I know we don’t have to post this week, but I thought you all would find this short article relevant considering our dicussions. http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2011106280311
Recent Updates Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts
For this week’s discussion lets travel again to a much debated topic in journalism circles. Recently Jeff Jarvis (CUNY) and Mike Arrington (TechCrunch) got into a lively back and forth about what transparency and objectivity mean for journalists in the new digital first, social web world of reporting.
Jarvis asked Arrington whether he would consider himself a journalist. Arrington suggested that:
“When I think of journalists, I think of people who are biased, hiding their bias between theoretically objective text.”
Arrington said that words like “objectivity,” are misappropriated and that “all reporting is advocation.”
To elucidate, Arrington then cited the example of a particular journalist telling him that he would not share his political leanings, or how he voted, because it would negate the objectivity in his reporting and how people viewed his content. Both writers were in agreement that this is a common misrepresentation among journalists today — that true objectivity is “bullshit”. Instead, Jarvis said, paraphrasing David Weinberger, that “transparency is the new objectivity”, that being transparent about one’s investments and personal affiliations should be standard in presenting content to one’s readers, and is what readers should expect.
At the heart of this objectivity debate is what Jay Rosen refers to as The View From Nowhere.
Here’s Rosen in a Q&A on The View From Nowhere:
A. …The View From Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position “impartial.” Second, it’s a means of defense against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third: it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view. American journalists have almost a lust for the View from Nowhere because they think it has more authority than any other possible stance.
Q. Well, does it?
A. What authority there is in the position of viewlessness is unearned– like the snooty guy who, when challenged, says, “Madam, I have a PhD.” In journalism, real authority starts with reporting. Knowing your stuff, mastering your beat, being right on the facts, digging under the surface of things, calling around to find out what happened, verifying what you heard. “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.” Illuminating a murky situation because you understand it better than almost anyone. Doing the work! Having a track record, a reputation for reliability is part of it, too. But that comes from doing the work.
Q. You are very critical of the View from Nowhere in journalism …
A. Because it has unearned authority in the American press. If in doing the serious work of journalism–digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat–you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority. It may even add to it. The View from Nowhere doesn’t know from this. It also encourages journalists to develop bad habits. Like: criticism from both sides is a sign that you’re doing something right, when you could be doing everything wrong.
Rosen goes on to suggest that objectivity isn’t exactly bad if:
…(O)bjectivity means trying to ground truth claims in verifiable facts, I am definitely for that. If it means there’s a “hard” reality out there that exists beyond any of our descriptions of it, sign me up. If objectivity is the requirement to acknowledge what is, regardless of whether we want it to be that way, then I want journalists who can be objective in that sense. Don’t you? If it means trying to see things in that fuller perspective Thomas Nagel talked about–pulling the camera back, revealing our previous position as only one of many–I second the motion. If it means the struggle to get beyond the limited perspective that our experience and upbringing afford us… yeah, we need more of that, not less. I think there is value in acts of description that do not attempt to say whether the thing described is good or bad. Is that objectivity? If so, I’m all for it, and I do that myself sometimes.
So on a practical everyday level, what should you as a young journalist do? Jarvis, in the Disrupt Conference, said a reporter covering Obama should disclose their political affiliation in the footer of the column.
Arrington countered saying that
if one’s personal philosophies are reduced to a single word, like “Democrat,” it is counterproductive to reporting.
Jarvis used this example:
If a reporter covering religion discloses that they used to be a Catholic, that in the end the information is irrelevant.
…just because someone is Catholic, doesn’t mean that you can immediately deduce exactly where they come down on the issue of, say, abortion.
So what do you think? Should you disclose where you come from and your inherent biases if you are journalist? Does this, as Rosen suggests, possibly make your reporting stronger?
When you are reading articles in the NY Times for example, if at the bottom of an article is a note about the reporter’s background and affiliations (or at least a link to a little blurb), would this make your user experience more valuable?
Would knowing a journalist’s biases diminish their credibility and authority?
Then have your say in the comments below. Adding outside references from class and elsewhere is recommended.
[Photo: Amir Kuckovic/Flickr)]
For this week’s forum discussion lets jump right the use of anonymity online. Here are two completely different opposite ends of the spectrum concerning anonymity. But they both raise lots of great questions that are important to consider.
For a first example consider the case of Gay Girl in Damascus blogger, Syrian-American lesbian Amina Abdallah Arraf. If you haven’t read about this story, here’s is the background of what was uncovered about Arraf over the last week.
Arraf is actually American graduate student Tom MacMaster who suggested that he
“had initially created Amina, his Arab lesbian character, as ‘a handle’ he would use when he wanted to contribute comments to online discussions. His aim, he said was to use the character to present “a perspective that doesn’t often get heard on the Middle East and that was also a challenge for me, as somebody who has aspirations as a novelist, to write in a voice of a character who is absolutely not me.”
MacMaster said that no one was hurt by his anonymity and use of a pseudonym. Another view is that MacMaster could have caused great harm to activists in Syria and that it could “discredit future efforts to build person-to-person links and to raise awareness.”
That last quote was from Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor of sociology at U of Maryland. Tufekci brings this concern from activists up but then goes on to suggest this question:
“(I)s Amina Araf the Panda of the Middle East Uprising? An eloquent, gay, out, dissident, attractive young woman who hits pretty much every note which appeals to broader Western publics?”
Did the West get sucked in? What does this mean for anonymity?
For example two, take the (completely different) case of @mayoremanuel, a fake and anonymous Twitter account created by Dan Sinker, a j-prof at Columbia Univ. in Chicago, to cover Rahm Emanuel’s run for mayor of Chicago.
@Mayoremanuel was funny to follow, but there is something else there as well in Sinker’s use of anonymity, journalism, storytelling and election coverage.
Here’s how Alexis Madrigal at the Atlantic described Sinker’s @mayoremanuel:
“The profane, brilliant stream of tweets not only may be the most entertaining feed ever created, but it pushed the boundaries of the medium, making Twitter feel less like a humble platform for updating your status and more like a place where literature could happen.”
Questions to consider: Is there bad anonymity and good anonymity? Is there really anonymity on the Internet at all? What is anonymity’s place in online journalism? Does anonymity erode the trust of the public journalism is designed to serve? Is anonymity vital to the future of journalism? Consider these two examples, is one good and one bad? Can it ever be that black and white? What does either of these cases suggest about verification of information in the social web?
Did anyone else notice in the CoverItLive video “Writer Console Demo” that they just took a photo off a search and used it without permission? Isn’t that copyright infringement?
For this week’s discussion we are heading straight into the heated discussion of what defines journalism. There was a lot of interesting conversation spurred by forum 1 from which some arguments suggested that journo industry awards should not be given to non-journalists.
When is an act of journalism committed? If information published by a blogger does the same important thing for democracy that a traditional muckracking bit of newspaper copy does, should it be called journalism?
You may have heard arguments like this:
Frédéric Filloux, former editor of Liberation in Paris.
Today’s problem is not one media versus another, it’s the future of journalism — it’s finding the best possible way to finance the gathering and the processing of independent, reliable, and original information…. I don’t buy into the widespread delusion that legions of bloggers, compulsive twitterers or facebookers amount to a replacement for traditional journalism.
Bloggers are just as guilty as mainstream news media critics and play the bloggers vs. journalists game too:
Note to Ben Marrison: If you want to pretend that you, as a professional journalist, are somehow better than political bloggers … because you are less biased and less lazy then you might consider actually NOT being both lazy and biased while writing online rants for the world to see.
Don’t you know that’s OUR job?
Both of these last two quotes I pulled from a talk that Jay Rosen recently gave at South By Southwest. Rosen argue that
(the) disruptions caused by the Internet threaten to expose certain buried conflicts at the heart of modern journalism and a commercialized press. Raging at bloggers is a way to keep these demons at bay.
(b)y raging at newspaper editors, bloggers manage to keep themselves on the “outside” of a system they are in fact a part of. Meaning: It’s one Internet, folks. The news system now incorporates the people formerly known as the audience.
Rosen is attempting to put the pointless debate to bed. He suggests there are five reasons why journalists are feeling stress and continue to keep the debate raging.
One: A collapsing economic model, as print and broadcast dollars are exchanged for digital dimes.
Two: New competition (the loss of monopoly) as a disruptive technology, the Internet, does its thing.
Three. A shift in power. The tools of the modern media have been distributed to the people formerly known as the audience.
Four: A new pattern of information flow, in which “stuff” moves horizontally, peer to peer, as effectively as it moves vertically, from producer to consumer. Audience atomization overcome, I call it.
Five. The erosion of trust (which started a long time ago but accelerated after 2002) and the loss of authority.
Read Rosen’s SxSW argument here and have your say. Are you on the side of journalists? Should bloggers be kept at a distance and considered different than what journalism is? Are you with Rosen, is this debate part of a twisted psychology that continues for no reason? When is journalism committed? Who says?
Support your argument with references to our class reading and/or other relevant sources. Post your responses below in the comments of this post.
[Photo: Brett L./Flickr]
Recently Bill Keller, the executive editor at The New York Times, used his column in the paper to argue that there are indeed dangers to social media that we should be careful of. It all started with this tweet:
Keller lamented that he had recently allowed his 13-year daughter to join Facebook:
Last week my wife and I told our 13-year-old daughter she could join Facebook. Within a few hours she had accumulated 171 friends, and I felt a little as if I had passed my child a pipe of crystal meth.
More to the point Keller argued:
“…we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and “Real Housewives.” But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.”
Nick Bilton, a lead technology writer at the New York Times (note that Keller is Bilton’s boss) countered Keller’s argument suggesting:
Could Twitter make me stupid? Absolutely. If I only followed funny cats that speak with poor grammar, I’d be on my way to a vapid state of mind in no time. But I don’t. I follow dozens of news outlets and writers; I follow chefs, neuroscientists and the president of the United States; and of course, I follow Mr. Keller.
He goes on:
There is a fear by many, Mr. Keller included, that these devices will wipe out our ability to remember and force us to become dependent on the virtual world. Luckily for us humans, our brains do not work this way. Research shows that the human brain is capable of adapting to new technologies in less than a week, irrelevant of age or intellect.
Now to the class forum. Read their arguments (Keller here and Bilton here) and weigh in. Can Twitter make you stupid? What does this mean for our capacity to communicate? What are the implications for journalism?
To keep it simple this week, just add your comments in the comments section of this post.
I think that some of the best journalist haven’t always necessarily studied journalism, but they are passionate about certain life topics which makes for a good journalist. So as for videos or photos taken by citizens such as the photo from a 2009 protest could and should be given an award if it is of good quality and lives up to journalistic standards, despite the fact the person may not be a professional journalism.
Again, I feel that it would be okay to give out presitgious awards such as the Polk Awards to non-journalists or citizen journalists, so long as their work is professional, tasteful and adhere to professional journalism standards. However, I think these awards should be very strict on this ideas because if they start to be lenient on whether or not a recepient of these awards provides work that is up to par with journalism standards, then the whole journalism community could lose its credibility, which is one of the most important aspects to journalism, a journalists credibility.
More and more people are publishing content through the use of blogs, videos, and other means. Some of this content citizen journalistic in nature and this content is on the rise. I doubt anyone would argue with that. But whether it is a good thing is a constant source of debate in and out of the traditional newsroom.
One of the main concerns with citizen journalism is that they are not held to the Society of Professional Journalists Professional Code of Ethics as the majority of traditional journalists are. So, it is possible that the facts of the story may not be fairly checked, the way the citizen journalist got the information may not be ethical, etc.
But what if the Polk Awards and other prestigious awards were a way to reward citizen journalists for following those professional standards? In this way, we would be upholding high standards by giving out rewards instead of punitively punishing them for going against traditional journalism standards. It’s more positive and it seems like a much more sustainable option considering how little control we have over citizen journalism and the fact that control will probably continue to decrease. It’s very similar the Five Guys secret shopper program. Instead of being there to punish employees for bad behavior, the secret shoppers are there to reward employees for positive behavior. The employees strive for excellence and Five Guys has to worry less about catching employees doing something wrong and then punishing them after the fact.
But, it is still the responsibility of the main new organizations and those giving out awards to double-check the facts. For example PDA’s blog points out in it’s article Anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan’s death wins Polk award that the BBC and other new organizations, when using user-generated content, check and rate it by experts. Only this way, can we truly rely on the accuracy of the content.
So, my opinion is that non-journalists should be given the Polk awards or other prestigious rewards as long as they adhere to the high professional standards that traditional journalists do.