Kelly McBride

Kelly spent 14 years covering saints and sinners in Spokane, Wash. Now she's at Poynter, searching for the soul of American journalism.


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The ethics of hacked email and otherwise ill-gotten information

Sony and Aaron Sorkin both got it wrong. There are journalism ethics to mining emails hacked by someone else. But the question is not whether or not to mine them, but rather how.

Journalists generally agree that it’s appropriate to use ill-gotten information in the public interest, whether it’s the Pentagon Papers or a massive email hack.

But good intentions and execution are two different things. The latter involves a solid process rooted in journalistic values — because public interest is a moving target. Some newsrooms claim public interest when information is merely interesting, funny or salacious. The article about Channing Tatum’s goofy email might fall into that category.

BuzzFeed’s look at Maureen Dowd’s practice of allowing prior review, which Dowd denied, could be in the public interest because Dowd is a powerful columnist at a powerful newspaper that influences public opinion. If she shows special favor to certain people, it would be in the public interest to know that. Read more

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We need more women in leadership, but won’t get there ‘solely by looking at the roadblocks’

The pathway to women’s leadership in journalism is filled with barriers from the moment women enter the profession. Women leave journalism at a greater rate, get promoted more slowly and as a result they rarely rise to the executive suite. Yet we won’t solve this problem solely by looking at the roadblocks.

Today Poynter begins the Push for Parity Essay series, in which we hear the stories and advice of successful female media leaders, along with male leaders with a track record for promoting women. In doing so, we believe we can identify more pathways to success than there are locked doors. These essays are part of an ongoing series of programs, conversations and initiatives from Poynter for female leaders.

In these five introductory essays we hear from leaders with different backgrounds and experiences. Yet already, themes are emerging. These leaders find keys to success in their sponsors and mentors, in personal courage and personal connections and in the act of listening. Read more

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Jill Abramson startup to advance writers up to $100k for longform work

Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson shed light this weekend on her plans with Steven Brill to grow a start up.

Writers will be paid advances around $100,000 to produce stories that will be longer than long magazine articles but shorter than books, she said. There will be “one perfect whale of a story” each month and it will be available by subscription.

She discussed her plans during an hour-long keynote interview at Journalism & Women Symposium’s annual Conference and Mentoring Project. She declined to name any funders. She and Brill haven’t settled on a name yet.

She first talked about this venture two weeks ago during a WBUR event with David Carr. Brill is an award-winning long-form journalist who created Court TV, and is most recently known for his 26,000 word investigation on health care billing that became the longest piece by a single author ever run by Time Magazine. Read more

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How to build a news apps team (Hint: if you don’t have a lot of money, settle for scrappy)

It isn’t really a question of whether you need a news apps team or not. The question for most newsrooms is what kind of news apps team can you afford? And then, how can you keep them as long as possible, given your scarce resources?

Programmers and developers with journalistic inclinations are in high demand. They command good salaries and they tend to want to live in places where there is a vibrant tech industry.

That means big newsrooms with big budgets in big cities have a distinct advantage. So smaller newsrooms with smaller budgets must be realistic and strategic.

Emily Ramshaw, editor of the Texas Tribune, and Jonathan Keegan, director of interactive graphics at the Wall Street Journal, offered up tips and strategies this past weekend at ONA14 for building the best news apps team possible. (Concession: The WSJ is hardly a small newsroom, but Keegan argues he has a tiny apps team compared to the more than 350 developers working across all departments at the New York Times.)

Ramshaw will have four developers on her team at the Texas Tribune as soon as she makes a couple hires, up from two. Read more

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Bill Simmons’ ESPN suspension and the challenges of editing star talent

Whether you think Bill Simmons is the latest sacrificial lamb at ESPN, or that his suspension is really theater in the vein of professional wrestling, there are important issues behind the suspension that we could all pay some attention to.

  • Too much content, too little editing: From podcasts to blogs to social media posts, there is a fair amount of content that goes straight to the audience with very little editing. With small changes (see word choice, below) to his rant, Simmons could have stayed within the boundaries of ESPN’s acceptable journalistic standards. In broadcast, that’s the producer’s role. In writing it’s the editor’s role. There is editing and production that takes place. But do those people do their work with an ear toward editorial standards? It’s hard to say if that’s even possible with a marquee talent like Simmons (see Stars, below.) But they could and they should.
  • Word choice: Simmons was on solid ground when he called Goodell’s response “fucking bullshit.” Suggesting the football commissioner take a lie detector test was clever.
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If you must unpublish, here’s how to maintain credibility

Gawker

Gawker notes that BuzzFeed has unpublished more than 4,000 articles recently, disappearing posts on the 8-year-old company’s website. Editors at news websites usually take articles down with great reluctance, because doing so undermines public confidence in your newsroom’s work. Why would anyone trust what you say today if you routinely take down pages that you can no longer stand behind?

RELATED: Fairness and credibility guidelines for unpublishing online content

Still, there are rare occasions when taking down a post is the best option. Here are some best practices:

  • Keep a blank page up, rather than making the entire URL disappear or redirecting to a homepage without note.
  • Leave the tags and searchable information, so folks can find what’s left behind and know for certain the information is no longer valid.
  • On that blank page, insert a precisely worded explanation from editors describing why the material had to be removed.
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NPR One app potential is huge

Public radio and podcasts have taken on an increasing role in my life. I listen while running, cleaning, cooking, driving long distances or taking public transportation, mostly times when I can afford to multitask, but can’t be looking at video or don’t want the added work of reading text.

I downloaded the NPR One app this week and listened to it twice during long morning jogs, and while I was riding public transportation and hanging out in airports. I’ll stop short of calling it a game-changer. But it’s clear that this app, or one like it, has the potential to become a content platform for news and culture audio, the way Amazon is for shopping or Netflix is for movies.

NPR One is like Pandora for public radio content. Because I already have an NPR account, even though I was in New York, it immediately knew that my local station was really WUSF in Tampa Bay. Read more

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Egg donation, first conceived as personal essay, becomes investigative report

When Sarasota Herald Tribune business reporter Justine Griffin set out to donate her eggs, her editors asked her to consider doing a personal essay. What she discovered during the year-long journey is that fertility industry has some serious conflicts of interest and that nobody advocates for the health of egg donors. As her approach morphed from a personal essay to an investigative package, Griffin had to deal with her own conflict of interest. She was part of the story. Read more

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9 best practices for publishing provocative opinions in a polarized world

Clashes between professional provocateurs and the masses, like the recent criticism that rained down on Washington Post columnist George F. Will over  #survivorprivilege, are on the rise.

See #checkyourprivilege. Remember the reaction to the equally appalling Richard Cohen column that suggested a gag reflex is a normal reaction to learning the white mayor of New York is married to a black woman and they have biracial children.

As more voices crowd the opinion space, some writers might become more shrill and provocative to garner attention. Certainly Will deserved the outrage he received for his recent column where he argues that the increase reported sexual assaults on college campuses is a ploy by women seeking to gain a status of privilege.

The ire over Will’s opinions on rape likely intensified the howling over PostEverything’s guest column two days later suggesting with an incredibly flip headline that marriage is the best way to protect women from violence. Read more

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Two students comfort each other during a candlelight vigil held to honor the victims of Friday night's mass shooting on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif. Sheriff's officials say Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, stabbing three people to death at his apartment before shooting and killing three more in a crime spree through a nearby neighborhood. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The right way to publish a killer’s deranged manifesto

There’s a democratic value to publishing and referencing Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. The 22-year-old mass murderer left us a 141-page window into his deranged thinking.

But don’t just publish it, add context. Perhaps the most valuable thing journalists can do would be to get psychiatrists and psychologists to annotate the document. (Though perhaps you wouldn’t want to annotate it like this.)

Art Caplan, head of the bioethics division at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, advocates the same approach when considering the publication of medical research produced by Nazi doctors. By explaining the flaws behind information, we contribute to an improving body of knowledge while neutralizing the potential of perpetuating harm.

“Make it clear this is the raving of a devious and delusional mind,” Caplan said of Rodger’s manifesto. “Help us understand what compels someone to be so hateful and mysogonistic.”

Also, help the audience see what hate and misogyny really look like. Read more

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