With growing bias and subjectivity in our news, and “fact-checkers” who apparently need fact-checking, it is often difficult for me to watch the news anymore or even see it shared on social media.
Social media is especially painful, because of the growing predilection of corporations and people to categorize and label everyone based on an article or a few words.
Here is an example of something that drives me crazy. A fact-check that says there is “missing context” on a story.
I have friends who span the political spectrum, and I see lots of stories get shared. I would estimate that over 90% of the stories I see shared lack some context or balance in perspective.
Recently, the story of the woman getting arrested at a school football game has been making the rounds with political Conservatives. People describe the event as a woman getting tased and arrested for not wearing a mask while being outdoors and socially distanced from others. In many cases, I see the story is flagged because the “independent fact-checkers” say there is missing context.
So, what context is missing?
The fact-checkers say the woman was arrested for criminal trespass and was not arrested for not wearing a mask. Of course, that gives you the impression that her not wearing the mask was irrelevant and that she did something else to warrant getting arrested.
Well, if you know the story (or read the story provided by the fact-checker), the woman was arrested for criminal trespass because she violated school policy. What was the school policy? She was not wearing a mask on school property.
It appears that on this case – it is actually the alert of “missing context” that is somewhat misleading.
Bias and misinformation are a threat to our intelligence
Though I am often critical of news organizations and news media, I do not think “the media” is the enemy of the people.
Rather, I have come to accept that as technology has expanded our access to information and increased competition for audience and advertising – most media organizations treat headlines as marketing copy (with all media occasionally guilty of resorting to “click-bait headlines,” which is nothing more than a polite term for “false advertising.”).
What’s more, I accept that subjectivity interlaced with reporting improves media profit – therefore – in a competitive marketplace it will only continue to increase.
That does not mean media is the enemy. Journalists, reporters, commentators and entertainers are all essential. It is bias and misinformation that are (and always have been) a threat to us because they influence our perceptions and thoughts. And the quality of our thoughts influence our actions and decisions.
With that said, a question that comes to my mind is, “What is the solution to improve the quality of information we process about the world around us?”
This leads me to comment on the whole scheme of “fact-checking” on Facebook and other social networks. It is poorly designed and implemented, inconsistently applied and largely ineffectual. What could it possibly achieve since the real battle for truth was lost (9 times out of 10) before the story even appeared in social media in the first place?
In fact, as it stands now, the labels of “false story” or “missing context” coupled with complaints of censorship from page owners and bans for violating community guidelines have almost become badges of honor. I see people celebrate the fact that they have been sent to “Facebook Jail.” It has become a source of pride.
How can we improve the quality of information we process about the world around us?
In my opinion, what we really need is news that focuses on the core facts – just the facts – and to allow people to ask questions and draw conclusions based on just the facts.
This is the format for a news story that the media companies I own will follow to improve the quality of information being shared:
- First, a breakdown of a story’s key facts without interpretation or subjectivity. No commentary or unnecessary information.
- Second, a list of sources with links to original reporting so people can compare and contrast reporting.
- Third, a series of quotes from people relevant to the story.
- And finally, a thread for questions and discussion.
In my view, this format accomplishes a few things:
- There should never be a label on social networks or through fact-checking organizations such as “missing context” or “false story” for any news item that follows this format.
- People who want to be informed without bias, and want to learn how to ask better questions, will be drawn to the story that follows this format. A reader will know the core elements and be better able to spot interpretations and opinions.
It is time our country was better informed. This is one approach that could help us improve the quality of the information we receive and help us make better decisions.
While ESPN’s quality in reporting has been in decline, one of the ONLY reasons to “read the articles” was to get to the end and comment on the articles – either to offer insight, trash ESPN, or just go crazy with absurd trade suggestions or just have fun…
I had a bunch of comments that would pull in 60+ responses. Sometimes people would come after you / insult you… other times, people totally had your back. Once I summarized a long ESPN article in two sentences, and people loved it. Other times, I wrote really tough, but totally accurate comments trashing the author (a couple of those actually got deleted – bastards! lol!). A few times, I even saw comments from friends…
It was fun.
Unfortunately, a few days ago, ESPN decided to shut-off ALL Facebook commenting. There is no commenting allowed on ANY ESPN article.
Way to take the fun out of being a reader, ESPN!
More to the point… What makes sports an entertaining topic, and why sports talk radio is so popular, is because anyone can watch a game, follow a team, etc, and chime in. You get to talk about plays you saw, players you like, trades you want, complain about team management, and more. You can celebrate with people you don’t know, and share your frustration and pain when teams lose.
So… Why would a sports media website remove fan engagement?
It’s called: Brain-dead business! It is like talk radio without callers or.. talk… So… Way to go, ESPN. Way to find a new way to suck!
I enjoyed the story from Daniel Craig (not relation to the actor that I am aware of) from the PhillyVoice about how Fox Sports, faced with one of the most appealing NFL games of the day (and the season given its playoff implications), is trying to avoid embarrassment during their pre-game show from the LA Memorial Coliseum.
The show is set at the Coliseum to showcase the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the LA Rams.
However, Fox Sports is worried that LA Rams fans won’t show.
While the Rams have a stronger LA fan-base than say, the LA Chargers (formally the San Diego Chargers), Fox Sports, and undoubtedly the NFL, want to avoid what happened during the Eagles vs. Chargers game in LA earlier in the season, when Philly fans significantly out-numbers Chargers fans.
And they have good reason to be worried.
According to FiveThirtyEight, the Rams are suffering the worst NFL attendance decline in decades.
Their cross-town (if you can call them that) colleagues, the LA Chargers, who had been based in San Diego until this season, also have had problems. They have not been able to fill their temporary stadium, the StubHub Center.
Of course, not filling a stadium is typically not a big deal, as the average NFL stadium seats about 67,000. However, the StubHub Center is a soccer stadium that seats 27,000. Ouch!
Now, while the Chargers were 0-3 heading into the Philly game (a game they narrowly lost by the way), it was incredibly embarrassing for the NFL and the Chargers, because the Philly players felt like it was a home game for them – given the sizable crowd advantage they had.
So, in an effort to avoid a repeat – guess what Fox Sports is trying to do for their pre-game show?
They put out a casting call for LA Rams fans.
Now, Fox Sports has since issued a statement saying they are not looking for actors.
But in their casting call they do specify that people need to “audition” saying: “To audition for a role in the upcoming NFL Sunday pre-game show, check out the casting call breakdown below.”
The casting call specifically states they want people to be LA Rams fans, and wear “your best NFL gear” for the show.
So, maybe not actors pretending to be Rams fans, but it’s clear that Fox Sports, broadcasting from LA, does not want to embarrass either the NFL or the LA Rams by having their pre-game show dominated by Eagles fans.
That Fox Sports feels compelled to advertise for LA Rams fans is pretty pathetic.
One thing is for certain… You don’t need to worry about Patriots fans showing up for a pre-game show ahead of a major game.
People are looking for Medium invites. And I wonder, why?
There was an interesting post in GIGAOM entitled “Of editors and algorithms: Evan Williams on the future of media and Medium’s role in it” a few days ago.
From reading the article, other interviews and checking Medium out, I get the idea that Medium is trying to be a whole bunch of things simultaneously, everything from a blogger platform to an online magazine – with an algorithmic based system that parses through all the content that gets submitted and finds the most relevant or best items for people to consume. There also are editors who serve as gatekeepers to help bring the highest tier of content to the surface.
So, what really is the point of Medium? Don’t we have all of these things already?
What’s more, people today are far more driven by channels and themes. In television, we have cooking networks, trash tv, HGTV, Catholic TV, and the list goes on. The same exists in print and digital media. Or have we forgotten that YouTube brings things like Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager and hundreds of thousands of content creations from all over the world that we would not have normally seen through mass media?
The only way a new content platform can work successfully is if you give a person the ability to filter that content by a channel. That does not seem to exist yet in Medium.
However, even with channels in place, you still end up trying to become all things to all people. Isn’t that why we have network television? Or the Huffington Post?
Unless the content in Medium can somehow be made contextually relevant to what we are doing, where we are, where we are going or even what our mood is at a given moment in time (either because we share such data or its inferred by an activity we are engaged in) – it wont create enough of a habit to generate sustained readership. It will end up being just more noise in a crowded and noisy space.
Are we still amazed that there are advertisers on the radio?
That was a discussion question posted online by a smart, tech-savvy entrepreneur and media expert. And it got me thinking: are we surprised about any place a person or company advertises these days?
So many people used to question the value of advertising online, because it was either overvalued, overpriced or the ROI was non-existent. Now, the traditional forms of media, like radio, are having their value questioned. Interestingly, it is because radio is somewhat cost-effective, undervalued and the ROI is thought to be difficult to determine.
The truth of the matter is, while traditional media still outstrips digital in terms of reach, we cannot even think of advertising in terms of technology or form of media. We actually have to think of media in a more singular tone and realize that by NOT using all techniques together whenever possible we are really limiting the effectiveness of our own efforts.
Today’s technology enhances the effectiveness of all media. And in the years ahead, the expansion of mobile networks and satellite will take what we think of radio today and shatter it completely. Just imagine if you are a small, cable-casted and/or Internet streaming station? And we go from 4G to the next generation in wireless? People will be able to get Internet feeds in their cars. This potential alone connects to advertising in ways that are not realized, but soon will be.
In 5 years, voice recognition, Internet streaming via subscription and the like will enable even the smallest station or lone individual to reach an unlimited audience, deliver targeted marketing message via SMS and wireless (to a car or mobile device – though, cars themselves might be considered the ultimate mobile devices soon), and then track user activity to gauge the effectiveness of such a marketing campaign.
All this brings me back to the original questions.
- 1) Are we still amazed that there advertisers on the radio?
- 2) Are we surprised about any place a person or company advertises these days?
I think the answer is clear: We should not be amazed. Unless, of course, we are talking about newspaper!
It is not news that traditional media has taken some hits over the last few years. Changing demographics, technology and interests have alerted the landscape on not just what people are looking for in terms of news, but also, where they are going to get it.
The latest evening news ratings for the 2009-2010 season only support this shift. Compared to last year (2008-2009 season), “NBC Nightly News,” ABC’s “Word News” and the “CBS Evening News” (yes, CBS still has news) lost a combined 739,000 viewers (over 330,000 were in age group 25-54, leaving 400,000 -25 and +54). That is a pretty staggering number of people who are no longer getting news from one of three traditional networks.
Granted, last year’s data does include coverage of the 2008 presidential election, perhaps one of the most significant moments in recent memory. However, the drop off does demonstrate that traditional networks need to do more to gain competitiveness with other forms of media and captivate audiences.
In places where this data has been released, it is extremely interesting to view the comments threads. A majority of posters believe that network and cable news programs are biased and largely rhetorical. Instead of providing information that is newsworthy or insightful, many believe news channels contain pure commentary. What this means for networks is that unless they specifically align themselves with a doctrine and build around securing a specific demographic, they are going to continue to lose share to other networks and providers.
The alternative to special interest stories, commentary and light news, which is what the traditional networks specialize in today, is to actually change their programming model to include robust news coverage or to stop being considered as a news source altogether. Either approach may seem like utter lunacy to the networks today, but as audience erosion continues and advertising dollars dry-up, the time experiment and make a new model work is now.
In reviewing my Google Alerts today I came across a solicitation from the Xinhua News Agency, China’s state news agency, seeking reporters, editors and marketing personnel for their North American operation. All candidates must be native English speakers, possess a background in journalism or marketing, be an American citizen or foreign national with a US Green Card, be in good health and be able to travel for stories and marketing assignments. Some knowledge of Chinese is preferred.
The Xinhua News Agency in North America is based in New York City, and has nine sub-bureaus in the United States and Canada. The agency has more than 120 bureaus around the world.
By the look of their personnel needs (click here to view the release), Xinhua is expanding the scope of its US news coverage. Though this is not a surprise by any means, given the growth China is experiencing, it comes at a time when many traditional news organizations are cutting the size of their domestic bureaus or eliminating them altogether.
Maryland-based iBiquity, a developer of HD Radio™ technology, had excellent news to report this month. Not only have sales of its HD radio receiver doubled from last year, but Ford announced yesterday that it was adding both iTunes tagging and crystal-clear radio sound through iBiquity’s HD Radio technology as some of the latest features to be available in 2010 on Ford cars.
Over 730,000 HD Radio receivers were sold in 2009, with half a million of those sold through September and another quarter of a million sold in the last couple of months. The sales mean that 1.3 million HD radios have been sold since the technology became available. No details were immediately available on how many receivers would be installed by Ford in 2010.
Ford’s decision is driven by the company’s focus on providing advanced radio technology to consumers. The digital technology provided by iBiquity enables broadcasters to offer near-CD quality sound, without static, fadeout and other problems associated with analog signals. The receivers also display information on the music playing, such as song title and artist. By merging this technology with iTunes Tagging, Ford customers will be able to capture songs they hear on the HD Radio receiver by tagging them and storing them in the radio’s memory. Up to 100 tags can be stored at a time. A person can then sync the radio with their iPod, view the tagged songs and decide if they want to purchase them in iTunes.
In response to the deal, iBiquity COO, Jeff Jury said, “Ford continues to lead the market in bringing advanced capabilities to popular vehicles. We are very pleased that HD Radio technology is an integral part of Ford’s broad offering of new features.”
Nearly 2,000 radio stations in the U.S. currently broadcast in digital HD Radio sound, with more than 1,100 stations also airing HD2/HD3 channels. Approximately 85 percent of the U.S. population is served by a station broadcasting with HD Radio technology.