Elements of Journalism book provides a description that’s a combination of “is” and “ought” (positive and normative; how the world is working and how they’d like to see the world working)
First obligation is to the truth
First loyalty is to citizens
Discipline of verification
Maintain independence from those that you cover
Independent monitor of those in power
Provide forum for public criticism
Strive to make points interesting and relevant
Practitioner should exercise their personal conscience
Citizens have rights and responsibilities when it comes to the news
Let’s examine each of these.
Obligation to tell the truth
Tabloids: might be sensational
What is truth? What is objectivity?
First loyalty is to citizens
Loyalty: Need to know vs want to know? Serve market/demand or write what you think people should hear?
Fiduciary responsibility to shareholders
“Citizen” → resident?
Can audience check you? Code on Github
Buzzfeed published Trump intelligence allegations that they were unable to verify. Why? (Some answers along the lines of “it’s circulating, people are discussing it”)
Some brands might have a standard of “if we publish this, we believe that it’s true”
Media companies controlled by individuals/families. In the 1980s, sports franchises and media companies were controlled by families
Repeat interaction with sources. Talking to person frequently → ratings go up → ?
Related to power. Investigative journalism often looks at delegation of power.
What institutions would you like to see accountable to you?
Forum for public criticism
Comment sections. Social science on representation of comments
Make sure your audience knows the difference between breaking news, analysis, news interpretation, and columns
Interesting and relevant
Otherwise no one will read it—you’re a diarist
If you think you have an obligation to citizens… Sesame St: You have to reach before you teach
Headline that catches people’s eye
Exercise personal conscience
#MeToo Do you write about your bosses/your organization? Leak it to someone else and hope they do the story?
Citizen rights and responsibilities
Right to be informed
1st amendment: right to speak or right to hear?
Right to be forgotten: Petition Google “that’s no longer relevant” — Google won’t offer it as a result in the search
Course is organized around a series of questions (questions bc news markets are changing so much)
Economics of news: supply and demand sides
Story: Differentiation of news outlet from news outlet, journalist from journalist, story from story
Supported? Democracy doesn’t write a check (except for recently The Markup)
Produced? # of days it takes to do a major investigation (~6 months), how government documents are obtained and used
Impact? Deliberative (spark discussion), individual (someone gets put in jail), substantive (new policy); case studies → several hundred dollars in net policy benefits
Distributed? Thru platforms
Computational journalism: Stories by, thru, about algorithms (e.g. Automated Insights press releases on quarterly earnings; ML model trained on scraped data about doctors involved in sexual abuse; story about algorithms — ProPublica placed a FB ad that wasn’t shown to African Americans)
Impact of a single reporter?
Use Democracy’s Detectives book and look at current controversies
Studied environmental policy: how pollution affects people and how information revelation affects company behavior
EPA publishing pollution information parallel w/ government publishing information about advertising and TV violence → book: Channeling Violence
Interviewers wanted him to criticize the media
Biggest market failure: Too little of public affairs coverage (involves positive spillover/externalities: you aren’t rewarded enough for doing that)
FCC study didn’t want to use the term market failure, which they feared would trigger a government response
FCC viewed information markets as the same as any other market — Democracy’s Detective is a book to outline the rejection of that idea
Here’s why a story is costly, can have high net benefits to society, but doesn’t pass a market test. When you change a law, the benefits can spill over onto many people who are not your readers, so you don’t get fully rewarded for that impact
Very interested in CJ: lower cost of stories, how to tell stories in more personalized & engaging ways (supply approach & demand approach)
“If you’re interested in applying CS skills to social challenges” lol
Students: Frustrations with news markets
Echo chamber: Newspaper serendipity factor; SmartNews serendipity algorithm; but how many positives would you tolerate before you get frustrated?
Study showed that 1/4 news studies came from an ideology different than your own — success or failure? Turns out that “how much diversity would you tolerate” depended a lot on who your friends were and what they were sharing
Bias: “Every man gets his own opinion, but not his own facts.” To an economist, bias could be “product differentiation” — how you say what’s (un)important.
Nixon tried to de-legitimize the press to help his re-election
Reliance on advertising model — doesn’t care how much you enjoy the content, just if you saw it. Biased against preferences of statistical minority, not serving a small interest.
Students: Puzzling about news markets
Tech to lower cost of fact checking
Print? (“Will it be only a high quality outlet rather than breaking news?”)
Introduce theory about supply incentives: Why do people create info for you?
Ad model: Sell your attn to someone else
Subscription: Pay me
Nonprofit: Change how you think about the world
Partisan: I want your vote
Expression: I just want to talk
We’re seeing a re-weighting of these incentives bc FB and Google excel at ad model → others go to subscription or nonprofit
All have bias implicit in them: treating ideas and interests of people differently depending on who they are. For example, how about low income individuals?
Ad: May not be marginal consumer, may not create content to attract them
Sub: Less likely to subscribe
Nonprofit: Less likely to be donors, maybe won’t talk about their interests
Partisan: Not speaking to people bc not think they’re going to vote!
Expression: Not part of digital conversation
Policy component to all of these
Ad: FTC privacy guidelines; you give up privacy
Sub: Copyright for news aggregators
Nonprofit: Should IRS give nonprofit status to local news sites?
Partisan: Campaign finance laws; should you be able to know who’s funding an outlet?
Expression: Subsidies for broadband?
Framework to think about these strategically and consistently