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WANTED: AN
INCLUSIVE
EPISTEMOLOGY
OF JOURNALISM
WHOSE FACTS MATTER PANEL, AEJMC 2017
KIM PEARSON, THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY
COMPUTATION
AL JOURNALISM:
A CHALLENGE,
AND AN
OPPORTUNITY
Journalism at scale
Rethinking inclusion
A culturally-responsiv...
JOURNALISM AT
SCALE:
FOR WHOM?
BASED ON
WHAT?
Robotic reporting
Who is writing the
algorithms?
How are reporting rules
and...
PARALLELS AND DISCONTINUITIES
Computational journalism era
• Journalism at scale
• Social computational methods
• Data min...
LESSONS FROM AN EARLIER
ERA
• Several scholars, including David Mindich,
have pointed to ways in which “objective”
journal...
RAY STANNARD BAKER 1870-1946
• Leading practitioner of New Journalism – interviews,
storytelling, design for readability
•...
FOLLOWING THE
COLOR LINE (1908)
• Prompted by Atlanta Riots of 1906, past
reporting on lynching
• Interviewed black and wh...
CORRESPONDENCE WITH DU BOIS
SAME DATA, DIFFERENT “TRUTHS”: WHY?
ECHOES OF THE PAST
Natalie Byfield reported the Central Park Jogger story, then studied the press coverage for her book, S...
AS WE BUILD
JOURNALISM’S
FUTURE
News, increasingly, is a designed product based on the
researched needs of a particular se...
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Wanted: An Inclusive Epistemology of Journalism

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This presentation to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is connected to a larger work in progress on the epistemology of computational journalism. That project can be found at http://kimpearson.net/Factsproject.html

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Wanted: An Inclusive Epistemology of Journalism

  1. 1. WANTED: AN INCLUSIVE EPISTEMOLOGY OF JOURNALISM WHOSE FACTS MATTER PANEL, AEJMC 2017 KIM PEARSON, THE COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY
  2. 2. COMPUTATION AL JOURNALISM: A CHALLENGE, AND AN OPPORTUNITY Journalism at scale Rethinking inclusion A culturally-responsive epistemology
  3. 3. JOURNALISM AT SCALE: FOR WHOM? BASED ON WHAT? Robotic reporting Who is writing the algorithms? How are reporting rules and story structed? Tech and journalism diversity issues Social computational crowdsourcing and verification How do you avoid enshrining bigotry? Racism in Google images, chat bots Data mining How is data vetted? How are limitations addressed? GIGO – How, particularly, do we contextualize faulty historical data?
  4. 4. PARALLELS AND DISCONTINUITIES Computational journalism era • Journalism at scale • Social computational methods • Data mining and analysis • Credibility as a market positioning tool and civic imperative “Objective” journalism • New tech, design and business models expanded methods for reaching audiences, transmitting stories, images • Emphasis on “credible” sourcing, reporting, interviewing • New social science methods: statistics, cultural anthropology • Credibility as a market positioning tool
  5. 5. LESSONS FROM AN EARLIER ERA • Several scholars, including David Mindich, have pointed to ways in which “objective” journalism at the turn of the 20th century was compromised by ingrained biases. • Ray Stannard Baker’s process in reporting his 1908 book, “Following the Color Line” serves as an interesting case study because of his use of authoritative black sources and social science pointing to cultural, not biological view of race.
  6. 6. RAY STANNARD BAKER 1870-1946 • Leading practitioner of New Journalism – interviews, storytelling, design for readability • Muckraker – worked with Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell • Wrote fiction as “David Grayson” • Close to Woodrow Wilson – became his assistant, biographer
  7. 7. FOLLOWING THE COLOR LINE (1908) • Prompted by Atlanta Riots of 1906, past reporting on lynching • Interviewed black and white sources throughout South, North and Midwest • Sent drafts for review to Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington • Du Bois challenged his representation of white fear of black crime; Washington got him to report on incarceration and use of black convicts for profit • Relies on elite representations of non- elites – some of the elites happen to be black
  8. 8. CORRESPONDENCE WITH DU BOIS
  9. 9. SAME DATA, DIFFERENT “TRUTHS”: WHY?
  10. 10. ECHOES OF THE PAST Natalie Byfield reported the Central Park Jogger story, then studied the press coverage for her book, Savage Portrayals:"This case became an extreme example of how new narratives about racial groups based on the notion of color-blind racism make it possible for the use of racist tropes from the past and the existence of unequal racial outcomes to be dismissed by mainstream institutions as having little or no relationship to the country's historical and material foundations of racial inequality."
  11. 11. AS WE BUILD JOURNALISM’S FUTURE News, increasingly, is a designed product based on the researched needs of a particular set of users. If we are to solve the problem of generating news that is deemed credible because it conforms to ingrained, but unsubstantiated bias, we have to approach inclusion with an understanding of the ways in which “objective” ways of knowing can subvert our search for truth. Ramesh Srinavasan argues for an approach to technology design that might be constructively adapted to journalism. Like the traditional technology developer, the “objective” journalist stands outside of a community. Srinivasan criticizes social sciences that “remain closed to the description, categorization and ontologies that fail to fit within the Western or technocratic canon.” Rather, he advocates for “praxis:” “a collaborative process by which we listen, learn and practice humility.” (Whose Global Village)

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