THREAD: A couple of weeks ago, after I started a thread about which magazines pay freelancers $2/word, some people commented—a bit irritatedly, maybe—that the more pressing question is how to get past publications’ “gatekeepers” in the first place. I wanted to address this.
— Vauhini Vara (@vauhinivara) July 18, 2019
Willesee: “If I buy a birthday cake from a cake shop and GST is in place, do I pay more or less for that birthday cake?”
Hewson: “…If it is a cake shop, a cake from a cake shop that has sales tax, and it’s decorated and has candles as you say, that attracts sales tax, then of course we scrap the sales tax, before the GST is…”
Willesee: “OK — it’s just an example. If the answer to a birthday cake is so complex — you do have a problem with the overall GST?”
I have a reputation, which is the trace of past events and current relationships in a social system. But that reputation isn’t really separate from the techniques others use to decode and utilize my reputation for decision-making.
This relationship is synergistic.
Both Google and Facebook may argue—and may even believe—that they simply want to help increase the supply of quality journalism in the world. But the fact remains that they are not just disinterested observers. They are multibillion-dollar entities that compete directly with media companies for the attention of users, and for the wallets of every advertising company that used to help support the business model of journalism. Their funding and assistance can’t be disentangled from their conflicted interests, no matter how much they wish it could.
Michael Horn writes in Edsurge about “Why Google Maps – not Netflix or Amazon – Points to the Future of Education.” Funny, it was just a few years ago that he wrote that, indeed, Netflix and Amazon did point the way.
It’s almost as though there are zero consequences in ed-tech for being full of shit.
This is a generally brilliant set up for any researcher, professor, journalist, or other stripe of writer for providing online content, particularly when they may be writing for a multitude of outlets.
My advice to the group of academics, then, was two-fold. First: recognize that both sides need to be more flexible. Understand that journalists have to have somewhat reductive headlines, and that they operate on deadlines. But also assert, at the beginning, that you are unwilling to provide a soundbite — and want, above all else, to insert nuance, instead of a flat argument, and if they can’t deal with that (even if it’s just three sentences of complication, instead of one declarative sentence) then you will not do the interview. It’s not that academics should request quote approval, it’s more that they should be able to reach an agreement with the journalist about the sort of argument to which they’re affixing their good name.
When social media started becoming driven by images, he bought Instagram. When messaging took off, he bought WhatsApp. When Snapchat became a threat, he copied it. Now, with all his talk of “time well spent,” it seems as if he’s trying to co-opt Tristan Harris too.
Back in 2012, the most exciting social network for distributing news online wasn’t Facebook, it was Twitter. The latter’s 140-character posts accelerated the speed at which news could spread, allowing its influence in the news industry to grow much faster than Facebook’s. “Twitter was this massive, massive threat,” says a former Facebook executive heavily involved in the decision making at the time.
So Zuckerberg pursued a strategy he has often deployed against competitors he cannot buy: He copied, then crushed. He adjusted Facebook’s News Feed to fully incorporate news (despite its name, the feed was originally tilted toward personal news) and adjusted the product so that it showed author bylines and headlines. Then Facebook’s emissaries fanned out to talk with journalists and explain how to best reach readers through the platform.
The catch with this change is that it is merely a focus on being THE platform. This therefore meant overlooking the multitude of complexities associated with ‘news’:
Facebook hired few journalists and spent little time discussing the big questions that bedevil the media industry. What is fair? What is a fact? How do you signal the difference between news, analysis, satire, and opinion? Facebook has long seemed to think it has immunity from those debates because it is just a technology company—one that has built a “platform for all ideas.”
The problem with this stance, to “never favour one kind of news”, is that “neutrality is a choice in itself.” This choice is one that can then be cajoled and manipulated:
While Facebook grappled internally with what it was becoming—a company that dominated media but didn’t want to be a media company—Donald Trump’s presidential campaign staff faced no such confusion. To them Facebook’s use was obvious. Twitter was a tool for communicating directly with supporters and yelling at the media. Facebook was the way to run the most effective direct-marketing political operation in history.
One of the many things Zuckerberg seemed not to grasp when he wrote his manifesto was that his platform had empowered an enemy far more sophisticated than Macedonian teenagers and assorted low-rent purveyors of bull.
Ironically, he has now turned to the community to work as curators.
Along with investigations into the links between Facebook funding and research, these posts help highlight the tangled mess that we have gotten ourselves into.
Over the course of nearly 200 years, female journalists have been under threat because of their gender, race, beat, views, and coverage.
Sometimes it pays off to think small. Think next door, down the hall, at the next meeting. Act large in small spaces. Notice who’s speaking and who isn’t. Practice not knowing and being curious. Be kind. Welcome warmly and mean it.
via Audrey Watters newsletter