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Viral news and the "Valley of Ambiguity"

i09's Annalee Newitz has a theory about why some stories get shared around the Internet more than others — and, not coincidentally, why nuanced stories about science tend to get shared less than, say, the average LOLcat. If she's right, the real trick with science reporting on the Internet is to write accurate stories that aren't all reported from deep in the Valley of Ambiguity. Maggie 7

Help fund a magazine dedicated to language geekery

Schwa Fire is would-be magazine that hopes to publish long-form journalism about the science and sociology behind the way we talk to each other. It sounds like it has the potential to be totally awesome, melding great storytelling with a field — linguistics — that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. You can help fund the magazine through a Kickstarter. Check it out! Maggie 2

Afghan Taliban critiques journalism ethics of The Daily Beast


The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.

The Taliban's critique, below, in full:

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Press freedom case of NYT reporter James Risen may go to Supreme Court

"A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision compelling a journalist to identify a source who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation," reports the AP:

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Scientific American blog editor accused of harassment

Barely days after Scientific American was embroiled in one sexism scandal, another one lights up. Hamilton Nolan reports on allegations of harassment leveled at a SciAm editor by several writers. Though Bora Zivkovic has resigned from ScienceOnline's board, "Scientific American told a reporter that they investigated the initial charges a year ago, but there is no indication that Zivkovic will lose his job there." [Gawker] Rob 3

More on the new Omidyar-backed news venture Greenwald's leaving the Guardian for

A rep for Omidyar replies to the early Washington Post scoop I blogged yesterday, and corrects the record: "The new venture will be backed by Pierre Omidyar, personally, not Omidyar Network. Here is a blog post by Pierre on the topic today. Additionally, Honolulu Civil Beat is not funded by Omidyar Network, it is a separate entity." Xeni 2

Greenwald leaves Guardian for new venture backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (updated)


Journalist Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro, July 2013. Sergio Moraes / Reuters

Blogger and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who along with Laura Poitras broke the story of Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, announced today that he is departing the Guardian newspaper to join a "new news venture backed by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar," reports Paul Farhi at The Washington Post.

The new, as-yet-unnamed news site has also sought to hire Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was instrumental in linking former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Greenwald and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, and national security reporter Jeremy Scahill of the Nation magazine, said a person familiar with the venture.

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Freedom of the Press Foundation Launches SecureDrop, an Open-Source Submission Platform for Whistleblowers

Freedom of the Press Foundation has taken charge of the DeadDrop project, an open-source whistleblower submission system originally coded by the late transparency advocate Aaron Swartz. In the coming months, the Foundation will also provide on-site installation and technical support to news organizations that wish to run the system, which has been renamed “SecureDrop.”

By installing SecureDrop, news organizations around the world can securely accept documents from whistleblowers, while better protecting their sources’ anonymity.  Although it is important to note that no security system can ever be 100 percent impenetrable, Freedom of the Press Foundation believes that this system is the strongest ever made available to media outlets. Several major news agencies have already signed up for installations, and they will be announced in the coming weeks.

“We’ve reached a time in America when the only way the press can assure the anonymity and safety of their sources is not to know who they are,” said JP Barlow, co-founder and board member of Freedom of the Press Foundation. “SecureDrop is where real news can be slipped quietly under the door.”

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Stalin: evil dictator, good editor

Holly Case on Joseph Stalin, editor. [via Kottke]
Stalin always seemed to have a blue pencil on hand, and many of the ways he used it stand in direct contrast to common assumptions about his person and thoughts. He edited ideology out or played it down, cut references to himself and his achievements, and even exhibited flexibility of mind, reversing some of his own prior edits.

California enacts law expanding legal protection for journalists

In California, Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that gives journalists in the state "five days' notice before government agencies serve subpoenas on their records held by third parties, such as phone companies and internet service providers." [Reuters] Xeni 4

Jacob Appelbaum explains surveillance to the EuroParl

Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project and Wikileaks addressed the European Parliament on the issue of surveillance and freedom. It was a remarkable speech, even by Appelbaum's high standards. An amateur transcript gives you a sense of what's going on, but the video is even better: "Is it used for coercion? Is data passed to autocratic regimes? Is it used to study groups? Is it used to disrupt? Yes, yes, and yes. Might they force or forge data? Absolutely."

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Linotype machines are awesome

Last night, my husband and I went to the Minnesota State Fair and stumbled upon a demonstration of a linotype machine, a semi-automated, mechanical printing system that was used by newspapers and magazines (and basically everything else) from the end of the 19th century through the 1970s. It's a completely mesmerizing piece of equipment. An operator types out a line of text and the machine responds by collecting molds that match each letter and fitting them together. Then, it fills the mold with molten metal and dumps out the freshly minted block, ready for the printer ... before automatically re-racking all the letter molds so they're ready for the next line of text.

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Propublica crowdfunds an intern to study interns

ProPublica raised $23,000 on Kickstarter to hire an intern whose job is to investigate unpaid interns. The successful applicant, Casey McDermott, sounds great -- a recent grad with a double major in Journalism and Sociology who edited Penn State's newspaper during the Sandusky scandal, and oversaw the paper's mobile app rollout. She says that her proximity to the issue -- having lots of friends who are interning, being an intern herself -- gives her great perspective.

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Criminalizing Journalism: Manning, Media and You


Illustration: Reuters/William Hennessy

On Tuesday, Bradley Manning was acquitted of “aiding the enemy” for leaking 700,000 classified government documents, including a video of an American airstrike in Baghdad that killed 12 civilians, among them two Reuters journalists.

While aiding the enemy was the most serious charge he faced, Manning was still found guilty of numerous counts of espionage and other charges, which could land him in jail for the rest of his life.

And while many journalists are breathing a sigh of relief about the aiding-the-enemy decision, we shouldn’t forget how hard the government pushed for that particular conviction.

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Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press


UPDATE: Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court.”


Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past 18 months of pre-trial hearings and court proceedings.

@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being "screamed at" for having "windows" open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn't work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren't allowed in the press room), it wasn't this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that's standard for civilian or military trials.

But the vibe is very different today in the Smallwood building where reporters are required to work, about a quarter mile away from the actual courtroom. Tweets from some of the attending journalists are below; there are about 40-50 of them present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I'm now seeing updates that they're being told they are not allowed to access Twitter at all. Why has the climate changed so much in the final few days of the trial? What is the Army afraid of?

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