this time in which readers consume an increasing amount news from countless sources, and over a growing number of devices and platforms, we cannot fathom why the government would prevent collaboration between the two entities — newspapers and broadcasters — that are still investing in credible, local journalism.

This move by ProPublica is being well received here in Chicago, and others outside the region are hoping it will be followed up with further expansions.

ProPublica, Cynthia Gordy:

ProPublica to Expand with State-Based ‘ProPublica Illinois’ Unit

The nonprofit newsroom ProPublica announced that it will launch a new Illinois unit in 2017, publishing investigative journalism on key issues in Chicago and across the state. A search for an experienced, Chicago-based editor to lead ProPublica Illinois is underway and will conclude shortly.

With this state-based expansion, ProPublica seeks to further address the business crisis of the press. The collapse of regional and local newspapers, and the drastic cutback of reporting staffs, has left accountability journalism at the state and local levels shrinking and underfunded, weakening democratic governance at a critical moment…

…“Illinois has a wealth of subjects for searching investigative journalism, and we see enormous potential for ProPublica Illinois to have a real impact,” said ProPublica editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg. “Our key priority now is building a team with strong local ties and established reputations within the community to lead this exciting expansion. We look forward also to working with local publishing partners to bring Illinois readers more high-quality accountability reporting.”

You have to be impressed with Vice Media’s brand extension efforts. Looking for more content for its nightly news programs, Vice has hooked up with The Guardian, in a deal that should benefit both brands.

The Guardian, Mark Sweney:

Guardian announces partnership with Vice

The Guardian is to join up with Vice as part of a content partnership which will include reports that will air on its nightly news programme in the US and UK.

The deal, the first of its kind that Vice News has struck with another news organisation, will see a small team of Guardian journalists based at Vice’s offices in east London…

…The partnership will include co-branded special reports that will air across Vice’s news offerings, which will include Guardian reporters presenting, including on Vice News Tonight.

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