Friday, January 16, 2009

Journalism Ethics 2.0

Robert Niles lays out his case for some changes in standard operating procedure for reporters (via Romenesko):
Old rule: You can't cover something in which you are personally involved.
New rule: Tell your readers how you are involved and how that's shaped your reporting.

Old rule: You must present all sides of a story, being fair to each.
New rule: Report the truth and debunk the lies.

Old rule: There must be a wall between advertising and editorial.
New rule: Sell ads into ad space and report news in editorial space. And make sure to show the reader the difference.

Amen. I've been advocating all of these changes for some time. Honestly, they just seem like common sense to me.

Anyway, I highly recommend that everyone read the whole article.


taco said...

"Old rule: You can't cover something in which you are personally involved.
New rule: Tell your readers how you are involved and how that's shaped your reporting."

Old rule: Freedom of the Press
New rule: You're on your own, kid.

Adding to the comments I just posted on the RNC post: You really need to give some hard thought to all this advocating for new journalism ethics standards.

For one thing, in light of your accusations of police brutality at the RNC it makes your argument look horribly two-faced: "The police shouldn't have any right to lay their hands on me when I'm covering a political convention! Oh, and journalists should get some additional new rights too."

Secondly, the implications of a "new code of ethics" that all the naive bloggers are all abuzz are much bigger than many of its advocates realize (as detailed in other comment page) or are willing to acknowledge.

Media technology may be changing, but the duty of media to the public has not. You may think of yourself as a dude with a blog, and get stuck in the unintended mindset that you and me and some other people are your only consumers and critics, but if that's really where you stand in cyberspace, you're not a professional and not entitled to press credentials to begin with.

Truth has always been the object of the media. You think Bernstein and Woodward were just giving all sides a chance to give testimony in '72? Do you think that's all journalists were doing at the turn of the century in the muckraker era? You and Niles are confusing the goals of the profession with the details of the job.

The professional responsibility hasn't changed. If you want Freedom of the Press in the form of press passes and the liberty to not be arrested in the middle of reporting, you need to restrain the youthful enthusiasm and not involve yourself in unfolding events. That's central to a journalist's identity. If you give that up, you're testing a professional barrier and running the risk of getting exactly what you got in Minneapolis. It doesn't matter if you felt the protesters were entitled to do what they did, and that you didn't do anymore than they did. When you put yourself in a story, you're playing games with your role and your accompanying first amendment rights.

Consider the fact that Freedom of the Press isn't, and probably can never be, a right reserved to every individual citizen of the United States. There's an essential difference between the role you play in society as an individual citizen and as a reporter.

The Daily Iowan has criticized David Goodner several times for his confrontational and self-inserting style of protesting the Iraq war. I honestly believe that the approach to journalism espoused here is highly analogous to Goodner's approach to protesting. You both express frustration and challenge time-tested barriers of your roles, and in doing so you and others like you overstep long-standing bright lines of trust and respect that your audience and the public at large has for you, and diminish your respective causes in the long-run.

Christopher Patton said...

The First Amendment reads as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

As I recently pointed out to another commenter, I'm a law student at the UI College of Law and earned a solid A in the constitutional law class that covered the Bill of Rights. It's my professional legal opinion that the police acted illegally in arresting me on Sept. 4 in St. Paul. I was there and I know the law. You weren't and you don't--at least not as well--so you're a bit out of your league here, taco.

Most of your comment to this post is merely tilting at windmills. I don't believe many of the things you apparently think I do. Again, I suggest a face-to-face meeting to clear up your unfortunate confusion.

taco said...

"so you're a bit out of your league here, taco."

Oh me my, why 'escuse me Judge I dinna know you had such esstensif' legal backaroun'.

I'm over my head because you got an awesome grade in 91:116?? That's too funny, oh boy! You're right, I take for granted how highly educated and enlightened you are. My apologies for thinking that you, with that attitude, might blame someone else, like the police, for something that is actually your own fault.

If you ever decide you want to actually discuss these issues rather than reveling in how totally cool you are, let me know.

"Again, I suggest a face-to-face meeting to clear up your unfortunate confusion."

Never gonna happen as long as that attitude persists and you continue to demonstrate that you're not really interested in discussing issues with me. I've lived in this town longer than you have, and seen enough bar fights to know how unwise it is to be confrontational with somebody downtown. If you really want to talk in person, you need to show a little more good faith on your end.

Christopher Patton said...

Bar fights? What are you talking about? You think I'm going to physically attack you if we get a coffee at the Java House?

If you actually believe that, you're insane.

I think you're just an anonymous coward.

taco said...

"You think I'm going to physically attack you if we get a coffee at the Java House?"

You know as well as I do that people in general are batshiat crazy and kill eachother all the time over nothing at all.

I don't know you from Adam. When I have to go on is your juvenile namecalling and refusal to keep things academic here in a nonphysical environment, why would I think things would be any different in person? If you don't want to talk electronically, what exactly is supposed to make me think all you want to do is talk in a personal confrontation? Huh?

I'm not stupid, and you're not either, you just seem to have trouble seeing matters from other people's POV and/or following other people's train of thought without getting angry and having to try to prove your original conclusion was correct every time. When you won't dialogue, directly or indirectly tell other media consumers they're out of their league talking to you, call people cowards, and say you'd like to meet them in person, you come off as nothing more than an anal-expulsive testosterone-fuelled internet toughguy looking to foist crazy ideas off on people who otherwise don't listen.

The way you talk down to the majority of your readers, including myself, who are believe it or not, equally or perhaps more informed and educated as you on topics like Constitutional and Human Rights Law, that is the general reputation you're going to create for yourself.

Anonymous, somewhat. A coward, perhaps. But I want to talk about the issues, and if your blogging is worth a fraction of its weight in ideas, what do you have to lose in a compare and contrast session with my less-pro-alternative-media perspective? All it amounts to is egotistical truth-averse self-censorship.

Christopher Patton said...

I'm polite to people until they're not polite to me. You crossed that line long ago.

And it's pretty clear to me that you're not actually interested in serious dialogue. Despite Snyders and Treftz's independent accounts of the events surrounding my arrest in St. Paul and even a letter from the city's district attorney, you continue to insist that I must have been doing something that justified the polices' actions. You obviously just don't like me and you have allowed this fact to blind you to the possibility that (as all the available evidence suggests) I'm telling the whole story behind my detention.

Your lack of good faith in our dialogue is further evidenced by your unwillingness to step out from behind your computer screen and say who you are and what qualifications you have. You might not like what I have to say or how I say it, but at least I have the guts to put myself out there. You, however, continue to hide behind your little mask and shoot spit balls at me from the back of the room. I hope that's fun for you.

Ultimately, if you want me to take you seriously, you'll have to act like you're serious. And your claim that no mainstream media reporters were detained in St. Paul despite how easy it is to use Google to find out that people working for the Associated Press and even Fox did indeed suffer the same fate I did indicates a profound lack of seriousness on your part.

taco said...

"Ultimately, if you want me to take you seriously, you'll have to act like you're serious. And your claim that no mainstream media reporters were detained in St. Paul"

Patently and demonstrably false. You are now officially being either journalistically negligent or intentionally dishonest by denying facts. Second item, 5th post, RNC thread.

Christopher Patton said...

What exactly are you referencing?

You wrote: "No reporters from ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, NPR or other full-time professional organization were arrested."

And yet Alice Kalthoff, an editor with, was detained. As was John P. Wise, a MyFox national editor. Are you quibbling over the reporter/editor distinction? Regardless, those people are both FOX employees.

There are plenty of veteran AP reporters on the list too, if you actually care to look at it:

taco said...

"Are you quibbling over the reporter/editor distinction? Regardless, those people are both FOX employees."

Look, don't play dumb. We both know every single one of those organizations had reporters and cameras in St. Paul that day, some covering the RNC itself and some actually covering the street theater.

But it took Amy Goodman and you "FUCKING FASCISTS"-Twittering, Journalism Ethics 2.0-espousing blogger "journalists" to get yourselves arrested and create these "Freedom of Press suppression" stories. Trying to disprove that observation by pointing to the two FOX editors is insanely disingenuous.

Bringing us full circle back to my original point: When you start talking seriously about redefining what a journalist is and acting on those personal definitions, you call your role and into question in other people's minds and in doing so put your 1st Amendment rights at risk.

You can proclaim "lesson not learned!" like a 5 year old, and plan for a long career of throwing tantrums about police brutality in 2nd rate "indy media" organizations for the rest of your career. Or, you can come to terms with a real journalist's responsibilities and perhaps be taken seriously one day.

Christopher Patton said...

I don't have much interest in debating the future of the media with you, especially since I don't really know who you are or what your background is. Ultimately, these issues will be settled by economics and the broader culture, none of which either of us can individually influence all that much.

But if you're unwilling to concede that two Fox editors, two AP writers, and an AP photographer all suffering the same fate I did weighs strongly against the notion that a journalist had to do something wrong to get arrested, then I no longer consider this conversation worth having. In any case, I look forward to your comments on my series of follow-up pieces this semester.