Clear It With Sidney

Notes on journalism for the common good, by Lindsay Beyerstein

"Pregnant and No Civil Rights"

This is a powerful recent op/ed from the New York Times about how the civil liberties of pregnant women are being eroded by anti-choice legislation. The authors, Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, have exhaustively researched cases in which pregnant women have been jailed for suspected suicide attempts, forced to remain in hospital against their will, and even forced to have unwanted c-sections because the state’s interest in the fetus was deemed more important than the woman’s civil rights. 


[Photo credit: JerryLai08, Creative Commons.]

Adrian Chen Wins November Sidney for Wired Feature on the FB Mods Fighting the Rising Tide of Dick Pics

Adrian Chen, a rising journalistic star known for his coverage of the digital world, is the winner of this month’s Sidney Award for his Wired feature, “Unseen,” which introduces the reader to a hidden army of content moderators who battle to keep dick pics, child porn, gory traffic accident footage, and beheading videos off Facebook and other social networking sites. 

Chen’s coverage combines the best of tech journalism and investigative reporting to give us a glimpse of the working lives of the 100,000 people who sift through the worst filth the internet can dish up every day. 

Read my Q&A with Adrian at The Backstory

Sidney's Picks: WTC Injuries; The Uses of Ridicule; and the Sleeper Hit "Serial"


The Best of the Week’s News 

  • If you’re not listening to This American Life’s weekly true crime podcast, Serial, you should be.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

2015 Hillman Prizes in Journalism: Call for Entries Now Open!

The Sidney Hillman Foundation is now accepting entries for the 2015 Hillman Prizes which honor investigative journalism and commentary in the public interest. Winners exemplify resourcefulness and courage in reporting, skilled storytelling, social impact and relevance to the ideals of Sidney Hillman.

$5000 prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

  • Book 
  • Newspaper 
  • Magazine 
  • Broadcast
  • Web 
  • Opinion & Analysis 

Click here for full application details and a link to our online submission form. 

Please help us reach as many journalists as possible by sharing the news about the 2015 Hillmans. Sample tweet: Call for entries for 2015 @SidneyHillman Prizes now open! $5000 journalism prizes. Enter online today:  

John Oliver on Why State Legislatures Matter More Than the U.S. Senate

John Oliver explains why state legislatures, aka “the meth labs of democracy,” matter more to the average American’s day-to-day life than which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Hint: Unlike our federal legislators, State leges pass a ton of laws…and ALEC writes them. 

Sidney's Picks: Rogue Drills, White Supremacy, and Other Scary Stuff

The Best of the Week’s News, Halloween Edition

  • As we gear up for the weekend, let’s remember that overwork kills. Don’t take any chances!


[Photo credit, Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

The Undocumented Immigrants Who Rebuilt New York After Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed more than 650,000 homes in New York. At least 4000 day laborers toiled to clean up the mess. An estimated 75% of these workers were undocumented migrants, an atypically high percentage. Most hailed from Mexico or other Latin American countries. 

Buzzfeed joined forces with sociology professor Héctor Cordero-Guzmán and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network to tell their stories


[Photo credit: “The Power of Hurricane Sandy,” by Rob Gross.]

Overseas Facebook Mods Whisk Away Beheading Videos, Dick Pics

In Wired, Adrian Chen profiles the small, poorly-paid army of overseas content moderators who preview facebook, YouTube, and other social network uploads to nix some of the truly horrible stuff that some users try to foist on the unsuspecting public. 

Other content moderation is done by American workers who earn more money, but who typically burn out after just a few months on the job, previewing the absolute worst of what the internet can dish up: 

But as months dragged on, the rough stuff began to take a toll [on Rob, a recent U.S. college grad]. The worst was the gore: brutal street fights, animal torture, suicide bombings, decapitations, and horrific traffic accidents. The Arab Spring was in full swing, and activists were using YouTube to show the world the government crackdowns that resulted. Moderators were instructed to leave such “newsworthy” videos up with a warning, even if they violated the content guidelines. But the close-ups of protesters’ corpses and street battles were tough for Rob and his coworkers to handle. So were the videos that documented misery just for the sick thrill of it. [WIRED]

Chen’s piece offers a rare glimpse of an international workforce that slogs away behind the scenes to make sure that social networking spaces are free of disturbing content.

The piece doesn’t really grapple with the larger cultural implications of private, profit-driven companies engineering their spaces to give the minimum offense–sometimes minimal transparency or accountability to their millions of users about what’s forbidden or why. Facebook was criticized for censoring some photos of breastfeeding, an activity that is not only legal, but endorsed by public health experts worldwide.  The social network eventually backed down in the face of public criticism.

Hat tip: Amanda Marcotte


Sidney's Picks: The Trouble With Teeth

The Best of the Week’s News

  • Remembering Maria Leonor Fernandes, the New Jersey woman who died trying to nap between shifts at her low-wage jobs.


[Photo credit: Wander Mule, Creative Commons.]

Liberian Churches Scapegoat Gays for Ebola

Powerful Christian leaders in Liberia, a West African nation hard-hit by Ebola, are blaming gays and lesbians for the epidemic from the pulpit. The Liberian Council of Churches announced that the outbreak was a punishment for “immoral acts” including gay sex; and the Archbishop of the Catholic Church of Liberia said that homosexuality was one of the major transgressions for which God was punishing Liberia with Ebola.

Their denunciations have marked LGBT people for violent reprisals.

“Since church ministers declared Ebola was a plague sent by God to punish sodomy in Liberia, the violence toward gays has escalated. They’re even asking for the death penalty. We’re living in fear,” [LGBT activist Leroy] Ponpon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone from Monrovia. [Reuters]

Ponpon and his allies want the government to step forward and defend the human rights of LGBT people against the bigotry of these religious leaders, the neglect of the police, and threats they face in their communities. 

[Photo credit: Liberian Flag, Nicholas Raymond, Creative Commons.]