What Bill Cunningham taught us about ethical journalism

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Bill Cunningham, the modern era’s original street style photographer, died Saturday in New York. His passing marked the end of an extraordinary career, during which Cunningham, 87, spent almost 40 years chronicling the world’s ever-changing fashion trends and shifting social mores for the New York Times.

His death also means that fashion reporting — and the wider world of journalism — has been deflated, diluted, weakened. That is the more profound sadness.

In his wake, there are countless new-generation photographers who prowl the sidewalks looking to capture some rare bird flitting along Fifth Avenue and 57th Street, where Cunningham often waited with his camera in hand. Street style lives on Instagram. It has been enshrined in books, exhibitions, films. And so too was Cunningham’s work. But Cunningham was admired and beloved within the fashion world and beyond not merely because of his skill at transforming style photography into cultural anthropology, but because of the integrity, precision and journalistic fervor with which he did it.

In an industry in which it is sometimes hard to tell what is truth and what is a paid promotion, Cunningham was obsessive in his philosophy of refusal. For decades he worked independently and only grudgingly joined the Times staff — mostly for the health insurance. At a time when fashion influencers regularly receive free airfare, free clothes, free hotels, Cunningham was a journalistic ascetic. He valued his freedom more than anything else….

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What are the boundaries of today’s journalism, and how is the rise of digital changing who defines them? (Book Review)

Boundaries of journalismAfter hearing about the topic of our new book Boundaries of Journalism, one of Matt’s colleagues stopped in to chat. He had just had a hotly contested debate over whether television sports reporters counted as journalists. He was making the argument that they did, and he looked to Matt apparently to sort things out.

If only it were as simple as consulting some master table to provide a yes-or-no, in-or-out kind of answer! But playing referee is not what is interesting about studying the boundaries of journalism. Instead, what’s much more vital is looking at the messiness and asking:Just what are we fighting over?

We came to the book because we were both interested in the same questions about boundaries. Readers of Nieman Lab are well familiar with the parade of new faces and ideas about journalism accompanying the rise of digital media. But what does it all mean? And how can we study it?

We saw the need to clarify how to think about boundaries, and we enlisted an international cast of journalism scholars to help. Before getting into what we wrote, it is important to start with why we wrote it. Exploring the boundaries of journalism is not an intellectual exercise relevant only to those of us in the academy. Definitions matter, because how we think about the issue of boundaries has real consequences. Matt makes this case in the introduction to the book:

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Chomsky: ‘I Don’t Look at Twitter Because It Doesn’t Tell Me Anything’

Byline interviewed Noam Chomsky, to find out his views on the current media landscape. Are the media still “manufacturing consent”?

Three decades ago, Professor Noam Chomsky, who is seen by some as the most brilliant and courageous intellectual alive and by others as an anti-US conspiracy theorist, penned his powerful critique of the Western corporate media in his seminal book Manufacturing Consent, with co-author Edward S Herman. The book had a profound impact on my perception of the mainstream media in my teenage years, and was crucial in some ways to my decision to start Byline with my co-founder Daniel Tudor. By cutting out the advertiser and political bias of the proprietor, we believed that crowdfunding had the potential to democratise the media landscape and support independent journalism.

In “Manufacturing Consent,” Noam Chomsky posits that Western corporate media is structurally bound to “manufacture consent” in the interests of dominant, elite groups in society. With “filters” which determine what gets to become ‘news’ – including media ownership, advertising, and “flak”, he shows how propaganda can pervade the “free” media in an ostensibly democratic Western society through self-censorship. However, lot has changed since then. We now have the Internet. The so-called legacy media organisations which have been “manufacturing consent” according to Chomsky are in massive financial trouble. Has any of his analysis changed? I recently interviewed Noam Chomsky at his MIT office, to find out his views on the current media landscape.

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Does the IRS matter to advertisers? (Vanita Kohli-Khandekar, Business Standard, Apr 22, 2015)

IRS survey
“The IRS (Indian Readership Survey) not being stable is a matter of concern, but we need to move on. TV and digital dominate our mindspace and ad spends now,” says Ronita Mitra, senior manager, brand communication and insights, Vodafone India. Lloyd Mathias is head of marketing for printers and PCs at Hewlett-Packard India. His division spends more on print than any other media. “The lack of IRS has forced us to look closely at media that is better measured,” he says.

Earlier this year, when IRS 2014 was released, publishers began their usual fight over the numbers. The Times of India and others have been publishing large notices ridiculing the IRS – which is released by the Media Research Users Council, or MRUC, a body of publishers, advertisers and agencies. “Unless there are some fundamental checks, we don’t want to be part of it,” says Rahul Kansal, executive president, Bennett, Coleman and Company, which publishes The Times of India. Some publications, including The Hindu, Dainik Jagran and Dainik Bhaskar, have withdrawn from the survey. Others such as Malayala Manorama have refused to pay their subscription. They are demanding lower fees, tamper-proof data, better validation and a larger sample size. Last week the MRUC board accepted some demands. The sample size for IRS 2015 will go up to 300,000 from 235,000, and there will be a concurrent audit by one of the big five consulting firms, says Shashi Sinha, an MRUC board member. MRUC did not respond to e-mailed queries.

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Five reasons why media monopolies flourish in India (Smarika Kumar , Jan 12, 2015 in Scroll.in)

newspaper collage

While walking to work one day, I saw an advertisement for CNBC-TV18 proclaiming, “We have stood for Indian business news. We stand for an India that means business.” With the Reliance takeoverand editorial tutoring of CNN and CNBC affiliate news channels, that double-edged statement acquires an amusing and disquieting connotation. Has India been reduced to news favouring big business? What is the government doing about it?

Here are five serious problems with the law regulating media monopolies in India.

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