Journalistic Integrity In A Real-Time, Social Media News World

Hudson River Plane CrashHeidi Sinclair, CEO of Heidi Sinclair & Co. and blogger for The Huffington Post, provided an interesting and heartfelt editorial on the future of journalism, “A  Case for Journalism in a Post-Newspaper World From the Mother of a Would-Be Journalist.”

Sinclair points out that while the newspaper business may be dying, the need for accurate and insightful reporting remains pivotal:

With the evolution of user generated content that is not subject to journalistic ethics or even fact checking, driving news cycles, we need the Fourth Estate more than ever. But it must take on a different perch. Those [who] observe and chronicle and keep a journal on our times can do so from any place or platform. And if they are clever, wise, thoughtful, interesting, we will continue to turn to them…

Today, anyone with a computer or a cell phone can document and report on anything. And that’s truly amazing. Not only is it possible now to get a real-time news account of any breaking event anywhere in the world, but the reach of any individual’s report is virtually unlimited. One of my most vivid memories of this phenomenon was the US Airways Hudson River plane crash last January. Shira Ovide at The Wall Street Journal’s “Digits” blog reports that the story broke on Twitter literally as the plane was landing in the river. No professional camera crew or correspondent were necessary. The major news media followed with their own reports immediately.

But the real-time, instant nature of reporting news through online and social media, which makes this type of reporting so valuable, is also what makes it so vulnerable. As Sinclair mentions, there is no editor to verify facts or hold these accounts to a standard of “journalistic ethics.”

I’m not big into plugs, but I really can’t help myself here. Sinclair’s piece represents the essence of our organization, SixEstate Communications: applying the highest standards of journalism — the founding principles of the Fourth Estate — to a new media platform for our clients.

As long as the information an individual is reporting is accurate, transparent and appropriately-credited, there is no reason why blogs, Twitter or any other social tool out there can’t serve as a credible news medium.

SOURCE: “A Case for Journalism in a Post-Newspaper World From the Mother of a Would-Be Journalist,” 12/11/09
Photo courtesy of davidwatts1978, used under its Creative Commons license.

About David Reich

David Reich is co-founder and CEO of SixEstate, blending a background in traditional marketing and public relations with over 5 years of experience managing hundreds of online marketing campaigns for all kinds of organizations -- from small businesses and nonprofits to public companies. David is responsible for keeping SixEstate and its clients at the forefront of the rapidly evolving search and content marketing landscape. Connect with David on Twitter, Google+ or via email.


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  1. What struck me as humorous about this post, David, is the photo. It’s a gorgeous photo, so I thought surely it must be copyrighted. I checked your citation to see that David Watts really did release this picture for free use by others.

    Now here’s the rub. The same image is used on The New York Time’s Digits blog, but there’s no photo credit or copyright notice. Are your journalistic standards higher than The New York Times? Even major media are using socially-generated images to save money, but they should have the courtesy to credit the source, as you have.

  2. Loki says:

    Actually Steve, his ethics are good and the NYT’s is not. The Creative Commons license used on the photo clearly states:

    “Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).”

    The majority of mainstream media is still lost at sea when it comes to the proper way to navigate the social web.

  3. Great idea, thanks for this tip!