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  • Steven Davy 7:58 pm on June 20, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Jeff Jarvis, 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 10:39 am on May 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis, 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, , Jeff Jarvis, 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)]

     
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