Judges want to hide judicial discipline hearings

AJC columnist Jay Bookman pointed out in his column today that judges would like to handle their judicial disciplining behind closed doors. The move to secrecy is important since the Judicial Qualifications Commission has publicly reprimanded 60 judges in Georgia over the last eight years. But now, Bookman writes, judges want to change the process dramatically. In addition to changing how the JQC is appointed, they also want to

… close all future commission proceedings to the public. The public would not be made aware that a complaint had been filed, and it would not have access to the evidence unless the judge in question was found guilty. Proponents claim the secrecy is needed to protect the reputations of judges who are innocent, yet that’s a special privilege not extended to defendants in any courtroom in the state.

The proposed changes will be part of a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November.

Journalists in the state need to make the public aware of these changes toward more secrecy that will make judges less accountable to the public. Ask judges why they should have secret hearings when the public get open trials.

By | August 24th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Keeping an eye on government leaders texting during open meetings

The AJC watchdog Chris Joyner recently wrote about a worrisome practice–council members using their cell phones during open meetings. Opponents in Milton were recently corresponding with a city councilor during public discussions of their the issue, prompting questions of impropriety since Sunshine laws demand most government meetings be totally open.

After the story published, the Georgia Attorney General’s office said that government officials should not text during meetings. But, AG spokesperson Nick Genesi said the Sunshine laws do not expressly forbid the practice:

“The public should demand better behavior from their elected officials,” Nick Genesi said. But, he added, “Right now the current statute doesn’t cover this gross violation of public policy.”

Genesi said his boss wanted to include language reining in the use of technology, such as text messaging, during otherwise public meetings in his rewrite of state sunshine laws four years ago, but he said Olens got resistance from state lawmakers.

We suggest lawmakers amend the law, and journalists in the state keep an out to see if texting while governing is an emerging trend.

By | August 24th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Journalism as a public good

I presented this powerpoint in Pakistan back in May. My audiences of students and professors seemed to enjoy it. I was in the country for 25 days as a Fulbright Specialist with the US Department of State. Met a lot of warm welcoming people and made some good relationships. Hope to go back again.

By | August 11th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Best lede ever written about charity pancake breakfast

Found an article from the Anniston Star about a charity pancake breakfast on a Saturday morning. If ever a story begged to be mailed in, this one did. Go down there, interview a few people making pancakes, write a label lede, put it in the cue and punch the clock.

But, reporter Kirsten Fiscus did not mail it in.

Read this lede:

David Lewis began his pancake duties at 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Standing on a cushioned pad, wearing a blue Kiwanis apron and splattered with pancake batter, Lewis studied the griddle in front of him.


By | March 13th, 2016|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Judges Rarely Limit Security Forces, Prosecutors in Arab Countries

Wrote this piece for the Global Freedom of Expression project conference at Columbia University earlier this year. Here’s the beginning:

In 2014, Arab judges issued no exceptional rulings that helped embolden freedom of expression. Courts in the Gulf countries and nearby Arab states (Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq) largely upheld the authoritarian status quo. While many government prosecutors charged media outlets, journalists and social media speakers with violations, no judges ruled in favor of free speech.

Perhaps the Arab region’s biggest shift regarding free speech in 2014 involves legislation rather than any judiciary actions. Several countries embraced the use of anti-terrorism legislation to target journalists and social media speakers.

Two Arab governments revised their counterterrorism laws with broad, vague definitions of speech that can now be considered “terrorism.” In Saudi Arabia, the government updated the law to label as terrorism any act that seeks to “insult the reputation of the state.” Reporting on the flogging of liberal blogger Raif Badawi could be labeled “terrorism” under the new law’s broad definition.

Here’s the video of my talk:

I’ve been working on not saying “um” too much. Still need to work on it.

By | October 29th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Today’s journalism iPhone apps

We hosted CNN cross-platform editor Jennifer Matthews in class today. Here are the journalism apps on her iPhone:

  • Evernote — for taking notes
  • Dropbox — for sharing info 
  • iTalk — audio app
  • CameraPlus — good camera
  • Tape-A-Call Pro — phone recorder
  • FilmRic Pro — video editor
  • RealTalk — audio recorder
By | September 29th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

How can organizations spread press freedom better?

Here are my slides for my presentation today at the Arab Human Rights conference in Doha, Qatar:

My main points:

  1. Need to focus on judicial rulings and get good ones translated/disseminated.
  2. Need to focus on international approaches — don’t just report that a journalist was arrested, explain how that violates her ability to her job and how other countries protect journalists.
  3. Need for transparency when reporting on free press violations. Who is the judge? The prosecutor? Don’t let them hide behind anonymity.
  4. Focus on penal codes, not just media laws. The two rulings in Africa overturned bad penal code law (criminal defamation and “false news”), not bad media law.


I really stressed the recent ruling from the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights that outlawed criminal defamation. The high court ruled that putting a journalist in jail is incompatible with human rights.

Here’s a link about the court ruling. And here’s a link to theKonate vs. Burkina Faso ruling itself. And here’s a link to the Media Legal Defense Initiative, the NGO that provided defense for the journalist in Burkina Faso who had the temerity to report on the corruption of a public official.

This African court ruling is a landmark decision for this part of the world. I’m working on creating an organization that translates legal rulings like this one for dissemination to Arabic-speaking judges, lawyers, prosecutors and journalists in the Middle East. Contact me if you’d like to help.

Finally, since you’re here, please take a look at my research: Arab Media Laws: Identifying restraints on freedom of the press in the Gulf countries. Here’s an earlier version that was translated into Arabic: قوانين الإعلام العربية: تحديد القيود على حرية الصحافة في دول الخليج.

By | March 23rd, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |0 Comments

First Amendment and its global importance

Here’s a great quote from free speech scholar Rodney Smolla:

The American experience with freedom of speech is important to the rest of the world not because our current First Amendment policies are necessarily wise — it is not that Americans have all the perplexing issues of free speech “right.” American thinking on freedom of speech is relevant to the rest of the world because our experience in wrestling with free speech conflicts and communications policy is unusually rich. American society may not have the best answers, but it has thought about the problems more. Under the American First Amendment, the United States has experimented more often than any other culture in the world with the radical presumption that it is better to err on the side of openness than repression, even when the public arguments for repression are alluring.

Found that gem from 1992 in a great journal article by my good friend Kyu Ho Youm.

By | March 13th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

Salman Rushdie on satire and religions

Earlier today, 12 journalists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hepbo, were murdered by terrorists angry that the publication had mocked their religion.

Salman Rushdie released the following statement, which seems perfectly apt:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

His words may offend and affront some of my Muslim friends. Nonetheless, he’s right. Freedom of expression demands no less.

By | January 7th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |0 Comments

Roger Ebert is the best film reviewer of all time

Here are the first six graphs of Roger Ebert’s review of “Death Sentence”:

When he was asked by Johnny Carson how a magazine could quote him saying he really would murder to avenge his family, Charles Bronson looked Carson in the eye and said, “Because the quote is accurate. I really could, and I would.” There was a little silence then, because Bronson was totally convincing.

He was publicizing “Death Wish” (1974), his film about a man whose wife is killed and daughter raped. He gets a gun and starts posing as bait for muggers, a middle-aged guy with a bag of groceries. Then he shoots them dead. I think he kills about 11 victims (17 in the book) and is nicknamed “The New York Vigilante,” but the homicide rate drops 50 percent in New York, and so a cop cuts him a deal: Get out of town. As the film ends, he’s drawing a bead on a guy in Chicago.

Funny thing. When Bronson made “Death Wish II” (1982), it was set in Los Angeles, even though Brian Garfield, the author of the novel Death Wish, had written a 1975 sequel, Death Sentence, set in Chicago. Ah, yes, here’s my copy right here, dedicated to “Jay Robert Nash, John McHugh, Roger Ebert and Bill Granger, Chicago front-pagers all, with thanks.”

He was thanking us because he’d come to Chicago to research the city (in two days, as I recall), and we agreed to meet him at the Billy Goat to feed him the real dope. The Goat (“no fries, cheeps”) is a hamburger-and-booze emporium tucked away on the lower level of Michigan Avenue, responsible for the enticing aroma of frying onions that pedestrians enjoy in front of the Wrigley Building. You will recognize the tavern on the book’s Page 27, “a block from Tribune Tower and equidistant from the Sun-Times and Daily News press rooms.” His hero figures police reporters who hang out there “might be the best source of information about the unfamiliar city.” He carries his beer to the back of the bar, where “there were nine or 10 men and women roughed up by alcohol and cigarettes and the cynicism of insider’s experience.” He got the Billy Goat right.

Bronson went on to make “Death Wish 3” (1985), “Death Wish 4” (1987) and “Death Wish V” (1994), by which date he was 73 and didn’t need the bag of groceries as bait. They were set variously in Los Angeles and New York, largely filmed in Toronto, and never did get back to Chicago, reportedly because Garfield hated the first movie and its sequels so much he would never sell the rights to Death Sentence. But now here at last, in 2007, is “Death Sentence,” and it is filmed in, that’s right, South Carolina. It doesn’t follow the book, either.

Kevin Bacon steps into the Bronson role, although curiously, even with the real sequel to work with, his name is changed from Paul Benjamin to Nick Hume. In the movie’s first press releases, he was John Hume. In the Bronson movies, he was Paul Kersey. There is always a legal reason for these things. I favor John Paul. Probably another bad idea. You may have no interest in the information I’ve shared so far, but I’ll bet you don’t read it anywhere else. Probably a reason for that, too.

Nope, I was interested. Ebert’s a fantastic writer — won a Pulitzer Prize for film reviews. I miss being able to pick up his reviews.

By | December 23rd, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: |1 Comment

Digital journalism tools you should be teaching your students

I recently sat on a panel that addressed journalism pedagogy. Here’s the list of digital journalism tool I told the crowd they should embrace:

New Content Management System (CMS)

Social media Content Management System


Data Journalism
Tableau Public

Audio clips

Audio editor

Video editor
Many choices

Tracking twitter hits

Starbucks Exercise
… and here’s a link to an exercise I had planned to mention that brings together the power of social media, the power of the press, and the power of good Public Relations. And it involves Starbucks.

By | October 28th, 2014|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments