Our Voices Matter - Civil Registry Discussion

Welcome to the Civil Registry, Our Voices Matter! Members of the Civil community may reach out to you with questions that could range from editorial policy, to privacy policies to business models. You will get an email alert every time there is a comment relating to your Civil Registry Profile.

(Cross-posting from previous discussion forum, for posterity:)

Reidob - 1 month ago

It is a fascinating conundrum, and one that I think has not yet been clearly addressed, neither here in Civil nor in the broader journalistic community, where the balance should be struck between original reporting done for the sake of informing the public, and stories produced specifically to promote commercial products. On the one hand, establishing a business model that makes journalism more sustainable is existentially essential if journalism is to survive this century. On the other, if the non-commercial side of a journalistic enterprise does not establish a certain amount of independence from the commercial side, it is inevitable that there will be at least the perception of a taint to the journalism produced.

Looking at the website for this newsroom, it is clear that Lorelle Media, the parent company from which Our Voices Matter springs, lives mostly to sell branded content. I must hasten to add that there is no confusion about which posts are sponsored and which are not. Indeed, the original journalistic content is nearly lost in the forest of commercial posts. The question is not the clear demarcation between the two types of content, but whether or not there is any editorial separation between them. There is no confusion which content is which, and all of the writing is original. However, it appears that those who write and edit one type of content are the same people who do so for the other.

It seems to me that an easy fix for this issue might be to publish a separate website (or perhaps simply a different section of the same website) with content from Our Voices Matter, with an editorial statement concerning independence from the corporate entity. Though not clearly ethically challenged, the overwhelming domination of the Lorelle Media “newsroom” by commercial content is at the very least squirm-inducing. It doesn’t help that the charter lists as the COO someone whose interest is entirely commercial, a real estate developer and consultant, with no journalism credentials whatsoever. There is also no published editorial statement of purpose or privacy statement.

At this point, Our Voices Matter does not fulfill the requirements for a newsroom as defined by the Civil Constitution. On the other hand, the intent of the non-commercial side of this enterprise seems deeply valuable. With a bit of attention to separating the two parts of the business and a few tweaks to the background content such as editorial statement and privacy policy, it could be a valuable addition here. But without any assurance that the journalism produced here will be free from the influence of the commercial side of the business, Our Voices Matter should not be included on the Civil Registry.

greylockglass

1 month ago

Reidob —

I absolutely don’t see what you’re seeing.

I encountered ZERO branded content on Our Voices Matter. Perhaps one third of the podcast episodes have a brief “Sponsored by” announcement near the beginning and a include the sponsor’s logo in the post/shownotes. That is NOT branded content or native advertising. These announcements are EXACTLY the same sort of sponsor messages that have existed since the dawn of broadcast journalism. Even NPR/public radio stations use a “this program made possible through the support of XYZ Company.” They are just acknowledgements that an entity is providing them with financial resources to do good journalism. The episodes are not about the sponsors or the sponsor’s products or services — the episodes are interviews with interesting individuals and experts from various fields.

I strongly encourage you to educate yourself about what content marketing is before you make another determination about a newsroom. These articles have decent explanations:

https://contently.com/2016/04/20/ask-content-guy-whats-difference-sponsored-content-native-advertising/

https://vidooly.com/blog/difference-between-branded-content-and-native-advertising/

Did you listen to any of the episodes? Do you think that an article/episode that no one is paying to produce is real journalism and that when the story has a sponsor it’s somehow tainted? Do you think journalists should be working for free? To say that there is anything wrong with this approach is to say that Our Voices Matter isn’t allowed to earn an income. To sat that their “original journalistic content is nearly lost in the forest of commercial posts” is an outright falsehood that I expect you to retract and address.

Again, when you say, “the overwhelming domination of the Lorelle Media “newsroom” by commercial content is at the very least squirm-inducing,” I have to wonder whether you spent ANY time reviewing their content.

Next, what is wrong with having a business woman as your COO? Where in the Constitution does it say that a newsroom’s team should be made up entirely of journalists, with no one on staff who actually knows how to run a business. I would think it’s GOOD that the person responsible for GTD is a pro at handling the machinery of the day to day operations.

Did you do any homework on Linda Lorelle herself? Did it mean nothing to you that she’s been a journalist for THIRTY TWO years and has won around a dozen awards for her journalism including two Emmy awards?

Yes, they need editorial and privacy statements, but the notion that they need attention to “separating the two parts of the business” is completely misinformed, since they don’t HAVE two sides of the business. They produce podcast interviews that a few local businesses are generous enough to support.

I’m absolutely shocked at the way you’ve attacked this candidate newsroom and promoted blatantly untrue representations of what they’re doing. Unless they changed something drastic in the last 19 hours, I think you need to re-examine your statements, and whatever your reasons were for making them.

— Jay

Reidob

1 month ago

Thanks for your comments, Jay. My concern is that the website on which this newsroom is published intermingles commercial content and journalistic content without clear enough lines of demarcation between the two. I find your outrage a bit overstated, and I have no intention of apologizing for my comments. Civil is a platform for newsrooms, and only those entities that are clearly newsrooms in nature and intent belong here. However, as I have stated in my comments to the site’s owners, the fixes they propose would fully satisfy me as to their right to be included here. I would also point out that I went to great pains to make clear that I was not impugning anyone’s integrity or qualifications, merely the presentation of the content, which made it appear that the commercial media company was not a separate entity from the newsroom, which is essential if the appearance of a conflict of interest is not to be projected. You seem certain that the sponsored content is not produced at the behest of the entities that pay for them, but I am less certain about that, at least in appearance. Of course, we can disagree on this front, but I have no intention of being scolded into changing my point of view.

nealmcb

1 month ago

(Edited)

I encourage everyone to post specific URLs to specific content to support their statements. As it is, I’m very confused by the conversation here, and wonder if the link for the newsroom (http://ovmnewsroom.com/) and/or where that ends up right now (https://ourvoicesmatterpodcast.com) have been redirected recently.
Offhand, it all looks like podcasts to me now, e.g. https://ourvoicesmatterpodcast.com/2019/06/12/when-anyone-is-slighted-we-are-all-slighted/
Reid, can you point to a specific post that you think of as “commercial”? Jay, what were you seeing that all looked like journalism?

Elena

Staff

1 month ago

Hello, Our Voices Matter is having some trouble logging into the Discussion forum. Please be patient while we sort out the technical issues. The newsroom has reviewed the comment submitted by Reid and will respond as soon as we can fix the log-in. Thank you for understanding.

Elena

Staff

1 month ago

Posting this on behalf of Our Voices Matter:

“Reid, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You bring up many excellent points which we will address promptly, beginning with clear demarcation between the parent company, Lorelle Media, and the Our Voices Matter newsroom. In fact, we have a separate url for the newsroom but have not yet completed the separate website. In hindsight, we should have done that before applying to the registry (too eager to get started!). The standalone site will have an editorial statement concerning independence from the corporate entity and a privacy policy, as you suggest in your remarks. I am heartened that you believe the mission of our newsroom would be a valuable addition to the Civil community once these concerns are addressed. Thank you again for your comments.”

Reidob

1 month ago

Excellent. All of that is all I could ask for. Thanks for your responsiveness to this.

Elena

Staff

1 month ago

Posting this on behalf of Our Voices Matter:

“Jay, Thank you for chiming in on this discussion. We very much appreciate your taking the time to listen to some of our episodes to understand our content and the fact that it has nothing to do with promoting the sponsors. That said, if anyone misunderstands even slightly what our model is, it is important that we tweak it so that it is crystal clear. I have too much respect for this profession to do anything less than that. It is why I want to be a part of this community in the first place. As I stated in my response to Reidob, we will post our editorial and privacy policies shortly and make it clear on our website that the OVM newsroom operates separately from Lorelle Media. Again, thank you for your thoughtful comments.”

Reidob

1 month ago

I was incorrect in my assessment of this newsroom. I withdraw my objections to the inclusion of Our Voices Matter and in fact enthusiastically endorse their inclusion and am proud to have them here. My cursory examination of the website was woefully incomplete and upon further investigation I have found that my assumptions were wholly incorrect. Mea culpa.

Having said that (and not in any way an attempt to ameliorate my error), I do think that the inclusion of an editorial statement of independence from sponsors would be useful. The prominence of the sponsors’ logos on the website is one thing that confused me and made me think that some of these might be podcasts produced on behalf of companies rather than merely being sponsored by them. Nothing wrong with that, of course, even if it were the case, but there would need to have been a separation between those and the original content that was not beholden to those companies. In this case that does not apply, but an editorial statement of independence would nevertheless be very useful. I would also continue to encourage a prominently displayed privacy policy.

My apologies for the sloppiness of my original assessment of OVM. I’m glad you are joining Civil.