I blogged earlier that I thought that CNN telling Kevin Sites to stop blogging sucked. I recently talked to a friend of mine who works at a major US TV Network and was presented a more balanced view on the issue. I have received permission to quote the following from an email exchange.

All U.S. TV networks have a script approval process and frankly I think overall it leads to better, more focused, and more accurate reporting, not the opposite. We have script approval for the same reasons newspapers and magazines have editors. If you're going to call script approval censorship then you'll have to call the whole editing process censorship.

Its also standard that a news organization has legal rights by contract to all "works" produced by its journalists. this is a basic market reality. Why should we expect a news company to pay us a decent amount of money and then not retain the rights to our news related "works"?  If we want total "freedom of speech" to write or say anything, anywhere at any time - especially on the same subjects that we cover as journalists - then we should expect to work for free.

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I agree that there are serious commercial issues with having journalists moonlighting while you're spending a few grand a day to look after them in a warzone

I don't agree at all about script approval. Script approval is about spin control and market positioning, not about ensuring accurate reporting. European networks don't have script approval for live pieces, and there is no problem. If you don't trust your journalists, don't employ them.

The script control issue is related to the BIG blog vs. edited media debate. A lot of live Japanese TV is not scripted (partly because of the lack of proliferation of teleprompters...) but Larry King Live is scripted. I've heard good arguments on both methods. Scripting allows a more polished concise delivery and benefits from someone checking and correcting things. On the other hand, true live TV and journalism has it's rough moments, but allows the viewer more flexibility in developing their own view.

Actually, when CNN started feeding local stations raw feeds instead of edited broadcasts, they broke some of the basic barriers and decentralized the news sources, but blogs are trying to decentralize more and allow users themselves to be "editors". This battle is also similar to the Cathedral and the Bazaar discussion.

I just can't see the point in sending a crew to the other side of the world to tell your viewers what's going on, if you're going to insist on cleaning it up in a windowless office in Atlanta before you broadcast it, supposedly 'live'.

The reality is that news television isn't really about telling people what's going on. It's about finding plausible backdrops to make exciting TV shows.

I don't think this is really a cathedral-bazaar situation. It's a cathedral administration question. Even the Catholic church doesn't script its own priests and bishops.

There are two issues: paid works vs non job-related works, and censored scripts vs individual opinions.

The first issue may arise when a new idea strikes a journalist during an interview with those who may not easily meet anyone unless he/she is a journalist: Does this idea belong to individual or job-related stuff?

The second one may happen when a journalist concludes an idea that is different from the finally published (official) article/script: Is a journalist able to disclose his/her own opinions that are opposite to journal's official opinions, as journalist.

A realistic action could be to write only things that are completely unrelated to job activities, but difficut. Any thought?

I happened to read the article re: this from a TV veteran journalist on ZDNet Japan. The original (Japanese) is at http://www.zdnet.co.jp/news/0303/31/cjad_kodera.html if you can read Japanese. Translated by Altavista is also available at http://babelfish.altavista.com/babelfish/urltrurl?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.zdnet.co.jp%2Fnews%2F0303%2F31%2Fcjad_kodera.html&lp=ja_en&tt=url (not good translation, though ;p).

I'm not sure if anyone has noticed, but the Reporters' Log run by the BBC is actually a weblog. It strings together the most recent observations on the war in Iraq from journalists all over the globe. The postings that appear there have certainly passed some form of military monitoring by either side of the conflict, but judging by the typos and the occasionally sub-standard English, the BBC itself doesn't seem to edit that weblog at all.

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Joi Ito on the Kevin Sites blog issue (my understanding is that Kevin Sites is run by a journo paid by a BigPub and the site has been shut down at the request of the BigPub). My response... In my... Read More

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