The P.U.N. Report: Episode 15

It’s another transcript version this week as I struggle with allergies, a stress cold, and the general weight of living.


UK & Europe

Parliament successfully blocked a no-deal Brexit this week and the EU granted the UK a delay until Halloween, which is a good thing for the deadlocked Brexiteers –but it means it’s crunch time to get a deal in the works.

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange was arrested in London this week. Though some have worried this ongoing attempt to extradite and charge Assange is an attack on free speech, Axios points out the charges are for hacking, not for publishing information.

North Africa

The U.S. pulled troops Libya this week as an urban war seems to be on the horizon. Many are seeing a throwback to the Arab Spring with the recent wave of protests across North Africa.

Speaking of protests, some breaking news out of Sudan this week as a military coup removed Omar al-Bashir from office. Dozens are dead after days of protest and clashes between the military and civilians calling for a citizen-led government. The protests are going viral, bringing global attention to the ongoing political turmoil.

Domestic –this week, A Brief Editorial

Thankfully no one was injured this week as fires struck three black churches in Louisiana. A suspect has been arrested on arson charges. As the communities recover, I want to draw your attention to something: this is a CNN article from Thursday morning. It doesn’t identify the suspect, a 21-year-old white man who’s the son of a local sheriff’s deputy, by name. Now, it’s my policy not to name a suspect unless they’ve been found guilty of a crime. CNN almost always names suspects even if they haven’t been charged with a crime. Chock that up to the 24-hour news cycle. I suppose I have the luxury of respecting a person’s constitutional right to be innocent until proven guilty. I don’t have the pressure of an expectant audience. I have the luxury of developing and sticking to my own ethical code.

I understand we have different audiences, but we’re doing the same thing: sharing the news. So my point stands.

I have to say I find it interesting they choose not to name him in this article, and justify it by saying they’re waiting for local authorities to confirm it. That’s inconsistent with their own previous reporting patterns. Yes, I am making a point with this. Also yes, I’m specifically @’ing CNN here.

Go back and look at coverage on an event in which the suspect is a person of color or is suspected to have a mental illness. Think the San Bernardino shooting, or the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, or the Las Vegas shooting. See how quickly a name comes out, confirmed or not. Compare that to coverage of attacks or crimes carried out by young white men and see how many times ‘disturbed loner’ comes up. See how hesitant they are to release the name. This is a recurring problem in the media, and it brings up that ongoing debate: does media reflect society, or does society reflect the media? Is a network’s news coverage reliant on societal norms? Is an American viewer more likely to sympathize with a white suspect or a black suspect? What’s your angle? How should these attacks be covered, with a focus on the victims or on the perpetrator? Or the suspected perpetrator?

I want to stress that I don’t have an answer –but the thing is, no one has an answer. These are ongoing debates. Each network has to come up with their own answer. And each of you, the readers, must come up with your own answer, too. Do you need to know the name of a suspected shooter? Or would you rather know the names of the victims? Of the survivors? What do you want to know? What do you need to know?

Should a network report information that’s unconfirmed just to fill air time?

I have my code: I confirm information before reporting. I correct my mistakes. I don’t report the names of suspects, save for a few select cases (the ones that immediately come to mind are the cases of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, and I feel no guilt about that). You may disagree with this code, and that’s fine.

Write your own newsletter.

Otherwise, ask yourself these questions and come up with your own answer. Because no one can do it for you. Nor should they.

Side Notes

We got out first look at a black hole this week thanks to this grad student.

I distrust AI on principle, but I have to admit it can do some cool stuff –like map the entire population spread on the African continent.

And here’s a very important essay on Scotland and unicorns.

Thanks for tuning in.