Andrew Haeg (andrewhaeg) Sat 5 Feb 11 01:15
Building off Tony's thoughts regarding the Big Sort (and Kevin's re: audience engagement), the reason "audience engagement" excites me so, poorly defined as it often is, is that it has the potential to combat online balkanization. We make a point of asking sources in the Public Insight Network (www.publicinsightnetwork.org) for knowledge and expertise, not opinion. Expertise is non-partisan--I either know how to fix a car, or I don't. When you ask people for their knowledge, and you ask them in a way that feels relevant and genuine, they frequently jump at the opportunity, setting down any political/tribal totems they carry around with them. It's like what Tiffany says about people helping people. We don't stop and think "hey, does this person share my political beliefs" when someone is in need of some help. I see people from across the political spectrum acting on this almost inexplicable urge we have to help one another, and it gives me a lot of hope. The difficulty is that, working in public broadcasting, it can be difficult to connect with folks on the right. To many, we are the embodiment of liberal media. To Tony's question about exciting new approaches: We're going to be starting some research soon looking at the Twitter "interest graph" to visualize what the Big Sort looks like online, and more importantly, how we might ensure our message makes it to the "other side."
Thinking tools. What skill? What application? (robertflink) Sat 5 Feb 11 04:27
I like the candor of the discussion. As well as bias, could the participants discuss the structure of thinking, what some call paradigm? One I find problematic is this referring to different "communities" as if all entertainers or businesspeople or gays or people of one skin color or journalists(?) etc. have the same sentiments, view, complaints, etc.. Is there a journalist "paradigm" to viewing the world? To thinking of the reader?
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Sat 5 Feb 11 16:43
Our journalist ancestors would find curious the current debate on bias, objectivity, and balance. The early years of print media in the American colonies (I'm not qualified to speak about other continents) and the young United States saw nothing but partisan ink-slinging cage fights among newspapers and magazines. Newspapers were called "The Arkansas Democrat," "The Hackensack Republican," and so on. People like Horace Greeley and William Randolph Hearst started newspapers to espouse specific political and moral viewpoints. The concept of journalistic impartiality didn't really emerge until the 20th century. I suspect that what we are experiencing today with the new medium of digital journalism is actually a predictable evolutionary stage. New publications flourish, and try to out-shout the opposition, just as Abe Lincoln hired leather-lunged mercenaries to populate the galleries at the 1860 Republican convention to bellow louder in his favor and shout down his rivals. Media outlets today try to out-shout the opposing points of view. Eventually the pendulum will swing back toward fairness and balance. Not soon enough for some of us, to be sure, but probably much faster than the decades it took in the 19th century. Technology may play a role. Tony pointed to Fabrice Florin's NewsTrust as one example. The greater problem, in my view, is that the public has forgotten (or, especially in the case of younger citizens, never learned) the skills of critical thinking about media. And it's hard to persuade teachers and parents to add critical thinking to a grade-school or secondary-school curriculum when the immediate challenge is that kids don't read. So, here we are. Just as the sudden proliferation of newspapers and magazines led to an almost immediate "balkanization" of viewpoints -- the adoption of "magazine" as a term to describe the new kind of publication was deliberate, referring to a storehouse of ammunition -- this profusion of exotic new types of digital media has triggered a new era of partisanship. People can easily find news sources that encourage and reinforce their viewpoints. I hope we don't have to go through another civil war to bring objective news reporting back into favor.
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Sun 6 Feb 11 21:56
R.I.P. The Huffington Post.... __________________________________ Technology Alert from The Wall Street Journal: "AOL disclosed plans to acquire online news website The Huffington Post for $315 million, as part of AOL's attempt to turn its business around with a strategy of becoming a top producer of news, entertainment and other digital content. Huffington Post Co-Founder Arianna Huffington will run a new group within AOL responsible for integrating content between the two companies."
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Sun 6 Feb 11 22:52
In response to robertflink, who asked "Is there a journalist paradigm to viewing the world? To thinking of the reader?" First you have to ask, What is a journalist? There are tens of thousands of them, maybe hundreds of thousands, but no two share the same package of thoughts, intelligence, readership, skin color, politics, gender, sexual orientation, ability to drink whiskey, news judgment, etc. I used to work in the same building with journalists from People magazine and Real Simple and Fortune, and we had similar cubicles and complaints and responsibilities but very little else in common. So yeah, we were a community of individuals sharing a common paradigm. Similarly, the audiences for Real Simple and People and FORTUNE can be lumped in the community of "magazine readers," but beyond that it's tough to find commonalities. At the New York Times, the chief political writer and the wine critic and the science editor are all technically writing for the same audience, but ask them what audience that is and you'll get three different answers. Is Matt Drudge a journalist? Is Roger Ebert? Is Arianna Huffington? Is Julian Assange? How about the blogger who lives next door to you? (We're going to have to address this question sooner rather than later, when folks like Assange and your local blogger are tossed in the clink and ordered to divulge their sources.) Julian Assange's worldview and Rupert Murdoch's worldview are worlds apart, but one could argue both are journalists. Me, I always write for a specific audience: My 92-year-old father. Smart guy, curious, educated, no patience for fuzzy or frilly writing. He's a Republican, a World War II war hero, drives a Buick, subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, and loves his Kindle e-reader. I'm a liberal, a Vietnam draft-dodger, drive a Honda, wrote for the New York Times, and prefer hardcover books. When I write newspaper stories, I pretend that I'm writing him a letter. Happily, that writing style seems to appeal to a broader community. Whatever that is.
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 7 Feb 11 01:52
That sounds like the advice the great John Burks gave me ages ago at Rolling Stone, where I was a 21-year-old kid with no journalism background at all: "You just found something out and you want to tell your friends about it, but you don't want to answer a whole lot of questions afterwards, so you make sure you tell it in order, and real tight."
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 7 Feb 11 06:25
Most of us who studied to be journalists were taught consistent bits about how to structure and tell a story. We learned about inverted pyramids and who-what-when-where-how, about the problem of burying the lede, about economy of writing, and about an ethic that pertains to the profession. So we share something that might feed into our world view, but then we're shaped by all sorts of other experiences that can take us down this or that rabbit hole. I personally had a mission to find and tell the truth, and felt that the practice of journalism didn't cut it. I left ostensibly to create literature, and found myself doing all sorts of things that didn't always include writing. Back then, I wouldn't have known the truth if it bit me on the ass, but I thought it was important. Today I have a more nuanced view; I don't expect the truth from journalism. I expect a perspective which, when combined with other perspectives, will help me build a world view. And that will be my perspecive... and there may be glimpses of something like the "truth" I was looking for 40 years ago. But I'm lucky if I can be merely accurate. Over years of being close to many stories covered by journalists, I never saw one account that fit what I thought I had seen myself. There were errors, misrepresentations, misinterpretations. A reporter who has limited time and access likely won't get a story exactly right. What I like about the web is that it facilitates the public exposure of many perspectives, and through that exposure you can hope to get a sense what's happening in the world. In putting together talks about media and the Internet, I've given a lot of thought to the evolution of communication. For most of us, our expectations of media are conditioned by a deeply rooted experience of mass media as we were growing up. For us, journalism was few to many - channels were scarce and could carry only a few writers and perspectives. Before mass media, I think we were more intimately conversational and knew far less of the world. Post-broadcast, in the Internet era, we're conversational again, but we also have an abundance of channels and information. This is pretty new, and I'm not clear where it's going, but (to the point about Daily) I don't think we're going back. One other point... I love Tiffany's post, but it reminds me of an interesting and important point about Facebook. Only a fraction of our Facebook friends are likely to see what we post there, because the default activity stream is fed selectively based on some Facebook algorithm that tries to determine what we would really find interesting. So your audience is probably not as broad as you think it is. I haven't found an analysis of this algorithm, but I suspect it's another aspect of "the big sort" - we're shown things we would probably like and agree with. I like to look at the raw feed, which is full of gems I would otherwise miss. I wish there was some way to set it as the default.
The road paved with good intentions? (robertflink) Mon 7 Feb 11 08:42
I like the "what works" pragmatism of some of the posts. Does idealism have much of a role in mature journalism? I ask the question from a considerable amount of skepticism as to the historical benefit as compared to the costs of group actions purported to be motivated by idealism.
Kevin Anderson (kevinanderson) Mon 7 Feb 11 09:49
I have to agree with Peter when he said: "The greater problem, in my view, is that the public has forgotten (or, especially in the case of younger citizens, never learned) the skills of critical thinking about media." I worry about this a lot. In the UK, there is a lot of talk about the need for media literacy, but while Dan Gillmor is talking about it in his new book, Mediactive, which you can download here: http://www.e-booksdirectory.com/details.php?ebook=5458 Is there any similar discussion in the US? I can't see media literacy getting a lot of traction in the US. To me media literacy is as uncontroversial as civics, it's part of what one needs to be a member of a healthy democractic (small d) society. My gut tells me that any talk of adding media literacy to a high school civics course would become a political football. OK, it's 20 past 11 here in Mumbai. I'll try to catch up with conversation a bit more tomorrow.
those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 7 Feb 11 10:00
I'm just paranoid enough to think that civics courses are mostly non- existant, and what's left is boring as hell for a reason. I don't think the money wants a population that can think critically or figure out how to work the government.
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 7 Feb 11 10:28
I get the feeling that if you offered a course like that at a US highschool, you'd get accusations of "liberal agenda" immediately. Take an educational backwater like Texas: teach media literacy? Are you kidding? There's a larger problem to overcome here, and I'm not at all optimistic.
Tiffany Lee Brown (magdalen) Mon 7 Feb 11 12:09
> So your audience is probably not as broad as you think it is. jon, that was an interesting take on what i wrote. i wasn't talking about my audience. i was talking about being an audience member to other people's experiences, on facebook -- which is similar to what you're talking about in terms of gaining multiple perspectives on an event or issue thanks to multiple venues of coverage on the web. speaking of multiple perspectives, do y'all have ideas about how the internet and the future of journalism might affect the dissemination of work that comes from women, people of color, and others whose particular voices are often left out of mainstream journalism or at least underrepresented? are all our panelists and moderator here white het males, or are we hearing from others as well?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 7 Feb 11 22:56
I get it. I do wish there was some way to know how that default view is sliced. It's a little disconcerting to realize that you're not seeing everything your friends post, and that they're not necessarily seeing all (or perhaps any) of your stuff. The default stream tends to show me the same people much of the time, but I have a much larger circle, and by exploring the raw feed I can see that I'm missing posts I would really like to see. Are those conversations a subset of journalism? I recall that the WELL won some kind of journalism award in the past, or maybe several - when I heard that I realized the connection. Here and in other communities and online systems for conversation, the participants are digging deeply into news and information - deep coverage. The panelists here are white males. We sounded the call in a larger group that's more diverse but none of the nonwhite/nonmale members volunteered. This could be a much larger conversation. It'd be cool to have some of the bloggers from Global Voices here, for instance, so that we're more diverse and also not completely US-centric. As far as being left out of mainstream journalism is concerned... I'm not sure to what extent there's a relevant mainstream. Mindshare is quite fragmented... there are so many potential channels for information and opinion. The big question for me, mentioned earlier, is whether people are retreating into echo chambers, hearing only from people that share their perspectives and opinions.
John Henry, the (steeldrv) Tue 8 Feb 11 10:27
The sheer size of the amount of information available makes it impossible to see everything you want to see, Jon. The well is a very small subset of all the verbiage available on the net, but there would be no way I could read everything I really am interested in even in that small subset. I do have interests that I try to concentrate on, but even in those areas there is no way I could read everything available, much less digest it. I guess we just do the best we can with what we get.
Fel (fom) Tue 8 Feb 11 12:59
<scribbled by fom Tue 8 Feb 11 13:00>
(fom) Tue 8 Feb 11 13:00
Jon, you can make a facebook "list" (of all your friends, or a subset) and then get the feed from that. It requires a couple of extra clicks each time you log in, that's all. Then you don't miss anyone's updates.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 8 Feb 11 17:07
<fom>, thanks. I was aware of that, but I use the extra click to get the raw feed instead, and that's always very interesting. My bigger concern has been that Facebook users have the expectation that they're sharing with their friends, and many don't understand that they're sharing with some subset of their friends, that conversations are exposed selectively. I'm wondering whether this is topic drift? To what extent is social media relevant to journalism? And to what extent, if any, does it cannibalize and potentially undermine journalism?
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Tue 8 Feb 11 18:30
Jon, remember the old days when we would subscribe to a printed newspaper? Whether we knew it or not, we subscribed because we trusted a group of anonymous white guys to decide the most important news of the day, or what would be most interesting to us, and package it all for us in one publication. Some days there were a lot of articles that matched our interest, and some days not. Judging from the steady decline of newspaper circulation (not to mention the steady decline of newspapers themselves), I'd guess they missed more often than not. Now come social media, where I create communities of friends who share my interests. It may be friends (Facebook), professional contacts (LinkedIn) or people who are thought-leaders on topics that matter to me (Twitter). Through the magic of linking, they point to things that they find important or interesting. Instead of the anonymous old white guys sitting around a conference table deciding what I need to know, the selections are made by people I know (sort of) and respect (mostly) and who know what news is important in the areas of my interest. Instead of one voice (the New York Times, or the Austin American-Statesman), I now hear a larger variety of voices, ranging from professional reporters to bloggers, and from YouTube to fascinating mashups and data visualizations. And while not all the links are on target, I'm rarely disappointed. And the serendipity factor that was missing in Web 1.0 is restored. So those are some of the reasons why I think social media are relevant to journalism.
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Tue 8 Feb 11 18:42
As for too much information ... a couple of years ago I was covering a classic automobile race through the Andes for Outside magazine. One of the drivers was in a 1916 Vauxhall, or something exotic like that. Open cockpit. Gear shift on the side of the car. No heater, much less seat-warmers. A windshield (windscreen for you Vauxhall fanciers) not much bigger, and just as effective, as the head of a badminton racquet. By the time we crossed from Argentina to Chile it was sleeting and snowing. The poor guy had icicles hanging from his eyebrows. Terrible weather for driving, I said. "Certainly not!" he bellowed. "No such thing as bad weather. Only inappropriate clothing." Too much information? Certainly not! No such thing. Only inadequate filtering.
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Tue 8 Feb 11 19:00
By the way, a very jolly good piece about social media from a journalist, in this case Babbage of The Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/02/social_networking And now, back to social NOTworking.
(fom) Tue 8 Feb 11 19:18
jon, you posted: >It's a little disconcerting to realize that you're not seeing everything your friends post And I posted a suggestion of how to see exactly the posts of people whose posts you want to see. Now you say you were aware of that but prefer not to do it! <fom>, thanks. I was aware of that, but I use the extra click to get the raw feed instead, and that's always very interesting. So, OK, whatever, excuse me for not realizing that "disconcerting to realize that you're not seeing everything your friends post" meant that everything was just fine. If you prefer to see the limited subset of your friends, why complain about it here? No need to answer, that's a rhetorical question.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 9 Feb 11 06:55
<fom>: Apologies, I appear to have been unclear. what came across as a personal complaint about Facebook was really meant as an observation and concern about a common misunderstanding about Facebook's activity stream. I give a lot of talks about the Internet and social media, and when this comes up, invariably members of the audience are surprised to hear that the default activity stream in Facebook is selected by an algorithm. While you and I might be clear about how to find the raw feed (my preference) or create a feed from a list (as you suggested), anecdotal evidence suggests that most users accept the default and assume they're seeing everything their friends post, and that their friends are seeing everything they post - they don't grok the difference between "top news" and "most recent." When they learn that "top news" is selected for them, my observation has been that they find it disconcerting. And I was saying that it I wished I knew exactly how the algorithm works. Facebook doesn't say (I suppose it's a "secret sauce"). However, The Daily Beast studied it, and posted their conclusions here: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-facebook-decides-what-to-put-in-your-news-f eed--these-10-secrets-reveal-all-2010-10
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 9 Feb 11 07:05
Pete, you make some great points about social media - and they raise some questions for me. You note how we're getting news from each other. Often others are just filtering sources, passing on links they've found, possibly adding context in comments about the links. Giving you their particular perspective or spin on things. How do we identify authoritative sources? How, in this complexity of voices and visions, do we sort facts from misinterpretations, truth from lie, observation from opinion? How many people, for instance, are structuring their world view around persistent partisan astroturf campaigns?
Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Wed 9 Feb 11 07:26
Would the panel please comment on the calls from Steve Coll, Bob McChesney, John Nichols, and others for more public support for political journalism? McChesney and Nichols have pointed out that such support (usually in the form of free delivery through the US Postal Service) was a staple in the nineteenth century. In today's dollars, that subsidy would amount to some $30 billion, whereas we now spend about $420 million on public broadcasting. Coll has argued that spectrum user fees could fund these public efforts now. Having written about Ramparts and The Nation, I'm aware that there's no "business model" (i.e., advertising base) for that kind of political journalism. But many have come to regard it as a kind of public good, like defense, infrastructure, law enforcement, etc. Evidently, so did the nation's founders.
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 9 Feb 11 08:07
Good point. And also worth noting that it's not just the Internet that killed magazines: rising paper prices and a revision of the Second Class mailing permit engineered by Murdoch and Time, Inc. did nearly as much.
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