Crossing Ethical Boundaries; What Do We Do About It?

This week I listened to 3 podcasts: You Decide, We Report; Sue You!; and People in Holes, all from On the Media. I find them all interesting in their own way, and I believe that they can all link together, in a way.

The first podcast, You Decide, We Report is about search engine optimization and how journalists will continue to try and get their stories to show up on the first page of a Google search. Brent Payne, director of search engine optimization for Tribune Interactive was interviewed, and his job is to ensure that a Tribune article lands on the front page of Google when a search is conducted. If you are anything like me, you rarely go to the next page of search results on Google; you typically just don’t find what you are looking for. So Brent’s job is to come up with a carefully crafted title so that when searched for, will pop up as one of the first results. No slang or nicknames, but to-the-point information and words. This is the opposite from what it used to be, as a play on words and “punchiness” was what once used to get people to read an article. However, fancy titles won’t get people like Brent anywhere if they want their articles to get picked up on Google. To me, this kind of seems like a lack of personality, or a lack of uniqueness. As I said in a pervious blog, we are losing our connection with the media of old, which promoted creativity, craftsmanship, and uniqueness. So, will reporters like those of the Tribune “sell out” as I see it and start writing things just to get recognized by search engines such as Google? I suppose they can put some of their creativity in their articles, but not being able to title an article something catchy is one lost little bit of creativity. That’s where it starts! Another thing I found interesting in the podcast was when they questioned, “who are we to say what is or isn’t important?” That is, why should journalists decide what is the most important to the human race as a whole? I find this to be another “robotization,” if you will. Most of the time, people just take what is in the current news and accept that that is what is and should be important. Most people don’t dig deeper for stories or events that may be more pressing. Personally, most of what is in the news today is of little to no interest to me. My brother says I need to get involved with politics and stay up to date with what is going on in the country, but honestly, I find it to be its own little “Hollywood,” with nothing but drama, and people throwing uneducated opinions around left and right. It doesn’t interest me. Sorry. The things that do interest me, however, I will go out there and research.

The second podcast, Sue You!, kind of made me laugh a little. It was about the court case between Liskula Cohen and Rosemary Port. Rosemary Port, who was the author of an anonymous blog, wrote a post about Liskula Cohen and in it called her a “skank.” Liskula took great offense to this and wanted to sue for defamation. In order for her to sue Rosemary, she needed to know who she was in the first place. A New York court agreed with Liskula, and Google had to turn over Rosemary’s information. Needless to say, Rosemary was not happy. And after it was revealed that Rosemary was the author, who turned out to be an acquaintance of Liskula’s, Liskula decided to drop the case. However, Rosemary then decided to make a case against Google for revealing her personal information. Typical girl drama. This is why I have so many male friends! The point here, though, is should Google have released Rosemary’s information? Also, should people be made responsible for what they say on the internet? To me, this is a tough one. I don’t think Google should have released Rosemary’s information. Come on Liskula, grow up! There are going to be many haters out there. When you are in the spotlight, its inevitable. As much as I would like to, I won’t say what I personally think about Liskula. Not only is my name on this blog, but I do have a sense of what the proper place and time is to share personal things about people. Don’t set yourself up for failure! And, even though Liskula didn’t like that Rosemary had to say, Google had no right, in my opinion, to release Rosemary’s information. It was an anonymous blog, and it should have been kept that way, defamation scandal or not. Maybe it should be a learning experience of Liskula; she should take into consideration what people are writing about her, because maybe there is a hint of truth in it. Just saying.

The last podcast I listened to was People in Holes. This podcast is about the “magic” that is created in the media when people are stuck in holes. Kids trapped in wells, mines that have collapsed, men trapped in caves; people always seem to be super compelled to tune into these stories more than any other. I feel like when tragedies such as these happen, not to mention the recent shooting out at Marysville Pillchuck, they get glorified into something so great, but only for the benefit of the media covering it. Yes, it is a tragedy, and should definitely not be ignored. I’m in no way saying its its not a tragedy. J. Frank Willis, reporter from the Canadian Radio Commission that covered the collapse of the Moose River Mine in Nova Scotia in 1936 goes on to say that, essentially, people take what these reports have to say and twist or. Or, other media comes up with a little twist that makes the story more interesting. Willis is in absolute opposition with this fact, and thinks that only the actual facts need to be reported, and I wholeheartedly agree. In order for people to stay tuned into a certain station, they will put on related material, like “experts” in an area that have to do with what is going on, just to get people to tune in. To me, this seems to glorify the tragic event that is happening. It builds it up, in a way, to something that is either “better” or “more interesting.” I think that the facts need to be stated, just like Willis says, and nothing more. When the Marysville shooting happened, there was all kinds of information out there. I even read an article from the UK that had incorrect information. I think this is the case in a lot of aspects in our lives; we like to make things seem more interesting than they actually are because we like that escape.

Now, in tying all these podcasts together, I think we can link them all in terms of media ethics, for sure. Where is that line? Should journalists pick and choose what they write just so they can get a “front page listing” on a search engine? Should Google expose an anonymous blog poster just because a sensitive individual didn’t like what they had to say? And what about when the media covers a tragic event; is it really necessary to embellish or simply throw out incorrect information? I think the bottom line here is, as always, money. Journalists want people to read what they write. They want people to click on their links, and they want people to tune into their network, even if all they are covering is fluff. People want to sue other people (and companies), just because they can. I agree that Google should not have released Rosemary’s information, but to turn around and sue them over it? And for $15 million! Way to go, ‘Murrica! I think “new media” is taking things to an entirely different level and is causing companies to toe the line quite a bit.

As much as journalists want to stick to their morals, new media is making it difficult for them to do so. Periodicals want, no, need, readers, but search engine optimization is forcing them to do things a bit differently. When will this stop? Will it stop? Will it ever be about something other than the money? Do we need all the fluff, or can the real story tell all that needs to be said? What we need is a new kind of revolution. We’ve invented all these great resources and outlets, yet a lot of them are being taken down a “dark path.” (I’m remembering the second week of class, when my group came up with the the thought, “what if Google does dark?” What a terrifying thought!) Ethical lines always seem to be getting crossed, like a game of tug of war between an evenly matched team. So, I guess the real question is, what do we do about it?

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