Ethics puzzler; you decide: Three California universities paid the Orange County Register $275.000 for a year’s worth of weekly sections featuring campus life. A smart way to raise revenue, or a serious breach of journalism ethics? From the Ethics AdviceLine for Journalists archives.
High court favors secrecy: In a blow to freedom of information, the U.S. Supreme court expanded the federal definition of what can be deemed confidential, the Argus Leader reports.
“At issue was whether confidentiality, as used in a section of the Freedom of Information Act, means anything intended to be kept secret or only information likely to cause harm if publicized,” writes the Argus Leader, which began the case with an FOI request in 2011.
SF police sow suspicion of media: The heavy-handed seizure of a freelance reporter’s records and devices is a gross violation of federal rules, writes Kelly McBride.
“By continuing to argue publicly that their raid was justified, and that this particular journalist is a bad person who shouldn’t be trusted, the SFPD adds to the public confusion over the role of the press,” she writes.
Saving local newspapers: Dwindling local news leads to partisan political polarization write Joshua P. Darr, Johanna Dunaway and Matthew P. Hitt.
“Local newspapers provide a valuable service to democracy by keeping readers’ focus on their communities,” they write. “When they lose local newspapers, we have found, readers turn to their political partisanship to inform their political choices.”
Morality clauses: Writers find them in their contracts, writes Judith Shulevitz, but “immorality is a slippery concept,” like “public disrepute.” The public is fickle in what it takes umbrage at.
“Times change, norms change with them. Morality clauses hand the power to censor to publishers, not the government, so they don’t violate the constitutional right to free speech. But that power is still dangerous.”
Journalism entry points disappear: Digital-media start-up Mic crashes and burns, writes Margaret Sullivan.
“With the tragic demise of local newspapers, places like Mic have become the entry point into the craft for a lot of young journalists,” she writes. “As they go under, such entry points disappear.”
Denying coverage to Nazis: An Arkansas television station thinks about the news value in covering a Nazi rally, then decides to “give them silence,” writes Al Tompkins.
News director learns the protestors are not local, protesting an issue of no local importance.
Lagging Freedom of Information Act: Passed in 1966, but “it’s more difficult than ever to pry loose documents about the federal government”, writes C.J. Ciaramella.
Roughly 800,000 FOIA requests were made in 2017. A record number were denied or censored in the first year of the Trump administration. Ciaramella calls the act “a wheezing, arthritic artifact of more optimistic times.”
Reporters making statements: CNN’s Jim Acosta lost press credentials after questions for Trump ended with a statement, note Al Tompkins and Kelly McBride.
“Ask tough questions, avoid making statements or arguing during a press event and report the news, don’t become the news,” they write.
Covering elections: The Reporters Committee For Freedom Of The Press offers an election legal guide.
“Generally, the First Amendment protects journalists’ right to gather news outside of polling places for the purpose of reporting on early election results,” says the exit polling guideline.