The panelists now have posed the issue of online comments.
What do people think of online commenters? Should news organizations offer online registration to comment? Should you have to name yourself to comment? Do anonymous commenters really add to the discussion? Should comments be moderated?
This final panel should be interesting given our generation’s use of digital media.
Does technology cause ethical problems? The final panelists seem to disagree a bit. Katy Culver has suggested that ethics should be thought of not as a set of codes, but as a process—coming up with conclusions based on a step by step method regardless of the medium. Though there may be a threat with the web, Katy suggests there is tremendous promise to do great journalism online.
Peter Kafka said he does not think ethics change with technology, and used the example of breaking the Conde Nast’s closing of Portfolio magazine through his personal Twitter account this week as a step by step look at how he dealt with the same sourcing situations as he would if in print.
Ira Basen said he thinks there are problems that can come from digital media. He said there is a difference between policy and ethics. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. How do you deal with the problems that online media presents, for example, removing something from web archives if it is doing someone harm? There is a policy to not change history and remove something that is accurate, yet we are not in a business to do harm to individuals.
Jeff Mayers doesn’t think online journalism is all that different from print. Journalists are working to put the information out there. He is the first to bring up the issue of moderating comments. I always wonder about the ethical issues of that. Should comments be moderated online? Why or why not? Role of the journalist is essentially the same, he said, whether online or in print.
Dhavan Shah said his research involves journalism and democratic participation. New media is giving individuals an important role in getting civically engaged. He said the web is key in collective knowledge and collective editing (Wikipedia), as well as a tool in collective action. He said officials in media are very concerned about opening up the content creation to citizens. How can journalists come to view these citizens as an asset rather than a threat?
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.
Screenshot of Huffington Post "branding" courtesy of MyEyeSees.
A question has just come in from the online forum:
What do you recommend for smaller newspapers that want to brand themselves online?
Panelists have shared their views. Ellen Foley said though from an editor perspective branding is the last thing you want to talk about, it’s so necessary today. Even a small media outlet, panelists say, can be at an equal playing field with the big boy media when they brand themselves online.
Foley says the newsroom and the content has shifted from the editor to the reader, with all of the content now online. The audience and the people are the focus. Jon Sawyer from the Pulizer Center on Crisis Reporting said the news production side is as important as the after-math commentary on the story. Engaging the audience after the story is published is now the key, he says. Online comments and in-person forums on college campuses are way to expose the journalism and engage in a conversation about the content. Everyone benefits with this model–the students who can participate in the content, and the journalists, who can keep a pulse on what their audience wants.
I think this new model of shaping content delivery around what the users crave is what is working today on the web. The most successful new journalism caters to the blogosphere and to the social media-centric user. Drudge, Huffington, Politico. But do these sites demand a different type of journalism, that is perhaps edgier just to attract traffic? If journalists are so concerned with catering to the users, do we lose the coverage of tough topics?
I hope that everyone is excited for all of the ethical goodies in store today. I hope to see some good conversation on digital media ethics today, especially concerning those who are not perceived as traditional journalists. At what point do bloggers become citizen journalists and finally professional journalists? Are they bound by professional ethics from the outset, or are those ethics something that come later in the process? Who, if anyone, has the right to determine that? Is there such a thing as a professional citizen journalist who does their own reporting and news gathering without any outside aid, what is his or her responsibility? Read more…
Spring Jam 2009 at the University of Minnesota. Courtesy of TJ Ryan.
Earlier this week, I heard from a friend at the University of Minnesota that 12 students were arrested after the annual Spring Jam party this past weekend turned into a massive riot. The situation elicited memories of Halloweens of Madison’s past, but on a much smaller scale. Then I read an article from Wednesday’s Star Tribune about the university setting up a Web site with photographs from the event, hoping community members will help identify individuals in the pictures. Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs at the university, told the Star Tribune that the same strategy was used—successfully—after the Gophers won the men’s hockey national championship in 2002.
“The last time we had to do this, enough people cared about the community to come forward and identify those who were involved,” Rinehart said. “Clearly no one likes to be a rat, so I’m sure that will be an issue, but this is a case where the students are very upset with what happened because of the very nature of this group.”
What I find fascinating is that the editor in chief of the Minnesota Daily said the pictures taken by the student newspaper during the riot will not be used on the university’s site if the intent is to sanction students for possible breaking a school conduct code. Read more…