Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas’

Video: The Balance Between Necessary and Excess

Photo illustration of an antique television set.

(via Flicker Creative Commons/cpkatie)

Journalists and news organizations have been intensively covering Sunday’s shooting at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. At least 58 people were killed and over 500 were injured as spectators enjoyed a festival of country music.

At the core of the coverage has been user-generated content – eyewitness footage of the shootings. The sounds of gunfire and the anxious screams of the festival goers have been replayed on cable and network news broadcasts.

These videos played a significant role on Wednesday’s CBS Evening News. The footage was aired continuously without any advisory warning of their graphic nature.

The Society’s Code of Ethics reminds journalists to seek truth and report it, but also minimize harm. There are arguments for and against the replaying of this footage.

On one hand, the footage underscores the gravity of the situation and emphasizes the scale of what happened on Sunday night. On the other hand, the repetition of such videos can be seen as sensationalism – a way to utilize drama and to encourage viewers to stay tuned to the broadcast.

Striking the right balance between the necessary and the excess is tricky. Journalists and news organizations usually exercise discretion when it comes to how much of that footage will make up the eventual coverage.

The Code encourages journalists to consider the public when it comes to broadcasting graphic footage. “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort,” the Code reads. “Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”

There are three goals to keep in mind when covering these types of events:

  1. Verify the footage before it goes to air.
    If the video is submitted by social media, take the time to interview the creator and after determining the authenticity how it will help your story.
  2. Consider the public when broadcasting footage – and ask this question: “How much is too much?” as you plan your coverage.
  3. Be forthright with your audience.
    If the video is graphic or may upset a viewer, please state that the footage may be disturbing to some audiences, instead of just putting it on the air.

Graphic elements are sometimes necessary to tell stories. It isn’t done to scare people or to put them off. Instead, it is to help understand the story and the scale of events. An undue reliance on the footage has an impact on the public – and their relationship with the media.

Journalists should – as a result – think twice about using the footage and how it is presented, and be honest with the audience. You’ll ensure credibility and promote quality ethical journalism.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Committee, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Five Stories that Defined Journalism Ethics in 2015


Journalism ethics is always a popular topic of discussion, and 2015 was no exception.

In the spirit of a new year and proverbial bandwagons, I decided to highlight the blog posts about the five stories that really embodied journalism ethics missteps in 2015. Since “scoring” or “ranking” ethics is impossible and irresponsible, these are in no particular order.

May this coming year bring you good luck, responsible reporting and ethical news!

Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society’s ethics committee.


Something Odd is Happening at the Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

A series of odd and concerning events occurred this past week involving the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and it’s not over.

First, the paper is sold for a large profit and the newspaper’s journalists were told not to worry about the new owners’ identities. Now, the paper is reporting its journalists were ordered in a memo a month before the paper’s sale by the then-owners GateHouse Media to investigate three judges, which included one hearing a case involving one of the paper’s new owners.

“The memo, authored by Review-Journal Deputy Editor James G. Wright, notes the initiative was undertaken without explanation from GateHouse and over the objection of the newspaper’s management, and there was no expectation that anything would be published,” according to a story appearing Friday on the paper’s website.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, who was one of the three judges observed by reporters for two weeks, is currently hearing a case involving Sheldon Adelson and his company, the story reported.

Adelson and his family were revealed as the new owners of the Las Vegas Review-Journal in a story posted Wednesday on the paper’s website. The family confirmed the purchase Thursday in an editor’s note on the paper’s second page.

None of the 15,000 words the reporters wrote by mid-November about their two weeks monitoring the three judges were ever published, the new story reports.

However, a Connecticut paper operated by the overseer of the family-backed company that now owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story at the end of November critical of the Nevada judge hearing the case involving Adelson.

If this wasn’t strange enough, the article lists as the author Edward Clarkin, who is basically a ghost.

“Attempts to locate Clarkin have been unsuccessful. Herald executives did not respond to requests for information, but a newspaper staffer said no one by that name works there,” according to the paper. “A nationwide search turned up no writer by that name, though laudatory reviews from Edward Clarkin, identified as being from the New Britain Herald and a sister paper, the Bristol Press, appear on the website of Tennessee mystery writer Keith Donnelly.”

Michael Schroeder, who now manages the Adelson-backed company overseeing the Las Vegas newspaper and owns the company the operates the Connecticut newspaper, declined to tell the reporters “how the article came about or discuss Clarkin’s role at the papers.”

What does this all mean? Michael Reed, the chief executive officer of the company that sold the paper to the Adelson family and still oversees the day-to-day operations, says nothing.

The paper quotes Reed as saying they’re trying to create a story. They should be focusing on the positive, not the negative, he told the reporters.

Frankly, the entire ordeal feels like the famed magic shows of Las Vegas. There are so many moving parts that it confuses the audience and makes them unsure what’s going on.

As the Society turned to its Code of Ethics earlier this week to demand the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s new owners to reveal themselves, I too want to point out that a core element of responsible journalism is accountability and transparency.

Part of being accountable and transparent is to “respond quickly to questions about accuracy, clarity and fairness.” Until that happens, the world is left with at least a couple questions.

  • Why were the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s reporters told to spend two week observing judges? If it was – as the paper’s former owner claims, a multi-newsroom project, name the other newsrooms involved.
  • Does Edward Clarkin exist? Typically a person’s existence is an important and easily verifiable fact.

While this is very concerning, it’s important to note that there is a possibility that this is all an odd coincidence. However, the questions remain until the Las Vegas paper’s previous owner (and current operator) and the overseers of the Connecticut paper are transparent.

Frankly, the journalists in the Las Vegas Review-Journal endured enough turmoil over the past week. As shown by the reporters’ dogged and admirable pursuit of these stories, they are hard workers and good journalists. They deserve at least to know answers to these basic questions

Also, the people of Las Vegas deserve to know whether their state’s largest newspaper will produce responsible and thorough information to learn about their community – local and global. Quality information allows people to make informed decision and participate in democracy.

The questions are simple, but not trivial.

Andrew M. Seaman is the chair of the Society’s ethics committee.


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