Are ethics and integrity arising in web journalism?

The answer these four sites have determined is not business as usual. They have to do something about the lack of integrity and conscience in their work. People are less entertained by the salacious and are hungering for believable information.

We are interrupting our series about Linkedin to day to take a look at a new trend in journalism that’s arisen in the past few weeks: A concern about journalistic integrity.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone talks about that in the field, but where it’s come up as a trend is what is fascinating. In the past month, four popular click-bait sites that claim some sort of journalistic value have pulled back a bit and said, “maybe we are going too far with this content thing.”

First, Upworthy made an announcement that they are moving away from curating content and focusing on original material. This is more of a business decision than an editorial one. Upworthy became the fastest growing media company on the internet by merely grabbing interesting videos from the web, adding a breathless, over-the-top headline and getting people to click on it to grab their data. Google and Facebook algorithm changes, however, are killing their numbers because original content gets better search and display.  That means they will have to answer for their poorly crafted, inaccurate stories rather than point out that they had nothing to do with them.

Then the Huffington Post announced that they would no longer cover Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in their political section. Instead their coverage will go to the entertainment section. They believe doing that changes their responsibility for covering a grandstander. It’s a pretty piss-poor way of standing up for principle, but it is a start.

Prior to both announcements was the dust-up between activist, volunteer editors on Reddit over Ellen Pao’s staff decisions. I am not getting into any discussion here about whether Pao or the editors were right (I think it was all a great cock-up), but lost in the discussion was the reason for the changes instituted by Pao: the lack of integrity and honesty among a significant group of Reddit contributors. The intention was very good even if the execution was horrible. 

Finally, and the one I have been really enjoying, is the controversy at Gawker. In short, the epitome of online “yellow journalism” published a story about the CFO of a publishing company paying a gay porn star for a night in a Chicago hotel. Then, the CEO of Gawker, founder Nick Denton (who is also gay) wanted to pull the story, to the objections of the editorial staff. Instead of unilateral action, he took it to the board of directors, who by majority vote chose to take it down. The executive editors and several reporters resigned because the felt the action breached editorial discretion. 

Taken individually, each scenario is rather insignificant, but taken together and because they all happened within a matter of days, shows me something more is going on.

Back in the days of broadcast and print news, there were time and space constraints on the news. You only had so many seconds of time to do broadcast news band only so many column inches of space each issue inn print. Journalists spent considerable time personally and collectively deciding what was going to go into that days news budget and that required figuring out which stories were the most important to tell that day. Not everything got in. Even the motto of the New York Times was built around that process: “All the News that is Fit to Print.”

The advent of the Web 2.0 changed all of that. There are no time or space considerations in web content. You crank out as much as you want/can and then see who reads it. It doesn’t matter if it has value. That reality sent the quality of journalism into the toilet because there was so much indiscriminate crap on the web, and it created a journalist fringe that believed that it didn’t matter if it was important as long as it was true and the people would consume the content. 

As H.L. Mencken once observed, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” People did eat up the crap from Gawker, Huffpo, Reddit and Upworthy for a long time making those companies worth a lot of money. But the changes in the search algorithms boosting content that was original and reliable have cut into those money machines. Readers have gotten tired of the click-bait techniques and trust of the web mills is at an all time low. That has not gone unnoticed by the websites’ bean counters.

The answer these four sites have determined is not business as usual. They have to do something about the lack of integrity and conscience in their work. People are less entertained by the salacious and are hungering for believable information.

It was inevitable and it is a welcome change… as long as it catches on. 

Sergey Brin's marriage show weakness in journalists ethics

The first tenet of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is "Seek truth and report it." Speculation is not truth.

I got into an interesting discussion on journalistic integrity regarding the reporting on Google founder Sergey Brin's impending divorce and I thought I'd layout my position here for an open discussion.

 The story was initially reported by Liz Gannes of, got picked up by Techmeme and found its way to my eyes through a report by Rob Hof at Forbes that was in my Facebook feed.  I commented that it was not something I consider newsworthy and even Rob seemed apologetic about doing the piece.  (Note: I have known Rob professionally for many years and consider him a preeminent business and tech journalist).


Sergy Brin

My comment was followed by several folks who defended the story as being newsworthy.  So I felt I had to actually read the story I didn't want to read and found this in Rob's piece:

"While some reports have tried to draw business issues from the situation, a reported prenuptial agreement means there probably won’t be much if any impact on Google if they ultimately divorce. So the main reason it’s of interest is that it comes as a shock to people in Silicon Valley and the tech community, where Brin and Wojcicki are quite well-known." 

This was similar to Gannes report and it's the reason that respected publications like AllthingsD should have immediately ignored the story.

The first tenet of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is "Seek truth and report it."  Speculation is not truth.  That the divorce might affect the Google stock was speculation.  The additional report that Brin was involved romantically with another employee was also speculation.  Speculation belongs in gossip columns and internet publications that claim to be journalistic.  As soon as the meat of a story turns out to be only personal and speculative, good journalists and publications should walk away

So this coverage violates the first tenet of journalism ethics.

The second tenet of the code is "Minimize harm."  Once this story broke, Google's stock plummeted.  Many people lost money.  Most would call that harm.  If it had not been reported, no harm would have been done, at least by journalists.

So this story violates the second tenet.

The third tenet is "Act independently."  Rob reported the story because other journalist were reporting it.  They were reporting it because Techmeme was reporting it.  That's not a good enough reason to violate the first two tenets, in my book.  The old adage, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you need to jump off a bridge," comes to mind.  Acting independently means thinking it through, not following the crowd.

So this story violates the third ethical tenet.

The fourth and final tenet is "Be accountable." The reason I received from several defenders of the story was that it was engaging.  The Techmeme coverage was trending.  It brings eyeballs to the site.  That means it was financially advantageous for publications to cover it. Follow the money.

To me that's a grand slam, violating all four tenets.

Why am I so incensed about this? Right now journalists have he lowest trust rating in recorded history.  People don't believe they have integrity.  I know that isn't the case but it's hard to defend my tribe when stuff like this happens.

Good content is about building trust.  Content strategies in corporations fail because they don't understand that you just can't push out marketing collateral and think that it's fooling the market.  If journalists fall into the trap of pushing out content the same as corporations, we are all screwed.

When media was controlled by a few corporations, this might be acceptable. but the market has more opportunities to turn off corporate messages... and journalists, than ever before.  We need to understand that.

The Footwasher Media webinar on this subject has two more sessions on September 12 and 26.  Signup here if you want to find out how to make your content trustworthy and engaging, save your budget and make all your marketing efforts work better.

Speaking of ethics in sponsored content...

An article today in Forbes on ethics in sponsored content brought back memories of our recent discussions regarding UBM Tech's methodology changes and the larger discussion about whether corporations can be expected to deliver ethical content.

The article points out that Edelman has posted their own set of ethics regarding sponsored content that remarkably mirrors Footwasher Media's position:  That it isn't PR or advertising.  It's something different from what most corporate advocates practice and it must be, by nature, ethical or it loses all value.

Many people in the news business have taken ethical standards for granted.  They seem to believe that they are intertwined with the genesis of journalism itself.  It isn't true.  The news business, supported by advertising began in the 1700s with Benjamin Franklin's founding of the Pennsylvania Gazette, but the separation of advertising from editorial did not appear until the mid 20th century, and the codified standard of ethics for journalists did not appear until 1973 (I know because I helped write them).  Even today, however, you would be hard pressed to find a journalist who knows what those standards are or even applies them in full.

We are entering a new age in journalism and communications.  It is different from what it was 50 years previous.  I imagine it will look different from now in another 50 years.  Ethics will arise from the practice as an evolutionary process, no matter what anyone else thinks.

What constitutes journalistic independence?

This post is likely to piss off  a lot of people, but here goes.

 The discussion regarding credibility and ethics related to sponsored-content as been civil and illuminating, and has generally reaffirmed my belief that there are now many forms of valid B2B communication, even if one believes one is morally superior to all others.  The one uncomfortable part of the discussion has been the veiled accusations of moral failure for certain individuals and organizations.

 So last night I did a quick content snapshot of several publications. On one side I looked at sponsored-content sites, including New Tech Press in that category.  On the other side I looked at three sites that identify themselves as independent journalism. This is what I found.

 On the independent sites, there were 40 to 50 pieces of content.  On one site, eight pieces were original and the other 42 were press releases, articles paid for by sponsors, and ads.  On the second site there were five rewritten press releases, a video interview of an executive from an advertising company, 20 verbatim press releases, seven ads and two pieces of original reporting. On the third site there were 8 ads, 15 pieces of original content feature representatives of site advertisers, and 10 verbatim press releases, and three pieces of original content not featuring advertisers.

 Over on the sponsored sites, all content was original, New Tech Press had three pieces that mentioned sponsors, but were primarily about applications that included several companies' technologies, and 10 non-sponsored pieces.   Spark and Intel Free Press, on the other hand, did not mention the sponsoring companies in the content at all, except to point out that the content had been subsidized.  There were no ads, press releases (rewritten or verbatim), no contributed opinion pieces from corporations.  Moreover, the links in the text directed readers away from the sites 9 times out of 10, and always to other independent sources.

 What can we assume from this?  Does true journalistic independence mean that multiple sponsors pay the freight in exchange for 80 percent of the real estate on the site... or is it based on personal intent? 

The wall has disappeared

 The argument that a medium is independent, ethical and credible simply because it accepts advertising from multiple sources does not hold water.  The esteemed "wall" between advertising and editorial in the B2B world was obliterated decades ago when publications started accepting contributed articles.  Every time a journalist sits down with an advertiser to discuss his latest product announcement, and then writes a story about it, the wall does not exist.  Every time a journalist picks up a print edition a thumbs through it... and sees who is advertising... the wall does not exist.

 A medium is independent because the people operating it have decided to be independent and ethical.  Only they know the real truth. In the end, it is up to the medium's audience to decide what is credible. If the journalist is intentionally acting independently, or is acting in collusion with the corporation to delude customers, the audience will figure it out.

 Not to get religious on you, but this guy named Jesus said it this way: Don't condemn the intentions of others, unless you want to be condemned as well.

Ethics is a very personal thing.

Last week we started a lively discussion about how media is evolving, what is right about it and what is wrong about it.  We also touched on the issue of reliability and ethics.

Today an article from crossed my screen and deals with the issue of ethics and content head on.  You may not agree with it, but it's a statement of what reality is for media today.

Let me say this about the issue of ethics: there is no organizational structure that can absolutely ensure content follows a particular ethical standard.  In fact, the reliance on traditional business models in media, rather than actually knowing what the professional standard is has helped hasten the demise of traditional journalism in the 21st Century. 

Ethics is a personal construct. You either are or are not ethical.  No one knows for sure where you stand or what you are doing.  Only you do.  Everyone else is just assuming where you stand.  Your organizational structure does not ensure your practice.


SEO is not your concern, Part 3

OK, I’m a little behind it wrapping up this discussion.  Things are really getting crazy around here. 

A couple of weeks ago I started talking about how SEO is not your biggest concern with your website and then followed up with how social networks followed that up with creating target audiences.  My premise is that both of the automated egalitarian technologies are being gamed by companies and building a basic distrust within their audiences.  I wrapped up my last post with:

“So we are entering into another cycle; one that will be difficult for the current players to understand.  It is a cycle that will be based on ethics and trust and it is something that cannot be generated by an algorithm.”

We’re going to build on that today.

Trust is at the core of all genuine communication.  Once that goes out the window so does the communication.  That’s why search worked for a while because it wasn’t in the hands of the marketing department... until they figure that out.  That’s why social media (beginning with Friendster and Myspace) engendered trust because recommendations came from people you trusted... until the marketers figured that out, too. 

The problem with modern marketing is that there is an inherent imperative to “capture” market attention with communication media and hold it.  That’s the purpose of sophisticated SEO, website design, and social media strategy.  Everyone who truly understands media knows that is an impossible task, especially in the age of internet communication, and yet companies hold onto the paradigm.  Even media companies fall into the trap trying to find ways to make their audience at least bookmark their page.

The impossibility of that effort is due to the fact that there is absolutely no way to wall your audience off.  There are too many holes in the infrastructure.  Keeping your audience is like trying to eat warm jello with a fork.

So if you can’t entice your audience to stay with you with technology and you can’t make them only loyal to your Facebook page or website, how do you stay in front of your audience as much as possible so they don’t forget you or learn to mistrust you?

Ethics and sharing.  It’s that simple.

Social media works not because it is controllable but because it isn’t.  People will follow and engage with individuals on Facebook even if they don’t agree with them as long as you are sharing valuable content and demonstrating that you can be trusted.  That’s what services like Klout are all about.  If all you share is about how wonderful your company is, they know you are a shill and will either filter you out or “defriend” you.  But if you provide valuable information that may or may not be related to what you do, even if it basically disagrees with your positions, then you become a trusted source.

Moreover, the people in your network will start to share your content, regardless of what they think of your opinion, which increases your influence beyond those you already know.  Growth happens organically.

And that is what is about to happen in a relatively small segment of the tech industry very soon.  This organization is going to start creating and sharing content that has been vetted outside of the marketing department.  The sharing will not just be on their website or social media pages, but in partnership with traditional media.  In turn, they will provide connection to those media partners within their own online presence.  What is about to happen is the socialization of a corporate entity.

There are other companies trying to do this, but they are stuck in the paradigm that requires them to capture and hold audiences; that requires that the content stays “on message.”  It’s the paradigm that fails.

It’s what I’ve been talking about for 7 years.  It’s about to happen.

SEO is not your real concern right now, part 2

Last Friday I dropped a flash-bang into the room saying search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t what you should be concerned about.  I got one comment from a SEO person pointing out, very nicely, that I didn’t know what I was talking about because SEO is still very important.  I don’t disagree with that statement because SEO is important... especially if you’re selling ink cartridges and boner pills.  That still doesn’t take away from my original statement.  SEO is not what you should be concerned about, especially if your business is about anything other than commodities.

When Google got going in the mid double-oughts, search was THE thing.  People were still getting used to this interwebs thing and it was kinda fascinating being able to find all kinds of stuff that normally took a dozen phone books and a lot of shoe leather.  It also turned the garden hose of information in our lives into a viaduct.  People started applying subjective filters on where they got that information.  Some people chose Google as the start-up page, which became MyGoogle.  Other when to Yahoo.  Some chose the sites of traditional publications like the NY Times.  Then browsers started adding search widgets in the browsers themselves.  Then social networks appeared. That’s when SEO went from THE thing to ONE of the things you had to be concerned about.

Social networks changed the game because now the subjective filter was not a landing page, but what your friends and co-workers thought was important.  If your audience could find out about you from those they trusted, they would be more likely to buy stuff from you.  That is what has made Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and all the others successful... for now.  That is starting to go away. Users are starting to switch allegiances to social media platforms as often as they change phone service or cable providers, but the market, overall, has gone static, and for good reason.

The social platforms are starting to be gamed by marketers whose primary function is to boost sales by any means possible.  There are many who are adhering to basic decency and trying to use social media in a non-invasive manner, but there are even more who are using unscrupulous means to get into the head of the audience.  That is creating a not insignificant level of distrust in the platforms themselves, just as search is not suspect, hence the recent halt in the growth of the more popular platforms in the US.  Google is entering the fray late with yet the third incarnation of their social effort with Google+, but the issues of privacy and who owns what on the network is affecting usage.  Yes, they have had a lot of signups, but while the reviews are good, Facebook groups remains the active platform for now.

So we are entering into another cycle; one that will be difficult for the current players to understand.  It is a cycle that will be based on ethics and trust and it is something that cannot be generated by an algorithm.  This is going to take some work.  

And I will talk about that next week.


My take on Wikileaks and Assange

Thought I would end the year with my position on the Wikileak issue.  I think it stinks and find myself in the weird position of supporting the governments' opinions.

I've written rather extensively on the subject of journalistic ethics and Julian Assange violates everything I know to be journalistically ethical.  He is lower in my view that the National Enquirer and the paparazzi crowd.  Wikileaks is not even a decent whistle blowing entity. It is a self-important, self-righteous entity. There was no thought, research or consideration to the consequences in the action. 

What Aftenposten in Norway is doing with the Wikileak documents is journalism. They have their reporters going over the information to find what should be covered; what actually affects the reading public. That's what real journalists do.

I remember when I was a copy clerk in a daily paper and a reporter was looking for corruption in city government. He attained copies of city council phone records and was going through them a page at a time and after many weeks, he found the “smoking gun.” He could have just posted the material in the paper and let others do the work, but he was the journalist, not the source.

According the the SPJ code of ethics, A journalist is first to seek truth and report it. He is not to seek out opinion, which many of the documents leaked are, but facts. Assange did not seek out truth, he merely pushed a button without concern. And in that, he violated the second ethic of the code: Minimize Harm. Whole nations are now put at risk, not to mention thousands of individuals. Yes, some are just embarrassed, but many are going to die because of this and for no good reason other than to promote his own agenda. In that area he violates the third ethic:

Act independently and avoid conflicts of interest. Assange has stated he has an agenda, no less than any other idealogue. He is not objective.

Finally, he violates the fourth ethic: to be accountable. He is seeking immunity from everything, even his own personal indiscretions. He has no one he answers to. He is his own God.

So in the end, Assange and Wikileaks violates the very core of journalism and should not receive the same protections.

Chris Edward did a post yesterday from over the "pond" on the blurring of the lines between PR and journalism, as personified by PR giant Edelman.  Some journalists are concerned about the lack of a filter in a medium controlled by corporate flacks, but Edwards correctly states that most of that concern is unwarranted.

"The trend in recent years, despite all the talk about engagement and two-way communication, has been to sell, sell, sell. Don't go off-message, no matter how dull that message might be. Because no-one is going to get fired for sticking to the pre-approved script. At least not until companies start to see their profiles become less and less prominent. Then they might have a go at proper communication."

Proper communication is not just controlling the medium.  It's all about conversation.  And if you try to control the conversation, it becomes a monologue, not communication.

The key here, as I have said before, is ethics and a dedication to truth.  That's primarily why I can't really call most of what passes for public relations as anything more than marketing communications.  Real PR is an advocacy effort, but ALWAYS tempered by truth, not spin.  And until people in corporations realize this, they will be no more successful with their efforts to reach the public then they have in the past.

Good call, Chris.

What transparency costs

Something happened this week that brought up the issue of transparency, journalistic independence and why both are needed for a vibrant media that properly serves the industry.  As many of you know, I was asked to start a blog on EDA Cafe back in June and started a series of podcasts focusing on the bottom line of design automation.  in other words, finding out the industry could justify its existence financially to its customers.  

We started out with a couple of interviews with the CEOs of Magma and Tanner EDA and then of the Real Intent CEO.  The first two readily admitted that figuring out the real ROI of EDA tools is something that has not been done well and needs to be done better.  The third interview had the same revelation, but you might notice that the interview is no longer available on EDA Cafe.  Real Intent lodged a complaint to EDA Cafe regarding the statement in the interview from the CEO that they could not accurately estimate the ROI but were sure they had the right price point on their tool.  I also pointed that out in the written introduction.  They wanted the interview taken down, and since Real Intent pays for their presence on EDA Cafe, their demand was met.  One complaint and it's gone.

So that's what we have to deal with.  Many publications on the internet are ultimately controlled by the companies they cover.  Those publications believe the companies supporting them will pull that support unless the toe the line.  That means, ultimately, you can't really trust the content on those publications.  It's not that the publications are unreliable, just the content they allow on the site because they don't really control it. Specifically, EDA Cafe has not violated any form of journalism ethics because their business model is not set up to maintain them.  They are paid for industry happy talk.

Some people might put New Tech Press into that same category because all the content is sponsored, often by the company that is being written about, but this is where maintaining independence and transparency comes in.  New Tech Press requires sponsoring companies to accept the condition that they can only control the factual content of the material, not the way it is presented.  We maintain the right to contextualize the content.

We recently had an article sponsored and were all ready to publish it when the sponsoring company said they didn't want to be identified as the sponsor.  We refused to publish it on New Tech Press because that request not only violated our agreement, it also violated our commitment to transparency and independence .  I'm sure we will never be approached by that company again, but then, we wouldn't accept their business again either.

My point is, and always has been, that ethics only count when you actually have a choice to maintain them.  I was approached by EDA Cafe to start doing this podcasts and I made it clear, then, that since I am not getting paid to do any of it, I am going to ask the questions I want to ask and post the answers I get.  I don't have to be honest about it.  In fact, some people think if I engage only in happy talk, some companies might be more interested in hiring me.  But I didn't go into this business because I thought I would get rich from it.  I'm in it for truth and to help the industry right itself.

I still have several interviews to finish editing and posting from my time at DAC.  Not sure if EDA Cafe will allow them to be posted, but I'm going to finish what I started.

Oh, I wasn't entirely accurate about the Real Intent interview being taken down.  It is taken down from EDA Cafe.  It is still available on iTunes (search under Lou Covey or the title From the outside in), here, and soon on New Tech Press and the NTP Network partners.

Tradition of free press, yes. Tradition of objectivity... not so much

When I got the journalism bug back in 1971 I actually believed that our tradition of media objectivity dated all the way back to the Bill of Rights.  But over the years I've done a lot of study on the subject of the press, especially in the past 10 years, and discovered that the US press from about 1750 to 1950 was anything but objective.  In fact from the end of the the Revolutionary War through World War 1, the tenor of the American press had a greater resemblance to Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olberman than Woodward and Bernstein.

The early American press was primarily anonymous.  Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin wrote scurrilous pieces about public friends and office holders that would be considered actionable today.  And they did it all under pen names. Jefferson blasted his "best friend" John Adams simply as "Anonymous" and Hamilton under the name "Brutus."  Hamilton took on both Adams, Jeffeson and even George Washington under "Pacificus"  And Franklin had an entire village of pen names that bitch slapped just about everyone that ever crossed him.

As the new country "matured" people got a little braver stating their abject disgust with certain public figures, to the point that certain factions actually founded newspapers to support their particular position.  Andrew Jackson near the end of his first term funded the establishment of a newspaper that blatantly admitted they were in existence to support Jackson.

In Jackson's defense, the newspaper that was funded by his the John Quincy Adams camp called him a homicidal maniac.  Something had to be done.

A few decades later, having your own publication wasn't considered cricket for politicians, but I imagine Abraham Lincoln wished he could have.  Here's what the New York Herald had to say about him when he was running for his second term:

President Lincoln is a joke incarnate... The idea that such a man should be president of such a country is a very ridiculous joke ... His cabinet is and always has been a joke....His emancipation proclamation was a solemn joke..." and on it goes.  

Of course, the people of the southern states didn't like him much either. Harper's Weekly, in 1864 published a list of slurs against Lincoln including: Filthy storyteller, Despot, Liar, Thief, Braggart, Usurper, Monster, Butcher.  Oh, wait.  Those weren't what the southerners were saying.  That's what northern Democrats called him.

Keep in mind, this is what was being reported as "news" not editorial.

The point here, is that for almost 200 years, the tradition of the American press, and to a certain degree the European press as well, was not one of objectivity.  Freedom of the press meant the protection of unjust, hateful and often untrue conjecture against both public and private figures.  In other words, pretty much a lot what we see on television, hear on radio and readon the internet today.  So how did we get to the place we are today?  That's next week.

Do we need filters?

It's amazing how some things just start coming together.  A couple of days ago Brian Fuller posited a position that the reading public just doesn't seem to care if what they are reading, watching or listening to is objective.  That same day I had a conversation with a young man who doesn't believe anything in the media is objective... period.  Yesterday, however, I met with two companies who now see the lack of objectivity as a real problem because their self-serving contributed articles are no longer making any impact on their marketing and sales efforts ... which means their entire marketing and sales effort is pretty much useless because they don't do advertising, they have no press to talk to and their news releases suck because they have no one who can write to help them.

So, my Austin partner, Joe Basques and I sat down yesterday to have a conversation about it.  We're also opening the discussion on the Marketing like it's 1999 Facebook Group.  Let's hear what you all have to say about it.  Here's the podcast.

We need to rethink ... a lot of stuff

Was watching a video on Jeremiah Owyang's site, and it ended with a statement that we "need to rethink copyright, authorship, identity...ethics..."  That's pretty much what I've been doing for several years now and have only, in the past 12 months, started to put into practice.

The assumptions are always there.  "That's not journalism." "That's not ethical." "You don't ask the tough questions."  So I've started at the end and begun asking the tough questions.  What is journalism?  What is Ethics?  What is a tough question?

Not getting a lot of real answers.  What I'm starting to find out is, in the midst of this very real sea change in how information is disseminated, parsed, consumed and created, we have assumptions, not answers.  Journalists have relied on the advertising departments of publications to insulate them from the decision processes that make up their ethics.  The mechanism that supports journalism has become the definition or journalism.  The tough questions are defined by whoever is not doing the asking.

But the mechanisms, shields and assumptions are falling apart right now.  It's up to the individual now to do their own thinking; to define and maintain their own ethics; to be ready to ask a tough question when you think it isn't being asked, rather than denigrate someone else's effort.

We are all on this planet together and no one is getting out alive.  We are the government, we are the ethical construct, we are the machine.  If you don't like the way it's working, stop complaining and do something about it.