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Journalism

Transformation in channels of news delivery and the ascendence of the blogger-reporter raise challenges for citizens and the Republic. The JUST Journalsim Section examines the nascent obligations of those who shape public opinion and purvey "news" in emerging media.

Marty PerlmutterPatricia Mendoza

Journalism

Sunday
Apr152012

Who Gets to Be French?

Karl E. Meyer 
The New York Times, April 11, 2012

Four members of Parliament belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right party[,] in a joint statement,... insisted that Mr. Merah “had nothing French about him but his identity papers.”

Nonsense, retorted the left-wing journal Libération: “Merah is certainly a monster, but he was a French monster.” A childhood friend of Mr. Merah provided a poignant elaboration: “Our passports may say that we are French, but we don’t feel French because we were never accepted here. No one can excuse what he did, but he is a product of French society, of the feeling that he had no hope and nothing to lose. It was not Al Qaeda that created Mohammed Merah. It was France.” Read more...

Sunday
Apr012012

Al Jazeera Not To Air French Killings Video

Al Jazeera Europe, March 27, 2012

Al Jazeera has said it will not air a video that it received showing three shooting attacks in Toulouse and Montauban in southern France this month. The network on Tuesday said the video did not add any information that was not already in public domain. It also did not meet the television station's code of ethics for broadcast. Read more...

Sunday
Apr012012

Commentary: BFM TV, i-Tele and France 3 mistakenly announce Mohamed Merah's Arrest

Julien Bellver
Translated and adapted, April 1, 2012 from Ozap.com, March 21, 2012

On March 21st, since the start of the RAID’s operation at 3:00 am, news channels competed for the hottest scoops and exclusive testimonies. Following statement of Home Secretary Claude Guéant and the information recorded on the spot by their special correspondents, they proposed special editions for more than ten hours. At 2:17 pm, BFM TV announced the arrest of Mohamed Merah: “According to [reporter] Rachid M’barki, the suspect would have been arrested”.  The news was stated in the conditional tense, however the text scrolling at the bottom of the screen read, “Mr Merah, alleged Toulouse and Montauban killer, has been arrested by the RAID in a building in Toulouse.” At 2:21 pm, the information was passed on by i-TELE, and soon Le Point followed suit. At 2:35 pm, France 3 confirmed that the suspect had surrendered to the  French security services, “unarmed, without violence, and without any condition”. The news was relayed by social media, until it was refuted by LCI a few minutes later. Read more (in French)...

Sunday
Apr012012

Video: BFM TV, i-Tele and France 3 Mistakenly Announce Mohamed Merah's Arrest

Saturday
Mar242012

Top Tweet on Gaza Proven False

HonestReporting.com, March 12, 2012

Two photos tweeted in the past 24 hours, both allegedly depicting the results of Israeli air strikes in Gaza in recent days, have been proven false...The original tweets, however, have already been picked up by hundreds of others and continue to circulate around the web, despite having been thoroughly disproved. Read more...

Monday
Mar122012

Truthiness in Journalism: The Lifespan of Facts and Future of History

Marty Perlmutter
March, 2012 

A recent article chronicles the butchering of facts for the sake of assonance and drama in a supposed nonfiction feature. John D’Agata wrote a story about a young man’s suicide in Las Vegas and committed a variety of  “factual inaccuracies” which disqualified the piece for publication in Harper’s Magazine. It was published in The Believer. Jim Final, fact-checker, researched the story and initiated a multi-year dialogue with D’Agata, pointing out the inaccuracies and seeking an accounting. The result is a book entitled “The Lifespan of a Fact.” This dialogue underlines an issue whose ramifications can be witnessed nightly on broadcast “news” that seasoned journalists argue imperils journalism and the Republic.

Facts become clay to be molded into story with impunity. D’Agata writes that as long as a story “is believed by somebody, I consider it legitimate potential history.” The detailed dialogue between a fact-obsessed journalist and self-described “artist” highlights what ought to be a bright boundary between reporters of “fact” and creators of story. The job of the journalist is to to be fiercely committed to truthful representation of Fact, and to be in no way influenced by agendas political, creative or commercial to shade or alter these. Period.

The alternative, in George Orwells’ words, is this: “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world…Lies will pass into history.” Some of the very people who might most decry the vicious crimes of Stalin now replicate the sin in the form of “news” that is anything but.

Monday
Mar122012

Should The Times Be a Truth Vigilante?

Arthur S. Brisbane
New York Times, January 12, 2012
I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.
One example mentioned recently by a reader: As cited in an Adam Liptak article on the Supreme Court, a court spokeswoman said Clarence Thomas had “misunderstood” a financial disclosure form when he failed to report his wife’s earnings from the Heritage Foundation. The reader thought it not likely that Mr. Thomas “misunderstood,” and instead that he simply chose not to report the information.  Read more...
Thursday
Mar012012

The End of Truth 

Charles P. Pierce
Esquire Magazine, January 12, 2012 

Covering a presidential campaign on a daily basis has become so impossible that daily political journalism is very close to becoming a detriment to self-government. The people doing it are working in a dynamic that makes thoughtful consideration of what is true and what is false almost impossible.… The pack is bigger and more unruly. Everybody's on deadline all the time. (Twitter! File for the blog! Generate Content Across Many Platforms!) There are more - and, occasionally, better - watchdogs, especially on the Intertoobz, but even a lot of that is now hyper-amplified heckling. The marketing people are better at their jobs than the journalism people are at theirs. Read more...

Thursday
Mar012012

Dying for the Truth: Drug Cartels Target Journalists in Mexico

Helena Hyvönen
European Journalism Centre, November 1, 2011 

Early last September, two female journalists were found dead in a park in Mexico City. The crime was attributed to the work of drug cartels. Ana María Yarce Viveros, the founder of the weekly magazine Contralinea, and Rocio González Trápaga, a freelance journalist, were kidnapped after leaving work on 31 August and were strangled to death later that night. Their murders brought the journalist death toll in Mexico to 80 since the year 2000. Read more...

Thursday
Mar012012

Exploring Truth in ‘Journalism’ 

Renee Loth
Boston.com, February 12, 2010 

JAMES O’KEEFE III, the conservative activist famous for his undercover videos of ACORN, gets arrested after entering Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office with three others disguised as phone repairmen, cameras rolling. He says his tactics are well within the tradition of “investigative journalism.’’

…No wonder Americans are misled and confused by the new media landscape - or just cynical and switched off. Last year the Pew Research Center’s biannual survey found the lowest level of trust in the news media in over two decades. Only 29 percent believed the media generally “get the facts straight’’ - the worst ranking Pew has ever recorded. Read More...

Thursday
Mar012012

Digging Deeper into The New York Times’ Fact-Checking Faux Pas

Lucas Graves
Nieman Journalism Lab, January 18, 2012 

Once in a while the cultural fault lines in American journalism come into unexpectedly sharp relief. Jon Stewart’s now-legendary star turn on “Crossfire” was one of those moments; the uproar over NPR’s refusal (along with most major news outlets) to call waterboarding torture was another. The New York Times may have added another clash to this canon with public editor Arthur Brisbane’s blog post on fact-checking last week...

Times to Internet: Should we fact-check the things politicians say?

Internet to Times: Are you freakin’ kidding?

Read More...

Wednesday
Feb152012

The Ethics of Journalism

Marion Brown
February, 2012 

This month we transition our Ethics section into Journalism. The past few decades have been a period of immense change for journalism–media conglomeration, proliferation of social media, citizen journalism, and Facebook political campaigns and Twitter-led revolutions are just some of the factors that have eroded and re-formed the role of the journalist.  As major media institutions downsized and employed fewer and fewer journalists, new media outlets, along with new content creators–bloggers, cell phone photographers, videographers, and twitterers have put the power of the fourth estate into the hands of millions. 

What's lost in this age of media convergence and dispersion is the definition of a journalist in any meaningful sense. Most media outlets are no longer staffed by journalists, but instead rely on guest or freelance bloggers along with aggregated and syndicated content. With no professional training in ethics, no professional standards, no staff of proofreaders, fact checkers or even editors to challenge, give feedback, raise issues of integrity or accuracy. As yet, there is no reliable check on the system except the massive transparency that the web enables. What should we be expecting from journalism? Does it still have a specific role or has it become so diffuse that we need a new definition and new subsets of journalists? As we are losing traditional methods of authentication and accountability, are we gaining such a volume of contributors that the truth rises to the surface? 

As we follow the trends in Journalism, we will keep an eye on: Who are the new journalists? Where is the information coming from? What  stories are being told? When will a new standard of a journalism be defined? 

Wednesday
Feb152012

The Chimera of Journalistic Moral Neutrality

Marty Perlmutter
February, 2012 

In a time of bellicose media posturing, with its premium on advocacy and discount of accuracy, a mythology has arisen that journalists are morally neutral and their craft entails no more than delivery of reports. The reasons for this mythology are commercial and evident: To command the widest audience (and advertising dollars), or to capture the most passionate advocates for a particular point of view, it is vital that there be message be aimed at the willing.

Media no longer even pretend to a role of enlightening the civic dialogue, let alone advancing a sense of collective agenda. Kovach and Rosenstiel term this "the Argument Culture" in "The Elements of Journalism" and blame it for "the diminished level of reporting, the devaluing of experts, the emphasis on a narrow range of blockbuster stories, and the emphasis on an oversimplified, polarized debate." The result is a tide of disengagement from public discussion through the media and a consequent negative feedback loop that imperils the survival of even a vestige of the public interest role of media.

Journalism has a crucial role in serving a "public interest," a collective requirement for civil dialogue, compromise, clear and accurate explication of positions, and investigation of the motivation of politicians, activists and players in the cultural and economic commons. Journalism's first obligation must be to the truth, its first loyalty to citizens, with a strict discipline of  verification, and its practitioners necessarily independent from those they cover. Journalism is an independent monitor of power. It provides a public forum for criticism and, yes, compromise. Its practitioners have an obligation to exercise their personal conscience. 

Tuesday
Feb142012

The Ethics Of Social Networking For Journalists 

Estrella Gutierrez
Inter Press Service, January 28, 2011

The digital revolution is turning people into producers, as well as consumers, of media content. But this new reality has yet to be fully assimilated, and journalists face questions and uncertainties about their social role, their duties and also their rights.

…What are the rights and responsibilities of professional communicators with regard to the social media? Are journalists barred by their profession from expressing themselves on networks like Twitter? Can media owners set limits on what reporters say as private individuals online? Read more…

Monday
Feb132012

Syracuse Abuse Case Stirs Media Ethics Debate

Associated Press, December 8, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — More than eight years ago, ESPN and a Syracuse newspaper had an audiotape on which the wife of a Syracuse University assistant basketball coach now accused of sex abuse said she knew "everything that went on" with him.

They kept it to themselves — not reporting the news of its existence and not turning it over to authorities who are now investigating claims against Bernie Fine. Read more…

Monday
Feb132012

Presidential Race Coverage Raises Conflict Issues

Associated Press, December 7, 2011

NEW YORK–Political consultant Dick Morris recently disclosed on Fox News Channel that some of the Republican presidential candidates that he talks about on the air have paid for advertisements in a newsletter he sends out to subscribers.

...Such entanglements are laying bare the close ties between the media and political world during this campaign season while raising familiar questions: How much should consumers be clued in to preserve the sense that news organizations are acting independently? And what should journalists do to avoid the perception of a conflict? Read more…

Saturday
Feb112012

'Photographer Photoshops Image' Shock

Bob Garfield
guardian.co.uk, February 6, 2012

The Sacramento Bee newspaper has fired a man for editing a nature image. Don't all journalists alter reality?

All of us media consumers should applaud the management of theSacramento Bee, which this weekend courageously fired photographer Bryan Patrick for high crimes against journalism. Patrick, or as he shall forever be known, the Great Satan, actually deserved far worse. Read more…

Wednesday
Jan182012

Justice Journalism: Journalist as Agent of Social Change

Terry Messman
Media Alliance 

Many forms of politically engaged journalism have arisen to fight social injustices in the course of U.S. history: the radical pamphlets by Thomas Paine that helped incite a revolutionary uprising against British rule; the muckraking reporting of Upton Sinclair that exposed inhumane conditions in the Chicago stockyards; the investigation of the Standard Oil Company by Ida Tarbell; Dorothy Day's prophetic reporting on the injustice of poverty in her groundbreaking Catholic Worker newspaper; the attacks on municipal corruption by Lincoln Steffens; the exposé of the profiteering funeral industry by Jessica Mitford; the no-holds-barred struggle with the war machine waged by the underground press of the 1960s. These and other crusading journalists have left us an inspiring historic legacy of morally charged, politically engaged reporting. They were all socially conscious writers who, in varying ways, practiced "justice journalism." Read more…

Wednesday
Jan182012

Separating News from Opinion & What is Journalistic Truth?

Tuesday
Dec132011

Fairness, Morality and Media – The Ajax Dilemma

Marty Perlmutter
November, 2011 

Since the Fairness Doctrine was eliminated by the FCC in 1987 there has been no requirement to publicize multiple viewpoints. This resulted from an emerging abundance in channels, but led to the disappearance of minority positions from mass media. Paradoxically, media practitioners carry a vestigial urge to present “both sides” of major issues. Often it allows media professionals to pretend that there are two sides to issues of ethical moment. One such example can be found in the Occupy movement in which on “side” opposes income inequality and the political corruption that defends its continuation. The other “side” proclaims “I got mine” and urges a sort of Darwinian rationale.

In The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness and Rewards”, Paul Woodruff, explores the issue of how to distribute rewards to individuals without damaging the larger community. The author studies the issue of rewards as expressions of the values of a community. This begins to address: what do we value more, cleverness or hard work, loyalty or inventiveness? Ajax, courageous, loyal and hard-working, but is bested in competition by Odysseus, not entirely trustworthy, but a clever strategist who can outthink his opponent. 

Most of us are like Ajax,  loyal to our community and angry when the rewards go to those of divergent values. Justice entails resolution of conflict, and dispersal of rewards, in a way that leaves the community intact. Ajax did not receive justice, nor is justice found in the recently cleared public plazas of American cities. Failed justice destroys motivation, morale and engagement.