Tag: Social Media

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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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Praise Be Citizen Journalists

On this Easter, like others, I think about resurrection—but this day, strangely, how it should apply to the news media. Three years ago, I wrote largely-overlooked ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers. The concept germinated from my June 2009 essay “Iran and the Internet Democracy“, following protests in the country that citizens documented on social media/self-publishing platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, which at the time were little more than three years old (with respect to availability to the public). I predicted that these nascent services would disrupt editorial monopolies on news and other information, which has occurred in varying degrees during the nearly eight years since.

By March 2010, a troubling trend lead me to write what would become the other genesis for the book: “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism“. Too many news gatherers single-source blog and socially-shared posts, without independently confirming their accuracy. As I have told my reporters over the years, when working as an editor: Write only what you know to be true. If you haven’t communicated directly with the source, then you don’t know what’s true. But I am more disturbed by social media activity that mainstream media presents as news, such as stories that turn trending topics, or simply single tweets, into clickable headlines. Often they’re unconfirmed filler for driving pageviews. 

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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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You’ve Been Misled About Fake News

I am ashamed and embarrassed to be a journalist. This past week’s coordinated attacks on so-called fake news sites—largely orchestrated by the mainstream media and supported by Internet gatekeepers like Google and social media consorts such as Facebook or Twitter—is nothing less than an assault on free speech by organizations that should protect it.

They blame so-called fake news sites for influencing the 2016 Presidential election in favor of real-estate mogul Donald Trump and seek to extinguish them. But the Fourth Estate really responds to a perceived threat that looks to upend the mainstream media status quo. More appalling is the rampant advocacy journalism wrapped in cloak of objectivity from news orgs like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Meaning: Anti-Trump editorial policy and reporting slants are as biased as the labeled fakers. Worst of all: Many, if not most, media outlets fail to acknowledge, if even see, how they failed the American public during the campaign. Their accusations should point inwardly, not outwardly to other information disseminators.

So there is no misunderstanding: I am not a rabid Trump supporter, but a journalist who separates personal sentiments from my ethical responsibilities. More of my peers should do likewise.

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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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Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Thiel

A report available today from Pew Research Center finds that 62 percent of American adults “get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often”. Those statistics should frighten new and old media, but more so critics like billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker; the blog and news site lost. Depending on the outcome of a court hearing, Gawker could be shuttered or sold, if forced to put $50 million in escrow during the appeals process. The amount exceeds yearly advertising revenues.

Thiel admittedly put up about $10 million, if not more, to support Hogan’s lawsuit and unnamed others. Destroying Gawker might seem like an enviable outcome for one of Silicon Valley’s tech elite—he is a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor—but, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, which replacement isn’t waiting around. Social media increasingly fills the niche that Gawker vacates. 

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I see Tumbleweeds Rolling Across the Google+ Ghost Town

As the New Year approaches, and I contemplate 2016, my online social space surely will change; my like-affair with Google+ draws close to an end. Nearly six weeks ago, the service “reimagined“, as a  “fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and center”.

Since then, my Google+ engagement has dropped by more than 90 percent. I don’t find as many posts to Plus-one, to share with others, or on which to comment. Similarly, I see shocking decline in the number of responses to my posts—not something I actively seek so much as by which to judge interest in what I write and also to interact with other Plusers. After years of misguided critics calling Google+ a ghost town, the tumbleweeds roll.

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 1)

April 2009, I busily bang out a news analysis for Microsoft Watch, one of two news sites I edit for Ziff Davis Enterprise. My boss sounds alarm that there is some jeopardy to my job. I earn a six-figure salary, which panics investors/creditors that recently increased involvement in editorial operations. He infers that I am the highest-paid writer on staff.

Days later, he informs me that in two weeks, ZDE will lay me off—the first time this has ever happened in my long journalist career. My last day will be April 30. As the end approaches, but I continue to produce content normally, he returns with an offer: Stay on writing news stories for eWeek, take a 36 percent reduction in pay, and agree to a 5-story-per-day quota. I politely decline but privately fume. 

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

One section down, it’s two to go as we begin the second. The serialization of my ebook  Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers continues ahead of its release into the public domain. So far we have the Foreward and from Section 1, Chapters, I and II, III and IV, V and VI.

The section’s short introduction is explanation enough what to expect. However, let me remind that all information was current when published 14 months ago and largely is unchanged today. Largely isn’t completely. Relevant clarification: Pricing for the New York Times digital editions is accurate but doesn’t reflect a current half-price promotion for 26 weeks. That said, the point—pricing that is an affront to consumer contextual consumption of news—is just as valid. 

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Responsible Reporting Section 1 ‘News in Context’: Chapters I and II

My ebook Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers is divided into three sections. The first, “News in Context”, is a state of the online news industry. The second, “The Five Journalisms”, examines five categories of news gathering most relevant to the age of context. The last, “What You Must Do”, applies concepts from the other two to present guidelines for responsible reporting.

In this second installment, I present two chapters from the first section. Opener “In Just Eight Years” is in part adapted from my June 2009 analysis “Iran and the Internet Democracy“, which is a provocative lens for looking back to look forward at the state of the news industry.