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Aug. 2, 2013, 10:34 a.m.

This Week in Review: The dangers of the Manning case, and more NSA revelations

Plus: A Fox News interview goes viral, layoffs in Cleveland, new hires for Al Jazeera, and the rest of the week’s news on journalism and the web.

An ominous verdict for Manning: After years of detention and months of trial, U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted this week of his most serious charge — aiding the enemy — in leaking hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, though he was found guilty of five other counts of theft and violating the Espionage Act. Wired and The Washington Post have good accounts of the verdict, and Agence France-Presse explained the next step — the sentencing hearings, which could take a month.

The New York Times’ Robert Mackey has a fantastic summary of the reaction to the verdict from a variety of realms, including the media, bloggers, activist groups, and Congress. The Times’ own editorial board and its former editor, Bill Keller (who famously had his own run-ins with WikiLeaks) condemned the verdict, with Keller especially concerned about the fact the aiding the enemy charge was pressed in the first place. Several guest writers at The Times also expressed their disapproval of the verdict and the case in general.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan went deeper into the rationale behind the verdict, and Brian Fung of The Washington Post examined its implications for the Espionage Act and, by extension, anyone else who leaks. Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained how the charges against Manning were harsher simply because he used a computer, and Peter Walker of The Guardian reminded us what we know as a result of Manning’s leaks.

The verdict may also hold real importance for the press: The Nation’s Chase Madar and The Guardian’s Dan Gillmor explained why the press should wake up to the threat this case poses for them. Gillmor quoted The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill: “We’re in a moment when journalism is being criminalized.” Scahill also castigated the traditional media (especially cable news) for its lackluster coverage of the trial, calling it “utterly shameful.”

Indeed, BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski noted, the three major American cable news networks all spent about five minutes on the verdict. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon talked to a few of the journalists who did cover the trial, and they gave some reasons why it wasn’t covered more thoroughly — it was complex, time-consuming, and made difficult to cover by the military. Earlier, The Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson noted the ongoing tension between military officials and the reporters covering the trial.

edward-snowden

New revelations and asylum for Snowden: The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald continues to break stories based on revelations from the documents provided by U.S. National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. This week, he reported on XKeyscore, an NSA program that allows agents to search through people’s emails, online chats, and search histories without prior authorization. It is, according to the documents, the NSA’s widest-reaching online data surveillance program.

As The New York Times reported, the bipartisan Congressional support that had existed regarding the NSA’s data-gathering seems to be eroding, as members of both parties are souring on the program. Both Republican and Democratic senators sharply challenged the NSA in a hearing this week just before the XKeyscore story became public.

Meanwhile, Snowden was granted one year of asylum by Russia, allowing him to leave the Moscow airport where he’d been in limbo since June and move freely within the country. Several writers compared the situations of Snowden and Manning: D.J. Pangburn of Death and Taxes and Elias Groll of Foreign Policy both examined the potential implications of the Manning verdict for Snowden, particularly as it applies to the Espionage Act. David Carr of The New York Times also used their cases to explore Americans’ ambivalence toward whistleblowers. “Leakers, often lionized by members of the press, face an indifferent and sometimes antagonistic public,” he wrote.

Reading roundup: Off the leaking front, there were quite a few other things going on in journalism week. Here’s a quick summary:

reza-aslan-fox-news

— Fox News conducted an embarrassingly bad interview with Reza Aslan, a religion scholar who wrote a book on Jesus. The interview was pretty universally condemned, but what happened to it online may have been more interesting. It took off online after it was posted by numerous sites, most notably BuzzFeed. The New Republic’s Marc Tracy looked at it through the lens of BuzzFeed’s aggregation practices, and the Columbia Journalism Review’s Kira Goldenberg mused on what traditional news organizations have to offer in that environment.

— The ramp-up to Al Jazeera America’s launch later this month continues, as it announced its 12 new U.S. bureaus and correspondents. The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone wrote a feature on the network’s opportunities and pitfalls, and Al Jazeera English anchor David Marash talked to CNN about the challenges ahead. Meanwhile, The New Yorker profiled what they called the Israeli answer to Al Jazeera, i24 News.

— The Cleveland Plain Dealer continued its deep cuts this week, laying off about 50 journalists with an absurdly euphemistic memo. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Dean Starkman gave some background to the move and reported that the union said it was lied to, while his colleague Anna Clark gave some of the details of the scene at the paper. In a thoughtful post, the Philadelphia Daily News’ Will Bunch reflected on Cleveland as the latest flashpoint in the “de-newspaperization of America.”

— After reporting a loss last quarter because of some write-downs, The New York Times Co. reported a quarterly profit this week. Circulation revenues and digital subscriptions are slowly improving — not quickly enough, as the Lab’s Ken Doctor argued in a great analysis. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum said that while The Times isn’t in great shape, its online paid-content plan is propping it up.

— The Washington Post launched two new online TV shows, On Background and In Play, with in-depth interviews on Washington news. The Huffington Post and Journalism.co.uk have deeper explanations on what the Post’s working on with them, and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds endorsed the Post’s expansion into video.

— Bloomberg announced this week that it’s hiring Justin Smith, who reinvigorated The Atlantic’s digital product, to run its media group. The New York Times’ David Carr explained the move, and CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis praised Smith’s digital accomplishments at The Atlantic and The Week before that.

— Quartz reported that Google is testing a local news service to include in its Google Now personalized mobile search function. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram suggested it could become very useful in conjunction with Google Glass.

— Finally, at Fast Company, Adrienne La France went deep into the transformation of the Knight Foundation, an organization that’s played a central role in the ongoing reinvention of American journalism.

AP photo of Bradley Manning leaving the courthouse July 30 by Patrick Semansky.

POSTED     Aug. 2, 2013, 10:34 a.m.
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