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Paul Steiger of Pro Publica on emerging ethical issues

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Paul Steiger of  Pulitzer Prize winning Pro Publica raised ethical issues generated by the rise of journalists using social and new media today at the Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop.

Among the issues Steiger raised (and can easily be discussed in terms of scholastic media):
• The blurring of the lines between fact and opinion
• The ability to gather facts is not as universal as the ability to share them
• Truth in labeling is not a best practice, it is an ethical imperative; it must be clear whether something is fact or opinion
• It is easier to get people to click on views they agree with than it is to get them to respond to facts
• Tension is growing between the responsibility toward civic engagement and public service and the quest for audience and branding
• The race to publish can and does lead to factual atrocities
• Mania for increasing pageviews brings us Hollywood trivia posing as news or crowding out news

Steiger said there is a big danger of going too far in masking entertainment as news or using satire, entertainment, etc., as news. One has to be sure  “the narrative does not take over the journalism,” of forgetting the mission. The challenge is to not let one crowd out the other.

In short, he said, the values that guide us….public service, accuracy, commitment to fairness, use influence to help those who need it…..need to endure no matter the platform and no matter what business models we develop for the future.

Steiger’s complete comments will be available later today.

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