Ethics in Journalism

The @TerryHeaton blog essay "New media ethics: TechCrunch, a case study" raises issues of journalistic ethics today, asking (then answering) the frequently asked question of whether someone like TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington can be a journalist in good conscience.

Yes, Heaton says, because he discloses his interests, and it's no secret he's a player, not just a coverer. It's a good read, and worthy of discussion. It's nearly impossible to be ethically pure. Those who cover the news are also human beings. Reporters have opinions, families, interests. They shop, vote, invest, buy homes and cars. Yes, it's easy to avoid the obvious ethical lapses, such as buying a stock of a company you're covering directly, but what about the more subtle ones? If you're covering environmental issues, do you buy recyclable products, bring your own bags to the supermarket, shop "green"? Or do you not care and use packaging as it's provided with pleasured abandon?

I'm serious. Disclosure is not only the best disinfectant, it also helps those reading, watching, participating in the journalism decide for themselves how and whether to weight what they're reading. The Wall Street Journal reporters try extremely hard to not be biased. But they are. In favor of growth, capitalism, SEC-style oversight and regulation. Not to say any of that is wrong. But it's impossible to be truly objective, to give equal weight to all sides and concerns.

Fairness, yes. But objectivity?

During my Fulbright fellowship in Japan, I compared Japanese vs. American coverage of specific news events, during an era when US-Japan frictions and fears were making the front pages, covers and lead stories of newspapers, news magazines and evening news shows. I came away thinking that there is no objectivity. Even a photograph or video is not an objective portrayal. The camera person decides how to frame the shot, how tightly to zoom in, and makes other decisions that can affect the way the images are perceived. (One famous example was supposed riotous anti-US protests in Tehran for which one cameraman zoomed out and showed a nearly empty plaza, rather than the more popular shot of some 300 screaming protestors.)

Redesign as Psychotherapy

I like this post from @Jason_Pontin, editor and publisher of Technology Review on their print, Web and other interface redesign, led by @rogerblack. He's right: a redesign is a chance to think through your whole strategy, and should flow from there. Everything should. (Not that it's easy!)

"It's more interesting to think about our redesign as a form of institutional psychotherapy: it provided us with the opportunity to re-examine how we publish our journalism. The new designs are the formalization of a strategy I announced in a column (and elaborated upon in a blog posting), 'How to Save Media,' in May 2009. Part of that strategy was to expand our number of publishing platforms to include tablets and smart phones. If you've not tried reading Technology Review on one of these electronic devices, do: I am sure you'll like it."

GigaOm Confirms NY's Tech Renaissance

There's often talk in NY (@FredWilson is for one) about how NY is growing quickly in tech (@Betaworks a great example). It's nice to see the quintessential left coast media outlet, @GigaOm, weigh in positively as well:

"In order to keeping our content top notch, we keep bringing top-notch people. The latest to join us is Ryan Kim, who, until recently, was a reporter for San Francisco Chronicle. He’s joined us to be our New York correspondent, and has moved to the Big Apple to cover what’s turning out to be an incredible technology renaissance in my spiritual hometown. Needless to say, we have plans for New York."