4 More Websites I’m Impressed With

cjrEarlier this year, I shared 5 sites I’ve got bookmarked that I thought might surprise some folks. But maybe not, I’m a nerd, and some sites I’ve got bookmarked might be predictable. To be honest, I’m a sucker for those that do factchecking well and those that humor me.

On that note, here are 4 websites that impress me:

  1. Thrilling Adventure Hour – one of my very favorite podcasts, endlessly smart and entertaining.
  2. feedly – how I get my news feeds (really, it’s all the sites that matter to you, in one place – so it’s kinda the keeper of my news).
  3. Columbia Journalism Review – news regarding the evolution of news (disclaimer: I’m on their Board of Overseers).
  4.  Zatz Not Funny! – I love TV, and TV tech, and great site for the latter.

Honestly, I could keep going, and the list could keep growing, but I’ll save more for later… Hey, what are some sites that you’ve got bookmarked?

Developing Trust in 5 Minutes

gingrasRichard Gingras elaborates on Trust Project ideas about signals that may build credibility.

Here’s his 5-minute talk on trust, maybe indulge me and watch it:

Like Richard says, we’re trying to keep the focus on the community of editors, reporters, and publishers that is developing ideas to win trust. What do you think the best ways to develop trust are?

A Trustworthy Press is the Immune System of Democracy

lincoln

I’m a news consumer. I’m not trying to tell anybody how to do their job, or how to fix the news. I’m not in the business, and will respect professional boundaries.

I just want news I can trust. I also want to help reward good, honest journalism.

Since I’m not an expert, I have to defer to those who are. I’ve spent about ten years talking to a lot of these folks, and have recently joined the boards of Poynter Institute and Columbia Journalism Review, in addition to the Center for Public Integrity and Sunlight Foundation.

I do feel that most journalists perform admirably, but it takes very little to compromise trust in a news publication.

There’re good reasons to hope for the restoration of “the immune system of democracy,” but here’s a little of what gives me bad nights:

      • Dean Starkman shows us that the press fully knew that the economy was a mess during the last decade, but never told the American public about it. (Have the problems really been fixed?)
      • There was a fake IRS scandal, where the press was alerted to the problem by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), but this received little or no coverage.
      • Six billion in cash was “lost” in Iraq, but the only real coverage was in Vanity Fair (I’ve asked, they tell me that article is fully fact checked).
      • There’s what Jon Stewart calls the “CNN leaves it there” problem, where a news outlet knowingly airs clear-cut lying and then repeats it.
      • It’s also not uncommon for the press to – deliberately or not – assist in the creation of propaganda or hoaxes – things like the so-called Obamacare “death panels” which had no basis in reality but were presented by the press as though they did. In fact, the press has never consistently and relentlessly set the record straight on Obamacare.
      • danah boyd succinctly reports of the most fundamental problem, in “First: Do No Harm” where she notes the journalistic tendency to accept survey results, even if a little looking would reveal them to be fake. The bottom line:

But since when did the practice of journalism allow for uncritically making shit up? ::shaking head:: Where’s the fine line between poor journalism and fabrication?

Old school, editors expected reporters to get stuff right, they prized their credibility, weren’t so concerned about selling ads. That message: “get it right.” Plausible fake news could get through the editors, but it was considered wrong.

New school, of recent years, seems to send the message: “don’t get caught.” Editors don’t seem to care as long as the fakeness is good enough, and sensationalist enough to sell ads.

Nowadays a lie gets everywhere before a good actor can even respond.

Please remember that I do feel that most journalists perform admirably, but it takes very little to compromise trust in a news publication.

That is, it looks to me like the vast majority of people in news try really hard, and perform admirably under intense pressure.

However, often the requirement is only that a story must be plausible, and under pressure, that replaces due diligence and accountability, except in black and white situations, like plagiarism.

So, we see a lot of “stenography,” particularly in politics, the acceptance of received or conventional wisdom, per the story subjects described earlier. Jon Stewart illustrated this when he showed the visible reaction of a reporter, responding to an obvious political lie, who had to “leave it there”…repeated every half hour.

Good news, everyone!

There are hardass press organizations insisting on stricter ethics and accountability, like the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Online News Association (ONA).

Me, I’m not looking to be a hardass. I know the news business is brutally tough. I’m not looking for perfection. As a news consumer, I’m happy with a good faith effort.

Do your best to get it right. If you do, great. If you don’t, admit you got it wrong, fix it, even if hard, and try harder next time.

And we should reward journalists and press outlets that are practicing good, honest journalism.

Recently, I heard about the Trust Project at the factcheckMarkkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in cooperation with Richard Gingras, a longtime advocate of innovation in journalism, who happens to oversee Google News.

Jeff Jarvis built on this work. He suggested that Google News give higher rankings to news reports that are probably more trustworthy, rewarding ethical practice in maybe the best way possible.

(I don’t think I present Jeff’s ideas well here, but he seems to be the pointy end of the spear regarding news ethics, on the professional side.)

“More trustworthy” is a really difficult problem, it involves figuring out ways that articles propagate signals regarding their trustworthiness.

      • The publisher should have a code of ethics/trust comparable to that of the SPJ or ONA.
      • The publisher should hold itself accountable, not only prominently correcting errors, but propagating those corrections where they’ve flowed to other publishers.
      • Google News could uprank articles which have strong codes of ethics with accountability, and maybe downrank articles which don’t show corrections.
      • I’d like to think crowdsourcing could help, but disinformation professionals may be really too good to overcome.

That’s just the beginning of conversation, which is mission-critical for the survival of American democracy. How do we refine these signals into something useful? What other signals are useful? What can you add?

Remember, I’m just a news consumer like most people, unfortunately the pointy end of the spear from that perspective.

I just want news I can trust.

Note: After a reader called to our attention that the quote, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on,” was not said by Winston Churchill, we knew we had to do the same thing we think the media should do when someone calls out an error – admit it and fix it. Currently the author is unknown, and the quote was removed from the post.

Why Trustworthy News Should Matter More

factcheckWe’re living in a society where trustworthy news should matter more than it seems to. As I’ve been saying, the press should be the immune system of democracy, and needs to fulfill that role again.

And just a reminder that factchecking efforts only have value, it’s felt, if:

  • Misinformation is corrected, in a way that doesn’t reinforce the lie.
  • Any involved news outlets are encouraged to avoid promoting misinformation.
  • Regular people, the broad citizenry, have the means to easily help media correct misinformation and encourage news outlets to restore factchecking.

More to come, and soon…

“Saving the World” DIY Style

People ask me how I go about figuring out what causes I really believe in and what’s the most effective way to support those efforts. You can find a list of what I support specifically here. My general philosophy is to do some real good in the short run, while learning how to scale that up in the long run – to the entire planet in maybe twenty years. I’m also very committed to helping people from the bottom up, to give people a break that rarely get one, and to help give a voice to the voiceless.

When it comes to business success and money, know when enough is enough, which translates to a business model of doing well by doing good. I guess I’ve been real successful at that, and I’ve been told by a lot of startup people that this approach has influenced them.

So, in the short run, I’ve been doing what I can to help US veterans and military families, figuring that if someone will risk a bullet protecting me, I need to give back. Recently, people helped me understand that the family of an active service member serves the country while that service member is deployed, particularly in a war zone.

I’ve chosen groups to support, in government and in the nonprofit world, guided by considerations including:

  • Do they impact something I believe in?
  • Are they good at it?
  • Can I help them via serious social media consulting and engagement?
  • Can I learn from the experience how to use social media on a very large scale?
  • Just in case, does the nonprofit tell a really slick, heart-wrenching story? Have they been seriously vetted? (If not, substantial chance it’s a scam.)

So, the themes here have to do with “social impact,” probably mediated by social media, while watching out for compelling scams. (Sorry, but this is currently a huge problem in the nonprofit world.) For that reason, I engage with Charity Navigator,GuideStar, and GreatNonProfits.org. In particular, Charity Nav is making real progress measuring social impact, which is about how good an org is at serving its clients. Social media provides the tools that effective people use to work together to get stuff done. We’re talking not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc, but also tools like spreadsheets used to rank “employee innovation” efforts.

Human history suggests that change begins from the networks of individuals who work together through the social media of their times, from Caesar and Cicero, to St Paul and Martin Luther, and John Locke and Tom Paine. Consider the UK Glorious Revolution which resulted in modern representative democracy, which I frequently call the Twitter Revolution of 1688. (A great history of pre-Internet social media isThe Writing on the Wall, by Tom Standage, who reminds us that “history retweets itself.”) That history tells us that social media provides a set of tools which can effect real change. That history is one of democratization; the costs of those tools restricted them to the wealthy at first, but now the cost of entry is close to zero.

In the short term, my focus is normally on small orgs, since they can be more effective. However, I’m now working with a huge org, the Department of Veterans Affairs, around 360,000 people, and from that, I’m learning how to run large organizations – and large governments – effectively.

For the long term, I’m supporting efforts in the here and now that are fundamental to universal fairness; the intent is to give everyone a break, to treat everyone how you’d like to be treated.

One such effort involves figuring out how to get news that I can trust. I’m a news consumer, but for the past decade I’ve been getting training in media ethics and trust issues, as well as being shown how the news sausage is made. (It ain’t pretty, particularly with all the disinfo being flung around.) The theme is that “the press is the immune system of democracy” and that a good ethical framework might lead some part of the press back to trustworthy behavior.

Another effort involves voting rights in the US. While the Declaration of Independence reminds us that we’re all equal under the law, bad actors in politics can only survive if they stop certain groups of people from voting, and that ain’t right.

It might occur to you that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” and that is another articulation of what my stuff’s all about. You’d be right.

Photo: creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by USDAgov

5 Reasons We Need Social Change

Folks, I started this craigconnects thing because I really want to use tech to give a real voice to the voiceless, and real power to the powerless. Ever justicesince starting craigconnects, I’ve created a list of issues areas that I’m really focusing on. It’s important that we work together, as a community, and collaborate to create real social change. You can’t change the world from the top down.

Here are just 5 (of many) reasons we need social change:

  1. We seem to throw money into food and housing, yet a lot of folks are still in need, so something isn’t working right. This includes military families and veterans. We need to do it better.
  2. We need to improve the reentry experience of war veterans into the American economy and society. Less than 1% of Americans currently serve in the military, so this is a really important conversation to have. The conversation has already been started, we just need to keep collaborating and working toward our goals.
  3. Journalism Ethics. We need to ensure that journalism fulfills its role as the heart of democracy and its mission of seeking truth and building trust. The press should be the immune system of democracy. Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability. This is something I often discuss when I talk about trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world. And this is also why I joined the board of Poynter, and work with the Columbia Journalism Review, Center for Public Integrity, and Sunlight Foundation.
  4. There are some real bad actors out there trying to implement laws to stop eligible people, including women, the elderly, and disenfranchised communities, from voting. What I learned in high school civics class is that an attack on voting rights is virtually the same as an attack on the country. We need to step up and remind folks that the Founders of the US tell us that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law, meaning that citizens have the right to vote. And we need to protect that right.
  5. Today, women represent 12% of all computer science graduates. In 1984, they represented 37%. This number should be increasing, and we can change that. It’s important that we encourage girls and women to get involved in tech. Here’s more on the importance of girls in tech.

Personally, I’m a nerd, and feel that life should be fair, that everyone gets a chance to be heard, and maybe to help run things. Sure, life isn’t fair, but that won’t slow me down. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Note to self: JUST LISTEN. That is, don’t ALWAYS attempt to solve the problem, SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED TO LISTEN. (Courtesy of  “You Just Don’t Understand” by Deborah Tannen.)

Journalism Ethics: Why I’m Joining Poynter Institute

Hey, I just joined the Foundation Board of the Poynter Institute because of my interest in protecting journalism ethics. 

poynter

As a Board Member, I’ll support the Institute as an advisor, an ambassador, and try to be a useful resource. I’m doing this work because Poynter Institute’s the real deal, they’re a bridge between journalism’s core values and its innovative digital transformation.

factcheck

Joining this board’s a big deal since it already consists of folks who really care about good journalism and its role as the heart of democracy and its mission of seeking truth and building trust.

I really just want news I can trust.

Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy.” And I still believe that.

Turns out that what we have now are a lot of ethics codes and policies, but very little accountability. This is something I often discuss when I talk about trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world.

I’ve already been heavily involved in Poynter, promoting their new book about journalism ethics, emphasizing the importance of using accountability to expose the bad guys, helping spread the word about restoring trustworthiness to news, and I sponsored their conference about the restoration of journalism ethics.

I’m really thankful to join a board of really great folks for a good cause. More to come…

 

The Real Meaning of Journalism Ethics

Folks, journalism ethic’s really important to me. It’s why I’m really involved in the Columbia Journalism Review and Poynter Institute. I figure if we don’t have good news, how are we going to help others? To me, journalism ethics is about trustworthy news and exposing the bad guys.

But, because I’m not a journalist, I wanted to reach out to someone who’s doing this work daily. I asked Kelly McBride, of Poynter Institute, a few questions to talk more about the real meaning of journalism ethics.

Do you think journalism ethics is about exposing the bad guys?

Yes, and much more. But exposing bad guys is part of holding the powerful accountable. It’s not easy though because there aren’t always clear-cut bad guys. So in addition to exposing bad guys, journalism is about exposing flawed systems, incompetence, and unintended consequences.  Take the recent data that demonstrates and black children are expelled from school, even preschool, at higher rates than white children. There is no one bad guy here. But there sure as heck is a bad outcome that has to be remedied. Journalism has a role to play in holding the factcheckpowerful accountable that goes way beyond figuring out who the bad guy is.

What do you think is at stake for journalism and for journalism ethics?

Journalism is such a big tent, it’s hard to say what’s specifically at stake for the entire profession of journalism. But if you want to narrow that tent a little to, say, the journalism that strives as its primary mission to inform citizens and hold the powerful accountable,  I would say that this: What’s at stake is the ability of citizens to take information seriously. The marketplace of ideas is going to go in one of two directions. Either citizens will doubt everything, all sources.  Or citizens learn to distinguish information by certain markers like brand or transparency. Journalism organizations want option B and they want to be among the trusted sources. So really what’s at stake is whether we can continue to have a participatory democracy as our form of government.
What are the consequences of truthiness in journalism?

Truthiness is a bad thing. It’s when you repeat a fiction or a distortion over and over again until people believe it’s a real fact. So the consequence of truthiness not being in journalism would be a good thing.

How reliable do you think citizen journalism is?

Like all journalism, it runs the gamut. There are great examples of citizens filming police officers abusing their power, or evidence that governments have lied to their people. The thing about information generated by citizens is that usually only the good stuff rises to the top. So I’m not that concerned about the bad stuff.

What’s your best advice for factchecking and doing it the right way?

I like that fact checking is usually part of the production of every piece of journalism, as well as a separate act of journalism. All journalists fact check. And then more recently we have developed a discipline of fact checking things that politicians and pundits say. This recent development was necessary because of the proliferation of voices, as well as the proliferation of social media, which allows individuals to distribute a lot of information without going through professional journalists.

 

If this topic’s important to you, take a look at these 4 factchecking sites that’re the real deal. And I’d really like to hear what journalism ethics means to you, and your take on what Kelly had to say.

 

Smart words about journalism from danah boyd

danah

 

 

danah’s the bravest and most effective writer on matters like keeping kids safe on the Internet, getting the facts out in areas where people tend to make stuff up.

Her post on Medium might articulate a lot about journalism, both from a journalism and a news consumer perspective. You can read it here.

She gets to the point, writing simply and effectively.

“… since when did the practice of journalism allow for uncritically making shit up? ::shaking head:: Where’s the fine line between poor journalism and fabrication?”

Also, check out her new book, It’s Complicated

(Note to self: this also reminds me that I don’t write so good.)

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