Posts Tagged ‘journalism industry’


Chat tonight: Manti Te’o and journalism’s history with hoaxes

Failure. Disappointing. Sloppy. People had a lot to say about the role of journalism in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, and much of the commentary assailed the media.

The criticism has merit, but in the weeks since the scandal unfolded, the more bizarre and complex the details have become. The media cannot be wholly blamed for or excused from the mishap, and all that mess is meaningful to journalism and its mission to report the truth.

Instead of compiling an expert-laden media analysis, SPJ wants to talk to you about it. An issue of this magnitude deserves wide discussion, which is why SPJ will participate in tonight’s #muckedup chat about the media’s tangled history with hoaxes.

Join us tonight at 8 EST for the chat hosted by Adam Popescu (@adampopescu) for Muck Rack. The more SPJ members we can include in this conversation, the better — the topic means a lot to the growth of journalism.

Follow the #muckedup hashtag to participate, and we (@spj_tweets) will see you there.

 

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email, cdigangi@spj.org, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Nov. 6: A journalism case study

On Election Day, I sat as a spectator in the arena of journalism, eager to watch unprecedented news coverage unfold. “The first social election,” some called it.

I knew I wouldn’t catch everything, and I certainly didn’t, but my goal on Nov. 6 was to document the election from journalists’ perspectives. My observations are just that — trends I saw among hours of online coverage, which I consumed from one tiny computer monitor with one set of eyes. Given my resources, there’s nothing scientific in my analysis. Nonetheless, I think it has value.

My method: Monitor journalists’ and news outlets’ Twitter feeds, Facebook posts and Instagram activity; check related RSS feeds; repeatedly expand the sample size by exploring others’ Twitter lists, seeking impressionable accounts through Topsy and Hashtracking and browsing news sites to identify election reporters; finally, Storify as much as possible.

After less than an hour of this, I formed four sections within SPJ’s Storify “Journalists on Election Day”: “resources and tips,” “status updates,” “election coverage” and “just for fun.” Nearly everything I collected fit one of these categories, though some could have gone in more than one. It’s amazing what people can fit into a post of 140 or fewer characters.

Twitter was my most plentiful resource. I collected information from more than 180 accounts and learned a lot from the posts I read.

On perhaps the greatest day for civic duty in the U.S., journalists provided a variety of public services. They posted photos of polling places, sent updates of wait times in voting lines, posted links to voting resources and giving citizens multiple ways to access election results. I saw a great effort from journalists to communicate with their audiences.

In terms of election coverage, journalism impressively embraced interactive graphics and (gasp) math. In the four newsrooms I’ve worked, in the scores of conversations I’ve had with reporters, I’ve heard few kind words for math. (And I majored in English writing, so I’m guilty of cringing at math, too.)

“I do words, not numbers.”

“Well, I’m bad at math, so I chose writing.”

You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it (I’ve said it), but that doesn’t mean journalists don’t understand the importance of math — there are plenty of journalists who like math, even love it. But after Election Day, its significance has never seemed clearer. I won’t rehash the commentary from dozens of articles on Nate Silver, but if the emergence of data journalism hasn’t motivated reporters and editors to prioritize data literacy, Election 2012 should.

Ethical debates have gained momentum as a result of the election and use of social media. Instagram use among journalists has great advantages in serving consumers, and it also encourages impressive citizen journalism. The New York Times boasted an impressive collection of readers’ Instagrams on Election Day, too. But the use of Instagram’s editing features and its impact on photojournalism remains a debated ethical issue.

Even ethical topics with deep history, like whether journalists should vote, sparked fervent interactions on social media. It’s more than just voting, though, as journalists frequently take to the Internet with their political commentary and opinions.

Speaking of commentary: The “just for fun” and “status updates” segments of the Storify are, at least from my perspective, highly entertaining. Among the more serious messages like those urging others to vote and describing polling-place atmosphere, you can find many a funny message about caffeine, pizza and the inevitable system failures before a deadline.

As election returns poured in, I scaled back my rate of aggregation, first because this expected coverage didn’t add much value to the Storify and second because I could hardly keep up. What I noticed was an increase in care and accurate reporting from other breaking news that has emerged on Twitter (Hurricane Sandy, the SCOTUS decision on the Affordable Care Act). Perhaps this is indicative of a maturing digital media.

Despite the limits of my journo-tracking, this sample displayed many trends in breaking-news coverage, and I hope news organizations reflect on Election 2012 as they consider how to best deliver journalism amid industry and technology advances. Major news events double as learning opportunities, and journalists need to capitalize on them, specifically this one.

 

Journalists: What did you learn on Election Day? How will this year’s election coverage impact your approach to planning, reporting and editing? If you wish to weigh in, please engage with this discussion on our Facebook page, or send me an email. I may quote you in a future blog post.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email, cdigangi@spj.org, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Messy SCOTUS coverage is damaging for media

Today, I am disappointed in journalism.

Not everyone botched the announcement of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, but plenty of trusted media outlets did a disservice to their audiences by prioritizing speed instead of accuracy.

Like half a million others, I turned to SCOTUSblog at 10 a.m. today, toggling between that and my Twitter feed. At 10:08, the explosion began: The Associated Press said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. CNN said it was ruled unconstitutional. The Daily Beast said it was struck down at 10:08 but retweeted The AP at 10:09. Confused, I went back to SCOTUSblog to read their measured reports.

twitter feed

My Twitter feed in the seconds following the ruling announcement.

From the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

Many of the erroneous tweets and headlines have disappeared from their primary sources, though those blunders live on, thanks to screen shots and the copy-paste function. But the confusion was costly from a future credibility standpoint. The networks and publications that got it right should take note of the ridicule and criticism raining down on their Twitter-happy peers.

Most of my frustration came from seeing the incorrect reports retweeted. As the minutes after the announcement passed, I continued to read posts of misguided happiness and anger, all because a friend of a follower of a follower of a news organization perpetuated the seemingly reliable information.

(Jeff Sonderman of Poynter has a good roundup of and reaction to the inaccurate reports/tweets.)

The social media response to the blunders proves that people would rather get correct information as it becomes available, rather than quickly receive an imperfect report. The point of engaging with a news outlet is to stay informed.

I don’t want to have to congratulate the journalists who waited to verify the ruling to publish the result. They just did their jobs correctly, which I expect of them. I am disappointed that this expectation was not met by others.

The winner in this brawl to break news is SCOTUSblog — it’s a non-traditional outlet started by law professionals, and they presented reliable coverage of the complicated ruling. By 10:22, they had 866,000 people tracking their live blog.

But for the millions who referenced Twitter, breaking news alerts, live TV and 24-hour-news-cycle websites, the day was one of defeat. Regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation, news consumers were exposed to a slew of unreliable reports before being corrected.

I hope health care isn’t the only industry that sees reform after today’s ruling.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email, cdigangi@spj.org, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Happy Earth Day. When is Journalism Day?

Today, on Earth Day, we’re all thinking about the planet, apparently, whether how to be more “green,” how to antagonize those who preach being more “green,” or how to cover one of the two. But at SPJ, we’re always thinking about the journalism industry and the journalists who drive it.

That got me wondering: When is Journalism Day? We need one.

Stay with me.

I’ve got a habit of walking around the neighborhood during lunch. Nothing fancy, and certainly no power walking or sweat suits. And only a sweatband in truly dire circumstances. Normally I try to pick up stray litter and pieces of garbage that won’t cause bodily harm, at least in the short run. But today, Earth Day, I took a little more time and expended a little more energy – call it the product of National Parks-loving parents and being an Eagle Scout. (It’s true … on my honor.) Normally I wouldn’t pick up empty beer bottles, especially in the middle of an overgrown lawn.

A sample of litter from the SPJ neighborhood. Who's drinking all the Bud? (Not it!)

 ‘But hey,’ I thought, ‘it’s Earth Day. I earned that Environmental Science merit badge for a reason!’

What would prompt the public to have a similar thought for journalism? When people walk past a news stand or go online, what would make them say, “I need to read the news today because I recognize the importance of a free and independent press and the news journalists report.”?

Who’s planning that event? What do we have to do to get that message across? Where’s the trending topic on Twitter for Journalism Day? Why aren’t there rallies supporting the fourth estate? When is journalism’s day?

I’d like to think it’s every day. But I also like to think people don’t toss empty beer bottles in yards for strangers to pick up.

No one is planning the event FOR the industry. Journalists have to do it themselves, every day, through their honest, fair, accurate reporting.

And SPJ is there to help. If we’re out of the office, don’t worry. We’re just on a quick stroll. We’ll be right back.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. He didn’t earn the Journalism merit badge. Twitter: @scottleadingham

Need digital technology funding? Knight Foundation study highlights journalism innovation contests

Anyone who listens to NPR more than once in a blue moon probably remembers the catchy plugs for sponsors such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has granted millions to public broadcasting (and others) to support journalism “… in the digital age.”

Similarly, journalists and industry followers even mildly interested in digital media trends are likely familiar with the Knight Foundation’s popular Knight News Challenge, a five-year, $25 million initiative that annually seeks innovation submissions from journalism and information technology entrepreneurs.

Click image for Knight Foundation report

Click image for Knight Foundation report

Continuing its quest to research and fund digital-age projects supportive of quality journalism, Knight commissioned a study from Arabella Philanthropic Investment Advisors on 29 “media, information and communication contests.” Of course, the News Challenge is included in the analysis.

Some highlights:                           

-Knight currently gives away the most annually, with $5 million, though Google will soon supersede that with its $10 million Project 10100.

-The amount of submissions per contest ranges from a few dozen to over 12,000.

-Sponsors and funders come from all sectors, including government, non-profit, education, and for-profit. The sector that sponsors the most contests (not surprisingly) is foundations, followed by for-profit technology companies.

But the analysis is not a competition among groups vying for the title “best funder.” Rather, the report highlights (very concisely, in my opinion) the various funding opportunities for those interested in sharing information on constantly changing digital platforms.

Plus, it’s not all journalism. Many of the projects and programs highlighted are for the more technical-minded: application developers and telecommunications gurus.

But there’s a general theme: Sharing information – either through published/broadcast news reports or over social media networks – is a critical component in the Internet age. Whether journalism entrepreneurs or computer science whizzes seek the money is moot. The point is that there’s a lot being done to spur and spread information-sharing technology. And there’s plenty of room for more players, both funders and seekers.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine and spends way too much time on Twitter (@scottleadingham) following industry news.

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