BuzzFeed’s new editorial standards tout traditional news values

BuzzFeed Friday published its Editorial Standards And Ethics Guide, and most of the guidelines will look familiar to journalists.

Spanning traditional topics like conflict of interest and newer media guidelines like selfie-snapping, BuzzFeed’s ethical standards look like those upheld by many journalism organizations, with a few twists. Here are some excerpts:

On the deletion of stories:

Editorial posts should never be deleted for reasons related to their content, or because a subject or stakeholder has asked you to do so.

On paying for interviews:

We do not pay sources for interviews. If an interview incurs costs to a source through travel or work compensation lost, we may be able to reimburse them, but check with your editor before agreeing to do so.

On providing advance questions:

Giving a subject a general sense of the direction of the interview is fine, but we should decline to provide questions to subjects in advance of an in-person interview.

On the use of graphic content:

Generally speaking, we will embed or link to the graphic content we are writing about. We have technical tools that give our readers the opportunity to opt in to view graphic content.

Swearing is OK:

Profanity: We speak the language of the internet — which is often hilarious and often profane. As such, profanity is permitted on BuzzFeed; but see the BuzzFeed Style Guide for more information on how to style it responsibly.

Don’t snap selfies with celebrities:

Selfies are fantastic and you should take them as often as possible with friends and loved ones. But when celebrity visitors come to a BuzzFeed office, please don’t ask for photographs unless the staffer who brought them in has checked that it’s OK.

On public activism:

But when it comes to activism, BuzzFeed editorial must follow the lead of our editors and reporters who come out of a tradition of rigorous, neutral journalism that puts facts and news first. If we don’t, it makes it harder for those reporters to do their jobs.

On political speech:

While we understand that many BuzzFeed editorial staffers are passionate and thoughtful and hold personal views on policy issues or candidates, we must maintain one blanket rule for all of editorial: Political partisanship may not be expressed in public forums, including Twitter and Facebook.

On potential conflicts of interest:

Our investors have no influence on our reporting, and reporters should not take any special note of investors’ views or interests.

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Australian obit that called an author ‘plain of feature, and certainly overweight,’ leads to #myozobituary

The Guardian | The Daily Dot | The Mary Sue

Colleen McCullough, the late author of “The Thorn Birds,” died on Thursday, Elle Hunt reported Friday for The Guaridan. Her obituary on Friday in The Australian resulted in the hashtag #myozobituary.

In Friday’s edition of the Australian, the bestselling author of The Thorn Birds – which sold 30m copies worldwide – is remembered as “plain of feature, and certainly overweight, [but] nevertheless a woman of wit and warmth” in the first paragraph.

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw wrote Friday for The Daily Dot about the hashtag.

Some of these hashtag obituaries are pretty funny, but they expose a grim truth: If you’re a woman, it’s practically impossible to escape being judged by your appearance.

Sam Maggs reported on it as well for The Mary Sue.

The incredible classiness and inarguable misogyny of the obituary did not go ignored by the internet, and #MyOzObituary has been trending on Twitter to some fairly hilarious results.

All three pieces include some tweets, and here are a few more, from journalists and writers.

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AP style tips for the Super Bowl: Avoid ‘Hail Mary’

The Lombardi Trophy at a news conference for NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Lombardi Trophy at a news conference for NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game Friday, Jan. 30, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If you’re covering the Super Bowl on Sunday instead of watching it (or just watching the commercials), you probably know the correct style to use for every player and play. In case you’re not a sports reporter and may end up writing about the game, the fans or the players anyway, here’s a quick look at some common football terms from the Associated Press Stylebook.

Some football positions:

Cornerback, defensive end, defensive tackle, fullback, halfback, left guard, linebacker, lineman, running back, quarterback, tailback, tight end and wide receiver.

In a 2012 Super Bowl style guide, the AP advises:

Spell out a player’s position on first reference. In follow-ups, mix in QB for quarterback, RB for running back, FB for fullback, WR for wide receiver, TE for tight end, DE for defensive end, DT for defensive tackle, LB for linebacker or CB for cornerback (though never just corner).

Some game terms:

Blitz, out of bounds, end line, end zone, pitchout, fair catch, place kick, field goal, play off (verb), playoff (noun, adjective), goal line, goal-line stand, halftime, handoff, kick off (v.), kickoff (noun, adjective), touchback and touchdown.

According to the AP on phrasing: “yards passing, yards receiving, touchdowns rushing, etc. Not passing yards, receiving yards, rushing touchdowns.”

Years vs. Roman numerals:

Use the year the game is played.

Except in formal reference as a literary device, pro football Super Bowls should be identified by the year – not the season – played, rather than the Roman numerals: 1969 Super Bowl, not Super Bowl III.

Also, use figures for yardage and yard lines.

Don’t use ‘fumblerooski:’

Finally, from 2012, a few more distinctions:

A field goal clears the crossbar, not the goal posts.
Avoid “Hail Mary.” Use desperation pass instead.
Don’t use “fumblerooski” for a strange turnover. Describe the play.
It’s end zone, not pay dirt.
No such thing as a “forward lateral.” A lateral is tossed sideways or backward.
Only a quarterback gets sacked. Other ball carriers are tackled for a loss.

Related: What you can learn about video storytelling from the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial Read more


A Dutch man tried to get on air with a fake gun

TV Newser | Associated Press

On Thursday night, a 19-year-old Dutch man carrying a gun tried to get on the air in Hilversum, Netherlands, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Chris Ariens wrote about the incident for TVNewser, reporting that the young man was led into an empty studio by a security guard while the rest of the NOS newsroom was evacuated. Once police arrived, they learned the gun the man was carrying was fake.

According to the AP, the incident took the news program off the air “for the first time in 60 years.”

NOS director Jan de Jong told his broadcaster’s radio network that he would meet with police and the local mayor in Hilversum to discuss whether security — already beefed up since the Charlie Hebdo attack — needs to be further strengthened.
De Jong paid tribute to the security guard who led the teenager into an empty TV studio and kept speaking to him throughout the ordeal, which forced the 8 p.m. news off the air for the first time in 60 years.

Here’s the video:

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Mitt Romney isn’t running, despite reports to the contrary

Both Bloomberg and The Daily Beast reported this morning that perennial GOP hopeful Mitt Romney was making a third run for the presidency.

Earlier in the day, Bloomberg Politics published a story by “Game Change” scribe Mark Halperin titled “Why Mitt Romney Thinks He Can Win (and Jeb Bush Can’t),” that indicated Romney would make an announcement Friday morning.

Hours later, The Daily Beast trumpeted an exclusive on Twitter:

And then again:

Before reversing itself:

Bloomberg followed The Daily Beast’s lead, citing its inaccurate report:


Shortly afterward, Bloomberg reversed itself and appended the following correction:

Correction: This story was based on an article from The Daily Beast, which contained inaccurate information. A statement released by Mitt Romney today clearly states he is not exploring a 2016 presidential bid.


The Daily Beast has changed the headline of its original story and notes that the most recent news contradicts its earlier story. But the URL of the story remains the same:

DailyBeastURL Read more


Seven questions every editor should ask the writer

I have done a lot of coaching and editing in my career, but I have never, since the college literary magazine, been THE editor. But I often imagine that I am. So let’s say that I am assigned to become a coaching editor at a make-believe enterprise called the Calusa News. We are covering a community on the west coast of Florida, and I will direct the work of, say, ten writers and reporters.

The first thing I would do – before I read or edited a single story – is interview each writer. This turns out to be a surprisingly rare event. I remember chatting with one veteran reporter at a newspaper who told me, “I’ve been here for more than 30 years, and you are the first person who asked me about how I work.”

Recently, I read a magazine article about “36 Questions that Lead to Love.” The questions — such as “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” — are designed to create intimacy, even among strangers. The idea, according to Daniel Jones of the New York Times, “is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness.”

With that as a wild analogy, I have developed a list of questions designed to build professional collaboration between a writer and an editor. After asking these questions to hundreds of writers, I have confidence that the answers provided by the writer can guide a coaching editor on how best to help the writer over time. Here are the questions in the normal order that I ask them:

  1.   Do you consider yourself a confident or an anxious writer?  On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being anxious and ten being confident, where would you place yourself as a writer?
  2. Based on the answer to number one: What are some of the things that make you confident (or anxious)?
  3.   Do you consider yourself a slow or a fast writer?  On a scale from 1 to 10, with one being slow and ten being fast, where would you place yourself as a writer?
  4. Based on the answer to number three:  What are some of the things that make you slow (or fast)? Or: When are some of the times when you are slow (or fast)?
  5. Some writers describe themselves as planners, while others plunge right in to the writing. Would you consider yourself a planner or a plunger?  Do you work from any kind of a plan?
  6. Based on the answer to number five: If you work from any kind of a plan, what does that plan look like?
  7. Many writers say they need to write a strong lead before they can progress in the story.  Others say that can “discover” their lead through the process of writing. How do you think about your lead from the time you are reporting and throughout the process?

There are many other questions to ask, of course, but these seven almost always create remarkable results. I once asked them to a feature writer at a big news organization. She volunteered to discuss her work in front of a group of editors, a couple who had worked closely with her over time. I don’t have an exact record of my interview with her, but her responses were eccentric and memorable.

When I asked her the question about whether she was fast or slow, she answered that it depended upon her ability to find a certain kind of quote. I think she called it her “golden quote.” She would interview her main source or most prominent character hoping that person would say something that would capture the essence of that person’s character or enterprise. In her process, she would place the quote as a kind of anchor about one third of the way down into the story.  Her lead, then, would build up to the quote. Everything in the body of the story would flow from the quote. But she had to find that quote.

When she left the meeting, the editors began to ask me questions about the writer.  If I were her coach or editor, how would I try to help her?  There was no ambiguity in my response: “Well I wouldn’t bother to ask her about her lead?  I’d ask her if she found her golden quote.”

I don’t mean to imply that the editor should always accept as immutable the habits of a particular writer. If, for example, the search for the golden quote slowed the writer down to the point where she was missing deadlines, we might have another conversation about creating a more nimble process. But if the quality of the work was outstanding – as it was – and the work is in on time, those perceived idiosyncrasies should be reinterpreted as strengths.

Coaching editors have a responsibility to learn the working methods of writers and reporters. A process interview is only the first step. Whatever is learned from such conversations should be tested against direct observation of a writer’s working methods. Subsequent conversations – sometimes called “long coaching” – can focus on different aspects of the work.

It probably makes sense that the writer should also interview the editor about that person’s values, habits, preferences and working methods. We’ll leave those questions for another day. Read more


Video news app Watchup partners with SB Nation

Watchup added SB Nation to its list of channels Friday, making the sports site the third Vox Media property to partner with the video app.

The channel, which is already live on Watchup, features a Super Bowl preview edition of “Uffsides,” SB Nation’s weekly NFL podcast, and a video explaining why Arizona is a good fit for the Super Bowl.

Watchup, a free app that aims to be “Hulu for news junkies,” has gained momentum among news outlets since it won a 2012 Knight News Challenge grant. Early last year, CEO Adriano Farano announced a partnership with The Washington Post to display its video content. And earlier this month, the app began running content from, The Verge, Fusion and AJ+.

In November, the app raised $2.75 million from investors including Tribune Media and The McClatchy Company. Read more

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Outsports will cover the Super Bowl from the press box

Outsports’ Cyd Zeigler will cover the Super Bowl from Arizona on Sunday in what Outsports reports is the first time a gay media outlet has been credentialed to cover the Super Bowl.

Outsports readers are probably used to seeing co-founder and manager Jim Buzinski’s annual “Gay Guide to the Super Bowl,” but this year they’ll also see more in-depth coverage, including an exploration of “how a gay player would fit in the aftermath of Michael Sam coming out and why people think he’s not in the league,” Buzinski said in an email. As the SEC defensive player of the year in 2013 and a St. Louis Rams 2014 draft pick, Sam was widely expected to be on an NFL roster when the season began. He was cut by the Rams and was not on any team’s active roster at any point this season.

This was Outsports’ first try at getting credentials to sit in the press box, and Buzinski calls this first Super Bowl an Outsports “milestone.”

Without the press credentials, Outsports would have been writing about the game only minimally because the cost of attending would have been prohibitive. Reuters puts the average cost of a resold ticket at around $3,000.

There was no problem getting credentials from the NFL this year, Buzinski said. Outsports’ story about the credentials emphasized that the NFL administration is “incredibly supportive” of LGBT issues and Outsports in particular. The story notes that perhaps the lack of credentialed gay media at previous Super Bowls was simply a result of media not requesting credentials.

The fact that this is the first time the NFL has credentialed an LGBT publication may be more a factor of the publications than the NFL. Out magazine editors Aaron Hicklin and Jerry Portwood said they weren’t sure the magazine had ever submitted a request. Though one other LGBT publication said they had requested a credential but never heard back. So it may be more – or as much – a function of lack of requests than lack of granting said requests.

In the past, when they’ve been denied credentials to cover a game in another sport, Outsports has given “The Powers That Be” the chance to reconsider by employing the classic technique of promised future transparency, favored by FOI-requesters everywhere. “A few times some events have temporarily denied us,” Buzinski said. “And when I said I wanted to write a story on their reasons for rejecting us when we’ve been credentialed in the past by the NFL, NBA and Major Leaue Baseball, the credential magically is approved.”

You can follow Outsports as they follow the big game here, and on Twitter, here and here. Read more


Instagrammer: ‘I am very happy my photo was selected’

Thursday’s post about The New York Times’ audience-submitted Instagram front page created quite a debate among journalists about the rules and ethics of user-generated content.

Many of the answers to those questions – how copyright works when a user tags a photo on Instagram, for example – are unclear and deserve future examination.

Right now, though, I want to share an update on the experience of an Instagram user whose photo was one of nine featured on the Times’ front page. Jeca Taudte, who was quoted in yesterday’s story, added additional thoughts in the comments:

As someone quoted in this story, I want to set the record straight: I uploaded my Instagram photo to the NYT website fully aware of their terms, which I could access on the upload page. I wanted them to use the photo. Nothing was stolen. They credited me accurately and as part of the submission process, they had my email. And although I was surprised they hadn’t contacted me the day they used it – it’s the NYT after all – I was not upset.

But more importantly, the NYT contacted me very early this morning Thursday, January 29 before this story ran, letting me know the photo had been featured on the front page and offering to send me copies of the paper.

That point is not included in the story, but should be. Maybe it would have been if I had known Katie was writing about this and could have alerted her. But I didn’t, because our entire interaction took place in the comments section of one of her Instagram posts that a mutual friend tagged me in.

I am very happy my photo was selected and I have no complaints about the NYT process, except perhaps that my Instagram handle and the handles of the other Instagrammers who submitted such great photos would have been included.

I also received an update from Taudte through my Instagram page.

There are a few important items to address here based on Taudte’s comment:

  • It’s great that the Times contacted Taudte the day after publication, Thursday, to thank her and offer copies of the paper (and I’m assuming/hoping they contacted the other photographers, too).
  • I contacted the Times on Wednesday evening asking whether users were contacted prior to publication.
  • I still have not heard back from the Times’ PR representatives. I’ll continue to follow up with the NYT in hopes of getting some answers.

I’ve mentioned this a few times now – in my article and throughout various replies on social networks – but I’m happy that the Times is experimenting with user-generated content. Overall, I was thrilled to see the Instagram front page. The photos were great, and it was an appropriate way to incorporate UGC.

That said, there are a few remaining concerns and unanswered questions:

  • Did all of the nine featured photographers submit their photos through the upload form, or did some of them just tag #nytsnow? If it’s the latter, did the Times obtain permission from those users before publishing their photos?
  • As Tautde pointed out, everyone’s Instagram handles should have been included in the photo credits. It was difficult to find the photographers on Instagram (and I haven’t been able to determine everyone’s usernames). My suggestion: Jeca Taudte/@taudte.
  • Even if users submitted through an upload form – and therefore accepted the site’s Terms of Service – are journalists still legally obligated to contact those people for permission before publishing their images in the newspaper?
  • What exactly are the legal rules surrounding hashtags like #nytsnow?

The rules and ethics of user-generated content are tricky and, in many cases, it seems newsrooms are making them up as they go along.

I’m glad my article struck a nerve and hope to continue exploring these issues. If you have other questions about this case study, feel free to share them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to follow up.

Related: News University course: Copyright Law and Fair Use for Journalists Read more


Career Beat: The Economist gets 2 deputy editors

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Tom Standage is now deputy editor at The Economist. Previously, he was digital editor there. Edward Carr is now deputy editor at The Economist. Previously, he was foreign editor there. (@tomstandage)
  • Ross Gagnon is now insights director at Forbes. Previously, he was a senior quantitative analyst for J.D. Power and Associates. (Email)
  • John Judis will be a senior writer at National Journal. Previously, he was a senior editor at The New Republic. (Email)
  • Brendan Banaszak is now director of collaborative news strategy at NPR. Previously, he was a producer there. Lynette Clemetson is now senior director of strategy and content initiatives at NPR. Previously, she was director of editorial initiatives there. John Stefany will be director of strategic projects at NPR. Previously, he was manager of new content projects there. (Poynter)
  • Melinda Henneberger is now a senior writer at Bloomberg Politics. Previously, she wrote about politics and culture for The Washington Post. Jennifer Epstein will be a correspondent for Bloomberg Politics. Previously, she was a White House reporter for Politico. (Capital New York)

Job of the day: The Tampa Bay Times is looking for a business reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more

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