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Understanding the news: a quick Q&A

Discussion in 'Media, Interviews, Blogs, Talks, Events about XMRV' started by Kelly, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Kelly

    Kelly

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    Yes, the UK is entirely different from US journalism. Most US journalists find it rather puzzling. But you do have some good professionals. Like any profession there are always some bad apples in the barrel.
  2. Kelly

    Kelly

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    Actually, no human being is unbiased. Nor do professional journalists at least in the US claim to be. Journalism is much like science. In order to push past our own biases we use specific protocols that should be applied in all news situation. Such as always attributing what is said to sources - usually experts in the field, using several different sources hopefully with divergent information, and allowing all reasonable sides to be heard toward being fair and balanced. Not everyone gets it right every single time and yes sources lie to us and we don't always catch the lie or we may not view it as a "lie" but rather a different viewpoint.
  3. Kelly

    Kelly

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    Network was a great movie, but it was a movie
  4. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    And, one of the things that surprised me the most is that most of the decisions I made as an editor or reporter were judgment decisions. I like facts, black and white, but on a day to day basis, I was always in areas of gray.

    For example:

    For this information, do I get one source, two or three?
    I am about to send to print, and this other source hasn't called me back, do I go forward with the claim against him or do I cut it out?
    Does this story go on front page or inside page?
    How much space do I give this story considering all the other stories I have?
    Do I go forward with this story, even though more information or more development of the story is coming- possibly risking another newspaper scooping me, or do I go ahead with what I have?
    Is this a matter of public concern or a private matter?

    You get the idea.

    Judgment doesn't mean making the decision based on personal opinions or bias, it means looking at the matter, weighing the factors, and making the decision of what is best for the readers. I compare it to being on a jury.

    There are times when I know things, because there is enough evidence to make me draw conclusions, but there isn't enough for me to put it in print. This is like a jury who may say, "I believe he did it, but I couldn't say 'guilty' beyond a reasonable doubt. So I had to say 'not guilty.' "

    Tina
  5. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Actually, I thought it was British reporters who found Americans rather - er - invested in their own opinions.
  6. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    USA!
    Calling Dr. Yes...

    "OK, since I first started on this post (sometimes I have to take breaks a lot :sofa:), I see that Muffin has replied again... Muffin (and it feels very odd calling someone "Muffin" :Retro tongue:), I have to say that I think your anger was well-justified, and although our anger does need direction when we choose to take action, that does not mean we have to sacrifice the clarity of our vision."

    -->> My dog's name is Muffin - and she is an adorable, rotten, spoiled brat. I can assure you that NO ONE would ever look at me and call me MUFFIN. Witch with a "B" replacing the "W" and many other cute little names that would more accurately capture a 5'11 Upstate NY double-fisted Bruiser...Sweet like a MUFFIN I ain't! ;)
  7. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    Well, in conferences I have attended and refresher course, the opinions were that Europeans include opinion or draw conclusions in their reports. Honestly, I notice it myself in reports from other countries, isn't just Europe.

    Tina
  8. jewel

    jewel Senior Member

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    This is an interesting thread. I think Tina characterizes the best of U.S. print journalism as it is still mainly practiced.."accuracy is much more important than their own opinion. And getting that perfect quote is much more important. And getting the story first is much more important. And getting the story better than their competitor is much more important." as well as the judgement issues ("... Judgment doesn't mean making the decision based on personal opinions or bias, it means looking at the matter, weighing the factors, and making the decision of what is best for the readers. I compare it to being on a jury.") My husband and many friends were or are reporters... this rings so true. And, it is a profession that exacts a toll; quality reporting is much more difficult than spouting an opinion. Really dedicated reporters are skeptics; they want the closest approximation of the truth that they can garner (by presenting relevant sides), and will work exceedingly hard to provide this. And they are not surprised (bemused perhaps) to get angry calls or emails from people from different vantage points all feeling that the other position was favored. I think this is important to remember because, if we are lucky, we will continue to see news articles on important studies on CFS, treatment, causation etc. We may not always agree with the way study results are reported or with portrayals of new treatments, and we are within our rights to respond so, or to respond if we feel that an article was biased or incomplete. Even though I am hoping, for example, that XMRV pans out as a cause or major player in this illness, I will also try not to feel betrayed by reporting of inconclusive or contrary findings, if the reporting is well done (complete, fair, other findings mentioned, etc.)... For this reason, I think it is an important thread. I also think it provides valuable insight with regard to the different journalistic approaches depending on the media (print vs. T.V.), and in different countries and cultures. I'll watch Spanish TV news (yuck, TV news, but sometimes I am a bit lazy to read in Spanish) for certain topics that get shorter thrift in mainstream U.S. channels or just to see how a topic is being approached. Also, Telemundo and Univision tend to stay on their topics a bit longer, less commercials than network news here in the U.S., but are not as lengthy as PBS (which is my usual favorite, but I honestly don't always have the attention span). I just hope that new findings continue to get covered, but that is a different thread topic ...PR.
  9. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    Kelly, I can't seem to respond to your private message. So here is my answer:

    Yes, I am still working. I work five hours a week for a local newspaper. When I was editor and publisher of our city newspaper, I ended up in three First Amendment battles. One I described here against the mayor. But another one involved an $8 million libel and slander lawsuit. It is still active, but has been stayed pending the guy's criminal trial. I uncovered a $4 million Ponzi scheme. But the guy doing it was an attorney, and he did what attorneys do, he sued me. He now has 17 Class B felony charges and four Class A felony charges, all involving theft by deception or securities fraud. Then I was subpoenaed to reveal a source before I even did the story on another situation.

    So this last fall, I felt I had won the battles on principle, and the lawsuit was on its last leg, and I knew some more stuff was coming down the pipeline. So before I got involved in another battle, I quit. I was able to keep up with the work despite my illness because most of my actual work was done on my laptop on my recliner or on phone. I would go out one day and stay home the next.

    But there wasn't enough money to make the risk and worry worth it. So I closed the paper.

    I did freelance for a couple of months. Another newspaper asked me to come on as staff for five hours. I said ok as long as I don't have to do crime, government or corruption.

    In addition to this work, I have done other communication projects, such as uploading photos and information on the city Web site. I have done some permit application design work for the city. I have also taken three ordinances, combined them, then adjusted it to match the city's needs. (My editor is fine for me doing this freelance work for the city, since I don't report on government for the paper.) And they are asking me to insert information into a database file they are just starting for Public Works. But all of this is on a project by project basis. This is good because if I have a run of bad days, usually no more than three at a time, I can postpone the work. Plus, again, much of it can be done on my laptop at home.

    I am also making my own jewelry and selling it. This is something I can do on my recliner when I don't have enough energy to do housework. I am just starting, but already have sold some pieces and had a customer ask if I could do a party in her home.

    Tina


    Also, I know I can't work for a Spanish T.V. News. Number 1, I don't speak Spanish. Number 2, I am not top heavy enough.

    Tina
  10. Kelly

    Kelly

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    For those of you who would like to read more on the principles of journalism as it is practiced by most US journalists I recommend reading the Principles of Journalism from the Project for Excellence in Journalism created by an organization of which I am a member. Keep in mind that this is the ideal and as usedtobeperkytina noted, the real world rarely operates in the vacuum of the ideal. Remember, journalists are human just as you are. Many view reporting in this area the equivalent of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No matter what is reported there are myriad people who are unhappy. And some even throw the equivalent of "rocks" at journalists for their trouble. Not an inducement to repeat the experience.And because this area is not part of the international political scene it is far easier to ignore than the Israeli-Palestinian war. Reality is what it is.

    http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles

    The central purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with accurate and reliable information they need to function in a free society.

    This encompasses myriad roles--helping define community, creating common language and common knowledge, identifying a community's goals, heros and villains, and pushing people beyond complacency. This purpose also involves other requirements, such as being entertaining, serving as watchdog and offering voice to the voiceless.

    Over time journalists have developed nine core principles to meet the task. They comprise what might be described as the theory of journalism:

    1. Journalism's first obligation is to the truth

    Democracy depends on citizens having reliable, accurate facts put in a meaningful context. Journalism does not pursue truth in an absolute or philosophical sense, but it can--and must--pursue it in a practical sense. This "journalistic truth" is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. Then journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, valid for now, subject to further investigation. Journalists should be as transparent as possible about sources and methods so audiences can make their own assessment of the information. Even in a world of expanding voices, accuracy is the foundation upon which everything else is built--context, interpretation, comment, criticism, analysis and debate. The truth, over time, emerges from this forum. As citizens encounter an ever greater flow of data, they have more need--not less--for identifiable sources dedicated to verifying that information and putting it in context.


    2. Its first loyalty is to citizens

    While news organizations answer to many constituencies, including advertisers and shareholders, the journalists in those organizations must maintain allegiance to citizens and the larger public interest above any other if they are to provide the news without fear or favor. This commitment to citizens first is the basis of a news organization's credibility, the implied covenant that tells the audience the coverage is not slanted for friends or advertisers. Commitment to citizens also means journalism should present a representative picture of all constituent groups in society. Ignoring certain citizens has the effect of disenfranchising them. The theory underlying the modern news industry has been the belief that credibility builds a broad and loyal audience, and that economic success follows in turn. In that regard, the business people in a news organization also must nurture--not exploit--their allegiance to the audience ahead of other considerations.


    3. Its essence is a discipline of verification

    Journalists rely on a professional discipline for verifying information. When the concept of objectivity originally evolved, it did not imply that journalists are free of bias. It called, rather, for 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 method is objective, not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards. This discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment. But the need for professional method is not always fully recognized or refined. While journalism has developed various techniques for determining facts, for instance, it has done less to develop a system for testing the reliability of journalistic interpretation.


    4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover

    Independence is an underlying requirement of journalism, a cornerstone of its reliability. Independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform--not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. In our independence, however, we must avoid any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.


    5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power

    Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. The Founders recognized this to be a rampart against despotism when they ensured an independent press; courts have affirmed it; citizens rely on it. As journalists, we have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.


    6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise

    The news media are the common carriers of public discussion, and this responsibility forms a basis for our special privileges. This discussion serves society best when it is informed by facts rather than prejudice and supposition. It also should strive to fairly represent the varied viewpoints and interests in society, and to place them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate. Accuracy and truthfulness require that as framers of the public discussion we not neglect the points of common ground where problem solving occurs.


    7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant

    Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. It should do more than gather an audience or catalogue the important. For its own survival, it must balance what readers know they want with what they cannot anticipate but need. In short, it must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant. The effectiveness of a piece of journalism is measured both by how much a work engages its audience and enlightens it. This means journalists must continually ask what information has most value to citizens and in what form. While journalism should reach beyond such topics as government and public safety, a journalism overwhelmed by trivia and false significance ultimately engenders a trivial society.


    8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional

    Keeping news in proportion and not leaving important things out are also cornerstones of truthfulness. Journalism is a form of cartography: it creates a map for citizens to navigate society. Inflating events for sensation, neglecting others, stereotyping or being disproportionately negative all make a less reliable map. The map also should include news of all our communities, not just those with attractive demographics. This is best achieved by newsrooms with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. The map is only an analogy; proportion and comprehensiveness are subjective, yet their elusiveness does not lessen their significance.


    9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience

    Every journalist must have a personal sense of ethics and responsibility--a moral compass. Each of us must be willing, if fairness and accuracy require, to voice differences with our colleagues, whether in the newsroom or the executive suite. News organizations do well to nurture this independence by encouraging individuals to speak their minds. This stimulates the intellectual diversity necessary to understand and accurately cover an increasingly diverse society. It is this diversity of minds and voices, not just numbers, that matters.
  11. V99

    V99 *****

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    I would say journalism is a mixed bag, much like anything else. Some will honour journalistic principles , other go for the quick headline, without much interest in getting close to some sort of truth. Today, with so many outlets, competition dictates for many, that story's pull in as many readers as possible. A good example would be the Times UK. No ME XMRV story, but once their is a personal face (Gilderdale trial) they drop in a mention of the research. If XMRV is found to be the cause of CFS, and is contagious, they will cover this too, as there will be interest from the public.

    It snowed the other week here in the UK, and the country ground to a halt, with the only tv news being the weather. The upshot was, no mention of the XMRV UK study. Goes to show, sometimes they are only interested in the topic of the day, not always the long hard story.
  12. Adam

    Adam *****

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    Hi Katie?Martlet et al

    Bit of a lefty Katie? In NorfolK? Geez! That's like...brave.

    Love the bracketed translations for our fellow sufferers over the pond. Especialy the Prat Cameron bicycle imagery stuff.

    Couple of random thoughts here. I'm best when random. What say someone suggest to Cameron there are 250k ME/CFS votes out there and all you have to do to guarantee them is sack a few psychiatrists and earmark a few mill for research? What do you think? Been a bit of lefty countless generations of family steeped in trade unionism went on the 1978 right to work march wouldn't vote tory if they put a gun to my head sort of guy, I am willing (not necesarily able)... to believe that David Cameron is a genuine, thoughtful, brilliant? worthy sort of politician, worthy of my vote, if...if, he comes up with the goods re the above vote bribe, I mean incentive, I mean clearly though through policy (must sign pledge in own blood and at the same time get it tested for XMRV just to be on the safe side David).

    The other random thing, thought has left me. Synapse Fail.

    5 mins later...Journalism. Yep. For the hell of it, I'm going to trawl local/provincial online newspapers for ME/CFS/XMRV stories. The reason? I've got 2 much time on my hands now the kids are not kids anymore and the dog don't need a sandwich making. Seriously, from recollection of articles in the Sheffield Star (few and far between) I seem to recall that they have been on the whole favourable to us, the sufferers. Written from the human interest angle and therefore devoid of politics. I'll let you know the results. But please don't wait up.

    Never been within 5,000 miles of Barack Obama (or a dodgy hamburger in last 20 yrs) but did once sit 5 yards away from Tom Robinson around a camp fire whilst he played a 12 string guitar and sang Sing if you're glad to be gay!

    PS Will someone (preferably one or more of you really clever people and not another pleb like me) be my friend?
  13. Katie

    Katie Guest

    Second post attempt...

    Lol Adam, your posts make me laugh! How dare you make fun of such a prgressive, forward thinking, cosmopolitan area of the Norfolk countryside, ahem, out here we're, *coughs* all for the progressive *sweats* blue sky... *sighs* yeah, it's pretty darn blue around these parts but there's pockets of hope, Normal Lamb could win his constituency out right even under proportional representation, they love him over there, I think it's the grey vote.

    As for getting Cameron to bribe us, unfortunately we're the 250,000 at expense of millions of votes by scapegoating benefit spongers. It may not be direct, but we're an easier target than most, for example all the talk of targetting Incap Benefit rather than DLA. Many of us find it too hard to get DLA, even folk with terminal illness have been turned down for DLA and had to appeal (true story). We're a soft target, to soft to pass up. Maybe if Cameron rode the Kay Gilderdale story it would help but all politicians have stayed away. If I was in PR (a la The Thick of It, genius) I'd be telling them to keep their noses out of our crapfest. God I'd love it if he got tested for XMRV, wonder if we said we'd pay for the Health Sec. Alan Johnson to get done that would get some attention, maybe in a few months start a facebook group calling for it! A whole hit list of people to be tested!
  14. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    Kelly, I sum it up this way.

    What do people need to know, have a right to know and want to know. And if the information I have fits this, making it newsworthy, then will it harm the innocent. Just because it harms the innocent, such as family members of a criminal, doesn't mean I don't publish, it just means I put all this on scales and see what is more important in serving the readers.

    There may be a matter people want to know, such as whether a movie star had an affair, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is important when weighed against other news and the possibility of harming the innocent.
    There are things people have a right to know, such as how much a government paid for copy paper. But, do they want to know it? That might depend on just how much it is. Although public has a right to know every expenditure of taxpayer dollars, you must weigh the interest compared to other stories.
    And then there is need to know information. In my view, this is king and trumps all others. An example might be the facts of an issue that is coming up for a vote of the people. A new discovery that will end some suffering, etc.
    ey
    Different "news" organizations will have slightly different standards. Take for example, National Enquirer. Commonly considered here in the US as totally unreliable. They even pay their sources, unethical in respected news organizations.

    But, this was the publication that exposed a presidential candidate had fathered a child during his campaign while his wife had cancer. This put the other news organizations to shame. Suddenly, the National Enquirer editor is being interviewed and they are even being considered for a pulitzer.

    So while there are principles, each news organization sets their own ethical guidelines. It becomes a market place where the consumer gets to choose, and that is the best part. Those that do well, survive. Those that don't, die. So we need to view the news media contribution to the public on its whole, collectively as opposed to the problems in individual reports. The truth ultimately rises to the top, in time, by the collection and the competition.

    I hope this helps you also see how competition with other news media is the overriding influence over news reports, not personal opinion.

    Tina

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