Religion and other types of bias in editing

3 Apr

In the article Grandfather charged in blaze that killed 3, the writers are accused of showing a religious bias by not counting a fetus as a human life. The article describes that a man set a fire that killed his pregnant daughter, her husband and their son. This is a very sensitive situation due to the fact that the subject matter is also a cultural issue. The reason the man killed his family is cited as being a result of a “cultural slight.” We have to be very wary when dealing with anything having to do with other religions, especially those that aren’t common and everyone might not understand. It might not have been important enough to include the fact that he did it for a cultural reason.

Then there is the issue of the fetus and whether it counts as a human death. The article did not count the fetus as a human life. In the editor’s letter, he wrote about how journalists should control their bias. He pointed out this instance as his example. At first, I agreed with his opinion that journalists do need to check their bias. But as I read on, I noticed he was doing the same thing the reporters did in the article. He was also sharing his bias in the situation, he was just taking the other side.

I think the issue should have been more delicately handled in the article. If I had been the editor, I would have tried to not mentioned any specific numbers. In most cases, I would have tried to list the victims or used “the family” and specified that one of the victims was a fetus. As long as the fact that one of the victims was pregnant is mentioned, I don’t think the number of victims is important. I would definitely not have put a number in the headline. Instead, I would have had the headline read Grandfather charged in blaze that killed family.

Facebook’s place in journalism

3 Apr

Initially, Facebook was just viewed as a site for college students to keep in touch. Very few people took it seriously or thought one day it could change marketing, journalism and advertising as much as it has.

One journalism company, The Rockville Central, is moving all of its operations, including news coverage, to Facebook. This highlights how big a role Facebook is starting to play in journalism. Journalists in favor of this shift argue that Facebook allows for the same real time updates as Twitter, but doesn’t restrict the writer to only 140 characters.

While I think it’s great that journalists are embracing new media, I think moving to an all-Facebook platform is a risky move.  I think we should use Facebook as a crowd sourcing or marketing tool. It is highly effective in both these areas. But we should also keep our organization separate and distinct from Facebook. Facebook is a great way to promote your articles or news organization, but it’s not your company’s website. We don’t want to confuse readers so they think we are affiliated with Facebook. We want them to recognize us as our own distinctive unit.

For my interest blog, I used Facebook to try and promote it. I put the link up to the site when I started the blog as well as every time I updated it to try and convince my Facebook friends to check it out. I think this is the most effective way to use Facebook in journalism.

The Internet has changed journalism and media

27 Mar

The increased presence of the Internet in our society has ushered in a new era of journalism and news media. News gathering has become an ongoing process. Where in the past a reporter got his or her assignment, talked to sources, printed the story and was done with the story, now the process is more complicated. Each step of the new gathering process has been enhanced by social media and other ways to interact with audience on the Internet.

One news organization in Canada, OpenFile, is embracing these new ways of interacting with its readers. OpenFile is experiemeting with what they call a “transparent newsroom.” This means that OpenFile includes the community in their news gathering more than media ever have before. In this case, OpenFile asks for story ideas from the community. Once a story is found, a reporter is assigned to it and a file is made online for the community to access and add to. This allows the readers to decide what news is important to them. OpenFile is overlooking the fact that this allows other papers to scoop its stories. OpenFile sees the trade off as worth it. Even though reporters risk getting scooped, they can gauge the importance of every story. To me, they are getting back to the heart of journalism: bringing good and accurate news to the readers.

This is a good example of how social media is changing media. It’s also making news gathering ongoing. Story streams are going to come even more important in the future of journalism. Story streams allow journalists to link their  current stories back to related stories  that have already been reported on. Storify is an example of how social media is helping journalists to utilize story streams. Unfortunately, today’s newspapers aren’t going to be able to handle updating news stories like this. Newspapers won’t be able to accommodate real time updates and links that the readers are starting to demand. The field of journalism is in for a big change in the near future and a lot of news organizations are embracing social media.

The important parts of articles now are leaning more toward participation, the ability to go mobile and to deliver news in real time. You can see how Sports Illustrated and The Atlantic have embraced the changes and prepared to go digital. The Atlantic reorganized its site to encourage more discussion among readers and reporters. They call it a “platform for voices” and it fits right into the digital future of journalism. They also encourage aggregation and the use of topic pages, both of which are tools we’ve established will be essential in the future.

Sports Illustrated is preparing for the switch to the digital era. Most magazines have a separate department for the online section. Sports Illustrated doesn’t adopt this style of organization. The editors think the main separation between print and online should be the length of the articles. They are trying to make sure print and news are as intertwined as possible. Even the design department is making big changes. Sports Illustrated has made big leaps into the future of journalism, but it still has more to do. They hope to be able to study usage data to gauge their readers’ interest and usage more accurately.

Controlling bias in your articles

27 Mar

When compiling Afghans express confidence in country’s direction, security with Afghans Losing Faith in Nation’s Path, Poll Shows, I realized that many journalists slip bias into their articles when interpreting statistics. When writing articles based on polls, I think journalists need to allow the readers to draw their own conclusions from the data. Our job is to deliver the facts to readers, not tell them how to interpret the numbers.

Both articles definitely had a strong bias, even though they each took a different stand. But I didn’t like the approach the first article took. In Afghans express confidence in country’s direction, security, the reporter threw facts in the reader’s face. He chose to use bullet points to present the statistics. In most cases, this keeps the statistics clear and easy to read. But in this article, it made the data more confusing. The reporter doesn’t clearly define which of the statistics are Iraqis or which are Afghans. The statistics are also all clumped into one long list. Instead of elaborating on each one, it just jumps from one subject to another. I think a lot of everyday readers will either skip over this section or get bored and stop reading.

I liked the second article a little more. Even though Afghans Losing Faith in Nation’s Path, Poll Shows still has its own biases, the reporter tried to make the facts more interesting. Even though the subject matter is very dry, he elaborates more on the interesting statistics. He picks the statistics he finds the most important to the readers and concentrates on those instead of presenting the whole list of statistics that the readers probably wouldn’t be interested in.

Twitter has become a news outlet

20 Mar

Though originally labeled a social networking site, many people are starting to view Twitter as more of a news outlet than a social network. By putting news on your Twitter feed, it can reach thousands of people instantly instead of waiting for newspapers to get out. It also puts publishing rights in the hands of anyone. The former “audience” is now part of the media. Thanks to Twitter, journalism has now become interactive. More voices also means news has become more chaotic. But at the same time, more people participating in reporting the news leads to better journalism.

Twitter has also proven to be useful in several life or death situations. Many journalists in trouble have tweeted their locations or other details about what kind of trouble they are in. In some cases, these tweets might have contributed to getting them out of trouble safely. In The Revolutions were Tweeted: Information Flows during the 2011 Tunisian and Egyptian Revolutions,  from the International Journal of Communication, the author discuses the effects twitter had on the Arab Spring uprisings.

On the other hand, following Twitter too closely as fact can be dangerous. We must remember that Twitter allows everyone to publish whatever they please, regardless of its factuality. This point was proven in a Michigan instance. During a shooting, people were following updates on Twitter. These tweets, attributed to police scanners, later proved to be false. With Twitter, misinformation spreads much more quickly and more people hear and believe it before the word that is it false information can get out.

All of this considered, journalists should learn the ins and outs of Twitter. It can be a tool to both deliver and receive the news. Twitter can be used to organize the flow of information, namely with the list function it offers. Not only can journalists keep the flow of news organized,  they can also use retweets they find interesting to find more people to follow.

More and more journalists are embracing Twitter and sharing their secrets with other journalists. The belief that we should be embracing Twitter is spreading. There are many ways journalists have started using Twitter to their advantage. They are definitely worth looking at and taking into consideration.

Hashtag for Twitter story telling: #artsandcraftscenterconversations

Using Twitter to its full potential is important

20 Mar

If used to its pull potential, Twitter is a powerful resource for journalists. When comparing the BBC’s coverages to the RTE’s coverage of a story about a man throwing explosives into a crowd in Liege, I found some significant differences in how each utilized Twitter.

The BBC used Twitter as a crowd sourcing tool. By doing so, it were able to ask all of its Twitter followers if they saw anything that it could then report to everyone else in real time. By doing so, the BBC was able to provide instant information from people all over the scene, not just where the reporters were stationed. Also, when it came time for the BBC to put out its story on the incident, the story had a lot more sources and more information as a result. The BBC also used the Internet to ask the audience for pictures and information after the fact.

The RTE simply used its Twitter account to link its followers to the article on the incident. By doing this, the RTE did get the story out to more people. But this isn’t using Twitter to its full potential. In the RTE, there was much less information than in the BBC article. The information in this article also came solely from the police officials. This article didn’t achieve the same variety of information and viewpoints as the BBC article did.

The ethics, or lack thereof, of eavesdropping

20 Mar

We’re all guilty of it at some point or another. We all eavesdrop on other conversations when we’re at the mall or the bus stop, even though we know it’s none of our business. But at what point does this become unethical? Andy Boyle takes eavesdropping to a whole new level. In my opinion, Boyle crossed some lines by publishing this.

As journalists, and as human beings, we have certain ethical standards we have to live by. Some may think making someone’s private business so public, as Boyle did, toes some ethical lines for humans, but everyone’s ethical codes are different. But as journalists, our ethical standards are spelled out for us by the Society of Professional Journalists. And one of those expectations is to minimize harm while doing our job. Not only was the news Boyle was reporting not of any news value, he was also not minimizing harm in reporting it. By invading this couple’s private moment and making it more public, he was adding more pain to an already painful situation for them.

There is no doubt that Boyle’s tweets were entertaining. That was obviously his goal. I don’t think he intended for them to have news value. I’m sure that many people even retweeted the biggest hits of the bunch.

But for a journalist, Boyle’s actions were definitely unethical. And a human, his actions were immature, unprofessional and unsympathetic. It showed a lack of taste and empathy on his part. He didn’t put himself in the shoes of his subject. Would he want such an embarrassing moment in his life broadcast for so many people to laugh at? Is this journalism? Definitely not. Is it interesting? Of course. But should he have done it? I think probably not.