Ethical Journalism Network Newsletter – 17 May 2016

 

News

Facebook’s Secret is Out: Journalists Make Better News Than Algorithms

Aidan White – EJN Director
It’s been a good week for journalism as another myth about the communications revolution explodes. Revelations that Facebook has been secretly using journalists to edit and direct its delivery of news has torpedoed one of the long-standing fallacies about information technology – that algorithms can tell us what makes news and can define the news agenda.Such a simple truth might be intuitive to people who come from a traditional journalism background, but in the world of communications technology, where there is no culture of understanding the role and place of news in society, it has been necessary to create a fantasy based on the idea that high-tech crunching of numbers can deliver news values just as effectively as the editorial judgement of news professionals.Now we have an admission that it wasn’t true after all.

Facebook has admitted using undercover journalists to edit its “trending topics” feature on its website. For years they have used good old-fashioned editors with a nose for news to help identify “trending” stories.

But they have been kept out of sight, working undercover and silenced by strict non-disclosure agreements which have prevented them from even revealing that they worked for the company.

Read the full article here. (EJN)


If you would like to interview Aidan White, please contact the EJN’s communications officer, Tom Law.

  • Email: tlaw@ethicaljournalismnetwork.org
  • UK Mob: +44(0)7594270633
  • Skype: t.law1
  • Twitter: @TomLawMedia

Snowden interview: Why the media isn’t doing its job

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Emily Bell spoke to Edward Snowden over a secure channel about his experiences working with journalists and his perspective on the shifting media world. This is an excerpt of that conversation, conducted in December 2015. It will appear in a forthcoming book: Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State, which will be released by Columbia University Press in 2016.

Read the full article here. (CJR)

Journalism has a marketing problem, and we’re not doing nearly enough to fix it.

What separates the work you’re doing from the rest of “the media” (my least favorite two-word phrase)? And how are you making that clear to your audience?

Read the full article here. (RJI)

 

 

Evgeny Morozov: the future of information is going to be very dark

When publishers and media relinquish audience data to companies like Facebook and Google, not only are they giving away profitability, but also losing the power to shape the journalism landscape. This is the takeaway from our conversation with Evgeny Morozov, author of “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom” and “To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism”. He has dark projections for the future of information and news.

Read the full article here. (GEN)

Facebook wants you to think it’s just a platform. It’s not.

In some respects, Facebook isn’t so different from the publishers that rely on it. A report from Gizmodo this week suggests that a team of “news curators” subjectively selected stories for the objective-sounding “trending” section of the Facebook homepage. One former contractor alleged that the team suppressed conservative news—and conservative outlets—that the social network’s almighty algorithm surfaced. The obvious analogy is to left-leaning journalists picking stories for a newspaper’s front page. Facebook, however, reaches audiences no newspaper could imagine.

 

Read the full article here. (CJR)

Body camera video release raises ethics questions

The Burlington Police Department released hours of footage from body cameras recorded during an encounter between officers and a mentally ill Burlington man that ended with the man’s death.

The way the police released the footage and the amount of material disclosed raised ethical questions for the department and for the media. Local journalists took differing approaches to how they handled the footage, from sharing none of the material to posting excerpts and edited clips.

Read the full article here. (Burlington Free Press)

Do British journalists play by the rules?

Four years after some of the more questionable practices of the UK press came to light under the scrutiny of the Leveson Inquiry, a survey of journalists has found that 25% believe it is acceptable not to verify information before publication or broadcast.

The survey,Journalists in the UK, was a detailed investigation of the working practices and conditions of UK journalists. It found that, overall, more journalists think ethical standards have strengthened than think they have weakened over the past five years.

Read the full article here. (The Conversation)

Ethics board may restrict public access to complaints

Residents and local media are questioning plans by the DeKalb County ethics board to keep ethics complaints secret until it holds informal hearings on them during public meetings. According to rules that the ethics board passed in January, each complaint will be considered a “separate pending investigation at the time it is reported” and the “board’s records in any pending investigation are exempt from disclosure under the Georgia Open Records Act.” The ethics board’s rules that that complaints “shall be made publicly available on request 10 days after the ethics officer closes the case as not sustained or sends the probable cause report to the board.”Read the full article here. (The Champion)

‘Be humane and professional while covering refugee crises’

Good media coverage means unbiased reportage, says Hussain Kneiber of Al Arabiya News Channel.

Read the full article here. (Gulf News)

The Unseen Refugees

In the midst of a lengthy and contentious election season, there has been an increase in conversation regarding refugees. Many of these conversations seem ignorant to humanitarian efforts and basic facts about the harsh conditions that many live. Most of these discussions have been fear-based. In an effort to placate fear-driven rhetoric, Michael Stark interviews Suzann Mollner, the Executive Director of Beirut & Beyond, a nonprofit organization dedicated to relief, reconciliation, and relationship on behalf of Palestinian refugees.

Read the full article here. (Huff Post)

Let’s Make Sure We Talk About Migrants at the World Humanitarian Summit

Words are the most precious things we have. We’ve been using them pretty appallingly of late, creating a world where people are castigated for trying to get their families out of the way of falling bombs. Where chasing your dream has become a nightmarish navigation of insults and abuse. Any attempts to ameliorate, to placate and to try to find a more inclusive, tolerant world are met with disdain and distrust. “It’s all been tried before,” say the naysayers. “We need action, not words.”

Read the full article by William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) here.

 

 

CPJ launches SecureDrop anonymous submission system

San Francisco, May 12, 2016 — Today, CPJ launched a SecureDrop instance that will allow journalists to contact the organization with reports of press freedom violations safely and anonymously.

Journalists are under unprecedented threat of physical and technological harm, which are often closely linked. Surveillance is becoming less expensive and easier to deploy, and while not every attacker possesses the capabilities of large nation states such as the U.S. or China, SecureDrop is designed with those threats in mind.

Read the full article here. (CPJ)

 

894 Turkish journalists dismissed since January 2016: Report

A total 894 journalists have been dismissed from work since the beginning of 2016, according to a fresh report by Press For Freedom, a project funded by Britain’s Bilateral Program, which produces monthly, quarterly and yearly reports on the state of media freedoms in Turkey. The report, whose findings were announced at a press conference on May 14, displayed a gloomy picture of the deteriorating state of press freedoms in Turkey.

Read the full article here. (Hurriyet Daily News)

Materials

Long-Form Reading Shows Signs of Life in Our Mobile News World

In recent years, the news media have followed their audience’s lead and gone mobile, working to make their reporting accessible to the roughly seven-in-ten American adults who own a smartphone. With both a smaller screen size and an audience more apt to be dipping in and out of news, many question what kind of news content will prevail.

One particular area of uncertainty has been the fate of long, in-depth news reports that have been a staple of the mainstream print media in its previous forms. These articles – enabled by the substantial space allotted them – allow consumers to engage with complex subjects in more detail and allow journalists to bring in more sources, consider more points of view, add historical context and cover events too complex to tell in limited words.

Read the full article here. (Pew Research Center)

Activities

Mobile Journalism: Ethical Challenges and Opportunities

The Ethical Journalism Network’s communications officer, Tom Law participated in the Global Editors Network’s for Editors Lab in Indonesia to work with some of the country’s leading journalists and developers to produce the next generation of mobile news applications and platforms.

Read his dispatch from Day 1 here.

For more details read the press release about the event and follow #EditorsLab on twitter.