Presentation Evaluations, Week 1

Group 8

This presentation focused on the ethics of reporting on high-profile court cases. With case examples including George Zimmerman, Aaron Hernandez and Richard Jewell, the group explored issues with “trials by media” and coverage influencing court decisions. Including each high-profile case on the handout and asking the class what their impressions of each were was a good way to introduce the cases, though it did seem a bit rushed. I was a bit surprised to find how many people in the class still thought Zimmerman was guilty, even after he was acquitted. Based on the facts of the case, I thought the jury made the right decision. He may be stupid and prejudiced, but those things aren’t against the law in and of themselves.

Ultimately, I thought the group gave a lot of good information but needed more focus in their presentation. I agree with their conclusion that journalists need to follow guidelines that prevent them from compromising the audience’s perception of the truth in court cases. However, I feel that they would have had a stronger argument if they used fewer cases, or even just one, to support their conclusion.

 

Group 5

This presentation started out strong with an enlightening, humorous video about internet privacy. The fact that it was done by BuzzFeed was a bit ironic, since the presentation was about the ethics of data mining and privacy on media websites. The group was correct to clarify that this is not necessarily a legal issue, stating that privacy is not explicitly guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Despite starting with data mining and targeted advertising, the presentation quickly changed gears to discussing the privacy concerns of mugshots on media websites, as well as their status as clickbait. This was somewhat jarring. While there were privacy concerns addressed regarding the mugshots, they were distinct from those addressed in the introductory video.

The group concluded that journalism is at a critical juncture where economic concerns and evolving technology must compete with the need to protect citizens’ privacy rights. While this group was engaging and presented good information (including an engaging handout with mugshots), the presentation felt somewhat disorganized and seemed to drag a bit.

 

Group 2

This group focused on the ethics of using anonymous sources in news stories. They began with a worst-case scenario: that of Jayson Blair, who fabricated sources under the guise of anonymity. This led into a discussion of the arguments against using anonymous sources. However the group also gave equal time to arguments in favor, such as making the watchdog role of journalism easier to accomplish.

The group concluded that anonymous sources can and should be used when the situation calls for it, but advocated stricter rules regarding their use. They argued that anonymous sources should only be used when there is no way to accurately tell the story without them, which I though was a great rule of thumb. This presentation was organized well and very information rich. However, I did find it a bit dry, as it didn’t foster much discussion and there wasn’t much multimedia used.

 

Group 1

The final group of the day discussed one of the most obvious modern ethical issues: citizen journalism. The group identified the different kinds of citizen journalism, and discussed issues such as lack of verification and poor editing. I thought the chart organization of identifying each type and presenting the issues endemic to each was an effective way to present the information. Ultimately, the group concluded that a code of conduct should be standardized for citizen journalists to follow. While I think that this scenario would be ideal, it doesn’t seem very practical, as it would be very difficult to enforce.

This was easily the most visual and interactive of the day’s presentation, with a colorful presentation, videos and audio, and an introduction that allowed the class to decide which of two stories was written by a citizen journalist or a “real” journalist. The handout was also a nice departure, presenting the basics of the presentation on a mockup of an iPad. This presentation had a lot of good information, and while I think it could have been a bit more focused, I would argue that it was the most engaging of the day.

 

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Blog Essay Week 14

EJ  Chapt. 11

Here we are. The final blog essay. The final EJ chapter. The Final Countdown. Who ever thought we would make it this far? Well, I suppose we all probably did, but I digress. 

This chapter finally took a real, hard look at the role of citizens in modern journalism. It starts the discussion with crowdsourcing, the outsourcing of certain tasks to essentially anyone in the world who is up to the task, usually via the Internet. Say what you will about citizen journalism in general, but I think crowdsourcing, when used correctly, is definitely a good thing for journalism. Think of any big event in the 20th century, and imagine what it would have been like with crowdsourcing. Tweets of reactions to King’s “I Have A Dream” speech as it happened. Vine videos of Woodstock antics. You may disagree, but I think it would have changed the way we remember these events.

 The authors touch on the benefits that members of the community can bring to journalists in a sort of symbiotic relationship. They state “the community brings a diversity of viewpoints, subject expertise, and real-life experience to the news that journalism alone cannot match.” This is a good perspective on the basic role of citizens in journalism. I feel like, generally, when you think of citizens in regards to journalism, you just think the average person on the street. But the cancer researcher or the political analyst should be considered just as much a citizen as anyone else. Their expertise does not separate them from their community.

We eventually get to the “Citizen’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” How helpful this is to non-journalist citizens in a book read almost exclusively by journalism students, I do not know. Nevertheless, as the authors say, we as journalists are citizens as well. The “Bill” basically states each right or responsibility as it relates to an element from previous chapters, but it leaves out verification and conscience. The one right that seems to be violated most is the citizen’s right to get proportional, engaging coverage of major news from journalists. The fault for this violation shouldn’t be placed all on the journalists, though, since it raises the question of how much is a result of citizens’ violating their responsibility to seek out the “critical, challenging information.” This dichotomy speaks to the necessity of having guidelines for both the journalists who produce news and the citizens who consume it.

In the end, the authors take a stand for the rights of citizens, even if it means negative consequences for journalists. If citizens rights are violated and their concerns go unaddressed, they say, the citizens should do everything in their power to make themselves heard, including canceling subscriptions and publicly criticizing news outlets. In the precarious economic environment of modern journalism, it’s a testament to their devotion to the core principles of journalism that they would call for such things if journalists are not fulfilling their roles. I can respect that.

 

DQ: Did the authors do an adequate job of summarizing the elements of our profession? Was there anything they omitted or over-emphasized?

 

Ethical Issue 

This was just begging to be used in a blog post: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/04/11/marathon-bombing-survivor-walks-off-set-of-meet-the-press/. Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost a foot in last year’s Boston Marathon Bombing, walked out on an episode of “Meet the Press” when she learned the names of the bombers would be said. On the one hand, I can definitely see why she would be upset if they said they wouldn’t say it. NBC should have never made that promise. However, I think it’s unreasonable to expect the subject of the bombers not to come up in a serious discussion of the tragedy. I’m all for focusing on the victims, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore the fact that there were real people behind the bombing, one of whom is still alive to be held responsible for the act. As Hermione said, “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.”

 

In Conclusion

Well, I would say it’s been fun, but then I would be violating my journalistic responsibility to the truth. Ethics aren’t supposed to be fun though. They are supposed to be hard. But, as unenjoyable as it may be to think about them, they are absolutely necessary for a journalist. Nothing in life is certain except for death, taxes and the fact that MH370 is on CNN.com’s front page at any given moment.  Ethics is how we as humans deal with these gray areas. When the big dilemmas come up, it’s important to have a solid system of ethics to help you through them in journalism, and in life. 

So, do I feel that I have such a solid system in place, now that this class is almost finished? Not exactly. It’s not the fault of the books (though I’ve had my criticisms), the class structure, or you, Dr. Rogers. While this class was a good starting point, I don’t think we can fully develop journalistic ethics until we are out in the field, continuously experiencing dilemmas like the ones discussed in class for ourselves. What this class did well was to give us the basic tools and knowledge to start with. 

 

-Jovahn Huertas, jhuertas@ufl.edu

Blog Essay Week 13

EJ Ch. 10

This penultimate chapter discusses the principle that journalists have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience, and it begins with a notorious violation of this principle: the Jayson Blair scandal. Howell Raines actually came to UF to speak while I was in Reporting, and he confirmed much of what was discussed here, especially the outrage expressed by New York Times reporters at the perceived failure of leadership.

This seems like the most relevant chapter to this class, as it focuses on the idea that “every journalist…must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility—a moral compass.” Since this is not an ethics book per se, the authors don’t seem to have as firm a grasp on ethical concepts as those of the other major text in this class. For example, in the previous sentence, they appear to equate ethics with morality, despite the fact that we established a clear division between the two in the first few weeks.

In the section titled “Exercising Conscience is Not Easy”, the authors state the glaringly obvious. If the answers to dilemmas of conscience and ethics came easy, they wouldn’t be called dilemmas. The key point being made here is that, with the increasingly precarious financial positions that publications are in, it becomes more desirable to make ethical compromises to increase profits or save a few bucks. This pretty much sums up what is likely the biggest ethical issue in modern journalism.

This chapter returns to an idea discussed in weeks prior: the goal of intellectual diversity in the newsroom. Since the authors discuss the journalist’s moral compass, I though this goal brings up an interesting conflict. People of different cultural and ideological background are bound to have different morals. It would have to be common guidelines in journalistic ethical reasoning that unites these diverse individuals, rather than some moral ideal.

The chapter concludes with an almost cursory mention of the role of citizens. It is essentially a rehash of the idea of dilemma of making compromises for financial sake: more specifically, what extent journalists should conform to the desires of readers and viewers. Yet again, the authors seemed to give very little time to the role of citizen journalists. I hope they discuss this more in the final chapter.

 

Two Short Articles On Advocacy Journalism 

I don’t think the first article is necessarily about advocacy journalism. Alana Moceri’s central point seems to be that journalists should include information about what readers and viewers can do about things in the news that affect them. She is not calling for journalists to advocate these actions, but merely to present information should citizens desire to take such actions. This doesn’t seem to be much of a deviation from journalistic standards. If an area is under a tornado warning, any good journalist would provide information on what those affected should do to protect themselves. It stands to reason that if, say, a politician is revealed to be a part of a scandal, so too should a journalist provide information on how to voice concerns or vote him or her from office.

The second article is much more specifically focused on advocacy journalism, which it defines as “coverage with a clearly stated worldview.” The calls these writers “almost-journalists,” holding issue with the fact that they often fail to report opposing viewpoints and facts. However, he says, he’s ready to drop the “almost”, because these writers are still providing in-depth coverage of vital issues. While this is a positive aspect, I still hold this type of reporting below the more objective variety. How can journalism be certifiably accurate if it comes with a purposeful slant? Rather, I think this is a sign that “traditional” journalists need to focus more on the underreported issues that the advocates are bringing light to.

 

DQ: Does advocacy have any place in journalism, and if so, to what extent?

 

Ethical Issue of the Week

I thought the recent Colbert Report Twitter “scandal” presented an interesting media ethical issue outside of traditional journalism. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/01/cancel-colbert-stephen-colbert_n_5068592.html. The major question here is whether satire can really be criticized for things like racial insensitivity, especially when the point of the quote in context was to itself criticize actual racial insensitivity. This also ties into the larger argument of whether comic personalities like Colbert and Jon Stewart who, at times, report on actual news stories should be held to any of the ethics of “real” journalism.

 

-Jovahn Huertas, jhuertas@ufl.edu

 

Blog Essay Week 12

EJ Ch. 9

            This chapter is essentially a follow-up to the previous one about making news coverage engaging and relevant. While that chapter discussed how to cover stories, this one focuses on what journalists should cover in the first place. The principle at hand is that journalists should keep the news they cover in proportion and make it comprehensive.

            The authors characterize journalism as “our modern cartography. It creates a map for citizens to navigate society.” Extending the analogy, they discuss how, in the past, the most popular maps filled in the unknowns with sketches of sea serpents and gold mines. This is a good metaphor for how sensationalism often helps sell newspapers and garner page views, even if it is just based on unfounded speculation or outright fabrication.

            The authors proceed to set up a golden mean of sorts for the content of news stories. A front page filled with entertaining stories with new real news value is just as unbalanced as one filled with hard data and Big Stories without any attention to human interest. This relates to the people-powered front-page experiment from a few weeks ago. The front pages generated by page views skewed too far in favor of the former, though the exercise may well have shown that editors of major newspapers today make a few too many choices for the latter.

            I agree with the idea that targeted demographics in journalism aren’t a great idea, and especially that journalism should include news of all communities.  This reminds of the local situation of the Gainesville Guardian. The Guardian is a separate newspaper published by the Sun that is meant to serve the predominantly African-American East Gainesville area. My issue with this has been that it seems a lot like segregation. Why aren’t the Guardian’s stories worthy of the Sun proper? And if they are, what is the necessity of a separate publication?

            The dichotomy between broadcast news becoming more entertainment-based and fictional television shows becoming more grounded in reality, as Robert Krulwich observed, was very interesting. I’ll take a moment here to shout-out my favorite podcast, Radiolab, in which Mr. Krulwich and Jad Abumrad spend an hour or two every month making similar mind-bending observations, usually involving science or philosophy (www.radiolab.org) Also, for an interesting ethical issue involving the show, check out the Yellow Rain incident (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_rain#2012_Controversy).

            The authors propose that the solution to resisting sensationalism is keeping journalists separate from the realities of the media marketplace. They’ve brought it up before, and it’s great in theory, but it’s quite unrealistic in practice. In a lot of journalism classes and writings on the state of the modern journalistic landscape, I’ve often heard that a journalist should treat him or herself as a one-person business. With fewer publications hiring full-time staff, journalists must resort more and more to freelance work, especially in my area of interest: science writing. With that in mind, separating reporter from marketplace seems virtually impossible.

            For the authors, the mapmaking metaphor of journalism ends with the subjectivity of the question “what is news?” that is not found in cartography. This is reasonable, since, as they state, a big story for some is unimportant to others. There is a time and place for speculation and entertainment in journalism, but they should not overly encroach on the news center.

 

Case Study 10-B

  1. The major ethical issue here is whether NBC should have omitted the seemingly incriminating segment of Bob Costa’s interview of Jerry Sandusky.
  2. NBC could have aired the segment. On the surface, this may have made many viewers uncomfortable, as Sandusky is basically admitting his criminal acts, and even laughs at one point during the exchange. Furthermore, it could be seen as a “trial by media” incident, in which the media, and by extension, the public, are condemning Sandusky based on his comments before he can get a fair trial by law. Alternatively, by choosing not to air the clip, NBC avoided further disconcerting comments on primetime TV, at the expense of valuable information that would directly contradict the comments that were broadcast.
  3. NBC should have aired the edited section of the interview. While it may have made viewers uncomfortable, it was necessary for a complete picture of Sandusky in the interview. If NBC did not want to air these comments for fear of trial by media, it should not have aired the prior comments in which Sandusky professed his innocence either, as these could be just as detrimental to a lawful trial

 

Case Study 10-G

  1. The ethical dilemma here is a bit difficult to peg. Obviously, Lehrer’s fabrication of quotes is unethical and against journalistic standards. A more difficult issue here is whether his self-duplication should be considered plagiarism. Therefore, the ethical issue I will focus on is whether The New Yorker should have punished Lehrer for his self-duplication.
  2. By allowing Lehrer to remain on staff, The New Yorker implied that self-duplication is not nearly as egregious as plagiarism. While it does not have the same effect as stealing another’s work for profit, it is still a form of deception and demonstrates a lack of original reporting. If The New Yorker had fired him, it would have made a statement that self-duplication is at least as bad as plagiarism. This may be two harsh a penalty for a victimless transgression. However, there may be other consequences, such as demotion or suspension that could also be used as punishment.
  3. The New Yorker should not have let Lehrer off so easily for copying his own writing. While it is not as bas as true plagiarism, is still dishonest to editors and co-workers if not to the readers. While I don’t think firing him would have been the best course of action, some repercussions should have occurred. Furthermore, investigating his past work more may have uncovered his more serious ethical violations sooner.

 

Case Study Sports vs. Journalism:

  1. In 2013, ESPN teamed up with PBS’s “Frontline” to present a documentary on brain injuries in the NFL. Before it aired, however, ESPN pulled it’s branding from the documentary amid accusations that the NFL was pressuring the media company. The NFL is ESPN’s biggest television partner, allowing them to broadcast games and use NFL branding. Despite this, most of the film is based on the work of two ESPN investigative reporters. The ethical dilemma here is whether ESPN should have pulled support for the piece under pressure from the NFL.
  2. By taking this action, ESPN gave the image of favoring profits and comfortable business partnerships over journalistic integrity. However, this calls into question whether ESPN is primarily a news organization or a sports entertainment broadcaster. Based on the amount of sporting events broadcast by the network, I would lean towards the latter. People across the US rely on ESPN channels to broadcast sporting events that they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. Even SportsCenter largely consists of commentary. Another alternative would have been for ESPN to maintain its support of the project. This likely would have tarnished relations with the NFL, though I wouldn’t go as far as to think the NFL would terminate its partnership with ESPN. However, the move would lend ESPN credibility as a journalistic network. Even if it is focused on entertainment, it has journalistic elements, which means it also has some commitment to the truth, even if it puts the NFL in a bad light.
  1. If the decision where mine, I would have maintained ESPN’s support of the documentary. Knowing the relationship between ESPN and the NFL, I doubt it would have seriously affected their mutually beneficial business partnership. The NFL would lose a major source of viewers, and therefore, advertising revenue, by cutting ESPN out of the loop. From a purely ethical perspective, the news of brain damage in professional football is important enough to trump the NFL’s ire. If ESPN has any journalistic integrity, it should favor the wellbeing of players over the minor repercussions that the network might face.

 

DQ: Is creating a separate, targeted publication the best way for a metro newspaper to address an underreported community? If not, what might be a better alternative?

 

Ethical Issue

I wanted to complain about CNN refusing to take Flight 370 off the top of their home page for three weeks, but then I realized I already did that. Poynter tends to be good for an ethical issue, so here’s one from Monday: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/top-stories/244808/advance-defends-bonuses-for-reporters-who-post-frequently-and-join-comment-chains/ The Oregonian has a bonus system that rewards reporters for posting a lot and commenting on stories. This is a good example of how not to separate reporters from the media marketplace, and it’s basically asking for quality over quantity. However, if a news organization wants lots of traffic-getting posts and increased social interaction, there’s probably no more of an efficient way to get it than by paying the writers.

 

-Jovahn Huertas, jhuertas@ufl.edu

 

 

 

 

 

             

 

Blog Essay Week 11

EJ  Chapt. 8: Engagement and Relevance

This week’s element of journalism is probably the most interesting one so far: that journalists must make the news engaging and relevant in their stories, newscasts, and photography. To introduce this idea, the authors give the example of an 1,100-page book on an urban planner written 40 years ago. In a journalistic landscape that currently focuses on brevity and up-to-the minute news, that seems like the polar opposite of “engaging”. Their point, which is justifiable, is to show how focusing on power struggles and telling one person’s story to explain something larger can make newswriting more compelling. However, it still seems like a somewhat poor choice to get the conversation started.

The authors discuss what they portray as a fall dichotomy of engaging vs. relevant: that the important stories are at odds with the interesting ones. I definitely agree with the sentiment that storytelling and information are not contradictory. Any journalistic story needs some sort of relevant information to qualify it as news, just as any information-dense story should be made engaging, lest it be just a bunch of facts and numbers randomly splayed out on a piece of paper or web page.

Despite it’s seemingly out-of-touch introduction, the chapter does eventually get down to some modern implications. Specifically, the authors discuss how cutbacks in the newsroom are affecting the quality of news stories for the sake of quantity, something we saw discussed in the “Page One” documentary of the New York Times. This obviously damages both the ability of a news organization to gather relevant information, as well as the ability to make it engaging. Additionally, the authors argue that space is a factor in limiting engagement of news stories. I would say that, while the attention span of the audience has supposedly gotten smaller, the Internet as a medium allows for more in-depth storytelling when used correctly.

The Lewinski/ABC News example clearly shows the quest for engagement trumping relevance, as talk of whether President Clinton is “passionate” and “a good kisser” overshadows the legal and political aspects of the interview.  Sex certainly sells. While I think there is a place for this kind of information, (the public does care about it, after all) it should not have taken center stage in the interview.

I like the characterization of infotainment as basically a self-fulfilling prophecy. If news organizations shift too much towards entertainment and trivia, they lessen the appetite of the audience for real news and drive away those he genuinely still want it.

The many alternatives the chapter gives in response to the call for more relevant and engaging news are all good ideas. I especially liked the Hour Glass structure, as it flies in the face of what they drilled into our heads in Reporting class about the inverted pyramid. I like breaking down preconceptions. Anyway, for any of these to work, however, news organizations must simultaneously clear out much of the infotainment and junk news.

 

ME Chapt. 9: New Media: Continuing Questions and New Roles

Billie Joe Armstrong, of Green Day fame, said he did not want a nation under the new media. (He also said some decidedly unpatriotic things about America in the same breath, but that’s beside the point.) Unfortunately for Mr. Armstrong, the new media—websites, podcasts, blogs and, likely in near the future, telepathic messages—is here to stay, and that’s what this week’s Media Ethics chapter discusses.

As seems to often be the case, the chapter begins by eulogizing the old guard of trained journalists for major publications, their places being taken by tweeters and bloggers. Fortunately, the chapter focuses on some positive aspects of citizen journalism, such as the live recording of the 2011 Arab Spring protests. Even at the height of foreign bureaus, now news organization would have had the manpower to cover the protests as extensively as a bunch of people with cell phone cameras did.

The authors claim that citizen journalism lacks information verification, and that this is where professional journalists come in. I would argue that citizen journalists certainly have the ability to verify information. They just don’t have a structured organization of editors to make sure that it happens.

The hypothetical about cutting a photo into pixels and rearranging them into a new photo is intriguing, but ultimately flawed. A pixel is literally just a tiny dot of a certain color. You could probably rearrange a big enough picture into practically anything. A photograph is the arrangement of pixels, not the sum of the pixels themselves. Claiming the end product as copyright infringement would make about as much sense as trying to claim infringement on some pop song because it’s in the same key as that song you wrote for your garage band in 9th grade.

It sort of blew my mind that the forerunner for Google News was created more than 30 years ago. I didn’t even think the Internet existed in the early 80s. I thought people just communicated via messages tied to luftballons back then, or something. I found it even harder to believe, however, that interviewing was once considered a controversial practice in journalism. Did writers just get their information by divine providence before that?

 I can see how the Internet would bring issues of anonymous sources to the forefront. Who knows whose behind that Reddit username? How can we know if @Lord_Voldemort7 on Twitter is really the Dark Lord? In the case of anonymous Internet sources, I think the same standards used in traditional reporting should apply: journalists should use whatever means necessary to verify a source’s identity and publish it, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise, such as to protect the source’s safety.

I don’t think the Internet’s origins as a government communications medium hamper its potential as a journalistic medium. Most web space today is on private servers and computers, and the connective infrastructure is largely owned and controlled by private utility companies. Of course, come to think of it, that could be even worse for journalism than if the government owned the Internet infrastructure. We are a democracy, after all, something that corporations cannot call themselves.

In the chapter’s conclusion, I think the authors do too much line-drawing between citizen journalists and “professional” journalists. It’s quite a broad assumption to say that bloggers aren’t interested in education and city councils. The line between the two supposed camps is already blurred, and that blurring is just going to continue as we move forward.

 
Case Study 9-A

1.                    The case concerns the reporting done on the 2012 Supreme Court case on the constitutionality of “ObamaCare.” The issue at hand is whether Fox and CNN should have focused on getting the news of the case out as quickly as possible without adequately verifying the facts.

2.                    By acting as they did, the news organizations may have been able to get the news out as quickly as possible, but risked sacrificing accuracy, as was the case. Alternatively, the organizations could have waited to confirm the initial rumors, potentially losing their ability to report the news before competitors, but while saving face if the initial reports were inaccurate and making sure the public was well informed.

3.                    The organizations should definitely not have acted as they did. This was an issue that had been anticipated for weeks in advance, and would not have any real effects until years later. There was no tangible reason to report it in the manner that they did. Doing so only hurt their audiences and their own credibility.


Case Study 9-B

1.     The major issue in this case is whether it is ethical to aggregate news stories by other news organizations and journalists if proper attribution is given.

2.     One option would be to not aggregate at all. This would take care of any ethical considerations, but jeopardize the existence of publications like the Hartford Courant. Another option would be to aggregate with proper attribution. This calls into question the ethicality of republishing the work of another, even if it is attributed. Is a byline the only line between plagiarism and fair use? Finally, one alternative that can be decisively crossed out is aggregating without proper attribution.

3.     It is ethically sound to aggregate news stories on the Internet, provided that thorough attribution is used and the original story is linked when possible. This can be beneficial to both the aggregator, allowing its continued existence, and the original authors, bringing increased readership.

 

Ethical Issue: Last week, the NPR ombudsman released this (http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2014/03/19/291479274/ethics-morality-and-a-ticking-clock-for-how-to-report-on-the-r-skins) epic tome detailing its stance on using the name of the Washington Redskins in its programming, despite the racial controversy surrounding it. The piece followed an incident in which the host of Weekend Edition refused to say the name, causing varied reactions from listeners. Despite having “bleeped” the name out in the title, the author does not appear to come to a meaningful conclusion about NPR’s stance by the end of some 5,000 words or so.

 

Discussion Question: What is the best method for news organizations to make the telling of news more engaging without sacrificing relevance?

 

Vocabulary

Spin alley: the meeting area for press members to interview public policy experts after political events. Notably criticized by Jon Stewart on his infamous Crossfire appearance.

 

Fair use: Uses of authored material that do not constitute copyright infringement, such as for criticism or educational purposes.

 

Echo chamber: a situation in media where ideas are simply repeated and reinforced while drowning out opposing views. 

 

Take-home exam proposal

Advances in robotics and computer technology are likely to cause large increases in job automation during the next few decades. Creative jobs like journalism may seem immune, but in the last few years, that notion has also been challenged.

The Chicago-based company Narrative Science has created a computer algorithm that can write news stories. The algorithm is able to scan large sets of data, pick out the important facts, and create a cohesive written story based on them. The stories aren’t just lists of factoids, but cohesive, well-written stories that are often difficult to distinguish from human writing. While the algorithm focuses on data-based stories like sports and finance, advances in technology like voice-recognition software could someday allow computers to conduct interviews.

New developments in automated journalism raise issues found in any similar situation, whether we should allow unpaid automatons to put paid humans out of work being the main one. But automated journalism also raises it’s own questions. Can a computer really show creativity without human intervention? Can a robot be trusted to get the facts right? But the most important question concerns the nature of journalistic ethics itself: how can an algorithm-based computer program make the same ethical calls a human reporter would make?

For this issue, I have identified three major alternatives. The journalism industry can wholly reject automation, dodging the question of computer ethics and allowing humans to keep their jobs, but potentially making the industry lag behind technologically and economically. On the other extreme, journalism can wholeheartedly adopt automation, allowing computers to take human jobs and possibly causing an ethical crisis. Finally computerized journalism and human reporting can coexist and complement each other. This seems like the most likely option, but the question of the extent and scope of automation in this scenario create issues themselves, which I intend to explore.

           

            

Blog Essay Week 10

EJ, Ch. 7

This chapter focuses on the public forum element of journalism. However, before even mentioning this, it begins with an anecdote about this principle being abused in the modern media environment, with a freelance journalist being falsely accused by Chris Matthews and Rush Limbaugh of threatening a woman involved in the Clinton scandal of the late 90s. And this was before Twitter and the blogosphere. While the news media may be an appropriate place to call a person such as Shearer into question, the rush to get the story should not lead journalists to hasty conclusions or even outright libel.

This anecdote begins a decidedly cautious take on a journalistic principle throughout the chapter. The authors also note early such precautions as not focusing on the extremes of an argument simply to create the illusion of balance. This approach makes sense, since, as the authors state, the public forum principle is probably where the technology-vs-journalism debate is most divisive.

 One particularly frustrating issue with debates in modern media that the chapter points out is the “food fight” style of debate that occurs on cable news. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tuned in to CNN or MSNBC for a news update, only to get a bunch of talking heads taking over each other. I think the big irony of it is that, come election season, some of those same talking heads are moderating candidate debates.

The authors say that exchanges in the media should drive at resolutions, which is pretty much the heart of the entire issue: within the so-called “Argument Culture” of modern media, we see argument for the sake of ratings and filling-time, rather than for the sake of meaningful resolution. This essentially creates a façade of dialogue, behind which the public forum principle is barely at work, if at all.

The primary takeaway from this chapter seems to be that, despite new technology presenting all kinds of opportunities for expanding of the public forum role, it has so far done the opposite. Unfortunately, this chapter doesn’t offer much in the way of possible solutions.

 

ME, Ch. 8 

For me, this chapter focuses on the aspects of journalism that I am perhaps least familiar with: audiovisual. While I’ve worked with photography and videography in class, I don’t consider myself particularly adept at either, so I tend to avoid them when possible. However, with the changing media landscape, we can’t really avoid it, so this may be one of the more important chapters for “word people” like myself.

The chapter jumps right into citizen photojournalism, which is probably the most common form of citizen journalism. I remember the first video I saw of the Boston Marathon bombings came from a 7-second vine on Twitter. However, the average person on the street holding an iPhone likely isn’t thinking about ethics when they’re faced with an event like that.

Garry Bryant’s checklist for tragedy photography seems like a very good guideline to keep in mind when having to make quick decisions as a photographer. The disclaimer, too, is important. A photographer may, in the process of capturing a tragic event, take some photos that would violate ethical guidelines, but that doesn’t mean they will go to print. To capture the event, the photographer often just has to keep hammering the shutter.

In the case of staging photographs or reenacting events, I think these things should definitely be used sparingly and be labeled as such. If a photograph or video is the equivalent to a written article, than a staged photograph is equivalent to a fabricated quote or anecdote.

Of course, the chapter focuses on the most obvious ethical considerations specific to visual journalism: photo manipulation and editing. When I took a photojournalism class last semester, I was a bit surprised to discover that some editing was allowed, and even encouraged. The point, however, was not to necessarily make the photo look better, but to compensate for mechanical limitations or improper settings on the camera, thus bringing the final product as close as possible to the naked-eye reality of the photographed subject.

The eyewash issue is probably the fuzziest, ethically speaking. It seems wrong to pass off a photo of a child injured from an accident as an example of child abuse, but simply placing unrelated photos that wouldn’t be associated directly with a story by most rational people isn’t as clear-cut. If anything, it seems more like a journalistic quality issue than one of ethics.

 

 Case Study 8-A

  1. The primary ethical issue here seems to be whether a news organization should purchase and publish photos or video of Scott’s suicidal jump from the Vincent Thomas Bridge. Since non-journalists took the photos, this isn’t really a question of whether the photos should have ethically been taken or not.
  2. One option would be to publish the visuals without question. This would certainly help to tell the story of a prominent individual’s death, but it would also expose the audience to graphics that are unnecessarily graphic (I doubt this would pass the “Post Toasties Test”) and disregard the desires of Scott’s family. Consulting the family first might be a good option, but it still leaves the issue of the graphic images. Alternatively, a news organization could opt not to use the images. This would be most ethically sound, but it prevents the publication from presenting a unique visual angle to a major story.
  3. A news organization should not publish these photos. Not only does it make sense ethically, it also falls in line with journalistic standards. Suicides in general are often not covered by most news sources. While this does fall into the category of a notable death, it still doesn’t justify publishing photos of the death itself.


Case Study 8-B

  1. The major question here is whether Herbert should have taken the steps he did to help the women or put journalism first.
  2. Herbert could have taken photos without helping the women, maintaining the role of an objective observer. He could have taken photos first, then helped, likely changing the outcome for the worse. In doing what he did, Herbert saved the women, but did not get photos of the car fire and put himself in the story. If he had simply helped without taking any photos, the story, which went nationwide, would simply not have been published.
  3. Herbert took the best course of action here. While the role of objectivity is important, it should not trump one’s role as a human being. He knew there was something he could do to help the women, so he should have taken those steps, and did. While he may have thereby documented a story he was a key part of, he focused on the roles of others in extinguishing the fire and extracting the women.

Case Study 8-C

  1. Hey, it’s the Alligator! The issue here is whether the good folks at America’s finest college publication should have run the photos of the detectives with the miscarried baby.
  2. The editors could have opted not to run this photo. This would have prevented them from using the photo in a public service role, such as showing the potential realities on a college campus. However, it would also prevent a rather disturbing photo from running. Alternatively, by publishing it, the Alligator was able to covey the desired messages, albeit at the expense of readers’ tastes and, potentially, the mother’s sensitivity.
  3. The editors should not have allowed this photo to run. While it is certainly a good photo, and it does have legitimate reasons for being published, it certainly doesn’t pass the breakfast test, and it doesn’t take into account a woman who is likely emotionally compromised from miscarrying, only to possibly see the body of her baby in a newspaper.

 

Case Study 8-E

  1. The issue here is whether the Register-Guard the photo of officers trying to resuscitate 2-year-old Shelby McGuire.
  2. The Register-Guard could have declined to publish the photo. This would have been a clear-cut response to the paper’s policy of not publishing photos of dead children, and it would have avoided the huge, emotional public response to the photo. However, it would have robbed the story of a spectacular photo that encapsulates the situation and shows the hard work of the officers. By publishing the photo, the paper was able to show a great photo, but at the expense of potentially violating it’s own ethics code and upsetting a large part of its readership, as well as those involved in the story.
  3. This one isn’t as clear-cut as the other “to publish, or not to publish” issues. However, in the end, the best course of action would again be to not publish the photo. As great as the photo is, running it is not worth alienating readers and harming the paper’s credibility, or causing emotional distress to the surviving members of the family.


Case Study 8-G

  1. The issue in this case is which major publication made the best decision in publishing the Nielson photo, or whether not publishing the photo at all would have been the best option.
  2. This case study neatly lays out the major alternatives. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published the photo on page A10. This prevents a potentially disturbing photo from going right on the front page, but still keeps a journalistically good photo in with the rest of the main Katrina coverage. The LA Times published the photo in the center of A1. This elevates one of the photos that best captures the situation in Katrina to a visible position, but also presents a disturbing image on the front page. The Chicago Tribune ran the photo two days later in a special section of the paper. This probably has the least effect of disturbing readers, but it delays a highly newsworthy photo and relegates it to a less-traveled section of the paper. Another alternative would be to not publish the photo at all, eliminating the ethical issues but preventing a newsworthy photo from being published.
  3. The Dispatch made the best decision in this case. By publishing the photo in the A Section, but not plastering it on the front page, the Dispatch kept a powerful photograph in it’s ongoing coverage of the situation in Katrina while working to prevent reader’s sensibilities from being offended. In any case, this photograph should definitely have been published in some way. Although it shows death, it is not in an overtly graphic way, it encapsulates the reality of post-Katrina New Orleans.

 

People-Powered Front Page

            My group was assigned the Washington Post. The people-powered front page replaced economic and foreign policy issues with human interest ones, such as lion cubs being born taking the place of coverage on the Ukraine crisis. I do not think that a front page based on readership or sharing of stories online should be instated. Rather, editors should take reader interests into account when laying out a front page, but also maintain focus on other factors, such as need-to-know information and balance of topics.

 

Question: Should photos of dead bodies or dying people be excluded from publication? If not, how is that ethically justified?

 

Ethical Issue of the Week

 On this snapshot of CNN.com from yesterday http://web.archive.org/web/20140317111052/http://www.cnn.com/, we see two of the biggest stories of the last few weeks featured: the crisis in Crimea and the search for Flight 370. The story receiving top billing, however, is the latter. Despite the subhead advertising “Big developments, major questions,” nothing had really changed much in the past 24 hours. The story from the previous day was largely the same: http://web.archive.org/web/20140316003613/http://www.cnn.com/. In Crimea, however, the official vote tally had come in just recently indicating that Crimea was on the fast track to secede from Ukraine and get annexed by Russia, a move that was denounced as breaking international law by many world leaders. So you have a story that affects exponentially more people, is certainly timely, and is even a bit physically closer to CNN.com’s readership, trumped by an overblown rehash of a story that, to it’s credit, sounds like the plot of an action movie. I thought this tied in well with the people-powered front page experiment, as it showed what appears to be something similar in action on an actual news site.

 

Vocab

Post Toasties test or Wheaties test: A test for photos or video accompanying morning news stories that asks, “should this be shown at breakfast?” Essentially, is an image so graphic or disturbing that it might make someone nauseated?

 The public sphere: The social area in which the public at large can engage in discussion. The press functions as a key forum of the public sphere.

 Argument Culture: a media trend characterized by artificial debates intended to provoke and titillate, functioning primarily as a method of filling time and maximizing profits.

 

-Jovahn Huertas, jhuertas@ufl.edu