Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Modes of communication in a journalistic working environment

Journalists use communications techniques to provide a one way flow of information to the public through a print medium. Working as a journalist at the Newcastle Herald gave me a unique insight into the type of internal communications that contribute to the eventual external communication product - the daily news. The following is what I observed about the communications systems inherent at the Herald.

The modes of communication inherent at the Newcastle Herald are vast and varied, however there were several dominant methods of communication that came to the fore during my placement. This examination of communications within the structure of the Newcastle Herald will analyse an array of the most prominent technology based, verbal, and non-verbal communication systems utilised by the organisation.

The dominant communications tool used at the Herald is a computer application known as ‘Cyber’ which networks the organisation. Cyber is sophisticated print news specific software, which allows users to write stories through a word processor, and share those stories with the rest of the office by placing them in various ‘bins’ categorised by department. This allows editing staff immediate access to stories as they are completed. When articles are saved, the program provides a measurement of how much space the piece will occupy in the actual newspaper, which gives editorial staff the ability to plan the use of space and layout of the newspaper. The Cyber network connects the entire office, and also has a mail feature journalists use in a memo capacity, allowing users to send information, questions, opinions, jokes, conversation and so forth direct to the desired recipient’s computer. It also provides access to archived stories, and to all Fairfax, AAP and Reuters stories daily. This allows journalists to stay up to speed with new information and stories and provides editing staff with news for immediate release. Cyber is used for interpersonal communication, research, word processing, mail, editing, file sharing and much more, making it the ideal internal network communications tool for a newspaper, where speed and ease of access to information is imperative. Cyber, combined with the Newcastle Herald and Fairfax intranet, which enables access to cross-newspaper archiving, photograph(er) designation, important announcements and information, are the most prominent forms of internal communication.

While Cyber accounts for almost all internal communication at the Herald, there are other methods employed by staff for interpersonal and interdepartmental communication. Verbal communication is one of the dominant methods used to impart information, set professional tasks and direction, conduct story briefings, converse formally and informally, and so forth. Face to face communication is used in editorial meetings in order to construct the make-up of the newspaper and set the agenda for the following day. This direct form of communication allows for an open forum, whereby participants can actively debate and discuss important issues such as front page stories, photo selection, and inclusion and exclusion decisions.

External communication, such as interviews and correspondence with sources, are generally conducted by phone (most prominent for interviews) and email. Television news is viewed in order to establish the agenda, and to work towards providing new angles, as print is a day behind television and the internet, so there is a need to provide something ‘new’. While the Herald has a website which also disseminates news, it does not provide a 24 hour up-to-the-minute news service. As such, the Herald, as a print specialist, needs to find ways to engage audiences to stem the tide of “people increasingly turning to other media such as the Internet and 24-hour cable news networks for information.” (Shin, 2005). Their internet venture was borne mainly out of necessity, as Goggin (2006) outlines, “television, radio, newspapers, publishing and film all have online ventures and regard the internet as an integral part of the way they reach audiences.”

Sources

Goggin, G, “The Internet, Online and Mobile Cultures,” in Cunningham, S, & Turner, G (2006). The Media and Communications in Australia. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Shin, A (2005). Newspaper Circulation Continues to Decline. (2005, May 3). Washington Post, p. E03.

Reflections on working as a journalist

Having recently completed a month working as a sports journalist at the Newcastle Herald, I have gained man valuable insights into the working life of media practitioners. The following is a log I kept of my day to day experiences working in sports journalism.

Friday 11/9/09: Commenced placement in the sports department of the Newcastle Herald. I was given a tour of the Herald headquarters, assigned a work station and access card and was given information about the operating systems used at the paper. I was re-introduced to the sports journalists and editing staff as they arrived, and began researching ideas for a story to write. I was provided with information about the International Triathlon Union World Championships taking place on the Gold Coast by John Leeson, and proceeded to plan, research, interview and write a preview for the event. I attended an editorial staff conference, where each department outlined the stories they would be filling their allotted space in the paper with, and discussed front page credentials of stories and cross department ideas for stories. Photos to accompany stories were examined and informally voted on by the editorial staff. This was a unique insight into the selection processes behind the production of a newspaper, and I was surprised to see it taking place in such an informal manner. After this meeting I accompanied Neil Goffet to Number One Sportsground to take a photograph of, and interview, the captains of the local Black Diamond AFL teams who were to contest the grand final.

Monday 14/9/09: Reviewed the daily papers and collected my published work for my portfolio. I interviewed Merewether Carlton Rugby president Dennis Neader for the club’s perspective on having a team in the NHRU grand finals in every grade. I wrote a story following the interview and organised a photo to accompany it. I also interviewed Jane Mountford, a Novocastrian who won the 60-65 age category event at the ITU World Championships which had just finished, about how she won the event on a busted ankle to honour her late husband, well known former KB United player Bob Mountford. I encountered an ethical dilemma over whether to write the story with the colourful angle about the ankle injury, or to respect Jane’s wishes to play the fact down. My colleagues encouraged me to write the more newsworthy story about Jane overcoming adversity in the name of her late husband, and I did so as the sub-editors wouldn’t have allowed me to bury such important information.

Tuesday 15/9/09: Attended post season press conference with Newcastle Knights coach Rick Stone. It was interesting to observe and participate in an in-house style press conference, with only two media entities present, as it subverted many of my expectations about the nature of professional press conferences. I wrote an article about Adam MacDougall’s likelihood of remaining at the Knights next season based on some of the points raised in the conference.

Friday 18/9/09: Attended Newcastle Jets pre-game press conference, with coach Branko Culina, player Kaz Patafta and club chief executive John Tsatsimas. The format of the press conference was more in keeping with my preconception of such an event. There were several media entities present, the layout was media appropriate, sponsor boards were situated behind panellists and there was a more formal, professional approach than the Rick Stone conference. I followed up a lead from the conference and wrote a story about new Jets signing, Iraq International Ali Abbas, and confirmed that he had been cleared to play that weekend by Football Federation Australia.

Monday 21/9/09: Assisted junior sport reporter Josh Leeson in compiling the junior sport briefs section of the Tuesday sport lift-out. I researched, interviewed and wrote stories about disability swimmer Maddison Elliott and young boxing sensation Tyrone Polyak. I found there were some differences in reporting junior sport as opposed to seniors, as quoted material generally comes from parents or trainers than the actual athletes themselves.

Tuesday 22/9/09: Watched the Dripping Wet Pro Junior surf event on livestream, and interviewed Merewether competitor Ryan Callinan about his performance in the event. It was interesting to note the plethora of tools journalists can use to follow events and gather information.

Friday 25/9/09: Received press releases about a Motocross series event to be held in Maitland, and about the Mattara surf competition to be held in Newcastle. I assisted Josh Leeson in writing a preview for the surf event by interviewing local surfer Craig Anderson, a competitor in the event who had recently returned from an international surfing trip. I learned a lot about the temptation to use off the record information, but realised it is ultimately ethically unviable material after Craig implored me not to reveal some sensitive information.

Monday 28/9/09: Wrote the entire junior sport briefs section, which involved writing four separate junior sport stories. I had to research, interview and write about junior netball, rugby union, tennis and rugby league. I discovered that story selection was very much dependant on the availability of sources, and that stories with more news value and relevance often have to be abandoned due to a lack of access to reliable authorities.

Tuesday 29/9/09: Endured a very frustrating day. Nothing constructive was achieved. I attempted to reach Wallsend touch football’s media manager to get contact information for a player who had been selected in the Australian touch side, but was unable to reach him, despite leaving several messages. I learned that not all sources are willing to make media attention a priority.

Wednesday 30/9/09: Another fruitless day, where I was unable to contact necessary sources. I continued my efforts to contact the touch football source, and also failed to reach Phil Sargent to discuss the NSW Motocross championships.

Thursday 1/10/09: Contacted Australian Cruiserweight boxing champion Daniel Ammann’s manager to write a preview for a fight Daniel was preparing for in New Zealand. I began researching the W-League and Women’s Jets side in order to prepare for their season launch the following day.

Friday 2/10/09: Attended Newcastle Jets Women’s season launch at the Marina Yacht Club in Wickham. This was the first significant media event I had covered alone, and was excited by the opportunity. It was fascinating to compare the male and female sporting arenas, particularly in terms of the athletes’ motivation to perform in the field. Women’s sport in Australia is far from lucrative for its athletes, and it was interesting to note the more humble nature of female athletes. Talking to the coaching staff was an educational experience for me with regards to the inner workings of professional female sport. The perks of the job became evident as I enjoyed a delightful free meal after the launch, before writing an article on the event.

Monday 5/10/09: Covered Daniel Ammann’s results from his bout over the weekend in New Zealand, and learned about the promotional aspect of boxing from his trainer Peter Hallett.

Tuesday 6/10/09: Celebrated the birth of sports writer James Gardiner’s child. No articles written today.

Wednesday 7/10/09: Attended the launch of the East Coast Surf Series, a new surf lifesaving series to be held in Newcastle and the Central Coast. The event involved a press conference, morning tea, interviews from Mike Rabbitt and a photo shoot. I organised a photograph of two local juniors who are competing in the event, and conducted several interviews. The subsequent article was the largest I wrote in my time at the Herald.

The experience has greatly benefited me not only in terms of portfolio material, but in providing me with the tools to succeed in the industry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ethics in Journalism

Ethics is a multi-faceted concept which is difficult to attach with an empirical definition. James Fieser (2001:1) says that ethics involves “systematising, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behaviour.” Ethics expert Edward Spence (2008a:3) defined ethics as ‘a set of prescriptive rules, principles, values and virtues of character that inform and guide interpersonal and intrapersonal conduct: that is the conduct of people toward each other and the conduct of people toward themselves.”

Business ethics experts Petrick and Quinn (1997:42 cited by Breit) see ethics as “the systematic attempt to make sense of the individual, group, organisation, professional, social, market and global moral experience in such a way as to determine the desirable, prioritised ends that are worth pursuing, the right rules, and obligations that ought to govern human conduct, the virtuous intentions and character traits that deserve development in life and act accordingly.
They conclude that “ethics is the study of individual and collective moral awareness, judgement, character and conduct”.

Grassian (1992:3, cited by Breit) on the other hand, defines ethics as the study of “right conduct, moral character, obligation and responsibility, social justice and the nature of the good life.”

These descriptions of ethics all point to the idea of ethics as a decision making process aimed at making the right choices. Central to this is identifying and prioritising your personal responsibilities, professional responsibilities and responsibility to the wider community, requiring an understanding of stakeholder interests.

The 1947 report from the Commission on Freedom of the Press, popularly known as the Hutchins Commission Report, focused attention on the press’ role in promoting the public good. This influential report highlighted the media’s responsibilities over its freedoms, which ultimately led to greater industry and organisational emphasis on codes of ethics and codes of practice, education and public criticism (Richards, 2005: 8-14, cited by Breit, 2007).
“According to this theory, the responsibilities of the press (and by extension broadcast news media) were to be emphasised over its freedoms, and the press was to be considered subject to moral and ethical restrictions. Among its obligations were
• Servicing the political system by providing information and debate on public
affairs
• Enlightening the public so as to make it capable of self government; and
• Safeguarding the rights of the individual by serving as a watchdog on
government

Social responsibility theory has several weaknesses, most notably that responsibility and ethics, although related, are not the same thing. Responsibility and accountability contribute to and encourage ethical behaviour, however ethics is broader than either concept. Ethics affect how people see right and wrong, good and bad, what is responsible and the effectiveness of accountability.

Journalism is regulated by laws which define how professional communicators should act in certain situations. However ethics is separate from law in many ways, and ethical responsibilities goes beyond legal obligations. Ethics is painted in shades of grey as opposed to the black and white of the law. Sometimes what is ethically right may clash with what is legally right (Spence, 2008), for example if a media release containing extremely pressing information concerning the safety of the public was sent out with a 48 hour embargo to allow the organisation to attempt to rectify the situation, it may be ethical to ignore the embargo for public interest’s sake.

Ethics is an ambiguous field, and people have varying personal ethics and ideals based on a range of factors, from their socialisation to their professional experience. One of the tools that assists journalists in making ethical decisions is the Journalists’ code of ethics.

Codes of ethics perform many functions, including defining the profession, creating a community of users, advancing moral understanding, developing virtuous professionals, developing professional identity, promoting professional autonomy and outlining ethical obligations.

The MEAA code of ethics acts as the primary regulatory mechanism for journalists, and defines the ideal functioning of journalism, referring to the public’s right to information, democracy, freedom of expression and public responsibility. It also refers to journalistic ideals of pursuing truth, honesty, fairness, independence, and respect for the rights of others, defining what journalists can do and outlining public expectations of journalists. Breaches of the code may incur a warning, a reprimand, a fine of up to $1000, a suspension of a year or expulsion from the union (Conley and Lamble, 2006). The Australian Press Council is journalism’s other governing body, and it oversees the ethics of print media, dealing with complaints. They have no power to penalise unethical journalism in a legal avenue, but may enforce retractions or adjudications. Publishers usually print these adjudications to preserve their reputation. Television and radio are self regulatory through codes of practice and answer to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (Conley and Lamble, 2006).

These are some of the ethical issues that face journalists:
 Need for objectivity
 Balance and lack of bias
 Editorial independence
 Public interest vs privacy
 Chequebook journalism/Cash for comment
 Conflicts of interest
 Undercover reporting
 Intrusion of entertainment values
 Fairness and honesty in acquiring information
 Respecting the anonymity of sources

And the list goes on. As there is such a breadth of ethical issues facing journalists, I will focus my discussion on the issue of whether it is a journalist's role to publish material that is 'in the public interest' or material that is 'interesting to the public'? with reference to privacy, which follows on from last week’s presentation.


Reporting what is in the public interest, that is, what they need to know for their safety and that which is pertinent for the maintenance of a democratic society is one of the main functions of journalism. However, reporting information that the public would like to know, for entertainment or interest, as opposed to what they need to know, can be the basis for unethical practice, particularly when it intrudes on privacy.

In Australia, there is currently no legal right to privacy (Parliament of Australia). Despite mention of protection of privacy by Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 which states “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honour or reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks”, there is very little the public can do about invasions of privacy. This is particularly apparent in a contemporary climate with the presence of surveillance, easier access to confidential information, and an intrusive mass media. While it is not covered by law, it is generally considered to be ethical to afford people a reasonable level of privacy. This idea is supported by Andrew Belsey, who suggests that “it is ethics, not law that should protect privacy” (Belsey, 1992). Alfino and Mayes also discuss the nature of privacy, describing it as a moral right not protected by law. This principle of respect for privacy is one which the media takes into consideration when dealing with stories of a personal or private nature.


Archard (1998) assumes that each individual has a strong interest in his/her privacy and that any breach of a person’s privacy must be shown to be justified by the display of good reasons for the breach. That is, it must be in the PUBLIC INTEREST
Such good reasons must meet the proviso that making public something that is private should not merely serve a valued end, but be the only thing that does and can serve that end. Example: revealing a cabinet minister’s sexual peccadilloes can effectively display his unsuitability for high office, but if drawing attention to his public acts does as good a job of discrediting him than disclosure of private affairs is gratuitous.
Archard takes for granted a background presumption in favour of the freedom of the press to report what it deems appropriate. The relevant freedom is one to publish what the press deems to be sufficiently attested facts. The argument being that making all known pertinent facts available to the public serves a valued political purpose. Democracy is able to function properly if citizens are better able to make sound judgements as a result of all facts being made available to them.

A person’s privacy may be breached if the information disclosed serves a proven public interest. A code of press practice may outline such instances, eg: detecting or exposing a crime. Showing public officials to be corrupt, grossly inefficient, negligent or dishonest is certainly in the public interest, provided these failings bear directly on their performance of public duties. Questions of sexual morality are much harder to justify in terms of public interest. In some cases what may be decisive in discrediting a politician is that his sexual behaviour is illegal, Milton Orkopolous is a good example of this, which Kim will elaborate on in her discussion.


There is a difficult line for the media between publicity and privacy. This should be governed by ethics rather than law. A democratic society requires freedom of information and freedom of expression, and this gives the press the vital role of relaying information to the public to inform them as democratic citizens. Emphasis on the positive role of the press in promoting a fairer society by attacking bigotry, discrimination and hypocrisy and by combating political corruption should be explored.
Sources

Alfino, M, and Mayes, G, R, (2003). "Reconstructing the right to privacy." Social Theory and Practice 29.1 (Jan 2003): Pg: 1-19

Archard, D (1998). “Privacy, the public interest, and a prurient public”, in Kieran, M (ed) Media Ethics, (Routeledge 1998), Pg: 82-96

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997). “What is ‘Public Interest’?” [Transcript], Media Report 13 February 1997


Belsey, A (1992). “Privacy, Publicity and Politics”, in Belsey, A and Chadwick, R, Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, (Routeledge 1998), Pg: 77-91

Breit, R (2007). Law and Ethics for Professional Communicators. Victoria: LexisNexis Butterworths, 1st edn.

Conley, D & Lamble, S (2006). The Daily Miracle, 3rd Edn, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Gardner, H, Csikszentmihalyi, M, & Damon, W (2001). ‘Good Work in Journalism Today’ in Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, Basic Books, New York, Pg: 179-206.

Media Alliance (2008). “Media Alliance Code of Ethics”, Retrieved September 18 2009 from Alliance Online website: http://www.alliance.org.au/code-of-ethics.html

Spence, E.H. & Quinn, A. (2008). “Information Ethics as a Guide for New Media”, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 23(4), Pg: 264-279.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Privacy vs Public Interest

“When one decides to become a public figure, does one give up in some way a little of one’s right to privacy?” – British House of Commons musing

In Australia, there is currently no legal right to privacy (Parliament of Australia). Despite mention of protection of privacy by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, there is very little the public can do about invasions of privacy. This is particularly apparent in a contemporary climate with the presence of surveillance, easier access to confidential information, and an intrusive mass media. While it is not covered by law, it is generally considered to be ethical to afford people a reasonable level of privacy. This idea is supported by Andrew Belsey, who suggests that “it is ethics, not law that should protect privacy” (Belsey 1992). Alfino and Mayes also discuss the nature of privacy, describing it as a moral right not protected by law. This principle of respect for privacy is one which the media takes into consideration when dealing with stories of a personal or private nature. However, there is a train of thought that suggests public figures have a lesser claim to privacy than private individuals by virtue of their position in society.

Privacy refers to “the condition of being protected from unwanted access by others” (Belsey 1992). It also has to do with keeping personal information non-public and “being let alone, having control of access to one’s body and personal space, autonomy in personal matters, and solitude” (Archard 1998). Privacy is generally taken for granted in our society, however there is very little protection against invasions to it. For the most part, this publicity is centered on public figures, such as politicians and celebrities, people whose privacy is compromised by the media on account of their entry to public life. Due to this phenomenon, the question of whether these individuals are owed less respect for their privacy than private individuals and people cast unwittingly into the public eye, has been raised.

A common argument supporting the justifiable loss of privacy for public individuals is that “To become a public person is a change in status, and a subsequent loss of privacy. It is said that whatever bears on your public role ceases to be private. A public person is less private simply in virtue of his or her public status. Loss of privacy comes with the territory” (Archard 1998). It is widely considered that when an individual enters the public domain, they waive their rights to privacy as they must be open to public scrutiny to ensure they are properly executing their public role. The ‘public figure’ can be separated into various categories, each with its own position with regards to respect for privacy.

The first category is ‘personalities,’ celebrities who are created by publicity, which they actively seek, and would not survive without it. Belsey argues that as they seek publicity, they have little right to complain when their privacy is breached. This is because the nature of their position suggests an assumed level of consent to publicly broadcast information about them. “This type of person cannot legitimately claim the protection of privacy when they discover the negative side of the Faustian contract” (Belsey 1992). These individuals must accept bad publicity with the good, or risk hypocrisy. Therefore, since they have consciously and deliberately entered the public sphere with a desire for publicity they have forgone some of their right to privacy.

A 1977 Court of Appeal decision reinforces this idea, as they dismissed an injunction against a former press agent revealing secrets about his charges, saying “that those who seek and welcome publicity, so long as it shows them in a good light, cannot complain about invasions of privacy which show them in an unfavourable light” (Archard 1998).

This argument, however, has weaknesses in that simply because one seeks something good, does not mean they should have something bad thrust upon them in return. No person would willingly consent to bad publicity; however the media generally take the approach of Belsey and assume consent of publication, perhaps wrongfully. The media must decide what private information should be revealed and what information is gratuitous and does not contribute anything more than voyeurism.

A second category of people in the public eye is politicians. The unique ethical nature of political life means their protected areas of privacy are far smaller than other peoples. A politician holds a significant position of power, and in a democratic society this type of person must be open to public scrutiny in cases where their private life impacts upon the performance of their public duties. In 1976 the Australian Press Council stated that publication of private information without consent was acceptable only if there was “legitimate public interest overriding the right to privacy” (Belsey 1992). Generally, public interest covers cases where private information can show public officials to be corrupt, grossly inefficient, negligent or dishonest, on the provision that these factors have a bearing on their public duties (Belsey 1992). If, however, it is possible to discredit a politician by means of exposing flaws in their public life, this should be attempted before private details are revealed, as releasing the private information would be unnecessary and gratuitous.

Archard assumes that each individual has a strong interest in their own privacy and that any breach of a person’s privacy must be shown to be justified by the display of good reasons for the breach (Archard 1998). With regards to the media, this essentially means that information gained through a breach of privacy should only be revealed if it is in the public interest. Furthermore, the private information disclosed should only be used if it is the sole thing that is capable of serving a legitimately valued end. An example of this would be the media’s divulgence of Milton Orkopolous’ private affairs, in which it was revealed the Labor frontbencher had a drug habit and bribed young boys to have sex with him. Both of these illegitimate indulgences were paid for with public funds (The Australian, 2006). In this instance these embarrassing private matters needed to be revealed publicly to display Orkopolous’ failures in his public duties. A politician in this type of situation cannot claim the protection of privacy, as abusing their position of power and betraying the people they are meant to serve is a scandalous behaviour which should be open to public scrutiny (Belsey 1992).

Sensitive matters such as this one involving sexual morality are difficult to locate within the parameters of public interest. In the Orkopolous case the sexual behaviour was illegal, and therefore its release became justifiable in order to discredit the politician. A scenario where the divulgence of sexual behaviour was questionable is the Senator Bob Woods case, in which a sexual affair of the liberal frontbencher was exposed. Despite Archard’s arguments to the contrary, a person’s immoral sexual behaviour should not disqualify them from office unless it is illegal. What one individual chooses to do consentingly in private with another is not open forum for the public domain, and does not necessarily impede on an individual’s ability to carry out public duties.
While there is no inherent right to privacy under law, there are ethical boundaries which prescribe the nature of privacy (Alfino and Mayes, 2003). Although every person, regardless of position or stature in society, has a rightful claim to respect for privacy, it is generally accepted that public figures forgo some right to privacy in cases where public interest and the need to know is high. The media need to use good judgement in reporting matters, being vigilant in promoting public interest without straying into gratuity and catering for what the public wants to know as opposed to what they need to know. Public interest should be the driving force behind revealing private information about people, and all information should be gained in a morally permissible manner. Be it right or not, in our society the respect for privacy for private figures is greater than for public persons.

Alfino, M, and Mayes, G, R, (2003). "Reconstructing the right to privacy." Social Theory and Practice 29.1 (Jan 2003): Pg: 1-19

Anderson, S, A, (2008). "Privacy without the right to privacy. (Report)." The Monist 91.1 (Jan 2008), Pg: 81-108. Retrieved from Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. The University of Newcastle Library. 29 Oct. 2008
.

Archard, D (1998). “Privacy, the public interest, and a prurient public”, in Kieran, M (ed) Media Ethics, (Routeledge 1998), Pg: 82-96

The Australian (2006). MP 'bought teen sex using public funds'. (2006, November 8). The Australian, The Nation section, Retrieved from The Australian Online website: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20721655-601,00.html

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (1997). “What is ‘Public Interest’?” [Transcript], Media Report 13 February 1997

Belsey, A (1992). “Privacy, Publicity and Politics”, in Belsey, A and Chadwick, R, Ethical Issues in Journalism and the Media, (Routeledge 1998), Pg: 77-91

Department of Parliamentary Services. (2005). Do Australians have a Legal Right to Privacy? (no. 37 ISSN 1449-8456). Canberra: Parliament of Australia. url: http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/RN/2004-05/05rn37.pdf

Farr, M and Barlass, T (1997). “In the Garden of their home, a senator and his wife confront a scandal”, Daily Telegraph 7 February 1997

Media Alliance (2008). “Media Alliance Code of Ethics”, Retrieved November 3 2008 from Alliance Online website: http://www.alliance.org.au/code-of-ethics.html

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Truth and Objectivity

“A democracy needs an institution that challenges the powerful, that gets beneath the official story to dig for truth, and that communicates the truth credibly and trustworthily” (Csikszentmihalyi et al, 2001).

Truth and objectivity are the cornerstones of good journalistic practice. When journalism is dedicated to accuracy and objectivity, it engenders public trust, which is essential to the functioning of the industry. However it is often difficult for journalists to maintain absolute objectivity in reporting, and at times, undesirably, personal feelings and bias obscure accuracy in reporting. Csikszenmihalyi proposed that to remain dedicated to the truth seeking mission and to produce quality, objective journalism that practitioners need to develop inner moral codes to guide their action in the field:

“The purest version of journalists gaining control of their work is when they call forth inner moral codes that help them resist illegitimate pressures and remain focused on the truth seeking mission” (Gardner, Csikszentmihayli and Damon, 2001).

These value systems or moral codes may take the form of internal oaths to report objectively, or to eschew matters in which you have a personal stake. However, as time goes on, journalists are finding ways to incorporate their own biases into stories intentionally,but retaining an illusion of objectivity to suit the agenda of their publication. Journalists, traditionally, distanced themselves from their own bias and independent ideas as part of their professional practice.In modern times, many journalists embrace bias, and allow their independent views to seep into stories, compensating for this with self conscious distancing, checking and balancing strategies.As time moves on, journalism is expanding into many different forms where freedom of expression is often prevalent and accepted.

An impediment to journalists working independently and free from subjective influences is the prominence of public relations as agenda setters in modern journalism. Public relations and press releases are undermining journalistic independence, setting the agenda, and taking advantage of the fact that there is less investigative reporting as more time is spent in the office and there is an expectation on journalists to produce more stories with shorter deadlines (Conley and Lamble, 2006).

While it remains a difficult task for journalists to remain dedicated to the truth seeking mission and report objectively, it is still possible to do so, particularly if journalists stick to the basics. Fact checking, cross referencing, delving through archives, interviewing multiple people on issues, ensuring spelling and grammar is impeccable and so forth are ways journalists can continue to report accurately and truthfully, thus maintaining public trust and therefore fulfilling journalism's duty as informing a deomcratic society.

Sources:

Conley, D & Lamble, S (2006). The Daily Miracle, 3rd Edn, Melbourne, Oxford University Press.

Gardner, H, Csikszentmihalyi, M, & Damon, W (2001). ‘Good Work in Journalism Today’ in Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, Basic Books, New York, pp179-206.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Death of the Newspaper

News as we know it is changing. Newspaper sales have been in steady decline for decades with the growth of new technology and new media channels. Communications professionals are required to encompass a range of media skills, transcending the traditional journalistic mould and gaining skills to help them flourish in a convergence driven industry. Journalists need to be savvy in not only one discipline (eg: print) as the media industry continues to move towards convergence, whereby news organisations employ several channels to disseminate news. Skills in broadcast, online, print and so forth are fast becoming essential skills in communications workplaces.

Online news is perhaps the most prominent source of news today, with its relative speed, ease and lack of cost making it an attractive option for accessing news. It allows the reader to peruse headlines in a simple format, and provides many features unavailable in other mediums.

The most noticeable advantage of online news is the speed with which events can be reported on. Owing to deadlines, printing time and delivery, print media reports yesterday’s news. Online news covers news as it breaks, with constant updates to the minute, meaning news can be spread to the public almost immediately.Another obvious advantage of online news is the potential for greater access. News sites can be accessed anywhere in the world, meaning papers are no longer restricted by regional or distribution boundaries, geography is no longer an issue” (Hume cited by Ingle, 1995, p.18). This ease of access, unrestricted by location has brought the world closer together in terms of information flow, leading to a better educated and informed society. Online news has a greater capacity for increased narrative and a larger news hole in stories.
Another advantage is that the news hole is endless. If you have the energy and time to put the material up, you can provide all the out takes, all the extra stuff that didn't make it into the old tiny news hole” (Hume cited by Ingle, 1995, p.18). Journalists are able to better develop their stories in the absence of a specified news hole, which may be a set number of paragraphs or centimeters allocated on a spreadsheet. Writing for the web means there is no constraints on length, thus greater narrative can be achieved in stories. In addition to increased story length, the internet as a medium offers a range of options to extend narrative that are not available to other forms. Hyperlinking online is the internet equivalent of delving through archives of old papers to find related articles. This is also beneficial to other journalists when researching stories. Hypertext can be viewed as “not only as a way to link from an index to a story, which is a very poor way of understanding hypertext, but as a new narrative form” (Pisani cited by Ingle, 2005, p.19).

With the increasing importance of online news, practitioners need to be aware of the online environment and the way in which it differs from print.

Sources

Goggin, G, (2006). “The Internet, Online and Mobile Cultures,” Ch.21 (p. 259-278) in Cunningham, S, & Turner, G, The Media and Communications in Australia. Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.

Ingle, B, (1995) "Newspaper vs. on-line versions: a discussion of the old and new media." Nieman Reports 49.n2 (Summer 1995): (p.17-21). Retrieved from Expanded Academic ASAP website Gale. The University of Newcastle Library. 2 September 2009
http://0-find.galegroup.com.library.newcastle.edu.au:80/ips/start.do?prodId=IPS

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Globalisation of Media

This week's issue was globalisation and homgenisation of media content, and whether or not this is a desirable future for the industry. The arguments in the presentation by Natasha and Rebecca centered around the way global media promotes a universal understanding of issues and spreads cultural values and ideals. On the other hand it reduces the prominence of local news and reduces people's access to information that directly affects them and their local area.

A major issue with globalised reporting is that nations and cultures can be misrepresented due to implicit bias on the part of the dominant media source. Their focus can often set an agenda which may be misleading with regards to events in question. "Mass media reporting of foreign affairs very often governs what kind of image of a country or a culture predominates. 7 Day-topical media concentrate on short-lived events relevant to a given circle of recipients making locally or ethnocentristically oriented news choices of events, publishable with minimum delay" (Kunczik, 2001).

A positive outcome of global media is that information can be disseminated more widely and quickly than ever before. Breaking news in London can be accessed instantly here in Australia through new media technologies and outlets such as online news. "Not only is traditional media being transformed, but the role of national media has completely changed," explains Associate Professor Volkmer. "With instant 24/7 digital communication, Australian media outlets are available worldwide, and a local newspaper can be accessed from around the world. This is not trivial as it has consequences for covering stories, particularly in times of crisis" (newsroom.melbourne.edu).

While global media has its benefits, it is integral to retain local news sources to keep regions informed about that which affects them most directly, as well as providing access to more global issues.

Sources

Kunczik, M (2001). "Globalization: News media, images of nations and the flow of international capital with special reference to the role of rating agencies", DEUTSCHES √úBERSEE-INSTITUT, Paper presented at the IAMCR Conference, Singapure, July 17-July 20 2000.

The Melbourne Newsroom (2009), "Journalism conference to explore globalisation of media", http://newsroom.melbourne.edu/news/n-85