Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Ethical Journalist: a few links

Moral compass by psd

Here's a few links for the sessions on The Ethical Journalist that I'll be running for students at Solent University, Southampton.

It's designed to be a practical application of ethics to accompany some more theoretical lectures.

Once we've defined ethical journalism we'll take a look at:

The Ethical issues behind a recent story:
- BBC coverage of Colonel Gaddafi's capture
- Guardian story on the BBC's use of 'shocking' images
- A round-up of media coverage of Colonle Gaddafi's capture and death

Existing guidelines and codes of practice:
- The Press Complaints Commission Editors' Code of Practice
- The National Union of Journalist's Code of Conduct
- The Ofcom Broadcasting Code

How open and transparent should journalists be about their own interests?
- George Monbiot publishes details of his sources of income
- Jeff Jarvis on 'Transparency is the new objectivity'

Ethical questions behind a series of notable stories:
- Coverage of the July 2005 London bombings
- How the Telegraph paid for information on MPs expenses
- Panorama undercover investigation into abuse at a Bristol care home
- News of the World 'sting' on snooker champion John Higgins
- Telegraph's secret recording of Business Secretary Vince Cable: "I could bring down the government"
- The Law Lords ordering a Mirror journalist to reveal his source in a story involving the medical records of Moors Murderer Ian Brady, his refusal and the outcome of a subsequent appeal

The current debate on media regulation:
-Leveson Inquiry
- Former PCC chair on the Commission's future

Monday, 24 October 2011

NCTJ holds seminar on the need to 'teach journalists to Tweet'

There's an interesting story on Hold the Front Page about teaching journalists to Tweet.

The importance of teaching social media skills was discussed at the National Council for the Training of Journalists' digital training seminar, says HTFP.

I wasn't at the seminar and I'm sure plenty of useful points were made. But I have to say I'm surprised this subject even needs to be discussed. I think journalism qualification courses should already have it as a central component of their programmes.

There's no doubt that new journalists need to use and understand social media and the chances are a few of the newcomers could teach some of us a thing or two.

But what about those already in journalism who haven't yet taken the plunge? I'm sure we all still encounter working journalists who are resistant to using Twitter and other tools, just as Steve Buttry has. I've also met the real cynics who still think social media is just a bunch of self-important people telling no-one in particular about what they had for lunch.

Journalists need:
a) to be encouraged and given the space to try things out - and sometimes get it wrong
b) an understanding of how social media tools can help them with their job
c) to appreciate the fact that it's not about 'telling' or 'broadcasting' - it's about connecting them with their communities.

Oh, and they also need IT departments that don't frown at the idea of downloading social media clients such as Tweetdeck.

So, teaching journalists to use social media effectively is important. I'm assuming newcomers - such as those on  NCTJ pre-entry courses and journalism degrees - will find it easier to adopt the tools because they're already using some. They're also lucky enough not to be burdened by the mental baggage of the 'traditional' way of doing things.

But I think it's some of the old guard, the ones who won't be actively seeking out tips on Mashable, who probably need the most help - and the most convincing.

New site for freelancers

Thanks to journalism.co.uk for pointing out cuttings.me a new site aimed at freelancers set up by Nicholas Holmes. The idea is you can post samples of work from your portfolio to advertise your skills.

Many journalists use their blogs for this purpose. But, as this new site offers a free service, there's no harm in trying it out.

I haven't explored it fully yet, but it might be worth a look and possibly setting up your own portfolio.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Parliamentary joint committee publishes report on Draft Defamation Bill

                                                  Science writer wins libel appeal                Photo: englishpen 

The Joint Committee report on the Draft Defamation Bill has been published. Here's the official summary. The main points that jump out for me are:
There are recommendations to formalise the approach to notice and take down procedures on web forums; and to make a distinction between treatment of material from comments made by clearly named/identified individuals and those posted by anonymous ones.
Substantial harm:
The committee report says individuals and corporations should demonstrate serious and substantial harm in order to bring a libel action. These terms will, of course, need to be defined. It also recommends: "corporations should be required to obtain the permission on the court before bringing a libel claim". 
Extension of privilege:
Privilege should be extended to "fair and accurate reports of academic and scientific conferences and also to peer-reviewed articles appearing in journals", says the report. This should be encouraging news for journalists at publications such as New Scientist, who I was talking to recently.
   Here's the full report, if you like that sort of thing. Handily all recommendations are highlighted in bold for ease of scanning. 
  At first glance it looks like there's plenty here for the media to be happy about. But, of course, there's still some way to go before any of these recommendations and other Draft Bill proposals become law.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

An interesting week for libel law

It's a good week for anyone interested in libel law.

The Joint committee on the Draft Libel Reform bill will publish its report at midnight.

We're also expecting the Supreme Court ruling on the use of the Reynolds defence in the Flood v Times Newspapers case.

I'll be interested to see what the Draft Libel Reform Bill committee has to say on how the law should deal with user-generated content on reader forums.

It will also be useful to see whether it has any proposals to offer on whether organisations should have to demonstrate 'substantial' harm in order to be able to bring a libel case.

Well, I'm excited anyway...

Friday, 14 October 2011

Where to find info on journalism ethics

It's appropriate that in the week the PCC gets a new chairman, I get asked to run some sessions on 'The Ethical Journalist' for journalism students.

There've been plenty of recent examples of journalists not applying ethical - or even legal - practices recently.

But I want to have a look at the broader picture too, so I thought it was worth having a quick trawl round to see what other resources I could find. As expected the BBC's College of Journalism's Ethics & Values pages are a good starting point. They look to be choc full of info and handy resources. Thanks, BBC. 

No doubt I will be also using Judith Townend's excellent Meeja law blog as a resource and I'll be reading Andy Dickinson's recent lecture on the subject.

I'm also a fan of PCC Watch, which bills itself as press complaints: the unofficial site and should be a useful companion to the PCC's own site for finding out about recent rulings.  In addition I stumbled across Stinky Journalism, a US site that also covers cases in the UK and other English-speaking countries.

There are plenty of other US sites looking at the subject too. Online Journalism Review offers this handy summary of ethical practices for relative newcomers.

And I'm also likely to be hitting the books. Journalism Ethics and Regulation still looks to be one of the main UK texts. I took a look at author Chris Frost's blog on the subject too, but he doesn't seem to be updating it as regularly as he once was.

Before I go too far with my prep I should probably also take a look at Mediashift's 5 principles for teaching journalism in the digital age. Thanks to journalism.co.uk's tip of the day section for the link.

Let me know if there's any resources to recommend.

Friday, 7 October 2011

How techie do journalists need to be?

I noticed a fair bit of retweeting, yammering and +1-ing of Seven things you should know if you're starting out programming, a post by Jonathan Richards, a journalist who's had to learn a bit about coding. Thanks to  Simon Robinson for tweeting it in my direction.

Which begs the question, how much of a techie does a journalist these days? Well, the answer is, it depends what you want to do.

For example, if you want to play around with spreadsheets, scrape some data and produce visualisations, it might help to have an interest in some of the tools that Kevin Anderson refers to in this data journalism presentation. And knowledge of some basic coding won't do you any harm.

But for many of us it's about getting our heads around some of the simple tools such as dipity, audacity or basic video editing software. There's plenty of online guides and videos out there to help, such as the Google Maps one at the top of this post.

Of course, you still need to be able to write good stuff and supply content that grabs your readers and users. It also helps these days to be able to take simple digital images.

But, if you're not a geek, it's not a barrier - you just need to do what your good at and be willing to try new things out.

Link round-up for news:rewired and forthcoming journalism events

News Rewired event

One of the great things about all the change that's going on in journalism at the moment is that there are plenty of people getting together at conferences, seminars and informal gatherings to share thoughts and ideas on a variety of subjects.

I didn't manage to get to the latest news:rewired event 'Connected Journalism', which is a pity because it sounds like there was plenty of thought-provoking stuff. Here's where to find some interesting thoughts from the day, followed by some links to journalism talks and meetings taking place in the near future.

There's plenty of info at the news: rewired site, including 10 lessons from the day.

Storify is a popular tool at the moment and inevitably got some mentions on the day, so here's a couple of versions: 

  • news: rewired's own Storify round-up of the event featuring some of the advice, slides, discussion and tweets from around the conference 
There's also a copy of the Storify presentation on Slideshare

John Thompson has posted some videos of speakers talking about online communities including Guardian community editor Laura Oliver and Citizenside's Philip Trippenbach

There's also some Coveritlive material from the event including this one from the final session: The future of collaboration in digital journalism

Forthcoming events
For anyone in and around London over the next few days, a few journalism-related events might be worth a look:

On Monday 10th October there's a discussion on libel reform hosted by the NUJ freelance branch. Speakers will include libel lawyer Robert Dougans,who took part in the Simon Singh case and Index on Censorship news editor Padraig Reidy.

Meanwhile, City University have two interesting lectures on consecutive evenings - and they're free to attend:

And data journalists should have a bit of fun at the AOP and Mozilla Hack Day on Thursday 13th October.

Some other major conferences and events are listed in journalism.co.uk's journalism events diary, while the Frontline Club stages talks and other events club that might also be worth a look.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Tips on using social media for journalists: a brief round-up

While I've been getting to grips with the the new-look Delicious I noticed I've saved a few recent links on using social media for journalists - mostly sourced from links posted on Twitter or from my Google Reader.

So here they are:

And, once you've digested that round-up and if you're interested in other areas of online journalism, why not take a look at Adam Westbrook's collection of his own posts on online video and entrepreneurial journalism.

Think before you publish: Legal dangers in social media and web publishing

"Think before you publish - especially on social media..." is one of the mantras I repeat in media law sessions I run.

But today I briefly fell in to the trap myself. A couple of journalists Tweeted and and RT'd an apparent libel by juxtaposition ie a headline on a story that could have been thought to refer to an unrelated picture of someone alongside it. If read together it's possible they could have suggested a defamatory meaning about the person in the photo.

I RT'd it too, agreeing in my Tweet that it could indeed be a juxtaposition which might imply that an innocent person was guilty of wrongdoing. Luckily @jonhew immediately reminded me that any RTs could also constitute re-publication of a libel. Blushing, I deleted the RT straight away and checked no-one else had RT'd me.

This was followed by a good Twitter conversation with others about the fact that at least we had put it in context, rather than republishing potentially defamatory material as fact.

But a good reminder anyway. "Think before you publish -  especially on social media..."

Lesson learnt.

I consoled myself with the fact that at least I didn't do as the Mail did and jump the gun on the verdict in the Amanda Knox trial .

And it was a good excuse to revisit this post on basic subbing tips by Peter Sands.

By the way, in a state of paranoia, before publishing this post I also checked that I was okay to use the Twitter symbol.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Advice on journalism jobs, work experience and opportunities for students and other newcomers.

There's plenty of info and advice about work and opportunities for journalism newcomers and student journalists around right now.

My advice to newcomers applying for work and jobs in journalism is:

Getting work experience and opportunities:

  • Work experience pays off.  It's a bit like doing a week-long interview.
  • Don't just aim for the big names you've always read.  Niche brands offer loads of opportunities - and you can often get stuff published.
  • Actively blog and tweet about your interest areas. You might get noticed.
  • When doing work experience volunteer for everything. Make the most of every opportunity.
  • Get the basics right: spell names correctly and double-check everything.
  • Take a look at the title and/or site you're applying for.
  • Tailor your application and CV to what the ad is actually asking for.
  • Don't say 'I have very little experience'. Tell them what you have done and tell them why it's relevant to the role on offer.
  • Include or link to any relevant cuttings/articles/blog posts.