Tag: sourcing

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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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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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The Four Bad Habits of News Sourcing

The most notable news media event of the week goes to New York Daily News, which basked in the illumination of social media’s ire over accusations that writer Shaun King had plagiarized text verbatim from a story that appeared on the Daily Beast. But like so much that rises to the top of Twittersphere. the backstory is more complicated. Turns out that an editor removed attribution, accidentally, he says. The tabloid subsequently fired him.

Unless there was deliberate and chronic attribution removal, editor Jotham Sederstrom’s  dismissal after seven years service stinks of face-saving. He made a mistake, two admittedly, and takes full responsibility. In a Medium post worthy of inclusion in J-School ethics classes, he writes: “This was my fault and I accept 100 percent of the blame”. That’s an editor you want on staff. He stands behind his writer, and rightly protects the only commodity any journalist can truly offer an audience: Trustworthiness. 

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Milking the Aggregation Economy

The scoop is as old as truthsayers’ ability to freely speak without getting their heads lopped off. Invention of the printing press created the free press, if for no other reason than anonymity for rebelrousers, who in future generations would be called journalists. If you believe the folklore that the news media seeks the truth, just ask anyone about whom it is revealed: “They’re troublemakers. Tell the executioner to get his axe”. That’s me and my kind—headless in another era.

Few months back, occasional emails from the Financial Times started hitting the old inbox with a thud. Each and every one is similar scheme: Highlighting some scoop in the tech sector from the newspaper. What’s the 1970’s song lyric. “Bang a gong, get it on” (Eh,you do know what that means, right—and, sigh, getting older, I haven’t done that for a while.) FT PR bangs about a scoop, which I can only presume is to get attention for it from other news gatherers. 

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Journalism Matters

Over on Google+ today, Alex Hernandez reminisces on 2015’s closing by looking at content from years past. Among them: Dan Lyon’s February 2012 missive “Hit men, click whores, and paid apologists: Welcome to the Silicon Cesspool“. Hey, I vaguely remember that indictment of Silicon Valley journalism. Alex, who runs tech-news site Techaeris writes in response to the nearly four-year old story:  “I’m working really hard to not be a ‘Valley Press’ site—as Scott Wilson rants about often—and after reading this and a few other articles today, I may be reforming the way we approach things.

Jack Weisz mentions me in a comment, to which I responded and to another from Alex. While both responses reiterate principles posted to this site many times before, end-of-year reflection is good time to present them again. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 3 ‘What You Must Do’: Chapter IX

I owe you an apology. Months ago I promised to finish serializing my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, before releasing it into the public domain. The last installment was in mid-October, with one chapter and the Afterword remaining. As I prepare for the New Year, not leaving loose ends is top of mind. Thus, with a huge sorry, this evening I present the closing chapter (but exclude the outdated March 2014 Afterward), The book will release into the public domain to start 2016.

I have posted from Chapter IX before, on Dec. 30, 2014: “You Could Study Journalism, or Learn as Much Watching These Five Films“. Each movie teaches lessons about responsible reporting—some by illuminating irresponsible and/or unethical behavior. The last in the list expresses in an exchange between characters something that should be embedded into the synapses of every 21st Century news gatherer: 

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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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Responsible Reporting Section 3 ‘What You Must Do’: Chapter V

All good reporting begins with one question, which is topic of today’s excerpt from my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. Among the five chapters from Section III, two—this and the previous one—primarily focus on the importance of sound sourcing. Chapter IV explains the importance of original sourcing at a time when so many blogs or news sites cite one another as primary source; that’s terrible form. Today’s installment is all about assessing sources’ motivations for giving you information.

The two views on sourcing are related because bad practice of either leads to the same outcome: Propagation of misinformation. The first is easily fixed: You make the contacts and get first-hand sources rather cite blog, forum, tweet, etc., without vetting who is behind them, while corroborating with sources with whom you personally interact. The second, and topic today, is more complicated. You need to understand what the other party gains, particularly when leaking something directly to you. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 3 ‘What You Must Do’: Chapter IV

Serialization of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gathers is off-schedule ahead of its release into the public domain. So, as an effort to catch up, I present installments today and Sunday, for your weekend reading.

Today’s chapter is among the most important from the book. I discuss the reporter’s responsibility to be accurate. Simply stated: Write what you know to be true in the moment, and expect what you know to change. The chapter is another where establishing and maintaining trust with the audience, and also sources, is foundational to reporting responsibly. 

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Rolling Stone Story Undergoes Brutal Forensic Analysis

The symbolism is recognizable, but as what depends on the eventual outcome. Dateline April 5, 2015, Easter Sunday, “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report” posted to the magazine’s website. The holiday celebrates Jesus Christ’s resurrection, following crucifixion. The Washington Post and several other organizations crucified Rolling Stone in December 2014 for long-form news story “A Rape on Campus”. The exhaustive autopsy of the story’s reporting and publication is another another crucifixion, arriving on a day that celebrates resurrection, salvation. Will RS have the one by voluntarily inviting the other?

“A Rape on Campus” spotlights the alleged sexual assault of a University of Virginia student identified as Jackie. The investigative report paints a campus culture of acceptable assault without reproach or reprisal. But the veracity of Jackie’s account later collapsed. Rolling Stone sought outside examination, which by itself demonstrates just how strongly the magazine strives to report responsibly. 

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Journalists, Don’t Mess with #TheDress

There is something important that every news gatherer should learn from the “Is that dress white and gold or blue and black?” debate. Simply stated: Perception is everything. Truth is an illusion.

Yesterday, two memes raged across the Internet—one because of the llama chase in Arizona, the other about the color of a dress. If I correctly understand the timeline, about which I could be mistaken: User Swiked posted the above cropped picture to Tumblr with question: “Guys please help me—is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the fuck out”. Obviously, those colors are strikingly different. 

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Stop Paying Bloggers and Journalists for Pageviews

Last week, headline “Samsung lied—its smart TV is indeed spying on you and it is doing nothing to stop that“, piqued my interest. In the preceding days, the InterWebs flooded with allegations that the South Korean manufacturer’s televisions listen to their owners. But I cringed reading the story, which appeared on BetaNews, where I also contribute. The reporting doesn’t support the headline, which if editor on duty I would never have permitted.

Editorially, BetaNews and I drift apart. My responsibility for day-to-day management ended in May 2013. I told one of the writer/editors yesterday, in context of discussing the Samsung headline: “No offense, but the story packaging is more like a blog everyday…Real stories have real reporting. Too many of the BN stories rely on someone else’s reporting. That’s primarily my saying feels more like a blog. The Samsung lied story is good example”.

BN editorial structure is more diversified now, with several writers acting as day or night editors. All contributors share in common something I detest: Pay by pageviews. The model is widespread among blogs and news sites, and I oppose it. There is inherent conflict of interest, when the reporter’s livelihood directly ties to clicks.