September 17, 2014

Big Data has become a catchphrase in journalism — searchable databases, and data visualizations add context and credibility to news, but it can also add complications.

Exploring the complications and ethics issues in data mining is the focus of the 10th annual Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

The Workshop – “Data Minefields?” — brings together Poynter faculty, data journalists, media professionals and “digital do-ers” for a daylong program considering topics such as privacy, data and democracy, and using data to shape news decisions. Poynter’s Vice President of Academic Programs, Kelly McBride, and Ellyn Angelotti Kamke, of Poynter’s social media and law faculty, will facilitate the debates.

Keynote speaker Robert Hernandez, web journalist and self-described “hack-academic” from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will review emerging technology, including Google Glass, and talk about ethics questions related to telling stories on new platforms. Hernandez says he’ll talk about “MacGyver-ing”* new tools to tell stories grounded in journalism fundamentals.

Another special session will feature Joe Vealencis, director of the Office of Strategic Communication for the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington, D.C., discussing “Transparency in an Age of Terrorism.”

One panel – titled “Private Matters: Using and Fusing Data” – will explore concepts such as striking a balance between telling a story and individual privacy and ethical concerns about collecting and using data in journalism.

Strategic communications practitioners will appreciate a panel discussion highlighting the ways data is used in advertising, marketing and public relations including demographic research, product development and crisis response. Professionals will discuss problems and best practices in data mining such as using data to “sell” candidates and campaigns or including data to support new products. Jennifer LaFleur, senior editor for data journalism at the Center for Investigative Reporting and a former trainer for Investigative Reporters and Editors, will suggest how journalists should question data from strategic communicators.

As part of the 10th anniversary of the Media Ethics Workshop, Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication will honor Poynter’s Bob Steele with a new Excellence in Media Ethics Award. Steele, who worked with thousands of journalists during nearly 20 years at Poynter, recently retired from DePauw University. He will address attendees via Skype.

The Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop is a training and development opportunity for media professionals, educators and students. The national program is available via internet live stream at All viewers and participants are encouraged to comment, engage with speakers and raise questions by Tweeting at #ksuethics14.

*MacGyvering is a reference to a 1985-92 television series about an agent who made practical, new things out of relatively ordinary things.

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