Accuracy, independence and impartiality – Kellie Riordan #jeraa2014 live blog

LIVE BLOG

By MARK PEARSON

Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Kellie Riordan reported to the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia’s conference in Sydney on her recent report on how legacy media and digital natives approach ethical standards in the digital age.

ABC's Kellie Riordan addressing the JERAA conference on her research into digital and legacy media ethics

ABC’s Kellie Riordan addressing the JERAA conference on her research into digital and legacy media ethics

She recently served as a fellow at the Oxford Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism where she looked at three traditional and three new media providers and their ethical standards and approaches.

Riordan noted a shift in the notion of accuracy.

“Now we are equally looking to journalists to tell us what is not true, and the best example is the BBC’s User Generated Content Hub,” she said.

It was set up to debunk myths, and originated with the myth that there was a power surge in the London Underground when in fact the London bombings had occurred.

She also identified corrections were now being issued that were much more open and honest and developed brand trust. These were done particularly well by digital media.

“Traditionally newsrooms have been closed organisations and we haven’t let the public in on how we came to decisions,” she said.

She showed an example from the digital outlet Grantland which gave an extensive debriefing on how they came to an editorial decision when they got something wrong.

Riordan profiled The Quartz qz.com site which does not subscribe to impartiality as a standard but boast about their transparency and honesty with their audience.

On the issue of independence, she gave several examples of advertorials in some outlets that were not necessarily flagged as paid content on search engines.

She cited Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith arguing that audiences were already quite literate about different types of sponsored content on the Internet, whereas others felt the journalism brand required the disclosure of advertising.

She found a range of views across new media on the issue of impartiality and that Quartz advocated an ‘evidence driven, facts based’ style of journalism.

User generated content, interaction with audiences and more extensive use of hyperlinks for attribution were important developments to improve accountability and transparency, she said.

Riordan concluded by calling for greater transparency, more open forms of journalism, and ‘a voice that is of the web driven by reporters rather than news brands’.

She suggested digital tools like hyperlinks, context for corrections, more voices and transparency would add to accountability.

© Mark Pearson 2014

Disclaimer: While I write about media law and ethics, nothing here should be construed as legal advice. I am an academic, not a lawyer. My only advice is that you consult a lawyer before taking any legal risks.

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