Some media stories of note for Monday, June 3, 2013:
Margaret Sullivan, the public editor for The New York Times, tackles the question
of the newsroom's coverage of poverty. Is it enough? No, she concludes. What is there is impressively written and soundly researched, but given the extent of poverty, it does not measure up, she argues. While the Times allocates its resources in various directions to please its audience, she wonders what the impact of extensive coverage of poverty would be.
Stephen Pritchard, the readers' editor for The Observer, writes on the recent conference
of news ombudsmen and their observations on the conditions of modern journalism. Among the concerns: the increased practice of surveillance and legal troubles for journalists in the U.S. as they attempt to protect sources. Among the bright spots: new ombudsmen roles in Argentina and India.
The Economist examines the developing role
of citizen journalists and their authentic contribution to public awareness of issues and deeper understanding of them. The magazine notes the increased effort to verify content and the new tools emerging to help tell stories. In some instances, the amateurs are of immense help to the professionals, too.
Media stories of note for Wednesday, April 24, 2013:
Churnalism US is a new tool
to help determine if journalism has been heavily borrowed from other sources. It is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation (which reports on it here)
and the Media Standards Trust. It works by pasting a URL or text into the site, which then patrols the web for similar content. Last week, for instance, it determined that a prematurely published obituary had borrowed heavily from a Wikipedia entry.
ESPN has a new ombudsman starting June 1. Robert Lipsyte has been one of sports journalism's most ardent critics over decades. The New Republic looks at his career
and his outlook in the new role. Lipsyte replaces what had been a team-ombudsman approach at ESPN, which was using Poynter to help resolve public complaint issues.
Last week's British journalism conference, news:rewired, featured a session on media standards and ethics
in the digital age. It produced a five-point guide that emphasizes accuracy over speed, stronger transparency on process, constant addition of value as stories are linked and shared, a commitment to corrections, and a strategy for trolls.
Some media notes for Tuesday, April 23, 2013:
Jack Shafer, writing for Reuters,
defends the mistake. He notes that journalism has been making errors big and small forever, although he also observes that corrections and retractions don't happen the way they could. The difference now is the audience's ability to help correct the record and "talk back" to the press, making the second draft of history much better.
Frédéric Filoux, writing for his weekly Monday Note
, wonders what the fuss is about with sponsored editorial content, also known as native advertising. He says the controversy is a "festival of fake naivety and misplaced indignation." Editorial content has often been there to flatter the advertising that surrounds it, he says. That being said, he also believes the site's editor, and not its chief revenue officer, should be the one to decide if that advertising crosses the line.
Ombudsmen often determine when the line is crossed, and the Washington Post drew criticism when it recently discontinued the role and replaced it with a readers' representative. Craig Silverman, writing for Poynter,
profiles Doug Feaver and how his job will differ. Feaver came out of retirement to take the part-time role, which ostensibly answers readers of the paper and its site. His first column
noted the disappearance of the Print button on the site, something that restored once he identified the complaint. But he's not there to serve as an ombudsman, he notes.
A follow-up: An amendment to legislation proposes that smaller blogs (those with fewer than 10 employees and two million pounds in revenue each year) will be exempt from the harsh penalties if they do not join the new press regulator under the royal charter governing media in the country. The Editors Weblog notes
this is a welcome relief for organizations that would have been subject to the penalties originally devised for large companies.
Media stories of note for Tuesday, April 16, 2013:
The explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon on Monday were captured by media, but Erik Wemple of the Washington Post notes how Twitter served as a form of media ombudsman
in the hours that followed to verify and not the many assertions and sources that emerged with information about the blasts. Wemple notes Twitter is also a home for those emphasizing caution in reporting on breaking news.
There continues a dispute between the London School of Economics and the BBC over an LSE trip to North Korea in which the BBC had embedded three journalists posing as professors. The Guardian reports
some of the students indicated BBC did not gain informed consent and they only learned of the undercover journalists upon arriving in North Korea. BBC insists the students were briefed in Beijing about the move.The Daily Telegraph notes
the European Commission has poured millions of euros into initiatives aimed at stronger Europe-wide regulation of the press. Among its early work is a report that recommends newspapers be regulated as are broadcasters, much more tightly and with requirements for balance.
Some media stories of note for Friday, March 8, 2013:
The overhaul of Facebook's news feed began to emerge Thursday
and the seeming aim is to generate a personal newspaper of sorts, with a hierarchical display based on what users focus on most. Wired.com notes there are opportunities for media if users focus on published content, and The New Yorker notes
it aims to show us all we want to see and none of what we don't. but Facebook has left it flexible enough that users may simply focus on what their friends are saying.
The Washington Post, which ended its ombudsman role last week, has appointed its first readers' representative
in the newsroom to field public complaints and write periodically about how they are addressed. Doug Feaver is a veteran Post newsroom journalist and will be assisted by Alison Coglianese, who worked for the ombudsman's office previously. Feaver will blog for washingtonpost.com and contribute newspaper columns as needed.
Craig Silverman, writing for Poynter, says "bring on the robots." He identifies ways in which machines will be able to improve accuracy and standards in newsrooms, whether through fact-checking, extracting data to produce timelines, identifying typographical errors, detecting plagiarism and fabrication, or even gathering information through drones.
Three media stories of note for Monday, March 4, 2013:
The Washington Post has decided not to have an ombudsman. It announced Friday it will create a role within its newsroom for a readers' representative who will on occasion write in the paper and online on matters of audience concern. Post publisher Katherine Weymouth said
other media writers and the audience will help Patrick Pexton, the Post ombudsman, ended his two-year term Friday with a column
on some of what he had learned.
Robert McChesney, the American media scholar, writes in Salon.com
on what happens to democracy if the digital business model cannot finance journalism. In an excerpt of his next book, McChesney says the transformation to digital would be acceptable if an acceptable replacement accompanied the change. Instead, he argues that it is unclear if anyone can be commercially successful outside of media aimed at the wealthy or business. The proof that journalism is a public good is that no one is making money from it, he concludes.
Greg Satell, writing for Forbes.com,
isn't pessimistic but believes it's necessary for print media to change its thinking to succeed in the time ahead. Above all else, he says, it has to recognize that marketers will pay more for consumers than consumers will pay for content. He says video, affiliate programs and social media integration are keys to sustained print media.
Some media stories of note for Monday, February 18, 2013:
Frederic Filloux, in his weekly Monday Note,
writes about the need for a digital "new journalism" that sheds many traits of the legacy newsroom. He says traditional newspaper writing is aging badly and that new work needs to reflect four developments: readers' time budget, the trust factor with the brand, the speedier competition from within, and magazine writing elegance.
Jay Rosen, the New York University journalism scholar, talks about five shifts in media power
in his latest post on Pressthink: writers ascendant on publishers, shifting scarcity of content, the economics of human presence (in conferences run by organizations, for instance), the renewed importance of voice, and the rise of niche journalism.
Andrew Beaujon of Poynter examines the most recent column
from Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton, who surmises he may be the last one to hold that job at the news organization. With a newsroom in likely need of further cuts, his job is a "tempting target," Pexton concludes.
Arthur S. Brisbane, the public editor of The New York Times, writes this week
about the value of using the news organization's website to reinforce its value with readers.
Brisbane notes how the web has deconstructed the traditional way in which content was organized, and in that new dynamic is a relationship that needs a new arrangement. He sees the website's organization as an important ingredient in that redefinition.
Among other things Brisbane says the site should have a clear place for an exchange with readers. He believes the Times newsroom and readers need this portal.
He also says the site needs an updated list of Times journalists and their areas of coverage. He notes the existing listings are not current.
The site also needs a searchable archive of ethics policies, a form to launch complaints and seek corrections, and (without a great deal of selfishness in the way he puts it) a clearer path to read the public editor's columns.
He adds: "Would a reader portal on NYTimes.com
offset the centrifugal effects of the digital revolution? Certainly not. But as the model for publishing news changes rapidly, it is important to find ways to ensure that the center holds—and to fortify the core values that ultimately define how readers view The Times. The reader portal would be a concrete step in that direction."
Arthur S. Brisbane, the public editor of The New York Times, posted a blog entry early today
asking for input on a dilemma: Should the Times rebut assertions that aren't obviously wrong but deserve fact-checking?
The immediate response was a little wide of the mark. Many inferred he was asking if the Times should report or check facts. He had to post a second entry
to clear it up.
Along the way a raft of critics used the opportunity to be a bit snippy, to say the least.
But Brisbane's point is that many assertions are made and not rebutted; they're left alone and are questionable. He wondered if it was necessary to have a "truth vigilante" around. He hopes there is enough clarity now to proceed with a discussion.
In my early experience as an ombudsman, some of the most forceful writing I've seen in the field has come from National Public Radio's Alicia Shepard. She tackled recent NPR headaches as a true public representative.
Her term was extended a little to permit NPR more time to find a replacement, but now it's come to an end. Her final column
praises the organization for having an ombudsman and for that ombudsman having the freedom necessary to communicate.
She has a handful of closing recommendations, too. Her successor
is Edward Schumacher-Matos, formerly the ombudsman at the Miami Herald.