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Federica Cherubini

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The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced yesterday, June 22nd, the 16 winners of the fifth Knight News Challenge, the media innovation contest which awards about $5 million a year "for innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization", the site says.

The Knight Foundation launched this five-year Challenge in 2006 aiming to fund community news projects that best use the digital world to connect people to the real world in the aim to advance the future of news.

For five years since then the annual competition has been finding and funding the best "ideas, prototypes, products and leadership initiatives" in journalism: $27 million were invested and 12,000 applications made.

As the five-year commitment is coming to an end the announcement of the last winners prompted reflections about how the media and news environment changed during these years.

John S. Bracken, director of digital media, suggested on the Knight Blog a couple of observations.

He underlined that these years saw, amongst the most important changes, the rise of the hacker/data journalist; a broader interpretation of the concept of "news", including in this all the ways to inform and engage communities that traditionally wouldn't be considered part of the journalism news stream; last, but not least, the idea itself of the news stream and breaking news events and how to make a better sense of them. "News consumers and journalists alike need help making sense of the streams of data now available to us. Human aggregation and vetting of the type NPR's Andy Carvin has been modelling is one route", Bracken wrote.

Bracken, asked about what's next for Knight by Nieman's Joshua Benton, said that even details are not defined yet, the News Challenge will continued in some ways.

This year's funds included for the first time a contribution of $1 million from Google. This year contest, unlike past ones, divided applications into four categories - Bracken wrote - mobile, sustainability, authenticity and technology in community. However in evaluating the projects the focus remained on the best ones, independently of category, he wrote. "We saw a lot of ideas in mobile; not as many ideas related to business models advanced deep in the contest. Of the 16 projects before you, only one relates to potential business models for news".

You can find the full list of the winners here.

Going more into detail, amongst them there are projects for helping newsrooms in "organizing and visualizing large data sets", like the projects by the Associated Press and by the Chicago Tribune, which both developed tools to dig into huge amounts of documents and data.

The AP team, which received grant of $475,000, created "an open-source, production-quality visual analytics system designed specifically for journalistic understanding and discovery within large sets of unstructured or semi-structured text documents, and distributed with comprehensive training materials," a press release said.

This is the same aim as the PANDA Project by the Chicago Tribune, which built, according to Knight, a set of open-source, web-based tools, which can help small news organizations, which don't have the same resources in terms of staff and know-how of big national media outlet, to use and analyse data.

As data journalism becomes more and more prevalent, amongst the winners there is also the Liverpool-based start-up ScraperWiki. According to a press release, after having launched a "data mining" site in 2010 for finding and storing data in a simpler and more collaborative way, the company has now been awarded $280,000 to improve its platform's functionality, expand to the US and develop more services for journalists.

Referring to ways to make a better use of the news stream in breaking news events, iWitness, a web-based tool that aggregates user-generated content from social media during big news events, created by the web design firm Adaptive Path, was awarded a $360,000 grant.

Along similar lines is the SwiftRiver platform by the crowdsourcing site Ushahidi. "Working across email, Twitter, web feeds and text messages, the platform will use a combination of techniques to identify trends and evaluate the information based on the creator's reputation."

Sources: Knight Foundation (1), (2), (3), Nieman, AP


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-24 12:11

The Guardian's Roy Greenslade wrote an article about how newspapers, despite their decline, still influence the political process. His reflections were prompted by an openDemocracy essay by Canadian media analyst Ken Goldstein who argues that Britain's national newspapers are losing their ability to influence politics. You can find Greenslade's article here and Goldstein's one here.

Google's websites had more than a billion unique visitors in May, the first time an Internet company has hit that benchmark, Wall Street Journal's blog Digits reported, citing comScore data released Tuesday.

Within its series "Media Diet" The Atlantic Wire published the one of Margaret Atwood who wrote the book "The Blind Assassin", which currently is, as the article reported, the subject of TheAtlantic.com's Twitter book club #1book140.

A Press Association photographer was shot in the leg yesterday during the second night of riots in east Belfast, Journalism.co.uk reported. The news agency declined to give further details this morning or name the photographer - the article reported - but a police spokesman said they are is in a stable condition at hospital, widely reported to be the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

For more industry news please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-22 19:41

The New York Times, in a letter reported by Joshua Benton on the Nieman Lab, announced that starting Sunday June 26 the Week in Review section will be reinvented, being renamed Sunday Review and offering new features and a new way to present analysis and opinion pieces.

An internal memo already announced the overhaul of the section last February. The project was presented as a reinvention of the Sunday commentary section, produced jointly by the Op-Ed columnists, editorialists, outside opinion writers, all in the effort of expanding and enhancing the interaction with readers.

As the original memo to staff underlined, the important distinction between news and opinion will not be relaxed in the new section: "Reporters and editors who work in the newsroom will observe the boundary between analysis (which supplies context, explores trends, weighs assertions against evidence) and opinion (which may be partisan or ideological and advocate particular outcomes)", outgoing executive editor Bill Keller and editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal wrote.

However, what Benton stressed in commenting on the recent announcement is that the Times seems not entirely satisfied with the ancient division between opinion and news and even between opinion and analysis, at least from a geographic, or better, visual point of view. What the paper is offering is a more integrated way to propose and display them. Even if the article underlined that the will be clearly labelled to be distinguished, "analysis and opinion may be presented with each other in themed packages" and will be run side-by-side.

In Benton's opinion this boundary's dwindle reflects the changes Internet introduced in the way we consume news online. Google News, Twitter and Facebook all cooperated to make the demarcation line thinner, grouping stories into clusters and often not offering "immediate cues for which journalistic bucket the story you are about to read fits into".

Does a more integrated way of displaying and consuming news online affect the Anglo-Saxon approach to journalism, which keeps opinion clearly isolated from news? And if it does, what kind of content does this affect?

Sources: New York Times, Nieman Lab, Editors Weblog


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-21 18:43

On Friday 10 June the state of Alaska released 24,199 pages of emails that Sarah Palin sent and received during her first 22 months' tenure as governor of Alaska.
Mother Jones, msnbc.com and ProPublica are partnering in publishing an online searchable archive of the emails.

As Mother Jones reported, this saga began with a request that David Corn, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief, made almost three years ago.
As Corn reported, when John McCain chose Palin in 2008 as his vice in the presidential election running, reporters started a rush in digging into her past looking for interesting information.

Even before that time, in June 2008, Andrée McLeod, a citizen activist in Alaska, used the state's open-records law to request emails sent to and from two Palin's top aides to investigate the pair's political behaviour during official business hours.

You can have a look to the different states' Freedom of Information statues on the Freedom of Information (FOI) Center.

Intrigued by the story, David Corn thought that, as the governor's office withheld portions of the documents and redacted others protected by "executive or deliberative process" privileges, it could be more interesting to investigate what was withheld, rather than what was released.

On September 2008 Corn filed a request with the state for "all emails send and received by Palin" during her entire tenure as governor. Other media outfits submitted related requests but, as Corn wrote on the Guardian, he was the only one to ask for the whole pile.

So, how is that possible that the request was filed in September 2008 and emails have been released three years later - Alaska state agencies are supposed to have 10 days to fulfil a request, ProPublica noted - and what is there of interest within these huge amount of papers?

Literally, papers - accordingly to ProPublica, the state said it didn't have the technology to redact the emails electronically and so the emails now fit in six boxes and weigh 250 pounds per set.

Reporters load boxes containing Palin's email records in Juneau. Photograph: Brian Wallace/AP (Source: the Guardian)

"Alaska's decision to provide only paper copies has been puzzling. While nothing in the state's public records law requires the state to provide records in electronic form, public agencies are "encouraged" to "make information available in usable electronic formats to the greatest extent feasible." Though government agencies have fumbled on redactions in the past, software certainly exists to safely redact electronic data. (We do it all the time)", ProPublica wrote.

However, several newspapers are now scanning the whole pile and make it available online

Amongst others, the New York Times collected the emails and organized them by the date of each conversation here; you can find the ProPublica's reader's guide to the emails here and the Guardian section here. You can find as well the Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz's answer to criticism of the paper coverage of the Palin emails here.

So why a three-year wait?

First the governor's office claimed questions of costs and time in collecting the all material and deciding what to redact and withhold - media outlets at the beginning were supposed to pay a fee of $2,249.46 and additional costs for copying, then cut down to the final $725 per news organization. The state's Department of Law devoted a team of six attorneys and four paralegals and associate attorneys on the case.

To complicate the matter, Sarah Palin used a number of private emails accounts to conduct state business - ProPublica reported - complicating the process of sorting out which emails were truly private and which should be a matter of public record. As Corn protested that an at least improper use of a private account shouldn't affect newspapers and citizens right to know, they finally proceeded in fulfilling the request.

Now that the material has been released, what's interesting is on the one hand to find out what has been not, as the state said that it withheld 2,353 pages and the released documents contain redactions and at the other hand to dig into the 24,199 pages released.

Some potential issues have been already identified, as the so-called "Troopergate", when Palin and her husband were accused of having pressured a state employee to fire a state trooper and then, when he refused, firing himself. Or the "Bridge to Nowhere" constructions project.

What the Palin email saga shows however is how useful collaborative journalism can be for the quality of information as different newspapers first chased up the governor's office to released the documents and then partnered analysing the entire pile, as ProPublica, Mother Jones, msnbc.com did.

Not only collaboration within news organizations however plays an important role in this story. Citizens and crowdsourcing can now definitely play their part in digging into a so vast and sometimes specific material. ProPublica, The Guardian and The New York Times, among others, are encouraging citizens to get on board. ProPublica is sharing what readers find using the hashtag #palinemail on Twitter.

As Corn concluded, as a Palin's active participation in the presidential campaign is becoming a possibility, perhaps the Palin emails are arriving at an appropriate time. "The request I placed during the last presidential campaign might end up affecting the current one", he said.

Sources: Mother Jones, Guardian (1), (2), (3), ProPublica, New York Times
Second Image Source: Guardian - Photograph: Brian Wallace/AP


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-13 18:30

The New York Observer, the Manhattan weekly salmon-coloured magazine, is launching today, June 8th, a redesign of both its website and its print edition.

As Yahoo!'s The Cutline noted, this alone is hardly newsworthy as during the past two years the paper has gone through several changes, getting through three editors-in-chiefs and about as many redesigns in print and online.

According to the article however, the newest top editor Elizabeth Spiers announced that this time the publication is "going back in the direction that it probably should have stayed on".

On the print side Spiers announced that the idea is to go back to treating the paper like a newspaper, albeit in a tabloid format, leaving some previous elements that seemed more suitable for white glossy paper magazine in favour of a cleaner version, more suitable for salmon newsprint.

However, the main changes seem to affect the website in order to give emphasis to long-form articles and adopt a clearer and more readable layout. The paper abandoned its former content-management system Drupal, turning to a lighter WordPress CMS. As the article reported, the new web version will accommodate more breaking news and higher volume posting.

"The new design does little to distinguish between long form features that appear in the paper and long-form web exclusives, which we'll be doing far more of - meaning more long-form altogether, and no assuming that if something runs longer than 500 words, it can only run affixed to a slice of dead tree. But we do also expect that the biggest change will be an emphasis on breaking news and smaller scoops throughout the day", Spiers said to The Cutline.

Long-form journalism has been gaining more prominence recently and paradoxically technology and new ways to consume news are the ones giving it a boost.

During the time of fast and instant news consumption and a strengthening debate concerning the article format in the digital world, for example new apps can support a revival of long and in-depth journalism. The Atavist, a publishing house specialised in long-form journalism, launched an application for the iPad and Kindle that offers articles, individually sold, that combine text, video and background information. You can find out more about The Atavist and its take on in-depth journalism here.

Will long, profound analysis have its revenge in the world of digital news?

Source: The Cutline


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-08 16:20

On Monday 6th at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco Steve Jobs himself presented the company's latest innovations.
Amongst these are iOS 5, the new Apple mobile operating system which brings over 200 new features, iCloud, the new online storage and syncing service for music, photos, files and software, and Newsstand, a virtual bookshelf which organizes magazine and newspapers' app subscription in just one folder.

Probably the most interesting feature from a publisher's point of view is Newsstand. Through this service, iOS 5 organizes users' magazine and newspaper app subscriptions in just one location that lets readers access their favourite publications quickly and easily.

The App Store will have a new place just for newspaper and magazine subscriptions, to which users can go directly from Newsstand. In the same way, new purchases will go directly to the newsstand folder. Then, as new issues become available, Newsstand automatically updates them in the background -- complete with the latest covers.

As Nieman Lab reported, "with the new feature readers can browse a virtual bookshelf -- literally, "wooden" and all -- and subscribe to a periodical in one tap. New issues will be downloaded in the background, solving one of the biggest problems for magazine publishers who push out issues that are hundreds of megabytes in size".

The article noted that while on the one hand, "to play in Apple's garden, [publishers] have to play by Apple's rules", meaning - as again and again underlined - giving up 30 percent of their subscription and not being able have all users and consumption data, on the other hand the system appears to be very simple and effective to use, being to both users and publishers' benefit. "It's hard to imagine a publisher not wanting to see its glossy magazine sitting there, right next to other glossy magazines, on 25 million virtual bookshelves", it noted.

Another important feature within iOS 5 is Reading List, a read later functionality, which allows a time-shift content consumption for users. As MSNBC's Gadgetbox reported, "it appears to even sync across devices, so if you prefer to finish reading something on your iPad or your Mac instead of your iPhone, you can".

The function is reminiscent of Instapaper, Readability or Longreads, which let users read easily offline long-form articles across devices in a clearer and more readable layout.

"No graphics, no buttons -- and, very importantly, no ads. Users will be able save articles for later, generating a "reading list" that syncs across all of the user's iOS devices", Nieman commented.

Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, gave his succinct comment on Safari's Reading List here.

iCloud, coming this fall, is a cloud-storage service which stores music, photos, apps, calendar, documents, contacts and wirelessly pushes them to all users devices, automatically, without any manual syncing.
It offers 5 GB of free storage.
When updating iPhone, iPad or iPod touch to iOS 5, Apple apps become "seamlessly" integrated with iCloud, the Apple site says.

At the center of iCloud is a new version of iTunes that will allow users to download on any device any song they have ever bought. Songs on a person's iTunes library that were not bought from Apple can be added for $25 a year, Mr. Jobs said, according to the New York Times. While other iCloud services will available this fall, when Apple will release iOS 5, the iTunes in the Cloud service is available now.

Photos taken with an iPhone or an iPad will automatically be uploaded in iCloud through the Photo Stream Service. The iCloud service will replace Mobile Me.

Apple's service is by no means the only one to let users to store files and content, but, as Mike McCue, a veteran Silicon Valley executive, now head of Flipboard, said in the New York Times article, "the fact that you no longer have to think in terms of files and folders is a big deal". According to him, compared to other services, Apple's solution is simpler and "it doesn't feel like a techie thing at all".

Amongst the innovative features of iOS 5 there is the Notification Center, which put all alerts (new emails, texts, friend requests) together in one place. A new messaging service for all iOS 5 users will also allow unlimited text messages via WI-FI or 3G from iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. Twitter will be fully integrated into iOS 5 making easier to tweet from different devices.

In addition, Apple's site announces that with iOS 5, users no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch as they'll be able to activate and set up their device wirelessly, right out of the box, downloading free iOS software updates directly on their device.

Newsstand and Safari's Reading List are of course the two innovations, which could have an impact on the news business and on publishers.

Apple's supremacy has been questioned by someone. On the one hand some publishers started to champ at the bit towards the strict rules Apple imposes regarding subscriptions and detailed users' identities and consuming data and, on the other hand, new technological improvements have been done in the apps field giving the possibility to newspapers and magazine that want to go digital to create non native apps, through HTML5 for example keeping away from Apple.

HTML5 is a platform that allows publishers to create web-based apps compatible with Apple products and selling it itself, without being forced to pass through the Apple Store.

Amongst others, Fortune, Playboy and Aside and OnSwipe launched are moving forward in this field.

The Financial Times, which, generating a tenth of its new digital subscriptions from its iPad app last year, had previously expressed concerns regarding Apple's terms and condition, has also introduced a new browser-based app for tablets - according to the Guardian - which bypasses Apple's iTunes store and Google's Android market.

As the article reported, the automatically updating HTML5 app will enable readers to access its editorial content across a broad range of tablet and smartphones devices.

As TechCrunch reported, Financial Times CEO John Ridding commented: "The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity we want to keep our service simple, easy to use and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism."

Will Apple continue to lead the way?

Sources: MSNBC Gadgetbox, Nieman, New York Times, Marco, Guardian, TechCrunch
Photo from the conference: AllThingsD


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-07 16:54

On Friday June 3rd, The United Nations released a report which declared Internet access a human right, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states", the report said.

Jill Abramson, a former investigative reporter who rose to prominence as a Washington correspondent and editor, will become the next executive editor of The New York Times, succeeding Bill Keller, who is stepping down to become a full-time writer for the paper, the Guardian reported. She will be the first woman to be editor of the paper in its 160-year history.

A selection of The New Yorker articles from 1958 to today,will be available for iPad users as part of the digital subscription to the paper. "The Digital Revolution" is the inaugural installment in the New Yorker Reader, a series of digital collections of articles, short stories, poems, and cartoons from the magazine's archive, the paper announced.

As Press Gazette reported, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is the last guest editor for this week's edition of the New Statesman. This week's edition investigates David Cameron's "big society", with analysis and commentary from the Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Maurice Glasman and Iain Duncan Smith. Previous guest editors were Melvyn Bragg and Jemima Khan.

For more industry news please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-06 18:35

During health pandemics and environmental catastrophes, a press debate arises every time over the thin line between informative and accurate reporting about risks and preventions and useless, if not damaging, alarmism.

We saw it during the Swine Flu of 2009 and the Avian Flu of 2003, and now it's the time of the E coli bacterium. According to the Guardian, it has killed 22 people and has infected people across 12 countries, causing alarm across Europe.

Information about the geographical origin of the outbreak is so far unclear, as is the information about which vegetable caused the epidemic.

After an initial assumption of a Spanish cucumber origin, the Guardian reported that it seems now that the outbreak was probably caused by bean sprouts grown in Germany, where the cases are centred.

Over the course of the past week, different vegetables were implicated as the source of the infection.

As Libération reported, citing AFP, the German newspapers provided extensive coverage investigating the different alleged origins of the outbreak.

A doubt over objective information is worsened by an uncertainty in covering the news. The current linguistic disagreements have not helped in providing clear and useful coverage.

As Il Post reported, the name of the culprit vegetable has been mistranslated across countries, causing futher confusion.

The article cited a post in the blog Terminologia etc. that analysed the different terminologies used by foreign news media to report about the provenance of the bacterium.
Italian newspapers, as Il Corriere della Sera, reported the soya bean as the original source, as some Spanish newspapers did.

The German media instead referred to generic sprouts, "Sprossen", the post noted, highlighting that the farm thought to be the source of the infection produced 18 different types of sprouts.

UK media, the article continued, use the word beansprout. The word initially indicated the mung bean but now is used as a general description for every kind of sprouts.
The article quoted the BBC that wrote: "The beansprouts include adzuki, alfalfa, broccoli, peas, lentils and mung beans, all grown in the nursery for consumption in salads" and the Guardian added that "A factory there produces 18 sorts of sprouts, from alfalfa and aduki bean sprouts, to sprouts from radish and sunflower seeds".

The article concluded with a comment on the Italian reportage. It seems that Italian media relied on English sources mistranslating the terminology. Reporting inaccurate news that blames a specific product of being the cause of the infection instead of referring to a generic one could have negative effects on the population as well as on the farm industry.

Reporting on risk is a difficult but important task. At its best, it plays a fundamental role in making the population aware of risks and prevention procedures. At its worst, it can contribute to spread illogical hysteria and hype. Misinformation, even if is not completely wrong, is a risk that plagues this type of reporting.

To reconcile this kind of spotty coverage, in April 2006 the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the World Health Professionals Alliance and the World Health Communication Associated launched a World Health Editors Network (WHEN) with the aim of improving communication on health issues, especially during disease crisis.

Sources: Guardian (1), (2), Il Post, Terminologia etc., BBC, Libération


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-06-06 16:58

With "A week on Foursquare" the Wall Street Journal collected every check-in on location-sharing service Foursquare for a week starting at noon Eastern on Friday, Jan. 21 until noon on Friday Jan. 28. It revealed, through a visualization, how people live, Information aesthetics reported.

Journalism.co.uk reported that the Visual Communication Lab, part of the IBM Center for Social Software has created a site to provide a visualisation - NYT Writes, created by research developer Irene Ros - to show what subjects New York Times journalists are writing about.

Facebook's founder Marc Zuckerberg and Google chief Eric Schmidt spoke at the e-G8 and gave a "lukewarm reception to Nicolas Sarkozy's plan for premature regulation", the Guardian reported. Zuckerberg, wearing a rare suit and tie, told leaders at the G8 that excessive regulation would not work, and called for more investment in high-speed technology, the article said.

For more industry news please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-05-27 18:07

One of the more encouraging developments in journalism in recent years has been the rise of the fact-checking movement, wrote Rem Rieder in the American Journalism Review.

Several fact-checking organizations have indeed flourished in recent years. Some, like FactCheck.org or PolitiFact.com, were born autonomously outside the mainstream media, while others are internal departments of newspapers and news media, like the Washington Post's Fact Checker column.

The aim of all of them is to conduct in-depth analysis into politicians' statements and claims and verifying their truthfulness, checking if the facts contained in those declarations are accurate or inaccurate.

PolitiFact even won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for national reporting during the presidential election and created an "Obameter" to help readers assess the Obama presidency.

Nieman Journalism Lab recently tackled the subject, reflecting on the role of mainstream media and social media in assessing politicians' claims and the spread of information and misinformation.

An article by Matthew L. Schafer and Dr. Regina G. Laurence, originally published on the journalism-and-policy blog Lippmann Would Roll and then republished by Nieman, analysed over 700 stories in the top 50 US. newspapers about the Sarah Palin's 2009 claim within the health care debate about Obama's "death panel".
The aim of the study was to find out how the media handled the story.

In August 2009 Sarah Palin published a note on Facebook about the then-current health care debate. She wrote: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil".

As the Nieman article says, this claim was debunked only three days later by PolitiFact and FactCheck, being also later voted as the top spot of PolitiFact's Lie of the Year ballot.

The dismissal of the claim however was not sufficient to stop its diffusion, as a cursory search of Google turns up 1,410,000 results, "showing how powerful social media is in a fractured media climate", commented the article.

Despite the debunk, a significant portion of the public accepted the claim as true or, perhaps, as true enough, the article noted.

The study focused on the behaviour of the top 50 newspapers in the country debunking the claim and how they swayed public opinion the process. At the time - the article said - some commentators lauded the media for the debunking while others questioned whether it was the media's job to debunk the myth or not.

The article went on reflecting on how much journalists presented their personal opinion in discrediting the claim. "Initially, we viewed the data from 30,000 feet, and found that about 40 percent of the time journalists would call the death panel claim false in their own voice, which was especially surprising considering many journalists' own conceptions that they act as neutral arbiters".
Whether or not journalists debunked the claim - it added - they often approached the controversy by also quoting one side of the debate, quoting the other, and then letting the reader dissect the validity of each side's stance.

The reflection so shifted on the ever-green debate about objectivity in journalism.

As Rieder previously noted, "In order to ensure credibility, it's important that the fact-checkers are guided purely by the facts, not by partisanship or ideology. Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, must be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny".

At this end the study recognized two trends in the analysed media's behaviours: a procedural objectivity, "where journalists do their due diligence and quote competitors" and a substantive objectivity, "where journalists actually go beyond reflexively reporting what key political actors say to engage in verifying the accuracy of those claims for their readers or viewers".

In its conclusion, the article stated that "one way of looking at the resilience of the death panels claim is as evidence that the mainstream media's role in contemporary political discourse has been attenuated. But another way of looking at the controversy is to demonstrate that the mainstream media themselves bore some responsibility for the claim's persistence".

The coverage the claim had on mainstream media contributed to its persistence.

"Thus, the dilemma for reporters playing by the rules of procedural objectivity is that repeating a claim reinforces a sense of its validity -- or at least, enshrines its place as an important topic of public debate. Moreover, there is no clear evidence that journalism can correct misinformation once it has been widely publicized".

Yet there is promise in substantive objectivity. Indeed, today more than ever journalists are having to act as curators. The only way that they can effectively do so is by critically examining the surplusage of social media messages, and debunking or refusing to reinforce those messages that are verifiable. Indeed, as more politicians use the Internet to circumvent traditional media, this type of critical curation will become increasingly important, the article stated.

The new journalists' focus should be on verifying information, but to avoid confusing readers they should not include demonstrably false quotation, so preventing giving inches quoting someone who believes it's true.

"Putting aside the raucous debates about objectivity for a moment, it is clear that journalists in many circumstances can research and relay to their readers information about verifiable fact. If we don't see a greater degree of this substantive objectivity, the public is left largely at the mercy of the savviest online communicator. Indeed, if journalists refuse to critically curate new media, they are leaving both the public and themselves in a worse off position", the article concluded.

Sources: AJR, Nieman Lab, Lippmann Would Roll


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Federica Cherubini

Date

2011-05-27 17:02

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