Workshop addresses journalism values

Ellen Countryman

Online media tests objectivity, transparency

Is it “What Values?” or “What? Values?” ÿwhen it comes to online media and the new wave of citizen journalism? That was the question on deck at this year’s fifth annual Poynter Kent State Media Ethics Workshop.

“More and more people are getting some, if not all, of their news online today,” said Jan Leach, Poynter Ethics Fellow and assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.ÿ”From traditional media Web sites to company and advocacy sites to blogs and Twitter, information is readily available.”

Traditional media refers to the Fourth Estate, said to Kelly McBride, ethics group leader of The Poynter Institute, a training center for journalists. Other non-traditional forms of media, such as blogs, iPhone applications and widgets are now referred to as the Fifth Estate.

Ellyn Angelotti, Poynter’s interactivity editor and adjunct faculty, pointed out that lines between transparency and objectivity in media are becoming grayer as the Fifth Estate emerges.

“We need to learn to use online networks to help share news and still be authentic without being biased,” Angelotti said.

McBride asked, if anyone can be his or her own journalist and post “news” for the world to see, then how does one distinguish the credible information from biased storytelling? And more importantly, how will democracy function with the new media changes?

McBride said citizens will have to learn a new set of skills to participate in democracy, adding that they will have to go by a set of values to determine fact and fiction and what is journalism versus gossip and biased opinions.

Simply saying who is a journalist and what makes them one will have zero relevancy in the future when everyone is a “journalist” with just a couple of buttons on a cell phone. It is a question that may never have an answer, said Bob Steele, Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values.

During the panel discussions, blogs and Twitter accounts were buzzing with media discussions of their own.

The result of the conference was not to define journalism, but to keep the discussion of online media open and fueled, Leach said.

Citizens have the right and responsibility as the new media practitioners to be educated about what they are reading as credible news, she said.

“One of the most important things to come from the ethics workshop is continued conversation about online ethics,” Leach said. “We also support consumer literacy because discourse about online ethics should provide more critical analyses of online media.”

Stanley Wearden, dean of the College of Communication and Information, shared similar views in his opening remarks. He cited the recent Kanye West and Taylor Swift debacle as an example of online media fueling bad behavior.ÿ

“I believe that this forum leads to better journalism,” Wearden said. “And better journalism leads to a better society.”

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Ellen Countryman at [email protected].