Ben Yagoda and Dan DeLorenzo have contributed to the Nieman Storyboard an interesting post
on the ethical and factual requirements and obligations of a memoir. They recognize that the model has come under some siege in recent years and set out an itemized list of objectives.
"Inaccuracy is a problem in a memoir based on the extent to which it gets details as well as larger truths demonstrably wrong, depicts identifiable people in a negative light, fails to recognize the limits of memory, is poorly written, is self-serving, or otherwise wears its agenda on its sleeve<" they write. "The more of these things it does and the more egregiously it does them, the bigger the problem is."
Yagoda, a professor, and DeLorenzo, a journalist, take the model, give it 100 points, then add or deduct points for each quality it features (or doesn't): accuracy, self-service, self-deprecation, and so on. They test some memoirs against their ratings system.
Earlier today, a Twitter hoax spread that CNN host Piers Morgan had been suspended pending an investigation of his involvement in the phone-hacking scandal. Some journalists reTweeted before one journalist determined the information was untrue. (Martin Bryant of TheNextWeb chronicles the episode
Reuters blogger Felix Salmon says this should not be a cause for deep concern
. Twitter is the "new newsroom," he writes, where people can raise rumours and have them shot down, "no harm no foul." Just as journalists pass around gossip in a newsroom, he says Twitter can serve as a similar environment.
Salmon believes that the big accounts of organizations ought to be held to higher standards. "But for the rest of us, we’re conversing on Twitter just like we converse in real life," he says.
"People are human, they believe rumours, make mistakes, jump to conclusions. Twitter is just a healthy reminder of that fact," he concludes.
What do you think?
The head of the Center for Journalism Ethics
at University of Wisconsin in Madison (disclosure: a former colleague at UBC and The Canadian Press) has distilled his academic work on changing ethics into a post for
the PBS MediaShift site.
In it, Stephen Ward argues that many concepts associated with journalism ethics --- particularly the "false model" of objectivity --- need redefining in the digital age. He suggests that the "just the facts" notion of objectivity is outdated. Rather, objectivity needs to be a method by which information is gathered and an ideal that helps guide the journalist.
Ward says educators need to find ways to identify ethical guidelines and best practices in all forms of journalism, including perspectival journalism and live-blogging, to ensure that truth-telling and accuracy remain in the picture. The fear that teaching perspectival journalism means lowering standards is wrong, he suggest.
"The issue is not whether certain media formats are inherently unethical. The issue is what norms are appropriate for any specific format," he writes. "We need both comprehensive principles and specific guidelines that allow students to engage new media in a creative but responsible manner."
In his new book, co-author Alfred Hermida (disclosure: he is a colleague at UBC, where he teaches journalism) examines the changing relationship
between newspapers and the audience. He posts today on his Reportr.net
site a summary of his recent presentation on the topic at a conference in Australia.
Hermida notes that the practice of opening content to public comments isn't new, but he notes the digital age's swift impact on the evolution of the relationship.
He surveyed more than a dozen newspapers and their attitudes about the involvement of the public in their content. He was looking for change.
Some took a "conventional" stance that kept some distance with the audience, some were "dialogical" open to audience participation, but most fell into the "ambivalent journalist" category: They recognized the value of audience involvement, but also expressed reservations about users as participants. Even in that regard, though, it amounts to some change in recent years.
Hermida observes that the public is involved at the beginning and end of the journalistic process, but that the crucial and central processes of deciding and presenting are the domains of the journalist. To date, he concludes, journalists have found ways to preserve that role.
This week, The New Yorker adds two voices to the extensive discussion on the phone-hacking scandal and its implications for journalism.
Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, hopes the scandal
causes journalists to reflect upon their relationship to power. No matter that important information is often brought forward by unorthodox means, "a press pass is not a moral unlimited-ride card," he writes.
Anthony Lane, one of the paper's arts writers and a former Fleet Street journalist, looks
at the culture of News Corp. and its British publications in particular. It is a sharply critical and unflattering portrait, replete with many of the anecdotes in wide circulation about the Rupert Murdoch newspapers.
In recent weeks there has been a renewed public attention on the practice by some news organizations of paying news subjects for access. Most prominent was its $200,000 payment in 2008 to Casey Anthony, recently acquitted on a charge of killing her child, but there have been others.
Howard Kurtz of Newsweek/The Daily Beast reports today
that ABC News has decided to discontinue the practice, principally because it worries about the impact on its credibility. The move means ABC News might be out of the competitive business for big bookings, but it believes the lost reputation is greater than any lost bookings.
The result, Kurtz says, is that ABC will not pay for photos or videos associated with the news subject.
The Poynter Institute panel now serving as the ombudsmen for ESPN has released its review
of the ethical issues involving its football reporter who wrote a book on behalf of a former college coach now in the process of suing ESPN, a major college football broadcaster.
If that wasn't delicate enough, the son of an ESPN broadcaster played for the coach and said he had been locked in a closet by the coach during a practice while recovering from a concussion. ESPN's reporting of the incident was quite critical.
The coach was fired and later sued ESPN for libel. When the coach's book was excerpted last week, details critical of ESPN emerged --- the network, dealing with the libel suit, has not been able to respond.
Initial reports said the network suspended the writer, but that proved wrong --- he was simply asked not to blog or Tweet while the network sorted out the matter.
As one might expect in such circumstances, the Poynter Review Project calls the matter the most complicated it has faced.
The panel found problems galore in the approval of the book project, the handling of the reporter's involvement, and the failure to end the involvement when the former coach sued. It alluded to the many familiarities of sportswriters and sports figures, but thought
It found "a culture of optimistically searching for a middle pathway, when at times someone just needs to say no." Along the way it also found some substandard reporting of the issue by others.
Newsweek.com features an extensive account
by the editor in chief of The Guardian
that provides some insight into how it persisted on the News of the World phone-hacking case.
Alan Rusbridger coherently identifies the series of events, some of his newsroom's setbacks and challenges, and the ultimate turning points that gave rise to the public awareness of the journalistic scandal.
Among other things he reveals how The New York Times
helped his newsroom pursue the story and how those efforts encouraged others to report on it.
Meanwhile, The New York Times today chronicles the handling of the scandal
and the efforts by parent company News Corp. to deal with it.
The week ahead includes a pivotal appearance Tuesday before a British parliamentary committee of News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch and his son James, a leading executive of the company, along with Rebekah Brooks, the former News Corp. executive arrested Sunday.
In his latest blog post
, media writer Ken Auletta looks at what Murdoch faces in the way of legal and regulatory challenges. He clearly believes the American consequences stand to be severe in the phone hacking scandal, even without direct activity in the U.S.
The British Broadcasting Corp. has issued new guidelines
for its journalists when using social media.
They are divided in three
: personal use, program use and professional use. There is little that differentiates them from the guidelines for other organizations.It advises people not to include BBC in any personal title, although they can acknowledge that is where they work. It suggests avoiding anything that identifies political preferences, even in their personal use. Largely the document is about exercising common sense, recognizing that everything is public, and discouraging anything that might bring BBC into disrepute.A separate Twitter guideline was published. An element of the guideline is the requirement for a second set of eyes on Tweets.