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White House photo access controls public image

Rather than permit photojournalists to shoot in the White House, the Obama administration prefers to issue official pictures taken by its own photographers. News organizations looking to illustrate events of national and global importance usually have no choice but to use the official photos, but the Associate Press says those photos are so staged and crafted that they are really propaganda. The Associated Press, the largest U.S. Wire service, has…

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Orson Welles Radio Play “War of the Worlds” at 75

The New York Times reported “Many Flee Homes to Escape `Gas Raid From Mars’–Phone Calls Swamp Police at Broadcast of Wells Fantasy” and the story of the hoax is firmly embedded in the history books. But the reports of streets full of panicked citizens don’t hold up to scrutiny. There’s only one problem: The supposed panic was so tiny as to be practically immeasurable on the night of the broadcast.…

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Halloween Candy Poisonings, School Shootings and Human Psychology

What can parents do to minimize their children’s risk of being hurt or killed by poison or sharp objects in Halloween candy? How many children would you say die each year from eating poisoned candy (or candy with razor blades and such) each Halloween? Just two or three? Maybe only one every few years? In the year 2006, two children drowned while riding tricycles into swimming pools. Should parents be…

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Writing, Coding and Education: Why They Matter

Back in my grad school days, I was called a “run-of-the-mill programmer” by a brilliant IT genius. For a guy whose only computer coursework consists of a Pascal class in high school (“taught” by a math teacher who didn’t know the language, and checked my answers against those in the teacher’s manual), I still consider that high praise. There’s no way I could compete, head-to-head, against an experienced programmer, but…

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Taking the Lid Off the McDonald’s Coffee Case

Have you heard the story about the lady who spilled coffee on herself and won millions of dollars from McDonald’s? Have you looked up the details on the story, or do you just know the story as a TV show punch line? Stella became a symbol for frivolous lawsuits and fodder for talk show hosts, late night comedians, sitcom writers, and even political pundits. The headlines, referring to an elderly…

AP reporter’s mistake: Did the punishment fit the crime?

Reporters have been sometimes fired for willful misconduct, such as repeated instances of plagiarism or fabrication. Reporters who’ve suffered that fate, such as the New York Times’ Jayson Blair and The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, were guilty of gross journalistic malpractice. But firing a reporter over an unintentional mistake is “extremely rare,” said Scott Maier, an associate professor at the University of Oregon who has studied reporting errors. “If everyone…

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Attribution, Editorializing and Defamation

In the Nightly Noodle Monthly, former North Adams Transcript journalist Isaac Avilucea posts this passage, which he says was removed from a sports feature that got him fired. But there’s a reason she’s not at MountGreylock anymore, choosing to transfer to a school with somewhat inferior academics and athletics. Part of it has to do with the stuffy social atmosphere that pervades the school. “If you take the movie ‘Mean Girls,’” Alcombright said, “that’s MountGreylock. To be…

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Higgs and Englert Are Awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

Beautiful, beautiful science writing by Dennis Overbye. The “God particle” became the Prize particle on Tuesday. Two theoretical physicists who suggested that an invisible ocean of energy suffusing space is responsible for the mass and diversity of the particles in the universe won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday morning. They are Peter Higgs, 84, of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and François Englert, 80, of the University…

Take It From an Ex-Journalist: Adapt or Die

So what if every reader survey ranked international news coverage near the bottom of what people wanted to read? Didn’t they know our Africa correspondent had just won a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting? People needed international reporting even if they were too ignorant to recognize it, and we were determined to give it to them, no matter that the enormous expense of housing reporters all over the world was…