Bad Journalism + Biased Editor = The Gray News

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Gray News should use bylines

“Nathan Tsukroff, a professional photographer”
On Aug 20 2004, “staff” wrote:

Nathan Tsukroff, a professional photographer, offered to create, at no cost to the Town, an official photograph of the last two Gray Town Councils.
So just before the Town Council meeting on August 2, Tsukroff set up his backdrop, arranged his lighting, posed the Council and got ready to snap the photograph.
Just before he could do so, an amateur with an inexpensive digital camera snapped the picture and published it as the "official" portrait.
The attempt to appropriate Tsukroff's professional work appears unethical, if not plagiarism.


Problem 1: Who wrote this? It is obviously not a press release, it was created and written by someone within the newspaper. That someone should have a byline. Bob Steele, Senior Faculty & Ethics Group Leader at the Poynter Institute said of Bylines: “A newspaper has an obligation to be honest with its readers, to tell where a story originated and who is responsible. Readers deserve to know this information….The news story byline personalizes the report so readers know someone is responsible for what's reported and written. It allows readers to hold someone accountable for the story."

Problem 2: The staffer wrote, “Just before he could do so, an amateur with an inexpensive digital camera…” Why isn’t the person named? Ray Clark had said that he would never use anonymous sources, but he allows anonymous subjects in news articles. This is hypocritical. The paper is hiding behind the cloak of anonymity by using the word “staff” instead of a byline, and it is hiding behind the cloak of anonymity by failing to name the person who allegedly did the bad act. What the report amounts to is a series of insinuations rather than a factually based news report that informs.

Problem 2a: ‘an inexpensive digital camera.’ It is important not to state a fact unless you know the certainty of it. How does Ray Clark know the expense or lack of expense of the camera? Unless the fact has a point in the story and further, is a confirmed fact, its use in the story just becomes another vehicle to denigrate. Do not include extraneous facts in an article. If facts are included, confirm them.

Problem 3: This report uses the words “appears unethical”. It is either unethical or it is not. If so, then the writer should indicate why by using attributed sources or documents. If it is not unethical, it is a moot point and its inclusion in the article serves no purpose other than to cast aspersions. Newspapers should inform, not allege or insinuate.

Problem 4: The report is based on a non-issue. The photograph was taken at Stimson Hall during a publicly noticed meeting. Any other person there may have had a camera and could take a photo. Citizens are allowed to take photos, take notes, to record or to video meetings. This report actually harms the democratic process because it insinuates that only certain people may photograph or record what happens at public meetings.

Problem 5: In the very same issue, the Gray News received a photo of a young student that was taken by her mother. The Gray News published that photo with the credit “Photo staff.” The photo was not taken ‘by staff’ and that work was not theirs to claim. The Gray News is hypocritical.

Busted!

4 Comments:

  • I remember this. Nathan made a stink about it. I think he actually wrote the article. He was talking about Elizabeth of The Monument, who stood next to him and snapped a photo too. She is not an amaetur. She makes her living writing and photographing. If that's not a professional, I don't know what is. I think the report was definitely an editorial esepcially since biasbuster pointed out that there anren't any facts in it. All I see is just a bunch of opinions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:08 PM  

  • O.M.Goodness don't you have anything better to do than this?

    I check here from time to time

    What a poor way to spend your days

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:51 PM  

  • Educating the citizenry as to their rights to appropriate journalism is a wonderful way to spend my time. A literate and empowered citizenry is an active and healthy citizenry. So, I enjoy it. But thank you for your concern as to how I might spend my time.

    And thank YOU for spending your time here, as well, and for taking the time to read, to digest the information, and to comment.

    By Blogger BiasBuster, at 6:07 PM  

  • Sometimes things aren't pleasant, but it's good to keep an eye on it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:25 PM  

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