Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

December 14 2010

16:47

WikiLeaks and the Power of Patriotism

A narrow patriotism -- the psychological equivalent of a knee jerk -- is an under-recognized force in modern journalism ethics.

It distorts our thinking about the role of journalism as soon as journalists offend national pride and whistleblowers dare to reveal secrets. Narrow patriotism turns practitioners of a free press into scolding censors. Suddenly, independent journalists become dastardly law breakers.

Narrow patriotism is the view that "love of country" means not embarrassing one's government, hiding all secrets and muting one's criticism of foreign and military policy in times of tension. Narrow patriotism is an absolute value, trumping the freedom of the press.

The WikiLeaks saga proves, once again, that this form of patriotism is a powerful commitment of many journalists; often, more powerful than objectivity or independence.

For instance, as WikiLeaks rolled out the American diplomatic cables, Jeffrey T. Kuhner of the conservative Washington Times called for the assassination of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a December 2 opinion piece. "We should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him"

One day later, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said the WikiLeaks document dump was "sabotage" during a time of war. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder should "Throw the WikiBook" at the website, using every legal tool at his disposal.

These vociferous comments are not nasty comments made by anonymous online "patriots." They come from practitioners of a free press in the land of the free.

Critical Journalism as Patriotism

5238068866_3bb1aef717.jpgThe WikiLeaks controversy reveals tensions in our view of the role of journalism in democracy.

We believe in the idea of a free press; but we oppose it in practice when the press offends our patriotism, or works against some vaguely defined "national interest."

The same narrow patriotism was at work among major American media when President Bush decided to go to war with Iraq on flimsy claims. TV anchors put flags on their lapels and reporters accepted too easily the existence of weapons of mass destruction.

In times of conflict, the strong emotions of patriotism override journalists' in-principle commitment to critical informing the public and to impartiality. The word "patriotism" rarely occurs in journalism codes of ethics but its influence on practice is substantial.

So what's the right view of the role of journalism?

The role of a free press is not to serve the government or its diplomats. It is to serve the public who hold government accountable through information provided by the media.

Throughout history, journalists have caused their governments trouble and embarrassment. Journalists are properly patriotic when they write critically of government, when they reveal their hidden strategies, when they embarrass their government in front of the world.

Criticism and the publishing of important confidential data is the way journalists often serve the public, despite howls of outrage from some citizens.

Of course, Kuhner and Krauthammer don't represent all American journalists. Many journalists support WikiLeaks. For example, Anthony Shadid, foreign reporter for the New York Times in Bagdad, expressed enthusiastic support during a recent lecture at my university's Center for Journalism Ethics.

"I should probably be a little more ambiguous and grey about this, but I think it's wonderful," said the two-time Pulitzer Prize. "It's a wonderful disclosure, this transparency and this openness of public office. I find it incredibly refreshing and incredibly insightful, as well."

Two Things at Once

Shadid3.jpgLike Shadid, I think the importance of the cables justifies their publication. But I am more concerned than Shadid about the new power of "stateless" websites like WikiLeaks.

In my view, if we care about the freedom to publish we need to do two things at the same time: First, protest attempts to shut down WikiLeaks, which include denying it access to the internet and calls to arrest Assange.

Second, we need to urge Assange to explain the principles that guide his decision to publish. Is he committed to simply publishing any and all secrets regardless of the consequences? Or is he willing to adopt the responsible approach of the New York Times and the Guardian which seeks to minimize the harm of their stories by carefully vetting the data. Is Assange willing to balance the freedom to publish with the principle of minimizing harm?

Minimizing harm does not mean not damaging the public profile of government. It means not naming informants, human activists, or innocent third parties if that would prompt reprisals. It means not providing detailed information that would help terrorists attack a public institution.

Organizations like the New York Times are serious about vetting their stories. I am not so sure Assange or WikiLeaks has the same concern.

Public support for this form of whistleblower journalism will turn swiftly against it should future releases lead to the death of a third party, or lead to a terrorist attack. The best way to retain support for a free press is to act responsibly, and to be seen to be acting so.

Is 'Responsibility' a Declining Idea?

From an ethical perspective, what is significant about the emergence of WikiLeaks is not only that new technology allows citizens to gather and publish secret material globally, and these online publishers are difficult to control.

What is significant is that enthusiasm for revealing secrets undermines the idea of responsibility -- the responsible use of the freedom to publish.

In a WikiLeaks world, the principle of minimizing harm, first articulated by professional journalism in the previous century for another media era, may be dwindling in importance.

Up to this point, the release of WikiLeaks documents has followed a pattern: WikiLeaks supplies the secret data to major papers and professional journalists vet and write the stories. In the future, however, the role of responsible news outlets may decline.

As new websites spring up, each pursuing their ends with the passion of activists, the idea of a free and responsible press may come to seem irrelevant. The idea of ethically restraining the freedom to publish may recede into the rear view mirror of history.

I hope not.

(For more on WikiLeaks, check out the recent 4MR podcast with guest Jay Rosen.)

WikiLeaks poster by R_SH via Flickr

Stephen J. A. Ward is the James E. Burgess Professor of Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He is the founding chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists' (CAJ) ethics advisory committee and former director of UBC's Graduate School of Journalism.

JSOURCE_logo_colR1.jpg

This article was originally published on J-Source. J-Source and MediaShift have a content-sharing arrangement to broaden the audience of both sites.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

December 11 2010

19:49

What is a “Controlled Shoot”…

You’re never too old to learn…and I picked up a new term this week, thanks to a request for a critique onb-roll. I’m not gonna post the comments made – you can look them up yourself.

Courtesy Okinawa Soba through Creative Commons

But the new term is “controlled shoot.” Or as the camera (one-man) band says, aka “staging.”

Wow.

And as if that weren’t bad enough…it was followed a few days later by a posting titled “Fun staging.”

The CS/controlled shoot video was something I would imagine a lot of camerafolk get trapped into in some way or another. Short on time…there is NOTHING happening visual, and somehow a visual story has to be turned.

So in this case, the photog asked the subject (a marathon runner) to take a run around for the camera. I’m not sure how much CS “controlled” that shoot – if he just shot the guy running or directed each shot. But – as CS admits – it is staging. Which is frowned upon in news because it is not what is actually happening. It is redone/rehashed/done only for the camera.

Now in the case of “Fun staging” the entire video was staged. And I don’t mean asking for something to be repeated for the camera. This was staged as in have people acting out an entire scenario for the camera…shot by shot. As if it were a movie. Not just a step beyond a controlled shoot – but an entire leap into a fantasy world that was created JUST FOR THIS STORY.

Ummmm….can I have a platter of the “good ole days” please?


November 18 2010

21:30

CBC updates social media guidelines

The revised CBC guidelines on social media are to be welcomed. They are based on the principles CBC applies to other forms of media, rather than a detailed list of do’s and don’ts.

The guidelines acknowledge the importance of social media tools “for gathering information, as well as disseminating it.”

But add that “when using social media as an information-gathering tool, we apply the same standards as those for any other source of newsgathering.”

The guidelines advise against using social media to talk about unconfirmed reports:

We are consistent in our standards, no matter what the platform, in disseminating information. If we would not put the information on air or on our own website, we would not use social media to report that information.

In the section on sourcing, the CBC stresses that “our standards apply to all types of sources, including those coming via social media, when they are used for news gathering purposes.”

This suggests the CBC would do what the BBC did during the Mumbai bombing, publishing unverified tweets alongside material from its reporters.

The section on the personal use of social media also draws from general CBC principles. It implicit acknowledges how social media tends to blur the line between the personal and professional, advising staff to “maintain professional decorum and do nothing that can bring the Corporation into disrepute.”

Rather than forbidding staff from expressing their opinion on personal social media accounts, the guidelines advise that “the expression of personal opinions on controversial subjects or politics can undermine the credibility of CBC journalism and erode the trust of our audience.”

Some may see this as extending professional codes of conduct into personal social media spaces. One of the aspects of social media is how it combines both the personal and professional in usually publicly accessible platforms.

(Full disclosure: I am married to the director of digital media for CBC News, Rachel Nixon)

17:30

Crunching Denton’s Ratio: What’s the return on paying sources?

There was a lot of buzz on Twitter yesterday about Paul Farhi’s piece in The Washington Post on checkbook journalism — in particular the way a mishmash of websites, tabloids, and TV news operations put money in the hands of the people they want to interview. (With TV, the money-moving is a little less direct, usually filtered through payments for photos or videos.)

But, just for a moment, let’s set aside the traditional moral issues journalists have with paying sources. (Just for a moment!) Does paying sources make business sense? Financially speaking, the justification given for paying sources is to generate stories that generate an audience — with the hope that the audience can then be monetized. Does it work?

There’s not nearly enough data to draw any real conclusions, but let’s try a little thought experiment with the (rough) data points we do have, because I think it might provide some insight into other means of paying for content. Nick Denton, the head man at Gawker Media and the chief new-media proponent of paying sources, provides some helpful financial context:

With the ability to determine instantly how much traffic an online story is generating, Gawker’s Denton has the pay scale almost down to a science: “Our rule of thumb,” he writes, “is $10 per thousand new visitors,” or $10,000 per million.

What strikes me about those numbers is how low they are. $10K for a million new visitors? There aren’t very many websites out there that wouldn’t consider that an extremely good deal.

Let’s compare Denton’s Ratio to the numbers generated by another money-for-audience scheme in use on the Internet: online advertising. After all, lots of ads are sold using roughly the same language Denton uses: the M in CPM stands for thousand. Except it’s cost per thousand impressions (a.k.a. pageviews), not cost per thousand new visitors, which would be much more valuable. What Denton’s talking about is more like CPC — cost per click, which sells at a much higher rate. (Those new visitors aren’t just looking at an ad for a story; they’re actually reading it, or at least on the web page.) Except it’s even more valuable than that, since there’s no guarantee that the person clicking a CPC ad is actually a “new” visitor. Let’s call what Denton’s talking about CPMNV: cost per thousand new visitors.

CPC rates vary wildly. When I did a little experiment last year running Google AdWords ads for the Lab, I ended up paying 63 cents per click. I ran a similar experiment a few months later with Facebook ads for the Lab, and the rate ended up being 26 cents per click.

What Denton is getting for his $10 CPMNV is one cent per click, one cent per new visitor. It’s just that the click isn’t coming from the most traditional attention-generating tool, an ad — it’s coming from a friend’s tweet, or a blogger’s link, or a mention on ESPN.com that sends someone to Google to search “Brett Favre Jenn Sterger.”

Doing the pageview math

And that $10 CPMNV that Denton’s willing to pay is actually less than the return he gets for at least some of his source-paid stories. Take the four Gawker Media pieces that the Post story talks about: the original photo of singer Faith Hill from a Redbook cover, to show how doctored the image was for publication; photos and a narrative from a man who hooked up with Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell; the “lost” early version of the iPhone 4 found in a California bar; and voice mails and pictures that allegedly show quarterback Brett Favre flirting with a woman named Jenn Sterger, who is not his wife. Gawker publishes its pageview data alongside each post, so we can start to judge whether Denton’s deals made financial sense. (Again, we’re talking financial sense here, not ethical sense, which is a different question.)

Faith Hill Redbook cover: 1.46 million pageviews on the main story, and about 730,000 pageviews on a number of quick folos in the days after posting. Total: around 2.2 million pageviews, not to mention an ongoing Jezebel franchise. Payment: $10,000.

Christine O’Donnell hookup: 1.26 million pageviews on the main story, 617,000 on the accompanying photo page, 203,000 on O’Donnell’s response to the piece, 274,000 on Gawker’s defense of the piece. Total: around 2.35 million pageviews. Payment: $4,000.

“Lost” iPhone: 13.05 million pageviews on the original story; 6.1 million pageviews on a series of folos. Total: around 19.15 million pageviews. Payment: $5,000.

Brett Favre/Jenn Sterger: 1.73 million pageviews on the first story, 4.82 million on the big reveal, 3.99 million pageviews on a long line of folos. Total: around 10.54 million pageviews. Payment: $12,000.

Let’s say, as a working assumption, that half of all these pageviews came from people new to Gawker Media, people brought in by the stories in question. (That’s just a guess, and I suspect it’s a low one — I’d bet it’s something more like 70-80 percent. But let’s be conservative.)

Expected under the Denton formula:
Faith Hill: 1 million new visitors
O’Donnell: 400,000 new visitors
iPhone: 500,000 new visitors
Favre: 1.2 million new visitors

Guesstimated real numbers:
Faith Hill: 1.1 million new visitors
O’Donnell: 1.17 million new visitors
iPhone: 9.56 million new visitors
Favre: 5.27 million new visitors

Again, these are all ham-fisted estimates, but they seem to indicate at least three of the four stories significantly overperformed Denton’s Ratio.

Reaching new audiences

The primary revenue input for Gawker is advertising. They don’t publish a rate card any more, but the last version I could find had most of their ad slots listed at a $10 CPM. Who knows what they’re actually selling at — ad slots get discounted or go unsold all the time, many pages have multiple ads, and lots of online ads get sold on the basis of metrics other than CPM. But with one $10 CPM ad per pageview, the 2.2 million pageviews on the Faith Hill story would drum up $22,000 in ad revenue. (Again, total guesstimate — Denton’s mileage will vary.)

Aside: Denton has said that these paid-for stories are “always money-losers,” and it’s true that pictures of Brett Favre’s manhood can be difficult to sell ads next to. Most (but not all) of those 10.54 million Brett Favre pageviews were served without ads on them. But that has more to do with, er, private parts than the model of paying sources.

But even setting aside the immediate advertising revenue — the most difficult task facing any website is getting noticed. Assuming there are lots of people who would enjoy reading Website X, the question becomes how those people will ever hear of Website X. Having ESPN talk about a Deadspin story during Sportscenter is one way. Having that Redbook cover emailed around to endless lists of friends is another. Gawker wants to create loyal readers, but you can only do that from the raw material of casual readers. Some fraction of each new flood of visitors will, ideally, see they like the place and want to stick around.

Denton publishes up-to-date traffic stats for his sites, and here’s what the four in question look like:

It’s impossible to draw any iron-clad conclusions from these squiggles, but in the case of Jezebel and Deadspin, the initial spike in traffic appears to have been followed by a new, higher plateau of traffic. (The same seems true, but to a lesser extent, for Gizmodo — perhaps in part because it was already much more prominent within the gadget-loving community when the story broke than, for example, 2007-era Jezebel or 2010-era Deadspin were within their target audiences. With Gawker, the O’Donnell story is too recent to see any real trends, and in any event, the impact will probably be lost within the remarkable overall traffic gains the site has seen.)

Fungible content strategies

I’ve purposefully set aside the (very real!) ethics issue here because, when looked at strictly from a business perspective, paying sources can be a marker for paying for content more generally. From Denton’s perspective, there isn’t much difference between paying a source $10,000 for a story and paying a reporter $10,000 for a story. They’re both cost outputs to be balanced against revenue inputs. No matter what one thinks of, say, Demand Media, the way they judge content’s value — how much money can I make off this piece? — isn’t going away.

Let’s put it another way. Let’s say a freelance reporter has written a blockbuster piece, one she’s confident will generate huge traffic numbers. She shops it around to Gawker and says it’ll cost them $10,000 to publish it. That’s a lot of money for an online story, and Denton would probably do some mental calculations: How much attention will this story get? How many new visitors will it bring to the site? What’s it worth? I’m sure there are some stories where the financial return isn’t the top factor — stories an editor just really loves and wants to publish. But just as the Internet has turned advertising into an engine for instantaneous price matching and shopping into an engine for instantaneous price comparison, it breaks down at least some of the financial barrier between journalist-as-cost and source-as-cost.

And that’s why, even beyond the very real ethical issues, it’s worth crunching the numbers on paying sources. Because in the event that Denton’s Ratio spreads and $10 CPMNV becomes a going rate for journalists as well as sources, that means for a writer to “deserve” a $50,000 salary, he’d have to generate 5 million new visitors a year. Five million is a lot of new visitors.

There’s one other line Denton had in the WaPo piece that stood out to me:

“I’m content for the old journalists not to pay for information. It keeps the price down,” Denton writes in an exchange of electronic messages. “So I’m a big supporter of that journalistic commandment – as it applies to other organizations.”

When we think of the effects of new price competition online, we often think of it driving prices down. When there are only a few people competing for an advertising dollar, they can charge higher rates; when there are lots of new competitors in the market, prices go down. But Denton’s basically arguing the equally logical flipside: I can afford to pay so little because there aren’t enough other news orgs competing for what sources have to offer. Let’s hope we don’t get to that same point with journalists.

November 08 2010

08:05

On publishing – and deleting – allegations online

TechCrunch’s Paul Carr has a thoughtful piece on “cyber-vigilantism” where citizens witness or experience a crime and go online to chase it down, name the alleged perpetrators, or pressure the authorities out of complacency:

“[W]hen that naming happens, the case is over before it’s begun: no matter whether the accused is guilty or innocent, they are handed a life sentence. Until the day they die, whenever a potential employer or a new friend Googles their name – up will come the allegation. And, prison terms notwithstanding, that allegation carries the same punishment as guilt – a lifetime as an unemployable, unfriendable, outcast. There’s a reason why the Internet is a great way to ruin someone with false allegations – and it’s the same reason why falsely accused people are just as likely to harm themselves as guilty people.”

The post was written after TechCrunch decided to delete a story about an alleged sexual assault and is a useful read in provoking us as journalists in any medium to reflect on how we treat stories of this type.

There are no hard rules of course, and associated legal issues vary from country to country.

In the Judith Griggs case, for example, was I right to post on the story? My decision was based on a few factors: firstly, I was reporting on the actions of those on her magazine’s Facebook page, rather than the ‘crime’ itself (which was hardly the first time a publisher has lifted). Secondly, I waited to see if Griggs responded to the allegations before publishing. Thirdly, I evaluated the evidence myself to see the weight of the allegations. Still, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

October 31 2010

20:46

Story Ideas 10.31.10

What would you make of an ad like the following (found on craigslist in wanted section)?

Looking for someone to help me with “History Of The Movies” community college coursework. Project consists of reading, writing, weekly quizzes, and tests. Course is 100% online. I’m 50% finished with it, just got hit with a ton of stuff in life making it near impossible now for me to finish.
ABOUT YOU
- Passionate about the movies, or at least interested in their history
- You can access movies via BitTorrent or Netflix on the spot
- Daily access to a computer and the internet
- 100% committed to finishing project from now till Dec 8th
TIMELINE
- Starts immediately and ends Dec 8th
- Coursework is due weekly and will be tracked with online project management tool.
- Course is 50% completed, need someone to help me out with the remaining workload.
- Coursework is 100% online.
PAYMENT
- Pay is $100 plus a $50 project bonus for receiving a B- grade (2.75) or higher
TO APPLY
- Send short cover letter highlighting our requirements. Candidate will be selected based upon writing quality, interest in the project/movies, Netflix/BitTorrent access, and likeliness to see it through from start to finish (now through Dec).

What I get from it (and others similar) is that someone wants to buy your brain to take an online class for them. I’ve seen (and tagged) others where the “wantee” wants you to take a sit-down class for them (you have to generally match their physical description) or provide answers to tests. The best offer I’ve seen so far was to take an English class with pay ranging from a few hundred for passing to $700 for getting an A.

Story idea: is this happening in your neck of the woods? Are students so strapped for time (and intellect and ethics) that they want to pay someone to take classes/tests for them? What meaning does this have beyond just paying someone for a job (well done)?

Let’s see…would you see a doctor who cheated her way thru school? Or lawyer, or any professional for that matter?

What does this do to folks who do it the old fashioned way – on their own, studying, working hard? Does it devalue their grades?

And what, ultimately, does it do to the “wantee” in the ad? Yes, it shows lack of ethics…but if they need help with bonehead English…how the heck are they going to pass more difficult courses. Skip Algebra I and how are you gonna do in Geometry?

Lots to delve into the ponder on this one.

And along the same line, here’s another idea from Peter Brown. Folks who go for fake are liars and cheaters. Vastly oversimplified, but those who are attracted to ripoffs of reality have trouble with the truth and the reality of life. In one study, see the results:

The women wearing the fake Chloe shades cheated more–considerably more. Fully 70 percent inflated their performance when they thought nobody was checking on them–and in effect stole cash…

Brown’s blog posting is based on a psychological study that seemed to indicate that buying fakes and personal behavior are closely linked.

Story idea: can you replicate some of these experiments done by the researchers in your own area? Are people even aware of the link between what they buy and behavior? Can these behaviors be recognized and possibly even reversed?

Good luck with it…see ya next week.


October 21 2010

19:45

Diminished reality…

This via OHITLT and crunchgear.com: real time manipulation of video.

Huh? What doest THAT mean?

Well…let’s say you’re setting up for a live skype and you notice there chipped paint on the wall behind you. No time to grab a brush and fix it, so you hop into your Diminished Reality software and erase it.
Here’s the link to the crunchvideo article.

Now for the real meat of this. Sometimes technology gives us wings to go where we shouldn’t go. I can see this or filmmaking…for fun. But for news?

Hey! Let’s clean up that background a bit…get rid of the graffiti on the wall…maybe cover up those stupid kids who are screwing up the scenery. Remove the offensive sign in the live shot of the demonstration.

Don’t even wanna go there…


September 23 2010

18:16

Oooo! Oooo! The big “P” word!

I don’t know what YOU’Re thinking – I was referring to prostitution. As in when news forgets who it is and decides to strut in full frontal costume through the promotions or marketing department. Uh…they tried that back in the day too, but then the news directors didn’t bite – they bit back and refused to take part.

Great little slant on how CBS stations are “prostituting” their news to promote the new series Hawaii Five-0. Check it out here. It’s a hoot(er???).

BTW the “Five-0″ refers to Hawaii’s status as the 50th state admitted to the union.


September 14 2010

08:51

Digital Journalism: Ethics and ethos

Twitter through up an interesting link to NYU’s  Journalism Handbook for Students: Ethics, Law and Good Practice. I was particually taken with their Ethics pledge which all students are expected to sign or “The final grade for a student registered in a journalism course will not be submitted to the Registrar”.

It begins with:

As a New York University journalism student, you are part of a community of scholars at a university recognized for its research. A scholar’s mission is to push forward the boundaries of knowledge; a journalist’s mission is to serve the public by seeking out and reporting the facts as accurately as possible. Good journalists and scholars share a commitment to the same principle: integrity in their work.

By signing this ethics pledge, you agree to maintain the highest standards of honesty and foster ethical behavior at all times. Anyone who fails to uphold these ethical standards has committed a serious violation of this agreement. Penalties can range from an F on an assignment to a failing grade in a course to expulsion, depending on the decision of the instructor in consultation with the Institute’s Ethics Committee.

Serious stuff.  The idea that an ethics comittee within an institution would consider, and rule upon,  proffessional ethics outside of the purley academic is challenging but, I think, right. Behaviour like Plagiarism is cited as the kind of behaviour that breaks the pledge and could get you hauled up.

Now we take plagiarism serioulsy but it’s an academic issue, there are serious punishments, but academic none the less. The ethics comittee oversees research activity. We also hammer home the Society of Editors code of conduct etc.  But I’d love it to be more directly asssociated with the professional ethics of journalism – more proffession based.

Defining a digital journalist.

The pledge chimed with me as I’m updating my Digital newsroom class for this year. The class handbook includes a page that outlines the ‘module ethic’:

This module is not about defining a digital newsroom.

This module looks at the way digital and online practice affects newsrooms
and how that, in turn, changes and develops individual journalism practice.

We will explore this by :

  • Looking at the context in which digital and online practice has
    developed and how that has changed newsroom practice
  • Looking at the tools used and evaluating how they can be used to
    create content.

You will use one to inform the other in a way that suits your practice.
As you do this module there are two things to keep in mind.

  • We are platform agnostics: You can be a newspaper, radio,
    magazine, TV or online journalist and still be digital
  • We are consumers and providers: Think about what it takes to
    produce the content you use everyday.

But most of all, remember: You are a digital journalist!

Whatever their motivation for getting in to journalism, whichever media they see themselves working in, understanding how digital tools and practice can fit in to their practice is what being a digital journalist is all about. That last bit is a given whether they like it or not.

I can’t get students to sign-up to it and if they ignore it there is no ‘ethos panel’ but at least we start from a common ground.

Image credit: WCN247 on flickr

Enhanced by Zemanta

August 27 2010

14:45

Controversy after local newspaper gives award to anti-gay letter

Encouraging debate among your readers is something every newspaper wants and the introduction of social media sharing, comment features and blogs on news sites has all added to this quest to engage readers.

But for some a letter published in the Greenwich and Lewisham editon of local title the News Shopper has gone too far. The letter from reader Mrs S Fitzsimons won the title’s Star letter of the week award and she received a prize of a Websters pen. The content of the letter was as follows:

HAVE YOUR SAY: Marriage helps to make society work

YOUR newspaper dropped in our letterbox and I was shocked by the headline Hospital On Sex Website (News Shopper, August 11).

This is meant to be a family newspaper and not some sleazy sex advertiser for the perverted.

Marriage is the thing which makes society work.

This is why we have the holy family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph — to show us man, woman and child is what God asks us to follow.

God gave homosexuals up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the creator.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions.

Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another.

If we promote anything other than marriage then we shall answer on Judgment Day for it.

Please stop advertising lesbian, gay and bisexual clubs.

You are giving our young teenagers the wrong message and promoting perversity.

Just before you mention equality there is no equality today due to everything being biased towards homosexuality.

Let’s now tell the truth and stop lying to all and sundry.

Letter written by Mrs S Fitzsimons, South Park Crescent, Lewisham

What do you think? Add your comments below.

Websters has distanced itself from the letter, issuing the following statement:

It has come to our attention that the star letter featured in this weeks News Shopper (Greenwich & Lewisham edition) has caused offence to readers. Webster’s Pen Shop would like to reiterate that the views expressed in this weeks News shopper does not reflect the opinions of Webster’s Pen Shop or its staff.

Webster’s has no influence on the content that is published, and is simply a corporate sponsor.

Tweets from the @newsshopper account managed by web manager Simon Bull say that the fact that the letter won the weekly prize does not mean that the paper endorses its views.

The paper asks readers to respond to letters by commenting on the website. Bull added in his tweets:

But how far is too far when stimulating debate?

(Thanks to @darryl1974 for sharing links relating to this issue)Similar Posts:



August 12 2010

09:55

Ombudsman Blog: Is it right to ‘unpublish’ online content?

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander gives a fascinating overview of the problems faced by news organisations when readers ask them to “unpublish” content online – particularly archived stories or for legal reasons. It’s from earlier this week, but well worth a read. What’s the best practice for this procedure and is the industry thinking about the issue enough?

I’m not entirely comfortable with policies that cause public information to automatically disappear from a website, even if it involves a misdemeanor. This kind of information, typically found through a Google search, may lack context. But once information is in the public domain, it should live on. It’s part of the historical record and should be accessible.

Full post on the Washington Post’s website at this link…Similar Posts:



July 27 2010

13:21

Ninth murdered journalist makes Honduras the most dangerous place for press

John Perry has an insightful post up on the LRB blog looking at the dangers for members of the press in Honduras following last year’s military coup. Members of Congress in the US have expressed “continuing concern regarding the grievous violations of human rights and the democratic order which commenced with the coup and continue to this day”. Nine journalists have been killed in the country so far this year.

On the night of 14 June, Luis Arturo Mondragón was sitting with his son on the pavement outside his house in the city of El Paraíso in western Honduras. He had often criticised local politicians on his weekly radio programme, the latest edition of which had just been broadcast. He had received several death threats, but disregarded them. At 10 p.m. a car drew up and the driver fired four bullets, killing him instantly. Mondragón was the ninth journalist to be murdered so far this year. Honduras is now officially the most dangerous country in the world in which to work for the press.

Full post at this link…Similar Posts:



July 22 2010

16:39

An Ethical Argument for Transparency in Journalism

In a recent post on my website I examined an ethical argument for transparency. I will continue this internal dialogue with the caveat that I am not a journalism academic. I do not prescribe my beliefs to anyone but myself. This is a disgustingly theoretical post (I promise the next one will be practical up the wahzoo). I should also note the inspiration behind these two posts was a discussion at FOO Camp: Philosophy and Technology - Tim O'Reilly and Damon Horowitz.

The First Chapter

The first post on this topic hinged on the idea that transparency is necessary for public participation in journalism.

This Wikipedia quote puts it bluntly. The argument for transparency then isn't ethical so much as practical. It's a second order argument. The process of journalism must be transparent if we expect people to participate in a meaningful way. This assumes, however, that we want people to participate.

If we can reason that participation in journalism is ethical and transparency is necessary for participation to occur, it follows that there is an ethical argument for transparency.

Which means the next step is to examine the base of this syllogism: There is an ethical argument for participation in journalism.

The Goal of Journalism

What is the purpose or goal of journalism? In philosophy I might pose this as, what is journalism's Telos -- its purpose, aim, end and/or design.

The reason this question (and blog post) is important is that if you look at the current understanding of ethics in journalism you can see that it is more along the lines of a professional code than an ethical debate or analysis. Public accountability is mentioned in many of the existing code of ethics. As is the rightful dissemination of information to the public. But in almost all of these cannons of journalism the public is acted upon and is rarely an actor.

When I ask what is the goal of journalism I am not interested in the journalism industry or a journalism company. The goal for both of which would be the same for any industry (protecting itself as an economic good) or company (increasing revenue).

The tagline for my blog is "journalism is a process, not a product," and that continues to be my rallying cry. Too often our ethics, ideas of success and end goals are determined by journalism as a product, industry or company. I am more interested in the process of journalism. What is the end goal for an act of journalism?

Now here I have to posit a question: If an act of journalism is committed but never published, is it an act of journalism?

Many people don't know this, but I used to be a musician. I've actually recorded at least two albums. But I never promoted my work. So if a work of art is not shared, is it art? What is the distinction between art and hobby? Related: If an act of reporting occurs but is not shared, is it journalism? What is the distinction between journalism and journaling?

I ask this question because it gives me the platform to pose a possible end goal of journalism -- to inform. Journalism, which is a tricky thing to define, is the process of collecting, filtering and distributing information that has meaning. One caveat of course is that the information is non-fiction (true and accurate).

If we take away the "distributing" of information we no longer have the process of journalism. It is the final step in the process because it is the final Telos of journalism -- to inform our fellow human beings. Size of the audience aside, journalism is fundamentally a process of education. But when we look at the conversation about journalism, those two words are most often coupled around journalism education (journalism schools) and rarely about how the two endeavors are intimately tied.

Informing is Participatory


So the goal of journalism is to inform people about events in the world. This is fundamentally a social act and would remain the goal of journalism if we lived in a democracy, republic or any other kind of society.

Historically speaking, the "participation" of journalism consumers was to consume. That is a form of participation, but not necessarily the kind that I wan to justify. If it were, this blog post could have been much shorter: "We can justify transparency in journalism because people need to be able to read it!"

The kind of participation that I want to argue for is more engaging. Members of the public are not participating by the sheer act of be informed, but they are self-informing. It's the difference between roads that make public transportation possible and roads that make all forms of transportation possible.

Why Individual Participation is Ethical

And herein lies the base of this whole thought process. It comes down to the individual. It is the individual, as part of a collective, that journalism seeks to inform. The individual should be actively participating in the dissemination of information for several reasons:

1. On a utilitarian level, they will become more informed and help inform more people. If the good of journalism is to inform, then letting more people participate will inform more people. Similarly, the mission of roads is to enable travel/transportation, not to safeguard public transportation. (There could be unintended consequences, of source, such as pollution.) The mission of journalism is to inform, not to safeguard journalism companies. A network has infinity more connections and that requires active participation and self-informed informants.

2. They have a moral right as an individual to participate to the extent that they do not hinder others from participating. (See individualism).

Anti-climactic?

So, to review:

  • Transparency is required for well-informed participation to happen.
  • Participation is needed because....
  • Journalism's end goal is to inform other people.
  • More people participating in the process of journalism means more people being informed.
  • Combine this with individual rights and ...

The journalism industry has a moral obligation to make the practices and processes of journalism more transparent so that the larger citizenry can participate.

Behind the lack of climax

Perhaps I could have shortened this blog post. I made every attempt to go step-by-step and lay out my line or reasoning.

Why?

Too often our discussion of participatory journalism, citizen journalism, etc takes an industry or company view. Either citizen journalism is good or bad because of its relationship to a bottom line.

Slighter better arguments are that participatory journalism is good/bad because of its quality (or lack of).

What I'm suggesting is that participation in the media is a net positive because of its intrinsic value.

July 16 2010

14:00

This Week in Review: Paying for obits online, ESPN’s news-ad fusion, and the great replacement debate

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

Should papers charge for obits on the web?: We’ve written a whole bunch about Steve Brill’s paid-online-news venture Journalism Online around these parts, and the company’s first Press+ system went live on a newspaper site this week, with Pennsylvania’s LancasterOnline obits section going to a metered pay model for out-of-town visitors. PaidContent has a good summary of how the arrangement works: Out-of-towners get to view seven obits a month, after which point they’re asked to pay $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year for more access. Obits make up only 6 percent of the site’s pageviews, but the paper’s editor is estimating $50,000 to $150,000 in revenue from the paywall.

Poynter’s Bill Mitchell offered a detailed look at the numbers behind the decision and said the plan has several characteristics in its favor: It has valuable content that’s tough to find elsewhere, flexible payment, and doesn’t alienate core (local) readers. (He did note, though, that the paper isn’t providing anything new of value.) Most other media watchers on the web weren’t so impressed. MinnPost’s David Brauer was skeptical of Lancaster’s revenue projections, but noted that obits are a big deal for small-town papers. Lost Remote’s David Weinfeld was dubious of the estimates, too, wondering how many out-of-towners would actually be willing to pay to read obit after obit. GrowthSpur’s Mark Potts’ denouncement of the plan is the most sweeping: “Every assumption it’s based on — from projected audience to the percentage of readers that might be willing to pay — is flawed.”

TBD’s Steve Buttry posted his own critique of the plan, centering on the fact that the paper is double-dipping by charging people to both read and publish obits. The paper’s editor, Ernie Schreiber, fired back with a rebuttal (the experiment is intended to help define their online audience, he said, and no, they’re not double-dipping any more than charging for an ad and a subscription), and Buttry responded with a point-by-point counter. Finally, Buttry came up with the most constructive part of the discussion: A proposal for newspapers on how to handle obituaries, with seven different free and paid obit options for newspapers to offer families. Jeff Sonderman offered a different type of proposal, arguing that obituaries should be free to place and read, because if they aren’t, they’re about to be Craigslisted.

Meanwhile, MinnPost’s Brauer discovered that all you need to bypass the paywall is FireFox’s NoScript add-on, and Schreiber added a few more work-arounds while responding that he’s not worried, because the tech-geek and obit-junkie crowds don’t have a whole lot of overlap. Reuters’ Felix Salmon backed Schreiber up, arguing that a loose paywall is much better than a firm one that unwittingly harasses loyal customers.

A new degree of news-advertising mixture: We may have caught a glimpse into one less-than-savory aspect of the future of journalism late last week through the sports media world, when ESPN aired “The Decision.” Here’s what happened, for the sports-averse: 25-year-old NBA superstar LeBron James was set to make his much-anticipated free agency decision this summer, and ESPN agreed to air James’ announcement of which team he’d play for last Thursday night on a one-hour special. The arrangement originated from freelance sportscaster Jim Gray and James’ marketing company, which dictated the site of the special, James’ interviewer (Gray, naturally), and a deal in which the show’s advertising proceeds (all lined up by James’ company) would go toward James’ designated charity, the Boys and Girls Club. ESPN insisted that it would otherwise have full editorial control.

The show — and particularly the manner in which it was set up — received universally scathing reviews from sports media watchers: Sports Illustrated media critic Richard Deitsch called it “the worst thing ESPN has ever put its name to,” legendary sportswriter Buzz Bissinger said ESPN’s ethical conflict was so big it can never be fully trusted as a news source, Baltimore Sun TV critic David Zurawik fumed that “never in the history of sports has the media behaved in a such a whored-out, dazed, confused and crass a manner,” and L.A. Times media critic James Rainey accused ESPN of playing up both sides of a spectacle it created.

The ethical conflict seemed even worse when there was a report that Gray, the interviewer, was paid by James, rather than ESPN (as it turned out, ESPN covered his expenses, but other than that he says he wasn’t paid at all). But the true details, as revealed by Advertising Age, were almost as shocking: ESPN had previously hoped to arrange a special program before its sports awards show, the ESPYs, with James handing out the first award just after his announcement.

Ad Age’s phenomenal article hammered home another important point for those concerned about the future of news: This program represented a new level of integration between advertising and news, and even a new breed of advertiser-driven news programming. Ad Age detailed the remarkable amount of exposure that the program’s advertisers received, and included superagent Ari Emanuel, the man who orchestrated the arrangement, boasting that “we’re getting closer to pushing the needle on advertiser-content programming.” In his typically overheated style, Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi called the show “the prototype for all future news coverage,” in which a few dominant news organizations create their own versions of reality in a race for advertising money, while a few scattered web denizens try to ferret out the real story.

Replacing the newspaper, or complementing it?: This week, the University of Missouri School of Journalism publicized a study that its scholars published this spring comparing citizen-driven news sites and blogs with daily newspaper websites. The takeaway claim from Mizzou’s press release — and, in turn, Editor & Publisher’s blurb — was that citizen journalism sites aren’t replacing the work that was being done by downsizing traditional news organizations. Not surprisingly, that drew a few people’s criticism: Ars Technica’s John Timmer said the study provides evidence not so much that citizen-driven sites are doing poorly, but that legacy media sites are embracing many of the web’s best practices. He and TBD’s Jeff Sonderman also pointed out that if one startup news site is lacking in an area, web users are smart enough to just find another one. The question isn’t whether a citizen journalism site can replace a newspaper site, Sonderman said, it’s whether a whole amateur system, with its capacity for growth and specialization, can complement or replace the one newspaper site in town.

TBD’s Steve Buttry (who must have had a lot of free time this week) delivered a point-by-point critique of the study, making a couple of salient points: It ignores the recent spate of professional online-only news organizations and vastly over-represents traditional news sites’ relative numbers, and, of course, the long-argued point that the question of whether one type of journalism can replace another is silly and pointless. One of the Mizzou scholars responded to Buttry, which he quotes at the end of his post, that the researchers had no old-media agenda.

After hearing about all of that debate, it’s kind of strange to read the study itself, because it doesn’t actually include any firm conclusions about the ability of citizen-led sites to replace newspapers. In its discussion section, the study does make a passing reference to “the inability of citizen news sites to become substitutes for daily newspaper sites” and briefly states that those sites would be better substitutes for weekly papers, but the overall conclusion of the study is that citizen sites work better as complements to traditional media, filling in hyperlocal news and opinion that newspapers have abandoned. That’s quite similar to the main point that Buttry and Sonderman are making. The study’s guiding question may be deeply flawed, as those two note, but its endpoint isn’t nearly as inflammatory as it was publicized to be.

Looking at a BBC for the U.S.: A few folks went another round in the government-subsidy-for-news debate this week when Columbia University president Lee Bollinger wrote an op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal advocating for a stronger public-media system in the U.S., one that could go toe-to-toe with the BBC. Bollinger argued that we’re already trusting journalists to write independent accounts of corporate scandals like the BP oil spill while their news organizations take millions of dollars in advertising from those companies, so why would journalism’s ethical standards change once the government is involved?

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson agreed that government-funded journalism doesn’t have to be a terrifying prospect, but several others online took issue with that stance: CUNY j-prof Jeff Jarvis said we need to teach journalists to build self-sustaining businesses instead, and two British j-profs, George Brock and Roy Greenslade, both argued that Bollinger needs to wake up and see the non-institutional journalistic ecosystem that’s springing up to complement crumbling traditional media institutions. But the people who do want an American BBC are in luck, because the site launched this week.

Reading roundup: A few cool things to think on this weekend:

— Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review has a long story on what is a safe bet to be one of the two or three most talked about issues in the industry over the next year: How to bring in revenue from mobile media.

— French media consultant Frederic Filloux asks what he rightly calls “an unpleasant question”: Do American newspapers have too many journalists? It’s not a popular argument, but he has some statistics worth thinking about.

— Adam Rifkin has a well-written post that’s been making the rounds lately about why Google doesn’t do social well: It’s about getting in, getting out and getting things done, while social media’s about sucking you in.

— The New York Times and the Lab have profiles of two startups, Techmeme and Spotery, that are living examples of the growing role of human-powered editing alongside algorithmic authority. And Judy Sims urges newspapers to embrace the social nature of life (and news) online.

— Finally, news you can use: A great Poynter feature on ways news organizations can use Tumblr, from someone who used it very well: Mark Coatney, formerly of Newsweek, now of Tumblr.

July 06 2010

14:03

Twitter and breaking news – a match made in heaven, or hell?

A post by Herman Manson on Memeburn.com looks at the difficulties of juggling the need for immediacy online with well researched and accurate journalism.

People in the news business love breaking news. This is why we are arming more and more journalists with the equipment to live tweet and blog major news events. And it is entirely true that newspapers and news sites lag Twitter in breaking news. That is because it takes time to write anything longer than 140 characters, to get it fact-checked, and then, to publish/broadcast it to a wider world.

He focuses on the issue of what to do when an incorrect tweet gets blurted out into the cyberworld, and the danger of the ‘retweet’.

With Twitter able to deliver news quickly and to a potentially huge audience due to its viral nature, already-pressured newsrooms are under increasing pressure to get content out, and to get it out fast.

But few are asking what this is doing to journalistic ethics. For example, can media organisations and journalists delete inaccurate tweets that were posted without revealing they did so?

With journalists under pressure to be first online, Manson says he also worries quality journalism could be at risk, as reporters try to cut “thought-provoking voices into 140 character sound bytes, typed on the go”.

Read the full post here…Similar Posts:



July 05 2010

11:17

Malaysian authorities suspend opposition paper

According to a release by the Canadian Press, the Malaysian government has suspended a newspaper run by their opposition, the People’s Justice Party.

Authorities allege the Suara Keadilan, or Voice of Justice, was printing false news that incited public unrest, adding to concerns that the government is “stifling criticism”.

The paper was due to have its licence renewed last week, but this was declined by the Home Ministry after an article was published claiming the state-run land development agency was in financial trouble.

The paper’s editor reportedly plans to appeal the suspension.

We want people to think. It seems that the government wants everyone to accept everything. They don’t want alternative views … The government is under tremendous pressure right now because people demand to know the truth.

This comes after officials banned three political cartoons criticising the government last week, citing them as a security threat.

Read the full report here…Similar Posts:



July 02 2010

16:20

You did WHAT?!?

Facebook reveals many things about your acquaintances – it’s a fun way to socialize and remember old friends and play catch-up. But I saw a posting today that I honestly cannot believe.

A former co-worker at KOVR (CBS affiliate in Sacramento) posted:

“So is it bad that I covered an accident involving a big rig over turned loaded with onions, and then brought back giant sacks of onions to the news room? The purple ones AND the white ones.”

In the words of my (former) students – WTF?

What was he thinking – or was he even thinking? That is an accident…basically a crime scene and he is scavenging. Of course if the corporate boss or even CHP asked him to help clean up the mess by doing that – I can almost understand. Almost. But in all my years in news I never even THOUGHT about what he did.

And he might reply, “but, hey, you took stuff” and my response would be, “yeah…a gift offered. A bottle of wine, a meal sitting with a family we’d been working with all day. Produce from a farmers’ group (shared with the newsroom).” And or course, each of these “gifts” could be questioned…but they were offered, not just taken.

Sound off folks. Was he right or wrong? Let me know.

(What bothers me – ten of the eleven or so responses to his posting thought it was okay.)


12:10

‘The state of the journalistic art’: In defence of Rolling Stone’s Gen. McChrystal reporter

The furore following Rolling Stone’s General McChrystal feature doesn’t look like calming down any time soon.

Eric Alterman, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress has put together a great post calling into question some of the criticisms of RS reporter Michael Hastings.

Reporter after reporter has complained that by accurately reporting what McChyrstal and his aides said in explicitly on-the-record conversations to a reporter with a tape recorder and/or notepad in his hand, Hastings has violated the tenets of professional journalism.

One comment he refers to was from David Brooks, opinion columnist for the New York Times, who called Hastings a product of the “culture of exposure”:

But McChrystal, like everyone else, kvetched. And having apparently missed the last 50 years of cultural history, he did so on the record, in front of a reporter. And this reporter, being a product of the culture of exposure, made the kvetching the center of his magazine profile.

By putting the kvetching in the magazine, the reporter essentially took run-of-the-mill complaining and turned it into a direct challenge to presidential authority. He took a successful general and made it impossible for President Obama to retain him.

But in Alterman’s view, the feature was the epitome of quality journalism.

(…) an almost picture-perfect example of skillful interviewing, smooth narrative writing, extremely exhaustive research, and finally (and perhaps rarest) thoughtful contextualizing of extremely complicated material. I recommend it to all journalism professors as an example of the state of the journalistic art.

Read the full post here…Similar Posts:



July 01 2010

11:46

Cumbria local media praised for care and diligence absent from the nationals

A Cumbrian MP has praised the work of local media covering the horrific shootings in Whitehaven, according to a report by the Newspaper Society.

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland, said journalists reported with “care and diligence”.

He refers specifically to the work of the Whitehaven News, News & Star, North West Evening Mail, Border television, BBC Radio Cumbria and ‘Look North’.

Like the News & Star, the Whitehaven News understands the role that it plays in my community and how it can help the community’s healing process – not the families’ healing process, perhaps, but certainly the community’s.

The media local to the tragedy – the Whitehaven News, the News & Star, the North West Evening Mail, Border television, BBC Radio Cumbria and ‘Look North’ – reported the tragedy with a care and diligence entirely different from that of the national media.

Local newspapers have been previously recognised for networked reporting of the events.

See the full report here…Similar Posts:



June 25 2010

16:43
Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl