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.

 

Advertisements

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