Best Practices: Ethics and Diversity

Crime scene

Hyperbolic to sensitive, how news outlets treated dramatic car crash video

The 55-second cell-phone video of an SUV going the wrong way on the Interstate, smashing into a sedan and exploding into a fiery ball that killed five people quickly sky-rocketed to one of the most viewed videos ever on the Tampa Bay Times’ website. It’s also a case study to examine how different newsrooms treat difficult content.

The Tampa Bay Times, which Poynter owns, ran the whole video, unedited, along with the sound. The Tampa Tribune ran the video without the sound. WTSP and WFLA used small portions of the video in a package, but then stopped using it, as did Fox 13. ABC Action News used a tight clip of the video in two packages. Bay News 9 ran the video but truncated it before the crash. Read more

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Lessons learned from Grantland’s tragic story on Dr. V

By editor-in-chief Bill Simmons’ own admission, ignorance was the biggest mistake Grantland made in reporting and publishing the story of Dr. V and her innovative golf putter. Ignorance about one of the most vulnerable minority groups — transgender people.

Plenty of writers have dissected Grantland’s mistakes in reporting a story about the entrepreneur with a checkered past who happened to be transgender.

But this case need not only be a tragic example of what can go wrong. This can also be a moment for news organizations to learn how to get smarter, make stronger ethical decisions and compensate for weaknesses that can lead to harm. Read more


BBC launches ‘expert women database’ to help its journalists diversify sources

The BBC has launched an “expert women database” and a related YouTube channel to try to get more female sources on air.

Emma Barnett writes that the database features the names of 60 women who attended BBC Academy’s “Expert Women” training days, as well as contact information for 120 women who “showed promise” in their BBC Academy applications.

More than 2,000 women applied for the first training day, and only 30 spots were available. During the training, women received voice coaching tips and talked about their areas of expertise. The BBC Expert Women YouTube channel features some of these talks.

Barnett says it hasn’t been easy getting more female subject matter experts on air. Read more


Why journalists have trouble with bullying

Stories about bullying often follow a predictable narrative with a “villain v. victim” arc that leaves little room for nuance.

Slate’s Emily Bazelon raised this issue on Monday in her South by Southwest talk, “Digital Drama: Growing up in the Age of Facebook.” Bazelon, who wrote a just-released book about bullying called “Sticks and Stones,” was joined by The New York Times’ Bill Keller, researcher Danah Boyd, and MTV’s Jason Rzepka.

Together, they talked about how journalists can capture the complexities of bullying.

Ask: Is this really bullying?

One of the problems with words like “bullying” and “cyberbullying” is that they mean different things to different people.

“Scholarly definitions of bullying often differ from what the public thinks,” Boyd said. “Bullying becomes synonymous, especially among adults, with all forms of meanness and cruelty.”

While researching bullying, Boyd found that adults were quick to define rude behavior as bullying. Read more


ONA winner highlights 5 ways to create interactives that inform & engage readers

Around the same time this summer that North Carolina voted to ban same-sex marriage, the Guardian published an interactive that showed just how differently each state defines gay rights.

The interactive displays information in ways that a traditional story never could — by using color wheels to show how gay rights vary from state to state and region to region. The wheels help organize what would otherwise seem like an overwhelming amount of information, and they offer readers a visual representation of just how divided America is over gay rights.

I talked by phone with Guardian Interactive Editor Gabriel Dance and Interactive Designer Feilding Cage about the project — which has since won a 2012 Online Journalism Award — and asked them to share advice about what goes into creating an effective interactive. Read more

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How journalists can stop the spread of misinformation when reporting on the occult

Police in Fairfield, Conn., say new DNA evidence may help them catch the suspect who strangled a newborn boy and left his body by the banks of Lake Mohegan 26 years ago. But as police and reporters return the case to the public eye, they’re also resurrecting rumors that Santeria or Palo Mayombe were involved in the killing.

The infant’s body was laid on a piece of burlap pinned with crosses of St. Lazarus, surrounded by pieces of fruit, coins and food, according to police. Some inspectors claimed these were signs that the killing was part of a ritual, even though neither faith practices human sacrifice.

Police admitted the connection to Santeria was just a guess: “We called it Santeria because we had to label it something,” Fairfield Police Lt. Read more


How to respond when the Internet calls you names

@shawnpwilliams Yeah, you’re a dumb n****r.

When I read these words written by a stranger last week, I wasn’t sure how to react. It wasn’t the first time I’d been called the n-word, but it was in a place that I least expected it — on Twitter.

Over the years, I’ve received plenty of racially charged emails based on my columns and blog posts. The comment sections of my websites can be cesspools of bigotry and intolerance. And as the recollection of my college days slowly fade, I still vividly remember the first time I was called an “N” as a freshman in a grocery store parking lot.

One of the comforting and ironically sad things about social media is that we tend to friend and follow people that we already have a lot in common with. Read more


How to interview, report on immigrants when you don’t speak their language

Growing up, I discovered the easiest way to get rid of someone soliciting from door to door: Just say your family doesn’t speak English. Most visitors turned away quickly.

Occasionally, a church group would really persist and invite themselves in. After some awkwardness, they managed to communicate with us, even though my parents’ preferred language was Vietnamese. They used me as a translator, showed books with photos and after patiently sitting around for a couple of hours, found out that my father did speak a little English, albeit slowly and shyly.

Many journalists could take some inspiration from those Baptists and Jehovah’s Witnesses who visited our North Carolina home. Immigrant communities are rich with stories, but reporters often cite language as an obstacle.

Tom Huang, assistant managing editor for Sunday and enterprise at the Dallas Morning News, told me that some reporters he’s supervised have assumed they wouldn’t be able to get much information. Read more


Is new Essence managing editor the right person for the job? / Journal-isms

Michael Bullerdick, a white male, has been named managing editor of Essence, prompting Danielle Wright to ask whether he can represent the interests and views of the magazine’s African-American, female audience. “Are you able to suggest topics that have been affecting the community for years? Can you reminisce or relate to the stories of historic Black women who overcame struggles and portray them accurately, and make suggestions to ensure that the story is told through a relatable voice? Are you able to manage pitches to ensure they won’t offend your African-American, woman audience?”

Essence Editor-in-Chief Constance White, however, told Richard Prince that Bullerdick “is responsible for production and operational workflow. He has no involvement in editorial content.”

Related: Prince examines white ownership and leadership of ethnic websites. Read more

Photographers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama after he announced live on television the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Photographers debate what should replace staged photo opps now that White House is ending the practice

Calling it a “bad idea,” the White House has decided that it will no longer re-enact speeches for still photographers, as it did the night President Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. That re-enactment was the subject of a story that sparked industry conversation about the ethics of staging photos, particularly one of such a historic event.

Photographers take pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama after he announced live on television the death of Osama bin Laden from the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., May 1, 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

On May 1, continuing a practice in place for decades, the White House barred still photographers from photographing the live presidential address because of the disruption the still cameras would cause. Read more

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