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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

NewsQ Releases Opinion Journalism Recommendations with Ethics Center Input

NewsQ Report

NewsQ Report

To address the challenge of improving the assortment of opinion journalism that appears in our news feeds, the NewsQ Initiative at City University of New York’s Craig Newmark School of Journalism convened a panel of journalists, media scholars, and technologists to examine the current condition of platform news products, and make recommendations. 

Subramaniam Vincent, Director of Journalism and Media Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, and Patricia Lopez, Editorial Writer for Opinion at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have co-authored a new technical paper, “Recommendations for Publishing Opinion Journalism on Digital Platforms,” released by NewsQ on November 30th.  

The Opinion Journalism paper introduces the broader problem of opinion this way:

“Today, opinion journalism mixes and collides with other forms of opinion on social media platforms, such as: unproven claims, rhetoric, hyper-partisanship, misleading or non-factual statements, pseudoscience, conspiracy theory, and outright lying.” 

“Opinion journalism competes with all those forms of opinion, and readers are given few tools for distinguishing between the two. In addition to confusing readers, this jumble undermines the purpose of opinion journalism and makes it less effective within democratic public life. The careful work of thinking through legitimate controversy has also been significantly affected through online news distribution.”

The NewsQ Opinion Journalism panel had six members.  

  • David Agraz, Software Engineer at Google;
  • Leona Allen Ford, Deputy Publisher of the Dallas Morning News;
  • Jon Allsop, Columnist at the Columbia Journalism Review;
  • Patricia Lopez, Editorial Writer at the Star Tribune;
  • Rochelle Riley, former Columnist at the Detroit Free Press;
  • Rebecca Traister, Senior Writer at New York Magazine; and,
  • Subramaniam (Subbu) Vincent, Director of Journalism and Media Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

The panel convened six times over the course of five months from June to October 2020.

Labeling is a key focus of the paper and is recommendations. The panel calls for clear distinction between news and opinion journalism in news aggregation products, with some suggestions for how to approach the challenge. The paper begins with a discussion of the purpose of opinion journalism, specifically its role in providing evidence-based reflections on the news and a diverse array of perspectives. It lays out the challenges facing publishers and aggregators when distributing opinion journalism online. It outlines the panel’s findings, describes the panel’s process, explorations, and makes recommendations for practical steps that both publishers and platforms can take. 

NewsQ released this paper along with two other technical papers—on Local News and Science and Health News—that were all produced as the outcome of a series of convenings. Releasing all three papers, Connie Moon Sehat, Director of the NewsQ initiative said that the disconnect between news product results and panel evaluations was large because they involved basic definitions about the purpose and mission of news.

“Put simply, our panelists thought that local news feeds should have stories from local journalists and meet the needs of local communities. Science and health news products should have stories that fit the missions of science and health journalism. Opinion journalism, which is fact-based, still needs to be distinguished from straight news reporting. And perhaps it’s worth saying overall that products positioning themselves as news products should enable readers to encounter news,” said Sehat.

Below is a list of the topics covered by the Opinion Journalism Recommendations paper which can be viewed in full here

  • What is Opinion in the Context of News and Journalism?
  • What is the Purpose of Opinion Journalism? An Array of Evidence-based, Diverse Perspectives
  • The Importance of Expertise and Lived Experiences
  • The Role of Opinion Journalism in Public Controversies
  • The Opinion Panel: Our Process and Work
  • The Opinion Problem
  • The Principle Behind the Separation
  • Why Not Just Mix Opinion and News?
  • Observations: Current Practice in Platforms’ Handling of Opinion Journalism
  • Common Principles for Publishers and Aggregators/Platforms
  • Recommendations for Publishers
  • Recommendations for News Aggregators/Platforms
  • Issues Eluding Consensus
  • The Challenge of Labeling Beyond the Top (News Versus Opinion) Level
  • How to Use Metadata
  • When Is Exclusion Necessary? 

More information:

The NewsQ Panels: Opinion, Local News and Science & Health News 

NewsQ Review Panel Reports 2020 – NewsQ

Dec 11, 2020


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