Media Musings From Cincinnati and Beyond

With good reason, the embarrassed FBI concedes that London’s daily Guardian does a better job of tracking killings by police in America. The latest examples are stunning.

With good reason, the embarrassed FBI concedes that London’s daily Guardian does a better job of tracking killings by police in America. The latest examples are stunning.The choke-hold death of New Yorker Eric Garner and shootings of Ohioans Tamir Rice and John Crawford “are missing from the federal government’s official record of homicides by officers because most departments refuse to submit data,” according to The Counted project being pursued by the Guardian. “Stephen Fischer, a spokesman for the FBI, said exclusions were inevitable because the program remained voluntary. ‘We have no way of knowing how many incidents may have been omitted,’ ” Fischer told the Guardian. • That said, here’s an investigative project for an enterprising local reporter: compare Tristate killings by police to
the FBI record. It would be fascinating if those homicides — already reported in local news media — failed to make the federal tally. 

• A brouhaha erupted a couple weeks ago involving The New York Times Magazine cover story on the killing of Bin Laden and critics who says it’s bullshit. The controversy involves conspiracy theories, veteran reporters and terrorism specialists. 

If this proves to be another Dan Rather moment, when accusations derive from flawed documents and interviews, it’ll be a serious hit on the Times ’ reputation. Could this be a rerun of the never-ending “Who Killed JFK?”• One reporter’s devastating story on a scientist’s remarks in June continues to stoke fires in the U.K.Journalist Connie St Louis attributed unabashed sexist remarks at a South Korean scientific conference to Sir Tim Hunt, a Brit who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine.  

A furor erupted and Hunt lost or resigned from prestigious positions in the U.K., although he maintained he was joking. 

Making a case for gender-segregated labs, Hunt told a women’s lunch at the World Conference of Science Journalists, “Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?”

And he called himself a “chauvinist pig” in his speech, according to a Washington Post report, adding he’d just made an “idiotic joke.”  

According to The Times of London, a European Commission official at the luncheon quoted Hunt as continuing, saying, “Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt, an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

• The savaging of Sir Tim Hunt (above) for what he calls an “idiotic joke” didn’t end with him. Now, Association of British Science Writers is under fire, as is reporter Connie St Louis, who is a member of ABSW.

ABSW’s honorary president, scientist Sir Colin Blakemore, quit the group. He said ABSW’s unquestioning support for the reporter was a serious error, done without looking into the possibility that the story misrepresented what Hunt said. 

Blakemore cited evidence suggesting the reporter’s version of events was “unbalanced, exaggerated and selective,” according to London’s The Observer . “Yet the ABSW refuses to investigate the issue, despite the fact that its standing orders explicitly state that ‘willful or frequent misrepresentation or inaccuracy’ shall be considered a breach of its standards,” he said.

British physicist Dame Athene Donald also criticized ABSW. The Observer said she asked ABSW to investigate the way the Hunt story was initially reported.

“Tim Hunt’s reputation has been destroyed because careful journalistic due diligence was not followed by many who wrote about the event, and the ABSW decision not to take any further action appears to endorse such behaviour,” Donald said. 

A professor of experimental physics at Cambridge University and the university’s former gender-equality champion, Donald added, “The justification for this non-action strikes me as inadequate.”

Joining in the call for action from ABSW was the British ambassador in Chile, Fiona Clouder. She told The Observer, “I suggested the ABSW might acknowledge things were not all as they first appeared in reporting the story. I have not heard any more from the association.” Clouder is a former head of science and innovation at the Foreign Office. 

However, The Observer quoted Martin Ince, president of ABSW, saying he rejected the idea that the association had a role to play in assuring journalistic standards. 

“Our statement simply supports her right to report a story without fear of personal attack. We note that Sir Tim Hunt has acknowledged the accuracy of St Louis’s reporting and has apologized for his remarks,” Ince said.

Now, St Louis is under fire about her published credentials. She runs a postgraduate course in science journalism at City University London, and, according to The Observer, “Her online CV (resumé) was taken down and republished with large chunks of its original material removed.”

• It’s rare that the news media mention Zambia, the southern African country where I lived and worked in the early 1960s. So when BBC World Service — on WVXU here — included Zambia in its half-hourly newscasts overnight, I perked up. 

And as is often the case with news from Sub-Saharan Africa, it was predictably bad. Zambia’s currency, the Kwacha, has fallen 45 percent against the dollar, BBC reported. As with many commodities, prices rise and fall, and Zambia is dependent on copper for its foreign exchange. 

When I was there, lots of small wars meant that munitions makers needed copper to make brass bullet and shell casings. 

Annual “copper bonuses” were huge. Miners bought new Jags.  

Today, Zambia’s economy is in the tank. It has little industry beyond copper mining and refining. The International Monetary Fund ranked Zambia 156th in world wealth in 2013. Congo at 184th is the poorest. 

• A new danger has been added to reporting in conflict areas: combatants posing as journalists so they can approach and attack opponents. It’s been years since reporters and photographers/videographers had relative immunity in conflict areas. Too many have been killed despite their best efforts to identify themselves as PRESS on their flak jackets.Recently, a Palestinian wearing a shirt or vest identifying himself as a journalist was able to approach and wound an Israeli soldier. The wounded soldier’s colleagues killed the attacker.  

CONTACT BEN L. KAUFMAN: [email protected]