The ethics of hyperlocal news, mags and political balance

Journalistic ethics posts all over the place in the past 24 hours.

On Coleen Curry’s blog, there is an interesting take on the philosophy and ethics of small-scale hyperlocal news sites.

Her worry is straightforward – that running a hyperlocal news site as a business may descend into pandering to demographics. While I think the gap she cites between editorial and commercial in print is a lot narrower than she suggests (certainly in Ireland and Britain), it is a legitimate concern.

Howard Owens, of The Batavian, gives an equally simple solution in the comments – “screw the demographics” and concentrate on the journalism. Tell the stories, big and small, positive and negative, with passion and the community will embrace the site and make it pay.

Even more simply, his advice was to go solo — “stop working for the Man” —  and avoid the pressures that may come from working in a keyword-chasing conglomerate looking to “scale” hyperlocal sites.

There is a lengthy post on Media Shift on the implications for magazines publishing in digital format. At times it seems to assume readers are total idiots but does raise the interesting point that digital ads, because they force you to perform an action,  may actually carry fewer ethical pitfalls than print:

” … the new variety of interactive ads, though they still focus on products’ image and create emotions around the products, might in fact be in some ways “purer” than the ads of the past that primarily tried to create impressions of brands in the audience’s minds.”

Greenslade, however, suggests that online journalism has yet to let such earthly concerns prevent it from threatening the established order, unlike print:

“The rise of the commercial press gradually weakened the anti-establishment stance of papers, mainly because their owners – especially the corporate ones – saw no merit in rocking a profitable boat.”

It probably won’t cheer American print journalists though – the bulk of the post is about the “phoney” nature of US papers’ political balance.


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