Category: Responsibility

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Home Buying Lessons from the Schoolhouse

Aug. 18, 2017. I travel back to San Diego after visiting my niece in Long Beach. Meanwhile, two blocks from our apartment, my wife attends an Open House for a cute, Spanish-style property listed for $586,000. Anne tells the seller’s real estate agent that we can’t afford to buy the place—an effective diversionary tactic. But the 900-square-footer is within our means, and we will nearly come to own it.

This is my story of wanting and walking away. I take with me disheartening lessons about the home real estate market. 

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Responsible Reporting Takes Time

I rarely go to Facebook, but my niece was in San Diego County for a few days, and checking up on her travels was a must. During the brief FB foray, a Newsfeed post nipped my attention. Erica Toelle asks: “Bloggers, how long does it take you to write a 1,000 word, well researched and well-written article? I realize ‘it depends’ but it’s usually longer than 4hrs, right? I’m working with under-documented technology and usually have to try it to understand how it works”.

The question is hugely relevant at a time when speed too often trumps accuracy—or accountability—and many writers must meet (often ridiculous) daily quotas. Then there is the controversy about so-called fake news.

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Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Spanning most of my career, whether working as analyst or journalist, I have repeatedly railed against how U.S. law treats businesses—essentially as people. Reason: Moral dichotomy, where the ethical priorities of publicly-traded companies vastly differ from—and often contradict with—values of the people founding, running, or working for them. Keyword is value, where one usage refers to beliefs and another to money; meaning stock price and proceeds returned to shareholders.

My first, best articulation of this concept came during an April 2006 radio interview—I believe for NPR marketplace—when discussing major U.S. search providers Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo censoring results in China, at the government’s insistence. Behind the action there loomed censorship’s morality, such as restricting search terms like “democracy”. I expressed that there is no moral high ground in business. The high ground is quagmire, because all public companies share a single, moral objective: Make profits for stockholders. Plain, pure, and simple. Sadly, that moral agenda explains why United Airline’s PR week from Hell is Heaven for shareholders. Overbooking means the carrier fills seats; operations are lean and mean (quite literally, the latter). 

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Where News Reporting Bias Replaces Fact-Gathering

The inauguration of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States continues the fine tradition [sarcasm] that became commonplace news reporting following his election victory: Advocacy over accuracy. In my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers—and on this website—I explain there is a legitimate role for advocacy journalism (full book chapter). But over the past couple of months—with adverse and antagonistic Trump reporting exploding across the new, news, and social media landscape—misinformation and mischaracterization became normal and accepted. The trend is dangerous, as bias replaces fact-gathering. The precedents are dangerous for all news reporting, not just about Trump.

Yesterday’s blog posts, social media shares, and even some mainstream news media reports about the Whitehouse.gov website are examples—and they also are metaphors for the twisting of facts to (presumably) reflect the writers’ personal biases. What should be legitimate reporting of events are instead editorial comments—no, character assassinations—by news gatherers with clear anti-Trump agendas. Every news blogger or reporter who opposes Trump (and/or his administration’s real or presumed policies) should add a disclaimer stating this bias. 

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This is Me Then and Now V

My past personal photo comparisons focused on a decade’s separation. Two years can make a difference, too, in terms of weight, health, and appearance. Both pics are self-portraits—the left from Jan. 11, 2015 and the other Jan. 7, 2017, shot using iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively. In the older photo, I weighed 63.4 kilos (139.8 pounds). The newer: 15 kilos (10 pounds) less, or about the same as 40 years ago, during my senior year of high school.

Occasionally, someone locally who hasn’t seen me for awhile will with concern ask if I’m ill, for being so skinny. Not at all. I tightened up my diet, cutting carb consumption by 80 percent-plus—and sugar by even more, when aware of its presence. The sweetener is in everything, and it is not so easy to expunge from the diet. Before changing my eating habits, and weight-loss was a byproduct not the purpose, I tipped the scale to 82.6 kilos (182 pounds). 

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‘Everything is an Opportunity’

A few months ago, I adopted a new, personal slogan—and it is my motto for 2017: “Everything is an opportunity”. Think of it as an adaptation of old adage: “Make your own luck”, which I Googled today out of curiosity. There’s some good advice from several of the top hits, somewhat syncing with my own thinking, that would be good new year reading for you: That phrase as headline, Psychology Today; “13 Proven Ways to Make Your Own Luck“, Inc.; and “10 Proven Ways to Make Your Own Luck“, Entrepreneur.

How interesting: Business publication stories top search results for the “luck” phrase; other than PT. I see the sense in that for someone trying to build something. My motto differs in expanse: It is a lifestyle, a way of thinking. I don’t mean to sound like some living-in-lala-land motivational speaker. As a journalist, my cynicism about everything flows deep through my psyche. But so does my optimism, based on experience. 

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Facebook, Mainstream Media, Confirmation Bias, and the Trump Trauma

Lots of Americans, like those out here in liberal-leaning, Hillary Clinton-supporting California, are suffering what I call the “Trump Trauma”. They were sure she would win, easily, and are shocked at the unexpected outcome. It’s all disbelief, like someone suddenly died without warning. They were unprepared and now mourn the death of the Clinton candidacy. How could this come to be?

During our pre-election Frak That! podcast, on Nov. 7, 2016, cohost Randall Kennedy and I discussed the social media election. He expressed surprise at the “speed with which information travels”. I interrupted: “The speed with which disinformation travels now”, later describing social media interaction as something like “Borg sentience”, in context of phenomenon “confirmation bias“. The group mind—perpetuated by Facebook, news media reports, and political polls over-weighted to fit the narrative booming from the Echo Chamber—led many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to misguided expectations about whom would be President-elect.

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Our Virtual Reality Future is Bigger Than We Think

A a general rule I never connect to public WiFi networks, which is fine except when attending an event at a hotel ballroom where T-Mobile cellular is like an apparition dancing around a Halloween grave. So as Wendell Brooks, CEO of Intel Capital, begins his speech, I sit typing narrative offline rather than tweeting live. There’s irony, I suppose, reporting old style, about investments in new innovations.

Welcome to the trials and travails of the Intel Capital Global Summit, which kicks off today and goes through October 26 here in San Diego. Looking at the lineup, I expect to hear about newfangled tech that would make news reporting so much easier if available—although 4G cellular data would be good enough right now. 

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Patriot One seeks to ‘Prevent the Growth of Terrorism and Gun Violence’

The cop convention is in town this weekend, and I have never seen so many men in blue-grey suits or uniformed officers strutting sidearms. Quite possibly the safest-feeling place in San Diego through October 18th is the San Diego Convention Center and the areas around it—that is unless you’re a lawbreaker or someone as afraid of men and women in uniform as clowns. What the hell is this clown craze anyway? Yeah, that’s off-topic.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police holds its 123rd annual conference, which I blasted through (poor choice of words, I know) yesterday for a specific, and interesting product launch: Patriot One’s NForce CMR1000; self-described as a “covert primary screening device for the detection of on-body concealed weapons at access points including hallways and doorways of weapons-restricted buildings and facilities”. I met with CEO Martin Cronin and Chief Science Advisor Natalia Nikolova. 

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I’m Mad! Some Dude is using My Gmail to open Dating and Deal Site Accounts!

Question: “When is stupidity fraud?” I ask because someone is using my gmail address to sign up for a humungous number of newsletters and websites. At first, I presumed someone trolled me. But that no longer appears to be the case. This guy, presumably living in North Carolina, either uses my address randomly to hide his identity, or he mistypes one that is similar. Given many of the services are for an unidentified widower looking for love, I assume the latter.

Behind my question are real concerns about identity and privacy that do not just apply to me. The email address gives me the ability to change the passwords and even cancel accounts—both of which I have done, treating his misuse of my email address as identity theft and violations of my privacy; after years of careful cultivation that reduced spam, crap is on the rise as this misuse spreads my gmail identity across dating and discount sites and sex webcams. Who knows on what mailing lists it will appear next. But over the past 24 hours, the amount of spam offers, like being paid to take surveys, exploded. The email address may be permanently ruined for personal and professional purposes. 

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Litigation Censorship, Gawker, and the End of the Free Press

I am super grumpy today. Angry. No—thoroughly pissed off at billionaire bully Peter Thiel’s vendetta litigation financing that resulted in today’s bankruptcy filing by new media journo Gawker Media. Thiel plunked down, admittedly, at least $10 million to back Hulk Hogan’s breach-of-privacy lawsuit, which resulted in a $140 million jury judgement against the blog network for releasing the former faux wrestler’s sex tape.

Gawker had asked the presiding judge to set aside damages during the appeals process. Denied. The amount due exceeds the company’s assets, precipitating the Chapter 11 filing that will effectively end the media company as we know it now. Gawker is on the auction block, where Ziff Davis already has an offer.