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News organisations should get ready for data, says Martin Moore

While the individual newspapers involved in WikiLeak’s latest military document release may be considering lessons for next time, Martin Moore from the Media Standards Trust says all news organisations should be preparing for future waves of data from such sources.

Writing on the PBS Mediashift Idea Lab he says the ‘data dump’ process is likely to to become an increasingly common method of information release as reporters and sources become more experienced in handling such material.

Soon every news organization will have its own “bunker” — a darkened room where a hand-picked group of reporters hole up with a disk/memory stick/laptop of freshly opened data, some stale pizza and lots of coffee.

He proposes five questions for news outlets to consider in preparation for processing leaked material in the best way for the reader, including how to use public intelligence to generate the most stories from material, how to personalise data for their own specific audiences and how to ensure transparency and trust in the publication of documents.

The expenses files, the Afghan logs, the COINs database (a massive database of U.K. government spending released last month) are all original documents that can be tagged, referenced and linked to. They enable journalists not only to refer back to the original source material, but to show an unbroken narrative flow from original source to final article. This cements the credibility of the journalism and gives the reader the opportunity to explore the context within the original source material. Plus, if published in linked data, the published article can be directly linked to the original data reference.

He adds that preparation will be key to securing future scoops, as “organizations that become known for handling big data sets will have more whistleblowers coming to them”.

See his full post here…

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Martin Moore: ‘What are the universal principles that guide journalism?’

The UK’s Media Standards Trust is trying to define the principles of journalism, as part of its Value Added News transparency project.

The hNews microformatting system, recently adopted by 200 new sites, requires its users to sign up to journalism principles. “One of the key elements of hNews (…) is rel-principles,” explains MST director Martin Moore. “This is a line of code that embeds a link within each article to the news principles to which it adheres. It doesn’t specify what those principles should be, just that the article should link to some.”

In a blog post for the MediaShift Idea Lab, Moore outlines some of the problems associated with drawing up such a code. He describes the themes identified so far. “These themes are by no means comprehensive – nor are they intended to be,” he says. “They are a starting point for those, be they news organizations or bloggers, who are drawing up their own principles and need a place to start. We’d really like some feedback on whether these are right, if ten is too many, if there are any big themes missing, and which ones have most relevance to the web.”

  1. Public interest Example: “… to serve the general welfare by informing the people and enabling them to make judgments on the issues of the time” (American Society of Newspaper Editors)
  2. Truth and accuracy Example: “[The journalist] strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair” (National Union of Journalists, UK)
  3. Verification Example: “Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment… [The] discipline of verification is what separates journalism from other modes of communication, such as propaganda, fiction or entertainment” (Principles of Journalism, from Project for Excellence in Journalism)
  4. Fairness Example: “… our goal is to cover the news impartially and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and all parts of our society fairly and openly, and to be seen as doing so” (New York Times Company Policy on Ethics in Journalism)
  5. Distinguishing fact and comment Example: “… whilst free to be partisan, [the press] must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact” (Editors Code of Practice, PCC, U.K.)
  6. Accountability Example: “The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate” (International Federation of Journalists, Principles on the Conduct of Journalists)
  7. Independence Example: “Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know… [and] Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived” (Society of Professional Journalists)
  8. Transparency (regarding sources) Example: “Aim to attribute all information to its source. Where a source seeks anonymity, do not agree without first considering the source’s motives and any alternative, attributable source. Where confidences are accepted, respect them in all circumstances” (Australian Journalists Code)
  9. Restraint (around harassment and intrusion) Example: “The public has a right to know about its institutions and the people who are elected or hired to serve its interests. People also have a right to privacy and those accused of crimes have a right to a fair trial. There are inevitable conflicts between the right to privacy, the public good and the public’s right to be informed. Each situation should be judged in the light of common sense, humanity and the public’s rights to know” (Canadian Association of Journalists)
  10. Originality (i.e. not plagiarising) Example: “An AP staffer who reports and writes a story must use original content, language and phrasing. We do not plagiarise, meaning that we do not take the work of others and pass it off as our own” (Associated Press Statement of news values and principles)

Full post (and themes) at this link…

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MediaShift Idea Lab: Interview with Alive in Baghdad’s Brian Conley

Ryan Sholin talks with Brian Conley, founder of Alive in Baghdad, which he initially set up as a video project to document the experiences of Iraqis living through the conflict.

Conley discusses the subsequent development of Alive in Gaza and Alive in Tehran, as well as how citizens are using Facebook, Twitter and voicemail to contribute reports to the sites.

Fascinating stuff – and a great insight into a digital/social media toolkit for pro-am journalism.

Full transcript at this link…

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Knight News Challenge names community news project as winner

October 18th, 2007 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

The MediaShift Idea Lab blog – a 36-strong group blog – has won a series of grants from US-based journalism foundation, the Knight Foundation.

Each year the foundation awards up to $5 million ‘to individuals who innovate community news using digital technology’, as part of its annual News Challenge competition.

Each member of the ‘lab’ won a grant to help fund a startup idea or blog on a topic related to reshaping community news.

The Idea Lab will then be used as a forum for the bloggers to share their experiences.

According to a press release from the foundation, projects which will feature on the lab include:

  • The Playing the News project – a news simulation environment letting citizens play through a complex, evolving news story through interaction with the newsmakers;
  • Seven academic ‘think tanks’ at US universities to evolve solutions to digital news problems;
  • A scheme with MTV to put a ‘Knight Mobile Youth Journalist’ in every US state, who will create cideo news reports for distribution on mobile phones.
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