Posts Tagged ‘Len Downie’

Fertile Failure: Live Blogging Class Discussion

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Updated: 2:51 p.m. ET

Fail fast, fail cheap. Isn’t that what they say? Well, today I did it. My first attempt to live blog a class discussion didn’t work out. But neither did my first attempt to … well, do just about anything…

No matter. Here’s what I learned… (more…)

A Lab for ‘The Reconstruction of American Journalism’

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

This week is the first of a new semester in my Public Affairs Reporting for New Media class — a journalism class in which the students must work 30 hours with a community partner over the course of the semester. Our goal this semester — expose the students to all of the journalism models that Len Downie and Michael Schudson outline as potential replacements for a decline in public affairs reporting at newspapers.

This semester, the 18 students in the class will be divided among four partners:

  • the North Carolina Center for Voter Education, a non-profit funded largely by foundation money and private donations;
  • OrangePolitics.org, a liberal blog about local politics run part-time by a single “citizen jouranlist”;
  • N.C. DataNet, a newsletter of from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Program on Public Life, edited by a former News & Observer reporter and opinion editor;
  • a public broadcast outlet here in North Carolina.

If any of these sources will be part of the reconstruction of American journalism, the students in the class will help determine how it’s reconstructed. At the very least, the students will be able to report back to the rest of us more details about what they find in these laboratories of post-newspaper news.

Stay tuned… and add your suggested reading for the class via the Delicious bookmark tag JOMC491-examples-s10.

Len Downie’s Rules for Good Journalism

Friday, November 14th, 2008

The former executive editor of The Washington Post laid them out recently in a speech at Harvard:

1. All journalists should accurately identify themselves.

2. Conflicts of interest should also be disclosed, if not avoided altogether.

3. News and opinion should be clearly differentiated.

4. Photography and video should not be doctored or misleadingly used, unless it is obvious it has been altered only to entertain or express opinion.

5. Journalism should serve the public interest rather than the personal whim of bloggers or special interests of any kind.

Finally, he says, “Too much concentration on the philosophical questions about journalism in the digital world runs the risk of ignoring the most important question before us. Who will pay for the news?”

Those seem pretty straightforward and not too onerous. I have a quibble with his third and fifth points because I’m not sure these can be accomplished in a way that convinces and builds trust with the audience, even when done by the most well-intentioned journalists. Some people know the difference between opinion and fact, and for them labels are meaningless. Other people don’t know the difference between opinion and fact even when it’s labeled, and for them labels are also meaningless. “The public interest” I think is also a bit elusive and is phrase that has been so widely used by policy advocates on all sides that I’m not sure it has much ability to build or sustain credibility. Instead, I’d replace those two points with one — that journalism should be “evidence-based” and respect the scientific method.