Posts Tagged ‘news’


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.

Reflecting on Twitter

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Dawn Walton of CTV Television in Canada considers the role Twitter has had in the culture of journalism and the broader culture of storytelling.

A late adopter of Twitter, I only started tweeting in 2010 when the newspaper I worked for suggested it might be a good idea for those of us covering the Winter Olympics. I didn’t really understand how it worked – or the point – but now, 15,500 tweets later, it’s the first website I read in the morning.

I’ve also come to learn a thing or two about what Twitter has done to journalism for the better – and worse.

It has, in some cases, made the jobs of journalists, easier, but at the same time, some journalists, lazier.  Confirmation of deaths, and condolences, appear in real time. Why call anyone or knock on doors when you can comb through, and then Storify, tweet reaction? You can instantly see trends in your region, country and the world. But just because something happens on Twitter, it doesn’t mean it’s a story. Nobody, however, has quite figured out the formula to tell the difference.

But 10 years in, Twitter has firmly planted itself in the media – and public – consciousness.

Want to gauge the impact of David Bowie’s death? Skip the publicist. Go straight to Twitter, where every social media conscious celebrity tweets – along with their fans. Never before would we have known how Barbra Streisand felt about Celine Dion’s husband’s death without waiting for Entertainment Tonight’s coverage, assuming any of those reporters reached out to Streisand for comment.

But then again, why do we care what Streisand thinks? But hey, instant, and high-profile, content, so it’s news.

Twitter has also helped reporters quickly find leads on the stuff that fills local daily news, monitor our competitors and post breaking news. Traffic tie-ups. House fires. The name of the latest murder victim as a friend posts an RIP message.

CTV's Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

CTV Television’s Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Beyond local events, Twitter has also become a forum for massive international events. Journalists watch as active shooters or terrorist attacks unfold minute-by-minute, tweet-by-tweet by eye-witnesses (or those who claim to be).

Police, also noticing this trend, are quick to ask the media – and the public – to resist tweeting (or, engaging on any social media platform) in dangerous situations or risk identifying the whereabouts of tactical teams.

Twitter has also profoundly shaped world reaction to major news events making “trending” a common term and, at times, a measure of newsworthiness.

There’s the lighter trending news. Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie, actually taken by Bradley Cooper, was retweeted more than 3.3 million times, and racked up 225,000 tweets per minute, a Twitter record in 2014. Besides the celebrity eye candy, that made news. What also made news: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar win this year, which trumped Ellen at 440,000 tweets per minute.

More often than not, I’m left figuring out what all One Direction and 5SOS fuss is about, only to realize it’s just another thing happening on Twitter that isn’t really a story, at least not to anyone who isn’t a die-hard boy-band fan.

But there’s also the serious stuff.

The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie became a global rallying cry after gunmen stormed the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. And, #porteouverte became the ubiquitous signal for where Parisians could find safe haven during last November’s terrorist attacks on that city.

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Tweet gaffes have also caught fire and sunk many politicians and celebrities.

Canadian political hopefuls were bounced from their respective parties during last fall’s federal election over inappropriate – and often old – tweets. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s recent ill-advised “America.” missive featuring his monogrammed handgun backfired, helping put an end to his Republican presidential bid. Kanye West’s stream of conscious tweet plea for money made the rapper a public mockery.

Those types of Twitter trends are quick to become stories or memes and sometimes the meme is the story.

But when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t tweet anything on Super Tuesday, yet stood behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his seemingly silent screaming took on a life of its own. Twitter exploded with reaction, and news stories inevitably followed.  But as the Poynter Institute rightly questioned, was it a story? Probably not.

Not long ago, I received an email about a “cat fight on Twitter” involving two rather well known Canadian female politicians – one federal, the other provincial – both believed to be testing the waters for leadership bids of their respective parties. I got lost in threads debates and never did find the ball of yarn that originally started rolling. It never really did become a story, and rightly so.

Some marketing experts prefer Instagram and Facebook to reach their audiences, saying Twitter is on the wane, and its sliding stock prices may suggest the same.

Lately, it feels like only journalists are on Twitter in Canada with trending topics of interest to only die-hard news junkies. It’s become a hub for reporters trying to out-funny one another. Heck, I’ve even found myself trending, which is clearly, not a story.

Still, even those with the rarefied verified, blue check mark still to get a kick out of follows, retweets and replies from those similarly stationed in the Twitterverse. No other venue would allow me to engage in an intellectual public debate over gun control with children’s entertainer Raffi Cavoukian, whose records I sang along to as a kid, or a claim as a follower Sloan, a band I thought was just the coolest in university.

Maybe that’s what a decade of Twitter has done for journalism. It’s a 140-character tool, outlet and equalizer. Now, if only it had an edit function.

Dawn Walton is an award winning journalist based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Walton currently serves as the Managing Editor of CTV News’ local coverage in Calgary and previously served as a correspondent for The Globe and Mail newspaper. You can interact with Walton 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.

News app: The Apple of journalism’s eye?

An Apple Store in New York. Apple is reported to be introducing paywall content on its News app. (Photo: Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

An Apple Store in New York. Apple is reported to be introducing paywall content on its News app. (Photo: Anthony22/Wikimedia Commons/CC)

On the heals of a concerning report to investors on iPhone sales, Apple is said to be introducing subscription content through its News app.

The tech company, which introduced the app last June as part of the new iOS 9 software, is looking to continue its competition with Facebook and its Instant Articles initiative. According to a report from Reuters, the move from the company would allow news organizations to maintain a relationship with readers, as tech companies including Apple and Facebook would be the go-to between them.

As of data compiled last October, there are over 50 publishers that participate in Apple News, and the Reuters reports quotes readership of 40 million readers.

While this has not been officially confirmed by Apple, this will likely continue the ongoing competition for readers by tech companies trying to engage audiences, which includes Instant Articles as well as Moments, the curation feature introduced by Twitter late last year featuring content from news organizations including BuzzFeed and The Washington Post.

Yet, this would be different from what had been seen when initiatives like this had been introduced, as it allows news organizations and publishers the ability to maintain that relationship with audiences on the platform, as well as give them the ability to engage new readers, something organizations have long since advocated for. In addition, it may give cause for new publishers to sign on with Apple and allow their content to be distributed under the frame reported.

We’ll have to wait and see what is confirmed from Apple, but journalism could be the Apple of readers’ and news organizations’ eyes.

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 New Mobile: News For the Next Gen

The art of storytelling and the consumption of news are both timeless human habits, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the journalist’s craft disappearing into the ether, just yet.

What journalists should be monitoring (and monitoring very closely) is the method of news consumption and how that news is translated to a mass audience on a day-to-day basis.

Before the printed word, oral declarations and one-to-one conversations were the only mediums for audiences to internalize the news.  And after newspapers and pamphlets came about, the print method didn’t last forever, either – it was overcome by online news and the proliferation of the Internet at the end of the last century.  Now, mobile is to web as web was once to print.

News organizations have been scrambling to jump aboard the mobile train, for fear of losing yet another audience population practically programmed to tap-tap-tap away on their smartphones all the livelong day.

But will the mobile fever last, or will it disintegrate before companies like Apple and Samsung have a chance to engineer smartphones large enough to comfortably read articles online, while also allowing for other mobile transactions like phone calls and text messaging to take place? (Is such an invention even humanly possible?)

I had an interesting conversation about this mobile trend with Meghan Louttit, a multimedia editor at The New York Times, this past week at the Online News Association at Ohio University student group meeting.

Meghan suggested that her peer group is actually taking this trend in reverse – that the print editions of books and newspapers have become a novelty item, a vintage collectible of sorts that shouldn’t be counted out of the market so soon.

I was genuinely surprised.  Who would have thought that millennials in their twenties and thirties are starting to subscribe to the Sunday Times, when they should (in theory) be exclusively devoted to digital updates and alerts?

Maybe this is a small trend that will eventually fade into the LED-screen sunset, but it was an interesting trend to consider, nonetheless. (I believe one of my journalism professors in attendance assured me that I would have to pry his Kindle away from his cold, dead hands).

I’d like to issue a response on this notion: Will print news make a rebound, or will mobile phones and tablets continue to issue a new wave of technological news consumption?  Are you a devoted Apple consumer (iPad, iPad Mini), or have you branched out with a Windows or Kindle Fire tablet?  Have you transitioned to reading the news only on your phone, or do you prefer reading articles on the web (or the old-fashioned print way)?  Does this method of consumption change when you read fiction?

Email me responses at bethanynbella@yahoo.com or tweet them to me @bethanynbella.  I’m curious to know if I should (finally) invest in a tablet, and if so, which one.  Or should I stick it out and wait to subscribe to my local newspaper – when I start making an income of my own, that is.

I look forward to your replies.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, 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.

Women Who Lead: Newsroom and Beyond

As a young girl, I didn’t idolize Princess Diana; I didn’t know who Audrey Hepburn was until my freshman year of high school; Barbie was just a logo on a box in my basement, not my inspiration.

Crazy as it sounds, I wanted to be Jesse Owens: the fastest man in the world.

Growing up with one younger brother, I spent most of my childhood playing catch in the backyard, ranking and rooting for football teams, and–of course–competing in neighborhood, Olympic-esque sprint races.

It didn’t really occur to me that I should want to be like a traditional lady–calm, composed, reserved–until much later in my adolescence. From a very early age, I was encouraged to fight for my place in the starting lineup, to prove that I could be just as agile and able as my male counterparts, both on the field and in the classroom. My parents encouraged me to stand up for myself, and I sure didn’t back down just because I was a girl.

Much of that same assertiveness (some may call it bossyness) has carried over into my adult life. There’s nothing in this world that seems impossible or unattainable purely because I am woman. With practice, preparation, and devotion, I truly believe there’s nothing I cannot achieve.

I bring this up because I want to encourage women of all ages to assert themselves in their careers, whether it be in the newsroom or in their careers beyond.

Last week, I attended a panel of journalism professionals to celebrate media entrepreneurship in this ever-evolving field. And only one of those panelists was a female.

But she didn’t shy away from her fellow panelists. In fact, she herself–dressed in a crisp white blazer and killer stilettos–encouraged all of the young women in the audience to fight for gender diversity in their own newsrooms.

Echoing Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” message, Bo Hee Kim challenged us to speak up for our own accomplishments and ideas, to demand equal opportunities in the newsroom, in order to provide more complete news coverage for an audience that’s both male and female.

And I admired this about Bo. For her to come into a college setting and express that she still faces gender bias in the 21st century was kind of alarming to me. She admitted that the bias appears on a much smaller scale than in the early 1900s, but the subtleness is still there.

Perhaps that’s the most important message I took away from #CommWeek15 at Ohio University’s Scripps College of Communication. Women have received more respect and attention in the workforce since the dawn of the women’s movement, but we’re still years away from being equal contributors in the workforce–especially in the newsroom.

When will it not be excited gossip for a woman to earn a top-tier position as an editor or business executive? When will gender bias not be a revolutionary court case, but merely an action we as a society cease to participate in?

I hope to live in a world where a woman can be commended on her accomplishments, regardless of if she wears a necklace and shiny pears. A woman’s ideas should be celebrated because she is a forward-thinker, a visionary, and someone who is insanely intelligent–not just because she is a woman.

Bethany N. Bella is studying at Strategic Communications and Environmental Political Science at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, 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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