5-1 Blog Oconee County Observations

About the Author

Looking at the Oconee County Observations website the author of the blog is Lee Becker. According to the Oconee County Observations website Lee Becker has his PH.D. from the University of Wisconsin in Mass Communication, his M.A from the University of Kentucky in Communications and his B.A. from the University of Kentucky in Journalism.

On the blog it states the following about Lee Becker in regards to some of this achievements and awards:

  • The Association for Education in Journalism named [Lee Becker] the 2013 recipient of the Paul J. Deutschmann Excellence in Research Award at the association’s annual conference on Aug. 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
  • [Lee Becker] was given the Doctor Honoris Causa by the Senate of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration on Dec. 4, 2012, in Bucharest, Romania. The Athens Banner-Herald wrote a story about the award.

(Becker, 2015).

Do I consider Lee Becker to be a professional journalist?

I do consider Becker to be a professional journalist because of three reasons:

  1. He has multiple degrees that are focused around journalism, media and communications.
  2. He shows accountability for his content he is publishing
  3. He shows dedication to interact with his community.

Within the article 7 Signs You May Be a Professional Blogger Ashley Robinson (2015) discusses 7 things that may make someone a professional blogger. Two of them stick out to me in this article:

  • You may be a professional blogger if you spend as much time interacting with your community as you do writing content
  • You may be a professional blogger if you hold yourself accountable.

(Robinson, 2015).

Looking into the history of Becker’s posts he makes the comments of his audience public and he does occasionally comment on the posts of his audience. Becker also makes himself accountable for the content he is posting. On the blog Becker (2015) states: “ I strive to be accurate, fair and transparent. Comments are encouraged. I attempt to apply the standards of accuracy, fairness and transparency to them as well” (Becker, 2015). In my opinion these are two vital things that would make a blogger and journalist appear professional on media websites and blogs.

Oconee County Observations – Purpose and Bias

The purpose of the Oconee County Observations website is to inform others about the news and comments made in the developments of Oconee County Georgia (Becker, 2015). There may be a bias to this blog as Becker states the following to his audience, “I am a citizen of Oconee County. My experiences and aspirations for the county have influence on what I post here” (Becker, 2015). While the author does make a point to tell his audience that he strives to be accurate and transparent in his news and comments, since he is a citizen of Oconee County his information he is providing could be skewed. This could have an influence on what he is posting to his audience. What I do admire about the author however is that he cites his resources and spends the time to include links to his sources in his blog.

Does the Becker adhere to SPJ’s Code of Ethics?

As a journalist and blogger I do believe that Lee Becker adheres to the SPJ’s Code of Ethics. Becker takes the steps to verify information and tries to report information truthfully and accurately. The following codes I believe are evident within Becker’s blog:

  • Seek Truth and Report It– Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
  • Be Accountable and Transparent—Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public. Journalists should explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.

(Society of Professional Journalists improving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.)).

When viewing Becker’s blog Oconee County Observations I was impressed to find that Becker listed a link to his complete profile. When clicking on Becker’s complete profile I was able to follow a link to his webpage. When clicking on his webpage you are directed to the website Oconee County Observations II. On the webpage you are able to find source materials related to Becker’s blog Oconee County Observations. On the website Becker states the purpose of the page as the following: “This web site was created to provide materials referred to in the blog, Oconee County Observations. For more information, go to that blog” (Becker, L. (n.d.). I was impressed to find links to budget summaries, organizational charts, meeting minutes and email records. This in my opinion helps build the creditability of the journalist.

When viewing each of the blog posts I was impressed to find that Becker did not use a lot of anonymous quotes and he used the names of people making statements in his blog posts. He also provided links to videos in his blogs. An example of a video being posted would be in the blog titled A Small Truck Repair Facility is Coming to Oconee County Because of Caterpillar, Developer Told Planning Commission which was posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2015 (Becker, 2015). Within this blog Becker includes the video of the statement being made. This is a great example of a professional journalist providing evidence to make his blog more creditable.

If someone is reporting news should they be labeled as a “professional”?

In my own opinion it should not matter whether someone is labeled as a “professional” or not when reporting news. A person can be labeled as a “professional” and have multiple degrees but that does not make them an ethical journalist when reporting news. Everyone should be held to the same ethical standards regardless of their professional classification.

In this week’s reading resources there is one quote that sticks out to me as defining a good writer. In the article E.B. White on the Responsibility and Role of the Writer Popova (2012) states:

“A writer should concern himself with whatever absorbs his fancy, stirs his heart, and unlimbers his typewriter. A writer has a duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they interpret life, they inform and shape life” (Popova, 2012).

As long as someone is being ethical with his or her work, they know how to write about issues from both sides and they provide their audience with source information and verification of their work this in my opinion makes a journalist.

In my opinion whether you are working for a media organization or you blog about something you are passionate about you should be required to take training in media and journalism. Blog websites should provide tutorials and trainings on how to be an ethical journalist.

Citizen Journalists and Bloggers

With the rise of the Internet and Technology being made available to more users more citizen journalists and bloggers are putting their name out there and publishing more articles for society to view. According to Barnes (2012) “Traditional journalism is the outside looking in. Citizen journalism is the inside looking out. In order to get the complete story, it helps to have both points of view” (Barnes, 2012). This is changing the way that we are able to view media and stories because it allows people to voice their opinions and change the way we receive knowledge and what we know in society outside of traditional journalism. It allows for the “voiceless” to get their opinions out there outside of the traditional news reporter.

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are both advantages and disadvantages of citizen journalists and bloggers.

Some of the advantages of citizen journalism are that it allows for people to write about topics they are interested in, it allows for citizens to spread information while there are many newsroom layoffs, and it allows for citizens to feel part of their communities by participating in news they are interested in. It allows for the “voiceless” to offer an alternative perspective to online media. According to the article Using Citizens For Community Journalism D’herr and Paulussen (2013) state, “A steadily growing number of online media initiatives engage and reach local audiences. Online news media are not constrained by spatial limitations and the emergence of citizen journalism offers new opportunities to cover news on a town, neighborhood or even street level” (D’herr and Paulussen, 2013).

Some of the disadvantages of citizenship journalism is the news can be interest based, the author can be biased in their writing and the blog or news story they are writing about can be more about speaking their mind on a subject than maintaining neutrality. The facts and sources in a news story can be skewed and could contain inaccurate information.

According to the article Citizen journalism: How to encourage critical reading and viewing? Van Kooten Niekerk (2013) states,

“A huge constraint facing citizen journalism is that it is almost never neutral. People report only the items that are of interest to them. Hardly anyone posts news items because they can, but only because they feel they need to. This entails that citizen journalists are always deeply involved in the news they report – which puts pressure on its neutrality” (Van Kooten Niekerk, 2013).

Good Judgment

In my opinion a non-professional can show good judgment and assemble information for balanced stories to build credibility for their stories. As a society we should be publishing tools and resources on ethical journalism on blog websites for people to use when they publishing their stories. I do believe however that whether a journalist is traditional or a non-professional there will never be 100% neutral and non-objective new stories. It is the responsibility of the consumer to check their sources and the credibility of a story.

According to Van Kooten Niekerk (2013):

“We ought not change citizen journalists, as they have everything on their mind except a neutral report of what’s going on. We ought to focus on changing the people on the receiving end to be critical about what they read and not to believe something simply by virtue of seeing it on their screen” (Van Kooten Niekerk, 2013).

Moving forward we should be focusing our attention on educating society in classrooms on the importance of media literacy and professional journalism. This may help with reducing the spread of false information online.

Works Cited

Barnes, C. (2012, September). Citizen Journalism vs. Traditional Journalism: A Case for Collaboration. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-2839151391/citizen-journalism-vs-traditional-journalism-a-case

Becker, L. (n.d.). About Me. Retrieved May 15, 2015, from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/

Becker, L. (n.d.). Oconee County Observations II. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from https://sites.google.com/site/lbbecker48/

Becker, L. (2015, May 20). A Small Truck Repair Facility Is Coming To Oconee County Because of Caterpillar, Developer Told Planning Commission. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/2015/05/a-small-truck-repair-facility-is-coming.html#more

Paulussen, S., & D’heer, E. (2013). USING CITIZENS FOR COMMUNITY JOURNALISM. Journalism Practice, 7(5), 588-603. doi:10.1080/17512786.2012.756667

Popova, M. (2012, April 17). E.B. White on the Responsibility and Role of the Writer. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/04/eb-white-on-the-responsibility-and-role-of-the-writer/256005/

Robison, A. (n.d.). 7 Signs You Might be a Professional Blogger. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from http://heartifb.com/2013/04/15/7-signs-might-be-professional-blogger/

Society of Professional Journalists improving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.spj.org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/ethicscode.asp

Van Kooten Niekerk, G. (2013). Citizen journalism: How to encourage critical reading and viewing? Media Development, 2013(1), 15-18. Retrieved May 31, 2015, from Communication and Mass Media Complete.

4-2: Blog Mistakes, False News and Errors

When looking at the SPJ’s Code of Ethics I do believe that the “report now” “apologize later” trend that we are seeing more often by news agencies is having a negative affect on our society and it is a violation of the code of ethics. It causes more harm to fix the information being shown today as it can reach more people faster through the advancement of technology and the Internet. Why not get it right the first time and spend the time investigating your sources than apologizing and spending the time to fix your mistakes?

Last term we were able to read the article Media Outlets Apologize After Falsely Reporting Giffords’ death. The article comments on how many media outlets had reported that Rep. Gabrielle Gifford had died after being shot in the head. In reality Gifford had not died and was in surgery the entire time the reports were shown in the media. Bauder (2011) states:

“Within a half hour, all three cable news networks had bannered the headline of Giffords’ supposed death. Reuters cited NPR in a story that appeared on the front of the Yahoo! News site. CBS broke into the coverage of a women’s college basketball game to report that Giffords had died. NBC had a similar special report” (Bauder, 2011).

Instead of checking their sources and the hospital in which Gifford was staying the media outlets relied on each other for information. They cared more about being the “fastest” when reporting the news. The media outlets then had to spend time apologizing for their mistakes and for hurting the family of Gifford rather than getting their facts right the first time.

This was also evident in this week’s news article The F.B.I Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest when speaking about the Boston Marathan Bombings. Carter (2011) states,

“The F.B.I. issued a statement later in the afternoon: “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting” (Carter, 2011).

In my opinion the most common violations that are evident in the Code of Ethics in regards to “reporting it now” are as follows:

Seek Truth and Report It—Ethical Journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. [Journalists] should verify information before releasing it and use original sources whenever possible.

Minimize harm—Ethical journalism treats sources, colleagues and members of the public as human beings deserving of respect. [Journalists] should balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.

Be Accountable and Transparent—Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public. Journalists should explain ethical choices and processes to audiences. Encourage a civil dialogue with the public about journalistic practices, coverage and news content.

(“Society of Professional Journalists Improving and Protecting Journalism since 1909,” n.d.)

In each of these ethical standards the journalist is being honest with their information, they are spending the time to gather their information behind their sources and they are being accountable for their research. In Steve Buttry’s article “Journalists’ Code of Ethics: Time for an Update?” Buttry (2010) states: “Journalists should be just as skeptical of information from social media as they are of information from other channels, such as conversation, phone calls other media and documents” (Buttry, 2010). Since journalists are now adopting this “report it now” trend as a society we need to be more mindful of where we are getting our information from, we should be doing the research of the sources shown in the media and we should be on the look out for full disclosure from our journalists.

Should we be expecting more?

As a society we need to expect more from the content we are viewing through media. In order to be a media literate person in the 21st century you have to be able to have the fundamental skills of understanding media from multiple points of meaning. According to Baran (2015), “Learning to enjoy, understand and appreciate media content includes the ability to use multiple points of access—to approach media content from a variety of directions and derive it from many levels of meaning” (Baran, 2015, pp.22). In order for society to fully enjoy the content they are viewing and derive meaning from it we have to expect more from our journalists and demand more evidence from the information being reported to us. How can we accurately make a decision on something without having all of our facts?

For me personally it has always aggravated me to see one side of a story without seeing all of the facts. This is particularly evident in political news stories and advertising campaigns where news broadcasters use human-interest stories to exemplify a political candidate. According to the article Political News with a Personal Touch: How Framing Indirectly Affects Policy Attitudes Boukes, Boomgaarden, Moorman and De Vreese (2015) state:

“Exemplification applies to news stories in which individuals and their personal experiences are used by journalists to illustrate a broader societal issue, with the aim of bringing a personal angle to the story. These individuals are dubbed “exemplars” and have been found to strongly affect the perceptions of political issues: human examples in news stories mislead recipients to believe that certain problems are occurring more frequently than is the case and, consequently, to perceive these problems as being more severe. The reason is that people tend to generalize exemplar information to broader judgments, which increases the perceived seriousness of a situation and eventually may influence people’s attitudes” (Boukes, Boomgaarden, Moorman and De Vreese, 2015, p.123).

As a society we need to be given the training and resources to recognize the faults journalists and the media use to get the news out to consumers. This should be something that is taught to consumers at a young age. Once we have these tools we just need to spend the time researching our sources before making a decision on media information.

Who is to blame?

This is not an easy answer. I think there are two main reasons why society is viewing false news:

  1. Society can be the reason to blame because are posting our opinions online without fully researching the sources of our information and we are not questioning the information we are viewing through the media. This can cause people to believe something without fully investigating the facts. According to Kovach and Rosenstiel (2010) “In an age when we are our own editors, in the “show me” versus “trust” me age of information, the act of evaluating evidence falls more directly on us as consumers” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2010, p. 98). In order for the “report now” “apologize later” trend to decrease we have to spend the time to distinguish reliable versus less reliable information.
  1. The pressure to report “faster” comes from the pressure of large organizations looking to be the best against their competitors. According to Baran (2015) “ Often, a media practitioner will face a ethical dilemma at a very personnel level” (Baran, 2015, p. 373). If a large corporate organization is threatening the job of a journalist if they do not report on a story and they are not giving them the time to research the facts this can have a negative impact on the information consumers are receiving. With ethics being mixed with money and the corporate need to make more money, it will be highly important for society to become media literate and look at the validity of stories from all angles.

Works Cited

Baran, S. J. (2015). Introduction to Mass Communication: Media Literacy and Culture. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Bauder, D. (2011, January 1). Media Outlets Apologize After Falsely Reporting Giffords’ Death. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/10/media-outlets-apologize-a_n_806603.html

Boukes, M., Boomgaarden, H. G., Moorman, M., & de Vreese, C. H. (2015). Political News with a Personal Touch: How Human Interest Framing Indirectly Affects Policy Attitudes. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 92(1), 121-141. doi:10.1177/1077699014558554

Buttry, S. (2010, November 07). Journalists’ Code of Ethics: Time for an update? Retrieved May 14, 2015, from https://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/journalists-code-of-ethics-time-for-an-update/

Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. criticizes the news media after several mistaken reports of an arrest. Retrieved May 24, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=0

Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2010). Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. New York: Bloomsbury

Society of Professional Journalists improving and protecting journalism since 1909. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2015, from http://www.spj.org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/ethicscode.asp