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Another student question....Media Ethics

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by farmerjerome, Jun 13, 2006.

  1. farmerjerome

    farmerjerome Active Member

    My school career is quickly coming to an end, and I'm trying to figure out what to write for one of my final papers.

    As the topic suggests, I'm taking a media ethics class. I'm writing a paper on ethical concerns at small papers.

    One of the main themes in the paper has to do with journalists who want to spend most of their career at one paper (an increasingly dying breed). Do these journalists sometimes back off a bit because their homers? Or because they're trying to make connections in an area they're planning to be in for a long time? On the flip side, are journalists who are using papers as a stepping stone apt to be more negative because they don't give a fuck?

    What? Crickets chirping?

    Feel free to post some alternate topics.
  2. Monday Morning Sportswriter

    Monday Morning Sportswriter Well-Known Member

    How to balance objective reporting with hard-lined commentary when it's the same person in charge of both. An editor with a staff of 12 no doubt has to edit the newspaper as well as the editorial page. How can you assign a reporter to write about an issue and then edit their work only to turn around and fire off an opinion about the issue?

    How small newspapers with small staffs deal with the pressure to share with advertising. In 12 months with a small daily, I have been asked to have staffers write advertorial stories, have been asked to run sources by the advertising department to ensure we're not writing about a company that owes us money, have been told that new business profiles can only be for new advertisers, and have been told to give the advertising department copies of our budgets for special sections so they can find new advertising leads.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Another idea that we are seeing more of is that as the concerns over profits/stock prices seem to mount and the push as many papers is to "brand" the papers on web sites, do the walls between editorial and advertising start coming down a little more or get holes poked in them?
  4. wickedwritah

    wickedwritah Guest

    MMSW -- not trying to out you or your situation, but what was your answer to thise situations?

    At my last stop, I had to write what basically were advertorial stories -- big advertiser opening new offices, etc. And it was accepted. That was life at a 15k (at least this one in particular).
  5. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    One thing...probably been beaten to death, but always pops up...is the ethics primarily at small to midsize papers who end up with a semi-decent gig (DII college, semi-pro hockey, things like that), and once they hit playoff time (national championshp), they offer to carry the reporter along on the charter flight, etc...
    And this is the only way the paper will be able to afford to send the guy.
  6. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    "They... are not... ASKING." :eek: :eek:
  7. farmerjerome

    farmerjerome Active Member

    Thanks for the advice guys, keep them coming.
  8. OTD

    OTD Well-Known Member

    Working at a smaller paper, you also run into the problem it being more likely to encounter people involved with your stories. I had this when I started in the business--if you print something unflattering about someone, chances are you might run into that person in line at the IGA. You're more likely to do this the longer you've been in an area. Since most people prefer to be liked by their neighbors, this can create problems when you're trying to be objective.

    The solution, of course, is to get a job in NY or LA. Then you'll never run into anyone you know.
  9. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    why would you ever be worried about pissing somebody off? every now and then we're supposed to ask a hard question and write about it.

    believe it or not, back when i was starting out as a writer -- at a small daily -- i was agressive because i thought the reader deserved to know the truth. now i don't write so much and don't feel it's my job to stir the pot ... i sure do expect the folks who are writers at my paper now to seek out the truth, though. if you can't ask a hard question, i sure don't want you on staff.
  10. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    It's called "maintaining a relationship with your sources." If you piss enough people off, or piss off the wrong people, you ain't gonna have many people left who will return your calls. Then you can't do your job. It's also called "choosing your battles." You can't ask the hard questions on every, minor detail of a meaningless (or relatively minor) story and then expect to get any answers from that source when the big story is going down a month later.

    Of course, if you're only going to be there for six months ... ahh, don't worry about it so much. But if you're there for a year or more, you're going to want to have people respect you -- and more importantly, return your calls.
  11. Monday Morning Sportswriter

    Monday Morning Sportswriter Well-Known Member

    Dealing with the objectivity issue is easy for me -- I stay away from editorial page decisions. But I wouldn't be comfortable writing the editorials for stories I ordered up.

    As for dealing with advertising, this is what largely worked for me: I threatened to quit.

    That helped for a little while.

    I flat-out said I would resign before having anyone write, edit or design something because an advertiser had given us money. We forged a bit of a compromise that I still wasn't comfortable with, but it was a step in the right direction. I basically found the advertising department some free-lancers (free-lancers who I wouldn't want writing for me) and they pay them about $100 per story (easy money!). And the ad layout folks would deal with the layouts.

    The one part of that I wasn't able to fully fix was photography. Occasionally, the photogs would be told to shoot for an ad -- in fact, the incident that made me aware of the problem involved a four-hour job, and I was livid. My proposal was to send some unused hours to advertising to have them hire a free-lancer with their own equipment, but that got nixed by the guy above me. Instead, I swallowed hard and got the chief photographer to agree to only have part-timers handle advertising assignments. If someone had to do it, I didn't want it to be the young, impressionable photographers

    As for the business profiles being open only to advertising, I blocked that pipeline from advertising to us. I said that we would profile whoever we feel is interesting to our readership. The ad department was free to make suggestions, but our department would make the decisions. The ad department whined, but I won that one.

    As for giving special section budgets to the advertising department, I was later told that I misunderstood the request, by my boss, who has never admitted to making a mistake, especially after being confronted with an ethical dilemma (he's the guy who told me, before I started, that there were no links between advertising and the newsroom, and then lied when asked about specific inidents.). I am certain I didn't misunderstand, and the e-mail in which my boss requested it was pretty damning.

    (Worth noting that my boss also denied that all of these advertising problems were happening, and when confronted, he found excuses for every one of them)

    How did I handle that one?

    I gave advertising the budget and told my boss to start looking for my replacement.

    Problem solved. For me, anyway.
  12. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    I wouldn't worry about that, you've left enough idiotic and worthless posts here that nobody that reads them would want to be on your staff.
    Boy, I can't wait for the witty and cunning response to this one. ::)
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