Local-Global Youth Development

Folks, the Organic Health Response (OHR) is located on Mfangano Island, Kenya, in the heart of Lake Victoria.  They seek to activate information technology, social solidarity, and environmental sustainability to turn the tide against HIV/AIDS across Lake Victoria.

Over the years we’ve supported OHR’s ICT initiatives, namely a highspeed Internet link from their ICT resource headquarters, the Ekialo Kiona (EK) Center, on Mfangano Island to the nearest mainland city of Kisumu. This record breaking link is East Africa’s longest wifi connection (You can read more here: WiFi to Help Out HIV/AIDS on Mfangano Island).

The Ekialo Kiona Center implements a suite of programs including the innovative Cyber-Voluntary Counseling and Testing Pilot, a computer lab with 17 low-powered Inveneo PCs, an organic demonstration farm and native tree nursery, the world’s first microclinic program for people living HIV/AIDS, and EK-FM, a youth-driven community radio station.

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The Organic Health Response helps connect kids to their local ICT resources by hosting school field trips to the EK computer lab. According to OHR,

“Last week, a group of 15 kids trickled in to the EK Center for their first tour, led by EK’s ICT Coordinator, Brian Mattah. Sounds of excitement bounced off the ferro-cement walls, as little fingers punched away at the keyboards.  For many, this was their first experience in front of a computer screen. In conjunction with a fieldtrip, Mfangano youth are paired with student pen-pals at Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater, MN. Over the years these kids will learn to communicate with each other via email. At the same time, students in the USA learn about life on Mfangano Island and help raise money to support each field trip.”

The EK Center’s the only high-speed Internet hub on the entire island. For local youth, there are no training facilities in their island communities to support a healthy connection to the outside world.

OHR supports local-global youth development by providing ICT experiences at a young age (computer training, journalism, radio production, and editing skills), in hopes of building and empowering skilled and empowered leaders for the future.  EK-FM youth presenters have been sending us posts over the last few months (More here…). Stay tuned for even more from these talented folks.

 

 

 

4 factchecking sites that’re the real deal

Folks, I just want news I can trust. As I’ve been saying, the press should be the immune system of democracy, and needs to fulfill that role again. With the Internet, everyone can be their own journalist now. It’s become increasingly difficult to find news that comes from a trustworthy press.

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.politifact meter

My team and I compiled a list of 4 factchecking sites that are the real deal (in no particular order, and please note that none are perfect, and sometimes their calls are called into question):

      1. FlackCheck.org, brought to you by the folks at factcheck.org – FlackCheck.org provides resources designed to help viewers recognize flaws in arguments in general and political ads in particular.
      2. Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times to help you find the truth in American politics.
      3. Sunlight Foundation – Sunlight uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency.
      4. Poynter. – Poynter is a school that exists to ensure that our communities have access to excellent journalism—the kind of journalism that enables us to participate fully and effectively in our democracy.

 

What sites do you follow because they’re the most ethical and trustworthy? More to come…

Does Journalism Need New Ethics?

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Folks, here’s an excerpt of a blog post I wrote for Poynter. Please click here to read the whole story.

When I saw a story recently in the New Republic asserting that Silicon Valley has become one of “the most ageist places in America,” I was taken aback.

As far as I can tell, there is discrimination against older people in the business world, but it’s no different from what I’ve seen through a 38-year career. It doesn’t surprise me, since I’ve faced what might be ageism (I’m 61), but maybe I have been discriminated because I’m balding, short, and pudgy.

Still, I have concerns that readers might take this particular story about ageism as proven fact — even though the reporting seems to be mostly anecdotal.

The story characterizes a group of maybe a million people based on a small sample size and, to me, a handful of the anecdotes seemed not so good, not so trustworthy. As a very literal guy (nerd) I assume that the headline and the body of the article are telling me that the vast majority of folks in Silicon Valley are guilty of a form of bigotry.

In the middle of my reflection, I read an interview with Aron Pilhofer from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Pilhofer runs a newsroom team at The New York Times that combines journalism, social media, technology and analytics. Some of his comments about data journalism, culture and going digital, seemed to echo my criticism of the New Republic’s piece on ageism.

“Journalism is one of the few professions that not only tolerates general innumeracy but celebrates it,” said Pilhofer in the interview.

“It’s a cultural problem. There is still far too much tolerance for anecdotal evidence as the foundation for news stories.”

Pilhofer’s comments confirmed what I was already thinking, that anecdotes are great clues as to what might be going on, but sometimes they are cherry-picked to confirm what a writer already believes. That’s to say that they can reinforce truthiness and preconceived notions.

I view hard data as complementary to anecdotal evidence. We need to balance both. If somebody asserts something factual, I want them to back it up with more than anecdotes, so that readers can trust it.

I turned to friends I’ve made in the journalism world for their opinions. Since I’m just a news consumer, not a professional journalist, I wanted their expert opinions. I asked them each to respond to this question:

When is anecdotal reporting enough to support broad conclusions without concrete data? This recent article on ageism in Silicon Valley seemed to paint an entire group of people based a handful of examples. Is that fair?

You can read folks’ responses over on Poynter. And, I’d like to hear what you think, too. Please share your opinions in the comments below. And be sure and check out the Harvard Business Review article How Old Are Silicon Valley’s Top Founders? Here’s the Data.

6 reasons to make a difference

Folks, I believe that it’s important to help people out when you’re able to, and that means making a difference. It doesn’t have to be big stuff to really create change.

A lot of the work I do on craigconnects involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Mostly you hear from me bearing witness to good works of others, or, if I think I’m funny. (I know I’m not as funny as I think, though by Washington standards, I’m hi-larious.)

Here are 6 reasons that I work to make a difference:

  1. Code is power, and it’s important to encourage girls to learn how to code. Orgs like Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are doing this.
  2. Vets and their families do a lot for us. If they’re willing to risk their lives for me, I’m willing to give back to them as much as I can. It’s one of the reasons I became the VA’s Nerd-in-Residence.
  3.  Ok, I really just want news I can trust. Trustworthy journalism’s far and few between lately, and that needs to change. Couple years ago, I blurted out that “the press should be the immune system of democracy,” and I still believe that.
  4. The Declaration of Independence reminds us that everyone is equal under law, and I figure election integrity is a big deal. However, there are some bad actors that are trying to pass legislation that will keep eligible people from voting. I’m working with folks like Voto Latino to stop ’em. Here’s an infographic the craigconnects team and I created about these issues: Think You Have the Right to Vote? Not so much!
  5. Consumer protection is needed to protect regular people from predatory financial institutions. That’s like home loaners who’ll make loans to people who can’t pay the bills, or payday loaners who deceive military families. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to see how an effective government org gets stuff done.
  6. I’d like to help give a voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless. Everyone should get the chance to be heard. It’s why I started craigconnects. My goal’s to team up with good folks in an effort to connect people and orgs around the world to get stuff done.

I’m looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

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Photo Credit: Aleksi Aaltonen

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

To be sure, I don’t feel this is altruistic or noble, it’s just that a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly. What are your reasons for making a difference?

Supporting some nonprofits, and some not, here’s the deal

For well over ten years, a whole bunch of nonprofit orgs (NPOs) have asked me for assistance, and I think I’ve gone way above and beyond to help as much as I could.

The vehicle for all that is now craigconnects.org, where I support some causes for the short term, while learning how to do it way, way better with a twenty-year horizon.

I’ve chosen a range of causes that feel right to me, they resonate for me at a gut level. Military families and veterans efforts feel right, so does the effort to help restore trustworthiness to journalism.

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One way that I validate my gut reaction about a NPO is through good orgs like Charity Navigator, Guidestar, Center for Investigative Reporting, and GreatNonprofits. They help me find good, effective nonprofits. When they talk about America’s 50 Worst Charities or rate how NPOs are doing, I pay attention.

If I believe in a cause enough, it becomes a craigconnects focus, and my team and I locate NPOs who are really good at helping, at “moving the needle,” and support them.

Also, I’ll support NPOs that are effective and do things that I believe in, with no specific pattern.

The danger with going with my gut is that we’ve learned, the hard way, that some NPOs are really good at telling a really good, heart-rending story. Turns out that they aren’t really good at helping anyone who needs help. Cash sent to them winds up in some briefly attention-getting awareness raising, something normally useful, and in salaries and perks. Usually, an NPO gets attention via getting real results, but the kind I’m talking about, they get attention, and hope that no one checks if they get anything done.

NPOs want help from me in social media, both in consulting mode and in using social media to their benefit. I’m okay with both. Even a nerd can get to be good at all this, though I’ll never be good as a natural.

For more, please check out craigconnects.org, check out [connect with Craig], that’s a start, and I really appreciate it.

Thanks!

 

Trustworthy journalism in a fact-checking-free world

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?

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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?

Craig Newmark’s big issues for craigconnects in 2013

Hey there folks, I’m figuring out what’s my deal, what do I spend time doing, and what’ll be my main focus for 2013. This seems to be the shortest version which makes any sense to anyone else.

A lot of this involves quiet, back-channel communications, which I might never go public with. Sure, sometimes I gotta be a squeaky wheel, or sometimes I need to be annoying enough to motivate people, but will do so reluctantly.

You’ll see a focus on matters in the here and now, looking to help solve problems that exist now, while learning how make things work better in the longer term by motivating people in increasingly large numbers.

That includes figuring out how to get people to work together, particularly the people at groups with similar goals. Nonprofits with common goals normally find it really hard to collaborate, and that begs for a solution.

Anyway…

craigslist customer service is something I’ve got a hard commitment to, only as long as I live. I got only lightweight stuff to do these days, which is a big deal since:

  • it reminds me of what’s real, when I hear from people who get food on the table via our site.
  • it reinforces my emotional investment in operating from the grassroots level on up, in identifying with the grassroots, and in viewing life from the bottom up.

Also, there’s my craigconnects.org stuff, which includes a number of areas, but the two big areas are military families/veterans issues, and journalism trust/ethics issues.

If someone’s willing to serve overseas and risk taking a bullet for me, I should give back at least a little. Also, everyone should remember that it’s not only a troop serving, it’s also his or her family who give up a lot for all of us.

1. There are networks of military spouses, often linked by the mailing lists (listservs) where spouses at specific bases help each other. Multiple spouse organizations maintain their own networks. Finally, the senior-most spouses talk with each other. If they would work with each other, and supported each other, they could get a lot more done, including much of what follows this item.

2. Military families sometimes need a hand from one of the tens of thousands of helping organizations around the US. This is what the Joint Chiefs call the “sea of goodwill” and the problem is locating who can help with what. A milfam group has built the beginning of a database and smartphone app toward this end. (Veterans need this also, but spouses groups might just have the lead.)

3. There are specific areas where maybe I can help in very minor ways, for example:

  • schools that serve military kids, at specific bases, are underfunded. A matching grants effort via DonorsChoose.org might be useful.
  • when a spouse moves from a base in one state to another, we need to find ways to make re-licensing fast to avoid loss of income.

4. Spouses and veterans need jobs, and the Veterans Job Bank is a good start. It needs updating, and then, we need to tell people it exists and is useful.

5. It’s really difficult for veterans to express military skills and experience in terms that civilian hiring managers can understand. Better programs need to be developed and they need to be actively used during transition from active service.

6. Troops who transition from active service can have a really hard time getting disability claims approved. The Fully Developed Claims effort needs to be amplified during transition and thereafter. Also, perhaps the Department of Veterans Affairs disability approval backlog can be helped by effectively getting the assistance of Veterans Service Organizations. VSO worker level personnel, maybe working directly with VA disability raters can help accelerate processing in unexpected ways. (Disclaimer: I’ve been personally involved with the VA employee innovation effort which has already helped a little.)

7. There needs to be greater outreach by VA medical centers via social media, and also regarding Blue Button efforts which allow veterans to download medical and work experience while in service.

 

Okay, the other big area I focus on involves journalism integrity and ethics, toward increasing the trustworthiness of news reporting. I really am aware that I’m not in the news industry, and won’t tell people how to do their job.

However, I really want to get news I can trust. After all, the press is the immune system of democracy… or should be.

Toward that end, I’m already working with the Poynter Institute, which is a really big deal in professional journalism. They’ve run a conference on journalistic issues, raising big issues. For example, to maintain a pretense of objectivity, it’s common to bring on a speaker a reporter knows will attempt to deceive the public. In such a case, is the reporter and news outlet complicit in that deception?

Moving forward, I’ll be increasingly involved in publicly raising such issues publicly, with the objective of finding news I can trust. That means working with more news organizations with a history of trustworthy behavior.

Finally, well, I was heavily involving in protecting the rights of all eligible Americans to vote, mostly by supporting organizations with boots on the ground. I figure this is about the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, in that all are created equal, and that we really can be the “shining city on the hill.”

However, there are people who disagree with universal suffrage, and have taken that to the Supreme Court, so I’ll continue to help.

Anyway …

Please remember that I’m doing this real discreetly, not really rocking the boat except when a little of that is required, just the least amount needed.

Finally, nothing I do is altruistic the way I look at things; it just feels right. A nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

How about news we can trust?

Here’s the deal, folks – recently, the Poynter Institute held a conference regarding the restoration of journalistic ethics. They’re a real big deal in professional journalism, so I helped ’em, modestly, some funding, significant social media stuff.

Me, I just want news I can trust.

Sure, I’m not in the news industry, and have no idea how to fix the problem. However, maybe we can get a good start regarding what might be the worst of ethical abuses.

Right now, “objectivity” in news means that sometimes, to pretend objectivity, a news org will bring on two sides of a story. They’ll be fully aware that one participant will lie to the public. (I’m not talking about gray areas; there’re lots of black-and-white clear situations.)

Similarly, news orgs will present a speaker who will lie to the public, and the interviewer will say something about “leaving it there” instead of challenging the speaker. This is what Jon Stewart calls the “CNN leaves it there” problem.

Such efforts are clearly deceptive, but not (yet) called out in the Society of Professional Journalists ethics code as bad behavior.

One step toward trustworthy news would be to declare that kind of thing unethical.

Next step would be for people in the public, people who don’t want to be lied to any more, to bring light to such situations.

Might this help? Hard to say, it’s sure no fix, but maybe a good start?

Poynter conf on journalist ethics: let’s jump the gun

Okay, I’ve been saying that the “press is the immune system of democracy” for a coupla years now.

A lot of this is motivated by conversations with people in media; they’d like to restore trustworthy behavior to news media, not in just a few pockets of it. I remind ’em that I’m not in the business, but I can help, maybe just a little.

Well, the Poynter Institute is a really big deal regarding trustworthy journalism, and they’ll be running a conference on journalistic ethics in NYC this Autumn.  They haven’t announced the date, but I figure this is a big issue, and I’ll do what I can to make it really big, beyond merely funding it.


So, I’ll be posting some of the big issues in journalistic trust and ethics suggested in years of talking with people in the business, using hashtag #PoynterJournoEthics.

For example, I’ve wondered what’s the deal when you can see that a reporter knows when he’s being lied to, but says that he has to “leave it there” and throw it back to the anchor.  That reinforces the lie, not so good.  One of the country’s most trustworthy journalists, Jon Stewart, calls it the “CNN leaves it there” problem, and speaks way smarter about it than me.

more to come…

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