Want to give your opinions on the election on irishtimes.com?
It looks increasingly probable that the general election will be officially called next Tuesday, February 1st. Until then, you can read our ongoing coverage of the pre-campaign news here.
But with the start of the official campaign, we’ll be launching a full election microsite, where we’ll be trying out some new things – we hope to have more audiovisual content, more live coverage, more interactivity and more voices being heard.
Part of our plans involve offering a platform on irishtimes.com for anyone who wants to write a piece about any aspect of the election. Just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure it meets these simple criteria:
1) It’s 600 words or less
2) You’re willing to give your real name, which we can verify.
3) It doesn’t contain material which may be considered defamatory, which incites hatred or contains foul or abusive language, or is gratuitously offensive.
If you’re a blogger and would like us to republish one of your posts on irishtimes.com, we’d be happy to do so, attributing appropriately and linking back to your original content.
We plan to have the microsite up and running on February 2nd.
29 days and counting… #ge11 on irishtimes.com
So here we go. What could be one of the most transformative elections in the history of the State now seems certain (barring yet more pratfalls or misadventures) to take place on February 25th. You can follow The Irish Times’s election-related coverage here for the moment. When the campaign officially starts we’ll have more extensive coverage, analysis and debate right through until the last recount has taken place and the precise composition of the 31st Dail. If you have any suggestions/ideas about what we should be doing online, we’d be glad to hear them here. Or you can email us at email@example.com or get us on Twitter at @itelection.
I’ll be using this blog to keep an eye on media coverage, online and off, of the campaign, which in all but name has started already. And not too well for the Labour Party, to go by this contribution:
How should we improve our commenting, debating and interactivity on irishtimes.com?
With the rapid-fire speed for which we in mainstream media are renowned, I’m just getting around to acknowledging our delight here in The Irish Times at winning the Grand Prix award for Best Website in Ireland at the Irish Web Awards on October 16th. It was a great night, and the award means a lot to everyone in here who works hard to make the site better all the time.
Speaking of which… I made a commitment when accepting the other award we won, for Best Online Publication, that we would be redoubling our efforts in the next 12 months to make certain key improvements in what we do and how we do it. I and my colleagues are very aware that there are a considerable number of things we could do much better. It’s not that we don’t care about enhanced interactivity, better use of metadata, increased liveblogging, etc. But, we do have some quite complicated technological and organisational projects to undertake before we can realise our potential to the full.
One key objective for us in 2011 is to make irishtimes.com a better platform for debate on key issues which are of concern to our user community. This objective will include (but isn’t restricted to) better integration with social media; faster publication speeds for users who are engaging in conversations; and a broader range of threads than is currently available through our Have Your Say comments facility.
It would be ridiculous for us to embark on this project without asking you about it. So what would you like to see us do in this area? All ideas are welcome.
Journalistic ethics, Twitter and the reporting of Gerry Ryan’s death
Last Friday afternoon, irishtimes.com had the biggest traffic spike we’ve experienced since our launch in 2008. Hundreds of thousands of people came to the site as news of the sad and untimely death of Gerry Ryan filtered out across the country.
By the time we published the story, at 3.20pm, it had already been the subject of wide discussion and speculation on social media networks and message boards for more than an hour. The Irish Times had received unofficial confirmation from authoritative sources that the story was true. We had our report written and ready to go. However, we did not publish until we received official confirmation from Gerry Ryan’s employer, RTE. In doing this, we were following the editorial guidelines we follow in relation to reporting the death of any individual, well-known or otherwise, in Ireland: official confirmation on the record from next of kin, employer or the emergency services is required before the name of the deceased person is published.
Since Friday afternoon, there’s been a heated online debate about the actions of some journalists on the day, including Una Mullally of the Sunday Tribune and Sunday Business Post technology editor Adrian Weckler, both of whom posted the story on Twitter well before it was officially confirmed. Between 2pm and 2.15pm, Weckler tweeted three times: ‘Gerry Ryan…? What?’, then ‘Another source in here claiming Gerry Ryan is dead’, then ‘Spreading like wildfire. Gaining credence. Still unconfirmed, though’. Weckler was cautioned online by broadcaster Matt Cooper and by Frank Fitzgibbon of the Sunday Times (‘Adrian, might be best if you wait until it’s confirmed, do you not think.? I believe he has a family’). RTE broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan responded to Una Mullally’s tweeted query on the subject: ‘Tragically it is true. So terribly shocking and sad. Life is just too cruel sometimes. RIP’
When contacted by RTE, O’Callaghan deleted her comment, but it had already been widely republished (users can delete their own posts on Twitter, but have no control over them once they’ve been circulated by others). The Sunday Times put ‘Miriam’s tweet’ and the fallout from it on its front page, while Mullally wrote a lengthy article on the whole issue in the Sunday Tribune (strangely omitting her own involvement in the story, although she defends her position on that in her comment on Jim Carroll’s post here).
All of which might just look like an unseemly bout of media navel-gazing in the aftermath of a personal tragedy for Gerry Ryan’s family, friends and colleagues. But there are serious issues at stake here.
Journalists have daily access to information sources not available to the general public. With that access comes responsibility. Most media professionals know this and have it hardwired into the way they respond to such information – they discuss how best to proceed with their colleagues and editors. There is a chain of command which ensures things are done correctly and ethically. It doesn’t always work, mistakes can be made and standards may radically differ from one organisation to another, but recognisable decision-making systems are in place.
On Twitter, there’s no editor to make those calls. And, because of their immediacy and informality, social networks feel different from traditional media platforms, be they newspapers, broadcasters or websites. One minute you’re discussing the football match with your pal, the next you’re passing on the ‘scoop’ that a well-known person has died.
But for a professional journalist, the same ethical and legal responsibilities attach to publishing something on Facebook or Twitter as to printing it in a newspaper or saying it on a radio programme.
There’s been a lot of finger-pointing over this issue since Friday. As an editor, I have no particular desire to clamber onto high moral ground, but I do think mistakes were made and we all need to learn some lessons from them. Discussion of ethical issues in the media is often presented as some sort of Manichean battle between principle and profit, with the latter usually winning out. But really, it’s not like that. Yes, thousands of people came to irishtimes.com on Friday for this particular news, but they also went to other news sites, all of which had the same story up within minutes of each other. Short-term traffic gains made by running the story earlier would have been more than outweighed by the long-term damage created by a perception that we had behaved insensitively and inappropriately. Ethical and commercial considerations are not mutually exclusive. And there’s no particular commercial benefit to be extracted from posting on Twitter, either.
Newspapers and broadcasters risk devaluing their own reputations if their journalists are permitted to publish scattergun pieces of information they happen to pick up in the office. It’s not a question of censorship, but of editorial judgment and discipline. Maintaining those standards is a real challenge for all of us in journalism and it’s one we’re only really starting to consider properly.
There’s a lively discussion going on over at On the Record about this. You can read and comment on Una Mullally’s Sunday Tribune article here. And Adrian Weckler’s thoughts on the subject are here. There are a lot of interesting comments on all three pieces.
Just because you’re liberal or gay doesn’t mean you can spout rubbish unchallenged – or does it?
Good piece today by Sarah Carey (again) about Colm Toibin’s comments on the Iris Robinson case during the Marian Finucane programme last weekend. Strikes me that the whole story offers a fascinating insight into the mixed-up state of public discourse on gender and sexuality. (more…)
Budget coverage: what’s in the newspaper and what’s on irishtimes.com?
The Irish Times publishes its comprehensive Budget 2010 supplement on December 10th, with details, reaction and in-depth analysis from our best writers, including Stephen Collins, Pat McArdle and Kathy Sheridan. This content is only available in the newspaper, and will not be published online until later.
irishtimes.com continues to carry detailed news and analysis of the budget, with a calculator to help you measure the personal impact of any changes. Online users can see what experts from The Irish Times and from PriceWaterhouseCooper say about what the budget really means for them in our Q&A.
Search Mechanical Turk