What is newsroom objectivity?

(This is an expansion of this thread)

When is a news organization being fair to a range of good-faith perspectives, and when is that newsroom retreating from a moral responsibility? When is a reporter taking a partisan stance and when is it a stance for justice?

With the rise of the social web in the last 20 years, this reevaluation of journalistic principle has been frequently described through the lens of newsroom objectivity. It reached a fever pitch in 2020, resulting in an important dialogue on objectivity and “moral clarity” in newsrooms.

This concept was the topic of a session in November 2020 during the virtual 12th annual Klein News Innovation Camp unconference I help organize. I’ve revisited the conversation, and I want to share what I took away.

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Newsroom objectivity and “moral clarity” are not in opposition

(This is adapted from a Twitter thread)

No, newsrooms don’t need to throw out “objectivity’ as a principle. Yes “moral clarity” should mean something for news organizations.

This thread comes from my own experiences, plus this helpful conversation I had during Klein News Innovation Camp with Alexis Johnson, Tom Rosenstiel and Wes Lowery.

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Klein News Innovation Camp keynote interview with Michael Smerconish

For the 11th annual Klein News Innovation Camp, an unconference on the future of news organized by my company, I interviewed our lunchtime keynote: Michael Smerconish, the radio personality and CNN host, Saturday. (Read coverage from Cover.This)

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Recap of Barcamp News Innovation 2016

The 8th annual Barcamp News Innovation was the best attended yet. This annual unconference on the future of news welcomed more than 175 journalists, editors and other media makers interested in trends and best practices.

We at Technically Media have always produced it at and with Temple University’s School of Media Communications. For the first time, this year we hosted the day-long event in the fall, rather than late in the spring, which allowed perhaps nearly two dozen students to attend. Despite being free for students (just $15 for professionals), we’ve never had much turnout for those about to begin their careers. This year worked.

I wanted to share a few lessons and notes that stuck with me below.

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Hosting free events: why charging a small sum can add more value

The 2012 BarCamp NewsInnovation was the first to have a paid entrance -- $5 -- which lowered RSVPs and raised attendance from 2011, which likely took on a much larger casual interest from being listed on the Philly Tech Week website. *Also, 2011 and 2012 featured hackathons, which added some attendees overall. These figures do not include them. **I added this graph to this post AFTER the last BCNI.

Later this week, I’ll help organize the fourth-annual BarCamp NewsInnovation.

It will again be, in my biased opinion, among the most meaningful media un-conferences in the country. We’ll have an open news hackathon again, ProPublica social media editor Daniel Victor will talk strategy and representatives will talk shop from legacy media powerhouses and independent news startups from throughout the eastern seaboard and beyond. That rocks.

REGISTER HERE!

Beyond all that, the biggest change in format is that, for the first time, we’ll be charging $5 for admission for the day-long event, which includes breakfast, lunch, happy hour and appetizers, in addition to concepts and conversations of note.

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Do news orgs have a responsibility for action?: Notes from BarCamp NewsInnovation 2011

Do news organizations have responsibility for their outcome?

That became the final and, I think, as yet unanswered close to a discussion I led during the final session of the third national BarCamp NewsInnovation, held Saturday April 30 at Temple University and rounding out the inaugural Philly Tech Week. [See past BCNI write ups here.]

Overall I felt this BCNI, with some 150 attendees from startup shops and some serious brands, featured more sessions that embodied that unconference spirit in being less presentation and more dialogue, something I don’t think I felt in the past. I was also interested to see the true step forward past social media and other tools and into sustainability, which I find to be a far more important place to be.

To that end and coming off Philly Tech Week, without preparation, I proposed a session in the day’s final hour: “A conversation on news as a convener.”

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Philly Tech Week: introducing event series growing innovation impact

PHILADELPHIA — Regional technology news site Technically Philly has announced today that it is organizing the first ever Philly Tech Week to be held across the Philadelphia area April 25-30, 2011.

Philly Tech Week will be a week-long celebration of technology and innovation in Philadelphia. The annual week of events is intended to grow the impact of this innovative region through programming focused on technology, collaboration and improving Philadelphia

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Twitter is stupid and other lessons in hyperlocal content strategy: NEast Philly at BarCamp NewsInnovation

The second annual BarCamp NewsInnovation was held last month at Temple University — see my notes here.

In addition to sharing all the failures we’ve had at Technically Philly, I spoke with founder and editor Shannon McDonald about the progress we’ve had with Northeast Philadelphia hyperlocal NEast Philly, including most prominently the breakdown of where our content was coming from.

See here the notes from our 2009 BarCamp presentation on being an online news startup in a print-heavy community.

Below find the notes and slides from this year’s BarCamp presentation entitled: Twitter is stupid…and other foundations of our content strategy.

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BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0: My take aways and experience

I speak during Technically Philly's afternoon session at BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0 at Temple University on April 24, 2010, organization of which was led by Sean Blanda, at left.

They weren’t from around here, were they, shouted my neighbor across the street over the weekend.

She was talking about a pack of young journalists — from Florida and Washington state and California — who had invaded my Fishtown rowhome the weekend before.

That was perhaps one of the largest take aways I drew from attending and, by way of Technically Philly, co-sponsoring BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0 April 24 — the staggering drawing power of the event in just its second year.

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Failure is not an option, it’s a necessity: Technically Philly at BarCamp NewsInnovation

A year after focusing strictly on business, the three of us at Technically Philly took a softer approach at BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0, which we again sponsored and organized [Notes here].

The event was held today, April 24, 2010, again at Temple University.

Find video, our slides and presentation notes from our talk below.

Failure is not an option (it’s a necessity)

Five Stories about Failure

1. Ad Sales — “Until you have the right person, you are the right person.”

FAILURE: Wasted time, energy and resources. [Tried a half dozen commission-based sales people]

LESSON: We should have been selling ads ourselves.

2. Business Roadmap — “Don’t hang out with Brian. It’s depressing.”

FAILURE: We thought we’d be making money by month three.

LESSON: Double or triple the time your business plan will take.

3. Business Criticism — “To be honest, we’re not always sure what [Technically Philly is] trying to accomplish.”

FAILURE: Uh, we were criticized in a best-of issue.

LESSON: If you’re noticed, your work will be scrutinized.

4. Potential Partners — “I don’t see the point of meeting.”

FAILURE: Turned down an opportunity to meet with a key business leader.

LESSON: In this new media environment, everyone is a potential partner.

5. Investment (sappy anecdote) — “Well, that wasn’t THAT depressing.”

FAILURE: We started Technically Philly (and said some silly things in front of important people).

LESSON: We’ve learned much, met many people and improved what we know in the space of journalism.

The presentation is also available here. See and hear the presentation from Samurai Tours here.

When we were asked for more embarrassing stories, we realized we should have also shared the story of our speaking engagement with the Women’s Press Association of Pennsylvania, in which no one showed except the organizer and former Philadelphia mayoral candidate Queena Bass. Or we could have told one of the half dozen times Sean has been under dressed when going to cover events.

It was a fun session with a few practical takeaways, we hope. If nothing else, it seemed well-received.

Some Tweets

  • Anthony Ruiz of Samurai Virtual Tours quotes me about being stupid
  • Freelancer Amy Z Quinn agrees on the concept
  • Freelancer Morgan Zalot picks up on our swearing working in threes is the best
  • Newspaper company digital chief Jason Krustifek noted our take that everyone can be a partner.