THIS THING HERE

1. It’s Tuesday, July 21, 2015.

2. Donny Trump Joke of the Day: Q: With expectations that his lead in the polls will implode, what will be the epitaph of Fabulous Donny’s run for the White House? A: Hair today, gone tomorrow.

3. The death of Sandra Bland needs to remain high in the nation’s consciousness.

Ms. Bland, an African-American, died in a Waller County, Texas, jail cell three days after she was arrested in a traffic stop. The police say she died from asphyxiation after hanging herself. Her family and friends say that the young woman had no reason to commit suicide, and believe her death is the result of foul play.

There have been too many instances of suspicious African-American deaths at the hands of law enforcement in the past couple of years, and this one needs a proper investigation by people outside of Waller County — or even Texas for that matter.

4.   Gossip is what anything can reveal about anybody. Journalism determines whether what’s revealed is in the public interest.

The revelation that a media executive sought the companionship of a gay porn star is of interest to his wife and his family. Any interest beyond that is among people with prurient curiosity, and that’s usually not a great character trait.

When the Web site Gawker made the revelation late last week, there was an outpouring of disgust among journalists. And the site’s ownership was uncomfortable — it aspires to respectability and, with it, financial success.

So it pulled the story, to the chagrin of the Gawker staff. Two of its editors resigned and the owner had to explain the retraction to an angry staff.

Here’s a few thoughts from someone who’s been through more than one journalistic crisis:

a) You can make an argument that anything that’s discovered is news. But determining whether that discovery should be made public is what separates salacious gossip from journalism advancing the people’s right to know. The information unveiled by Gawker is, in no way, in the public interest. There’s no great journalistic standard; this isn’t the Pentagon Papers or Woodward and Bernstein.

b) I’ll say this for the Gawker staff — they must have the courage of their convictions concerning their protest. Because it means that the people who hire at more established news organizations are going to instantly put their resumes in the reject pile. I would.

c) One reason Gawker would publish a story such as this one is part of a problem that infects all of journalism right now: Feeding the beast. Web sites are never down, so neither are the people who create content for them. And if you don’t change your content rapidly, you risk irrelevance. You risk getting lousy social media data. You risk readers fleeing to somebody else’s site. So there’s an unrelenting need for stuff. The standards for what’s news and what’s not decline. (To be fair, the proliferation has led to the rise of some real reporting. See ProPubllca.) And you get crap like what Gawker did last week.

Standard

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