Tag: news gathering

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Mom’s Memorial Got Me to Thinking…

In June 2009 missive “Iran and the Internet Democracy“, I explained how then-recent contextual cloud services used with cell phones had begun, in just three years, to dramatically empower anyone and everyone to self-broadcast/report in ways that not long earlier was the monopoly of media professionals. I have repeatedly revisited this concept since, particularly as more tools became available, mobile broadband expanded reach while becoming less costly, and consumer behavior adapted to the opportunities presented. Most recently, in April 2017: “Praise Be Citizen Journalists“.

Today, the memorial service for my mom, who died August 5th, took place in Burlington, Vt. The church broadcast the farewell live online, via Ustream, which was founded in 2007. But had the family chosen to instead hold a more intimate gathering, anyone with a smartphone could have shared the send-off via a number of services, such as Facebook Live, Periscope, YouTube, or, yes, Ustream, among others. FB opened to the public in September 2006; Live, to everyone, in April 2016. Periscope: March 2015. YouTube is the grandpa service, officially opening in November 2005 but live streaming for the masses debuted only about four months ago.

The power is in your pocket to broadcast to anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Just ask all those crazy Instagrammers and SnapChatters. They know.

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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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Why We Need Gawker

I love tabloids like the NY Daily News or New York Post. The editorial style is aggressive; reporting is accurate but snarky-authentic; and headlines typically are punchy and bold. These pubs also push boundaries that more traditional, staid—and, honestly, hoity-toity—papers like the New York Times often won’t.

Gawker Media blogs adopt similar scoop style appropriate to online news gathering; they connect the dots, adding breadth and context to stories all while keeping what I call the Prime Directive: Write what you know to be true in the moment. The approach—think tabloid and wire-service mashup—assumes the reporter doesn’t have the whole story, but writes what he or she has, following up as new info is available. Professor Jeff Jarvis calls it “Process Journalism“, which gets a chapter in my book Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers

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Milking the Aggregation Economy

The scoop is as old as truthsayers’ ability to freely speak without getting their heads lopped off. Invention of the printing press created the free press, if for no other reason than anonymity for rebelrousers, who in future generations would be called journalists. If you believe the folklore that the news media seeks the truth, just ask anyone about whom it is revealed: “They’re troublemakers. Tell the executioner to get his axe”. That’s me and my kind—headless in another era.

Few months back, occasional emails from the Financial Times started hitting the old inbox with a thud. Each and every one is similar scheme: Highlighting some scoop in the tech sector from the newspaper. What’s the 1970’s song lyric. “Bang a gong, get it on” (Eh,you do know what that means, right—and, sigh, getting older, I haven’t done that for a while.) FT PR bangs about a scoop, which I can only presume is to get attention for it from other news gatherers. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 3 ‘What You Must Do’: Chapter IX

I owe you an apology. Months ago I promised to finish serializing my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, before releasing it into the public domain. The last installment was in mid-October, with one chapter and the Afterword remaining. As I prepare for the New Year, not leaving loose ends is top of mind. Thus, with a huge sorry, this evening I present the closing chapter (but exclude the outdated March 2014 Afterward), The book will release into the public domain to start 2016.

I have posted from Chapter IX before, on Dec. 30, 2014: “You Could Study Journalism, or Learn as Much Watching These Five Films“. Each movie teaches lessons about responsible reporting—some by illuminating irresponsible and/or unethical behavior. The last in the list expresses in an exchange between characters something that should be embedded into the synapses of every 21st Century news gatherer: 

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Responsible Reporting Section 2 ‘The New Journalisms’: Chapter V

Last Sunday, we interrupted our weekly serialization of my ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, because of Father’s Day. Another interruption comes July 12, during San Diego Comic-Con. This week’s return completes the last of five journalisms, and the one that more than any other can lead to irresponsible news reporting.

Timing is interesting in context of the landmark Supreme Court ruling just two days ago that opens way for marriage between people of the same gender in all 50 states. There is a force of collective will washing across the Internet that could cause some journalists to bow before social pressure rather thcan offer probing analyses in second-day stories. For example, I see lots of quick criticism of the dissenting judges that doesn’t delve into the Constitutional concerns they raise, nor negative implications for rights-gainers with respect to taxes or other legal constructs. How much does the mob’s mood influence followups? My concern is process, and I express here no opinion about the ruling—just timing and context with respect to today’s mob journalism excerpt. 

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Don’t Talk Dumb About Smartwatches

Sunday afternoon, I cleaned out old CDs from a folder to make room for DVDs the family will keep but in more manageable storage. The things we save and forget about: install disc for the Suunto N3i MSN Direct smartwatch. The discovery is opportunity to express one of my ongoing gripes regarding news gathering today: Wild speculation about things to come that ignores context of past accomplishments.

Consider the smartphone, which you would think Apple invented based on all the blog blathering. Credit belongs to Nokia, about 20 years ago. Then there is the smartwatch. My feedbox fills with increasing speculation about when Microsoft will develop a wristwear platform or when will traditional timepiece makers produce the devices. Been there, done that. 

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Don’t Grub Gruber, Do Your Reporting!

Saturday night, I fumed after seeing more than 20 blogger news headlines repeating assertions made by Apple apologist John Gruber that the MacBook’s maker invented USB Type-C. Does no one independently confirm anymore? The rumor’s viral spread, when repeated often enough, will enter the Internet cultural lexicon of misinformation become truth.

Over at BetaNews, my colleague Mark Wilson rips into Gruber’s assertion. Between us—a phone call from me, and an email from Mark, coincidentally around the same time yesterday—we have comments from official body USB Implementers Forum that dispute the Apple invention claim. But, of course, confirmation can’t be true enough for the rumormongers because “informed little birdies”  told Gruber that USB-C is “an Apple invention and that they gave it to the standards bodies”. But, sssh, the company isn’t supposed to say, because of politics or something.

Whether or not Gruber is right—maybe he really has inside, hush-hush information—is immaterial. That so many blogs reported his statement as fact, without any further investigation, is the problem. Given Gruber’s longstanding unabashed Apple-loving ways, everything he claims about the company should be presumed propaganda until proven to be otherwise.

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Google pulls an Apple-Like Media Coup

Bias in the media is inevitable, and any news gatherer who denies this fact is a liar. Companies seek favor or to influence in countless ways. It’s the nature of the beast, which cannot be tamed. So I wonder how Chromebook Pixel embargoes impacted reporting about Apple’s newest laptop. If they did, as I’m convinced, Google pulled off one hell of a marketing coup.

The search and information giant provided many tech blogs and news sites with the new Pixel about a week before the laptop launched yesterday and the first reviews posted—that was also days before Apple’s well-publicized media event where a new MacBook was rumored. Both computers share something in common: USB Type-C, which is bleeding-edge tech. The connector received much media attention on Monday and Tuesday two ways: Buzz about it being the next great thing, and MacBook having but one port (Pixel has two, and others). 

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News Gatherers, Follow the Reporting!

When starting to write last night’s commentary on the upheaval at the New Republic, I sided firmly with the resigning staff. After all, they apparently stand firm for journalistic integrity and preserving an institution that reached a century’s publication in September. But the more I researched, the more obvious the wisdom changing the magazine’s editorial distribution approach and relocating to New York. I followed the reporting rather than personal preconceptions, or biases.

I started with headline: “Say Goodbye to the Old Republic”, choosing the above photo of stormtroopers snapped during Comic-Con 2014. I assumed that anyone who ever watched Star Wars—and who hasn’t—would get the hed and art combo. But midway through writing and research, which I often do simultaneously in one draft, the story shifted somewhere else. When finished writing, I changed headline to “Say Hello to the New Republic” and photo to Manhattan’s Soho district. After some deliberation about burying the lede, I tacked on an addition to the first paragraph: “which, by the way, is totally sensible”, referring to the “magazine’s massive makeover”. The top half remains as written, which I hope doesn’t confuse the reader or misshape the storytelling. 

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Uber Should Drive Journalists to Accountability

Good for Uber for being transparent about investigating journalists. Bad for Uber for buckling to public relations pressure and renouncing an executive’s statements about the practice. Every company tracks journalists, or bloggers, covering it—to which I can attest from experience. PR pros and I have, in the past, discussed dossiers about me, because some put our relationship first. They feel dirty for keeping records and need to confess.

The ride-sharing startup would do nothing unusual by collecting the data, and there is good reason to want to use it. My profession is in a state of crisis. Sloppy sourcing practices spread rumors across the vast Internet landscape like environmental protestors throwing feces on corporate executives. Shit is shit, whether or not literal, and it all stinks. If the Fourth and Fifth Estates can’t be accountable for themselves—and they most certainly are not—victims of irresponsible reporting should protect their interests.