To speak with an incarcerated loved one for just an hour a week would cost $240 a month — and that’s on top of the regular phone bill.
At Bloomberg, reporters could sit at their desks and use a keyboard function to see the last time an official of the Federal Reserve logged on. And the Justice Department obtained the records of The Associated Press from phone companies with no advance notice, giving it no chance to challenge the action. The absence of friction has led to a culture of transgression. Clearly, if it can be known, it will be known.
It is the responsibility of scientists and journalists to work together in stopping such empathy fatigue, because empathy is the primary human quality that fuels our instinct to protect human rights around the world.
Jamil Zaki, Empathy Fatigue and What the Press Can Do About It, The Huffington Post.
Circa 2009, I geeked out over Zaki’s article because, well, hearing a psychologist weigh in on the objectivity-is-perilous-in-journalism debate is refreshing. No one’s really arguing anymore over the fact that objectivity is a tricky, nuanced, sub-standard ethic for journalism, but a new, better ethic hasn’t quite emerged. A singular sterling standard probably won’t.
Last fall, some of the best and brightest in media sat down to talk about it all and thanks to Poynter, this book emerged. Really smart people all over the world are creating and debating around accurate and value-creative reporting. You can explore our ethics tag for past coverage of some of those conversations.
Zaki, who is on the science side of things, very much heeded his own call to action and today I’m geeking out over his newest project, The People’s Science, a digital public space where scientists and the public can meet, share, and talk about science.
The site’s purpose is to encourage scientists to write posts about their research in easy-to-understand language and for the public to have conversations with those scientists directly.
In Zaki’s words (via NPR):
In an ideal world, I think TPS could provide a platform for scientists to feature their work to a broad audience and describe why they find it exciting and relevant. For non-scientists, I hope that the site can provide an insider’s perspective on how scientists think, and a way to go beyond the “punchlines” of a given study and understand the process that went into it. I also think the public should be able to use this to vet other media sources, testing claims made by reporters against scientists’ own descriptions. Finally, I’d like the site to be a true forum: instead of each “pop” abstract serving as a static document, I’d like non-scientists and scientists alike to be able to ask questions and engage in discussion about the work posted here. At the highest level, my dream for this site would be to help scientists and non-scientists into more dialogue, which I believe can only be a good thing for our culture at large.
FJP: We agree, obviously, on very many levels. It humanizes the researchers behind academia’s impenetrable walls by thrusting them into the social sphere. It’s a gold mine for science reporters to have easy and direct access to emerging research and scientists. As someone who (in my non FJP life) works for an academic journal and deals quite regularly with the incomprehensible abstract and insanely long paper title, it’s wonderful.
Now go explore the site and ask questions.—Jihii
Recently came across this, a 2009 guide for media and advertising folks on how to avoid perpetuating ageism in the media, which is in itself a nuanced conversation. But it’s worth having a look at and thinking over for those who like to consume their media with wider, kinder, eyes. Here’s Senior Planet’s summary and cheatsheet on the document:
“Media Takes: On Aging,” a 53-page style guide for journalism, entertainment and advertising, lays out the many subtle ways in which older people are ignored, stereotyped and demeaned on a daily basis and recommends language that is respectful and inclusive.
You might not agree with every one of its recommendations, but as the guide’s introduction states: “Media do oftentimes perpetuate ageism, even if inadvertently. Still, they have the best forums and opportunities to offer redress and to ensure that they are providing accurate depictions of older Americans.” In other words, you can use online commenting features as a way to demand fair representation; when you see the invitation to comment, do so! Most important, the guide is worth reading because it can help us to more clearly parse the media we’re consuming and see the less obvious messages that they carry.
- Fewer than two percent of prime-time television characters are age 65 and older, although this group comprises 12.7 percent of the population.
- Research shows that people who watch large amounts of television believe that older people are in poor shape financially and physically, have no sex lives, and are closed-minded and inefficient.
- Approximately 70 percent of older men and more than 80 percent of older women seen on television are treated with little if any courtesy, and often with reason – because they’re perceived as “bad.”
- Twice as many older people portrayed on TV are men, while in reality older women outnumber older men; and television portrays women as “seniors” at a younger age than men, who are more often portrayed as productive professionals.
- When older guests are booked for late night shows, they are often asked to make silly cameo appearances, rather than sit down and talk.
- In its representation of older people, much of the media focuses on those who are infirm, ignoring the 80 percent of us who are healthy enough to engage in normal activities.
- Conversely, now that there’s a growing population of active people 60 and up to market to, we’re seeing a surge in images of “Woofies” – a term coined to describe the Well Off Older Folks whom advertisers are trying to reach. This surge underrepresents less well off older people and affects how as a society we think about programs like social security.
Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.
A new entry in The New York Times’ stylebook on “illegal immigrant”.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of advocates against the use of the term “illegal immigrant” gathered outside The New York Times building in Times Square to deliver a petition of protest. Organizers said the petition, which asked the paper to stop using the phrase contained more than 70,000 signatures collected online.
And here is the new entry, (by way of Poynter, if you’re looking for context):
illegal immigrant may be used to describe someone who enters, lives in or works in the United States without proper legal authorization. But be aware that in the debate over immigration, some people view it as loaded or offensive. Without taking sides or resorting to euphemism, consider alternatives when appropriate to explain the specific circumstances of the person in question, or to focus on actions: who crossed the border illegally; who overstayed a visa; who is not authorized to work in this country.
Unauthorized is also an acceptable description, though it has a bureaucratic tone. Undocumented is the term preferred by many immigrants and their advocates, but it has a flavor of euphemism and should be used with caution outside quotations. Illegal immigration, because it describes the issue rather than an individual, is less likely thanillegal immigrant to be seen as troubling.
Take particular care in describing people whose immigration status is complex or subject to change – for example, young people brought to this country as children, many of whom are eligible for temporary reprieves from deportation under federal policies adopted in 2012.
Do not use illegal as a noun, and avoid the sinister-sounding alien.
A newspaper published a story about the Surgeon General’s office that contained information about the size and location of the Army of the Potomac. A furious Hooker complained to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that the chief of the Secret Service “would have willingly paid $1,000 for such information” about Confederate forces.
Ford Risely, The New York Times, Birth of the Byline.
Risley, a professor of communications and head of Penn State’s journalism department takes us through Civil War era journalism and how the byline came to be.
Indeed, during the first two years of the war, an increasingly aggressive and competitive press had published stories that infuriated military leaders on both sides. The Civil War was the first war widely covered by American newspapers. And in their zeal to report the greatest event of their lives, newsmen produced a decidedly mixed bag of stories.
On one hand, many reporters honestly and faithfully chronicled the fighting. Tireless correspondents went to extraordinary lengths to report stories, often on tight deadlines. However, other newsmen mistakenly, and in some cases recklessly, reported the conflict. Correspondents less concerned with the facts and more interested in rushing stories into print wrote damaging stories that hurt their side.
Following the journalistic practice of the day, correspondents wrote anonymously during the war, most using a pen name or no name at all. Newsmen liked the custom, believing the secrecy allowed them do their work better. As one reporter wrote, “The anonymous greatly favors freedom and boldness in newspaper correspondence … . Besides the responsibility it fastens on a correspondent, the signature inevitably detracts from the powerful impersonality of a journal.”
However, commanders did not like the practice because newsmen often could not be held accountable for what they wrote. McClellan had complained to Stanton of reporters repeatedly “giving important information” about the Army in their stories. “As it is impossible for me to ascertain with certainty who these anonymous writers are,” he wrote, “I beg to suggest that another order be published holding the editors responsible for its infraction.”
After the news leak, General Order No. 48 was issued, which required that all reporters with the Army of the Potomac—of which Hooker (mentioned above) was commander—“publish their communications over their own signatures.”
And the byline was born.
Related: A few more thoughts on journalism history from our archives.
We get stories much faster than we can make sense of them, informed by cellphone pictures and eyewitnesses found on social networks and dubious official sources like police scanner streams. Real life moves much slower than these technologies. There’s a gap between facts and comprehension, between finding some pictures online and making sense of how they fit into a story. What ends up filling that gap is speculation. On both Twitter and cable, people are mostly just collecting little factoids and thinking aloud about various possibilities. They’re just shooting the shit, and the excrement ends up flying everywhere and hitting innocent targets.
Apparently, the more mobile devices you have, the higher your perceived value of media is. According to BCG’s recent study, Through the Mobile Looking Glass, when you get a second mobile device, there is a 41% increase in perceived media value, a 40% increase when you get a third, and a 30% increase when you get a fourth.
Which makes sense, if you’re spending your days juggling four mobile devices and consuming media on all of them. What could be more important than the information nuggets you’re eating all day long?
Hopefully a lot of things, considering that the nutritional value of all the information we’re consuming could be very low.
The Guardian’s Rolf Dobelli explains:
In the past few decades, the fortunate among us have recognised the hazards of living with an overabundance of food (obesity, diabetes) and have started to change our diets. But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking. That’s why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. Today, we have reached the same point in relation to information that we faced 20 years ago in regard to food. We are beginning to recognise how toxic news can be.
Dobelli goes on to provide illustrative examples of the following:
Dobelli wants us to go without news. To be clear, he’s not arguing against ALL journalism. He supports investigative journalism, long-form, and books, but for the last four years has entirely removed the consumption of other (shorter) news from his diet. He’s since experienced: “less disruption, less anxiety, deeper thinking, more time, and more insights.”
FJP: Firstly, journalists simply can’t afford that kind of lifestyle and anyone active on a social network can’t avoid it. And great, illuminating, informative, well-reported, well-presented journalism is out there. But if we set aside the details of his argument (over which we could debate at length), Dobelli’s larger point (that our news consumption habits aren’t very healthy), coupled with the fact that we of the mobile generations perceive the value of media so highly, raises the most important question of all for people living in 2013: How can we construct healthy, anxiety-free, informative, enjoyable news diets that help us live better lives and understand the world better? News literacy. Just like we ought to do with food, practice consuming with balance and intention.—Jihii