*A pair of Swedish journalists were sentenced to 11 years in prison for supporting terrorism in Ethiopia. Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye had embedded with rebels in the Ogaden National Liberation Front and were working for photojournalism mill Kontinent when they were captured by government forces. Kontinent insists its reporters don’t take sides in civil conflicts and that these men were simply doing their jobs, not abetting terrorism in any way. The episode’s theater-of-the-absurd moment came when the judge in the trial of the men said that they “have not been able to prove that they did not support terrorism.”
*Afghanistan is clocking in at a paltry 2 percent of news coverage for 2011.
*Rick Santorum, on Fox News, riffs on the difference between “clean kills” and “joint kills.”
*Charles Krauthammer has some fun with Newt Gingrich campaign’s invocation of Pearl Harbor in the context of its Virginia ballot collapse:
*Ben Smith, the soon-to-be editorial chief of BuzzFeed, takes issue with Howard Kurtz’s notion that social-media-driven journalism leads to ”silly stuff.” Smith responds that any dumbing-down of the Web is no different from the dumbing down of newspapers or TV. Along the way, he delivers an elbow to SEO (search engine optimization), which he says boils down to “writing the dumbest headlines possible so that machines will like them.”
Dissent here: SEO disciplines writers and editors to craft plain-language headlines that readers can understand, instead of fancy, pun-filled disasters that no one ever understands.
*John Stoehr, who edits the New Haven Advocate, goes deep on the perils of butting heads with PR types. He writes of all the labor and agony that results when a person tied to a vested interest sends his paper a letter to the editor.
Of all the sections of the print newspaper, the letters-to-the-editor page is the most vulnerable to the machinations of moneyed interests. It’s beloved and well-read. It’s free of most professional journalistic standards. Its editors are always in a hurry. And it’s a forum, which for many editors means you can say anything you want, as long as it’s presented as opinion, not fact.