This week’s Friday 5, where we round up our favorite reads from around the online world in English, includes Abraji’s report on the investigation into the murder of journalist Léo Veras, a guide to decoding Chinese state propaganda on Twitter, a study into bot-generated coronavirus activity on Twitter, and Hostwriter’s tool to help connect editors to local journalists worldwide.
As part of the Tim Lopes Program, which combats violence against journalists and impunity for those responsible, Abraji — the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism — has been tracking the investigation into the murder of journalist Léo Veras. Veras was killed by 12 gunshots three months ago, while dining with family at home in Paraguay. Earlier this month police arrested Waldemar Pereira Rivas, known as “Cachorrão,” who is alleged to be part of a gang of drug traffickers operating on the border between Brazil and Paraguay. Meanwhile, also last week, on third anniversary of his murder, the wife of Mexican reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas — journalist Griselda Triana — wrote an open letter calling for justice, and describing the ordeal of her family in the wake of his killing.
From China with Bluff (Medium)
Our China watchers gave this guide on The Startup’s Medium page, about decoding Chinese state propaganda on Twitter, a thumbs up. The guide uses the example of the Twitter account of Zhao Lijian, deputy director of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Department, who BuzzFeed wrote about last year. The piece shows how to use open-source tools like Python and R to scrape Tweets, and other tools such as Spoonbill.io, Yandex, SparkToro, Twitteraudit, Tweetbeaver, and Followerwonk. This is part one of “analysis with #OSINT investigation tools” — so look out for the next in the series. For more on China, check out Citizen Lab’s latest report We Chat, They Watch, which shows how international users help build up WeChat’s Chinese censorship apparatus while also being “subject to pervasive content surveillance that was previously thought to be exclusively reserved for China-registered accounts.”
According to Carnegie Mellon University researchers, more than 45% of Twitter accounts spreading messages about the pandemic are probably bots. “We do know that it looks like it’s a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks, but it would take a tremendous amount of resources to substantiate that,” said Kathleen Carley, a professor of computer science who is conducting a study into bot-generated coronavirus activity on Twitter. Meanwhile, Coda Story wrote about an army of volunteers fighting disinformation in the Czech Republic. The group, which includes doctors, students, and members of the military, are trying to debunk Russian propaganda, misinformation, and fake news, and have recently identified a recurring pattern of chain emails related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Tool Helps Editors Find Journalists Worldwide (Hostwriter)
In response to the pandemic, Hostwriter – a network that helps journalists collaborate across borders – has partnered with the European Journalism Centre on a new tool, the COVID-19 Collaboration Wire. The tool helps editors connect to its network of over 5,000 members in 154 countries — local journalists who have been vetted by Hostwriter, and can help with coverage on the ground during this time of restricted travel. Also worth a look: this was published in April, but we missed it during the pandemic reading tidal wave. We shouldn’t have. How to Edit Your Own Writing is a terrific primer on how to stay in your editor’s good books. While you’re at it, check out the latest updates to the AP Stylebook’s Coronavirus Topical Guide. It includes guidance on incorrect usages “such as COVID-19 spreads through the air” or “scientists are investigating how long COVID-19 may remain on surfaces.” As the guide points out, in each of those references, “coronavirus” and not “COVID-19” should be used; the virus is what causes the disease COVID-19.
The Pulitzer Problem (The Baffler)
Pulitzer bashing season is in full force. After last week’s Friday 5, where we noted the Fuck the Pulitzer tirade, Rafia Zakaria took it literary in The Baffler. In her sights: The New Yorker and Ben Taub’s Pulitzer-winning story Guantánamo’s Darkest Secret, which she said rehashed Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s Guantanamo Diary. “Credibility and journalistic heroism,” she writes, “reside in the pages of prestige publications” such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. “It is not an entirely new criticism,” writes Zakaria, pointing to J. Douglas Bates 30-year-old book The Pulitzer Prize: The Inside Story of America’s Most Prestigious Award, which also displayed the “cronyism and mutual benefit” which makes up the behind-the-scenes Pulitzer action. While gender and pallor has shifted, Zakaria’s stinging analysis notes a “cursory look at the Pulitzer board reveals precisely the incestuous relationships that make it all possible.” Meanwhile, New York Times media columnist Ben Smith took aim at Ronan Farrow, who previously won a Pulitzer for his #MeToo reporting for The New Yorker: “He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic — with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove.”
Tanya Pampalone is GIJN’s managing editor. Prior to GIJN, she was executive editor of Mail & Guardian, managing editor of Maverick (now Daily Maverick), and head of strategic partnerships and audience development for the African arm of The Conversation. Tanya is also co-editor of I Want To Go Home Forever, and a contributor to Southern African Muckraking and Unbias the News.