What sorts of verification and accuracy standards are appropriate for material gathered on social networks?
Fake news is a growing issue which has surfaced as a result of the ever-growing and ever changing social media industry. Social networks reveal breaking news stories before anyone else and with many stories first surfacing on sites such as Twitter as there is no other source out there to confirm or deny the truth in the story there is no reason or way to presume that the article is false. It is therefore essential that journalists meet the verification and accuracy standards set for material gathered on social networks. News organisations must verify all User Generated Content (UGC) through all available technological and human means, as stated by ONA Ethics. One source which can be used is the Verification Handbook, which was released in 2014 by journalists from several leading news and government organisations. (1) Another way is to seek third-party help from other news organisations, verification shops and individual readers.
1) When should a person or group be identified by race, ethnicity, gender or religion?
This depends entirely on context and many journalists will avoid identifying a person or group by race, ethnicity, gender or religion unless it is relevant to the story. That being said, they should not avoid identifying in this way out of fear as if they are seeking to promote or defend certain groups then it is paramount that they mention them. Another scenario where it is relevant to mention this is when a person becomes the first of his/her race, gender, ethnicity or religion or they have reached and achieved a significant milestone. A prime example of this would be Barack Obama becoming the first black President of the United States of America. In this context it is perfectly acceptable and a historic landmark, but in many smaller cases it is far less significant in terms of its relevance in the public interest.
1) When should suicides be covered / 2) When we decide to write about suicide, how should we do so?
Based on the research I have carried out, looking at Samaritans.org and ReportingOnSuicide.org, their message is that it is not a case of when should suicides be covered it is more of an emphasis on how they should be covered. The public have a right to know the circumstances of how someone has died, but they do not need to know the details, e.g. ‘Kurt Cobain used shotgun to commit suicide’ should instead be shortened to minimise prominence and to avoid sensationalising the suicide, e.g. ‘Kurt Cobain dead at 27’.
With this in mind it can also be said that perhaps we do not always need to be informed when someone has committed suicide. Many stories may be covered in a local newspaper as the person who has died may have been a well-known member of the community, but suicide stories rarely make the national headlines. This is not a bad thing either as we should not intrude on families’ grief at a difficult time. It is human nature that we want to know why something happened, to discover the truth, but with suicide we can only speculate why they decided to take their own life, therefore it should not be reported at all as this can create false perceptions of a persons’ character.
1. Should reporters tell interviewees all the ways the interview may be used?
From a personal perspective I believe that this depends on the context of the situation and the nature of the story you are writing. For example, during my short time as a journalist so far, the people I have interviewed and articles I have written have not been of a nature where I need to explain to the interviewee everything I plan to do with the article. I will give them a brief background on the angle of the story and why I wish to interview them but I do not go into details describing that I plan to produce different packages using different forms of media.
In this video myself and two fellow journalism students discuss the issue of how to report stories which regard racially motivated hate crimes: