Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

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Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Tony Souter
Nathan, it's a pity you've decided to smear me on a public list without even informing me. I was alerted to this by an existing subscriber and have since subscribed myself so that I can respond.

Almost every sentence you've written needs rebutting.

First, "takedown" and "aggressive" are your characterisations. The entire story is factual but for four sentences. Here are the possibly subjective ones:

*"It is an open question whether these warnings actually function to caution travellers' behaviour beyond providing eligibility for inclusion under the policies."

*"Another issue raised by the material is its potential to be perceived as treating women with a casual objectification".

*"And just as central to the site's use of the Wikimedia Foundation's trademark and brand reputation is its ability to monitor commercial spamming."

*"Yet given the poverty of the competition, there appear to be many opportunities for Wikivoyage to boost its presence in the crowded market for online travel advice."  

Second, "e-mailed quotes were manipulated and pulled out of context". No, the source was emailed the link to the draft more than 12 hours ahead of publication, by agreement. There was no distortion of the message in my copy-edits and conflation; we don't have boundless room, and sources are warned that their text may be trimmed or rationalised, usually with their review before publication (sources often send bloated response to queries). So please get your facts right.

Third, I don't regard Ryan Holliday's trigger-happy blocks (issued to silence anyone who criticises or suggests reforms to the site = "uncivil") as placing me in an ethically difficult position. Please note that the story is a direct continuation of my coverage of the sex-tourism policy back in January – one that was planned at the time, given that the site had only just migrated. It is the fourth in a sequence of stories I have written for the Signpost about Wikivoyage over 15 months. Perhaps Holliday might have considered that I have a history of covering Wikivoyage in the public interest before meeting out another of his gratuitous punishment blocks; but this story was going to happen anyway. Any potential perception of COI was, in fact, why I went to considerable trouble to keep the article almost entirely factual.

I'm sorry that you've joined in the bullying, Nathan: I thought better of you than to indulge in misleading statements. The purpose of the bullying is to deflect people from discussing the substance of the article. After calling me "a jerk" and "a dick" multiple times, the Wikivoyage boys seem to have decided not to engage in discussion for evolving the site. You are helping them in their intransigence.

Tony





 
From: Nathan <[hidden email]>
Date: Mon, Nov 4, 2013 at 7:17 PM
Subject: [WikiEN-l] Signpost and basic journalistic integrity
To: English Wikipedia <[hidden email]>


There's a heated debate in the comment section of the Signpost's latest
"News and notes". Tony1 wrote a takedown of the English Wikivoyage in
pretty inflammatory language, but as a news story rather than as part of
the Signpost's foray into opinion.

Not surprisingly, the Wikivoyage folks have made various serious claims
about the article - that e-mailed quotes were manipulated and pulled out of
context, that content from Wikivoyage was presented in a false light, that
the column was illustrated with images that have never actually appeared on
Wikivoyage and that Tony1 himself has a very strong bias against Wikivoyage.

It's the last bit that is the most serious to me. A month ago, a discussion
to ban Tony1 from Wikivoyage (which ultimately resulted in his ban) was
proposed. Tony1's response:

"*Right, you'll never see me again. (Oh, you'll see me, but it won't be
on this site.) It is morally reprehensible, and demonstrates a clear
strategy to get rid of critical voices—anyone who dares to stand up to the
boys' club here. From now on, I'll be deeply committed to letting
Wikimedians know what a corrupt and bullying power structure has developed
here. This is so dysfunctional it is laughable."*

This is a major departure from the traditional tone and approach of the
Signpost and it's editors, and it's kind of sad. Whatever you think of the
article debate itself (and there is more than one way to look at it), the
fact that the piece was published that way - in the voice of the Signpost,
without reference to Tony1's history, etc. - is a disappointing ethical
lapse.
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Re: Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Charles Matthews
On 5 November 2013 07:42, Tony Souter <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Nathan, it's a pity you've decided to smear me on a public list without
> even informing me. I was alerted to this by an existing subscriber and have
> since subscribed myself so that I can respond.
>

Tony, welcome to this list. Wikien-l is not so much used these days, and it
sometimes reminds me of the British House of Lords. The subscribers tend to
be people who still remember the old English Wikipedia days of up to a
decade ago, and it's a talking shop that can at times be insightful, but
has little or no influence.

The journalism in the Signpost these days is subject to much comment, as
you are probably aware. I don't imagine you are concerned, as long as
people read it (I do). Doings on Wikivoyage aren't really on-topic for this
list, but the Signpost is. The phrase "yellow press" is one I have seen
applied. It might be appropriate for you to explain what you are trying to
do with the Signpost, now you have made a rebuttal.

Charles
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Re: Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Tony Souter
Charles, to respond to one of the most charming WPians I know: if your question is what I personally think the Signpost should do, I suppose there are both positive and negative dimensions. The SP project is uniquely placed to both critically scrutinise the Wikimedia movement in all its complexity, and to highlight its achievements. The journalist in me finds the common link between these opposites to be reader interest – if we're boring, no one will read us, and nor should they. If the Signpost  is sometimes provocative, that's part of the deal and why we have talk pages. I believe the movement is better off having coverage that is independent of the WMF and of any particular community (we have narrowly avoided too close an association with the "establishment" on several counts).

I concede that the Wikivoyage piece might have been better categorised as an op-ed, but the truth is that no one comes forward to help out in the weekly grind of churning out a publication that everyone has come to expect, gratis. So this week there was no News and notes material aside from the bullets at the bottom, and the Wikivoyage story was waiting in the wings. The Ed17 and other regulars are really hard-pressed in real life at the moment. We do our best with very few staff, and often wish for a break.

Tony








On 05/11/2013, at 9:42 PM, Charles Matthews wrote:

> On 5 November 2013 07:42, Tony Souter <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
>> Nathan, it's a pity you've decided to smear me on a public list without
>> even informing me. I was alerted to this by an existing subscriber and have
>> since subscribed myself so that I can respond.
>>
>
> Tony, welcome to this list. Wikien-l is not so much used these days, and it
> sometimes reminds me of the British House of Lords. The subscribers tend to
> be people who still remember the old English Wikipedia days of up to a
> decade ago, and it's a talking shop that can at times be insightful, but
> has little or no influence.
>
> The journalism in the Signpost these days is subject to much comment, as
> you are probably aware. I don't imagine you are concerned, as long as
> people read it (I do). Doings on Wikivoyage aren't really on-topic for this
> list, but the Signpost is. The phrase "yellow press" is one I have seen
> applied. It might be appropriate for you to explain what you are trying to
> do with the Signpost, now you have made a rebuttal.
>
> Charles
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l

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Re: Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Nathan Awrich
In reply to this post by Tony Souter
Hi Tony,

I should have informed you of the post, and I apologize for not doing so.
But on the rest, I disagree. I think my post was more even-handed than your
News and notes bit. I didn't speak to you first or afford you the
opportunity to respond, but I didn't quote you misleadingly. You haven't
complained that I manipulated your quotes, or illustrated my post about you
in such a way that readers would draw a false impression. It was hardly a
smear - I said publishing the comment was a disappointing ethical lapse.
The rest of it was, as you say, just the facts.

Frankly, it's not bullying to criticize the standard of journalism evident
in your article. As a writer for a publication, you should be willing to
accept such criticism as a valuable part of the process. It's worth noting
the absence of your defenders on this piece. Even those who agree with you
that such content on Wikivoyage is unsavory (as I do) aren't arguing that
the piece was written to high standards.

When you frame "just the facts" with polemic, fail to disclose a relevant
history, use misleading illustrations and include quotes such that their
sources complain of manipulation, you've done something wrong. It's
off-putting, below what we'd like to see from the Signpost, and it
certainly doesn't help Wikivoyage if your call to action simultaneously
alienates people on both sides of the debate.
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Re: Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Tony Souter
Nathan, we almost always use an image as standard practice. What is misleading about those images? And what is offensive about them? Why don't you campaign to deleted from Commons if you're so offended? As the caption says, they are illustrative of troublesome themes on the site.

I've yet to see anyone point to the "inflammatory", "aggressive" text in the piece. It's dismaying when people fling about generalised allegations but then fail to back them up when asked. Where is the article not factual?

"Foray into opinion" ... I've pointed to four sentences that are less objective; did you read them here? Are they worthy of shafting me with phrases such as "ethical lapse", "basic journalistic integrity", "manipulated and pulled out of context", "false light"?

My advice is to avoid giving succour to those who indulge in abuse ("a jerk", "a dick", and worse). I don't crumple when bullied, and here I believe is a set of issues that are of significant public interest. I stand by it and I'd write it again.

I don't want to spend more time on this mailing list.

Tony










On 06/11/2013, at 12:16 AM, Nathan wrote:

> Hi Tony,
>
> I should have informed you of the post, and I apologize for not doing so.
> But on the rest, I disagree. I think my post was more even-handed than your
> News and notes bit. I didn't speak to you first or afford you the
> opportunity to respond, but I didn't quote you misleadingly. You haven't
> complained that I manipulated your quotes, or illustrated my post about you
> in such a way that readers would draw a false impression. It was hardly a
> smear - I said publishing the comment was a disappointing ethical lapse.
> The rest of it was, as you say, just the facts.
>
> Frankly, it's not bullying to criticize the standard of journalism evident
> in your article. As a writer for a publication, you should be willing to
> accept such criticism as a valuable part of the process. It's worth noting
> the absence of your defenders on this piece. Even those who agree with you
> that such content on Wikivoyage is unsavory (as I do) aren't arguing that
> the piece was written to high standards.
>
> When you frame "just the facts" with polemic, fail to disclose a relevant
> history, use misleading illustrations and include quotes such that their
> sources complain of manipulation, you've done something wrong. It's
> off-putting, below what we'd like to see from the Signpost, and it
> certainly doesn't help Wikivoyage if your call to action simultaneously
> alienates people on both sides of the debate.
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l

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Re: Signpost and basic journalistic integrity

Charles Matthews
In reply to this post by Tony Souter
On 5 November 2013 10:55, Tony Souter <[hidden email]> wrote:

<snip>

> If the Signpost  is sometimes provocative, that's part of the deal and
why we have talk pages. I believe the movement is better off having
coverage that is independent of the WMF and of any particular community (we
have narrowly avoided too close an association with the "establishment" on
several counts).

<snip>

Tony, it is valuable to have your views, and we should certainly let you
get back to work.

 Charles
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