Ethics in the Multimedia World

In today’s expanding world of multimedia, questions continue about whether traditional journalistic values will survive. More than 40 percent of U.S. news consumers obtain their news from the Internet — from newspaper Websites, broadcasting Websites, or new startup community-news Websites. The question lies within the credibility of the news. Can news consumers trust what they are reading on the Internet?

Journalistic credibility is essential to the survival of every news medium. Without credibility, expect few news consumers. With few news consumers, expect future challenges in keeping the news organization alive. According to the results of research project Media Consumption and Believability Study, the U.S. public is skeptical about news outlets and the people who run them. More than half of the participants agreed with the statement, “I often don’t trust what news organizations are saying.”

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, claim that the new declines in confidence reflect a sense that the press is not aggressive enough in its coverage of major issues.  In times of distress, people tend to stick with newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations that they have relied on before for fair, accurate and thorough information. If the press is not precise in remaining ethical, people will continue to retreat to more familiar newspapers from their pasts and ignore other news organizations.

In the late 1990s, editors issued a series of reports that focused on how to stay true to core journalism values — news judgment, balance, accuracy, leadership in the community, accessibility and credibility — in the multimedia age.  To emphasize the importance of ethics and to guide peers toward ethical conduct in their communication outlets, professional communicators are developing codes of ethics. As news operations continue to transmit their content in multiple ways, codes of ethics need to be applied to all media outlets, attracting news consumers and keeping them coming back.


Jack Martin’s Words of Wisdom

Jack Martin, Global Chairman and CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies

Jack Martin, Global Chairman and CEO of Hill + Knowlton Strategies, delivered an insightful speech, “Democratization of Data: From Research to Insights to Effective Communication” at the University of Maryland’s annual Grunig lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 23.


Martin grew up in rural southern Texas, about two hours from the Mexican border. He lived in a world of farming and ranching, expected to become a farmer like the rest of his town. In other words, with his  upbringing, it was unlikely Martin would end up as entrepreneur of the communications consulting firm, Hill + Knowlton Strategies.

Martin’s “passion for people” began in 1968 at in the World’s Fair in San Antonio. As he stood on the 600-foot Tower of Americas, he discovered his curiosity of people and where they were going, their journeys and their stories. His newfound interest led him to an internship as PR director at the Council of Government where  he developed his notion of “measurement” and the importance of having a real understanding of the public.

The Public is Key

In politics, Martin noticed an ongoing pattern: when politicians were not successful and could not deliver effective messages to their audiences, they went home. Thus, he found that the most important thing in the field of PR is the public; without public feedback one cannot succeed in anything.

“If you’re not going after change, you’re really not accomplishing much,” Martin said.

To achieve change, one must measure public thought. The measurement of the public tells one how he or she can provide wisdom. The public is eager for leadership, eager for wisdom and eager to learn what it should care about. Therefore, it is crucial that any PR firm understands the public of its clients and is able to become the deliverer of any large company.

Today, the public is not only interested in a company’s brand, but in its reputation and its core values. As our social media era progresses,  PR professionals will reach the public in a more efficient, targeted way, allowing them  to be closer to the public, build a positive reputation and strong relationships, and to understand the public better than anyone else.

Formal Balance versus Informal Balance

Beginning layout editors and designers refer to the basic principles of design to help create their products. Balance, contrast, proportion and unity are the standard design principles, the basic structures and the overall layout of design.

Balance is an especially tricky principle to achieve and the experiences of early designers have helped pave the way for modern designers. The original “formal balance” provided insight for future designers on what not to do.

To satisfy formal balance, early designers identically matched elements such as the copy, headlines, and photos on the page. This balance simply required the right half of the page to match the left side with the same elements. The headlines and photographs towards the bottom of the page were even balanced symmetrically.

However, it was not long before people realized that the formal, symmetrical layout undermined the importance of the news content each day. In simpler terms, the news of the current day did not seem to matter as much as design – the standard layout dictated the content. Because formal balance required the page to be divided down the middle, the balance was created from side to side. Headline schedules, however, universally required important stories to have large headlines and be placed high on the page, creating a challenge for designers to achieve top-to-bottom balance. Big, bold headlines and large photos dominated the top of the page, so inevitably, the bottom section of the newspaper did not receive nearly as much attention. No one is going to take time to read stories that trail off into grayness. The ideas behind what entailed balance needed to change.

Designers are well aware that balance is not achieved by solely matching identical elements on the page. External factors, such as the visual weights of the elements on the page matter. Today designers use an “informal balance”, sectioning the page into modules to balance the right against the left and the top against the bottom (whereas the formal balance matched only the right against the left). Each module contains some graphic weight like a photo, headline, piece or artwork or even white space to help balance the page.

Accomplishing balance in a newspaper can be an ongoing game, but similar to the evolving world of journalism, designers learn to adjust and persevere.

Day in the Life of a Copy Editor

The responsibilities of a copy editor are inevitably expanding to meet the demands of today’s tech-saavy era. While copy editors originally focused their efforts on editing, slotting and proofing, today, they are now expected to edit, design, write stories, and build and populate Web pages.

According to “Creative Editing,” Cherish Matthews, copy editor of The Tennesseancan attest to the role changes first hand. As our society turns to the internet for daily news, behind the scenes, traditional copy editors face a daunting and unfamiliar task:  to entice readers to choose the paper’s Web site over the millions of other news sites, and to keep them running back for more news.

To get a better feel for a copy editor’s duties, let’s step into the shoes of Cherish Matthews on an average day:

The clock strikes 5 p.m. You walk out the door, and you’re excited to put your feet up and relax. For Matthews, her night has just begun. She sits down and prepares for the next 10 chaotic hours. First, Matthews rims news and business stories. More simply, she is making the content clear and error-free before writing headlines, decks, subheads and cutlines.

About 7 p.m., she receives the online lineup, the budget of the next day’s most important, relevant or interesting stories and their placement online. In between copy editing duties, Matthews manages online-only content as well.The stress sets in. She can’t neglect the editing duties because the paper has to get out in time, but she can’t ignore the website as millions of people are depending on it for the morning’s news.

It’s 11 p.m. and the paper is done, but the job is not over yet. Matthews builds the next day’s homepage and updates other parts of the Web site, embedding interactive content to set a captivating tone and keep the reader’s attention.

After the job is complete, Matthews heads home. Her job requires a lot of responsibility, but for someone passionate about journalism, she doesn’t seem to complain.

Blog Post #1

News Organizations Reconsider Print Products

The High-Speed World of Multimedia Journalism leads to the plummet of ink-on-paper publications

In a digital era of non-stop news, newspaper publications and network news programs have plunged. More than 280 daily newspapers folded in the past 60 years, bringing the total of remaining newspapers to 1,422 in 2007. And by 2007 virtually all daily newspapers in the United States had a presence on the web.

The revolving multimedia of journalism is causing the number of print products to decline. 

Multimedia news products are becoming the norm and the field of journalism is facing drastic transformations. When surveyed, the majority of journalists said that their news organizations integrate the content on their Websites and the print products, rather than treat them as separate entities, and that multimedia news coverage, including blogging, is the norm in their newsrooms, according to textbook “Creative Editing.”

The people who produce our society’s future publications – editors, reporters, designers, and photographers – are the ones affected most by the technological changes.

The immediacy and easy accessibility to electronic information attract millions of people to the Internet, but for some, such as journalists and copy editors, the advantages of the advanced resources may also be disadvantages. Numerous news organizations have declared bankruptcy and at least two metropolitan newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and the Post-Intelligencer in Seattle, completely discontinued their ink-on-paper publications.

The print products that survive and flourish are the ones that appear tech-saavy, capable of blending text, sound, photographs and video. The future of the newspaper industry is unstable and as technology evolves, the world of journalism is forced to adapt, resulting in the rapid increase of multimedia use, thus the rapid decline of print publications.