prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for March, 2011

Hidden Camera Take Down

Posted by prof e on March 10, 2011

Hidden cameras and microphones date back to the earliest days of radio and TV. Candid Camera caught unsuspecting people reacting to dramatic or humorous situations created by the show’s producers. After the initial shock and surprise wore off, the unwitting victims were asked to sign a talent release thus allowing the producers to put them on the air. Their 15 minutes of fame seemed like a reasonable reward for a few minutes of awkward discomfort.

In recent years the popular series Prime Time Live and Eye to Eye with Connie Chung often used hidden cameras and set-ups to catch people behaving badly. Those who advocate for hard-hitting investigative journalism often argue that deception and hidden cameras/microphones are necessary tools to collect the kind of evidence that will “bust a story wide open.” Even 60 Minutes has resorted to hidden cameras and most of us are very familiar with the controversial sting operations conducted by Chris Hansen for his To Catch a Predator series.

The latest incarnation of gotcha journalism is pushing the envelope of what can be called journalism. At the head of the pack is James O’Keefe. O’Keefe rose to notoriety by posing as a pimp–along-side his assistant posing as a prostitute–to expose the seemly underbelly of Acorn. Acorn, an affiliation of community organizations with ties to Obama, has since lost its federal funding.

Because of recent events the same fate may await NPR and PBS. Just this week O’Keefe struck again by framing NPR fund-raising executive Ron Schiller. In a hidden-camera interview, Schiller is heard venting about conservatives, the tea party, and at one point proclaiming that NPR would be better off without federal funding. This embarrassment, close on the heals of the Juan Williams firing a few months ago, has resulted in the firing of NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation to Ron). The bad news couldn’t come at a worse time as congress is currently debating whether to de-fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, i.e. PBS and NPR.

Another recent sting operation was conducted by the anti-abortion group Live Action. Planned Parenthood employees were caught on camera giving advice on how to get around restrictions for treating underage prostitutes. At the very least it appears that the employees were turning a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of minors. The uproar continues to dog Planned Parenthood and may jeopardize its funding as well.

But conservative operatives aren’t the only ones going after their opponents using questionable tactics. Just two weeks ago Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was “punked” by Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy pretending to be a wealthy Republican donor. The phone conversation, which raised questions about Gov. Walkers true intentions, is available on YouTube for anyone who wants to draw his own conclusions.

Credible news organizations and journalistic entities, e.g. the Society of Professional Journalists, have very specific policies about deception and use of hidden microphones and cameras. According to the SPJ code of ethics, the examples above violate the very basic principles of journalism and compromise the integrity of the craft. Kevin Z. Smith, SPJ ethics committee chairman, said “This tactic and the deception used to gain this information violate the highest levels of journalism ethics.” Smith continued, “To lie to a source about your identity and then to bait that source into making comments that are inflammatory is inexcusable and has no place in journalism.”

What do you think…do these tactics cross the line and call into question the integrity of the journalists themselves? Or, are these tactics necessary to expose wrongdoing?

For a rather lengthy discussion of the ethics of hidden cameras, see Gotcha!


Posted in journalism, new media | 42 Comments »

iPad & the Future of Print Media

Posted by prof e on March 7, 2011

The iPad 2 will be available at Apple Stores this Friday at 5pm and the buzz on the street is that it will be another barn burner. In the first 9 months of iPad sales last year, Apple sold nearly 15 million units. Analysts expect that figure to double this year with the release of the iPad 2. The iPad is not the only tablet/e-reader/e-book/etc., it is simply the best-selling and is expected to hold that position for another 2-3 years. Unlike other tablets, the iPad is not first and foremost an e-reader. While the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Nobel Nook are about e-books, the iPad is about apps that range from games to business productivity. But the iPad can also be used for books, and perhaps more important, magazines. Condé Nast, one of the largest magazine publishers, has announced plans to release all of their titles as iPad apps. They already publish Wired, GQ, and Vanity Fair, amongst others, in digital format.

In deciding to go digital, Condé Nast design director Wyatt Mitchell said that the company considered the pros and cons of print and digital, and tried to capture the benefits of both. One of the benefits of print is the fixed design. Magazines ported to the web left designers frustrated by OS, browser, and html/css quirks that reduced their design decisions to mere suggestions. With the iPad, complete creative control is back in the hands of the designers and content experts. Advantages of electronic delivery are myriad and include: speed of publishing, interactivity, the compelling persuasive power of video and audio, and a much smaller carbon footprint.

If you’ve never seen a magazine on an iPad, it is certainly something to behold. More than just high-resolution images and text, iPad zines contain interactive features that make the content breath and pulse with life. What do you think, will the tablet-based digital magazine change the way you read magazines?

Posted in interactive media, journalism, media industry, new media, print | 73 Comments »