Archive | March, 2012

Case Study 7.1: Credibility in Twitter journalism

20 Mar

By:Gabriela Gonzalez

It was the same event, except BBC’s story was twice the length of the RTE News story. What was the difference? BBC was getting input from people and “witnesses” in the city via Twitter about the grenade attack in Liege, Belgium. The entire BBC story is filled with attributions such as: “media say,” “witnesses say,” “earlier reports,” “medical staff,” and “people were told,” but it doesn’t say who said what specifically. The BBC story is filled with details that are unconfirmed, and may not be true because people can post whatever they want on Twitter. Someone may make something a lot more dramatic than it really is. Using audience input that has not been verified could put your publication’s credibility on the line.

RTE News gave the facts as did The New York Times. Their stories were concise and gave the only confirmed information which was an estimate of how many had died. RTE News used police and television footage for its account of what happened.

According to Red66, about 23 newspapers from around the world used Twitter in 2008. About 16 radio and television stations, including BBC in multiple languages, used Twitter in 2008. It is probably safe to say a lot more today use Twitter.

By having the public interact with them and contribute to news, the news organization also shares and promotes its own work. Twitter is excellent because people can update about things that happen instantly, for example, natural disasters. It calls itself in some instances a “newswire.”

ReadWriteWeb said Twitter is a quick way to get assured information. It is debatable whether the information is truly so accurate.

Despite potential lack of credibility, according to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism studied 13 news organizations from print, TV and radio and found, “Mainstream news organizations primarily use Twitter to move information and push content to readers.”

When news outlets use Twitter it is important for the news outlet to verify and check the information before it is included in pieces of journalism. The key values of journalism are accuracy, fairness, transparency, professional responsibility and independence. Journalists and news organizations must never compromise those values. It is only through the journalist taking the time to fact check that the comments and contributions made through Twitter actually contribute something to the news organization and journalism itself.

It is better to have a one-sentence story and have it be accurate, than one that is three pages long and filled with inaccuracies.

Case Study 7: Ethics of Twitter journalism and people watching

19 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Twitter has encouraged a new kind of literary journalism.

The Andy Boyle report on the couple breaking up, ‘The Restaurant of Broken Dreams,” was fascinating. It is nothing we all haven’t walked by or witnessed ourselves. If we were to record bits of every conversation we hear while walking, riding the bus or going to the restroom, we would have so many interesting stories.

One time I was in the bathroom and I heard an entire conversation about a girl’s embarrassment when her atheist boyfriend decided to show up at her Methodist church, and he noisily walked in when they were in the middle of prayer.

I don’t think I was intruding on her privacy. Many people cite privacy as a big problem or violation in this type of journalism. My thoughts are that anything in public is free to use unless someone has an expectation of privacy. For example, if someone is on the phone and is trying to speak in hushed tones or separates themselves from a crowd in public, then obviously this person has an expectation of privacy. By law, there are other factors that determine expectation of privacy, such as the location of the person, for example, a residence or a closed items like posted mail.

If a person walks into a room talking on the phone like they are Julia Roberts or something, then obviously their conversation is like a show; something theatrical. This is free to be used because the person is not trying to withhold the information from you. The person knows there are ears all around.

Though the person may know others are listening, however, this does not mean recording is ethical. Recording is different from just hearing something in public. Recording has an extra element that is not on paper when the person who hears it records it. With a sound bite, a person’s voice is recorded and this means the person can be more easily identified. This is a problem if you have not asked the person for permission because it may be illegal in the state in which you live.

Photos were a bit much in this piece. A photo of the couple is creepy. A photo of the restaurant and where they were sitting is not. The couple knew people were watching them, and they game Boyle a show, so he took everything in a recorded it. Maybe it was wrong just for the simple fact that he was giving them the attention they wanted.

As this type of journalism grows and people make a name out of themselves for the stories they record and witness, the ethics of the whole ordeal will evolve. I don’t think what Boyle did was unethical after he took down the photo of the couple. Everything else was interesting, true and fair game. People are interesting. Things happen. Write about the moments that should not be forgotten.

And here, you see, I did it myself #UFtabernacle.

Twitter: Changing the way things work

19 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

The new tool that has aided social justice, protest, the spread of information and changed the way media works; Twitter.

What is Twitter? According to Jodi Sperber, it is a free service that allows you to send and receive messages of 140 characters or less. Each message is called a “tweet.”

Sperber also said, “The title is a play on the Hebrew phrase tikkunolam, which means ‘repairing the world.’ This concept is bound tightly to integrity within the Jewish faith, encouraging us to challenge the pursuit of money and power, and instead work toward love, kindness, generosity, peace, non-violence and social justice.”

Mathew Ingram said, “The reality is that, for all its flaws, Twitter is a publishing tool, and an increasingly powerful one. And it can be used by anyone, journalist and non-journalist alike.”

He continued saying, “In fact, earlier this year researchers looked at the flow of content on the network and found that Twitter is far more of a news medium than it is a traditional social network.”

Twitter continues what blogging started. It puts in the citizen’s hands, those formerly known as the audience, the power to publish and become a part of the discussion, he said.

Let us take a look at the power of Twitter; its strengths and weaknesses.

Strength: Mobilizes people

Twitter has been known to aid in the mobilization of people and protests. After a presidential election gone wrong in Moldova in 2009, Twitter helped mobilize 10,000 protesters. According to Ethan Zuckerman, one cannot attribute all of the Arab Spring’s success to the Internet. He said the uprising in Tunisia began long before they went to Twitter to mobilize. The only difference was that people around the world were preoccupied with other things such as protests in Iran and the shooting in Arizona.

Zuckerman said, “We’ll discover that online media did play a role in helping Tunisians learn about the actions their fellow citizens were taking and in making the decision to mobilize. How powerful and significant this influence was will be something that academics will study and argue over for years to come.”

Strength: Raising awareness and reaching a wider sphere of influence

A woman, Elaine Ellis, whose bike was stolen in Boulder, Colo., found her bike and its thief by posting a photo on Twitter, said Vanessa Miller, of the Daily Camera website.

This raised awareness and those who followed her helped her find her bike.

Miller said, “Ellis, like a growing number of today’s crime victims, decided to employ social media to help do her own detective work. Legal experts say members of the public who can navigate popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook now have access to some of the same methods law enforcement utilizes to crack cases.”

Ellis, the victim of the crime, said, “It was amazing how quick it was. I think Twitter has the potential to be the new Amber Alert for crimes because the community — in Boulder, especially — is so interested in helping out the rest of the community.”

Miller said law enforcement groups are training law enforcement officers to use social media. “Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said his office doesn’t have any major cases ‘where we don’t investigate whether there is social media evidence available to us.’”

“People tend to be unguarded on Facebook,” Garnett said. “People tend to say what they think, and that can often be helpful to the prosecution in a criminal case.”

Strength: Journalism gets a new dimension

Paul Farhi, a Washington Post reporter,  said: “Twitter can be a serious aid in reporting. It can be a living, breathing tip sheet for facts, new sources and story ideas. It can provide instantaneous access to hard-to-reach newsmakers, given that there’s no PR person standing between a reporter and a tweet to a government official or corporate executive. It can also be a blunt instrument for crowdsourcing.”

Craig Kanalley, of the Poynter Insitute, said Twitter can be used in journalism to: customize, making lists and followings lists; discovery of things you never heard about and curation or sorting by topic.

Mallary Jean Tenore’s 10 ways Twitter can help a journalist are the following: to get people to see your story, to start conversations, to give your audience a behind-the-scenes glance, to find sources and story ideas, to capture reactions, to find local sources, to look at the past, to help your audience track a story, to collaborate with others and to build your credibility.

Weakness: Fact checking required

Paul Farhi tells of a Washington Post book critic, Ron Charles, who posted this on his Twitter, from an anonymous source:  “Frequent contributor tells me the New Yorker is considering switch to biweekly or monthly. Recession pains.”

This was what happened: “I just threw it out there,” Charles said. “It was a careless, journalistically irresponsible thing to do.” Within 10 minutes, he said, “it seemed like the whole Internet went crazy. It was terrifying.”

Farhi said, “Mark Briggs answers that reporters are obligated to uphold ethical standards even while casually tweeting. ‘Whatever you put out there doesn’t have to be triple checked, but it can’t be reckless or inaccurate, either,’ he says. ‘You also have to respect other people’s work. Don’t take credit for it if it’s not yours.’”

Weakness: Politics and social media don’t mix

People are not going to the Internet for political news. Most people get their politic fix from the television news outlet. A Pew Reaserach Center for the People and the Press study showed a decline in the overall interest in the campaigns themselves. It seems no one cares, and they definitely aren’t keeping tabs on the elections through Twitter or Facebook.

Despite declining interest, Barak Obama had 100 staff working on his campaign on social media, such as Twitter, according to The Economist. This is not just a U.S. thing, but Sebastián Piñera, the newly elected president of Chile, also asked all of his cabinet members to start tweeting. So the politicians obviously think this is the way to reach the people. Pretty much all of the French presidential candidates are also tweeting.

Weakness: It exposes opinion

This may not be a general weakness, but for journalists it is. There is a big debate behind the ethics of whether Twitter reveals bias.

Mathew Ingram said to Business Week: “By pretending that their journalists don’t have opinions when everyone knows they do, mainstream media outlets are suggesting that their viewers or readers are too stupid to figure out where the truth lies—or too thick to consider the facts of a story whose reporter happens to have retweeted someone’s comment or joined a certain Facebook page. Given this kind of treatment, many looking for news are likely to migrate to sources that admit they have views, rather than continue to be talked down to by newspapers and TV networks that pretend they are above that sort of thing.”

He adds: “The bottom line is that it would be nice if we could admit that journalists are human beings, and then come up with social-media policies that actually encourage and take advantage of it, instead of trying to stamp out any trace of humanity. Journalists would be better off. So would readers.”

I agree. Journalists are not robots. Social media is all about telling of opinion and relating to others. How is it possible to not show bias or leanings in any way? Impossible.


No one knows whether Twitter is here to stay or go, or how it will be improved. Whatever the case may be in the future, Twitter has changed how we view and interact with the world around us. It has become a tool, a platform—a weapon even. Twitter facilitates speech; speech equals freedom; with freedom comes responsibility.

Click on the following hashtag for some literary journalism using Twitter, #UFtabernacle.


13 Mar

By: Gabriela Gonzalez

Analysis of tool: This tool is very interesting. I like how it highlights keywords and names. On the side it gives a breakdown of the items highlighted, and if you click on the link, it takes you to more detailed information. It is interactive in that you can hover the mouse over a pie graph and it gives even more information than what is simply on the page. For example, hovering over a pie graph may not only reveal percentages but also, more specifically, dollar amounts.  It is interesting to think of who is giving to whom as far as contributions are concerned. This impacts how contributors and influential organizations present information, and knowing this information can help the readers take the information with the skepticism they need to achieve a “mental balance” of the information, so they can form their own opinion.


The article I submitted through Poligraft was from Washington D.C. It is about the “shift” of emphasis for the GOP campaigning in the South. Key points are that Mitt Romney, 458, has double the delegates of that of Rick Santorum, 203. To secure a nomination against Barak Obama, the GOP candidate needs 1,144 delegates. The piece also mentions that southern comedian Jeff Foxworthy will be campaigning for Romney.

Newt Gingrich, who currently has 66 delegates, is hoping to win Alabama and Mississippi.

According to CNN: “An American Research Group survey last week of likely Republican primary voters in Mississippi showed Gingrich with 35 percent support to 31 percent for Romney, 20 percent for Santorum and 7 percent for Paul. The poll’s four percentage-point sampling error meant Gingrich and Romney were in a statistical tie.”

The Poligraft report was interesting in that it showed what certain groups who contributed to the article have donated to PACs. For example,  according to Poligraft, NBC Universal donated $5,500 to the Rick Santorum campaign. CBS Corp. donated $83,344 to Barak Obama’s campaign. Through this list of information we can see the political leanings of the quoted sources and have a more in-depth look at why they asked certain questions or gave certain quotes.

For example, Gingrich sounds less sure about his Alabama-Mississippi victory on CBS than he did on Fox. CBS Corp., as stated above, was a major donator to the Obama campaign and it aggregated $501 to Ron Paul’s campaign. If you click on the link, it shows the top recipients for CBS Corp. and those lobbying on the company’s behalf.

Poligraft also gives “Points of Influence,” and it shows the party of the candidates that received what percent of contributions. Through this, the reader can see that Obama receives more contributions from individuals, while Gingrich receives a quarter of his contributions from PACs. Also, one can see what the types of people are the ones that most frequently contribute to certain campaigns. For Obama it’s lawyers and lobbyists, for Paul it’s people involved in finance, business and real estate.

Poligraft is a tool that helps reveal underlying influences in articles and news. In the end, it serves to prove what we already know: What is truly objective?