Wick Communications

The return of gatekeepers

In Social media on May 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm

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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the uproar over Facebook filtering its News Feed differently for liberal and conservative readers. There was even talk that the social network was excluding some conservative chatter. This has been swirling around for at least a couple weeks, and really, how could you be surprised? The algorithm is designed to give you what you want, whether its sushi over hamburgers,  Trump over Clinton.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal released a tool that allows you to see what arch conservatives and progressive liberals see on their Facebook News Feeds at any given time. Some found the difference unnerving.

Earlier this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was meeting with conservatives to unruffle feathers. Perhaps there will be some tweak to the math that makes more people happy, though I don’t know. I kind of doubt it. Do most liberals really want more Trump news on their social network? Are your conservative friends eager to scroll past Bernie Sanders every day?

A week ago, I attended a symposium that included a panel discussion with executives from various news organizations. One of those execs was longtime newspaper man Peter Bhatia. The Facebook thing came up and he quipped, “Oh, look at that. The gatekeepers are back.” To which all us old grizzled news hacks chortled because we remember being ridiculed for daring to be the gatekeepers for our readers. …

Deciding what’s appropriate

In journalism on May 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm

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It starts off as an ordinary party. A group of teens have gathered, and some of them had started drinking about 4 p.m. – four hours ago. … A few minutes later, Tori, is dead.

That was the gist of the first four paragraphs of a front-page story in the Capital Journal in Pierre, S.D., earlier this month. It was accompanied by a photo that, on first glance, seemed to show a body on the hood of a car, covered in blood. That’s it up there with this post.

Well, it’s not Tori’s blood, because there is no “Tori.” The body is an actor. The newspaper merely used a pretty typical writing device to cover a rite of spring at many schools. It was a school-sponsored anti-DUI campaign that employs a narrative and a very graphic re-enactment that is designed to highlight the dangers of drinking and driving and scare teenagers into sobriety during the graduation and prom season.

Regardless of whether you think these re-enactments are effective, it’s clear that the adults’ hearts are in the right place. If it saves one life, right?

I absolutely am not taking issue with what the Capital Journal did with this story and photograph. For one thing, it was accurately conveying what went on when each of 260 high school students was asked to parade past the graphic “post-accident” scene. And I hate a Monday morning editor as much as the next guy. What’s more: We’ve run similar things in the Review! …

The Undefeated

In Online media on May 19, 2016 at 3:19 pm

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Have you seen this yet? To my mind, it’s not getting nearly enough attention.

I don’t know quite how to describe it, yet I know what it is. That’s because it’s so sure of itself, even in these first fledgling days. It’s an ESPN product and reads as if ESPN were published in gritty New Haven, Conn., rather than bucolic Bristol, Conn.

Editor Kevin Merida explains that his site is an unabashedly Afro-centric corner of the web. That’s not what interests me most, though lord knows we could use more diversity in American news sites. What interests me is the way Merida makes a daring promise:

At The Undefeated, every day will feature a surprise. Every day, some joy. And no day without swagger. We want The Undefeated to feel urgent, necessary, not dutiful.

Amen. He and his team have already given us poetry, rap, long-form journalism, video presentations and insights into sports and culture that you can’t find anywhere else. (One example of that different angle: While the rest of the sports reporting world is marveling at LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and their own undefeated run through the playoffs, The Undefeated is writing about James’ promise of education for many at-risk kids back in his native Akron, Ohio.)

I’m already hooked on The Undefeated. If you like it too, think about why you do. Is it because it’s providing a unique value proposition? Is it vital? Is it overflowing with quality and surprise? What can we take from that example? …

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