Matters of Media

What’s new in media matters: Charlie Hebdo; the state of American media; attacks on the press; and Jon Stewart’s next mission.

Protesters marched for freedom of expression worldwide after the January slaughter of journalists and police by extremists at Charlie Hebdo's Paris office. Above, protesters in Vancouver carry "Je Suis" signs for Ahmed, a Muslim police officer killed, and "Charlie." © Deborah Jones 2015
Protesters marched for freedom of expression worldwide after the January slaughter of journalists and police by extremists at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office.  © Deborah Jones 2015

The illustrations of Muhammad, which sparked such incendiary controversy by Muslims whose faith prohibits images of their prophet, may have run their course in the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Extremists apparently protesting the illustrations slaughtered 10 journalists and two police officers outside Charlie Hebdo’s Paris headquarters in January, sparking global support for freedom of expression. 

Now cartoonist Renald Luzier, whose pen name is “Luz,” told French magazine les inRocks  he is no longer interested in creating images of Muhammad. He said he has grown tired of drawing Muhammad, as he had grown tired of drawing previous subjects. The statement was newsworthy (see BBC report here) because Charlie Hebdo is again controversial news: PEN America’s decision to honour Charlie Hebdo, with a Freedom of Expression Courage Award next month, sparked a protest by two dozen writers.

The protesting writers, including Michael Ondaatje and Joyce Carol Oates, wrote they support freedom of expression but the honour is unwarranted because Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons “intended to cause further humiliation and suffering” for already-marginalized Muslims. PEN America disagreed in a rebuttal, Rejecting the Assasin’s Veto — but added, “we are  very privileged to live in an environment where strong and diverse views on complex issues such as these can take place both respectfully and safely.”


The Journalism Project of the Pew Research Center in the United States this week released its 12th annual report, State of the News Media 2015. There is good, bad, and ugly. A lot of ugly. Highlights:

  • Mobile devices trump desktop computers for the audience of digital news media – but only desktop users linger.
  • Financially the newspaper industry continues to bleed. 
  • Local and network TV enjoyed greater ad revenue and audience; cable companies suffered.
  • Digital outlets continue to face financial and journalistic challenges — though a few are thriving.

The Good (?): “Digital news entrants and experimentation, whether from longtime providers or new, are on the one hand now so numerous and varied that they are difficult to keep track of. On the other hand, the pace of technological evolution and the multiplicity of choices – from platforms to devices to pathways – show no sign of slowing down.”   Plus, podcasting is booming. That’s something. 

The Bad:  More Americans receive journalism in quick hits via mobile devices. (Oh, look: SQUIRREL!!!)

The Ugly: Tech industries, especially the top five companies, are eating journalism’s lunch. “Five technology companies took in half of all display ad revenue, with Facebook alone accounting for 24%.”  Plus: “Nearly half of Web-using adults report getting news about politics and government in the past week on Facebook, a platform where influence is driven to a strong degree by friends and algorithms. ” 

Who cares? What does it matter? Pew’s Journalism Project offers a succinct answer: 

“Americans’ changing news habits have a tremendous impact on how and to what extent our country functions within an informed society. So too does the state of the organizations producing the news and making it available to citizens day in and day out ….”  

“Understanding the industry in turn allows researchers to ask and answer important questions about the relationship between information and democracy – whether this means exploring the degree to which like-minded consumers gravitate to the same sources, the opportunities consumers have or don’t have to stay on top of the activities of their elected officials, or how connected residents feel to their local communities.”

Click here to read State of the News Media 2015 on the Pew site.


© Greg Locke 2013
© Greg Locke 2013

This week the Committee to Protect Journalists released a major report, Attacks on the Press. Citing slaughters, beatings and imprisonments, from Pakistan to Paraguay, Paris to Egypt, journalists face danger, wrote Christiane Amanpour in a foreward. “From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information–an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes.”

On Thursday, the United Nations appointed Amanpour, an American journalist, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression. The issue needs an ambassador. As Amanpour notes in the CPJ report, dangers to journalism “are expanding in seemingly every direction, morphing in new and disturbing ways. At stake are not only journalists’ lives but also the public’s ability to know what’s going on around them.”

Click here to read Attacks on the Press on the CPJ site.  (And in case you missed it,  Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans Frontieres released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index. earlier this year. Finland again ranked first for press freedom, with Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand, Austria, Canada, Jamaica and Estonia also making the top ten.  Least free are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. France is 38th, the United States 49th, Russia 152nd, Iran 173rd and China 176th.)


Last but not least, there may be an answer to America’s intense speculation about what its favourite and arguably most effective “journalist” — comedian Jon Stewart — will do when he retires from The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Reportedly Stewart is swapping incisive political commentary about humanity for saving animals, on a New Jersey farm his family recently purchased as an animal refuge ( story here).

And on that note, here is a photo of my own rescue cat. Because. apparently, catz are what media are for these days.

Poppy the rescue cat, 1985-2006
Poppy, 1985-2005

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