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Der Spiegel Made Up Stories. How Can It Regain Readers’ Trust?

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BERLIN—On the Wednesday before Christmas, Christoph Scheuermann apprehensively called up a 99-year-old former member of the anti-Nazi resistance who had been imprisoned during World War II. The Washington bureau chief of Der Spiegel, a German news magazine, needed to ask her a question no journalist wants to reckon with: Did his colleague, a now-disgraced star reporter, invent an interview with her?

“It was the most excruciating call,” Scheuermann told me. “I had to call this heroine in Germany after the war and ask her, you know, do you know this man, have you ever met him?”

Spiegel—and the German media world writ large—is still reeling from German journalism’s biggest scandal in its modern history: Claas Relotius, a 33-year-old Spiegel writer who was long the envy of his peers, fabricated part or all of many of his biggest stories. His perfectly crafted articles from the United States and elsewhere were, it has become clear, literally too good to be true.

[Jamie Kirchik: Germany’s leading magazine published falsehoods about American life]

The Relotius incident has prompted self-reflection among German journalists: Spiegel is considered the gold standard among media organizations here, with a prestige that extends far beyond Germany and a supposedly airtight fact-checking department. One of Europe’s leading news magazines and known for its investigative journalism, Spiegel also translates many of its articles into English to reach a broader international audience.

So if a scandal like this can happen at Spiegel, many have wondered, what does that mean for everyone else? And what kinds of questions does Relotius—whose evocative prose was so admired that Spiegel editors called it the “Relotius sound”—raise about the merits and pitfalls of narrative journalism and foreign correspondence more broadly?

Spiegel isn’t the first high-profile news organization with a staffer who partially or fully made up stories: Over the past two decades, The New York Times, The New Republic, and USA Today, among others, have faced similar challenges to their credibility. But Spiegel’s reckoning comes at a time when trust in media is perilously low—and it presents a case study for how a news organization attempts the tall task of regaining reader trust in the age of so-called fake news.

The German outlet broke the news of the scandal itself on December 19. In a more than 6,000-word exposé, the since-suspended editor in chief, Ullrich Fichtner, outlined the scope and range of Relotius’s fabrications as well as how a colleague had discovered them. “These revelations come as a deep shock to everyone at Der Spiegel—the editorial staff, the research and fact-checking department, the business side and everyone who works here,” he wrote. “We are all deeply shaken.”

The next day, Scheuermann found himself on a plane to Fergus Falls, Minnesota, the setting for some of Relotius’s most elaborate lies. Relotius had spent more than five weeks living there for a feature story on a small town in Donald Trump’s America; in the wake of the scandal, two local activists, Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn, offered a point-by-point rebuttal of Relotius’s inaccuracies.

Many of the Spiegel journalist’s falsehoods, including those from Fergus Falls, exploited stereotypes of Trump voters as backwards, provincial, and ignorant. His dispatch from Minnesota included characters and details such as a gun-toting city administrator who had never seen the ocean, a sign in town reading Mexicans Keep Out, and a local movie theater that continued to play the movie American Sniper years after its release. (None of these things turned out to be true.)

[Read: Why Europeans turned against Trump]

Fergus Falls was “one of the places where you can really see, hear, and smell what impact a lie and fabrication can have on a small community,” Scheuermann told me.

His job there was twofold, as the resulting article demonstrated: to tell the real story of a town that had been completely mischaracterized and felt wronged in the eyes of the international community, yes, but also to apologize for the damage his organization had done. When he sat down with Anderson and Krohn, Scheuermann said, “I soon realized that it’s just not enough to do what I always do and just ask questions, try to write a story that’s as close to reality as possible—but also that there is a need to apologize.”

Since Scheuermann’s trip, Spiegel has continued tracking and writing about the scandal, with many of the pieces also translated into English for its audiences beyond Germany. The organization published an open letter to readers from its top editors, posted lists of all Relotius’s published articles, and interviewed the Spiegel staffer who first uncovered the fabrications. The magazine’s first issue after the story broke devoted significant space to the scandal, with the cover reading, “Sagen, was ist,” or “Tell it like it is.” And when it came out that Relotius had reportedly embezzled donations he had asked for on behalf of a Syrian family—a charge Relotius has since deniedSpiegel filed a criminal complaint against him.

In today’s political environment, it’s of course easy to see why Relotius is so harmful: Lawmakers from the far-right Alternative for Germany party, whose supporters have long decried the so-called Lügenpresse (“lying press”), immediately pointed to the incident as proof that Spiegel was untrustworthy. And Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, accused Spiegel of anti-American bias in a letter to its new editor in chief, Steffen Klusmann (a charge the magazine and its editors have emphatically denied).

[Read: Europeans are obsessed with the U.S. midterms]

“It couldn’t happen at a worse time,” said Lucas Graves, the director of research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford. “Trust in the press is much easier to tear down than to build up.”

With Spiegel still conducting an internal investigation into Relotius’s work, it could be months before the full effects of the scandal become clear. The organization has appointed three journalists—two Spiegel staffers and one outside expert—to document the full extent of his deceptions, how they were allowed to happen, and what Spiegel needs to do differently going forward.

After The New York Times’ Jayson Blair was fired for making up stories in 2003, the newspaper published a similarly in-depth explanation of the case; it also installed the paper’s first-ever public editor, a role intended to listen to reader feedback and take a critical look at the organization’s coverage. In addition to Blair, the paper’s then–executive editor, Howell Raines, was ousted.. Such a departure is unlikely at Spiegel, mainly because a new crop of senior editors—who had been appointed before the scandal broke—took the helm on January 1. Still, Fichtner and another senior editor, Matthias Geyer, have been suspended until the Relotius investigation is complete.

As Spiegel and other organizations ponder changes to fact-checking and editing, the difficulty is that fabrication cases are (to news organizations’ knowledge, at least) exceedingly rare: It doesn’t make sense to overhaul an entire system to weed out people like Relotius, said Josef Joffe, a member of the editorial council for the German newspaper Die Zeit.

“We could not put together a paper or magazine unless we trusted our colleagues,” Joffe told me. “If we had a Stasi or KGB wandering through every line we wrote, we couldn’t do what we do.”

At the same time, making sure readers understand how Spiegel’s journalists do their job could give them greater confidence that the organization is doing its due diligence. “Most members of the general public do not know how journalists know what they know; they don’t know much about journalistic process or journalistic methods,” said Ruth Palmer, a communications professor at IE University in Madrid. As a result, Spiegel needs to “be as transparent as possible about their processes, and more proactively try to educate the public about how they know what they know and how they go about vetting information.”

On that day in December, Traute Lafrenz, the last survivor of the Nazi-resistance group the Weiße Rose, or “White Rose,” told Scheuermann that she had indeed met with Relotius at her home in North Carolina last year. Relotius’s story resulting from their interaction, however, was riddled with fake quotes and mischaracterizations.

“This was incredibly embarrassing, and already a sign there was much more to come,” Scheuermann said. The image of Spiegel has been shaken even for those who work there, he added. “We’re not this know-it-all, authoritative magazine that we sometimes pretend to be.”

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12 days ago
Fodder for the fascists. This is a journalistic catastrophe.
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Join Analog Social Media

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A phenomenon I noticed when researching Digital Minimalism is that many people are confused by the creeping unease they feel about their digital lives. This confusion is caused in part by problems of scope.

When you take an activity like social media, for example, and zoom in close, you isolate behaviors like commenting on a friend’s picture, or encountering an interesting link, that seem mildly positive. What harm could there possibly be in clicking a heart icon?

When you zoom out, however, the cumulative effect of all this swiping and tapping seems to add up to something distinctly negative. Few are happy, for example, after allowing yet another movie night to devolve into side-by-side iPad idling.

The dynamic at play here is that digital activities that are mildly positive in isolation, combine to crowd out other real world activities that are potentially much more satisfying. This is what allows you to love Twitter in the moment when you discover a hilarious tweet, but at the end of the day fear that the app is degrading your soul.

Understanding this dynamic is critical because it tells you that you cannot improve your life by focusing exclusively on digital tools. Triaging your apps, or cutting back phone time, will not by itself make you happier. You must also aggressively fill in the space this pruning creates with the type of massively satisfying, real world activities that these tools have been increasingly pushing out of your life.

It is with this in mind, and in the spirit of the New Year, that I suggest you make a simple resolution: join analog social media.

As I’ve discussed before, analog social media describes organizations, activities and traditions that require you to interact with interesting people and encounter interesting things in the real world.

Here are some examples:

  • Join a local political group that meets regularly to organize on issues relevant to your local community, or serve as a volunteer on the election campaign of a local politician you know and like.
  • Join a social fitness group, like a running club, or local CrossFit box.
  • Become a museum or theater member and attend openings.
  • Go to at least one author talk per month at a local bookstore.
  • Create a book club, or poker group, or gaming club.
  • Join a committee at your church/temple/mosque.
  • Establish a weekly brunch or happy hour with your close friends.

These types of activities tend to provide significantly more value in your life than their digital counterparts. Indeed, tools like online social media are probably best understood as weak online simulacrums of the analog encounters that we know deep down we need to thrive as humans.

Equally important, as I learned during last year’s big digital declutter experiment (summarized here; detailed here), the more analog social media you introduce into your life, the more bulwarks you establish against the creeping demands of the digital.

With nothing else in place to fill your time, your phone will become increasingly irresistible, regardless of your intentions to spend more time disconnected. When you instead introduce meaningful analog activity into your regular routine, the appeal of the screen suddenly diminishes.

To summarize: if you’re vaguely unhappy with your digital life, respond by introducing much more positive real world activity. If you embrace analog social media, you’ll soon be wondering how you ever dedicated so much time to its inferior digital equivalent.

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10 days ago
I feel like there is so much to discuss about the isolation of the modern American world, and how exhausted most of us are at the end of a draining work day. So many people just feel too exhausted to go out with friends, let alone attend something with strangers and more work.
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C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger

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By The New York Times

Those fighting forces, also referred to as counterterrorism pursuit teams, are recruited, trained and equipped by C.I.A. agents or contractors who work closely with them on their bases, according to several current and former senior Afghan security officials, and the members are paid nearly three times as much as regular Afghan soldiers.

The Afghan ownership of those two units is only nominal, a liaison relationship in which intelligence headquarters in Kabul has representatives on the mission for coordination. But the required pre-approval for raids is often last-minute, or skipped until afterward, the officials say.

For months, The New York Times has investigated the human toll of the C.I.A.-sponsored forces on communities. Times journalists researched frequent complaints — at times almost weekly — that these units had raided and killed civilians, and The Times went to the sites of half a dozen of their raids, often less than 24 hours after the force had left.

The investigation found details of a C.I.A. mission with tactical successes that have come at the cost of alienating the Afghan population. One former senior Afghan security official bluntly accused the strike forces of war crimes.

Often, the raids that resulted in civilian deaths were carried out not far from police outposts or government offices, leaving those American-supported officials humiliated in the villages they had been trying to establish relationships with. And because the C.I.A.-sponsored units often use English during operations, their abuses are even more directly equated with the American presence, though claims that American agents have sometimes been on the missions have not been confirmed.

“The dilemma is this: The C.I.A. needs to fight its wars in the shadows,” said Karl Eikenberry, a former commander of American forces in Afghanistan who later served as the United States ambassador to Kabul. “But when the U.S. also takes on the mission of state-building, then the contradictions between the two approaches — stealth, black ops, and non-transparency vs. institution building, rule of law, and accountability — become extraordinarily difficult to resolve, and our standing as a nation suffers.”

United Nations reports have expressed concern about civilian deaths and “consistent, credible accounts of intentional destruction of civilian property, illegal detention, and other abuses” by the units. The United Nations said the forces in Khost, in particular, operated outside the Afghan government’s structure “with an absence of transparency and ongoing impunity.”

In the village of Nader Shah Kot, the provincial official who helped investigate the raid, Mr. Zazai, said the force’s impunity was alienating residents from the government and increasing support for the Taliban.

“If there had been arrests, if there had been justice, this wouldn’t continue like this,” Mr. Zazai said. “But there is absolutely no justice.”

American defense officials in Washington say the C.I.A. operations in Afghanistan are largely opaque to military generals operating in the war zone. The C.I.A.’s level of partnership has been declining as the Afghan intelligence agency and its forces grow more mature, the officials said. But as American military forces are set to draw down, the role of the Central Intelligence Agency is only likely to grow in importance.

A spokeswoman for the C.I.A. would not comment, nor would Afghans directly involved with the forces. Afghan security officials in Kabul tried to play down the level of the forces’ autonomy and the nature of their abuses. When pressed with details of specific cases, they did not respond.

The number of casualties varied among the cases The Times investigated. In one, two brothers were killed as they watered their fields before dawn after receiving permission from the local security outpost. In another, a unit pursuit of a Taliban target went into the wrong house in Laghman Province and killed 12 civilians, officials there said.

One of the most gruesome episodes examined by The Times was in Khogyani District, in Nangarhar Province. The forces handcuffed and hooded two brothers and, after a brief interrogation as their wives and children watched, both men were dragged away and executed in a corner of a bedroom that was then detonated over their heads, according to relatives and villagers who pulled the bodies out of the rubble.

When Times journalists arrived at the house 16 hours after the raid, the area was a scene of carnage with burned vehicles and crumbled walls. The family’s patriarch, Hajji Hassan Jan, 60, said that a security outpost overlooked their house, and that the district’s intelligence chief, who was a regular guest for dinner, had no answer for why the house was raided and his sons killed.

Still, he tried to guess: It was probably for feeding the Taliban. In rural Afghanistan, traditions of hospitality demand that you feed whoever knocks at your door. When those men are armed, there is little choice.

“The forces once asked my son, ‘Why do you feed the Taliban — why cook chicken for them, or bring them yogurt?’” Mr. Jan said. “My son told them: ‘We made chicken for them. If you come, we will make an entire lamb for you.’”

The origin of C.I.A.-sponsored strike forces in Afghanistan was in the early days of the American invasion in 2001, when the United States allied with militia forces to help topple the Taliban regime.

Once the Taliban and Al Qaeda started fleeing, often across the border into Pakistan, there was no organized Afghan force to create the needed lines of defense.

In the eastern province of Khost, largely under the influence of the Haqqani network, which had strong ties to Al Qaeda, the C.I.A. started organizing local militias into a force that could strike at insurgents as they tried to come in or out.

“These forces were created in border areas at first to stop Al Qaeda fighters,” said Ghaffar Khan, a Czechoslovakia-trained police officer from Soviet times whom the C.I.A. had recruited as one of the force’s first commanders.

It was meant to be a stopgap program. But the force proved so effective, even after the Taliban started coming hard at the government and the American presence, that it kept expanding to other parts of the country.

In Khost, the so-called protection force was consolidated and based out of Camp Chapman, the main C.I.A. outpost there. The unit in Khost still has the largest number of fighters, though the exact count is unclear: Officials put the number anywhere from 3,000 to over 10,000. It patrols border areas and also runs its own network of informants.

Commander Ghafar said he believed the forces remained necessary, otherwise the defense against Haqqani-run suicide bombers would buckle, making it easier for attackers to reach Kabul. On the other hand, he said, their abuses were taking a toll.

Former President Hamid Karzai spent years trying to rein in American forces from carrying out night raids that angered villages and set them against his government, only to realize that the C.I.A.’s Afghan forces were doing the same.

One episode in particular made Mr. Karzai furious. In 2009, the strike force in Kandahar tried to forcibly release one of its colleagues detained by the police on criminal charges. When the most senior law enforcement official in the province, Gen. Matiullah Qateh, resisted, he and several of his officers were shot dead, former and current Afghan officials say. The C.I.A. reluctantly surrendered the guards involved in the killing of the general, after the Afghan leadership threatened to use force.

Mr. Eikenberry, the former general and ambassador, said the C.I.A.-sponsored forces “which operated outside of the framework that governed those under sovereign control of the Afghan government” raised concerns from the beginning.

“But Bin Laden was not yet found, Al Qaeda was active in the border areas, and Afghanistan did not have forces capable of dealing with what was regarded as an existential threat to the U.S. So the concerns never led to action,” Mr. Eikenberry said. “The problem was one to be solved later in the campaign, so to speak. And the C.I.A. was the dominant voice in the chamber.”

Several current and former Afghan officials said that the C.I.A. still largely commanded the strike forces in Khost and Nangarhar, effectively putting the units above the law. American agents and contractors work closely with them on their bases, develop the targets for them, and help guide the operations from headquarters. And the Americans have a presence at bases where detainees have accused the units of torture and abuse, officials say.

In a period of a little over a year, human rights officials registered at least 15 complaints of torture by the strike force based in Nangarhar Province, which has roughly 1,000 fighters and is known as “02.”

At a September news conference in the city of Jalalabad, elders from three districts of Nangarhar said that over 100 civilians were killed by the 02 unit the month before. (That number could not be verified independently.)

“Before the people start protests, before the people pick up weapons against the government, the government needs to rein in these kind of reckless operations,” said one tribal elder, Malik Zaman.

Mohammed Taher, from Khogyani District, said he and two of his brothers were detained in a night raid last spring. He was held for three months and five days, about a week of it at the air base in Nangarhar where the strike force is based.

“They said, ‘We will drive a tank over you if you don’t say your brothers are Taliban.’ I said, ‘If you have evidence that they are, show me,’” Mr. Taher said. “They wanted me to say all that so they could take a video of me saying it.”

Mr. Taher said Americans were present during the raid when he was detained, but he did not see Americans during the questioning and the torture at the base. His mistreatment stopped when he was handed over to the regular Afghan intelligence force, he said.

“My hands were cuffed. They punctured these veins with needles and blood was running,” he said.

Sabrina Hamidi, who leads the Afghan Human Rights Commission in the east, said that during her 13 years of work at the commission she could not recall a single example of access to the regional forces to examine accusation of abuses.

“In their operations, most of the times the harm to civilians is direct,” Ms. Hamidi said about the 02 unit. “When they make arrests, there is usually torture involved, also.”

In nearly every case examined by The Times, the victims’ families said they were at a loss for where to seek justice, or an explanation of why they had been raided. And nearly every government official in those areas expressed helplessness about the strike forces’ operations.

In the Bati Kot district of Nangarhar Province, the strike forces conducted a raid in May, leaving their headquarters at the air base in Jalalabad and arriving in a convoy of several dozen vehicles at a village surrounded by corn fields and orange orchards.

One resident, Khoshal Khan, who works at a medical university, thought at first that the raid was an attack by the Islamic State.

“I ran and got my weapon — I thought it was the caliphate people. I didn’t know it was the government,” Mr. Khan said. “Then they started firing, and I heard the gate blown up. They were speaking English, also.”

Families often sleep outside because of the heat. One family patriarch, Mohamed Taher, in his late 50s, was shot near his bed on the roof.

When Times journalists arrived the day after the raid, the bed was broken, the mud roof under the bed patched with blood, just steps from dried tomatoes sunning on a tarp.

One of Mr. Taher’s grandsons, Sekandar, 16, was visiting from Jalalabad during a school break. He was sleeping in the yard and was awakened by gunshots, he said, spotting the light from the raiders’ laser sights racing around. Sekandar said the forces spoke both Pashto and English.

The strike force had climbed ladders and was on the walls of the house, ordering Mr. Taher’s family to come out. But Sekandar said that when they followed the order to come out with their hands up, one of Mr. Taher’s sons, Naeem Shah, was shot in his left hand. Then a grandson, Shaker Khan, was shot in the head.

“The women started crying. They called to be quiet, then they blew up the gates and came in,” Sekandar said. His account matched those of other family members and neighbors.

Another of Mr. Taher’s sons, Mohammed Raheem, had also been gunned down. The remaining men were handcuffed, and the women and children were put in one room.

Before the forces started leaving about two hours later, with Naeem Shah still wounded, the fighters warned the family not to come out for an hour after they had left, said Mr. Shah’s young son, Adel, 10.

“They said, ‘Don’t come out — if the airstrikes hit you, then don’t complain,’” said Adel, whose face had shrapnel wounds from the raid. While the family waited in the house, Adel’s father bled to death in the yard.

The district governor’s office is just 100 yards from the house, and there are two police outposts nearby.

Mohibullah, a relative of the dead, said that for him, there was no difference between the C.I.A.-sponsored force and the Islamic State if the result was to be attacked with no warning.

“What is the need for raiding me at night?” he said. “Send me a warrant. If I didn’t show up, then you can bring your tanks and fly your planes and destroy me.”

Reporting was contributed by Julian Barnes, Mark Mazzetti and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Washington.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: C.I.A.-Led Afghan Forces Leave Grim Trail of Abuse. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger - The New York Times
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We Found 95 New, Undisclosed Trump Appointees

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We have obtained a list of 95 new Trump administration appointees made over the past six months. Following a pattern we’ve detailed before, many of the hires previously worked on President Donald Trump’s campaign or at conservative think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation. In other cases, appointees seem to have little work experience at all.

We compiled the information from Freedom of Information Act requests and have added the appointees to our Trump Town app, which lets you search the disclosures of nearly 3,000 of them.

Here are a few of the recent appointments:

  • Lynn DeKleva, who worked for decades at chemical giant DuPont, was appointed to a job as an environmental engineer in the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety and pollution prevention office in October. Typically, environmental engineering positions are not political appointments. DeKleva did not respond to ProPublica’s requests for comments. The EPA said in a statement that DeKleva “brings considerable product stewardship experience and knowledge with her to assist” the agency.
  • Ileana Garcia, a co-founder of the campaign’s Latinas for Trump, was appointed in October as deputy press secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Todd Thurman, a Heritage Foundation staffer who used to write for the Daily Signal and Breitbart, was appointed as the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s digital strategy specialist in September.
  • Antonin Scalia, the namesake grandson of the late Supreme Court justice, was appointed in September as a temporary assistant in the State Department. Scalia graduated from college last year. Scalia and the State Department did not respond to ProPublica’s requests for comments.
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29 days ago
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Documenting Hate in America: What We Found in 2018

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Swastikas drawn on the office of a Jewish Ivy League professor. Latinos harassed for speaking Spanish in public. Hijab-wearing women targeted in road rage incidents. Neo-Nazis bragging online about a murder. These are just some of the incidents that we and our partners have reported in our second year of Documenting Hate, a collaborative project investigating hate with more than 160 newsrooms around the country.

Since we launched the project in January 2017, victims and witnesses of hate incidents have sent us more than 5,400 reports from all 50 states. We've verified nearly 1,200 reports, either via independent reporting or through corroborating news coverage. We've also collected thousands of pages of hate crime data and incident reports from hundreds of police departments across the country.

Here are some of the highlights from the project this year, including ProPublica's work and reporting by partners using our tips and resources. (Read all our reporting from the past year here.)

Dozens of Hate-Fueled Attacks Reported at Walmart Stores Nationwide, Univision

Univision’s Jessica Weiss identified dozens of harassment incidents at Walmarts and other superstores. Walmarts often act as “de facto ‘town centers,’” and people of color end up getting targeted, such as being told to go back to their country or to speak English. Just this month, two men in Louisiana were arrested for allegedly yelling racial slurs at a black woman leaving a Walmart and smashing a shopping cart into her car.

They Spewed Hate. Then They Punctuated It With the President’s Name, Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting

Reveal went through hundreds of tips in which President Donald Trump’s name was mentioned, identifying incidents all over the country ranging from harassment to assault. Reporter Will Carless spoke to 80 people who reported these tips, and he found an additional 70 cases reported in the media or confirmed with documentation.

“Dozens of people across the country said the same thing: What hurts most in these attacks is being told that you don’t belong in America,” Carless wrote. “That you’re not welcome. That since Trump was elected, the country has been reserved for a certain group — a group that doesn’t look like you or dress like you or practice the same religion as you.”

A Killing at Donkey Creek, ProPublica

ProPublica’s Rahima Nasa reported on potentially bias-motivated crimes that weren’t prosecuted as hate crimes, including the killing of a Native American man in Washington state. Even though there were indications he was targeted and run over because of his ethnicity, prosecutors didn’t bring bias crime charges. The man convicted of the homicide received only 7 ½ years in prison.

Police Are Mislabeling Anti-LGBTQ and Other Crimes as Anti-Heterosexual, ProPublica

ProPublica’s Rahima Nasa and I discovered that some police officers were marking some crimes as anti-heterosexual, including anti-LGBTQ bias crimes and offenses that weren’t even bias-related. Those crimes were then reflected erroneously in the FBI’s national hate crime data. Some of the police departments we contacted said they’d fix the errors. “Thank you for bringing it to our attention, because we never would have known,” one records officer told us.

Hate in Schools, Education Week

Education Week’s Francisco Vara-Orta examined hate incidents in schools, which affect black, Latino, Muslim and Jewish students. He built on previous reporting our partners had done to analyze patterns, finding that hate speech, both written and spoken, was the most common occurrence, while the largest number of reports happened the day after the 2016 election. Swastikas were the most common hate symbol; the most common words were the n-word, various versions of “build the wall” and “go back to [foreign country].”

Hate in America, News21

This year, we partnered with News 21, a project of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. A team of News21 reporters did a deep dive into how hate crimes are investigated and tracked, how laws are enforced, and what groups are targeted. They found that more than 2.4 million suspected bias crimes were committed between 2012 and 2016, based on an analysis of the National Crime Victimization Survey, but only 12 percent of the nation’s police departments reported any hate crimes to the FBI during this period. They also found that only about 4 percent of hate crime victims who reported to police had those crimes verified by law enforcement, and that only 100 hate crimes were prosecuted at the federal level from January 2010 to July 2018.

In The Name Of Hate, Muslim Women Face Road Rage Behind The Wheel, HuffPost

HuffPost’s Rowaida Abdelaziz identified road rage incidents affecting Muslims and people of Arab descent. Hijab-wearing women reported hearing slurs or seeing threatening gestures from drivers, or even nearly getting driven off the road. Those interviewed said it happens so often that they don’t see a point in reporting it, especially since it’s hard to gather evidence while driving. Abdelaziz also wrote about a road rage incident recorded by a college student in Texas, which prompted an open letter from the local mayor.

Hate in Maryland: From Racist Taunts to Swastikas to a Campus Stabbing, Bias Reports Up Sharply in State, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Sun’s Catherine Rentz gathered and analyzed two years worth of hate crime data from Maryland police departments, and she found that police categorized more than half of reported hate crimes as inconclusive. Law enforcement only forwarded verified reports to the FBI to include in their annual data, leaving out potential bias crimes in which a perpetrator wasn’t identified. Ten of the state’s counties reported zero hate crimes.

Documenting Hate: New American Nazis, ProPublica and Frontline

In a two-part documentary, ProPublica’s A.C. Thompson and Frontline investigated white supremacist groups the Rise Above Movement and Atomwaffen, discovering members and associates’ involvement in violence and even murder. Reporters identified neo-Nazis who were active-duty members of the military, and one white supremacist with a government security clearance. The project had major impact. It led to indictments and arrests, a firing, a prison sentence and a change in Marine Corps policy.

Jewish Professor Finds Swastikas Outside Her Office at Columbia Teachers College, Gothamist/WNYC

While overall crime is down in New York City, hate crimes are on the rise, and our partner WNYC has been reporting on many of the incidents happening around the city.

We’ve received hundreds of reports about swastikas, and one report ended up going national after WNYC’s Arun Venugopal broke the story of anti-Semitic vandalism in a Columbia University professor’s office. The professor, who researches the Holocaust, said it was the second time her office had been vandalized. WNYC also reported that one of New York City’s top civil rights officials was targeted in a hate incident, but when she reported it to police, they allegedly discouraged her from making a report.

The Cities Where the Cops See No Hate, BuzzFeed News

Nearly 90 percent of law enforcement agencies that voluntarily submit data to the FBI claim to have no hate crimes. So Peter Aldhous of BuzzFeed News reviewed more than 2,400 incident reports of assaults from 10 police departments that reported zero hate crimes in 2016. In the process, he identified assaults that should have been classified as potential bias crimes but weren’t.

We’re still figuring out where the Documenting Hate project goes from here, but we’re proud of the work it has produced, both by our newsroom and by our partners. It’s a topic that, unfortunately, retains its relevance and its urgency.

Have you been a victim or witness of a hate incident? Please tell us your story.

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29 days ago
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Ramzan Kadyrov's cousin plowed his Mercedes into a family of three and now the victims' relatives are begging Kadyrov not to punish his cousin

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Relatives of the victims killed in a recent traffic collision in Grozny involving Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov’s cousin have recorded a video appeal to Kadyrov, begging him not to punish his cousin for the tragedy, according to Mediazona. On December 5, Kadyrov’s cousin, Shalinsky District head Turpal-Ali Ibragimov, steered his Mercedes at high speed into an oncoming Zhiguli carrying a family of three. The mother and daughter died instantly, and the father later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital.

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29 days ago
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