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April 15!. Today. Storytelling exercise Discuss coverage of Boston attacks Lecture on objectivity Two debates. Boston Coverage. If you were the only crew on the ground, how would you cover this unfolding story? Breaking News Coverage Medium Use of social networks (using storify )

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Today
Today

  • Storytelling exercise

  • Discuss coverage of Boston attacks

  • Lecture on objectivity

  • Two debates


Boston coverage
Boston Coverage

  • If you were the only crew on the ground, how would you cover this unfolding story?

  • Breaking News Coverage

  • Medium

  • Use of social networks (using storify)

  • Reporting when there is nothing to report

  • News gathering at reporting at once

  • News can break anywhere.



  • The stories journalists tell help the public make sense of confusing, threatening times.

  • In fact there is evidence that putting language to traumatic experiences helps individuals cope.

  • Although it is not a stated mission of the press to heal, articulating the event for others may have a therapeutic effect on the larger community.


  • If I were chronicling events directly affecting my family and me, would I alter the wording in any way?

  • Are graphic descriptions or images necessary to the angle of the story?

  • Could any of the reporting in this story prove harmful to the subjects of the story?

  • If so, is this information necessary for the story?


  • Journalists should understand that their coverage ... must be about facts, not speculation and conspiracy theories that stir people into irrational action.

  • They also must remember that their coverage affects people — the families of the victims, the survivors and the community.

  • They also should consider that their interview approaches to those family members must be sensitive and respectful.

  • That they should be careful not to intrude upon private property and personal grieving space where they are not welcome.

  • That it's OK to say "I'm sorry.“ If they do, then those journalists will be remembered as ethical and credible in their coverage.


  • Early live reports of terrorist attacks are sometimes confusing and misleading. 

  • Journalists strive to balance the need to present accurate information of these sensational events while dampening the terrorists’ goal of producing widespread panic.

  • They balance the public’s need to know with the private sensitivities of those most directly affected. For instance, after CBS aired a portion of the video from Pearl’s captors months after his death, Pearl’s family criticized the network as heartless. “Terrorists have made this video confident that the American media would broadcast it and thereby serve their exact purpose,” said Pearl’s father.

  • CBS anchor Dan Rather responded that the anti-American propaganda displayed in the video is newsworthy because it helped explain the motives of the perpetrators.


Journalist reaction
Journalist Reaction confusing and misleading. 

  • Despite the passions common to all Americans journalists generally projected a sense of calm during the early, emergency coverage of 9/11.

  • ABC News anchor Peter Jennings strove to maintain an emotional balance. “I have always believed that my emotion has no more validity than anybody else’s,” he said. (p. 170, Covering Catastrophe).

  • Tom Brokaw, the veteran NBC News anchor, acknowledges that you can’t always “suppress your personal feelings. They just spill out, and I think that’s understandable to the audience. My operating rule is: You’re not the story; you’re the conduit for the audience to the story. You ought not let your emotions become the story or become a distraction. But at the same time, obviously, you had a human reaction to a lot of this stuff.” (p. 170, Covering Catastrophe).




  • “Objectivity confusing and misleading. is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.”

  • Not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased

  • Journalists can, inadvertently or deliberately, become propagandists -- the opposite of objective observers and reporters.


  • Journalistic confusing and misleading. objectivity is a genuine effort to be an honest broker when it comes to news. That means playing it straight without favoring one side when the facts are in dispute, regardless of your own views and preferences. It means doing stories that will make your friends mad when appropriate and not doing stories that are actually hit jobs or propaganda masquerading as journalism.



Four something a reporter DOES.characteristics of a "good" news story -- good both by professional and ethical criteria.

TUFF formula:

They are as truthful, unbiased, full and fair as possible.


The "T": Stories should be  something a reporter DOES.truthful.

  • The truth contained in a report is always partial.

  • But seeking the truth and reporting it as thoroughly as possible is still an essential mandate for the ethical journalist.


The "U": Stories should be  something a reporter DOES.unbiased.

  • Ethical journalists want to be impartial. Even though we are all subjective human beings, we can refrain from deliberately putting biased information into our stories.


The first "F": Stories should be  something a reporter DOES.full.

  • Even though you can never say everything there is to say about a topic, stories should be as complete as possible.

  • Ethical journalists put as much relevant information into their stories as they can.


The second "F": Stories should be  something a reporter DOES.fair.

  • This characteristic is more subjective than the first three -- in fact, it potentially conflicts with them. But ethical journalists should seek to be "fair-minded" in covering the news.


Fairness something a reporter DOES.is different from the other characteristics in several wayss:

  • Fairness demands subjectivity on the part of the journalist, who must weigh competing values and loyalties.

  • Sometimes being fair means withholding part of the truth -- that is, providing a version of truth that is incomplete or even biased.

  • Fairness involves considerations of the journalist's responsibilityto various stakeholders.

  • The production of a story that is true, unbiased and full has to do more with a journalist's freedom to pursue the whole, unvarnished truth.


  • Being ethical does not force something a reporter DOES.a journalist to choose between truthfulness and fairness. It's not necessarily an either-or problem.

  • You can be generally devoted to finding and reporting the truth while still recognizing that sometimes, your desire to be fair to someone involved in a story will take precedence.


Practical examples balance of fair and true
Practical Examples: Balance of Fair and True something a reporter DOES.

  • * Protecting confidential sources.

    Fairness is related to keeping promises, as well as to protecting those who make themselves vulnerable by entrusting you with sensitive information.

    * Providing sources an opportunity to reply to information about them. This can take various forms, from obtaining multiple sides of a story (which also furthers the goal of unbiased and full truth) to offering separate space for responses, such as on an opinions or letters page.


* Treating sources with courtesy and compassion something a reporter DOES., particularly those who are not used to dealing with the press.

  • This includes sensitivity about people's need for privacy, especially when they are stressed or grieving. 

    * Following up important stories so that sources can show (and citizens can learn) how situations have been improved or problems addressed.

    * Correcting errors promptly, completely and prominently.


  • Being something a reporter DOES."objective" is a method -- and journalists' use of language is a central component of that method.


  • Ethical Journalists focus on providing something a reporter DOES.news that corresponds to reality -- that is accurate in a way that includes but goes beyond getting the facts right -- by being bothcomplete and proportional


  • News should be  something a reporter DOES.complete in the sense that it is about everyone in our society, not just the elite (or the people whom advertisers are most interested in reaching).

  • News should be proportional in that the amount of coverage, and the prominence given to particular stories, should correspond to the actual importance of the event or issue.


  • Judgments about completeness and proportionality are by nature subjective. 

  • A citizen and a journalist may differ over the choices made about what is important.

  • But citizens can accept those differences if they are confident that the journalist is trying to make news judgments to serve what readers need and want.

  • The key is citizens must believe the journalists' choices are not exploitative -- they are not simply offering what will sell -- and that journalists aren't pandering. ...

  • "The key element of credibility is the perceived motive of the journalist. People do not expect perfection. They do expect good intentions"


So objectivity, these folks argue, involves methods and attitudes rather than some idealized, unattainable state of human nature.


  • But the methods and attitudes also can create problems for journalists. The article from Columbia Journalism Review titled "Re-thinking Objectivity" highlights the difficulties, which are especially evident in political coverage but are relevant in news reporting on other topics, as well.

  • This author says the notion of objectivity can be problematic when journalists confuse it with the ethical norm of independence.


Blind adherence to objectivity can lead to journalists. The article from :

* Lazy reporting

* Over-reliance on official sources

* Hesitance to probe for evidence that might contradict those official sources, for fear of being attacked as biased

The author urges journalists to work to develop areas of expertise. Amid all the babble, society needs smart and independent sense-makers ...


Cunningham article
Cunningham Article journalists. The article from 

  • "Mainstream reporters by and large are not ideological warriors. They are imperfect people performing a difficult job that is crucial to society.

  • "Letting them write what they know and encouraging them to dig toward some deeper understanding of things is not biased, it is essential.“

  • What do you think? Do you agree, or is this sort of approach bound to lead down a slippery slope to partisan journalism?


  • Let's look a bit more closely at some of the ways journalists "make news" -- that is, construct the news in particular ways that fit their own cultural or professional ways of viewing the world, but may or may not have a lot to do with objectivity, completeness or proportionality.


  • U.S journalists "make news" -- that is, construct the news in particular ways that fit their own cultural or professional ways of viewing the world, but may or may not have a lot to do with objectivity, completeness or proportionality.. journalists, especially in the leading national media, tend to share mainstream American cultural values.

  • These include faith in democracy, capitalism, individualism and a stable social order.


  • Journalists fit occurrences into standard formats or frames, allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."

  • For instance, a fire is always covered in a particular way, a city council meeting in another, a political campaign rally in a third way, a children's carnival in a fourth, and so on. And social trends or other broad issues often don't get covered at all.

  • In addition, the capabilities of a particular medium lead to emphasis on stories that fit those capabilities. So video drives TV news, immediacy drives online news, and so on.


* allowing them to "routinize the unexpected." Politics and government, in particular, become dangerously oversimplified. 

* Journalists covering political campaigns tend to rely heavily on what other journalists -- particularly those at elite media such as The New York Timesand Washington Post -- are writing. The derogatory term for this is "pack journalism."

  • The results include "feeding frenzies" focused on particular events (typically gaffes of some sort) and disproportional coverage of front-runners. In particular, journalists tend to focus on who is ahead and on political strategy rather than candidates' stances on issues.


Political allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."campaign advertising has become hugely influential -- and journalists do a spotty job of assessing it for truthfulness or context.

  • This cedes enormous power to political propagandists, without giving citizens an objective way to assess the content of the ads.


  • " allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."Character" -- whatever that is -- has become a stand-in for leadership ability.

  • In addition to privacy issues, one result has been an electorate increasingly convinced that all politicians are slime (and that therefore, who wins or loses really doesn't matter).

  • Journalists seem to have trouble with the concept of balance here -- there's a lot of middle ground between mere human imperfection and scurrilous immorality.


  • In allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."comparison with campaigning, actual governance is more important -- but a lot less sexy and exciting. So it gets less coverage ... another problem of proportionality.

  • The coverage we do get is increasingly dependent on "leaks," which are inherently manipulative and whose correspondence to reality is always suspect.


  • On allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."the other hand, when journalists cover government, they too often do so from an arrogant, critical perspective that portrays government leaders as incompetent, at best.

  • Perhaps because journalists actually value the preservation of social order, many journalists see their "watchdog" role as one that involves keeping a sharp eye out for anything that can upset the orderly and thus "proper" functioning of society.

  • That's fine as far as it goes -- we do need an independent monitor of power -- but it can easily result in coverage that is disproportionately about political conflict and government wrongdoing.

  • WHAT KIND OF STORIES NEVER GET TOLD?


  • One allowing them to "routinize the unexpected."possible solution, a communitarian or "civic journalism" approach in which journalists take on a greater responsibility for improving society.

  • In this view, the media's goal becomes something closer to advocacy: "empowering individual citizens to act in ways that promote political discussion, debate and change."

  • Do you agree that is an appropriate role or goal for journalists? What does it do to the notion of "objectivity"? Is there a middle ground? 


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