Tag Archives: Standards

Seminar to discuss Carnegie UK Trust’s ‘plan for better journalism’

A joint seminar will be held at City University London today with the Carnegie UK Trust to discuss the recommendations made in its report ‘Better Journalism in the Digital Age’.

The report, which was published in February to be submitted to the Leveson inquiry, included the charity’s ‘plan for better journalism’, a series of seven recommendations including a call for all journalists and news organisations to adhere to an “industry-wide code of conduct”.

Author Blair Jenkins, a Carnegie Fellow who was previously head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland and STV, said in the report that a “credible and realistic” code of conduct adhered to throughout the industry “would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made”.

Many different news organisations in the UK and elsewhere have editorial guidelines or declared standards to which they expect journalists to adhere.

There seems little doubt that this is important. However, getting all journalists to observe a clear and consistent ethical code of conduct would represent perhaps the greatest sustainable improvement that could be made in UK news media.

And it is possible to create a credible and realistic code of conduct which would embody very high standards and values.

In the report he cites the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics in the US as “one persuasively well-written set of editorial guidelines”, and “a model from which we can learn”.

There is a definite sense in the SPJ code of journalists themselves actively trying to encourage and advocate high standards of personal professional conduct. It may be precisely because any form of mandatory regulation is constitutionally impossible that journalists have striven to adopt and uphold higher levels of editorial and ethical behaviour.

An adaptation of this kind of code and these priorities could pave the way for a more consistently ethical approach by journalists in the UK. However, in order to have authenticity, such a code would have to embody and express the highest aspirations of journalists in the UK.

Other recommendations by the charity include calls for “a regulatory solution that is independent of both government and the newspaper industry, to avoid real or perceived interference and conflicts of interest”.

In reference to compliance, Jenkins said he believes “it should be possible to devise incentives which secure unanimous support and participation”, such as through the system of press accreditation and “access to important venues”.

He also refers to “registered news organisations” being able to show a “recognised standards mark on their various outlets”. During the Leveson inquiry the idea that online news outlets in the UK could be kitemarked to illustrate their regulation was also discussed.

A kitemarking system also formed part of the recently proposed new Media Standards Authority (MSA), to regulate non-broadcast media, by a number of industry figures led by barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC.

Other recommendations include “the maintenance or strengthening of public service broadcasting”, calling on “civil society organisations” to provide financial backing to new journalism projects, “a renewed emphasis in journalism education and training” and a focus on completing the installation of high-speed broadband “to enable universal access to a wide range of digital news services and participatory media”.

#news2011: ‘Public responsiblity’ of journalists under spotlight in ethics debate

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World has prompted numerous debates about ethical practices in newsrooms in the UK and abroad, as well as a public inquiry in Britain and calls for a new regulatory framework in Britain.

So it was under the frame of the News of the World closure that the Global Editors Network news summit today held a session on ethical journalism.

But board member of the Stiching Democracie en Media in the Netherlands Adriaan Stoop warned that governments “feeling the need to regulate media” given “developments in technology” is a “big threat”.

The problem is if we do not decide to do it ourselves, then somebody else is going to do it and that’s the last thing you want.

Interestingly in opening the session Francois Dufour, editor-in-chief of Play Bac Presse in France had already taken a first step in the DIY approach, by proposing 10 “world journalism principles”.

These included keeping certain things separate, such as the roles of editor and publisher, journalism and advertising and facts and opinion.

Other points include double checking of facts, respecting privacy and where “people are presumed innocent it is respected”.

Other panelists also shared their ideas on good and ethical journalism and their views of best practice in the media.

Bambang Harymurti, CEO of Tempo Indonesia, and also a member of Indonesia’s press council, said the question is whether mistakes are made with “malicious intent”.

It’s very important that society has that understanding … A good journalist is not a journalist that never makes a mistake, but when they make a mistake, before anyone complains, they make a correction and tell the public.

He said that journalists should say to themselves: “When I write something I truly believe it is the truth and if later I find I made a mistake I will quickly correct it and tell the public”.

The issue of standards and ethics also moved to the online environment, with standards editor of the Associated Press Tom Kent asked to comment on the fact journalists who tweeted about the arrest of fellow reporters covering the Occupy Wall Street protests were told to stop doing so.

He said this was not considered “a competitive news situation”.

It was about the welfare of journalists. We told them to cut it out and I feel comfortable with that.

He added that when it comes to reporting generally on Twitter, the news agency has “an obligation to people who support AP” to preserve exclusives for the wire.

As for reporting online generally, the rules are “largely” the same, he said.

Do not have different standards. I think that one thing that has changed in the landscape is the existence of bloggers and they do play very important role in press coverage in lot of countries. We are very interested in helping to protect bloggers and not in providing tools that can be used against them.

Summing up, GEN consultant Aidan White said the question to be asked is:

How do we in journalism try to make sure the person producing the information, editing the information and putting it out has got a sense that they’re doing something as a part of public responsibility. That is the challenge.

As a result, he announced that GEN will launch a coalition for ethical journalism which will “bring in partners from the online industry, print, broadcast etc” and another debate on the topic has already been scheduled for GEN’s next summit in Paris next year.

He also shared the following links as useful resources on the topic of ethics and standards in journalism:

Romenesko resigns from Poynter over attribution complaint

One of the most high-profile US media bloggers, Jim Romenesko, has resigned his post at media standards non-profit Poynter after questions were raised about his use of verbatim quotes.

Erika Fry, an assistant editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, contacted Poynter’s Julie Moos to point out that Romenesko was consistently using passages of text verbatim from pieces he was writing about without using quotation marks.

It should be made clear that he was prominently linking to the source material, but Moos said that this posed the risk that the words “may appear to belong to Jim when they in fact belong to another”.

This style represents Jim’s deliberate choice to be transparent about the information’s origins while using the source’s own words to represent his or her work. If only for quotation marks, it would be exactly right. Without those quotation marks, it is incomplete and inconsistent with our publishing practices and standards on Poynter.org.

Romenesko has been writing for Poynter for 12 years and – according to Moos – the practice has been “extensive”, with spot checks going back to 2005 showing “multiple examples”.

Part of the problem was that Romenesko was allowed to publish his posts straight to the Poynter website without being subbed. He was the only staffer to be allowed to do so, and although other editors at Poynter read his work and the original pieces, Moos said, none noticed the duplication.

Romenesko’s initial offer of his resignation, after being contacted by Moos about the practice, was refused, but a subsequent offer has now clearly been accepted.

Moos noted in her post that some may find Romenesko’s practice “entirely acceptable and disagree that it is unclear or incomplete”, while some may find it “abhorrent and a journalistic sin”.

What do you think? Let us know on Twitter @journalismnews or in the comments below, or by email to joel at journalism.co.uk.

Guardian on using Gaddafi corpse images: ‘Complaints arrived within the hour’

The use of the image of Muammar Gaddafi’s corpse in coverage of his death caused much controversy earlier this month, as newsrooms across the country made decisions about which images to use and with what prominence. At the time newspapers and broadcasters swiftly sought to explain the reasoning for their decisions to their audience, with the BBC’s Steve Herrmann issuing a statement to say the BBC News site would be “working on ways to ensure that we can give appropriate warnings on our website when we think images from the news are especially disturbing”.

And the debate continues, with the Guardian’s readers’ editor Chris Elliot yesterday questioning the way in which the newspaper had used the images of Muammar Gaddafi’s corpse after it emerged he had been killed.

In a column published yesterday Elliot revealed that almost 60 readers wrote to him or the letters page to complain about the use of the images “as gratuitous, exploitative or triumphalist” while others posted criticisms online.

Elliot concludes that while he agreed with the decision to publish at the time, he is now “less convinced” about the manner in which they were used.

The scale of the photo on the newspaper front page of 21 October and prominent picture use on the website took us too close to appearing to revel in the killing rather than reporting it. And that is something that should feature in our deliberations the next time – and there will be a next time – such a situation arises.

Interestingly he added that in 2006, when the Guardian published images of Saddam Hussein after being hanged, it received more than 200 complaints.

However the Guardian’s media commentator Roy Greenslade does not agree with Elliot, arguing that “it was a valid journalistic response to this most extraordinary of news stories to publish the picture and to publish it big on the front page”.

It was news – gruesome, grisly, ghastly (choose your own shock adjective) news – and the images told a story of brutality and mob chaos that could not be explained in words alone.

Judge calls for test civil cases for phone-hacking victims

On Friday the High Court heard a number of phone hacking cases brought by a group of public figures against the News of the World, at a case management conference.

On Saturday the International Forum for Responsible Media blog reported that Mr Justice Vos suggested there should be four test civil cases “at a well-advanced stage”.

The selection is to be discussed by the claimants’ lawyers, Inforrm’s report by Judith Townend added, ahead of the next case management conference due to take place on 20 May.

Mr Justice Vos said he was most interested in finding out what happened, the extent of the interception activity, and what damages should be awarded.

He was keen to find the most time efficient way of doing this, with minimal cost: “Otherwise we will be going on forever. Some people may want to, but I don’t”.

The court had got to try a specific case and “can’t just try it in the ether”. There should be a guide as to what damages should be given in specific circumstances. For this reason, the cases selected would cover a range of issues. A trial – which would also cover generic issues – should be held at the end of 2011, or the beginning of next year.

Earlier this month News International admitted liability in a number of cases brought against the News of the World for phone hacking between 2004 and 2006.

In an announcement the owner of the tabloid said it would be making an “unreserved apology” to some of the claimants taking civil action against the title, in cases meeting “specific criteria”.

Inforrm: Mulcaire ordered to identify journalists involved in phone hacking

Private investigator Glenn Mulcaire has been ordered to provide information identifying News of the World journalists who had asked him to hack voicemail messages, the Guardian’s Nick Davies reported yesterday.

The judgment opens the door to the eventual disclosure of evidence that could have a powerful effect on News International, Scotland Yard, the Press Complaints Commission and the prime minister’s media adviser, Andy Coulson, all of whom have claimed that Mulcaire acted without any official sanction from the News of the World.

This morning, the Inforrm blog reports on the judgement issued by Mr Justice Mann.

The judgement, handed down yesterday in the case of Phillips v News Group Newspapers, orders Mulcaire to provide information “relevant to the claim being brought by Nicola Phillips, a former employee of publicist Max Clifford’s company” against the News of the World in relation to allegations of phone hacking, Inforrm reports.

Mr Mulcaire sought to resist providing answers on the basis of the “privilege against self-incrimination”.  Mr Justice Mann agreed that the privilege was applicable but held that the evidence would be covered by section 72 of the Senior Courts Act, which removes the privilege in  inter alia, “proceedings for infringement of rights pertaining to any intellectual property or for passing off”.  As a result, the judge ordered that Mr Mulcaire should provide the information.

Should newspapers limit subject matter of their bloggers?

Roshan Doug’s blog post ‘Check-out desk woman and Saddam Hussein’ for the Birmingham Post has been causing a stir on the site. Whether you agree or sympathise with Doug’s post, the readers’ reaction raises questions over what guidelines or control the title should exercise over the topics their bloggers write about.

Reporter and overseer of the Post’s blogs Joanna Geary has raised the question via Twitter:

Screenshot of Joanna Geary’s Twitter posting

This would be a moderation headache for staff working on a paper and would curtail many of the benefits of having a blogging platform in the first place. Doug’s post has certainly got the conversation going and limiting posts could lead to staler content.

But how much control can the publisher relinquish without endangering their reputation or causing grievous offense to its readership?

OUT-LAW.com: complaints about online content and ads outstrip TV and newspapers, says ASA

The annual report from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has suggested that the number of complaints made to the body about online advertising is for the first time higher than those relating to TV or newspapers.

ASA received 2,980 complaints about the internet in 2007, though 72 per cent of these related to content and as such fell outside of the authority’s jurisdiction.

“Interestingly, these complaints are almost entirely about truth, accuracy, misleadingness, and availability – the ‘meat and drink’ of the ASA’s daily work on print and broadcast ads,” said Chris Smith, chairman of ASA.

“We hope for an early outcome to the detailed discussions under way within the industry, led by the Advertising Association, on the development of ways to ensure continued responsibility in advertising in new media settings.”

Hysterical woman – also a Spanish government minister – ruins AP copy

I don’t mean to sound over emotional – it’ll just be the hormones acting on my smaller female brain – but I’ve got a problem with a report yesterday from the Associated Press about Charme Chacon, the Spanish defense minister.

The ministry has ordered its staff to stop browsing entertainment and sport websites during working hours. Says the report:

Spain’s Defense Ministry, run by a woman for the first time, has ordered its staff to stop browsing sports and entertainment Web sites while on duty, an official said Thursday.

A ministry official said the order was distributed this week, but did not come directly from the new minister, Carme Chacon, who took over last week as Spain’s first female defense minister. She is 37 years old and seven months pregnant.

What relevance do these points (in bold) have to the story? The order didn’t even come directly from Chacon, as the report states, so why let the copy imply that her gender and her pregnancy are somehow related to the situation?

Just in case there’s any confusion over this blog post – I am 24 years old and not pregnant.

BBC Trust says news website must review fact checking procedure

The sourcing and fact checking process for stories on the BBC News website must be addressed by management, the BBC trust Editorial Standards Committee has recommended.

The committee made the suggestions as part of its response to a complaint about an article on the site, which pointed to inaccuracies in the report on Congressman Joseph P Kennedy II’s marriage to Sheila Rauch.

During the complaints procedure, the online news team conceded to oversimplifying the story and admitted that this could mislead the reader.

More worringly the online team offered this reason for not having avoided the errors in the article in the first place:

“…we are writing for a general audience. While an online story can in theory be of any length, we do have constraints on our time and resources to devote to each story. Put simply, our staffing simply doesn’t allow us to go into the detail you [the complainant] outline in your email correspondence.”

The complaint about the article, which was published in June last year, was partially upheld by the committee, as the online team did amend the piece.

However, the Trust said the web team ‘should have acted more quickly in its responses to the complainant to ensure the story was corrected sooner than it was.’

The committee also resolved to write to management at the corporation to request a review of sourcing and fact checking of articles before publication on the website.

For full details of the recommendations read the committee’s findings.