Thursday, August 25, 2011

Color the "Fairness Doctrine" gone

Broadcast's "Fairness Doctrine" is officially dead. I suppose that since it's been ignored for so long that this is a good thing. It certainly fits with our country's tilt toward corporate rule.

OK, that's the cynical view. But the truth is that actually ordering broadcaster to be "fair and balanced" is as impossible as expecting media outlets to live up to their slogans, whether they are "fair and balanced," "All the News That's Fit to Print," or even "Own Your Power." "Fair and balanced" depends is subjective. "All the News That's Fit to Print" often gets shortened sarcastically by reporters to "All the News That Fits" after their stories are cut.

It was a good effort, and it's tragic that the "marketplace" hasn't really created fairness since more than 90 percent of the broadcast comment seems conservative, while less than a third of Americans list their political leanings as that way.

But a rule that is so flagrantly disregarded should be discarded, so this is a good thing.

As you write today, think links

It's not news that we are going through a media sea change. Nor is it news that links are very important. What is news is a new study from the Knight Digital Media Center that demonstrates the importance of linking.

A blog post by Amy Gahran uses an excellent example to show how interconnected reporting strengthens individual reporting. She also discusses the past practice of major media outlets rewriting local reporting without giving any credit -- and how that practice is so questionable these days when Google so easily brings up all sources.

So it's a question not only of ethics but of creating the best content possible. At times, when I write these simple posts, I find myself with multiple links to the material I'm citing because media today approaches nearly every story from many angles. Links make our work stronger and more complete.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who pays the legal costs of 'citizen journalism'

The report was fairly simple, Elliot Spitzer -- former prosecutor, governor and commentator -- was sued for libel by two executives of an insurance giant over a column he had written for Slate. But it raised a question that is troubling more and more recently: Who foots the bill for citizen journalism?

Slate has owners with deep pockets who can afford lawyers, but many Internet sites don't. That leaves them open to pressure, especially from corporations and those who want to intimidate. Think of it, you run a neighborhood blog, writing about local happenings. A local corporation -- or even a citizen -- threatens to sue you for libel. An attorney asks thousands just to take the case, and you -- assuming you're in the state most "citizen journalists" inhabit -- don't have thousands to battle.

OK, I'm describing the problem. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to describe a solution.