Monday, September 15, 2014

IMED CYBER - September 19th

The CIME blog is looking forward to the fourth annual International Media Ethics Day (IMED), which will take place this Friday, September 19th! This year the IMED will focus on digital media ethics and IT security, including social media, citizen journalism, Internet censorship, and a whole lot more. For more information about the IMED’s theme, or how to get involved, see CIME’s website.

In honor of the IMED the CIME blog will be releasing 24 new blog posts, one every hour for the whole day, on topics ranging from the coverage of journalist killings to the National Football League!

Come join the conversation this Friday, and let us know what you think about media ethics!

- The CIME bloggers

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Help Wanted at NPR: Ombudsmen and Media Police

Photo credit: City of Oelwein
In case you didn’t know or have forgotten, in media circles an ombudsman is an editor, a critic, an investigator, a detective, a steward, a protector, and an evaluator. Essentially an ombudsman is a quality control expert, he or she must ensure that all content and material that a particular media organization produces is pristine, accurate, and worthy of being published. Ombudsmen are joe public’s (our) best friend, for they protect and honor us by making sure that what we read, hear, and see is deserving of our attention and interest because it is correct and genuine. This was highlighted recently by the National Public Radio in the United States, or what we Americans like to call "NPR”. It seems that NPR’s ombudsman position was going to be vacated, thus NPR had posted an advertisement for the role. In an ironic twist the actual ad for the position of ombudsman is what came under scrutiny, something that ombudsman themselves are experts at, scrutinizing that is.

The advertisement declared that the ombudsman would no longer offer analysis, remarks, or judgments on material submitted by NPR employees. This news came to the chagrin of many, as NPR enjoys a strong following throughout the United States because it is widely considered a producer of independent material free of bias, restraint, and internal or external influences. In short, NPR is able to attract many of its supporters and contributors because of the ethical standards and transparency that NPR maintains. Thus the role of ombudsman at NPR is of critical importance in keeping those same standards in place, and keeping NPR’s readers and supporters in place as well. The backlash that the sheer posting of the ad created was enough that NPR acknowledged that they had made a mistake, and subsequently modified the job description to include the components and duties that an ombudsman has always had at NPR: offering commentaries on works, acting as umpires, and rendering verdicts on material and behavior alike.

While the actual wording of the ad has been resolved, it really allows us all to take a deeper look into what we, the consumers of content, consume on a daily basis. While it’s a wonderful thing that NPR goes the extra mile to maintain their ethical standards with an ombudsman who has perhaps more autonomy and independence then most of his or her peers within the industry, is this focus on assessment and evaluation very much the exception and not the norm? In other words, should the role and duties of an ombudsman be universal throughout the media and journalism industry, so that we the public can really enjoy transparency and clarity? 

Should one hope that when hiring ombudsmen every television station and every newspaper not only use the same verbiage when describing the job, but upon being hired each ombudsman entertain the same exact expectations and responsibilities across the board regardless of where they are working or who is signing their paychecks? Or should the role of ombudsman be different and unique to the company, organization, and particular kind of media being produced? While we the public may never know quite how ombudsmen are working behind the curtain, we ourselves can be our own ombudsmen on a daily basis by always being vigilant consumers of what we read, listen to, and watch.

- William Korte

Media Matters

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The 4th Annual International Media Ethics Day - September 19th

We are excited to announce that the 4th annual International Media Ethics Day, IMED CYBER, will be held on September 19th!

From the first IMED in 2011 with only 300 participants from 11 countries, the event has grown to be a popular worldwide initiative with more than 800 participants from 32 countries. This year the theme of the IMED will be digital media ethics and IT security. For more information about the IMED and how you can get involved, check out CIME’s website.

Here at the CIME blog we will be celebrating the IMED with some intensive blogging. On September 19th we will release one media ethics blog post every hour for the entire 24 hours of the IMED!

We invite you to read our posts and let us know what you think about media ethics!

- The CIME bloggers

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Rolf Harris and the skeletons from his closet

Operation Yewtree opened many previously locked doors. Closet doors. Precisely, closet doors where the skeletons of big media entertainers were stored over years, without anyone being suspicious that certain television personalities, musicians, or comedians were secretly pedophiles or necrophiliacs.

The police investigation into sexual abuse allegations targeted, in the beginning, only the British media personality Jimmy Savile. Now, Rolf Harris is in the spotlight.

Who is Harris?

Rolf Harris, born on March 30, 1930, is an Australian entertainer who has lived in the UK for more than 50 years. His song, “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” became a Top 10 hit in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States in 1957. During the ‘60s he was a popular TV personality, hosting different programmes about art, including “Rolf on Art,” later in 2005.

The British newspaper The Mirror presents Harris as following: “Australian-born Rolf Harris is a former children's entertainer, artist and convicted paedophile. He was known for playing unusual instruments including the wobble-board and once painted a portrait of the Queen. He was arrested under Operation Yewtree and later found guilty of 12 historic sex attacks on girls as young as seven.”

Exhaustive, isn’t it?

If you think this is outrageous, listen what happened after his trial.

After being found guilty, Harris was sentenced to only five years and nine months in prison on June 30th, 2014, with twelve charges of indecent assaults that happened between 1969 and 1986. The first month of his sentence Harris spent at London’s Wandsworth jail, but he was soon transferred to Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire. According to The Mirror, Harris, 84, will have a £8-a-week pension and a free TV there, as well as garden walks and art courses.

The Australian dedicated a long feature to Harris’ victims, writing: “The bigger you are in any business, the more protected you are by the very fact that you’re critical to the success of that enterprise,” says Tony Porter. “In the entertainment business that’s even more obvious, because if the star of a show is fired or walks, everyone is out of a job. People instinctively know when it’s best to look the other way.”

One of the most scathing assessments of Harris comes from a former friend who witnessed his sexual misconduct in the 1960s. “I’ve been horrified, but not surprised,” he says. “Publicly he’s this cuddly children’s entertainer, but any notion that he is a charitable and altruistic person is unmitigated bullsh*t. What you’ve got is a man with a fractured mind, a man with more than one personality. He knew exactly what he was doing for his own pleasure.”

As the victims are infuriated by the indulgent sentence Harris got and by all the commodities he will be able to use while in jail, Operation Yewtree continues to work on other cases of sexual abuse, especially those involving children, that are not linked to Savile.

- Paula Munteanu

The Mirror - All About Rolf Harris
The Australian
The Mirror - Paedophile Rolf Harris will be moved to cushy 'Savoy of Slammers' prison within weeks

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The limit is never the sky: drones in journalism

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…drone?

Photo credit: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
A firestorm of public and media attention saturated with controversy was provoked this summer by the story of a woman in Seattle who found herself staring at a drone outside of her apartment window. The woman in question felt her privacy had been violated, and a wave of media scrutiny and hyperbole followed.

Yes, UAVs – unmanned aerial vehicles – have made the long journey into our society’s skies and consciousness. Drones have come a long way from being used by Austrians to bomb Venice in the early 1800s, or helping train military personnel in the early 1900s. In recent times, drones have become inextricably linked to the U.S. war efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan. During the Bush and Obama administrations they have been lightning rods for criticism and anti-American sentiment, and attacks performed by drones are considered by many as inhumane (they are constantly associated with civilian casualties) and as violations of the sovereignty of foreign countries. Additionally, many critics and international human rights watchdogs say drone attacks are executed with very little transparency. On a different note, 60 Minutes recently showcased how Amazon and other logistic companies are very intrigued about using drones as a means of streamlining the transport of goods and products.

The new drone debate has now reached the wonderful world of journalism. In fact, as recently as 2013 during the political upheaval in Thailand, drones have been used by media organizations to gather information and footage alike. Undoubtedly there are journalists who think drones will be a tremendously liberating resource in mass media, and others who see potential pitfalls and dangers. A major part of this story is the legal regulations by the Federal Aviation Administration. While the FAA has granted licensure or approval for drone use within certain industries, the use of drones privately or commercially is still such a new phenomenon that its future is uncertain for the field of journalism and news gathering. Which brings about the fundamental question: What role should drones have within journalism?

Will drones help to revolutionize mass media and the way we get facts? Or will drones promote unethical, lazy, inaccurate, and inefficient ways to gather information? Will drones take money and jobs away from people who are working in journalism or wanting to become part of it? When people talk about drone usage by the mass media surely privacy and accuracy will be things that critics will focus on, but will they be able to see the potential benefits that drones could provide? Is being able to fly and operate a drone the same thing as free speech? Surely there are a lot of questions that need to be answered and sorted out when it comes to drone usage, and not just by the FAA, the Obama Administration, or The tenants of mass media and journalism will have to do some drone speak as well.

- William Korte

USA News
Forbes - "Alleged Drone 'Peeping Tom' Photo Reveals Perils of Drone Related Journalism"
Forbes - "FAA approves limited use of drones by utility company"
CBS News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Quantity vs. Quality: story quotas for journalists

Photo credit: Market !nc
It seems as though everywhere we turn today there are performance metrics or some sort of rubric in the workplace, especially in the United States. These management mechanisms of motivation have begun to spring up in a wide array of different industries and fields, from manufacturing, law enforcement, sales, and even in health care. For the most part though they have always been a staple of corporate America, big business, and our old friend capitalism. However, according to a Huffington Post article by Catherine Talbl, quotas have meandered all the way into the field of journalism. It seems that Sun-Times Media, a Chicago based publisher and media conglomerate, has enacted a quota for all of its journalists to the tune of 2.5 stories per day. If the journalists do not meet this quota they are subject to disciplinary action and possible termination. The Chicago Newspaper Guild, a local union made up of local media members and journalists, is calling for the quota to be dropped. Regardless of what the final outcome is, has a precedent already been set?

I don’t think that the creators and founders of the Pulitzer Prize nor the Peabody awards could have foreseen an age when a journalist’s job description would be encumbered with a quota requiring a set output of stories on a daily basis. Can you imagine if Warhol, Van Gogh, Jackson Pollack, or Mr. Wolfgang Mozart had worked under similar quotas? What that would have done to the quality and integrity of their works? What affect that would have had on their legacies and their acclaim, and how we regard them today? I believe that journalists much more closely resemble artists, painters and musicians, than they do salesman, assembly line workers, and call center nurses. When you factor in the role that journalists have and play in our society and in regards to the public, is it then not paramount for the purveyors and producers of our news, data, and enlightenment to be free of any shackle that would harm or impede their ability to be great at what they do?

It is yet to be seen what will come of the dispute between the Sun-Times Media group and the Chicago Newspaper Guild. Likewise, it remains unclear if the practice of assigning story quotas to journalists will become an adopted and accepted standard of mainstream media and journalism not only in the US, but globally as well. A famous Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuscinski, once referred to journalism as the “blurred genre.” If quotas become the standard operating procedure for journalists, will this genre become even more blurred?

-William Korte

The Huffington Post
The Tyee

Thursday, August 14, 2014

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown - Bias in Photojournalism

What story would the pictures of you tell?

Photo credit:
In a response to the media coverage of another police shooting, this time of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18 year old near St. Louis, Missouri, thousands of young African Americans have used twitter to ask the question "If they gunned me down which picture would they use?"

The hashtag users post one picture of themselves in a traditionally upstanding scene - wearing their military uniform, graduating from high school or college, or spending time with family members - and one picture of themselves, as ABC says, "in a less polished moment: holding up their hands in a way that the media often calls "gang signs," or drinking alcohol, or dancing in a suggestive way."

Photo credit: The Root

Participants have used the hashtag to draw attention to how the media's use of photos conveys a particular story, which might not be the whole truth.

Yesha Callahan, a writer for The Root, argued that #IfTheyGunnedMeDown was created: "to make a statement on how the media draws a biased narrative when it comes to telling the stories of black men and women. The following images [from #IfTheyGunnedMeDown] not only tell a truthful story but also prove that we, as black people, know what our narrative is, but we are also not blind to the fact that the media will, of course, be biased in showing the truth."

The creator of #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, a lawyer named CJ Lawrence, says "the hashtag poses a rhetorical question…'but in reality it's something we ask ourselves every day as African Americans.'"

CJ Lawrence, the creator of #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, in his original tweet.
The first photo is his speech at his University graduation alongside Bill Clinton,
the second was a halloween costume. Photo credit: BBC
Photojournalism can be an incredibly effective tool for the media, but it can also create bias and tell only half a story. Do you think the media has an ethical responsibility when they choose which photos to publish?

- Kate Davidson

ABC News
The Root
IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tumblr