Opinion

The Great Debate

from The Great Debate UK:

Past and present: a correspondent in Iraq

Tim Cocks-Tim Cocks is a Reuters correspondent in Iraq.-

This month we reported that the number of civilians dying violent deaths in Iraq had hit a fresh low since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion -- about 125 for September.

Sounds like a lot, but for a country that only two years ago was seeing dozens of bodies pile up in the streets each day from tit-for-tat sectarian killing, it was definitely progress.

And as I prepare to end my assignment in Iraq this week, I need no argument from numbers to convince me that things are better here than when I arrived in Feb. 2008.

During my first few months, militants loyal to to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were raising hell in Baghdad, firing mortars and rockets at the Green Zone almost every hour. We could hear or feel them thud on impact, especially when they fell short, on our side of the Tigris.

A rocket hit the BBC building opposite us, causing a blast loud enough to shake our windows, although thankfully no one at the BBC was hurt by the strike.

from The Great Debate UK:

Google juice dampens news headlines

Mic Wright

- Mic Wright is Online News Editor at Stuff. The views expressed are his own -

Google juice – it sure isn't tasty but it is vital for anyone writing news online. The slightly irksome term refers to the mysterious combination of keywords and linking that will drag a webpage to the top of Google's search pages.

While the exact way Google's search algorithm works is largely a mystery to outsiders, news sites know it's vital to write headlines stuffed with the keywords that the search engine seeks out.

Online, the perfect punning headlines created by The Sun newspaper's super sub-editors just won't cut it. News stories on the web are all about the facts and the most successful sites are constantly checking to see what keywords will send you soaring up the Google search rankings. If you story isn't on the front page, it's not getting clicks, the less clicks you get the less likely it is that your advertisers' ads are going to get seen.

from The Great Debate UK:

Free may be a radical price, but is it progressive?

padraig_reidy-Padraig Reidy is news editor at Index on Censorship. The opinions expressed are his own.-

Mainstream consumer media is, it is agreed, in trouble. The idea of paying for one or two newspapers a day is now confined, it seems, to quaintly old-fashioned types who boast of their ignorance of the Internet, or business who actually need the information in the pages of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Wire services’ content is processed so fast by subscribers that one can barely spot the time difference. Local newspapers are seeing their stock in trade diminished. When one’s entire life is catalogued on Facebook and Flickr, there’s little thrill in having your picture in the local paper, or indeed huge necessity in publishing births, deaths and marriages. And why place a classified ad in a newspaper, when we have eBay and Gumtree?

from For the Record:

Citizen journalism, mainstream media and Iran

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The recent election in Iran was one of the more dramatic stories this year, with powerful images of protests and street-fighting dominating television and online coverage.

Because traditional news organizations were essentially shut down by the authorities, it fell to citizen journalists -- many of whom were among the protesters -- to provide the images that the world would see, using such social media as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

from For the Record:

Flu outbreak: Walking the line between hyping and helping

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

There’s nothing like a disease outbreak to highlight the value of the media in alerting and informing the public in the face of an emergency.

There’s also nothing like it to bring out some of our more excessive behavior, essentially shouting “Run for your lives! (but, whatever you do, stay tuned, keep reading the website and don't forget to buy the paper!).”

from For the Record:

After the warm glow, telling the cold, hard truths

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The president was inaugurated in front of adoring crowds and positive reviews in the media. As the unpopular incumbent sat on the platform with him, the new Democratic chief executive took office as the nation faced a crippling economic crisis. The incoming president was a charismatic figure who had run a brilliant campaign and had handled the press with aplomb. The media were ready to give him a break.

That was 1933, and in Franklin Roosevelt’s case, the media gave him a break.

For Barack Obama, the honeymoon was shorter.

Less than 36 hours after Obama took the oath of office, the White House denied news photographers access to the new president’s do-over swearing in, instead releasing official White House photos of the event. Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse protested and refused to distribute the official photos (which nevertheless showed up on the websites of a number of large U.S. newspapers).

from For the Record:

Reporting in Gaza: Striving for fairness

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Let’s say it up front: Almost all of you will find something in this column to take issue with.

That’s because the subject is the conflict in Gaza and perceptions of bias in reporting on it. News consumers detect media bias on any number of subjects, but there is nothing like the continuing Mideast conflict to bring out the passions of partisans on all sides.

from Tales from the Trail:

Is honeymoon with Obama over already?

obama-boards-planeU.S. President-elect Barack Obama's 12-day vacation in Hawaii exposed tensions with the media that presage a possible combative relationship between a Democratic Obama White House and mainstream U.S. news organizations, which were often accused by Republicans of being too soft on him during the election campaign.

In short, the media organizations are pushing for greater access. They were annoyed that he appeared in public places on several occasions during the holiday without his traveling media pool, which by long-standing agreement between successive White Houses and the major news organizations always shadows presidents and presidents-elect.

The Obama camp, in turn, appeared irritated by criticism by some media outlets that the president-elect had deliberately ditched the pool the day after Christmas, when he took his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, to see a dolphin show. Aides said it was an honest mistake and blamed a breakdown in communication.

from Reuters Editors:

Typewriters, Technology and Trust

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

A little girl in my family got a typewriter for Christmas.

Not a laptop. Nothing with a screen. A typewriter. The old-fashioned manual kind with a smeary ribbon and keys that stick.

Typewriters had pretty much gone the way of dodo birds, car tail fins and cigar-chomping editors who yell “Stop the Presses” quite some years before my granddaughter was born. But it was the typewriter used by the school-age, aspiring journalist in the movie “Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" that captivated her.

from Reuters Editors:

And the band played on: covering the economic crisis

dean-150I recently visited one of the most frightening sites on the Web—the place where I look at my shrinking retirement account.

As I calculated the investment loss since the steep decline in the markets began, and particularly since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September, some questions arose (in addition to: Will I ever be able to retire?).

--Did we in the media do our job in reporting on the run-up to the crisis?

--Now that an “official” recession has been declared in the U.S. and the depth of the crisis is becoming clearer around the world, are we in the media keeping things in perspective? Should we even be using words like “crisis” or “meltdown?”

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