Tag: ethics

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Responsible Reporting Takes Time

I rarely go to Facebook, but my niece was in San Diego County for a few days, and checking up on her travels was a must. During the brief FB foray, a Newsfeed post nipped my attention. Erica Toelle asks: “Bloggers, how long does it take you to write a 1,000 word, well researched and well-written article? I realize ‘it depends’ but it’s usually longer than 4hrs, right? I’m working with under-documented technology and usually have to try it to understand how it works”.

The question is hugely relevant at a time when speed too often trumps accuracy—or accountability—and many writers must meet (often ridiculous) daily quotas. Then there is the controversy about so-called fake news.

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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Spanning most of my career, whether working as analyst or journalist, I have repeatedly railed against how U.S. law treats businesses—essentially as people. Reason: Moral dichotomy, where the ethical priorities of publicly-traded companies vastly differ from—and often contradict with—values of the people founding, running, or working for them. Keyword is value, where one usage refers to beliefs and another to money; meaning stock price and proceeds returned to shareholders.

My first, best articulation of this concept came during an April 2006 radio interview—I believe for NPR marketplace—when discussing major U.S. search providers Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo censoring results in China, at the government’s insistence. Behind the action there loomed censorship’s morality, such as restricting search terms like “democracy”. I expressed that there is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple. Sadly, that moral agenda explains why United Airline’s PR week from Hell is Heaven for shareholders. Overbooking means the carrier fills seats; operations are lean and mean (quite literally, the latter). 

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You’ve Been Misled About Fake News

I am ashamed and embarrassed to be a journalist. This past week’s coordinated attacks on so-called fake news sites—largely orchestrated by the mainstream media and supported by Internet gatekeepers like Google and social media consorts such as Facebook or Twitter—is nothing less than an assault on free speech by organizations that should protect it.

They blame so-called fake news sites for influencing the 2016 Presidential election in favor of real-estate mogul Donald Trump and seek to extinguish them. But the Fourth Estate really responds to a perceived threat that looks to upend the mainstream media status quo. More appalling is the rampant advocacy journalism wrapped in cloak of objectivity from news orgs like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Meaning: Anti-Trump editorial policy and reporting slants are as biased as the labeled fakers. Worst of all: Many, if not most, media outlets fail to acknowledge, if even see, how they failed the American public during the campaign. Their accusations should point inwardly, not outwardly to other information disseminators.

So there is no misunderstanding: I am not a rabid Trump supporter, but a journalist who separates personal sentiments from my ethical responsibilities. More of my peers should do likewise.

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credit: Roger H. Goun

Reporting Accuracy Starts with Responsible Sourcing

If you’re a blogger or journalist and read nothing else this week, make it New York Times story “Paris Attacks Give Rise to Fakes and Misinformation“. The Nov. 16, 2015 postmortem shows why, why, why I constantly harp about responsible sourcing. The Internet is not a reliable news source. You must corroborate and should, never, never, never second source anything you can’t confirm independently, or, in the case of breaking events, you can trust reliably.

I’ve been bitching on this blog since posting, in May 2010, “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism“; September 2011 followup: “Single Sourcing is the Source of News Evil“. Or you can refer to the chapter on sourcing from my ebook Responsible Reporting: A Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers

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Our Cat Cali gets Fixed

This morning, my wife and I took our daughter’s Tortoiseshell kitty Cali to San Diego Humane Society, where she will have her operation today. I don’t feel good about taking away the cat’s motherhood, or changing her personality in the process. But I feel obliged by circumstance.

Cali came to live with us in October 2014, after one of my daughter’s four housemates insist the cat go. She and we endured two heat cycles in the last month, while we waited for our appointment date. This morning in Cali’s absence, Neko is unsettled. As am I. She comes home late-day.

Yesterday I posted a poll asking: “Is your cat fixed?” The results and comments are worth calling out. 

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Scoble Scrapes Friends’ Trust

Robert Scoble has been the talk of the Web today, for getting booted from Facebook. Robert is back on Facebook now, but he shouldn’t be. Facebook suspended the former Microsoft evangelist blogger for a terms-of-service violation. He used a testing Plaxo tool to mine, or “scrape,” information from about 5,000 of his contacts. [Editor’s note, April 4, 2017: Three Scobelizer posts gone; links removed.] 

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Truth Be Told

According to Fox’s House, “Everybody lies”. Funny thing, truth is one of the highest values in American culture, even if many people do in fact lie from time to time, or—in some cases—most of the time.

The esteemed value of truth—or at least not lying—is baked into the U.S. legal system. Former President Bill Clinton got nailed for lying as did Martha Stewart. The lying, or obstruction to getting truth, is what sunk them into legal hot water.

Now it’s US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the boiling pot. For what? Lying.