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 currently serves as a visiting assistant professor at Berry College in Rome, Georgia.

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Taxi drivers in UAE get a raw deal

posted on November 30, 2010 at 10:18 am

Fantastic summation from a UAE blogger about the plight of taxi drivers in the Emirates and the media’s understated coverage. Taxi drivers in Sharjah recently had their pay slashed, and they’re quite unhappy about it. But, you can’t get a firm idea of how big a deal it is by reading the local press. Alexander McNabb notes:

I have posted before at some length about the awful conditions under which these drivers are working – and about the lack of coverage being afforded the whole dispute by the local news media who, while quick to protest their disintermediation with cries of context and analysis, have given us little more than compliance and silence. Gulf News, in particular has chosen to bury the story, something it rather does again today by featuring the dispute as a decoration to the gutter on page 6 under the roaring headline, ‘Taxi drivers protest salary deduction’.

Read this rest.

This seems like a great story for the local press. We’re not talking about taking on the ruling elite — just spotlighting that some ex-pats here are getting an incredibly raw deal. That’s what journalists are supposed to do.

Sloppy journalism from the AJC

posted on December 24, 2009 at 12:36 pm

The story reads:

A Cobb County high school counselor arrested for fondling a student has declined to resign.

Frank Robinson, 45, has been accused of touching the intimate parts of a 17-year-old female student, who was in his office at Lassiter High School. Robinson turned himself into police Saturday morning, and was released from jail later that day on $5,000 bond.

He hasn’t been convicted of anything, so the lede is far too definitive. A more accurate wording could have been “he was arrested on charges that he fondled…” or something else that makes it clear that it’s just an allegation. The fact that he’s not resigning makes it clear that he’s not admitting any culpability.

NY Times tunes in too late

posted on September 27, 2009 at 1:46 pm

The New York Times public editor chides his newspaper for its slow response to covering the ACORN video story:

But for days, as more videos were posted and government authorities rushed to distance themselves from Acorn, The Times stood still. Its slow reflexes — closely following its slow response to a controversy that forced the resignation of Van Jones, a White House adviser — suggested that it has trouble dealing with stories arising from the polemical world of talk radio, cable television and partisan blogs. Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.

Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called BigGovernment.com. When the Senate voted to cut off all federal funds to Acorn, there was not a word in the newspaper or on its Web site. When the New York City Council froze all its funding for Acorn and the Brooklyn district attorney opened a criminal investigation, there was still nothing.

Readers noticed. James Jeff Crocket of New Britain, Conn., spoke for many when he said he was sure he knew why the paper was silent: “protecting the progressive movement.”

Finally, on Sept. 16, nearly a week after the first video was posted, The Times took note of the controversy, under the headline, “Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe.” The article said that conservatives hoped to weaken the Obama administration by attacking its allies and appointees they viewed as leftist. The conservatives thought they had a “winning formula,” the article said, mobilizing people “to dig up dirt,” then trumpeting it on talk radio and television.

By stressing the politics, the article irritated more readers. “A suspicious person might see an attempt to deflect criticism of Acorn by highlighting how those pesky conservatives are at it again,” said Albert Smith of Chatham, N.J.

I thought politics was emphasized too much, at the expense of questions about an organization whose employees in city after city participated in outlandish conversations about illegal and immoral activities.

Good points.

So many stories start off in the blogosphere as vents from outraged partisans.  Often times, those stories don’t get much traction. The trick is knowing which ones will evolve beyond partisan outrage into real-world policy changes. Lately the New York Times hasn’t found much success in figuring that out.

On Journalism

posted on July 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm

“With many young reporters the notion exists that a newspaper man is not at his best unless he is finding fault. They go out of their way to employ ridicule and sarcasm, and pride themselves on their ability to annoy and hurt. Some of them get so bad that they are always ready to stretch the truth for the sake of setting down what they think are particularly telling examples of their own smartness; and it must be confessed that occasionally experienced newspaper men who pose as fair judges are the worst offenders.”

– John L. Given, “Making a Newspaper,” 1907

Poll Underdog?

posted on June 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

The Drudge Report is linking to this Reuters article with a headline that reads “Poll Underdog”:

Democrat Barack Obama has a narrow 5-point lead on Republican John McCain in the U.S. presidential race, but holds a big early edge with the crucial swing voting blocs of independents and women, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Two weeks after clinching the Democratic nomination and kicking off the general election campaign, Obama leads McCain by 47 percent to 42 percent. That is down slightly from Obama’s 8-point advantage on McCain in May, before Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York left the Democratic race.

On the last line of the three-page story sits an incredibly important bit of information:

The national survey of 1,113 likely voters, taken Thursday through Saturday, had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

That means Obama could be as low as 44 and McCain as high as 45. Translation: A statistical dead heat. McCain’s only a “poll underdog” if you pretend that the statistical laws surrounding margins of error are meaningless.

But hey, let’s not let math get in the way of a sensational headline or a compelling story.

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