Jack Shafer

The Islamic State buys itself a day of horror, little else, by killing James Foley

By Jack Shafer
August 20, 2014

By uploading a video of its execution of journalist James Foley to the Web on Tuesday, the Islamic State achieves the impossible: It re-executes him every time somebody presses play.

If you must quote anonymous sources, make sure they say something!

By Jack Shafer
August 14, 2014

A decade ago, both the Washington Post and the New York Times conceded that they had lost control of the use of anonymous sources in their pages and each set up new guidelines to police the practice.

All the myths that are fit to print: Why your news feels familiar

By Jack Shafer
August 12, 2014

Has some wise guy flipped a switch and thrown the news into summer reruns?

Everywhere you look in your news feed is a story you’ve seen before. In northern Iraq, conquering jihadists have the Kurds calling on the United States for more help. North Korea is again stating its desire to nuke the White House. A virulent contagion abroad has Americans worrying when it will break out on our shores. And, in a rerun of a rerun, a Gaza war of tunnels, rockets, invasions, ceasefires, withdrawals, broken ceasefires, and shuttle diplomacy is claiming a record harvest of headlines.

The dangers of deputizing Google to bust child pornographers

By Jack Shafer
August 5, 2014

Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard in Warsaw

“Don’t be evil” — the first sentence of Google’s “Code of Conduct” — has served as the technology company’s corporate motto since its earliest days. But given Google’s role in the arrest late last month of a Houston man on child pornography charges, perhaps we’ve been misreading it. Perhaps the motto is aimed at its customers, as in, “Don’t you be evil or we’ll have you busted.”

Plagiarists’ real crime? Ripping off readers.

By Jack Shafer
July 29, 2014

A man reads a newspaper in the auditorium before the lectures for the 15th biennial International Anti-Corruption Conference in Brasilia

The plagiarists are back in the news, taking public beatings for allegedly having filed refried copy at BuzzFeed, the New York Times, and the United States Army War College, where Senator John Walsh, (D-Mont.), has just been busted for lifting portions of his 2007 master’s degree paper.

Dear Mr. Murdoch: Save yourself 80 billion bucks

By Jack Shafer
July 17, 2014

News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch waits to testify before the House Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington

The first time Rupert Murdoch tried to acquire Warner, Ronald Reagan was completing his first term as president, the Bell System break-up was nearly finished, and the first Macintosh had just gone on sale.

The truth is, you’ve never had the ‘right to be forgotten’

By Jack Shafer
July 15, 2014

An illustration picture shows a Google logo with two one Euro coins

A recent ruling by Europe’s top court has given its people a “right to be forgotten.” Google and other search engines must now delete “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant, or excessive” information from search queries when a European individual requests it, even when the info is true. This isn’t a classic case of censorship: the “offending” pages produced by newspapers and other websites will go untouched. Google and the other search engines just won’t be allowed to link to them.

Twitter panic in the newsroom

By Jack Shafer
July 10, 2014

 A person holds a magnifying glass over a computer screen displaying Twitter logos

With the exception of a well-drafted libel suit, nothing fills the underwear of the modern newsroom editor with liquid panic faster than social media, especially Twitter. Having invested millions of dollars and countless man-hours to erecting sturdy news standards based on fairness and impartiality, they fear that one 140-character message by an editorial employee will ravage the entire edifice.

What’s more rare — a unicorn or an Al Jazeera America viewer?

By Jack Shafer
July 9, 2014

 A man works at a desk in the Al Jazeera America broadcast center in New York,

Al Jazeera America draws such a teensy audience — 15,000 on average during prime time, according to Nielsen — that if you dropped all of the fledgling cable news channel’s viewers into a modern NBA arena you’d leave a couple of thousand vacant seats. To place Al Jazeera America’s audience in perspective, it’s less than half of that once attracted by Al Gore’s Current TV, the channel it replaced last August. Ratings leader Fox News Channel pulls in an evening average of about 1.6 million.

The press reveals its crushes — once the crushes are dead

By Jack Shafer
June 30, 2014

U.S. flag flies at half-staff on the Capitol dome in memory of former Senator Howard Baker in Washington

When prospecting the media for signs of bias, don’t forget to read the obituary pages, where reputations go to get taxidermied.