My Current story about journalism ethics in private behavior prompted a podcast on the topic by one of my former American University students. Here’s my “It’s All Journalism” podcast with Michael O’Connell:
Archive for the ‘Digital First Media’ Category
I’ve received some welcome attention from media lately, mostly because of my holiday letter, which acknowledged my terminal cancer.
Daniel Finney, a longtime friend who’s a Des Moines Register columnist, wrote his Christmas Day column about Mimi and me, after interviewing us both.
Another old friend, Paul Stevens, noted the Finney piece in his Connecting newsletter, which prompted some praise in a subsequent edition of Connecting from John Lumpkin, yet another old friend.
Next came an interview Tuesday evening with Jim Engster on the Louisiana Radio Network.
Also Tuesday, Current published a story I wrote about journalism ethics and community involvement.
Update: Sunday, Jan. Matt Hansen’s column in the Omaha World-Herald was about Mimi (and men who command women they don’t even know to “Smile!”). But I got a mention.
I am teaching a class at Washington and Lee University today on news literacy.
We’ll be discussing fake news sites and I will be showing the students these links:
These are blog posts that relate to my “Revenue Roundup” discussion at the Online News Association today:
A Ken Doctor report today does the math: Less than a month after buying the Orange County Register and Riverside Press Press-Enterprise for $51.2 million, Digital First Media, where I worked from 2011 to 2014, sold 14.3 acres of land surrounding the Register’s Santa Ana office for $34 million, two-thirds of the sale price. The developer who bought the land had purchased the Register’s building two years ago.
In posts about the Boston Globe purchase in 2013 and the Omaha World-Herald sale in 2011, I previously speculated that real estate value probably accounted for most, if not all, of the purchase prices.
I am too busy, and don’t know enough about finance and real estate, to undertake an analysis of recent newspaper sales and what the core value is after you subtract the value of real estate. But I agree with Doctor that this value is “astoundingly low.” And it’s nowhere near the first time that’s happened.
Damn NYT, “taking advantage” of an on-the-record source: https://t.co/Q0qehAszdw
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) November 18, 2015
I have taken the New York Times to task occasionally for overuse of unnamed sources. So I join my friend Erik Wemple in saluting the Times for excellent use of an on-the-record source for a story about efforts to educate presidential candidate Ben Carson about foreign affairs.
Consider how differently this paragraph would read without the source’s name:
‘Nobody has been able to sit down with him and have him get one iota of intelligent information about the Middle East,’ Duane R. Clarridge, a top adviser to Mr. Carson on terrorism and national security, said in an interview. He also said Mr. Carson needed weekly conference calls briefing him on foreign policy so ‘we can make him smart.’
Without the name, I might wonder how high in the Carson campaign this “top adviser” really is. I would wonder if the adviser is really sitting in these briefings with Carson or hearing about them second-hand. I would wonder if the adviser is about to get fired and venting frustration on the way out the door. Some readers might wonder if the adviser really exists.
Instead, I can use Google to learn quickly that Clarridge is a former high official in the CIA (author of A Spy for All Seasons). I can read an interview with Clarridge and judge for myself how credible he is or I can read about his role in the Iran/Contra scandal of the 1980s.
I’m usually not going to do that much research, but the very fact that the source used his name, whether I know anything about that person or not, means that the source stands behind his account of what’s happening int he Carson campaign. The fact that he’s willing to take the heat from Carson and his supporters gives the story credibility.
If the Times writes that story based on an unnamed source, the Carson campaign’s response would be a well-deserved rebuke to the Times for using “anonymous” sources, an easy way to attack the credibility of a story. Instead, the Carson campaign weakly accused the Times of “taking advantage of an elderly gentleman.” That, of course, raised the question of why the campaign was taking the advice of such a feeble-minded person (and, as Wemple pointed out, why Carson business manager Armstrong Williams suggested the Times reporter talk to Clarridge).
You can love Ben Carson or you can hate him (as I noted earlier, meme-makers love him). You can agree with his views on foreign affairs or disagree. But with Clarridge on the record, you know that at least one of his advisers doesn’t find Carson to be a quick study on foreign issues.
Congratulations (and thanks) to the New York Times for reporting this story strongly with a named source.
Earlier posts on using unnamed sources
Posted in Digital First Media, tagged Dan Pacheco, Des Moines Register, Gannett, Harvest of Change, Jerry Ceppos, Margaret Sullivan, Michael Oreskes, New York Times, The Displaced, Tom Kent, Virtual reality on November 18, 2015| 4 Comments »
Virtual reality has long been one of those things on my someday list, a list that often gets more intention than attention. Unless I get a nudge. Like a request from the dean.
I sent Jerry Ceppos, dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, an email earlier this month, asking him to pass on to the faculty my willingness to guest-teach some classes this month. I was excused from teaching a regular course this semester because of my ever-changing plans for finishing my lymphoma treatment. But I enjoyed guest-teaching for a couple of colleagues early in November and had a fairly open calendar for the rest of the month (because I thought I might be in the hospital), so I offered to guest for some other faculty colleagues.
I turned down a colleague who asked about a topic on which I lacked expertise. I figure you should teach what you know. But somehow when the dean asked if I could teach something on my someday list, I decided someday was today (yesterday, actually).
So I taught a class on ethical issues in virtual reality journalism Tuesday, even though I have consumed little VR and produced none. Generally I prefer to teach matters on which I have some expertise, but I also like to continue expanding my expertise, so I agreed to lead a discussion of virtual reality issues in Jerry’s ethics class. I had about two days to learn enough about VR to teach it in a class.
Let’s back up a little: I wasn’t starting at zero here. I’ve heard speculation about VR being the future of news or entertainment or business for a decade or two, always curious. 360-degree visual technology certainly transformed video games from the flat original Super Mario Brothers games I used to play with my sons (though the boys have grown up and moved away, so I don’t play today’s 360 games). Even if video games are more virtual than reality, the concept is the same: Presenting an experience that feels real. Or “virtually” real, whatever that means.
I remember my fascination a decade ago when a real estate agent sent a photographer to the home we were planning to sell, and the photographer set a camera on a tripod, pivoting to shoot 12 (as I recall) photographs of each room of our home. Computer software would stitch the photos together into a “virtual tour” that the agent would post in a digital listing, inviting people to get a 360-degree look at each of our main rooms. I don’t know how much the virtual tour contributed, but the home sold for a good price.
I have a less detailed memory of a reporting project in the 1990s, early in the days of digital photography. I was reporting on the impact of government regulation, mandates and spending in a town, and a photojournalist shot pictures of all the businesses around the town square. A designer used some new software to stitch the pictures together into what appeared to be a panoramic photo of the town square for an informational graphic, in which I reviewed the governmental role in each of the businesses (I just looked unsuccessfully for a clip to share here, but I think my memory is accurate).
More recently, I encouraged (with mixed success) colleagues to try Gigapan panoramic photography, such as a Shanghai skyline photo stitching together 12,000 different photographs or the panoramic photograph of President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration. Click on the photograph to zoom in and move your mouse to pan around and you can clearly see members of the Obama, Bush, Cheney, Clinton and Biden families there, as well as recognizable members of the Supreme Court and Senate.
Improving technology moved the 360-degree viewing experience into video: advances in production technology, including wearable GoPro video cameras; video production software that stitches together moving images; headsets for viewing VR.
In a visit to Syracuse University last year, I first put an Oculus Rift headset on, as Dan Pacheco showed me where he was experimenting with VR applications for journalism. With the headset on, it appeared I was at a flooding scene. As I looked to the left and right or spun all the way around, it felt as if I were right at the scene, with water and flood damage all around me. I felt kind of disoriented wearing the headset and feeling surrounded by the scene. Some people actually feel motion sickness using VR headsets.
That summer, Dan worked at Gannett headquarters in Washington, helping produce a VR project for the Des Moines Register called “Harvest of Change,” giving the wearer of a headset the experience of being on an Iowa farm. (Well, not the full experience: VR technology is effective at providing the sights and sounds of a scene, but I’ve been on some Iowa farms, and you need at least one other sense to get the full experience.)
“Harvest” was a star of last year’s Online News Association conference, but I didn’t actually put on the Oculus Rift and experience the farm. Every time I went by the booth where it was being presented, the crowd was big enough that I decided to come back later.
— Amara Aguilar (@amara_media) September 26, 2014
Two Manship colleagues, Lance Porter and Tad Odell have been learning about VR and we have two Oculus Rift headsets at the school. Lance and Tad guest-taught a class for my Interactive Storytelling Tools class last spring.
I’d noticed other VR developments, including another story featured at this year’s ONA conference and an StoryNext conference last month, neither of which I could attend. So it was like the dean was telling me it was finally time to really learn something about virtual reality.
Jerry was prompted by the New York Times’ release of its project “The Displaced,” and Public Editor Margaret Sullivan’s column about reader reaction to VR, including some ethical issues raised by journalists.
Jerry loaned me the Google Cardboard viewer he received as a Times subscriber. I thought it would make a nice prop, contrasting with the Oculus Rift (shown in the selfie at the top of this post). Margaret noted the paradox of the Times’ invitation to readers to experience cutting-edge digital technology by unfolding and assembling a cardboard device:
The box itself (when assembled, it looked like a Fresh Direct container for three jumbo eggs) struck me as an almost instant anachronism: ready for its place on a historical timeline of the digital age’s evolution. This is what happened in 2015.
But the cardboard goggles generated some enthusiasm:
— WIRED (@WIRED) November 10, 2015
— kokojuba (@kokojubadotcom) November 10, 2015
— David Sullivan (@ciophoto) November 8, 2015
The structure of my class presentation was pretty easy to plan: I’d start with some discussion of the history and technology of VR, and its potential application in various communication fields represented in the class. Then we’d discuss some ethical issues.
I didn’t have time to produce a VR project, but I wasn’t asked to teach how to use VR, but to discuss ethics. While I already knew of some ethical issues, I knew it was a fairly simple reporting effort to increase my understanding of VR enough to lead the ethics discussion.
Margaret and Jerry (obviously trying to learn VR himself) provided some links that helped in my crash course:
NPR’s Michael Oreskes’ What We Talk About When We Talk About Virtual Reality
The Associated Press’ Tom Kent’s An ethical reality check for virtual reality journalism
- Wired’s Stop Calling Google Cardboard’s 360-Degree Videos ‘VR’
A report from StoryNext, The State of Virtual Reality in Journalism, was perhaps most helpful, both filling in the recent development of VR as well as laying out some good ethical issues to discuss with the class. This is too new a field for me to present do’s and don’ts, but it’s unfolding quickly enough to raise some issues for the students to consider as they consume and potentially produce VR.
And I continued learning about VR after the class, as students told me of VR being used in athletic recruiting and in therapy for soldiers dealing with post-traumatic stress.
Here are the slides I used for the class:
— Raju Narisetti (@raju) November 7, 2015