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.

Continue reading What is newsroom objectivity?

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.

Continue reading Newsroom objectivity and “moral clarity” are not in opposition

News organizations: how do you get throughout feedback from your community?

I assume that the idea of ‘letters to the editor’ was once a representative and effective means for news organizations to receive feedback from their community.

I’m not certain it remains so. For one, those can of course only be sent in for what has already been announced. I also get the sense not many reporters really listened or could gauge the preponderance of feedback.

The rise of quantitative surveying helps, though of course surveys are also not necessarily representative. We at Technically Media do our fair bit of surveying, after events and annually too. We also host regular curated groups of readers and (importantly) those we aspire to be readers of ours.

Continue reading News organizations: how do you get throughout feedback from your community?

Start with the doing. Then get to the done

Big goals can inspire. They can also paralyze.

One of the best outcomes from building the habit of building habits is having a skill to make big change. If you want to stop always being late. If you want to be a better public speaker. If you want to drive your company to new heights.

Once you identify the obstacles, these all are essentially tasks of building habits. But we often stare down the end of an enormous project and are so intimidated we never start. That happens to me a lot. So I remind myself that it all comes down to an incredibly simple act: just get started.

Continue reading Start with the doing. Then get to the done

The difference between reporting about policy and politics

In spring 2008 during my final interview for a prestigious post-graduate statehouse reporting internship, I got tripped up.

The impatient and inimitable Pennsylvania state government correspondent Pete Decoursey, a quirky Yale alumnus who passed in 2014, asked me to explain how I would approach my reporting on policy differently than my reporting on politics. I started. He corrected. I restarted. He interrupted. I faltered.

The truth was I didn’t yet grasp his point. He very carefully compartmentalized two kinds of government reporting: the legislating to solve problems and the campaigning to get elected power.

Continue reading The difference between reporting about policy and politics

You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

One effective way to divide the kind of criticism you’ll get for your work is to split the feedback between that which comes from someone who has done the work you’re doing and that which comes from someone else.

It doesn’t necessarily mean one category will always be effective or helpful or productive or not. Those are further distinctions. But when I’m receiving critical feedback —  on something I’ve written or presented or shared — often the first check I make is that one.

Continue reading You’re going to get criticized. Learn when to listen.

Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing

A version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

One of the first questions I ask younger reporters when I meet them is which is their first love: the reporting or the writing. Storytelling, as the form is euphemistically categorized, is very old. The ways we report and write, too, have old origins, but their forms adapt with the times. They change constantly. I bet your industry has a similar kind of split, subtly different pathways to the professional work.

Continue reading Journalists: what do you love first, the Reporting or the Writing

Great beat reporting results in you negotiating when to break news you already have

If a journalist covers her beat well enough, one of the more frequent challenges she’ll face is negotiating when to report something, if a source is requesting an embargo.

That was one of the main points during a session I helped lead during the annual conference of the National Lesbian Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) about finding and reporting a niche.

Continue reading Great beat reporting results in you negotiating when to break news you already have

Media is a mirror: what you see says more about you than you want to admit

What a simple and common reaction: get angry at the one telling you the story.

The true job of news gatherers is to reflect the communities they serve. Media is mirror. We can and should have a responsibility in pushing for a truer understanding and taking responsibility in making those communities better (however we define better) but we still must be representative of those whom we serve.

You are our source material. So you have more to do with our editorial mix than you might realize.

Continue reading Media is a mirror: what you see says more about you than you want to admit