One of the more challenging issues for journalism is to report on itself. In the case of media owned by diversified corporations, that poses an even larger challenge.The Washington Post noted this week that the top-rated NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams was one of the few major media organizations not to report that General Electric had not paid any corporate taxes this year. GE is NBC's parent company.NBC indicated this was not a conscious decision to avoid news about its owners, but simply a matter of an editorial selection process that happened not to focus on the story.The Post drew on the Fairness and Accuracy in Media organization to argue that several GE-related stories have been underplayed by NBC over the years and that tax-avoidance stories had made the newscast when others were involved.
The recent use of social media to propel political activism does not come dilemma-free. Sites with cultures of neutrality and accommodation are finding themselves in quandaries about their approaches.The New York Times explores how they are wrestling with this content and trying to preserve the integrity of the cultures that first made them attractive.
It looks at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, in particular.The pressure is coming from all sides: from those who feel misrepresentation is viral and those who feel more anonymity is necessary to protect those speaking out.Ultimately there are bound to be legal questions about the publishing responsibility.
Detroit News has apologized to readers
for changing a review of a car following an advertiser complaint. In the process, their auto reviewer resigned.
The publisher and editor, Jonathan Wollman, called the episode a "humbling mistake." The auto review appeared in the paper, drew criticism from Chrysler, and the writer was asked to change some passages
that had been deemed acerbic and disrespectful of the Chrysler 200.
Wollman insisted in his message that no attempt was made to change the reviewer's verdict, but that the changes were designed to improve the piece.
"Once the review was published we should have maintained the wording in all our formats and avoided any sense that we were acting at the influence of any interest aside from our readers' interest," Wollman wrote.
He added: "The credibility of our journalism is our calling card to your doorstep and your digital screen. We simply cannot act at any behest but yours and we must avoid any appearance to the contrary."
Lisa Shepard, the ombudsman for National Public Radio, has been a determined source of information on NPR's recent struggles.
First she took NPR to task for the way in which it fired commentator Juan Williams, and now she has been chronicling the events of the last week that saw its chief fundraiser fall into a prank that ultimately caused the CEO to depart.
In that prank, a conservative activist posed as a would-be Muslim contributor and, without any real prompting, witnessed (and taped) the fundraiser casting aspersions on Republicans, the Tea Party and others. While the episode was criticized for its technique, it was overshadowed by the departures.
Shepard's latest post
outlines the sequence of red flags that never gained NPR's proper attention. She interviews many fundraisers perplexed at what happened and how it ever might have happened. It's an insightful piece that includes some email exchanges on the matter from within NPR.
The Washington Post has acknowledged copy-and-paste plagiarism
from The Arizona Republic and suspended a Pulitzer-winning reporter for three months for publishing other's material as her own.Sari Horwitz
, a veteran investigative reporter, was suspended following stories on legal proceedings against Jared Lee Loughner, indicted on dozens of charges in the recent Tucson shootings of a Congresswoman and a state judge, among others.
The Post was alerted to the plagiarism by The Republic this week and took little time to act. It determined that two paragraphs from one story
and 10 from another
first appeared in The Republic. They were copied and pasted into a Word document with other notes and later filed the paragraphs for the Web as if they were original.
The news organization has apologized
, as has Horwitz, and noted in the online stories that they contained reproduced material.
New York University's Jay Rosen never fails to be instructive, but his latest lesson is an intriguing exercise in self-criticism.
Rosen sent an errant Tweet this week on seeming corporate pressure
involving a subsdiary of AOL --- what he calls "a serious error" --- and he has not only corrected the 140-character mistake but provided an extensive chronology of its pathology.
Before Rosen could correct, his Tweet had spread to a six-figure audience. He found undoing the mess problematic, in particular the weight of making a mistake with his professional credentials behind him.
His case study of his foul-up is an excellent example, though, of how to thoroughly explain how a mistake was made and his thinking along the way. Rosen has Tweeted 15,000 times, but this acknowledgment does nothing to take away from the contribution he has made. If anything, it enhances it.
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism
has issued its eight annual State of the News Media
report today. It's a definitive look at American media, with some implications for media outside the U.S. in trends and practices.
The report concludes that, with the exception of newspapers, media operated better in 2010 than in 2009 on many frontiers. Some new business models began to blossom, for instance.
But the report says that the problems aren't involving audiences or even the new models.
"It may be that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own destiny," the executive summary of the report concludes. New intermediaries are adding layers to the relationship between consumers and advertisers, whether they are software manufacturers or platform creators, and their share of the revenue and data pose new challenges.
Among major trends: executives from outside, some willingness to pay, untapped local news opportunities, a new media economy of smaller entities, and assistance to media via the car bailout.
The report looks at newspapers, online
, television networks
, cable television
, ethnic and alternative press
, magazines, audio
and some special reports on, among other things, international newspaper economics
and the online experiments in Seattle.
National Public Radio is dealing with reputational damage today after one of its fundraising executives was pranked into discussing discomfort with conservatives. (UPDATE: The CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, has left the company
as a result of the incident.)A chronic prankster pretended to represent an organization looking to donate and it took little effort to get the executive to open up about the organization's purported adversaries.
The scheme plays into stereotypical concerns that NPR is anti-conservative.NPR has disavowed the comments as unrepresentative, but already commentators are suggesting this hurts the organization.
It appears impartiality at Sports Illustrated involves nothing to cheer about.This week its NASCAR reporter says he lost his freelance job for applauding at the Daytona 500 last weekend in the press box. Tom Bowles displayed his emotions and SI.com displayed its tough ethics code. SI.com, owned by Time Inc., is implying there was more to this
dismissal than one episode, so it is important to bear that in mind in assessing the departure. But Bowles believes he'd still be at SI.com were it not for five seconds of clapping.No matter that the race itself was exceptionally poignant (the youngest-ever winner in a record-filled race), it marked what Bowles calls his first and last claps for the sports site.He was unsettled by the news and took to the site where SI.com discovered him five years earlier, Frontstretch.com, to explain himself. We are all inherently biased, Bowles argues, and the test of impartiality should be what you create as journalism.
"I understand the importance of impartiality in reporting," he wrote. "But last time I checked, where you’re supposed to be judged is whether that actually shows up on paper."He argues the traditional media do not understand how the game has changed.
"Turns out the modern, professional media is ignorant of a changing culture beyond their control, one where 'just the facts, ma’am' is increasingly replaced with the instant gratification of 'just the facts, ma’am… and here’s how I think those facts should get interpreted. What do you think?' It’s a place where the 'official' media claim to follow the rules, then give us their opinion seconds afterwards on verified Twitter accounts while hanging 'off the record' with the athletes they cover during the week," he wrote.What are your thoughts on this?