3.1 Blog: Sources, Credibility, and Social Media
1. The article that I have selected to examine the cited sources is Andres Jauregui’s article on the Huffington Post website entitled “Grand Jury in Eric Garner Case Wasn’t Asked to Consider ‘Reckless Endangerment’ Charge: Report”, which was posted on December 5, 2014. Firstly I sought to examine the credentials of the writer of this article Andres Jauregui to ascertain whether he is a credentialed expert, and he is not; an editor, at The Huffington Post, Jauregui writes about “crime, weird news, truth, justice and the American way”, according to his Twitter profile. He was awarded a BSc in Journalism from Boston University in 2003, and has been at the Huffington Post for 2years and eight months (Linkedin, 2014). The article fits the category of journalism of aggregation as it incorporates reports from NBC New York, ABC 7 Online, Huffington Post and SILive.com, all reputable news agencies. The original reports upon which this article is written are examples of journalism of verification, as they make every effort to provide multiple sources for their reports.
The first source is an article written by Andrew Siff of NBC 4 New York: Staten Island DA Didn’t Ask Garner Grand Jury to Consider Reckless Endangerment Charge: Source. The article is current and cites verbatim the words of the victim “I cannot breathe” from the widely publicized video and District Attorney Donovan’s statement. There is nothing that suggests bias in the article. NBC is considered a reputable news corporation.
A legal definition of what according to New York law constitutes ‘reckless endangerment’ is provided from a website entitled FindLaw which is a legal information portal that has been in existence since 1996 and is linked to Thomson Reuters “a pioneer and innovator in marketing solutions for law firms, online legal information and services for lawyers, businesses, and individuals” (FindLaw, 2014). It is evident that this is a commercial site but it is accessing data from existing laws so it can be considered credible. The explanation serves as a guide for the lay person reading the article to have a better understanding of the legal terminology and helps them to make decisions about the applicability of this charge in this particular case.
Jauregui then comments on public opinion on the Garner case by citing an article Conservatives Join Outrage over Grand Jury Decision in Eric Garner’s Death by fellow Huffington writer, Ryan Reilly, who presents the unanimity of the voices online who believe that the failure to indict Pantaleo was an unjust decision. This article provides a variety of perspectives from people who are not authoritative, but its focus is on emphasizing that even conservatives disagree. The names of those voicing their opinions have been presented and links to their original posts and tweets are also provided, so this adds to the authenticity of the article.
An interesting article by Tom Hays and Colleen Long is cited next. I found the article’s title Eric Garner Protests Spread Across The Country; Police Arrest More Than 200 to be deceptive, as I thought that it would focus on the protests but it also showed the other side of the protests, the police officers, who according to the article feel ‘demoralized, misunderstood and all alone’ (Hays and Long, 2014) as they are being demonized and condemned in the court of public opinion for doing their jobs. In the article Maki Haberfeld, a professor of police studies at John Jay College of criminal justice, comes out in defence of the police as do the police unions and US Representative Peter King, R-N.Y. Hearing authoritative voices from the other side in this cited article, attests to its credibility.
Similarly in the ABC7 Eyewitness News Report that was cited, the issue of whether the action of the officer was racially motivated or not, and the feeling of the police officers that they have been thrown under the bus by politicians, features. In this article statements made by the President, Mayor and Governor of New York, Reverend Al Sharpton and Garner’s widow, Esaw and his mother Gwen are featured and accompanied by video clips in some instances (Wilson, 2014). These all add invaluable validation to the information presented.
Probably the most compelling source refers to legal experts who “told SILive.com that Pantaleo’s testimony was likely a huge factor in the decision not to indict” (Jauregui, 2014). The link to this article leads us to the website of Staten Island News Live which is a commercial website linked to the Staten Island Advance newspaper which fits the descriptor of a news and journalistic site, an E-zine (Montecino, 1998). The information provided is current and there are a host of authoritative sources, namely criminal defense attorneys. Their views provide authentication to the article because of their qualifications and experience, thus I also consider this a convincing source.
This article which “harnesses and organizes existing information” (Kovach and Rosenstiel, 2011), attempts to provide a broad overview of the Eric Garner case at this juncture, but it is clear that there continues to be a lot of unanswered questions. I find Jaugeri’s WWW resources to be credible, as they draw from the websites of reputable news agencies whose writers have not taken any personal stand on this controversial issue.
2. Information from non-professionals such as bloggers can be trusted if they exercise due diligence in ensuring that their sources are accurate. So long as they guard against what Kovach and Rosenstiel (2011, p. 75) call the “voice of God” approach where the blogger takes on the role of the source and fails to provide any other source and instead provides several reliable sources who may be eyewitnesses, experts with relevant experience and or qualifications pertinent to the issue, their information should be trusted. “In other words, the more specificity we have about the source, the better” (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2011, p. 76). In addition, if bloggers write about something that they have seen and experienced firsthand then this is an ideal situation that puts readers in an advantageous position to be able to draw their own conclusions.
Nonetheless, “One of the biggest concerns journalists have had since the explosion of blogs on the Internet is that people with no training in reporting will post “news” without verifying information obtained from a single person or uncertain sources” (Hall, 2013) and unfortunately that has been the case with some bloggers. For example, Logan Smith in a blog posted on March 29, 2012, claimed that South Carolina governor Nikki Haley was about to be indicted on tax fraud charges which was completely false and resulted in Smith being slapped with a defamation lawsuit. Smith claims to have got the information from only two sources another blog and a television newscaster. Haley’s team worked hard to dispel the rumor but damage is always inevitable (Hall, 2013). Bloggers, like journalists, need to verify their sources, be accountable and choose accuracy over speed, if their information is to be trusted. However, it is important to note that traditional journalists also fall into the trap of reporting inaccuracies based on questionable sources, all in the fight to scoop the story first.
3. Social media has influenced the spreading and receiving of information by giving a voice to the voiceless and to readers a wide array of articles and information with which to make decisions and understand issues. However, social media has also placed greater stress on traditional media to publish first because they often report the story before them. Nevertheless, after significant missteps and misinformation; for example the New York Post’s publication of the pictures of two suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing who were totally innocent all because of a post on Reddit, “some news organizations are instead placing higher value on being right even if that means not being first in reporting a story ( Vis, 2014).
Social media, like Twitter and YouTube, also have the power to make a news item go viral, even if it is misinformation – so gatekeepers, traditional journalists, people in the know – must be in place to ensure the authenticity of reports (Vis, 2014).
Donnelly, F. (2014, December 4). Experts: Officer Daniel Pantaleo’s testimony likely factored heavily in grand jury’s decision not to indict. Retrieved from http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2014/12/experts_garner_cops_testimony.html
FindLaw. N.Y. PEN. LAW § 120.20 : NY Code – Section 120.20: Reckless endangerment in the second degree. Retrieved on December 6, 2014 from http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/PEN/THREE/H/120/120.20
Hall, R. (2013, November 14). Idiot’ Blogger Finally Apologizes for False Report He Posted During 2012 Election. Retrieved from http://newsbusters.org/blogs/randy-hall/2013/11/13/idiot-blogger-finally-apologizes-false-report-he-posted-during-2012-elec#sthash.5Eddxwvz.dpuf
Hays, T and Long, C. (2014, December 5). Eric Garner Protests Spread Across The Country; Police Arrest More Than 200 In NYC. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/05/eric-garner-protests_n_6273810.html
Jaueri, A. (2014, December 5). Grand Jury In Eric Garner Case Wasn’t Asked To Consider ‘Reckless Endangerment’ Charge: Report. Retrieved from
Jaueri ,Andres @dutchvowels. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/dutchvowels
Jaueri, Andres. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=30843530&authType
Kovach, B and Rosenstiel, T. (2011). Blur: How to know what’s true in the age of information overload. New York: Bloomsbury USA
Montecino, V. (1998). Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources. Retrieved from http://mason.gmu.edu/~montecin/web-eval-sites.htm
Reilly, R. (2014, December 3). Conservatives Join Outrage Over Grand Jury Decision In Eric Garner’s Death. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/03/eric-garner-conservatives-chokehold_n_6264886.html
Siff, A. (2014, December 5) Staten Island DA Didn’t Ask Garner Grand Jury to Consider Reckless Endangerment Charge: Source. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Eric-Garner-Daniel-Pantaleo-Daniel-Donovan-Grand-Jury-Charges-NYPD-284869641.html
Wilson, R. (2014, December 5). Judge Allows Release of Limited Grand Jury Material in Eric Garner Case. Retrieved from http://7online.com/news/grand-jury-no-indictment-against-cop-in-eric-garner-case/418889/
Vis, F. (2014, April 14). How Does False Information Spread Online. Retrieved from http://www.socialsciencespace.com/2014/04/how-does-false-information-spread-online/