Tag: Journalism

Read More

Why We Need Gawker

I love tabloids like the NY Daily News or New York Post. The editorial style is aggressive; reporting is accurate but snarky-authentic; and headlines typically are punchy and bold. These pubs also push boundaries that more traditional, staid—and, honestly, hoity-toity—papers like the New York Times often won’t.

Gawker Media blogs adopt similar scoop style appropriate to online news gathering; they connect the dots, adding breadth and context to stories all while keeping what I call the Prime Directive: Write what you know to be true in the moment. The approach—think tabloid and wire-service mashup—assumes the reporter doesn’t have the whole story, but writes what he or she has, following up as new info is available. Professor Jeff Jarvis calls it “Process Journalism“, which gets a chapter in my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers

Read More

Litigation Censorship, Gawker, and the End of the Free Press

I am super grumpy today. Angry. No—thoroughly pissed off at billionaire bully Peter Thiel’s vendetta litigation financing that resulted in today’s bankruptcy filing by new media journo Gawker Media. Thiel plunked down, admittedly, at least $10 million to back Hulk Hogan’s breach-of-privacy lawsuit, which resulted in a $140 million jury judgement against the blog network for releasing the former faux wrestler’s sex tape.

Gawker had asked the presiding judge to set aside damages during the appeals process. Denied. The amount due exceeds the company’s assets, precipitating the Chapter 11 filing that will effectively end the media company as we know it now. Gawker is on the auction block, where Ziff Davis already has an offer. 

Read More

Defending Gawker

What do you say about milk-curdling success? Dilbert-creator Scott Adams liked one of the tweets (posted by another team member) on our Frak That Twitter today. I am less enthused and disagree with Scott’s blog post spotlighting similar topic: Billionaire backing third-party lawsuit against a news organization; Peter Thiel’s previously secret assault on Gawker Media.

“Gawker’s business model is built around destroying the lives of innocent people to attract clicks”, Scott Adams writes. “How awful is Gawker? Imagine if revenge porn and cancer decided to get married and have an ugly baby with fangs. That would be Gawker. Pure evil…I see Thiel’s campaign against Gawker as a public service, and a valuable one”. I couldn’t disagree more

Read More

Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Thiel

A report available today from Pew Research Center finds that 62 percent of American adults “get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often”. Those statistics should frighten new and old media, but more so critics like billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker; the blog and news site lost. Depending on the outcome of a court hearing, Gawker could be shuttered or sold, if forced to put $50 million in escrow during the appeals process. The amount exceeds yearly advertising revenues.

Thiel admittedly put up about $10 million, if not more, to support Hogan’s lawsuit and unnamed others. Destroying Gawker might seem like an enviable outcome for one of Silicon Valley’s tech elite—he is a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor—but, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, which replacement isn’t waiting around. Social media increasingly fills the niche that Gawker vacates. 

Read More

BBC’s ‘Bathroom Bill’ Story is the Worst Kind of Journalism

This analysis is not a commentary about North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, but the irresponsible and unethical news reporting about it. I am appalled by the headline and dek of a BBC story posted earlier today. Quoting the latter: “North Carolina is suing the U.S. Department of Justice over its attempts to bar the state from upholding its anti-LGBT ‘bathroom bill'”.

While many people might agree with “anti-LGBT” as descriptor, BBC nevertheless shouldn’t use it. Doing so makes a value judgement and demonstrates bias rather than neutral news reporting. Even using LGBT without the “anti” is biased. Also, as a foreign news agency, regardless reputation, the Beeb makes moral pronouncements that may not reflect those of the country that it reports about. The headline and dek implicitly impose values, and that should not be the news report’s goal—all while diminishing, if not ignoring, the rationale behind the legislation. 

Read More

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. 

Read More

Old Habits Stymie The New Republic

In companion posts (one and two) 13 months ago, I defended Chris Hughes’ decision to reimage The New Republic and relocate operations to the Big Apple. Having the right strategy (and I believe it remains so) isn’t the same as being the person capable of executing it. Today, in a stunning admission, Chris writes: “I have decided to put The New Republic up for sale”. Son of a bitch! Really?

“After investing a great deal of time, energy, and over $20 million, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for new leadership and vision at The New Republic“, he explains. “When I took on this challenge nearly four years ago, I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate”. 

Read More

Flack Attack

Yesterday, while catching up on days of RSS-feed news, I stopped grazing and actually read TechCrunch Christmas Eve post “#MisguidedPR: The Industry’s Internal Crisis” by Colin Jordan, who is—what many of my peers would call—a flack. I rarely use the descriptor, deeming it as condescending. But for this post, the term fits.

The commentary’s objective is clear: To encourage his colleagues to abandon past public relations strategies that are obsolete today. Part of the problem he identifies is imbalance: There are way many more flacks than there are journalists (but perhaps not bloggers, I must add). Using U.S. Department of Labor statistics, he finds “5.7 PR professionals for every one journalist”. Because I do my own reporting rather than source someone else, whenever possible (most often), I checked the data. 

Read More

Hey, Washington Post (and Other Investigators), How About Comparing Candidate Spending Habits?

Let me preface: this is not a political endorsement for Donald Trump or anyone else. But the comedy and drama of this early campaign cycle sure is interesting. Among yesterday’s dramedy stories catching my attention: Washington Post on Mr. Trump telling super PACs to return contributions gathered in his name.

The presidential hopeful finances the campaign from his wealth and smaller donations from individual contributors. I got to wondering: Wouldn’t a candidate largely using his own money spend differently from someone getting to what amounts to free cash? There’s a stereotype that people spend their own (say, savings) more prudentially than what comes easily and freely (like credit). Is there a difference this early on among the would-be nominees in how or where they spend on the respective campaigns? 

Read More

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

Nearly a month has passed still the last installment of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. I have been overwhelmingly busy with other projects, which is no excuse. My apologies, please. Over the next couple of Sundays, I will serialize the remaining few chapters before releasing the tome into the public domain.

This chapter, like most of the others in Section 3, is vital to your success, which means rising above the endless sea of sameness. You must be original, and produce original content that finds and builds audience. Today’s chapter gives varied examples of news organizations doing just that. 

Read More

Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 1)

April 2009, I busily bang out a news analysis for Microsoft Watch, one of two news sites I edit for Ziff Davis Enterprise. My boss sounds alarm that there is some jeopardy to my job. I earn a six-figure salary, which panics investors/creditors that recently increased involvement in editorial operations. He infers that I am the highest-paid writer on staff.

Days later, he informs me that in two weeks, ZDE will lay me off—the first time this has ever happened in my long journalist career. My last day will be April 30. As the end approaches, but I continue to produce content normally, he returns with an offer: Stay on writing news stories for eWeek, take a 36 percent reduction in pay, and agree to a 5-story-per-day quota. I politely decline but privately fume. 

Read More

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

After a long hiatus, serialization of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers resumes. This chapter, and the last, are the most important for doing what you’re supposed to report responsibly. Major theme last time: The importance of asking “Who benefits?” about everything. Today’s installment turns around concept “conflict of interest” and points the finger back at you. The traditional view about conflict of interest is misguided, and it is fundamentally outdated for online news reporting—or any other.

As Chapter VI explains, I see objects of conflict as mattering much more than traditional concept of conflict of interest. Stated differently: Human relationships are more influential than financial gain. Worse, there is a fairly recent trend where bloggers or journalists post ethics statements, which I view as worse than useless. So-called transparency justifies continued conflicts rather than separation from them.