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Case studies in new ethical challenges in online journalism

Citizen journalist falsely reports Jobs’ heart attack

By Natalie Johnson, Dotcom Journalists

Due to new technology and the Internet, the definition of a journalist is expanding. Many Web sites now provide platforms for ordinary people, or “citizen journalists” to post news they have created themselves. On such site, iReport.com, allows users to upload news-related articles and videos they have created. The site is run by CNN.com and becoming a “journalist” for the site involves nothing more than filling out a short form and providing an e-mail address. iReport.com does not screen, edit or fact-check uploaded content and makes not guarantee of the accuracy of anything on the site. It’s tagline is “Unedited. Unfiltered. News.”

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BBC edits Obama’s speech

By Natalie Johnson, Dotcom journalists

Shortly after Barack Obama’s inauguration, BBC’s Newsnight show ran a 50-minute special program on the beginning of Obama’s presidency titled “Obama’s first 100 days: Environment.” It opened the program with what seemed to be a sound excerpt from Obama’s inauguration address playing along with video clips of nature scenes and scientific looking buildings. In reality, the sound bite was three different sentences from different parts of Obama’s speech spliced together. The edited sound bite had an obvious focus on the environment and scientific advancement:
“We will restore science to its rightful place, roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

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Reporters lure child predators

By Natalie Johnson, Dotcom journalists

In December of 2003 the Wichita, Kansas television station KCTV-Channel 5 teamed up with the Web site Perverted-Justice.com and began an investigation to discover and reveal Internet predators in the area. Volunteers from the site posed as adolescent boys and girls in Internet chat rooms and set up meetings with men who solicited them for sex online, giving them the address of a home that the station had rented.

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When a Google search serves up fraud

By Jasmine Linabary, Dotcom Journalists

Allen Kraus had been praised for his office’s efforts to uncover fraud when he was deputy commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration (Hoyt, 2007). But when he got a new boss, everything changed.

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Fired for personal blogging

By Joy Bacon, Dotcom Journalists

Chez Pazienza has been working in television news and production for the past 16 years. His has produced and managed daily content for WSVN and WTVJ in Miami, KCBS, KNBC and KCAL in Los Angeles, and MSNBC. His earned two Emmy’s for his work in Los Angeles, and has also received a Golden Mic award. In January of 2004, Pazienza joined CNN’s staff. He started out doing general work and assignments for the company’s Atlanta, Georgia office. From Atlanta, he moved to New York and worked on “CNN Daybreak.” He then moved on to become a senior produce on “American Morning.”

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Hypocrisy in journalism school

By Joy Bacon, Dotcom Journalists

Alana Taylor is a journalism and history student at New York University. In the summer of 2008, she was asked by PBS to begin posting guest entries on the organization’s Media Shift blog. She did not receive payment for her work. Taylor posted her first entry on Sept. 5, 2008, titled “Old Thinking Permeates Journalism School.” The entry focused on her only journalism class that term, Reporting Gen. Y, which aimed to explore how Generation Y used new technology differently than previous audiences, and how to utilize this technology in journalistic reporting. Taylor’s entry was critical in several ways.

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‘Bittergate’: Is there such a thing as off the record?

By Jasmine Linabary, Dotcom Journalists

Mayhill Fowler, 61, was much like the others at an invite-only fundraiser for presidential candidate Barack Obama in April 2008 in San Francisco – she was an avid support living in the Bay Area, having contributed nearly the maximum allowed, $2,300, and was holding a recorder. What made her different was that she was also a citizen journalist – a regular contributor to OffTheBus, a blog maintained by a network of 1,800 writers created by the Huffington Post to cover the the campaign (Seelye, 2008).

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Tweeting a funeral

By Jasmine Linabary, Dotcom Journalists

The Rocky Mountain News began its coverage the night a SUV broadsided a Mazda pickup truck and sent it careening into a nearby Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop in Aurora, Colo., killing the two women in the pickup and a 3-year-old boy getting ice cream (Washington & Villa, 2008). The story in early September of the hit-and-run accident by a suspected illegal immigrant drew attention and interest from the community of the third largest city in Colorado (Temple, 2008). However, it was the coverage of 3-year-old Marten Kudlis’ funeral a week later that put the Rocky Mountain News itself into the story.

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