Speed-induced error, lack of definitive sourcing, problematic context always a risk
The emergence of “journalism-as-process” thinking continues to annoy and confound me. Elsewhere at S&R, my friend and colleague Brian Moritz explains its impact in sports journalism. While I appreciate his take on its application in the LeBron Sweepstakes Story, this “process” continues to impress me too often as mere Twitter bait.
Incrementalism breeds error. And not necessarily a highly visible, dramatic error. Often, it’s the absence of information that breeds error of interpretation and story sequencing. If readers and viewers miss part of the “process,” they may take in the story missing earlier fragments. That leaves them, in effect, erring in understanding the story. So does speed degrade accuracy — beat everyone else to the tweet. One only needs to dig into the history of AP vs. UPI to see that.
Does “process” effectively and rigorously sort out hype and the quest for hits and ratings from substantive facts? In the LeBron story, what facts — yes, real facts — emerged in the “journalism-as-process” approach? It’s a simple story: Will he stay in Miami or will he return to Cleveland? Yet ESPN and sportswriters everywhere milked that simple equation for hundreds of hours of airtime, thousands of tweets, and at least two or three column inches in real print newspapers. (Yeah, that last phrase is sarcasm.) Continue reading →
Did Facebook’s scientific study contribute to user suicides? We’ll never know, but statistics demand that we ask the question.
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:
As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.
As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.
A key element of my expressed outrage is this:
Did you know that you were consenting to have your emotional state manipulated? Continue reading →
I start out an angry bastard on most days, but that’s just before coffee. After that, I actually lighten up and quite enjoy life and laughter. I’m really not the bitter old curmudgeon I tend to unleash when I write. Even much of my political ranting is spent more tongue-in-cheek and facepalming than actually risking a real aneurysm.
The public interest is what the public is interested in, bitches.
Thanks to Facebook, we all see new memes every day. Some of them are funny, some insightful, and a lot are of the preaching to the choir variety, which even though they’re right as rain, they occasionally get tiresome. Like a lot of us, frustrated as hell with the sorry shape of our society and the deteriorating condition of our planet and the sheer hopelessness of mounting an assault against the mountain of cynical, corrupt cash standing between us and a solution, I guess I suffer from bouts of what we’ll call Fact Fatigue. If we’re intelligent, I fear, the truth is too much with us.
Every once in awhile, though, somebody sends one around that’s so on-point you can’t ignore it. Today, for instance, it was my friend Heather Sowards-Valey (she of Fiction 8 fame) sharing this one from Sciencegasm: Continue reading →
Too many news organizations, despite their own policies, grant anonymity far too often, allowing sources with agendas to escape responsibility for what they say.
Two words in a news story should forewarn you that what you read is unlikely to be The Truth.
… anonymity because …
Those two words appear in sentences like these:
From Al Jazeera: The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
From an AP story: … who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
And, just this morning, from an AP story about captured Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala: The officials spoke only on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the Libyan’s whereabouts publicly by name.
Anonymice — what I call sources who will not speak unless journalists allow them to remain nameless (and therefore blameless) — do not and should not inspire trust. The careless use of anonymous sources presents consequences and challenges for journalists and readers and viewers alike. Gratuitous, careless, and amateurish use of anonymice frustrates journalism educators like me, too: It’s a bad habit students often try to imitate. Continue reading →
The best way to honor our fallen heroes is to make sure there aren’t any more of them.
Today I honor our war dead, but I’m mad as hell that our leaders, corrupt and sociopathic as they so often are, have killed so many without cause. I’m enraged that some of these deaths are regarded by our society as less worthy of honor than others. And I’m livid with the certain knowledge that plans are afoot, even as we celebrate this holiday, to send more young men and women off to die in dishonorable, even criminal actions.
Perhaps we will keep this in mind as we enter election season, which will be rife with scoundrels wrapped in flags, scoundrels whose idea of honor and patriotism is sending other people’s children off to die in service to corrupt financial or bigoted religious agendas.
Do you remember where you were on April 1, 1994? I do. I was sitting at a computer in an apartment at the corner of Colorado and Foothills in Boulder, launching this really new thing called a “Web site.” Today there are over 932 million of them (and counting) in the world, but at that point there were maybe 2,000.
It was pretty primitive stuff back then: plain text on a white background with some hyperlinks, and if you wanted to do one you had to know html and a bit of UNIX.
FiveThirtyEight post on disputed climate change story signals commitment to transparency
Yesterday, after reading criticisms of Nate Silver’s revamped FiveThirtyEight, I thought: Denny, find out for yourself. After all, I am, at least historically, a geek. And, I thought, years of reading his New York Times blog showed me Nate is King Geek and FiveThirtyEight at ESPN would, no doubt, reflect that.
So I read “The Messy Truth Behind GDP Data.” Not bad. Classic FiveThirtyEight geeky on an important topic. But, even through so many pundits and politicos base analyses on flawed understandings of GDP, reading the post was akin to watching paint dry. I tried Harry Enten’s story about Hillary and polling. Egads: So. Many. Numbers. Unfamiliar terms. Headache ensues.
Predicting bands a user is going to like isn’t easy. But surely Spotify, Pandora and iTunes can do better than this.
I’m a freak for new music. Always have been. In a given day I’m usually listening to whatever cool stuff I have discovered recently, backtracking and catching up on bands I haven’t listened to lately, and trying to find new artists to fall in love with and suggest to my friends.
Finding new music is a different challenge than it used to be. Once upon a time you could turn on the radio and hear the latest and greatest. It’s been a long time since that worked, though – now radio is the last place you look for cool tuneage. Continue reading →
IABC Communicator of the Year has a pattern of bad behavior. I’m not sure “I’m sorry” is enough.
We all screw up. When we do, it’s our responsibility to acknowledge it and apologize to those our mistake in someway damaged, hurt, disadvantaged or inconvenienced. Hopefully we learn and move on, never repeating the mistake.
But sometimes … sometimes apologies are hard to accept. I’m not just talking about faux-apologies like we heard recently from First Idiot Ted Nugent, either. I’m talking about apparently honest, heartfelt apologies that accept the blame and make no attempt to excuse the bad behavior. Continue reading →
Daily editorials, striving to not piss off anyone, have achieved ‘terminal neutrality’
Who — or what — killed the great American editorial? Wasn’t there a time when great newspaper editorials regularly thundered and whispered, sighed and screamed, were outraged or outraged others?
Paul Greenberg, the editorial-page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner, poses these questions on the website of the Association of Opinion Journalists.
Greenberg calls the forces that murdered the American newspaper editorial “as impersonal and characterless as many of the editorials themselves.” Among them are the goal of not pissing off anyone; “the stultifying editorial conference,” designed to drain life out of editorial positions; and hewing to “the party line or socio-economic fashion.” These forces produced, says Greenberg, “terminal neutrality.”
Although these forces had the daily newspaper editorial on its deathbed by the mid-1980s, Greenberg doesn’t reveal that I — yes, me! (gasp!) — pulled the plug on its life support. Yep, I pounded a few nails into the coffin of the daily newspaper editorial all by myself. Continue reading →
Knowing where you’re going takes all the fun out of getting there…
Mapping Utah by Denny Wilkins (image courtesy deadlines amuse me)
Kara McAllister is lost and she knows it. That’s why she is drawn to a strange Rand- McNally map of the Inter-mountain West that she finds in a Powell’s Bookstore in Portland as she is running away from a failed relationship, a successful career – and herself. How she comes to find a new relationship, a new career, and, ultimately, herself, is the central narrative of Denny Wilkins’ first novel, Mapping Utah.
It’s Kara who is the protagonist of this work. That must be understood before the novel’s achievement reveals itself. There are plenty of antagonists: bad guys who would ruin delicate wilderness areas for their petty amusements, corrupt police and politicians who sell the public trust, bad lovers who see their relationships as conveniences.
But there’s only one Kara. And it’s her deconstruction and reconstruction that drives Wilkins’ novel and makes Mapping Utah more than a ripping good yarn – which it is, by the way.
This is a book with romance, geology, action, botany, suspense, technology, politics, weightlifting. There’s a way in for almost any reader, in other words, no matter how escapist or academic or transactional (think “how to”) his/her tastes might be. Continue reading →
Women – and men – in online dating communities are acting like goddamned sociopaths. This needs to stop.
Okay, not all of you. But some of you. Men, too – I’m guessing this isn’t just women. See if you recognize yourselves below.
On multiple occasions I’ve been talking to women I met through OK Cupid. Things going great, we really seem to be hitting it off, and then we agree to meet. The woman has even been the one asking me out, in fact. I say yes, then … poof. Gone without a trace. Never hear from her again.
This is odd behavior, especially when she just asked me out, right? Am I saying yes wrong? WTF? Continue reading →
Advertising may be evil, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil.
Despite my exposure to what a colleague estimates is nearly 100 million advertising impressions as I approach seven decades of life, I am not taller, I am not more attractive, I am not thinner, and I sure as hell don’t smell much better than I did in the 1950s.
I teach in a journalism school in which more students aspire to be advertising and PR madmen and madwomen than journalists. So I think about advertising often — mostly with disbelief and frequent outrage (the righteous kind, y’know).
The disbelief: I watch an ad in which a pricey luxury sedan maneuvers at night through lanes illuminated by paper lanterns. Continue reading →
There was a time when stringing all your words together made you look ignorant, stupid, or insane. Now it makes you look #tech #savvy.
When the Tech Curmudgeon was young, there was a period where people supposedly “in the know” were claiming that, in German, you could make any word you wanted just by stringing other words together in an endless line of barely pronounceable syllables. Reality was somewhat different, in that yes, you could kinda-sorta-maybe do that every once in a while under special circumstances and if you didn’t know what the hell you were doing and didn’t mind fucking around with someone else’s language as a joke. Basically, yes, it was possible, but it made you sound like an ignorant prick, not a fluent speaker of German – fluent speakers of German didn’t need to fuck around like this to make themselves understood.
These days, however, stringing an endless line of barely pronounceable syllables doesn’t just make you sound like an ignorant prick, it also makes you sound tech and comm savvy. After all, that’s essentially what hashtags are. Continue reading →
The Borg meet the One App in the Facebook app’s latest privacy permissions.
The Tech Curmudgeon has got a Facebook app on his smartphone, probably like nearly everyone else in the English-speaking world. But the Tech Curmudgeon hasn’t updated it to the latest app, and he won’t. In fact, when his current version of the Facebook app stops working, the Tech Curmudgeon will purge the app from his phone entirely rather than update to the next version. And when his phone finally dies and the Tech Curmudgeon has to get a new one, he’ll probably purge the Facebook app from that one too, all because Facebook’s recent update has asked for permissions no one in their right mind would give Facebook. Continue reading →