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Now the Details

Media, ethics, and journalism. What works. What doesn't.

Jeffrey Dvorkin

Friday, May 14, 2010

Saving Ombudsmen To Save Journalism

Still in Oxford, meeting with the Organization of News Ombudsmen and hearing from some of the most thoughtful practitioners both from the news business and the academy.

David Levy, the head of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism here in Oxford, referred to the concept of "churnalism," - the fact that news events are being used and reused ("reversioned," to use the in house phrase) without adding to the development of the story. "Churnalism" (what a great term) is the by-product of the smaller editorial presence in most media where the audience hears the same story again and again simply because there isn't the time to move the story along.

Dr. Levy also referred to the "digital windsock," (another wonderful visual concept) where a story has editorial longevity simply because it exists on the web, but without the civic importance that contextualization might provide. Dr. Levy asked the toughest question which was: is journalism about democracy? Or is it really about jobs for journalists?

Charlie Beckett from the London School of Economics reinforced Dr. Levy's approach when he quoted the new head of BBC News who has told his staff that they must either understand that the web is the ultimate journalistic goal. "Get there, or get out," was the paraphrase.

Professor Beckett said that the role of the new "cyber" ombudsmen should be four-fold:

1. they must be facilitators, not judges.

2. they must be moderators, not regulators.

3. they must hold forums, not courts.

4. they are educators, not enforcers.

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