Posted on July 30th, 2013 by Craig Newmark
Hey there, as many of you know, I gave $50k to the CrowdRise Veterans Charity Challenge earlier this month. The total money raised for Veterans and Milfams exceeded $448,000.
In my #VetsChallenge wrap up post, I asked you to stay tuned for the interviews I'd be conducting with two great orgs, both winners of a Bonus Challenge.
The first interview was with Jordan Towers, Social Media Coordinator for Swords to Plowshares. Jordan talked about how the org has provided core services, like housing, employment, and training to vets since 1974.
Some of the things that Jordan said during the interview really stuck out to me,
"The amazing thing about Swords to Plowshares is that we help all veterans of every generation…[We help] about 2,000 veterans in the San Francisco Bay area every year….[and] really try to tackle what the veterans need, and to restore their dignity and self-sufficiency. All veterans are welcome, regardless of discharge status."
You can listen to the full interview here:
Posted on July 25th, 2013 by Craig Newmark
Getting real about trustworthy journalism
Okay, I really just want news I can trust.
Couple years ago, I blurted out that "the press should be the immune system of democracy."
Personally, I really don't like being lied to, but my deal here is that our social contract with the news business is that they hold the powerful to account.
In return, we buy the products of news outlets, and give news professionals certain protections, like the US First Amendment and shield laws.
That gives the press a lot of power, which means that the news industry itself needs to be accountable. That's a lot easier said than done, and it's only getting harder to do.
However, if a journalist or news outlet isn't trustworthy, is it worth buying? Is it good for the country?
Well, I'm not in the news business, I'm an outsider, but over years I've spent a lot of time with people in the business, and I've gotten glimpses as to how the sausage is made. That means I gotta respect boundaries, and not tell people how to do their job.
That job gets more and more challenging, and even good news orgs can have lapses. I'm good with that, if they fix those lapses and hold themselves otherwise accountable, in good faith. Sure, there're legal consequences, but the bottom line is driven by trustworthy actions.
The solution involves:
Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability.
To make sense of this, here's the kind of lapse I'm talking about, none of which seems to have been addressed.
1. NBC selectively edited a video and badly misrepresented a guy in a real ugly case. Not clear if they've come clean about it yet.
Suggestion: news outlets should make the full recording available, perhaps via a discreet rapid-response accountability team.
2. Sometimes a news outlet might broadcast a public figure lying, even when they know it's a lie. This is what Jon Stewart calls the "CNN leaves it there" problem.
Suggestion: Reporters are smart, if they know they're being lied to, don't broadcast it. If they smell a lie but not sure, do a good faith fact-check.
3. Sometimes a news outlet does fact-checking and "forgets" to follow through. This has happened to me, but more importantly, happened to Jimmy Wales very recently, in the NY Times:
"It is very odd and filled with a lot of basic factual errors. For example, it says that Wikipedia was run out of a strip mall at one point – that's just completely false and a very weird thing to have said, particularly since I explained to the fact checker that it was wrong!"
Suggestion: do fact-checking, and then, correct any falsehoods.
4. Sometimes multiple news outlets will report first, without fact-checking, doing a lot of damage. This was particularly true in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attack.
Suggestion: confirm facts before publication.
5. Sometimes, news outlets don't do their research, get a story badly wrong, and really hurts the country. This is very true regarding the recent IRS scandal, the real story is more about Congressional failure and that the IRS isn't targeting enough possibly bogus charities.
Suggestion: use actual fact-checked research. Using other news reports as sources is not reliable. Reporting should be transparent about the political motivations of the people pushing the story. Specifically, journalists need to make sure they spend as much "good faith" time in exploring agendas as they do in seeking sources and exploring "the facts" they are made privy to.If so, the story would be perceived differently, perhaps accurately.
The news business is under considerable pressure, competing for a shrinking audience, often having to come up with many new stories per day. Sometimes the facts just can't be checked, which is a big reason I keep talking about "good faith."
My personal bias is that the news industry should create their own accountability tools. I don't think they'll be perfect, just looking for good faith action.
However, right now people are stirring the pot, constructively, suggesting that the government intervene.
Specifically, people are suggesting that "journalists" should have US First Amendment and shield law protections. Non-professionals, specifically "bloggers," might be denied those protections.
I think that way of doing it is wrong, and that the issue isn't "journalist vs. blogger" but whether or not the reporter and news outlet are accountable. Here, "accountable" means "acting in good faith to be trustworthy" which means having an ethics code and honestly trying hard to follow that code.
Does a journalist or news outlet without accountability have legal protections?
You can find a great summary by Mathew Ingram, which incorporates a lot of good work from Jillian York, Jeff Jarvis, David Weinberger, and others.
However, any news outlet that wants to succeed must be trustworthy, that is, accountable. I feel that's required for their survival, and for national survival.
Perhaps people in news can suggest how they can get to actual accountability?
Posted on July 24th, 2013 by craigconnects
Customer service can really be corrosive, and it gets worse than the usual trolling and abuse. However, singer and poet Leonard Cohen really helps me get through the day, with a small but substantial assist from Dr Stephen T Colbert DFA (Doctor of Fine Arts).
Shit rolls downhill. That's the life of a customer service rep, and I've had that pleasure for over eighteen years. (I continue to do customer service, one reason being to remind me about this.)
However, if you survive the first year or so, you can cope with trolling and verbal abuse since you can see that the vast majority of people are pretty reasonable. There are very few trolls or other bad actors. Unfortunately, the really bad actors get really good at telling a good story for their own profit or power. That means they appeal to the goodness of most people, and misinform them to give you a hard time.
Dealing with that gets old really fast, and often a customer service rep must absorb that criticism and wait, maybe years, for others to address it. Meanwhile, when this is happening, you need a hand just to get through the day.
My deal is that there's this guy, Leonard Cohen, who's been a real influential poet and singer for maybe fifty years. He's my rabbi, in the sense that a rabbi's a teacher and spiritual leader.
His music is pretty much my liturgy, prayer really, and it inspires me in a way to get through the day.
In context, my favorite Sunday School teacher, Dr Colbert, reminds us that "Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God."
I feel that joy in such prayer, that really helps out, and here's what's most effective from Leonard.
I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd,
Not while the killers
In high places
Say their prayers aloud.
But they've summoned
They're going to hear from me.
Posted on July 19th, 2013 by Craig Newmark
Hey, the Department of Veterans Affairs does more and more to give homeless vets a hand: VA triples spending on homelessness problem…
"The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday awarded almost $300 million in grants for homeless and low-income assistance efforts, three times what the agency spent on that program last year.
The move is part of the larger government-wide effort to end veterans homelessness in the next two years, and comes at a time when most federal programs are tightening their belts in an effort to deal with sharp reductions in funding."
That's big, reminding us to all lend a hand.
Locally speaking, here's what I support, all recommended!
… and more to come re Harbor Light.
Posted on July 17th, 2013 by Craig Newmark
President Obama and President George H.W. Bush present the 5,000th Daily Points of Light award to Floyd Hammer and Kathy Hamilton, a retired couple from Iowa who founded a nonprofit that has delivered more than 232 million free meals to children around the world.
A lot of really good people are helping Americans in need via the Corporation for National and Community Service. It's a "private-public partnership," meaning that people in business, government, and the nonprofit sector work together with citizens to get results.
That includes a lot of good work by AmeriCorps, which engages 80,000 Americans in results-driven service to meet local needs. In the last year AmeriCorps has teamed up with other agencies to launch:
Lots more needs to get done, and to that effect, the President just signed an official memorandum on expanding national service.
Basically, it tells federal agencies to work together in a task force to expand national service in six areas: emergency and disaster services; economic opportunity; education; environmental stewardship; healthy futures; and veterans and military families. It also encourages more partnerships with the private sector to unleash the energy of citizens to get things done.
This is a big deal; there's still a lot of suffering out there best address by a combination of public and private efforts.
There are a lot of people out there who could use an extra hand, even right in your own neighborhood. Help out if you can.