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.

Bookmarked Coronavirus Is Serious, But Panic Is Optional – That Seems Important (That Seems Important)

The worst possible thing to do for your immune system is to live in a constant state of stress. And if this global pandemic requires a healthy strong immune system in order to fight it, then the most responsible thing you can do if you’re feeling afraid is to stop watching the news.

The story you’re telling yourself is you can’t disconnect because you won’t be “informed.” I’m telling you: You’re not informed as it is. The only thing you have to gain by strategically disconnecting is your sanity.

Margo Aaron breaks down the way in which the media drives panic and fear around coronavirus. Much of this is driven around the use of headlines:

Media headlines are like the drunk girl at a party. They don’t care why everyone is staring at you while you puke into the cheese plate, they’re just glad they have your attention and they’re going to keep it by any means necessary. Even if it means sleeping with Tim. I know, gross.

And in this case, Tim is a metaphor for scaring the shit out of you. Repeatedly. For money.

Media companies care about attention and the easiest way to garner that is the feed our fears:

Fear is what makes people mean to each other, divides us, fuels racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. It makes us petty, defensive, conspiratorial, and individualistic. It also makes us susceptible to a LOT of cognitive and logical biases, such as:

Ad hominem, moral equivalence, straw man arguments, the false dilemma, circular arguments, the bandwagon, appeal to authority, the domino theory, hasty generalizations, anecdotal evidence, the correlation/causation fallacy, and many, many more (this is my favorite roundup of Logical Fallacies, if you’d like to geek out, courtesy of PBS).

Point is: You can’t think straight when you’re afraid.

Aaron suggests that if the media were serious about their civic duty then the focus would be on settling everyone’s nerves and emotions as this impacts our immune system and therefore our ability to fight the virus.

Like Cal Newport, Aaron suggests that during this time we need to turn away from the media as we are never as informed as we think we are.

Bookmarked I Lived Through SARS and Reported on Ebola. These Are the Questions We Should Be Asking About Coronavirus. — ProPublica (ProPublica)

For concerned civilians and journalists covering the coronavirus, the figures and projections can be overwhelming, frightening or confusing. Here’s what reporter Caroline Chen is focusing on to keep things as accurate and clear as possible.

Caroline Chen reflects on the confusion created by through poor reporting on the coronavirus. In response, she provides a number of questions to consider:

Instead of asking: How many test kits do you have? Ask this: How many samples are you running per patient?

Instead of asking: How many samples can you run? Ask this: How many samples is your lab testing per day right now? How about at maximum capacity? How many hours does it take to get a result?

Instead of saying: The mortality rate is X%. Say this: Scientists estimate the mortality rate is X%, based on the information they have.

Instead of asking: How many cases will there be at X point in time? Ask this: What assumptions were used to calculate your prediction? What’s the upper and lower range of your projection?

Liked ‘Dangerous, misinformation’: News Corp employee slams climate coverage in email to staff (The Sydney Morning Herald)

News Corp has responded that it does not deny climate change or the gravity of its threat after an employee accused her organisation of “dangerous” bushfire coverage.

Listened Our changing media environment and a call to “decomputerise” from ABC Radio National

In this episode, we look ahead to the news and broader media environment in 2020 and pressing issues for local content in a globalised world. We also hear about the need to “decomputerise” in order to decarbonise. 

Antony Funnell speaks with Gautam Mishra about Inkl, a platform designed to provide ‘noise-free news’, where users pay a subscription which provides access to a number of publications. Download This Show also discussed the future of the news business.
Bookmarked It’s Time to Stop Pretending the Murdochs Are in the News Business (The Nation)

For Rupert and his sons, the press has always been the prime weapon in their power-seeking agenda.

Eric Alterman argues that Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is about power, not news. This is a response to the New York Times’ investigation into the battle for control at the heart of the business – something also discussed on The Daily podcast. This reminds me of dana boyd’s question of trust we are currently grappling with:

There are three key higher-order next steps, all of which are at the scale of the New Deal.

– Create a sustainable business structure for information intermediaries (like news organizations) that allows them to be profitable without the pressure of ROI.
– Actively and strategically rebuild the social networks of America.
– Find new ways of holding those who are struggling.

Bookmarked Reporting a massacre: Why the ABC didn’t share the shooter’s ‘manifesto’ (ABC News)

Social media platforms have made some changes to tackle hate speech and violent behaviour, but they could choose to do more. They could set higher standards for removing offensive video and messages.

Free speech is unimaginable without the right to dissent — but commentators, opinion writers and politicians also have choices to make in the example they set.

In the end though it’s on all of us — in the news sources we rely on, the social networks we join and what we choose to watch and share.

Craig McMurtrie unpacks the decision by the ABC to not publish extracts of the Christchurch shooter’s ‘manifesto’. Every move made seems to have be orchestrated to grab attention. As Robert Evans from Bellingcat explains, it is an example of
Shit posting:

The act of throwing out huge amounts of content, most of it ironic, low-quality trolling, for the purpose of provoking an emotional reaction in less Internet-savvy viewers.

Zeynep Tufekci backed this stance on Twitter:

Tufekci linked to a couple of posts she wrote in response to Sandy Hook Massacre and the Virginia shooter explaining the dangers of feeding copycat scenarios.

This focus on media manipulation also reminded me of dana boyd’s discussion of 4Chan’s association with fake news.

Replied to Media for the people by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (

Fascist propaganda led directly to modern advertising, and modern advertising has now led us right back to fascist propaganda, aided and abetted by people who saw the right to make a profit as more important than the social implications of their work.

I think this is the time to take more direct action, and to build institutions that don’t just speak truth to power, but put power behind the truth. Stories are how we learn, but our actions define us.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s call for:

  • Create a sustainable business structure without the pressure of ROI
  • Rebuild the social networks
  • Develop new ways of holding those who are struggling
Bookmarked Media Manipulation, Strategic Amplification, and Responsible Journalism by danah boyd (Points | Medium)

You are not algorithms. But you are also not neutral. And because you have the power to amplify messages, people also want to manipulate you. That’s just par for the course. And in today’s day and age, it’s not just corporations, governments, and PR shops that have your number. Just as the US military needed to change tactics to grapple with a tribal, networked, and distributed adversary, so must you. Focus on networks — help connect people to information. Build networks across information and across people. Be an embedded part of the social fabric of this country.

Democracy depends on you.

In a talk given at the Online News Association conference in Austin, Texas on September 13, 2018, danah boyd continues the challenge as to how we respond to the current state of play. Although the speech and attached notes ask a number of questions of the web we have today, I always find boyd’s responses to the Q and A at the end of her presentations really insightful. She discusses the changes to journalism and the need to fill the gaps within the news.
Liked Commonplace Reading – Issue #24 (

Johnny JohnnyYes PapaReading Clickbait?No Papa.Hello, everyone. I hope you had a great summer. I took the most extended summer break I’ve had since university (20 *cough* years ago), and am feeling both recharged and slightly intimidated by my return to the frontline.With a little distance, it’s easy to see just how the internet has become a battleground for ideas and minds, as different groups wage InfoWars on each other (pun intended). Tracking and understanding that, and then figuring out what

Bookmarked The Photo Book That Captured How the Soviet Regime Made the Truth Disappear by Masha Gessen (The New Yorker)

Sometimes we don’t know who is missing from a photo or why—only that someone has been elided. We are lucky even to know that there is something we don’t know.

This is an insightful look into the past:

Compared to the intentional, crude, and pervasive altering of the Soviet record, the lying currently prevalent in American politics is amateur hour, if not exactly child’s play. President Donald Trump’s routine alterations of the historical narrative, which seem to stem in equal measure from ignorance and ill intent, are ridiculed by the media even as the media reproduces them. Photographs often serve as the corrective to his distortions—as, for example, with his insistence that he had the biggest Inauguration crowd in history. Still, there can be no doubt that Trump is waging an all-out war on the media, the historical record, and the truth in general.

Liked The Messy Fourth Estate – Trust Issues – Medium by danah boyd (Medium)

Many Americans — especially conservative Americans — do not trust contemporary news organizations. This “crisis” is well-trod territory, but the focus on fact-checking, media literacy, and business models tends to obscure three features of the contemporary information landscape that I think are poorly understood:

  • Differences in worldview are being weaponized to polarize society.
  • We cannot trust organizations, institutions, or professions when they’re abstracted away from us.
  • Economic structures built on value extraction cannot enable healthy information ecosystems.


Doctorow creates these oppositional positions to make a point and to highlight that there is a war over epistemology, or the way in which we produce knowledge.The reality is much messier, because what’s at stake isn’t simply about resolving two competing worldviews. Rather, what’s at stake is how there is no universal way of knowing, and we have reached a stage in our political climate where there is more power in seeding doubt, destabilizing knowledge, and encouraging others to distrust other systems of knowledge production.

As the institutional construction of news media becomes more and more proximately divorced from the vast majority of people in the United States, we can and should expect trust in news to decline. No amount of fact-checking will make up for a widespread feeling that coverage is biased. No amount of articulated ethical commitments will make up for the feeling that you are being fed clickbait headlines.

It doesn’t take a quasi-documentary to realize that McDonald’s is not a fast-food franchise; it’s a real estate business that uses a franchise structure to extract capital from naive entrepreneurs.

no amount of innovative new business models will make up for the fact that you can’t sustain responsible journalism within a business structure that requires newsrooms to make more money quarter over quarter to appease investors. This does not mean that you can’t build a sustainable news business, but if the news is beholden to investors trying to extract value, it’s going to impossible. And if news companies have no assets to rely on (such as their now-sold real estate), they are fundamentally unstable and likely to engage in unhealthy business practices out of economic desperation.

ROI capitalism isn’t the only version of capitalism out there. We take it for granted and tacitly accept its weaknesses by creating binaries, as though the only alternative is Cold War Soviet Union–styled communism. We’re all frogs in an ocean that’s quickly getting warmer. Two degrees will affect a lot more than oceanfront properties.

There are three key higher-order next steps, all of which are at the scale of the New Deal.

  • Create a sustainable business structure for information intermediaries (like news organizations) that allows them to be profitable without the pressure of ROI.
  • Actively and strategically rebuild the social networks of America.
  • Find new ways of holding those who are struggling.

Trust cannot be demanded. It’s only earned by being there at critical junctures when people are in crisis and need help. You don’t earn trust when things are going well; you earn trust by being a rock during a tornado.

Bookmarked Your ABC: Value, Investment and Return for the Community (Future of Your ABC)

Why the ABC and public broadcasting is vital to the community. Transcript of ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie’s speech at the Melbourne Press Club, Tuesday 19 June, 2018.

In response to the recent call to sell the ABC, Michelle Guthrie presents a speech explaining the value of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in today’s world. I must be honest, I don’t listen to the ABC as much as I used to, however I follow a number of podcasts, such as RN Future Tense, and often turn to their website as a first port of call for news. In a time when there is a lot of discussion about the ownership of core infrastructure, it seems strange to sell the ABC. I wonder if this is a reflection of the changes to the media landscape that my nostalgia is overlooking?