Radius Reader: Police Force, Vicious Rumors & Hello, Ello?


by Margaret Wright

Police Deadly Force

With reporting for our APD Files project shifting into high gear, we’ve been tracking events in other localities surrounding police use-of-force. Tensions still ran high in Ferguson, Missouri, this past week even as a special division of the Department of Justice held a meeting with residents. Vox talked to legal experts about the complex set of “standards by which [Ferguson Officer Darren] Wilson will be judged for killing Michael Brown,” which also illuminate processes at play in Albuquerque. From the article:

“Walter Katz, a California attorney who specializes in oversight of law enforcement agencies—particularly during use-of-force investigations—points out that it’s hard to determine whether an officer’s fear is reasonable because the decision to shoot is so fast.”

Another key quote from Katz:

“When it comes to officer-involved shootings, confidence is the only currency which that agency has—that the public has confidence that it is going to be an objective and fair and transparent investigation. Once that confidence is lost, people will not trust the outcomes.”

Press & Public Records Rights

We pointed out last Friday that the Obama administration has a far-less-than-exemplary record when it comes to press freedom. The Associated Press’ Washington Bureau Chief made a list of obstacles she’s encountered during her work, while some members of the White House press pool say presidential staffers have been quietly placing limits on journalistic independence. Reports the Washington Post:

While the overwhelming majority of pool reports pass through the White House without delay or amendment, some have been flagged by the administration’s press staff, which has demanded changes as a condition of distributing them.

Here at home, the New Mexico branch of the National Education Association has filed a lawsuit “to force the Public Education Department to comply with state law and fulfill the Association’s requests for information.”

Further afield, the Forest Service is running damage control after members of the media cited the First Amendment in objections to a new rule prohibiting commercial filmmaking and photography in wilderness areas without the use of fee-based permits.

 News Industry Insights

This week’s must-read is a fascinating look at “one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.” Writes Ryan Deveraux in The Intercept:

“The CIA’s Public Affairs officers watched with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.”

The College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida has paired with the Knight Foundation to host a series of speakers “whose inventive outlooks have propelled them to the leading edge of data, mobile and community engagement.” The founder of Storyful, Mark Little, had great things to say about opportunities, contradictions and unanswered questions surrounding the contemporary practice of journalism (e.g., how to reconcile the fact that online footage of the Arab Spring gets the same social prioritization as fluffy cat videos).

The New York Times  is experimenting with new blog formats that could be useful as the midterm election season heats up. “The Upshot” combines “political news, analysis and data visualizations,” and “First Draft” allows readers to run fact-checking inquiries by staff reporters.

Another tool for verifying that suspect post flying across your Facebook news feed is Emergent, “which focuses on how unverified information and rumor are reported in the media.”

Re: news feeds, attendees at the Online News Association conference pointed out today that Facebook is still king when it comes to reaching wide audiences. That king isn’t invulnerable; there’s been a lot of speculation about threats posed by alternate social networks such as Ello. Friends flocked to the ad-free startup this week, but critics have noted that the company failed to mention in its manifesto that it’s already accepted venture-capital funding. Gigaom points out that “once investors get involved, most companies are expected to start working towards a scale that will generate big returns, and for social networks—to date—the monetization strategy has almost entirely been based around ads.”

Business Insider’s two cents on the issue: “Ello’s founders have to sell something, whether it’s to VCs or companies. And that something is always going to be you.”