Category Archives: Journalism

Journalism Start Up

Digital Publisher Adam Westbrook posted, If the future of journalism is indeed entrepreneurial, we have to start thinking with a business hat on.” Within this digital space, journalists have the unique ability to create a start-up of their own and in some cases, make money on it. A start-up is an incredible idea that allows an idividual to follow his/her passions of journalism, perhaps in a niche market.

My passion is theatre, in particular, the Broadway community. For a mock start-up for a class assignment, I am planning on creating a space for journalism within the Broadway/ touring production industry. I follow many Broadway news outlets including Broadway.com, BroadwayWorld.com, Playbill.com, BroadwayBox.com, to name a few. These outlets tend to do a good job of breaking Broadway news and creating digital content. Unfortunately, these outlets often serve as a primary platform to buy tickets and are muddled with Broadway advertisements.

For my mock start-up, I will create a digital space for Broadway news and interactive content.  Instead of much of the focus being on ticket sales and advertising, I hope to create a space where individuals can read what’s happening in the Broadway and touring community without distraction.

Monopolies Are Slowing Down American Internet

The U.S. is home to world-leading tech companies including Apple, Netflix, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.  With that said, the U.S. holds an unimpressive rank in both download and upload speeds.

The internet was invented on January 1, 1983, as a means to transmit data between multiple networks. This online world became more recognizable in the 1990s with the creation of the World Wide Web.  With the internet’s history deeply rooted in the U.S., why are our download speeds slower than countries including Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Uruguay?

The problem lies in the creation of monopolies of large telecommunication companies. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and other leading telecommunication divided up the markets and placed themselves in positions where there would be no competition.  Since there is virtually no competition, there is no reason to make the internet faster.

There needs to be competition for our ranking to improve.  We must follow South Korea’s lead to control monopolies.  According to Professor Richard Taylor and Eun-A Park, “[T]he South Korean market was able to grow rapidly due to fierce competition in the market, mostly facilitated by the Korean government’s open access rule and policy choices more favorable to new entrants rather than to the incumbents. Furthermore, near monopoly control of the residential communications infrastructure by cable operators and telephone companies manifests itself as relatively high pricing and lower quality in the U.S.”

We must reclaim our spot as leaders in the internet realm which mean we need to have stronger regulation in terms of telecommunication monopolies.

Planned Parenthood Right-Wing Video Hoax

Reporting on controversial issues can be difficult. Consider abortion, gay marriage and the death penalty- those issues center on personal/family views and dip into religious belief.  No matter the journalistic findings, adult’s views will remain consistent on these particular topics.

Errol Louis, CNN Political Commentator, stated his beliefs on the Right-Wing Planned Parenthood Video hoax. The hoax claimed that Planned Parenthood was selling body parts of aborted babies. The story became part of a 30-month-long investigative journalism study by The Center For Medical Progress.  This claim was found to be completely untrue.

Louis said: “To those already convinced that abortions should be safe, legal and rare, it looks like Planned Parenthood is responsibly doing exactly what a medical provider should. People who already want to ban all abortions everywhere will see the conversations as some nefarious trade in baby parts. In other words, the videos are less an investigative expose than a mirror in which a divided nation can look at its view on abortion.”

In recent months, abortion, gay marriage, and the death penalty have circled around the media.  It seems that people either agree or disagree with the topic and there is little room for discussion. It is not a journalist’s job to sway audiences’ opinion regarding a topic, but they do have a responsibility to expose the truth.  If individuals have their mind set on particular issues, is it a waste of time to report on them? Is there a more effective way to report?

‘Citizen Journalist’ Face Ethical Dilemmas

On Nov. 17, 2008, Mayhill Fowler of The Huffington Post reported on an Obama campaign event that was “closed” to mainstream journalists.  Fowler had been reporting on the Democratic presidential campaign, but this story revealed itself as her ‘big break’.

At the time, Fowler was a contributor to Obama’s campaign and was invited to the event as a guest, not a reporter. Fowler recorded the event and revealed the following quote:

“And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” – President Barack Obama

Fowler was unsure of whether to report this statement because of her contribution to the campaign.  Ultimately, she published her report of this event which led to around 200 angry e-mails. Obama campaign officials made no comment on this article.

Thinking about my code of ethics, I would not have reported on this issue:

1. The event was not open to reporters.

2. There is a very apparent conflict of interest. There is a serious problem with contributing to a campaign and then reporting on it. The bigger issue may be that Fowler had been following the Democratic presidential campaign trail while supporting one particular candidate.  I find it hard to believe that she was able to report fairly and accurately.

3. Fowler did not tell anyone that she was recording. I believe it is important to ask permission before recording an individual. This event is a slippery slope because President Obama is a public official which changes many rules. At the same time, this event was considered to be private and therefore, an ask should have been made.

I do believe that journalists are responsible for being the fourth estate and informing the people of what they need to know. Personally, I would not have written this story because of my code of ethics. This type of reporting is ultimately up to the individual.

Journalism Activists V.S. Activist Journalists

“It is a matter of being honest or dishonest. All activists are not journalists, but all real journalists are activists. Journalism has a value, a purpose — to serve as a check on power.” – Glenn Greenwald

Throughout my journalism education, I have been taught that a journalist must report fairly and objectively. As I look at independent and mainstream outlets, objectivity is sometimes lost in the midst of bias and activism.

According to Society of Professional Journalists, a journalist’s job is to seek the truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; be accountable and transparent. David Carr wrote in a New York Times article that an “activist has become a code word for someone who is driven by an agenda beyond seeking information on the public’s behalf.”

Activism in regard to journalism can push a journalist to be fully immersed in their reporting. The passion a journalist has for a certain subject can lead to the uncovering of something that has been previously overlooked. On the other hand, this passion can blind a reporter.

We all hate to be told that we’re wrong, especially when it comes to a topic that we love. When the word activist comes before journalist, it is easy to get caught up in personal biases and report less objectively. When the word journalist comes first, passion and a skeptical eye can create an amazing story.

As journalists, we must find the balance between exploring our passions and remaining skeptical. This type of reporting leads to learning new things that you might not have noticed before and writing a story that the public can trust.

Senator Feinstein Defines ‘Real Journalists’

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) stated in 2013 that the ‘shield law’ should only protect ‘real journalists’and their sources. In an amendment put forward by Senator Feinstein, ‘real journalists’ are defined as reporters for mainstream outlets which excludes bloggers and citizen journalists. This leads me to question if this is a justified definition of journalists.

Throughout history, there have been many journalists prosecuted or arrested for not handing over names of sources and information they gathered while reporting. The proposed ‘shield law’ or the Free Flow of Information Act protects journalists from revealing their sources or documents from the threat of federal prosecution. The Society of Professional Journalists states, “Under the proposed law, the federal government must prove to a judge that the information sought outweighs the journalist’s need to keep confidential information.”

This brings me back to the question of what’s the definition of a journalist. In journalism classes, we are taught that a journalist is an individual who takes on the responsibility of being the fourth estate and reports fairly and accurately. This definition does not touch on the argument of mainstream v.s. independent v.s citizen journalist.

In today’s changing digital space, I believe that there is no standard definition of a journalist. My definition of a journalist, synthesized from my studies, is an individual who objectively covers a story for the benefit of the people. It doesn’t matter if this individual is reporting for CNN, Talking Point Memo or just on their own. They have taken on the responsibility to serve the people with important information.

If Senator Feinstein and those that support her claims believe that a journalist is only someone who reports for a mainstream outlet, one wonders if they are aware of the content that citizen journalists have produced.  Citizen journalists have covered the Arab Springs and reported on Occupy Wall Street before many news outlets picked up the story.  No mainstream outlet was approving their content and it is important to note that mainstream outlets did pick up some of their coverage.  If anything, these journalists are individuals who report more honestly and fairly.

Regardless of education or employment, all journalists should be protected by the ‘shield law’. Without the passage of this law, many innocent journalists who believe it is their job to be the fourth estate might end up prosecuted or in jail.

To Censor Or Not To Censor

Would you publish the home address of a mass-shooter? Print the name of a minor? Journalists are constantly faced with these difficult decisions regarding censorship with a breaking story.

In school, we are taught to report fairly, accurately and be mindful of not publishing information that might cause harm to the person or group of people in the story.

I have recently read a troubling number of publications that have overlooked the importance of censorship. Of course, everyone’s code of ethics is different, but there are certainly rules that should be followed when a person’s safety is at hand.

William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection expressed his concerns about censorship in the media. He said that he would never want his blog to publish the story that would destroy someone or make them more susceptible to harm. “We don’t start the witch hunt,” said Jacobson.

In 2013, Justine Sacco, former director of corporate communications at InterActive Corp, tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” People on social media found no humor in this tweet which led to the trending hashtag: #HasJustineLandedYet“.

Jacobson acknowledged that he would address a situation similar to this one on his blog once the story itself became news.

On October 9th, 2015, an article was published in The Ithacan regarding a racially charged party theme at AEPi. The publication broke the story almost immediately but missed one big factor. They attached a screen shot of the party’s invitation leaving both the name of the student who was inviting others and the address of the house in the picture. Social media did not take kindly to this information. Students and individuals around the Ithaca area threatened to visit the house and wrote strongly worded posts aimed directly at the student on the Official Ithaca College Class Facebook pages. All of those posts have now been deleted from the pages. In addition, The Ithacan reuploaded the screen shot of the invitation with the address and name of the student blurred out.

AEPPHoto

In no way am I supporting what AEPi or the student did, but am rather questioning if it is the media’s job to create the “witch hunt”.  The answer to this question is in the hands of the editors.

Independent Media Is The New Mainstream

Consider the exposé on the Standard Oil Company, the Invasion of Iraq, the 2008 Chinese earthquake, the leaked NSA documents. All of these reports were covered by independent journalists who understood that it was their responsibility to seek the truth and question authority. 

In 2005, a group of leaders of nonprofit press organizations decided that they wanted to work together to raise issues of human rights and economic justice.  The network that they created is called the Media Consortium which encompasses more than 60 media outlets focused on increasing the voice of independent journalism.

The Media Consortium has been successful since it’s time of conception.  They were one of the first outlets to cover Occupy Wall Street during the early days of protest and published the 47-percent video which arguably cost Mitt Romney the presidential election.

Going forward, government agencies and political leaders should be aware of what they say on and off the record.  We live in a 24-hour news cycle society where anything is fair game as long as it helps the American public.  In addition, we cannot rely solely on mainstream outlets who have failed us in the past. Independent journalists are ready to expose the injustices within the government and serve as a watchdog for the American public.

(The independent outlets) “are now playing the classic role of fourth estate in our democracy.” – André Schiffrin, Publisher of Patheon Books/Founder of the New Press.

The Post, Share, Click and Retweet Method

Modern journalism has become a multimedia-driven, fast paced environment open to reporters of all skill level and education. The rise of citizen journalists and social media have positively affected the field.

With that said, critics believe that this fast paced medium has shifted the responsibility of a journalist to bear witness. Roger Cohen of The New York Times said in 2009 in regard to the coverage of the Iran uprising that: To bear witness means being there — and that’s not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream.”

Live eyewitness accounts are powerful, but it’s wrong to dismiss the power of social media and live-blogging coverage. Arianna Huffington stated that this type of coverage played a huge role during the Iran uprising and allowed for millions of people around the world to “bear witness”. Though pictures and real-time video, social outlets were constantly updating which allowed people to see what was really happening in Iran.

As powerful and moving as eyewitness accounts are, it is important to acknowledge “the eyewitness fallacy“, a term coined by Malcolm Muggeridge. This is the idea that people see what they want to see, which limits fair and objective reporting.

New multimedia outlets do not diminish the idea of “bearing witness”, they create a larger space for those to report instead of solely relying on mainstream media. In addition, these multimedia outlets make it harder for mainstream media to get information wrong. Think of Bush’s Iraq and Sandy Hook, all instances of mainstream media reporting wrong information. These new multimedia outlets check and balance mainstream media and create honest and objective journalism.

Blogging: The Future of Journalism

As a journalism student, I’m often told by people outside of the communications industry that I’m studying a field that’s dying and has few opportunities for employment. It’s true that in the last decade newsrooms have slimmed down and physical newspaper subscriptions have declined, but that in no way suggests that the art or need for journalism is dying. If anything, journalism has become more exciting because of savvy bloggers who question the policies and problems around them and actively dig to find the truth.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo and is one example of how blogging has lead to news media coverage of political scandals that would have easily been dismissed by readers of a traditional newspaper. With collaboration from his team and the general public, Talking Points Memo was able to break the story regarding politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys, which was later picked up by mainstream media. Without Marshall’s diligence and question, it’s possible that reports like this would never be seen by the public eye.

This type of investigative story would have been given to a singular traditional journalist and would have taken multiple days to dissect and gather information. TPM, on the other hand, had help analyzing the material by passion-driven readers.  This made it easier and faster to break the story as compared to a traditional news outlet.

I’m not discrediting traditional journalists. I think that almost everyone who has wanted to pursue a career in journalism has imagined themselves receiving a Pulitzer Prize for that front page story or racing from editor to a computer to finish a story on deadline. But with that said, blogs are the ideal format that encourages an immediate release which my generation and what I suppose the future will thrive on. Blogging allows for journalists to truly give a voice to the voiceless and receive feedback from readers right away.

So, do I regret my decision of studying journalism? Not at all. If anything, this “death wish” only makes me more inspired to prove those individuals wrong.