Search Results for: advocacy journalism

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Google, FTC, and Advocacy Journalism That Stinks Like Landfill

Mac apologist Daniel Eran Dilger posted one of his lopsided-advocacy stories around 8:30 p.m. PDT last night; I saw the ridiculous headline, “Google News buries news of Google’s FTC investigation under Daniel Lyons fluff”, about two hours later, when scanning my RSS feeds. The story within is even worse. Don’t bother rewarding the author with pageviews. Notice I don’t link to the story. (Since we have two Daniels here and out of friendliness I use first names, I choose for this story to refer to Mr. Dilger as DED.)

Here’s the quick recap: DED refers to a Daniel Lyons opinion that ran in an ongoing Washington Post series. I happened to see it last night: “Five myths about Google“. I could have picked better myths, but these aren’t bad. The Post story is dateline March 20, 2015. The previous night, the Wall Street Journal blew out a big scoop regarding the Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation into Google that closed in January 2013, finding no case. The Journal asserts cause championed by staff but ignored by Commissioners.  Blech! The WSJ report is suspicious as all bloody hell, as I explain in March 19 analysis: “What is Behind the Journal’s Big Google-FTC Scoop?” 

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Responsible Reporting Section 2 ‘The New Journalisms’: Chapter IV

Today’s excerpt from Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers spotlights the fourth type of journalism. The other three: Contextual, process, and conversational. Advocacy journalism is the most provocative of the five that the ebook identifies. Many people working in traditional news media outlets would scoff at the idea.

They would be wrong. Advocacy journalism has a long history—centuries old—but the Internet magnifies its reach and the soapbox upon which its proponents stand. 

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The News I Choose

Strange isn’t it, the quotes that cling to you. In August 2009, the New York Times rightly asked: “What’s a Big City Without a Newspaper?“—when many reputable reporting organizations contemplated erecting paywalls after too long bleeding advertising revenues to the Google Free Economy. Journalist Michael Sokolove interviewed Brian Tierney, who then led a group trying to salvage two major dailies following bankruptcy: “He wants to begin charging for online content. As he told me this, he banged a bagel on a conference table, which sounded like a rock as it hit. ‘You hear that?’ This bagel stinks, he said. ‘It’s got the same consistency inside and out, but if you went down to our cafeteria, it costs like $1.25. That’s what people pay for stuff like this, so you mean to tell me I can’t get them to pay that for online access to all the incredible stuff in The Inquirer and Daily News online? People who say that all this content wants to be free aren’t paying talented people to create it'”.

Perhaps because I am a working journalist, or maybe being someone who seeks news that he can trust, the sources most valuable to me aren’t free. I pay for them—and in putting together a list, much more than expected. But before continuing, qualification: I started to draft this post in September 2015, coming back many times with intention to complete—only to perennially procrastinate. Perhaps I subconsciously intuited that my main news sources would dramatically change, as they have following Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election victory. 

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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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Where News Reporting Bias Replaces Fact-Gathering

The inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States continues the fine tradition [sarcasm] that became commonplace news reporting following his election victory: Advocacy over accuracy. In my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers—and on this website—I explain there is a legitimate role for advocacy journalism (full book chapter). But over the past couple of months—with adverse and antagonistic Trump reporting exploding across the new, news, and social media landscape—misinformation and mischaracterization became normal and accepted. The trend is dangerous, as bias replaces fact-gathering. The precedents are dangerous for all news reporting, not just about Trump.

Yesterday’s blog posts, social media shares, and even some mainstream news media reports about the Whitehouse.gov website are examples—and they also are metaphors for the twisting of facts to (presumably) reflect the writers’ personal biases. What should be legitimate reporting of events are instead editorial comments—no, character assassinations—by news gatherers with clear anti-Trump agendas. Every news blogger or reporter who opposes Trump (and/or his administration’s real or presumed policies) should add a disclaimer stating this bias. 

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The Intercept Does Right by Matt Taibbi

Last night, when opening Rolling Stone on iPad Air, Matt Taibbi story “The $9 Billion Witness: Meet JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare” surprised and delighted. But I wondered: “What the frak?” Nearly 10 months ago, First Look Media brought on the investigative journalist to launch the second of two magazines. I nearly stopped subscribing to RS, because of his departure—instead going from print to tablet digital during my July renewal.

Matt and First Look are parted, and “The Inside Story of Matt Taibbi’s Departure from First Look Media” is surprisingly good journalism, particularly coming from First Look’s other online magazine, The Intercept. John Cook, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill share the byline. Is that sink-or-swim-together journalism? Depending on upper management’s reaction to a story that’s not the least kind

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The Sure Sign of Advocacy Journalism

AppleInsider story “Google has fooled the media and markets, but hasn’t bested Tim Cook’s Apple” is superb example of advocacy journalism. Writer Daniel Eran Dilger is an unabashed Apple apologist, one who has skewered me more than once at his site Roughly Drafted, and AI. As I expressed last week, using Apple as example, there absolutely is a place for this kind of journalism.

Because bias is inevitable. Objectivity is a myth. Point of view limits everyone. Your vantage point, whether visual, cultural, biological, logistical, or whatever other “ical” applied, shapes how and what you write about.

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The Case for Advocacy Journalism

Judging by Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s Google+ posts, he is a nobody—less than 500 Circles and virtually no comments. Reality is something else: Philip is a respected reporter responsible for the Apple 2.0 blog. Googlism is primary reason, I believe, for the response—or lack of it. The social network attracts Google fanboys and abhors others. There isn’t much audience for him on Plus.

But over on the Fortune website, Philip’s following is clear, judging by comments to his frequent posts. He falls into the “advocacy journalism” category. Philip writes for an Apple audience and often, but by no means always, favorably about the fruit-logo company.

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You Could Study Journalism, or Learn as Much Watching These Five Films

If you gather and report news and would like a New Year’s resolution, consider this: Put your audience first by building trust. The how depends much on the type of journalism you practice: Advocacy, contextual. conversational, data, immersive, or process, but hopefully not mob, or a combination of them. You could seek the method in a book, like my Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. But do you really want to take your work home and read? Movie marathon is better. Grab the popcorn and Bunch-a-Crunch.

Any—and ideally all—of these films are a great way to shake the ethical cage as 2015 starts. Wikipedia lists 188 entries in category “films about journalists“, and I choose just five that combined convey lessons about responsible and irresponsible news reporting. They are textbooks anyone writing news should study; presented alphabetically. 

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Defending Rolling Stone

Editor’s Note: Dateline April 5, 2015, Rolling Stone retracted story “A Rape on Campus” when publishing a forensic analysis prepared by Columbia School of Journalism. Please see my follow-up post.

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.

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I am NOT an Old School Journalist

Dumb-ass me, something seriously needs explaining. If you follow my posts, they might seem all hoity-toity with respect to blogging versus journalism ethics and tactics—that Joe Wilcox clings to past methods while the future is about a new news paradigm. If you have that impression, and I take full responsibility for creating it, let me correct the record.

My book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers lays out clear principles that anything but cling to the old guard. The audience, and building and maintaining trust with it, is in my view the news gatherer’s greatest responsibility. Putting audience trust before accuracy is anything but traditional. J Schools typically make seeking truth the journalist’s primary objective and ethical responsibility. In the contextual news era, audience matters more. 

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Bias is Unavoidable

Overnight, AppleInsider posted Daniel Eran Dilger editorial “After Apple Inc. dodged the iPhone 6 Plus BendGate bullet, detractors wounded by ricochet“. As is typical of his stories, the tone is conspiratorial and heavily biased in Apple’s favor. That’s okay. He practices what I explained in February is “advocacy journalism“.

In my book, Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, I identify five types of journalism relevant today, and each gets a whole section: advocacy, conversational, contextual, mob, and process. Two other journalisms—data and immersive—receive cursory treatment but will be expanded whenever I next update the book. Where I deviate from traditional views about news reporting—what’s taught in J schools—is my glowing endorsement for these different reporting practices, with advocacy journalism being perhaps most controversial.