Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Seaman’


Matt Lauer and a transparent industry

NBC News has said it has fired Matt Lauer, the longtime co-host of the Today Show. In an email to staff, Andrew Lack, NBC News’ chairman, said a complaint was received on Monday night, and that a review of that complaint led to the termination of his employment.

Lack added that NBC News management was saddened about the events, and aimed to be as transparent about the news as possible.

Today co-anchor Savannah Guthrie made the announcement as the Today Show went live in the Eastern Time Zone.

Matt Lauer, seen here in 2012, was fired from NBC News this week for allegations of sexual harassment. (Photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons/CC)

The news of Lauer’s termination of employment comes a week after CBS fired Charlie Rose, the co-anchor of CBS This Morning, and that PBS terminated the distribution deal of his eponymous talk show.

While the subject can be difficult, it is necessary for journalists to be held to account. SPJ’s Code of Ethics encourages journalists and news organizations to be accountable and transparent. Producers at Today were right to make the announcement, and they handled it as they would other stories.

Indeed, as my colleague, Ethics Chair Committee Andrew Seaman, wrote last week, there is a need for journalists to be held accountable, and for journalists themselves to hold their newsrooms accountable. For the record, I also serve on the Ethics Committee.

Guthrie added that media organizations were going through a reckoning that is long overdue. Issues women in journalism have faced are limited to not just sexual harassment, but also issues of trolling and harassment on social networks, a debate that has reached no clear answer from social media companies.

NBC must keep its word to be open and transparent about this issue. Just because he is one of the most prominent journalists on the network does not excuse the behavior. Women enter journalism for the same reasons as men – to inform, engage and educate, and they should be able to do that in a workplace free from intimidation, bullying, or anything that impedes the ability to do just that.

The conversations about our industry are important ones to have, and companies must be transparent about it – whether the issue is sexual harassment allegations or whether its policies on trolling and the impact on the relationship journalists have with their audiences on social media – because transparency will benefit the public in the long run when it comes to trust in news organizations.

NBC can, and must be transparent, not just for its own sake, but for journalism’s. I hope they keep their word and do just that.

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 9:39am CT to amend a typo.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist in Minneapolis and a member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI Committees. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed are that of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Fred Rogers’ journalism lesson

When we try to decide what we want to do for a living as a career, a lot of questions come to mind. What are we passionate about? What piques our interest? Is there a profession that calls to us to help us do the most good?

On the weekend where we ponder what it means to be citizens of the United States, I stumbled upon this quote from the writer and public television personality, Fred Rogers.

“Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job,” Rogers said. “Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”

Journalism is a service based profession. It is a calling. Those who pursue it aren’t interested in fame or fortune. They want to inform, engage and educate, all the while enhancing the public discourse.

It is a profession that is being tested, not simply with new platforms and technology, but also the relationship with the public. Earlier today, President Trump posted a tweet depicting him wrestling an individual that depicted CNN.

My colleague, Andrew Seaman, who chairs SPJ’s Ethics Committee (and which I am also a member of), called on journalists and news organizations in a blog post written earlier Sunday to educate the public about journalism.

“The press needs to teach the public what it does and why it matters,” Seaman wrote. “If the press succeeds, it won’t matter how many times the president publishes the words “fake news” on Twitter. The public will know the truth about responsible journalists and news organizations.”

Facebook and Twitter have become a norm in 21st century journalism. In a matter of seconds, anything you write or say can be disseminated – and while both social networks have provided positive benefits for journalism, it has also provided challenges. At the same time, it also provides opportunities – opportunities to further this education, to convince people why journalism is important.

It can start from explaining reporting decisions on Twitter, explaining to audiences about editorial decisions, or also remembering this important mantra: “It is better to be right than to be first.

But this education cannot be done by one person. In an age where metrics is an influential norm, trust in journalism is important more so than ever, and it is something that no one can compete for. It is something that has to be earned, and working collaboratively can help enhance the public’s understanding of journalism.

Rogers is right. Life is for service, and as life is for service, then journalism is one of the most important professions you can be in.

Education is at the core of what we do. We are storytellers, and we work together to ensure the world remains at its best. If we work together, channeling Rogers’ spirit and that of others, we can ensure that we remain at our best too.

Will you join me?

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.

Editor’s note: This post was edited on July 21 at 3:38pm CT to replace content that was from a broken link.

Sean Penn and a journalist’s identity

Sean Penn, interviewed Jan. 17 by CBS about his Rolling Stone article, raised an indirect question about the role of a journalist. (Photo: Sachyn Mital/Wikimedia Commons/CC license)

Sean Penn, interviewed Jan. 17 by CBS about his Rolling Stone article, raised an indirect question about the role of a journalist. (Photo: Sachyn Mital/Wikimedia Commons/CC license)

On a Thursday night in Santa Monica, California, Charlie Rose sat across from Sean Penn, cameras rolling. Penn was being interviewed for a 60 Minutes segment on CBS (which aired January 17th) discussing his Rolling Stone article on Joaquin Guzman, also known as El Chapo, the drug kingpin who was recaptured by marines in Mexico after escaping from a jail in that country.

Penn was under criticism for that article about the journalistic conduct that surrounded it, particularly the issue of allowing Guzman to approve the article before publication, an issue raised by my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chairman Andrew Seaman.

Penn said his article had failed because his story became the lead story, and expressed his concerns to Rose on the state of journalism in the United States.

“I’m really sad about the state of journalism in our country,” Penn said. “It has been an incredible hypocrisy and an incredible lesson in just how much they don’t know and how disserved we are.  [There are] journalists who want to say that I’m not a journalist. Well, I want to see the license that says that they’re a journalist.”

While Penn received a severe rebuke from the journalism community for his conduct (a rebuke even I would agree with), Penn indirectly raised the matter of the identity of journalists in the digital age, a debate that has been ongoing since the founding of the internet, and one that continues in an age where the influence of social media continues to make a profound influence on journalism and its future.

In the digital age, the line between news and comment, objectivity and activism, has been blurred. The pages of the internet contain a mixture of content from news organizations who have spent decades in trying to build a trustful rapport with audiences, as well as others who have an opinion and interests, and can use the medium of the web to express them, either through blogs or through web sites.

There are people who will argue that Sean Penn is a journalist, and that what he did sparked a conversation on an important subject. I agree with the latter — Penn did spark a conversation about the issue of drugs, but he only did so because he is who he is, not because he is a journalist.

What is necessary for our democracy to thrive is the need for journalists and the ability to practice our crafts, and to present both sides of the story, to provide an impartial picture on the stories that audiences, whether in the US or abroad, want and need to know about, to help them cope better. What also is necessary is the ability for people to stand up and say what they believe in, to invoke conversation, to analyze, and to ponder where the future leads. Indeed, the debate on who is a journalist and the broader role of journalism will continue, long after this story disappears from the headlines, and I welcome that debate.

However, for such a debate to take place is the necessity of the facts, not one fact, nor two, but all of them. Penn is more than welcome to make his views on the issue of drugs known, but if he is to report on it, he needs the facts to paint that picture, irrespective of how the subject will feel.

To quote C.P. Scott, an editor of the Guardian newspaper in Britain, “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” That is my philosophy when it comes to reporting. Perhaps Penn should adopt it too.

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 Long Form Editor and a 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 importance of verifying in breaking news

When reporting on stories on platforms like Twitter, accuracy is important. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

When reporting on stories on platforms like Twitter, accuracy is important. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter, in its nearly 10 year existence, has become ubiquitous with live events. It allows users to keep up with friends, family, and especially the media when it comes to life here and now. It has also become quintessential when it comes to breaking news, including covering the shootings Wednesday at a social services center in San Bernardino, a suburb of Los Angeles.

As the story broke, Twitter became a way for dissemination of information by news organizations, as well as an attempt to aid reporting for other platforms. As journalists looked for witnesses to the attacks, one Twitter user, who gave the name Marie Christmas on the platform. It later emerged that the user had fabricated information and had not witnessed the attacks, as my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman noted on the Code Words blog earlier today.

Those who reported her remarks and had broadcast interviews with this individual had fallen for the error, as Steve Buttry of Louisiana State University noted in his blog, and there are still some questions, especially how the user got onto CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and how she was vetted. Buttry inquired to CNN about the subject, and a message left with a CNN spokesperson in Los Angeles was not immediately returned.

The story served as a reminder of the importance of verification and accuracy. Andie Adams, a digital producer at NBC San Diego (who also oversees communications for SPJ’s Generation J community), said they worked with their colleagues at KNBC in Los Angeles on the social media coverage of the story. Yet, when looking at a breaking news story, that solid source is important.

“We try to hold back, especially on numbers, so we’d like to get a solid source for a most accurate count before reporting,” Adams said in a telephone interview. “We don’t want to cause undue alarm.”

Adams says that accuracy is the big thing in reporting, and that journalists should be careful about false information.

“False information gets retweeted over and over again and you need to be careful where that information is coming from,” Adams said. “Check your sources. Make sure the information you get is true.”

As the story unfolded, Twitter and other social media platforms were filled with information on the incident, and the social networks are developing new platforms and tools when it comes to reporting live events. Adams says while the new tools are helpful, the ethics are still crucial, even as you report for platforms beyond social media.

“Accuracy is paramount no matter what platform you’re using,” Adams said. “You can do so many things. If you focus on the tech, you could lose the ethics of the journalism part. You forget to do your main job. You need to keep those ethics in place. Value is important.”

Ultimately, the essence of the 5 main journalism questions, who, what, when, where, why and how, still are essential, and Adams says you need to ask what the most important information should be in breaking stories, and what the consequences are for sharing that.

“You can’t speculate,” Adams said. “You need to watch for it in the digital age.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and blogger for SPJ’s blog network, with a focus on social media trends in journalism as well as British media. Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The pen is not just mightier than the sword

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri.  Photo - mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The School of Journalism at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where Melissa Click resigned her courtesy appointment this week. Photo: mojourcomm / Wikimedia Commons (CC)

The phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword” is ubiquitous with the form and elements of change that can stem from the English language. Yet, in this digital age, the phrase by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton expands, for it is not the pen that can be mighty, but the video can too.

We are reminded of that in lieu of the events this past week at the University of Missouri at Columbia, where the communications professor Melissa Click resigned her courtesy appointment with the journalism school, after she was documented in a video that went viral intimidating a student who was covering the events. Separately, two university officials, system president Mark Wolfe and Columbia Chancellor R. Bowen Luftin, announced their resignations.

The video’s attention on Twitter and other social media sites was all that was needed to paint the story that had been at the center of discussion in the media industry, as the focus was placed on two students – Mark Schierbecker, who recorded the video and posted it online, and Tim Tai, who was covering the protest in a freelance capacity for ESPN. Click had apologized to the reporters, according to a statement quoted in the New York Times.

Tai, speaking to the Times, said he had no ill will towards her.

“I never had ill will toward her and I felt bad when I heard she’d been getting threats,” Tai said. “I think this has been a learning experience for everyone involved, myself included, and I hope this blows over for both of us.”

Social media has influenced not just how we consume news, but the newsgathering process. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Social media has influenced not just how we consume news, but the newsgathering process. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Yet, while the debate on its effects on free speech continue to be discussed within the industry (both my SPJ colleagues, Ethics Committee chairman Andrew Seaman and SPJ president Paul Fletcher, have written extensively on their blogs on the subject), it has shown the influence social media and the web has had when it comes to the news.

We are not only consuming it but at the same time we are documenting it for an audience that may be intimate, or be in the tens of thousands. One never expects it to be the lead of a major news program or be on the front page of every newspaper or web site, but it has certainly challenged the conventional newsgathering process.

This was also the case when it came to the coverage of the issue of migrants in Europe. The photo of the young Syrian boy washed up on a beach shore also went viral, and graced the front pages of many publications, including Britain’s The Independent, which saw much public outcry, and calls for Prime Minister David Cameron to adjust his policy towards migration and accepting them into the UK.

No matter the story or how it is formed, either through a press conference or indeed a viral video, it is up to us as journalists how to make sense of these events and not only respond to them, but to ensure the people who we ultimately serve get the gold standard of coverage however they consume news, applied with the same judgment as any other story.

In this age of evolving technology, not only is the pen mightier than the sword, but videos, photos and every other digital element is too. It is down to us on how to respond to these tools, and how that shapes the elements and values of something that remains a constant amid innovation — the news.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and blogger for SPJ’s blog network, with a focus on social media trends in journalism as well as British media. Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman 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.

Verify, verify, verify, especially on social media

The Journalism School at New York's Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo - mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

The Journalism School at New York’s Columbia University issued a report April 5 regarding inaccuracies in a Rolling Stone story. (Photo – mathewingram/Flickr under CC)

One of the biggest talking points in the journalism world at this writing is the just released report from the Columbia Journalism School on the story in Rolling Stone magazine regarding rape at the University of Virginia.

The report, which notes failures that could have been avoided, also has implications for those working in social media and digital journalism.

Indeed, while social media has changed not only how news is consumed, but also how it can be reported, the big point still remains, to verify, verify, verify.

My SPJ colleague, Andrew Seaman, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, reached by email, says verification is crucial irrespective of platform.

“It’s incredibly important to recognize that verification and attribution is as important as it is for journalists reporting for print and broadcast media,” Seaman said. “The Society’s Code of Ethics is written with the understanding that all journalism – no matter where it occurs – is journalism. In all cases, speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. Currently, journalists are fortunate to have social media and other easily available sources to corroborate or verify stories. The trick is for journalists to use these avenues as tool – not excuses.”

Indeed, as Carole McNall, an SPJ Digital member and Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University in New York state, in a note on the social networking site Twitter, indicates, Rolling Stone should do more to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“[Rolling Stone]’s apparent belief that they need to change nothing guarantees it’ll happen again,” McNall said.

For journalists, social media has allowed a new experience in how we consume and report the news, and this report should be a reminder of the basic principles of getting the facts and putting an ethical story together, whether you’re with a magazine, a broadcaster, an online publication or at a newspaper. When reporting on social media, ensure everything is accurate. Take time to verify sources and material. If you’re quoting a report from social, especially Twitter, verify it before running with it.

Social media can be essential, but used together with other reporting tools can help make a story great. Running with the facts just because they are posted on there doesn’t mean it is automatically true, so take time to verify everything before your deadline. Not only will verification of facts make you be a better journalist for it, it will help your organization grow in trust, especially in the digital world.

Remember, it is better to be right and be correct, than being first than being incorrect, and a great story has verified fact. Verify, verify, verify.

For the record, the Society of Professional Journalists issued a statement independent of this blog post, which you can read here, and you can read wider insight from Seaman on the report, posted on the SPJ Ethics blog here.

If you’re a digital journalist, I’d love to know what you think of this report and the affect on social media and other digital tools in journalism. Feel free to drop me an email or send me a tweet. I look forward to reading your feedback.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a 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 are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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