Ethics Archive

Reporter gets rude emailer in trouble with boss, saves world

There are two ways to respond to crude insults. One way is to remain above them, either ignoring the jerk or responding politely. The other way is to embrace the insult as an excuse to behave like a jerk yourself. Guess which way a reporter for the Wall Street Journal took recently? The screenshot accompanying

Amazon, the amorous legislator and loose threads

Sports fans may get excited over spotting something like back-to-back sacrifice bunts. I geek out over spotting two instances of the loose threads defense in the same week. First, mighty Amazon responds to a New York Times article. The original article came out in August. It said Amazon’s success was built in part on pushing

This is how easily visual data can mislead

After the Supreme Court decision declaring bans on gay marriage unconstitutional, Bloomberg Business dusted off a pretty example of visual data journalism. Which sucks. Data journalism done well is powerful. Intelligent visual display of that data often can tell a story better than plain words. As with any form of journalism, though, decisions about what

Personal Outrage journalism and the cost of cognitive dissonance

Stories of Personal Outrage (PO) are quite the rage on social media. Old media dip their ladles into the same deep pool. Reporters who try to balance the clickworthiness of a PO’d person’s claim with old-school values such as, you know, reporting, must suffer horribly from cognitive dissonance. Take this story from The Telegraph: “United

Rolling Stone’s problems are journalism’s problems, too

Like many other journalist, I read the Columbia Journalism School’s report on the Rolling Stone rape story and was appalled. But even as thorough an analysis of it as Jay Rosen’s on his PressThink blog leaves me thinking the reaction is missing the point. Yes, Rolling Stone screwed up. Yes, the errors its reporter and

‘Why bother’ reporting sets journalism gold standard

Brayden Olson is a real person who has many similarities with one of the main characters in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Or not. Business Insider, an operation I know mostly from the frequency with which its posts show up in the news feed on Yahoo’s homepage, says that Brayden Olson says he’s just like Christian

5 questions about Rolling Stone’s gang-rape reporting (updated twice)

Last month, Rolling Stone published a frustrating story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely about a young woman who said she was gang-raped on the campus of the University of Virginia. The story was, at first, frustrating because it depicted a university stuck in the Stone Age, unwilling to deal properly with sexual assault, and a campus

What’s a nice girl like you doing in a comment section like this?

I have much respect for every woman who dares to use her real name when posting online. As a comment moderator for several years, I saw just how dangerous that can be. What women can expect online was highlighted recently when women who work at Jezebel, a blog aimed at women, complained publicly that the

The unfortunate human element in news sites

You’ve heard, I guess, about the software bots that the Associated Press is using to write thousands of corporate earnings reports? Writerbots have been around awhile — here’s NPR on what was then called StatsMonkey in 2010. And they’re coming on strong lately; see Slate on the LA Times’ quakebot. I’m not too upset by

How to build a better journalism school: Part 3, facts and truth

One of the required courses in the journalism bachelor’s program at Washington and Lee University is called “Beyond Google and Wikipedia.” It comes before reporting. The course description from the syllabus: An introduction to information sources that academic researchers, journalists, public relations and advertising professionals rely on increasingly in the digital age to conduct scholarly