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Gianna Walton

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On Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times published graphic photographs of US soldiers posing with corpses and body parts of suicide bombers in Afghanistan, spurring a criminal investigation and condemnation of the activities by US government officials. The unsolicited photos, taken two years ago, were given to The Times by an anonymous soldier who said the photos demonstrated “a breakdown in leadership and discipline that he believed compromised the safety of the troops,” the article said.

After being shown the photos before publication, however, Pentagon officials such as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked The Times not to publish the images, citing the potential risk of inciting violence against US troops by forces in Afghanistan, Poynter reported.  

Ultimately, The Times editorial staff decided publishing the pictures was in the public interest, though the paper delayed publication as per request to allow the military time to increase protections for the soldiers shown in the photos, the article said.

The New York Times reported that Pentagon press secretary George E. Little stressed the notion that opposition to publication of the images was due to safety issues.

“Our concern is not about embarrassment,” Little said. “We recognize that this is inexcusable behavior depicted in the photos. This is all about force protection in Afghanistan.”

As the LA Times noted, there have been several other recent controversial incidents with US soldiers in Afghanistan that have garnered much media attention and strained US-Afghanistan relations, including an Internet video that surfaced in January, which depicted US soldiers urinating on dead bodies.

In addition to questions of safety, the content of the images themselves presented another editorial question for The Times: when is it acceptable to publish graphic images of violence? The newspaper chose to publish only two of 18 images provided by the anonymous soldier, some of which were more graphic than the photos published, Poynter reported.

“After careful consideration, we decided that publishing a small but representative selection of the photos would fulfill our obligation to readers to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan, including the allegation that the images reflect a breakdown in unit discipline that was endangering U.S. troops,” said LA Times Editor Davan Maharaj in the original article.

The news industry recently faced a similar situation with the violent death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in October, after which graphic photographs of his dead body surfaced. UK newspapers such as The Guardian and the tabloid The Sun chose to publish the image on the front page, to the dismay of some readers and even editors who viewed publication of the pictures as celebratory, rather than objective reportage of the death.

Guardian media commentator Roy Greenslade defended publication of the Gaddafi images as justified, writing, “this was one of those rare occasions when editors decided that it was a momentous news event worthy of breaking the normal rules of taste and discretion … with the pictures all over the net, it would have seemed strange for newspapers to ignore them.”

“Editors would appear to be failing in their duty to report on the reality of Gaddafi's death (more properly, execution),” he wrote. “It was news—gruesome, grisly, ghastly (choose your own shock adjective) news—and the images told a story of brutality and mob chaos that could not be explained in words alone.”

While The Los Angeles Times’ publication of the Afghanistan images certainly couldn’t be confused with a celebratory gesture, it still raises questions about what photographic material should and shouldn’t be published. In this case, though, the situation seems to have been dealt with diplomatically, especially in regards to military notification—The Times’ complied with the Pentagon’s request for publication delay for safety reasons while still maintaining an independent editorial policy. The newspaper also seems to have addressed the graphic nature of the photographs by choosing the lesser of evils, so to speak, publishing two of 18 presumably more violent images at the editors’ discretion to inform the American public of the situation. One thing is clear, though: there isn't a one-size-fits-all protocol for determining which images are appropriate to publish.

Sources: The Los Angeles Times, Poynter, The New York Times, The Guardian

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-19 18:15

Online newspapers tired of catering to Apple’s in-app purchasing restrictions are starting to bypass the tech giant completely by creating web-based apps using HTML5 technology, Journalism.co.uk reports. The latest title to jump on the trend? Washington’s local paper The Chronicle, which offers the HTML5 app as part of a subscription bundle that includes complete online and print access, the article said.

The Chronicle’s web app is similar to a “native” iPad app in terms of user experience; rather than downloading the app from Apple’s Newsstand, though, one can access the web app through the iPad’s Internet browser and save it as an icon on the homescreen, the article said. App users can share articles through Facebook and Twitter, as well as download stories to read them offline later, the article said.

For the rest of this article please see our sister publication www.sfnblog.com

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-19 11:04

Social networks are the new hotspots for breaking news: Mashable highlights a new infographic created by Schools.com that shows "how social media is replacing traditional journalism as a news source."

Politico's premium news service Politico Pro is popular among American policy makers, Nieman Journalism Lab reports. Politico Pro, launched a year ago, covers technology, energy, health care, and transportation policy, delivering essential content to mobile subscribers quickly.

GigaOm reports that in Italy a controversial former proposal, which suggested that online publications that receive complaints should have to alter their content within 48 hours or else pay a fine of €12,000, has been resurrected.

A cartoonist at The Economist has animated the publication's style guide. Journalism.co.uk has just posted the video on its website.

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

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-18 17:19

The Tuscaloosa News won a Pulitzer prize for its breaking news coverage of a deadly tornado that swept through Alabama last April, Poynter reported. But what made the award-winning coverage so revolutionary for the journalism world was its employment of Twitter and other social media to report on the storm in real time, in addition to traditional coverage—even during power outages, the article said.

As we previously reported, Columbia University announced the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners on Tuesday. Among the winners were online newspapers The Huffington Post and Politico.

The Pulitzer board awarded Tuscaloosa News “for its enterprising coverage of a deadly tornado, using social media as well as traditional reporting to provide real-time updates, help locate missing people and produce in-depth print accounts even after power disruption forced the paper to publish at another plant 50 miles away,” according to a press release.

“I am incredibly proud of the staff here, who worked under very difficult circumstances to get information out as quickly as possible at a time when power wasn’t working and phone lines were out,” said city editor Katherine Lee in Tuscaloosa News. “Every department pitched in, from sports, to photo, to the copy desk and reporting staff.

Poynter reported that not only did journalists’ tweets keep the public informed during every stage of the crisis, but also helped direct emergency responders to where people needed help by tweeting pictures and descriptions of damaged areas.

Pulitzer juror Kathy Best told Poynter that real-time reporting was a crucial factor in the judging this year.

“Were the news organizations that entered taking full advantage of all of the tools they had to report breaking news as it was happening? We took that really seriously and eliminated some of the entries because they waited too long to tell readers what was going on,” Best said.

In the case of Tuscaloosa News, Twitter was clearly a critical tool in keeping the public aware and updated in a crisis situation. In other circumstances, however, guidelines for when to break the news through Twitter are often much less clear.

As we previously reported, news organizations are beginning to enforce stricter social media policies to prevent journalists with personal Twitter accounts from “scooping” the papers they work for. Organizations like Sky News and the Associated Press now require reporters to inform their organization first before breaking news via their personal Twitter accounts.

The issue of verification is also critical on Twitter. Various news organizations forbid their journalists from retweeting journalists from other news organizations to prevent the spreading of false information, as we previously reported.

Still, with all of Twitter’s risks, many journalists acknowledge that the platform allows for more rapid investigation on the part of reporters—as long as they are sure to verify the facts.

The Guardian Special Projects Editor Paul Lewis previously told Editors Weblog that he uses Twitter as a “gateway for the contact” and as a means of directing his investigations, such as his reportage in the field during the London riots.

While news organizations may still be in the process of developing their Twitter rules and regulations for journalists, they now have one award-winning example—the Tuscaloosa News—to remind them of the quality of reporting social media can offer.

Sources: Poynter, Tuscaloosa News, Pulitzer Prizes

Links:

http://www.editorsweblog.org/2012/04/17/2012-pulitzer-prizes-honor-online-journalism-spotlight-investigative-reporting

http://www.editorsweblog.org/2012/02/09/social-media-policies-to-compete-or-collaborate

http://www.editorsweblog.org/2011/11/18/ap-tells-staff-not-to-scoop-the-wire-on-twitter

http://www.editorsweblog.org/2011/11/04/associated-press-offers-new-social-media-guidelines-as-it-seeks-a-new-social-media-editor

http://www.editorsweblog.org/2012/04/02/paul-lewis-opening-up-the-investigation

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-18 16:48

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Brazil, Pakistan, and India objected to a United Nations plan that sought to strengthen protections for members of the press and reduce violence against journalists. UNESCO delegates met in Paris last month to debate the plan.

According to Mashable, YouTube has opened its Partner Program to all content creators in 20 countries. To become a YouTube partner, users must "monetize" at least one original video.

Read It Later rebrands itself as Pocket: the app that allows users to save online articles and other content for later now has several new features, including video filters and organizational tools, TechCrunch reports.

Today, The New York Times relaunched its healthy-living section Well with a new logo and more of an independent look, Nieman Journalism Lab reports. Check out the new homepage here.

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

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-17 18:03

Yesterday, Columbia University announced the winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes for journalism, letters, drama, and music—and among the distinguished few were online news organizations The Huffington Post and Politico, according to a Columbia press release.

The reputable Pulitzer Prizes, established by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer in his will and administrated by Columbia University since 1917, are “perceived as a major incentive for high-quality journalism,” according to the website.

These are the first Pulitzer wins for both The Huffington Post and Politico. A complete list of winners is available on the Pulitzer website.

David Wood, senior military correspondent for The Huffington Post, received a prize for National Reporting for his “Beyond the Battlefield” series, which highlighted “the physical and emotional challenges facing American soldiers severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan during a decade of war,” the release said.

In an interview with Poynter, Wood said the award was a validation of digital journalism as a significant reporting platform.

“It’s an affirmation of what Arianna [Huffington] said: ‘You can do great journalism from any platform,’” he told Poynter. “The [strategies] I used then were exactly the ones I used in this story — to think about your subject, to ask good questions, to be a continuously good listener and to go deep.”

Wood, who formerly worked for Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, and The Baltimore Sun and joined HuffPo only last year, interviewed dozens of wounded soldiers for the series, Poynter reported.

Matt Weurker of Politico also earned a prize for Editorial Cartooning, “for his consistently fresh, funny cartoons, especially memorable for lampooning the partisan conflict that engulfed Washington,” the Columbia press release said. Weurker was previously a Pulitzer finalist in 2009 and 2012. His winning cartoons covered topics such as the Occupy Wall Street movement and the debt crisis.

As Wood suggested, the prestige of the Pulitzer Prizes may bring with it increased respect for online journalism platforms. The awarding of American journalism’s highest honor suggests that significant, meaningful reporting and editorial criticism can be practiced on any digital medium, despite claims to the contrary. 

This year’s Pulitzer Prizes also brought attention to the high quality of investigative journalism still being written at traditional newspapers, both national and local. Highlights include the Associated Press, who won an Investigative Reporting prize for a series on the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslim communities since 9/11, and Sarah Ganim, one of the youngest Pulitzer recipients who won for her local coverage of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, the press release said.

Oddly, though, the Pulitzer Prize Board chose not to award a prize for the categories of Editorial Writing and Fiction, though there were numerous nominees in both categories. According to The Washington Post, Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler said the board could not come to a majority vote in these cases, and that in the past the board chose not to give awards a total of 62 times.

“The board can do anything it wants to,” Gissler told The Post. “In editorial, none of the three achieved a majority. It’s not a message. It’s a situation.”

According to the Pulitzer website, however, The Plan of Award, which determines how prizes are awarded, states, “If in any year all the competitors in any category shall fall below the standard of excellence fixed by The Pulitzer Prize Board, the amount of such prize or prizes may be withheld.”

Whether this year’s snubbed nominees met the “standard of excellence” in the eyes of the board is unclear.

While most people still view the Pulitzer as the top journalism prize, Gawker took a harsher position on the awards in a January article, claiming that the board’s restrictive definitions of what qualifies as a newspaper, which exclude magazine journalism, keep the prize firmly ensconced in print newspapers.

“Indeed, the whole notion of an award aimed at newspapers seems bizarrely constricted and artificial in the age of digital publishing,” the article said. “The prizes were opened to "news sites" in addition to print outlets in 2009, but the whole enterprise is still suffused with print culture and the attendant weird stodginess about who's in the club and who isn't.”

Perhaps the recent wins by The Huffington Post and Politico will usher in a new era of Pulitzer winners — an online revolution of strong, investigative content.

Sources: Pulitzer Prizes, Poynter, The Huffington Post, Politico, The Washington Post, Gawker

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-17 13:28

Having trouble deciphering the latest stock trends? Don’t worry, a machine can do it for you—and write an article, too. No, this isn’t something from a science fiction novel; according to The Atlantic, tech start-up Narrative Science has created a platform that not only digests vast amounts of data but also actually interprets its findings in prose form fit for publication.

Narrative Science co-founder and CTO Kris Hammond told The Atlantic, “Data is tremendously valuable. It's unbelievably valuable. But it's not valuable as a spreadsheet of numbers. It's valuable based on the insights that you can glean from it."

Forbes, one of Narrative Science’s clients, for example, uses the platform to create “computer-generated company earnings previews” from stock data, the article said. Another client, The Big Ten Network, use the service to develop sports recaps, the article said.

Other clients use Narrative Science for “niche fields" and other data-heavy subject areas that might not be reported on due to lack of resources, according to Slate.

“We also help publishers who are faced with the constant challenge of keeping up with the speed, scale and cost demands of content creation,” the Narrative Science website says. “We offer an innovative and cost-effective solution that allows publishers to cover topics that can’t otherwise be covered due to operational or cost constraints.”

The platform is not limited to numeric data, however. The Atlantic reports that Narrative Science in the process of creating a comprehensive monitor for Twitter, which would be able to interpret written content and report on the overall tone and sentiment of tweets and worldwide trends.

The Atlantic notes that data analyses like these would be impossible for a single journalist to do on his/her own, suggesting that Narrative Science could become a valuable tool for newsrooms if only for this capability.

But what does this mean for journalists themselves? Will human talent become outmoded with further development of a cheap and fast human-esque writing machine?

Maybe not quite—a journalist’s unique ability to tell stories doesn’t seem like something that can truly be imitated—but Slate raises several compelling points about the slippery slope of customized reporting.

“Until recently, many Internet critics have feared that such personalization of the Internet may usher in a world in which we see only articles that reflect our existent interests and never venture outside of our comfort zones,” the article said. “But the rise of “automated journalism” may eventually present a new and different challenge, one that the excellent discovery mechanisms of social media cannot solve yet: What if we click on the same link that, in theory, leads to the same article but end up reading very different texts?”

In other words, if a machine can instantaneously create an article based on data analysis, why couldn’t it reformulate that article to best fit the interests of readers by analyzing their online histories? It would be particularly worrisome if editorial judgment were discarded in favor of this type of "individuation." 

As with any disruptive technology, though, it is essential that publishers consider both the usefulness of Narrative Science, as well as its potential risks. If reporters harness this new technology as a tool, rather than viewing it as a replacement, it seems possible that data journalism could become much more accessible to both individual reporters and to the general public.

Sources: The Atlantic, Narrative Science, Slate

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-16 17:10

This week, The Guardian launches a seven-day series examining different aspects of Internet censorship around the world, journalism.co.uk reports. What makes this series so interesting, apart from its illuminating coverage of the intricacies of Internet control? The site also offers online versions of the articles translated into Chinese, Russian, and Estonian for non-English speaking readers whose home countries may be facing concerns about the open Internet, or even total online censorship. 

 “The Guardian is taking stock of the new battlegrounds for the Internet,” the website says. “From states stifling dissent to the new cyberwar front line, we look at the challenges facing the dream of an open Internet.”

The first day of the series, titled, “Day one: the new cold war,” features stories about microbloggers battling the online firewall in China, the possibility of government control of the Internet in Russia, and the widespread role of the Internet in Estonia, including issues of cyber attacks, according to The Guardian’s website. Each of the three articles is available in both English and an additional language, depending on the subject of the article.

Other topics for this week’s series are listed as: the militarisation of cyberspace, the new walled gardens, IP wars, “civilising” the web, the open resistance, and the end of privacy.

According to journalism.co.uk, The Guardian similarly translated articles to Arabic last year, many of which covered the Arab uprisings.

To accompany the “Battle for the Internet” articles, The Guardian included an interactive map which displays the degree of government control over the Internet (rated from 0-4) for 74 countries. Countries such as China, Syria, and Iran are listed as having “pervasive” government interference.

When users click on a country, further information appears that rates the level of censorship by categories such as transparency and consistency, as well as displaying links to relevant articles.

The series also features an interview with Google founder Sergey Brin, who discusses increasing attempts to control the Internet not only in countries known for political censorship but also in the Western world, whether through illegal downloading legislation such as SOPA or restrictive Facebook policies.

“I am more worried than I have been in the past,” Brin said in the article. “It's scary.”

Indeed, The Guardian series comes at an interesting moment for the open Internet, especially in regards to press freedom. As we previously reported, government attempts to suppress conversation about Bo Xilai, a Communist leader who was recently removed from power and may be tied to the murder of a British citizen, have been less than successful as of late, with Chinese microbloggers using code words such as “tomato” in order to spread the stories on blogging forums such as Weibo.

Perhaps The Guardian’s multi-lingual series, too, will help facilitate the distribution of information across country lines, both inside and outside of cyberspace.

Sources: journalism.co.uk, The Guardian 1, 2

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-16 13:46

The Guardian reports that the author of the award-winning NightJack blog, detective Richard Horton, is filing a lawsuit against The Times of London for allegedly hacking into his email account in order to expose his identity.

Yesterday, newly hired journalist Kristopher Brooks was fired from his position as a reporter for the Delaware News Journal for posting a mock-press release announcing the hire on his personal blog, according to Jim Romenesko. Read Brooks' personal reaction on The Huffington Post, where he currently interns for HuffPost Black Voices.

The US Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five of the big six publishing houses yesterday for allegedly colluding to inflate e-book prices, Forbes reported. Three of the publishers have already settled with the DOJ, while Apple and the remaining two publishers plan to fight the claims in court.

Press Gazette analyses the results of Deloitte’s sixth annual State of the Media Survey, and reports that 88% of the 2,276 UK participants who took part perfer to read magazines in print, rather than in a digital format. The article adds that around one-third of tablet owners in the study used the devices to read magazines. 

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

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-13 17:51

A national phone survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and Internet & American Life Program found that the majority of adult Americans habitually follow local news. According to the report, 72% of the 2,251 adults surveyed said they follow local news “most of the time, whether or not something important is happening” while 25% said they follow local news closely “only when something important is happening.” Three percent did not respond.

Of the 72% of adults labeled “local news enthusiasts,” 32% said the disappearance of their local newspaper would have a “major impact” on their lives, while 34% said they would feel “no impact at all” the report said. In contrast, 19% of adults who do not follow local news closely said the disappearance of their local newspaper would have a major impact, while 51% said it would have no impact, the report said.

The survey also found that local news followers age 40 and above were most likely to report that the disappearance of their local paper would have a major impact on their lives (35%), though younger readers were not far behind (26%).

While from one perspective the statistics seem promising for proponents of local news, Steve Meyers of Poynter describes the survey results as “one of those glass-half-full/half-empty situations,” countering that by Pew’s numbers, 68% of local news enthusiasts would not feel a major impact if their local newspaper disappeared, and 34% would feel no impact at all. While a valid point, the wording of the Pew survey appears to be a bit misleading in this case, as the report does not specify any middle ground. Only the percentages of “major” and “no” impact are reported, but what of readers who would declare “some” or “minor” impact upon losing their local news source? This lack of clarity poses problems with drawing strong conclusions in either direction.

Poynter also highlights the survey’s reportage of adults who would be willing to pay for local news. The report reads, “Local news enthusiasts are twice as likely as other adults (38% v. 19%) to have a paid subscription for delivery of a local print newspaper, led almost entirely by the 46% of older local news enthusiasts who currently pay for this service…While nearly three quarters (72%) of local news enthusiasts say they would not pay for online access to their local newspaper, nearly one-quarter (23%) say they would pay a monthly subscription fee of $5 or $10 to get full online access to their local newspaper.”

Here, Meyers’ “glass-half-full/glass-half-empty” characterization is much more visible in the report’s wording: though local news enthusiasts are more likely to pay for print subscriptions, a mere 23% would pay a monthly subscription for online access.

What seems most important to take from this survey, however, aren’t the vague quantifications of overall consumption of local news, but rather the demographics of local news readers—more specifically, which age groups follow local news and how those groups are responding to changes in media platforms used for local news coverage.

For example, while local news enthusiasts age 40 and older are more likely to get their news from traditional sources like print newspapers and television broadcasts, local news followers under 40 are more likely than older followers to use non-traditional sources, such as search engines (54%), local news websites (33%), and social networking sites (21%), according to the report.

While the percentages of younger readers obtaining local news through digital platforms could be higher, the potential for these readers to drive local news in a digital direction is promising. The study found that 70% of younger local news enthusiasts surveyed own a laptop, 91% own a mobile phone, and 73% use social networking sites.

Indeed, various digital platforms such as Patch have embraced local news in hopes of reaching younger, tech-savvy readers, focusing on “hyperlocal” coverage in blog-like formats, as previously reported.

Sources: Pew Research Center, Poynter

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Gianna Walton

Date

2012-04-13 14:43

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