Tag Archives: The Guardian

Weeding Out Toxic Commentary

Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. finds a way to weed out toxic commentary: Take a quiz.

Many large media organizations eliminated their comment sections because of abusive commentary, writes Steve Friess. The Guardian, for example, last year closed comments under articles on race, immigration and Islam because they attract “unacceptable levels of toxic commentary.”

A short quiz on the contents of a story, the Norwegian brainstorm, unlocks access to the comments section.

“We wanted to create a bump in the road to make people think a bit before ranting away,” a source tells Friess.

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Deciding on Corrections or Clarifications

Correcting “significant errors:” The Guardian’s readers’ editor tells how he decides if an error needs a correction or clarification, using six criteria.

“Seriousness of any potential harm” tops the list, followed by “consequences if item misunderstood.”

“Human frailty plays its part,” writes the editor. “People can mishear, misunderstand, misread, mistype and overlook. People cut corners and sometimes crash.”

Staged Photos Darken the Fog of War

Fox News screen shot of Brussels photographer posing girl. Photo by James Pomerantz
Fox News screen shot of Brussels photographer posing girl. Photo by James Pomerantz

By Casey Bukro

War is famously shrouded in a fog that journalists are supposed to penetrate.

Since war correspondents and photographers sometimes risk their lives in combat zones, you’d think they’d want to get it right. Otherwise, it’s just propaganda.

In that case, the fog just gets thicker. But it is a way to make a buck as media cut staff and rely on freelancers.

The recent Brussels bombings is an example. A 21-year-old Palestinian photographer triggered strong social media reactions. When a Fox News video showed him posing a girl at a makeshift memorial, an outcry arose against the unethical practice of staging photographs.

The Guardian, a British national newspaper, identified the photographer as Khaled Al Sabbah, who lives in Brussels and has won photography awards for his work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The newspaper also quoted Michael Kamber, a former New York Times staff photographer and founder of the Bronx Documentary Center, after he saw the video.

“It’s one more example of a photographer doing something that destroys public trust in the media,” said Kamber.

Continue reading Staged Photos Darken the Fog of War

CBC Acts Fast, NBC Acts Slow

By Casey Bukro

Consider the differences in the way Canadian and United States broadcasting officials reacted when their star performers got into trouble.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation swiftly fired political anchor Evan Solomon, one of the biggest names in Canadian journalism, for moonlighting as a fine arts broker.

NBC is still trying to decide what to do about high-profile anchor Brian Williams, who was suspended for six months in February for saying he was aboard a helicopter over Iraq that was forced down by enemy fire, which proved untrue. Reports say Williams’ lawyer is making negotiations “excruciating” for NBC as it tries to decide what to do with Williams.

The comparison is interesting because both Solomon and Williams have been described as among the biggest media names in their countries.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, officially known as CBC/Radio-Canada, serves as the National Public Radio and Television broadcaster.

CBC acted swiftly after the Toronto Star reported that, for commissions of about 10 percent, Solomon had been working with a Toronto art collector and had earned at least $300,000 over two years, and believed he was entitled to another $1 million.

Solomon had disclosed to CBC in April that a production company he owned with his wife had a business partnership with an art dealer that would not conflict with his CBC News work.

After an independent investigation, CBC/Radio-Canada CEO Hubert Lacroix said Solomon was fired to protect “the integrity of the content and the journalism that we make.”

Reaction at CBC reportedly was mixed with anger and frustration, in part because of other ethics issues that had surfaced in the past. Some called it a “disproportionate response” and Solomon could appeal.

Tim Bousquet, editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner, called what Solomon did a “crime against journalism.”

CBC’s sensitivity to ethical lapses no doubt was heightened by the earlier downfall of another CBC star, Jian Ghomeshi, who was fired for rough sex with women. He is facing trial on charges of sexual assault and choking.

The Guardian quoted critics who said the broadcaster’s decision to “groom celebrity journalists” led to a “corrosive culture” of stars with tremendous power and little self-restraint. Said one: “When you create these celebrities, you create monsters.”

Meanwhile, the Brian Williams case drags on. After suspending Williams, NBC reportedly found other instances where the anchor had exaggerated his involvement in events. Williams had apologized for the helicopter event, after military sources pointed out that Williams was not riding in a helicopter that was forced down by enemy fire.

“This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position,” Deborah Turness, president of NBC News, said in a memo.

The outcome remains to be seen. The suspension ends in August.

Nothing so far has been finalized in the Williams affair, reported columnist Lisa de Moraes, calling it a media cliffhanger.

The case drew attention from The New York Times. It said the episode “has called into question not only the credibility of Mr. Williams but also the ethics and culture of NBC News.”

Politico media writer Jack Shafer writes that Williams knows he’s dead, but is negotiating the terms of his burial.

In Vanity Fair, correspondent Bryan Burrough says the newsman is too damaged to return to the anchor’s desk. Burrough toyed with possibilities for a return.

Clearly, there are cultural and historical differences between Canada and the United States, as anyone who has traveled the two countries can attest. But maybe it’s possible to generalize and say that among the similarities between the two countries, which are fast allies, is a faith in media ethics. The details usually are messy, but ethics matters.

Sacked in Turkey

By Casey Bukro

Ombudsmen in journalism are seen as scolds, nit-pickers, snitches and nuisances — if they do the job right.

People are paid for doing that job right, and sometimes they are fired for the same reason.

The most recent example is Yavuz Baydar, who was the ombudsman for the Turkish  newspaper Sabah. He was criticizing the government and his newspaper, and management decided that either he desist or find work elsewhere.

Baydar was quoted in The Guardian newspaper that his “sacking” was an attack not just on journalism, but on Turkish democracy and freedom of expression.

There are echoes in this from the departure of Patrick Pexton as the Washington Post’s last ombudsman — a job title that had lasted 43 years at the Post.

An ombudsman works on behalf of the public, and keeps an eye on their organization’s ethical standards and relationship with its audience.

In his own departure remarks, printed in the Washington Post, Pexton said “the power of truth is the power to humble governments, to obtain justice, to foil hypocrisy, to help the downtrodden, to reveal the world as it is, not as we might like it to be.”

Baydar’s ousting was noticed worldwide, causing commentary on the difficult role of ombudsmen and shedding light on journalism in Turkey.

Baydar is fighting back, saying he “will take the firing decision to court.”