Posts tagged newsrooms

I regret being scared. I regret wasting time thinking I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t deserve a seat at the table. You do belong and your voice is worthy. Say it to yourself in the mirror every morning if you have to, but don’t ever forget it.

Jenna Wortham, reporter, New York Times, to Buzzfeed. 39 Pieces Of Advice For Journalists And Writers Of Color.

Buzzfeed asks twenty established writers what advice they’d give to those breaking into the industry.

Here are the questions:

  • What piece of advice would you, as a writer of color, give to burgeoning writers/journalists of color?
  • What do you know now about being a writer of color that you wish you’d known when you first started?
  • Is there anything you did as a writer starting out that you now regret?

Read through for the answers.

#Propaganda
Via The New York Times:

Propaganda wars have unfolded alongside the battlefield for generations. But analysts said the latest flare-up between Israel and the Gaza Strip has brought a new level of dehumanizing, hateful language and a muddying of official talking points with incendiary threats, as social media broadcast an explosion of voices, an onslaught of unreliable information, and creative mash-ups of pop-culture icons with war imagery.

And so we learn that the Israel Defense Forces has a  social media team of 40 that publishes on 30 platforms in six different languages while a team of 400 Israeli students volunteer to counter “false representation(s) of Israel in international and social media through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Across the way, Hamas offers a list of do’s and don’ts: Don’t post images or videos of missiles fired from cities, avoid close-ups of masked gunmen and where possible begin your missives with something along the lines of, “In response to the cruel Israeli assault.”
All of which makes for a tidy trove of photos, videos and graphics prepackaged for the rest of us to share across our networks.
To which Andy Carvin, formerly of NPR, told CNET earlier this year, “I don’t know if that’s going to change the hearts and minds of people who already support you or already hate you. There aren’t exactly undecided voters in this particular conflict.”
Somewhat related, Part 01: The Verification Handbook, released by the European Journalism Centre earlier this year, guides readers through verifying “digital content” during emergency situations.
Somewhat related, Part 02: A 1985 study explored a concept called the hostile media effect where people with opposing views are exposed to the same news programming and each side comes away claiming that the same show is biased against them (PDF).
Somewhat related, Part 03: In 2009, the BBC published an “Israel-Palestine” glossary with entries ranging from “cycle of violence” to “outpost” to “assassinations” in order to explain how the BBC uses them.
For those keeping social score at home: On Twitter, #GazaUnderAttack has been used over 4.5 million times in the last month; #IsraelUnderFire about 216,000 times.
Image: Because Hitler, via The New York Times. In Gaza, Epithets Are Fired and Euphemisms Give Shelter.

#Propaganda

Via The New York Times:

Propaganda wars have unfolded alongside the battlefield for generations. But analysts said the latest flare-up between Israel and the Gaza Strip has brought a new level of dehumanizing, hateful language and a muddying of official talking points with incendiary threats, as social media broadcast an explosion of voices, an onslaught of unreliable information, and creative mash-ups of pop-culture icons with war imagery.

And so we learn that the Israel Defense Forces has a social media team of 40 that publishes on 30 platforms in six different languages while a team of 400 Israeli students volunteer to counter “false representation(s) of Israel in international and social media through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Across the way, Hamas offers a list of do’s and don’ts: Don’t post images or videos of missiles fired from cities, avoid close-ups of masked gunmen and where possible begin your missives with something along the lines of, “In response to the cruel Israeli assault.”

All of which makes for a tidy trove of photos, videos and graphics prepackaged for the rest of us to share across our networks.

To which Andy Carvin, formerly of NPR, told CNET earlier this year, “I don’t know if that’s going to change the hearts and minds of people who already support you or already hate you. There aren’t exactly undecided voters in this particular conflict.”

Somewhat related, Part 01: The Verification Handbook, released by the European Journalism Centre earlier this year, guides readers through verifying “digital content” during emergency situations.

Somewhat related, Part 02: A 1985 study explored a concept called the hostile media effect where people with opposing views are exposed to the same news programming and each side comes away claiming that the same show is biased against them (PDF).

Somewhat related, Part 03: In 2009, the BBC published an “Israel-Palestine” glossary with entries ranging from “cycle of violence” to “outpost” to “assassinations” in order to explain how the BBC uses them.

For those keeping social score at home: On Twitter, #GazaUnderAttack has been used over 4.5 million times in the last month; #IsraelUnderFire about 216,000 times.

Image: Because Hitler, via The New York Times. In Gaza, Epithets Are Fired and Euphemisms Give Shelter.

The Russian Public Has a Totally Different Understanding of What Happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Via The New Republic:

Did you know Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was full of corpses when it took off from Amsterdam? Did you know that, for some darkly inexplicable reason, on July 17, MH17 moved off the standard flight path that it had taken every time before, and moved north, toward rebel-held areas outside Donetsk? Or that the dispatchers summoned the plane lower just before the crash? Or that the plane had been recently reinsured? Or that the Ukrainian army has air defense systems in the area? Or that it was the result of the Ukrainian military mistaking MH17 for Putin’s presidential plane, which looks strangely similar?

Did you know that the crash of MH17 was all part of an American conspiracy to provoke a big war with Russia?

Well, it’s all true — at least if you live in Russia, because this is the Malaysia Airlines crash story that you’d be seeing

…And, mind you, this is not part of a larger debate of could they, or couldn’t they; this is all of Russian television and state-friendly papers pushing one line: The pro-Russian separatists we’ve been supporting all these months couldn’t have done this. Watching some of these Russian newscasts, one comes away with the impression of a desperate defense attorney scrounging for experts and angles, or a bad kid caught red-handed by the principal, trying to twist his way out of a situation in which he has no chance.

About those corpses: The conspiracy goes that what really blew up was the Malaysian flight that disappeared into the Indian Ocean back in March. In this telling, the US had the plane (and the bodies!) and flew it over Ukraine to “dispose” of the evidence. 

Read through for Julia Ioffe’s take on Russian media and what it means for the country’s domestic politics and international relations.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 
The extension’s here. The code is here.
The original xkcd comic is here.

Yes There is a Chrome Extension That Makes Reading the News More Fun 

The extension’s here. The code is here.

The original xkcd comic is here.

A New York Times Explainer
Some learning moments in this graph from a New York Times article on Washington DC’s new marijuana rules. 
First, tucked away in a style guide up on 8th Avenue and 40th Street is an entry that tells copyeditors that it’s a “jay” and not a “j”. Fair enough.
Second, “marijuana cigarette”? Who says that? Ever?  ”Joint” is in the dictionary. Use it. — Michael

A New York Times Explainer

Some learning moments in this graph from a New York Times article on Washington DC’s new marijuana rules

First, tucked away in a style guide up on 8th Avenue and 40th Street is an entry that tells copyeditors that it’s a “jay” and not a “j”. Fair enough.

Second, “marijuana cigarette”? Who says that? Ever?  ”Joint” is in the dictionary. Use it. — Michael

The Grammar of Weird Al

Word nerds haven’t been so excited by a grammar song since way back in the days of School House Rocks’ Conjunction Junction

That said, what to make of Yankovic’s grammar rules? A better grammarian than I would have to answer. Thankfully, there’s one over at Slate.

"[A]pparently Mr. Yankovic is quite a prescriptivist," writes Forrest Wickman. “Let’s examine a few of Yankovic’s Rules of Usage.”

Slight aside: you still won’t convince me to use the Oxford Comma. Let’s agree to disagree. — Michael

Images: Stills from “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Word Crimes video. Select to embiggen.

Sometimes the CIA or the director of national intelligence or the NSA or the White House will call about a story. You hit the brakes, you hear the arguments, and it’s always a balancing act: the importance of the information to the public versus the claim of harming national security. Over time, the government too reflexively said to the Times, “you’re going to have blood on your hands if you publish X,” and because of the frequency of that, the government lost a little credibility. But you do listen and seriously worry. Editors are Americans too. We don’t want to help terrorists.

Jill Abramson, former Executive Editor of The New York Times, to Cosmopolitan. I’m Not Ashamed of Being Fired

In a Q&A with Cosmo, Abramson talks about life after the Times and offers good advice to young journos. For example:

I taught at Yale for five years when I was managing editor and what I tried to stress for students interested in journalism, rather than picking a specialty, like blogging or being a videographer, was to master the basics of really good storytelling, have curiosity and a sense of how a topic is different than a story, and actually go out and witness and report. If you hone those skills, you will be in demand, as those talents are prized. There is too much journalism right now that is just based on people scraping the Internet and riffing off something else.

It all comes back to storytelling.

News You Like to Use?
The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism surveyed 18,000 online news consumers across ten countries on their news habits. The results are available in their 2014 Digital News Report.
Related, via Al Jazeera, American’s faith in the news is at an all time low:

The latest edition of a Gallup poll that tracks confidence in media follows a decades-long trend that shows a declining faith in television and print news. The percentage of Americans that have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the three media formats now hover around one-fifth.
Twenty-two percent of respondents trust newspapers, 19 percent trust web-based news sites, and 18 percent say they trust TV. All three of those numbers are within the polls 4-point margin of error. 

Somewhat Related, via The New Republic: Does Fox News Cause Ignorance, or Do Ignorant Viewers Prefer Fox News?
TL;DR: Yes, but give it a read. It’s a great analysis of bandwagon effects and confirmation bias no matter your political inclinations.
Image: Most Important Types of News Among US News Consumers, via Marketing Charts and based on data from the Reuters Institute. Select to embiggen.

News You Like to Use?

The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism surveyed 18,000 online news consumers across ten countries on their news habits. The results are available in their 2014 Digital News Report.

Related, via Al Jazeera, American’s faith in the news is at an all time low:

The latest edition of a Gallup poll that tracks confidence in media follows a decades-long trend that shows a declining faith in television and print news. The percentage of Americans that have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the three media formats now hover around one-fifth.

Twenty-two percent of respondents trust newspapers, 19 percent trust web-based news sites, and 18 percent say they trust TV. All three of those numbers are within the polls 4-point margin of error. 

Somewhat Related, via The New Republic: Does Fox News Cause Ignorance, or Do Ignorant Viewers Prefer Fox News?

TL;DR: Yes, but give it a read. It’s a great analysis of bandwagon effects and confirmation bias no matter your political inclinations.

Image: Most Important Types of News Among US News Consumers, via Marketing Charts and based on data from the Reuters Institute. Select to embiggen.

One in every seven statehouse reporters today (or 14% of the total) is a college student.
Statehouse reporters, who cover state government and public policy, are on the decline, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis. Get the facts here.  (via pewresearch)
The Robots are Coming, Part 132
First, some background, via Kevin Roose at New York Magazine:

Earlier this week, one of my business-beat colleagues got assigned to recap the quarterly earnings of Alcoa, the giant metals company, for the Associated Press. The reporter’s story began: “Alcoa Inc. (AA) on Tuesday reported a second-quarter profit of $138 million, reversing a year-ago loss, and the results beat analysts’ expectation. The company reported strong results in its engineered-products business, which makes parts for industrial customers, while looking to cut costs in its aluminum-smelting segment.”
It may not have been the most artful start to a story, but it got the point across, with just enough background information for a casual reader to make sense of it. Not bad. The most impressive part, though, was how long the story took to produce: less than a second.

If you’re into robots and algorithms writing the news, the article’s worth the read. It’s optimistic, asserting that in contexts like earnings reports, sports roundups and the like, the automation frees journalists for more mindful work such as analyzing what those earning reports actually mean
With 300 million robot-driven stories produced last year – more than all media outlets in the world combined, according to Roose – and an estimated billion stories in store for 2014, that’s a lot of freed up time to cast our minds elsewhere.
Besides, as Roose explains, “The stories that today’s robots can write are, frankly, the kinds of stories that humans hate writing anyway.”
More interesting, and more troubling, are the ethics behind algorithmically driven articles. Slate’s Nicholas Diakopoulos tried to tackle this question in April when he asked how we can incorporate robots into our news gathering with a level of expected transparency needed in today’s media environment. Part of his solution is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.
Here’s something else to chew on. Back to Roose:

Robot-generated stories aren’t all fill-in-the-blank jobs; the more advanced algorithms use things like perspective, tone, and humor to tailor a story to its audience. A robot recapping a basketball game, for example, might be able to produce two versions of a story using the same data: one upbeat story that reads as if a fan of the winning team had written it; and another glum version written from the loser’s perspective.

Apply this concept to a holy grail of startups and legacy organizations alike: customizing and personalizing the news just for you. Will future robots feed us a feel-good, meat and potatoes partisan diet of news based on the same sort behavioral tracking the ad industry uses to deliver advertising. With the time and cost of producing multiple stories from the same data sets approaching zero, it’s not difficult to imagine a news site deciding that they’ll serve different versions of the same story based on perceived political affiliations.
That’s a conundrum. One more worth exploring than whether an algorithm can give us a few paragraphs on who’s nominated for the next awards show.
Want more robots? Visit our Robots Tag.
Image: Twitter post, via @hanelly.

The Robots are Coming, Part 132

First, some background, via Kevin Roose at New York Magazine:

Earlier this week, one of my business-beat colleagues got assigned to recap the quarterly earnings of Alcoa, the giant metals company, for the Associated Press. The reporter’s story began: “Alcoa Inc. (AA) on Tuesday reported a second-quarter profit of $138 million, reversing a year-ago loss, and the results beat analysts’ expectation. The company reported strong results in its engineered-products business, which makes parts for industrial customers, while looking to cut costs in its aluminum-smelting segment.”

It may not have been the most artful start to a story, but it got the point across, with just enough background information for a casual reader to make sense of it. Not bad. The most impressive part, though, was how long the story took to produce: less than a second.

If you’re into robots and algorithms writing the news, the article’s worth the read. It’s optimistic, asserting that in contexts like earnings reports, sports roundups and the like, the automation frees journalists for more mindful work such as analyzing what those earning reports actually mean

With 300 million robot-driven stories produced last year – more than all media outlets in the world combined, according to Roose – and an estimated billion stories in store for 2014, that’s a lot of freed up time to cast our minds elsewhere.

Besides, as Roose explains, “The stories that today’s robots can write are, frankly, the kinds of stories that humans hate writing anyway.”

More interesting, and more troubling, are the ethics behind algorithmically driven articles. Slate’s Nicholas Diakopoulos tried to tackle this question in April when he asked how we can incorporate robots into our news gathering with a level of expected transparency needed in today’s media environment. Part of his solution is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.

Here’s something else to chew on. Back to Roose:

Robot-generated stories aren’t all fill-in-the-blank jobs; the more advanced algorithms use things like perspective, tone, and humor to tailor a story to its audience. A robot recapping a basketball game, for example, might be able to produce two versions of a story using the same data: one upbeat story that reads as if a fan of the winning team had written it; and another glum version written from the loser’s perspective.

Apply this concept to a holy grail of startups and legacy organizations alike: customizing and personalizing the news just for you. Will future robots feed us a feel-good, meat and potatoes partisan diet of news based on the same sort behavioral tracking the ad industry uses to deliver advertising. With the time and cost of producing multiple stories from the same data sets approaching zero, it’s not difficult to imagine a news site deciding that they’ll serve different versions of the same story based on perceived political affiliations.

That’s a conundrum. One more worth exploring than whether an algorithm can give us a few paragraphs on who’s nominated for the next awards show.

Want more robots? Visit our Robots Tag.

Image: Twitter post, via @hanelly.

The relationship between the government and the media is like a marriage; it is a dysfunctional marriage to be sure, but we stay together for the kids.
Thom Shanker, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, quoted in Time. Bloggers, Surveillance and Obama’s Orwellian State.
The News is Stressing Us Out
A new study suggests that following the news stresses Americans out.
The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and National Public Radio, looks at stress in American lives and found that 25% of those polled said they experienced a “great deal” of stress in the previous month.
According to NPR, “[T]hese stressed-out people said one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was watching, reading or listening to the news.”
In an interview with NPR, Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said one of the biggest stress drivers is sensationalist coverage of traumatic events, disturbing imagery used in such coverage and the endless looping of such imagery in newscasts.
You can read the study here and listen to an NPR segment on the study here.

The News is Stressing Us Out

A new study suggests that following the news stresses Americans out.

The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health and National Public Radio, looks at stress in American lives and found that 25% of those polled said they experienced a “great deal” of stress in the previous month.

According to NPR, “[T]hese stressed-out people said one of the biggest contributors to their day-to-day stress was watching, reading or listening to the news.”

In an interview with NPR, Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said one of the biggest stress drivers is sensationalist coverage of traumatic events, disturbing imagery used in such coverage and the endless looping of such imagery in newscasts.

You can read the study here and listen to an NPR segment on the study here.

Who Owns Media (US Edition)

Via Gizmodo, which also includes graphics on what brands own what consumer goods, consolidation in financial markets, what auto makers own what cars, and what breweries make what beer… which is important.

Images: Studios and media companies (top), and TV stations (bottom). Select to embiggen.

Score One for Science: BBC Tells Journalists to Stop Including Denialists on Shows

Via The Telegraph:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed…

…The Trust said that man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics.

Over at Slate, Phil Plait explains:

In other [non-science] subjects, it’s possible for honest people with different values to come down on different sides of a debate. But when it comes to science, especially firmly established and consensually agreed-upon science, putting on some crackpot who disagrees is not “fair and balanced.”

News shows don’t put on a flat-earther whenever they show a map. They don’t get an opposing opinion from a young-Earth creationist when a new dinosaur fossil is found. They don’t interview an astrologer when a new exoplanet is discovered. So why put on a climate change denier when we’re talking about our planet heating up?

Does two make a trend?

No, but last fall, the Los Angeles Times told its readers that it would no longer publish letters that deny — or argue against — human activity as a contributor to climate change.