About that $75,000 speaking fee Thomas Friedman received for a speech before the [San Francisco] Bay Area Air Quality Management District: He gave it back.
You can thank L.A. Times reporter James Rainey for pursuing Friedman to ask if he felt any guilt about accepting a significant amount of money from a public agency:
Friedman didn’t return my calls, and New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis seemed pretty cool to my questions. I got the feeling, from her long silences, that she thought my questions were a little silly.
Then late Tuesday afternoon, Mathis called to say Friedman would return the $75,000. She said there had been “a misunderstanding.”
Times ethics guidelines allow staffers to take speaking fees only from “educational and other nonprofit groups for which lobbying and political activity are not a major focus.” The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which coughed up Friedman’s standard fee, hardly fits that bill.
Nieman Journalism Lab interviewed Poynter Institute’s Al Tompkins for his take on the St. Petersburg Times‘ Mug Shots website. Poynter, in case you didn’t know, owns the Times. Tompkins was critical of the site and brought up some pertinent ethical issues:
I think there’s some serious concerns this kind of coverage raises … How do you make it right for those who are found to be not guilty? … Maybe we don’t have an obligation, but I think we do.
Tompkins explained that he isn’t opposed to posting an individual’s mug shot. However:
I just want to make sure there’s a reason to post it, and not just do it because we can. That’s never a good reason to put something on the Web, just because we can.
Poynter also has archived Thursday’s chat on the ethics of posting mug shots online. Matt Waite, one of the developers of the Mug Shots site, explained to Poynter’s ethics faculty Kelly McBride its function as journalism:
The main journalistic purpose of this feature is that we’ve given transparency to the grinding wheels of the justice system. The jail population is no longer an abstraction. You can look at them, as they come in. These people are your neighbors. The jail, the deputies that run it, the courts that have to deal with these folks, you pay for it. So there is a purpose to showing that to people. I would also add that people have said they found great value in being able to look at people who said they lived in a specific ZIP code because they only know their neighbors by sight.
Posted in civic journalism, ethics, journalism ethics, media criticism, News, newspaper websites, public records
Tagged Al Tompkins, Kelly McBride, Mug Shots, Nieman Journalism Lab, Poynter Institute, St. Petersburg Times
I suspect a lot of journalists around the nation will be nodding in agreement as they read this letter from Des Moines Register reporter Clark Kauffman to Gannett’s then-senior VP of news, Phil Currie. I’ve excerpted a large chunk below, but it’s worth reading in its entirety:
Like other Gannett papers, the Register is cutting back on content produced by trained, professional journalists while encouraging community members to submit photos, columns and blogs. A few of our community bloggers have used this forum to write about the details of their drug use and their sexual activities. Most of our contributors choose their topics more carefully, but again, they’re not professionals. Not everyone who can type is a reporter. Not everyone with a cell-phone camera is a photographer. But in the Information Center, we’re all part of a homogenized team of “content providers” — some of whom, not coincidentally, work for free. A well-researched Register news article is published on the same Web page as a reader’s step-by-step instructions as to how a local woman under a psychiatrist’s care should commit suicide using carbon monoxide.
The Register also has government officials writing copy for its news columns. Last week, I interviewed a state department head who told me about the health columns his workers are writing, at taxpayer expense, for my employer. I know we’ve also had city officials contribute bylined columns. These are public officials working for a private, for-profit business on the taxpayers’ dime. That’s the sort of thing Gannett should uncover and report. It’s not the sort of thing Gannett should facilitate.
Posted in blogging, journalism ethics, media criticism, news industry, Newspaper industry, newspaper websites, newspapers
Tagged Clark Kauffman, community bloggers, Des Moines Register, journalism ethics, Phil Currie
Steve Yelvington, journalist and media strategist, received this response regarding the St. Petersburg Times’ new Mug Shots gallery:
In an email to several journalism-related lists, Nora Paul of the University of Minnesota declared: “I think it borders on journalistic malpractice! … Journalism should be about putting important events in a community into context. This doesn’t.”
Yelvington offers his own insight into the detriments of a digital world where the circle encompassing our private lives shrinks in circumference:
There may be public benefit in knowing John Delaney collected $325,000 as president of the University of North Florida. But do we all need to know that Mary Smith was paid $10,112 as a food-service assistant at the local school district?
Marshall McLuhan predicted that evolving communications technologies would transform the world into a global village. I’ve lived in villages. They are places where people tend to know an awful lot about one another. It can be stifling. A mistake can follow you around for a long time. Some people have to leave town. Public knowledge of everything is not always a good thing.
So what do you think? Is the Times‘ providing a valuable public service with its Mug Shots gallery, or are they doing irreparable harm to people’s reputations and lives?
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler responds to viewer complaints about its member stations’ pledge-drive programming. A particular target of scorn is The UltraMind Solution, featuring Dr. Mark Hyman. Getler writes:
I do think that PBS and the member stations are failing to fulfill an obligation to viewers to make absolutely clear — in unmistakable ways either visually on screen or spoken — that these are not PBS programs, that PBS does not vet them or distribute them. This would seem pretty easy to do, and pretty obvious when it would seem necessary. …
… Whatever the values or flaws of these programs, when they appear on local PBS-member stations, along with the other accompanying material I just cited, viewers have a right to be told that this does not mean it has some PBS seal of approval that conveys the kind of confidence in content that PBS seeks to insure and promote.
So if this is the case, why are programs such as Hyman’s being used to drum-up pledge support instead of programming that PBS has vetted and stands behind, per its own Standard and Policies?
Once again, Save the Media‘s Gina Chen is lighting the way for reporters who want to thrive in the digital age.
This time, she covers “10 journalism rules you can break on your blog.” My favorite is number 2:
Tell part of the story: Journalists are trained to wait until they have the full story before telling any of it. I’m not asserting that blogs shouldn’t be accurate; they should. But they should be immediate even if that means telling only the story as you know it at that moment in time. The beauty of a blog is you can update immediately as more details become apparent or earlier reports are disputed. This isn’t publishing lies; this is giving readers evolving information in real time.
Writing about the late Natasha Richardson, Michael White lays into the media for their role in cultivating what he calls a “growing mood of public sentimentality” that is “potentially more destructive [than cynicism] of the tone of public life”:
Poor Natasha Richardson died during the night. What a truly dreadful thing to happen, the result of what looked like a minor head injury anyone might have suffered on or off the ski slope.
Perhaps that’s why they led this morning’s news bulletins on her death, even on Radio 4. Fairly well-known actress from a famous dynasty, married to a film star, tragic accident etc etc. The papers duly print photos of grief-stricken family members at the hospital, photos which strike me as intrusive, heartless even. The whole packaged affair is, well, ghoulish.
Dan Gillmor of Center for Citizen Media makes the case for an ambitious approach to journalism education, one that cultivates critical thinkers, increases media literacy and, perhaps most importantly, gives students the skills to be entrepreneurs. Here are just a few highlights from Gillmor’s excellent piece:
Journalism educators should be in the vanguard of an absolutely essential shift for society at large: helping our students, and people in our larger communities, to navigate and manage the myriad information streams of a media-saturated world. …
Recovering Journalist takes the New York Times Co. to task for not defending established linking practices. Commenter Dave Mastio makes the interesting point that the New York Times Co. settled in order to avoiding winning the case and establishing a precedent that would have allowed other sites to similarly aggregate Times content.
But in Nieman Journalism Lab’s wrap-up of the case, Dan Kennedy suggests that the Times may have had a fight on its hands had the case gone to court:
Posted in copyright, ethics, fair use, headlines, journalism ethics, media criticism, Online journalism
Tagged Dan Kennedy, fair use, GateHouse Media, journalism ethics, Media Nation, New York Times, Newspaper Death Watch, Nieman Journalism Lab, Recovering Journalist