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Journalist Ethics, Separated Families, Using That Audio

Many media outlets continue to use audio supposedly from detention facilities where children a being sent after being separated from their families. This is material that was provided to them by ProPublic. Media outlets are often reporting that they haven’t verified the content.

Note that the Washington Post reported today that the girl in the photo above had NOT been separated from her mother.

So what’s the “journalistic ethics” around using “unverified” audio over and over?

(To be clear, this isn’t a conversation about the policy. It’s about the use of the audio provided.)

So we asked a number of journalists what they thought. Should media use the audio? How should it be referenced? We got responses from current and former reporters with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNN, CBS Radio, WSB Radio, ABC Radio, and The New York Times among others.

A summary of the best comments:

  • Run it. You have to tell the viewers/listeners where it came from. But just because it’s third-party doesn’t mean it’s not news. I mean, how do you verify the Zapruder film?
  • Just because someone with a camera shoots a Zapruder or Rodney King video doesn’t disqualify it from being newsworthy. Say where it came from — and run it.
  • The original organization that released the audio was ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization that has built a reputation for quality work. They have stated that they received the recording from a whistleblower. Other news organizations are relying on ProPublica’s reputation as a trustworthy source, but the others are also being transparent about the fact that they themselves don’t have access to that original whistle-blower. This is not unlike the many newspapers that re-reported what the NYTimes and Washington Post revealed from the Pentagon Papers, even though all those other news orgs didn’t have the original documents and never met Deep Throat.
  • If it comes from a trustworthy source who vouches for its authenticity then run it and explain. If it just pops up in your inbox or if you question the source, probably better to not run it.
  • Pro Publica got it from a civil rights attorney who has worked in Texas near the border for four decades. I think you make a good faith effort to verify it from the person who is giving it to you — some of it depends on your trust in the source (and there may well have been some efforts to verify it from official sources before using.)
  • This isn’t audio that is the only evidence of an event. This isn’t an entire story based on unverified audio. This is reported audio of something that the government admits to doing. As others mentioned, if you make efforts to verify and trust your source and disclose to viewers, you run it.
  • Here’s the thing. HOW do we verify it’s authentic? It’s something our media organization wrestled with in this case and the last I heard we were NOT using it because we could NOT independently verify it was the real deal. If in doubt, toss it out.
  •  I think it’s important to point out that if the government thinks that a slanted view of conditions is being given by the audio or pictures taken by someone on the sly, there is a reason for that — which is the government isn’t allowing journalists into the facilities to do their own recordings. Or photographers to take their own pictures. And it makes you wonder why is that?
  • If you can’t verify its source, I’d stay away. I mean, it could be anything. I could have gone into my kid’s daycare and turned on a tape recorder.
  • Much of what is reported as news comes from sources, and sometimes we don’t name those sources. The government didn’t give journalists access to this facility. I think a civil rights lawyer and a trustworthy agency who vouch for it are good sources. The photo of the crying kid in the cage is the bigger fake.
  • If you read ProPublica’s original story, their reporter called the phone number that this one little girl can be heard giving a Salvadoran consular official. The little girl said that her aunt would answer, and indeed, it was her aunt on the other end of the line when the reporter dialed. (The aunt gave the name of the little girl and the mom, which PP reported, and gave a pretty detailed account of how they ended up in the US). That helped a lot.
  • Is there an outside chance that this recording was a massive hoax? Anything’s possible. Let’s run down the possibilities: 1. ProPublica made it up, but that’s not likely. ProPublica is an investigations-focused nonprofit and they have little other than their reputation to trade on. 2. The civil rights attorney orchestrated the hoax. I guess this is within the realm of possibility, but this is a very well-known & respected lawyer with a long history in the public sphere in Texas. 3. Her client (the person who recorded the audio) made it up. I guess this is most possible hoax scenario. But then, why would the aunt answer the number, and tell such a detailed corroborating story? This would require hoaxes within hoaxes.
  • ProPublica is an extremely reliable source and it seems they vetted this well. We can always demand more proof and more proof and more proof, and that can be a good route if you don’t want to believe what you’re reading, but the fact is, every news organization, including conservative-leaning ones, have to publish the best version of the truth possible, and that is what ProPublica appears to have done here.
  • “Verified” is an interesting concept in this conversation. If I knew the civil rights attorney who recorded the audio and if I trusted her to deliver an authentic document, then I would post it with qualifications. However, if the criteria in question is not met, then I don’t know that I would post it at all. If Pro Publica posts it, given that organization’s reputation, I believe I would be inclined to post the material with qualification.
  • The repeated and universal use of the Pro Publica audio and the solo pic of the crying child is unsettling. Where are other outlets’ versions? The story is weeks old and lots of journos have been at one site or another. The last week has looked like a herd in a run for universal judgment.
  • Under anything resembling “normal circumstances,” any editor would have had to think hard about using the Pro Publica audio. But these are not normal circumstances, and the government’s stonewalling in effect gives the media greater license to stretch beyond their normal limits. Law enforcement can claim “exigent circumstances” to act without a warrant or other proper court authority to deal with emergency circumstances. These are exigent circumstances that demand extraordinary action by the media. If there were ever a time for the American press to be kicking down doors, this is it.

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“4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Ron Daniel, Douglas County Sentinel

This week our “4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Atlanta Daybook talks with Ron Daniel, managing editor of the Douglas County Sentinel.

Ron has been the managing editor of the Douglas County Sentinel in Douglasville for the past four years. He does everything from writing stories and taking photos for his thrice-weekly print publication to overseeing its social media channels and website.

Click here for all the details: http://tinyurl.com/y7jc7nd2.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Leff’s Atlanta Media, our database of every journalist in metro Atlanta (www.leffsatlantamedia.com)!

Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.

“4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with John Druckenmiller, HometownHeadlines!

This week our “4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Atlanta Daybook talks with John Druckenmiller, editor and publisher of HometownHeadlines.com.

HometownHeadlines is a series of news websites serving Northwest Georgia. John is also host of the weekday Hometown Headlines Radio Edition from 7-9 a.m. on WRGA 98.7 FM and online at wrga.streamon.fm.

Click here for all the details: http://tinyurl.com/ybdldos5.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Leff’s Atlanta Media, our database of every journalist in metro Atlanta (www.leffsatlantamedia.com)!

Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.
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“4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with HB Cho, The Korea Daily

This week our “4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Atlanta Daybook talks with HB Cho, a reporter with The Korea Daily here in Atlanta. The paper is the most read Korean language paper in the U.S.

Atlanta is home to so many publications focused on specific audiences, including many from around the world. We are excited to be able to focus this spotlight on a media outlet serving Atlanta’s vibrant Korean community.

(next step is to figure out how to do a Korean language version of this piece!)

Click here for all the details: http://tinyurl.com/ycyuhnwx.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Leff’s Atlanta Media, our database of every journalist in metro Atlanta (www.leffsatlantamedia.com)!

Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

 

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.

“4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Global Atlanta’s Trevor Williams

This week our “4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Atlanta Daybook talks with Trevor Williams, managing editor for Global Atlanta in Atlanta! Global Atlanta reports on local companies doing business internationally and how companies from around the world are coming here to do business.

Click here for all the details: http://tinyurl.com/ydgwnalg.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Leff’s Atlanta Media, our database of every journalist in metro Atlanta (www.leffsatlantamedia.com)!

Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

 

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.

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Clutch Names Leff & Associates #1 on Its Ranking of Atlanta PR Agencies

At Leff & Associates, we pride ourselves in offering our clients a full range of public relations services, with a specialty in strategic counsel, program development, and media relations. We work with our clients to achieve results that meet their business goals and needs, supporting their overall public relations, special events, crisis communications, and public affairs needs.

We are excited to announce that we have joined Clutch’s ranking of leading PR agencies in Atlanta in 2018! Clutch is a Washington DC-based ratings and reviews site that shows distinguished companies in different fields, including PR.

Here’s a link to their release.

For each firm on the site, there is an intensive research process, which examines over a dozen unique factors. Chief among these factors are the team’s conversations with clients. In interview-style phone calls, clients delve into the services offered, results of the engagement, and the project management of the firm. Clutch has reached out to our clients to get an overall sense of our services and to see if we deliver, and we are proud to say that we have a 4.3-star rating (so something is clearly working right!).

Our clients have voiced their opinions, and we are excited to share some. After supplementing Emory’s Goizueta Business School PR and Communications team to promote faculty research and develop relationships with the local media, our client said:

“Since hiring Leff & Associates, Emory’s business experts have received 40%­–50% more mentions in Atlanta media. The team’s hands-on approach has helped the school’s faculty become the go to source for business expertise in the local market, and solidified this three-year partnership.”

And if those numbers don’t speak enough to our work ethic, our major touch point with the client made a point to say we, “are extremely productive, and it is something that sets [us] apart in the industry.”

We are very proud of our positioning on Clutch’s ranking of PR firms in Atlanta, and we look to continue delivering high-quality work that our clients expect from us.

 

“4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Star 94.1’s Jenn Hobby!

This week our “4 Questions Journalist Spotlight” with Atlanta Daybook talks with Jenn Hobby, co-host of The Jeff & Jenn show on Star 94.1 radio in Atlanta!

Click here for all the details: http://tinyurl.com/yd9xbund.

And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Leff’s Atlanta Media, our database of every journalist in metro Atlanta (www.leffsatlantamedia.com)!

Mitch Leff is the president of Leff & Associates Public Relations (www.leffassociates.com), an Atlanta-based PR agency. Leff also operates Leff’s Atlanta Media (http://www.leffsatlantamedia.com) an online database with contact info for thousands of Atlanta-based journalists, and Mitch’s Media Match (www.mitchsmediamatch.com), a service that connects Atlanta journalists with local experts and sources.

Contact him at mitch@leffassociates.com, (404) 861-4769, on Twitter (@mitchleffPR), or on Facebook at Leff & Associates.http://www.mitchsmediamatch.com
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