The never ending thought in the head of a Journalist- Do I or don’t I ?

DO I CUT THE QUOTES ?

Quotes in a story add value, bringing in that human interest story to make it sound real.

So once you have your greatest quote ever, you put it in your article to only see that it doesn’t fit, or doesn’t make sense. What do you do? Go back and ask the person you were interviewing to cut the ‘erms’ and ‘arghs’ and ‘uhs’ and say things more directly? Or do you try and pull a sly one and just change a few words when nobody is looking?

Bringing to light some serious ethical dilemmas when reporting.

Some journalists argue that it is fine to ‘improve’ quotations as long as the meaning isn’t changed; others argue that the even changing one word changes everything and the point of using a quote to bring the human value to the story.

I believe that the act of cleaning up quotes is acceptable as long as you are not changing the meaning of what someone is saying. Getting rid of the ‘erms’ and ‘arghs’ is fine in my book because words like these or in fact made up words like these are just going to make your story look untidy. Therefore quotes can be slightly changed to make them grammatically correct, or just easier to read.

But what about quotes that come from those who have bad interview_graphicgrammar. Should their poor use of language be widely exposed ,or is it right to leave the language as it is to show that an actual person is saying the quote putting the reader at ease making a more engaging article, relating to more people encouraging the human interest story.

This topic is one that is completely subjective and in my opinion having been in such a situation I would alter the quote a bit so it made sense, making completely sure that I do not detract from the message of the quote. However I would only alter the quote in an extreme situation where the quote does not make any sense at all.

DO I TAKE THE BISCUIT ?

They say the way into a journalists head is through their stomachs, is this true.

On the rare occasion us journalist may find ourselves faced with the offer of free food.

The first thing journalists are told not to do is accept any gifts. Not because were not partial to some grub giving up the coffee, but because you have to think about the motive in which the food is given, asking yourselves are there strings attached. For example let’s say a journalist working for the local paper is writing a story on a new restaurant that has opened up down the road. The journalist has the power to write either a good or bad review no questions asked, but then the restaurant owners come into the news office with free meals for everyone. All the other journalists eat the meal, but what do you do? I for one would say thanks but no thanks.

Why you ask?wedding-food-catering52944668

The reason is because of the feeling of guilt and we journalists need to be rational, the aim of the job is not in receiving food but getting an accurate credible story out, in return the restaurant owner may respect you for the move.

This is because the restaurant owners knew you would be writing a story on them and they want you to write a positive piece, hence the free food as you will be forced to give a positive review out of the guilty feeling of owing them one because they gave you something and you feel like you have to give them something back.

Journalists have to write rational, fair stories and cannot let anything cloud their judgement, even if it is a free cinema ticket to watch the best film of the year.

THE DEATH KNOCK

One of the hardest thing for a journalist to do is carry out a ‘death knock’, which in the world of journalism means knocking on the doors of the family of the recently deceased asking if they would talk  to you. 

Most times you will probably receive the utterance of some harsh words and the door slammed in your face. But that means no story at the minute so what do you do?

Do you nag the family to get a sentence or two?

The answer is NO, as a journalist I understand the story is in the public interest but that does not mean harassing the family. Your a human before a journalist and that is where we look at our own moral compass to do the right thing.

Nevertheless, if the family are against the story and the story is in the public’s interest then it is better that the family are told that you are reporting the story for such and such reason.  It is a hard one but as the BBC editorial guidelines say; we must leave private property when asked to do so. Not just for legal reasons but because it’s the right thing to do.

The rise of the ‘undercover’ journalist

So recently there has been a ‘trend’ in reporting by journalists, which I have now dubbed the ‘undercover’ trend. If you’re thinking of journalists in disguise with long black coats and black sunglasses with the occasional shifting look, than you’ve got the idea.

Recently in the news journalists have been using the ‘undercover’ method to report on interesting stories. For example the Channel 4’s recent programme called the ‘The Paedophile Hunter’ showing ‘online vigilante’. As Stinson Hunter poses as a number of young children on Facebook, waiting for paedophiles to approach him before arranging to meet up and then getting them arrested, in one case one of the paedophiles had committed suicide after being caught.

Some may blame Hunter and argue that perhaps the means of catching the paedophile out caused the man to commit suicide. However others took to twitter to show appreciation to Hunter for unveiling the truth and bringing awareness, as seen in the below tweets:

While others slammed the journalist claiming this was not an action he should have taken, as seen below tweet:

Whether or not this was an ethical move or not by the journalist remains widely debated however in my opinion I feel it was not Michael Parkes own fault but the man himself. He only committed suicide because he got caught, otherwise, even as you read this, he may have been grooming young girls.

Nevertheless in another case a journalist was seen in my opinion to be unethical when going undercover, when a gaming journalist told on her internet trolls to their mothers.

An Australian woman who has received multiple online rape threats from teenage boys had taken action against her abusers by tracking down their mothers and showing them the offensive and often violent messages that the youngsters sent her.

The journalist has thus far received just one reply from the four messages that she sent and admits that the woman responded ‘in almost exactly the way’ she wanted her to, by apologizing in shock as seen in the images below:

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msg 2

In the messages as depicted above the journalist had left the message the boy had sent on display for all to see, in my opinion this is wrong, as this will stick to the child for the rest of his life.

According to the Editors Code of Ethics it states:

Clause 3 Privacy

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.

Clause 9 Reporting of crime

ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Clause 7 Children in sex cases

iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.

In this situation I would have not included even a glimpse or censored quote from the messages. As I can imagine this issue for the mother can be quite shocking and for the child so by publishing the quote it can be embarrassing and distressful and should therefore not have been done. I feel it is sufficient enough that the response of the mother was given as proof  but the quote of the child should have not been included.

In both ‘undercover’ stories it can be identified the dilemmas and hardship as categorizing something as morally justifiable or not. It is particularly seen interesting  in the gaming journalists story in which she was the victim and the journalist. However she reported in an accurate way in order to stop repeated incidents and build awareness of children being abusive. Although some may argue that including the quote by the child is damaging for the child and mother , it could also be seen that it was the right thing to do to show the extent of the issue .

Yet the questions of ethics and moral remains. Was this a good example of watchdog journalism?

To read more click the links:

The Paedophile hunter

The gaming journalist 

The Journalist love affair with celebrity culture !

The press is notoriously known as being particularly intrusive and nosy in the lives of celebs, continually breaching the parameters of privacy for the sake of public interest, however the question stands is all celeb culture really in the public interest or is it simply for the sake of gossip and having a good human interest story.

Recently it has been announced that the actor Benedict Cumberbatch has announced his engagement to girlfriend Sophie Hunter but not in the way you would expect. Cumberbatch has announced his engagement on Page 57 of ‘The Times’ under ‘Forthcoming marriages’. A number of celebrities often announce engagements and other information over social media such as Twitter because they have control over what they say in that the media cannot report on the news in their own way.

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It could be suggested the reason behind the actions of the actor is he is simply fed up of being in the light of the press. Don’t get me wrong Mr Cumberbatch is never shy when it comes to promoting his films and has even had a  few funny moments photo bombing in an award ceremony , as seen below:

Actor Benedict Cumberbatch jumps behind U2 at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood

However other than that it looks like the actor does not like the occasional snooping on his private life as he even went as far as holding a notice beside his face stating ‘Go photograph Egypt and show the world something important’.

egpt

The separation between public and private life of people, not just celebrities, needs to be protected, unless it is something which the public deserve to know, but it would seem with the growing power of the tabloid press that is becoming a more and more distant idea. Unfortunately, this becomes further fuelled by the cyclical nature of promoting his own career. By promoting more movies and TV shows he does, people want to find out more about him as a person, which in turn creates more movie roles, and therefore more promotion. Raising the question as a celeb are you not just asking for fame?

In my opinion I agree with the actor in that sometimes the difference between what is and isn’t public interest is not clearly defined and has no real constraints protecting celebs, but what right do we, as journalists, have to explore their private life and what they choose to do with their lives?

According to the Editors Code of Practice ‘Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private family life… including digital communications.’ The code also says ‘it is unacceptable to photograph individuals in a private place without their consent’. However i feel this just does not cover the issue of celebs being photographed in public places so the code needs to be go further and resolve this issue.

Despite these breaches of privacy sometimes the British press are ethical, for example when The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William, in 2012 were on their honeymoon in the Seychelles. There was an unofficial agreement among news organisations that they wouldn’t print or publish photos of them on holiday. The Australians broke the agreement and published pictures of them on the front page of an Australian magazine called ‘Womans day’, showing the royal couple on a beach in swimwear. On the other hand the British publications stuck to their word and still even after the pictures had been released they have refused to show them.

Not bad for the British press hay!

Credits were credit is due for the British press for getting it right, it just goes to show that they have an ethical moral compass.

Journalists can be the biggest drama queens !

What I mean by journalists being drama queens is the idea that sometimes us journalists like to sensationalise everything, for example the reporting on the Ottawa shootings.

On Wednesday 22nd October, the people of Ottawa, Canada were left scared and fearing their lives after a gunman named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed a soldier at a war memorial. As expected, the news coverage of the shocking event was like wildfire with the BBC and Sky News updating all the latest news surrounding the incident.

What I found interesting was the substantial difference between the reporting of the British press with the BBC and the Canadian press with CBC News which did not include the fact that the shooter was a ‘Muslim convert’ or bring up the topic of Islamic state, which the BBC had bizarrely decided to mention.

Whereas the Ottawa police themselves say there is no link to ISIS, as shown in the tweet below:

Not only was this a brilliant way of calming the hysteria of the moral panic caused by some of the press like the BBC, but proved an excellent form of ethical journalism by the Canadian press who established all of the facts without making assumptions and bias claims, showing exemplary accurate reporting.

However in some cases the British news is seen as quite the opposite when comparing coverage of the Ebola crisis in the way in which the USA and the British reported on the news. In this case the British media were seen as quite sensible whereas the USA media were critiqued for their reporting of the Ebola Crisis,causing public hysteria and moral panic, when the reporting should be factual and not opinionated creating  fear, as seen in the video below:

This showed me that news reporting varies in country and the different journalists have their own take on the news, upsettingly the British news was heavily criticised for creating this moral panic, taking an objective stance, Whereas the Canadian press didn’t feel the need to stress the point of the Muslim convert. For that I have to say that Canada has earned my respect purely due to the way the covered this terrible attack on their country. However, sometimes this panic reporting is seen in different countries when the British media report sensibly, highlighting how different Medias have a different outlook on how they will report in regard to meeting the need of ‘public interest’. Nonetheless sometimes reporters can be seen as including their own opinion especially in sensitive issues, such as the Eric Garner case as seen in the tweet below demonstrating two tabloid American papers headlines on the issue, clearly demonstrating opinion. However some may argue it is hard reporting completely objectively when it is inevitable to include your own opinion be it even your own twist on news angles you choose to report, as your influences and experiences effect the way in which you report.

Read more by clicking the links :

BBC article on Ottawa 

CBC news article on Ottawa

Is this in the ‘public’s interest’ or just another gossip ‘human interest’ story ?

Over the years what is deemed as ‘public interest’ has been somewhat used and abused by the press as they can sometimes be seen reporting things that are more for the reason to get newspapers purchased then informing the public.

Then we journalists wonder why were considered nosy. HA!

This is seen mostly by the tabloids that alter the meaning of ‘public interest’, reporting on things that are more gossip then instructing the public.

For example the recent scandal that exposed MP Brooks Newmark which caused him to resign, when he was caught sending inappropriate images to a so called ‘twenty something Tory PR girl’, who in actual fact was an undercover male journalist looking for the next big scoop. There is no doubt that the article was in fact a great human interest story showing the dark side of our trusted MP’s, giving an example of watchdog journalism. This is exposing the fraud, deceit and corruption of those in powerbricks who the public trust, making the issue in the interest of the public.

On the other hand this incident may be seen as a stunt to gain more readers and recognition for the paper as some argue the reporting was highly unethical, creating a more human interest story for the papers own interest, than the public interest.

Many critics of the Sunday Mirror’s reporting even argued the action taken amounted to entrapment. Which is a when a person is induced to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been likely to commit.

Many journalists displayed their discontent with the Sunday Mirror relaying their actions to the dark times of phone hacking, for example broadcaster and blogger Iain Dale tweeted:

According to IPSO’s  Editor’s Code of Practice, Clause 10, Clandestine devices and subterfuge:

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.

Also subterfuge should only be deployed when a story is “in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means”.

Alison Phillips, the Mirror’s weekend editor, said: “Brooks Newmark was a co-founder of Women2Win campaign and was at the forefront of Conservative Party attempts to promote more women MPs. Therefore his exchanges with someone he believed to be a young intern interested in politics were wholly inappropriate.”

Therefore the newspaper is seen in defending the story arguing that the story was of public interest as Brooks Newmark’s prominent role in seeking increased representation of women in Parliament, juxtaposed the scandal they had uncovered.

This is in some respects agreeable as the reason behind the publication of the story is answered but the question of whether the means to get the information is ethical or not remains widely debated. However, I personally feel the newspaper had struck gold as not only was this a brilliant human interest piece but a great example of watchdog journalism. Yet I feel even if the link behind why it was reported was not established the paper would still run the story to build revenue. Nevertheless the publication of the story has led to widespread distrust in the media and the new regulating board IPSO, as many argued the regulating body’s incompetence having not dealt with the obvious case of entrapment.

As a result in both arguments it can be seen that the issue of classing something as ethical or not remains difficult and subjective in nature.

For more information check out this link : MP Brooks Newmark article

We are all effectively the puppets of the papers !

There is no doubt that the fourth estate influences politics and in some scenarios politics can influence the press.

This relationship between the press and politics was brought to light in the Leveson inquiry as Lord Leveson said politicians of all parties had “too a close a relationship in a way which has not been in the public interest”, leading to the thought of the press being subjective in some political stories.

Interestingly enough a story that alludes to just that is The Sun newspapers coveraneil kninnockge on 12th April 1992, crediting the Conservatives success in the General Election over the labour candidate Neil Kinnock, where they used the headline ‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It’, later they followed the story with another shocking and memorable headline of ‘If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights’?

The Sun is seen here to allegedly back the Conservatives due to the idea that if they win they will be more supportive of the Murdoch media empire as they insult the Labour candidate Neil Kinnock. Later when the Tories won The Sun then ran the headline ‘It’s The Sun Wot Won It’, claiming responsibility for the Conservatives win, depicting a clear bias in the reporting, as they support one party allowing them the party to gain more support and voters to the benefit of the paper in the long run.

Later in 2012 Rupert Murdoch claimed that he felt the headline was ‘tasteless and wrong of us’, and that the newspapers ‘don’t have that sort of power’ when it comes to influencing politics.

Oh but did the newspaper learn.

No, in fact history repeats itself.

As Tony Blair and The Sun newspaper become best buddies in the 1997 general election, leading to Blair’s victory. With The Sun then pulling the headline ‘Labour’s Lost It’ in 2009, although this headline was published years later The Sun did get criticism for the headline, as they shifted their allegiances displaying evident bias, resulting in the loss of their credibility and accuracy as readers were know left in confusion after having supported a conservative government.

The-Sun-front-pages-compo-001

It’s really scary to think the amount of power the newspapers hold on the country to who people vote for and who wins the election. The mere thought sends a cold shock down my spine ahhhhhh! It can be argued from these stories that perhaps The Sun newspaper had perhaps had bigger objectives then just gaining the side of the winning candidate, perhaps money COUGH! Well that’s just an opinion since Murdoch has denied accepting bribes.

According to the new IPSO Editors Code of Practice, Clause 1, Accuracy:

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

According to the new regulation put in place after Leveson the code does partially allude to the issue but does not deal with it directly as the issue here is of accuracy but in particular the lack of objectivity.

This issue raised by the The Sun’s reporting alone raises so many ethical dilemmas causing us to question the hierarchy of power and the system of society and power, as it is highly immoral and unethical to be subjective in reporting. Furthermore, if newspapers are seen to have control over politics and the power of the nation then that means they essentially have most of the power by formulating people’s perceptions, so will never really be held accountable for their wrong doings. So, perhaps in this issue the solution would be better tighter regulation than the vague new IPSO body with people ‘guarding the guardians’, discussed in Leveson yet to become a reality.

The fine line of acceptable reporting: Innocent children and ISIS

In today’s news we are bombarded with horrific stories and images of the happenings from areas of great conflict from the Middle East to shootings in our own country.

However have we ever stopped to think just how much of this reporting is acceptable to the point where people are not distressed by such images?

The answer unfortunately is vague, as some may argue that in recent events the happenings in Syria with ISIS for example should be reported, as it is in the public’s interest to showcase the brutality of the extreme group. Whilst others may argue the images are far too explicit and can be distressing for some.

There is no doubt that the reporting on this subject is extremely sensitive and will be shocking. However should the nation not accept what happens around the world. I mean what good ever comes from diluting down anything so it becomes more bearable. I see this as a form of censorship as not displaying the raw facts changes the true perception of news. Nevertheless I do feel that having graphic images on the front page in shops for children to see can be traumatic for a child and therefore newspapers should not include this.

The Sun newspaper for example went as far as publishing an image of the 7 year old son of an Australian jihadi holding the head of a Syrian fighter which had been uploaded to Twitter sparking widespread condemnation.

newspapers 2

Not only was this distressing for children and adults alike, but putting it on the front page for all to see is horrific. I believe all news should be told and reported accurately, however I feel the image did not have to be on the front page for all to see, and the child’s face should not be seen at all.

Displaying the child on the front page is not only unethical but can be distressing for the family members who oppose this and the child itself, due to the reason  the boy is robbed of his innocence and brainwashed in doing such actions. The boy is still a child and when trying to fit back into normal society this image will forever be associated with him making life for the boy in the future distressing. In my opinion that’s a big burden to bare to know that you could potentially harm the future of an innocent child getting out of this cycle of horror, inevitably doing more harm than good.

In accordance to IPSO’s Editors Code of Practice, Clause 6, regarding children the code states:

ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

It is demonstrated perfectly in this ethical dilemma how the code is just guidelines and does not cover for all issues, as the child’s parent in this case although gave consent by putting this image by social media, in my opinion the parent  was not in any fit state to even pass a judgment on his child. Simply because the father is bringing his child up in a horrific surrounding and not really caring about the impact this has on the child, so in this case this clause of the code does not solve the issue.  If the child’s father is mad enough to post these images when we all know morally this is wrong, and damaging for the child, why would you pursue the full damage to this child by making the image on front papers and even more public for all to see?

This is a prime example of when journalists should look to their own ‘moral compass’ and ‘rules of the roads’ for guidance. 

As the image caused quite a stir when reported and many took to social media by storm damning the reporting and showcasing distress at the image:

Not only was this image made public on newspapers but before this it went viral on the internet when the Australian jihadi father Khaled Sharrouf posted the image on twitter, and before this already had a history of having his children displayed in pictures in such a horrific way. In previous images he had his son brandishing guns in front of the ISIS flag.

As a result of the free internet ISIS have discovered a platform to launch their own PR campaign via social media in particular YouTube, posting videos of the journalists and aid workers being beheaded.

Begging the question, who regulates the internet?

It is very well us talking about the need for regulation on the press, but what about the most widely used media for news, and source for information?

Surely someone should see the need for the internet and social media being regulated especially in this day and age where we use the internet frequently for almost everything.

However, with that being said twitter had suspended Sharouf’s account for posting images of this horrific kind with his children. Yet images seem to appear anyway, making it quite clear for the need for reform and change to regulate the social media and the internet as suspending such accounts is simply not enough.

In summary I believe the public should have a thick skin and accept the happenings of the world, because if the press was not truthfully and accurately reporting on such events then the whole ethos of the press ‘shining the light in dark places’ goes a miss.  However I personally feel that including children’s names and pictures of them in newspapers is wrong and should never be the covered at all let alone on the front page. In contrast I do feel that people need to realize we do not live in a ‘perfect world’ and corruption still happens daily even though we are not directly affected. If not help we should at least spare a thought to people and children who are suffering and living the life of brutality. This does not however mean for the press to express this by naming and shaming innocent children in images on newspapers as this is unethical and immoral.In the long run this will cause damage to the child as they will forever be associated with the image.