Lyra McKee, a Northern Ireland journalist, was shot dead during rioting in the city of Londonderry on Thursday. McKee was "one of the most promising journalists in Northern Ireland, according to the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and a "woman of great commitment and passion." In 2011 she formed a blog called The Muckraker, which became an investigative reporting nonprofit and joined GIJN in 2013. The Muckraker never really took off, and she withdrew it from GIJN's membership a year later, but Lyra's reporting kept going strong. She had signed a two-book deal with Faber and Faber, with her book The Lost Boys due out next year. Her death is being blamed on dissident Irish republicans after police searches in Londonderry.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders shows how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media. The RSF Index, which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories every year, shows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered — one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment. The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists. Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories are classified as “good” or “fairly good,” as opposed to 26 percent last year. As a result of an increasingly hostile climate that goes beyond Donald Trump’s comments, the United States has fallen three places in this year’s Index and the media climate is now classified as “problematic.”
Columbia University announced the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, with 14 prizes awarded in journalism. The investigative reporting award went to Matt Hamilton, Harriet Ryan and Paul Pringle of the Los Angeles Times for their reporting on a University of Southern California gynecologist accused of violating hundreds of women for more than a quarter-century. Other notable awards went to The New York Times for their investigation into President Donald Trump’s finances, the South Florida Sun Sentinel for exposing failings by school and law enforcement officials before and after the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Associated Press for a yearlong series detailing the atrocities of the war in Yemen and Hannah Dreier of ProPublica for her work on Salvadorian immigrants on New York’s Long Island whose lives were shattered by a botched federal crackdown on the international criminal gang MS-13.
A new initiative will identify and invest $1.5 million in promising news media startups in Latin America. Velocidad (which means “Velocity” in Spanish) is supported by the International Center for Journalists, SembraMedia and Luminate. The funders plan a rigorous selection process. A total of 75 digital news outlets will move forward in the first round, 25 semifinalists will continue to the second and eight to 10 will be chosen to receive investments.
Journalists who exposed the plight of medically fragile children, unsafe schools and dangers in remote Alaskan villages are among the winners of the 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards. Some of the winners and finalists in this year’s contest faced personal peril for pursuing their stories. As examples, a Catholic diocese tried to tarnish the reputation of a reporter’s brother, who was a seminarian, and the Myanmar government jailed two Reuters journalists in an attempt to prevent publication. This year’s winners were selected from more than 500 entries. One project, “Myanmar Burning,” was singled out for an IRE Medal, the highest honor the organization bestows. The awards, given since 1979, recognize the most outstanding watchdog journalism of the year. The contest covers 18 categories across media platforms and a range of market sizes.
Factful created a side-by-side comparison of seven optical character recognition tools. OCR tools allow users to transform a scan or photograph of a letter or court filing into searchable, sortable text that can be analyzed using multiple kinds of documents. While the quality of most of the tools handled a clean document, none of them gave perfect results on trickier ones. Factful selected several documents — two easy-to-read reports, a receipt, an historical document, a legal filing with a lot of redaction, a filled in disclosure form and a water damaged page — to run through a few OCR engines.