Category: Social Media

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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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CNET Expunged My Byline–and I Don’t Feel Fine

I made a rather startling discovery yesterday while looking for one of my old CNET News stories: My byline has been removed and changed to Staff. Not on just the one, but all. That ends any historical record reporting for the early tech website—from 1999-2003. While others sites I wrote for during 2003-2009 have vanished, CNET remained and my name as author of record on thousands of stories. It was a repository I could rely on. No longer.

The discovery came while searching for “Mac Cube: Is it all it’s cracked up to be?” The analysis sought to answer a question I had as a G4 Cube owner—as did others, many of whom were regular readers. The dek captures the story’s spirit: “Apple Computer is fending off criticism its stylish Power Mac G4 Cube is marred by cracks. But are the hair-thin lines the defects they appear to be?” 

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Microsoft tries to trump Apple

Timing is everything, particularly in business marketing tactics. Surely it’s no coincidence that hours before Apple’s big developer conference, where questions about iPhone’s future and product innovation loom large, that Microsoft announces plans to buy social network LinkedIn.  Oh, the next Xbox reveal is planned to coincide with the WWDC 2016 keynote, too. Hehe, how do you like them apples?

The merger will split tech news and analysis coverage this fine Monday and spill over to tomorrow, robbing Apple of attention it needs now to subdue rising negative perceptions about the future. Global smartphone sales are slowing and iPhone accounts for 65 percent of total revenues. Meanwhile, the fruit-logo company hasn’t perceptually lifted the innovation meter since before cofounder Steve Jobs died nearly five years ago. Apple needs to deliver wow and have bloggers and reporters giggle with glee all over the InterWebs. 

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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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Reconsidering Facebook

I spent little time online the past week following the unexpected passing of my sister Annette exactly seven days ago. The reaction is strange, seeing how much Facebook, texting, and other connected activities and services enriched and changed her life during the last six months or so she walked this Earth. I was clueless.

Last year, I added Annette to my cellular account; she used Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone to start. This opened a new world of connection to children, other relatives, and friends by texting. In November, when switching the family to T-Mobile from Verizon and upgrading to Nexus 6P, I sent her my Nexus 6. Soon after, her fraternal twin, Nanette, helped set up Facebook. Annette’s first post was Nov. 22, 2015—a family photo with our brother-in-law Michael Bellerieve, before his death from cancer. 🙁 

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Don’t ‘Fall into the Gap’

The Internet outrage over the photo for a Gap Kids advertisement is rather ridiculous. The meme accuses racism, because the taller white tween rests her arm on the shorter black girl’s head. Gap was wrong to apologize and replace the pic, bowing before the will of social media bullies. They read too much into the modeling, and you shouldn’t side with their idiocy.

The posing isn’t unusual for Gap marketing, and there is at least one earlier instance where roles reversed: Black tween resting arm on the head of a white girl, as filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry tweets with question: “Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let’s debate”. The answer is immaterial, because motivation and meaning are assigned, in conspiratorial fashion. I look at the pic and could, purely for contrarian perspective’s sake, assign equally-outrageous interpretation. 

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Frak That!

The major reason I won’t continue Flickr a Day for a second year is my new project, which rapidly is evolving; your input could help shape its development—and would be hugely appreciated. I’ll start with some background.

Seven months ago, fellow journalist Randall Kennedy unexpectedly emailed asking if I had any start-up ideas. He lived with his family on an island paradise off the East Coast of Africa, running a school, which had closed. He wondered about returning to journalism, or being a trade analyst—like me, both roles he had filled in the past. What he really wanted to know: Is writing a viable profession in what I call the Google free economy? 

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Tweet This and That!

My ninth Twitter anniversary is come and passed without my noticing. Looking at the archive the service graciously provides, first tweet was on Dec. 26, 2006 about, of all things, Microsoft Zune. Now there’s a device for the archaeological tech trash heap, eh? The tweet topic must have been traumatic, because the next isn’t until Jan. 2, 2007. 🙂

The same month I signed up for Twitter, Ziff Davis hired me to run the Microsoft Watch blog created by the esteemed Mary Jo Foley. Editors planned to build brand around a core of so-called star bloggers, putting personalities before content. But six months later, Ziff sold off the enterprise group, of which MW was part, to an investment group that had other ideas. My tenure ended on April 30, 2009, after bankers took more control over Ziff Davis Enterprise during to Econolypse. I was overpaid, they said.