Ethics for Anyone Who Commits Acts of Journalism

Right now there are three major efforts under way to rethink journalism ethics for our changed media landscape. The Online News Association and the Society for Professional Journalists have both launched ethics discussions with their members, and the Poynter Institute recently published a major book on “The New Ethics of Journalism.”

Poynter is using the occasion of the book to jump-start a broader conversation about truth and trust in the 21st century, the first event of which happened this week in New York City. Sponsored by PBS MediaShift, craigconnects, the Ford FoundationAmerican University’s School of Communication and NewsCred, the event featured a panel of journalists and academics from the New York Times, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, NYU, AP, and the Seattle Times. There were some great discussions on sponsored content, the nature of truth versus facts, and the intersection of reporting, opinion and activism. But I won’t get into those here. Instead, I want to talk about the one theme that seemed to undergird the entire evening: journalism’s relationship with its community.

One of the most important points of the evening was made by Mark Glaser of PBS MediaShift in his opening remarks. He said, “These are not ethics for journalists, but ethics for anyone who commits acts of journalism.” And indeed, Kelly McBride and Tom Rosenstiel, the editors of the new Poynter book, have worked hard to think about an ethical framework that can be relevant and meaningful to the wide array of people who are participating in journalism today.

Rosenstiel echoed this point later in the evening when he argued that today ethics has to be embedded in every piece of journalism, not just a set of values ascribed to by a newsroom or organization. The way content spreads online means that journalism is often disconnected from its source so we can’t rely on brands to establish trust with the reader. Audiences need to see, within the journalism itself, why this piece is worthy of trust and how it reflects ethical reporting. This is why Rosenstiel and McBride put more emphasis in their new book on transparency over independence, a decision which itself has sparked some useful debate. Continue reading

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A Crash Course in Verification and Misinformation in the Wake of the Boston Bombing

Over the last two weeks I set out to read every article written about errors, misinformation, verification and accuracy in the wake of the Boston bombing media coverage.  What follows are a few thoughts and almost 40 links, organized thematically, to some of the best articles on these themes.

conflictingreportsThis is the first of a few posts as I analyze and extract key take-aways and concrete lessons from the collection of articles. As a starting point, for those who want to study media coverage of the Boston bombing as a case study of breaking news verification and errors, below is a round-up of some of the best articles. There are (many) others, and some good ones I have no doubt missed (add them to the comments section).

I don’t agree with all of these viewpoints, but together they present a well-rounded debate about these issues.

Guidelines and How To Posts:

Some of the best posts were the most concrete, editors, journalists and citizens discussing their best practices and guidelines for responsible reporting and careful verification. There is a lot of good advice contained in these posts. (For more concrete advice see my ongoing round-up of tools and resources for verifying social media content) Continue reading

Media Consolidation Won’t Save Journalism

The Federal Communications Commission is pushing a plan to gut its 30-year-old newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership ban. This proposal would allow one company to own a local paper, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in a single market. Advocates of more media consolidation argue that allowing TV stations and newspapers to merge is critical to cutting costs and saving local journalism.

This is the same argument the Bush FCC used to try to push through the same bad rules in 2007. Back then, the Senate voted the rules down and the courts later threw them out. It’s time to put this argument to bed for good: More media consolidation won’t save journalism. Continue reading

Three Ideas: Testing Legislation, Newsroom Archives, and Technology Playgrounds

I took advantage of my holiday time off to catch up on my Instapaper read later list. As I read I try to tweet out the best articles, or key ideas I’m grappling with, but some pieces demand more than a tweet (but less than a full blog post). Here are three articles whose ideas I’m still mulling over and that I think deserve more attention.

Washington Post – Stop guessing whether a bill will work. Instead, test it.
Political reporter Dylan Matthews proposes a federal agency dedicated to running experiments on public policy proposals before legislation is adopted. The idea here is to test what will and won’t work in the real world and bring that research to bear on political debates. While I like Matthews’ idea of testing legislation, I also wonder how this might be built into solutions journalism that would be dedicated to helping us address wiked problems. This idea also seems like a powerful way to counteract the trend of hindsight journalism. It may not be an either/or, I’d like to see both governments and news organizations taking up some of these ideas and challenges and adopting a model of creating legislation that looks a bit more like agile development and participatory community planning.

Reporters’ Lab – Creating a newsroom ‘answer machine’
I’ve long been deeply interested in how news organizations can better leverage their archives to help serve the public, add context to current events, and drive new traffic to their site. Tyler Dukes’ proposal for using news organizations’ archives to help create a newsroom “answer machine” is superb, while not without its challenges. He focuses on how this type of project could help improve reporting but I can see wonderful applications of this kind of app in politics and education as well. For another great project focused on better using media archives be sure to check out the recently launched Pop Up Radio Archive.

Designing for Diversity – Designing Creative Technology Playgrounds for Families
I have been thinking about the role of play in my own work as well as in the lives of my two sons. My life has been animated by a healthy tension between my fascination with technology and my affinity for wilderness and the outdoors. Where these two passions intersect is in the realm of play and exploration. Whether it was dismantling kitchen appliances and putting them back together or building wilderness shelters and treehouses, I loved to make things and engage actively in the world – both natural and manmade. I want to nurture that same passion in my sons, regardless of what their interests are – music or machines, art or airplanes, trees or technology – I hope they’ll approach it all with playfulness and a sense of wonder. This post, a summary of a discussion at MozFest in London, touches on some of those themes.

Building a Stronger Foundation for Press Freedom and Accountability Journalism in a Digital Age

Today I’m part of an incredible team launching a new project focused on strengthening nonprofit news and accountability journalism.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation is unique in its scope, its substance and its style. The Foundation is rooted in the idea that, while the structures of journalism are changing, the critical role of journalism in our democracy is not. It will fund critical and cutting edge work by nonprofit journalism organizations, transparency and watchdog groups and independent journalists.

This project builds on some of the key threads I’ve been working on and writing about for years and addresses three key problems head on: Continue reading

Has Your Local News Been Outsourced? 10 Tools to Identify and Support Truly Local Journalism

Who produces the local news you read, see and hear? Has it been outsourced to people in another state, or maybe even another country? How can you tell?

On this week’s episode of This American Life, Ira Glass and the team explore what happens when U.S. media corporations outsource local journalism to workers around the world. Most troubling, perhaps, is the way these companies are trying to hide what they are doing. Can someone sitting at a computer in the Philippines really cover the South Side of Chicago, and do Chicago residents have a right to know who is writing these stories?

Similarly Free Press has tracked and revealed how more than 100 local TV stations have outsourced their local journalism to their competitors, so that in some cities only one newsroom is producing the news for three stations. And just last week Steve Myers at Poynter reflected on what makes a paper local in light of cuts backs and consolidation at Advance Publications papers in Alabama and New Orleans.

We are at a moment where these companies are radically changing how the news is made. However, we are also seeing new hyperlocal and nonprofit news organizations emerging, public radio and TV are investing in local journalism and some newspapers are remaining fiercely local and committed to public service journalism.

The question is, how do you tell the difference between something that’s produced locally and something that’s been outsourced? Here are 10 resources that will help you identify and support truly local journalism. Continue reading

Three Resources for Newsrooms Measuring Community Engagement

The recent history of journalism in America is full of tectonic shifts, brought on by changes in technology and society. For too long, many of those changes happened outside of newsrooms, but increasingly we are seeing fundamental cultural shifts in news organizations that are changing how, and to sometimes why, journalism is done.

One of those shifts has been the emphasis on community engagement. The media landscape is shifting and becoming more participatory, and our communities want to do more than just read the news. They want to be co-creators, collaborators, distributors and they want to put the news to work, to improve their lives and communities. At the same time, financial challenges have forced news organizations to build new networks of support with their audience and community.

While newsrooms have invested in various forms of community engagement – from mobilizing local bloggers into coordinated networks, to robust social media strategies and community events – there is still a lot we don’t know about how to assess and measure the impact of community engagement. Continue reading