Category: Mob Journalism

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BBC’s ‘Bathroom Bill’ Story is the Worst Kind of Journalism

This analysis is not a commentary about North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, but the irresponsible and unethical news reporting about it. I am appalled by the headline and dek of a BBC story posted earlier today. Quoting the latter: “North Carolina is suing the U.S. Department of Justice over its attempts to bar the state from upholding its anti-LGBT ‘bathroom bill'”.

While many people might agree with “anti-LGBT” as descriptor, BBC nevertheless shouldn’t use it. Doing so makes a value judgement and demonstrates bias rather than neutral news reporting. Even using LGBT without the “anti” is biased. Also, as a foreign news agency, regardless reputation, the Beeb makes moral pronouncements that may not reflect those of the country that it reports about. The headline and dek implicitly impose values, and that should not be the news report’s goal—all while diminishing, if not ignoring, the rationale behind the legislation. 

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 2)

June 2009, the future of 21st Century journalism moves with protestors across Iran’s capital. In an area somewhat removed from the commotion, philosophy student Neda Salehi reportedly steps from a car and is soon shot by a sniper. A bystander videos her death and uploads it to YouTube. The moment becomes the rallying point for demonstrators in the country and for spectators from around the globe. It is a seminal moment of change for the news media.

The next night, June 21, I write

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When the Crowd Roars

The Internet backlash against dentist Walter Palmer for killing Cecil the lion is one of the best examples of mob journalism ever. The narrative spreading across the InterWebs is some ways well-meaning but in many more is destructive. Meanwhile, the force of collective-will tempts too many journalists to join the mob opinion, when they should stand aside and offer objective and responsible reporting.

Before writing another word, I must praise National Geographic for the best reporting about this event. The magazine offers broader perspective and, more importantly, puts big game hunting into larger context, while taking an objective tone. The raging mob’s perspective is myopic, and news sites supporting it fail the public good.

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Twitter betrays You

Today, over at BetaNews, my colleague Mark Wilson asks:
Twitter may be within its rights to block ISIS beheading content, but is it right?” The social service did more—suspending accounts for some users who shared the gruesome video depicting the slaughter of front-line journalist James Foley, who was held in captivity for about two years. Mark writes:

Twitter has a responsibility to allow events to unfold without intervention. The sheer number of people using the site means that it is possible to get a fairly balanced view of what is going on in the world—do a little research and you should be able to find supporters of every side of just about any story or argument. But for this to work, censorship just cannot happen.

I agree but see far darker implications with respect to news reporting. 

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Affirmatively Advocate Counterpoints

Earlier today I explained my recent “Chilling Chromebook” writing approach, which seemingly contradicts my more pro position taken throughout 2013. Simply stated: My stance seeks to counterbalance sudden media fan frenzy—bloggers and journalists relating the same points of view because they think it’s vogue. There is too much me-too enthusiasm, rather than real reporting.

The recent rah-rah rash of “Chromebook is better than sliced bread” blog posts and news stories represent two types of contextually-relevant journalisms: advocacy and mob. Both get considerable treatment in my new book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers.

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Chilling Chromebook

Over the weekend, I got email from developer Jeff Nelson with his blog response to my BetaNews story: “Chromebook belongs to computing’s past, not its future“. He is among a majority of responders who disagree with my assessments about the future of PCs depending on keyboard and mouse.

Today’s Android Wear platform announcement foreshadows exactly where computing is headed. For longer perspective, please see my book The Principles of Disruptive Design. But suffice to say that Google champions “Star Trek”-like computing, where you—by sight, sound, touch, and voice—are the user interface.

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Hello, Responsible Reporting

Today, the ebook formally known as Be a Better Blogger published to Amazon, Google, and Smashwords ebook stores. Title—drum roll, please—Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers.

As explained in post “Bye, Bye, Be a Better Blogger“, I launched a 28-day crowdfunding campaign to raise enough money to spend two months researching and writing the book. But the campaign lost money and wasted valuable time. You can always get more money, but time is a commodity never regained.

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Bye, Bye, Be a Better Blogger

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, which ended at 11:59:59 p.m. PT on February 28. I set a $7,500 goal and raised $135—disastrous, disappointing end to the 28-day effort.

Be a Better Blogger is my fifth non-fiction title, none exceptionally long, published since August 2013. Sales disappoint; being an independent publisher is much more difficult than expected. By crowdfunding, I set two goals: To receive the equivalent of a publisher’s advance and to earn something from my writing efforts. I failed. The only contributors are people I know, while the campaign lost money and wasted valuable time. You can always get more money, but time is a commodity never recovered.

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Mob Journalism shouldn’t take away an Olympic Gold Medal

As I write, 1.7 million people have signed a Change.org petition to: “Open investigation into judging decisions of Women’s Figure Skating and demand rejudgement at the Sochi Olympics”. The signatories and the news media’s response to them is classic example of “Mob Journalism”, a term first used on this blog in April 2010.

I coined Mob Journalism, or thought so four years ago, to define a populist response that is a social media byproduct. Services like Change.org, Facebook, Twitter, and others with online reach, enable the mob (referring to the masses not the mafia) to have a much louder voice. That’s quickly, too, unlike letter-writing campaigns used by protesters of earlier eras. Rapid response benefits societies, as explained in June 2009 analysis “Iran and the Internet Democracy“. The news media’s response is another matter.

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Twitter's Defiance is Good News

I love Twitter, all the more since Eric Snowden’s revelations about the U.S. government’s secret spying program. The company largely stands apart from other techs’ positions, but not completely. In December, I scolded Twitter, along with Apple, Facebook, Google, and a smattering of others for their “disingenuous and self-serving” call for global government surveillance reform.

Today, Twitter tweaks the government regarding an agreement that expands disclosure of information requests, including those that fall under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In a startling act of defiance, Twitter chooses not to disclose the number of FISA and other national security-related requests, contending they’re scope is an “overly broad range”.

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You Can't Trust Most Polls or Surveys

Internet polls are fun but rubbish. Formal surveys conducted by so-called experts aren’t much better. If you disagree, consider this: A poll I conducted for Betanews asking “How would you identify yourself as a computer user?” puts more than 25 percent of respondents as Linux PC users and less than 61 percent as Windows PC users. Do you believe that? I don’t. But I do believe, as early results indicated, that there are more Betanews readers identifying themselves as Linux PC users than Macheads. But more than one-quarter are Linux users? Perhaps in some alternative universe, but not this one.