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To slightly paraphrase the Washington Post, “Democracy Dies in Darkness, Dumbness and Journalistic Fraud!” – the Rana Ayyub allegations

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In February 2017, The Washington Post added a new phrase beneath its online masthead — “Democracy Dies in Darkness” — which while good, and warranted for the newspaper that had Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi as a journalist, and took down President Nixon with legendary journalists Woodward and Bernstein, it’s only valid if they shed light on their own staff with proper oversight with Ombudsman or similar roles, to remove fraudulent journalists.

According to Columbia Journalism Review, Hamilton Nolan, “All I know is that there is only one way the press maintains its power in society: by metaphorically putting the heads of powerful people on pikes. If the Post and all the other respectable media outlets lose their ability to do that, powerful people will, by extension, stop caring what the well-informed segment of the public thinks. Democracy dies in dumbness.”

Well I would extend that, “Democracy Dies with Dumbness and Journalistic Fraud!”

We know in the 1930’s the NY Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Walter Duranty, is now questioned for his biased reporting of Stalin, and ironically Duranty defended Stalin’s murder of millions in the Ukraine. Times correspondents and others have since largely discredited his coverage, but that’s not enough as it’s widely held that his reporting from the USSR was a key factor in U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1933 decision to grant official recognition to the Soviet Union.

So one lying journalist could have contributed to the death of millions!

Unfortunately, Blatant Lies Matter!

As a media/telecom analyst, ex-Gartner, quoted in CNN, the WSJ, here in OpIndia, on geo-political topics to cybersecurity, I first learnt about Rana Ayyub and her writings at the Washington Post, and found it questionable. So I did what anyone else in the media/analyst world would do, and I filed a complaint with their Ombudsman.

On Feb. 10th 2022, I emailed Tracy Grant at the Washington Post,

Source: Akshay Sharma

I had reached out to the Ombudsmen at WAPO be it Tracy Grant, or recently Liz Seymour, along with Sally Buzbee, and got no replies except now invalid emails bouncing back from Tracy Grant who I believe has left WAPO. Ironically, some of my emails also occurred where I cc’d OpIndia editorial staff, since I referenced OpIndia in many of my emails.

Source: Akshay Sharma

I then messaged Josh Rogin, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, on FB Messenger, with no replies!

Source: Akshay Sharma

And now in early November, 2022, as the source for Ayyub’s Jan. 18th anti- PM Modi article, in The Wire, regarding TekFog, is retracted by Bloomberg and other leading journals, I asked the Washington Post leadership, and Hamilton Nolan at the Columbia Journalism Review, why hasn’t the Washington Post retracted Ayyub’s article from Jan. 18th, 2022 which precipitated my questioning of the Washington Post!

Source: Akshay Sharma

Other Fraudulent Journalists at the Washington Post!

So the analyst in me thought, maybe there’s no Ombudsman and reviews at the Washington Post with legendary journalists present, and perhaps no fraudulent journalists have worked there! And then I discovered the former journalist, Janet Leslie Cooke, who initially received a Pulitzer Prize in 1981 for an article written for The Washington Post, based on a story that was later discovered to have been fabricated and Cooke returned the Pulitzer, after admitting she had fabricated stories.

Well one could argue that was decades ago, what about the present?

And then there’s Felicia Sonmez, a fired Washington Post journalist, who began her career as a foreign correspondent in Beijing, and in 2010, joined The Washington Post as a political reporter, until she made false sexual harassment allegations including weird social media posts regarding deceased basketball legend Kobe Bryant. She is known for her social media activity, for which she was fired from the Post in June 2022.

What’s Needed Next?

We need proper Media Governance!

Media CEOs who are faced with non-existent or ineffective governance capabilities must follow the four recommended steps below to implement future proof governance:

  • Assess the effectiveness of your governance systems to support the quality control metrics, business outcomes, agility or autonomy based results.
  • Address the five governance levers (rules, processes, roles, structures and culture) and their associated mechanisms to redesign and raise the effectiveness of media governance.
  • Inject (new) ways of working into those governance mechanisms to maintain their effectiveness within the established or target operating model. Have Peer-reviews, and external auditors like the CRJ.org
  • Look for customer feedback scores, per journalist, beyond DPVs’ (document page views) to newer requirements, of peer review scores, client feedback, and Ombudsman reviews that could invoke a change in decision-making capabilities and, therefore, governance mechanisms.

According to Gartner, an Adaptive Governance System can occur with different “dials” for controls as follows:

Source: Gartner, “Fix Your Governance Mechanisms for Greater Agility”

According to Gartner, they recommend an “Adaptive Governance Mechanism” where C-level execs can adjust a governance mechanism, with varying ways of doing business, by turning one or more of the “ways-of-working” dials as shown above. Turning the dials will adapt the governance mechanism to meet the decision-making demands. For example, more agile, more adaptive or more automated, where different levels of governance can occur “just-in-time” as needed, based on content being produced. From the above diagram we have different ways of working: Orchestrated, Iterative, Automated, Agile, Distributed, Differentiated, Continual, and Collaborative.

  • Orchestration and coordination drive connected decision making by sequencing the right governance mechanisms which may entail SME’s subject matter experts as needed. Technology, Science and Engineering related topics often will require SME’s.
  • Iterative Governance Mechanisms adopt an iterative way of working when the Governance team is more frequently engaged, being aligned to the different life cycle stages and cadence of content development and delivery. This is for content that may launched initially and iteratively adapted with newer content flows, based on newer updates. Reporting of a battle, may be iteratively updated as it becomes a conflagration, to a regional war, to national war, to a world war.
  • Automated Governance Mechanisms will occur from support decision making tools that work in real-time. Tools to search the internet for plagiarism can be applied here, as well as web-crawling technologies. Soon more AI-based platforms will occur here leveraging AI for Governance.
  • Agile-based Governance means that certain governance and review mechanisms will favor “good enough” outputs or outcomes over absolute precision. Here, the track record of the journalist can be used to favor those that have “earned” legendary status with speed of the review process shortened, in order to launch the “scoop” fastest.
  • Distributed Governance is in contrast with decision making that is more centralized. Examples can include peer-reviews, SME reviews.
  • Differentiated Governance is where the Governance Board can apply it’s decision making for both the traditional, like traditional newspaper, traditional TV/Radio as well as the digital, web-based, mobile-based journalism.
  • Continual Governance is required for areas that need a certain degree of continuous, near-real-time decision-making support, or in support of governance mechanisms that are always on. Continual news reports, as an example include political polling results, that are continually updated, and may need to assessed for correctness, sample size, and ensuring no tampering is occurring.
  • Collaborative Governance is when collaboration between the Governance Board members occurs with the the rest of the firm. For example, a Media Governance Board with the executives of the firm requires high levels of collaboration for the board to be effective in directing, evaluating and monitoring, with not only peer reviews, management reviews, editorial reviews, and Media Governance/Ombudsman reviews, to Customer Review Boards, and Shareholder Review Boards. Governance can be collaborative with external entities like watchdog firms, journalism professors, and Government regulatory bodies.

It is time the media connect the dots, inwardly assess itself, and get quality journalism back to where it belongs! Let’s Make it Happen!

Thanks…

Akshay Sharma (Author’s Bio): Akshay Sharma is a Computer Engineer, tech analyst, ex-Gartner, having authored 280+ research notes, on emerging technologies like Cybersecurity, 5G, and IoT. He has worked for Canada’s Dept of Defense, advised and deployed solutions with DISA: Defense Information Security Agency, at Nortel and Siemens, and advised various 3-letter agencies in the US. A frequent speaker at tech events, he is often quoted in leading institutions like CNN, Wall St. Journal, and CIO.com. He is a former CTO of one of the first video/WiFi smartphone firms and an entrepreneur in the tech sector, having worked for firms that are now part of leading firms like Intel, IBM, Nokia, and Ericsson.  He advised the UK’s Ofcom, the US’s Dept. of Homeland Security, and was quoted in the Wall Street Journal banning Huawei in 2012, and stated in the Huffington Post, the Chinese hacking of Nortel is a “wakeup call”. Sharma contributed to the Flight Control protocol ARINC 629 Databus used in commercial avionics and military fighter jets for “fly-by-wire” systems, including the newer Boeing 777X. Additionally he is a Cybersecurity analyst, and CTO for Kovair.com with clients like the World Bank, India’s DRDO and US Defense sector clients.

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