The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.


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PressThink – Jay Rosen’s blog – Ghost of democracy in the media machine

Jay Rosen is a press critic, an observer of journalists, and he is also a writer trying to make sense of the world he sees. Jay is interested in the framework of ideas about journalism that journalists work within, and those ideas, or ideals, they feel they can work without. He tries to discover the consequences in the world that result from having the kind of press we have.

“I call this blog PressThink because that’s the kind of work I do. The title points to forms of thought that identify “journalism” to itself— but also to the habit of not thinking about certain things. The subatomic force that holds the pack of reporters together as they swarm around a story, there’s an example of pressthink. Without it there could be no pack; the pieces would come flying apart. There is a strange energy there, holding smart people to dumb practices.”


Nieman Watchdog – Questions the press should ask

In 1937 Agnes Nieman gave $1 million to Harvard University for the purpose of promoting and elevating the “standards of journalism in the United States and educate persons deemed specially qualified for journalism.” This presented a problem for Harvard. At the time not many journalists went to college, and journalism was not a recognized academic discipline. Nevertheless, The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University was founded in 1938. In addition to its annual Fellowship program, the Nieman Foundation publishes the quarterly Nieman Reports, and hosts

The mission of Nieman Watchdog is to make independent experts more available to the working press. These experts suggest probing questions and provide background information on complex public issues.

Center for Public Integrity – Investigative journalism in the public interest

Founded in 1989, the Center for Public Integrity is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in Washington D. C. The Center is non-partisan, non-advocacy, and “dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern.” See Mission Statement

As a qualified Federal tax-exempt organization, its annual IRS information returns (Form-990) are available for public inspection upon request, or may be viewed on (tax years 1998 – 2006). The Center had an operating loss of $1.5 million in tax year 2006 on gross receipts of $3.2 million. Tax deductible donations can be made online through the Center’s website,

The Center’s books and reports combine political science and investigative reporting, unfettered by the usual time and space constraints. By providing thorough, thoughtful and objective analysis, the Center hopes to serve as an honest broker of information — and to inspire a better-informed citizenry to demand a higher level of accountability from its government and elected leaders.

See: Wikipedia – Center for Public Integrity

Sample reports from the Center:

The Buying of the President

Windfalls of War – U. S. Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq

Expensive litigation, or the mere threat of litigation, can be used as an effective tool of censorship by anyone with the wealth and will to use the courts to deter public scrutiny. The Fund for Independence in Journalism, a 509 (a)(3) nonprofit, tax exempt charity, was created to do just that – by providing an endowment for support, public education and legal defense of the largest nonprofit, investigative reporting organization in the world, the Center for Public Integrity.

Center for Media and Democracy – Exposing public relations spin and propaganda

The Center for Media and Democracy is a non-profit, non-partisan, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism.

The Center serves journalists, researchers, policymakers and citizens in the following ways:

  • Countering propaganda by investigating and reporting on behind-the-scenes public relations campaigns by corporations, industries, governments and other powerful institutions.
  • Informing and assisting grassroots citizen activism that promotes public health, economic justice, ecological sustainability and human rights.
  • Promoting media literacy to help the public recognize the forces shaping the information they receive about issues that affect their lives.
  • Sponsoring “open content” media that enable citizens from all walks of life to “be the media” and to participate in creating media content.

The Center sponsors the following projects:

  • SourceWatch, an Internet-based “open content” encyclopedia of people, groups and issues shaping the public agenda.
  • PR Watch quarterly, which investigates and exposes how the public relations industry and other professional propagandists manipulate public information, perceptions and opinion on behalf of governments and special interests.
  • Congresspedia, the “citizen’s encyclopedia” of the members of the US House and Senate.
  • Spin of the Day, which offers web-based daily reporting on public relations, propaganda and media spin.
Wikipedia – Elements and ethical standards of journalism

Elements of Journalism – In order for a journalist to fulfill their duty of providing the people with the information they need to be free and self-governing. They must follow these guidelines:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizens.
  3. Its essence is discipline of verification.
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting, and relevant.
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.
  10. It must acknowledge the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

Ethical standards:

  • Use original sources of information, including interviews with people directly involved in a story, original documents and other direct sources of information, whenever possible, and cite the sources of this information in reports.
  • Fully attribute information gathered from other published sources, should original sources not be available (not to do so is considered plagiarism; some newspapers also note when an article uses information from previous reports).
  • Use multiple original sources of information, especially if the subject of the report is controversial.
  • Check every fact reported.
  • Find and report every side of a story possible.
  • Report without bias, illustrating many aspects of a conflict rather than siding with one.
  • Approach researching and reporting a story with a balance between objectivity and skepticism.
  • Use careful judgment when organizing and reporting information.
  • Be careful about granting confidentiality to sources.
  • Decline gifts or favors from any subject of a report, to avoid the appearance of being influenced.
  • Abstain from reporting or otherwise participating in the research and writing about a subject in which the journalist has a personal stake or bias that cannot be set aside.

Wikipedia – Journalism


Written by Tom Fox

02/26/2008 at 12:48 am

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