The story, even if it is a good story, is not the most important thing.
Maria Headley in Sinatra’s Cold is Contagious.
Headley writes in reaction to Caleb Hannan’s Grantland story, Dr. V’s Magical Putter, which has become something of a case study in journalism ethics since it was published on January 15.
On the Media recaps here:
Last week, ESPN’s Grantland ran a remarkable story titled “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” a journalistic odyssey that began with curiosity about a supposedly revolutionary golf club, and ended by focusing on the chaotic life of its inventor, a woman named Essay Anne Vanderbilt. The reporter, Caleb Hannan, discovered that Vanderbilt was transgender, and he revealed his knowledge of this fact to Vanderbilt. Shortly after, Vanderbilt committed suicide.
The piece subsequently made its rounds on the web, sparking outrage and raising a discussion on transgender rights in media, and the ethics of outing.
Vice takes us through Hannan’s reporting process and what he ultimately decided to publish:
He tells us “everything he knows,” which is definitely not the same thing as “everything that’s relevant.” He refers to Dr V as “he” and publishes her old name. He discusses her life before she transitioned to female. He tells us she was married. And that she’d tried to kill herself once before, a few years previously. Never mind that she was clearly vulnerable, it was all just another fantastic twist in the plot for Caleb. “What began as a story about a brilliant woman with a new invention had turned into the tale of a troubled man who had invented a new life for himself.” And never mind that faking her scientific credentials had nothing to do with being transgender. Caleb, who has been found guilty of sloppy journalism before, was simply recycling a media narrative that casts trans people as liars and fakes.
Grantland’s Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons has since publicly apologized for the story, taking the blame for his writer’s mistakes and lamenting that he failed Hannan as an editor. Simmons admitted that the Grantland staff was not sensitive enough with the story and uninformed on transgender people’s rights, high suicide rates among trans* people, and even correct pronoun usage.
FJP: As Headley points out, there are a few things that should come before the all-important story for a journalist. Right after “Seek the truth and report it” on SPJ’s Code of Ethics comes “Minimize harm — Ethical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.”
What’s taking preference now is to try to get as ubiquitous as possible. Program and design from the mobile standpoint first, then extrapolate what could be applied for the PC, television and print experience.
Michael Bayle, VP and general manager of ESPN Mobile. ESPN Deems Mobile First Screen.
In a keynote at MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit, Bayle said that users spent 45% more time with ESPN mobile content in 2011 than 2010, with 150,000 people using the networks mobile products at any one time.
One of Bayle’s initiatives since joining ESPN last fall has been to reduce its focus to a handful of apps from the scores of titles released in recent years. That means the strongest focus on apps would be dedicated to Sports Center, collegiate sports, sports fantasy leagues, ESPN the Magazine and international sports like soccer and cricket.
He noted that apps overall still account for the vast majority of the company’s mobile usage, although the embrace of HTML5 programming should swing the balance back in favor of the mobile Web in the coming years.
ESPN’s mobile strategy is seen in terms of “bridges,” connecting people to its broader digital offerings, TV and mobile commerce. Mobile is the gateway to other screens and media formats. It also embraces social properties, like Twitter and Facebook, to distribute content more widely and allow fans to connect around live sporting events and hometown teams.
When it comes to TV, part of the goal is to capitalize on two-screen viewing and the gradual shift toward interactive television. As an example, Bayle pointed to a new partnership the network unveiled today with Shazam that allows Winter X Games viewers on ESPN to use the Shazam smartphone app to access video highlights, photos and even music from the event.