Rolling Stone 1223 Cover
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Defending Rolling Stone

I subscribe to five magazines: Entertainment Weekly and Vanity Fair (print and digital) and Economist, New Yorker, and Rolling Stone (digital only). EW is cheap (as little as $10 a year), while the business weekly offers news analysis I mostly trust. New Yorker is for culture and the occasionally exceptional long-form feature. The other two deliver some of the best investigative journalism available anywhere. Today, I defend one of them, but also criticize its archaic news reporting methods.

Over the past few weeks, Washington Post leads blasting criticism against RS for story “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA“, which appears in issue 1223, Dec. 4, 2014. Online the dateline is November 19. The furor over the investigative report’s credibility is, ironically given the headline, a rape on Rolling Stone‘s credibility—and makes me just want to puke for the outrageous, holier-than-thou repudiation that should be pointed elsewhere. Mountains of irresponsibly-reported online news stories overshadow the amount of trustworthy content, yet the Post and other media outlets choose to gang-bang a magazine with standards for accuracy and accountability but also advocacy. The misdirected, and sometimes self-serving, attacks are shameful for their shamelessness.[Read more]

Donkey Driving Car
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Uber Should Drive Journalists to Accountability

Good for Uber for being transparent about investigating journalists. Bad for Uber for buckling to public relations pressure and renouncing an executive’s statements about the practice. Every company tracks journalists, or bloggers, covering it—to which I can attest from experience. PR pros and I have, in the past, discussed dossiers about me, because some put our relationship first. They feel dirty for keeping records and need to confess.

The ride-sharing startup would do nothing unusual by collecting the data, and there is good reason to want to use it. My profession is in a state of crisis. Sloppy sourcing practices spread rumors across the vast Internet landscape like environmental protestors throwing feces on corporate executives. Shit is shit, whether or not literal, and it all stinks. If the Fourth and Fifth Estates can’t be accountable for themselves—and they most certainly are not—victims of irresponsible reporting should protect their interests.

[Read more]

credit: Roger H. Goun
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When News Sourcing is Conflict of Interest

Some days you see yourself as a blithering idiot. Add Nov. 19, 2014 to my confessional. While doing my morning routine, before brain fully engages and random synapses fire fleeting inspirations, I stopped cold with chilling realization about the evils of blog or news site B sourcing A—and only A—or visa versa. What if there is unseen, or even hidden, financial benefit, such as sharing advertising networks? In a way, everyone using Google AdSense already meets that criteria. Consider me the dumb-ass (and you wouldn’t be alone) for not making the connection sooner.

I am a longstanding critic of news, or so-called news, sites sourcing someone else’s reporting. My March 2010 diatribe “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism” is must-read for any news gatherer regarding responsible sourcing. The topic also gets big treatment in my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. The four year-old post is free and still relevant, so start there.

Mutual financial benefit moves the sourcing problem from reporting ethics to blatant conflict of interest, whether real or perceived. [Read more]

sloth
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The Best Content is Original

A dozen or so times a day, I figuratively puke all over my iPad Air, out of disgust when reading stories that are plagiarism aggregated, rumors that source nothing more original than some blog or would-be news site, or an echo chamber of repetition—news posts repeating the same, unsourced or poorly-sourced allegations. But occasionally, original content shines through, like Josh Lowensohn’s “I used Apple’s AirDrop to troll strangers with photos of space sloths (And it’s been going on for months)” for The Verge.

Josh doesn’t recap another blogger’s experience, by aggregating something original into a shallow repeat. He produces something enthralling, a story told with vigor, drawn from experience. It’s a confessional. About something sneaky. Invasive. Maybe even illegal. But fun, and activity the reader might wish he or she had been clever enough to have imagined or fearless enough to have done. [Read more]

O-Canada
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O Canada, What Say You?

What do two forts share in common? Kaci Hickox, the 33 year-old healthcare worker from Fort Worth, Texas, taking refuge in Fort Kent, Maine. Surely you know of the so-called Ebola nurse and the legal scuffle about quarantining her. As an Aroostook County native born about 70 kilometers (okay, I rounded up) southeast of FK and having traveled widely across the Lone Star State, I know something about the character of both regions. Think independent-mindedness times two, which equals “Don’t tell me what to do”.

The simple story: She volunteered in Sierra Leone, where the disease rages. She returned to the wrong state, New Jersey, which put her in isolation. She fled to one of the most rural and remote areas of the Northeast. Maine’s governor demanded voluntary quarantine. She defied it. A federal judge ruled against the Gov. News reporters who couldn’t find Fort Kent with a Google Map ruined the autumn tourist trade by filling up the only hotel. We all wait to see if she stays symptom free through November 10. Pass the popcorn. The suspense is thicker than a horror flick. [Read more]