State of the craft

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State of the craft

The Craigslist founder talks to Ken Doctor about his foundation's plan to spend another $3.5 million on news and information philanthropy, on top of $2.5 million he's already committed to Wikipedia for an anti-harassment initiative and other uses, and to the Poynter Institute for an ethics chair: "This is the start. At this point, it’s incumbent on me as an ultra-patriot to spend like a sailor on shore leave."

Harassment and even demonization are becoming disturbingly common, with science journalists among the targets, Keith Kloor writes: "The more you report facts, the less they seem to matter. Anyone who’s been on the front lines of the climate wars, feel free to nod along. The same goes for you scientists and science communicators who have gotten entangled in the genetically modified organism (GMO) thicket or who have chased anti-vaccine activists down a rabbit hole."

Thomas Vinciguerra takes aim at media outlets that pay freelancers by the page view or, worse, don't pay them at all, unless you count "exposure" as currency: "It’s hardly a secret that magazines and newspapers are now leaning mercilessly on their dwindling staffs, unable to pay outsiders as much as they once did or take them on at all … But there is something fundamentally obscene about expecting anyone to work gratis. And that applies even to us ink-stained wretches."

Reporters write stories and editors write headlines, and that's the way it's always been, but Felix Salmon argues that it's time for that to change as reading habits evolve: "In practice, this is going to mean that the purview of headlines needs to be wrested back from social-optimization teams. Instead, the people who know the story best — including the people who actually wrote the thing — have to be empowered to veto all headlines which are in any way misleading."

Jessi Hempel interviews Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski about the website's mission of debunking fake news stories, and her sense that the fake news explosion is linked to the decline in news resources: “When you’re on your fifth story of the day and there’s no editor because the editor’s been fired and there’s no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don’t have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up.”

Joel Simon argues that the news media's failure to inform voters results not so much from its own performance as from a proliferation of social media that drowns it out: "What if technology suddenly allowed 50 different lawyers to present competing narratives to the jury? And what if evidence requirements were eliminated, such that some of the lawyers presented their arguments based on traditional evidentiary standards, while others felt liberated to make things up?"

Louise Lief discusses journalism's alienation from the public and says librarians have a remedy: "Their job is to navigate the world of information, help scholars and students get what they need, and distinguish good information from bad. They’ve faced their own technological disruptions, and have responded by developing a set of principles to help their public assess the credibility of information and use it ethically. They call this framework 'information literacy.'"

Irish journalist Brian Boyd complains about how the digital age of journalism is also becoming its confessional age, as writers grab attention with first-person stories of their secrets: "An author I know who writes unbelievably boring books that are nevertheless loved by the literary establishment told me recently that a leading UK newspaper would only interview him about his new book if he talked about his long-running and somewhat picaresque battle with alcoholism."

Deron Lee interviews Scott Reinardy, a University of Kansas journalism professor whose new book, Journalism’s Lost Generation, examines the fallout from a decade of cost-cutting in the newspaper business: "I don’t use this word lightly, but I would call it an organizational depression that’s occurring. There has been so much loss in those newsrooms. Journalists don’t necessarily just lose jobs, they lose careers and some real self-identity."