Adam Hochberg, Bill Krueger, Steve Myers and Latoya Peterson explain the emerging ways that information is created and consumed, from the Fourth Estate to the Fifth Estate.

As renegade cop support pages crop up, Facebook, journalists make choices

Facebook pages are springing up in support of Christopher Jordan Dorner, the former Los Angeles cop now wanted for three murders and the subject of a massive manhunt in California. They raise interesting challenges as journalists in Southern California try to uphold their obligations in a climate of fear.

It looks as though Facebook has removed Dorner’s original page, which the L.A. Times has captured. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes declined to comment, because it is part of an ongoing investigation. But he sent me this note:

We don’t comment on ongoing investigations. If it’s helpful, here’s a bit more information about our law enforcement relationships:

We work with law enforcement to the extent required by law, and as needed to keep the site and those who use it safe. We always seek to respond promptly to requests when we deem there’s an immediate risk to the safety of any our users.

Read more

Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012

Would you snap a picture or pull the man to safety?

The Internet blew up with righteous criticism of the New York Post for publishing a photo of a man about to be crushed by a subway train and the photographer who took that picture.

Any one of us could be that photographer, standing on that subway platform, forced to make a choice between taking a picture and trying to help the man.

On several occasions I’ve counseled photographers and reporters working in war zones, natural disasters, and the Third World. They often are troubled by this question of when to put the camera down.

Here’s what I tell them: We are all morally obligated to help our fellow human beings, when death or serious injury is imminent and when we are the most competent person available to help.

In some cases, you are the most competent person because you are the only adult, sometimes because you are the closest, or the only person who can swim, or the only person with a phone. Read more


Sunday, Dec. 02, 2012

NY newspapers follow story of cop, boots and barefoot man

(Updated Monday morning with NYT interview of the homeless man.)

Some stories break. Others, as legendary editor Gene Roberts famously observed, ooze. The story of a New York City police officer’s kindness to a homeless man broke last week, went viral on social media and attracted widespread coverage from the established media. It began oozing on Friday.

[<a href="//" target="_blank">View the story "Next chapter in story of cop, boots and barefoot man" on Storify</a>]<br /> <h1>Next chapter in story of cop, boots and barefoot man</h1> <h2>Some stories break. Others, as legendary editor Gene Roberts famously observed, ooze. The story of a New York City police officer’s kindness to a homeless man broke last week, went viral on social media and attracted widespread coverage from the established media. It began oozing on Friday.</h2> <p>Storified by Bill Mitchell · Sun, Dec 02 2012 03:37:38</p> <div>I was prompted to check back in on this story by <a href=”″ class=””>a skeptical comment</a> attached early this morning to my <a href=”” class=””>tracking of the first 24 hours in the tale</a> of Arizona tourist Jennifer Foster’s cell phone photo of officer Lawrence DePrimo providing new boots to a barefoot man near Times Square. Read more

Friday, Nov. 30, 2012


How a photo spread of NYPD officer helping homeless man

During a visit to New York’s Times Square this week, tourist Jennifer Foster snapped a cell phone photo of a police officer helping a homeless man. That photo became a story that unfolded for me like this. Read more


Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012

New website helps viewers see how news is skewed

With 60 percent of Americans saying they do not trust mainstream media to fully, accurately or fairly report the news, Colleen Bradford Krantz launched, a project that she hopes will help the public identify why a news story seems biased.

Still in its early stages, the project launched last week and targets high school, middle school and college students, Bradford Krantz told Poynter by phone.

“Teachers have told us that these are the groups who are really bad at critical news viewing,” she said. “But it’s not just limited to young viewers. A lot of people think that most journalists are out to slant news.”

The site focuses on video for now. “That’s what young people are using more and more,” Bradford Krantz said.

The project compares three versions of a news story: One neutral news report followed by two deliberately slanted versions. One of the two slanted versions uses pop-up balloons to show how seemingly unimportant changes — in background music, in how a source is identified — can affect the message. Read more


Thursday, Nov. 08, 2012


What Nate Silver’s success says about the 4th and 5th estates

Many are declaring the 2012 presidential election a victory for Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog. His success this political season — in both predicting the electoral college vote and in driving traffic to the New York Times — is a validation for the independent Fifth Estate, as well as the reassertion of journalism as a discipline of verification.

It might seem a bit heretical to link those two ideas — the rise of independent voices and the rebirth of verification — in the same sentence. After all, the spread of unfettered opinion seemed to coincide with an escalation in the amount of suspect information populating the marketplace of ideas. But they are, in fact, related.

Silver’s rise fits neatly with the other big trend of this election: fact checking. In both instances, journalism drove a stake in the ground for what Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel call the journalism of verification, in their book, “The Elements of Journalism.” While Silver used an algorithm to analyze lots of statistical models, weighting those with historical accuracy, to come up with his assertions, the fact checkers used old-fashioned research. Read more


Why pundits will continue arguing about whether Obama won a mandate

One of the most heated post-election memes revolved about a simple question with a complicated answer: Did the President win a mandate Tuesday?

Factually, no.

That’s because an electoral mandate is a claim; there’s no clear or quantifiable definition. It’s a term that presidents and other politicians embrace because it’s a potent weapon in arguing that there’s clear support for his or her policies.

And so it was that pundits contended that President Obama’s re-election means that a majority of Americans supports the president’s economic policies, the Affordable Health Care Act, same-sex marriage, and many of his other priorities.

Others insisted that the president’s ability to stitch together support from a range of Americans is the practical definition of a mandate. (He won the female vote by 12 points, the Latino vote by 40 points, and the African-American vote by 80 points.)

In fact, the meaning of an electoral mandate is malleable. Read more

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Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers his concession speech at his election night rally in Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Gaffes defined and defied campaign narratives, but did they affect who won?

As Mitt Romney visited Poland this summer, Washington Post reporter Phil Rucker shouted a question to the candidate that revealed a lot about the media’s coverage of the campaign.

“What about your gaffes?” Rucker called out, as Gov. Romney walked to his car in Warsaw.

The governor didn’t answer, but the question highlighted the focus of much of the media’s day-to-day narrative. Journalists, bloggers, pundits — and sometimes the campaigns themselves — gleefully piled on after either candidate committed a perceived misstep or uttered an inelegant statement.

From President Obama’s declaration that “the private sector is doing fine” (labeled as an “economic gaffe” by ABC News) to Gov. Romney’s admission that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” (a possible “monster gaffe,” declared The Week), the campaign narrative often centered more on the candidates’ offhand ad libs than their platforms or policy records.

Many of the verbal miscues provided media fodder only for a couple of news cycles before being quickly forgotten. Read more


Monday, Oct. 29, 2012

Hello, Deadspin was duped by AT&T

On Friday morning, Deadspin posted an article and a link to a high school scrimmage of “The Most Athletic Football Play of the Year.” Deadspin pushed it out via Facebook, where I saw it and followed the link to a video of a running back on a practice field doing a flip over a defender and running into the endzone.

Deadspin pointed out that it didn’t know anything about the video and wasn’t really going to try to find out. Here’s the entire post:

If you care about things like “context” and “names,” this highlight isn’t for you. We don’t know who’s the running back who executes this flawless 180° flip, we don’t even know what school this is. We contacted the uploader for more info, but got no response. Since the video was uploaded more than three weeks ago, and barely has 400 views, it’s safe to say it’s either legit or the worst-marketed viral video ever.

Read more

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012


As 4 stations cancel his show, is Tavis Smiley’s advocacy journalism too political for public radio?

One week after Tavis Smiley was yanked off the air by Chicago Public Media for being too much of an advocate, the veteran broadcaster slammed President Barack Obama in a New York Times story published over the weekend.

“Tragically, it seems the president feels boxed in by his blackness. It has, at times, been painful to watch this particular president’s calibrated, cautious and sometimes callous treatment of his most loyal constituency,” Smiley told Jodi Kantor of the Times by email. “African Americans will have lost ground in the Obama era.”

That’s the kind of talk that a week ago led Torey Malatia, President and CEO of Chicago Public Media to cancel “Smiley & West,” a public affairs show hosted by Smiley and Princeton Professor Cornel West. That’s also the kind of talk most journalists shy away from; but an unapologetic Smiley tells Poynter in a phone interview that he’s an advocate journalist who knows when to advocate on issues and when to interrogate on them. Read more

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