Category Archives: Ethics

All is not well amid name-suppression rejig

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: A day after the New Zealand Government announced ministers had signed off proposals for new name suppression law, NewstalkZB was reporting here a blogger had revealed the identity of a man arrested in an alleged electoral scam.
Meanwhile, Radio New Zealand has an article here quoting critics of the proposals to make suppression harder to obtain.
NewstalkZB is also citing concerns of internet entrepreneur Lance Wiggs that websites will still be able to host supressed information offshore.

News of the world of tabloid hacks

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: The Guardian has led recent reporting on phone-hacking allegations against fellow British newspaper News of the World.
Nick Davies, critic of journalism practice in the book Flat Earth News, has a string of investigative and news stories on the phone-hacking scandal here.
Davies also unearths some of the thousands of names targeted by the News of the World’s private investigator.

WikiLeaks: The Guardian tackles big data

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: Staff from British newspaper The Guardian have analysed their own reporting/ethical and data analysis approaches to the massive bulk of data they received on Afghanistan via WikiLeaks.

What got The Guardian started? Investigations executive editor David Leigh writes:

What actually happened was that my Guardian colleague Nick Davies, in an inspired moment, tracked down nomadic WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in Brussels, about a month ago.

In six hours of intensive talks, Davies established three things that could never have happened before the internet age.

One, that the US army had built a huge database with six years of sensitive military intelligence material in it. Two, that many thousands of US soldiers had access to this electronic archive, and some had been able to download copies.

And three, WikiLeaks now had one copy which it proposed to publish immediately online, via a series of uncensorable global servers. READ MORE HERE.

On the nerds team, hugely important in this exercise, was Simon Rogers, who reflects for  on the unpacking of 90,000 rows of data.

Chief Coroner: suicide needs more open reporting

REBECCA TODD – The Press: Suicides should be more widely reported as the number of New Zealanders taking their own lives is 50 per cent higher than the road toll, the Chief Coroner says. READ MORE>

First with the news… however we get it?

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: More angles keep appearing on the McChrystal story. Now we have cogent criticism of two major media outlets ( and Politico) for circulating the Rolling Stone story before the magazine itself had published it online.

These sites were sent a PDF copy of what was then the hottest topic in politics: the Michael Hastings profile of Stanley McChrystal. Then, they published the PDF on their own websites. Rolling Stone hadn’t yet published the piece.

Big media aren’t helping their own cause – that the high cost and value of content mean it cannot be free – by stealing from one another, suggests David Carr in the New York Times.

Read more:

Military says Rolling Stone broke ground rules on McChrystal story

JON STEPHENSON: ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports:

A senior military official tells ABC News that Rolling Stone broke journalistic ground rules established for the magazine’s profile of the general by publishing comments that occurred during what McChrystal’s aides thought were off-the-record sessions that would not be reported.

The official said the magazine’s claim that there were no ground rules for the interview and profile was an “absurd statement.”

The official says a review of events has found no ground rules for the article in writing, but the official is confident that many of the attention-grabbing comments made by McChrystal staffers were made in what they thought were off-the-record discussions.

The review found Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings conducted “several one-on-one interviews — some of those were on background and others were on the record.”

Hastings also was allowed access to other sessions that “were off-the-record and intended to give him a sense” of how McChrystal’s team worked together.

The official says no evidence has been found to suggest that the most “salacious political quotes were from any of these one-on-one interviews.  They all appear to have been in settings that were off the record.”

In an interview conducted this afternoon by the Washington Post, Rolling Stone magazine’s executive editor Eric Bates says no ground rules were broken.

“A lot of things were said off the record that we didn’t use,” Bates says.

“We abided by all the ground rules in every instance. In every case in this story, there were multiple times in which there were express requests for off-the-record and background or not-for-attribution and we abided in every instance.”

The senior military official says that Rolling Stone is incorrect in stating that the magazine sent McChrystal’s staff an advance draft of the story, sending instead a list of 30 questions compiled by a researcher who was fact-checking Hastings’ article.

Those questions, says the official, did not “come close to revealing what ended up in the final article”.

A copy of that e-mail obtained by ABC News shows the submitted questions requested confirmation of details such as whether McChrystal’s staff had a “full-scale operations center” set up in the Hotel Westminster during their visit to Paris this past April.

“Yes” came the reply from McChrystal press aide Duncan Boothby, who had set up the interview and resigned his post in the wake of  the controversy surrounding the article.

He added. “Not sure, I’d call it full scale, but everywhere we go we have capability for immediate comms.”

A key moment in the Rolling Stone article is when Hastings described how McChrystal and President Obama had failed to connect on a personal level from the outset.

Hastings went on to describe a description provided by aides of McChrystal’s first meeting with Obama where he “didn’t seem very engaged.”

Hastings’ description of McChrystal’s relationship with Obama begins with the mention that McChrystal had voted for Obama.

According to the researcher’s questions, that information came from McChrystal himself.

In his reply, Boothby requests that piece of information not be included in the article because it would present an undue command influence.

The researcher asks: “Did Gen. McChrystal vote for President Obama? [The reporter tells me that this info originates from McChrystal himself.]”

Boothby replies: “Important – Please do not include this.  This is personal and private information and unrealtd (sic) to his job. It would be inappropriate to share.

“My reason for this is it would present an undue command inflluence (sic) on junior officers or soldiers who should make their own political decisions.

“There are very strict rules in the military on separating church and state on this sort of stuff – Have to keep out of political preference and personal choice.”

– Luis Martinez

Independent story on the Rolling Stone article – READ HERE>

Iceland comes to the rescue of hounded journos everywhere

VIRGINIA McMILLAN: Iceland is becoming the international hub of media freedom.

Icelanders were irate at at one bank’s gagging tactics on reporting its behaviour during the financial crisis. Out of this came a close bond between pro-media reformist Icelanders and WikiLeaks, which has this month led to the country’s Parliament taking a huge leap. 

A new law has been passed embracing the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, aimed at making Iceland a haven for reporting from anywhere in the world where there is threat of suppression or retaliation. As this video and update via boingboing shows, the aim is to build the world’s strongest press and whistleblower protection laws.