June 19, 2020

The Park Center for Independent Media circulates the Indy Brief, a weekly selection of news stories from journalism outlets operating outside traditional corporate systems and news organizations.

The Headlines

PCIM Exclusive

Watch: Webinar with Esteemed Media Voices (The Park Center for Independent Media)

Voting Rights and U.S. Election

As election looms, a network of mysterious ‘pink slime’ local news outlets nearly triples in size (Columbia Journalism Review)

How Republicans Gutted Voting Restoration for Formerly Incarcerated Floridians (Colorlines)

Freedom Rider: How Trump Can Steal the 2020 Election (Black Agenda Report)

Racial Justice and Police Reform

“I’m out here—I am the news for our people.” How protesters across the country are keeping informed. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Over 1,100 Policing Agencies in the U.S. Have Bought Drones Capable of Recording (Truthout)


The Fertilizer that May Have Caused the Beirut Explosion Is All Over the US. It’s Unevenly Regulated. (The Center for Public Integrity)

‘Self-Centered Nationalism’ Could Lead to War and Nuclear Disaster, Hiroshima Mayor Warns on 75th Anniversary of Attacks (Common Dreams)

The Lessons We Haven’t Learned (The Progressive)

PCIM Original
Watch: Webinar with Esteemed Media Voices (The Park Center for Independent Media)

Four esteemed voices in media joined PCIM on July 29 to discuss recent changes in journalism amid pandemic and protest. Moderated by PCIM Director Raza Rumi, the conversation invited valuable perspectives from each of the four panelists: The Independent’s chief U.S. correspondent Andrew Buncombe, Montclair State University assistant professor Dr. Tara L. Conley, The Nation editor D.D. Guttenplan, and newsroom editorial director Amanda Silverman of Mother Jones.

Watch the full webinar, Journalism in Times of Pandemic and Protest, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roXrZ23i21U

Voting Rights and U.S. Election
‘Pink Slime’ Local News Network Triples in Size

The months leading up to the U.S. 2020 November elections have produced new networks of shadowy and politically backed “local news websites” that promote partisan talking points and collect user data. The Tow Center for Digital Journalism reported in December 2015 on a linked network of 450 fake local news sites; the organization’s new research has now found over 1,200.

Columbia Journalism Review explains how this network of entities with conservative ties produces over 90% of their stories algorithmically. The stories draw from public data or repurpose legitimate sources for a conservative bent. This low-cost automated story generation is known as “pink slime journalism.”

While hundreds of stories mimic local news, many news sites in this network focus on single subjects, appeal to religion, and target business news. And the recent increase in activity aligns with the election cycle.

How Republicans Can Steal the 2020 Election

Donald Trump’s recent Twitter musings on delaying the November election induced a politically useful and dangerous reaction: stoking anger and fear in corporate media, with many outlets failing to educate the public on election regulations.

“Republicans win the presidency when they steal votes,” writes Black Agenda Report. Democrats need a huge turnout to mitigate “spoiled ballots” from voting machine theft and suppression of Democratic—i.e. Black—votes. But the president cannot shift the election date or remain in office if he is voted out.

Colorlines demonstrates a concrete instance of voter suppression in the U.S. Though 64.5% of Floridians voted in favor of the 2018 Voting Restoration Amendment to allow formerly incarcerated people to vote, tens of thousands of formerly incarcerated people remain disenfranchised due to Republicans’ imposition of fines and bureaucracy.

Racial Justice and Police Reform
‘I Am the News for Our People.’

As the national news cycle has largely moved on from the coverage of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder, Columbia Journalism Review collects views from protesters and citizen journalists still on the ground.

Besides unprecedented recent events such as the federal occupation of Portland, footage and updates of ongoing nationwide protests can primarily be found on social media, rather than on television. In one account, a 48-year-old man describes how his children use TikTok to spread awareness, while they inspired him to begin posting footage from protests in Facebook groups.

U.S. Policing Agencies Have Drones Capable of Recording

An instance in June of the Yonkers police force acquiring drones capable of recording footage illustrates the danger of local police entering surveillance data into massive unregulated cloud storage accessible by the police.

Bolstered surveillance for protests against police brutality leave demonstrators, especially people of color, vulnerable to intensified police and military vigilantism, writes  Truthout.

Reports like The Atlas of Surveillance reveal only the tip of the iceberg of drone surveillance, and that police agencies have dramatically increased their use since 2014. Journalists, activists, and citizens must demand transparency concerning police surveillance drones, acting locally to protect first amendment rights.

The Fertilizer that Caused the Beirut Explosion Is Unevenly Regulated across the US

On Tuesday, a massive explosion tore through Beirut, killing more than 150 people and injuring thousands. Lebanon President Michel Aoun said it was fueled by an unsafely stored warehouse supply of an estimated 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate.

The compound is used as fertilizer across the U.S. and has been a key component of catastrophic industrial accidents and terrorism, including the 2013 blast at an agricultural-products retailer that killed 15 and injured 260 people in Texas.

A 2020 investigation by The Center for Public Integrity found continued uneven oversight of the chemical in the U.S., even after efforts to strengthen federal rules.

Chuck Modi with the tweet of the week:
The Lessons We Haven’t Learned

Thursday was the 75th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Kazumi Matsui, the city’s mayor, likened the coronavirus pandemic to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 50 million people worldwide because “nations fighting World War I were unable to meet the threat together.”

Matsui said an ensuing upsurge in nationalism resulted in World War II and the atomic bombings. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s comments promoting nuclear demilitarization invite stark contrast against Donald Trump’s actions during his term to withdraw the U.S. from several nuclear arms treaties, notes Common Dreams.

Helen Caldicott for The Progressive wrote a personal account of childhood disillusionment in Australia at the end of World War II, which expands into a historical account and commentary on the persisting threat of nuclear war. Caldicott is founder of the 1978 iteration of Physicians for Social Responsibility, which won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize as part of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

In Other News

1. Trump news – live: Canada hits back at president and imposes billions of tariffs on US as New York announces schools will reopen (The Independent)

2. The Workforce Is About to Change Dramatically (The Atlantic)

3. Big Tech Isn’t Censoring Donald Trump (HuffPost)

4. Kerala plane crash: 16 dead after Air India plane breaks in two at Calicut (BBC)

5. ‘I don’t trust them any more’: how the NRA became its own worst enemy (The Guardian)

Read previous Briefs and more from independent media on the PCIM website, and follow PCIM on social media: Facebook | Twitter

The Indy Brief is edited by Jeremy Lovelett.