by Margaret Wright
Interesting perspective on our Tuesday post about ethics from reader Madeleine Carey, who has a science background:
“The increase in ‘data journalism’ masquerading as science over the past few years concerns me. The professions of science and journalism are both governed by rigorous, peer-enforced, codes of ethics, but unfettered access to big data seems to be putting those ethics at risk.”
Economist/journalist Michael Mandel expands on her point in this piece from Quartz: “Making sense out of raw data requires more analytic firepower and more willingness to do independent research than journalists have traditionally been comfortable with. But it also requires a new set of ethics about how to responsibly use data. That conversation hasn’t started yet.”
Policing & Criminal Reform
As our APD Files project fundraiser launched, this item began circulating re: the depth of the military surplus pipeline to local law enforcement. Highly recommended: ProPublica’s compilation of “The Best Reporting on Federal Push to Militarize Police.”
An issue exposed by the Omaha Harold-Tribune has had “dramatic” consequences in Nebraska. “The state had improperly cut years off the sentences of at least 200 prisoners; many had already been released, and others were set for early release. … State officials would later revise the total to a whopping 873 prisoners, 306 of whom had already been released.”
It should be pointed out that due to outdated tech infrastructure, New Mexico also sees improper releases of inmates (along with attendant lawsuits).
After a record-breaking number of public comments was submitted to the FCC, NPR outlined what’s next in federal decision-making over an open Internet.
Vox Media’s The Verge looked at which localities were most active during the public comment phase + created a tool that let’s you see how your zip code compared to others.
And it sure looks like money talks in the congressional debate over the issue.
#OpenGov & Transparency
A major convening of journalists and editors in Chicago this week took the Obama administration to task over its “lack of access and transparency,” which the group argued undermines press freedom and creates ripple effects across all levels of government.
Problems with government agency compliance with public records laws aren’t isolated to New Mexico. An audit in Rhode Island uncovered “a culture of indifference—if not outright hostility—to the public’s right to know.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill “that would exempt huge numbers of not-so-small businesses from an important transparency requirement.”
Speaking of corporate transparency, a gas company in Alabama has sued a local news outlet in an “attempt to stop the Montgomery Advertiser from publishing or writing about the company’s document that outlines a plan to ensure the safety of gas pipes.”
Journalism & Technology
Facebooks says it’s making adjustments to users’ homepage feeds so they more accurately reflect current events, but the changes still depend on folks actively engaging with news postings.
Last but certainly not least: Is the work of journalists on the verge of being outsourced to robots? A pithy response to the concept came from Irish journalist Andrea Vance, who snarked on Twitter, “Yeah, but how long before the algorithms get sick of the pay and go into PR?”