Reuters blog archive

from Jack Shafer:

Twitter panic in the newsroom

 A person holds a magnifying glass over a computer screen displaying Twitter logos

With the exception of a well-drafted libel suit, nothing fills the underwear of the modern newsroom editor with liquid panic faster than social media, especially Twitter. Having invested millions of dollars and countless man-hours to erecting sturdy news standards based on fairness and impartiality, they fear that one 140-character message by an editorial employee will ravage the entire edifice.

The panic-fluids ran hot over at NPR this week after a blogger on the network's education team tweeted, "I reach out to diverse sources on deadline. Only the white guys get back to me :(" The blogger apologized, and to her credit did not place her tweet in the burn bag. Mark Memmott, the network's Standards & Practices supervising editor, issued a memo to remind the staff of NPR's social media policy, which he boiled down to this: "If you wouldn't say it on the air, don't say it on the Web."

Personal comments on Twitter or Facebook "can reflect on NPR and raise questions about our ability to be objective," Memmott wrote. Citing NPR's Ethics Handbook, he asserted that "nothing on the Web is truly private," and that even retweets were suspect -- and to be avoided! -- because they can be viewed as endorsements.

The Associated Press maintains a similarly restrictive social media policy, as the Poynter Institute's Sam Kirkland reports, urging its staffers to avoid tweets or retweets that could be interpreted as expressing an opinion or approval. Nor does a disclaimer in one's Twitter bio that retweets don't equal endorsement provide any indemnity for an AP journalist. Similarly, Reuters warns in its editorial handbook of the threat social media poses to the company's "hard-earned reputation for independence and freedom from bias." Even clicking a "like" button can potentially compromise the company's standards, it warns. "[B]efore you tweet or post, consider how what you're doing will reflect on your professionalism and our collective reputation," the handbook instructs.

from The Human Impact:

Careless social media use can endanger journalist sources – NPR’s Andy Carvin

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Andy Carvin, social media strategist at National Public Radio (NPR), was part of a panel discussion on authoritarianism and social media at "Reporting on International Security and Terrorism" in Istanbul.

from The Observatory:

Muller’s media circus

UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller was all over the media last week talking about his “total turnaround” from global-warming skeptic to adherent of the longstanding scientific consensus that the planet is heating up.

The question is: Did he deserve the attention?

The frenzy started with an op-ed published in The New York Times, in which Muller explained why he now believes that “humans are almost entirely the cause” of rising temperatures. At the same time, his team at the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, which he founded three years ago, published five papers on its website laying out the research that caused his conversion. According to the analysis, average world land temperature has climbed 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past 250 years, and about 0.9 degrees in the past 50 years.

from The Observatory:

The bright-young-things hypothesis

The downward spiral of Jonah Lehrer’s career over the last month has shocked his peers and instilled in them a visceral need to understand. Following the revelations of self-plagiarism, outright fabrication, and lying to cover his tracks, we were bewildered. How could such a seemingly talented journalist, and only 31 years old, have thrown it all away?

One theory, proffered by Salon’s Roxane Gay, is that “there is a cult of bright young things, a cultural obsession with genius, a need to find beacons of greatness in an ordinary world.” According to her piece:

from Jack Shafer:

When editors bury that which cannot die

When Tom Waits sang, "You can't unring a bell," on the album One From the Heart, he was saying that even if we shove all of life's mistakes and embarrassments down the memory hole, they still ding-a-ling-ding-ding from the beyond.

For reasons mysterious, not all media outlets have gotten that message. Yesterday, Poynter's Steve Myers reported that NPR erased from its website an entire story about a Kabul execution by contributor Ahmad Shafi that was plagiarized in part from a Jason Burke piece in the March 2001 edition of the London Review of Books. NPR replaced the Web page with an editor's note explaining the copy theft, but deleted the story.

from Entrepreneurial:

NPR looks at crowdfunded athletes

The big business of sports may have a new challenger. Endorsement deals, giant salaries, big name sponsorships -- this is what we’ve come to expect when we watch our favorite teams compete at their huge stadiums broadcast on major television networks. But what about the lesser-known, lesser-viewed sports? And the athletes who don’t have broad appeal and access to these sorts of lucrative deals? How do they support their athletic hopes?

That’s the subject of a Mike Pesca’s report on NPR's Morning Edition: Olympic Runners Find Unique Ways To Raise Funds. A few athletes are changing the way they get paid to compete. For Anthony Famiglietti, a steeplechase runner, the reason for looking for alternative sponsorships was fairly simple. None of the shoes produced by shoe companies willing to sponsor him fit comfortably. He literally could not compete in their products. So he tapped into the crowd, raising smaller amounts of money and offering advertising space on his running uniform to bidders.

from Breakingviews:

NPR needs new funding model

By Jeffrey Goldfarb and James Ledbetter, Breakingviews columnists

Impolitic remarks and political pressure have landed U.S. public radio in trouble. Vivian Schiller, the chief executive of National Public Radio, resigned over comments by an underling. Meanwhile, House Republicans passed a budget eliminating federal cash for the vehicle that helps fund the broadcaster. The government should support the arts, especially relatively inexpensive and popular ones like NPR. All things considered, though, it may be time for a new approach.

The sting video that caught NPR's chief fundraiser criticizing Tea Party activists would never have led to the ouster of the CEO of a commercial media organization. But NPR is held to an almost unattainable standard of objectivity and must appeal regularly to a coterie of legislators whose animosity toward it is deep. Nevertheless, its audience for news shows including "Morning Edition" is well over 20 million a week, larger than that of any cable TV program and all but a handful of hit network shows.

from MediaFile:

Looking beyond Schiller’s signoff from NPR

Here we go again. In February, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a budget that would eliminate federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That event tells you everything you need to know about the resignation this morning of NPR president and chief executive office Vivian Schiller. Yes, her underling Robert Schiller (no relation) embarrassed the organization by making some politically inexpedient remarks about the Tea Party, Republicans,and some more arcane issues, all captured on tape by conservative activists.

But at the average media organization, the “gotcha” video moment would likely have passed without the CEO’s resignation. Public radio is not the average media organization. It is held to an almost certainly unobtainable standard of objectivity, while commercial radio has thrived in recent decades by cultivating the most extreme political voices. It has a significantly larger audience than public television, yet receives a much smaller amount of public funding. And in order to further survival in its current form, it’s forced to regularly appeal to a relatively small number of legislators whose animosity toward it is deep and very public.

from Tales from the Trail:

Salmon ‘chanted evening?

SALMONThe one word that leaped out of President Obama's State of the Union address to Congress wasn't "optimism," "business," "teachers," "economy" or "budget."

To those who listened to the speech on National Public Radio, the memorable term was "salmon," writ large in a word cloud NPR compiled from its listeners after Obama finished.

from Tales from the Trail:

Healthcare reconciliation: easier said than explained

The process intricacies that go into lawmaking can stump the hardiest of congressional watchers.

Now that Democrats may decide to use reconciliation to get healthcare legislation passed in Congress, everyone has been scrambling for the easiest possible explanation. OBAMA/