Mayhill Fowler’s Election Coverage

In 2008 there was one journalist, a citizen journalist, that many candidates seemed to fear: Mayhill Fowler. In one instance Fowler attended a “closed” fundraiser where she was able to get a very exclusive interview with then candidate Barack Obama.

The interview, which Fowler completed despite the closed to media event protocols, captured Obama saying some choice words about small town Americans. Although the content of the interview is important, many questioned Fowler’s ethics, as well as the ethics involved in citizen journalism. Do they/should they still follow the same ethical principles that normally employed journalists follow?

In my opinion, while they should still follow some ethical standards in their practice, the same principles cannot always apply.

In a Huffington Post commentary from 2012, Tyler Mahoney writes that citizen journalists need to learn at least to be accurate in their writing. In the Nonprofit Quarterly, Rob Meiksins, also writes that because the internet is here to say, and citizen journalists are only becoming a larger group, there are some ethics that need to be followed.

Citizen journalists can’t be expected, like paid journalists, to follow ethical codes like SPJ’s or The New York Times Code of Ethics, but they need to follow some type of guidelines. For example, they should be expected, like other journalists, to report the accurate truth. There have been many instances in which citizen journalists just reblogged or posted something, without any system of fact checking.  If people only trust citizen journalists, and the citizen journalists are not trying their best to produce factual information, then the population is going to become a group of very gullible consumers.

 

The Importance of Transparency

In 2009, Joho the Blog published a post that discussed “transparency being the new objectivity” in the journalism world. This blog post goes almost completely against the thought that almost all journalists are ingrained with at the very beginning of their career, that objectivity is key in good reporting.

Joho has some good points though; how can one constantly be objective about everything? At some point, everyone has an opinion on something or other and to pretend that isn’t true is only deceiving the audience/readers/viewers. The American Press Institute published the article, “The lost meaning of objectivity.”

In the article, the institute writes the original meaning of objectivity in journalism was not to intend that journalists were free of bias but that journalists were  “to develop a consistent method of testing information – a transparent approach to evidence – precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work.” The author continues that it is the practice that should be objective, not the person.

And this is kind of what Joho is saying in his blog post, although he provides a different solution. If a journalist provides the reader with the knowledge of the biases, their production can be viewed by the reader in whatever particular lens they choose to use with that knowledge (hypocritically or as whole-truth).

In the NPR Ethics Handbook, the principle  of transparency gets its own subsection, and one of the promises the outlet makes to viewers is to  “disclose any relationships, whether with partners or funders, that might appear to influence our coverage.” Expand on this idea and encourage journalists to disclose their political, social and economic affiliations, and behold a more transparent field of journalism. I believe this is what Joho meant in his blogpost, and to me, this makes the most sense.

Marcus Green’s Black Lives Matter Response

What a year ago could have been called a sensation sweeping the nation, has been exposed repeatedly in the media over the last few months and it is definitely more than a trend. What the public is seeing, is an institutionalized racism that is finally coming to light because of activists seeking equality.

In his article, “It Took Me Years to Believe That Black Lives Matter. Now Here’s What I Need From You,” Marcus Green discusses what it took for him to realize what the phrase and what the movement meant. The main focus in the speech was how racism in the country has stemmed from institutionalized racism and is fueled by the lack of acknowledgment.

One example of this could be in the recent events at the University of Missouri. Racial microaggressions and lack of response from the university’s administration led to outright protest from the students on the campus. These events are similar to those happening on college campuses around the country (Ithaca College and Yale University have both been in the news recently for alike controversies).

The media seems to be focusing on the administration’s lack of communication, but what is really lacking is their actual attempt at even approaching the issue at hand. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t change anything in the country except for the ability to sue for discrimination. The actual racism is so embedded inside of our country, that people don’t notice what is going on until is pointed out (like the statistics that opened Green’s eyes to the actual problems). And for the public to be able to face the actual facts, the media has to begin to report what is actually the problem.

College newspapers – how independent can they be?

As I’m reading through The Ithacan’s coverage of the racial tensions that are happening on Ithaca College’s campus, one thought is coming to mind: how far can the school-affiliated newspaper go in its reporting?

To give a brief summary, racial tensions have reached such a high at the college of the students believing that the administration is not doing their part in handling racial issues, that in a meeting on Tuesday students walked out of a meeting with the school’s President and the like. (Here’s a more complete article about the event written by The Ithacan.) This is all following the Student Government Association of IC calling for a no confidence vote on President Tom Rochon.

Campus newspapers are meant to provide valuable experience to students in reporting the news and working at an actual news outlet, but how far can the newspaper go? I mean, their funding comes from the school, they’re affiliated with the school, and if prospective students and their families are anything like my mother, they are picking up the newspaper when they visit the college and learning about the actual culture.

Earlier this year a op-ed piece about the Black Lives Matter movement was published at Wesleyan University’s student newspaper. The Blaze reported days later that the student assembly at this college voted to pull half of the normal fund’s from the paper and discussions were being held about how the editorial process should take place at the paper.

This is just one example of how much power an institution has over a student-run newspaper, and how dangerous it can be to the reporting of controversial events that are happening on the college campus. And in this example, it was just the student government making the calls. So, how long will it be until the administration starts sticking their nose into The Ithacan’s coverage of the controversial administration? Only time will tell….

What is Real Journalism?

With the boom of news blogs and alternative media outlets over the past ten or so years, a question may have arisen in the public. Is what they see on these sites still considered, “real journalism”?

Journalism is defined as the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media. And that, is exactly what these new mediums do. News bloggers generally do fit within this definition; they gather the news, examine their research and report on what they have found. (Sometimes they even do original reporting, just like a good old fashioned newspaper or news station). And if that’s not enough support as a blog being considered a news source, the Associated Press issued an amendment to its members insisting that blogs be considered a news source in their sourcing in 2010.

So why do certain people continue to struggle with the idea of a blog being considered a credible news source? In 2013, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said the shield law should only apply to real journalists. This was at the time of the Wikileaks explosion of NSA files, and Feinstein notably wanted bloggers to be excluded from the classification of real journalists, and to be able to press charges against them for releasing these files. She is not the only one who believes so either.

Blogger Joe Wilcox of “Oddly Together” writes of the large differences between blogging and journalism in a post titled, “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism,” yet Wilcox defines what is a journalist to him. “Bloggers who don’t apply good standards of journalism shouldn’t be offered the same privileges as journalists,” Wilcox said. “Similarly, journalists who fail to apply the same good standards should be stripped of privileges and prestige.”

And this is what makes the most sense to me. Not everyone who blogs is a journalist. There are amateurs out there in the blogosphere who don’t follow any kind of journalistic morals or ethics and who do not report actual, factual news, but there are also reporters who do the same. It shouldn’t be a debate of “real journalism,” but “real journalists” instead.

The Dangers of the Commentary Section

On Tuesday in our Independent Media class, blogger and founder of Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson spoke about the quiet danger the comments section of a blog could hold. Blog visitors are enabled to use their words freely on the discussion boards and comments section of blogposts and while most of the time a beneficial discussion can take place, internet “trolls” creep in the dark corners of the internet waiting to wreck havoc. And these trolls could be more dangerous than the average blogger may think.

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Jennifer Gobleck writes flat out that people who are trolls on the internet are terrible people. She continues with research from a study that had found internet trolls typically displayed the “Dark Tetrad” of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism. It is because of these personality traits that trolls tend to sit on comment threads and wait to annoy other actual users.

This phenomenon has made it difficult for bloggers, as Jacobson said, to leave the comment sections open and anonymous. While many want to see readers actively engaged in their material, they usually don’t wish to have to moderate the comments section like it’s a second grade playground. To be able to leave the section open, I think more and more bloggers will have to use accountability with their users; users will have to log in and give personal information to the blogs so that inappropriate behavior does not ensue, but this also creates an obstacle. Will readers continue to want to engage if it can easily be found out who they are?

Could the press save the public?

In 2010, the website Wikileaks published an array of government documents that exposed top-secret government actions (and wrongdoings) to the public. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning is the protagonist in this story, for he was the NSA worker that leaked these documents and in doing so, Manning proved that the media is the strongest sidekick the public will have in learning the truth.

It has happened before,a government official goes to the press to expose government secrets. The most well-known example is Watergate but there is a plethora of other examples. Because of the research paper I just finished I know that Ramparts magazine exposed the CIA of using Michigan State University as their gun-runners in the Vietnam Project. Without eager sources and willing media, the public would still be in the dark to almost all of the government’s secrets.

Whistleblowers, or a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity, in the story does the dirty work. They gather the intelligence, they risk their safety to expose secrets, but the media also puts their entire reputation at risk in publishing what whistleblowers have told them. Mostly because whatever they are about to report, the public is going to take as truth and that’s a lot of power for the media to have and abuse.

VoicesofNY Analysis

VoicesofNY is a an online publication produced by the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism that is applauded for the particular attention it spends on “ethnic media,” but I think the site could be applauded for so much more.

The news site was started originally as a reaction to the 9/11 attacks when the media was heavily criticizing the Muslim and Middle Eastern populations, and the Independent Press Association and Community Media Alliance decided that they needed to give a voice to people who fell into this category. Hence, in 2002, “Voices That Must Be Heard” was born. (Archive of articles from the original publication available here.) In 2011, CUNY obtained the site from the Community Media Alliance, changing the name to VoicesofNY and broadening the source of the voices by focusing it on all different minorities.

And this website does just that. On its main news feed page, it seems as if each article focuses on a different minority group and an issue that people of that minority group are facing. And the range of the issues covered go anywhere from hard news to entertainment to education, all easily accessible through a navigation bar at the top of the page.

But what this site does best off all, besides providing a variety of content, is they don’t try to exclude an ethnicity in their writing. There is no blame in their writing. The goal of this site is clearly to educate the public; to make all people aware of the issues that PEOPLE are facing.

VoicesofNY works well to bring together all ethnicities, to educate and to inform, and I think that this type of site would serve well to expand across the country.