TED Conversations

President & CEO, Public Radio International (PRI)


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What is the importance of building transparency in news media, and what would like to see? Any risks?

This LIVE CONVERSATION will be from 2-3:30PM CT/3:00:-4:30PM ET, Friday, October 28th! Join me!
UPDATE: Alisa has requested the Conversation be left open for 1 week. She will check back in over the week to continue the discussion with the community. Thank you all for your participation!

As people have chatted with me about my TED ebook, Media Makeover: Improving The News One Click At a Time, many people of expressed their interest in having more transparency in the news. People are concerned about who is influencing the news (powerful people and organizations), are concerned that the news is just one big echo chamber and they are trusting media overall, less and less. What would you like to see in a more transparent media? What would you know more about that you don't know now?

Potential answers to this question are just about anything. Some people would like to know more about the background of the reporters telling the stories. Others have mentioned the desire to see more about those quoted in the stories.

Transparency is about understanding where something starts, what are the connections to it, who is influencing it, and how it is evolving. Lets come up with the wishes we would like to have fulfilled so we can know more about what underlies our news we consume each day!

  • Oct 28 2011: I'm not sure transparency will help if news is ingested by a readership that is uneducated in the history and underpinnings of any given news story in general. Saturating people with information in the name of transparency makes no difference if they aren't sufficiently motivated to seek out a critical understanding of international affairs. I sometimes wish that news articles contained better narrative resources and analysis that actually made reference to the historical framework and context of the article. Otherwise, the news comes off as: "This totally crazy thing just happened", each time a new story breaks and our attention breaks with it. The news can't be a feeding frenzy on behalf of our shallow hunger for stimulating spectacles. This is a recipe for schizophrenia, not educating people.
    • Oct 28 2011: Context is critical. There needs to be more of it. I wonder if there are tools that could help.
      • Oct 28 2011: Maybe the agencies could use something like the Facebook timeline. I do not think that is the 'answer', but if I could see the raw footage and know the context behind why it is there in the first place - that would go a long way towards helping me lend credibility to the story.
  • Oct 28 2011: It doesn't matter in the traditional sense. This problem is solving itself. This is a generation X question in a soon to be generation Z world. Information flows sideways. "Mainstream media" is less significant than ever and that trend will continue naturally as the population with older generation mindset is replaced by new minds that practice information consumption and collaboration in a more global, social, and less vulnerable fashion.

    Media companies are being more transparent. Not because they want to be, but because they have to be. Those that lack transparency and thrive have latched on to the ever decreasing population of "traditional media thinkers". Time will ultimately solve that problem.

    There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion and there doesn't need to be. The freedom comes with *many* biased opinions (eg. information) and common sense.
    • Oct 28 2011: This is a really good point, but don't you think its a bit naive to argue that it will solve itself? Take Wikileaks for example: here you have unconstrained (or arbitrarily constrained) horizontal and forced transparency and it runs up against all kinds of non-trivial issues from rampant abuse and misinformation to legitimate national security threats...

      Now that isn't to say Wikileaks hasn't been useful, but let's not pretend there isn't a clear tension here between constructive transparency and the legitimate exercise of privacy. For these reasons, we can't ignore the standard bearers like the CNN's and the NPR's of the world: we need some threshold criteria and groups for vetting (and obtaining) information responsibly but we also have a right to transparency regarding the criteria on which that vetting takes place.
      • Oct 29 2011: Right, not solve itself magically, but rather there is now an ecosystem in which information can be more easily cross referenced and expressed which makes for a crowd sourced, group think, auto correct of sorts.

        Transparency can't be had, it can only be a judgement made by outsiders armed with information.

        Everyone does the vetting and everyone is vetted. Lack of credibility becomes blatantly obvious and the fear of top-down misinformation becomes less of a threat. Not necessarily because of anything a big organization did itself, but because the ecosystem does a better job at "keeping 'em honest" :)
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    Oct 28 2011: I think it's important for consumers to realize that the TV/Radio news (and their online counterparts) are not the lone suppliers of news media. The rise of citizen journalism and blogs is an important one for transparency. We should seek our news from a multitude of sources. Politicians and others who have a stake in getting their message out should also utilize other platforms if they want to look credible. TV/Radio is just one tool in the toolbox.
  • Oct 28 2011: Here is a list of some of the data I would like to see:

    #1 Information on those who are quoted in the article that might give me a better sense of what underlies their perspective (political affiliation, contributors-if applicable, where from, etc.)

    #2 A better sense across the news cycle, who as sources goes are dominating the debate by topic.

    #3 Information on the reporter in the story (same as #1)

    #4 Whether a story is original or is derivative of another story

    Those are a few thoughts...what would you add or subtract?
    • Oct 28 2011: Many of this information is unfortunately impossible to attribute during an active news broadcast, solely based on the speed with which information is released to the public. Any major news release will provide to a degree most of the information your looking for, or to a lesser extent an established news caster should have the skills and experience to know who is talking and relay the pertinent information to the listener. The onus I believe falls on newscaster who need to have a better understanding of where these news tweets are coming from and perhaps make a more informed decision when creating topics of discussion. Unfortunately, because of the publics need for news the second it occurs this tempered response makes it hard to be competitive.
      • Oct 28 2011: If it wasn't impossible to attribute, what more would you like to know?
        • Oct 28 2011: Working within news, I have found that given enough time I am able to find out everything you are looking for, the information is there it just depends on the quality of the newscaster to find it and relay that to the listener. Unfortunately, most of the details you desire are not the desires of the general public when it comes to news consumption.
    • Oct 28 2011: The style of reporting that has changed since BushJr's experiment with "Shock & Awe", "Hearts & Minds", used to reference People & Events in History, it used to give you somewhat extensive background on Issues, a greater appreciation for the Profession of Writing, & Reporting in General.
      No. 1 seems to be relevant in reporting/ News Business.

      As far as the issue of Transparency is concerned: Is there documentation on the White House administered/ suggested changes to News Reporting that omitted Siemen's & Goldman Sachs from Headlines? #RatingsAgencies_Advertisers_NewsCollusion
    • Oct 28 2011: Personally I would like to see the return of the Fairness Doctrine. But I am starting to think that legislation like that is impossible because of the money opposing it. Is it actually possible to pass legislation that may have a negative impact on large corporations?
    • Oct 28 2011: What about being clearer about conflicts of financial interest?
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    Oct 28 2011: I think "unbiasedness" in reporting news and "independence" from their funding sources is way more important than the transparency in any newspaper organization. And of course Transparency is welcome and helpful...
    • Oct 28 2011: Pradeep. Important points. I actually think transparency is critical to understanding independence. What if you knew, for example, who were the major advertisers in a publication. Of course you can SEE them, but what if we had more instant transparency there, in how much they were supporting X publication each year?

      Similarly if a story features a political figure alot, and that story seems to quote him or her a lot, what if we knew how influential that person was today across many news stories, what if we had instantly in front of us a quick listing of their largest political contributors?

      This would give us a better understanding to make our own judgement about unbiasedness. Or said differently whether we are be influenced and by whom and what is their orientation.
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        Oct 28 2011: Yes, I agree. thanks :)
      • Oct 28 2011: Exactly the point I was thinking. Thank yoU!

        This is the kind of stuff that makes it so frustrating to grasp.
        On the internet - if your an affiliate marketer - you write a story about a product.
        At the end of my story you must put that you may receive monetary compensation if
        the reader clicks the link and buys the product. These sort of laws do not exist for major
        corporations as there are no disclaimers or notices of their incentives. Yet for those of us
        who stand to make $4 a month on a lousy click are told we could lose everything if we do not
        abide. Why? That allows me to believe that our system is bought, paid for and controlled by
        those in power and will do anything to bring about hoop jumping for the non-elite.
        • Oct 28 2011: It's a good point.

          The travel or life section of newspapers is often exactly that: a paid advertisement.

          Don't get me wrong, I like those sections. People use those sections to shop around for deals, or learn something new. It's not bad.

          But when news stories are run about a new spa, and all the reporter did was talk to an employee of the spa, it's the same thing as an ad.
  • Oct 29 2011: News is really media entertainment. Sensationalism sells. We have thin veil over transparency. Truth is concealed, muted, diverted, skewed, or diced out of context. True journalism is a lost art that is rarely pursued. Whether it is lack of artistic skill, laziness or fear, almost no journalist drills down to reveal the truth; or pursues a cause with passion.

    No one wants to listen to true facts and come to a conclusion. People for the most part want to be told what and how to think.
    • Oct 29 2011: Mark, what are the aspects of transparency you would like to see?
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      Nov 1 2011: Hi Mark,

      When I was in college, I had a friend that had a very concise way of describing your point. He said that, "The media doesn't control what you think, but it does control what you think about." Less true today, as so much information is available on the internet about subjects the media would rather avoid.

      An area in which I would like to see greater transparency is the process of determining what is newsworthy and what is not.
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    Oct 28 2011: The News media is nothing more than a form of entertainment. If it is treated as such, then it can be kept in context and given the attention (or, rather, lack of) that it deserves.

    When it is seen for what it is, then it becomes obvious that it's no more important for the "news" to have transparency than it is for soap operas to have transparency.
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      Oct 28 2011: I agree. If we want to take our news seriously, than we should present it seriously. The graphics, the music, the overall flashiness... It's no wonder our attention spans have been reduced to seconds. We can't dive into deeper issues anymore because our brains are bombarded with CGI crossing the screen.
      When talking about serious subjects, we should be offered a more appropriate format. As it stands, the only programs that offer a way to dive into issues are highly partisan (for better or worse).
      Sensationalism, too, will never subside, but I think by exposing yourself to a diverse set of outlets, you come to recognize it more when it's presented.
      • Oct 28 2011: I think it's silly to bash news for being too flashy. It has to do what it has to do, but it can be intelligent and thoughtful at the same time.

        To say news should go back to being more serious, is like saying that you preferred the horse-and-carriage to the car. Maybe you liked the horses companionship, and found it a more intimate mode of transportation, but a horse-and-carriage is untenable on our roads and highways.

        News needs to find a middle ground in all this. It needs to be exciting and interesting, but it also has to be real and challenging.

        And the 'flashy' strategies aren't necessarily a bad thing. Tough questions from partisan right-wing media can evoke issues and questions that left-wing media wouldn't evoke. And vice-versa.

        As for Scott's comment that news is just entertainment, I'd fundamentally disagree. News has political implications - implications into people's every day lives. The current news system isn't the best example, but it certainly has its moments of impact: it can force a politician to quit, or expose a harmful drug to the public.

        Whenever someone is trying to pass something off as 'fact' - or even a point of view - then we need transparency.
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          Oct 28 2011: Mass media is a dinosaur and has had it's day. It will always struggle to keep up with social media. Better to let it rest in peace.

          As for the importance of news, I think it's nothing more than jumped up gossip. For all the political upheaval going on in the world that actually makes it to the screen in New Zealand, very little of that actually impacts on my life. (This statement will draw disbelief, I know).

          As far as forcing politicans to quit, that's not the role of news reporting. That has more to do with politics being transparent and social media will deal with these sorts of issues far more effectively.

          The trouble is, there is a movement by scared politicians to lock it down and make people and the providers legally responsible for their comments. They are trying to kill free speech.

          Your analogy of a horse and cart vs a car misses the mark, I think.

          A more accurate analogy would be to compare a healthy horse and well maintained cart vs a horse with ribbons and plaited mane and a branded cart with mags and rally art on the side.
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          Oct 31 2011: Well, a person can always watch the newshour on PBS if they want news that is less flashy and more thoughtful.

          The other thing I wanted to add is that my grandmother had her own TV show in the late 1950's, in Oklahoma City - the "Prissy Thomas Show." She told me once that pretty much everything on tv has one purpose and one purpose only, which is to deliver your attention to the advertiser. That is the whole reason that the news is flashy. It needs to get your attention so they can stick a commercial in front of you. Think about it - that is how they get paid. So they will do whatever they can to get you to pay attention to that commercial.
    • Oct 29 2011: Though I agree to a certain extent, I think you underestimate the power of mass media.

      Particularly, I think you overestimate people's desire to participate in social media. Social media is easy, and people like that. But mass media is easy too, and packages information much more neatly than social media.

      You can go on Twitter and Facebook and follow an interesting story, or you can have the story packaged and told to you by a documentary or by the news. I think social media is an important way people get news, but I don't know if mass media can be entirely usurped. Mass media is still easier than social media in many respects. It still has a place at the dinner table.

      On top of the fact that people might still be interested in mass media, the structures for regular publication of information don't exist in social media yet. People of all kinds depend on regular updates on stock markets, updates on sports, updates on municipal politicians etc.

      The resources for this don't exist in social media yet. Regularily updating sports information, or regularly updating information about a city-hall by-laws can't be effectively done by social media.

      Not to mention investigative reporting, which is a time-sink and an even worse money-sink.

      Do you really think random people will be able to coalesc into efficient, and free, media producers?

      A better analogy might be social media as a healthy horse, and mass media as train.
      Sure, the horse can take you anywhere, but sometimes you just want to get on, fall asleep, and wake up where you needed to go.
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        Oct 29 2011: You make some good points. Especially about the investigative journalism - going where the average tweeter probably won't.

        I think that we're still in the process of change and that eventually, all the things you mentioned that social networks don't yet cater for will become accessible via networking.

        The huge advantage that social networks have over pre-packaged and delivered newzine programmes is that there is scope for dialogue. Of course, the flip side is wading through much more opinion and mis-information.

        I find that much current practice in mass media is fake, cheesy and over hyped. This is a massive turn-off and I find myself distracted from the content by the delivery.

        Mind you, it comes back to what you touched on before - the purpose we watch news. I have no interest in stock-markets, sports or politics, so I guess the problem lies with me.
    • Oct 29 2011: Its important to know that even if you feel this way, that this is where a majority of people go to be informed. So with that said, what forms of transparency would you like to see?
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        Oct 29 2011: I take your point. My grandparents held the evening news in high regard. As did my parents. I can't.

        Transparency is a cool sounding word but I don't think the networks can be fixed. It's a dying form of infotainment.

        But for the sake of this discussion, I would like to see far fewer subjective judgements made by presenters and journalists in the field. Their opinions should not be heard ever. Perhaps removing the people from news delivery (TV) will help this.

        All sources should be clearly cited as should the reasons for why those particular news articles made it to screen and print.

        In the case of TV news, all interviews should be conducted in the same space by the same journalist asking the same questions. All people being interviewed should be present as each gets interviewed.

        There are far too many subtle ways that the "news" can be influenced by the presentation of the content.

        These may help others but I really don't consume news other than stumbling across 'recent events' online. Much of that is entertainment or gossip, too.
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          Oct 30 2011: With "fewer subjective judgements" and "removing people from the news delivery" you have no signature media anymore, you have news machines... why not robots ? Subjectivity is gueared by analysis, subjectivity is steping back and address a comment, a particular reading, obviously subjective. This is precisely the reason why you read such or such paper or listen to Foxnews or hate it. The sujectivity of the author meets yours and make you react, agree or disagree...
        • Oct 30 2011: Interesting ideas, it'd be interesting to see how applicable they might be in day-to-day journalism.

          As for the question of journalist opinions, this is something over which I'm torn.

          Personally I find the attempt to divorce opinion from journalists as worrisome. Not that it's not possible, but the air of objectivity has to be deserved. And a lot of journalists don't deserve that air.

          It can be placed on a piece with some creative editing, like you pointed out. Only, how do you find out if someone has tainted their piece or not?

          Personally I like opinionated journalists. Journalists use their instincts to understand stories, find issues and to present those issues. It's hard to separate opinion from the story, especially if it's something new, and without a lot of debate surrounding it. Maybe all journalists should be clearly opinionated; at least that way we'll know where this story is coming from.

          That, to a certain extent, is transparency. News would also be more interesting.
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        Oct 29 2011: Oh, and remove all advertising. No ads for evening news, no advertising during the news or in print. Remove the motivation to make money over delivering relevant, factual information.
        • Oct 30 2011: I agree with removing ads. But the problem then becomes a battle between content and and financing. You can only produce a certain quality content with a certain amount of money.

          I read a book, Death and Life of American Journalism by Nichols and McChesney, and they suggested that the government should pay up to 45,000 dollars of a journalist's salary. I'd agree with them, but only because there's no other way of financing this difficult business and still producing quality content.
        • Oct 31 2011: I have to strongly disagree with the public financing of journalists. Major media outlets, I believe, are already under enough pressure from public figures to not be too critical of them,or at least not to be too critical of the system as a whole. After all, the networks need the politicians to come on their shows so that they can increase their ratings. Public funding would only serve to further muddy that water, not make it more transparent.
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          Nov 1 2011: You have a great point that if journalists are publicly financed, they may be less inclined to write critical stories of the politicians that are paying them. But that brings us to another very important point about how things are done right now. And that is, "To what extent is the content of the news influenced by the deep pockets of the companies/industries that are the major advertisers?" For example, if a network is getting a significant portion of its funding from say, ads run by drug companies, would it then be less inclined to write a balanced story on an alleged link between vaccinations and autism, as an example? To what extent would they just ignore this, rather than upset the people who provide a significant portion of their income?

          This is the area that I would like to see more transparency. To what extent is the content of the news influenced by the money spent by large advertisers? I am not sure how you would accomplish this.
        • Nov 1 2011: Oh, I couldn't agree more. And I think it goes even deeper than just advertisers. GE, a defense contractor, OWNS 49% of NBC. How can they be expected to objectively cover the subject of war? Financial companies are another issue. The networks spend half their day talking about their performance, and a quarter of their day advertising for them. How can they possibly be expected to ferret out their shadier dealings, or to share them with the public even if they did. How much of the current financial crisis could have been mitigated if news outlets were truly free to sick their investigative dogs on banks? We could make a similar case with insurance companies and how media can be used to affect public opinion about health care policy.

          The problem is that mass media has a vested interest in protecting the interests of all the entities that we depend on them to police, so to speak. The only people they do police, it appears to me, are entertainers, and those folks thrive on having their dysfunctional antics plastered all over the place.

          I would love to see more transparency as well, and if Santa is listening, I would also like a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas.:)
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        Oct 30 2011: @Bernard. Robots are a great idea but probably involve prohibitive costs. Mind you, the news folk would still find a way to colour the delivery.

        Thanks for underscoring my point about news being nothing more than entertainment.
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        Nov 1 2011: I don't think money should be involved at all (if you truly desire altruistic news).

        Arguments about financing vs content are moot. If you want decent content, remove the money.

        If no money = no news, then no problem. What do you need to know that you don't find out through the circles you move in anyway?

        How does it affect me to know why petrol costs so much? (oil shortages, etc). All I know is it's expensive and there's nothing I can do about it except choose to walk.
  • Oct 28 2011: Is wiki leaks a good thing or a bad thing? Are the transparent and that is what all are upset about?
    • Oct 28 2011: This discussion is less about wikileaks, i.e., releasing raw information from a source. That would be a good TED conversation for another point.

      This conversation is focused on discussing journalism and news sources and what information they should be providing, or what tools they could be providing to help the public understand what could be influencing the story in the first place.
  • Oct 28 2011: The corporate imperative of catering to shareholders -- whatever the corporation's political leaning -- threatens the quality and quantity of journalism. Before the internet, Google, Craigslist etc. combined to destroy the business model of the newspaper, newsrooms were already being hit with cutbacks as ownership sought to satisfy Wall Street's excessive profit-margin demands. As margins dwindled, the largely benign corporate/Wall Street influence of the past grew ever stronger and more pernicious. Not sure if this fits the transparency discussion, but I think this is what would transparency would reveal.
  • Oct 28 2011: The problem right now is that news media content is determined by ratings, and advertising revenue, and political leaning whether an item of news gets covered-or not. I have used the BBC what was known as the World Services as the benchmark for news reporting. No opinion, just factual reporting of the news. They don't have ratings to worry about, they can be subject to government suppression of sensitive info, but otherwise good solid reporting.
    Thankfully we have BBC America, I don't hold out much hope for the other networks. One would have hoped that a publicly funded network would be neutral, but PBS has failed miserably in this regard. I don't believe you can mandate transparency. With our government trying to pass a bill so that they can lie about the existence of a document, we are hardly moving in a direction of more transparency. Also we have recently seen our government block news media attendance (San Francisco), called Ford Motor company to kill their advert, so I don't see it happening.
    • Oct 28 2011: Transparency in Communications/ Access to News & in response to News Agencies is Essential in providing for the END of the Ability & the Environment that is 100.00% Manufactured in order for 1 or a few people to have the ability to do what you've mentioned. #NarcoticsTerrorism #NarcoticsIndustryBubble_RealEstate-BankBubble

      The Community, Families & Individuals need to have the ability to defend themselves against Bad Businesses & bad Politicians. Transparency in many ways is the logical cost effective way for Businesses & Politicians to provide for their Legal Defense. The Russian Government has made it their Intelligence Ministry's Policy to make Public all Policy Documents to avoid confusion while there is spin around the "Muslim" & Chaos Scare/ Hoax. #007Hoax
    • Oct 28 2011: Failed miserably? Public broadcasting is much more reliable than most other news sources.
      • Oct 28 2011: Yes I'd say they have failed miserably. Yes probably not as bad as some of the other news sources, MSNBC, CNN come to mind, but then compared with some European news sources they don't compare.
        Try listening to BBC News or BBC America who are carried on our local P BS station.
        • Oct 28 2011: I do listen to the BBC and I consider them to be a great source because they are not tied directly to the stories they are reporting on. But I don't think that the BBC is incomparably better. Public broadcasting has discussions that are way more in depth than most other news organizations and they are much less dedicated to the "sound bite media" that most other stations have been reduced to.
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    Oct 28 2011: In addition to edited cintent and processed information, news media
    Should make the raw data and footage available to those interested on some platform.
  • Oct 28 2011: Do you think that people's apathy about the news in the US is related to the fact that they feel so much of the news is a farce?
    • Oct 28 2011: Trust of so many institutions is at an all time low. I think that apathy or just feeling overwhelmed as to do with the fact that people are trying to process so much and are trying to figure out filters that can help them do that, but then wonder whether their filters are giving them the desired effect: know what is really going on and trusting it. Unfortunately, some of our filters, like going to opinion media we agree with, or turning to our friends, etc., can actually exascerbate the silos.
  • A non

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    Oct 28 2011: Do you think there should be much harder penalties for news stations that incorrectly report stories, or do not fact check their sources before publication/broadcasting?
    Are there any real short or long term incentives for news networks to put accuracy before meeting the demand for instant up to the minute news?
    • Oct 28 2011: I don''t think penalties are the answer. I think the people should DEMAND more transparency from their news sources.
  • Oct 28 2011: Personally, I would like viewers to have easier access to the owners of news outlets, particularly their history, other products they own and any political affiliations they may have. This would include the owners and any head decision-makers in the organisation. If there is a clear narrative or bias in any news programming then people should have easy access to the information on the people who have made that decision so that they can better inform themselves with how far their influence reaches.
  • Oct 28 2011: In today's information-engaged world, we should be able to idealize the media as transparency embodied. Unfortunately, corporate control, biased reporting, and a constant news cycle have drowned out the essential information we need to make informed decisions in our society.
    • Oct 28 2011: What essential information do you want to know?
      • Oct 28 2011: The devil's in the details. We hear so much rhetoric and story-telling, but what proportion of people really understand how decisions they make affect their lives? There is a growing schism between content and information, and consumers, craving information, are fed content and expected to be grateful. I think the media should be responsible for bridging the gap between what politicians and media conglomerates disseminate as fact and their responsibility to journalistic integrity, but therein lies the conflict: media's diverging priorities. The lion's share of their business relies on maintaining the apathy of the many, so a media conglomerate can be more successful (defined as profitable) by producing distractions than anything else. Coliseum-itis?
    • Oct 28 2011: Do reporters/ journalists know they're insulting our intelligence?
      Why is the idea of an Western European-Centric "Country Club Political Group" endorsed in an Constitutional Democracy where in the 21st Century, Asia is the greatest contributor to the $7 Trillion Travel Industry & Internet Industry?
  • Oct 28 2011: Hi everyone! Lets chat and talk about transparency!
    • Oct 28 2011: Thank you for the invitation to participate. It is nice to meet you and I look forward to the knowledge we gain and the ways in which we may discover to help many people. Here are a few questions: What is the mindset of the small (news/media) controlling group? It appears although they all act competitive, yet some stories that are VERY active seem to be cut short and not followed up on in a way that prevents media fragmentation. News stations used to run news cycles all night long. 24 hours of News. Now there are Infomercials and Nightly shows that focus on other issues that are not very important or serve as a diversion from the truth. I state a 'diversion of truth' because the very first time a Live story breaks - appears to always become different and have a new spin, when shown at a later time(in edited format).
      With the introduction of LiveStream and Youtube, the power of raw media is being given to a massive amount of people who are showing more credibility than the flashy, polished media outlets. I feel that any retention of citizen empowered media sources is the direct effort of the media corporations. They are currently pushing legislation due to the threat of a loss of control (wishing to shutter social media internet and streaming video sites). They have become accustomed with controlling what we see and learn about and are just now starting to understand that people will find ways to share, regardless of their power. To speak of transparency, where do we start in order to let the small group know we want the truth and wish to support the traditional channels, but admittedly have been feeling that there is a disconnect between what we are seeing live on the ground and what is shown after editing. This issue goes back decades, is there truly a way to change the culture within the organizations from the outside?
      • Oct 28 2011: So to summarize (you tell me if I have this right), you are saying that part of the issue is that the substantive stuff seems to not literally be there. You do not agree with some of the mass editorial agendas, for example on cable news at night.
        • Oct 28 2011: That is correct. Substantial information seems to reduce to small film clips with more time spent with the reporter commenting and giving opinions, instead of our ability to see enough material to make our own opinions and judgements. As one story's truth becomes twisted into different spins based on some bias within the reporting agency agenda or political view. Since news networks make a lot of their money from the commercials that run on the network - the advertising marketing professional see different channels as republican and democratic. This may be due to the biased reporting methods or policies that have developed within the corporations over the last few decades. Although that is understandable behavior based on the CEO's vision and how money plays a part in all industries - this has eroded the integrity of the entire model of Television as we knew it.
      • Oct 28 2011: The News Agencies don't have a reason to want to control people who don't receive their info from "exclusive" sources. There seems to be an effort being made to control Populations by Socio Economic Levels. #SpecialOpsFRAUD #BlackOpsFRAUD
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    Nov 4 2011: We are all trying to form our understanding of the world and our place in it. We do this from the information we have access to. Without accurate, trustworthy information, we are all wobbling in insecure and inaccurate approximations. If we could gain better, more transparent, more verifiable, more reliable information- a good portion of the world's problems would disappear- not all of course- but that portion that makes things worse by guessing at the problem and guessing at the solutions. Getting a solid handle on even a few things makes life more predicable, more actionable.

    I think we have the technology to make more people understand more about our world but we do not have real access to it. If we have access to it we have no way of verifying it. I believe that we need a TED playhouse to share video witnesses of actual events and documentaries around the world so we can begin to act because we can believe what we are seeing.

    TRANSPARENCY is key. Reliable source is key.
  • Nov 1 2011: That's my point exactly. Editorially we are censoring honest news, in some cases its because of what one person belives is good for the readers. This can be swayed by political leaning or advertising pressure. This is why main media is perhaps not the place to obtain honest reporting of the news. No matter what tools are available, honesty and integrity are not sustainable via this media.
  • Nov 1 2011: To say news should go back to being more serious, is like saying that you preferred the horse-and-carriage to the car. Maybe you liked the horses companionship, and found it a more intimate mode of transportation, but a horse-and-carriage is untenable on our roads and highways.

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    Oct 31 2011: I agree with the comments regarding public broadcasting, the ABC in Australia is also a good source of news.
    Regarding transparency, it would be immensely useful to understand who are the largest shareholders in the top 5 'most watched' and 'most read' news outlets. I'm not American and I've only lived in the States for a short time many years ago, but I believe it's well known that FOX is owned by News Corp and there are political influences at play there that impact the content shown on that channel. The same could be said in the UK and the recent debacle concerning 'News Of The World'. At least if 'we' ie the consumer, have visibility as to who owns these outlets, we know then that there are vested interests. Of course it doesn't stop people watching and hearing what they want to!
    • Nov 1 2011: How do you think that should be presented? Should sponsors be listed at the end of a news program, like the list of side-effects at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial?
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        Nov 1 2011: I actually think that's not a bad idea Tomek. Providing credits at the end, or beginning, of the relevant news program/publication would provide the information for those who are interested. I ultimately think that this kind of transparency needs to be combined with sensible regulation of the industry that prevents any source from having too much control over content. Referring to the point Alisa makes below about displaying this kind of information on EVERY article, I think that goes way beyond what most people would want to see. This would clutter the space entirely and become confusing for most recipients.
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    Oct 31 2011: Alisa,

    A TEDConversation that asks the Q Which Facts are Factual might hold some answers to your Q here.


    It served for me as a way of trying to understand where transparency gets muddied. And working backwards from there to try to isolate where transparency is more clearly implied.

  • Oct 30 2011: Can media ever be too transparent? If we want 'objective' journalism, shouldn't every aspect of news be completely open to scrutiny, including sources, editorial direction and the editing process?
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    Oct 30 2011: Any body ever done any survey on the image of Media Industry ? Need to be done it, but will even it is done , who will publish it ?
    Defintely the Media industry , so people will never know the outcome.

    Sorry to say , that's what my perception is about media. Journalism not there anymore (when was last not sure). Media was and still is propaganda machine of power centers, recent past converted in to Money Machine for the investors as industry of PR evolved.
    In my country once law enforcing agencies were considered most corrupt , now it's media as they blackmail every now and then the law enforcing agency, if they don't give money to media , result will be negative media and defintely law enforcement agency have lot negatives, so they bow down infron of media. Unfortunately vast majority still believe what comes in printed.

    No idea whether Media Industry really care to change to build an acceptable image
    Wish individual citizens using social media will be the more believable source in future........... unless Media really look for revolutionary change...
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    Oct 30 2011: I haven't read all the posts, so someone might have mentioned this already, but to me it's all about discernment. I trust my inner guidance in first of all deciding what I read/watch and second in deciding whether it resonates with me as true or not. It takes practice, as we're not used to trusting our own inner voice; quite the opposite, we've been programmed to distrust it.

    It's like taking care of your body by eating healthy food, exercising and what not, the same goes for your mind: be aware of what you feed it! Mass Media food might not be healthy for you ;-)

    If you are able to use your discernment it doesn't matter anymore whether the news media are transparent or not; people will feel what's real and what's fabricated.

    Anyway, just my two cents...
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    Oct 29 2011: So glad to see you back here at TED Conversations, Alisa.

    Your fight, your leadership for a healthy viable 4th estate is one we all have to be engaged in and working towards. We cannot have a "new democracy" or any democracy without a healthy viable 4th estate.

    You are an insider. You know more about the news, how it works, how ownership and advertising may have changed what it means to be a journalist .My question to you is do you think the quality and accuracy of reporting in once honored, honorable and venerable journals would be at all changed if we knew what is controling news?Is it literally impossible for a reporter paid full time by one of these once venerable journals to write the truth? to write balanced coverage of important national and global events.?

    Is that simply not allowed because there is so much inside control or is it that our world has gotten so complex that journalists writing about emerging events just don't have the depth and background in what they are writing about to know what the truth is..to know who reliable sources are?.I see so much opinion , bias and misniformation in main stream reporting..print and media..I don't understand where that comes from. Has journalism just been dumbed down by us the 99%, is it our preference that determines what we see? Is it our own demands our own consumption habits that are shaping the quality of news..its depth, its accuracy?

    Or is it straight out intentional manipulation from inside? I was absolutely astonished to hear on MSNBC seconds after the announcement of Qadhaffi's death, a sort of rushed together news bulletin that this would now make it possible to restore oil production and that in a few months production would reach former levels and reduce the price of oil. ( which is not true.even if Libya gets back to pre Nato intervention levels( the pathway to that goal is far from clear) it won't reduce the price of oil.). Was that a hurried twitter to the bureau chief from Clinton?
  • Oct 29 2011: I think it's more the editors opinion than the journalist. Journalists tell me the stuff they write, and the stuff that gets printed is often spun.

    Ok so if you want to be a program that just represents one side, then you can do that, call your self News from the extreme (left, right) perspective or what ever you want to cater too. Then stay true to your readership. So the question what is the audience you are going after? Is it the general American audience? or are you segmenting? You have to decide. Where I think NPR ran a foul is they were happy to take the general American audience (tax payers) funding, but then use it to give a politically biased (one sided) perspectives. If you want to cater to "your readership" define it and stick to it, don't try to say its one thing, then present another.

    Now I think if NPR had news from the left perspective, news from the right perspective, news from the independent perspective this would have worked. Remember when Juan Williams was fired, he was a journalist expressing his opinion. The fact that NPR management decided they disagreed with a journalists opinion, or said it was not representative of NPR and fired him, reflected negatively on the whole organization. It demonstrated that NPR was taking general public funding and only presenting a limited perspective. Today many people no longer give NPR credibility for honest opinion as a result of this event. Who would expect any NPR journalist to present an honest opinion if they feel threatened with unemployment. (Now to be fair, Juan got another job quite quickly, but probably most journalists might not be so lucky)

    What you are left with, is a perspective that NPR provides biased perspectives, and will have to make significant efforts to change this perspective, or become privatized and continue with a single perspective.

    So bottom line, define your readership, announce it, and stick with it. Give qualified opinion.
  • Oct 29 2011: Hi Tomek, I see that there is a reporting of the news, as it originates, without added color, without political spin, as it comes. For most people these days, there is a need for "just the news", short sharp and sweet. aka BBC World Service. (Most of us don't have time for some biased non-qualified interpretation)

    Then there is a need for explanation, qualification, how does this impact people. Again this should be non-political, explain for example why folks should be concerned with the Canary Islands volcanoes. By all means bring in the experts, probably the reporters are not the experts. When we are hearing about the raw news events, little is gained by hearing the opinion or political leaning of the reporter, or presenter.

    Then when it comes to an expanded view of the news, or an opinion news show, then take the subject into more detail, and add a personal perspective is good. PBS does a better job in this area than most with their in the street audio coverage usually dealing with individual experiences, a day-in-the-life type coverage.

    if you are going to deal with political events, then round table opinion seems to be the only way to go, where the audience can be represented by somebody of a similar leaning. I guess left center right representation. But you need to choose your round table people well, so that they do in fact represent the median positions.

    Same is true with many medical and more specifically drug news. We seem to just hear from the sponsors, through their distribution arm eg the doctors. They focus just on the benefits, don't talk about the risks. A nutritional expert can sometimes talk about the alternatives. This is where the problem lies, if you are controlled by advertising revenue, the pushers of the new drugs don't what you to talk about the bad stuff, that's why there always seems to be a doctor available at the 6:00 news spot. If you want to give opinion, disclose your position, and use qualified perspectives.
  • Oct 29 2011: A fully transparent media to me only occurs in ideal perfect situations. It reports truths and facts sufficiently and as fairly as possible, without colouring the readers' lens with the reporters' own subjective opinions and does not sway the readers' minds into thinking in a particular, or biased direction. There is no intention of witholding important information that might possibly change the way people think of issues and seeks to remove any sort of misunderstanding. It is certainly good to have transparent media because it appropriately and sufficiently provides enough background information to people to make a decision or a judgement. But it is unlikely to achieve a fully transparent media in reality because it is hard to report all facts surrounding the circumstances. More time is required to gather the necessary information and there are so many news happening everyday, do reporters have the time to chase after all these information? And is it practical to have a transparent media? Do readers really read all the information in the article? Most of the time, some might just only scan through the headlines and do not have the time to read through the details.
  • Oct 29 2011: Hi everyone, checking in on the conversation this AM. I can see that many of you are frustrated by the general state of the news. This bears out in all the research on how people perceive the news these days.

    As we keep chatting about the role of transparency in news media, consider this idea. In a perfect world, what information about a source, article, reporter, person quoted in a story, would you like to know about? What if that came with EVERY article. What would you want to see? What other categories of information would you want to know about?