30th March 2016
By Stefanie Chernow

Ethical Journalism Network Newsletter – 31 March 2016


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Frontline Club ‘hatchet job’ backfires on The Spectator



On 23 March American journalist James Kirchick wrote an article in Spectator Life about The Frontline Club in London accusing it of becoming a “den of swagger and lefty self-regard” going on to personally attack its founder Vaughan Smith and his relationship with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Roy Greenslade, a media commentator for The Guardian and Frontline Club member described the article as “an ill-argued self-serving hatchet job without much evidence and without any merit” in his column on Tuesday.

Vaughan Smith wrote a right to reply for the magazine but the Spectator’s editor, Toby Young, suggested a much shorter and heavily edited version. Smith considered this to be unacceptable and withdrew his piece. As well as questioning the motives of the article, which Kirchick himself described as a “take down”, Smith wrote:

Kirchick criticises me for failing freelancers, advising me that I would do “more of a service to freelancers if” I hosted “serious discussion about the ethical traps of conflict reporting,” which he feels includes “the temptation to make stuff up.”

His article ignored Frontline Club funding of the Frontline Freelance Register, which I launched with young freelancers who, for very little pay, take the risks needed to cover today’s conflicts.

Read Vaughan Smith’s right of reply here. (Guardian)

Smith also published the suggested edits and cuts that Young made to his original submission on his blog.

Read Young’s suggested edits and cuts here. (vaughansmith.com)

Smith obtained the email exchanged between Young and Kirchick discussing the piece and published them on his blog to illustrate that Kirchick’s piece was ‘a politically motivated hit job’. Smith also published an email exchange between Kirchick and Frontline Club member Sam Kiley, who rejected Kirchick’s claims of left wing bias and defended the Frontline Club.

Read the email exchanges here. (vaughansmith.com)

The EJN’s director, Aidan White, is a member of the Frontline Club.

“Mr. President, with all due respect… maybe your lecturing would be better delivered to your own administration.”

A speech by US President, Barack Obama this week on the importance of journalism has brought stinging criticism from US media who accuse him failing to deliver on his promise for greater transparency and that Freedom of Information Act obstruction has hit new records during his two terms of office.

CNN reporter Jake Tapper agreed with message – greater fairness, more probing and investigative journalism and warnings against the rise of false equivalency especially in the presidential race – but not the messenger, concluding his piece by saying, “Mr. President, with all due respect… maybe your lecturing would be better delivered to your own administration.”

Obama a flawed messenger to call for aggressive journalism (CNN)

Obama Criticizes the Media, but His Administration Is Part of the Problem (Fortune)

Spare Me Your Hypocritical Journalism Lecture, Mr. President (Politico)

Obama Disciplines American Media (Financial Buzz)




Revealed: how Associated Press cooperated with the Nazis

German historian shows how news agency retained access in 1930s by promising not to undermine strength of Hitler regime.

Read the full article here. (Guardian)

This is the English translation of the abstract of the article by historian Harriet Scharnberg:

The A and P of Propaganda. Associated Press and Nazi Photojournalism

Picture agencies are mediators between photographers and editorial staffs; they play a crucial role in producing mass media visibility. However, their part in the system of the visual propaganda of the Nazi state is largely unexplored. This article features a controversial case, the American Associated Press and its German subsidiary. By submitting to theSchriftleitergesetz (Editorial Control Law) in 1935, the German AP GmbH (LLC) followed its German counterparts in the process of Gleichschaltung (forcible coordination). Until the United States entered the war in December 1941, AP supplied the Nazi press with American pictures. This service proved to be of particular relevance for propaganda. AP was also allowed to continue its photographic reporting in the Reich. AP pictures taken under the aegis of the Propaganda Ministry, the Wehrmacht and the SS were ubiquitous in the Nazi press. Moreover, the New York headquarters supplied the North American press with these same pictures, where they were published either as news photos or as propaganda images.

New University of Hong Kong media centre director pledges to uphold its independence and integrity

The incoming director of the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school has pledged to uphold the centre’s independence, autonomy and integrity amid the political controversies that have been buffeting the school and the city in recent years.

Professor Keith Richburg, the former foreign editor of The Washington Post who was appointed on Wednesday to succeed Professor Chan Yuen-ying as head of the HKU’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) in September, also noted that there were public concerns that the city’s academic and press freedoms were at stake with promises made under the Basic Law being eroded, as reflected in the recent case of the missing booksellers.

Read the full article here. (South China Morning Post)

The story was also covered by AdWeek: Keith B. Richburg Named Director of HKU’s Journalism and Media Studies Centre


Dutch University launches “Constructive Journalism” course

Windesheim University of Applied Sciences the Netherlands has launched a “Constructive Journalism” course as part of their curriculum.

According to the course’s new web page, “Constructive journalism”:

  • adds a solution-oriented framing of news.
  • conveys a productive perspective about the future. And about our ability to get there.
  • is critical but never cynical.
  • puts new questions to power, so-called victims and experts, inquiring about resources, collaborations and solutions on issues of high societal significance.
  • calls on the press to take its commitment to democratic participation and public debate seriously.
  • engages the public and possibly co-creates with them.

Read more about the Constructive Journalism course here. (Windesheim University)


Journalism before and after twitter

Last week The Media Show show discussed 10 years of twitter:

Twitter is ten years old and has had an “utterly transformative” impact on journalism. That’s according to Emily Bell, Director of the Tow Centre for Digital Journalism at the Columbia JournalismSchool. She says it has been the most important journalistic tool since the phone. We’ll hear from her and from radio and TV presenter Richard Bacon, one of the UK’s pioneers in using Twitter. He has 1.5 million followers and has experienced both the bright and very dark sides of Twitter.

We’ll also ask if we – all of us – are too quick to share pictures and video on Twitter and other social media in the aftermath of terror attacks, like those in Brussels yesterday? We’ll be hearing from Hend Amry who began #ISISMediaBlackout on Twitter to discourage users from sharing ISIS propaganda online. She feels that sharing footage of attacks inadvertently serves the purpose of terror groups who hope to spread panic.

Listen to the programme here. (BBC Radio 4)

Journalism as Genocide

Journalism demands detachment and objectivity that allows for dissent, disagreement and freedom of expression. In the absence of such ethics, it clears the ground for violence and does great disservice to the democratic way of life.

Read the full article here. (The Wire – India)

How the AP busted an international seafood slavery racket

Poynter interviews AP reporter Martha Mendoza whose team won the 16th annual Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism and the Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics.

Read the full article here. (Poynter)

Schoolkids challenge charities’ ‘undignified’ images of children

Pupils from a South London school are asking organisations, including the NSPCC and Save the Children, to stop using emotive pictures of children.

Read the full article here. (Guardian)


EJN Annual Report 2015 Migration, Hate Speech and Ethical Journalism for Free Expression

This report on the work of the Ethical Journalism Network in 2015 covers a period of heightened political tensions and global crisis in which the key elements of EJN work – to strengthen the capacity of journalists to provide information that is reliable, timely and laced with humanity – have been in more demand than ever. The year began with the journalists and cartoonists killed by terrorists in the unconscionable massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Within hours the EJN published an article advising journalists to defend free speech but calling on media to lower the temperature, avoid stereotypes and to report sensitively. We called for “slow journalism” and for newsrooms to think carefully about how to handle the story. It was a theme we returned to as the year continued with fresh challenges for journalists – conflict in the Middle East; a continuing information crisis in Europe around the confrontation over Ukraine; rising nationalism, propaganda and bellicose political rhetoric in East Asia; and a headline-grabbing migration and refugee crisis which touched almost every corner of the world. During these months the EJN intensified its work in support of media actions to counter hate-speech. We have also continued to work with others in developing tools for journalists and providing information aimed at improving media quality across all platforms of journalism. Our targeted actions in all regions of the world are set out in the calendar of major events and activity report.

Read the full EJN annual report here.