For the weekend of November 30-December 1, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
The editor of a magazine in India that has pushed for an end to sexual violence has been arrested in a sexual assault case. The Associated Press reports
Tarun Tejpal, editor of Tehelka, is accused of assaulting a female colleague earlier in November. He had earlier stepped down for what he said was a lapse in judgment.
Meanwhile, the Indian vice president has released a book
on media ethics, a series of essays by prominent journalists and officials. Hamid Ansari indicates that a stronger form of media self-regulation is needed to restore credibility or there will need to be government intervention to effect improvements. He argues media have lost their way into excessive commercialism, glamour and sensationalism.
The government of Pakistan is indicating
further measures are forthcoming on its freedom of information law. A code of conduct is also emerging in the country for its journalists. At a conference Friday, the government affirmed its commitment to free expression and to a strengthening of ethical practices.
For Friday, November 15, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications director, spoke in his role
as a visiting professor at Cambridge about the media and politics. It is a meandering speech, but its central points appear to be: the audience is savvy enough to drive media change, the regulation debate in England is a mess, politicians would do better to think strategically more than tactically, and the threat to journalism comes from within. He argues that media decline owes not to technology but to a lack of accountability, abuse of power, and rising public awareness of journalism's methods.
Alexander Howard, writing for the Tow Center
for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, examines some of the recent ethical pitfalls of data-driven journalism. He argues that the tensions and their consequences will only grow more difficult and that journalists need to be more conscious of ethics than ever in this new environment of access to and distribution of data.
A report from the Pew Research Journalism Project
suggests 21 per cent of Facebook users and 18 per cent of Twitter users get news often from newspapers. Local TV is a news source often for 42 per cent of Facebook users and 23 per cent of Twitter users. Cable (23 and 17 per cent for Facebook and Twitter users, respectively) and radio (25 and 24 per cent) are also strong sources.
USA Today media writer Rem Rieder argues
that CBS News must conduct a full, transparent inquiry into the errant 60 Minutes report last month on the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi. Rieder believes the damage to the venerable program is substantial and that CBS News must move swiftly to answer many questions about its practices in this matter.
Tuesday, November 5, 2013's media stories of note:
Paul Farhi of the Washington Post has set upon
the second questionable ethical move by NBC News in a week. Earlier he chronicled a decision by NBC to develop a movie with a victimized family it covered exclusively. Now he is writing about payment to skydivers for aerial footage and interviews following a collision by two airborne small planes. The video set NBC back $100,000 and gets them a Today Show exclusive Tuesday and two weeks' worth of exclusive television coverage (print interviews are permitted under their agreement).
Is the drive for transparency distorting the ethics of media and democracy? University of Oregon scholar Stephen Ward (transparency disclosure: a former colleague) argues that the
"hyperbole" of transparency is a cop-out for more formidable obligations of the craft: responsible publication and independence. Moreover, Ward argues, some important journalism is non-transparent and that transparency is not necessary for many forms of good journalism.
NYU scholar Jay Rosen rarely sets fingers to keyboard without shaking conventional wisdom and finding insights into digital media. His latest Pressthink post
is the basis of a speech in Australia and it riffs on Old and New Testament media traits: Old being everyone involved, New being media as mediators in insiders and outsiders, those kinds of riffs. The New Testament's business model, which valued the protection of media, is breaking down. He isn't necessarily siding, but he is suggesting both pieces are moving toward reconciliation. Neither has a monopoly on virtue, he says, and the messiah has yet to surface.
Media outlets have raised concern about a recent 60 Minutes segment on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost last year in Benghazi. They've noted the central subject of the segment had different stories for the cameras and for officials. Now the Huffington Post's media writer, Michael Calderone, is reporting that
the subject, British security official Dylan Davies, has admitted there are differing tales --- but that the television one (and the one in his book) are factual and that he lied to his boss about his whereabouts on the night of the attack.
For Monday, November 4, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
Last week brought about some high-profile journalistic ethics questions, with no resolution necessarily imminent.
For instance, NBC has entered a development deal for a movie based on the story of Brett Anderson and his teenaged daughter who was kidnapped and whose mother and brother were murdered. This followed exclusive news interviews on NBC. Is it an ethical breach for one arm of your company to pay those who were sources of information for another arm of your company? Paul Farhi of the Washington Post
looks at the dilemma and doesn't conclude one way or the other.
Then there is a 60 Minutes report last week on last year's attack on U.S. officials in Benghazi. Last week Media Matters raised the question
of the differences in the story 60 Minutes heard from an eyewitness and the story he supposedly told the FBI and other U.S. officials. Media attention has grown
on the different stories, as have calls for a retraction, but 60 Minutes has so far held its ground and stood by the story.
Lewis D'Vorkin, the chief product officer at Forbes, has a distinct view
on digital accuracy: He thinks quality means something different in print than in digital, that the Internet is a self-correcting body due to the public scrutiny and intervention, and that his organization has a code of ethics but freedom to operate within it as a contributor with a finger on the Send button. In his view: "Accountability must be moved to the producer of the content."
As for consumers of content, there is good news for Twitter
: Its news consumers are young, educated and mobile, ingredients bound to attract advertising support. A new Pew Research report indicates 8 per cent of U.S. adults get news through Twitter. Analysis of the data also indicates that much of what is shared is breaking news, that sentiments shift constantly, and that conversations don't necessarily reflect public opinion.
Last month a Yale University study suggested major U.S. media were more clearly conservative in their depiction of National Security Agency surveillance, using pro-surveillance terms more often than pro-freedom terms in their stories. It has extended this analysis
into more consciously conservative media and affirmed the finding. Its conclusion: the coverage isn't necessarily a reflection of a "pro-state" bias because that's difficult to define, but it is "capturing a meaningful divide" in society.
Some media notes for Friday, September 20, 2013:The Wall Street Journal reports
on a social media crackdown in China. Leading social media figures have been interrogated or detained, while others have been warned about their activity as the country widens its laws to permit easier prosecution. The Weibo social media site has been particularly targeted.
Roy Greenslade, the media writer for The Guardian, looks at the threats to journalists
in Yemen in the context of some progress on their rights. A Human Rights Watch report
says Yemeni journalists are facing violence and intimidation from the current and former governments, rebels, secessionists and religious conservatives.
The editor of Gawker, in an interview with The Globe and Mail,
dismisses the need for an "additional" set of ethics for journalists. John Cook says he is guided by basic ethical precepts, no different than a plumber's, and that another layer of guides isn't necessary. "I think it’s more instructive to think of reporters the way people think of tradesman and women. I think it’s a trade rather than a profession – it’s certainly starting to pay more like a trade than a profession. And I think the idea of building up a superstructure of journalism ethics is part of a process of trying to exclude the hoi polloi from the process of reporting and commenting on the news," he said.
For Thursday, September 12, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
A Senate committee is expected to approve today wording that expands the definition of a journalist under the proposed shield law. Dylan Byers, writing for Politico,
says the amendment would define a journalist as anyone who has been employed by or in contract with a media outlet for at least one year within the last 20 years or
three months within the last five years. It would include someone with a substantial track record of freelancing in the last five years. It would include student journalists. And, most important of all, it would permit a judge to deem someone a journalist for protection, as long as their work had been consistent with the law.
BuzzFeed is one of digital media's most successful organizations and one way it encourages public engagement is to permit audience content to make its way on to the site. But it has introduced new roles for its "community posts" to govern submissions by groups using its self-publishing tools. Jeff John Roberts, writing for paidContent, notes the changes differentiate community contributions and make clear there are standards for the content.
The editor-in-chief of IBN18 network in India laments the decline of journalistic standards
and believes there needs to be a code of conduct backed by a regulatory authority to restore the craft's moral compass. Rajdeep Sardesai says there is quantity but not quality in Indian media and too little training and mentoring of young journalists. He blames editors for compromises in integrity.
The American Press Institute offers 10 tips
for understanding and expanding audiences. Among them: Target segments by time of day, build social presences around topics, focus on quality instead of quantity, and one size fits no one.
For Tuesday, September 10, 2013, here are some media stories of note:
The BBC is entangled in parliamentary investigations into payoffs for former executives, and now there are signs
the government wants to disband the BBC Trust, the body that establishes and guides the standards of the public broadcaster's journalism. Cabinet ministers have indicated they do not believe the Trust can be a watchdog and standard-bearer at the same time. There are reports that duties will be handed to the communications regulator, Ofcom.
A conference on journalism in Africa has heard
how journalists operate in a climate of political instability and a lack of transparency and accountability. Peter Horrocks, director of BBC News, indicated the debate on standards and ethics has improved journalistic quality. More particularly, the conference heard, cell phones are being used as watchdog tools to minimize voter fraud.
Bill Adair, writing for Poynter,
looks at how news organizations can learn from enhanced e-books in their quest for digital success. Adair writes that many book publishers have simply migrated text to digital and failed to offer more that would take advantage of technology, such as animation and video. He says editors have to think beyond ink on paper.
Here are some media stories of interest for Tuesday, August 27, 2013:
Dean Starkman, writing for the Columbia Journalism Review,
looks at the "journalism problem" for ESPN. Unlike other organizations that cover a wide range of topics and have a wide range of advertisers supporting them, ESPN's programming contracts and journalism coverage are much more narrow. Starkman looks at the dilemma it has with its NFL and NCAA coverage, given the enormity of the programming contracts that contribute richly to its wealth.
The Australian press watchdog has reminded newspapers
of their obligation to provide fair-minded political coverage during the election campaign. The prime minister has been critical of the News Corp. papers' coverage of his party in the run-up to elections next week. Rupert Murdoch's chain comprises about 70 per cent of the country's newspaper circulation. The watchdog has written papers to note they have agreed to provide a "reasonably comprehensive and accurate account of public issues," although it acknowledges their right to hold opinions and favour candidates.
Dell Cameron, writing for VICE,
examines the critical issues involved as the United States wrestles with the notion of a media shield law. Cameron argues that the bill would not protect journalists at all but revoke the rights of anyone who reveals government threats to the public. He says it would only help corporate media and would define journalism as a profession and not, more appropriately in his view, as an action.
For Monday, August 26, here are some media stories of note:
The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers has written the British government
to criticize its attempts to destroy sensitive leaked documents in the possession of The Guardian. It calls the move an act of "intimidation" and a "deeply regrettable" attempt to chill journalistic pursuit of important information about mass surveillance. It further called the detention last week of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian contributing columnist Glenn Greenwald, "outrageous and deeply disturbing." The Guardian has in recent days
shared some of its documentation with The New York Times to circumvent any possible interference of its reporting in Britain. The New York Times' media columnist, David Carr, notes that the war on leaks
is simply pitting journalist against journalist.
The ESPN ombudsman has weighed in
with his observations about the decision last week by ESPN to back out of its collaboration with PBS on a two-part documentary on NFL head injuries. The move raised concerns that the NFL pressured ESPN to sever the joint investigative project. But Robert Lipsyte said it's not quite clear what happened, but partly it may reveal a naïvety at the network about the consequences of its journalism. "At best we've seen some clumsy shuffling to cover a lack of due diligence" about those consequences. " At worst, a promising relationship between two journalism powerhouses that could have done more good together has been sacrificed to mollify a league under siege. The best isn't very good, but if the worst turns out to be true, it's a chilling reminder how often the profit motive wins the duel."
Two major profiles on media leaders this weekend provided some insights into their views on content, journalism and corporate politics. A Business Insider "unauthorized biography"
on Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, traces her career to the top of what is now the most-viewed news site. A New York Magazine profile
of Mark Thompson, the CEO of The New York Times, examines the dynamics of the Times as he attempts significant overhaul.
Good Tuesday, here are some media stories of note for August 20, 2013:
Stephen Ward, director of the University of Oregon journalism school (and former colleague), writes in PBS' MediaShift
that journalism needs a radical remake of its ethical framework, not a return to basics. Ward, the author of texts on media ethics, argues that journalism's changes have provoked a need for new approaches on media ecology, interpretation and opinion, activism and global democratic journalism. Rather than turn back the clock and attempt to reinstate the basics, Ward suggests new accommodations and strategies for the journalism that lies ahead.
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, recounts the events of recent days
involving the detention of his columnist's partner by U.K. authorities and of recent weeks involving the effort by the U.K. government to end the organization's reporting on surveillance efforts. The Guardian's contributor, Glenn Greenwald, has been the lead journalist on the leaks from Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency employee. Rusbridger says journalists who trust government will have a rude awakening. "We are not there yet, but it may not be long before it will be impossible for journalists to have confidential sources," he writes.
Jeffrey Toobin, writing for The New Yorker,
has a quite different take on the Snowden/Greenwald issue. He argues that the legitimate debate about U.S. surveillance and intelligence activities has come at too high a cost through Snowden's leaks. Rather than view this as the cause of a great debate, he believe it has played into the hands of the enemies and has real costs.
Josh Stearns, writing for FreePress,
argues there is a growing culture of violence against journalists taking shape. He points to recent examples of seemingly casual comments (a Tweet against Julian Assange by a Time correspondent, a statement by the government of Maine about blowing up a newspaper building) as evidence we take too lightly threats to journalists.