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Abysmal, inept coverage | Lessons on covering politics from the late David Foster Wallace
Rule One in covering the presidential campaign, writes Henry Banta, has been to not allow information – even important information – to trump the entertainment factor, especially not in economics reporting. Time to do away with Rule One, Banta says, and stop fearing boredom.

| The press needs to expose the siege of democracy, not abet it
John Hanrahan writes: ‘We have become overly fearful, willing to surrender many core freedoms for the illusion of absolute security…We as a nation are less free than we were 11 years ago. And the mainstream press needs to say so, needs to explore this in news articles, as well as editorially and on the op-ed pages and in the broadcast media.’

| The outlook for the FCC and broadband: Not good
If words were actions the FCC under Obama would be a more aggressive regulator than it was under Bush. But they aren’t and it isn’t. The U.S. is way down on the list of countries in broadband performance, and likely to stay there.

Some have drones, too | Local police forces are now little armies. Why?
More and more, in dealing with nonviolent political protesters police across America show up in battlefield dress with intimidating military gear supplied by the Pentagon and Homeland Security. Writer John Hanrahan says reporters, instead of ignoring this ominous development, should ask local, regional and national leaders: Do we need this crap?

Next up: Freedom Square in DC | Is protest in America at a turning point?
Tea Party aside, activism slowed almost to a halt after Democrats took the House and Senate and Obama was elected. Now antiwar, anti-corporate, anti-big bank protests have started up in Washington and on Wall Street, and they are spreading elsewhere. Two main questions: Will they grow to be a serious force in America, and how long will the mainstream media give them the silent treatment?

Reporting the endgame | Missing from 9/11 anniversary coverage: crucial context and history
By neglecting to mention the key U.S. role in supporting militant jihadists in their war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the press missed an opportunity to raise questions about blowback -- and about whether our actions in Afghanistan today will once again produce negative future consequences.

Reporting the endgame | The Afghanistan war and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal
One of the thorniest issues in an American troop pullout is concern over Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. Does the U.S. have to keep a strong presence in Afghanistan to ward against that – or is it, as some experts argue, a wrongheaded concern? It's a new domino theory and, writes John Hanrahan, the press needs to do a better job describing it to the American people.

Reporting the endgame | Bagram prison, bigger than Guantanamo, its prisoners in limbo, cries out for some news coverage
Some 1,700 detainees are being held with no charges, no trial, no way to prove their innocence despite a Marine Corps general's 2009 report saying many should be released. In addition, there has been almost no in-depth news coverage of practices that, if widely known, would no doubt add to the call for removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and criticism of the government’s conduct of the war.

What’s behind the hype? | Shifting standards in the world of school reform
Again, Obama singles out as a success story a school that had been failing. But have any reporters dug into the data? Previous success stories touted by the White House have turned out to be a reflection of school-reform hype, not actual educational attainment.

‘Learn nothing, forget nothing’ | Going to London, and missing the story
COMMENTARY| May 25, 2011
President Obama has gotten a lot of coverage on his trip to the UK, but the big story, the lesson the President and the press should be bringing home, is hardly noticed, writes Henry Banta. It’s the unfortunate consequences of slashes in spending and taxes – an austerity program – in the midst of a recession.

War powers | How far will Congress go in abdicating its role in making war?
Two Yale professors urge reporters to ask members of Congress why they think it's OK for Obama not to seek their approval for the ongoing military action in Libya.

Reporting the endgame | Why stay in Afghanistan if the reasons for being there no longer exist?
The core assumption for having U.S. troops in Afghanistan is that by keeping al Qaeda out, we block a national security threat to America. It's time the press challenged that assumption because it is very, very vulnerable -- and likely flat-out wrong, as John Hanrahan reports in an interview with Paul Pillar, a leading intelligence community expert. This is the first in a new Nieman Watchdog series, 'Reporting the endgame.'

Open government | Gibbs departure offers opportunity to fix White House relations with the press
The imminent departure of spokesman Robert Gibbs gives President Obama a chance to reset the relationship between the White House and the press, and to live up to his campaign promises about transparency and accountability.

Scientific integrity | NOAA on the BP oil blowout: Is this any way to communicate science?
Joseph Davis asks: How did NOAA scientists come to be transformed into Obama administration team players, whose scientific judgment was being filtered through the quasi-military Unified Command and the politically controlled Office of Management and Budget?

George Wilson’s column | Not spending $1 trillion on Afghanistan?
President Obama reportedly said he’s not about to spend a trillion dollars on Afghanistan. George Wilson recommends that he take a look at a new Congressional Research Service report, or at the writings of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes.

George Wilson’s column | Targeted assassinations abroad could lead to a police state at home
Retaliation is a chilling but real possibility, writes George Wilson, and it might bring about drastic losses of freedoms we now take for granted. Are we sowing the seeds for our own destruction as a democracy?

Are the CIA torture tapes next? | New questions raised about prosecutor who cleared Bush officials in U.S. Attorney firings
Four days before Nora Dannehy was appointed to investigate the Bush administration’s U.S. attorney firing scandal, a team of lawyers she led was found to have illegally suppressed evidence in a major political corruption case. Andrew Kreig writes that this previously unreported fact calls her entire investigation into question as well as that of a similar investigation by her colleague John Durham of DOJ and CIA decision-making involving torture.

| Bob Giles on the U.S. refusal to allow entry to a Nieman Fellow
In the 60 years since international journalists have been awarded Nieman fellowships, Hollman Morris of Colombia is the first to be denied entry to the United States by our government. Nieman curator Giles says that if the denial holds, it would an alarming, major recasting of the doctrine of press freedom – opening journalists to charges of terrorist activities because they established contacts with and reported on terrorist organizations.

What’s next: Ratchet up, or pull out? | Was it the four-letter words, used over and over, that brought down McChrystal?
Would the Rolling Stone piece have had the same impact without so many curse words? And has the press focused too much on the personal slurs, and not enough on writer Michael Hastings's informative but bleak assessment of the war in Afghanistan?

'Regulatory capture' | The BP disaster underscores government as the problem, not the solution
After decades of planned neglect, mismanagement and ideological attack, the American government, across the board, has gotten out of the way of corporate America – and the country is paying a heavy price. Obama promised to make government service “cool” again. Ask him to show where he's doing that.

Vietnam revisited? | Locked into an expanding war in Afghanistan
The appointment of a new Afghan commander with great press clippings but a deeply troubling record suggests the Obama administration is going for broke in the region. TomDispatch.com founder Tom Engelhardt warns, however, that the application of force has failed for years -- and when things don't go according to plan, Obama may find himself locked into an escalation without end.

Behind the Federal Direct Loan Program | Sweeping change for the better in student loans
Obama’s proposed overhaul of the student financial aid system would pump in more funding and still result in savings to taxpayers. Naturally, therefore, it is generating controversy and misinformation.

From Congress Daily | Lobbyist William Lynn, at the Defense Department
COMMENTARY| March 10, 2009
So much for Obama’s vow to break up the old boy network and not bring lobbyists into his administration.

Stopping privatization | These orthopedists are a step ahead of Obama
A Des Moines orthopedic practice has cut off Medicare Advantage insurers. Gil Cranberg thinks they’ve got the right idea—and wants reporters and editorial writers to start paying attention as Obama tries to end subsidies that have been draining the traditional Medicare program.

The new administration | Is Bagram Obama's Guantanamo?
The first and last legacy of the Bush detention era is the prison at Bagram Air Base. But torture expert Karen Greenberg writes that there are no signs so far that the Obama administration is going to make any changes there. And still unclear: Who is being held there? Are they classified as 'prisoners of war' or as Bushian 'unlawful enemy combatants'? How are they being treated?

The new administration | A wake-up call for the 111th Congress
Andrew Rudalevige, author of 'The New Imperial Presidency,' calls on Congress to reassert itself as a coequal branch of government, reclaim powers it abdicated to the executive branch under President Bush, demand information, conduct aggressive oversight and use its power of the purse.

The new administration | What’s the outlook for broadband and Internet?
The congressional stimulus packages could go either way, writes consumer advocate Bruce Kushnick. They could mark a new, promising beginning—or they could be a new boondoggle for AT&T, Verizon and rural phone companies.

The new administration | Will Obama reassess the threat posed by al Qaeda?
Terrorism skeptic John Mueller wonders if Obama has considered the possibility that the al Qaeda threat has been overhyped – and he wonders how Obama's foreign policy team fares on a key litmus test.

Skyrocketing weapons costs | Dear Mr. President, about your defense budget…
Military spending is taking us to the poor house, writes George Wilson in an open letter to President Obama. 'No politician wants to look weak on national defense. But cutting fat and insisting on accountability for cost overruns on weapons aren't signs of weakness.'

The new administration | Rethinking how we cover the White House
Faced with an opaque presidency these past eight years, journalists grew too accustomed to trading in superficiality and trivia. But Obama's promise of transparency means we may now have more substantial things to talk about. Dan Froomkin writes that we should embrace the opportunity to publicly explore the important issues and decisions facing our nation and our world.

The new administration | Will Obama stem the tide of patronage?
ASK THIS| January 14, 2009
Political scientist David Lewis wonders whether loyalists, donors and party officials will get rewarded with appointed positions that are under the media’s radar. And if Obama is really trying to change the way Washington works, why doesn't he reduce the overall number of appointed positions?

The new administration | What will Obama do when goals collide?
ASK THIS| January 12, 2009
Going green is indeed one way to create jobs. But it can also lead to higher food costs, higher fuel costs and the erosion of property rights. Public Citizen's Tyson Slocum wants to know Obama's views on the various tradeoffs involved.

The new administration | Just how 'transformational' does Obama intend to be?
Political scientist Jeffrey Tulis writes that the press should ask a series of questions designed to illuminate the meaning of Obama's promise to change Washington. What does 'post-partisan' really mean, practically speaking?

Probing Obama | Questions for the new administration regarding the use and misuse of intelligence
Former senior CIA official Paul Pillar thinks the public needs to hear a lot more about the Obama Administration's views of the intelligence community and its complicated but crucial relationship with policymakers, Congress and the public.

Inauguration thoughts | It's time for a Wiki White House
The next White House Web site should tell us a lot about whether Obama believes what he has said about bringing transparency and accountability to the government.

Infrastructure | What now for broadband and the telecoms?
Will Obama and Congress be satisfied to leave the U.S. as 15th among developed nations in broadband use? Will the FCC under Democratic control be less of a tool for large corporations? Questions and proposals from Bruce Kushnick.