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.

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