Friday, August 30, 2013

James Tedford's thoughts on the ASUSF v Foghorn issue

I just did an interview with James Tedford, onetime Foghorn editor, about his thoughts on the Foghorn's current predicament and his feelings about freedom of the press. I boiled his thoughts down into a few paragraphs, pasted below:

James Tedford, who served as the Foghorn editor from 1993-97 is no stranger to the controlling power of ASUSF, who slashed the Foghorn’s budget in his second year on staff.  While this was a frustrating experience, Tedford acknowledged that these budgetary decisions and allocations of funds are entirely within the rights of the student senate. This year’s contention between Foghorn and the senate is a different story.
            Tedford asserted that the Senate “has no place” telling the Foghorn how many times they can publish per semester. Mistakes are made and will be made in the paper, he said, and these should be called to attention and fixed, but the senate’s particular course of action was “heavy handed and possibly unethical.”
Tedford asserted his belief that the press has the responsibility to keep an eye on government and hold them accountable, and this role should not be usurped. ASUSF is not the only voice for students on campus, and they should not be trying to shut down the other forums for student action. Tedford also takes issue with the fact that ASUSF is cutting the journalism students’ opportunities to get experience through the Foghorn. “If senate wants to diminish that, that’s denying journalism students what they pay to go to the university for,” said Tedford.  
As Tedford does not know the complete context of the situation, nor was he sitting in on any of the conversations between the senate and the Foghorn, he is reluctant to make any absolute assertions about whether ASUSF’s actions were ethical. If it is true that these decisions to cut the paper’s publishing schedule are purely content based, however, Tedford does see this as an egregious issue. As this is a student government body, and many of these students will likely want to be in government in some way, Tedford said, they need to be aware of what our freedoms are. “They ought to know better.”

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Puzzled by Misnaming in the Potter Box Article

I think it's kind of bizarre, not to mention ironic, that Christians' "The Potter Box Model of Reasoning" contains a few considerable errors. He identifies the killers as Robert Thompson (correct) and Jan Venables (incorrect--its Jon). Even more surprising, he repeatedly says the victim's name is Jason Bulger-- it's James Bulger. I found this particularly odd based on the subject matter. Within the same article, Christians notes that the Potter Box "Insists that we always treat the specifics very carefully" (p. 9).

Was this done on purpose? Am I missing something?

Here's a link to the Guardian's collected materials on the murder, which use the (presumably) correct names:

Friday, August 23, 2013

SPJ's: The Bad and The Ugly - and examination of ethical lapses of the last year.

In September 2006, but interesting nonetheless.

It is in the spirit of educating the public and helping journalists make more ethical decisions that SPJ’s National Ethics Committee reviewed news accounts of ethical lapses that occurred since September 2006 and stirred some of the most passionate debate within the news industry.... Click to read more

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Maureen Dowd's Makes Mistakes: Should *She* Be Fired?

Maureen Dowd at Democratic Debate in Philadelp...
Maureen Dowd at Democratic Debate in Philadelphia, PA April 16, 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here's the salon article taking Dowd to task for -   more than once - "sexing up" quotes. Here's an excerpt.

Dowd has plagiarized. She has filed columns with inaccurate datelines. Both of those incidents involved Dowd passing off the writing and reporting of others — friends and assistants — as her own, uncredited. There was also the time — still, as far as I know, never explained — when an insulting and effeminizing description of Barack Obama was mysteriously scrubbed from the online version of the column.

Any single one of those errors might’ve gotten a cub reporter fired from the Times. But no non-superstar would’ve been allowed to get away with all of those mistakes* — especially the ones that seem very much like the intentional sexing up of material. Maureen Dowd has gotten away with it because she is influential and decorated. She’s a Pulitzer winner! But her influence and fame should cause her to be held to a higher standard, not a more lax one. Mistakes — and outright dishonesty — coming from someone as prominent as Dowd are worse. If a back-of-the-Metro Section news story misquotes someone, it’s bad, but the damage is limited to the people who read the story. If Maureen Dowd manufactures a quote, it can live forever. It travels. It becomes part of “the narrative.”
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Friday, August 16, 2013

Four (Count 'Em) Four Ethical Implications in One Little Story

From Politicker

Before he married his wife, former Congressman Anthony Weiner had a previously undisclosed relationship with an on-again-off-again congressional and campaign aide nearly two decades his junior.

In pushing back against the publication of this story, the spokeswoman for his current mayoral campaign, Barbara Morgan, phoned The New York Observer‘s editor in chief. Partially confirming the relationship, she said the two “had a personal relationship.” (At that point, Ms. Morgan stopped mid-sentence to request the conversation be continued off the record.)

 First Implication: I'm betting she said something like, 'This is off the record,' which the reporter 'interpreted' to mean 'from this point forward.' Or did the reporter actually say, 'From this point on, it is off the record'?

In a cease-and-desist letter sent to The New York Observer today, an attorney for the woman said his client, Dolev Azaria, “vehemently denies” that she and Mr. Weiner had any romantic relationship “while Ms. Azaria was working for Mr. Weiner."

Second Implication: The publication gives her a chance to 'clarify' her remarks.

“Anthony was my boss and a mentor and we remain friends to this day. There was never anything inappropriate about our relationship. I’m saddened that rumors to the contrary would imply anything else,” Ms. Azaria further said in a statement late Thursday night.

 Nearly a dozen sources and former staffers, however, said they strongly suspected that wasn’t the case. Third implication: The publication didn't rely on only one source. Also, the sources may be anonymous but they have first-hand knowledge of the situation. Instead, they described the lengthy relationship between the pair as a badly-kept open secret, with the two openly flirting and behaving unlike any other staffers in the office for a period they say began well before late 2006–when Ms. Azaria left Mr. Weiner’s payroll–and continuing after she returned in mid-2008. (In 2006, Ms. Azaria would have been turning 24 years old, while Mr. Weiner would have been turning 42.) The allegedly unprofessional behavior made some staffers uncomfortable.

“You’d have to be an idiot to not know what was going on,” said one ex-aide, who, like the majority of others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid damaging his relationship with Mr. Weiner and their former colleague. Fourth implication: The granting of anonymity always reduces the credibility of a story. Is this story of sufficient importance to justify hiding the names of sources?  “It was a known secret in the office,” another said

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Classic Dodge: We Don't Report It, But We Will Report Someone Else Reporting It

The Dark Lord Geraldo, a colleague from the old days who sits on my right shoulder taunting me about my squishy liberalism, sent this. The link below says an anonymous letter was accusing  Bob Filner of being a serial sexual harasser was out there months before he was elected San Diego mayor, but the local paper chose not to publish because.... Well, take a  look.

“Filner's Republican opponent, San Diego Council member Carl DeMaio, shared the letter with the San Diego Union-Tribune and other local media outlets, but no one was able to pin anything down in a way that could be reported to their newsroom standards. The city lacked the sort of dishy blogs or hovering national gossip outlets through which similar charges now often make their way into mainstream news reports. No one spoke up on the record, and nothing happened.”

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Writing about Women's Looks

This particular Salon story was aimed at a comment Obama made about the California AG Kamala Harris, but let's go deeper.

1) A double standard exists concerning the way journalists describe the appearance of men and of women. Doesn't it? Am I being PC? If it does exist, is it a big deal? Why?

2) Okay. You are a young ambitious reporter, neat and presentable,  probably female but not *necessarily* female. The person you are interviewing makes comments about your appearance. Do you include these comments in your story?

3) The salon writer talks about how women in TV tend to be better looking than their male counterparts. Is that your observation also? Are such hiring decisions ethical? To what degree would you use your appearance to get a job? To what degree would you use good grooming to get a job! And - moving on into another aspect of all this - would you, Ms. or Mr. Young Reporter, use your physical appearance to get a source to open up? Remember Seeming to be young, attractive and just a little dim - the Blond/Blonde ploy, which can work for both sexes - can get a source to lower his/her guard.

Should College Newspapers Change Their Archives?

A podcast link

in which the whole issue of altering or erasing newspaper stories because the subjects - or readers - of the stories complain. We are not talking about correcting mistakes. We are talking about purging or rewriting the stories.