Citizen Journalism Gone Astray

The Knight Center recently reported that, in order to get positive publicity for his town, the mayor of West Valley, Utah, created a fake identity and for two years submitted articles (through Deseret Connect, a vehicle for citizen journalism) that led to publications in Deseret News, Oquirrh Times and at (The mayor’s articles even quoted himself).

Deseret Connect says its mission is to gather "expertise and talent from around the world to provide unparalleled values-driven content for distribution through Deseret Media Companies" owned by the Mormon Church (officially, the Church of Latter Day Saints) such as the Deseret News, broadcasting station KSL, Mormon Times and LDS Church News. Deseret Connect says it helps "motivated, talented individuals become part of a growing online newsroom." Although Deseret Connect says it gives “contributors the tools, training and opportunity to be published” the mayor’s conflict of interest apparently fell through the cracks.

So, when it comes to citizen journalism in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune said it well: caveat lector—let the reader beware.

Indonesian Journalism’s Creative Teamwork

The Malaysian News Agency reported last fall that a small group of Indonesian journalists were open to accepting payments for planting stories in the local press favoring their "clients." These payments—bribes—ranged from several hundreds to several thousands of U. S. dollars depending on the urgency of the client and the media involved.

A journalist who admitted this practice to the Jakarta Globe said he did not want to act alone because the "news" item then would not be credible enough. "I never play up an issue alone," he said, "it’d become obvious. I usually work with a team of five other journalists, where I act as the coordinator and make the deal with the source."

Nezar Patria, chairman of Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists, explained that “Government institutions and companies often allocate a portion of their budget to a media development fund that provides journalists with a so-called transportation money.”

Now it all makes sense.

Capitalism on Crutches….

It is likely that USA Today will not be much helped by a $237 government subsidy, but it must be mighty embarrassing for many prominent newspapers from Western nations to turn up on the list of recipients of Denmark’s 2012 press subsidies system.

Although most of the system’s total of $61 million will go to Danish newspapers, led by the Christian newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad (approx. $5M), the list includes some of the West’s premier newspapers. The U. K.’s Financial Times received $124,000; The Guardian $1,200; The Times (London), $500; and The Independent, $500; the U. S.-owned International Herald Tribune, $42,000; and The Wall Street Journal, $11,000; the German Suddeutsche Zeitung, $7,000; Hamburger Adendblad, $3,100; Die Welt, $2700; and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, $1,800; France’s Le Figaro, $1,500; and Le Monde, $400; and Italy’s Corriere Della Sera, $500.

The aim of the Danish subsidy system (which aids broadcasters and filmmakers, too) supposedly is to ensure pluralistic voices among newspapers circulating in Denmark by supporting weak media—but how does The Wall Street Journal fit into that category?  

Buzzing Around in the Wrong Places

The French News Agency recently reported that one of Australia’s top news broadcasters, Nine Network in Brisbane, fired two reporters and a producer after it became known that they were not reporting from where they said they were reporting.

The reporters said they were in the area where the remains of a 13-year boy were allegedly found after a nine-year investigation. A competing newscaster, however, caught the Nine Network group reporting "live" as it was flying around the station and not the crime scene and, once, having never left the helipad.

The station’s news director said news gathering procedures are being reviewed and staff retrained.   Good.  But one has to wonder: what were they thinking?

The BBC Misfires, Again

The BBC had to apologize recently for having aired a documentary on Malaysia produced by FBC Media, a company that never disclosed it had a $26 million contract with the Malaysian government to help it with "global strategic communications." FBC had also made a documentary for the BBC about last year’s uprising in Egypt, without revealing it had a contract with the Mubarak government.

FBC’s lawyer said that "at no time" have the BBC programs been influenced by FBC’s clients. But despite this assurance, the BBC decided to run "no more programming by FBC while it reviews its relationship with the company." At the same time, CNBC has decided to suspend the FBC-produced show, World Business, until their relationship is reassessed.

Now, that’s reassuring.

Al Jazeera Comments
Commenting on a video received by Al Jazeera, a network spokesman said:
"The Al Jazeera Paris Bureau received a video from an anonymous source yesterday entitled "Al Qaeda attaque la France" that appears to show the recent killings in Toulouse and Montauban. Given its contents, we immediately passed the video on to the French police as we were duty bound to do and they are conducting their investigation.
"In accordance with Al Jazeera’s Code of Ethics, given the video does not add any information that is not already in the public domain, its news channels will not be broadcasting any of its contents."  (Al Jazeera has received numerous requests from media outlets for copies of the video. All such requests are being declined.)

Good news is rare these days.

  • This column is a regular feature in Media Ethics.  Readers with verifiable contributions for future issues (all subject to editing), or comments on the entries chosen for this issue, should send them to Manny Paraschos, c/o Media Ethics.  Manny can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.