Posts Tagged ‘SPJ’


Tempted with fabrication? Write a novel.

Some say the cardinal sin of journalism is plagiarism, but me? I say it’s fabrication.

I won’t deny that plagiarism, even self-plagiarism, is stealing, deceptive, and unethical – but at least the information you swiped is true (unless the person you stole from is, in fact, a liar, which complicates matters even further).

In a journalism lecture this week, we watched the 2003 film “Shattered Glass,” a movie about the infamous journalist-gone-rogue Stephen Glass from The New Republic. Now, I hear, he’s attempted to reshape his life by becoming a fiction author (something he should have pursued in the first place) and trying to earn a law degree. Some guy.

Besides getting lost in Hayden Christensen’s eyes (Oh Anakin, you’re my only hope), I was struck by the nerve of Glass – befriending the newsroom, enticing every one of his colleagues into a web of lies, lies, lies – only to find out that he’d been making up stories all along.

And you bought that.

Which gets into a whole other ethical debate of fact-checking and the perils of speedy journalism. While, yes, the fact-checking system is setup to detect minor spelling errors and consistency mistakes, it’s not designed (nor should it be) for those who write with deceit.

But still, why cut out that vital defense between writer and reader? I’d argue that fact-checkers should be the last to go – not the first – from the newsroom. We’ve seen one too many times a reporter taking liberties, knowing full well that his or her writing will not be checked for error or valid fact.

The speed at which journalism has accelerated to can also become a temptation for those writing on a tight budget. If it’s just you and your keyboard – and an hour till deadline – who can stop you from fabricating quotes, people, and therefore truths?

Fabrication cuts right to the bone of journalism – the heart of the craft. Journalists pride themselves on being truth-seekers and will often sacrifice time, money, and sometimes even their lives to get a story out into our information age.

Those journalists who fabricate stories seemingly spit in the face of those battling fatigue, jail time, and exile for the sake of democratic free speech. Think about THAT the next time you’re tempted to insert fiction into your nut graf.

At the end of all this, if you’re still enticed by made-up stories? Become a novelist…just don’t be a journalist.

Bethany N. Bella is studying journalism, anthropology, and geography 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.

Introducing the new SPJ Digital executive

Elections for the SPJ Digital and SPJ Freelance communities concluded January 22, and results were announced Monday. Following appointments for positions including Editor, Programming (which was a position available for candidates but no declared candidates were available), the executive is as follows.

Chair and Net Worked blog managing editor: Alex Veeneman
Editor, Programming: Taylor Mirferendeski
Facebook Coordinator: Michelle Sandlin
Twitter Coordinator: Beth O’Malley
Google+ and LinkedIn Coordinator: Brandi Broxson

In addition, SPJ Digital is supported by two student representatives, Bethany Bella of Ohio University and Taylor Barker of Ithaca College in New York, both leaders in their respective SPJ chapters.

The executives’ terms begin Feb. 1 and expire at the conclusion of EIJ15. The student volunteers are independent of the election process and are appointed by the Chair.

Queries can be directed to Veeneman by email.

Videolicious is looking good to newspapers

Videolicious logoIn print journalism, video keeps elbowing into the picture. News sites once devoted to words now see film clips as essential supplements to written work.

At the same time, those sites are trimming or eliminating the staffers who shot and edited those clips, preferring instead to have reporters with smartphones take over.

But many reporters lack the knowledge or inclination to shoot video, because they either never tried or are reluctant to tackle what seems like an overwhelming new set of skills.

That’s why newspapers such as the Washington Post and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are trying Videolicious, an application for iPhone and iPad that simplifies and somewhat demystifies video making.

Videolicious creates video reports shot fresh with iPhone or iPad, or from clips and photos already in the device’s camera roll. Users can record a voiceover for narration with the device’s reverse-camera feature while splicing clips with just a screen tap.

The free version of Videolicious has a 1-minute video length limit, with a maximum of 20 separate shots per video, and storage at Videolicious.com for up to 20 projects. Pricing plans for $5 and $10 per month add features like longer video, more storage, a music library and commercial branding.

Videolicious debuted in 2011 and gained popularity among real estate agents to promote their properties. This year, the Post assigned about 30 of its staff to test the product. The Post-Dispatch recently began tutoring reporters and editors on it as well.

Poynter.org has a demonstration of Videolicious on YouTube.

 

David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dksheets@gmail.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Feedly takes big steps toward substituting for Google Reader

Feedly logoStill saddened by Google Reader’s pending demise? Well, feel better: an alternative is making big strides toward gathering the slack.

Feedly, an RSS provider seen as a top substitute to Google’s soon-to-die service, announced this week that it not only has a standalone version available for any Web browser, but that its cloud storage features are active and ready to use.

This is important because until recently Feedly depended on Google Reader’s backend infrastructure to pull content from websites and stream them to Feedly users. But after Google decided to shut down its own feed reader July 1, Feedly’s folks set to work on a substitute with similar infrastructure.

The result is a news aggregator allowing one-click migration of Google Reader content and transforming Feedly from RSS application to a full-fledged platform aggregator. This change alone moves Feedly to the top of the list among potential Reader substitutes.

RSS, or Real Simple Syndication, is a data format that lets users keep track of frequently updated Web content. For journalists, RSS affords an easy way to monitor numerous news services without having to click on each site individually and update them.

There are several providers available but Google Reader, unveiled in 2005, soon dominated. Then in March, Google said it would shut down Reader due to declining usage, though Google offered no details to prove that. Public outcry was such that a petition was started with hopes of changing Google’s mind.

Feedly currently provides instructions on its cloud portal how to install the revised aggregator and import Google Reader content. The company claims to have tripled its user total from 4 million to more than 12 million since Google’s announcement.

Six keys to professional tweeting

It’s amazing the things that we see people tweet about. Personal beliefs. Private conversations. Elicit behavior. Groundless criticism. Uneducated perspective.

Yes, I’m talking about journalists, too.

Sure, some genuine news seeps through to the Twitterverse — the brilliant coverage by Andy Carvin of last year’s “Arab Spring” foremost among the examples. (Remarkably, a year later, his work still sets the standard.) Otherwise, what remains on that social network largely amounts to boorishness and self-aggrandizement, impugning and assuming, snobbery and effrontery.

When I came up through the journalism ranks, any sort of spotlight-hogging was frowned upon as ethically dubious, if not forbidden by company policy. Today, a persistent and effusive social media presence is considered essential to one’s employment, if for no other reason than to continually trumpet a media “brand.”

This deep bow to branding waxes ominous, thanks largely to such popular social media measuring sticks as Klout assigning a manufactured importance to digital socialization — an importance weighted in favor of quantity instead of quality. If we agree to hold up these sticks as accurate, then news reporting via social media is bound not to be.

Why? Because there’s a certain assurance news consumers get from a journalist’s professional detachment, and we see that assurance petering out now as news providers strive to be heard above the loud partisan polemic drowning rational thought — a polemic they help stir up.

The solution, short of wiping social media off the map, is greater attentiveness toward distinguishing personal from professional content. Though there are claims that a personal touch demystifies media and as a result makes news more consumable, personalization also blurs the line separating judgment from fact. And when journalists apply it, they put their profession at risk of being marginalized by “citizen” journalists who insist they’re merely following the example.

So, then, make that example an admirable one:

Separate personal from professional tweets — If this means creating separate Twitter accounts, so be it. And try not to use the company logo or any derivative as a personal avatar.

Exercise care with criticism — Do you love “50 Shades of Grey”? Do you hate the movie remake of “Spider-Man”? That’s fine, but keep those opinions off all professional social media accounts, unless it has a discernible job relevance. Otherwise, inserting opinion only waters down what little objectivity a journalist can muster.

Keep company matters inside the company — There may be discord between management and staff, or personnel matters that prove irksome, but venting discontent via veiled insult on social media not only undermines others’ faith in you, it also could prove actionable in a court of law. In the same vein, honesty regarding one’s own reporting or editing errors may evoke pangs of guilt and frustration, but it  reinforces credibility and respectability as well.

Rein in the urge to be defensive — By its nature, journalism invites criticism, warranted or not. Certainly, some of that criticism can be mean-spirited and vindictive, instead of constructive. Avoid driving a conversation further down the same dark road. As humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never argue with stupid people; they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”

Resist posting vacation and food photos — It’s always good to get away from it all when possible; it’s bad to drag readers and viewers along. That beach picture with Diamond Head in the background, while pretty, smacks of braggadocio, and may even suggest to others a laxity at work — especially if the picture puts you in one place while the calendar says you should be somewhere else. Food photos, on the other hand, pose a different problem, one rooted in esthetics. Put simply, food never looks as good in social media as it does in person.

Avoid posting sales pitches — Ensure personal brand integrity by not promoting other brands in tweets through sales pitches or links to special deals. Leave that up to the sales people who are supposed to market those products.

David Sheets is a content editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com, a candidate for Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at dsheets@post-dispatch.com, on Twitter at @DKSheets, or on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Get better video from your digital SLR camera

Quill isn’t just SPJ’s print magazine – it’s a multimedia resource for all journalists. To accompany his Digital Media Toolbox column in the January/February issue, videographer Jeff Achen made this brief training video on getting better video from a digital SLR camera. Enjoy.

 

Follow Jeff on Twitter, @jeffachen, or e-mail him at jeffachen@mac.com. And please feel free to share.

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