ZDNet retracts story: one unverified source, key player not called October 10, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Some basic errors in our reporting, admits Larry Dignan, editor in chief of ZDNet:
"Overnight one of our bloggers, Richard Koman, reported that Yahoo handed over user names to the Iranian government. We’re retracting the blog post. Here’s what went wrong.
First, the post was based on a single source who had a clear agenda. That source wasn’t properly filtered and his charges weren’t verifiable by credible sources.
Second, we never called Yahoo to verify the report or get an appropriate response. Blog networks still need to follow journalism 101 and Yahoo should have been called. In summary, our checks and balances went awry. We put a lot of trust in our bloggers to get it right and frankly we let you down with this report.
The chain of events can be found on the post, but we wanted to do a separate item for the record. My apologies again and we will be taking corrective measures to prevent this breakdown."
Cervical cancer vaccine, online news, Google and SEO October 2, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : Journalism, linking, science, SEO , add a comment
SEO expert Malcolm Coles kicked off an interesting experiment yesterday, to shift the emphasis in Google’s search results away from “negative and inaccurate information” (eg some news stories) linking a girl’s death to the cervical cancer vaccine and towards NHS pages about the vaccine.
More by Malcolm here about the tendency of some news stories to suggest (or make) a connection between the death and the vaccine.
He has been encouraging bloggers and others to publish web links, with relevant linked text, to influence Google’s search results, such as cervical cancer jab, cervical cancer vaccine, and cervical cancer vaccine Q&A.
So far, the NHS seems to have bought ‘sponsored links’ against some search key words, but I don’t see any of the NHS sites in the first page of Google’s search results for “cervical cancer jab”, which continues to be dominated by news stories.
Rescuing The Reporters « Clay Shirky October 2, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
It's the original, local news reporting that counts, says Clay Shirky, after a 'news biopsy' of his old hometown paper. Six news reporters unearthing valuable stories — with 53 other staff in the newsroom. [NB Shirky includes sport and columnists as 'other'.] His conclusion: around a dozen are critical for the good of the town — and so, if necessary, could be transferred to a non-profit employer.
Poynter Online – New York Times' Policy on Facebook and Other Social Networking Sites February 27, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
NYT takes a cautious line on the potential risks:
"Be careful not to write anything on a blog or a personal Web page that you could not write in The Times — don't editorialize, for instance, if you work for the News Department.
Anything you post online can and might be publicly disseminated, and can be twisted to be used against you by those who wish you or The Times ill — whether it's text, photographs, or video. That includes things you recommend on TimesPeople or articles you post to Facebook and Digg, content you share with friends on MySpace, and articles you recommend through TimesPeople. It can also include things posted by outside parties to your Facebook page, so keep an eye on what appears there.
Just remember that we are always under scrutiny by magnifying glass and that the possibilities of digital distortion are virtually unlimited, so always ask yourself, could this be deliberately misconstrued or misunderstood by somebody who wants to make me look bad?"
Open door: The readers' editor on … pulling opinion polls apart | Comment is free | The Guardian January 19, 2009Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Take care with news stories based on polls and surveys. Siobhain Butterworth:??"The journalist had missed a footnote which said: "Survey respondents are not representative of all primary and secondary school teachers in England and Wales by subject specialism." It cautioned against statements such as "65% of all science teachers disagree that creationism should be taught".[…]??The British Polling Council's website publishes a journalist's guide to opinion polls, which covers issues such as sample size and methods of ensuring that samples are representative. The BPC checklist encourages journalists to ask who conducted the poll, who paid for it and why it was done."delicious links , add a comment
Following clues from Obama’s 1995 book, reporters tracked down Aunt Zeituni via Kenya, searches of public records, and persistent fieldwork. This took them to Boston but they still needed someone to identify Zeituni positively:
“It was not until Wednesday evening that The Times obtained a formal identification of Ms Onyango by George Hussein, Mr Obama’s half-brother who had known her throughout his childhood.
Whatever the Democrat campaign may imply, there is nothing suspicious about the story or its timing. The only mystery, perhaps, is how so many people read Mr Obama’s book in the US without wondering what might have happened to the mysterious relative, lost in America.”
Never let it be said news must be ‘new’ — Charles Arthur October 31, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Charles Arthur addresses the “isn’t news meant to be new?” question, with reference to Brand, Osborne/Mandelson and more:
“I’ve seen criticisms saying “But everyone had ignored it until the Mail on Sunday ran its story – it was old news! It was nothing until they got onto it!”
Surprisingly, some of this came from journalists. The fact is, of course, that (in newspapers) “news is what the reader doesn’t yet know, but you can persuade them they want to”. Doesn’t matter if it’s ten minutes, ten days or ten years (even ten decades) old.”
‘Google will not replace shoe leather’ October 20, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : delicious links , add a comment
Veteran investigative reporter Andrew Jennings interviewed:
“Google has its uses. But let’s get serious. It is a fine research tool, but it doesn’t do what a journalist is supposed to do… Shoe leather is cheap. That’s how I get the story. If you walk down any suburban street, there is a story behind every door. There are people who work in factories, good people, that bad things happened to, and they are waiting for a knock on the door… […]
Many journalists think you get it from the Presidents or press releases. You get it from the janitor, the concierge, the guy who is a driver to Mr. Enron. It’s ordinary people who want to talk about it because they have to earn a living, but it’s shoe leather. Google can help, but you have to go out to get the story, and get people to trust you. Whether it is in any type of journalism: economy, sports, etc, people have stories. You have to persuade them.”
CNET requires similar standards for employees who blog as for journalists:
"Andrew Nusca, a recent Columbia University journalism school grad and editor and producer for ZDNet (part of CNET, which was recently acquired by CBS), forwarded me a copy of the blogging policy that his company made available to him.
…it also mandates that the blogger should "do your homework," essentially requiring that the employee must adhere to the same journalistic standards in his personal blog that he would in work. "Check your facts and give readers enough context to understand whether a particular post is written to report, analyze or offer an opinion on an issue," it says. "Use citations and provide links to other relevant topics. Correct any mistakes." "
Why journalists failed to predict the banking crisis October 14, 2008Posted by Jonathan Hewett in : Journalism, News, reporting, science , 1 comment so far
The developments that led to the current banking crisis seem to have been incremental, took place over a number of years, and together affected the whole system. Is that why journalists failed to see its demise?
I wonder about the role of human psychology, as one of many possible factors that worked against the reporting on developments that contributed to the current crisis.
…the most important “defaults” of the human mind are to look for discrepancies in the world, to ignore what is going on constantly, and to respond quickly to sudden shifts, to emergencies, to scarcity, to the immediate and personal, to “news”.
So wrote psychologist Robert Ornstein and biologist Paul Ehrlich in New World, New Mind nearly 20 years ago. They argue that the human brain is poorly equipped to tackle many modern challenges: still primitive, it responds primarily to dramatic sensory changes (fight or flight and all that). In contrast, contemporary issues that tend to be evident mostly through gradual changes are seen as less significant or urgent.
For millions of years these “defaults” of the mind have worked well. They do not work well in a world where 2 billion people could be killed by a simple misjudgment, and our defaults do not even work so well in the day-to-day world of modern life…
Ornstein and Ehrlich focused on environmental change — but perhaps their theory applies validly to other areas, too. A psychology of news values in journalism? You read it here first. Probably.
There’s a tenuous link with some of the more familiar factors being put forward. Alex Brummer, the Daily Mail’s City editor, says few financial journalists understood the systemic problems that were piling up. He also highlighted the difficulties for journalists in dealing with powerful PR and threats of having access withdrawn:
Brummer says that too many financial journalists are bamboozled by the ‘manipulative’ PR operations of big companies, and some are too fearful that they will lose access if they are too critical. ‘The duty of a journalist is always to be sceptical. But they are up against very powerful institutions who lie and cheat.’
James Robertson, who wrote the piece, also quotes Dan Bögler, the FT’s managing editor, on why his paper didn’t do better:
Why didn’t we spot it? Unfortunately, financial journalists — and the FT has better-trained financial journalists than others — don’t really understand this stuff, and they join a long list of people that starts with bank regulators, central bank regulators and money managers.
No journalists appear on the list of ten people who “predicted the financial meltdown”, compiled by the Money Central blog at Times Online (tagline: Advice you can bank on). Perhaps no surprise there, although there are some honourable exceptions, such as those mentioned in the comments on that post.