Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome to ethical turmoil... I hope this makes sense.

Empathy and objectivity-- two principles that constantly contradict one another. Yet, journalists are expected to embody both elements in their practices. Is it possible? Gah. Ethics make me shudder sometimes. It is a balance that causes strife in my mind and tells me I could never be a hard-news reporter. I am too emotionally involved with people. Though I am fascinated by people and would want to "give voice to the voiceless," it would be extremely challenging, to say the least, to not help someone in a dire situation-- like the real-life circumstances presented in Welcome to Sarajevo.

Though I know it's expected and kind of cliche to root for the protagonist of a film, I didn't care about this when I rooted for Michael Henderson. Because he's a real person. He was a real-life protagonist. First of all, I more than admire any journalist who takes on the role of a war correspondent and becomes an embedded journalist. "Courageous" seems an inadequate word. Henderson and the journalists were not just reporting-- they were experiencing the siege of Sarajevo. Though they were expected to be objective as journalists always are (or should be), their situation presented a tremendous challenge to this journalistic ideal. While his fellow reporters remained more objective and seemingly less empathetic, Henderson struggled immensely with the balance of empathy and objectivity. In the end, empathy won.

Is this OK, we ask ourselves. Is it OK that Henderson's news broadcasts were biased toward the plight of the Sarajevan people? He was a reporter and was supposed to report simply the facts. Then again, he was not a heartless robot. He was simply a human with empathy. How far removed would a reporter have to be to walk down a blood-stained street where innocent people have been killed left and right and still remain objective? Is there a place where we can draw some kind of mythical line-- a place where empathy can rule out objectivity? Henderson was criticized for his empathetic actions, but really, in that dire situation, is it really worth it to be objective and "neutral?" Sarajevo was under siege. That's what the public really needed to know. When people were being brutally killed, was objectivity the most important thing?

I'm not trying to deny the importance of objectivity-- not at all. Just like anyone else, I am a skeptic, I believe in honest, balanced reporting, and I despise slanted, money-driven news. But when it comes to a human life, when it comes to the plight of the innocent in a deathly situation, things change. Though I can't say where to draw this elusive "line," I know that we are simply human. And really, we are all just trying to make sense of the world together.

Worth a thousand words?

Source (and interesting comments) here: http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2009/03/19/

Also, a good column from Leonard Pitts on what we'll all lose if we let newspapers die: Don't expect sympathy cards from crooks, corrupt politicians. (Hat tip to Ted Pease, who featured this on WORD of the Day.)

Class schedule change - listen up!

Be advised -- I'm switching the order of upcoming movies.

Tonight we'll watch Welcome to Sarajevo.

Don't forget your popcorn...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Editor's message about changes at the Monitor

Always look on the bright side of life...

Editor's message about changes at the Christian Science Monitor | csmonitor.com

The Christian Science Monitor has published its final daily print edition, dated March 27.

The key words in that sentence are "daily print." As of today, we are shedding print on a daily basis. But the Monitor itself – the century-old journalistic enterprise chronicling the world's challenges and progress – is becoming more daily than ever. And with the launch of our new weekly print edition, the Monitor is becoming more vital than ever.

No longer inked on wood pulp, no longer trucked from printing plants to your mailbox, no longer published only five days a week, the daily Monitor is now a dynamic online newspaper on all days.

MORE: http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0327/p09s01-coop.html

Posted using ShareThis


I think that empathy has to play a part in our stance as journalists. We are known for being heartless pigs. Why add fuel to the fire. There is a balance though. We can't let our emotions run away with us. Otherwise we aren't journalists.
I don't think I have ever been fingered as an empathetic person. As a matter of fact, empathy is something I have struggled with acquiring for years now. I think it is an important thing to have. If we, as journalists, don't have it, we will make a lot more unethical decisions. I also think there is something to be said for a journalist who gets their hands dirty in the job. If you understand a person or an issue better, the better you will be able to cover it. In most cases, the better you understand something, the less time you need to explain it, and as journalists, column space counts.
Get in there. Understand the issue, and report it. Take in to account the human factor. Do everything you can be be honest and just. People will criticize you no matter what. Just do what you think is right, and that's all you can do.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


In class on Tuesday along with Adam I thought of a few things that I thought could be very unethical. I share many of the same opinions that Adam addressed. I also wonder where the line is drawn between justice and entertainment. I find it interesting that the methods that they used to catch the perverts did not hold up, but it made for some great TV. I have heard that there is a crime unit in the Salt Lake police called the Internet Crimes Unit. They do just what Perverted Justice does in catching the offenders. The big difference is that they are Police Officers and act under the authority of the law. They don't make TV out of it and they don't make money, they just catch the bad guy. They work in the shadows and do not receive the recognition that they deserve because they are in it to protect.

Huffington Post to fund investigative reporting

So, everybody's wondering what happens next for American journalism. Is it inevitable that newspapers will die? Will they all die, or only some? And if the big ones go, where will the expensive, real journalism come from -- you know, those stories that Web aggregators depend upon? The good stuff that gives bloggers fodder for commentary?

One of the Web's top blogs, The Huffington Post, plans to pay 10 staffers to coordinate freelance journalists to provide it. Story about that in today's New York Times: Huffington Post launches journalism venture.

Interesting comments on the Politico blog.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Perverted Justice

In class on Tuesday I was really interested with the ethical issues that arose with the perverted justice piece. I believe that the whole situation was full of ethical flaws. Don't get me wrong, I feel that perverts like the guys they caught should be exposed. The nature of the relationship between NBC or ABC (I am not sure which one) and perverted justice just seemed a little shady. Also, what about the guys chatting online pretending to be 13 and 14 children. They were deceitful in the act and I wonder if any law was broken there...or if it is just a gray area. The fact that the crimes were only committed online made for some interesting exploitation to make reality TV out of arrests when no crime was actually being done in the moment. I also found it a waste of time for cops to wait at the house to catch these predators. With warrants they could have gone to each house, arrested the guys and looked for more child pornography, drugs, and other illegal stuff. Seems like a weird deal to me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Print and PR make strange bedfellows...

Hello, dear fellow class members--

I had to miss class on Tuesday, when we discussed our ideas for our final projects. I have an idea for what I want to do, and I'm wondering if anyone would like to team up. I've become very interested in the PR vs. print journalism issue, and I would like to research it and present on it for my project. I want to interview a spectrum of people involved in both fields, and see how they feel about working with one another. Both fields have to work with one another and they ultimately RELY on one another, so why the feud? Why the need for tension because their career goals are different? Why can't they get over their differences and respect eachother's work? These are the things I want to investigate in the project, and of course, much more.

Anyway, if this is of interest to anyone, let me know! Also, people who slack off in group projects need not apply.... :)

And the winner is ...

Most Western media organizations give limited coverage to global issues. I do, however, have to stick up for CNN. Surprise, surprise. While I still get irritated with many of the anchors on the network, what they cover, how often they cover it, and the fights they pick, I think they cover world conflicts better than any other organization. Better. Not well or nearly enough, but better.

I don't think I have ever seen MSNBC cover anything international and FOX is another story. CNN does all right. If there is a story, they cover it and, typically, they have someone on the scene. CNN's international anchors are some of the best in the business – Michael Ware, Christiane Amanpour, and Nic Robertson, to name a few. Anderson Cooper is another anchor that covers international conflicts well. He is everywhere. Not only does he go to the war zones and areas of famine, but he has done amazing work with his series "Planet in Peril." With this, he does in-depth coverage of global warming and how the planet and animals around the world are being influenced by increasing temperatures, pollution, etc. I believe CNN has anchors that are dedicated to their profession and getting stories to viewers at home.

Even better than this, however, is CNN International. When I travel internationally, this is the channel I trust. Not only do they manage to cover events around the world but developments in the United States as well. I feel like I have a decent understanding of international conflicts and events when watching CNN International. Their anchors are professional and have a greater focus on the real issues, unlike U.S.-based networks who still, even today, think Joe the plumber is a story.

Journalism is a human process

I would have to agree with Diane on empathy. While journalists strive for fairness, truth and accuracy, empathy has to be delicately weaved in because journalism is people reporting on people. Journalism is not a process done by machines, people without feelings, and it doesn't just cover events and disasters, but the people they affect who also have feelings.

The media has great power to destroy or uplift any person, and it is a great responsibility. I think sometimes it is easy to forget our purpose behind writing the truth: to educate, and ultimately HELP people. We are supposed to be the people's advocate, but often the big conglomerates are more empathetic to the big wigs than the people who's voices need to be heard. Empathy is all but spelled out in the SPJ code of ethics. Minimize harm by treating sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.

A quote from "Today's Word," explains this:

"Across our industry it is harder to find managers and proprietors who grasp the essence of journalism. It is difficult to reconcile that somehow, with all our communication skills, we fail to convey, even to our own employers, the worth of what we do.” --Chris Masters, Australian author and TV journalist, 2008

I believe an empathetic journalist writes better stories, gets better interviews, and helps more people because an empathetic journalist is one who shows good taste, and ultimately has their goal to serve their readers, and those affected by the readership. I think a great example of this is the Vietnam War, as we discussed in class. The truth was reported, and it hurt many people. However, it ultimately helped change the course of the war, and advocated the opinion of the people. The sensitivity these stories required was tremendous. Is it ethical to show a picture of a foreign child who is a burn victim? Empathetic journalists had a tough decision.

A last word from the SPJ code. I love where it says "pursuit of news is not a license for arrogance." I totally agree. Journalists have great responsibility, but not a birth-given right to exploit what they feel like. On the other hand, I think the public needs to be more understanding of the media (those who cover news anyway) because it is a freakin' hard job. Someone is always mad or offended no matter what. The truth hurts sometimes.

Another quote from "Today's Word" says this beautifully and painfully true:

"The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it." --Lasantha Wickramatunga (1958-2009), outspoken editor, The Sunday Leader, assassinated Jan. 8 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. From his own editorial-obituary written to be published posthumously

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Empathy and the media

I have to admit first off that I am can't remember a lot of the coverage that was given to the subjects which involve empathy like we talked about. I was too young to understand what was going on for most of them, and with the more recent ones, I tend to fall asleep during the nightly news, which is my major source of news. So, I have to admit I am a little behind the times, which is awful for a journalist student to say.
I have seen enough news to know that empathy can be a touchy subject. If we as journalists focus too much on providing the victims or suspects with empathy, then we create a biased opinion and don't report the news as fair and accurate as we could. But, I do feel it is necessary to remember those you are writing about and that they are humans too. They have feelings and a life and a story can quickly ruin their lives and reputation.
Another side of empathy comes when reporters cover topics such as Rwanda, Iraq and other war torn areas. Through good reporting the American people can start to feel empathy for those who are suffering through these unbelievable circumstances. We can't know what is happening clear across the world without the help of journalism and the more informed we are, the better equipped we will be the bring about a positive change.
Journalists have to show the good news, the bad news and the horrible news, however hard it may be. The hardest news to report and show is the news that hits people the hardest and causes people to stop being armchair quarterbacks and become active members of a good cause.

Empathy? Sympathy? What's the Difference?

Setting aside empathy as a journalistic value, I think that empathy is an inherent human value, unless you are a serial killer or something. I know that it's hard to think of journalists as human, but most of us still have hearts and could not sit by the wayside while villages in Vietnam were being bombed with napalm. Journalistic speaking, I think that empathy fits well with the SPJ code of minimizing harm. The code of ethics encourages journalists to show compassion, to be sensitive, and to treat sources with respect.

I read the intro to the book that Nancy passed around class on Tuesday, "Compassion Fatigue," which talks about the way in which news people handle international crisis. Moeller suggests that the media packages international news in a way that sensationalizes those stories to catch our attention, then simplify those stories to images that we will remember. For example the picture of a starving child in Ethiopia, or the woman running down the road with napalm burns, or even as we mentioned in class, the photos taken at Guantanamo. She emphasizes that this simplification of news is attributed to the nature of our society, we have societal ADD, if a story runs longer than 15 minutes we loose interest. Have you ever wondered why YouTube does so well? Its because the short, 1-2 minute videos on the site, cater to this mentality. We want the news, we want it now, and we want it in a nutshell. The photo-driven journalism that has come to dominate our society is a testament to that. So, for a grade to western media on their coverage of international affairs, I would give them a D.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The poor baseball players these days........My main problem with the media

I know, me writing about sports is pretty typical, but whatever, its been on my mind since we started this class. There has been a major issue in major league baseball lately, and it seems to be a huge ethical issue as well. over the past two to three years, there have been an epidemic of accusations of players using steriods in major league baseball. These are not just your average players the media has been calling out, but they are the top names in baseball in the last decade. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriquez, Roger Clemens, just to name a few, and they are all future Hall of Famers, or at least were on route to be until these accusations came out. They may or may not be true, and none have yet been found guilty by the supreme court, and many have been tried already. The problem with all this is, these players are taken from the top of their game and because of a rumor, or some washed up old trainer trying to get famous, their image is now tainted forever! Even if they are found innocent, which Barry Bonds has been, they are still thought of as steriod users and any record or accomlishment they achieve is tainted. The sports media has a field day with steriods, there seems to be a new accusation or rumor floating around every month, and they run with it untill the next one comes out. Very rarely is there any evidence that is worth anything in court, and most these cases never ammount to anything. The sports media has no problem ruining these players lives and tainting their reputation in baseball all for a little story.

It seems to me like our school paper does not support USU athletics

So i know we have the editor of the school paper in this class, and im definitly not comin down on you cause its really not that bad, i just get upset cause im an athlete here. In mondays paper towards the back is a letters to the editor section which takes up the majority of the page and is placed right in the middle. I know this cause it caught my eye and i sure wasn't looking for these letters. There were two, and they were both strongly against voting to raise student athletic fees. They were both rather long and both tried to make many valid points against voting for this. Now i understand that these are letters to the editor, and not written by the paper, but to put two back to back supporting the same thing and nothing talking about the other side of the issue seems like a set up. How can your average student that doesn't know much about this, make a correct desicion if all they read is one side? I'm quite sure that there had to be at least one letter to the editor that supported voting for the raise in student athletic fees, but if not I am sorry. Again i have no problem with using these letters in the paper, but at least have something to represent the other side.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Word on your final projects

About the projects due on the last day of class, here's the FAQ.

Two options:

1 - Write a traditional research paper on a media ethics issue of your own choice. This paper must be 7-10 pages, typed, and use footnotes. It needs to have a bibliography that includes a minimum of 10 sources.

2 - Work as a group of no more than three on a media ethics issue of your choice. The research requirement is the same as for the paper: you need to use at least 10 sources. However, you will each write only the part of the research you worked on. This will be submitted along with the group's conclusions (you'll all work on this part) for your grade.

Research topics need to be proposed to me, in writing, by Tuesday's class (March 24).

Individuals and groups will present their papers / projects on the last day of class. Presentations should be no more than 15 minutes long, plus 5 minutes for answering questions.

Also, you'll post your research on the Media Ethics blog.

Questions? Post them as comments here, please.

Web bullies cause real harm

There's an interesting op-ed column in today's Herald Journal and Deseret News, on the human costs of anonymous cyberbullying.

Mark Franek, a a member of Cabrini College's English department in Radnor, Pa., and former dean of students at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia. writes for the Christian Science Monitor news service this week:

"Increasingly, online words and images are causing dismay and real damage for other people who never wanted to be in the public spotlight, much less one that's accessible 24/7.

Today, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can post defamatory statements to the Web. ... The First Amendment gives people without integrity on the Web tremendous power, too. We need to develop an awareness among Internet users of the importance of acting with honesty and in good faith.

I spent seven years as a dean of students at an independent school in Philadelphia. I've watched fights break out, friends break up, and parents appear at my door, in tears, all over some nonsense posted online about their child that they were virtually powerless to remove.

The harm isn't only to students. Franek notes: "Right now I am in the midst of an inane conflict with a webmaster of a high-traffic site who refuses to remove an offensive blog about me that is laden with epithets and defamatory statements. It was all fun and games until the content of the blog was brought up during a recent job interview."

A code of ethics is needed, he says. "The problem with the Internet is not that there are too many writers. It's that there aren't enough gatekeepers with integrity, and there is no clear and consistent way to resolve disputes."

What can be done about this problem that doesn't gut the First Amendment? Any and all ideas are welcome.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Can Journalism be Saved?

It is hard to imagine what is happening now, what with several newspapers going under daily, only as the death of journalism. But I don't believe it's a death, but perhaps an end to journalism as we know it, but ends also spell rebirth. And I believe that journalism is revolutionizing itself now. Gone are the days of printed news and perhaps even journalism as a career, and as its replacement will be the blogger or citizen journalist. I can't say how I feel about this new approach to news, but it might have something to offer. I believe strongly in the marketplace of ideas theory, and with organized news, only a small number of sources exist. With the boom in citizen journalism, I believe the marketplace will be straightened. And perhaps, my biggest pet peeve of journalism, that those with the most money and the biggest voice/opinion, will be resolved. Perhaps with the end of conventional news, the underdog will have a chance, that people with newsworthy stories will get recognized for just that, not for the amount of corporate backing they have. Today, I believe, things are not as cataclysmic as they may seem. Relish the change and remember that journalism will always have a place in society. But whether change means you get paid for it or not, that's a different story.

Can we save it?

I think saving journalism isn't impossible, but it may take some time. Journalism has always gone through phases of development, and I think this is nothing different. In the basic Intro to Mass Communications class one learns about the evolution of journalism. This profession wasn't always what it is now. Changes have come, and it has adapted itself. I think the recession has pushed our society into a serious form of evolution. For example, corrupt businessmen who have never had to answer for anything they've done are now getting booted. People are now striving to gain higher education before entering the workforce. Many people hate journalists for several reasons, many of them valid, but I think this process will glean out those who the public hate and leave those who are doing what the public need. I don't think society can survive without journalism. If they try they will right their wrongs as long as this is a free society. I think it will take time, but the public will realize that the world needs journalist and call them to action once again.
You can gripe, whine and moan about what is happening to journalism, but little of it will make any difference. Society will not seek journalists until it needs to despite our efforts, but when they do the call will be resounding. Let it come to us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

West gets an F-

I am flunking the Western news for their media coverage (or the lack thereof to be exact) of international conflicts. While I realize money is tight, the complete lack of original international coverage is disturbing, unacceptable, and downright embarassing. This only adds flame to the fire burning around the world that Americans are self-obsessed and know nothing of the rest of the world.

I feel this is more than an economic issue, there was a lack of coverage before the collapse began. I think it is because as Americans, we think we are isolated from the problems and discoveries of the rest of the world. What could affect us?

This attitude shapes our news. For example, FOX news will broadcast about the same three stories all day dealing with the economy or American politics. But for international coverage, Shepard Smith, the only man with a brain at FOX news, will do around the world in 80 seconds. This is pretty representative of the other American news stations as well. A whole world gets 80 seconds. We need help.

This issue goes back to the fundamental question of the people's want to know vs. their need to know. People may not care what's happening in Afghanistan, but maybe it is because no one is telling them about it!

I do give BBC news an A+ for international news coverage. They are the gods of news. They are fair, accurate and very comprehensive. I will watch an American broadcast, and then go to BBC, and they have everything the American stations don't. Imagine that.

I also think that American journalism needs to not only cover conflicts abroad, but in-depth feature stories as well, and even issue-related stories that go untold. I thought that part of journalism's social responsibility was to give voice to the voiceless. We are not representing an accurate picture by omission of how foreign matters play into our everyday lives (which, surprise, they do). We are failing at educating people. We live in a global economy, with wars within wars occuring, and scientific discoveries are made everyday that do not make the American news. This is not ethical, nor responsible.

Here lies journalism as we used to know it!

I never, ever thought that I would be a witness to the utter fall of journalism, especially when I entered this degree a mere two years ago. I entered this field because I figured newspapers weren't ever going to change so my career would be one of the stable ones. Boy was I misled!

I can't help but think, that like it or not, each one of us as citizens had a hand in this. As Americans today we are so used to having things come at us fast, and the faster the better. Why would news be any different. People aren't going to subscribe to the paper to read about news they read the day before, ten minutes after it actually happened. But, I do agree 100 percent with Arie, there are just certain skills and questions that journalists know how to ask that regular citizens don't quite understand.

I hate to say I really don't see this turning around when the economy does. The most people who read the newspapers are of the older generation. As the older generation dies, so do the papers. Along with their deaths, the Internet continues to rise and gain in popularity. We would be lost without the Internet, but sadly, not without newspapers. The Internet can fill the gaps of newspapers, but not the other way around. It is sad to see our profession dwindling away.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's black and white and read no more?

In the most recent issue of The Nation, we read a call for government to save democracy by rescuing journalism. It's a lengthy but very worthwhile read. Here's the gist of The Death and Life of American Newspapers:

"It is not just newspapers that are in crisis; it is the institution of journalism itself.

"By any measure, journalism is missing from most commercial radio. TV news operations have become celebrity- and weather-obsessed "profit centers" rather than the journalistic icons of the Murrow and Cronkite eras. Cable channels "fill the gap" with numberless pundits and "business reporters," who got everything about the last decade wrong but now complain that the government doesn't know how to set things right...

"Communities across America are suffering through a crisis that could leave a dramatically diminished version of democracy in its wake. It is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived. The crisis of which we speak involves more than mere economics. Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States."

As Arie writes in her post on saving journalism: "There is no way citizen journalists can perform the work and get the information reporters from a major news network did."

Which philosopher are you?

In light of all of these depressing posts about the troubled future of print journalism, I thought I'd throw a post in that was a little less dreary for a bit of a break. I took this personality test on Facebook (yeah, I know...) identifying which philosopher my views align with most. The only caveat is that you, obviously, have to be a registered member of Facebook. But, it's fun, pertains to ethics, and I thought it'd be a refreshingly detour from all of this talk about newspaper doom and gloom. Enjoy! I was Plato, and I'm not really sure what would be the best way to link to this thing, but hopefully this works: http://apps.facebook.com/qwhich-philoso-iicfj/?target=result&h=d65dc7b2c498dda5fb4b1506d18c33af&result=433047

Saving journalism

This week's prompt was about saving journalism. I think it can be. Print journalism, however, I don't think so. People want things immediately, constantly and they want it right. The only way to stay up with the pace of news is online with e-mails, instant messaging, and Web pages that are constantly updated. I think the most recent developments in the AIG situation are a perfect example of the future of journalism and what journalists should be doing to save it.

With word of AIG giving bonuses to employees with the money they received from the government, fingers were being pointed in every direction and no one was taking responsibility for the giant loophole. Stories were published throughout the week then, in the middle of the day Wednesday, CNN breaks the story that a senator has fessed up to writing the language that allowed AIG the option to pay bonuses, despite his claims of having no information about it the previous days. Now, I don't want this to become political by any means, because blame can be placed all around. But, I think this is an example of the direction and safety of journalism. This news was all over the Web and by time someone picks up Wednesday's newspaper, it is old news. News organizations have to keep up with new developments and audience demands. This was also an example of good journalism, as reporters worked their sources to see who allowed this in the bill and then addressed their questions to the right people. There is no way citizen journalists can perform the work and get the information reporters from a major news network did. If journalists they can maintain their purpose of uncovering wrongdoings and serving as a watchdog of the government, journalism is safe and sound.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Are there limits to online harassment?

Cyberbullies verbally savaged two Yale law students. The women fought back. Their case may change the rules on what you can say online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer fades to black

Another great old (150 years) newspaper died today, though it will maintain a presence online. No way it'll be the same, though. How can 20 staffers do the work that 160 did in the Pulitzer-winning, scrappy, aggressive newsprint version? Lifestyle, sports and bloggers can't fill the gap formerly occupied by investigative reporting. Here's the P-I's own coverage of its death and resurrection.

Here's another point of view -- angry bloggers cheering the demise of the P-I and drooling over the prospect of more dead papers to come.

Do newspapers still matter? Here's a link to a Princeton University study published this week on that question.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Purpose of the News

As difficult as it is for me to accept the truth of the quote by Shirky about the death of newspapers, I realize the necessity of it. No matter the form of journalism, the purpose is the same. The purpose is what is important, so we should be striving to improve how we accomplish our purpose. I think news is suffering now, not just newspapers. People need to be re-educated on the purpose of journalism. Perhaps we can make lemonade with the sour economy, a push to get creative and rethink how we present news. I think people forgot we are on their side, maybe we did too! I think if we re-evaluate our role, then readers/listeners will re-evaluate the role of news in their lives.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The future of news - good background for projects

Background reading recommended by journalism prof Jay Rosen @ NYU:

Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, by Clay Shirky

Excerpt: "Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead."

Old growth media and the future of news, by Steven Berlin Johnson

Excerpt: "I am bullish on the future of news, as you can tell. But I am not bullish on what is happening right now in the newspaper industry. It is ugly, and it is going to get uglier. Great journalists and editors are going to lose their jobs, and cities are going to lose their papers. There should have been a ten-year evolutionary process: the ecosystem steadily diversifying and establishing its complex relationships, the new business models evolving, the papers slowly transferring from print to digital, along with the advertisers. Instead, the financial meltdown – and some related over-leveraging by the newspaper companies themselves – has taken what should have been a decade-long process and crammed it down into a year or two."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Journalistic Ethics and their links

I was browsing around the journalism.org website and found a page that had many links to Ethics Codes by various media outlets like the BBC, the New York Times, NPR and others. I found it interesting to see each company's policy on certain ethical issues. The New York Times encourages community involvement from their journalists, but advises them to be weary that neighborhood organizations can find themselves in the media spotlight. In a Los Angeles Times article involving the papers ethics editor John Carrol said, "I think a code of ethics, written or commonly understood, has always been important for the long-term success of a paper." And, Annenberg online address the honesty issue of online journalism saying, "Be honest with your readers and transparent about your work. If people wonder for a moment about your honesty or your motives, you've lost credibility with them. Don't let them do that. Answer those questions even before readers ask." The website is chalk full of interesting and insightful links. Check it out.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Saving journalism

While you're thinking about final projects, consider doing research around the issue of saving journalism. There are plenty of directions to go with this either as a team project or by yourself.

If our profession has an obligation to provide the "Fourth Estate" of American government, how can we not find it important to figure out a way to save it?

Here are some links to get you started thinking on this. (I know, I know, you're off on spring break and so am I, but I can't stop following the news. Call me compulsive.)

Is the death of newspapers inevitable?

Eight barriers to local paid content
Why didn't newspapers try charging for online content? Well, they did ...
TWITTER: @yelvington

Read what Jay Rosen writes. Who is he? "I teach journalism at NYU, write the blog PressThink, direct NewAssignment.Net, and try to grok new media. I don't do lifecasting but mindcasting on Twitter."
BLOG: PressThink
TWITTER: @jayrosen_nyu

Poynter.org -- A model for future news orgs: Wikis in Seattle and San Francisco Help Build Model for News Organizations of the Future

TIME magazine: Who Really Killed the Rocky Mountain News?

This is NOT an exhaustive list, but only a handful of voices and points of view. When you find more good ones, please add them as a comment here or a new post that links to this one.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

In response to Bailey...

Thank you for posting some great thoughts about the print vs. PR debacle we often find ourselves in! It stirred up some thoughts of my own on the issue. (Soapbox in place... here I go. No height jokes, please.)

I admit, as a print journalist, I have been guilty of feeling animosity towards PR students. Then I realized it is stupid and pointless and that I probably felt that way because I thought I was supposed to. Also, my dear mother has been involved in PR for many, many years. She works hard, she does honest work, and she does it well. Then why did I all the sudden harbor hostility toward the profession?

I think because we are grouped together in this happy little communications bundle, we feel the need to hate eachother and tear eachother down. But why? Our fields are extremely different. It's not like we're even working towards a common goal. And I, personally, have always thought of PR as being grouped with the advertising and business side of things. Yes, print and PR both share common turf- media, the press, ethics, etc. But that does not mean we have to hate eachother. If anything, we need to work together.

Journalists report the facts (and ideally, the truth), and PR people are devoted to their clients. That's why PR exists- so entities can highlight their good aspects. But just because we have different goals doesn't mean we need to fight. We need to first, understand eachother's fields. Second, we need to respect eachother's field. Our jobs are very different, but what good is it to disrespect eachother? We are all just doing our jobs. I don't want to think that hating eachother is inevitable. Every field has bad eggs. There are smarmy journalists and scheming PR people who work for corrupt forces. But that doesn't mean there aren't good people who just want to keep to themselves and do their job. Can't we defy the inevitable and try to get along?

Thanks, Emilie... And some of my scattered thoughts.

It really was a privilege to have Emilie take time out of her schedule to come talk to our class. It really gave me a new perspective on the Peterson story and how hard it must have been to deal with it. Like Nancy said, we can sit and be armchair journalists and say, "I can't believe they did that. I would have done this, this, and that instead." But a lot of us (at least myself) have no idea of the pressures the newsroom presents, what with pressing deadlines, disagreements between editors, financial pressure, etc. I really appreciate Emilie's upfront honesty and candor about her experience with the story. I could tell it really took a toll on her to make the best decision possible. She clearly defended her decision but was humble and open-minded to other points of view presented during the discussion. She openly admitted her regret of running the first story about the incident (the "Friday story") on the first page. I could see why she regretted it-- it was a class B misdemeanor (police blotter material)-- not front page news. However, when he was identified by the police, that turned into a different issue.

I understand Emilie's rationale for printing the story- I consider Peterson a public figure in our little valley. Logan is considered a college town, and Peterson was a USU professor and department head, and he has does interior design work for many people in the valley. Furthermore, he was USU's interior design program department head. Utah State is nationally recognized for this program, and many know Peterson from this position. And his creative arts class- he has been teaching this for years, and due to the class size, many, many students know who he is. I feel it is the students' right to know what is going on with their professors and on their campus. And who knows how many times he has been involved with this sort of stuff on campus- we don't know.

However, I can see why people would have qualms about identifying him. (I go back and forth myself.) It was only a class B misdemeanor, and the story definitely causes severe harm to his family (specifically his wife and daughter who work on campus). The SPJ states that journalists should balance a criminal suspect's fair trial rights with the public's right to be informed and that they should seek to minimize harm. But easier said than done, right? It might have been better to print the Peterson story after the court hearing, but again, that's me being an armchair journalist.

I also think the gay issue plays a role in the story being published. We are a conservative town in a conservative state, and the "gay thing" is a controversial issue. I'd like to think that there would be just as much of a stir if the "fooling around" in question were with a woman. I'd like to think that, but it's probably not the case. The outing of a gay person is a huge deal for them, and it's unfortunate that Peterson had to be exposed this way (now whether he considers himself gay, bi, whatever- I don't know). But still, these issues should be private- between him and his wife. Also, I'd like to know what Kim Burgess thinks about the issue, since she worked for a gay-central magazine.

I feel like I'm arguing with myself here. Overall, I think it was a good idea for the story to be published. It happened on campus, I consider Peterson a public figure, and in a smaller, conservative town where this stuff isn't common, in this case I think it was OK to print a story about a class B misdemeanor. The public has a right to know. But who knows, I may change my mind. I am, after all, just an armchair journalist.

Me v. You

I'm pretty new to this major, so I am always surprised when people tell me about what I am thinking. For example, in my Mass Communications class, a guest speaker asked who the print majors were and then hid behind a desk and explained how we were surely going to beat her up after class because she had gotten her degree in print but was now in the field of PR. Why were we going to beat her up? Because apparently all print majors hate all PR majors and visa versa. Thanks for telling me, because up until that point I didn't know that I was supposed to hate anybody.

Why is it that this strained relationship exists? Mostly because there is a tension created by our different professions. We both want to tell people what is going on, but one of us is known for making everything look worse than it really is, and the other is known for making everything look like sunshine and daisies.

PR people want to make their company look as good as possible. Sometimes this includes taking a bad situation and letting people know that it isn't as bad as it seems, that their company is run by human beings just like any other, or that the problem is being fixed.

Other forms of journalism looks at it as being their responsibility to expose problems to the world so that more people aren't subject to the repercussions of the problem in the first place. Then journalists tell people whether they think the problem can really be resolved or if the PR people are just blowing smoke.

PR thinks journalists are trying to unfairly tear down their company, and journalists think PR is covering something up. Will this ever be resolved? Of course not. The tension is getting worse. Is that a bad thing, not necessarily. Is the tension between PR and journalism didn't exist, neither would really be doing their job. It may not have to be as bad as it is, but it must always exist.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The World of Journalism

I wanted to thank Emily for coming and talking to our class. The news story was one we all needed to be informed on. I felt the Herald Journal did a great job with the decision of whether or not to run the story and carefully thought through the different consequences before printing the story. I can only imagine how hard that decision must have been for each individual involved. It was a hard story to read about, let alone write about.

Talking with Emily about the truth of journalism and the real world really opened my eyes to how many ethical problems journalist face in the newsroom day after day. We learn about it as "armchair quarterbacks," but don't ever have to deal with the consequences of our choices. It can't ever be easy to make a decision that will ultimately hurt an individual, but I appreciated when Emily said she had to keep reminding herself that she didn't cause the hurt in the first place, or choose to act in such a way, she just reported it. I thought that was one of the best ways I have ever heard the job of a journalist described.

America has depended on the media for many years and it breaks my heart to see so many papers closing. If pepople make such dumb decisions, they deserve to be in the news. I wonder though, are there less ethical questions when it comes to online journalism because people have to search out the stories for themselves instead of just having it come to their door, or not?

Poynter Online

Nancy and Class:

In my travels I have found this great blog and site, http://www.poynter.org/ , it is kind of a forum for journalists and they have an entire section devoted to ethics and diversity. I really enjoy Romenesko's blog on the site, he gives daily insight and commentary on the industry. This could also be a good tool for beginning our projects, the ethics section gives several ideas for journalistic ethical dilemmas. Check it out.

The End of Days

It is really a bleak time for the printed news industry. I was listening to the radio today and heard the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the oldest newspaper in the city and the northwest, is going to an online only format. After thinking about the state of the newspaper, I realized that this situation is a tri-fecta of bad. First, the story stated that most of the operational money in a paper is spent on ink, paper, and gas to deliver the papers. The P-I plans on changing their business model to cut down on these operational costs, but the flip side is that newspaper websites fail to generate the ad revenue that printed papers do. Therefore, because of the loss in ad revenue, the paper has to cut staff from 150 people to only 20. Not only do lots of people loose their jobs, the paper also looses diversity. The piece also mentioned that the paper had announced that this all-web-format would go ahead unless investors intervened. Just think if Ruppert Murdoch came along and offered to pick up all of these ailing papers. The only outcome would be more corporate, conglomerate news. I really hope this online-only business model works for the Post-Intelligencer. Who knows, maybe if all papers move to an online only based business it will become a rebirth of the news? And maybe, consequently if there are no print based papers, people will be forced to view their news online which would drive ad revenues up. Or, the darkest picture, Americans will stop reading the news. That is what should scare you.

A Precedent Is Set

I have been thinking quite a bit about the 'steam room' story, not for the individual story itself, but the bigger picture it merits. I think that most students, including myself, would be upset and concerned to walk in anywhere on campus and find a USU professor engaging in lewd acts. I don't care if they were doing it with their spouse, another student or professor, heterosexual or homosexual. I would leave wanting not only to burn my eyes out, but feeling my academic setting where I am supposed to abide by certain rules had been violated. This issue has to do with responsibility and consideration, period. This being said, I believe the Herald Journal did the right thing reporting this story. However, it has set a precedent. I believe to give fairness to all sides, the Herald in the future should cover all acts of lewdness any professors are involved in on campus. This will keep the Herald from the dangerous act of picking and choosing amonst offenders on biased or seemingly biased notions. It is also fair to the student community. While the rest of Logan may be unfamiliar with Tom Peterson, the USU student body is, and I would like to think I am important enough to have a right to know about these issues. I guess I just wrote part of the Herald's policy. Well-ah! Problem solved!

Tweet tweet

Today, I signed up for a Twitter account. When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it just another site to check and another way to tie myself down to a computer. I never really thought to sign up. However, after looking through it, I think it is a great idea. So I got an account. Strangely enough, one of the first people I signed up to follow was Sen. John McCain. If you know me at all, you know I have a lot of beef with the senator. Despite my disagreements with McCain, I think he is using Twitter to the advantage of the American people and their pocket books. Right now, he is using Twitter to point out the useless spending in bills going through Congress. With all the people on Twitter and the overwhelming use of technology, I think this is a useful technique and everybody should be reading his profile.

As sad as I am about the disappearance of newspapers, the press has to keep up with the trends of readers. With the huge popularity of Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc., all we can do it try to reach them there. I think the crossover to the Web is inevitable. I don't like it. I prefer the hardcopy, the tangible and reliable paper thrown on my doorstep every morning. But I don't think it's going to last. We should do what we can to save newspapers but if the readers aren't there, we have to adapt and find a way to reach them.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Barney Gimble...just another Stephen Glass wanna be

I came across an article that highlighted Barney Gimble, a writer for Fortune 500, was forced to resign for plagiarizing and sensationalizing a story about a Russian billionaire. Apparently Gimble ripped off an August 2004 New York Times Magazine article. Maybe he thought people forgot what was written almost five years ago. Anyways Gimble's article was published on January 26 of this year and got busted last week for the incident. If he had only watched Shattered Glass he might have made better choices. I guess its just a lack of hard work on his part. He failed to put in the effort and got caught. The New York Observer posted the email Gimble sent to the office on his last day, it reads, "“Hello all, I just wanted to let you know that Friday is my last day at Fortune,” he wrote in an e-mail “I have enjoyed working with all of you over the past few years and I will look forward to keeping in touch.”" He seemed pretty optimistic about losing a job. Fun to see ethics in action. By the way I totally agree that he should of resigned for plagiarizing.

Good Night, and Good Luck

Sorry for the late post, I didnt get a chance to rent the movie till yesterday. So I've never seen or even heard of this movie before and didnt know what to expect, especially when i found out it was black and white, but it was interesting to see how things in the media were back in the olden days. It seems like had Murrow never stepped up to the plate, that media could have been used and abused in a dangerous way. I feel like Mcarthy was damn near brainwashing the public through television. He was saying anything he weanted to say and people were believing it. How communist crazy would things have gotten had Murrow never brought up these issues? I believe Mcarthy would have become more and more powerful and would have continued to use television to his advantage. I think what Murrow did was admirable, taking the risk of losing his job and many other risks to let the public know the truth.

Cyber Harassment and the Law

From National Public Radio's On Point with Tom Ashbrook...

On Point: Cyber Harassment and the Law

Cyber bullies verbally savaged two Yale law students. The women fought back. Their case may change the rules on what you can say online.

Cyber-bullying is too mild a term for some of what goes on in the rougher corners of the Internet.

When anonymous online attackers went after two young women at Yale Law School, it had the feel of a gang beating. Maybe worse. Brutal. Obscene. Relentless. And done, it seemed, for fun.

Now the women have pushed back in the courts. Defendants say it’s not their attacks but free speech that’s really under fire. The case may change what you can and cannot say online.

From National Public Radio — On Point: Mob psychology, harassment on the web, and how one case may change the rules.

Have you seen it? Bullying? Harassment? A mob attack online? Can it, does it, go too far? What about free speech?

Tom Ashbrook hosts an hour-long discussion on National Public Radio with his guests:
  • David Margolick, contributing editor at Portfolio magazine. His article “Slimed Online,” about the case of the two Yale law students, appears in the March issue.
  • Danielle Citron, professor of law at the University of Maryland. She has written extensively on cyber harassment and the law.
  • Anthony Ciolli, University of Pennsylviania Law School graduate and former administrator of the online forum AutoAdmit.
  • Marc Randazza, attorney who represented Anthony Ciolli. He has commented on the case on his blog.
The program aired live this morning on NPR. The audio archive is now available.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Any ethics issues here?

Saturday morning's Herald Journal, lead story on the Bridgerland (local) page 3:

USU names lewdness suspect

By Matthew K. Jensen and Kim Burgess

Published: Saturday, February 28, 2009 11:41 PM CST

The Utah State University police department on Friday released the name of the professor who was issued a citation for misdemeanor lewdness following an investigation of a sexual act in a school steam room.

Tom C. Peterson, a faculty member in Agriculture Systems Technology Education and the former head of the Interior Design program, is listed as one of the people involved in the incident. The Herald Journal received the information Friday afternoon by filing a Government Records Access Management Act (GRAMA) request with the school. Police had earlier declined to release Peterson’s name, citing direction from the university’s legal counsel.

Police officials are still searching for a second man suspected in the case, which began at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening when a patron of the school’s Health, Physical Education and Recreation facility walked into the building’s steam room and allegedly saw two people engaged in a sexual act.

The witness reported the incident to HPER staff, who called police. They issued a citation of class-B misdemeanor lewdness to Peterson on Wednesday after interviewing him. The witness also spoke to police, telling them he believed Peterson was one of the men in the steam room.

According to police documents, Peterson is scheduled to appear before a judge Tuesday.

Law enforcement declined to give further description of the alleged lewd act, saying the investigation is ongoing.

The professor did not return calls made by The Herald Journal on Friday. Later, USU spokesperson John DeVilbiss said Peterson did not wish to comment about the case.

“We are saddened and concerned by what has been alleged,” DeVilbiss said.

He added that the university is “not at a stage to take any disciplinary action” toward Peterson, adding that administrators will “allow for due process and let this work through the judicial system before we initiate any procedures.”

Peterson is a long-standing USU faculty member who became an assistant professor in design and merchandising in 1976. Registration records show that this semester he is teaching a creative arts class with 419 students enrolled.