Archive | March, 2012

Case Study9: Ethics in the Newsroom

30 Mar

I agree with public editor Timothy J. McNulty when he says, “We walk fine lines in reporting and editing, especially when there are conflicting and reasonable arguments.”  As journalists we must always be aware of the way we write and report our stories, making sure that it’s free of any personal opinion or bias.  In regards to the story about the grandfather, I think there would just have to be a judgement call made by the editor of each paper.  Although personally I believe that the unborn child should be considered a murder victim along with the rest of the family, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to reflect that in the article, since some people would not feel the same.  I think the most appropriate thing to do in this situation would be to reword the headline, so that it includes the family of three and the unborn child as well.  For example, I may use a headline like “Man Charged With Killing Pregnant Daughter and Family in Fire.”  Or, if there isn’t enough room for that I may shorten it.  The point would be to not give a number of deaths, but rather make it known that the woman was five months pregnant at the time of the killings.  I think this is the most unbiased way to write the headline, so that neither side is offended.  Although the style book says not to refer to unborn babies as people, this is clearly an ethical dilemma, one that is sure to strike up a debate as it did with this story.  Even more conflicting is the court acknowledging the unborn baby’s death as a homicide.  So, just to play it safe for the sake of everyone, I would not acknowledge either side, but instead let the readers decide for themselves.


Week11: Print and Online Journalism Merge

28 Mar

As digital media continues to grow in popularity, publishers and print news organizations are scrambling to keep up with the industry.  More and more companies are realizing the importance of an online presence and are taking the steps necessary to develop that presence.  Some are more successful than others, but the important thing to note is that everyone is aware of the digital monster that isn’t going away.  Companies that have taken advantage of the Internet for the benefit of reaching a wider audience are seeing tremendous results.  Print media is going digital, and it’s reshaping the way we gather and report the news.

Publications like Sports Illustrated have fully embraced the idea of digital media and have implemented it into every aspect of production.  SI has emerged as a leader among magazine publications because it doesn’t think of itself as a magazine, but as a sports media company. “We don’t compete with magazines, we compete with networks,” said Terry McDonell, editor of the Time Inc. Sports Group.  SI has several different ways of reaching its audience through digital media.  It provides apps for the iPad, HP TouchPad, two Android tablets, the Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom.  Although the devices are different sizes, they run apps at the same ratio, so there’s no need to format separate versions. Nearly all of SI staff writers produce content for both the web and print.  The web stories are basically just shorter versions of the print stories, but still each story is given a web version.  As a result, Sports Illustrated‘s brand and voice are consistently strong across all platforms.

Other publications are implementing new and innovative ways to increase readership, including interactive reporting.  A Canadian online news company called OpenFile has been experimenting with an idea termed “open a file” where members of the community are able to submit questions or suggestions for stories they feel are relevant.  If the idea looks promising, then others are allowed to comment and give feedback, and OpenFile assigns a reporter to cover the topic.   The coverage and subsequent community response unfolds on the site for all to see, sometimes resulting in “files” with multiple layers: photo slide shows and video accompanying the text article, and, for some stories, extensive community input in the story’s forum.  Although this is a great way to find out what readers are interested in, there is a downside to being so transparent.   “We’ve run stories and then seen them on the front page of a newspaper that next day,” said Kathy Vey, editor in chief of OpenFile. Even so, the concept has had tremendous success and everyone has an opportunity to be heard.

We as a society will continue to digitialize every aspect of our lives, and print journalism is no exception.  As writer for Lindsay Oberst wrote, “People no longer seek out news. Instead, it often comes to them through social networks.”  As fewer people turn to daily newspapers for news, we as journalists must find ways to reach a wider audience.  Digital media is the key.

My Storify assignment:

One Storify story that I think was really well done was the one given to us as an example about the London riots.  Anthony De Rosa is the creator of the Storify, and I think he did an excellent job of blending together various accounts of the riots into one single story.  He incorporates other tweets from different sources as well as links to actual reports of the riots from media outlets.  The information is thorough and his Storify really captures what was going on at the time, from the perspective of a wide range of people.

Case Study8: Afghans Express Confidence in Country’s Direction

28 Mar

Although both of these stories are well written and full of details, I liked the USA Today story better.  I think its writer did a better job of giving the facts and statistics of the survey while keeping any opinion out of it.  The Times piece showed a bit more of the writer’s influence and voice.  I also liked the way that the Today writer bulleted all of the statistics.  I felt like the story was more balanced and easier to read, and that the writer was just giving the facts, allowing readers to interpret them how they may.

Poll: Afghans express confidence in country’s direction, security

Despite a raging pro-Taliban insurgency, the people of Afghanistan say they are optimistic about the future, satisfied with their young democracy and rank security low on their list of every day concerns, according to a survey out today.

In what it is billing as the widest opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan, the non-profit, San Francisco-based Asia Foundation surveyed 6,226 Afghans 18 and older in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces over the summer.

The poll found that:

•Afghans were more than twice as likely (44 percent to 21 percent) to think their country was headed in the right direction, rather than the wrong direction; 29 percent had mixed feelings. Still, the optimists were down from 64 percent in a smaller Asia Foundation survey conducted in 2004.

•77 percent said they were satisfied with the way democracy is working in Afghanistan.

•Only 6 percent ranked security as the biggest problem in their area, behind unemployment (18), electricity shortages (12), poverty (10), a weak economy (10) and scarce water supplies (9). Sixty percent said they rarely or never worried about their own safety. However, 22 percent said security was the biggest problem facing the nation.

•54 percent said they were more prosperous now than they were under the Taliban, which governed Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001; 26 percent felt less prosperous.

  • 86 percent supported equal rights for women.

•42 percent said corruption was a major problem in their daily lives, and 77 percent called it a major national problem.

•Afghans had contradictory attitudes toward political tolerance: 85 percent said the government should allow peaceful opposition, but 64 percent said they would not allow political parties they personally opposed to meet in their areas.

•87 percent said they trusted the Afghan National Army, and 86 percent said they trusted the Afghan National Police. The police, in particular, have been widely criticized for being corrupt, brutal and beholden to local warlords.

“I have never met one person, including the minister of the Interior, who trusted the Afghan National Police,” Barnett Rubin, who studies Afghanistan at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said in an email. “I think this is not a very reliable survey.”

George Varughese, who directed the poll for the Asia Foundation, agrees that some of the results “appear to challenge the current wisdom on issues in Afghanistan,” but says, “We feel it is a solid, important piece of work, completed during a difficult time.”

Week9: Twitter Evolving Into Leading News Source

21 Mar

As journalism continues to change and evolve, we as journalists must be able to adapt to these change with ease and grace.  Not conforming is not an option.  If you want to stay in the game, or more importantly ahead of the game, then your best bet is to accept the fact that old school journalism is gone forever.  The paid journalist is no longer the  only one reporting the news.  With social media outlets becoming increasingly popular, Twitter in particular, anyone who has a computer or a smart phone can deliver the news to a wide audience.  As professor Jay Rosen reiterated during a recent address to journalism students in Paris: the “people formerly known as the audience” have the tools to become part of the media now, and that is changing our society in ways that we are only beginning to appreciate.

With each passing year, Twitter has become more important to the journalism profession.  Whereas it used to be viewed upon as just another social media network, it has now evolved into a platform for the latest breaking news.  Often times a news story will break on Twitter before any mainstream media has picked it up — the reason being that now anyone has the capability to report the news.  According to Mathew Ingram of Gigaom, earlier this year researchers looked at the flow of content on Twitter and found that it is far more of a news medium than a traditional social network. For example, news about the shootout at the Discovery Channel building in Maryland broke on Twitter before any mainstream news outlet caught wind.  Through the use of Twitter, witnesses were able to alert the public to what was taking place, whereas, before Twitter, the public would have to wait for a news outlet to broadcast the story.  This is a revolutionary breakthrough in our profession, and journalists are beginning to use this aspect of Twitter to their advantage.

The Poynter website has a great compilation of ways that journalists can take advantage of Twitter in reporting their stories.  It includes ways of networking yourself and your stories so that they reach a wider audience, as well as new ideas on how to obtain more followers.  One aspect that I love about Twitter is that it can sometimes give you a “behind the scenes” look at what goes on with the reporting process, or any process for that matter.  The example given on Poynter is how traffic reporter Jenni Hogan uses Twitter to generate interest in her work.  “If I am watching an accident on  our chopper feed and it’s hard to look  at, I’ll tweet that. If I get  starstruck by someone who is in our  studio, I’ll let my followers know.  It’s more of a behind-the-scenes,” Hogan said. “If I’m covering a  story, then they’re going to get information on  that story, but it’ll  be through my eyes and emotions.” When people react to the information, she replies to them.  This allows her to connect with her audience.

We as journalists are only just beginning to reap the benefits that a social media network such as Twitter offers.  New add-ons like Twitter Lists make it even easier for us to curate and organize the flow of information.  I am excited to see where this new revolution of journalism takes us.

Hashtag for Twitter story: #editingassignment

Case Study7.1: BBC vs. RTE

19 Mar

The BBC and the RTE publications used two very different approaches to covering the story on the deadly grenade attack.  RTE seemed to be playing it safe, only reporting the facts and not speculating about anything.  Its story was straight forward and did not include any witness testimony or outside reports.  It simply told what was known to be true at the time.  BBC’s report, however, included several eye-witness reports and outside media sources in its story.  Its account of the attack is much more detailed.  Although it lists sources for everything, there is no way to be sure that these people’s accounts of what happened are accurate.  I would instead rely on police reports or video footage to tell the story of what took place, rather than relying on eye-witnesses accounts, which could be inaccurate.

The main difference between the two publications is that BBC has a comment section where anyone can give his or her account of what took place during the attack.  BBC uses these comments as credible sources of information.  This opens the door for people to say anything, true or not.  BBC would have no way of knowing who is being truthful, and posting these comments without knowing for sure is a breach of journalism ethics, in my opinion.

Case Study7: Couple’s Emotional Breakup Made Public Through Twitter

19 Mar

I do not think that Andy Boyle’s tweeting of a random couple’s public breakup is newsworthy, nor do I consider it to be any type of journalism.  While it may be somewhat entertaining, it does not have any of the elements required to justifiably label it as real news.  To me, it is more of an example of how our society is shifting.  People’s idea of privacy, along with their ethical beliefs, have changed.  Ten years ago, this couple’s conversation would not have been overheard by anyone other than the people in Burger King that day.  Even if the technology was available to publicize the breakup via Twitter, I’m not sure if anyone would find it morally acceptable to do so.  The respect for privacy has changed.  Instead of Boyle viewing this conversation as personal to the two involved, he decided that since they were in a public place, he had every right to publish their words.  Of course he was legally allowed to do so, but some may argue a breach of ethics.

What I have a problem with is the fact that Boyle posted the couple’s picture along with the tweets.  Although not illegal, I don’t feel that he had any right to identify the couple, since their conversation was so personal and could be considered embarrassing.  This is where ethics come in.  I would have respected their right to privacy and not published anything that could identify either one of them.  Even though they gave up their right to privacy by arguing in a very public place, I still don’t find it acceptable to identify them.  I don’t know for sure, but I would have to guess that this couple would not have consented to having their entire conversation along with their picture published.  Therefore, the lack of consent, in addition to the lack of newsworthiness, eliminates these tweets from falling under any category of real journalism.

Poligraft a Useful Tool for Journalists

14 Mar

The Poligraft website could be very useful for journalists or bloggers when writing political news articles because it allows for the writer to bypass much of the fact checking and research.  Poligraft provides reliable information on candidates, politicians, their contributors and everything related.  This enables a journalist to plug a story into the website and receive detailed feedback about the story.  Poligraft also rates politicians and their claims with a truth meter, with “pants on fire” being the lowest rating.

The story that I chose to run through Poligraft was headlined “Obama Says Accusations of Waging War on Religion are ‘Puzzling.'”  The article talks about the attacks made on Obama by conservatives that say he has waged a war on religion, in part because of the administration asking religious organizations to provide contraception, which is something the Catholic church morally opposes.  Obama dismisses these claims, saying that his first real job out of college was working with churches in Chicago where he spread the “social gospel.”

The citations listed by Poligraft were:

  • Rick Perry
  • World Health Organization
  • Roman Catholic Church
  • Rick Santorum
  • Sarah Palin