WEEKEND READS & FEEDS 10.13.2013
Is Twitter Ruining America and American politics? “Why do we need journalism when we have social media” is the rallying cry of those who have a perspective to share. If you have something to say — a cool link you saw or a photo or a review of a restaurant — you go on Facebook and Twitter and Yelp and say it. Why do you need journalists to tell you about links or how good restaurants are when you have social media?” Philip Bump asks in his piece for The Atlantic. Then Bump answers his own question: “The short answer is: you don’t. The long answer is: You need journalists when you want an independent perspective. And that perspective — particularly for decision-makers — is essential. Bump appears to believe that social media, Twitter in particular, are ruining America by making it easier for politicians, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to create a bubble in which they only communicate with fans. Mathew Ingram over at GigOM writes in response that he couldn’t disagree more. Ingram writes that the transparency and lack of filters social media provide “has as many positive aspects as it does negative ones.” Twitter and other forms of social media allow all kinds of people — including politicians like Cruz — to reach out and find an audience that shares their views, he added. At the same time, Ingram argues, Twitter also allows all of us to see “those PR maneuvers and grandstanding happening in full public view, instead of being hidden away behind the scenes — and that has some very obvious public benefits.”
Our News Is Gerrymandered Too. Political analysts are quick to point out that redistricting — the drawing of political boundary lines — is fostering an ideological extremism in congress. “But given that politics in its current form is threatening to produce a crisis that threatens to create financial mayhem on a global scale — while striking one more blow against claims of American “greatness” — perhaps something more complicated than sketching out voting districts is at play,” David Carr writes in the Oct. 11, 2013 edition of The New York Times. “The polarized political map is now accompanied by a media ecosystem that is equally gerrymandered into districts of self-reinforcing discourse. Justice (Antonin) Scalia and millions of news consumers select and assemble a worldview from sources that may please them, but rarely challenge them.” Carr argues that it is not just politicians who are feeding their bases, it is the media outlets, as well. “The village common — you know, that place where we all meet to discuss our problems, relying on the same set of facts — has shrunk to the size of a postage stamp, surrounded by the huge gated communities of like minds who never venture into the great beyond.”
I Always Feel Like, Somebody’s Watching Me. There have been plenty of reports about Facebook’s and Google’s new ad dollar grabs that infringe upon user privacy. Cutting to the chase: If you’re on Facebook, anyone can find you by typing your name in the search-bar. To be honest, this was already possible for most users, but now Facebook is removing this privacy setting, notifying those who had hidden themselves that they’ll be searchable. Google will soon begin placing its users profile names and photos in advertisements. The move makes the search giant more competitive with Facebook. It’s fairly easy to opt out of Google’s new “shared endorsements” policy, according to self-described tech skeptic and consumer advocate Bob Sullivan. Google shares how, here. Facebook, on the other hand, is a bit more tricky and can’t be reversed entirely. “Until now, privacy-sensitive users could select an option which meant that strangers could not find them by search through the service. That option has been discontinued, which is a boon for would-be stalkers and harassers,” Sullivan writes. “You can still block individual users from finding you, but you must do this pro-actively, and one stalker at a time. Naturally, nothing stops a would-be harasser from using a newly created fake account and finding you.” Sullivan gives a few tips, however, to help mitigate further erosion of your privacy, including stopping search engines from linking to items on your Facebook page by turning off the options available under your Facebook privacy settings and “Who can look me up?” Get more tips here.
Can Advocacy Journalism Save the News? In order to save the news industry, journalists will not just need to report the news, they will have to explain complicated, difficult issues and help citizens figure out how they can make a difference and have an impact, said Ethan Zuckerman, director of MIT’s Center for Civic Media and founder of Global Voices, a world-wide community of bloggers and citizen journalists. If it sounds like Zuckerman is promoting advocacy journalism as a solution to what ails the industry, that’s because he is. By believing its only mission is to inform, journalists are losing the current generation, not only as news consumers but also as “part of a civic dialogue,” Zuckerman said at the Nieman Foundation’s 75th Anniversary celebration last month. “We need media to step up and say ‘if you want to have an impact on society, if you want to be an educated citizen, we have to help you figure out how to be involved in a way where you can actually make a difference,'” Zuckerman said. “And we need to be doing this all across the journalism spectrum.” Interesting that Zuckerman says this at the same time the Pew Center tells us that newspapers are allocating less and less space to opinion content, where advocacy journalism traditionally takes place. To that Zuckerman might respond, “The problem is not advocacy journalism, the problem is bad sorts of advocacy, for bad civics.” But allDigitocracy has not asked him… yet, so we don’t know this to be a fact.