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These are the slides I used for an API Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards webinar for the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation.

These are the slides I used for an API Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards webinar for the Minnesota Newspaper Foundation.

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  • For links to the handouts for this webinar and other workshops in the Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards series, read my blog: http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/resources-for-journalism-educators-on-digital-ethics-new-business-models-journalism/
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User Content Webinar User Content Webinar Presentation Transcript

  • Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards Steve Buttry, API and Gazette Communications Minnesota Newspaper Foundation webinar, April 8, 2009 Supported by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation © 2008 The American Press Institute. All rights reserved.
  • How we engage the community  Opinion (forums, comments, blogs)  Citizen journalism (blogs, self- reporting, contributing photos)  Conversation (moms, sports fans, entertainment sites)  Social media (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, local social networks) 2
  • What are your concerns? What worries you most as your organization invites users to contribute content and engage with you and each other online? 3
  • Remember time-tested ethical principles Seek truth and report it Minimize harm Act independently Be accountable SPJ Code of Ethics 4
  • Remember time-tested ethical principles Seek truth and report it as fully as possible Act independently Minimize harm “Guiding Principles for the Journalist,” Bob Steele, Poynter Institute 5
  • Questions to guide ethical decisions 1. What do I know? What do I need to know? 2. What is my journalistic purpose? 3. What are my ethical concerns? 4. What policies and professional guidelines should I consider? 5. How can I include other people, with different perspectives and diverse ideas, in the decision-making process? 6. Who are the stakeholders? What are their motivations? Which are legitimate? 7. What if the roles were reversed? How would I feel if I were in the shoes of one of the stakeholders? 8. What are the possible consequences of my actions? 9. What are my alternatives to maximize my truthtelling responsibility and minimize harm? 10. Can I clearly and fully justify my thinking and my decision? 6
  • Questions for exercises Premise for exercises: You are the top editor of your news organization Questions for exercises:  What do you to about this right now?  What to you to do to address any issues this incident raises for the future?  How, if at all, do you deal with this issue publicly? 7
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that … You have encouraged robust, open discussion on your web site and have been successful in generating lots of comments (and traffic) for your political writer’s blog. You require registration but not identification for comments. You also welcome users to start their own blogs on your site and you host a half-dozen political blogs by community members. A comment from “hetero” on one of the community blogs claims one evening to have proof that the local congressman is a regular customer of a gay bar in Washington (“hetero” does not describe what the “proof” is). The congressman is a sponsor of a proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and features family photos prominently on his official web site. An hour later, “disgusted” claims to know a man who used to be a regular sex partner of the congressman. The community blogger treats both of the claims as fact and denounces the congressman, saying he should resign. Other commenters join the fray, some denouncing your paper for publishing unsubstantiated trash and others speculating further about the congressman’s sexuality, political votes and political future. By the time you become aware of the digital fracas by about mid-morning the next day, you have several dozen comments, thousands of page views and it’s been linked to by a dozen blogs. 8
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that …  What do you to about this right now?  What to you to do to address any issues this incident raises for the future?  How, if at all, do you deal with this issue publicly? 9
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that … The plot thickens: As you and other editors are starting to discuss what to do, you learn that your political reporter has commented on the fuss in his blog, not speculating about the truth of the comments but saying that whether the allegations are true or not, they could damage the congressman’s future. He criticizes people for commenting on blogs using bogus screen names. You also receive a call from the congressman, demanding that you remove the blog and all the comments from the web site. He won’t comment on whether they are true. 10
  • Not that there’s anything wrong with that …  What do you to about this right now?  What to you to do to address any issues this incident raises for the future?  How, if at all, do you deal with this issue publicly? 11
  • Accused online Your web site requires registration with a valid email address before commenting. You allow users to comment under screen names. A man and his wife come to your office complaining that a comment on a story in which he was mentioned accused him of rape, without naming a victim. The comment has already been removed from the site by your staff. The man demands to know who made the remark. The user name is “truthseeker.” Your web staff has the email address and IP address of the user, but you don’t verify identity. 12
  • Accused online  What do you to about this right now?  What to you to do to address any issues this incident raises for the future?  How, if at all, do you deal with this issue publicly? 13
  • Accused online The plot thickens: As you Google the phrase of the comment, you see that the original comment appears in a search and that a blog has linked to the comment and quoted part of it. 14
  • Accused online  What do you to about this right now?  What to you to do to address any issues this incident raises for the future?  How, if at all, do you deal with this issue publicly? 15
  • Anonymity vs. identity Possible alternatives:  Require real names (and verify)  Require real name, allow screen name  Use Facebook Connect  Create user profiles on your site  Link to previous comments, reviews  Varying levels of ID – names for bloggers, calendar, not for comments 16
  • 17
  • Features of Newsmixer  Uses Facebook Connect  Q&A right in story  Quips of 140 characters, use ID & verb  Letters to the editor, rating system pushes best ones to top  Open-source software  Developed by Medill New Media graduate class 18
  • Other user-contribution issues  Online polls: Do you allow multiple answers? Do you use disclaimers?  When should you turn off comments?  Should you ask for civility?  When do comments become news?  Do you allow staff members to comment anonymously at other sites? 19
  • Issues from 2006 Poynter conference  Are there personal safety and privacy issues?  Will anonymity increase the flow and exchange of ideas or enhance the diversity of conversation?  Do you have the capacity to monitor or clean up inappropriate posts?  Are there categories of content where anonymous, user-generated content is essential or unacceptable?  Is the community clear on the conditions under which the anonymity is granted/limited?  Does anonymity damage the credibility of the information or debate? 20
  • Ethics seminars for journalists  We can bring this seminar to your newsroom  One or two-day seminars focused on ethical challenges related to innovation  Heavily subsidized, host pays nominal fee plus meals and lodging  Contact me or Elaine Clisham, eclisham@americanpressinstitute.org 21
  • Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards Steve Buttry, API and Gazette Communications Minnesota Newspaper Association webinar, April 1, 2009 Supported by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation © 2008 The American Press Institute. All rights reserved.