Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Modern Journalism: the Truth in Technology

Dana DeCenzo

Modern-day technology allows any private citizen with a smartphone to become a journalist/ photo via Pexels

"New Kids on the Block"

In this new age of journalism, news gathering takes place on all platforms, by public and private citizens, at all altitudes. However, it is important to clarify the roles of journalists in society, as the reputation for the "dishonest" media seems to elude it. With today's technology and social media, the title "journalists" extends to both public and private citizens. In this new age of journalism, journalists can be described as anyone covering or gathering news on the public's behalf- fueling the popular, public opinion.  

Modern-day Technology and its Controversy 

Thanks to modern-day technology - including that of drone photography and live streaming capability - journalists are able to report and share news like never before. However, these developments continue to blur lines of legality as neither technological practice has official federal usage guidelines set in place.

Drones have been available for retail purchase since 2015/ photo via Flickr

Drone photography
, for instance, is a question of what is considered privacy and trespassing, as airspace remains public domain. While private companies such as Amazon plan to utilize drone technology with Amazon Prime Airthe potential danger of legality issues concerning the invasion of privacy and trespassing laws remains present. Yet, because airspace is considered a public sector, the lines of fair use remain blurred - for now.

Facebook Live video streaming enables users to follow their favorite celebrities and broadcast events
to their personal feed in real-time/ photo via newsroom.fb.com

Video streaming services such as Facebook Live have transformed the way the public engages online. In practice, Facebook Live and similar services have been credited for their immediacy, coverage of national events and underlying function as evidence for law enforcement.

To the journalists' advantage, live streaming documenting a crime has been known to be used as evidence to law enforcement. For example, Facebook Live recently shut down the live stream of a shooting per police requests. Live streams, however, have also been used to prove the misconduct of police officers and law enforcement - working to ensure law enforcement is no longer able to dictate the public knowledge of a news story and giving the power of reporting to the public, changing the way we view and are affected by violence.

Trolling Headlines and Social Media

Social media platforms are proven to boost content views,
regardless of truth/ photo via Wikimedia Commons
Thanks to social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and BuzzFeed, promoting and sharing content as well as achieving viral status has become easier than ever. Some journalists today (such as "new yellow journalists") tend use deception, satire and a variety of outrageous, satirical and often controversial wording in headlines in order to draw the eye of their audience. This strategy - known as clickbait - suggests we must trick people into reading the news. 

While most who share content on Facebook never finish reading the content they share, the public often doesn't research the truth of the claims. According to these trolling bloggers themselves, tactics of exaggeration and fear get results. Additionally, these "new yellow journalists" credit search engine optimization and social media algorithms as their vehicle to success - claiming  "violence,  chaos and aggressive wording are what people are attracted to" in an interview. 

What it Means for Journalists

So, what does modern-day technology mean for the field of journalism? The answer is opportunity. The opportunity for innovative content, audience engagement, and finally, transparency - an opportunity to reverse the constant stigma of the "dishonest media" and promote the use of journalistic power for the responsible and honest sharing of news.

Living with Live Streaming: A Shift in Viewership Attention

Blake Dava

The trend of Live Stream has reached new levels of popularity in recent years and has become adopted by many different social media platforms and digital technologies to make live stream more accessible for producers of content and for viewership.

Traditional live streaming sites have reached new levels of popularity, like Twitch.tv, where a culture of live media entertainment has taken the world by storm. Sites like these mostly appeal to fans of video gaming and comedy and can still feel like niche websites offering very specific content in a very wide variety.

Also, the easy accessibility of entertainment live streaming means that there's always a large collection of people creating content. For most, all that's needed is a decent quality computer, audio recording equipment and a camera. This had lead to people trying by the hundreds to stand out from the crowd and establish a strong fan base, which can lead to a life-long career in entertainment and media creation.

Live streaming is also seen in a much more casual format, such as Facebook's recent feature simply called "going live." With the push of a button, anyone can begin recording from their phone and immediately be streaming it for any of their friends to see.

What makes this seemingly casual practice so effective is that Facebook also notifies any of their friends when their live stream starts, so people are instantly informed and can choose to go watch immediately. There's no work needed in order to draw in viewers. Facebook does the work for them.

The increase in popularity and accessibility in live streaming indicates a shift in what people want to watch. Up until now, it's been easy to say that the attention span of viewers, especially on the internet, has been very limited and our media has grown to reflect that. Trending YouTube content five years ago used to be less than a minute long, and live streaming was not seen as widespread entertainment.

But now, YouTube is flooded with videos that average around four minutes and twenty seconds and the larger media producers put out content ranging from 15 to 35 minutes. Popular YouTubers like Markiplier, Jacksepticeye and Game Theory all produce much larger content like this daily.

What this means for us is that the way people desire content is changing. There's so much content out there, that now people have to choose what they want to watch, and once they make a decision they're willing to watch more of it. Live Streaming is an inherently slow media to watch, because there's no post-production editing, but it still captures millions of viewers.

It's possible that, because streaming is all done in one take, the viewers feel like the content is more genuine. Watching an entertainer live gives you a better sense of who that person is. Watching a live stream of a police riot gives you a clear, and potentially unbiased, view of the situation.

People want to trust the media that they watch, and live streaming has the potential to fill that need. We, the journalists, just have to decide what to do with it.

Ethical Journalists Must Explain the Value in Good Journalism

Maygan Beeler

Provided via Centre for Research on Globalizataion

The proliferation of fake news is assuredly an issue that journalists will encounter as they spend extended time with family and friends this holiday season. People across the political spectrum are guilty of fueling the fake news machine by spreading fabricated stories. Inevitably, Aunt Susie read in her Facebook feed a story that proved Hillary Clinton faked a concussion to avoid testifying about Benghazi. She will want the journalist, her brilliant niece or nephew, to answer for this atrocity. To say the story is fake won’t be enough—and it shouldn’t be. Journalists need to explain their job and why it is different than the content fake news sites produced. It’s the responsibility of ethical journalists to make sure the public knows how to find reliable sources of information.

Media companies feed the public’s distrust of journalists

“If journalists don’t inform the public about what we do and why, we’re ceding the debate to those looking to vilify and delegitimize the press at a dangerous moment in history,” a Neiman Report article by Michael Calderone begins. We’re experiencing a moment in time when Americans are inherently distrusting of the media, and this perception is partially the media’s fault.

Large media companies are pushing for the freedom to fly drones in any public place to take photographs without restrictions. They’re choosing to ignore the need to implement some privacy protections in favor of access to information they believe will produce the best content, a Columbia Journalism Review article states. This is a mistake. The SPJ Code of Ethics recognizes the responsibility of journalists to minimize harm. “Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness,” the code reads. The public’s need to know will not be most important in every situation, exemplifying why some limits on drone use make sense. Journalists need to carefully explain why drone use is necessary at all, and how their organization will use it responsibly if they hope to win back public trust.

Social Media: A tool used by journalists, a weapon used against journalists

A BuzzFeed article reports that top fake news stories from this election cycle generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election coverage from 19 major news outlets combined. News stories can reach a huge volume of readers more easily than ever before. With the simple click of a Facebook “share” or Twitter “retweet” button, a new audience is exposed to content they likely would not have organically encountered if not for social media. This is great for journalists charged with disseminating accurate information to the largest possible population. This is terrible when you consider BuzzFeed’s analysis that reveals stories doing really well on social media are often fake.

A Vox article posted earlier this month explains why social media, Facebook specifically, perpetuates fake news so consistently. “Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes “ engagement”—and a reliable way to get readers to engage is by making up outrageous nonsense about politicians they don’t like,” the article states. Journalists would do well to explain this concept when faced with a conversation about fake news.

The idea of social media algorithms is also important to consider when faced with angry folks who can’t understand why a media organization “isn’t covering” a certain person or event they’ve decided is particularly newsworthy. In my own Twitter feed last night, I spotted the following tweet: “If you’re wondering why people have lost faith in today’s media an entire town is currently on fire and no one is talking about it #Gatlinburg.” This tweet received more than 400 retweets and more than 400 likes after one hour. Directly above this message, I found a news article about Gatlinburg that was retweeted by a journalist I follow.

The individual tweeting that journalists weren’t covering the fires in Gatlinburg might not have seen news stories on his or her social media feed due to the site’s algorithm. Or, maybe, the individual isn’t following many news outlets or journalists. Then, there’s also the possibility that there weren’t any news stories immediately available to this person because journalists were working hard to make sure they gathered accurate information before sharing it with the public.

At a time when instant gratification and immediate access to information is so prized, it’s easy to forget accuracy is a key element of good journalism. Journalists would do well to explain these concepts to anyone who asks why media organizations are scum, or ignoring the real issues, or acting on a personal agenda. If journalists don’t explain their job and work carefully to earn the trust of those around them by transparent communication and action, fake news with its outrageous claims and provocative headlines will continue to rule the day.

Technology and News Reporting

Rachel Sinistro

Photo via Flickr of people protesting police brutality. Bystanders have been given the ability to capture footage of acts of police brutality through technology.

The rise of technology has given us the ability to see the truth in news reporting due to live streaming on social media. It is no longer just news reporters who have the power to reveal hard-hitting news to society. Almost everyone, nowadays, has a camera phone, which means just about anyone has the ability to capture a newsworthy moment. Before camera phones, we relied on photographers and journalists to capture news footage. These professionals oftentimes were restricted with what footage they could and could not release, which often times left the public in the dark when it came to very important and controversial issues within society.

Today, we are a lot less in the dark with some news topics thanks to technology. An example of this has been in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement. Many videos taken on camera phones by bystanders have gone viral and brought about awareness of police brutality and the racism that is still very real in our society. Most people do not get to actually see these racist occurrences happening daily, which makes it very less real to them. However, video footage such as the footage of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old black man being held down and choked to death by a police officer, changes these racist acts from rumors to reality for many people. Videos like the one of Eric Garner are shocking and tragic, but they have opened people’s eyes to the truth and have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.


While technology can reveal truths to society, it can also create a mess of lies. The recent election has become a prime example of just how easy it is to fabricate stories and how it is even easier to get people to believe these stories. From my own experiences leading up to the election, I can recall hearing a new crazy story about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton almost everyday. Most people held very strong opinions towards the end of this election and that meant that they were going to believe any dirty thing about the opposing candidate that they heard, and they were probably going to spread the word to others. This caused an unending amount of false news stories to be spread and, unfortunately, another humiliating situation for journalists.

When hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs are getting a higher amount of views than major news websites, it is hard to figure out whom to blame. Do we blame the professional news outlets for not being trusted by the public? Do we blame technology for making all of these faulty news stories available to the public? Do we blame the public for believing everything they are reading and not fact checking their sources? It is really hard to choose who is to blame, but in my opinion it is a pretty equal balance of each one of these factors that is causing this mayhem.

Creating Balance

As journalists, it is our ethical duty to provide the truth to the public. All we can do to fight the spreading of false news is to continue to report the news in the most true and accurate ways possible. The SPJ Code of Ethics says, “Explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.” I hope that with the help of everyday people who are capturing newsworthy footage for the journalists who cannot in those moments, that more truth and transparency is brought to the world. This transparency will hopefully lead us into fighting the issues that truly matter most. 

The World is Flat and Nothing is Private

Adam McCauley

Every time a major breakthrough occurs in communication technology, it causes worldwide change that has the potential to connect people from all walks of life. Whether it is Twitter, which has allowed people to get almost instant updates on anything happening, or the recent progression of that in the form of live streaming.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

At the turn of the century the primary way of seeing breaking news would be cut-ins on your television or an update on the radio. Today, you are more likely to see breaking news on your computer or phone, whether on a news site or a social media platform. For instance, news about the recent act of violence at Ohio State developed rapidly online through social media, yet television was still only able to report nothing more than that there was an active attacker on the campus.

News reporters cannot give specific details in these situations as they may be unconfirmed or lack necessary permissions. The world has been flattened if you are actively following these situations you can simply get on Twitter or Facebook and find someone near the area that is live streaming what they are seeing. Not only does this give you potential details that are not available on television, but the raw footage also helps transport the viewer to that area, wherever it is, in a way that broadcast news is not fully able to do.  

The Citizen Voice

One worry that news organizations have with any live story is the inability to control the whole situation, this is especially true in the case of live streaming breaking news where the benefit of the immediacy might be outweighed by the potential risk of airing something violent or profane without a chance to prepare for it.

News organizations have too much at risk in these situations, but for a private citizen, there should be far less risk involved with live streaming. Sure, the police may confiscate your phone as evidence, like in Diamond Reynolds case after her live video of Philando Castile being shot and killed in his vehicle went viral. For her, the only goal was for it to be spread, and there was no problem with that as it re-ignited the current discussion on police shootings in the U.S.

Uncharted Territory

Unfortunately, if you are a tech-savvy person trying to take advantage of drone technology you’re still in a position where you have limited protection to film, and unsure laws on flying drones over private property. This is an awkward time for the law regarding how it treats drones because it has to classify them first by who is using it, then by if they are even allowed to fly.

Journalistic use of drones is still being questioned for practicality, and more specifically as something needed for only necessary situations. For many citizens, the thought of widespread drone use stirs a lot of paranoia about constant surveillance and big brother. Privacy is never 100% guaranteed, and a society that is worried about being watched from unknown sources above is not a society that will thrive.

Monday, November 28, 2016

How to be Ethical With Headlines, Drones and Live Streams

Jessica Sees

This week’s readings cover topics about misleading headlines, drones and the public’s right to privacy, fake news sites and violence in regards to live streaming video feeds. These are all ethical issues that journalists need to navigate in today’s media landscape. 

The topics I’d like to discuss in this post are misleading headlines, drones and live video feeds. I discussed fake news perpetuation in this blog post. 

Misleading headlines

This is becoming more and more prevalent with today’s media because sites are focusing on engagement rather than content. They are promoting their pieces with headlines that are more sharable. The examples given in our reading this week cover hate-sharing headlines. 

“These are quick one liners designed to spark distaste after grabbing a social media user’s attention and provoking a share. The user may not have even read the article.  This emotional appeal has been long used in the advertising industry,” says Kira Goldenberg, a Columbia Journalism Review author. 

These ideas are mirrored in Kissmetrics, a blog covering analytics and marketing strategies. The blog puts it bluntly. 

“Emotions drive actions. We need not do a deep dive on this. This principle is understood by neuroscientists and marketers (nearly) universally. The subject I do want to dive into is writing emotional headlines to invoke a response from your readers.” - Kissmetrics article

They featured a study by CoSchedule backing up this statement. CoSchedule analyzed over one million headlines in 2014 to find what kind of headlines get the most shares and social engagement. It found that emotionally centered headlines get the most shares.

Via Kissmetrics/CoSchedule

SPJ Code we violate:

·     Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.

When we use an emotional appeal in a headline, it can be easy to misrepresent a story. Sometimes an emotional angle for the headline only represents a small portion of the article’s content and can be misleading to our readers. As ethical journalists, it is our job to put clarity and accuracy first. 

Drones and privacy

When does the need for information cross the line into privacy invasion? This is a question many journalists and drone users need to consider when using this new technology to report news. Humanitarians have developed a voluntary code of conduct for drone usage, but private and news entities aren’t required to follow these ethical codes. 

Who owns the air? Many legal scholars argue that airspace isn’t private or public. It’s a mixture of the two. 

Here’s why the media does not want restrictions on drone usage:

“You don’t need a person’s permission to photograph them when they are out in public,” says Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association. He says the rules should not be any different than those outlined for photographers just because it’s a new technology.

Chuck Tobin, a partner at a DC lobbying firm (Holland & Knight) that represents a large coalition of media companies, and Osterreicher say there shouldn’t be privacy restraints on drones used in a public arena. They do agree that when in a private space, drone users need to pay attention to a subject’s reasonable expectation of privacy.  

Possible code violations:

·     Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. 

·     Recognize that legal access to information differs from an ethical justification to publish or broadcast

There can be grey area when looking into drone usage and ethical violations. We always need to be mindful of measuring the public’s need to know things without being overly intrusive. It’s also important to remember that just because there may not be legal implications to our actions, there can be ethical implications. 

Live streaming and violence

In this Washington Post article, the benefits and pitfalls of violence and live streaming are dissected. 

The usage of live streaming has been widely credited for bringing racial violence and mistreatment by the police to the forefront of our national narrative. “We see the benefits of live streaming — it can activate a supportive community,” said Jacob Crawford, a co-founder of WeCopWatch. “But we see it as a challenge, too.”

What are these SPJ ethical challenges?

·     Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. 

·        Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment. 

We always need to be careful when shooting live streams because we never know when a violent act potentially unsuitable for our audience could be captured. This is a fine line because it can be incredibly difficult to make the decision about whether or not to show an event of great public interest because of excessive violence or disturbing material. 

It’s also important for us to remember the people affected by the footage we catch. With the live nature of streaming, we always need to be vigilant of minors, the deceased, family members of the deceased and people in general who are affected by incidents.