Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who defines "journalist?"

Is anyone with a cell phone a journalist? Are you a journalist only if you are affiliated with a recognized news outlet?

Does publishing a blog post make you a journalist?

All interesting questions as the definition of journalism grows increasingly blurry. Here's some food for thought from CJ Cornell via the MediaShift Idea lab:

Never has technology unraveled an industry so fast that its professionals no longer agree on what it is that they do. It's not surprising; the sharp line between journalist and non-journalist is so faded that few can see it anymore.

If someone happens to be at the right place at the right time and captures a significant event on his cell phone, it will be newsworthy to some audience. At the moment he tweets the image, does he magically transform from a bystander into a journalist? If he is an employee of The New York Times, most would have little trouble classifying him as a journalist. But if it also was his very first uploaded photo, then really what is the difference between the NY Times employee and the bystander? Who is the journalist?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

on objectivity, blanace and fact-checking

Whose job is it to fact-check, especially in an election year? Go here for a nuanced look by Neiman Journalism Lab writer Lucas Graves that goes deep into the murky definition of "journalistic objectivity." It all stemmed from a query by the New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane. Here's a taste:

For anyone who missed it (or the ensuing analysis, rounded up here) the exchange can be summed up in two lines of dialogue:

Times to Internet: Should we fact-check the things politicians say?

Internet to Times: Are you freakin’ kidding?

That was an actual response, and a popular refrain: More than a dozen comments included some variant of, “This is a joke, right?” Several readers compared the column to an Onion piece. By far the most common reaction, which shows up in scores of comments, was to express dismay at the question or to say it captures the abysmal state of journalism today. A typical example, from “Fed Up” in Brooklyn: “The fact that this is even a question shows us how far mainstream journalism has fallen.”

You might also check out some jlinx posts from the last election year. Search terms: speechification and fact-checking

Thursday, January 12, 2012

how NOT to pitch

Great advice from The Open Notebook. Among the tips: email rather than phone, pitch a story rather than a topic; and know your market. As for bad pitches? Here's a taste, from David Grimm, editor of ScienceNow:

As far as worst pitch, that would have to be a freelancer who pitched me a couple of years ago about an AIDS study. It was a very controversial study, promoting (if I remember correctly) an unusual therapy. Fortunately, I passed the pitch by our AIDS expert, Jon Cohen, who did some digging and found out that the freelancer’s mother-in-law was an author on the paper. I confronted the writer about this, and he told me it wasn’t a conflict of interest because he could be objective about the study. As we were going back and forth I noticed something else troubling: The freelancer himself was mentioned in the paper’s acknowledgments. When I brought that up, I didn’t hear from him again.

Top that! :-)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Magazines: then and now

Two years ago, Maria Popova put together this look at magazines past, present -- and future, via tablets. At the time she wrote the piece, iPads were still pretty much a twinkle in techno-geeks eyes. Here's how the piece -- which includes a video history of magazines and tablet demos -- begins:

As big proponents of the power of curated interestingness, we have to admit that despite their umbilical cord to the corpse that is the print world, magazines — the best of them, at least — are one of the finest examples of cultural curation. But in order for this editorial-curatorial model to survive and flourish past print, it has to adapt to the platform-blind content ecosystems enabled by technology, while staying rooted in the behavioral and cultural demands of its audience. So today, we’ll try to contextualize all this by looking at the past, present and future of magazine publishing from three different angles, exploring everything from the digitization of print archives, to the emergence of niche, indie titles, to the publishing potential of the iPad.

fair use and plagiarism: redfined?

A good piece from salon.com by Emma Mustich on the ethics of fair use -- and the ways in which the internet -- and our own brains -- have muddied the waters. The post features the opinions of several professions in fields -- from music to fashion to journalism -- where copying the words or ideas of others is often an issueBottom line: when in doubt, don't.

Here's a taste:

Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University

The core of what plagiarism is remains undented by the digital publishing environment. Copying out the words of others and passing them off as your own is still what it always was; wholesale plagiarism is a sacking offense in most newsrooms. It is of course much easier to detect now, thanks to Google text search, but beyond the clear example of screeds of lifted text or images passed off as your own, the issue of who is a plagiarist is also a little more porous at the edges than it was.

In digital journalism, one of the most valuable functions you can perform is to aggregate and link to the content produced by others. We do however also see the problems of “over aggregation,” where credit and sourcing is not clear enough, links are missing, attribution is fuzzy and where the idea of “fair use” is enormously stretched. Is this plagiarism or enthusiastic aggregation?

The increased ease of detection of plagiarism is offset against the temptation to “over aggregate.” As for the broader context of taking ideas and presenting them as new, well, that happens all the time, sometimes knowingly and sometimes accidentally. It is an area where journalism is still thrashing out standards and best practice; there is a sort of arms race of transparency going on in digital news filtering at the moment – who did what first and when. I can’t help feeling that the idea of a plagiarism algorithm is not too far away.