Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Nothing against the “Death Star,” but the LA Times thinks its new daily news podcast can go where the biggies can’t
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 24, 2009, 2:28 p.m.

Futurity and ‘almost-journalism’

More knowledge is a good thing, especially when it comes from top-flight research institutions. But the launch of Futurity, a nonprofit news service specializing in science and medicine, underscores what Dan Gillmor describes as the challenge of the “almost journalist.”

Futurity was created by universities frustrated by the disappearance of newspaper reporters and column inches dedicated to covering their work, according to a story last week in the San Jose Mercury News.

Many of Futurity’s articles are written by the universities’ public relations departments. And while the articles might be factually accurate, the problem with almost-journalists is that they don’t always apply the principles of journalism to their work, Gillmor wrote in an article last year. Foremost among them is applying some standard of fairness — or as others might call it, skepticism.

This is the chief problem with Futurity, according to former science reporter Charlie Petit, who is quoted in the Merc article. “The quality of research university news releases is quite high. They are rather reliable,” Petit tells the Merc. “But they are completely absent any skepticism or investigative side.”

How to solve this problem is not entirely clear. Petit suggests clear labeling of articles as a start. Kaiser Health News, a project of the Kaiser Family Foundation, has a national advisory committee of distinguished journalists to oversee its work. Gillmor is less specific, but says the problem is one that should be addressed by journalism educators.

Whatever the solution or solutions, they are certain to be put to the test as more and more advocacy nonprofits, think tanks, and universities fill the void left by newspapers. According to Gillmor, almost-journalists will find that adhering to the standards of journalism ultimately will help them raise their game.

“By doing so, they can strengthen their own arguments in the end. At the very least they are clearer, if not absolutely clear, on the other sides’ arguments, however weak,” he writes.

POSTED     Sept. 24, 2009, 2:28 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
 
Join the 50,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Nothing against the “Death Star,” but the LA Times thinks its new daily news podcast can go where the biggies can’t
“When you say national, usually what that means is New York or D.C. We’re trying to read that so that the gravity is really coming out of Southern California and expanding outward from that.”
How The New York Times assesses, tests, and prepares for the (un)expected news event
Rather than hastily address issues in the months leading up to big events where we expected lots of reader traffic, we decided to take stock of our systems as a whole and enact longer term resilience measures.
I have come to bury Knewz, not to praise it
News Corp’s painfully named news aggregator promised to somehow battle “crass clickbait,” filter bubbles, media bias, and two trillion-dollar companies, all at once. It ended up being a D-minus Drudge clone and OnlyFans blog.