Posts Tagged ‘ ethics ’

Blog, Blog, Blog

The rise of blogs in recent times has sparked a series of debates about its place in the news industry. Here are a few important topics, questions, and issues surrounding rise of the blogosphere:

Are bloggers a threat to news organizations?

The latest, and perhaps gravest, challenge to the journalistic establishment is the blog. Journalists accuse bloggers of having lowered standards. But their real concern is less high-minded – it is the threat that bloggers, who are mostly amateurs, pose to professional journalists and their principal employers, the conventional news media..

Are blogs accurate?

Having no staff, the blogger is not expected to be accurate. [I’d certainly argue with that -jeff] Having no advertisers (though this is changing), he has no reason to pull his punches. And not needing a large circulation to cover costs, he can target a segment of the reading public much narrower than a newspaper or a television news channel could aim for. He may even be able to pry that segment away from the conventional media. Blogs pick off the mainstream media’s customers one by one, as it were.

What opportunities do blogs provide to journalists?

Bloggers can specialize in particular topics to an extent that few journalists employed by media companies can, since the more that journalists specialized, the more of them the company would have to hire in order to be able to cover all bases. A newspaper will not hire a journalist for his knowledge of old typewriters, but plenty of people in the blogosphere have that esoteric knowledge, and it was they who brought down Dan Rather. Similarly, not being commercially constrained, a blogger can stick with and dig into a story longer and deeper than the conventional media dare to, lest their readers become bored….

Do blogs benefit from each other?

What really sticks in the craw of conventional journalists is that although individual blogs have no warrant of accuracy, the blogosphere as a whole has a better error-correction machinery than the conventional media do. The rapidity with which vast masses of information are pooled and sifted leaves the conventional media in the dust….In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

Are blogs unfair?

How can the conventional news media hope to compete with blogs? Especially when the competition is not entirely fair. Bloggers can simply copy the hard work of the conventional journalists without paying a cent for it. There is also the fear of some critics worry that ”unfiltered” media like blogs exacerbate social tensions by handing a powerful electronic platform to extremists at no charge, where they can post biased opinions at will.

Can blogs be trusted?

Blogs enable unorthodox views to get a hearing. They get 12 million people to write rather than just stare passively at a screen. In an age of specialization and professionalism, they give amateurs a platform, and most people are sensible enough to distrust communications in an unfiltered medium. They know that anyone can create a blog at essentially zero cost, that most bloggers are uncredentialed amateurs, that bloggers don’t employ fact checkers and don’t have editors and that a blogger can hide behind a pseudonym. They know, in short, that until a blogger’s assertions are validated (as when the mainstream media acknowledge an error discovered by a blogger), there is no reason to repose confidence in what he says. The mainstream media, by contrast, assure their public that they make strenuous efforts to prevent errors from creeping into their articles and broadcasts. They ask the public to trust them, and that is why their serious errors are scandals.

So whether you follow blogs or have your own blog, these are all important issues to keep in mind.


ProPublica Gets Down and Dirty

ProPublica does not produce your average news stories. Instead, they focus exclusively on investigative journalism.

ProPublica’s mission reads: “To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.”

ProPublica strives to focus only on truly important stories – stories with “moral force.” As their mission says, they try to “shine a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.”

Unfortunately, ProPublica believes that investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations take investigative journalism for granted. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources and time to do such reports. Time and budget constraints from news outlets make it nearly impossible for journalists to do investigative reporting in addition to their regular beats. Because of the business crisis, the creation of original journalism in the public interest, is being squeezed down, and in some cases out.

More than any other journalistic form, investigative journalism can require a great deal of time and labor. Also, results are not always positive. Sometimes stories that seem promising at first, ultimately fail.

According to ProPublica, given these realities, many news organizations have come to see investigative journalism as a luxury that can be put aside in tough economic times. In a 2005 survey by Arizona State University revealed that out of the 100 largest U.S. daily newspapers, “37 percent had no full-time investigative reporters, a majority had two or fewer such reporters, and only 10 percent had four or more. Television networks and national magazines have similarly been shedding or shrinking investigative units.”

These are just a few examples of how investigative journalism is in danger. But, ProPublica is making moves to revive investigative journalism.

ProPublica says it seeks to stimulate positive change by uncovering unsavory practices in order to stimulate reform. They strive to do this in an entirely non-partisan and non-ideological manner. ProPublica follows the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality and ethics. They refuse to lobby and never sides with politicians or advocacy groups.

ProPublica tries to focus on the two biggest centers of power – business and government. They report on topics such as product safety, securities fraud, flaws in the criminal justice system, and practices that undermine fair elections. ProPublica also focuses on other institutions such as unions, universities, hospitals, foundations and even on the media. They attempt reveal injustices within such institutions, especially when they exploit or oppress the weak or when they abuse public trust.

ProPublica accomplishes this by being persistent. They subject corrupt institutions to public criticism and continue to do so until change comes about. ProPublica says they stay with issues as long as there is more to be told, or there are more people to reach.

But ProPublica does not just destroy an institution’s reputation; they strive to be fair. After writing a report, ProPublica gives the people and institutions that are cast in an unfavorable light the opportunity to respond before the report is published. They claim to listen to the response and adjust their reporting when appropriate. By editing each story multiple times, ProPublica assures that it is accurate and fair. Under the rare case that errors occur, they correct them quickly and clearly.

By doing all these things and more, ProPublica is giving a new life to investigative journalism and journalism practices in general.