Panelists are currently talking about how new media has changed the way stories begin and end.
Katy Culver, panelist on the current panel, has given a little plug on the hope and promise of online media. Amidst the ethical threats, Culver says there is promise of new media in the way it maximizes the impact of journalism. She describes following a citizen concern, developing a story in that community, and sending it out into the online world where other communities can investigate the same issue. “It can start from a citizen, outside the newsroom,” she says.
Peter Kafka, of AllThingsDigital, describes starting a story from a single Twitter feed. He received a tip from a friend that a magazine was closing down, and updated in real time the information he received via tweets. “This allows me to publish in a different way than ever possible,” he says. By leaving a trail of his reporting tracks, Kafka says,”I’ve been transparent.” He says that in a way this can diminish some ethical questions about the reporting process, because the reader can trace the reporter’s work in real time.
We’re talking about what to do when a blog-operated news org. has the scoop on a story and there is a half hour before the official press conference. Should the biggest news network go live on TV, on the radio, on the Web, on the blogs, on the cell phones and twitter feeds, or just sit tight. The questions here are competition and speed.
Many journalists in the room, who indeed want to present the most accuarate information, are saying the news org. needs to call its sources and confirm the details before going live. We know the users want it quick and fast, and will flock to whatever site has the information right now. I think we need to remember that users also want accurate information. If the news org. can’t say for sure if the information is 99% bound to be true, then I can say as a user, I probably wouldn’t want to know about it. We want our information fast, but is the integrity of a station worth catering to the public’s crave for speedy news?
This connects with an issue we talked about this morning, branding a network as user-centric. In a sense, a user might want to know what another news organization is saying might be true about a political candidate, but I think if the network is truly working with the user-centric model, then they should think accuracy and integrity before speed, rss feeds and the buzzing twitter feeds.
Session 2 is just about to begin. The panelists are presenting tough ethical issues that they have faced in the newsroom, without any details of what they did or what the audience responses were. Moderator Lee Wilkins will be asking the audience what they think the proper, ethical responses would be.
USA Today reports on whether Barack Obama is a natural born citizen.
Owen Ullmann, editor at USA Today, is presenting the first ethical dilemma. During the 2008 presidential election, USA Today received pressure to cover stories that were circulating online and in the blogosphere. These included several “rumors,” like one that Obama was not born in the United States.
Wilkins asked the audience whether USA Today should have covered these stories. The first audience member questioned said that he didn’t see the situation as an ethical question at all. He instead said that as a reputable newspaper, there is no reason to cover these ludicrous theories because there is no truth behind them. Other audience responses were varied, with some saying these stories deserve limited attention if they are based on fact and others saying they don’t deserve any coverage because they have little to do with the actual election. Another audience member brought up a related point: why wasn’t there more coverage on how the Obama and Palin campaigns were trying to manipulate the media with these rumors?
What do you think? Does USA Today have a responsibility to its readers to investigate these rumors? Or by doing so, is it wasting resources that could be put toward stories based on verifiable fact?
Panelists are discussing the ethical debate of donors who want to sponsor a story or documentary with money donations. The topics of transparency and public interest have been discussed. Public television is an example that has dealt with this ethical question and this new model. Nowadays, if a donor is offering money to fund a documentary that deals with its cause, often times the broadcaster will accept the donation in order to produce the piece and cover the fiming and production costs. A disclaimer will be put at the front of the program informing the viewer of the funding connection. The viewer is left to judge the partnership.
Panelists have said when community building and public interest continue to be the main focus of journalism, some of these funding partnerships may be necessary. Journalism may not be an entirely private entity for some cases, when resources and money are tight. If it sustains good, quality journalism, is it worth it?
What do you readers think? What are the benefits and drawbacks to this model?