When should the media keep quiet? (5×8 – 9/14/12)

Feeding trolls, if you only had a year to live, political hacking 101, the face in the face, and hockey’s woes explained.

Five interesting themes in no particular order:


Media “expert” Jeff Jarvis is suggesting the media should steer clear of feeding his perception of the cause of this week’s attacks on diplomatic missions in the Middle East. Writing on his blog, Jarvis says the makers of the anti-Islam film are “trolls,” and so are the media who “cover” it. At least we think that’s what he’s saying. The point gets lost in the overuse of the metaphor.

The media who cover these trolls — the trolls who make the bait and the trolls who look for bait — are dupes themselves, just continuing a cycle that will only rev faster and faster until someone says: Stop. Stop feeding the trolls.

We’ve learned that online, haven’t we all? Oh, I sometimes have to relearn the lesson when one of my trolls dangles some shiny object in front of me and I snap. I just pulled the food bowl away from one troll: no reaction for you. I was just delighted to see another troll get his comeuppance and said so. But as a rule, a good rule, one should never, never feed the trolls. They only spit it up on you. Starving them of the attention they crave and the upset they hunger for and feed on is the only answer.

But still, there’s no controlling the trolls. Some still think the trolls can be stopped. An Australian newspaper just started a #stopthetrolls campaign to bring the ride miscreants to justice and silence. Good luck with that. In a sense, the rioters and murderers in Libya and Egypt and now elsewhere are demanding that someone stop the trolls they are choosing to get heated up about.

“What we have to learn is how to ignore the bad. We have to learn that every sane and civilized human knows that bad speech is bad,” he says.

As near as we can tell, the first “the media” heard about the film, was when the embassy in Egypt issued its assurance that normal people think it was trash, too.

Once the consulate in Libya was burning, journalists had a fairly important duty to explain the “why?” How do you do that without referencing the film? Jarvis doesn’t say.

But this is a more complicated story than that, and it goes far beyond that which can be controlled. Perhaps one of the problems is the media tries to reduce complicated stories to the bite-sized form that too many people want.

Watch Witnessing a Battle of Ideas in the Arab World on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

Ignore it? No. Explain it? That would be a good start.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That was from last night’s 30 Rock Rock Center, an unusually intelligent segment. The producers moved a story on Justin Bieber to make room for it. But this morning on the show’s web page, the top story is Justin Bieber.


Greg Cantwell, 38, of Cottage Grove, was given no more than a year to live after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, the Pioneer Press’ Ruben Rosario reports today. Seven years later, he’s still here. During that time, he says, he’s been “reaching out and comforting and educating others with his condition here and across the country — that’s just as impressive.”

Discussion point: If you only had a year to live, what would you do during it?


In my neck of the woods, Washington County, they’ve closed the local library on some weekend days. They had the money to reopen it and the county commissioners were poised to restore the popular destination; the money to do so had appeared in the budget. But because there was no guarantee the county might be able to afford it a year from now, they decided to keep it closed. For the most part, the community shrugged.

This video from Troy, Michigan clearly has a political message to it, but it’s a great example, nonetheless, of how politics — at least on the issue of a library — is about controlling the message and hacking the media.

Troy Library from Jennie Hochthanner on Vimeo.

(h/t: Michael Fraase)


This might be the most extraordinary image in the news today. Who’s not spending a generous amount of time looking at it?


It’s an almost human-like face. It’s a “new monkey,” discovered in the Central Congo, NPR says.

More animal science: Cockroaches could be used for search-and-rescue missions. (Los Angeles Times)


There’s probably not going to be professional hockey in the State of Hockey this season; the sides seem too far apart in a labor dispute over a salary cap.

How does the salary cap work? The CBC has this great explanation. In particular, note the list of teams that have payrolls over $58 million. The Minnesota Wild are #2, behind the Boston Bruins.

Bonus I: There’s a metaphor here somewhere. In Duluth a road striping crew didn’t bother removing a smushed squirrel raccoon.

Bonus II: A Mankato bar has installed a pregnancy test machine.

Bonus III: WCCO tries to kill Henry Winkler. (Scroll to 3:01)


Before the recent attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities abroad, foreign policy seemed to hold a low profile in the current presidential campaign. Today’s Question: What role does foreign policy play in your choice of presidential candidates?


There won’t be a lot of posting here today — at least by me. I’m taking the afternoon off to celebrate the birthday of Mrs. NewsCut.

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Media roundtable.

Second hour: In the wake of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, we’ll look at the evolution of the Arab Spring. Could tension between Islamists and secularists threaten the stability of the new governments in Egypt and Libya and create further unrest in the region?

Third hour: Are voters really engaged yet?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): In a speech this week at St. John’s University, former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw described how a renewed commitment to public service could help bridge the nation’s growing political divide.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Is NASA’s Curiosity rover facing a possible contamination risk?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Forty years ago this month, Asian immigrants to Uganda had to flee that African country after they were expelled by Gen. Idi Amin. Four refugee families came to Minnesota and, over the years, tried to maintain their culture in part by building an Islamic school. Nearly 15 years later, the Az Zahra Madressah and Academy has more than 150 students. They call it by its Arabic name — madressah — despite the word’s sometimes negative connotation in Western culture. The curriculum aims to keep kids in step with their religion as they are exposed to conflicting behavior and attitudes outside the madressah. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will report.

Richard Gere talks to NPR about playing the anti-hero in the new movie “Arbitrage.”