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Category Archives: Media

Nalaka’s take on responding to ‘fake news’

At a forum on Media and Development in Berlin yesterday, my friend Nalaka Gunewardena (who moderated a discussion) brought on a fresh perspective to the problem. It’s not about the tools per se that we could use to fight Fake News. It’s also about education, alliances and policy reform, .

We must also look for the symptoms in the loss of trust in journalism, he said. The need is to build structures that enhance and nurture quality journalism. In other words, create trustworthy messengers before trying to fix (or block) the pipes through which the messages flow. Plus the need to influence policy and literacy.

This is a lot more nuanced than just clamping down on media platforms or discrediting the sources – reactive steps.

So let’s get pro-active about a problem that didn’t arrive yesterday, and won’t go away soon.

I encourage you to read Nalaka’s post about this.

 

 

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When a speech gets waterlogged.

Pity the speechwriter on the White House payroll. I envision the person banging his or head on the keyboard, every time the boss speaks. The most recent being Trump’s description of relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“The response and recovery effort probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”

Trump’s speechwriter must be probably wondering:

  • Why state the obvious in a tragedy caused mostly by water?
  • Why heap on adjectives such as ‘big’ and ‘ocean’?

“This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean.”

Perhaps he believed that things might have been different had it taken place in a small ocean? Leaves us scratching our heads if it’s possible the real estate mogul knows of some islands surrounded by something other than water? (Blue Gatorade, perhaps?)

Whatever it is, my sympathies go out to Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior speechwriter, who’s probably right now trying to tell the boss to stick to the teleprompter. Or at least run a phrase through a cliché-extracting machine.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Media, Social Media

 

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Algorithms do make mistakes! A teaching moment after Vegas

It’s so easy to assume that ‘algorithms‘ can do no wrong. Did you even use the fancy word prior to ‘Search Engine Optimization’ ?

So Google’s statement that, after the Las Vegas tragedy (and the inaccurate news that ensued via social media) they had to go in and over-ride the algorithm, says volumes.

“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Here’s what is worth teaching.

  • A search result that pops up may not be accurate. In fact it can be deliberately misleading. (The Tom Petty headline, being the latest in ‘inadvertent’ mistakes.)
  • Cross-reference your ‘facts’. Read the whole article before drawing a conclusion.
  • The headline in a tweet or a trending FB post is an incomplete picture. Or often carries a bias. Former Facebook ‘news curators’ have admitted they were instructed to artificially inject selected stories into the trending news module.

An algorithm is just “a process or set of rules” that are set up in advance for sifting through data, and making calculations with complex variables. Algorithms are not writ in stone. Especially when there is some Artificial Intelligence involved, they are supposed to ‘learn’ from the complexity and adjust. Sometimes they aren’t good learners, and are easily misled, or tricked.

And so are we!

 
 

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News we’d love to hear

Remember that Anne Murray song with the line, “Sure could use a little good news, today“? Imagine if the headlines went like this:

“Twitter bans Donald Trump’s Twitter handle, citing cyber-bullying clause.”

“Uber discontinues plans for self-driving cars.”

“CNN to replace words like ‘optics’ and ‘weaponized’  with words in plain English.”

 

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2017 in Media, Social Media, Twitter

 

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As trust far as trust in media goes, funny how radio beats the Internet

Interesting how the one place we associate with up-to-the-minute information is the least trusted. While what some would call ‘old school’ media –Radio! –consistently earns people’s trust.

Among several studies looking at media trustworthiness I was fascinated by this European study. (Trust in Media, 2017 by EBU)/ Some highlights:

  • 64% of countries surveyed find radio the most trusted
  • 59% of citizens in the EU trust radio
  • Social networks are the least trusted (except in eastern Europe)
  • In 12 out of 33 countries 64% of citizens mistrust the Internet

Check these snapshots. The Internet is seeing red!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gets worse on networks we sign up to –if only to connect with those whom we assume are trustworthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which begs the questions.

  • How did we get here?
  • Or better still, why have we – who often comprise the ‘sources’ of news on social networks –misused the resource?
 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Media, New Media, Social Networks

 

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Spin doctors and the ‘Ministry of Truth’ go back a long way

There’s a new way to do spin, and it comes packaged from the Ministry of Truth. (Poor Edward Bernays. The so-called father of spin, must be doing somersaults in his grave.) Modern day spin is much more insidious that doublespeak, or ‘Newspeak.’

We the hoipolloi have a ‘scientific’ way to deal with spin. It involves making air-quotes whenever we use a word or a term generated by the Ministry.

I take on this delicious topic in my May column in LMD Magazine, titled, Alternative facts from the Ministry of Truth

Read it here.

 
 

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Which is worse? Conspiracy Theories or Fake News?

It’s impossible to miss the conspiracy theories swirling around us whether it’s politics, technology or pop culture. You may have heard of Google News, delivering fake news snippets via a Google Home speaker.

Perfectly timed, because this month my LMD column you’ll find my wacky take on conspiracy theories, including the many tall tales concerning the Illuminati.

Titled:“Stop spreading fake news. Worry about Beyonce instead!”

(I discussed the topic here on this blog in January, while working on the article stating that news fakery is nothing new and dates back to the civil war.)

 

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Hype, LMD, Media, Social Media

 

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