Category: New Media

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The Shredded Republic

For this Memorial Day we present a solemn sentiment reflecting the tattered state of the Republic, which is shorn to pieces by cultural and political strife. At no time since my first eligible-to-vote Presidential election have I seen such fractious and contentious state of the electorate or the representatives in Washington, D.C.

Worst of all is my profession. The Fourth Estate has abandoned its duty to protect the public interest. Subjective reporting and editorialization define modern journalism. The Fifth Estate, which includes new media and online informational utilities (e.g., Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the like), is worse because of rampant censorship. Patronizing tactics choose for you, because presumably you’re not smart enough to sift fact from fiction. I would mind less if professional news gatherers reported responsibly more.

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For Free Speech and Democracy

Fifteen years ago—April 14, 2007—the Wilcox family rode the DC Metro into downtown for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. The Featured Image is one of many street shots from Canon 20D and EF 135mm f/2 USM lens. This one, composed as captured, is previously unpublished. Vitals: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/500 sec, 135mm; 9:32 a.m. EDT.

I choose the photo for the strangest of reasons: The riders and their American flags as symbols of democracy and freedom. Why today? Elon Musk bought Twitter, which he plans to take private and supposedly will reestablish as a platform for free speech.

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The N-Word for White Women

Six months have passed since I walked by the painted window, somewhere in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood, that is this post’s Featured Image. My thoughts needed some percolation before I was ready to express them. Here we go. Women of a certain age (often middle age, or older), economic status (Middle Class or wealthier, which means entitled), and race (white) are all over the InterWebs for behaving badly. Somebody smartphone-videos their tirades, which may or may not include racial slurs but more often is angry or exasperated. The typical stereotype is the woman who calls cops or store manager to settle a perceived grievance.

Call it the new KKK—Karen-Ken Klan, which lynches people in the social media public square, where they don’t lose their lives but absolutely lose their livelihoods: Jobs and reputations, for starters. Death would almost be merciful compared the merciless torture for which they endure.

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Twitter is Right About the ‘Public Conversation’

I respect—and support—Twitter’s decision allowing Alex Jones to continue using the service. No other social network is as much about free expression, whether or not you agree with the viewpoints expressed there. I see YouTube in similar vain and, as such, wag my finger in condemning “shame on you” for following Apple’s lead and pulling Jones’ channel(s). (Vain is purposefully misused to make a point that I hope you get.)

For the record: I have never listened to or watched even a snippet of InfoWars. Meaning: I don’t stand up for Jones’ viewpoints but for his expressing them across social networks. 

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Caught in a Villainous Lair

Part of the reason, yesterday, I walked down Adams Ave. to Pet Me Please (for cat food) was to swing by Villainous Lair, which is a cool comics shop that also hosts gamers. Last week, I read a San Diego Reader news story by Mike Madriaga about the store closing on January 31.

Employees confirmed closure and the date, although much stock remained to be sold—50-percent-off list price this week. Role-playing game activities, along rows of tables and chairs in the back room, will continue as usual until the last day. Tonight, as part of a kind of send-off party, there also will be live Rocky Horror Picture Show in the store. I shot the Featured Image, of the shop, when leaving, using Leica Q. Vitals, aperture manually set for street shooting: f/8, ISO 100, 1/125 sec; 28mm; 1:59 p.m. PST.  

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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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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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The News I Choose

Strange isn’t it, the quotes that cling to you. In August 2009, the New York Times rightly asked: “What’s a Big City Without a Newspaper?“—when many reputable reporting organizations contemplated erecting paywalls after too long bleeding advertising revenues to the Google Free Economy. Journalist Michael Sokolove interviewed Brian Tierney, who then led a group trying to salvage two major dailies following bankruptcy: “He wants to begin charging for online content. As he told me this, he banged a bagel on a conference table, which sounded like a rock as it hit. ‘You hear that?’ This bagel stinks, he said. ‘It’s got the same consistency inside and out, but if you went down to our cafeteria, it costs like $1.25. That’s what people pay for stuff like this, so you mean to tell me I can’t get them to pay that for online access to all the incredible stuff in The Inquirer and Daily News online? People who say that all this content wants to be free aren’t paying talented people to create it'”.

Perhaps because I am a working journalist, or maybe being someone who seeks news that he can trust, the sources most valuable to me aren’t free. I pay for them—and in putting together a list, much more than expected. But before continuing, qualification: I started to draft this post in September 2015, coming back many times with intention to complete—only to perennially procrastinate. Perhaps I subconsciously intuited that my main news sources would dramatically change, as they have following Donald Trump’s unexpected presidential election victory. 

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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.