Big news for journalism ethics, Knight’s response to crisis, SOTU fact-checks

Your Wednesday news roundup

February 6, 2019
Category: Newsletters

Major Poynter news

Big news for the Poynter Institute and even bigger news for journalism. Already known as a leading voice in journalism ethics, Poynter aims to become the industry’s ombudsman after being awarded a $5 million grant from Craig Newmark Philanthropies to establish the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter.f

The grant is the largest single contribution in Poynter’s 40-plus year history.

“I want to stand up for trustworthy journalism and stand against deceptive and fake news,’’ said Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “And I want to help news organizations work together to protect themselves and the public. Poynter’s the right place to do this work because the Institute has long been very serious about trustworthy news, and it has been committed to both training journalists and holding media organizations accountable.’’

Poynter Senior Vice President Kelly McBride, a nationally recognized teacher and voice in media ethics, will be the Craig Newmark Journalism Ethics Chair. Under McBride’s leadership, the Center will provide ethics training for media, write about ethical issues for, and consult for organizations in creating and updating ethics and leadership policies.

“The need for credible, trusted information is critical to a healthy democratic society,’’ said Poynter President Neil Brown. “Through this profound act of Craig Newmark Philanthropies in support of journalistic integrity and excellence, Poynter will build on its long history of promoting media ethics and elevating the practice of journalism.’’

The grant to the Poynter Institute is part of Craig Newmark Philanthropies’ $15 million investment to strengthen and advance journalism ethics, with $10 million going to the Columbia Journalism School to establish the Craig Newmark Center for Journalism Ethics and Security and the Craig Newmark Professorship of Journalism.

Stay connected with the work of the Center. Sign up for email updates here.

Crisis in democracy

We are at a watershed moment in our country. According to Gallup, only 41 percent of U.S. adults trust the media to report news “fully, accurately and fairly.’’ That number was 72 percent in 1976. Trust in the media has reached a crisis stage.

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That’s why the Knight Commission on Trust, Media and Democracy called its new report Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America. The Knight Commission is made up of 27 individuals from various backgrounds, including current and former members of the media, business, nonprofit, academic, government and arts communities.

The report is long and detailed, covering myriad aspects of media, but the part that was most noteworthy to me was how to restore trust in journalism. Before we can restore it, however, we must figure out how we got here. The commission hit on what I believe is the essential problem with news today when it wrote:

“The rise of partisan news organizations is producing more bias in news reports, and the increasingly blurred line between news and opinion in traditional mainstream media is contributing to perceptions of bias more generally. Combined with the sheer volume of opinion expressed on digital media and cable news channels, and the rise in polarized politics, this blurring is leading to significantly diminished trust in news and information.’’

It added:

“Having a strong political perspective does not absolve media organizations of the responsibility to be accurate and truthful in their reporting of the news.’’

The other problem the media has is diversity. The commission wrote:

“When newsrooms do not reflect the demographic and economic diversity of their communities, the distance between the journalist and the reader grows, and can diminish trust.’’

Ultimately, the commission had four main recommendations to address these particular issues:

  • Clearly label opinion and partisan commentators to distinguish them from news.
  • To address perceptions of media bias, emphasize reporting and evidence-based commentary over opinion.
  • Update and implement best practices on corrections, fact-checking, anonymous sources, the role of political pundits on broadcast and cable and advertising formats that blur the line between content and commerce.
  • Engage with citizens and communities to strengthen the quality of relevance of reporting to increase trust.

The report also looks at several other issues, including the spread of misinformation, the decline of local news, social media’s impact on the media and media criticism. It’s rather long, but important to read, whether you are in the media or not.

Kidnapped journalist still alive?

British journalist John Cantlie, who was taken hostage in Syria more than six years ago, might still be alive and in captivity, said UK security minister Ben Wallace. Cantlie was covering the Syrian conflict as a photographer when he was abducted in 2012 along with American journalist James Foley, who was murdered by ISIS in August of 2014.

At a briefing in London on Tuesday, Wallace told reporters that the British government believes ISIS is still holding Cantlie. The last time Cantlie was seen was two years ago, when he appeared in a propaganda video for ISIS. Wallace did not provide details as to why the British government believes Cantlie to be alive.

Cantlie’s family tweeted:

“We are aware of the current news circulating that John Cantlie is alive, whilst this is not substantiated at present, we continue to hope and pray that this turns out to be true. Thank you for your continued support.’’

Who dat unhappy with Poynter?

In Tuesday’s newsletter, I wrote that the Times-Picayune dropped the ball by using its Monday front page to continue whining about the Saints not being in the Super Bowl. The front page had no stories, just the words: Super Bowl? What Super Bowl?

I found it to be a petty stunt and a disservice to readers. Well, some of those readers disagreed on Twitter.

One tweet read:

“Did they sell all the papers? Did the New Orleans market love it? You all take yourselves too seriously.’’

Another tweet:

“Act like this paper isn’t a collectors item if you like’’

And, my favorite tweet of the day:

“They sold out that paper everywhere. I know b/c I had my cousin driving around the city looking for one. All you had to do was sit there and eat yo food, but since you wanna mind everyone else’s business you looking foolish.’’

Super call

Speaking of the Super Bowl, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is the best coach in NFL history, but credit for this year’s Super Bowl MVP should go to a … sportswriter? That’s what Belichick says, which is kind of funny considering Belichick is often curt with the media.

But Belichick said that former Dallas Morning News columnist Rick Gosselin is the one who alerted Belichick to wide receiver Julian Edelman, who was a quarterback in college at Kent State and was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Belichick told Pro Football Talk:

“I talked to Rick — as you know, Rick followed the draft very closely — and at one point, he said to me, ‘A kid you might want to take a look at is this quarterback out of Kent State. I don’t think he can play quarterback (in the NFL), but I’ve heard he’s a pretty good player.’’’

Belichick said the Patriots worked out Edelman, liked him enough to draft him and now the wide receiver goes down in Super Bowl history.

Fact-checking the State of the Union

Here is PolitiFact’s fact-checking Tuesday night’s State of the Union address and the Democratic response. PolitiFact teamed up with the Washington Post, The Reporters’ Lab and to offer live fact-checking on the FactStream app.

Poynter’s ICYMI headlines:


Upcoming training:


PolitiFact is a property of the Poynter Institute.

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Ethics of Journalism

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