UK MPs: Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to run an international corporation

The long-running UK Parliamentary investigation into the NewsCorp newspapers' practice of hacking emails and voicemails has wound down, and delivered a final, damning report. In it, the cross-party Parliamentary group describes Rupert Murdoch as "not a fit person" to run a major corporation. It also says that James Murdoch -- Rupert's son -- practiced 'wilful ignorance' of illegal activities at his papers. From Dan Sabbagh and Josh Halliday in The Guardian:

The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was "complicit" in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper's ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.

Rupert Murdoch, the document said, "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking" and "turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications".

The committee concluded that the culture of the company's newspapers "permeated from the top" and "speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International".

That prompted the MPs report to say: "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."

James Murdoch is described as exhibiting a "lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even" at the time of the negotiations surrounding the 2008 Gordon Taylor phone-hacking settlement and later in 2009 and 2010.

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How to: Read science news

How you read matters as much as what you read. That's because nothing is written in a vacuum. Every news story or blog post has a perspective behind it, a perspective that shapes what you are told and how that information is conveyed. This is not, necessarily, a bad thing. Having a perspective doesn't mean being sensationalistic, or deceitful, or spreading propaganda. It can mean those things, but it doesn't have to. In fact, I'm fairly certain that it's impossible to tell any story without some kind of perspective. When you relate facts, even in your personal life, you make choices about what details you will emphasize, what emotions you'll convey, who you will speak to—and all of those decisions are based on your personal perspective. How we tell a story depends on what we think is important.

Unfortunately, sometimes, perspective can be misleading. That's why it's important to be aware that perspective exists. If you look at what you're reading, you can see the decisions the author made, you can get an idea of what perspective they were trying to convey, and you will know whether that perspective is likely to distort the facts.

Emily Willingham is a scientist who blogs about science for the general public. Over at Double X Science, she's come up with a handy, six-step guide for reading science news stories. These rules are a great tool for peeking behind the curtain, and learning to think about the perspective behind what you read. In the post, she explains why each of these rules is important, and then applies them to a recent news story about chemical exposure and autism. Read the rest

When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade: via lemonade stand, 6yo boy raises $10K for dad's chemo

A story making the rounds this week: Drew Cox, a 6 year old boy in Texas, "decided to sell lemonade to help his father with medical bills." His dad, Randy Cox, has a rare form of metastatic cancer, diagnosed a few months ago. The family says Drew's lemonade stand earned more than $10,000. They have an online fundraising site here, where they're trying to raise more.

I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, diagnosed about four months ago. When I saw various versions of this story popping up on news sites, several thoughts came to mind.

First, hooray for this child. I hope his dad gets the treatment he needs, that the treatment is successful, and that the family doesn't go into debt or have to forego treatment for lack of funds.

But second: this is a disgrace. I hate it when stories like this are flogged in media as "feel-good" stories. This story should make America feel ashamed, not feel good. Seriously? A working father gets cancer, and the family has to rely on charity, and a lemonade stand manned by their 6 year old son, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment?

It's not the first such lemonade/chemo-money story to make the rounds in the media, wrapped up in feel-good. When life hands you cancer, the news narrative seems to be, just make cancer-ade!

Well, I have cancer. I have insurance. I still pay what is for me a huge out-of-pocket sum, even after my insurance, for each chemo infusion every two weeks. Read the rest

How to blow the whistle

On this morning's Today Show segment on leakers, NBC's media analysts decided that people who anonymously leak evidence of criminal or ethical wrongdoing are attention-seeking narcissists. Don't be outraged! Now potential whistleblowers know not to leak to NBC. But there's more to the craft than simply avoiding hacks. At Wired, Ryan Singel has the essential guide on How to Be a Workplace Leaker Without Getting Caught. #1: "Don’t use your work computer or work phone to communicate with the recipient of your leaks." Read the rest

Canada to science: Drop dead

Not long ago, Cory told you about how the Canadian government has been muzzling scientists—refusing to let them speak freely with the press and, thus, controlling what research the public gets to know about. Not surprisingly, it's research on topics that are politically inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government—climate change, for instance—that end up getting frozen.

This issue was the topic of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver. And although the Canadian government did schedule a free press breakfast in the same time slot, word of this issue got out to a lot of journalists from around the world who hadn't heard about it before. That means we're likely to start seeing more attention being drawn to this issue.

Case in point: The Harper government and its opposition to the open distribution of scientific information was the subject of a Feb. 29th editorial in Nature—one of the biggest and most-read scientific journals in the world.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers. Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media-relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak. Canadian journalists have documented several instances in which prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature. Policy directives and e-mails obtained from the government through freedom of information reveal a confused and Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.

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What are the world's root problems?

Philipp Lenssen sez, "I've set up RootStrike as a minimalist site for easy referencing of root problems in online discussions. Problems -- like the corrupting system of US campaign funding -- which, if solved, would also help us a lot in solving many other problems. The site was inspired by Lawrence Lessig's book Republic, Lost, and many other sources and people." Read the rest

Julian Assange to host Wikileaks TV show on Kremlin-funded Russian cable network

Wikileaks announced this week that house-arrested frontman Julian Assange would host a new television interview series with "in-depth conversations with key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world." The theme, according to the announcement: "the world tomorrow."

Today, news that the network involved is none other than RT, the Russian cable television outlet founded by the Kremlin in 2005, which remains funded by and effectively under the editorial control of the Russian state. If you thought Assange's story already read like a pulp spy novel, none of this should be particularly shocking.

In a hyperbolic news release at, the network today revealed that the program will be filmed at the rural British manse where Assange has been residing under house arrest for more than a year while he fights extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault. The first episode will be shot "just a week before Assange's Supreme Court hearing in the UK."

And at the end of that RT announcement: “Details of the episodes and the guests featured are secret for now.” Secret. LOL.

More: NYT Media Decoder blog, Moscow Times, LA Times.

(Original Images: REUTERS) Read the rest

Who is a journalist?

Writer and comedian John Knefel reaches for his glasses as police pull him away during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City yesterday. This really great photo was taken by Jessica Lehrman in the lobby of Winter Garden, a building owned by Brookfield Property, the same company that owns Zuccotti Park. To get a different view on the same scene, check out a video that someone else was filming at the same time. You can see Knefel falling down around 6:30.

The photo and video bring up something interesting. Knefel is a writer and comedian, one of the many people documenting OWS from the inside while trying to navigate the very grey boundaries of journalist and participant in the age of Internet journalism. Personally, I think this conflict is pretty interesting. If I can get all "journalism ethics class" for a minute here, I think OWS is drawing attention to the already existing need for new definitions of who constitutes "media" and who doesn't. Why is this more confusing than you might thing? Let me use Knefel as an example.

Knefel doesn't work for a major media outlet. But he's also not just some random bystander. He's got a political podcast with new episodes three times a week. Do we only call someone a journalist if they have enough page views? Do they have to have a journalism degree? What's the line?

Knefel is a biased source of information. But so are a lot of mainstream commentators. Read the rest

The dronecam revolution will be webcast: Interview with Tim Pool of "The Other 99"

Webcaster Tim Pool of "The Other 99."

In recent weeks, one source of live news coverage for the Occupy Wall Street movement stood out above all others. Not a cable news network, not a newspaper, but a 25-year-old guy named Tim Pool. He packs a smartphone with unlimited data, a copy of Ustream's mobile video streaming app, and a battery pack to keep it all going — which he has for 21 hours straight, on big news days. Soon, Tim and team plan to have have their own hacker-made flying camera-drones, to provide aerial footage TV news chopppers can't. The guerrilla web stream "The Other 99" has reached more than 2 million unique viewers over the last two months, and become a source of eyes on the ground unmatched by big media. The project runs solely on donations. Is The Other 99's webcast the start of a new news normal, and could Pool be one of many DIY backpack broadcasters to come? I tracked him down in New York between streams to find out what he thinks, and how and why he does what he does. — XJ

Xeni Jardin: Break down your current gear setup for us, would you?

Tim Pool: The backpack I use is just a regular backpack. My gear is a Samsung GALAXY S II (on Sprint, because they offer unlimited data) and an Energizer XPAL 18000, and I literally slide the external battery into my back pocket and I plug my phone into it. Read the rest

In the first issue of Scientific American: Centrifuges and levitating haystacks

Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in America, began life on August 28, 1845 as a 4-page, black and white newsletter. There were only a couple of illustrations. The cover model was one of the vastly improved railroad cars of the age, which could seat 60-80 passengers, "run with a steadiness hardly equalled by a steamboat," and (perhaps best of all) was capable of "flying at the rate of 30 to 40 miles per hour."

In this early incarnation, Scientific American was published weekly—"Every Thursday Morning" in New York and Philadelphia, promised a sidebar. Articles were packed together in that great "NO WHITESPACE!" style common to 19th-century newspapers. Besides that brief on modern train cars, the front page featured curated clippings from other newspapers and publications, ranging from an explanation of where the sound of thunder comes from, to a report from the "village of Moulton" about a levitating haystack.

There was poetry. There was a column all about new inventions—which includes, if I'm reading correctly, an announcement about the invention of the centrifuge. There was a long list of recently issued patents. There were descriptions of basic scientific principles and some gadget-hound fawning over Morse's telegraph.

If that makes good ol' Sci Am sound frightfully blog-like ... well, yes. That's sort of an interesting point, isn't it? Meet the New Media, same as the Old Media.

During the month of November, you can acquaint yourself better with media and scientific history by browsing through online archives of Scientific American issues from 1849 to 1909. Read the rest

After (arsenic) life: Great profile of Felisa Wolfe-Simon

In early 2011, Felisa Wolfe-Simon published a scientific paper purporting to show evidence that bacteria from California's Mono Lake could, if pressed, live without the essential element phosphorous, and use arsenic, instead.

The story was wildly misconstrued in the press. (No, nobody ever found alien life happening naturally in Lake Mono.) And the evidence and methodology of Wolfe-Simon's research was roundly trounced, not just in academic journals, but also in blogs.

And that's all left Wolfe-Simon in a very weird position. She's certainly not the first scientist to publish a high-profile paper that other researchers tore to shreds. But, because the "arsenic life" story was so high-profile, she's now worried her career might be over. Is that fair? In Popular Science, Tom Clynes presents a nuanced profile of Felisa Wolfe-Simon that doesn't really answer that question definitively. Frankly, there probably isn't a really clear black/white answer out there. But Clynes does do a really good job of introducing us to Wolfe-Simon as a person, and her story exposes flaws in the peer-review process and the traditional avenues of scientific debate, indicts the media and PR professionals for creating the very sensational story that led to such a harsh response, and shows what can happen when a scientist is unprepared to deal with the public presentation of their own work.

In other words, this story is about lots of people making mistakes, including, but not limited to, Felisa Wolfe-Simon.

In June, Science reported that Wolfe-Simon had left Oremland’s USGS laboratory to look for a location with better molecular and genetic research facilities.

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NYT: It's OK for a newspaper to say a source is lying

The good news: The New York Times called shenanigans on a quote in the same story the quote appeared in, saying "This is false." The less-exciting news: It happened in a story about competing pizza restaurants. But still, as Jay Rosen points out, praise is in order. This is something journalism needs more of, and if it has to start with a pizza feud, so be it. Read the rest

Real scientists of the Planet of the Apes

Great Moments in Pedantry or Helpful Insight? Can't it be both? Carin Bondar explains how Rise of the Planet of the Apes gets scientists, and the scientific process, all wrong. Read the rest

Dispatch from the Nymwars: Pseudonyms and science

Xeni has been posting here about Google+'s refusal to allow people to set up an account under invented (rather than legal) names. She's been focusing on how this relates to Internet culture, in general, and what it means for Google+ and the people who hoped it might be a better place to be social than Facebook.

I'd like to talk very briefly about what it means for scientists. As a science journalist, I'm kind of a middle person, taking information from scientists and presenting it to the public. Increasingly, though, scientists have found ways to take part in that conversation more directly—something that I think is good for scientists, good for the public, and good for science journalists. And blogging, often pseudonymous blogging, is a big part of that.

Why pseudonymous? That's an interesting question, and it's one that the scientist-bloggers themselves have been answering a lot lately, not only because of the G+ Nymwars, but also because of what's happening at Science Blogs. This blogging network, home to quite a few scientist-bloggers, was recently bought by National Geographic, which decided that bloggers could no longer blog under the pseudonyms they'd been using for years.

Personally, I think there are benefits and detriments to anonymity on the Internet, but there's a big difference between being anonymous and having a pseudonym. I may not know who DrugMonkey is in real life, but I know who DrugMonkey is and I know that he has to be as responsible for everything he writes under that name as I am responsible for what I write as Maggie Koerth-Baker. Read the rest