Bookmarked Social media and journalists’ responsibilities (ABC Religion & Ethics)

I am a freelancer, and a media commentator. No employer can limit my account, although I suppose they could stop commissioning me if I was sufficiently offensive or unwise. Here are my rules, worked out for myself over the years:

  • I regard my Twitter presence as a part of my journalistic practice and try to engage in conversation without abandoning the professional disciplines of objective practice. I would be very worried if anything I tweeted meant that a future interview subject would think I was unable to do journalism of integrity.
  • I almost never share personal material on a public account. I made an exception a few months ago, because my father is in aged care and has not yet been vaccinated. But I offered that as an example of the national story. I did not share, explicitly, my worry or angst. Nor my opinion.
  • As a media commentator, I try to offer analysis, rather than opinion. It’s a blurry line, I acknowledge.
  • I retweet not necessarily to endorse, but because I think my followers will be interested in the content. I usually respond to criticism, as long as it is not abusive. I hardly ever block people.

These guidelines have served me well, and I regard my Twitter profile and followers as professional assets.

Margaret Simons makes the argument for the use of social media. This is discussed further on The Minefield podcast. This is an interesting discussion thinking about other areas, such as education. In a discussion of teachers and social media, Stewart Riddle suggests that platforms like Twitter can be two tiered. On the one hand there is eduTwitter focusing on sharing practice and resources. Then on the other hand there is the more critical conversations. In the end, I cannot help but think about something Peter Skillen once wrote:

Many educators are living on a diet of abstracts, one-line wisdoms from Twitter, and drive-by professional development.

I wonder how such a statement relates to journalism?

Liked What Substack Is Really Doing to the Media by Will Oremus (Slate)

If Substack keeps booming, the best response for news organizations might be to embrace more diverse perspectives in their op-ed pages, viewing them more as a platform for outside experts than a home for familiar columnists—and to refocus their pitch to readers around the one thing that can never be unbundled from the news: the news itself.

Bookmarked Drinking in the Sun: Media Before Murdoch (Meanjin)

The Web didn’t just destroy print journalism, it destroyed broadcast journalism, too. Over the past 20 years, the likes of Google and Facebook have taken the advertising revenue that used to pay for quality journalism—and the people running the journalism business (including Murdoch) haven’t come up with a viable answer.

Instead, the media has become less focused and more desperate. More reactionary. More inclined to chase every click-bait story that will drive views. And journalists, seduced by the cardboard glamour of social media stardom and desperate to survive the hunger games of ever-shrinking newsrooms, have acted more and more like wannabe celebrities. And, in the maelstrom of the fourth estate’s existential crisis, the primacy of the yarn—the one thing the beetroot-faced journo pirates of the 1980s never lost sight of—has been lost.

Joel Deane reflects on his time working at The Sun and the impact of the Murdoch Empire.
Liked The Trouble with Journalism (Meanjin)

I am barracking for truth and context. I am also arguing for a higher bar to be cleared before presenting something as news or an opinion worthy of being heard—in a sense a return to the type of standards once held by traditional media organisations.

In the past the problem was the lack of diversity in the media room, not the standards. Now with greater diversity (but with a need for more) we need to care more about what draws our attention. It’s not good enough for journalism just to fling everything on the wall and see what sticks.

Liked ABC has for too long been unwilling to push back against interference – at its journalists’ expense (

Editorial executives have one over-riding responsibility: to provide a safe environment in which their staff can do independent journalism, regardless of corporate, political or economic interests.

Part of that is having the professional experience to understand what is involved, which includes absorbing the bullying that comes from powerful people and, where necessary, hitting back.

There has been no sign the ABC’s journalists have been getting that kind of protection, least of all from the board.

Replied to How to follow the complete output of journalists and other writers? by Chris Aldrich | Chris Aldrich (

In a digital era with a seemingly ever-decreasing number of larger news outlets paying journalists and other writers for their work, the number of working writers who find themselves working for one or more outlets is rapidly increasing. 
This is sure to leave journalists wondering how to better se…

This is a great write-up Chris. I remember writing a post trying to come to terms with this.

Liked The Mike Willesee question that turned the ‘unlosable election’ – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) (ABC)

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?”

Bookmarked Why Reputation? by Mike Caulfield (Hapgood)

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.

Responding to Xiao Mina’s reflection on dissensus, Mike Caulfield discusses the challenge of reputation.
Bookmarked The platform patrons: How Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world (Columbia Journalism Review)

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.

Google has been really pushing into journalism lately, with the further investment of News Lab and the Digital News Initiative, as well as the ability to subscribe using your Google account. This in part seems to be in response to Facebook’s problems.
Liked Hack Education Weekly News by Audrey Watters (Hack Education)

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.

Liked IndieWeb Journalism in the Wild by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

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.

Bookmarked that doesn’t mean dumbing it down by Anne Helen Petersen (TinyLetter)

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.

Anne Helen Petersen explains how to work with and in journalism to extend the reach of academic ideas.
Bookmarked Inside Facebook’s Two Years of Hell (WIRED)

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.

Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein disentangle the last two years in Facebook’s rise, with a particular focus on the way that they have embraced news. As with Google+, the picture is painted as to how Facebook ‘copied, then crushed’ Twitter and their hold on distributing news:

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.

In response to Trump’s use, the purchasing of ads and criticism for people such as Tristan Harris, Zuckerberg set out this year to right the wrongs:

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.

Bookmarked The cost of reporting while female (Columbia Journalism Review)

Over the course of nearly 200 years, female journalists have been under threat because of their gender, race, beat, views, and coverage.

Anne Helen Petersen documents a number of examples where women have been threatened while working as journalists. This includes a series of historical cases. This reminded me of Lindy West’s confrontation of troll and why he chose to do what he did. I am always left wondering what the answer is, sometimes fearing that such thinking creates more problems than solutions. Maybe there is something in Sherri Spelic’s suggestion to ‘think small’:

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