Journalists and the organizations they work for need to know when to stand their ground against entities about which they write and when to give in. IMAX wants Ars Technica to retract mentioning the company […]
Last week, headline “Samsung lied—its smart TV is indeed spying on you and it is doing nothing to stop that“, piqued my interest. In the preceding days, the InterWebs flooded with allegations that the South Korean manufacturer’s televisions listen to their owners. But I cringed reading the story, which appeared on BetaNews, where I also contribute. The reporting doesn’t support the headline, which if editor on duty I would never have permitted.
Editorially, BetaNews and I drift apart. My responsibility for day-to-day management ended in May 2013. I told one of the writer/editors yesterday, in context of discussing the Samsung headline: “No offense, but the story packaging is more like a blog everyday…Real stories have real reporting. Too many of the BN stories rely on someone else’s reporting. That’s primarily my saying feels more like a blog. The Samsung lied story is good example”.
BN editorial structure is more diversified now, with several writers acting as day or night editors. All contributors share in common something I detest: Pay by pageviews. The model is widespread among blogs and news sites, and I oppose it. There is inherent conflict of interest, when the reporter’s livelihood directly ties to clicks.
My colleague Mark Wilson takes on the task I failed to (but should have) in commentary: “Apple’s Tim Cook is gay—the fact it needs to be announced shows what’s wrong in tech“. The CEO’s admission, in a Bloomberg-Businessweek opinion piece, isn’t surprising. The news media’s overglowing reaction is the shocker, as Mark observes: “Websites have practically fallen over themselves to heap their praise on the announcement”.
What? Are bloggers or reporters afraid they might appear to be homophobic if neglecting to add their voice to the echo chamber? Many news writers called Tim Cook’s announcement courageous. This morning, in chat, I told Mark: “Your response to it is hugely courageous”. He chose not to join the echo chamber and even to risk recriminations for rightly questioning why so much news space was given to Apple’s CEO.
While checking Robert Scoble’s website for a link, I came across something quite unexpected: “I have completely moved to social media“. Bwahaha! He goes one way, while I head another. I’m in the process of pulling back my online posts to my personal blog, which will act as the hub for social media as the spokes.
There is nothing original about the idea. Lots of bloggers put social services second. I have long waffled between the two approaches, with the majority of my personal posting going to Google+ since summer 2011. Main reason: Large audience of followers and lots of interaction with them.
Last month, I read frighteningly insightful analysis “How the Internet Killed Profit“. Ah yeah. Facilitated in part by the Google free economy, many things that were profitable suddenly aren’t. There’s little financial gain giving away valuable content. Free isn’t necessarily bad, just a myth—the great Internet lie that reinforces the justification no one needs to pay for anything.
But as I explained five years ago in post “The Problem with Free“: “Free and the Internet go oddly together, and not necessarily well together…People will pay for anything for which there is perceived or actual value. Free is an acceptable price when there is perceived or actual value”. Pay or free are the same because value matters more. The 2009 analysis responded to Chris Anderson’s assertion that on the Internet “free really can be free”. He is misguided.
Overnight, AppleInsider posted Daniel Eran Dilger editorial “After Apple Inc. dodged the iPhone 6 Plus BendGate bullet, detractors wounded by ricochet“. As is typical of his stories, the tone is conspiratorial and heavily biased in Apple’s favor. That’s okay. He practices what I explained in February is “advocacy journalism“.
In my book, Responsible Reporting: Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers, I identify five types of journalism relevant today, and each gets a whole section: advocacy, conversational, contextual, mob, and process. Two other journalisms—data and immersive—receive cursory treatment but will be expanded whenever I next update the book. Where I deviate from traditional views about news reporting—what’s taught in J schools—is my glowing endorsement for these different reporting practices, with advocacy journalism being perhaps most controversial.
Every news gatherer should read “Unseen Toll: Wages of Millions Seized to Pay Past Debts“, which is example of great news reporting. The sidebar is just as good.
Increasingly, news reporting is more than culling sources and chasing leads. ProPublica practices what sometimes is referred to as “data journalism”, and it is a cornerstone of the news organization’s investigative reporting. As I learned from working as an analyst for JupiterResearch a decade ago, collected data wants to tell a story. Hidden in spreadsheets is truth that only lies when someone deliberately misinterprets the meaning.
Today, over at BetaNews, my colleague Mark Wilson asks:
“Twitter may be within its rights to block ISIS beheading content, but is it right?” The social service did more—suspending accounts for some users who shared the gruesome video depicting the slaughter of front-line journalist James Foley, who was held in captivity for about two years. Mark writes:
Twitter has a responsibility to allow events to unfold without intervention. The sheer number of people using the site means that it is possible to get a fairly balanced view of what is going on in the world—do a little research and you should be able to find supporters of every side of just about any story or argument. But for this to work, censorship just cannot happen.
I agree but see far darker implications with respect to news reporting.
In the era of misinformation, Amnesty International—rather than a major news organization—provides tools for ensuring accuracy in the media. Launched today, Citizen Evidence Lab is an outstanding resource for journalists, or anyone else, for assessing whether videos are real or fake. Amnesty’s agenda is straightforward: “To assist human rights researchers to systematically assess citizen videos that depict potential human rights violations”. However, benefits for news gathering cannot be overstated.
Hat-tip goes to Nieman Journalism Lab for posting about the tools, which include a step-by-step how-to guide that “integrates best practices of citizen video authentication and brings the myriad of required verification steps into one, linear format”, according to Amnesty. There are lots of useful tools here, and I strongly encourage review of these how-to ones, many of which predate today’s launch. That makes me wonder how much is really new versus packaged as a new resource. Regardless, Amnesty serves a cornucopia of valuables for anyone actually willing to do the work of validating videos. I worry too few news gatherers will make the effort.
I must express my surprise at all the journalist tributes today for Katie Cotton, who suddenly left Apple. One post offers little praise. Over at Valleywag, Sam Biddle calls her the “queen of evil PR“. To me, she is Apple’s wicked witch of public relations. Did someone drop a house on Cotton, because the departure seems so sudden?
Putting context around the praise, “what no one will admit is that we were all afraid of her”, Sam writes. “Even at the end of Cotton’s reign, journalists are still in such a state of terror and awe they don’t dare speak openly about her reign of silence and smokescreen”.
Overnight, I came out against my colleague’s story “New Mozilla CEO is allegedly anti-gay marriage—Firefox developers boycott” . Had I been editor on duty, the story wouldn’t have run, not because of the topic but the sourcing. However, response to the post—820 comments as I write—raises an interesting quandary about the cultural clash between old and new media.
Reader response is explosive, and comments are much more interesting reading than the story (no offense to buddy Brian Fagioli). Commenters largely fall into two opposing camps—those complaining about societal constraints on free speech and others disgusted by Mozilla’s CEO being allegedly anti-gay marriage. The polarized ends, and even some discussion between them, is fascinating snapshot about freedom, community, and human rights—one person’s personal versus those of the larger group.
Over the weekend, during our online chat, someone boasted about another writer taking top placement on Google News. “Once you start looking for Google News ranking you’ve lost your way”, I responded. “I never look. I don’t even look there for stories to read”. It’s true. Nearly three months into the year, I haven’t visited Google News even once.
As a resource for readers, the site can be useful. For writers, Google News is bad news. I know way too many bloggers or journalists who obsesses about placement there too much. They write stories and carefully craft headlines to get lift, knowing that top placement can bring tens of thousands pageviews in just a few hours.