Let’s Fix It: Why Is It So Hard to Find Ethics and Trust in the Media?
Coupla years ago, I blurted out that "the press is the immune system of democracy." That's what I learned from my high school history teacher, Anton Schulzki.
That's not working so well. We've had major press scandals recently, including some obvious failures to follow through with widely known information. A few, really egregious failures: WMD, the economic crash around 2008, ObamaCare, VA scandals starting in 2002 and the current badly misreported scandals, and the IRS failing to pursue fake political nonprofits.
With a track record like this, should anyone want to buy news?
I'm a news consumer, and I just want news I can trust. For around a decade, publishers, editors, journalist and ethicists have given me quite the education. I've never suggested how to fix the news — I just want to fix the trust and ethics part.
I see how tough the job is; people have to fill the "news hole" every day, with something sensational that might sell some soap or something.
That's a lot of pressure, lots of job insecurity, and I always want to give people a break.
Let's do something constructive, maybe starting with an allusion to an article by danah boyd, "Rule #1, Do No Harm." In that article, she wonders: "When did it become acceptable to make shit up?"
So, first, a generous and constructive approach starts with "do no harm." Beyond that, I'm looking for serious good faith in conducting serious fact-checking, and serious correction of the errors that get through anyway.
Since bad info spreads fast, sometimes virally, honest correction might be challenging. It would require repeating the truth, asking other news outlets to correct the disinfo, and even some SEO work. Corrections should not reinforce the error, a common problem given human perception.
How will news orgs start to self-enforce in tough situations?
For example, how do you catch a reporter who is skilled in making up plausible but false stories, or who relies on other unchecked reports?
How can that happen if a heavily burdened editor says, "Just don't get caught"?
That is, news orgs should be held accountable for damage they cause, just like other professionals are held responsible for malpractice.
Folks, my teams and I have been following your comments about women in the tech sector that you really admire.
We've researched many of the women you've shared, and appreciate the time you took to mention 'em. The following is a list of women who really have their boots on the ground, all suggestions from comments. Please keep 'em coming. And maybe follow these women who are doing a lot of work for social good in the tech arena.
3. Deb Nicholson, Director of Community Outreach for the Open Invention Network, works at the intersection of technology and social justice. She's been a free speech advocate, economic justice organizer and civil liberties defender. After working in Massachusetts politics for fifteen years, Deb became involved in the free software movement.
She's the Community Outreach Director at the Open Invention Network and the Community Manager at Media Goblin. She also serves on the board at Open Hatch, a non-profit dedicated to matching prospective free software contributors with communities, tools and education.
(We could not find a Twitter account for Deb Nicholson…)
4. Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph, Automation and Tools Engineer at Hewlett-Packard on the OpenStack Infra team. Elizabeth's also a Community Council member for Ubuntu and a Board Member for Partimus, an organization that puts Linux hardware in schools.
5. Keila Banks, A web designer, programmer, videographer, and publisher of content making use of mostly open source software. She speaks to audiences of adults and youth alike on being raised in a family filled with technology and how she uses Linux and open source software in ways that will challenge you to ask yourself, are you smarter than a 5th grade open source user?
(We could not find a Twitter account for Keila Banks…)
6. Val Aurora, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Ada Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to increase women's participation in the free culture movement, open source technology, and open source culture. Val's a writer, programmer, and feminist activist, and speaks about women in open technology and culture, feminism, and harassment. She also co-founded Double Union, a feminist hackerspace in San Francisco
On the Internet we continue an old tradition of social media, pioneered in the Roman Republic. I look at the social media leaders in the past who were good at doing things. They really paved the way for what's happening today with technology. The Internet and social media have been a way to give a real voice to the voiceless and real power to the powerless. It's created a space for citizen journalism.
If we look back, we'll realize that there were many powerful social media leaders of the past, for example:
1. Julius Caesar was an early blogger, even though it was very low tech.
Looks to me that Julius Caesar was not only a blogger re: the conquest of Gaul, but he kinda invented journalism in its most literal sense.
2. It got a little better with Martin Luther, who decided to use an evolved form of the same network. He got pretty good, blogging on a church blog. Luther blogged his way to major religious and social change.
Of course Luther was assisted by this printing press thing – and this evolved in the Twitter revolution of 1688. He used the efforts of a nerd, a guy Johannes Gutenberg, to great effect. (Gutenberg got great stuff done, but it was Luther who got big stuff done.)
3. John Locke, the one who lived in 1688, not the John Locke in Lost. Good show, but you could only understand it if you knew a lot about quantum physics. I know a lot of you want to hear it more about quantum physics, but more later… Just be glad I'm not going on a Game of Thrones rant.
You can't make change from the top down. The president's the most powerful person in the world, but not that powerful. What's powerful is when people in the trenches work together to get things done, and that's what makes a difference.
My deal is to try to get folks to work together. It's important to give a voice to people who never had one, and then to share their work. My stuff to date gives me a bit of a bully pulpit that I don't need for myself. However, I use it on a daily basis to get the word out on behalf other others.
My joke, occasionally tweeted, is that I retweet a lot because 1) it's good to share, and 2) it spares me the burden of original thought. Well, #2 has some truth to it, but #1 is the big deal for me.
Hey, it's important to me to recognize folks doing really good work, especially those who don't usually get the recognition they deserve. My team and I have generated quite a few lists of women doing good work:
Recently, I asked my networks to contribute the women who impressed them, the folks in the STEM field who really have their boots on the ground. We got great responses, verified the women suggested, and have compiled a list (in no particular order) here:
1. Natasha Mohanty, Co-Founder, CTO, & VP of Technology at FEM inc.
Natasha joined FEM inc. from Google, where she was a lead engineer working on content recommendations and personalization for Google+ and Google News with a special emphasis on meeting the needs of women. Their efforts increased female engagement with Google+ by over 30%.
She has extensive experience in large-scale data mining to build user profiles through data. She received her A.B. from Mount Holyoke and M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When not hacking for FEM inc., she works on projects to get more women and girls interested in tech.
2. Limor Fried, Founder of Adafruit Industries
Adafruit was founded in 2005 by MIT engineer, Limor "Ladyada" Fried. Her goal was to create the best place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. Adafruit has grown to over 50 employees in the heart of NYC with a 15,000+ sq ft. factory.
Adafruit has expanded offerings to include tools, equipment and electronics that Limor personally selects, tests and approves before going in to the Adafruit store. Limor was the first female engineer on the cover of WIRED magazine and was awarded Entrepreneur magazine's Entrepreneur of the year.
3. Marianne Marck, Senior Vice President of Consumer Facing Technology at Starbucks
At Starbucks, Marianne leads the global retail and digital technology teams, the solution architecture and enterprise integration functions, and the technology teams for the China-Asia-Pacific region.
She joined Starbucks in 2011 as Vice President of Software Engineering, and led the enterprise software and application engineering function, including efforts for ERP, HRIS, web, mobile, enterprise QA, enterprise integration, and solution architecture. Prior to joining Starbucks, Marianne earned 22 years of tech experience developing solutions and platforms and building teams. Most recently at Blue Nile, she held the role of Senior Vice President of technology.
4. Bindu Reddy, CEO and Co-Founder of MyLikes
Before starting MyLikes, Bindu was at Google and oversaw product management for several products including Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Video and Blogger. When she first started at Google, Bindu was a Product Manager for AdWords, where she improved the AdWords bidding model by introducing Quality Based Bidding and Quality Score for keywords. She was also in charge of Google’s shopping engine – Google Product Search and designed and launched Google Base.
Before Google, Bindu founded AiYo – a shopping recommendations service. Earlier in her career, Bindu was the Director of Product Management at eLance and a Computational Biologist at Exelixis.
5. Edie Stern, a distinguished Engineer and Inventor at IBM
Edie has more than 100 patents to her name, and has been awarded the Kate Gleason Award for lifetime achievement. She received the award for the development of novel applications of new technologies. The 100 patents to her name represent her work in the worlds of telephony and the Internet, remote health monitoring, and digital media.
6. Ellen Spertus, Research Scientist at Google & Computer Science Professor at Mills University
Ellen's areas of focus are in structured information retrieval, online communities, gender in computer science, and social effects of computing. She was a core engineer of App Inventor for Android, which enables computing novices to create mobile apps. and she co-authored a book on App Inventor.
Ellen has been working to bring more women into computing for decades now. In 1991, while studying computer science at MIT, she published a paper titled, "Why are there so few Female Computer Scientists." And Ellen tells girls: "I'm sorry to tell you that Hogwarts isn't real — but MIT is."
Thanks to everyone who contributed, and please, keep 'em coming!