Some media stories of note for Wednesday, May 15, 2013:The Guardian is reporting
that China is attempting to curtail the blogging activities of writers and intellectuals by closing their social media accounts. In recent weeks notable social justice critics have been silenced in social media. There were other recent efforts to curtail mainstream media's use of western-based content.
The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has defended the seizure of telephone records of The Associated Press. The New York Times reports
he says the article that prompted the seizure arose from a serious leak of information with serious national security implications that put Americans at risk. The Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan,
weighs in with a critique of the Obama Administration as one of the most secretive and threatening to the press, with implications for readers and democracy. The Times' media writer, David Carr,
looks at how it's not only government snooping on us, but all of us snooping on all of us. The New Yorker is releasing
the technical specs on Strongbox, software that permits reporters to cover their tracks as they reach out to the magazine. It uses a particular network and masks your IP address, information about your computer and browser, and won't plant cookies or third-party content. AllThingsDigital surmises
that the release of the program, created by the late Aaron Swartz, is aimed at letting other organizations create their own versions.
Two articles in recent days highlight the ethical challenges of Silicon Valley tech bloggers.
Many bloggers and their organizations separate their editorial efforts from any economic pressures involving advertisers or those they cover.
But in some instances bloggers are accepting investments in their operations and writing about those benefactors without much identifying or avoiding the conflicts involved.
In some instances bloggers are soliciting investments to create their own venture funds and writing for presumably large audiences about the companies they feature --- likely positively, and almost assuredly not before they parlay their insider knowledge into greater wealth.
The articles in the Los Angeles Times
and on The Daily Beast
acknowledge that blogging isn't necessarily journalism and that many bloggers are now the 21st century equivalent of the public relations firm. But both are clear that there are conflicts galore in this new trend.
In his Media Decoder blog
, David Carr notes a court ruling this week that has potential implications for Americans asserting themselves as journalists.
A blogger who was sued for defamation could not use Oregon's law to defend her use of material from a source --- in effect to try to shield her from the suit --- because the court ruled she was not entitled to the privileged position of mainstream media the law provides.
The court noted
she was not affiliated with a media organization or entity. The law was written before blogging emerged. She has been ordered to pay $2.5 million in damages in the case.
Her defence was unusual, in that she was asserting the offending post was based on an anonymous source. She argued she deserved protection as a publisher under the law.
While experts believe the ruling will have little effect on journalism, it will stimulate debate on the definition of a journalist in the digital age and the possible need for legal reform to reflect the new definition.
The Ontario Superior Court has set a new framework for defamation
with political bloggers. In a new ruling it says that the context of blogger debates might make it possible to exchange libels without penalty.The court said the context of the platform, with lots of freewheeling comments in the mix, might mitigate what would otherwise be considered a libel. If someone were expecting a rejoinder, for instance, the first remarks might not be problematic.
The case recognized the different dynamic of an Internet debate.It is more than likely the case will be appealed, but the ruling sets a different tone for the standards of political blogging on message boards in Ontario, Canada's largest jurisdiction and often a precedent-setting place for communications and media. This case is bound to be watched as it moves up in the justice system.
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."
The Economist is staging one of its house debates
this week to accompany a special report
on the news industry. In it, NYU professor Jay Rosen and University of California at Berkeley professor Nicholas Carr --- both avid bloggers and authors --- debate whether the Internet has made journalism better. Rosen says so, Carr says not so.
Their statements, rebuttals and debate will be featured all week. Rosen's opening is that he feels the cost of entry has declined, so more can participate; Carr's is that the Internet has thinned the ranks of the professional class. They've already amassed some substantial public comments.
I've started the blog at CBC in my new role as Ombudsman
with an introductory note that sets out a few thoughts on the position. But these are very early days and I'll get my footing in the time ahead.
The blog is part of a larger site that contains the many reviews from the Office over the years on an array of issues brought to it. It's my intention to post them as they're completed and blog on relevant matters to the work.
Meantime, this blog will reflect those posts and add other material from time to time that discusses the relationship between the public and journalistic organizations. I want the two places to neither clash nor overlap, so I expect this will be a work in progress for some time. Your suggestions are welcome.
The TNS research firm has released
the largest-ever study of media use behaviour. Not surprisingly it points to rapid adoption of the Internet. But it also demonstrates that several countries are embracing digital more rapidly than are others.
Among the highlights of the study:
1. The Internet has surpassed television as the most-used medium.
2. Rapid-growth markets like China and Egypt have surpassed mature markets.
3. Blogging and social networking are blooming in these rapid-growth markets.
4. Social networking growth has been spurred by the rise of mobile.
5. As email wanes, social networking rises.
Here is a statistic unthinkable a few years ago: More than half of all Internet users read a blog each month.
An eMarketer study concludes
that blog consumption continues to grow as they become normal forms of communication. That said, only 12 per cent of the online population will update a blog monthly.
The study suggests that blogging has grown common enough but that such expressive formats as Twitter and Facebook are encroaching on the blog's position.
Still, the total number of bloggers in America will rise from today's 26.2 million to 2014's 33.4 million.
It's interesting that in 2010 we're still discussing (whether there are) differences between a blogger and a journalist. More interesting still is that the latest piece
on this issue comes from a technology writer for Mashable, Jolie O'Dell, and that it is worded quite strenuously.
The effect is bound to get O'Dell attention, perhaps not the kind she'd like.
She has some basic advice for bloggers: Get into school and learn journalism. You're different. Journalists have standards you don't.
In her post, O'Dell articulates the differences she perceives:
1. Journalists have training, have thick skin about editing, and restrain themselves in expressing opinions in their stories.
2. Journalists cite sources, are obsessed with the truth, serve the public and are critical and skeptical.
3. Journalists care about form, don't snitch and are committed to the craft.
"A blogger touting his love for journalism is like a high school choir girl saying she loves opera: She might be sincere, but she’s got a hell of a lot to learn," she writes.
What do you think?