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Mark Twain, the famous author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, once wrote “if you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.” How true is a news story on newspaper? Who can guarantee the truth and objectivity of the news?

 

Today journalists have so many techniques to make the news story more interesting. They can angle the story, frame the content in such a way that it will attract readers’ attention within the first paragraph (I guess that is what we, journalism students, have been studying). Sometimes  these techniques make the truth in a story changes. Tapsall and Varley (2001) also highlighted the fight for truth as an entity in journalism, which is not to be considered an oxymoron, is becoming increasingly difficult.

 

One of the factor in the change of journalism practice is public relations. Today public relations practitioners tend to portray a very good image about their organizations/clients. It is undeniable that many journalists rely on public relations people as a source of news. Hundreds pieces of news releases by PR practitioners are sent to journalists everyday to be published. Journalists’ work sometimes is as simple as editing the news releases and sending for publishing. While PR is subjective, ‘truthfulness’ is the responsibility of both journalists and PR practitioners. Their relationship can be mutually beneficial and symbiotic. Who can ensure the objectivity in the news releases sent my PR practitioners whose main work is to maintain a very good image of their clients to the public?

 

“Respect for the truth and the public’s right to information are fundamental principles of journalism” (Australian Commonwealth, 2010). Although there is controversy over this issue, I still believe that there is still ethical journalists and ethical PR practitioners who want to serve the greater good.

 

 

References

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Australian Commonwealth. (2010). Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) Description. Retrieved July 28, 2011 from    http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/289039/fromItemId/815972/quickLinkId/815429/whichType/org

Tapsall, S. & Varley, C. (2001). Journalism: Theory in Practice. Oxford University Press: South Melbourne.

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This week’s topic is about legal and ethical codes in journalism which was presented by Josephine and Yale. So what is ethics? It is ™“a set of prescriptive rules, principles, values and virtues of character that inform and guide interpersonal and intrapersonal conduct” (Briet, 2007 p.309). I was aware that being a journalist is quite a dangerous job but I was surprised when I was told the statistics about the number of journalists killed in recent years. Only in 2011, 21 journalists have been killed. I think this is a very high figure that reflects how tensed and dangerous when a journalist involve in gathering and reporting news, especially those involving in hard news. Then how far should a journalist go for a story? How far should the journalist protect their sources? I think these two questions are very interesting to discuss. In my opinion, if a journalist is afraid of being in danger when reporting news, then he should quit the job and look for another one. The first and also the must requirement for being a journalist is that he has to be brave enough to bring wrongdoings into the light of justice. However, the point I want to make here is that journalists who involve in such dangerous cases should seek for help from related authority to secure their own safety. I think it is the best to achieve both goals: justice and safety. We can’t say that journalists should forgo their own safety to guard justice. Maybe there are journalists who are very enthusiastic to do so, but with the increasing number of journalists killed every year, how many journalists will be ready to forgo their own safety to bring wrongdoings in to the light? Up to my knowledge, I know that there’s an organization called Committee to Protect Journalists. It is a non-profit organization based in New York City that promotes press freedom and depends the rights of journalists (Press Freedom online, 2011). The Committee also administers the annual CPJ International Press Freedom Awards which honour journalists and press freedom advocates who have endured beatings, threats, intimidation, and prison for reporting the news. So, actually there is no organization in the world which is to protect and secure journalists’ safety when they involve in severe cases. I think we should get the authority (maybe one government body) set up an organization whose task is to protect journalists when they get into dangerous cases. Meanwhile, I suggest journalist shouldn’t work alone on a case. They should work in a team, a group of people to protect each other. This may help to reduce the tragic murder of journalists.
Then how far should a journalist protect their sources? I think it doesn’t only concern about moral values, but also professionalism. Nobody will be again ready to help a journalist who reveals their sources when they are not supposed to. In my opinion, a journalist must protect their sources no matter what happens. I think this is also one of the reasons which causes many murders of journalists recent years. In such a case, both journalist and their sources are very much in danger. So the problem again is that should there be an organization to protect journalists and their sources? I think there should be. How about you? If yes, then who do you think should govern the organization? How about international correspondents? Who should they seek for help when they are in danger?

References
™Breit, R. (2007). Law & Ethics For Professional Communicators, LexisNexis Butterworths, Chatswood, New South Wales.

™‘CPJ’ [Online] Attacks on the press.  Available: http://www.cpj.org/2001/03/attacks-on-the-press-2000-vietnam.php  [Accessed 26 June 2011].

This week, Joleen and me presented on the dilemma of journalist regarding privacy and public interest. Firstly, we need to understand what public interest is. Public interest is an issue that the public has the right to know, needs to know and wants to know. When talking about this issue, we touch journalistic ethical code. When do we decide an invading privacy report as ethical or unethical although it does serve the public interest? I’d like to convey my opinion in two examples below.

On On March, 17 and April 23, 2010, Reuters published two investigative story by Murray Waas, detailing how two of the nation’s largest insurance companies, Assurant and WellPoint, had a “company policy of targeting policyholders with HIV” for cancelation of their policies once they were diagnosed (Chittum, 2010). They utilized “a computer algorithm that automatically targeted… every other policyholder recently diagnosed with breast cancer. The software triggered an immediate fraud investigation, as the company searched for some pretext to drop their policies. The reporter, Murray Waas, was actually blamed for invading personal information of the patients during his investigation. However, I think his actions could be justified because he actually reported on something that the public has the right to know.
We have known paparazzi all long that they follow celebrities, taking photos of them without their permission, hiding somewhere to catch the photo who the celebrities are dating with (Stutt, 2008). Miley Cyrus is one of the most attracting name to paparazzi. The paparazzi follow her everywhere she goes. Is this considered as ethical? To me, no. So where is the bottom line to judge the ethics in reporting news in serving the public interest? I guess it lies in the purpose of reporting. Are journalist reporting this to inform people about some important problem or just merely increase their newspaper’s circulation? What are their purpose of reporting?
References

Chittum, R 2010, Reuters is Excellent in Digging up a Health Insurer’s Tactics, Columbia Journalism Review, 17 March 2011, viewed 21 June 2011, <http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/reuters_is_excellent_in_diggin.php>.

Stutt, A 2008, Internet Privacy or Public Spectable? An ethical dilemma for Journalists, Centre for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, viewed 21 June 2011, <http://www.journalismethics.info/feature_articles/internet_privacy.html>.

This week’s topic presented by Terence and Yvonne is about the impact of social media in journalism. It is very interesting to discuss about this topic because there are few incidents just happened in Singapore which citizen journalism has shown its power in reporting news timely. General Election 2011 in Singapore and the flood in Ochard Road resulting from huge rain are where social media like facebook and twitter showed their power. People first came to know the result that the Workers’ Party won over PAP in Aljunied on Twitter about 3 hours before the official announcement. The very first photos of the flood in Ochard Road were taken by citizen journalists of The Temasek Review and uploaded to Facebook.

It is undeniable that social media and the Internet has facilitated the flow of information all over the world. Today almost every newspaper has its correspondents located overseas to report about news and current affairs at the site. With the help of the Internet, the job of these correspondents become much easier. They can just write a report and send it back to their newspaper even in a second. Even in the time constraint, they can write a facebook status and a twit on their twitter page about what’s happening at the place. With professionalism, they can condense the information and highlight the key events just in few sentences which will provide a very precise overview about the incident.

Therefore, there have been many scholars believing that social media including online newspapers, and social media will slowly take over the mainstream media although this may take a long time. However, I’d like to put forward a question, do you fully believe in what you read online? Referring to the example presented by Yvonne about the result of the General Election in Aljunied, although you got the result 3 hours before the official announcement, did you all believe it? Or only when the official result came, then you reconfirmed what it said? We all know that social media’s shortcomings are the incredibility and lack of professionalism. These two shortcomings make it still an alternative journalistic view beside mainstream media. What it reports may be wrong. In that case, people just say “Oh, it is just a social media platform!”. It does not need to bare any responsibility in what it’s reporting. But when mainstream media reports something wrong, it has to take the responsibility to the whole society. I think that’s why mainstream media is very careful in its reports. It has to go through many processes of checking, double-checking, editing. I suppose this is also the reason why mainstream media is “slower” than social media.

 

 

 

 

To me, I do not think that social media will take over mainstream media in the future. I think both of the media models will work hand in hand in serving the public’s craving for knowledge. And I think this will provide of with multiple points of view. We, readers, can have a choice in what we should and should not believe in.

There have been many studies about the impact of globalization. It is the fact that globalization has its certain impact on all sectors and aspects of our society, including journalism. I’d like to discuss about the effect of globalization on journalism.

We can see the globalization in journalism through the merge of big media players in the world. Till today, we have only few giant media players which dominate the whole global media industry such as Time Warner, Disney, Berteksmann, News Corp. They are called TransNational Corporations or TNC. So what is the effect of globalization on journalism? Boyd-Barrett and Rantanen (1998) proposed that commercialization and technology have combined to alter the media because news now can be seen as a commodity which can be bought or sold.

It is because of the domination of those TNCs listed above, and their identifications of commercial needs, the standardization of media’s message and target audience.  They put commercial interests before the public’s right to know. Public interest is defined to constitute of public’s right to know, public’s need to know, and public’s want to know. The order of importance also follows as the right know, the need to know, and the want to know. However, Josephi (2005) claimed that journalists in the global age prioritized the public’s want to know rather than to other two. Celebrities’ private life are very much well-focused by journalists. These entertainment news and soft news undoubtedly helps to increase newspapers’ and magazines’ circulation. Advertising also plays a part in shifting journalism away from its role of fourth estate (Campbell, 2004).

In my opinion, I think journalist should do something more than just simply tickle the “want-to-know” interest of the public. However, I think journalists have very little power over the news stories they want to cover. Firstly, in the news room, journalists are actually assigned which news stories to cover for that day. Secondly, which news stories come at the fist page of a newspaper (a indication of importance) very much depends on the layout editor. Thirdly, I think journalists have less power on their news stories as well because they have to frame the stories accordingly to their company’s agenda. Let’s take the example of CNN and Fox News! The two giant media players have their own agenda, therefore, the journalists working for them have to follow it. CNN journalists have to frame their stories in favor of Republicans and Fox News journalists have to frame their stories in favor of Democratics. That’s the war of media companies in the battle of news. I’d like to forward a question to you all, that what can an ordinary journalist do to preserve the mission of journalism which is to serve the public’ right to know and need to know?

How about the localization of news? Is it important? I would say yes. News is travelling all over the world. Like the tsunami in Japan last month, the news, photos, videos are covered within few hours after the incident. The globalization helps to break the boundaries between countries in order to facilitate the flow of news and information. However, localization is also very much vital in journalism. In the global news which is meant to cater all general readers, we may not find specific information we wish to know. For example, we might wish to know whether Singaporeans living in Japan are affected by the tsunami, how many of them are trapped in the tsunami area, etc. This is where localization plays its part in serving the public.

References

Boyd-Barrett, O & Rantanen, T 1998, The Globalization of News, SAGE, London.

Josephi, B 2005, Journalism in the Global Age: Between Normative and Empirical, International Communication Gazette, vol.67, no.6, pp. 575-590.

Campbell, V 2004, Information Age Journalism: Journalism in an International Context, Arnold, UK.

Who will pay for journalism? I guess the first party coming to our mind is advertisers. Yes, it is true that advertising play a big part in media organization’s revenue. According to Este, Warren & Murphy (2010), statistics show that circulations of almost all big newspapers and media companies in the world like News Corp, Fairfax, The New York Times are in decline. However, their revenue and net profit is in the rise. The reason for this negative relationship between low circulation and high revenue is advertising.

(Source: CEASA)

However, to answer the question who will pay for journalism, I guess the two presenter of our seminar did a good job when categorizing the media companies/organizations into two: publicly funded media and privately funded media.

Publicly funded media refers those media orgainizations that is funded by the government. Singapore Press Holdings is one of them. SHP’s revenue is mainly subsidized by the government. Other than that, SHP also have their investments in MediaCorp and other media-related business, even surprisingly in property. (Click here to see what businesses SPH is currently involving in)

Privately funded media is those media organizations that is self-regulated profit companies. They are just like other corporate companies, but their products are newspapers, magazines, books, tv channels, etc. Most of media companies in the US belong to this category. Compared to it in publicly funded media, advertising in these media companies is claimed to have a greater impact on the profit of these companies. However, as it is a company running for profit, it has a freedom to invest to any other businesses and sector that it is capable of. News Corp., for example, has its investments in filmed entertainment, television, cable network programming, direct broadcast satellite television, newspapers, magazines all other the world,  and property, liquidity and other financial assets.

We have a better understanding about how media organizations and companies earn profit in 21st century. But the rising question is that how to sustain the role of journalism? How to make these organizations not be driven by profit?

Lacy & Blanchard (2003) asserted that the pressure of profit-making more or less affect the way media reports news. What is your view about this? Is it true that profit is a factor that is claimed to move journalism away from its mission of social and governemtn watchdog? In my opinion, it is hard to make journalism stay away from profit because only by making profit, it is able to report news and journalists are about to afford their lives. However, since money involves in reporting news, there are many cases where we can see that money has more power than the truth that is supposed to be reported. I guess in this case ethics is the solution for journalists and for all of us who are studying to be a journalist! Every profession has its morals and ethics, and journalism is not an exception! I think concerning about ethics, knowing where and when we need to cross the line, and where and when not to, will help journalists not to be driven by money. What are your thoughts? 🙂  

 

References

Este, J, Warren, C & Murphy, F 2010, Life in the Clickstream: the Future of Journalism, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, viewed 30 May 2011, <http://www.thefutureofjournalism.org.au/foj_report_vii.pdf>.

Lacy, S & Blanchard, A 2003, The Impact of Public Ownership, Profits and Competition on Number of Newsroom Employees and Starting Salaries in Mid-Size Daily Newspapers, J&MC Quaterly, vol.80, no.4, pp.949-968.

 

We have been learning about journalism and the historical phases of journalism throughout this course. We have been discussing about the sustainability of journalism in the era of the Net. We are all aware that print journalism is struggling to compete with its online counterpart. News are moving online and the public have been given more power of creating content of the news than that in conventional journalism (Chrisholm, 2006). Yes, it is totally true when today we have interactive session after every piece of news; we have blog (as I am expressing my views after reading the three articles); we have youtube and many other social networking site where people can define who they are and freely express themselves.

Therefore, Meadows (2001) stated that “the notion of the institution of the fourth estate has been adapted according to changing social, economic and cultural conditions”. With the shift away from its traditional mission, the fourth estate or watchdog, many forms of news are born to meet the demand of audiences: infotainment, edutainment, talkshow, etc. In the 21st century, audience who is used to be seen as news receiver is positioned in the central of the flow of news, and most of the time are the ones who decide what news or info they want to receive.

We have been talking about the power of viewers and readers since we started learning about journalism (and since you read my post). But there is some points that are very interesting I have found from reading the three articles. Firstly, although many studies have asserted the power of audience, it is proposed that media is actually shaping cultures (Adam, 1993). The author claimed that media makes sense of the world to people, which makes things around them naturally accepted and immutable. In other words, how people form their opinions about things are dependent how media frames their news and info. This sounds like the magic bullet theory which believes that audience is passively receiving the news. However, in my opinion, both media and its viewers affect each other. They adjust to meet each other’s demand and views. Each side has its own powers to influence the other.

Secondly, when we talk about the power of journalism, one of the techniques that makes it so powerful is media framing defined as “the selection of sources by journalists rising to how society is imagined”. We have seen how different (and even contrast) Fox News and CNN report on the same news story. We all know that Fox News and CNN are very big news channels in the world in terms of their establishment. But which one should we believe in? We all say that viewers have a active power deciding what to believe and what not to. However, regarding hard news where ordinary people can’t be there to examine the truth, media is the only source that they rely on (since we all know that citizen journalism’s shortcoming is inaccuracy and incredibility). In the case of Fox News and CNN where politics involves in how they report news, where is the ethics of journalists? Where is the bottom line of “the truth”?

I suppose journalism in the 21st century is very much different from what it is supposed to be. Journalism is now very much affected by the government, politicians, tycoons and other factors in its society. Different countries have different journalism systems which I think it would be very interesting to discuss further in our seminars 🙂

References

Adam, S 1993, Notes towards a Definition of Journalism: Understanding an Old Craft as an Art Form, The Poynter Papers: No.2, The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, St Petersburg, Florida.

Chrisholm, J 2006, The Age of the Reader as Reporter is Here – and We Need to Be Listening, Asian Newspaper Focus, Semptember/October 2006, p.22.

Meadows, M 2001, A Return to Practice: Reclaiming Journalism as Public Conversation, in T Suellen & V Carolyn (eds), Journalism: Theory in Practice, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp.40-54.