Join the SPJ Digital Executive Board

We love having you as a member of SPJ Digital, and we want you to help us lead it!  Join the SPJ Digital executive board to make key decisions about the group’s future and our programs.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SPJ DIGITAL ELECTIONS:

  • NOMINATIONS: The deadline to announce your candidacy for one of the following positions is this Friday, October 21, 2016 at 5 p.m. EST.
  • You must submit a 200 word explanation of why you are running and what you will bring to the office you’re running for to SPJ Digital co-chairs  taylormirf@mac.com and omalley.beth@gmail.com.
  • You must be a member of SPJ to run for office.
  • VOTING: Ballots will be sent to all community members on on Monday, October 31st. Polls will close Friday, November 4th.

** All SPJ Digital executive board members are expected to participate in monthly conference calls and complete the tasks assigned to your position. Please feel free to contact Taylor Mirfendereski and Beth O’Malley if you have questions about joining the executive board.** 

OPEN SPJ DIGITAL POSITIONS

Co-Chair, Interactive and Social Media:

  • Works with coordinators and oversees social media education strategy
  • Oversees and implements social strategy related to programming
  • Works with Co-Chair, Programming and Strategy on programming plans
  • Oversees Net Worked editorial operations (guest posts, columnists, etc)
  • Blogger at large – responsible for one blog post per month, more if desired

Co-Chair, Programming and Strategy:

  • Liaison to SPJ Community Coordinator, staff, board and members
  • Oversees Quill columnists with assistance from Community Coordinator
  • Oversees programming efforts with collaboration from executive
  • Works with Co-Chair, Interactive and Social Media on programming plans
  • Oversees student reps to help expand student understanding of digital media at universities

Facebook Coordinator:

  • Posts on SPJ Digital’s Facebook page; posts may include items from Net Worked or other items at the discretion of the coordinator
  • Works with Co-Chairs to coordinate any element needed for programming and other operations
  • Reports to Co-Chair, Interactive and Social Media regarding analytics, ideas to boost interest
  • Oversees LinkedIn on an as-needed basis.

Twitter Coordinator:

  • Posts on SPJ Digital’s Twitter account; posts may include items from Net Worked or other items at the discretion of the coordinator
  • Works with Co-Chairs to coordinate any element needed for programming and other operations
  • Reports to Co-Chair, Interactive and Social Media regarding analytics, ideas to boost interest.
  • Oversees LinkedIn on an as-needed basis.

Newsletter Editor:

  • Experience with design and/or creating a newsletter preferred.
  • Creates monthly email newsletter for SPJ Digital members.
  • Newsletter will be curated with community news, blog posts, programming updates and member spotlights.
  • Editor also contributes to NetWorked blog once per month, more if desired.
  • Sends out programming updates and specialty newsletters when appropriate.

Student Representative:

  • Assist Co-Chairs with student-specific programming ideas and execution.
  • Completes outreach to student chapters about SPJ Digital benefits.
  • Contributes to NetWorked blogs on student-centric topics.spj-digital

Querying fact checking

At NPR's headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

Geopolitics has been at the epicenter of the news the past few months, from the news of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union with a new Prime Minister, and the diplomatic conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria, to the closely watched campaigns for elections for president of the United States.

As the 8th of November nears, a subject that has been debated is that of fact-checking, and what role it should have in the context of modern political journalism. In the recent debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NPR had a running transcript with annotations going, the checks being communicated on Twitter, Facebook, and the web site.

When all was said and done, NPR achieved its highest traffic day ever, and the transcript got 7.4 million page views.

Beth Donovan, the supervising senior editor for its Washington Desk, who has worked on previous election output, said the public broadcaster had been trying to perfect engaging audiences when it came to fact-checking.

“Fact checking has long been a priority for NPR,” Donovan said in an interview by email. “Even before this particular race shaped up, we had been trying new things in the fact check lane in hopes of connecting with our audience and helping them engage with political rhetoric through this prism.”

Donovan said audiences had valued a second screen accompaniment to live events, and this fact-checking feature was a way to hone NPR’s engagement strategy. She says similar plans will be in the works for the forthcoming debate this weekend and the final debate later this month.

“There was a transparency to our fact check, people could see us highlighting facts we were about to check (as well as a lot of typos in the first and even second draft of the transcription),” Donovan said. “The audience could see the statement in context, our journalism, and source links. And the page kept moving and changing right on your phone.”

While there was success for NPR in its engagement strategy, it came amid some concerns, before and after the debate was over. The fact-checking annotations commenced amid concerns of trust in the media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

In addition, after the debate, concerns had been raised by the ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who, in addition to some listeners, said some questions were missed, despite the best efforts of reporters and editors in Washington. Donovan said her team did the best they could under the circumstances, even as concerns of bias were prevalent.

“We just do our best every day to cover the news and to report fairly and accurately,” Donovan said. “Fact checking is no different.”

Yet, Donovan notes, there is difficulty in accomplishing such a task.

“Even in a news room with as much policy depth as NPR’s, live fact checking is hard,” Donovan said. “The biggest challenges are often the littlest things.”

However, Donovan says, there is something that makes it all worthwhile — the drive and collaboration between its journalists.

“It can look easy or obvious the next day, but watching our annotated transcript come to life was inspiring,” Donovan said. “This is a remarkable newsroom. I always feel especially proud to be part of it on debate nights and in breaking news situations.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Accuracy in an algorithmic age

In order for it to be effective with users, Facebook must present accurate and fair information. (Photo: Pixabay)

In order for it to be effective with users, Facebook must present accurate and fair information. (Photo: Pixabay)

This week, it emerged that the editors behind the Trending Topics section at Facebook had been fired, and that the algorithm would be at the core of finding stories that users would want to hear about.

It hasn’t gone quite as planned. The notable instance came last Saturday about a story surrounding the Fox News presenter Megyn Kelly. It had been reported that she had been removed from her position after she said she was supporting the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

That story was not true, emerging from the EndingFed news web site, a web site that had not been listed on the trusted media sources list utilized by editors, according to a report from The Guardian newspaper in Britain.

There were also concerns of content that would be offensive also being a part of the trending topics, including a man filmed doing a questionable act with a McChicken sandwich from McDonald’s.

Many users around the world look to Facebook for news on the go, and to engage in conversation about that information with their friends. Because the social network is a significant platform in the dissemination, it is bound by the principles of journalistic ethics, even though it is not a media company itself. The principle extends to the information that is made available in the trending topics section.

The SPJ Code of Ethics says this about the release of information:

“Neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.”

The public are entitled to accurate information to help them over the course of their day, no matter the subject.

Yet, The Guardian report adds, the dismissal of the editors was said to be a long-term plan, with a source saying that the trending module would have learned from curators’ decisions and be fully automated.

The relationship that Facebook and the public has when it comes to the algorithm has proven to be controversial. While it is mutually beneficial for news organizations and the social network to have content appear for the purposes of engagement, the public are still entitled to accurate and fair journalism, no matter how they are consuming it.

It is therefore imperative that Facebook exercises these ethics and emphasizes the need for accurate and fair information. In spite of the toxic workplace concerns raised, the editors who helped curate those trending topics helped the social network do a service in ensuring the information that was made available was accurate.

If Facebook wants to have a better relationship with its users, and indeed the wider journalism community, not only must it be transparent, but it also must be an advocate for accurate information, and showcase it in its trending topics. Otherwise, Facebook will become simply something commonplace in digital media today — just another social network.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


The world and its stories

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

The New York Times is trying to increase its readership outside the US, which may have long-term effects beyond engagement. (Photo: alextorrenegra/Flickr)

Recently, The New York Times did something rather interesting when it came to its coverage of the forthcoming presidential elections. It assigned a foreign correspondent to cover them, allowing for not just an interesting way to cover these elections, but also an indication of trends in media and how they will impact storytelling overall.

The Times assigned Declan Walsh, its Cairo bureau chief, to cover the elections in the same way he would a foreign story, for a series called Abroad in America. Thus far, he has written about both conventions, as well as the role of coal country in voting and the issue of women in US politics.

His column, according to an article from the Nieman Lab at Harvard University, is being edited and run through the international desk at the Times, though Walsh does consult with its politics team.

In an interview with the Lab, Walsh said the column was part of the recognition by the Times about digital readership — that much of it was outside the United States, and as a result, there was potential for such content.

“It speaks to the balance that the paper has to achieve, especially in stories that are about the United States, in writing stories about things in the US that foreign readers are very interested in, but they do not have the same degree of familiarity with or the same cultural connectors that a reader would in the United States,” Walsh said.

This initiative is part of broader work the Times is doing to expand its international readership. It recently created NYT Global, a $50 million effort over the next 3 years to expand this work, and, according to the Lab, it sees potential when it comes to attracting paying subscribers from outside the US.

Though the move is strategic on the part of the Times, this decision speaks to a larger trend in the world of journalism, largely influenced by the internet — a trend that comes off of the idea of the global village, a theory from the Canadian communications scholar Marshall McLuhan, where new technologies would be making the world smaller, connecting more and more people, no matter their location. This was part of his core theory, the medium is the message.

Indeed, the internet and the social media age have influenced how we consume news, and where we get our news from. The global age has influenced our ideas of media brands — alongside the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, The New Yorker, the Financial Times and NPR come other sites including BuzzFeed and Vice. More people are getting access to content, either online streaming or through podcasts, whether its Stuart McLean’s The Vinyl Cafe from CBC Radio in Canada or other podcasts from public broadcasters or other sites.

As a result, news organizations like the Times are thinking more globally as far as their reach, and while the Times is a unique case, it does show how far reaching stories can be in this digital age. While it is unclear if the Times plans similar ideas for other stories down the road, it is an indication that as the mediums that journalism are being disseminated through increase, the idea of how we tell stories will change, whether global in scope or local in nature, no matter the beat, even though the first priority is the immediate audience.

It also means that there will be more sources and web sites available for information, leaving news organizations to be creative when it comes to engagement strategies surrounding stories.

While the mediums themselves will be changing, one thing hasn’t — the mission of journalism, to inform, to engage, to stimulate, and to enlighten. Though we may need to be creative about how we do it in the near future, it is better than an alternative — a world without journalism.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


A Moment for journalism

Twitter's roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

Twitter’s roll-out of Moments to everyone provides significant opportunities for journalists and news organizations to engage with their audience. (Photo: Pixabay)

It was announced last week that Twitter plans to roll out Moments, its program that features content from news organizations and others, to everyone. Introduced last October, it was designed to help engage users on the social network and to attract new users, something that chief executive Jack Dorsey has been trying to do since he took over as CEO from Dick Costolo last year.

Though Twitter says it will be made available to all within the next few months, the Nieman Lab at Harvard University notes the Moments that had been started by Allure Magazine, one of the brands selected by the Twitter media team. Indeed, with this news, there is the potential for news organizations to use Moments, whether its breaking stories or providing a wrap up on a comprehensive story, like the forthcoming presidential election.

The opportunity for this roll-out of Moments allows news organizations to further engage with audiences on Twitter, in addition to disseminating news and curating conversations surrounding a topic. Indeed, the Moments used by news organizations can allow Twitter to be a platform for users to get a quick digest of the news of the day, if they don’t have time to either watch a broadcast live or visit various news sites and read.

In addition, such a digest can also be a complement to live tweeting of any story in progress, giving reason for a user to stay on Twitter to see the world unfold through the signature 140 character statuses.

Yet, most of all, Moments can provide a new way to tell stories — to chronicle the events of the world and to present them in new ways. It allows for events like elections or other events, irrespective of beat, to be written in new ways, and to be made available to the public as a miniature resource, linking back to content within their organization.

Twitter’s decision to introduce Moments to everyone is a welcome for journalism on the platform, and will bring significant benefit to the engagement strategies of news organizations. It allows more focus for Twitter to be a platform for news, and for news organizations to push their offerings on the social network, as more and more users will spend time on the platform.

It also allows news organizations to encourage users to look at their other platforms, be it web or otherwise. Whether they will come is at their discretion, as this introduction may see Twitter as a competitor to other news sites for attention, whether its a local outlet or The New York Times, as more content is being produced.

Nevertheless, this ultimately gives journalists an opportunity to ponder the craft of storytelling, and to innovate for audiences. Whether it can be successful though will be found out…in a matter of mere Moments.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


The need for journalism

Last night, John Oliver used humor to make a point about the future of this industry.

A portion of his HBO program Last Week Tonight was devoted to a look at journalism, and the future of newspapers, amidst the decline of advertising revenue. In a near 20 minute segment, Oliver examined the case for journalism, through a monologue and a satirical skit of the film Spotlight, and how the direction of newspapers and other aspects of the industry will dictate how journalism is conducted moving forward.

Yet, his quote towards the end before the filmed skit resonated the biggest challenge for journalism yet, and what will happen to the industry down the road if nothing is done about it.

“Sooner or later, we are either going to have to pay for journalism or we are all going to pay for it,” Oliver said.

Oliver’s monologue about paying for journalism reflects a generational divide, a generation accustomed to paying for news through newspapers versus a generation, through the internet and social media, accustomed to getting content for free, and reluctant to pay for it, exacerbated in this social media age.

I am a part of that latter generation. I am a 24 year old who has access to an abundance of information no matter the circumstance — anytime, anywhere, all for the low, low price of $0.00.

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

It is worth investing in subscriptions to papers like The New York Times, for it will bring significant long-term benefits. (Photo: Haxorjoe/Wikimedia Commons)

Yet, compared to my peers, I am willing to invest in that content. Every day, a newspaper arrives at my house — The Wall Street Journal Monday through Saturday, and the Chicago Tribune on Sunday. But on the same token, I also look at sites that are either paywalled or have their content for free — from The Guardian to The New York Times, the BBC to Reuters and NPR, and periodically — The New Yorker. I also will find content linked either from Twitter or Facebook. I also have a digital subscription to the Journal that ties in with the newspaper subscription.

I read to stay informed of the world around me and to keep up with trends — I read the Journal, the Guardian and others because an informed and educated public is beneficial for our society, and for democracy, something journalism can give. It is something that I am not afraid to pay for.

Those in this industry enter it and seek work in it because we believe in the fundamental principles for which it is associated. We subscribe to its ideas and its values align with our own. We believe in the cause for an informed public and an enhanced civil discourse — that those in power must be held to account, that the work we do together can do the most good.

I believe in the role journalism has in our world, and the role information and education can have in making the lives of others better. I can’t imagine a circumstance where the world is bereft of journalism, which is why its worth supporting and paying for.

It is important for all of us to invest in journalism, for your investment now will result in a significant investment down the road, in the education and knowledge that comes from the pages, in print and online, about your world and your life. That alone has more benefits than seeing a video of a raccoon cat time and time again.

So, subscribe to journalism. Support my friends and colleagues who believe in making the world better, and invest in democracy. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


A transparent Facebook

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook should appoint a public editor for the interests of not just news organizations, but audiences. (Photo: Pixabay)

It has become a common theme for Facebook in the past few weeks. Another day comes, and with it comes another change to its algorithm.

The most recent change came this week, when the social network announced its plans to combat clickbait by examining headlines of articles. Some types of headlines would be considered clickbait, including, according to a blog post on its corporate web site, those headlines that are misleading or withhold specific aspects of information.

Quoted in The New York Times, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president for product management, which oversees the News Feed, said the change was made with users’ interests in mind.

“We want publishers to post content that people care about, and we think people care about headlines that are much more straightforward,” Mosseri said.

This had raised some concerns with publishers, as well as additional concerns that they did not have insight into the decision making behind the algorithm changes, according to the Times report.

Mosseri said that he met regularly with publishers to discuss such changes, and that Facebook would be more transparent about its changes. Indeed, while transparency is all well and good, more needs to be done for a platform that has a significant influence in the relationship between consumer and news organization.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post for this blog advocating a public editor post be created within Facebook, a post that would, according to New York based journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, not edit per se, but be a voice for the public. I renew that advocacy with this post.

A creation of such a role (or perhaps multiple roles), similar to what is being done at organizations like the Times and at The Guardian, would ensure Facebook be truly transparent.

Indeed, the SPJ Code of Ethics, where under the section “Be Accountable and Transparent,” calls for a conversation about news coverage, content and journalistic practices. Even though Facebook itself is not a conventional media company, the rule should apply to them, considering the influence it has on the dissemination of information to users, as well as engagement strategies in various newsrooms.

As such, a creation of a public editor role would, in my view, support this call, and allow Facebook to be honest with not just its audience, but publishers as well, and allow for a full conversation about what role the social network can have in the future of this industry. With this role, we can understand the algorithm changes better, have our say on the changes, and help make the algorithm beneficial for the people who we serve — our audience.

While the same can be said for Twitter, Google and other platforms, having Facebook create a public editor role would be significant in the world of social media journalism, and perhaps others can follow their lead.

The idea and the call is there. The decision on whether a public editor role should be created, however, is solely in Mark Zuckerberg’s court.

Your move, Facebook.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 4:04pm CT on August 7 to add that The Guardian also has the post of a global readers editor.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Why we must support women in journalism

At a meeting at the United Nations in New York earlier this year on gender equality, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared to the world that he was a proud feminist, and would keep repeating it “until it was met with a shrug.”

Trudeau, who had only been in office for a few months, had already received global attention for his appointment of a gender-neutral cabinet – 50 percent women, 50 percent men. His declaration went viral, circulating through global Facebook and Twitter feeds, and made headlines in publications internationally.

I, like many, saw the clip through YouTube. I then opened up the Word Processor on my computer and began typing. The final article for Kettle Magazine in the UK had this declaration.

“My name is Alex Veeneman. I’m a journalist, and I’m a feminist.”

I had not said publicly that I was a feminist – a few of my close friends and family members knew of my thoughts, but it was not public knowledge until I had submitted that article for publication.

Indeed, there was another reason why that article was written – to show support for women in journalism, whether they were working in the industry, or studying it at university.

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

A study from the University of Oxford showed more women studying journalism than men. Above: University College, Oxford. (Image: Ozeye/Wikimedia Commons)

Recent studies, most notably from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, have shown that there are more women studying journalism at university.

Yet, this was not just the case in the US and Britain. Indeed, the trend was prevalent in other countries, including Australia and Germany. However, despite this, there is still difficulty for women to advance in the industry, as it continues to be heavily male-dominated.

As journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, thanks to the rise of social media platforms and consumption on mobiles, it is trying to reinvent itself to ensure it remains viable. At the core of this is women, for their ideas are detrimental to the future of this industry.

Many of my colleagues at Kettle are women. The majority of our section editors are women, and the number of women who have recently written for the site outnumber men.

Indeed, of the four managing editors currently working at Kettle, I am the only male managing editor, something that I welcome and champion. They got to where they were today because of the work they put in, the time they invested, and the shared goal of quality work.

At SPJ, where in addition to writing these blogs I work on their network of communities, all but one of the five active communities have women as a chair or co-chair. In its 9 active committees, 6 of them have women as a chair or co-chair.

In addition, more women than men hold positions on the Board of Directors. Of the 23 positions on the Board, 14 of them are held by women.

I want to support my friends and colleagues and see them advance in the industry, and have them not be deterred by the systematic treatment and oppression based on their gender.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says we should embrace equality. (Image: Alex Guibord/Flickr)

We collectively must champion women in journalism, encourage them to raise their voices and share their ideas, and support their efforts by mentoring them and helping them excel towards their career goals. We must support the women who are leading the evolution in digital media, and whose ideas will help shape journalism’s future.

We must also especially champion the women who want to have careers in this industry by supporting them in their work, encouraging them in their studies at universities, mentor them, and to instill confidence in them amid current industry trends.

As Trudeau himself put it in an article for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper, feminism is a word we should not be afraid of, but embrace.

“Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for men and women, about everyone having the same choices without facing discrimination based on gender,” Trudeau wrote. “Equality is not a threat, it is an opportunity.”

Women must be equal in journalism, and though the equality issues currently at hand will not be solved overnight, we must champion their role in this industry.

After all, especially as journalism continues to evolve, what remains key are the ideas that come to help make it stronger, no matter who they are or what their background is.

It is something we all must embrace, today and every day, now and in the years ahead.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Education: A global value

WGBH's studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

WGBH’s studios in Boston, whose mission was summarized as helping people cope with the world and their own lives. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1970s and 1980s, the public broadcasting station WGBH in Boston began and ended its day with the airing of a small montage, telling viewers in New England about its role.

In that montage was a simple summary of its mission: “Our purpose is to help you cope better with the world and your own life.”

For WGBH, it applied not just to their viewers in Boston and throughout New England, but through the programs it produced nationally, either through PBS or its partnership with public radio distributor PRI.

Embodying that summary was the value of education, and the notion that education can come from mediums like television, and make a difference in the lives of all people. Education can be for everyone, no matter who they are or their background, for at heart, we are all lifelong learners. We can be taught and we can be inspired through thought-provoking, stimulating, engaging, and some entertaining content.

Education is at the heart of journalism, and as the United States celebrates the 4th of July, it is something that remains integral to its foundation, and we as journalists celebrate the ability to be able to produce content that can inform, engage, but most importantly, educate.

Education however is not solely an American value. It is a global value, a value that is practiced by journalists here and around the world. Indeed, education is a global value in a journalistic sense, for in the digital age, content that is made in newspapers, radio, television or online can be construed as education, and ideas for stories can be taken from anywhere.

We enter this profession not to seek fame or fortune. Instead, we enter this profession because of our ability to be able to educate. We enter because our focus is not on financial gain, but on the people to whom we serve in our work. We enter because we know the work we do together can do the most good.

Yet, the culture of journalism that has come as the industry evolves has raised questions on how that education can be conducted, and if it can be conducted at all. As the line between news and comment becomes blurred, and more platforms, especially through social media, become available for this content, can education remain a quintessential focus of journalism, or has it become a lost art?

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, a program that embodies the educational spirit of journalism. (Photo: Knight Foundation/Flickr)

As this industry continues through its state of flux, arguments can be made on both sides. On one hand the sole focus is now going viral, and that attention comes solely through the click of a mouse. On the other hand, there is potential, and even though there are questions, it can continue.

Education is at the heart of what I do, and the heart of what we all do. We are in uncertain waters, asking ourselves many questions. Will the young graduate, journalism degree in hand, be able to have a successful, viable career? Will those in the industry be able to adapt to this new age? Most importantly, can the industry we all love, irrespective of medium, survive, and can we accomplish the ultimate goal we have in journalism — the ability to educate?

I believe that we can, though it may appear difficult right now. Education is a value that remains at the crux of journalism, and it is something that we should never take for granted. The platforms are going to change, and how we disseminate and curate news will too, but one thing is for sure — the ability to educate the public, and to help them cope better with the world and their own lives, will remain a constant.

Yet, we must not let it get lost in the shuffle. We must now take the time to support, advocate for and champion this value, whether it is supporting the public broadcasters, the media organizations and the individuals and storytellers that emphasize it, advocating for our ability to disseminate and educate, or championing the ideas that strengthen journalism’s role in education, irrespective of race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Education is at is at the heart of what we can do in journalism, now and in the future. It is a global value, not just through geography, but through the mediums of journalism, and on this day of all days, it is something we must not disregard. Instead, we should do what is best and embrace it, not just for those to whom we serve, but for ourselves.

After all, the world is better when it is informed, and we must never take that for granted.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


Facebook, an updated algorithm and journalism

Facebook's algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook’s algorithm changes have caused a debate for news organizations. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook this week announced plans to implement another change within its algorithm. Yet, these changes would have further implications on the social network’s relationship with journalism.

Facebook said it would be changing the algorithm to place more of a focus on content from a user’s friends and family, which as a result would see content from publishers and news organizations appear prominently less in other news feeds.

However, according to a report from The New York Times, concerns of traffic decline may be subsided if the traffic in question comes from individual users sharing and commenting on videos.

Adam Mosseri, the vice president of product management for Facebook’s News Feed, quoted in the Times, said connecting to friends and family was a top priority for the social network, a message that was also emphasized in a blog post written by Mosseri, and published by Facebook last Wednesday.

“The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong,” Mosseri said. “We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”

In a separate post, Lars Backstrom, the Engineering Director, said the social network did anticipate a decline in traffic from pages, though it was dependent on audience composition.

The news feed is seen by 1.65 billion users a month, according to the Times.

In the business of social media, journalism has been seen as two things — a commodity in the context of the ability for platforms to engage users, as well as the ability for news organizations to not just retain but also engage new audiences through these platforms. It has evolved as a win-win relationship despite the controversy that is approached when it comes to the algorithm.

Facebook still has value for news organizations despite these changes considering its vast audience. However, it is a time for news organizations to take caution as to how Facebook is used and what further implications such an update may have.

Facebook’s goal may be its ability to connect friends and family together, but alongside that connection comes the conversation about current affairs and other subjects that is curated through the platform. At the core of that conversation is the content from news organizations that has become a central feature of a user’s News Feed.

Indeed, for news organizations, Facebook is more than just an ability to curate a conversation and enhance the civil discourse. It is an ability to inform audiences and tailor content to their needs and wants, to create insightful and meaningful journalism around the world in new ways.

Though it is not wise for a news organization to write Facebook off the social strategy at this stage, it is a time to monitor its next steps, for the next move by the social network will have an affect far beyond its ability to increase its reach. It will affect a crucial, quintessential relationship it has with journalism, either for better or for worse.

But in the end, what matters the most are the people directly accessing content. Facebook needs to consider that in its next steps as this update is rolled out, and we ultimately have to consider how to respond to it, not just for ourselves and our own engagement strategies, but for the people that matter the most — our audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.


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