Best Practices: Ethics and Diversity

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 May 1, 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Reuters, AP photojournalists describe staging of Obama photo

Editor’s note: On May 12, news broke that the White House had decided to stop its practice of re-enacting photos for still photographers. Our story on that decision is here. Below is’s original story on this issue.

Until Wednesday, the White House debated whether to release photos showing Osama bin Laden’s body. In theory, the photos would be proof to any doubters that the terrorist is dead. But not all photos can be believed — not even when they seem to show the president of the United States making a historic speech.

Reuters White House photographer Jason Reed describes how the president made his speech to a single TV camera, then immediately after finishing, he pretended to speak for the still cameras. Read more


Barroom meetings one way St. Louis Beacon engages people where they really are

When the St. Louis Beacon launched three years ago, its staff made a conscious effort to get out into the community. They wanted to engage with readers not just online, but in person — at museums, coffee shops and hipster bars.

The nonprofit site, which covers a range of topics in the St. Louis region, frequently hosts meetups for community members who want to talk about diversity. And it has created local partnerships that have enabled it to reach new audiences in-person, online and on air.

Recently, I talked with St. Louis Beacon Editor Margaret Freivogel and Associate Editor Robert Duffy to find out more about how the staff’s engagement efforts have helped both the site and the community.

Meeting with members of the community

Every other Monday, Duffy heads to a local bar to lead a conversation about diversity. Read more


4 years, 150 stories later, Pulitzer finalist recognized for investigating Louisiana Klan murder

For four years, Stanley Nelson has investigated the death of Frank Morris, a shoe repairman who died from fatal burns after his shop was torched in 1964.

As editor of The Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La., Nelson has written more than 150 stories about Morris’ murder and other civil rights era cold cases that he wants to help solve.

“It’s hard to solve a murder in the first place; it’s really hard to solve one that’s over four decades old,” Nelson said in a phone interview. “It’s a project of epic proportions to go that far back in time.”

Nelson, whose efforts have led him to identify a suspect in Morris’ killing, was recognized earlier this week as a Pulitzer finalist for local reporting. Debbie Hiott, who chaired the jury for the local reporting category, said she was impressed that a journalist at a 5,000 circulation weekly could find the resources to write such an in-depth series. Read more


Coverage of Japanese citizens’ ‘stoic’ response to tragedy both accurate, stereotypical

A master narrative has developed around the media’s coverage of Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, leading us to believe that there are cultural roots in the Japanese citizens’ stoic response to all the horrors of the past few weeks.

In The Christian Science Monitor, Gavin Blair writes: “Amid all the destruction, shortages and despair, one thing stands out: the character of the Japanese people, which remains almost unflinchingly respectful, honest and conscientious through these darkest of times.”

In Canada’s National Post, Kathryn Blaze Carlson describes how lines “for water and fuel are single-file. Shoes are neatly arranged in the shelters. … There have been no reports of looting, as there were in earthquake-ravaged Haiti or after Hurricane Katrina or in a flood-riddled England in 2007.”

Even my journalism hero, Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, opines: “So maybe we can learn something from Japan, where [the disasters] haven’t caused society to come apart at the seams but to be knit together more tightly than ever. Read more

Authorities say an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in this abandoned trailer in Cleveland, Texas. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

New York Times follow-up on Cleveland, Texas rape story corrects, repeats original mistakes

In a follow-up story, The New York Times has offered new context while also repeating some of the same mistakes it made in its previous coverage of an 11-year-old Texas girl who was allegedly raped by 19 young men.

The story published Tuesday features an exclusive interview with the girl’s father and provides details of the six attacks authorities say occurred over several months.

Authorities say an 11-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in this abandoned trailer in Cleveland, Texas. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

The report also describes the sixth-grader’s home and family environment. It identifies the ethnicity of the girl but not the race or ethnicity of the suspects, who were described in the story as “an eclectic group of young men.” Some say the men have been targeted because they are African-American. Read more


Upcoming chat: How to bring new ideas, people to journalism conversations

When finding speakers for journalism talks, it’s easy to turn to the usual suspects — well-known journalists who appear regularly on panels related to their expertise. It’s more challenging to step outside your network and find new, diverse speakers who can bring different ideas and experiences to the discussion at hand.

Columbia Journalism School’s Sree Sreenivasan renewed attention to the lack of diversity on panels last week when he posted this Facebook update: “I can’t believe it when event planners in NEW YORK CITY put together panels in 2011 consisting of five white men and no one else.”

He called it “unacceptable” and “ridiculous,” and told me in a follow-up note that this issue “is not about quotas or token diversity, it’s about having diversity of all kinds — race, gender, points of view, class, etc. Read more


10 ways to find stories other journalists are missing

Bringing diversity to our storytelling has to be an intentional act — one that requires strong leadership and coaching. Finding untold stories, covering hidden communities, making sure our source lists capture wide-ranging perspectives and experiences — these things don’t always happen naturally. Here are 10 steps that can help you coach for diverse storytelling.

1. Step out of your comfort zone.

Take a different route to work. Eat lunch at a neighborhood you haven’t spent much time in. Drop in on a random community meeting. Visit a church you’ve never been to. If you’re a sports fan, go to a concert. If you’re a music fan, go to a game. Get out of your routine.

2. Find a guide.

If you want to learn more about a neighborhood or community, find a respected, trustworthy person who can guide you through unfamiliar terrain. Read more


Live Blogging Holovaty, Steiger & Cohen at Kent State Ethics Workshop

By Jeremy Gilbert
Jan Leach

The “NEXT Ethics?” Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop, hosted by the Kent State University school of Journalism and Mass Communication, will bring together professional journalists, professors and students to engage in a lively dialogue about media ethics and its role in an ever-changing online environment.

The workshop will not presume to create rules for media practitioners, but instead will try to create a foundation for further work and study. Please join us in helping media consumers and creators discuss key issues of online news and information.
You can watch a live stream of Thursday’s entire workshop (from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET); here is a full speaker schedule.

We will live blog two of the sessions:

  • 10 a.m.: Data Mining: You Can’t Always Get What You Want, with Adrian Holovaty of and and Sarah Cohen of Duke University (facilitated by Poynter’s Ellyn Angelotti)
  • 12 p.m.: New Issues, Enduring Values: Emerging Ethical Questions for Journalists, Paul Steiger of ProPublica (moderated by Poynter’s Kelly McBride)

Live Blog

<a href=”” >Live blogging Poynter-Kent State Ethics Workshop</a>


Journalists Share Disclaimers about What They Endorse on Twitter, Facebook

Reporters who follow their sources’ activities on Facebook are finding ways to explain that the relationships are just business.

Leslie Perales, local editor of’s site in Herndon, Va., has this high on her Facebook page: “Full disclosure: I’m a journalist. If I ‘like’ something on Facebook it may not be because I actually like it, but instead it is something I’m trying to keep track of for the news cycle.”

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Perales wrote in an e-mail, “When I was covering an election in April/May, I was trying to keep track of all the candidates on Facebook. They were writing posts there, had updates about their campaigns and campaign events there. I tried to find and ‘like’ all of them.

“A local PR person I know reamed me out in a Facebook message saying a journalist shouldn’t ‘like’ anything in terms of politics on FB, even if it’s MY personal FB profile and not the newspaper’s page (granted, nothing is personal anymore). Read more


How to Report on Quran Burning and Other Hate Speech

By now it’s clear that the Rev. Terry Jones is a lone voice with a tiny following. On any given Sunday he has 50 worshipers, according to reporters who have attended his services. Far from being the leader of a megachurch, he is an isolated preacher who has scheduled an act of hate speech to commemorate Sept. 11. The world religious community and many others have denounced his plans.

“It’s Terry Jones and his congregation against the rest of the world,” NPR reporter Greg Allen said on “Morning Edition” on Wednesday.

Covering Jones’ small event on Saturday has the potential to cause great harm. The images of radicals in Gainesville may be used by other radicals halfway around the world to justify violence. Burning the Quran in the name of a perverted interpretation of Christianity is an act designed to fuel the discord between groups of Muslims and Christians. Read more

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