Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Internet’

Worried about ‘fake news?’

In journalism, Uncategorized on November 17, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Perhaps the hottest topic in our industry is “fake news.” You know what it is because you probably see it in your Facebook feed or Google search all day long. Hillary Clinton promised amnesty for undocumented immigrants who voted for her. World War III is days away. John Podesta is a witch.

Most of these things are pretty obviously not true. The trouble comes when you are in your own echo chamber and what you read generally confirms what you want to believe. Then discerning the difference can be a matter of will.

A lot of smart people think this is a big, big problem for real journalists. Is real journalism devalued when it comes amid so much fakery? If people can’t tell the difference, will they just choose to believe what they want to believe?

Jack Shafer says no. He’s a well-known media critic who notes that there is nothing new about fake news. Politicians and their minions have been faking stories about the opposition for as long as there has been ink and paper.

That is true, but I tend to believe there is something more pernicious happening today. I think it has to do with the viral nature of media now. Shafer points out 18th century hoaxes about man-eating trees and monkeys trained to pick cotton, but those stories weren’t shared millions of times in an hour. They didn’t take on a life of their own. … Read the rest of this entry »

Checking the facts

In First Amendment on August 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm

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One of the most persistent complaints about “the mainstream media” is a perceived lack of interest in the truth. Many, many people think we sacrifice the truth in trying to be fair to each side – regardless of whether one or both sides are just plain lying.

There is truth to that complaint. We are hard-wired in many instances to seek a rebuttal. The mayor says this. His chief rival responds thusly. Etc. You see it every day in coverage of the presidential campaigns. Donald Trump says Hillary Clinton wants to abolish the Second Amendment. She says she doesn’t. Ad nauseam.

But which side is telling the truth?

Too often, we don’t even try to say. That is partly because ferreting out the truth is harder than he-said, she-said reporting.

Well, Green Valley News Editor Dan Shearer has stumbled on one way to get at the truth without having to do it all himself. He pointed me toward FactCheck.org. It describes itself here:

We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding. …
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Taking the ‘I’ out of internet

In Associated Press on April 7, 2016 at 11:14 am

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Beginning June 1, AP style calls for an end to uppercase Internet and Web. So, enjoy your stature while you still can, 20th century terms for the digital future.

I don’t know how you feel about these changes, but I guess I’m agnostic, though leaning a bit toward support of the new rule. It makes sense to me. These are much more generic and certainly ubiquitous terms than they used to be. They are not proper nouns any longer, I don’t think, at least not in the common usage.

Most of the digital punditry about these changes suggest that it is about time. The know-it-alls say AP is just old-school and slow to adopt standard usage. I say that is a good thing. I appreciate that the keepers of the style are reflective and not reactive.

And another thing: It has been suggested that capital letters themselves are archaic. They are just too hard to read, apparently. To this, I say, “nay!”

From Susan C. Herring’s really interesting and well-researched column in Wired last year:

The fact is, decapitalizing internet is part of a universal linguistic tendency to reduce the amount of effort required to produce and process commonly-used words. Not only does decapitalization save a click of the shift key, but, as one marketing website put it, “Capital letters are speed bumps for the eyes when reading. They should be eliminated where possible.” …
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About those passwords

In Ideas on March 15, 2013 at 9:27 am


If you are like me, you have just about replaced your tangle of cords (connecting your stereo to your television to your computer to your Easy Bake Oven…) with a tangle of online passwords. I have a list of about two dozen passwords that I keep in a completely unprotected file on my computer.

This is one of the dumber things I do, and that is saying something.

Periodically our own Pete Bakke reminds us to change passwords or be more careful with them. Why?

Take the case of Matthew Keys. He is a deputy social media editor for Reuters. This week he was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged with conspiring with the hackers group known as “Anonymous” in order to mess up the website belonging to a Sacramento, Calif., television station. The feds say Keys, a former employee of the TV station, turned over log-ins and passwords to the hackers, though his motive for doing so hasn’t been made clear.

I am taking this as a warning of sorts. I intend to do something about my password mess. Here is as far as I’ve gotten: Not very far. But I know there are a number of free password storage utilities I can use to help me manage these things. Here is one for Mac and another for Windows.

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What do they want?

In Ideas on October 5, 2012 at 7:42 am

In 2011, a unit of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism partnered with the Knight Foundation to survey news consumers in different kinds of communities to see how we differ based upon our environs. They separated respondents into four camps – city dwellers, suburbanites, those in small towns, and rural residents.

It turns out we are more alike than you might think.

For instance, we all (or most of us) use three or more sources for news over the course of the week. A surprising percentage of Americans – regardless of where they live — participate in the dissemination of news. Forty-one percent of adults surveyed email news story links, post news on social media sites, comment on news blogs, contribute to online discussion groups or send in articles or photos to local news sources. More than half of suburbanites do so, but a third of rural residents do as well.

There are differences in our audiences and some of those differences are well known to Wick editors. Suburbanites are more connected. The survey confirms that papers in places like St. Tammany Parish, La., are most interested in weather, commutes, restaurants and life in suburbia. Rural and small-town residents are most connected to their local newspapers and care most about local governance and schools. City residents, interestingly, don’t seem to care much about taxation. The survey suggests that is because so many residents are young and renting. … Read the rest of this entry »

On SOPA and Wiki

In Online media on January 27, 2012 at 9:17 am

If you hadn’t heard of the Stop Online Privacy Act or its companion, PIPA (no, not the English princess), before Jan. 18, you likely had after you tried to see that Wikipedia page on the Absolutely Fabulous Housewives of New York City. The Internet hiccupped that day and it seemed like a big deal, didn’t it?

I may be a bit out of my depth here, but here’s my take: The battle boils down to a tussle between big-money outfits in Hollywood and Silicon Valley and those on both sides are more interested in making money than preserving Internet freedom or intellectual property rights. In other words, I think there is room for compromise and both are being more than a little disingenuous as to their motives.

But forget all that for a moment. How did you do without Wikipedia that day?

I bet you did just fine. Journalists have flourished for hundreds of years before there was an online encyclopedia. We weren’t about to fold up because the dang thing was down for a day. But what if you awoke to a world without Wikipedia? … Read the rest of this entry »