Archive for June, 2017


WSJ: Putting their money where the byline is

The Wall Street Journal has pledged to remove the gender gap in their newsroom. They should keep their word. (Photo: Neon Tommy/Flickr)

Last year, when SPJ convened in New Orleans for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference, my colleague, Elle Toussi (who co-chairs SPJ’s International Community) and I co-wrote a resolution with the help of chapters and colleagues nationwide calling for women in journalism to be supported, and for resources to be made available to help them thrive in the industry.

When we wrote the resolution, it included a mention of activity at the Wall Street Journal, as its editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker, had called for the elimination of the gender pay gap. Baker’s goals had the support of its parent company, Dow Jones.

One year later, there are concerns about that pledge and if it will be honored. According to a report from the Columbia Journalism Review, nearly 200 reporters at the organization are waiting for a reply to a letter, dated the 28th of March, regarding workplace equality, and their patience is running out.

The Review also notes that there has been a decline in stories with women bylines published in the A section. The company pays women 85 percent of their work compared to men, the report adds.

A reporter who works with the women’s advocacy group at Dow Jones told CJR there were still concerns.

“This is something that is a very regular topic of conversation among editors and reporters—gender disparity, pay disparity, not feeling that our newsroom is as diverse as it needs to be in terms of race, LGBT employees, or [those with] diverse socioeconomic backgrounds,” the reporter said, who was not named by CJR at the reporter’s request for concerns of retaliation in the workplace.

This report comes as news emerged of a lack of female management at the publication. Rebecca Blumenstein left the Journal earlier this year to join the masthead of the New York Times. In the letter staffers signed from March, Blumenstein’s departure signaled a broader concern.

“Our highest ranking female role model left the company earlier this year,” the staffers wrote. “There are currently four women and eight men listed as deputy managing editors, and both editorial page editors are men. Nearly all the people at high levels at the paper deciding what we cover and how are white men.”

When Toussi and I wrote the resolution, we applauded the Journal’s decision to close the gap, and called on other organizations to follow suit. We also agreed with the resolution passed by the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, and the Journalism and Women Symposium (for the record, NAHJ is partnering with SPJ for this year’s Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, California).

In this important time for journalism, a diverse newsroom is quintessential. It is a newsroom to be proud of – a newsroom dedicated to ethical journalism and reporting the facts, whatever they may be, without fear or favor.

It is a newsroom that signals, especially in the digital age, that diversity is valued, and that women’s voices in journalism are just as important as men’s, especially with studies showing more women studying journalism in the US. Their ideas help enhance the best industry in the world, and they will continue to do so tomorrow, and in the days, months and years ahead.

Women should be recognized as equal in the newsroom, and Baker and the Journal should keep their word. They have a unique opportunity before them to eliminate the gap, to ensure a truly equal workplace environment, and send a clear message that no matter who you are or what platform you work on you can do what matters most in journalism – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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 pros of verifying

Twitter has become important for disseminating information, but you need to make sure its accurate before publishing. (Photo: Pixabay)

Last Thursday, the UK held a general election which saw a hung parliament. It also saw negotiations begin on a minority government between Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives, and the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

But as the news of the election results came down, so did a statistic on youth voter turnout – which indicated that 72 percent of voters between 18 and 24 voted.

There was widespread praise as the statistic was tweeted near and far, as the issue of young people participating in elections had been raised over the course of the campaign.

There was one problem though – it wasn’t proven to be true. As a result, it raised many questions by journalists and from other observers as to its origins, which began from a voting organization that supports the youth vote, and later tweeted by MPs, political advocates and others.

When all was said and done, it was a talking point on Twitter, and it got the attention of many news organizations, as attempts to verify the claim were made.

Twitter has its pros and cons when it comes to journalism, but one of the issues is that of the quality of information. The Society’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists to seek truth and report it, but most of all, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

What happened on Twitter that election night serves as a reminder that verifying information is important, even more so in this digital age where anyone can publish anything, whether its true or not.

Here is a guide when it comes to publishing verified information, especially on Twitter.

Don’t run on first instinct: If you’re aware of reports of something, be it politics, business or otherwise, don’t assume its right. Just because Twitter and other platforms are new doesn’t mean the rules surrounding ethics change.

Be honest and forthright: Tell your audience you are trying to confirm the information. Then make inquiries and try to figure out what is going on. Being forthright allows you to be a more credible journalist to your followers and beyond.

Don’t be afraid to cite: Be specific about the reports – you can either quote the tweet or cite the user. Explain to audiences how you’ve spotted the claim and anything you’ve been able to find. Yet, don’t cite endlessly, cite when you feel it is warranted.

Once you’ve confirmed it, tweet it: You have sought the truth, and you now know it is true. Now report it.

Disseminating information on social media is a part of journalism today – ensuring its verified helps ethical journalism thrive on social media. Credibility on the platform is important more than ever, and if you take the time to ensure everything is accurate, people will come back to you for the truth.

When faced with dealing with information that may not be true, remember – it is better to be right than be first. You’ll be a better journalist as a result of it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

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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