What a tangled web we weave…

A friend sent me an article earlier today that I want to share with everyone

Police: England fan incident ‘orchestrated’

Simon Wright of the Sunday Mirror was arrested for working with an England fan to compromise the security of the FIFA World Cup.  The article was actually well written and pretty extensive considering the time frame.  However, Wright’s unethical act tears at the already frayed seam of journalistic integrity.

First, Wright should not even be considered a “journalist” like he is in the AP’s article.  While by definition he is a “journalist”, he is tainting the image and name of reporters and other members of the press that are dedicated, determined and loyal public servants.  Those who write stories for tabloids should be called writers or tabloidists or even bullshitters.  Just something different please.  And if you don’t believe the Sunday Mirror is a tabloid just check out the website.

Why create your own news?  I understand that summer is a more sluggish period for many media outlets, but right now there is plenty to address internationally.  We have an energy crisis, military controversies, political conflict, immigration and the list goes on and on.  If you’re bored with that stuff, explore something new and dig a little deeper.  But don’t create a story that does not exist.

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“Man-made” mistakes

The Sunday newspaper is a breeding ground for journalistic faux pas.  USA Today’s Report:  97 percent of scientists say man-made climate change is real asks more questions that it answers.  What does “very likely” actually mean?  Compared to what, very unlikely?  What is the scale for this?  Since when is “very likely” an appropriate scientific substitution for a number?  Later in the article, we finally get a statistic–1,372 scientists–followed closely by another “very likely.”

In the study, the authors wrote: “This extensive analysis of the mainstream versus skeptical/contrarian researchers suggests a strong role for considering expert credibility in the relative weight of and attention to these groups of researchers in future discussions in media, policy, and public forums regarding anthropogenic climate change.”

Layman’s terms for the average reader please.  USA Today simply includes this quote and does not expand on this idea.

Finally, who the heck are William R.L. Anderegg, James W. Prall, Jacob Harold and Stephen H. Schneider?  Scientists?  Sociologists?  Frat boys?  Can we please have some indication of who conducted this study?

Studies in articles normally make me nervous because it is easy to twist and manipulate numbers to work for yourself.  However, there was no manipulation of numbers in this article…mostly because there were no numbers.

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UK’s Guardian FTW

I’ve recently been really interested in reading The Guardian.  It has some interesting articles on its home page that would rarely, if ever, make it to US newspapers.  Also, the site is more visually enthralling and less intimidating than the New York Times.  Just skimming through some stories I found some amazing ledes.  However, several of their pieces could technically fall under “comment” or “opinion”, but nothing a little tweaking couldn’t solve (a few less adjectives that reveal opinions).  One story I read under “comment” addressed the media’s display of crime in England.  It addressed some critical issues with this specific media coverage and with the manipulation of data, statistics and studies.

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CNN Drops AP

CNN finally dropped the AP! I think we all saw this coming in 2009 when CNN Radio and CNN.com both dropped all AP content.  Also, the beginning of CNN Wire also signaled the end of the relationship between these news organizations.  I’m excited to see what CNN does with its wire service and if they step up to the plate.  I

have nothing against the AP…honestly.  While their writing is a little dry, they do provide valuable stories to news organizations.  When a newspaper needs to fill space in an edition or a story needs to be covered, but there are not enough writers, the AP is there.  However, I do think CNN is taking a proactive step in improving their services and merchandising on their writing and reporting.  The AP has made a huge impact on news today and I can’t wait to see if CNN does the same.

Check out the memo to CNN Staff from CNN Worldwide Chief Jim Walton.

We are taking an important next step in the content-ownership process we began in 2007 to more fully leverage CNN’s global newsgathering investments. Starting today, CNN newsgathering will be the primary source of all content for all of our platforms and services. We will no longer use AP materials or services. The content we offer will be distinctive, compelling and, I am proud to say, our own.

Beyond the obvious business reasons for this operating shift-the content we spend our money to create should be the content we present, and less reliance on outside sources will mean more to invest in our organization-there are other important motivations. CNN-exclusive content will further differentiate our platforms in the media marketplace. It will provide consumers with the unique news and information experience they expect from CNN. And it will make us more creative, resourceful and collaborative journalists and news professionals.

To support this new model, we are expanding the CNN Wires team and embedding positions with desks and bureaus to speed information to air. Among continuing infrastructure improvements to further our distinctive storytelling, we’re launching CNN Share to aggregate editorial content and facilitate easy distribution and sharing across platforms; launching a new alert system for breaking news; creating newsgathering opportunities across all dayparts; and building tools to expand information gathering from social media and emerging sources.

Our global broadcast affiliates will be key partners in this effort. Creating more original content will enhance our service to them and build stronger working relationships going forward. Additionally, we are entering into an arrangement with Reuters to supplement breaking news coverage and we have the Spanish-language wire service EFE available in-house.

This effort is the result of creative thinking, partnership and hard work by colleagues from across CNN guided by the same goal: to further strengthen CNN’s leadership position and grow our business. I am grateful to them for bringing us to this point, and to each of you for taking it from here. By embracing this new way of working, we are demonstrating our commitment to the future of CNN.

And of course the AP covered this story as well–both humorous and admirable.

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Questionable Censorship

Poynter Online brought my attention to an interesting case of censorship.  A high school newspaper in Lynchburg, Virginia was destroyed by administrators.  Many are questioning whether this was over an editorial addressing whether student athletes should be required to take gym class.  To read the full article go to The News & Advance out of Lynchburg.

This certainly isn’t the first time we have heard about administrators, teachers or board members shutting down or destroying newspapers over an article that was not to their liking.  In fact, this happened in my high school when a classmate wanted to write an article about teenage pregnancy.  While this may just be high school, this is a learning experience for young journalists.  I got my first taste of journalism in high school and by senior year I was determined to be a journalist.  More importantly, this is a violation of First Ammendment rights that are granted to everyone–even children and teens.

Improve Your Writing

During this past week I was assigned 2 stories for the Collegiate Times.  While I love writing, especially news stories, I was not incredibly excited about these assignments.  I don’t know if it was the subject matter or if I was simply having a down week, but I struggled to chug through them.  I finally finished them right at deadline and they were published yesterday.  However, I’m not exactly proud of them.  The sources are great, the stories are fine, but I could do better.  I let small errors slip through and didn’t add much of my personal flare.  All in all, not a great week for me.  Feel free to read my stories at the Collegiate Times online.

After re-reading my articles and realizing that we can all use a refresher course in media basics, I thought I would share some tips to improve your news writing.

1.  Take advantage of powerful verbs, since adjectives can be tricky

2.  Always use your AP Stylebook

3.  Have an attention-grabbing lede and nut graf (lots of readers won’t get beyond this)

4.  Aim for BIG sources, but don’t be disappointed if you have to talk to someone in PR

5. Read and re-read your draft (pay close attention to personal bias)

Also, check out 5 tricks for wicked good writing.

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Fox News’ War on Drugs

So today I have a lot of information to share and a heavy critique on Fox News.  Be prepared.

Last Thursday Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly joined forces to criticize the Drug Policy Alliance.  The goal of the Drug Policy Alliance is to end the war on drugs, according to their website.  Now I am not saying that I agree or disagree with the Alliance’s mission, but I do want to state that the Fox News coverage of the Alliance is overtly biased and deplorable.

The first 3 minutes of this video consist of both Kelly and O’Reilly openly bashing the Alliance and those associated with it.  Famous recording artist, Sting, faced the brunt of this criticism. O’Reilly mocks Sting on several occassions adding,

“No, he wants to get stoned. He’s going to get stoned.”

Making the assumption that Sting is involved with this organization so he can freely abuse drugs.

Kelly adds her personal opinion of Sting in this dialogue as well.

“There sits in the ivory tower. He’s not even an American, first of all.  Save your opinions on our domestic policy for, you know, your own domestic policy. And you know, when he’s not working on a tantric sex, apparently, he’s thinking about America drug policy, and you know, he doesn’t.”

How do his nationality and personal sexual preferences affect his role in the Drug Policy Alliance?  These are irrelvent pieces of information, factual or not, that have no direct connection to this cause.

Kelly then spoke with John Stossel, also of Fox News, about this issue.  The segment was entitled “Celebs and Wealthy Liberal Activisits Launch Campaign to End War on Drugs”, making the assumption that all “celebrities” and “wealty liberals” are involved with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Kelly was very argumentative with her co-worker.  In addition, she made more comments about Sting and his substance abuse without naming any of her “sources.”

I was honestly proud of Stossel, providing ample data about the war on drugs.  He spent most of the time logically defending his position and expanding on the idea that “[the war on drugs] creates crime.”  I used to watch Stossel on 20/20 when I was younger and was greatly disappointed when I found out he was moving to Fox.  After watching this segment with Kelly I am beyond relieved.   However I may be slightly biased in this way.  At this point I just wanted someone to shut Kelly up.

While bias was clearly an issue in these segments, I am more concerned about the personal and irrelevant attacks made on those who are involved with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Journalism at its worst.

Media Cloud

The Berkman Center for Internet & Societ at Harvard launched a new system/application in March that follows media trends.  Media Cloud takes articles–each day–from an astounding amount of news media and blogs and stores the information in a database.  Users can then visit the Media Cloud website and chart this data.  While this is not a finished product, it is an interesting and innovative way to study media.  Journalists, communication researchers, news enthusiasts and average Joes are able to explore media trends easily without having to actually gather the data.  The Berkman Center has done this for us, taking out a time-consumng step and allowing us to focus on the content.  This is valuable because we can, in turn, improve the quality of journalism.  Hopefully, ethics committees and news media will utilize Media Cloud to optimize journalism.

I encourage you to check out Media Cloud yourself, but below is some interesting information.

TOP 3 TOPICS

CNN:  United States, Washington, California

Fox News:  New York, Florida, Texas

MSNBC:  Afghanistan, Taliban, Mexico

The New York Times:  United States, Washington, California

The Washington Post:  Virginia, United States, New York

The Wall Street Journal:  New York, China, Washington

I find it interesting that CNN and The New York Times (both considerably left-sided) had identical Top 3.

Missing the Mark on New Media

As a journalist, something I continually worry about is the future of news media.  Something we’ve all heard about is the death of newspapers, so I don’t need to remind you that new technologies are taking the place of these newspapers.  I recently read an op-ed piece in the New York Times that touched on the fear the public has of new media.

“But such panics often fail basic reality checks. When comic books were accused of turning juveniles into delinquents in the 1950s, crime was falling to record lows, just as the denunciations of video games in the 1990s coincided with the great American crime decline. The decades of television, transistor radios and rock videos were also decades in which I.Q. scores rose continuously.”

While the article was interesting and raised a variety of thought-provoking points, I feel like it missed the mark in some ways.  There is definitely fear in relation to new media, but I believe this fear lies within newspapers and other news companies.  And if not…it should.  Like I mentioned in a previous post, How should we “reinvent” media?, we MUST take big steps toward making media consumption desirable.  But we also CANNOT sacrifice the quality of the news.  While keeping this in mind, I would also like to add that it is almost certain than media consumers may be reluctant to accept this media at first, but we can’t shy away from these advancements.

New media is feared.  It always has been and always will be.  Suck it up.  Work for success.  Move forward.  Save the news.

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Moving Past the BP Oil Spill

Not to downplay the importance of the BP oil spill, but I am getting a slightly irritated with the constant headlines about the tragedy in the Gulf.  It is a little frustrating, but I do understand the importance.  So let’s try to focus on what possible postive effects may come out of this disaster.  It may create an urgency in the American people and the government to explore cleaner energy sources.  If you have some time check out this article by CNN.  It brings up some interesting talking points and ideas.

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