At Penn State in 2013, a white student tweeted a racially insensitive tweet after there had been previous racial tensions at the university. It was decided by the Collegian that they would post a story about the tweet (which received many retweets and attention throughout the day) including the student’s photo, name, and Twitter account (deleted the same day). The college paper tried to reach out to the student before writing a story but could not reach her. They thought it was appropriate to release the information in an article because the original had been retweeted over 100 times, thus, in their opinion, making it public knowledge. In deciding it would be published, the editors decided she had become “public figure” due to the strong reaction from the student body.
The link to a case study of this example can be viewed here
The link to the story that ran in the Collegian is posted here
Though this example is not necessarily one that shows wrong decisions being made, I felt it was appropriate as we have had similar issues with privacy here at UNL with the UNL haters blog being published (though not created by a news organization). Similar cases have also happened nationwide at college campuses and I thought it may spark a good discussion.
1. After reading Sullivan’s article, I realized that I never knew the Newtown shooter’s mom wasn’t an employee who worked at the elementary school. After wrong information has been sent out, Sullivan points out that readers only remember the wrong facts; besides correcting mistakes, how can news reporters try and make sure accurate facts are left with readers? Is it even possible?
2. Buzzfeed often receives criticism for posting controversial posts such as photos or links to accounts of accused people who may or may not in fact be guilty of crimes such as the Newtown shooting. What, if any, responsibility does Buzzfeed have in posting this type of content?
3. What are your thoughts on the following excerpt from Craig Silverman’s article:
“For some, this proves that social media is not an appropriate tool for journalism, particularly real-time news reporting,” writes Matthew Ingram at GigaOm. ”But I think it shows something very different: I think this is just the way the news works now, and we had better get used to it.”
4. Andy Carvin tweeted during the Newtown shooting “For those of you who think I’m posting everything I’m finding, I’m actually sitting on about 75% of what I know b/c contradictions abound.” What do you think about publicizing restraint?
5. Jeff Jarvis describes the “essence of credibility” when discussing words such as “alleged,” “reputed,” and other terms referring to what journalists don’t know and making that clear. Due to technology, how can journalists be better trained to always remember to remain credible, especially when on outlets such as Twitter they are limited in characters?
Shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, the Westchester, NY based Journal News published an interactive map that featured the names and addresses of people in the area who held gun permits. While this information was legally obtained, the Journal News failed to provide a sound reasoning for publishing it other that it was timely, as gun laws were being heavily debated in the aftermath of Sandy Hook. In response, blogger and lawyer Chris Fountain published a similar map featuring the names, addresses, and phone numbers of 50 people who worked for the Journal News and its parent company Gannett. (International Business Times)
This Poynter article discusses some of the pros and cons of the Journal News’ decision to publish the map. Some felt that it was useful information while others felt that it was an invasion of privacy that could be harmful to the permit holders who were listed. Ultimately, the consensus is that the Journal News was not aggressive enough in defending its actions and the result was the huge amount of backlash the organization saw.
On March 12, Twitter user @steenfox asked her followers to share what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. She also prompted responders to let her know if if was okay to retweet their responses. She got dozens of responses.
Jessica Testa, a BuzzFeed reporter, noticed these tweets and saw potential for an interesting story. She asked individual Twitter users who had responded for permission to use their tweets and created this curation for BuzzFeed. A note at the top of the post clearly states that all of the victims gave BuzzFeed permission to use their responses.
Many people were angry at Testa for identifying the victims, even though they had given her permission to do so. @steenfox called Testa out for not getting permission from her to curate the tweets. @steenfox wasn’t identified as a rape survivor in Testa’s story. She was only identified as the person who posed the question. It was later discovered that @steenfox was a rape survivor. This Poynter article discusses the dilemma, which is particularly sensitive because of the sexual assault element.
In the first hours of the Sandy Hook shooting speculation about what happened ran rampant on Twitter. News organizations began reporting any tidbit of information as fact. Incorrect information spread as “confirmed,” including that Lanza was the father of a student, that it was Adam’s brother, Ryan, and that there was a second shooter. Business Insider, in their article shaming organizations for not being more careful, admits they “reported some of this inaccurate information, attributing it to other news sources.”
Forbes created a breakdown of how the information about Ryan made its way across social media. First, through the media incorrectly posting his photo on their pages and newscasts, and then that image circulating around Twitter and Facebook. When Ryan Lanza debunked this theory on his Facebook page, it led places like Buzzfeed to publicly apologize (the Forbes link has their half-hearted apology). Many of the apologies essentially blamed social media and how it has changed the industry into one that reports first, confirms after.
Even though the stories were corrected, the originals with the incorrect information are still floating around the web.
June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court voted in favor of President Obama’s health care law. However, CNN and Fox News reported the opposite. According to Poynter’s currated article compiled that same day, CNN received more back lash than Fox News.
CNN sent out incorrect reports via the airwaves, website, email and Twitter. Nine minutes later, a correction was released. CNN’s on-site reporter Kate Boldaun received the incorrect report from a producer in the courtroom.
Jeff Sonderman’s Poynter article commented on other journalists’ reaction to the false report. A CNN reporter said she was embarrassed and a lot of reporters from different news organizations corrected the original report.
A region editor at AP sent out an email telling reporters to “stop taunting” CNN when AP reported the ruling correctly the first time.
In 2012, several media outlets reported former controversial Penn State football coach Joe Paterno had died, even though he remained alive in a hospital bed.
The story broke incorrectly after Onward State, an independent student publication at PSU, learned of a rumored email to athletes telling of Paterno’s death.
One of the student journalists responsible wasn’t entirely honest with his editors and said he’d seen the email. The email, was later proven to be a hoax. But, the student organization ran with the story. Other outlets like CBS Sports, The Huffington Post and MSNBC’s BreakingNews.com all ran with the story without verifying its facts. Many simply attributed the information to Onward State without consulting Paterno’s family.
Within hours, Paterno’s family had refuted the story.
Apologies and retractions were issued by most of the media outlets after Joe Pa had trended on Twitter because of the reported death.
The managing editor of Onward State swiftly resigned because of the misreported information.
Paterno died the next day.