News Literacy 2018

Jay Rosen’s NYU School of Journalism’s News Literacy Project is an amazing service to all of us. The links and their analyses give us environmental scans and some helpful dives.

As advertising revenue continues to decline, newsrooms are aggressively developing different or additional revenue streams, from reader-supported initiatives to philanthropic donations. They want to capitalize on a spike in digital subscriptions by cultivating other creative ways to turn more consumers into paying customers. News organizations are also harnessing the power of mobile devices and capturing audiences on smartphones and smart speakers. New tools promise to engage users more deeply and to build trust in a time of “fake news” by measuring the real-world impacts of journalism. While foundations fund significant reporting projects, nonprofit outlets are learning to avoid an overreliance on charity, and newsrooms have discovered the benefits of aligning various revenue streams with their missions. In the pursuit of standout products, more journalists express an openness to exploring emerging technologies. Among the innovations to watch are augmented reality, automated fact-checking, and blockchain-based funding models.

Update

The Atlantic has fired Kevin Williamson.

Odd, though, that the publisher cited workplace-environment concerns as the impetus rather than the “especially violent belief” itself:

The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of what his especially violent belief could mean for workplace relationships with female colleagues who may or may not have had an abortion.

The New York Times – subscription cancelled

Very few times in my life have I not believed my eyes. And the news on these occasions was never good.

This morning I had such an experience, reading a column in the New York Times by Bret Stephens, who was defending the indefensible hire of writer Kevin Williamson by the Atlantic Monthly. In 2014 Williamson tweeted that women in America who have had abortions and the doctors who performed them should be hanged. William has never retracted that statement; indeed, he has endorsed it repeatedly.

On this topic, Stephens wrote:

Shouldn’t great prose and independent judgment count for something? Not according to your critics. We live in the age of guilt by pull-quote, abetted by a combination of lazy journalism, gullible readership, missing context, and technologies that make our every ill-considered utterance instantly accessible and utterly indelible. I jumped at your abortion comment, but for heaven’s sake, it was a tweet. When you write a whole book on the need to execute the tens of millions of American women who’ve had abortions, then I’ll worry.

“Then I’ll worry.”

I have been reading the Times for about fifty years. When I was young, after church my family would drive to the local drugstore to pick up the Sunday New York Times. My Mom had a copy reserved for her there. Once we got home, we dove into it. I made sure that I did not rush to pick up sections my Mom wanted first: Arts and Leisure and the Sunday Book Review; also let alone was the Week in Review section, which my Dad grabbed right away. The entire paper came my way eventually, though, and I spent hours reading it, practically cover to cover if I had time. Very happy memories.

Anybody who has seen my library – indeed, who has been (un)lucky enough to get into a debate with me – knows that I spend a lot of time reading material that galls, bugs, or even angers me. This is necessary mental and intellectual hygiene. And it is how I hug the world.

Not to have unsubscribed from the Times this morning, though, would have made me … an accomplice.

News Literacy 2017 – a guide

With several of his graduate students NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen has just published the second annual “What’s Changing in Journalism” guide, which “depicts trends that are influencing the business now, and are still new enough that even experienced journalists may not understand what’s going on. Each development gets its own page, with a concise summary, links to learn more, key people to follow: everything you need to get up to speed.”

This is marvelous and helpful work. The trends:

Under the principle “go where the people are,” newsrooms are now making stories and features that are fully native to social platforms.ONE This is easier in the case of chatbots,TWO harder when it comes to audio,THREE which is just starting to adapt to the social media age. To reach people directly — without platforms in the middle —journalists are doing more with mobile push notificationsFOUR and reviving the email newsletter.FIVE Meanwhile, artificial intelligenceSIX is becoming part of the work flow, as new forms of storytelling emerge, like drone journalism,SEVENvirtual reality and 360° video.EIGHT With technologies and platforms proliferating, news companies have to get much better at UX designNINE and make subtler use of metrics,TEN since many of the traditional measures no longer apply. And with the discovery that people will pay for news, it’s time to get smarter about membership models.ELEVEN

I’ve folded a recent post re Jay Rosen’s work into this one. The two are closely related, obviously, political concerns being implicit in the first and explicit in the second –>

My first mentor keeps a list of things in journalism that worry him the most. His first three (“ranked by urgency”):

1. The President of the United States is proceeding as though he were liberated from the distinction between true and false. His spokespeople are following on this dubious lead. What does the press do in response?

2. It’s possible we are sliding toward authoritarian rule. That’s a development journalists ought to oppose with all their might. But they are reluctant to think that way. They don’t want to be on the opposing team— or anyone’s team. They just want to report the news. “We’re not the opposition,” they say. Yet they may have no choice. From what traditions can they draw to rise to the occasion, and find the will to fight?

3. With Trump in power there is a surplus of eventfulness, too many things to report, track, investigate, critique. Too much news! How does the press keep from exhausting itself and fracturing our attention into too many pieces?

First Draft News

FirstDraftNews

FirstDraftNews.com is a beautiful and wide-ranging resource created for journalists “who source and report stories from social media.”

What is the best way to search for eyewitness media when a story breaks? What are the most efficient and effective ways to verify what you find? How should you approach and credit social sources? What role can you play in stopping the spread of rumours and hoaxes? How can you do all this while remaining commercially competitive? …

Here on First Draft News you will find relevant features, reviews, case studies and analysis authored by members of the First Draft Coalition alongside a library of free training resources for use in the newsroom and the classroom.

First Draft is also, I have found, a godsend to non-journalists who write and teach professionally and who need to navigate and fact-check enormous amounts of information in order to do their jobs at a high level. The site has sections devoted to News Gathering (Mastering Google Search to find eyewitness media and How to find geolocated videos on YouTube, for example), Verification (How to use TinEye to find the oldest version of an image online), and Ethics and Law (What are the legal implications for accidental copyright infringement? and A simple guide to the complexities of copyright law). The site also focuses on Fakes and Hoaxes (Lessons from The New York Times Super Tuesday hoax: Five ways to spot fake news and, my favourite, The ‘giant’ rat found in London is almost definitely not 4 feet long).

University educators can create “packs” useful articles and share them with their students and/or colleagues. Even better, in my experience students eat up the kind of online platforms and tools vetted and annotated here; these lessons and resources will not go unused. And finally, First Draft provides a number of detailed and contemporary case studies that make research – and discussion of research methods – vivid and fun.

A handy-dandy starting spot for you: 5 Vital browser plugins. They include Storyful Multisearch (gives you customized and filtered searches of numerous databases at once), Google Translate (provides automatically translated posts originally written in languages you don’t know well), RevEye (performs a reverse image search “to see if the image has appeared elsewhere before”), Distill Web Monitor (“let[s] you know about changes to a web page via a pop-up on your computer, email or SMS”), and Jeffrey’s Exif Viewer (checks “whether a picture is all it claims to be” – “time, date, device used” – by examining its metadata).

Vocativ: News from the deep web

Another new top-of-the-morning visit these days is Vocativ. It’s a news site that reports on stories I often haven’t seen elsewhere. What sets is apart from traditional online reportage is how it finds stories. From the website:vocativ

Vocativ is at the nexus of media and technology. We use deep web technology as a force for good and go where others can’t to reveal hidden voices, emerging trends and surprising data. We turn exclusive insights into visual stories that
offer our audience new perspectives and connect us more deeply to a changing world.

At the heart of Vocativ is our exclusive technology, a place where science meets storytelling. More than 80% of the Internet sits beyond the grasp of Google, in an area called the deep web. Vocativ explores this vast, uncharted space that includes everything from forums, databases, documents, and public records to social platforms, chat rooms, and commerce sites. Our proprietary technology allows us to search and monitor the deep web 24/7 to spot news quickly, detect early signals of online movements, identify key influencers and share meaningful analysis of ongoing events.

This morning I learned how in the United States the daily fantasy sports industry is in trouble. (Note: Your author acquired and published one of the first fantasy-sports books back in the day.)

Vocativ has a refreshingly international focus. Today’s ‘front page’ has stories on Iceland, Greece, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as on the many Central and South American nations.

Follow Vocativ’s very busy twitter feed.

News Literacy 2016

While we’re talking about Jay Rosen, let me introduce you to an initiative he started the other day with some of his graduate students at NYU: NewsLiteracy2016. This is a wonderful project.

Jay’s announcement on his Facebook feed:

One of the first things I teach my students is: “Online, the simplest way to add value is to save the user time.”

That was the principle behind a project we launched today, called NewsLiteracy2016. Each of my 11 graduate students took a key trend or disruptive force that is changing journalism and studied it until they knew it cold. Then they reduced all that knowledge to a series of time-saving features: a short 500 word introduction, a list of the best links for further reading, good people to follow for that topic, key charts and graphs to illustrate trends, a “why is this important?” box.

The cover image (below) is a single paragraph summarizing what’s changing in journalism, and each clause links to the one-page study guide for that topic. So it’s both a condensation, and a table of contents.

We made this especially for teachers and students, and anyone who wants to understand why people keep talking about a “crisis” in journalism. My Studio 20 students built the site and did the design. I hope you will check it out, and “like” this post so it spreads on Facebook, or even consider sharing it with your network. It will save your friends a lot of time!

journalism

Here’s the picture with the links working: As news consumption moves to mobileONE and publishers lose control of distribution,TWO business models have to evolve with changes in the larger ecosystem.THREE Wise media companies are focusing more on products,FOUR exploring how to personalize the flow of information,FIVE and engineering a smarter newsroom workflow.SIXMeanwhile, journalists are realizing that data can help them find better stories,SEVEN and they’re making friends with automation.EIGHTThey understand that users can assist in news production,NINE that if you can’t have scale it’s better to be niche,TEN and that excelling at explanation can interest more people in the news.ELEVEN

Self-revision

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It is hard to edit one’s own work into its final version; you always need a second pair of eyes.

One can, though, review and recast one’s work using intelligent techniques. My former mentor NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen mentions two such techniques in a piece called “We temporarily lost our minds.” Some thoughts on SB Nation’s Daniel Holtzclaw debacle. (Holtzclaw is the “now-notorious Oklahoma City police officer convicted on 18 counts of rape and sexual assault, crimes he committed while on duty and against the people he was supposed to protect.”)

 

The writer and non-fiction master Gay Talese used to describe for anyone who asked how he would pin the typed pages of his articles to a wall, in order to step back and re-read the draft with binoculars. That’s right: binoculars! Why did he do this? Because it was the only way he could think of to examine his creation at the sentence level and as a completed whole: simultaneously. To perfect what he made, he needed distance from, and intimacy with. He felt he couldn’t sacrifice one for the other. If he planted a bomb on page 2, he wanted to see exactly how it went off on page 22, and assess whether that was the right story arc. I mention this because it is one answer to the mystery of how the Vox editors temporarily lost their minds. They didn’t have any equivalent to Gay Talese’s binoculars. They didn’t know what their creation added up to. They couldn’t see it whole.

There are other ways to get distance on a text you are too intimate with. One of them is so simple, so artless, so obvious that I’m convinced it is under-employed because editorial people — who think of themselves as sophisticated manipulators of text — are embarrassed to use something we might recommend to a sixth grader. Read the work aloud, preferably to an “average” or non-specialist listener. Just vocalizing a problematic text brings the problems with it much closer to the surface. There is no way “Who is Daniel Holtzclaw?” could have survived being read aloud to a husband, wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. No one who loves you would have let you publish it on the internet.

Jay’s entire piece is well worth reading. It begins:

On February 17, SB Nation, the founding site in the Vox Media empire, did something so inexplicable it amounts to an editorial mystery.

For about five hours the editors had up on their site a 12,000 word article weirdly sympathetic to Daniel Holtzclaw, the now-notorious Oklahoma City police officer convicted on 18 counts of rape and sexual assault, crimes he committed while on duty and against the people he was supposed to protect. This was a piece of writing so wrongheaded, noxious and ill-conceived that the editorial director of SB Nation, Spencer Hall, said later that day in a note to readers: “There is no qualification: it was a complete failure.”

A true statement. I cannot put it any better than Deadspin’s Greg Howard did:  “The tone of the entire piece is fawning and forgiving; by the end, the terrifying, spectacular spree of rapes exists as little more than an unfortunate occurrence, and a 263-year sentence as an unjustly harsh burden Holtzclaw has to bear. Holtzclaw destroyed 13 women’s lives; ‘Who Is Daniel Holtzclaw?’ told the story of how they destroyed his.”

Photo by Robert Basil

Tracking Online News

Picture 1My new favourite website is NewsDiffs.org, which tracks and archives changes made to online news articles over time. Currently it follows nytimes.com, cnn.com, politico.com, washingtonpost.com, and bbc.co.uk; no Canadian publications yet, alas. Click on the image to see how a New York Times article from today has been revised.

This website can be a wonderful resource for high school and university students in writing classes.