Matt J. Duffy :: Thoughts on Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication

Thoughts On Journalism, Culture, and Global Communication
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Dr. Matt J. Duffy teaches journalism, media ethics and international communication law. His research focuses on journalism and media laws in the Middle East. Duffy's book "Media Laws of the United Arab Emirates" was published in 2014 by Wolters Kluwer. His academic work has been published in the Journal of Middle East Media, the Journal of Mass Media Ethics, and the Newspaper Research Journal. He received a Ph.D. in Public Communication from Georgia State University in the United States where he studied the use of unnamed sources in journalism. Duffy is board member of the Arab-United States Association for Communication Educators, an organization that aims to improve journalism in the Middle East. He teaches international communication law at Kennesaw State University.

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“Anonymous Sources: A historical review” just published

posted on June 10, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Pleased to announce that my academic article ”Anonymous Sources: A Historical Review of the Norms Surrounding Their Use” has just been published. It went through three rounds of “revise and resubmit” and finally received the official approval earlier this year. I started the process of publishing this paper in 2011 while in the United Arab Emirates. Here’s the abstract:

This article offers a historical examination of the journalistic norms surrounding the practice of citing anonymous sources. The author examines a variety of textbooks, guidebooks, trade press coverage, and codes of ethics over the past century. The analysis reveals that unnamed attribution, once scorned as a journalistic practice, has gained acceptance over time. After scandals revolving around unnamed sourcing from the 1980s to the 2000s, journalistic norms surrounding their use crystalized in the late 2000s. This analysis also finds that journalism textbooks more often describe common practices of journalists rather than provide normative statements as to how journalists should act. The analysis also reveals that, in guidelines and texts, the journalistic tradition of independently verifying information from unnamed sources diminished over time.

The article represents the last of three works derived from my dissertation. The other two are “Use of unnamed sources drops from peaks in 60s and 70s” in Newspaper Research Journal and “Unnamed Sources: A Utilitarian Exploration of their Justification and Guidelines for Limited Use” in the Journal of Mass Media Ethics.

Have one more article that will be published soon — it’s on limits to press freedoms in the Middle East.

In other news, I’ll be joining the faculty at Berry College as a visiting assistant professor this August. Looking forward to teaching full-time again. 

The Public Editor of the NYT is awesome

posted on May 28, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Margaret Sullivan — who works for the New York Times newspaper as its paid critic — certainly knows how to do her job. Browsing through her archive shows prolific, insightful, on-target analyses of the paper’s foibles.

I especially appreciate her response to the NYT’s selection of Michael Kinsley to review Glenn Greenwald’s book. Kinsley was an odd choice because he has already come out against the type of government whistleblowing that Greenwald has uncovered. The most criticized quote from Kinsley’s review:

The question is who decides. It seems clear, at least to me, that the private companies that own newspapers, and their employees, should not have the final say over the release of government secrets, and a free pass to make them public with no legal consequences. In a democracy (which, pace Greenwald, we still are), that decision must ultimately be made by the government. No doubt the government will usually be overprotective of its secrets, and so the process of decision-making — whatever it turns out to be — should openly tilt in favor of publication with minimal delay. But ultimately you can’t square this circle. Someone gets to decide, and that someone cannot be Glenn Greenwald.

I really have trouble believing that a journalist like Michael Kinsley — who edited The New Republic and the editorial pages of the LA Times — could write these words. Sullivan responds perfectly and with a bunch of hyperlinks to her sources:

Mr. Kinsley’s central argument ignores important tenets of American governance. There clearly is a special role for the press in America’s democracy; the Founders explicitly intended the press to be a crucial check on the power of the federal government, and the United States courts have consistently backed up that role. It’s wrong to deny that role, and editors should not have allowed such a denial to stand. Mr. Kinsley’s argument is particularly strange to see advanced in the paper that heroically published the Pentagon Papers, and many of the Snowden revelations as well. What if his views were taken to their logical conclusion? Picture Daniel Ellsberg and perhaps the Times reporter Neil Sheehan in jail; and think of all that Americans would still be in the dark about — from the C.I.A.’s black sites to the abuses of the Vietnam War to the conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to the widespread spying on ordinary Americans.

Well said. I hope Sullivan hangs out at the Times for a while.

‘Media Law in the United Arab Emirates’ published, available on Amazon

posted on May 9, 2014 at 9:47 am

I’m pleased to announce that my book on UAE media laws has been published. Click here to purchase the book on Amazon.

Since I’ll probably only sell about 8 copies, here are the acknowledgements:

I’d like to thank my colleagues at Zayed University’s College of Communication and Media Sciences in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the opportunity to teach journalism and international media law in the country. Razi Rizvi, a lawyer with Simmons & Simmons, provided valuable insight into many sections of this book and also provided some of the primary sources. The Center for International Media Education (CIME) and the Department of Communication at Georgia State University have also provided support for this project. Ella Doueiry, a student at Georgia State University and assistant at CIME, helped with some of the Arabic translations. Also, my media law research supported by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom on the Gulf Cooperation Council countries also proved helpful. Finally, I’d like to thank Dr. Kyu Ho Youm, the president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and John Marshall First Amendment chair at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, for suggesting that I write this book.

I’m not positive, but I think this book is the first to solely address the media laws of an Arab country.

UPDATE: “Media Law in the United Arab Emirates” is also available at Amazon UK.

The Wrath of Duffy

posted on May 6, 2014 at 12:23 pm

My latest class video features my Media Law class from spring 2014 at Kennesaw State University.

Duffy’s 5 simple tips for happiness and good living

posted on April 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Just presented my talk at the last class of media law. Here are the slides.

Media law in a digital world

posted on April 15, 2014 at 9:34 am

Here are the slides for tonight’s media law class entitled: “Law, Ethics, and Social Media: A Primer on Copyright Law, Fair Use, and Defamation in a Digital World.” Updated with some recent rulings.

Great multimedia journalism

posted on April 14, 2014 at 11:10 am

I’m going to continuously update this post when I come across examples of multimedia journalism that I want to share with my students. Here’s three works to start off:

  • NPR’s Borderland – examining illegal immigration from Mexico from a variety of perspectives. 
  • Thomas Lake’s “The Ghost of Speedy Cannon” — about a 40-year old football game that featured a possibly race-inspired viscous hit. 
  • Barry Bearak’s “The Jockey” — focuses on Russell Baze, the winningest horse race jockey in American history. 

And just for fun, here’s a collection of great ledes. And here’s an explanation for why journalists spell “lede” that way.

Final readings/videos for media law class

posted on April 12, 2014 at 8:17 am

The readings address the nature of the free press in the United States and globally. I’ve updated them slightly since last semester.

April 15

April 17

April 22

      • Class video

April 24

    • Read: Reaction to “Innocence of Muslims” video
    • Watch: Hamza Yusuf discussing free speech and the right to offend in aftermath of “Innocense of Muslims.” He references the attack on the Benghazi embassy in Libya, which occurred at the same time.
    • Read: Amartya Sen talking about press freedom and civil society. Sen is a Nobel Prize-winning academic.
    • Questions to answer before coming to class. Put the answers on paper so you can turn them in.

April 29

    • Readings:
      • Arab Media Laws
      • US free speech and terrorism
      • Answer these questions before class:
        • What are the five areas where Arab media laws differ most with international norms?
        • How does US approach to terrorism speech compare/contrast with Arab media law
        • How should the US change its approach to free speech?
        • How should the Arab world change its approach?
      • Put the answers on paper so you can turn them in.
    • Clay Shirky video. (We’ll watch this in class.)

May 1

Final Exam (6 p.m.): Here’s the study guide.

Automated tracker for anonymous sources

posted on April 7, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Here’s a useful website that automatically tracks the use of anonymous sources in news websites. The link automatically enters the New York Times as a source. Such a website could be useful for any academic thinking about tracking the use or misuse of unnamed sourcing

Worry over Qatar’s cybercrime law and other general updates

posted on March 19, 2014 at 5:33 pm

Here’s a link to my article in Al Monitor on a proposed change to the cybercrime law in Qatar. Al Monitor, by the way, just won the International Press Institute’s Free Media Pioneer Award. The publication has provided some great reporting on the Middle East for the past couple of years. They’ve also just launched the “Gulf Pulse,” which will focus on the Arabian Gulf countries, including semi-regular reports from this correspondent.

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