Tag: Social Media

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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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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. 

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Sometimes Reddit Comments are the Best Storytelling

What could be better Sunday reading than cats jumping into cars? I stumbled onto this Reddit post roundabout way from something that appeared in my social network. Stated simply: A “cat climbed into” Jonny_Bloodbeard‘s “work van in downtown Detroit to keep warm. They choose you right?” Nearly 500 comments later, I’m impressed by the civil discourse and some of the cat tails—er, tales.

Take a look at the screenshot and the story about the cat riding to church for attention and a couple other Redditers’ ribbing responses. I love it. This is what interaction should be among commenters, and their personal stories add so much to the original post. 

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I finally say Ello, But Worry It’s Goodbye

I posted to Ello tonight. Finally. I registered three months ago and then did nothing. The text of my first post hints a little bit why not then but more why now. Thomas Hawk convinced me to try, in a ditty he posted yesterday.

Because I’m anal, the text that follows has embedded links, which isn’t their original formatting. Otherwise, the content is as it appears on Ello, which longevity I still have some doubts about. If the site ever goes tits up, the post is preserved here. With that introduction: 

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Writers, Own Your Content!

We all regret something—right? As a writer, my biggest is the loss of content, and lots of it. Don’t make my mistake! Thousands of my online posts are gone, representing the largest chunk, from May 2003 through April 2009. Six fraking years! Some of it I recovered in early 2007 and archived. The posts aren’t online but they aren’t lost either. But what I consider to be the most valuable, posted to the Apple Watch and Microsoft Watch blogs between 2006-09, is gone forever. Who says the Internet never forgets?

If you produce online content—particularly the kind of evergreen stuff with long shelf life—you cannot trust publishers to keep it or for them to simply stay in business. Related, if audience rather than search-engine optimization is your primary objective, your content should post across contextual online venues. You maximize its value through ownership rather than ceding rights to a third party.