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Category Archives: Media

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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Long before fake news, we had half-truths

You’ve heard the adage, “a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.” 

In the absence of fact-checking, we cultivated scepticism. It’s easy to blame our epidemic of fake news on the Russian trolls, and geo-politics. But truth is, half-truths and conspiracy theories circulated before social media arrived on the scene. Some even embedded themselves into the pages of history. Here are two:

Have you heard the one about Black Confederates? It’s a ‘story’ of how 80,000 black soldiers supposedly fought for the Confederacy. This is, as the Civil War website calls it, shoddy facts that’s were “repeated, amplified, and twisted” to become credible to some, just because the story fit their agenda.

Or the story of American planes dropping napalm in South Vietnam? It surrounds the Pulitzer prize-winning photograph, taken by Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut on June 8, 1972. That too, we are informed by Joseph Campbell, was a myth. The photo was accurate. The story was not.

Which brings me to how do we teach fact checking to young people ?

Until a few years ago some made Wikipedia the culprit. But even before that there were stories circulated via email, that travelled through an unverified friend-of-a-friendsnetwork. They contained dubious facts no one bothered to fact check. Fast forward to now, and we like to blame the trolls.

How easy it is to blame someone else when the onus ought to be on us.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2017 in Education, Journalism, Media

 

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All the *fake* news that fit to share

At least ‘The Onion’ doesn’t pretend to be real news. Just well-written ‘stories’ that parody news. But it gets harder to spot the truly fake from the plausible, somewhat fake. For instance could you spot which one of these is an Onion story, and which is made up?

  • The Secretary Of Treasury Announces Plan To Remove Gross Penny From Circulation.
  • An Ipsos Public Affairs study (for Buzzfeed) showed that fake headlines fool American adults 75% of the time.
  • Pope Francis asked Catholics to not vote for Clinton.

OK, so the story about the penny was a classic Onion piece. The Ipsos Study was real. The Pew study was just made up for your entertainment, though the story about the Pope did get circulated on social media, thought it had been debunked.

If you like to test how news savvy you are (or not) take this sample of  questions, by Marketwatch. 

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Media, New Media, Social Media

 

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Is surge of Signal, triggered by paranoia or cynicism?

Chat apps with encryption sound like an idea whose time has come. Or rather, an idea whose time came, did a quiet exit, and after some tangle with Twitter, did an U-turn and returned as ‘Signal’.

signalSignal has powerful encryption, and has supposedly grown by 400 percent since the US election. Indeed, most people are passionate about keeping their communication away from prying eyes of governments. Or is this paranoia, knowing what we know about email being easily hacked or compromised? Even Signal has been subpoenaed by the govt! No coincidence that journalists now use encrypted chat apps more than ever.

Which explains why Chat apps like WhatsApp, Line, SnapChat and FB Messenger have quietly changed how we communicate. Hike, the SnapChat clone in India lets users chat in eight languages!

To be sure, as I said (in the last chapter of my book, Chat Republic) ordinary citizens, not just journalists, who become wary of the status quo, would refine these modes of chat in ways that we never imagined. That was in 2013.

And we the ____________ people (insertcynical,’ ‘paranoid,’ etc) are probably taking that path too.

 

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Cartoonists and bloggers under siege

It’s odd how politicians hold a cartoonist and bloggers up to tough standards once reserved for ‘The Media.’

Political cartoonists in particular, hold a lens up to our world, enabling us to see events in a different perspective. I think of a cartoonist as more than a lens, in fact. A mirror and a lens – a kaleidoscope. You see something new every time you turn your head.

Malaysian cartoonist, ZUNAR, known for his powerful editorial cartoons for 20 years, has been getting under the skin of the ruling class. In 2010 he was arrested just before his book “Cartoon-O-Phobia” was launched. The crime? Sedition! Interestingly sedition laws exist in many countries.

We often hear of France’s Charlie Hebdo being threatened. But cartoonists have been under siege.

  • Likewise, bloggers, especially political writers have been attacked in countries such as Ecuador, South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka.
  • In Bangladesh, four bloggers have been murdered.
 
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Posted by on December 9, 2016 in Journalism, Media

 

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Former copyboy, Scott Pelley’s optimism in the face of ‘bad information’

Last week, Scott Pelley, anchor of CBS News made some timely observations about the news business. Which, we should not forget is indeed a business. Pelley was awarded the Walter Cronkite award for Excellence in Journalism by the Cronkite School at ASU.

Now I regularly watch his broadcast, so I admire his candor  when he observed that:

“Never in our history have we had so much bad information.”

Let that sink in, against the other platitudes we hear that ‘never in our history have we had so much information at our fingertips’ etc. In 2013, Pelley warned that the media was getting the Big Stories wrong, over and over again. How prescient, considering most media misread the 2016 electorate. They are, after all our filters, and when their filters get trapped in the same gunk, we lose our faith in them.

At the ASU event he went further to warn, “We’re in our digital citadels, unchallenged by ideas. Biased reporting closes minds. Journalism is meant to open them.” Pelley, kicked off his career at age 15, as a ‘copyboy’ at a newspaper in Lubbock, Texas. If you’ve never heard of the job of ‘copyboy’ this person was, to put it nicely, a delivery boy who was given a sheet of butcher paper (on which stories were then written), to deliver it to the sub-editors’ desk.

Like Kelley, Cronkite was also optimistic about delivering the truth, alluring to the movie Network, when he said:

“We’ve got to throw open our windows and shout out these truths” 

Just for larks, here’s Walter Cronkite, as he signed off on March 6th, 1981.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Arizona, ASU, Events, Journalism, Media, Technology, TV

 

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