Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


#FOEDA in Alexandria

February 12, 2010

Forty journalists from around the world will be meeting in Alexandria, Egypt on February 15-17 to discuss and blog about the state of media, freedom of expression, religion issues and ways to cover sensitive information. All this  in the framework of a three day conference : Reporting Across Cultures: Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age organized by International Center for Journalism and United Nations Civilization Foundation.  This is the next step of the ICFJ Course this blog was initially started for.  More information can be found here and on twitter by searching  #FOEDA.


ICFJ Course: View in Retrospect

January 20, 2010

Realized Improvements

During the ICFJ 5 week course in Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age I have had a chance to share impressions about digital media with practicing journalist from around the world.

I have most benefited from the diversity of backgrounds and opinions of the participants –  It was fascinating to see how journalists who have had 15-20 years of experience, certain habits and some skepticism  about the idea of social media and other digital gadgets of the time to find Twitter, Facebook useful and attractive.  That change of opinion speaks about the flexibility of the leading minds in the industry and openness to learn more despite established habits and views.

Digitally Versed – As a result of the course I am a better researcher, writer and have developed an eye for responsible and irresponsible blogs.

Informed – I have found invaluable sources of information now listed in my blogroll. Some of them are journalists I met in the course.  Despite my resent graduate studies in journalism I have had very few encounters with journalists who care about their craft and are blogging about journalistic ethics in digital age, its impact and importance.

Mastered a New Platform – I have been familiar with the writing techniques for online and print media. However, practicing on a weekly bases has certainly produced better organization and  proofreading  practice.

I am glad I forced myself to use WordPress blogging platform for this course as I was not very proficient with this particular platform. I have previously used Blogger and has always wanted to try out other similar bases.

I have built confidence in  embedding maps, video and audio files, starting polls and simply exploring the seemingly endless possibilities of this platform.

Arab World – Perspectives of my Arab counterparts on the current state and use of digital and social media reinforced the importance of journalistic practice and highlighted some of the culturally important yet often overlooked aspects. Had I not participated in this course I would have hardly have a chance to listen to their part of the story. I hope to stay connected. I also hope to have a better understanding of how journalists work and use digital media in that part of the world going forward.

Unanswered Questions – I still see my question about the effective ways of using blogs by news organizations remain unanswered and that is yet another benefit of this course as it builds my list of resolutions for this year:

2010 Journalistic Resolutions

– continue exploring digital media opportunities

– find new outlets to practice digital journalism and be more entrepreneurial

– find new thought leaders to follow and engage into conversation

– master various bloggign platforms

– become truly an expert in what I do despite still existing skepticism and various boundaries

– continue sharing experiences it the industry

– maintain belief in socially responsible journalism and continue practicing it

-be active and engaged

– contribute more on

Journalism on the Brink: Can Digital Save It?

In this video The University of Washington’s Journalism program, in collaboration with the Online News Association, presented a free, public event (March 2009): ‘Journalism on the Brink? Can Digital Save It?’


Comments on News Media Sites

January 14, 2010

My professor in Critical Writing used to say that good books have their  true impact when you discuss them. I believe it applies to any writing, idea and point of view. History and our live experiences have undeniably shown that monologues have never gotten any of us anywhere happy. Think about any dictatorship or an argument where you didn’t feel safe to express your opinion.

The development of technology has made it possible to turn written pieces alive,  make an idea into a dialogue. Possibility to leave comments, share content has provided for a two-way communication, which in turn, puts  democracy into action.

Giving the readers an opportunity  to have their say regarding a news piece makes a perfect sense. At the end of the day, news is for public and we as reporters should be interested in feedback. Commenting feature also boosts traffic, so it is eventually good for the business, too.


Comments from concerned, curious and active  readers can really improve the story, provide for a follow-up investigation, open a new angle. On the other hand, some may use comments in provocative measures.

Obscenities and ethical and racial slurs can hardly ever be avoided. Just like in a real life, yet much worse online. It has been proven that lying and insulting is a lot easier online than in real life, when you actually look someones in the eyes.


News organizations have come up with various antidotes to undesired and insulting comments by the use of customizable filters for specific words and user names. Moderation of comments by a group of editors is yet another way to make sure the dialogue is civilized. Wall Street Journal, and many other news providers require registration with valid e-mail addressees and only after verification do they allow users to leave comments.

Ethical Impediments

Freedom is also a responsibility and should not be confused with an uncontrollable flow of generally accepted insults. Disagreements and criticism should be encouraged however the importance of  civilized and equal dialogue  should not be undermined.

Another professor on mine, Gyurginian,  used to say that there is a little voice of wisdom inside of each of us  which gets especially activated when we send an order to our brain to write! For as long as we write, encourage others to write and  engage into a civilized dialogue comments can only be constructive.


Photo Manipulation Example

January 10, 2010


The photo below was taken in the summer of 2009 in Chicago, IL. A popular band Nova Lima was performing in the Millennium Park as part of the annual series of performances Music Without Borders. the original photo is in color and shows a lot of background and landscape while the black and white version (edited) shows one of the members of the audience from close-up. Minor cropping and color balance change did alter the photo and the feel of the real environment rather dramatically. However, we are dealing with an uncontroversial, peaceful and artistic topic and thus these alterations are hardly going to raise any ethical concerns.


The Video below talks about the rules that govern journalistic portrait photography, and the distinction between artistic prerogative and photo gotcha.

Audio from

posted by jjfbbennett
February 28, 2009


Photo Manipulation

January 8, 2010

Photos capture a moment in history, evoke emotions and serve as evidence of the present and past. We rely on photo images and they do worth a thousand words.

With the development of technology, image alteration has become not only a form of art but also a tool for content manipulation. An article on Nation Master explains the history and types of photo manipulation.

Simple color balance or contrast is considered manipulation techniques. However, more serious alterations such as embedding a smoke onto a standing and unharmed building is a completely another story.

Photo Manipulation Record

One of the first cases of photo manipulation dates back to 1860s. A photo of Abraham Lincoln was altered using the body from a portrait of John C. Calhoun and the head of Lincoln from a portrait by Mathew Brady.

This portrait was later used for the original Lincoln Five-dollar bill.

Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth University present an interesting collection of photo manipulation from 1860 to 2009.


Ethical aspect of the photo manipulation in political and journalistic practices does raise questions and lead to

various ethics guidelines.  The question is how to draw a distinct line between art and manipulation? Donald R. Winslow of National Press Photographers Association examined the issue in detail in his article A QUESTION OF TRUTH: Photojournalism And Visual Ethics

Just like any other craft, so does the photo journalism needs guidelines which help us and our colleagues be responsible in our reporting, in carrying our mission effectively and with little harm.

In 2006 Community of Concerned Journalists published a collection of photojournalism ethics guidelines from various publications.

The majority of publications call editors and photographers to exercise caution in the use of “set-up” photographs. Others caution against using photographs taken specifically for news column in advertisements.

Organization of Ethical Photography accepts only minor editing and calls for utmost responsibility. They lay out specific guidelines for cropping, sharpening and color balance .


Link! Do not Blink!

December 16, 2009

The argument of linking or not linking in this digital age where the web has created possibilities to dig and find information is at least irrelevant. Of course we should link and have no doubt about it.

If you are still wondering what the reasons are to really start / continue linking to sources, here are some reasons:

Linking is Constructive

  • it’s ethical – links can serve as a “windows” to sources, give credit to original sources. Bob Steele and Bill Mitchell of Poynter institute write about the ethics of linking, which might be worth reading through.
  • it’s educational – links give more information to readers who would like to expand their knowledge
  • it’s transparent – links build bridges between two main functions of journalistic craft: you share and reveal the truth by revealing source, thus raising credibility of your information and profession
  • it’s a good use of space – you provide important information in a short writing with possibilities to learn more and more

“Good Judgment” in Linking

Just as we chose our sources, so should we chose the links we provide.  How? Here are some ideas:

  • make sure the source you are linking to is credible
  • assess relevance with care, be respectful to your readership’s time
  • provide balanced views and information in the links, do not just link to information that is one sided
  • avoid advertising and promoting sources, especially if you are writing a column or an editorial

Bill Mitchell, the Editor of Poynter Online, in his article On the Ethics of Linking: The Indianapolis Story illustrates why links are important and why it is important to use this tool with care.

Roots of the Pro & Con

As with any other source and the decision to use a particular source there is healthy sceptisism. Bakc in early 2000, when gidital reporting was still the talk of the town, some reised issues. So did Richard Nokes, a professor of medieval literature at Troy University. Early, in 2005 Professor Nokes asked for his peer-bloggers to comment on the matter of linking and its ethic

Linking Guides

Many news organizations and individual bloggers have set their own codes of ethics where they address the issue of linking. One of the guides I trust the most is the the Poynter’s guide of ethics.


What we should continue to question ourselves about is  what to link to, how often and when.


CBN: Verdict: Hyper-Thematic, Promotional

December 8, 2009

Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) –Established in 1959 in Virginia. It was the first Christian television station in the nation with a mission “to reach the world with a message of hope from the Bible.”

Today CBN is a multifaceted nonprofit organization that provides programming by cable, broadcast and satellite to approximately 200 countries, with a 24-hour telephone prayer line. Chief among CBN’s broadcasting components is The 700 Club, a daily television program.

Web look – Judging from its web site look the organization invests considerable amount of its funds in programming and technology. Attractive red color graphics, non-static images, and links to their affiliates as well as a possibility to share the story on other online platforms all indicate that the organization is making the most of their web presence.

Content – The content reflects the organization’s mission statement:  Christian themes and corresponding content pop out from a number of advertising blocs. It is hard to differentiate between news “product” and advertising.

The web site has information sections – health, finance, entertainment, global – which do report news however with a heavy Christian emphasis.  Due to the absence of any dates on articles / reports it is hard to estimate the freshness of the content.

The majority of content whether in finance or entertainment is advisory in nature, lacks quotes and is limited in attributions to any sources.   Their writers might be considered their ultimate source as they write for a specific readership and may enjoy a high level of credibility.

Although the information might be credible is it not newsworthy in nature and is geared towards a particular niche of readers with special interests and beliefs.