Transparency in a Digital World

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Caytlinn Strickland

With the ever-evoloving landscape of journalism, digital has had a great impact on how subjects are reported on, and the methods used to be as transparent as possible. With a 24/7 news platform, and the immediacy of publishing articles and stories, verifying information is become a time-consuming task for journalists, oftentimes leading to false information. According to the fact-checking site, Politifact, “46 percent of the claims made by NBC and MSNBC pundits and on-air personalities have been rated Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire. At FOX and Fox News Channel, that same number is 60 percent. At CNN, it’s 18 percent” (Sharockman, 2014). With so much false information being reported, transparency about these mistakes and corrections is important for these companies to keep trust from their viewers.

With the many features that come with the digital age and the continuous development of the internet, there are new ways for media outlets to stay transparent. Traditional media outlets, such as BBC and business site Quartz, are beginning to find a new way of checking their facts and keeping their information and methods transparent. Instead of waiting for their teams to check names, facts, and data, they are allowing readers to not only comment, but even correct articles online using annotations (Meade, 2014). Rather than letting the pressure of the 24/7 news cycle create mistakes, they are allowing the tools available from the internet to allow others to correct and fact check once they put their information out. In an interview with Quartz, they said, “We look at every new annotation. That’s because we want to absorb all your wisdom, respond when appropriate, and remove stuff that’s off-topic or abusive. We approve any annotation that makes a substantive contribution, and we don’t shy away from criticism” (Meade, 2014). This transparency through interactivity, has the ability to gain trust in users and readers, knowing what exact mistakes happened, and how Quartz is changing them.

Publishing information before facts and information is checked can be detrimental to a media company’s credibility, however being transparent about those mistakes can definitely help with the recovery. For example, during the Boston Marathon Bombings, the New York Post asked for the public’s help in identifying the suspect by submitting photos of any who looked suspicious. This later caused the publication of an image, on the front page, of the wrong suspect, creating controversy, lack of credibility and false reporting on the Post’s part. It may be possible that if this had been published online, there could have been more of an online presence of people disputing this claim, allowing more time to fact check and make sure they had the right image of the right people. Rather than apologizing for publishing the wrong image, the Post claimed that they did not do anything wrong, they just published the image that was sent to law enforcement (“Teen Stunned,” 2013), lacking in transparency and possibly hurting credibility and trust from audiences. Plaisance explained, “Even the fact that stories of newsroom scandals now dominate the news more frequently can be considered a good thing…many news organizations have transformed that new immediacy into more loyal and attentive audiences” (p. 93). The important thing about this new method of transparency is not that there are more and more mistakes, but that the internet allows for a more open platform to share those mistakes and provide transparency to readers and audiences.

References:

Meade, A. (2014). Digital journalists have great chance to develop much-needed transparency. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/sep/05/digital-journalists-have-great-chance-to-develop-much-needed-transparency

Plaisance, P. L. (2014). Media Ethics: Key Principles for Responsible Practice, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sharockman, A. (2014). Introducing: Scorecards for the tv networks. Retrieved from http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/article/2014/jul/01/introducing-scorecards-tv-networks/

Teen stunned at portrayal as bombing suspect. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/teen-stunned-at-portrayal-as-boston-bombing-suspect/

Image retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/slate_fare/2014/12/slate_s_most_commented_articles_who_comments_on_what_articles_and_why.html

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