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  • Steven Davy 7:58 pm on June 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Mike Arrington, TechCrunch   

    Forum 5 – Transparency and Objectivity 

    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.

    Jarvis said

    …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?

    Read about the Jarvis and Arrington back and forth here and read Jay Rosen’s Q&A on the View From Nowhere here.

    Then have your say in the comments below. Adding outside references from class and elsewhere is recommended.

    [Photo: Amir Kuckovic/Flickr)]

    • jbaileynews 12:38 am on June 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This is a very interesting subject for any young journalist as we struggle to ask the hard questions and then struggle even more to either include or leave them out of our stories. In programs across the country, students are taught to attribute, attribute, attribute, and to all always write objective material. However, sometimes that does leave the viewer and/or reader in an awkward position, wondering, “Okay, so what was the story about?” I think more than half of the reporting on government and politics is so clouded with the back and forth of what each side says that by the end, no one has a clue what was decided and why. Having this question out in the open should spur some conversation on if and when journalists should be allowed to follow the story and not have to confuse their words just to save face. That would be an amazing day, however, while some people believe that all journalists do is produce ‘bullshit’, I’d beg to differ. There’s no way that journalism can become sensational reports and rants on what five or so people in newsrooms across the country believe in. I mean, in the end, who really cares what these local celebrities personally think and after all, they’re ideas are not the only ones on earth. I guess that’s the reason for ‘bullshit’; so every man can think for himself. In terms of disclosing political, religious, or other biases, I believe this does lend some sort of if not, credibility, understanding and depth to a journalist’s story. If I’m reading a story on abortion and the writer says all my life, I practiced Catholicism and believed in it’s values, then I understand that before I even proceed to read the rest of the article that the views may be slanted. In those cases, I think it’s impossible for the audience to then go off on a tangent with comments about anything that was mentioned because they knew before even reading that they might not agree with what was going to be said. I wrote a blog post on OSU and their unfortunate(see, there goes my bias) scandal from this year and my first words let everyone know that I was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and am a Buckeye fan through and through. It’s amazing what a few short words will do for the person trying to understand the story you’re trying to tell them; meaning, in my opinion, a little disclaimer goes a long way.

    • nfinkbeiner 12:57 pm on June 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      fter reading all of the above, the line that best sums up my point of view is Jarvis’ comment, “…just because someone is Catholic, doesn’t mean that you can immediately deduce exactly where they come down on the issue of, say, abortion.” I think this is absolutely true and outlines the fundamental flaw with the idea of disclosure: that a few words that are used as labels can tell you everything you need to know about a person.

      Granted, we already do this in politics by labeling most elected officials Republicans or Democrats every time we report on them. But I don’t necessarily agree with this and don’t think it should become standard procedure for other areas including journalists. When I read a story about something an elected official is working on, I immediately look to see if that person is identified in the story as a Democrat or Republican. That immediately clouds my judgment on what they are saying or doing. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I think an interesting experiment would be to take a bunch of political articles, take out the political affiliation, and have people read them. I think we’d all be shocked in how often we might not agree with a decision or action from someone within our own party.

      But what if the R or D turned into more? What if, like Jarvis said, saying someone is Catholic doesn’t tell you enough about their views on abortion? Would they then need to tell you that specifically? Who determines what needs to be disclosed or what is relevant? Pretty soon, you would see an article about union negotiations and this disclosure by the reporter. “I was raised in a home where both of my parents were union members and so I grew up typically pro-union. But, then my father’s union went on strike and we lost our home due to the strike so I began to think that unions may not be the best thing for workers. But then, in college, I worked in a factory and the unions protected me when I had an injury but in the long run I lost my job because they needed to cut people and the union contract was last in, first out….” Ok, that example is a little over the top, but considering how polarized everyone is these days, it might not be so crazy and could happen.

      On a bigger scale, this topic is to me, yet another example of how we are blurring the lines between our personal and professional lives in our culture. I hate that my professional contacts think it’s their right to be on my Facebook page. I don’t want my work email on my phone so I can check it all of the time. And I don’t want to have to disclose information about my personal life in order to be considered a good journalist. I seriously think we need to take a good hard look at some of our European friends and how they keep the two separate and decide if we are on the right path or not.

    • Lindsay Nowak 2:29 pm on June 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think stating at the end of an article where you come from or inherent biases is necessary. As mentioned in previous posts, it’s taught in J schools to always be objective and attribute your sources to information you’ve gathered. When taught to always stay objective, we are told to research both sides of the story and see what each has to offer, and make sure not to include our own opinions as journalists to sway readers toward one idea or another. Being journalists, or job is not to sway people to a certain decision, it’s to report the straight facts of a matter objectively, and let people decide their opinions on the issue entirely on their own.

      I think if reporters started putting their inherent biases, such as their political stance, at the end of their articles, it would quickly turn into opinionized pieces being the only news articles out there, and objective news pieces would be a thing of the past. I feel as though some reporters would gain negative feedback on the articles they write if their political stance was included at the bottom of a piece. Overall, I like where we are at now, writing objectively as taught, and leaving inherent biases and stands on issues out of the limelight.

      • nfinkbeiner 8:23 pm on June 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I was talking to a seasoned local reporter today and when I asked him about this. He commented, “Our list of biases would be longer than our stories!” and then went on about how any little thing, depending on the reader, could be a bias. Then he talked about basically what you said, Lindsay, that it would just polarize things more. He said he thought it would turn journalism into nothing more than FOX News or MSNBC where everyone is slanted.

        He thought reporters were perfectly capable of reporting the facts without including their biases and that it’s the readers whose biases cloud their interpretation of the stories.

        Considering he’s a crime reporter, it also got me thinking…would we then ask lawyers to disclose whether they thought their client or the person they were prosecuting was guilty or not so we could understand their representation better?

        • jbaileynews 7:36 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink

          Bringing the judicial system into the picture does change things a bit or at least, make it interesting. It is slightly the same situation where a judge allows facts, based on validity, to enter the courtroom and be heard. Then, based on those facts, a jury can make its final decision. Great comparision, but only on more serious notes like politics and stances on sexuality. For me, on the lighter things in life, I think it’s great that for once, journalists would be able to let loose and be themselves. If you’re writing about a school superintendent, stating that your child used to attend school in the district is just your way of saying, hello reader, I may be biased because I experienced this firsthand but I’m going to try my best and give you just the information. From there, I think it’s for people to decide whether or not to read it.

      • Laura Daien 10:20 am on June 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree that we are taught in school that journalists need to write without bias. If a reporter can’t write a story from both sides, the story should be assigned to someone else. I do think that experiences journalists have may change the stories they write, but only for the better. The more experience a reporter has, the more they will be able to see a story from new angles…. while still being objective. I don’t think not saying what your personal “bias” is makes news outlets non-transparent. If anything, it’s bloggers not writing from objective angles at all that are being non-transparent, which is why I still consider them not to be real journalists.

        • julieesmer 10:27 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink

          I agree Laura. I think that is what separates journalists from bloggers. Bloggers have blogs to express their personal opinions and bias. I think that the integrity of journalists is much more reliable when they can accurately report without their personal thoughts clouding the story.

    • Daniele's Blog 9:09 pm on June 21, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Listing your background and inherent biases would just in my view be irrelevant. Everyone carries an opinion and experiences that have created the way they perceive the world around them. The reader is going to sit down and carry his biases and opinions into a certain piece. This is going to undeniably shape the views/opinions he/she has about the article. It will also shape what that person believes the writer is going to say. There is no reason to provide any background information when the reader is already going to interpret what is read based on the views carried. It is very possible for a reporter to carry some objectivity into the field, but 100% objectivity is undeniably impossible. We are a biased race, we like to look at the world through a shaded view, but we as people know this about ourselves and those we trust to bring up news. This is why we debate about the opinions of a local news piece, or scoff at something a politician said during a local interview. We can pick bias up when we run across it, we are smart enough to recognize that someones views alter their opinions at least a small bit. There is no reason to include our background because it would just distract from the piece and cause another issue apart from what the reporter is trying to accomplish. We as reporters want people to focus on our work and our voice. Not our religious, political, and personal affiliations.

      • Rachael Zylstra 9:00 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree, Daniele. Readers are going to interpret a story how they want to whether there’s a disclosure statement or not. And I think reporters do their best to report objectively 100% of the time–although it’s a difficult task. In all reality, however, journalists do choose which quotes to use and what tidbits of information to use collected when compiling the story. That selection of information comes from their training as a journalist, but I think it also comes down to what they think works best for the story (which could in a way be subjective in an objective way).

      • Laura Daien 10:24 am on June 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree that listing your background and biases is completely irrelevant. I do think that being objective is possible, but disagree that a reporter can’t be 100% objective. If they can’t be objective, they should not write the story. A reporter may have their own opinions on a story, but it’s their responsibility as a reporter to leave their opinions and biases out of the reporting. News stories are supposed to tell both sides of the story, not share personal opinions and biases of reporters, if we start detailing theses biases, the stories will be far too long and no one will actually read all of it. I also agree with Rachael that reporters may often us information based on convenience due to time constraints, making stories sometimes less objective.

    • ashleysap 11:20 am on June 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I feel that disclosing something that if found out later could be seen as major bias of your story and could actually hurt your credibility as a journalists in the long run is not a bad idea. I agree that disclosing every single bias that one may have is absurd and unecessary because in some minor positions it really wouldn’t affect your position on the topic you are reporting on. However, if you are writing a political piece and what your reporting could be later viewed as biased because of your political stance, I don’t think it could hurt to disclose your position as a reporter, I actually think it could only boost your credibility and strengthen your reporting. I believe this because being up-front as a journalist about where you may stand policitally could actually make you seem more credible because it shows your readers you have nothing to hide and you are simply presenting the facts. It could be seen negatively if you seem to be reporting only the good sides of the political platform you advocate for, for example, but in the same sense if you are being factual and pointing out the negative light of that same party, then your readers know that your disclosed political stance has nothing to do with how you have chosen to report the facts. Therefore, I think the decision to disclose your biased is a situational decision depending on the topic and necessity for the story.

      • Daniele's Blog 6:07 pm on June 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree that in political reporting it can be important because in your writing, your biases can show. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes it hurts. But at the same time, if you talk to your editor, someone who opposes your beliefs or if you are very in-tuned to your biases, it won’t reflect in your writing. Then there is no need for you to disclose that information.

        • nfinkbeiner 9:38 pm on June 22, 2011 Permalink

          I had a boss (in a very public position) tell me once that he considered it his greatest accomplishment that he had worked in the same community for 20 years and most people thought he was either a liberal leaning republican or a democrat with republican views. So clearly his point to me was to balance to the point that no one can figure it out. I would say our local news editor is the same way. I’ve read everything he’s written in the last 4 years and still can’t figure him out politically!

      • jbaileynews 7:41 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree. If it’s going to come out later, why not just say it up front? Plus, in some cases, you literally can’t help but have a bias. We’re human and we have emotions, opinions, etc. just like everyone else. I think the “bullshit” that the author was referring to really equates to journalists not being honest with themselves. How can you be proud of a story if you know the very things you put in it were purposely picked because they were safe and would not place you in any type of bad light. It’s insane! Politics are touchy because people get so worked up about it, but I think you have to take each story individually and decide what should be presented to the public inside of it. If it seems a little off, you owe it to the public to let them know where you’re coming from.

      • Laura Daien 11:18 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I really struggle with this topic. While I think it’s important to be transparent in your efforts and all the work that is done, I also think that reporters are supposed to be objective and if they can not write objectively about a topic, they shouldn’t cover it. It’s one thing to not be objective in a column or blog, but in a regular news story I think it is quite sad. At the same time, I don’t think giving background on a reporter is a problem if it’s relevant.

        While I think that sometimes having background can be valuable, knowing that a reporter went to a specific university or other background information about them shouldn’t make you trust what they are saying more if it is an unbiased story. We should consider reporters trustworthy based on the way they cover stories and the valuable information they put out.

        I would worry that knowing someone’s credentials could give people a chance to doubt a specific reporter, even if they cover a story extremely well. Although experience does make a reporter effective, it isn’t fair to say that younger/newer reporters don’t write stories, and I think if we know too much about reporters that could happen. If we are linking to a bio about a reporter at the bottom with generic information that specific to the story about a reporter, I think that would be valuable. At the same time, with the turnover of media being so high, it almost won’t be worth the time of a media outlet.

        Often in politics, people especially think affiliation and opinions should be expressed, but as a public relations professional in the political world, I completely disagree. If you can’t write about politics from an unbiased perspective, you shouldn’t be doing so. Reporters have the opportunity to interview people and include quotes to lead a story in the way they want, but their actual reporting should not be biased.

        Lastly, I think transparency is huge and nothing should be hidden in reporting and in general. Being more transparent makes you more trustworthy, but I don’t really think knowing who a reporter is makes a newspaper more transparent.

      • julieesmer 10:30 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I like how refer to it as “situational.” Regarding politics, I couldn’t agree more. For certain TV stations (i.e. Fox News), it is much more beneficial for the reporters to share the opinions of their audience. This gives that credibility to the viewers and they take the journalists more seriously.

    • TrixiBeeker 3:32 pm on June 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      To answer your questions directly:

      1. YES – We should disclose where we come from and our inherent biases if you are journalist. However, this may be possible only to reasonable degrees. Providing one’s name, certainly. Providing funding sources, definitely. Providing a short list of one’s credentials, sure. Providing one’s political or situational stance, most likely – but this would depend on the piece. If you are writing about the environment, then a reader may like to know that you are an environmental lawyer who has won cases for injured citizens.

      One way I rationalize this reply is to think of whenever I read a kid’s book to my son, I always check the author bio paragraph on the jacket cover – and often share that information with my son. I feel it gives the story greater depth and interest. If it is a non-fiction book then it certainly gives it greater credibility.

      However this would need to be done within reason, as nfinkbeiner so wittily describes above.

      2. Does this, as Rosen suggests, possibly make your reporting stronger? Absolutely. From personal experience, I find that I trust people who are willing to reveal a bit of their background – the part that’s relevant to the piece at least.
      3. 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? Yes (see # 1. Above)
      4. Would knowing a journalist’s biases diminish their credibility and authority? Hmmmm – only if that journalist was attempting to write a piece outside of their experience. For instance, as a scientist, if I were to write a piece in support of creationism, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an uproar back at me about how I’m not qualified to report on that issue.
      All of this said, I would also like to comment a bit on the uses of anonymous writers on collaborative websites such as wikipedia. Although the contributions could be stronger if they were linked to the author, I believe they can still have great value due to the collaborative nature of the editing process on this site. The large group of people commenting and improving each article means that in general the quality turns out to be quite high even though each contributor may be anonymous. Clay Shirky writes eloquently on this topic in our textbook, “Here Comes Everyone” when he refers to wikipedia as a Shinto Temple – possibly to be torn down, repaired & rebuilt frequently, but overall having a stable and educational presence.

    • Sara Ventimiglia 10:37 pm on June 22, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think that this topic is a pretty heated one. The controversy on peoples views and stereotypes is extremely prominent. But I don’t think that journalists are just “hiding their bias”. Yeah maybe we can’t exactly express our opinion in articles but what if that is just it? What if we don’t automatically sway one way or another? I know for myself as an example I do not believe in one party or the other cut and dry. There are elements of both that I agree with and elements of both that I disagree with. I think that as a journalist you can disclose where you come from but definitely not your biases. If you do so, it could make your reporting stronger to some people but much weaker to others. If I knew a bit more about the writer as I was reading an article, yes it would increase their credibility and make them much more respected but I do not think that exposing their biases will do anything but make them look worse and diminish their credibility and authority. I think that this issue is being thought too far into in this article but that is a perfect example of my own opinion in which others may strongly disagree with.

    • Daniele's Blog 5:24 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think that in general our biases should be realized ourselves but not put out there for people to know.

    • jessieyang2011 7:15 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      i do not think put the final background for the journalists would be beneficial to make a strong position of article. Firstly, if i were an audience, i do not have time to read many background of writer and i do not care what is the writer’s personal flavor for the most of time. Somehow, i will look at some particular news, for example, politic news, which may related to the personal flavor or belief of writer. it may interest me to look back or deeply to think the meaning of the article i read. But most of time, i do not have time, i may even just look at the title and subtitle and pick up some may interest me. Secondly, in order to eliminate or decrease the bias, putting the background for the journalists would spend many pages for the publication agency. therefore, the costs of the pages would cost the audiences. Thirdly, formal audiences consider about truth of matter much better than the side the writer stand for. So the bias would not be eliminated by disclosure the background of journalists.

      However, in some professional journal or books, in my point of view it is essential to let people know who you are, where you come from ect. Because it is a long story and this could show the image of professional judgement for the audiences.

      • Rachael Zylstra 9:07 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Earlier this semester we talked about the fuzzy line between journalists and bloggers (citizen journalists). So, aside from disclosure in published journals or books, what do you think–Do you think it’s more important that bloggers/citizen journos have disclosure statements listed, as suggested earlier? Or do you think they fall in the same realm of objective reporting that we typically classify professional journalists, so maybe disclosure statements aren’t needed?

    • Rachael Zylstra 8:47 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      In an article (see link below) written by Amy Gahran on the Knight Digital Media Center website, Rosen’s suggestion is supported:

      “When journalists ponder how to be transparent, often they express concern about disclosing information about their political beliefs, personal lives (their own or those of family members), and other hot potatoes in the context of our increasingly polarized culture. … Showing you have nothing to hide is one way to bolster personal and professional credibility.”

      I’ll admit—when I first read this forum post and the suggestion that a journalist’s personal information should be fully disclosed at the end of each published story, I totally scoffed at the idea. Why should a journalist—who is trained to be objective and unbiased—disclose information like this?

      I see Jarvin’s point—if someone says they’re Catholic, the identification as such isn’t conclusive by any means. A Catholic can be a person who says they’re Catholic, and might not have the same viewpoints as the next Catholic.

      I’m also a strong believer in that journalists are trained to be unbiased and objective. Editors help throughout the writing process, and help eliminate any bias when editing a story from a reporter, too.

      But, Gahran’s article helped me understand where Rosen was coming from. By “outing” yourself to an audience, it might help increase your credibility as a reporter in that it erases preconceived notions about you as a reporter–with a disclosure statement, all the information is on the table and out there first.

      Yet, I’m still not totally sold on reporters having to disclose all their personal information at the end of a published story in order to appear most objective and unbiased. Like Nicole’s earlier point, how much information about the reporter is enough disclosure? I’m pretty sure no one wants to read a novel about a journalist’s personal life—most readers are looking for the news, just as they always have without the disclosure statements. Whether there’s a disclosure statement or not, readers will still interpret what they read on their own terms.

      *Transparency for journalists: AllThingsD shows what it can look like: http://www.knightdigitalmediacenter.org/leadership_blog/comments/20101207_transparency_for_journalists_allthingsd_shows_what_it_can_look_lik/

    • julieesmer 9:33 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Overall I don’t think its a good idea to disclose your biases. Like for this class – in our posts, we shouldn’t be saying, “I think” or “I believe.” Those biases influence your audience, and I think are are meant for bloggers, not journalists. Especially because a simple identifier, like “Catholic” could give the reader the wrong idea about the writer. For example, I am Catholic, but I’m not against abortion and I support female priests. Had a someone just read that I was “Catholic,” they could deduced many incorrect assumptions about me. Although I identify myself as a Catholic, I do not believe in EVERYTHING about that specific religion.

      In contrast, I do understand somewhat what Rosen is saying. For example, for political reporters, I think that its beneficial to identify with a particular party, which assists in the story. For Fox News anchors, I think this is particularly important that they are Republican, working for such a Conservative news station.

      Personally, I think objectivity is more beneficial news reporters as a whole though.

    • skellehan 9:42 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      My journalism training thus far has always taught me that I should be as objective as possible. And on top of that I should try to distance myself from any groups or affiliations that could damage my reporting. Rosen definietly made some good points and when it comes down to it I don’t think that disclosing your orgins and inherent bias would be such a bad thing. I’ve always thought like others that there really isn’t any way to be perfectly unbiased. Sometimes when you are trying too hard to remain objective on something you feel very strong about, it seems as if your reporting quailty suffers. Putting this in your story in my mind takes a little of the pressure off. When it’s out in the open there is no way for people to interpret your reporting in any other way than it was meant to be interpreted, thus in my mind making my reporting stronger.

      I think a little blurb at the end of an article would make my user expereince more valuable because it gives you a chance to get into the reporter’s mind. It would let the reader know the reason the reporter wrote what they wrote and why they chose to write it. In the end objectivity is still what all reporters should strive for, but something like this would definetly add to the story rather than take away from it.

      This last question is a hard one. The question of dimishing credibility or authority really depends on what the reporter is writing and if they’re really trying to remain objective or not. If a reporter is trying to sublty inject their own views in a story, then knowing their biases would make their opinions stick out like a sore thumb. But if the reporter is really trying to remain objective I don’t really see any way that known biases could diminish anything.

    • Portia McKenzie 11:22 pm on June 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’m sure that most journalists vote. Does this mean that cannot write a story on an election? We have all been trained to remain objective when reporting. We are to present the facts from any relevant perspectives in constructing our stories. Although we have all been taught this, we are all human and have opinions and viewpoints on many of the subjects on which we are reporting. That’s OK! It would be impossible to do research and continuously write stories on a subject without developing some sort of interest or opinion. There should be no omission or abundance of facts on one side to better build a story that supports a personal opinion. Curiosity and opinions should be used to force yourself to find out even more information to present in a story. Picking a side is inevitable, and we cannot be completely objective in our thoughts; however, with training and practice, a good journalist can tell a story that focuses on facts. Our duty as journalists is not sway the public’s opinion, but to present factual information so that others can form their own based on accurate information.

      • julieesmer 10:37 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree, but I do think that depending on what stations they work at, their opinions can be shared more easily with their audience. Facts are important of course, but the angle in which people look at them can be different. There are so many news programs for this reason. Different audiences have different opinions and thoughts and therefore it is important to have some sort of bias to please those people.

        • Portia McKenzie 11:26 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink

          Yes. That is true when it comes to networks, the goal is ultimately to generate revenue, and the only way to do that is to have an audience that actually watches the program. The only problem I have with that is that people will only get their news from the sources they already know will appease them. It’s a sticky subject.

    • nfinkbeiner 7:30 am on June 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Another way to look at this is: Why is a journalist writing a story if they have extreme personal opinions about something? What happened to journalists working with their editors and opting out of writing stories that they have a conflict of interest in? I work in PR, not journalism, but even I have to do this from time to time when I’m working with community groups. If I have a conflict of interest, I bring it up and ask someone else to step in as a favor to me and I excuse myself from the conversation or project. I, in turn, do the same for them when they need it. Isn’t this how newsrooms used to handle it too? If so, when did that stop? If not, why not?

      • Portia McKenzie 11:35 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Great point. If there is a conflict of interest then a professional journalist would need to step down, but at times there can be a thin line between personal interest in a subject and conflicting viewpoints. Most writers do have an interest in their beats (fashion, politics, etc.); however, when that interest turns into self promotion for their own projects or political figures they publicly endorse then a story should be passed to another reporter.

    • Steven Davy 9:26 am on June 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Excellent arguments put forward this week. Let me just add a little more fuel to the fire by re-framing objectivity in terms of technology and the “age of links”

      David Weinberger, who coined the phrase “transparency is the new objectivity” suggests that:

      “In the Age of Links, we still use credentials and rely on authorities. Those are indispensable ways of scaling knowledge, that is, letting us know more than any one of us could authenticate on our own. But, increasingly, credentials and authority work best for vouchsafing commoditized knowledge, the stuff that’s settled and not worth arguing about. At the edges of knowledge — in the analysis and contextualization that journalists nowadays tell us is their real value — we want, need, can have, and expect transparency.

      Transparency puts within the report itself a way for us to see what assumptions and values may have shaped it, and lets us see the arguments that the report resolved one way and not another. Transparency — the embedded ability to see through the published draft — often gives us more reason to believe a report than the claim of objectivity did.

      In fact, transparency subsumes objectivity. Anyone who claims objectivity should be willing to back that assertion up by letting us look at sources, disagreements, and the personal assumptions and values supposedly bracketed out of the report.”

      So in the age of links i.e. a technological solution to citations, has objectivity been “subsumed” by transparency? If you do not engage in the link economy is it justifiable that the user could simply look at your work as bias? Is the view from nowhere simply an artifact from a time before the Internet and that by employing the device you are possibly shortchanging what journalism can be?

      • Portia McKenzie 11:29 pm on June 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        It all depends on where you get your links. You can sense a bloggers bias if most of the additional sources formatted as links are all for news sites that lean one way or the other. I do think the work would be bias if you incorporate links from multiple sources from various perspectives.

  • Steven Davy 8:39 pm on June 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: @mayoremanuel, Amina Arraf, anonymity, Dan Sinker, Tom MacMaster   

    Forum 4 – Anonymity 

    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?

    Read Tufecki’s compelling piece here. And read Madrigal’s fascinating take on @mayoremanuel here. Then weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below.

    [photo: night86mare/Flickr)

    • Daniele's Blog 9:22 pm on June 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Anonymity is such a sticky situation. I believe that if you do use anonymity, it has to be in a situation where it is of great importance and will directly effect the public on a huge issue. But I would rarely, if never, use anonymity. It’s very dangerous territory.
      I do think that there is bad and good anonymity. Consider Water Gate with Woodward and Bernstein. They used an anonymous source and they uncovered wrong doing in government. Good. But anything you do for personal gain, is definitely bad.
      I think that anonymity erodes the trust of the public. People want to know where we our getting our information from, and I do too. It’s just knowing that we could cross-reference someone if we really wanted to. And getting the same answers.
      I don’t believe that it is vital to the future of journalism. We don’t need anonymity. Or I should say rarely.
      At the end of the day, it will always be a gray area. It’s really sticky as I said earlier.
      It is very hard to verify the information in social web because it’s just social (sometimes). And people don’t feel the need to put up there sources.

      • lauradaien 9:31 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Although it isn’t easy to verify information, I think we do need to have sources for our information. It may be harder on social media outlets and blogs but without it, our actual media outlets will not have information that readers/listeners know they can trust. I agree regarding anonymity and the trust of the public being eroded. It takes me back to the discussion on whether bloggers are journalists. If they want to be journalists… then they should have to provide real news information and include sources as well. But even though I completely believe anonymity on the internet is not good for journalism, I am really concerned that this will really never be possible and that worries me.

        • Rachael Zylstra 7:51 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink

          Totally agree, Laura and Daniele. Anonymity on the Internet only contributes to that fuzzy line of what’s journalism and what isn’t. Without verification and credibility of a source, how do we know that all the information reported is objective and truthful? I guess it could go back to the creditability of the outlet reporting the news. If the NY Times uses an anonymous source, I’m more likely to trust that information than if the National Enquirer were to use an anonymous source simple because of the outlet’s creditability.

        • julieesmer 10:42 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink

          I agree with Rachael on that point. If the main source (i.e. newspaper) is trusted, then if the reporter is anonymous, I don’t think it will affect the readers as much.

      • Portia McKenzie 8:09 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree that anonymity is a real sticky subject in journalism. People could easily falsify information that is newsworthy and get away with it because they choose to remain anonymous. Many times in the comment sections of blogs and online articles, scathing and often accusatory language is used to describe people. Sometimes the information is true, but regardless, it is hard to investigate the legitimacy of information without a source. Anonymity can be dangerous in that it could lead to mass misinformation much like the “gay girl in Damascus” situation. Journalists and intrigued readers were genuinely concerned and compelled by the story. For it to be revealed as a sham, detracts from faith in new media due to the ease in which people can be deceived. I remember the night it was announced that Osama bin Laden was assassinated, as a perused through the Twitter feed for “Osama” a joke account had been created within minute s of the announcements with bin Laden’s name. The first tweet stated “I’m not dead.” Yes. It was a joke by some wannabe comedian, but in relation to the topic of the dangers of anonymity it speaks volumes on how easy it is to falsify an identity online. I do believe in free speech, and if someone wants to say something with out revealing their identity they should be able to do so. It is, however, up to the discretion of an editor whether a comment is relevant enough to post anonymously or whether there is enough information to support the claim of someone who chooses to remain anonymous.

    • Sara Ventimiglia 11:10 pm on June 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think there is any good anonymity. That’s my opinion but it’s plain and simple. People get hurt and it usually doesn’t end up helping people. If it does, it is only temporary until people find out that it was basically a lie. I don’t like what MacMaster did because he didn’t fully realize what kind of danger he could have potentially put that country in. People could have been killed as a result all because someone made up a lie to try and help people. Lies are typically not the answer. The truth is more effective. Luckily for him, he did help people stand for what they believe in but it could have taken a turn for the worst. We do not need people to make things up in order to create news. We have enough valid news in the world and should stick to that. People are acting selfish when they use anonymity for their own personal benefit. It’s hard enough to trust people these days as it is due to all of our countries dilemma’s but when you start to throw in lies and anonymity, it doesn’t get any better.

    • Lindsay Nowak 2:23 pm on June 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I agree with the two previous comments about the idea of good anonymity. It is also my opinion that there really isn’t such thing as anonymity being a good thing. To me, people only use an anonymous identity online for their own benefit to find out information or feedback they may not have been able to get otherwise using their own identity. Using anonymity online in my opnion if solely for personal gain and doesn’t benefit others.

      Anonymity to me also doesn’t really have a place in journalism because there is no way to verify information is correct if someone is blatantly using an anonymous name, or more so if they were posting information people believed and never knew it wasn’t a person’s real identity. Even more proof that posing as an anonymous character can cause problems and erode someone’s trust once the news does get out the person was using anonymity.

      • ashleysap 7:13 pm on June 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I also don’t really feel that anonymity has a positive place in the world of journalism. I think that the use of anonymity wrecks the credibility that journalism should provide as it serves the public. How can a piece be credible, if we don’t know who the actual source of the information is? It also has the ability to establish fake credibilty as people on the web are always claiming through the use of anonymity to be someone that they are not. Considering all of these points, I really don’t think anonymity should be used in professional journalism at all, let alone be considered a vital part now or anytime in the future, I think it erodes credibility, rather than serving any good at all.

        • Daniele's Blog 9:40 pm on June 15, 2011 Permalink

          Although I agree with you, I would think that it would have to be a really good reason. And it would have to lead to a big break through. Like where Osama Bin Laden is or something.

        • nfinkbeiner 4:58 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink

          I agree Ashley. As far as journalism goes, I don’t think there should be authors that are anonymous (I’m ok with some sources like Daniele’s example, remaining anonymous but that is for another time).

          We had this discussion at our Community Editorial Board meeting at the Battle Creek Enquirer yesterday regarding opinion pieces in the paper vs. story chat comments online. The editors said that some newspapers are going to only publishing online story chat comments if the person uses their real name. Not only does it cut down on the amount of nasty comments on the story chat, but it also upholds the standards of using your real name for publishing a Letter to the Editor in the paper. I, for one, think it’s a great idea because it would hold people more accountable and keep the journalistic standards as the printed paper.

          By the way, here’s a fun piece about Ben Franklin’s pseudonym’s that he used to write under: http://www.pbs.org/benfranklin/l3_wit_name.html

        • Steven Davy 5:56 pm on June 17, 2011 Permalink

          Great discussion thread. There is an enormous amount of disagreement in the online news media industry about whether to have a light hand moderating comments, a heavy hand or no hand at all.

          In the last case (particularly on local newspaper sites), the comments section can turn into a nasty profane bar brawl. The premise of these un-moderated threads is the marketplace of ideas … that the best ideas (or comment threads) will stand the test of time and the profane users will be forced out of the conversation.

          Does this facilitate a healthy conversation? Do users feel that they can weigh in (anonymously if they want) on a thread without any repercussion?

          If we zoom out, is this (sometimes) virulent conversation good for democracy? It is after all free speech. Or, is the fast pace of the online news environment simple incapable of meshing with the marketplace of ideas concept?

      • Sara Ventimiglia 4:51 pm on June 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Authors should not be anonymous as you have all said in some form. Mr. Davy, I think that this conversation is good for democracy and it is indeed free speech. It is capable of meshing.

    • julieesmer 11:57 pm on June 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      There are good and bad parts to anonymity. As for the case of Amina Abdallah Arraf, clearly Tom MacMaster’s facade hurt a lot of people, although that was not his intent. However, when it comes to my personal anonymity, I believe that there are parts of me that I do not want to admit on my social media pages. Some of these things could make my “friends” judge me without knowing why I feel a certain way on issues.

      For some people, I think that level of anonymity is important when you are searching for a job. Some personal feelings that people might have will not reflect poorly when they start a job, however if it was posted online, it could discredit them from the job. As an example, a friend of mine wants to get a job with a Christian Not-for-Profit. She is an atheist. She knows that if she applies for that job, she cannot admit that she is an atheist, or she will not be considered for the position, although she is extremely qualified. I believe this level of anonymity is necessary.

      Similar to @MayorEmanuel, there have been many humorous Twitter accounts that have become viral sensations, like @BronxZoosCobra. This Twitter handle was purely for entertainment, and generated over 200,000 followers. His escape caused a ruckus in NYC, but I otherwise would not have known about it if not for Twitter. And, personally, his tweets are some of my favorites.

      • nfinkbeiner 4:51 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        A GREAT point about job hunting Julie. I read a study for my organizational communication course talking about the likelihood of getting an interview for a job based on the name on the resume. I think for job hunting purposes (and I’ve seen a similar argument for fair housing rental applications), that keeping applications anonymous by removing the names would help with discrimination. Most people immediately from my last name can tell I’m of German descent, which is ok, but what if your name could be seen as from an area we are currently in conflict with? I could see how that could hurt your chances of getting an interview (and maybe even a job or apartment).

      • Sara Ventimiglia 4:52 pm on June 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Anonymity online when job hunting is crucial. Employers look at blogs, facebooks, twitters etc. You need to keep it as professional and as anonymous as possible in that circumstance.

    • nfinkbeiner 4:47 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Both of the examples above seem more like cases of false identities than anonymity. For example, if a blogger doesn’t want to be known and says that, that’s anonymity. But if a blogger leads people to believe he or she is someone else, that’s more a case of false identity.

      I think the distinction between the two is important because in both cases above, the person took on that of another persona (real in the case of @mayoremanuel and false in the case of Gay Girl in Damascus) and lead people to believe that the writer was the persona (although, most of us I would argue, did not believe @mayoremanuel). If you identify yourself as someone else, it’s a lie. And, people are going to believe you, which could lead to problems. For example, I agree with the other posts on here that what Gay Girl in Damascus did create a potentially harmful situation, especially after the post about her arrest, and it will make people much more suspicious about any reports coming out of that area. What Mr. MacMaster did, essentially, was cry wolf. And now, it’s quite possible that every time someone from that area cries or reports something disturbing, people might not believe it or at least will delay their response until they are sure it is legitimate.

      Comparatively, if someone chooses to remain truly anonymous, then I think the possibility of harm goes down significantly because people have a pre-warning to be cautious because of the anonymity. However, this means they “truly” have to be anonymous. This, by my definition, is someone who clearly states that they want to remain anonymous and they do not post any false facts about themselves. Or, someone who clearly states that they want to remain anonymous and they give you facts that are admittedly false (for example, “I will not use my real name on this blog so I can remain anonymous, but you are welcome to call me Sue.”). By doing so, they pre-warn their readers as to which material of theirs is the absolute truth and which is questionable.

      Bottom line: I think it is ok to remain anonymous in blogging or on social media as long as you are very clear to your readers as to your wish to remain anonymous and clearly identify any false identities or facts you created.

      • Steven Davy 6:12 pm on June 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        “Both of the examples above seem more like cases of false identities than anonymity.” Excellent point. To play devil’s advocate, is there a greater good argument to be made? If MacMaster was never unmasked would his writing, which many smart folks who follow Syria closely claimed was accurate for the region before they found out who he was, remained an important dissident voice against an oppressive regime?

    • skellehan 8:58 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Anonymity is a slippery slope. Any time someone uses anonymity, I think there is more of a chance of causing harm than good. So when it comes to the question of if there is good or bad anonymity, I would have to say there is both, but the bad almost always outweighs the good. Because of this I’ve always thought of anonymity as a last resort. But that’s just me. Looking at things like @mayoremanuael reminds me that there is a good place for anonymity. On the issue of real anonymity on the Internet, being a person who is pretty up on how information is actually transmitted, etc. I know that there really is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet, you can always be traced back if someone is willing to put in the effort. But that being said, to the normal Internet user, it’s almost too easy in some places (besides facebook) to hide yourself behind a fabrication.

      Going off what I said before, I don’t really think anonymity has a place in online journalism, unless it’s the last resort. If there is a way you can spread your intended information without anonymity, that should always be your first resort. This relates to what Tufecki was saying that “there is more safety in numbers which the real name policy might actually help” which is something you might not get when being anonymous. All this being said, I don’t think anonymity erodes the trust of public, because when it comes down to it, sometimes anonymity is necessary. For me the example that always sticks out to me is Watergate and “Deep Throat”. Even though it was anonymous, it was information that the nation needed to hear, and Woodward and Bernstein made the right call on it. That being said, I go back to what I again said before because they (as with anyone using anonymity) put themselves at a big risk. Anyone who is anonymous could easily be lying, even more so in the digital age. But even so, anonymity is still a vital part of journalism, but should be used sparingly or with a definitive purpose.

      I don’t think you can easily call one good or bad. For starters for me it’s hard to compare something that was obviously satire with something that was trying to help people who find it very hard to spread their own voice. Each person had their intentions in mind one satire and one activism and I believe they both thought what they were doing was good. Obviously anyone can take the opposite stance and say what they did was bad, but that’s their personal opinion and last time I checked opinion is miles away from fact, so I don’t think it can be or ever will be that black and white.

      To answer the last question, I will quote a common saying “take everything with a grain of salt.” There is not much more that applies to this saying more than the Internet. When it comes down to it the Internet is a public place and ever more becoming an easily accessible social place. It’s important to always be a little skeptical about everything you read because as we’ve seen in the articles today, verification of information on the Internet is still very lax for the most part.

      • lauradaien 9:41 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree that there can be good anonymity but the good definitely outweighs the bad. The mayor Emanuel Twitter account was clearly satire and I think if things like this do occur, clearly identifying the satire and that it is not the person described is essential. I definitely feel this way in terms of using other social media mediums as well. Identifying who handles Facebook and Twitter accounts for an organization is important transparency. I agree that it is too easy to hide behind other identities, and I’m hoping somehow more transparency will come about in the near future.

        • Rachael Zylstra 8:48 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink

          The anonymous @mayoremanuel account reminds me of the @BPGlobalPR hoax (http://twitter.com/#!/BPGlobalPR) that was started when the oil spill happened in April 2010. Both are entirely satirical, but I think they both brought a greater awareness to the subjects at hand. I totally agree transparency is key, but at the same time anonymous, satirical accounts like these can raise awareness as long as it’s told up front that the accounts are fake.

      • Steven Davy 6:26 pm on June 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        “(T)ake everything with a grain of salt.” Thanks for bring this up.

        Media thinker Dan Gillmor has coined the phrase “Interesting if true” that is relevant to our discussion here and elsewhere when consuming news around the web.

        “Like many other people who’ve been burned by believing too quickly, I’ve learned to put almost all of what journalists call “breaking news” into the categories of gossip or, in the words of a scientist friend, “interesting if true.” That is, even though I gobble up “the latest” from a variety of sources, the closer the information is in time to the actual event, the more I assume it’s unreliable if not false.”

        • Portia McKenzie 8:16 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink

          I have to agree with Dan Gillmor on that one. I cannot completely dismiss breaking news and getting information as it comes along, but you do tend to get a more complete and accurate story when you get multiple sources to back the information. However, on the contrary, additional time may cause facts to get muddled with too many points of view or a PR machine working to “spin” a story in a particular direction. There are many pawns in the news game. That’s why my only solution is to get information from multiple sources.

    • lauradaien 9:21 pm on June 16, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Anonymity is a sticky subject, especially on the internet. I really don’t think that there is any actual good anonymity. I personally think that we should stand behind everything we say, whether it’s on the internet or not. By saying that pretending you’re someone that you aren’t through a blog or creating a Twitter account is ok, we are opening up the doors for any accountability at all. While many could say that there is no harm in a false lighthearted Twitter account, I see creating accounts as other people as spreading false information about someone. A person’s reputation is highly tied to what people find on the internet, and someone using someone’s ID on Twitter can tarnish that.

      I have an even larger issue with the blogger pretending to be the Lebanese woman. Although this woman wasn’t a real person, people following this blog think the ideas conveyed represent what a woman in that unique situation is dealing with. Putting out false perceptions of how the lives of women in her situation would live spreads the wrong message and that borders on unethical. In an age where there is so much ignorance in the world, spreading false information only adds to that. I think both examples show that harm can be caused in either situation, whether intentional or not.

      Right now there really isn’t much anonymity online and that will be troublesome for the journalism industry’s future. Without some accountability through online journalism, figuring out what to believe will become harder and harder. People shouldn’t be able to make comments or write posts and hide who they are. If people want to say something, they should have to show their faces. While the issue will never be black and white, I think trying to put some accountability into online journalism is essential to ensuring credibility remains intact.

      • julieesmer 10:46 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree that it will not be black and white. I just think that some level of anonymity can be beneficial for people, if they are likely to be discriminated against. Like when you apply for a job, and they give you the optional survey at the end asking for your sex and race. Often, I fill out this information, but I can see why some people might leave it blank. Sad as it is, discrimination still exists.

    • trixiab 3:47 pm on June 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Anonymity on the Internet – to respond to this blog I’d like to share a personal challenge I’m having with this class. Before enrolling in JRN 892, I had a Facebook account with a few pictures loaded, but which I found I never used, since I preferred email. Even though I have a master’s in IT Support, I found myself resisting the social media explosion. I actually signed up for JRN 892 to give myself a bit of a jumpstart into social media, hoping it would inspire me to get on board. It has done that certainly – at least now my feet are wet although I haven’t yet completely immersed – but it has also helped me understand my resistance.

      As an introvert, I’m rather reluctant to be very public with my views and opinions, only sharing them with people I’ve known for years. However, this class has ‘forced’ me to post my photo & name all over the social Internet. This has been an extremely uncomfortable process for me – especially since the pace of the class has meant that I’ve been unable to edit my writing to the extent I usually do.

      Has anyone else in class struggled with the publicity of our posting? I honestly think I would have been more comfortable if we could have used some sort of anonymous system of posting & perhaps later chosen whether we wanted to reveal our true names & photos – and on which systems. I know we are aiming to develop a ‘professional presence’ on the Internet, but this is something I would rather not feel rushed in doing.

      It’s good to know I’m not alone in the introverts using social media dilemma – below are a few blogs about the same topic ☺





      • Steven Davy 6:46 pm on June 17, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        There are legitimate arguments for wanting to keep certain things online private. You’re not alone in this class for raising these concerns. To stay with your metaphor, this class is definitely designed to toss you in the social media waters. There is a learning curve with everything, especially in navigating the gray space of social media.

        As I’ve written to other students though, nearly everything published online can be found one way or another. One of the undercurrents of this course (your online identity) is aimed at helping you management/establish a credible and professional online identity i.e. when you search your name in Google, what comes up?

        Ideally you want your professional blog to be at the top of a Google search. One way to do that (and push other listings down in the rankings) is to grab the takeaways from this course and begin posting more of your professional content. This class is hopefully only a start to your blogging.

        However, this class is also a work in progress. Feedback like this is important for the growth of this material. I built the course from the perspective of a journalist working in a newsroom. The benefits of being active on social networks with your legitimate identity far out weigh any negatives. It’s how the online newsroom works … we have to be able to communicate with sources on the platform that the source is most comfortable. If it’s messaging in Facebook, that’s where journos have to be. Twitter, Tumblr … some other yet to be invented communication platform, you bet.

        But please keep the feedback coming and thank you for sharing. I would love to hear more from the class on this.

      • nfinkbeiner 12:50 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Hi Trixi,

        In a great way, you just stumbled upon one of the biggest debates in higher education today. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html) is meant to protect a student’s privacy on a wide variety of topics. The most common usage of FERPA has to do with grades and other school records. For example, if you are over the age of 18, a school can’t give out your grades, disciplinary records, or financial records to your parents or anyone else that might request them.

        However, one of the other areas that FERPA covers is your privacy as far as having to divulge information about yourself publicly. And that is where the great debate comes in. Most schools have courses like this one that have requirements for setting up public online profiles and posting information publicly. They argue that this is not different than you taking an art class and having your artwork displayed with a brief biography at a local art center. But, the last lawyer I heard speak on the subject said that, through court rulings, it has been determined that FERPA protects students form having to post a public profile online. Whether that is accurate or not, I don’t know. So, the debate continues.

        I would assume that MSU had a lawyer look over the requirements of this course and others like it (such as the New Media Drivers License course) to make sure that they don’t violate their understanding of FERPA, but in the off-chance that they haven’t, I would encourage them to do so just to be sure they aren’t violating the law. Better safe than sorry.

        As a fellow student, I share your concerns about privacy. I’m not an introvert by any means, but I am a public figure and I do need to monitor the information that is out there about me carefully. In this class and others, I’ve asked for minor exemptions from some requirements citing privacy concerns. In all cases, they have been granted.

        I agree with Steven’s points too, though. As a PR professional, my advice will always be to share information early so that you have control of the message and so that no one else shares what might be inaccurate information first. I take this same stance with my online reputation. If there’s going to be stuff online about me, I’m going to be the one to be the one to write it instead of someone else (or, at least, as much as I can). So, I set up controlled online profiles and monitor my search results and new postings with my name on them through daily Google Alerts and other tools so that I know what’s out there and can try to correct anything that isn’t.

        That’s a lot of information I know, but I hope that helps!
        (I work as the PR/Marketing Director for a community college)

    • Rachael Zylstra 9:19 pm on June 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I found this interesting article in regards to the New York Times use of anonymous sources: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/09/business/media/09askthetimes.html. In the article it states, “If The Times and other large news-gathering organizations declared a unilateral ban on anonymous sources, readers would be denied critical and urgent news in the public interest.” I think this is an interesting point. News outlets work to get the news out in the quickest and most accurate way possible and they are only using anonymous sources when they see a need for them.

      But, where it becomes dicey, is when we see anonymous sources used on the Internet–in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook, etc. What constitutes good anonymity versus bad anonymity in these cases? I really don’t think there’s much to help define the legitimacy of anonymity. I think it’s only acceptable when it’s clearly stated that the Twitter account in use is fake and satirical (which, in a sense, nulls the anonymity), or the anonymous source is being used by a credible news outlet online. To help with verification of accounts, Twitter offers a verified blue badge to authenticate high profile users of the platform. More information here: http://support.twitter.com/groups/31-twitter-basics/topics/111-features/articles/119135-about-verified-accounts. I think this is a helpful for users so they know if the person tweeting is really the person they think they are. Unfortunately, there’s no verification process or blue badges that get placed on blogs whenever an anonymous source is used. Readers need to take caution when seeing an anonymous source and remember that what they read might be inaccurate and misleading.

  • Steven Davy 6:59 pm on June 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Bloggers vs. Journalists, , SxSW   

    Forum 3 

    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.

    and that

    (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]

    • nfinkbeiner 11:00 pm on June 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It has happened several times during my career. A department head rushes into my office or calls me on the phone because they are SO EXCITED that their favorite magazine or a very popular TV show wants to do a segment on them or their program. Always the “Doubting Thomas” but trying not to let it show, I take the information and do an immediate assessment of the situation. Does the program really have something so unique or so applicable to this publication/news organization that they legitimately would be calling? It’s not that the programs I represent in my work aren’t awesome and deserve media attention. I just have developed a keen sense of what varying publications look for and when something seems out of whack. So, I make a few calls, and go online and do my research. After I’ve gathered all of the information, the part of my job that I dislike the most comes next; I have to go tell the excited department head that a magazine that they read and trust religiously, only publishes paid content. In fact, for the story they want to do about them, it will only cost us $10,000-$26,000. The look of disappointment in their eyes kills me. It’s not the idea of paid content that is disappointing to them. People aren’t naïve, they know some publishers do this. But, they never thought the publisher they trusted and thought had unbiased reporting did this. Rarely, do they ever look that a magazine the same again.

      So how is this story related to the current topic? One of the main arguments about the debate between journalism and blogging is whether bloggers will replace journalists (see The Twisted Psychology of Bloggers vs. Journalists: My Talk at South By Southwest by Jay Rosen http://pressthink.org/2011/03/the-psychology-of-bloggers-vs-journalists-my-talk-at-south-by-southwest/). At the heart of this, in my opinion, is a deeper question, which is: Are people really able to tell the difference between good, quality investigative reporting and slanted content? If so, then there can be no replacement, but as my story above indicates, the answer is often no. I admit, even I’ve been fooled a few times and I know what to look for.

      There are some blogs out there who have very obvious slants to them and clearly indicate them. But I would guess that the majority of blogs don’t indicate any biases they have. In fact many may claim they don’t have them. But, as Filloux and Gassée (http://www.mondaynote.com/2011/02/20/bloggers-publishers-and-the-apple-lockdown/) point out, “No one could become a decent magistrate after reading a couple of law books. In a similar way, good journalism can’t happen without training and experience. Nothing is trivial: handling sources, avoiding manipulation, watching out for ethical traps, managing the distance from facts, and their context…”

      I’m not saying traditional news organizations do not also suffer from slants. Some do so obviously, and some do so subtly, but if they are truly following the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics (http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp), then they are bound to a code of unbiased reporting. This separates them from the bloggers. “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. This is emphatically not the blogosphere’s mission statement,” wrote Filloux and Gassée.

      The difference in missions, similar to that of true journalism vs. paid editorial content in magazines, is the reason that we continue to keep them separate and find ways to communicate the differences (good and bad) to the general public.

      • Steven Davy 7:46 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Good points Nicole and a very relevant question: “(a)re people really able to tell the difference between good, quality investigative reporting and slanted content?” There is a growing community calling for a stronger sense of news literacy. The exponential growth of information sources make this even more important. Media thinker Dan Gillmor recently discussed this (in a different context, though still relevant for this discussion):

        “Our obligation as news users is to be sceptical of everything, especially stories that sound incredible and breaking news. We have to be especially careful not to overreact to what we see and hear. The consequences of being wrong are growing”

        • nfinkbeiner 10:07 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink

          I agree. I would definitely consider myself in the growing segment of the population that thinks being able to decipher between investigative reporting and slanted content is a skill we need to be teaching students at a much earlier age than we currently are.

          For example, in my my undergraduate studies, we didn’t really spend a great deal of time talking about how to scrutinize research studies (other than in market research class, and that was limited). Research Design here at MSU through the Communication Department was an exceptionally difficult class, but I’m amazed at how differently I look at research studies in the news or presented as evidence towards arguments.

          But, realistically, I think this skill should begin to be taught at an even earlier age. I’m not a k-12 education expert, but I’d like to see them begin teaching this as soon as possible. I also think, when we teach it, we need to not only tell students what is good and bad, but why it is good and bad and challenge them to decipher some content so that they learn the reasoning and skill behind it all.

        • Rachael Zylstra 10:28 pm on June 9, 2011 Permalink

          Nicole, I couldn’t agree with you more. It seems that with the popularity of social media, younger children are going to be signing up for Facebook accounts and Twitter handles before they can even drive (and to think, I didn’t have Facebook until my sophomore year of college!). Social media tools are powerful communication platforms and if people aren’t careful their messages can get out of hand or taken out of context. It’s important to educate younger folks about and pros and cons of social media, who to trust and not to trust, and explain objectivity vs. subjectivity. Great point!

    • Lindsay Nowak 2:04 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      It’s often a confusing line when I search online for an article on a specific topic and multiple blogs, some from credited news sources and others who may be personal blogs, pop up and show me what I’m looking for. However, if I had to pick between reading a credited blog, and reading a really factual news article, I would go with the article.

      Although blogs, some that contain personal opinions and others with hard facts, are in my opinion sometimes easier to read, I don’t feel as though they can replace an actual news story from a well-known source such as the New York Times or Washington Post. I know when I read an article from a reliable newspaper or even magazine, that those facts are double-cheecked for accuracy and are indeed true.

      Anybody can blog. And anybody can put things in their blog that may lack facts or be completely untruthful. Journalists that work for any credible newspaper, even bloggers at that those newspapers, must adhere to the journalism standards and create truthful and unbiased news articles. That’s what makes journalism and that’s when journalism is “committed.” When there are double-checked facts straight from the source, quotes in the article from different sources and an unbiased, well-written piece, that’s what journalism is. I know personally, I will continue to get my news straight from a newspaper or their online news site because I know that information is reliable and accurate, rather than take my chances from different blogs.

      • Steven Davy 7:56 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Interesting points Lindsay. Remember though, that even traditional news media outlets are fallible. Think back to the Jason Blair incident.

        One important point to consider is blogging is about a process not a final product. As more information is learned a competent blogger will work to dig the truth out. Watching and learning from this process can also strong journalism.

        • nfinkbeiner 10:19 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink

          I agree. News outlets have to make corrections all of the time, but they make those corrections, which bloggers sometimes do not. I think it is also a game of accuracy percentages. We know that no news source is inaccurate 100% of the time, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the legitimate news organizations have a much higher percentage of accuracy than blogs. If, for no other reason, because there is almost always someone double-checking everything (usually and editor) before it goes out. I can’t imagine many bloggers have someone above them constantly questioning their facts, ways of gaining the information, etc.

          By the way, my brain can’t recall and my Google searching skills are failing me: There was a famous TV journalist who died a few years ago. When they did a biography of him, they talked about how he was fired at one point from one of the major networks because they wanted him to run with a breaking news story before he could check the facts. He refused and I believe the story DID end up being false. But, he was fired for it. Does anyone from that description recall who I’m talking about?

        • Laura Daien 7:50 pm on June 11, 2011 Permalink

          I agree with your point Prof. Davy that news outlets are fallible, but I still go back to the fact that they are at least required to uphold specific ethical and factual standards that bloggers are not. Unless something changes, bloggers will never be accountable to anyone… and therefore in my opinion, never truly actual media sources. If a newspaper makes a mistake, they are required to print a correction… if a blogger says something that’s inaccurate or makes a mistake… they aren’t required to do anything. You can’t be a journalist without standards and to me that won’t change.

      • julieesmer 11:45 pm on June 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Lindsay, I also get confused about the blogs on the news websites. They are often easier to read, and I tend to read them more often to see a clear perspective. Though they aren’t exactly news-worthy sources, I like the opinions and the shortened version of the story at hand.

    • Daniele's Blog 3:34 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Journalism vs. blogging is absolutely ridiculous to me. I don’t understand why people are so worked up over it. Journalism is blogging and blogging is journalism. The only difference between a journalist and a blogger is that they have a degree (and possibly a specialization) in what they are writing about.
      I think that there is both good and bad when is comes to journalism and blogging. Some journalist and bloggers put out very important information to the public and some come out with less useful important stuff. Some bloggers “act” like journalist and check there sources, have credibility, and creates truthful unbiased news and that makes them committed. But why is that bloggers have to “act” like journalist, they are. They are just using a different medium. Instead of being on a newspaper, magazine, or television, it’s on the internet. They are personal, starting it up by themselves.
      And journalist can be complete the opposite. They use anonymous sources, they show their biases (FOX vs CNN), and they can sometimes tell the half the truth.
      Personally, I don’t think there is a difference. I’m taking the bloggers side I guess, that they are journalism too, just a different branch.

      • Steven Davy 8:05 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        “The only difference between a journalist and a blogger is that they have a degree (and possibly a specialization) in what they are writing about.” – Be careful here. Not all journalists earned a degree and then joined a news org. The professionalization of journalism is only a recent phenomenon. However, a university setting can offer valuable training. What kinds of things are readying you to be a critical news consumer? Should there be more?

        • Daniele's Blog 8:45 pm on June 7, 2011 Permalink

          Hmmm, I didn’t know that it was recent a phenomenon. I thought they all went to school for it. (Learn something new everyday, eh?)

          As far as myself readying to be a critical news consumer, I am becoming aware of biases. I try to look for news sources with both sides of a story, instead of one. I have also widen my “library” of news sources. I don’t just look at Yahoo! (although convienent) anymore. I check out Fox.com, Cnn.com, msnbc.com, and sometimes I’ll look at newspapers over seas like 20minutos.es. I like to see what other country think of the U.S. and how they see us. Suprisingly, I look at photos. Since Photoshop has come out, and with compositions being changed, I can’t even believe them anymore. Take everything with a pinch of salt.

          I think there should be more critical news consumers and I think that there needs to be watchdog for journalist. Yes! Journalist! We need to stop the biases and the half truths. Now there is nothing wrong with opinions and sharing what you think. But the basics are very important. People are forgetting that.

          And that would put the publics trust in journalist. And if that was there, I would be happy.

      • julieesmer 11:48 pm on June 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I don’t think that journalism and blogging are the same thing. That’s like saying that the people who post articles in Wikipedia are the same that write encyclopedias. They are not. A blogger could call himself a journalist but that may not be the case. Being an observer of something news worthy doesn’t mean that they can appropriately report what happened.

    • Sara Ventimiglia 10:19 am on June 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I can’t exactly take a side as I am in a journalism internship right now and blogging as well. I am a journalist and a blogger. I have four blogs and the majority of them have been for school in which I am studying journalism. Bloggers and journalists can’t be separated with a fine line because we cross over into each others territory. But I will say that if you are a blogger and that is it, then you are not really considered a journalist right off the bat. But as a journalist who blogs as well, you are a double threat. But for example, Arianna Huffington started the Huffington Post by beginning a blog. It became huge and turned into what it is today. If you are successful in your blogging and have intentions of becoming a journalist, you may someday be able to be considered a journalist based on the quality of your work. Like Mr. Davy said, not all “journalists” earned a degree. Anyone can become a journalist but it all depends on the quality of work you’re willing to put out there.

      • ashleysap 10:26 am on June 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Journalism Vs. Bloggers seems like an unecessary battle between two forms of reporting that continuously cross over. In the readings, it talked about how blogging was or wasn’t going to replace tradtional forms of journalism and I don’t think its a matter of ever replacing one or another because they seem to compliment one another. The truth is, newspapers are a dying breed due to the internet and many news outlets are trying to employ more bloggers to up their readership, so rather than continuously debate who is or who isn’t a journalist, I think the focus should be on how they bloggers and journalist can help one another. We live in a technology driven world, where because of the internet and blogs and other social media outlets, news cycles much faster and on a 24/7 basis and sometimes it is the quickest way to get the news highlights, but the newspapers and journalists remain the outlet for getting the whole story and the details. I feel like this debate is continuing for needless reasons, many journalists who do hard reporting, also contributed to blogs, they are one in the same. And as discussed, you don’t always need a degree to become a journalists and you definitley don’t need one to become a blogger, so where is the line of professionalism drawn between the two, when virtually anyone could become a journalist or a blogger? A blogger is a journalist and a journalist is a blogger, in the end, it always comes down to the question of credibility? I think when this question is answered than you know whether journalism was comitted or not.

    • Daniele's Blog 6:41 pm on June 8, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I thought about that when I was writing my post! The Huffington post is HUGE and successful. Blogs turned into credible sources with great quality work.

    • Laura Daien 9:51 pm on June 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think there is a fine line between the media industry and journalists and I think it is there for a few reasons. 1) I think the traditional media industry is holding onto dear life and trying to evolve in survive in the new media age. 2) Bloggers have no obligation to anyone and the moment that it is acknowledge that bloggers are part of the media industry, all bets are off. I say this because with how much we use the internet every day, it seems to me that it will be impossible to ensure that all journalists (which would include bloggers at this point) follow rules of ethics and sources that the media industry prides itself on. This realization that everyone is a journalist will mean that news has no limits and not in a good way. If everyone is considered a reporter, no one will have to check their sources, ensure credibility and stories will never be unbiased, which is HUGE in journalism.

      I think being unbiased is CRUCIAL to actual journalism and it’s one of the only things setting traditional journalism apart from bloggers right now. As I said earlier, bloggers can say whatever they want without answering to anyone. If there are no rules, news will be completely biased and never be reliable and that will be the end of the news industry overall, which will be a sad day for the world. If no one can figure out who to believe, the world will just be filled with false information making it impossible to get the real word out. This would really kill the PR industry too.

      I think bloggers could be considered journalists, but there need to be standards, without standards I’m truly frightened as to what this industry will turn into… and nervous for all of us working toward careers in it.

      • Rachael Zylstra 10:23 pm on June 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Laura, I agree with everything you say, but I think it would be extremely difficult to implement blogger standards to be used across the board. How can you enforce standards among bloggers–especially when many write under a different name or anonymously? Again, all of your points are totally valid, but bloggers are becoming more and more popular for many reasons, and while you and I and our other classmates may be trained in effectively identifying an objective, fair story, I don’t think we can say that for many others. With a B.A. in journalism, I’d hate to see journalism turn into a circus show where anything and everything is published without following standards and ethics.

        • Laura Daien 4:19 pm on June 11, 2011 Permalink

          I totally agree that standards will be impossible to implement. That’s why I’m so conflicted about considering bloggers as journalists at all. The problem in my opinion is that bloggers don’t have to be objective and unbiased when writing their posts/stories. Journalists don’t have the option to write anonymously, so why should bloggers be able to? The news industry is based on sources and credibility, all of which is left out of most blogger stories. I also agree that it would be extremely sad to see journalism turn into a three ring circus, which I think is what will happen if there isn’t a way to implement standards of some kind.

    • Rachael Zylstra 10:17 pm on June 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      My undergraduate degree is in journalism. I started studying journalism in 2004 and by the time I graduated in 2008, the word blogger was tossed around more and more, but hardly ever in my four years of studies did we talk about blogging vs. reporting, or how to be cautious with citizen journalists.

      It’s pretty amazing how fast journalism is changing. Like many of my classmates have noted, newspapers are a dying medium and the journalism field is changing each day. Old school journalists are having to learn how to create multimedia pieces, write stories for the web, and learn new media platforms.

      Simply put, I think the blogger/journalist line is fuzzy because of the increasing popularity and accessibility of the Internet. Also, today’s world is becoming more and more fast-paced–people demand information within milliseconds it seems, and a lot of the time it doesn’t matter if they are getting their information from a blog or a news story. Professional journalists need more time to be objective, get both sides of the story. Bloggers can push a blog by just talking with one source and possibly appearing a bit more subjective but since the information is put out there faster, more readers are likely to take in that information. And then it’s up to them to determine the validity of the story.

      Here’s a video to enjoy about citizen journalism vs. traditional journalism (a debate between LEGOs). http://youtu.be/QU5LonkXbCE

    • skellehan 11:28 pm on June 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      There’s a point that has always been brought up in basically any Journalism class I’ve taken since High School. Which is, anyone can report on the news, there’s no such thing as a “Journalism License.” Going through classes to learn how to report effectively can improve the quality of your reporting, but when it really boils down to it, besides the backing of a media outlet (newspaper, news station, etc.) there really isn’t much of a way to differentiate yourself from content produced in the blogosphere.

      That being said, I still believe that there is a difference between something written on a blog and something written by a trained journalist, and that difference comes with content. When you are honing your skills as a journalist you learn a variety of things that typical blogger doesn’t, objectivity, what and what not to write, etc. That is not to say that a blogger doesn’t try to follow the same rules, but when it comes down to it they don’t have to. When someone is writing on a blog they are free to write anything they choose if they feel like it, objective or not. Which is why I believe that bloggers should be considered different than journalists.

      With all of that though, I agree with Rosen, I don’t think it is necessary for journalists to continue to force the debate they are. The times are changing and with that the way media is circulated is too. People can choose to get their information any way they want, and though it may be presumptuous, I think people know enough to know the difference between a blog post or a news article. And even if they don’t, Journalists continuing to make an issue of it is not going to change people’s minds, no matter what they will continue to read what they want an believe what they want.

      As far as when Journalism is committed and who says, I think journalism in it’s simplest form is committed when anyone, trained or not accurately reports on an issue or event without letting their bias creep in. It should always be about spreading information. People can try to tell you what is journalism or not, but really I don’t think anyone has the right to, because when it comes down to it, journalism is just another form of free expression.

    • trixiab 2:57 pm on June 10, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This has been a very interesting discussion about blogging vs. journalism. I agree with many of the points made, but again as a newbie in the field I suspect I have a different point of view. It seems to me that journalism is a continuum that is constantly expanding with new Web 2 possibilities.
      At one end of the continuum there is what I would call ‘formal’ or ‘traditional’ journalism that you can find at the New York Times or Guardian U.K. newspapers – which is mostly credible and written by ‘professional’ journalists who have had vast experience if not specific education in the field of journalism. At the other end of the spectrum is what I would call ‘informal or casual’ journalism that you can find on many blogs today. The writing may be less polished and contain some factual errors or inconsistencies (oh dear, am I describing myself here?), but if it’s about what’s happening in our world – then it’s still journalism!

      I believe the debate comes from a bit of a turf war and the threat professional journalists understandably feel about the huge upswing of citizen journalists. However, these newbie journalists are here to stay and will continue to increase in number and influence. So I also believe the best we can do is to harness their potential. A great example of this the crowdsourcing concepts we have been reading about this week, particularly the examples described at http://www.kcnn.org/resources/journalism_20_chapter4 under the heading Distributed, collaborative or open-source reporting. The story in which the Cincinnati Enquirer invited readers to report voting problems at their local poles and then created a Google Map of these locations is a powerful illustration of how crowdsourcing can lead to a richer and more effective article.

    • Portia McKenzie 11:59 am on June 11, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I think the line between “hard news” journalists and what one of my old high school teachers called “Cheetoh Men” (unaccredited writers who sit a computer typing away while eating Cheetohs) is getting more skewed as technology progresses. More people are journalists now because of accessibility to technology and mediums like WordPress, etc. You cannot discredit everyone who post stories on independent blogs; however, there is more reputability in a traditional news article due to the reputation of traditional news papers, magazines and their respective online editions.

      I may read something very well-written and researched on an independent blog, but what it may be lacking is the fine tooth comb of a professional editor or a second opinion on the story. Articles in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times are not infallible either. There have been many times in which retractions have been made in major newspapers, magazines anf their affiliated blogs, but I would accept a mistake and a retraction from an accredited newspaper or magazine and continue reading rather than the mistakes of an independent blogger because the system of checks and balances (editors, fact checkers, etc.) is there.

      Yes. People can throw in their 2cents on an issue through blogging, podcasts and Tweets to add color and alternate perspectives to a story, but if they are serious about journalism — real, unbias, well-written, here are the facts journalism– they would attempt to take the interest to the professional level, not for pay or recognition, rather for the checks and balances to make their own work more reliable to the reader.

    • yi yang 2:21 pm on June 12, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I do think there is a clear line between blogger and journalism. First of all, bloggers are able to express their own ideas on their own page and there is no limit for bloggers. Therefore, mostly blogger has no responsibility for what they say. Their saying could be not true or biased. However, journalists who is professional to report news and disclosure information must be responsible for what they say especially they are the representative for their newspaper office.

      Secondly, as a journalist who could spend a large amount of money and time to go deeply with some critical issue, like war and political problem. Those big issues cannot be disclosure by bloggers. Lastly, newspaper office has ability to collect information and select the best to report. But bloggers have no choice about what is the most quality content they should report instead of reporting the most attractive content.
      But sometimes bloggers have own benefits to report information. According to the the reporter Mallary Jean, she mention an example of live blogging for football games : live blogging is obviously paying as much attention to the game as you can while writing throughout. And it’s a little harder to do during a night football game when there’s tight deadlines that often call for a story to be filed as soon as the game ends,” Auman said. “Again, a good live blog helps focus a game story for the next day’s paper — it’s harder to overlook things and easier to remember the key points you want to squeeze into a comprehensive game story.”

  • Steven Davy 7:18 pm on May 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Forum 2 

    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.

    • Jazmin Bailey 11:40 pm on May 30, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Can Twitter make you stupid? I have to say that I agree with Mr. Bilton’s response, that yes, it definitely is possible and for some, the transformation has already occurred. As a recent graduate, I’ll admit my personal Twitter account includes friends, family, sorority sisters, plus MSU class clowns and famous celebrities. Occasionally, an inspirational or thought-provoking tweet will come across my timeline but most of the time, the tweets are filled with ignorance and attempts at witfully exposing other followers. This may be due to the fact that college students and recent graduates have turned Twitter into their medium to talk about each other but with hashtags like #twitterlies, #petty and #dead, I’m sure this trend is not on its way out. As Mr. Keller said, “stupid is as stupid does.” On the other hand, I would not know half of the news from each day if I did not see it on Twitter. There are journalists, producers and various community organizations who have jam-pack 140 characters with facts, figures and even the occasional link, everyday, on the hour. Twitter has brought me closer to the news industry and made me a more knowledgeable U.S. citizen, and for that, I thank the site very much. To answer the question, I’d say that it depends on how you use it. If you only focus on your blackberry trying to stuff your wheareabouts or what the man in line at Kroger is wearing into 140 characters instead of enjoying life as it goes, then, yes you have lost a bit of intelligence. However, if you follow more than just friends and look to organizations, newsmakers, trailbazers and those that challenge you to think, Twitter could, just possibly, enhance your knowledge.

      • Steven Davy 6:28 pm on May 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for sharing your experience Jazmin. Is it possible that Twitter can supplant traditional news outlets with breaking news? Has it already become the primary source for news?

        • Rachael Zylstra 10:23 am on June 4, 2011 Permalink

          I don’t think Twitter can necessarily replace traditional news outlets with breaking news, but I do think it’s just another way to get our news. And, in some cases, I think Twitter is quicker at getting out the news, but the question does come up as to whether the news reported the quickest is the most accurate news. I use my best judgment for that, and typically cross check tweets with the news reported via other media outlets.

          For some people’s lifestyles, Twitter works, but for others it doesn’t. I can’t see my grandma getting her breaking news via Twitter, but younger professionals like myself do use it to get news and other information. For example, I found out the news of Jack Kevorkian’s passing yesterday through Twitter, because I was checking my stream for a morning update. I was away from a TV that would likely have told me about the breaking news, so Twitter was a great alternative to how I found out the information.

      • Sara Ventimiglia 2:49 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree with Jazmin, Twitter has brought me closer to the industry and best of all, a better and more informed citizen. It’s the new newspaper and some people are just not willing the accept that.

      • lauradaien 9:39 am on June 3, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I really can’t agree that Twitter can make you stupid. If you choose to use it in a trivial manner and not to obtain news and build a strong network, then that’s your decision. I think Twitter’s great for obtaining news and finding out information as the story develops. You can follow stupid things on Twitter, and by doing so, miss out on the valuable information that IS circulating out there…. but it can’t MAKE you stupid… you do that yourself.

    • Daniele's Blog 1:15 pm on May 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Twitter can’t make you stupid. You know what makes you stupid? Following stupid things. Twitter is a social networking tool and a microblogging service. The keyword in the previous sentence is service and how you choose to use this service can make you smarter or dumber. If you follow the New York times, well I’m sure you’ll learn something everyday. If you follow something that spits our silly photos and jokes, you’re not going to get anything out of that but a laugh and something to tell your friends.

      Because of Twitter, we are more inter-connected. You can tweet something and billions of people can see it. We can communicate to a larger audience of people. And since some people don’t watch television anymore, that is channel. Pretty much, it’s the future.

      Journalism is global now and more people can participate. We can see great deeds being done and terrible tragedies all over the world. And it never ends. However, this also means that what is news and what isn’t becomes meshed together. In addition, what is the truth and what is not the truth could be in question. Everyone knows that when you read something online, whether its true or not, most people believe it to be true and it spreads, depending on the information, like wild fire. This could cause a problem.

      • Steven Davy 6:19 pm on May 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Great points Daniele. How would you suggest reporters separate truth from fiction when faced with the fire hose of information everyday?

        • Daniele's Blog 9:03 am on June 1, 2011 Permalink

          I think going to the source is always a great thing. No matter what, go to the source. Try to find the basis of the story. That’s important. And when you’re in a whirlwind of unknowns, try and contact who is giving out this information. They might be credible. Ask them for their sources. And come to your own conclusions. That always helps.

        • lauradaien 9:43 am on June 3, 2011 Permalink

          I think this is a very important point and a struggle for reporters. Although the information is out there… now reporters have the extra work to dig through it and determine what is real and what is rumor/made up. I think before using any information on social media as a source, reporters need to actually get in touch with the person via phone or in person. This puts a real face on the story and they can question the source as they would for a tip received not via social media. Yes this is time consuming, but it’s better than using a source that turns out to be unreliable which will hurt the reporter and the media outlet’s credibility.

        • Rachael Zylstra 10:40 am on June 4, 2011 Permalink

          Laura, I totally agree. I think of last year when rumors were circulating about Coach Tom Izzo leaving his head coach position at MSU to be head coach for an NBA team. No official word had come out of his office, and speculation became worse as time went on. I saw some responsible reporting from news outlets via Twitter, but also saw some irresponsible reporting–tweets about rumors, unconfirmed times of press conferences, etc. If reporters are going to use Twitter to gather information and disseminate news, they better do everything they can to get the facts right and straight. Because once you tweet, you can’t take it back.

    • Laura Daien 10:14 pm on May 31, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Can Twitter make you stupid? I don’t know if I would say stupid, but it definitely is what you make of it. Just like anything else, you will get the most out of Twitter if you put the most into it. If you only follow people you already know and don’t expand your network and follow organizations, companies and people with similar interests, you won’t gain anything by being on Twitter. I think this was Bilton’s point in saying only if you follow cats, etc.

      If you use Twitter to expand your network, obtain news and learn new things like I (and many people in the public relations and journalism industry) do, it will make you smarter and help you excel in your career. With the world being as fast-paced as it is, using social media outlets like Twitter helps me stay up to date on news that I otherwise would have missed and hear about news around the world that I otherwise likely would have missed out on.

      I do understand Keller’s initial point that perhaps social media is impeding us to an extent from thinking outside the box, developing in-depth ideas and reflecting on ideas without seeing others ideas. With so much information out there, it’s hard not to get caught up in the conversations on various topics. At the same time, that is the beauty of social media. Through Twitter, you can have a discussion regarding anything with a network of people you might not have been in touch with otherwise.

      Although social media does impact journalism, I don’t think it has done so in a negative manner. Social media gives media outlets an additional way to reach readers/listeners and gets them to visit their website to gather the information. I think if media outlets are fully engaged with readers, social media can help them be successful.

      • Steven Davy 9:47 am on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        “you will get the most out of Twitter if you put the most into it” – Sage advice Laura. This is what I encourage our reporters/producers to keep in mind here at The World when navigating social media platforms.

      • Sara Ventimiglia 2:50 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        It is what you make of it. It’s that simple. Most things in life are what YOU make of them. Why should Twitter be any different than Facebook or YouTube? It isn’t. They are all social media and they can all be very effective if used properly.

      • nfinkbeiner 9:03 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree with Laura and Sara in regards to information intake. It is what you make of it.

        I didn’t agree with Bilton’s arguments necessarily. He seems to equate information intake with intelligence. Although there is a pretty good correlation between the two, I think the value of that information is partially based on not only the quality of the information, but also the diversity of the information. Unless you read/listen to differing viewpoints, the information will probably not increase your intelligence level.

        Reading Keller’s arguments, I can’t help but wonder if he’s read Jaron Lanier’s book, “You Are Not a Gadget.” I listened multiple times to an interview Lanier did about his book and thoughts (so I could write a blog post about Internet Anonymity http://nfinkbeiner.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/the-internet-shouldnt-be-as-an-anonymous-as-it-is/) and he talks in length about what he calls “the hive mind.” His thought is that the internet has allowed us to filter out information that we don’t want to hear and allows us to go into a hive of information that includes only the information we agree with, want to hear, etc. So, if you only use Twitter in this way and only use it to converse with people that are in your hive, I could see how, as I mentioned above, you could be taking in a ton of information, but not gaining intelligence or real perspective along the way.

      • julieesmer 10:21 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree with Laura as well. I follow a handfull of celebrities at best on Twitter, and theirs are not the tweets I read. The majority of the network I have created for myself has been PR professionals. I started this once I started my Twitter account back in September. I found some PR professionals and publications that I find interesting and respect, and those are the ones I follow and actively engage with.

        • Daniele's Blog 5:42 pm on June 5, 2011 Permalink

          I think at the end of the day, there is going to be useful things and less useful things on social media platforms. I wish that there was a way that Twitter could kind of be the police in that regard. Tracking down rumors and put a stop to them with major announcement of some sort. Like the internet false truth detector 🙂

    • Lindsay Nowak 2:41 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Like the others have commented, I fully agree that it’s not Twitter itself making people “stupid” but the way people are using it. The same goes for every single social media platform out there. There is a side to Twitter, and even Facebook, where you can be goofy and not serious about anything but connecting with friends and having a good time.

      However, for me personally and a lot of other recent grads I know, Twitter can be an amazing tool for gathering daily local and national news along with information from around the world in real-time. It’s also helpful to follow businesses you might be interested in for future employment, or even people you admire and look up to as mentors. It’s certainly not something that makes someone stupid for using the site in a professional and career oriented manner.

      Keller’s fear of social media, including Twitter and Facebook, displacing real friendship and diminishing actual conversation is something I can agree with. There are many people out there who use these social media sites as their sole communication platform. There will however, be extreme users with anything there is. Those who use social media in an effective and productive manner, who also engage in face to face conversations and friendships with others will see that Twitter and other social media sites are extremely useful and can be beneficial when used in a professional way.

      • julieesmer 10:31 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Agreed about following businesses Lindsay. Sometimes they post job openings on Twitter, which is a lot quicker to find than digging through job search sites. In fact, both internships I am currently working at, I found on Twitter!
        I also think that social media can help friendships, especially for the people you don’t see or can call all the time. Friends of mine who live out of town, are married, and have kids can’t always pick up the phone every time I call. But can they answer a FB message in a day or two? Sure.

    • Sara Ventimiglia 2:46 pm on June 1, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think Twitter can make you stupid. Nothing has the power to make you stupid. It’s how you perceive things and how you go about them that can make you stupid. It’s what you choose to believe and follow that makes you stupid. You are in entire control of your stupidity level. I do agree that Keller’s daughter who is 13 could be stupidly influenced by Twitter based on who and what she follows. But that goes for anyone, not just 13 year old girls. There are 55 year old women choosing to follow stupid things and people on Twitter but once again, that is a choice.

      As a journalist, I do not choose to let the stupid comments and tweets on Twitter get to me because that is a part of my job as a journalist. If we all took everything to heart, none of us would be able to report successfully as we do today. Social media is a huge aspect of journalism and could eventually be the only aspect. Without social media, our society is basically in the dark.

      I find out most news from Twitter. It is updated so quickly and is usually very accurate especially when dealing with photos or videos. I personally like Twitter and will not let myself become “stupid” by it’s effects. Twitter may not be for everyone but for journalists, it is spectacular.

    • trixiab 12:55 am on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Certainly, a communication tool such as cannot make one stupid; according to his writings, Keller didn’t believe that comment himself, but merely intended to spark debate. My father remembers similar comments about calculators and also about computers. I wonder if there were similar fears about the printing press – or about writing? Then again, I suppose it depends how you define ‘stupid’. If by stupid, you mean that the average person today cannot recite long narrative stories or histories due to lack of practice (since most things can be written down that needs remembered), then the ability to write has made us stupid. If you define ‘stupid’ as being unable to do long division in your head, then calculators have also made us stupid. Every tool has advantages and disadvantages, but usually the advantages (or profits?) outweigh, otherwise the tool would not continue to be used. Twitter is a fantastic and fun way to connect with other people and ideas which has captured the imagination of millions (25 million tweets were posted on one day in March this year – see http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/how-many-people-really-use-twitter-com_b4574). If you think of Twitter as a library – you can understand why many, perhaps the majority of tweets will be ‘pulp fiction’ – entertaining, but perhaps not great at building gray matter. However, some tweets will be highly educational, some inspiring. The NYT Education article about teachers beginning to use Twitter & similar technologies as a means of engaging tech-hungry students – as well as giving voice to students with more introverted learning styles – illustrates that Twitter can in fact be used for the common good :-).

      • nfinkbeiner 9:19 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Great point Trixi! My 78 year old father also likes to tell stories about how people feared new technology (and how he didn’t hear about Pearl Harbor FOR A WEEK! Can you imagine?).

        I also like your comments above about how we define intelligence. We have this debate a lot in education. The general consensus is, if you are just asking students to regurgitate information back to you, you’re not really testing their intelligence or their ability to apply what they know/their ability to find information. And, yet, we still insist on these types of tests in our country. Frustrating.

    • nfinkbeiner 8:52 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      For those of us who have read George Orwell’s book, 1984, we look at the Twitter movement and arguments (like the one outlined above) with a great source of amusement. It may be referred to as Twitterspeak or by other names, but to us, it’s the fulfillment of Orwell’s prediction of language that he called “Newspeak.” Basically, Orwell argues in the book that society (or the powers that rule it) will slowly dumb down the population by eliminating words and forms of expression. The thought is, if there isn’t a word for it or a way to express it, it will cease to exist. The famous quote by a character named Syme that sums this up is: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime [which is thinking any negative thoughts against the party] literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.” I’m not sure I would really go as far as saying that this IS the fulfillment of Orwell’s prediction. In fact, I would argue that he wasn’t necessarily trying to make predictions. But, as someone who has struggled with a poor vocabulary all of my life, I would have to agree with the idea that a limited vocabulary can make it very difficulty to understand concepts and express oneself. I think Twitter, with its limited amount of characters, discourages the use of broader language and does encourage us to use the simplest language possible. I don’t think that itself could dumb down our population, but I do see how it could be a factor.

    • rlzylstra 9:19 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Twitter doesn’t make you stupid, unless you let it make you stupid. I personally use Twitter as a tool to hone in on my “niche interests”–event planning, new media, journalism, dogs, etc. I also use it as a communication tool with colleagues and friends. I’ve learned a ton about event planning especially through Twitter, many things which I would have never seen or read if it weren’t for it popping up in my Twitter feed. I don’t use Twitter as my only source of information, but I do use it daily as one of my sources for news and information. A Marketing Profs article (found here: http://www.mpdailyfix.com/why-do-people-use-twitter/) used the analogy that Twitter is like a water cooler, of sorts. Twitter gives us the opportunity to take breaks and talk with our friends and family, or chat with other professionals in our field to get advice, guidance, etc. We use Twitter as a source for peer review and advice on products. For a marketing professional, Twitter is an extremely important tool in getting to know the customer, including their likes, dislikes and how they responding to various messaging.

      Laura hit it right on when she said it’s all about how you use Twitter with what you’ll get out of Twitter. If you take the time and thought to follow people, tweet your own tweets and not just RT, and build a community within Twitter, you’ll find yourself getting valuable information and learning things you wouldn’t have learned if it weren’t for the information stream on your Twitter homepage. Reality is we live in a fast-paced world, and 140-character sound bytes of information makes it easier to consume more information in less time, and gives us that extra time to delve into the topics that interest us the most in the areas we want to learn more about.

      I agree with Nick Bilton’s counter to Bill Keller’s original column. Participating in new media platforms is all about how you make it and what you want to get out of it. For Bilton, its a useful tool personally and professionally. I acknowledge Keller’s fears that new media platforms may replace face-to-face contact and communication. I’ve seen this happen with my friends–they use instant messenger or Facebook messages, for example, more than talking on the phone or meeting up in person. But, I think this is a way we’re adapting and using new technologies in order to become more savvy and connected to each other–more so than ever before.

    • skellehan 9:52 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Trying to answer if twitter can make you stupid is a hard one. I think Twitter in itself has the capability of making you stupid but really when it comes down to it dumbing down yourself is completely your choice. I agree with Bilton that it really all depends on what you are following, if you are only looking to get a good chuckle or get up on the latest celebrity gossip then I have no doubt your brain will turn into mush. So really when it comes down to it, it’s not the service itself dumbing you down it’s what content you choose to follow on the service. I don’t think any of the blame should fall on Twitter, to me it would be like blaming McDonald’s for making you fat, when you were the one who chose to eat it every day

      How it’s affecting our communication is also a difficult issue. Twitter is a communication platform so obviously it has to improve communication, right? Well I don’t think that’s entirely true. Even though Twitter makes it easy for people around the world to talk to each other, you have to think about the quality of communication that is being spread. Fitting your message into 160 characters changes the way you communicate with someone and though it might make me sound really old, I believe the art of the actually conversation is being lost. Our generation is becoming closer with Twitter, etc, but at the same time is also becoming more distant.

      Twitter has shown to be a great resource for journalism for both gathering and sharing news. I think news institutions participating in Twitter is important for both them and Twitter users. Each educated source of information on Twitter is better for the user (if they choose to read it). The more options they have, the less likely they are to fall into the “crystal meth” aspects of Twitter like Keller was describing in his article.

      • ashleysap 11:37 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Can Twitter make you stupid? I agree with much that has been said, that Twitter itself is not capable of making you stupid but it gives and outlet to people who use it in stupid ways that then is fed out their as news on the world wide web, but just because these people exist doesn’t mean one is forced to follow them. Therefore, I completely agree with Keller’s thought that “stupid is as stupid does,” because it is only stupid if you choose to follow people that only put trash into the world wide web’s atmosphere. However, Twitter could actually make you smarter, if you choose to follow those who have something intelligent to say or to contribute on an intellectual level. Yes, social media in whole, could be credited for disconnecting one from real life connections and relationships, but is has also for me, made it possible to reach out to those I’ve lost contact with or to network with people. So, to me, social media and outlets such as Twitter are a situational event, in which you get what you put in. If you choose to follow unintellignet people then your most likely not going to gain much from sites such as Twitter, but if you choose to follow intelligent people with something of significance to contribute then you could probably actually gain more knowledge and stay more connected.

    • julieesmer 10:29 pm on June 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I’m not sure if it’s technology that is “making us stupid” as much as what comes out of the technology. TV has been around for ages, however the most “popular” shows are Jersey Shore and other reality shows. Depicted are people that I don’t want to be like, however I still watch. Entertaining, sure. Educational? Not in the least.
      You can look at social media in the same way. I originally signed up for Twitter last year after a friend told me how fun it was. She used it to follow celebrities. I used it for a week and gave up. I don’t care enough about the day to day life of celebrities to want to know what they’re doing every few minutes. But then last September, i signed up for Twitter again in the New Media Driver’s License class. I discovered how it can be used to connect with other PR professionals and build a network. I also saw how easy it is to share information, interesting articles, and gather news quickly. Now I actively use Twitter, for more valuable purposes. I think once I realized how it can benefit me, I was began using it and receiving more benefits from it.
      As far as losing our ability to communicate, I don’t really think that is true either. Facebook has helped me connect and keep in touch with many friends and family members that don’t live nearby. I probably have talked to them more in the last year that in the last several years. Regardless if it is through technology, at least it is a CONNECTION. I still see that as beneficial in fostering relationships, even if it isn’t the most ideal method.

  • Steven Davy 7:36 pm on May 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Iran, John Darnton,   

    Forum 1 

    Screengrab from the video emailed to the Guardian showing the wounded Neda Aghan-Soltan, during the 2009 protests in Iran. Photograph: EPA/The Guardian

    Welcome to the first Class Forum. Remember: Responses to the forum questions must to be completed by Thursday of each week in order to give your classmates enough time to complete their comments. See the Communications Requirements file for more details.

    Part of your reading assignment this week is reading about the Polk Award that given to the anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan’s death.

    The award fell under a the videography category was given to the anonymous person or persons responsible for the video of the death of 26-year-old Iranian Neda Agha-Soltan during protests in 2009. Listen/Read this interview on On the Media with the Polk Awards curator John Darnton.


    Should a journalism award be given recognizing the photos or video taken by citizens witnessing an event?

    Should the Polk awards or other prestigious industry awards be given to non-journalists?

    Considering what has happened in the last six months in the Middle East and North Africa what role (help/hurt) has user generated content played?

    Discuss below and/or start a new discussion on this theme with a new post. Remember your initial forum posts are due by Thursday

    • Daniele's Blog 2:04 pm on May 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think that a journalism award shouldn’t be given recognizing photos and video taken by citizens witnessing an event. Every person has the ability to become a journalist. When you think about it, everyone is a journalist everyday. We all take pictures, we all blog and we all talk. Now do we all do a great job? No. And just because one person has taken an AMAZING picture or created and INTERESTING news story, they should get an award? No! That is the way journalism should be originally. Amazing, interesting and meaningful all the time.

      I think that user generated content has been extremely helpful lately with all the events happening in the Middle East and North Africa. Before user generated content was a big thing, all we knew was what people told us. And nothing else. Sometimes it may have been sugar-coated or things could have been left out. Now, we get the raw footage of the events going on. I believe that people are more inapt to believe user generated content, because its right on the scene. It feels so real. You think that you are there and it’s not edited at all.

      • Sara Ventimiglia 8:33 pm on May 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        It is much more up close and personal when we receive raw news and you are right, people are always more apt to believe what appears to be “real” footage.

      • Steven Davy 7:50 am on May 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        Consider the point that Jason Fry argues concerning the impact of this single anonymous video. Because the video spread around the world attention was given to the situation in Iran that just several years ago could not have taken place. So were the members on the Polk committee recognizing this anonymous person or the game-changing nature of what the video represented? What does this mean for awards like this in the future?

        • Daniele's Blog 7:29 pm on May 25, 2011 Permalink

          I think that they were representing the game-changing nature. I understand to a certain extent. This kind of thing is really exciting. Technology has really connected the world in more ways that we could have possibly imagined. But I think that award given in the future will have to have different categories and broken down differently as Trixi said.

    • Sara Ventimiglia 8:27 pm on May 24, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I am completely against this situation. Journalism awards should not be rewarded for videos as this one. The person filming this just happened to be in the right place at the right time and certainly doesn’t need an award for that. The Polk award and other awards should be given to the people who dedicate their lives to journalism. User generated content has been helpful in the recent circumstances because we can get information much faster and more accurately.

      • Trixi Ayahr Beeker 3:38 pm on May 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        The Polk award debate seems to highlight the changing nature and definition of journalism. What does journalist mean today? How different is that from a citizen journalist? Perhaps one answer to this debate lies in attempting a clarification of these terms as well as which awards are devoted to each category. I am very new to the world of journalism, but already believe that the field is both enriched and challenged by the contributions of those who may have some other ‘day job’. Perhaps jpurnalistic awards in the future could be divided to include both professional AND citizen journalists?

      • Laura Daien 11:01 am on May 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree that awards should be given to people who dedicate their lives to journalism. Giving awards to people outside the field discredits the people who went to college and have made a career in journalism. I do agree that the internet, technology and social media have made it easier for people to get information out there… but I don’t believe this is news. This is especially the case for PR professionals. Even though some information can be pushed directly to the audience through social media, I really don’t think trying to circumvent a journalist is award worthy. I think there could be separate internet/social media awards for something like this… but something prestigious like the Polk awards should not be a part of it.

    • lauradaien 9:00 pm on May 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I don’t think Polk awards should be given to non-journalists. As much impact as this viral video (or any viral video) has does not make someone automatically a journalist. There is already a major struggle brewing between traditional media and self-made citizen journalists and I am completely against an award being given for citizen journalism. I have an appreciation for people wanting to document information and share it via the internet, but I don’t consider this actual journalism and think if we begin giving awards for this kind of “journalism” it completely diminishes what the actual journalism industry stands for. If we begin honoring individuals who pull out a camera and snap a random photo or video, the art of going out and finding a story and reporting it (actual journalism) will be lost. Being in the right place at the right time does not mean you’re a journalist. If it did, then why would anyone need to go to school for journalism anymore and why would anyone need to hire a PR firm? Although we advance on many topics, I think journalism should still be defined in the traditional manner. Journalism isn’t just hitting play on a camera, if it is then we’re showing you don’t need a degree to do it.

      • Rachael Zylstra 12:04 pm on May 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I agree, Laura. I think giving this prestigious award to citizen journalists blurs the lines of what journalism is. It’s hard to tell whether citizen journalists follow SPJ standards or if they even know about them—and that’s no burn to them but journalists have professional training,either through school or in a professional setting, to report stories based on these ethics and standards.

    • skellehan 9:41 pm on May 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      This is a hard one for me to decide on. On one hand I’ve always heard and believed that sometimes the most important author of a photo, video, et cetera is “anonymous”. But on the other hand I am conflicted about giving out a professional journalism award to someone who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

      As someone in my generation who has basically grown up with social media, I have a lot of respect for the various platforms that make it up. I, myself, get almost all my news from social media. But I don’t think the Polk awards are the right place for social media, at least not yet. We all recognize that the industry is changing, but even now news and personal account derived from social media is thought of as secondary. Something that can add to a topic, but not stand on it’s own.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think non-journalists efforts should be recognized, they are putting themselves in the same danger as professional journalists and aren’t guaranteed the same recognition that the journalist could get. I think there should be a place, separate from traditional journalism groups that can independently recognize the efforts of “bystanders” whether named or anonymous.

      As far as user-generated content hurting or helping, I think it is definitely the latter of the two. I thought it was interesting what John Darnton said in the interview “This one piece of video footage seemed to rise above all other means of getting news out of Iran to the outside world.” I think a big part of that is because it came about because of social networks. It was also intriguing how he followed up that comment by saying that the other big news outlets like The New York Times, etc. almost cancelled each other out, “none of them rose above the others.”

      The reason they cancelled each other out in my mind is that big media outlets like that seem, to me, to be too soft these days. They’re too worried about doing anything they can to stay afloat in a business that is slowly dying out. An independent person with their cameraphone doesn’t have these restraints, and because of that we got to see some shocking things that I believe we wouldn’t have gotten from a major media outlet.

      • Laura Daien 10:53 am on May 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        I completely agree that awards should not be given for being in the right place at the right time. I do think the efforts of non-journalists can produce great results, but giving awards for someone who just pulls their cell phone out and shoots a video is not acceptable. I think if there are going to be awards for non-journalists and social media efforts, there need to be specific criteria so that some random person off the street can’t just get an award without any effort. Just because something got a lot of hits on YouTube doesn’t mean it’s newsworthy or high quality journalism.

    • jessieyang2011 1:28 pm on May 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      in one side, this award encourage the people disclosure the truth and to be brave even sometimes have to against the norm, politics and culture. this is award to be an idol for journalists. in another side, negative side of society should not be always published. there should be a balance between positive and negative, which should be fit the people. this means the published news should not be threaten and frighten for public. obviously, this film caused the debate for society. but this is the good way to attract the public eyes.
      in china, government will control most of the publish things, include book, newspaper, magazine and internet. for example, i could watch youtube, and sign in for the facebook and twitter. in this case, i could not know many news or information the chinese government not allow us to know. the government try to control the safety of society. so it is not possible to have this kind of award in china.

  • Steven Davy 10:39 am on May 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clay Shirky, , Mark Luckie, , Nieman Lab   

    Reading Assignments Week 2 

    Clay Shirky on institutions vs. collaboration.
    This is Shirky’s (NYU prof) TED talk you’ll need to watch this week.

    15 Awesome interactive maps from the New York Times.
    Great post from Mark Luckie to inspire your mapping adventure this week.

    How to use Flickr to get creative with your photos.
    More from the 10,000 Words blog.

    A quick guide to interactive YouTube videos.
    Are you catching a theme here? Luckie is an expert on these kinds of things. This blog, which he came up with independently, helped him land a job at The Washington Post. It really demonstrates what can happen when you use blogging as a launching pad for your writing if you treat it seriously.

    Anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan’s death wins Polk award.
    We have seen the tremendous power of social media to help communicate again and again in the ongoing uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the anonymous video shot of Aghan-Soltan’s death marked an important turning point for journalism.

    From the Nieman Lab at Harvard:

    We saw what may be a first in the journalism-prize world this week with the prestigious George Polk Awards, when the award in a new category, videography, went to an anonymously produced video of the death of a young Iranian woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, during protests last summer. The video went viral on the web, getting millions of views and helping spark worldwide support for the Iranian resistance movement.

    Polk Awards curator John Darnton considered it a statement on the power of citizen journalism: “This award celebrates the fact that, in today’s world, a brave bystander with a cellphone camera can use video-sharing and social networking sites to deliver news,” he told The New York Times. NPR’s David Folkenflik still gave credit to professional journalists for verifying, curating and sifting through video like this and establishing its newsworthiness.

    Former Wall Street Journal online reporter Jason Fry compared the Neda video to two other famous new videos shot by “ordinary citizens” — the Zapruder film and Rodney King video. The biggest difference in what the Neda videographer did, Fry argues, was not so much in the video’s shooting, but in its distribution: Both Zapruder and George Holliday needed gatekeepers to disseminate their videos, but Neda’s videographer needed none. That difference is a radical one, Fry says — it ”changes not just how news is found and made, but how it is shared and therefore defined.”

    Product v. process journalism: The myth of perfection v. beta culture.
    More blogging and Internet theory from Jeff Jarvis.

    • nfinkbeiner 4:12 pm on May 25, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      I really liked the Clay Shirk TED video. The Flickr example is a great example of how we can rely on collaboration. I think this has a lot of potential especially when we look at journalism. I know in my local area, two television news programs that are normally competitiors now collaborate and only send one camera to an event that they both need to cover. It just makes sense. Why send two cameras to cover the same event? It’s much easier to just share the footage that they both need and it makes more sense economically.

    • Rachael Zylstra 6:37 pm on May 26, 2011 Permalink | Reply

      Agreed, Nicole. The Flickr example is great, too, because it shows The Mermaid Parade from all different perspectives, not just one. Because of the crowdsourced content (via tagging), Flickr then becomes this awesome collaboration of creative work and ‘cooperative value.’

      I was especially intrigued, too, with Shirk’s talk about journalism and Shield Law. The introduction of web logging and blogging has blurred the lines of journalism as an institution, but Shirk raises a good point–it doesn’t matter whether we want to consider a blogger a journalist. What does matter is, ‘How will society be informed and share ideas and opinions?’ I guess this goes back to what we saw with the anonymous video of Neda Aghan-Soltan’s death, and whether it should have received a Polk journalism award or not. The video was informing society of what was going on, but at the same time it wasn’t necessarily published with journalism standards in mind. But then that goes back to Shirk’s point about the institution of journalism and how emerging technologies–like web logging–are making it easier for anyone to publish anything.

  • Steven Davy 7:20 pm on May 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Argo Network, CUNY, , , Link Economy, Mark Briggs, Matt Thompson, NPR, NYU   

    Good Reading to get Started 

    Hi Class,

    Looks like there is still a little trouble with Angel so I thought I would post the reading assignment for this week here.

    The 3 key parts of news stories you usually don’t get
    Great post from Matt Thompson (NPR Argo network). You should also follow him on Twitter.

    The Imperatives of the Link Economy by Jeff Jarvis (J-school at CUNY)
    Jarvis is a great thinker on all things journalism and the Internet. This post on how links work is great background on how the Internet works.

    New rule: Cover what you do best. Link to the rest
    More from Jarvis.

    Help Me Explain Twitter to Eggheads by Jay Rosen (NYU J-school)
    Rosen lays out a more theoretical framework for his serious journalism focused use of Twitter. His feed is excellent.

    Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive by Mark Briggs.
    This is good place to start if you are just joining the social media revolution.

    [Photo: Trois Têtes (TT)]

  • Steven Davy 5:26 pm on May 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Social Media   

    Welcome to Social Media and News 492-892 (730) 

    This is the WordPress home for JRN 492 and 892 (730) at Michigan State University. You’ll be posting your responses to forum discussions here.

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