More than a reader, but not quite a professional journalist just yet:
One of the questions going on inside my heading during the conference about user comments and ethics codes for news organizations is where do young journalists fit in on the web. I’m talking about student reporters, who are still in school and perhaps working at a student paper or interning locally, or young graduates still looking for a job and not yet a part of a media organization. Should we carry ourselves as journalists on the web? Should we refrain from online discussion boards … comment anonymously? or comment with our real names?
Should we debate on blogs or add comments to articles if we are journalists ourselves? Peter Kafka has shown us how Twitter can be great for tracking the development of a story, but should we use the medium to voice our own views? Should we engage in the social media movement as just places for tips, or should we respond actively? I’m trying to write my own code of ethics and am wondering what other journalists and young reporters think.
There’s such a big paper trail on the web, and I think it’s important to explore where young journalists fit in, especially if they’re looking to get into the professional news business that demands journalists understand and make use of the social media community.
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?
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.
Glen Mabie says that when his station said they were set to go forward with the decision to do a deal with the health care provider to cover positive stories about them for cash. He says his decision was that this idea was so against his ethical standards that he would walk from the station, quit his job if this went forward. This, I think, shows Mabie’s point that although the mediums change over time, the ethics remain the same. He said seasoned journalists have to make sure young journalists understand these ethics and will continue to adhere to them overtime.
Ethical discussions need to take place in newsrooms, even with interns and freelancers. We talk about these types of scenarios in journalism classrooms, but generally younger reporters aren’t engaged in business decisions. However, I think ethics discussions will be increasingly important for the new young journalists, who are given more and more freedom. Operating a blog, a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed are often given to the new reporters. This gives so much access and freedom that ethics have to play an instantaneous role in the life of a new media journalist. These posts are hard to retrack, and new journalists need to be coached on the news org’s ethical standards before they’re told to launch online.
Should controversial photos be published? What about "baby bump" Bristol Palin speculation? Photo courtesy of baratunede.
I think the next panelist may have read my post from Thursday night! His question is related to what I was hoping would be discussed: the ethics behind the decision to publish a controversial photograph. The situation presented involved an incredibly dramatic photograph of a mother who had just arrived home to discover that her child had died in a fire. The panelist asked the audience whether the picture should be published and whether posting the picture on the Web changes the ethics behind the decision.
The first audience member questioned said that this particular photograph seems like a huge invasion of privacy. To her, the important question is whether showing the mother at the moment she finds out her child dies is really necessary. She suggested that the photo should only be run if it’s the only way to convey the truth of what happened.
Another audience member suggested that the intrusion of privacy idea is misguided in this case. He argued that as journalists, we are charged to convey to people the sense of loss that occurred, which photographs can do much better than text.
I would have to agree with the first audience member. Personally, I’m not convinced that running this photograph is at all necessary for capturing what happened. A well-written piece could tell the story effectively while still protecting the mother’s privacy. Read more…
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.
I am feeling the comments about this question of making a deal with the health care provider to cover stories about their facility. This one seems like a no-brainer to me. The news org. needs to back away fast.
The incentive of money is of course an interesting one given our discussion in the last panel about public broadcasters accepting money and guidance from private donors to produce a piece that has public interest. The money would be used to cover production costs for a piece that, because of lack of funds at the station, would otherwise not make it out to the public. When does the question of money switch from being acceptable for documentary piece and major conflict of interest in the daily news room? Is this ethical dilemna a clear-cut no for any exchange that involves a private donor and a content agreement, or does the organization and content matter?
Today when money is so tight in newsrooms, would you choose to bend the ethical rules if you knew the station could benefit substantially and help itself survive?
John Edwards and Elizabeth Edwards on "Charlie Rose" courtesy of josette.
Ethical Question/Situation: Owen Ullmann of USA Today.
Questions that readers brought up during the election and wanted coverage of.
-Why not disclose that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and therefore not eligible for the presidency?
-How could we protect Sarah Palin and not tell the truth that Trig was her daughter’s baby, not hers?
-Why would we hide information about John Edwards’ affair?
We’ve turned the mic over to the audience and we’re getting their advice.
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…
With journalism evolving and adapting to new media, I’m really interested in learning how journalists make ethical decisions in a continuously changing profession. How do traditional ethics of journalism interact with newer, nontraditional forms of media? Do the same ethics that were developed for conventional media apply to new media?
I’ll be posting items to our running blog during Session 2, an interactive discussion on making tough ethical calls in the newsroom. I’m hoping that some of the situations presented will lead to a discussion on the place ethics has in online media. The same problematic questions can lead to different answers in different mediums. But should they? Is there a difference between showing highly sensitive material during a nightly news broadcast and making it available for viewing online? In the first case, the viewer could be considered more of a passive recipient of the news who didn’t necessarily choose to view the content. In the latter, it could be argued that posting sensitive material online is different because it allows the user to choose whether or not they want to seek out the content.
What do you think? Is it okay for these double standards to exist? Or are they not really even double standards, as long as journalists base their decisions for each medium on the same ethical principles?