Popular Bulgarian television journalist Viktoria Marinova became the fourth journalist killed in the European Union (EU) since 2017. The 30-year-old was found unrecognizable, brutally beaten while she was raped and then strangled to death.
Marinova had just started her own news talk show called “Detector.” In her final show on Sept. 30, she interviewed Bulgarian journalist Dimitar Stoyanov and Romanian journalist Attila Biro. Stoyanov and Biro were arrested by Bulgarian police while investigating GP Group, a private construction company suspected of carrying out scams with EU funds.
While one journalist from Marinova’s network said they had never received any threats regarding Marinova’s work, Bivol.bg owner Asen Yordanov told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that his journalists had received credible information that they were in danger of being assaulted because of the investigation aired on Marinova’s show.
Police don’t think Marinova’s murder was instigated by her reporting because she was raped, which is already a crime of passion. But if a man was or men were willing to murder Marinova over her work, he or they would have likely been as willing to rape her as murder her, if not more so. It wasn’t long ago that journalist Kim Wall, also 30, was sexually assaulted and murdered after interviewing Danish inventor Peter Madsen.
Wall’s dismembered remains were found on Aug. 21, 2017, 11 days after she interviewed Madsen aboard his submarine. Madsen, 47, said he had planned to murder Wall either by suffocating her or cutting her throat. He was found guilty of premeditated murder and sexual assault after admitting to dismembering Wall’s body and throwing her remains overboard. He intends to appeal the conviction.
Less than two months after Wall’s remains were found, investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed by a car bomb. She was going to the bank to try and access her funds frozen by the Maltese government minister. Her killer remains at large as far as we know.
The latest killing of a journalist in the EU was back in February, when Jan Kuciak, 27, and his fiancé were shot dead in Slovakia. Jan was investigating alleged political corruption linked to Italian organized crime. His unfinished article published after his death alleges that businessmen in eastern Slovakia with links to Calabria's notorious Ndrangheta mafia are embezzling EU structural funds. Kuciak’s murder forced the resignation of Slovakia’s then-Prime Minister, Robert Fico.
Whether Marinova’s murder was “a warning” like Yordanov believes or simply a case of an attractive woman being alone around a man or men worse than animals doesn’t mean there isn’t an active effort to shut up journalists in the EU.
President Donald Trump expressing his disdain for journalists not working for Fox News certainly isn’t making matters better for journalists stateside or otherwise. While the worst attack of a journalist stateside recently is U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte’s (R-Mont.) assault of Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs a day before he WON election, Trump’s words and tweets reverberate internationally. His often-advertised attitude towards people simply doing their jobs of seeking the truth is partially responsible for the deaths of these journalists in the EU.
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In China, government censors are struggling to keep up with an incident that occurred this week at the National People’s Congress (NPC). Shanghai based reporter, Liang Xiangyi, could not contain her eye rolling disgust at a fellow reporter’s softball question.
As a quick reminder, China is a communist republic. And the state has strict control over what news outlets (and internet outlets) may or may not do or say.
The National People’s Congress is a staged, scripted event where Chinese politician pretend to vote on policy in order to “fool” the world into seeing how democratic they are. The event is carefully choreographed and reporters are specifically selected to ask prepared questions that the delegates can easily answer. Many Chinese are sick to death of state run fakery.
Enter, Zhang Huijun, who works for American Multimedia Television (AMTV), an L.A. based company with ties back to China’s state media. And then, at the NPC, she is called on to ask her question. So, first of all, she is clearly just being called on to make it look as if China is ceding the floor to a “foreign” journalist. So, already - barf! But then, things get a little crazy when delightful Miss Xiangyi, standing right next to Huijun can’t take it any longer.
Liang Xiangyi, can not believe the ridiculously long, softball question posed by Huijun. Seriously, it goes on for forty five second! Which is a ridiculously long time for a live question to linger! (As a note, the carefully scripted response was only half as long as the question). During Huijun’s question, Liang, wearing the blue jacket, looks Huijun up and down like, “Wait! Who the F are you even?” Then, towards the end of Huijun’s tedious and not terribly relevant question, Xiangyi just - can’t - even. Quickly followed by the epic eye roll, head turn!
The problem here is that Chinese reporters are required to … well … obey. And Xiangyi’s eye roll was captured live on television to a huge audience. And Chinese censors couldn’t have anyone expressing disgust at their fake parliamentary proceedings. They had to do something!
I mean, God forbid anyone see right through their fakery and express disgust.
Well, Chinese censors went to work to scrub any and all bits of the eye roll, but they had a hard time keeping up. Videos of the epic eye roll were seen and shared by millions. Thousands of memes, GIF’s and parodies flooded China’s internet and Miss Xiangyi was bombarded with online support as many Chinese offered a collective, “Yes, we’re sick of state run lies, too!”
But still - that eye roll, man.
The Post is a fine film. Meryl Streep is fantastic, as usual, and Tom Hanks is a believable Ben Bradlee, publisher of The Washington Post when the biggest threat to First Amendment rights of the free press was waged—until now, of course.
The Post’s subject matter—the publishing of the infamous “Pentagon Papers,” a Department of Defense study of the makings and escalation of the Vietnam War leaked by Daniel Ellsburg—doesn’t allow for the same suspense Watergate did for All the President’s Men. The Post is not a thriller in any means, but the drama is plentiful thanks to the film revealing the business side of the newspaper business.
Sure, the means of news distribution has changed mightily since the advent of the Internet, but newspapers were a low-margin business then and still are thanks to television. Truth-telling didn’t result in riches then, and it still doesn’t. But there’s more to business than money, and Katharine Graham recognized this as CEO of The Washington Post.
Graham, portrayed by the always fantastic Meryl Streep, who plays the part of a woman struggling to make it in a man’s world to perfection, is a timely character given the mass of allegations brought against men in Hollywood and other positions of power. Strong, female leads are finally becoming more common in Hollywood, and more and more women are ascending to positions of power in business and politics.
Graham got her job when her husband committed suicide, and members of her very own board believed she had no business running The Washington Post. She proved them all wrong, taking the company public and selling 1.294 million shares at a price of $26 per share. The starting price was reported as $24.50 in the film, however. Regardless, by the end of her tenure in 1991, shares were worth $888 each. That’s growth of 3,315 percent. She did it all despite an injunction being filed against The New York Times, to whom the “Pentagon Papers” were originally leaked, that forced The Times to cease publishing stories regarding the papers. The Post was subject to the same fate, but Graham published anyways.
Why did she publish? No members of her board recommended it. Only publisher Ben Bradlee, portrayed by Tom Hanks, wanted to publish, and even he wasn’t the reason Graham decided to do so. If you visit The Washington Post website today, you’ll find the mission statement is the same as it was in 1935, when Eugene Meyer wrote “The Seven Principles for the Conduct of a Newspaper." They are:
Graham decided to publish because of principles five, six and seven. The newspaper would not be fulfilling its duty to its readers if it knew the truth and chose to conceal it in the interests of business. And even if investors pulled out of the stock offering, which was their right if done so within seven days in the event of a “catastrophic event,” “the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such course be necessary for the public good.” Graham was also willing to sacrifice a friendship. She was friends with Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense, but she nor the paper would be an ally or perceived as an ally to any special interest. This is why I subscribed to The Washington Post immediately after seeing The Post: because the newspaper still adheres to those same principles.
I’ve been exhausting my free online articles at The Washington Post long before I ever needed it to do my work. I used to be a journalist, and even when I was writing the news I was reading the news. Now I mostly write about the news, so I find myself exhausting my free online articles at The Post faster than ever. In the search for truth, I am most often led to The Washington Post—an American institution with the interests of Americans in mind, then and now.
The Post is a most timely film given the state of the union and threat to the First Amendment rights of the free press. Now we have White House representatives avoiding the press, with Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt surrounding himself with security, refusing to hold press conferences, and hand-picking interviewers who and news outlets that support his stance and the stance of the administration. Information coming out of the EPA comes in the form of press releases that best serve the goals of the White House—no questions allowed. The EPA is, in effect, writing the news as they see fit—a severe threat to the First Amendment rights of the free press to act as a check on the power of politicians. The EPA is acting like the public relations arm of the collective of corporations now running the EPA.
When politicians dictate news coverage, truth is unattainable and citizens are incapable of properly informing themselves. All the journalists in the world can’t uncover the truth if those in power refuse to answer questions or deflect the attention of the public to what they feel is newsworthy. But as long as there are brave whistleblowers and leaks of sensitive information, The Washington Post will sacrifice its business interests to serve the interests of America and Americans. It’s mission statement demands it.
On this date 13 years ago, renowned writer and creator of “Gonzo” journalism, Hunter S. Thompson shot himself in the head because football season was over, he couldn’t walk or swim, he was always “bitchy” and had lived 17 more years than he needed or wanted to. His succinct suicide note was in keeping with Hunter’s writing style. He made dents, not first impressions.
The one thing Hunter could do in his old age was fire guns, and boy did he love his guns. Apparently not enough to continue living, though. He would probably have a lot to say about our constant debate on gun control in this country. Or maybe he’d have little to say, like “You can control my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
I know the man a little better than that, though. In fact, I think the only fact he accepted while alive was “the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism.” While I never met him, I spent roughly four years of my life researching his life and works, which culminated in a Master’s professional paper entitled “How Hunter S. Thompson Built Fox News and What We Can Do About It.”
Hunter was my hero going into that research, but my opinion of him changed dramatically as I began to realize how much he influenced journalism of today and made it more acceptable for journalists to insert themselves as the heroes of their stories, but more importantly, editorialize the news. Journalists are telling us how to feel about the news instead of simply reporting it, and Hunter’s success is a big reason for that.
Hunter’s blending of fact and fiction to convey deep meaning through news is a triumphant failure with unintended, lasting effects. Hunter’s most read work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was what Hunter called “a failed experiment in Gonzo journalism” because his intent was to send his publisher his notes as his final copy -- without editing. That’s what he saw as Gonzo journalism.
“True Gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it—or at least taping it, or even sketching it. Or all three. Probably the closest analogy to the ideal would be a film director/producer who writes his own scripts, does his own camera work and somehow manages to film himself in action, as the protagonist or at least a main character.”
Now we have journalists live on the scene reacting to the news as it occurs thanks to mobile phones and the Internet -- and a lot of those journalists are really just actors. Hunter didn’t need to act. He was simply a character. The man was even more interesting than his greatest creation. He reportedly nearly drowned Bill Murray in his pool when they first met prior to Murray portraying Hunter on screen in Where the Buffalo Roam. The story goes that Hunter tied Murray to a chair and told him, “If you can get out of this, I can trust you,” and kicked the chair and actor into the pool. They became fast friends.
Hunter also left the heart of an elk on his neighbor’s doorstep as a birthday gift. In the morning, Jack Nicholson awoke to an entryway covered in blood.
By the time I finished writing my paper, Hunter was more a villain than a hero to me, and I set out to become a journalist and attempt to do the boring, objective journalism of my new hero, Edward R. Murrow, better than anyone ever had, citing vast amounts of reputable sources and changing minds with facts instead of feelings. My attempts lasted six years, and I still wrote a weekly column in the vein of Gonzo journalism, connecting sports and politics like Hunter did for ESPN’s “Page 2” -- some of my favorite work of Hunter’s. I still can’t escape that theme it seems. It’s become an addiction of mine.
I lived my life for a long time based on how I thought Hunter would. “What would Hunter do,” I often asked myself. “Indulge,” was most often the answer. I found myself asking the same question with regard to the gun control debate, but the answer is more complicated.
I don’t own a gun. I never have. I grew up firing guns, though. My grandfather on my mother’s side taught me to shoot a BB gun growing up, and he taught me well. I was one of the best shots in my hunter education class, and the first deer I shot I hit through the neck as it was running away from me. I have a pretty poor sense of distance, but I’d say the shot was between 50 and 100 yards. I haven’t hunted since that season. It’s just not for me. I didn’t feel like I was playing fair. I still enjoy a little target practice, though, which is why when I wrote about what I thought reasonable, sensible gun control looks like I didn’t include a ban on assault rifles.
I watched a man, teary-eyed, saw an assault rifle in half on social media yesterday because he never wants to worry about his gun taking a life, even in the hands of another gun owner. He reminded me that all these mass murderers were simply legal gun owners prior to becoming mass murderers, but I still don’t think banning assault rifles is necessary. Hunter wouldn’t either. That would surely get his blood boiling.
I’m sure Hunter would agree that the mentally ill shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and while he would likely hate it, he would have a mental health evaluation conducted in order to own a gun if it was required. I’m sure he’d agree that every aspiring gun owner should have to pass a criminal background check, too. And I’m sure he’d agree that taxpayers should never have to pay the emergency room bill of an uninsured gun owner who shoots him- or herself. I’m sure he’d have no problem waiting 10 days or so to buy a gun, but he might take issue with my recommendation of raising the minimum age to own a gun to 21. He probably thinks the drinking age should be 18 again. I can see him saying, “If you're old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to drink.” If that’s the only issue that brilliant gun nut takes with my attempt at adopting reasonable, sensible gun control policies, I’d say they should be agreeable to most every gun nut.
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Until “journalists” intend to provide objective journalism, there will be none. And while objectivity is an impossibility, there’s a lot of value in making it known that objectivity is not your goal or even your pursuit. It’s exactly why the word “opinion” appears at the beginning of so many of my headlines. I’m not going to hide the fact I’m attempting to persuade you, and I hope that you find value in that, because it’s not the case everywhere.
We all have our preferred news sources. For Conservatives, Fox News brings them what they want to hear. For Liberals, MSNBC provides their take on the news. I am no different. I have my sources. None of them are televised, but I have no intention of misleading you to believe you’re reading the news when you read some of my writing, and if more news sources did the same, “journalism” might still exist.
You feel it every moment you read a news story, especially online. You start reading because a headline drew your attention. That’s how we read newspapers. It’s the same formula newspapers have been using for nearly 400 years: draw them in with a headline, and write a lede that makes them read further, until they’re convinced to buy the paper. I’d say nothing’s changed, but the intent of “journalists” has changed.
I have a deep love for the work of The Atlantic. They do fantastic investigative journalism, which is hard to come by these days, but even I come across Atlantic articles that bother me as a journalist because nowhere in the article or on the webpage does it say “opinion” or “editorial.” Yet, in the first or second paragraph the author is describing a personal experience as if it’s fact. Well, I’ve experienced plenty, but I’d hope you’d consider the validity of your adviser before you accept or dismiss any advice. You’re not really reading until you read rhetorically, and that means questioning the very words written and those who wrote them.
There are “journalists” out there looking to write that piece that gets them Associated Press attention. I’ve written plenty of pieces of which I’m proud and none have drawn the eye of editors from my favorite publications. The best thing I’ve written was 450 words on how increasing funding for drug counseling would be more effective than expanding the jail given the methamphetamine problem in Eastern Montana and recidivism rates of drug addicts being incarcerated. I think it ran on page six, and it was some of the most objective work I’ve done. The jail expansion didn’t get enough votes that year, and that’s not even the success I was seeking. My intent was to convey a complex idea about methamphetamine use and how it was being inadequately and improperly treated in the area. I have no idea if my article on page six had any effect on the election, but I received great pleasure knowing that I had written something with the strict intent to inform in the most objective manner possible, despite my political leanings.
I guess that means if I was good enough for The Atlantic I’d be writing for The Atlantic. But editors at The Atlantic should be leading the charge when it comes to the presentation of journalism. Instead they expect people to know what to expect from their publication, which means their work isn’t subject to the same objective standards that newspapers still require.
I can confirm. Your local newspaper is still the most accurate and helpful news source you’ll find. The people putting that information together live in your community and are affected by the same information. You’re not going to get a more honest and objective attempt at journalism than you will from your local newspaper. The hardest job I had was attempting objective journalism for a community completely unlike me -- and I did that for almost five years.
You can watch all the television you want, but the information of highest quality and most objectivity is being provided by your local newspaper and NPR and PBS stations. The people in these professions don’t just have an obligation to provide the most objective news, they have a passion to do so. If you think this is a glamorous life, I can tell you it’s not. It takes a team of writers and a slew of interns to write an investigative piece on anything. And most of these people do it for the love of the game, not the money, because there is no money. There are fast food workers who make more than journalists.
So how can you tell if the information you’ve found is worth a damn? The first thing to do is consider the source. Most “journalists” providing content for a publication available strictly online are simply “content coordinators” or worse yet, “copywriters.” I am one of these content coordinators, and while I have five years of experience in the newspaper industry, being a journalist is just too hard. I took the easy way out that actually pays, and while I regret not seeing my name in print every few days and being held to a higher journalistic standard, I get to go to work everyday, or not go to work everyday and just work where I am, and write about what I want. I’ve been seeking a job that doesn’t feel like a job my whole life, and I’m lucky enough to have found it.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find honest information online. I’m trying to provide it and prove it exists. An author’s presentation of information will tell you a lot about the author. For instance, I make it clear I’m writing an opinion in the first word of my headline. Is your online source doing the same? If it’s not, how long before the author refers to herself or uses first-person narration? The use of “my” or “I” does not indicate an attempt at objectivity. They’re not even trying to be objective, but they might not be as obvious about it as I am.
I like to pursue objectivity on occasion. It’s a fantastic challenge for a writer, perhaps the best challenge (although I’ve just started writing children’s book, and they’re a lot harder than you’d think). But I realize everyone in the world doesn’t want to read my opinions. If they did this piece would be syndicated and published in every major paper in the country. But if just one reader happens to find something informative and helpful in my writing, I’ve done my job. That’s what journalists are supposed to be -- helpful. We are public servants. When there was an oil spill near the source for drinking water in my town, it was our job at the newspaper to get the word out about the quality of the drinking water as soon as possible. That information couldn’t wait for the next edition of the paper, but we and the radio journalists had to let people know if they could drink the water. That’s why we’re here.
That’s right, I said we. I called myself a content coordinator, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still aspire for the impossibility of objectivity. I told you I got out of newspapers because it was too hard. I’m a Socialist that reads The Militant, a newspaper that reports labor strikes around the world that never air on Fox News or MSNBC. I also grew up in Eastern Montana, and lived and worked there as a journalist for years before growing tired of failing -- failing to reach people and failing to inform.
My only goal in life has been to help people through words. When people ask me what I want to do with my life -- what my legacy will be -- the answer for years has been, “To be read.” I knew I was pretty good at this writing thing at a young age. I was lucky not to waste my time attempting something for which I wasn’t suited. “But you spent five years in pursuit of objectivity and failed” you might say. But failure in journalism is a lot like failure in baseball. I’ve written hundreds of articles, ranging from local (teachers’ union/school district contract negotiations), national (temporary halt on the XL Pipeline running through the land of one of our county commissioners), to sports (the 2015-16 Region XIII NJCAA men’s basketball runners-up at a school that might run out of funding and not exist). And now I’m writing about writing because I investigated what we’re now calling “fake news” and what I called “Gonzo rhetoric” back when I was completing my Master’s degree. The way information is being presented these days is hardly honest. Journalistic integrity has been sacrificed by journalists to be first to market, as if providing information is a business. It used to be a service, and now the federal government wants to get rid of some of those services, or just not inform the public publicly. Trump’s budget would cut all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which got $445 million of the $4 trillion budget last fiscal year.
You don’t have to like NPR or read a newspaper to appreciate what I’m trying to convey. I mean hell, I’m calling myself on my own bullshit here. I’m a journalist turned content coordinator. Just because I can string together words in a way that persuades you to read on doesn’t give me the right to mislead you. And even if I attempt to mislead you, you are in the position of power. You can resist. Just simply ask yourself: “Is this an opinion or fact? Can I trust this author? Does she have my interests in mind?” Chances are if you’re watching television, the only interests they have in mind are those of their shareholders. The value of information means very little in television news. I’ve been in the industry, and they’d rather run videos of puppies rolling in poop than inform. Shit gets better ratings. You can change all that.
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Editor’s Note: This is not news. It’s not even for-profit news. It’s an editorial, which is an editor’s opinion. News articles are nonfiction works that strive for objectivity, because that’s how you reach the widest variety of people. Only small, local newspapers do this well anymore, and there are fewer doing it well every minute.
The problem in American journalism today isn’t fabrication of the news or biased media organizations. It’s not even biased journalists or an undereducated audience. It’s capitalism. Profit motivates news content in this country, and controversy and sensationalism result in clicks, which result in cash. If I can either please you or enrage you with a headline to earn a click or share, the bottomline is black and the boss is happy. Informing you is unnecessary if I can appeal to your emotions. I probably did with that jab at capitalism, didn’t I? This idea of fake news is not new. I’ve been writing about it since 2012. I just called it Gonzo rhetoric back then.
American journalists have been writing fake news since Joseph Pulitzer sent Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman to make Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days a reality back in 1890. He had already adopted first-person narration in his newspaper articles; now what he needed was a hero.
American reporters want to be heroes involved in the story when they should be flies on the wall. But the readers want sensationalism, too, so that’s what they got and continue to get. This “Yellow journalism” snowballed into a pissing match quickly. The war for readers between Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal got nasty when Hearst started selling newspapers for a penny. Karen Roggenkamp’s essay “The Evangelina Cisneros Romance, Medievalist Fiction, and the Journalism that Acts” explains Hearst’s intentions.
“Making no attempt to discern truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, the Journal published story after unauthenticated story of fierce battles, daring exploits, and – Hearst’s favorite – Spanish atrocities against innocent Cuban maidens” (27).
In 1897, Hearst sent Karl Decker, writing as Charles Duval, to Cuba to free Cisneros, an imprisoned Cuban maiden charged with attempted murder. Hearst’s readers weren’t concerned with her criminal record, though, and ate the story up.
“Hearst encouraged his writers to blend the apparent facts of the news with specific literary vocabularies, creating a meta-fiction that Journal readers consumed voraciously…Hearst created the meta-fiction because he wanted his readers and the government to act, just as his was ‘the journalism that acts'” (25).
Only vain, American assholes could take something as solemn as journalistic integrity and sacrifice it for fame and fortune. Nowadays “journalists” are so rushed to get clicks, fact-checking takes a backseat to headline writing. Nowadays journalists spend the same amount of time or more on writing a headline than writing the actual content of an article or editorial. That isn’t going to improve the quality of information readers receive.
If news organizations were never required to make a profit, the news would be less fake. It’d also be pretty boring but likely more effective in effecting change. So instead of calling it fake news, call it for-profit news. And if you’re looking for news organizations that don’t have this profit motive, look no further. The Institute for Nonprofit News can direct you to investigative reporting that has made a real difference for real people and not for profit.
If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio