hashtags

New York Times omits crucial faith detail when covering release of some #ChibokGirls (updated)

New York Times omits crucial faith detail when covering release of some #ChibokGirls (updated)

So what details do you remember from the #ChibokGirls news coverage? We are talking about the 300 or so girls who were kidnapped more than three years ago from a Nigerian village by Boko Haram militants and forced to marry the fighters, to serve as slaves or even to take part in terrorism raids.

Do you remember the online activism campaign, led by First Lady Michelle Obama and others, with the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag?

Maybe you remember the remarkable photos and videos from 2014, with the images of the girls sitting on the ground -- dressed in hijabs -- chanting Muslim prayers and verses from the Quran in Arabic.

This was a highly symbolic moment, since most of the kidnapped girls were from Christian families and they were forced to convert to the radicalized, violent brand of Islam pushed by Boko Haram.

Do you remember reading that most of the 300 girls were Christians?

That's a rather important detail that, believe it or not, the editors of The New York Times either forgot to include or chose to omit from the newspaper's main story -- "Years After Boko Haram Kidnapping, Dozens of Girls Are Freed, Nigeria Says" -- about the release of about 60 of the Chibok girls.

It's a gripping story. Still, search through this report and try to find the missing word "Christian" and the fact that these girls were forced to convert to Islam. Here is one key passage:

To much of the world, the mass abduction of nearly 300 girls from a Nigerian school as they prepared for exams three years ago was a shocking introduction to the atrocities and humanitarian crises caused by Boko Haram, galvanizing global attention to a militant group that had already been terrorizing Nigerians for years.

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#Duh: Yes, hashtag advocacy is an ethical question for journalists

#Duh: Yes, hashtag advocacy is an ethical question for journalists

In a post earlier this month, I noted that a reader pointed to what the reader called "hashtag advocacy" in a tweet on Religion News Service's institutional account.

Another reader objected to that characterization of RNS' tweet, replying to @GetReligion.

Via @GetReligion, I responded to the reader, Melissa Steffan, a Web developer and writer.

I certainly appreciate Steffan engaging with GetReligion. We love these kind of discussions, which are important to our profession of journalism.

She claims that "it's not 'advocacy' when you use a popular hashtag" and notes that "social media markets use hashtags not necessarily to support a cause, but to get a tweet in front of more viewers."

But journalists are a different animal, or should be.

That's why journalists must be careful with the hashtags that they choose — and make sure not to convey any hint of bias.

The Poynter.org article to which I pointed Steffan explains the ethical dilemma that journalists face:

(I)t does appear now more than ever that people and the media are becoming more selective about how and when to use hashtags — meaning sometimes not at all. At the same time, when we do use hashtags for certain stories, we’re finding ourselves grappling with the ethical implications of using community-generated classifications to enter existing conversations.

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