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Archive for November, 2013

Tom Kent, linked from his Twitter avatar

called yesterday for detailed practical advice on making ethical decisions in today’s journalism. After I posted, I emailed the people I mentioned in the post, inviting them to respond. This is the response from Associated Press Standards Editor Tom Kent, who is leading an ethics initiative of the Online News Association:

Steve, you raise some excellent points about where we stand in the ethics conversation. Sometimes, as you suggest, we’re a little too philosophique, thinking big thoughts without the concrete examples that would make them immediately useful. Meanwhile, we’re trying to write ethical codes for a profession that’s in the process of splitting into some distinctly different philosophies.

However much we agree on certain unifying concepts (tell the truth, don’t plagiarize, don’t take money to skew your stories), after that we start to differ widely. You referred to the contrast between those who think it’s fine to write from a certain political point of view (as long as you’re transparent about it) and those who favor an updated version of objectivity and neutrality (find my defense of that here). There are disparate points on view on many other questions. (more…)

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Someone should compile detailed ethical guidance for journalists in the difficult decisions we face in doing our jobs today.

The journalism conversation about ethics has been more robust this year than at any time I remember in my career, and I’ve been fortunate to be involved in much of it. But I think we need still more.

Two notable collaborations have re-examined the most important statements of journalism ethics:

(more…)

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Ogden Standard Examiner front page Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy assassinationI am under no illusion that my thoughts or memories of the Kennedy assassination are any more insightful than all the others you’ve already read and heard for the last month or so.

But I do think the front pages my father saved from November 1963 are pretty interesting.

We lived in Sunset, Utah, at the time. I was a fourth-grader at Doxey Elementary School. My father saved the front page above from the evening edition of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the daily paper delivered to our home. It apparently started Dad (and then me) on a couple lifetimes of saving historic front pages. This is the oldest of dozens of papers Dad saved over the next 15 years before his death. As the journalist in the family, I got his collection and added dozens (maybe hundreds) more.

Take a look at the front page above. Kennedy was shot at 12:30 a.m. p.m. Central time, 11:30 a.m., right on (or perhaps after) deadline for an evening paper. Clearly they just had enough time and material for one wire story (from UPI) and a file mug shot of the president. There isn’t even a wire photo from Dallas. (more…)

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With Thursday’s visits to the Deming Headlight and Silver City Sun-News, I have visited the newsrooms of every Digital First Media daily newspaper.

With some weeklies, a magazine and visits to four newsrooms that moved between visits and our national Thunderdome newsroom, I’ve visited 84 DFM newsrooms altogether.

I started trying to write some observations about the various newsrooms, but I guess much of that is what I’ve been blogging about here. So I’ll just observe this personal milestone. If I’ve missed a daily newsroom, please let me know. I still have some non-dailies I haven’t visited (though everyone is daily — even hourly — in Digital First). I look forward to reaching those newsrooms eventually.

These are the newsrooms I’ve visited:

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Ellyn Angelotti photo linked from Twitter

Update: I’ve added a 2011 Dan Gillmor piece on linking at the end of this post. 

Journalists interested in attribution, plagiarism and journalism ethics should read Ellyn Angelotti‘s two-part series about attribution.

Part 1 discusses plagiarism, particularly why journalists should attribute when they use content from press releases:

When deciding whether to publish information that comes via an organization’s official release, it’s important to consider the context of the source. The release could reflect a skewed perspective — or, worse, the information may not be accurate. So by publishing information in a release verbatim, you potentially run afoul of the important ethical value of acting independently and holding those who are powerful accountable.

Additionally, disseminating information published in official releases without additional reporting may not allow for diversity of voices in the conversation, especially on social media. When people recirculate the same information, they contribute to the echo chamber of the existing conversation online, instead of adding new knowledge.

(more…)

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Of course, I’m blogging a response, but not much:

I’ve said before that I’ve grown tired of expressing my views about paywalls. That hasn’t changed just because CEO John Paton has adopted an “all-access” subscription project for Digital First Media.

While I don’t agree with the approach, I do have full confidence in John’s overall strategy and leadership of Digital First Media. Whether he’s right or wrong in this particular aspect of the approach, I think he’s right about enough things that we’re going to continue making progress toward prosperity.

I’ve been wrong a lot of times in my career. I hope my view about all-access is another.

I curated some responses from Twitter, with apologies for all the related media and parent tweets repeated (I blame Twitter, which gives you an option to omit those; I clicked those options and apparently they don’t work):

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John Kroll, photo linked from johnkrolldigital.com

John Kroll advises journalists to fact-check by asking the 5 W’s when we’re reporting on statistics that sources cite.

The truth is that many statistics cited in news stories are not fully vetted by journalists. Someone we regard as knowledgeable cites a figure and we parrot it.

But we should always ask the most important verification question: How do you know that? And too often, as John points out in asking the 5 W’s about a bogus but oft-cited stat about 100,000 Christians being killed for their faith every year, the answer is that the source doesn’t really know.

Truthfulness and verification are the core of good journalism. John gives some excellent advice for verifying numbers and getting closer to the truth.

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