Gannett papers to charge for online content

by Cy Brown

In a recent piece, Jeff Bercovici, of Forbes Magazine, wrote on how Gannett Company will be moving 80 of its local newspapers to a paywall format for online content. The format will be similar to that of the New York Times, which allows readers to access a limited amount of online content before having to pay for more. USA Today is the only Gannett paper excluded from the new format, for the time being.

One public affairs journalism issue is the shift of to an emphasis in online publication at many newspapers. The newspaper industry was late getting into the internet boom. By not putting as many resources into online content, newspapers fell behind purely online publications when it comes to where readers look for content online. Now the industry is playing catch up.

Another public affairs journalism issue is whether readers will be willing to pay for online content that they are so used to getting for free. The online content consumer is not used to paying for news online. The change will most likely meet resistance from consumers.  There would have to be a large scale shift into premium content, on multiple fronts, for the general public to accept the change. Newspapers will also have to incentivize online content with extra features, such as video.

What are your thoughts? Did the newspaper industry go online too late? Do you believe the new paywall model will be successful? Would you pay for news content online?  If not, what features could be added online to increase your willingness to pay?


Poor Journalism by 60 Minutes

A recent episode of 60 Minutes on the nation of Qatar was imprecise and disrespectful to both the nation and the legitimacy of journalism

To begin the series of unfortunate mishaps, Bob Simon, who was covering the story, mispronounced the name of the nation of Qatar. Did the producers not catch the mispronunciation, or did they just approach the mistake with a potato/po-totto dismissal? The least a reporter can do is pronounce the name of their topic correctly. Comments by those online about the mispronunciation dismissed the fault, as if the name of the topic being focused on should be disregarded.

Simon then goes on to report about the Al Jazeera, Qatar’s dominant news source, and how “it does something unprecedented in the Arab world. It covers the news.” This comment is very disrespectful to those risking their lives daily to cover news in Arab countries such as Syria and Iraq.

Although Simon was trying to describe how unique Al Jazeera is through his comment, he took unnecessary extents to prove his point. Was it fair for Simon to discredit the work of other journalists in order to prove his point?

Simon’s story was doomed after he pronounced the name Qatar wrong, but failed after he indirectly stated that nations in the Arab world fail to report news.

NBC Implements Sexual Assault Training

NBC has implemented a training course concerning the threat of sexual assault on journalists. Last February, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was sexually assaulted in Cairo. This “brought the issue into sharp focus, prompting journalists worldwide to begin speaking out in numbers previously unknown,” said Lauren Wolfe about the Logan case in her Committee to Protect Journalists special.

Logan detailed her own assault on “60 minutes”  and she encouraged journalists with similar tales to break their “code of silence.” During Lauren Wolfe’s CPJ special, she interviewed many journalists who did step forward. Over two dozen reporters stated they had been sexually violated in some way while covering the news, five of which admitted to have been “brutally raped,” said Wolfe.

This story is relevant to our Public Affairs Journalism class because cases such as Lara Logan’s have spurred a serious concern in the journalism community. This new awareness of the threat sexual violence poses in news reporting has made such a profound impact recently that “NBC  has consulted with a social worker who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder to create a pilot course aimed at preventing and dealing with sexual assault,” says Wolfe on her website, “Women Under Seige Project”.

NBC has taken matters upon itself to train journalists in the event of a sexual attack. While the Chairman of CBS, Jeff Fager, has stated that CBS will not make a mistake similar to sending Logan to Cairo. “And if we do not think we can provide enough security to feel safe? Then we will not cover the story,” says Fager.

The case of Lara Logan is certainly not the first time a journalist has been sexually assaulted on the job. However, her story has raised awareness to the dangers of being a journalist in a hostile environment.

Should all news organizations begin to implement training like NBC? Does a journalist’s duty as our democracy’s watchdog override the importance of their safety?

Racism, or a mistake

Jeremy Lin has emerged as the breakout star of the NBA, this year. Sports journalists have flocked to this all-American story. Here’s the thing, though. Lin’s an Asian-American.

And many reporters have been caught using racially-tinged language. This has raised the journalism issue of reporting stories without bias. As journalists, we shouldn’t report on one race differently than another race. That is what is happening with Lin.

ESPN apologized three times last week for using the term, “Chink in the armor.” One of these instances ended in one of the reporters being suspended for 30 days and another was fired. I understand being wary of using racial terms. However, I don’t believe a reporter should be fired for accidentally using one word.

That sets a preposterous standard.

I could understand if a reporter used the word as an intentional slur, but the word “chink” is an English word with an alternative meaning. At some point, you must give benefit of the doubt.

The organization could look at the fact that most people don’t really care. Lin’s own Xanga name was “ChinkBalla88,” and he made that himself.

Organizations should lighten up on journalists who accidentally step over the line.


What do you all think about the issue of unintentional racism in the media?

The hits just keep on coming for News Corp.

By Maria Torres

Yesterday, the wife of Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, filed a lawsuit against News Corp.

Cherie Blair’s lawyer, Graham Atkins, told the Associated Press by email that that she is suing “in relation to the unlawful interception of her voicemails.”

This latest action against Rupert Murdoch’s News International joins a string of lawsuits accusing the organization of hacking. When word got out in July that News of the World hacked the phone of a murdered schoolgirl, Murdoch shut down the tabloid in order to save face. But all that did was cast suspicion on how News of the World obtained information people had assumed was private.

Tony Blair’s former spokesman, Alastair Campbell, always wondered how the 1999 story of Cherie Blair’s pregnancy was leaked. He had assumed one of her friends told the media. After the News of the World shutdown, he released a written testimony last year in which “he said he was ‘now certain that I was mistaken in my belief,’ leaving open the possibility that the newspaper had received the information by listening in on Cherie Blair’s messages.”

The News International hacking scandal has grown into an even wider issue now that Cherie Blair is accusing the organization for that violation of privacy. The AP article says that Blair is “one of the most high-profile people to have challenged Murdoch’s News International”.

Sixty cases against News Corp. have thus far been settled outside of court. Police estimate that lawsuits may still be brought by more than 800 possible victims.

The issues here not only have to do with credibility but also with ethics.

Journalists are supposed to report the most accurate version of the truth. But how far as they supposed to go in order to do that?

It is clearly unethical — not to mention illegal — to hack into anything. What could have possessed those News of the World reporters stoop to such levels? There are many more tools for them to have used in order to get information.

Now that this scandal is climbing to unthinkable heights, everyone will have reason to doubt any assertions made by the media. What other choice do they have when it has been proven that the media can and will hack into voicemails for the sake of getting a story?

So, has the News International hacking scandal ruined the credibility of the entire journalistic world?

Where do war reporters draw the line between safety and responsibility?

Two journalists and seven activists were killed in Syria after rockets destroyed the house they were using as a media center.

Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times in Britain and award-winning French photographer Rémi Ochlik were covering the war in the oppressed town of Homs, Syria.

The American-born Colvin has been reporting on the front lines of war for the Sunday Times for nearly 20 years. The attack was not the first injury she sustained while in the field. She lost her eye in 2001 during an ambush in Sri Lanka.

Sadly enough, Colvin was supposed to return home Tuesday, according to her mother, but stayed to complete an unfinished story.

“She had a story she felt was very important,” Rosemarie Colvin said, adding that her daughter had spoken yesterday with her editor who ordered her to leave because it was so dangerous, according to CBS News. “She would take one more day. She was totally dedicated to getting the story straight and getting it out.”

The shocking murders pose a serious query to how far journalists should take their coverage of war, especially when reporting directly on the scene while surrounded by deadly turmoil. It’s something Marie Colvin reflected upon before her tragic demise.

“We always have to ask ourselves whether the level of risk is worth the story,” Colvin said. “What is bravery and what is bravado?”

War reporting is unlike any other, where it is equally as important as any other news because the outcome could affect the lives of many.  The media cannot succumb to terrorist stipulation, which appears to be to ‘go away or else.’

The world needs reporters like Colvin and Olchik, who were willing to get the story at any and all costs. They could be of a dying breed though, as more are killed in action, like the battling soldiers, serving their duty.

How do we as journalists ensure our own safety while in the field? What steps can we take to avoid tragedies like this, yet still obtain and report the information readers need?


Innovation Journalism- Thinking outside the beat

A relatively new movement, innovation journalism, or ‘InJo’, is surfacing a fresh face in the journalism world.  Although InJo has achieved recognition by a few high caliber publications, the New York Times for example, its almost universal applicability and lack of a distinct traditional category cause it to be inconsistently published.  Because it does not fit neatly within an exclusive beat, innovation journalism can be thought of as ‘horizontal’- meaning it incorporates elements spanning from a variety of beats; politics, technology, environment, etc.

Perhaps one of the most prominent advocates for the idea of innovation journalism is Stanford, as the University has held an innovation journalism conference annually since 2004.   The conference features several speakers and discussion topics related to the relevance of innovation journalism, from current to potential usefulness.

In addition the conference, Stanford University hosts an innovation journalism blog, and several other innovation journalism blogs can be found on the web.  These blogs feature multi-facted topics on innovations within a variety of beats, using elements that are characteristic of InJo, such as creativity.

Although it likely has a substantial while of development to undergo before becoming closer to being a regular part of newspapers, innovation journalism’s potential has been recognized and its future has been speculated.

What kind of place will innovation journalism have in the public affairs news world…  Will it become its own beat, remain an element of several beats as more of a reporting style, perhaps die off all together?  Should we put effort into understanding and developing it, or dismiss it as another short-lived journalism fad?