Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2014

In a post earlier today, I asked the question I would have asked Friday at a panel on the New York Times Innovation report (I was at the microphone, next to speak, when time ran out).

My question:

Why didn’t the Times publish the innovation report itself? And what does it say about the issues the report was addressing that the Times did not publish the report itself and was even surprised that it leaked to Buzzfeed and created such a stir?

Amy O'Leary

Amy O’Leary, Twitter avatar used with permission

Amy O’Leary, the Times’ Deputy Editor, Digital Operations, sent this response by email (I added the links and embedded the tweet):

Thank you so much for your question! I wish we’d had more time during the panel and had been able to get to it!

This is a really common question that we’ve been asked many times. Of course, it seems like the supreme irony that a report designed to tackle issues of digital innovation was printed out, on heavy stock paper,* for small distribution, which ultimately ended up going viral on a grainy photocopied PDF shared on Buzzfeed.  As I tweeted during on Friday, this irony was not lost on any of us that worked on the report.

Of course there are very good reasons why any internal strategy document at any company should remain private — it might contain confidential data, or present a roadmap for competitors to strategize around — but in hindsight, I think we were all glad the report ended up being a public document, and its release has opened up more conversations in the newsroom about the positive effects of a more public kind of conversation around these questions.

But the really simple answer to your question was that the report was commissioned by Jill Abramson, and it was up to her and her senior leadership team to decide what they wanted to do with it. (Keep in mind that when we delivered the report, as a group, we had no idea if the senior leadership of The Times would embrace any of these recommendations. That they ended up enthusiastically embracing all of our recommendations was a (pleasant) surprise to us.) And if I recall correctly, there was at least one question I heard in a meeting with newsroom leaders about whether the full report should be released more widely.  This was shortly before events unfolded which overtook that conversation.

I hope that’s helpful!

All best,
Amy

* I was the one who went to the Office Depot to buy that heavy stock paper. It was really nice quality!

Thanks to Amy for that response (and for quoting me in the report). I don’t have further comment, except to say that I’m pleased it was published, pleased that people at the Times are glad that it was published and I hope that everyone will agree to publish it right away if the Times does an internal study this important again. (It would be so much better as a Times interactive project or at least a hyperlinked document than on that heavy stock paper.)

And here’s that grainy PDF (my mention is on Page 87, and I’m also quoted but not named on Page 15, the quote about Project Unbolt):

Read Full Post »

One of the most interesting sessions of the Online News Association conference in Chicago last week was a discussion of the New York Times Innovation report. Andrew Beaujon (a former TBD colleague) wrote an excellent account of the session for Poynter, so I won’t recount it here. But I’ll raise the question I didn’t get to ask. As my friend and former colleague Mandy Jenkins noted, I was lined up at a microphone to take my turn asking questions:

But Swisher and Jarvis both asked follow-up questions and we ran out of time with me at the microphone, next in line. Friends noticed.

Beyond the tweets, that was kind of the greeting for much of the rest of the conference, when I would encounter friends and even strangers (or Twitter friends I had not yet met). Again and again, people asked what I was going to ask.

So here’s my question:

Why didn’t the Times publish the innovation report itself? And what does it say about the issues the report was addressing that the Times did not publish the report itself and was even surprised that it leaked to Buzzfeed and created such a stir?

(Amy O’Leary had opened the panel discussion by telling of her surprise when Buzzfeed published the report.)

I’ve already blogged twice about the Times report, and I’ve blogged multiple times about the importance of transparency. So I won’t belabor the point here. But I’ll invite O’Leary (or anyone at the Times) to answer in a comment or guest post here, by email — stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com — or on a Times format (I’ll quote it and link to it).

Like Swisher and Jarvis, I’ll include a few follow-up questions, too: Why didn’t the Times publish the report? Was there even a discussion about whether to publish the report and what to do if it leaked? Was the committee satisfied with the watered-down summary that was published, and did anyone think that wouldn’t stimulate interest in obtaining the real report? Has the response to the report increased transparency to the point that such a report would be published today?

Looks like I’ll be getting an answer. I’ll update here when I do (or perhaps make it a separate guest post):

It was an interesting panel, but I want to know more.

Read Full Post »

EsquireThe pseudonymous bloggers @blippoblappo and @crushingbort deliver withering criticism of CNN in a guest piece on Esquire.com.

The piece, titled “CNN does not get to cherrypick the rules of journalism,” rips the news network for its double standard in standing by Fareed Zakaria despite extensive documentation on the Our Bad Media blog of plagiarism by Zakaria. Earlier this year, the bloggers noted, CNN fired a news editor for multiple instances of plagiarism. “In its statement announcing her firing, CNN trumpeted its standards of ‘trust, integrity, and simply giving credit where it’s due.'” But, beyond a dismissive statement last month when Our Bad Media published the first of three posts documenting 45 instances of apparent plagiarism, CNN has ignored the accusations against one of its biggest stars.

I won’t repeat much detail here of the Esquire piece, though I encourage you to read it (and I thank my pseudonymous friends for their mention of me). However, these three points stand out: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Many journalists and news organizations grant confidentiality too readily, sacrificing credibility in the quest of a story. But I think ESPN handled confidentiality responsibly in its reporting on the response by the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL to Ray Rice’s assault on his fiancée.

In a discussion on Facebook, Bryan Sears asked what I thought about ESPN’s use of unnamed sources:

I hate to call people out but Steve Buttry has some serious chops when it comes to the issue of use of anonymous sources and I’m hoping he’d be willing to contribute his thoughts about how ESPN used anonymous sources in the story and what it does to the credibility of the story and are the reporters able to adequately shore up the weaknesses inherent with the use of unnamed sources in such a controversial piece.

Two points before I address the question:

  1. Thanks for the kind words, Bryan.
  2. I avoid the term “anonymous sources” unless the source is actually unknown to the journalist (as some callers, emailers and online commenters are). We should never use information from those sources in stories because we have no way of judging their credibility. They can provide great tips, and I’ve written stories that started with truly anonymous sources, but we have to get the information from sources we trust, or we can’t use it. If a journalist knows the source, as ESPN clearly did, we have a basis of judging his or her credibility and motives for requesting confidentiality. As I’ve explained before, I prefer to call these sources confidential, unnamed or unidentified. I think those terms are more accurate than anonymous, and calling them anonymous hurts the credibility of our reporting. I’ll never win this fight to change journalism terminology, but I repeat my argument whenever I address the issue.

Now to Bryan’s question:

First, I should say that I can just evaluate what I see of the ESPN “Outside the Lines” report by Don Van Natta Jr. and Kevin Van Valkenberg. The reporters did not tell us everything about what they did to verify sources’ stories. Nor could they. That’s the nature of confidentiality. My analysis will involve some speculation and I might change some of the opinions expressed here if I knew more. I will invite the reporters to comment on this post, though I understand that they may not be able to shed much light. (more…)

Read Full Post »

I am leading two workshops this morning for the New York Press Association conference in Port Jefferson.

First will be Engage Your Community, which will draw on points I’ve made in lots of different community engagement posts here.

Then I will discuss managing your changing workload, which will draw heavily on the lessons of Project Unbolt.

Here are my slides for the workshops:

Read Full Post »

Journalism has no such sin as low-level plagiarism.

The very act of rewriting stolen material makes a theft more sinister and deliberate than the stupid plagiarists who steal whole paragraphs, passages or stories verbatim.

Plagiarism accusations against Fareed Zakaria continue, and Poynter’s Kelly McBride evaluated them for Politico and concluded: “It’s plagiarism. Low-level. But plagiarism.”

Kelly is a longtime friend and one of the strongest and wisest voices on journalism ethics. Several years ago we collaborated on a series of ethics seminars and my respect for her grew each time we worked together. I have praised and promoted the ethics book she edited with Tom Rosenstiel, The New Ethics of Journalism. And I’ll invite and publish or link to any response she has to this post.

But she’s wrong to use the phrase “low-level” in describing dozens of instances of obviously deliberate theft of other people’s work. That’s not all she said. She also said, “It seems obvious that Fareed was overly reliant on his source material.” I agree with that, but it’s a huge understatement. He was overly reliant on his source material, without attribution.

Here’s how we defined plagiarism in Telling the Truth and Nothing But, a book on which I collaborated with journalists from more than 30 journalism organizations, media companies and universities: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Nieman Reports coverMy gender has been an undeniable advantage for most of my journalism career.

I think I deserved every job or promotion and I think I’ve performed well in each job. But I know that I got more breaks and opportunities than deserving female colleagues. And male colleagues with less achievement and potential also got more breaks.

Nieman Reports has published a strong and detailed examination of gender issues in journalism. I encourage you to read it for a more thorough look at the issues and obstacles than you’ll find here. This is just a personal perspective, prompted by the Nieman report: Gender has been a significant – sometimes huge – obstacle for female journalists throughout my journalism career. While it has improved over the long haul, it hasn’t been steady improvement and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said women have lost ground lately.

I’ve worked with a lot of male journalists who rose to upper-level management positions, or even to the top, who weren’t as talented or as accomplished as females who left the business in frustration or never made it to the upper levels.

For this post, I’m not going to name names or news organizations. I don’t want to offend or argue with former male colleagues I think have based decisions in large or tiny part on gender, intentionally or without thinking. I don’t want to embarrass any women by discussing their career disappointments or other matters. And I certainly won’t violate the things female colleagues have told me in confidence.

But here are some observations about gender in the newsrooms where I’ve worked, either as a full-time journalist or visiting as a trainer or corporate editor: (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »