An inclusive journalism epistemology requires new conversations about how our methods, sources, business models and deployment of technologies might reinforce bias and perpetuate invidious distinctions along our "fault lines" of race, class, gender and geography. In this 2013 video, Dori Maynard, the late director of the Maynard Institute, recalls the missed opportunities at the dawn of the Internet age:
Here we had a chance, back then, when we really could have built in structures that ensured that we were as inclusive as possible. Instead, the people driving the conversation told us, 'Don't worry your pretty little head about that. This is all going to be taken care of.' What we ended up doing was replicating the structure of the traditional media...
"We cannot simply trust our gateways to the digital world as if they are democratically designed platforms." Instead, we should "consider the intentions behind technology initiatives, and the way they are framed."
What intentions and values guide the push toward computational journalism, solutions journalism and news integrity? What are our unexamined assumptions about the nature of journalistic truth, the value of hierarchical databases and algorithms, and the relationships between news providers and their publics?
This essay will consider these questions in the context of evolving notions of objective journalism, and in light of emerging scholarship on collaborative technology development. Part one will focus on an exchange of letters between journalist Ray Stannard Baker and sociologist, historian and journalist W.E.B. Du Bois over Baker's coverage of race. Both men cared about facts. Baker's journalism was arguably solutions-oriented, and he sought feedback on his drafts from Du Bois.
Du Bois took issue with aspects of Baker's reporting that he felt reflected fears and stereotypes. He was only partially successful in persuading Stannard Baker to make revisions. In additon, there were important sources both men appear to have ignored - or at least, failed to acknowledge.
Part two will examine the Baker-Du Bois exchange in light of critical scholarship on the concept of objectivity in journalism and the social sciences as it emerged from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. In particular, we will consider the work of David Mindich, Khalil Muhammad, and Natalie Byfield.
These scholars have identified ways in which the "just the facts" creed of early 20th-century journalism was limited by ingrained biases of race, class and gender. Mindich identified how race, class and gender bias shaped the editorial judgment of 1890s-era newspaper editors. Byfield and Muhammad have argued that these biases would be reflected in "objective" news reporting practices throughout the 20th century, even as newsrooms sought to diversify their staffs.
Part three will explore the requirements for inclusive and culturally competent computational journalism. Here, we will look at a case study involving the use of artificial intelligence in homicide reporting at the Los Angeles Times. The Times' Homicide Watch project had worthy goals: to report on each victim's life and death respectfully, and to explore the larger social contexts of the city's crime problem. As we will see, the results were mixed.
Part four will consider how emerging best practices for collaborating with communities to create culturally responsive technologies might inform the creation of news products. Here, I will draw up the work of Ramesh Srinivasan as well as the research experiences of myself and others in fostering interdisciplinary computing collaborations designed to meet the information needs of specific communities.