December 25, 2007




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November 8, 2007



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April 27, 2007


On Romenesko today there was an article called "Digital Alteration Of News Photographs Continues." The article discusses the photo that many of us saw from the Virginia Tech shootings. It's the photo of the four police officers carrying a student Kevin Sterne by his arms and legs. There was a great deal of controversy over this photo being ran. In the photo there is a little piece of sticking up around the Sterne's lap. The editors of the New York Post, The Sun (London), and People magazine all percieved that piece of cloth to be his genitals. Those three publications digitally altered the photo so it looked like it was part of the grass in the background. It turns out that Sterne had been bleeding from his femoral artery and he fashioned a turniquet from a peice of electrical wire and when he was later found by the police they put a turniquet made from cloth over the other one and this is what was actually sticking up not his genitals. This incident brings us back to the question of whether or not it is ethical to digitally alter photos for the paper, and if they alter photos for taste where do the alterations stop? At the same time I wonder if news papers should be publishing photos when they are unaware of what is actually going on in the photo. Should they have picked a different photo where they can easily tell what everything is? Should they have waited to publish after all the details?

April 26, 2007

Bob, The Reporter

Bob, a reporter for The Duluth News Tribune, decides to get employed at The Last Place on Earth. Using a tip from a local youth, Bob wonders whether or not the Last Place on Earth is selling cocaine.

Ethical Question:

Is it ok for a reporter to take on the role of someone else in order to get a story/ or to uncover someone doing something wrong?

chapter 7 scenario

Case Study:
TV talk show where people are arguing about how to deal with drug issues. The argument is polarized-one guy says drugs are good, the other guy says their bad. However, they avoid dealing with the real issues and argue about things that are irrelevent in order to draw in more viewers.

Each person feels strongly towards the opposite side of the issue though neither may be right or wrong. The problem is that they are not looking for solutions or compromise. They exaggerate their argument for the effects, all the while alienating viewers who wonder how the drug problem will be solved.

As the talk show's host, we reign the discussion in by asking them how we should approach the drug issue as a society. No doubt they will have very different ideas on how to fix the problem. It will be our job to look for some kind of middle ground where everybody (or, more acurately, nobody) is satisfied.

Independence from Faction Ch. 5

C. McMartin is a political reporter in small town Starkfield. He is the only political reporter at this small newspaper, but as of a few weeks ago, his uncle announced his candidacy for town mayor. Not only was this his uncle, but he had also raised McMartin since his parents had died when he was young. Some townspeople feel that the uncle is receiving free publicity while others trust McMartin's reporting. What should this small town newspaper do? Do they get rid of the only political reporter in this town? Or, do they allow it to continue and risk biased reporting? Could he report fairly? What could he do to avoid bias? Should he be fired, or forced to take a leave of absence?

Sarah H., Sarah D., Ali D., Eric S.

Chapter 9 Case Study

You are the editor of a distinguished daily newspaper in southern Kansas. As of recent, there has been an influx of Hispanic immigrants coming into your city. Most immigrants reside in the east end of town--it's crowded, dirty and crime is rampant. There are obviously many problems with this part of town. You learn through some investigative reporting that the police force generally doesn't patrol that particular part of the city. You also learn that many of the shattered houses in that part of town aren't up to city code--the landords have been ignoring numerous complaints from Hispanic residents. You think this is issue is a news maker. You want to run a five part series, but your boss says that Hispanic immigrants rarely buy and read the newspaper. Your boss tells you that a new golf course is being built on the west end of town and wants you to do a story on it. All the rich, white people live in the west end of town and are the largest subscribers to your newspaper. The golf course also wants to run full page advertisements in your paper. Do you change the paper so the Hispanic demograph finds it interesting, or do you ignore them and run a story on the new golf course.

Luke K, Jonathon, Marti.

What would you do?

Journalism students created their own list of ethical decision making case studies. Here they are. Read them and decide, what would you do?

The blog that is sort of about Pat Tillman and how the Army mishandled that whole deal and also kind of about how Sports Illustrated doesn't get enough respect. If you like long winded titles, this blog is right in your wheelhouse!

I have no evidence to support this theory, but I think it seems reasonable. I thinks sportswriting is viewed by serious journalism types as a redheaded-foster child. Or like your younger sibling of the same sex who’s better looking than you, and bigger where it counts, but not as smart. But still, you always end up with the uglier dates 'cause nobody actually thinks smart is sexy. Maybe this is not the case, but if it is that kind of sucks, because once in while there are amazing stories in Sports Illustrated.
I’m going to talk about Sports Illustrated here. I’m not sure if my theory holds water, but I had to start this blog somehow. It’s due at 2 am. 72 minutes.
I don’t read many magazines with great frequency. I’ve read SI and Newsweek for years. I sometimes check out the odd People, Maxim, Rolling Stone. Time and ESPN (the magazine) once in a while. SI, as far as quality journalism is concerned, is making those other guys look silly. Sometime on their own turf.
Such was the case when SI broke the Pat Tillman story we’re currently hearing a lot about. It was an amazing story. I can’t remember reading such an important story. Anywhere. It's really more of a Newsweek story. It’s the kind of story Drew Digby will assign to History of American Journalism students in ten years. Find it at 62 minutes.
For those who may not know, Pat Tillman was professional football player who gave up his career to join the Army after 9/11. A lot of people made a pretty big deal about him. He was killed in Afghanistan by friendly fire in 2004. The Army kept that pretty quiet. The story revealed the circumstances of Tillman’s death and the reaction from the Army, which can only be described as scandalous (and even that seems generous). 52 minutes.
Granted, this may be an unusual story for Sports Illustrated. It would be an unusual story anywhere. The research that went into the story was so thorough you’d think the reporter had grown up with Tillman, had been there when he died, had sat with his mother afterward as she fought to find out exactly what happened to her son. It’s heart wrenching stuff.
This story transcends the genre of sports reporting or even war reporting. Like all the best reporting it’s about people. I guess what I’m trying to say is read more sports stuff.
As long as I’m on the subject of SI, I miss Steve Rushin, Rick Reilly is the greatest columnist in the world and RIP David Halberstam. All that with half an hour to spare. Thanks for your attention.
Olwell out. Peace.

April 25, 2007

Shoot or don't shoot

Newspapers around the country that ran the picture of the four police officers carrying a shooting victim received both flack and praise for printing that particular photo. The editors of these newspapers were responsible for the way in which the picture ran. But what about the person who took the picture? Alan Kim was the one responsible for delivering the majority of the photograhs seen from the shootings, and he had many decisions to make on that horrifying day.

In an audio clip on, Kim was interviewed about his pictures. He basically said that there wasn't much time to think about whether to take pictures of what was happening or not. He just payed attention to what was happening and pressed the shutter button. He was saying that if something like this happens, you can worry later on about running a picture--that decision is usually left to the "higher ups."

I wonder how much a photographer, like Kim, worries about the ethical dillemas associated with pictures that come out of situations like the shootings at V. Tech.? Since it's possible with both film and digital photography to not develop or simply erase a picture, do photographers really consider ethics when taking horrifying pictures? Kim shot most of the images with a very large lens--he distanced himself from most of the action. Perhaps this was his way of being ethical--keep away from the people in uniform and everything will be OK. Is it fair for the people in the pictures to have been photographed from such a great distance? I think that some of the most compelling images come from photographers who are right up close in the action. I believe that this way, people know you're shooting them and it gives readers a since of what is really happening. Maybe if Kim would've been closer to the kid being carried across the field, it would've cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the picture.

Kim talks about taking pictures of somebody being arrested. The person being arrested was a photographer for the V. Tech student paper. Apparently, he had gotten a little too close to the action and the authorities didn't like it. I guess this further illustrates that sometimes we can't do what we're legally able to do. I would like to see what kind of shots the arrested student photographer got. I bet they're better than Alan Kim's.

Link to the audio and story...

April 24, 2007

Where’s the weird?

Sensationalism has been popular for a long time. The book “Communities of Jouralism? starts out with a story of the monstrous birth of a deformed stillborn child by Mary Dyer, who was a supporter of the heretic Anne Hutchinson. This was in 1637. The story was huge. It went on to appear in the “Chronological Table of some few memorable occurrences,? an early almanac in New England.

People love that stuff. I’m not asking why it’s not on front pages all the time, but when I pick up a newspaper, I rarely see something truly weird.

Is this a possible reason why people are so turned on by the internet? Or why so many Americans say they get a majority of their news from The Daily Show and Saturday Night live and maybe even farce papers like The Onion? “The Obscure Store and Reading Room? that is linked from the Romenesko site run headlines like “Man arrested for stopping at dry cleaners with out pants? and “Soccer mom abandons daughter after lousy performance.? Even major newspaper Web sites have a “most popular? section with links to most-read stories; they are almost never breaking-news stories, but rather, human interest stories that cause a smile or a cringe.

One of the news stories that have stuck out in my mind from the past year were the kids from, I think, Iowa. That detail isn’t important. Anyway, these kids were working the night shift at their local ice rink. It was a slow night, and since no one was around, they decided to drive their Zambonis through the Burger King drive-through. They got caught, but the story went national.

I don’t think newspapers should turn sensational, it might ruin credibility. But where is the news of the weird? People love that stuff.

The Daily Show

Ok, well I don’t know if all of you are like me, but when you feel like watching the news, you don’t go to CNN, Fox, or MSNBC. Personally, when I watch the news, I like the Daily Show. I also read the newspaper every morning, but at 10pm I flip to Comedy Central. I prefer to end my day on a comedic note. Every morning when I get up, I am bombarded with the latest tragedy in Iraq, news of a waning Economy, or another murder that took place. But when I go to bed, I get the latest bonehead thing done by congress, or a montage of all the hypocrisy that occurs in the federal government. So when tragedy struck at Virginia Tech I thought “What will the Daily Show do about this?? Well I was reminded that the Daily Show not news. Its comedy. Its host, Jon Stewart, doesn’t claim to be serious. If you don’t believe me watch him on “Crossfire,? which does claim to be a news program:

The Daily Show went on to talk about random news, and interview Andy Card. The next day he interviewed a guy from “the Deadliest Catch.? This brings the debate. Where are we as a country if a lot of the people 18-24 get all of their news from the Daily Show, or the Colbert Report? Do these shows have any sort of journalistic responsibility?

April 23, 2007

"asian man"

Thomas Huang wrote an article for Poynter called “Who does he look like?, referring to the killer of the Virginia Tech massacre. It discusses that the first night of the VT shootings, television news started calling the shooter an “Asian man?.

Huang believes it was wrong of them to identify him by his race; it’s like saying “black man? or “Hispanic man? in a story.

He gave an example of how racial and ethnic names can cause trouble. A photographer for the VT college paper, covering the massacre, was stopped by police and was forced to lie on the ground. He was cuffed, searched and questioned. The police said the photographer was a suspect matching the profile. Eventually he was released. The police were just looking for the killer; it’s routine. However, what would happen if the police shot the photographer first than asked questions?

I feel that journalists shouldn’t identify people by their race unless it’s relevant.

When looking for the Virginia Tech killer, “Asian? means basically nothing. It gets the police absolutely no where. Almost one billion people could answer to that description.

It’s a Journalists’ job to find as much information as possible and share it to the public. It’s important though to remain accurate and specific. “Asian? isn’t very specific at all.

They shouldn’t have jumped the gun and reported his race as “Asian? when it wasn’t even the right race. It would have been ok to report the race if they were still looking for the killer- and they knew specific details of what he looked like. In this situation, the race description could have helped find the man.

Anyone else?

"Who Does He Look Like?"

In an article on Poynter's Web site, Thomas T. Huang discusses why he believes it was wrong to identify the VT shooter as an "Asian man." He argues that identifying someone in a crime story by using racial terms will stereotype large groups of people and that racial terms should only be used if there's a greater amount of detail used about the identity of the person.

"We need to push for specific and accurate details," Huang writes. "Going with a single descriptor like "Asian" doesn't reveal very much. What, after all, does an "Asian" look like?"

He says that race or nationality should not be mentioned unless it's a relevant part of the story.

"But it's not as if the killer's Asian-ness, or nationality, or immigration status were a link to the massacre," Huang writes. "It's not like his description as an "Asian" would help us catch him."

On the other hand, the reporters were reporting what they knew.

Huang writes, "On the day after the shootings, the president of Virginia Tech gave this first official identification of the killer: 'We know that he was an Asian male.' "

And that's what the news media ran with: an "Asian man."

My two cents

While I agree that the immediate reporting of an "Asian man" created racial tension, I am not sure if it would be prevented by not reporting the race until the pictures came out later. I think that as the public eventually gets the pictures, the identities, the names, the viewers will come to their own conclusions, even racist conclusions, despite media using race as an identifier or not.

But this is all talk.

If it came down to it, I don't think I'd use racial terms in reporting a crime story. Sure, giving that person's race paints a better picture of who did what, but it's possible to do more harm than good. If reporting about what an "Asian man" did might stereotype the race, then, in my opinion, the cons out weigh the pros by far, and journalists might need to be more sensitive in crime reporting.

Back to you

Should the media just have reported the shooter as "man" instead of "Asian man"? Are there other options?

Do you think that using a person's race in the reporting of the crime will negatively portray the race? Have you seen it in action?

What would you do if you had to make the call?

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On the Net: - The Poynter article referred to in this post.