Scott Pelley preaches to the choir

Scott Pelley brings up some really good points, and I find myself, for the most part, agreeing with him. Specifically he says “never before has more information been available to people,” but on the other hand, “never before has more bad information been available to people.”

I think that statement sums up everything we’ve learned in class this semester. There’s an unlimited amount of information online because anyone can be a publisher…but no one takes the time to be an editor. Pelley names various social media sites, claiming they are not an example of journalism, but rather gossip. I think that’s so true.

Too often I’ll be scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook and see some stupid political meme that some uneducated bumpkin posts. Something like “Obama’s a Muslim” or “Syrian Refugees are Members of ISIS,” and I’ll freak out. People see things on the internet, and they just take them as fact without asking any relevant questions.

That’s a really scary practice for the general public to partake in, and it’s on us as journalists to verify the things we post on the internet, or we’re no better than the trolls and meme sharers.

I think Pelley’s pointing out how ridiculous it is for every media outlet to strive to be first is really useful. Professional journalism is all about being right, not about being first. We need to hold ourselves accountable for providing accurate information to our audience. Otherwise, there’s nothing separating professional publishers from amateurs.

Teens, Facebook and the “coolness” scale

According to an article by David Cohen in the Social Times, teens don’t think Facebook is cool anymore…but that doesn’t stop them from using it.

A study by Forrester Research concluded that just 65 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 find the social media site to be “hip,” “rad,” “groovy,” or as Miles Davis might say, “cool.”



However, the study also found that 60 percent of those trendy teens admit to using Facebook as their primary social network.

Another 78 percent of those surveyed said they use Facebook as a way to stay in touch with friends, trailing only snapchat and Instagram.

These kids today. What a bunch of entitled punks.

Facebook’s not cool? I’ll tell you what’s not cool. Dial up internet. That was never cool. Try loading a Myspace page that has too much content on it – then tell me Facebook’s not cool.

The only reason Facebook isn’t “cool” anymore is because my grandma has one, so she can discern more from my social life than I can (yes, most  pictures are from bars, grandma, but that’s the only place people think to take pictures these days… but that’s a separate rant for a separate time).

All I’m saying is, when I was their age, an “Instagram” was a quick measurement.

Here’s a link to David Cohen’s original article.

Manipulating media: how unjustified police shootings go unreported

In an article published by Poynter, James Warren details how the media “blew” reporting the unjustified shooting of a black teen by a Chicago police officer.

Last week, authorities released dash cam footage of an officer firing 16 rounds into Laquan McDonald, a black teen who appeared to be walking away from police. The video has sparked outrage and prompted an unusual first degree murder charge against the officer involved.

The release of the footage, however, was not the result of good watchdog journalism by mainstream media outlets. In fact, the shooting happened last year, and the mainstream media didn’t give the story much attention. The most important coverage of the shooting was done by freelance writer Jamie Kalven.

Freelance writer Jamie Kalven

Freelance writer Jamie Kalven

So how did mainstream media miss one of the year’s most important stories? Well, as we already know, the industry isn’t what it used to be, so media producers can’t report every police shooting in detail. What happens instead is this guy, Pat Camden, who was the spokesperson for the city’s police union at the time, becomes reporters’ first contact for shootings. He’s the guy who shapes media coverage of shootings.

In the McDonald shooting, he laid out a bogus narrative. He said the shooting was a “clear cut case of self-defense.” You can watch the video below to decide for yourself if the shooting was conducted in “self-defense.” Warning: The video contains disturbing content.

This happens over and over again with police shootings in Chicago. Someone gets killed by police, Camden assures the media it was justified, then silence. No one questions it.

I think this story is incredibly relevant for our class. First of all, I think it’s really sad that mainstream media missed out on a huge opportunity to play watchdog. That’s the media’s job, and they can’t miss out on abusive conduct – especially a teen getting shot 16 times while walking away.

Second, how interesting is it that a freelance writer like Kalven was able to blow the lid off this? We’ve talked about how expensive investigative journalism is, and here we have an example of a guy doing it all by himself. I think that’s pretty amazing.

Here’s a link to James Warren’s article.

Take me to your moderator

In an article published by Poynter, Benjamin Mullin reports that the New York Times will begin using an algorithm to moderate most of its comments.

The new algorithm will allow the Times to be more automated with its commenting system, differing from the previous system that placed an emphasis on the site’s verified users. The change will also make the Times less dependent on human moderators.

The Time’s Public Editor Margaret Sullivan says the change will allow more readers to comment on stories.


Margaret Sullivan NYT Public Editor

“No longer will human beings need to moderate every comment that is not verified,” Sullivan said. “Many comments – especially those written by longtime, proven commenters – will be posted without the wait for a moderator to approve them. The change also means that up to twice the number of articles — currently 23 per day — will be open for comments.”

Human moderators won’t be taken completely out of the picture, however. Times staffers will still moderate comments on the most popular stories, according to Sullivan.

This is a big move for the New York Times, and I think it’d be a good discussion to bring up in class.

First of all, do media outlets have a responsibility to moderate comments in the first place? Freedom of speech is a pretty big deal, and it ought to stay that way. However, if a prestigious news site like the Times has people posting hateful, disparaging, racist or sexist comments, do they have a right to censor that speech?

It’s interesting to me that they’re choosing to switch to an algorithm to moderate the comments as well. I wonder if a few more journalists are going to lose their jobs at the hand of new technology. If that’s the case, the bleak outlook for journalists isn’t getting any brighter.

Read the original article here.

When in doubt, blast the media

In an editorial for the New York Times, Timothy Egan offers his commentary on what is seeming to be a battle against the press in 2015.

As an example of these harsh sentiments against the press, Egan writes about Melissa Click, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, who was captured on video harassing a student reporter who was trying to cover race demonstrations at the university.

Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan

Egan says this example illustrates an absurd trend in contemporary society – that being the diminishment of a “healthy, professionally trained free-press.” Lately, the press has been taking shots from both the left and right, and why shouldn’t they? The press is beaten down.

“More than 20,000 newsroom jobs have been lost since 2001,” Eagan writes. “The mean salary of reporters in 2013 was $44,360; journalists now earn less than the national average for all United States workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

The real money in journalism is for people like Rush Limbaugh who can spew partisan opinions out into the public sphere and label them as facts. It’s a really scary time for journalism.

I think this is relevant to our class and to current events. Wait until this election really starts rolling. The strategy is going to be blaming the press for everything. Did you happen to catch how Ted Cruz moved up in the polls? He didn’t answer any tough policy questions – he attacked the press, and republican voters ate it up.

Uneducated people only want news that caters to their opinions. How can we fix that? Or should we even try to? We could just give the people what they want. Is that a viable strategy?

Here’s a link to Egan’s original editorial.

Internet plus journalism: love hate relationship

In the article “Does the internet make journalism better or worse? Actually, both,” Mathew Ingram gives two examples of times when citizen journalism has been effective in recent events. The first, he says, is a project being conducted by a British investigative blogger named Eliot Higgins. His team has been able to document the movements of Russian troops in the Ukraine. They’re getting evidence that Russia has been bombing some places in the Ukraine, though Russia claims they haven’t.

Eliot Higgins, a British citizen journalist and blogger

Eliot Higgins, a British citizen journalist and blogger

The second example, he writes, is from the New York Times magazine. It’s an online article that tells the story of a group of people living in one of the worst slums in Rio de Janeiro.  The group documents police violence with only cellphones.

Ingram then goes on to point out times when the internet makes journalism worse, specifically noting that “news websites dedicate far more time and resources to propagating questionable and often false claims than they do working to verify and/or debunk viral content and online rumors.”

I thought this was an interesting article, and it applies to some of the things we’ve been talking about in class. Whenever we talk about online journalism, there’s good things and bad things. This article makes that claim and backs it up with specific examples. I think citizen journalism has a future online, and the example of Eliot Higgins keeping tabs on the Russian troops is a pretty cool example of a time when it has been effective.

Here is a link to the original article.

Trump v. GOP debate turns GOP v. CNBC debate

Al Tompkins wrote an incredibly in depth analysis of the GOP debate this week that was published by Poynter. While focus on the actual republican candidates has been turned to CNBC’s coverage of the debate, Tompkins provides readers with both an analysis of the candidates and CNBC’s coverage.

First, Tompkins points out that NBC’s moderators did indeed ask some ridiculous questions of the candidates. For example, he cites the first question asked in the debate: “What’s your biggest weakness and how are you willing to address it?” Tompkins rightfully asserts that it’s a “silly” question that won’t provide any “insight” into the candidates’ policies.

Tompkins also summarized the question (about raising the national debt ceiling) that provoked a media-critical rant that’s most likely going to put Ted Cruz at the top of the polls. Check out the video below to see Cruz’s applause-gaining response.

It wasn’t all CNBC’s fault that the debate was a bit of a frenzy, however, as the Republican candidates certainly used media criticisms to avoid answering tough questions. Tompkins pointed out a question when Donald Trump was grilled about a quote in which he called Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerberg’s personal senator.” Trump claimed that he didn’t says that, blamed the media for “bad fact-checking” and the mediator apologized. However, Trump most certainly did say that, but instead of owning up to it, just hid behind the “bad media” excuse.

As Tompkins points out in his analysis, there were mistakes made from both CNBC and the GOP candidates in the debate. Debates should be between candidates, not between mediators and candidates.

Check out Tompkins’s analysis here.

Associated Press accidentaly links pirate cat to John Brennan email story

Benjamin Mullin reported, in an article published by Poynter earlier this week, that the Associated Press accidentally linked a video of a cat in a pirate costume to a story about CIA Director John Brennan’s personal email account.

The link brought readers to Tyrese Gibson’s Facebook page where he had shared the video of the ferocious feline. Check out the video of Cap’n kitty cat below.

The AP caught the blunder quickly, and they issued a correction to the link.

Personally, I like the cat link better, but maybe that’s just me.

Aside from being hilarious, this story is incredibly relevant to our class. It shows how just a little bit of carelessness in multimedia journalism can result in a huge mistake – albeit an awesome one.

The story also uses embedded links like we’re using for our Storify assignment this week. If you’re wondering what that looks like, check out the link to the original story here.