Friday Reading S05E05
Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from journalist and designer Martin Belam covering journalism, media and technology.
SHAMELESS MARKETING PLUG: My wife has a new business hand-making fancy dress outfits for kids. She’ll be selling them at the Blitz Factory Xmas Fair in Walthamstow this weekend, selling capes like the one pictures above. You can also find them on Facebook – Sea And Forest E17. Cuteness is model’s own.
“My fascination with internet comments began as exasperation. I’d just written a short article that began with a quote from the movie ‘Blazing Saddles’: ‘Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!’ After the story published, I quickly heard from readers explaining that, actually, the quote was originally from an earlier movie, ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.’ The thing was, I’d included that information in the article.”
And thus began one journalist’s quest to find out why people leave comments on news websites, so he asked 8,500 people who do it. It makes for fascinating reading, whether you are one of those people who engage ‘below-the-line’ or argue that you should ‘never read the comments’
I had a hand in reporting this rather bizarre story where a couple of tweets from basically some rando appear to have ended up with the president elect of the US claiming that there were millions of illegal votes in the US election. The story, which appears to have literally no evidence behind it, appeared in hundreds of places.
From the “Oh my aching sides” department, Breitbart, which spent years championing #GamerGate, finds itself whinging like a special snowflake because Kelloggs don’t want to advertise next to racism.
Talking of #GamerGate, this is a great read by Matt Lees about how it was the canary-in-the-coalmine for far-right activism on the web. Wish I’d written it.
“These movements are gaining ground by finding political figures who will legitimise them in return for the support of their swollen online communities. The young men converted via 2014’s Gamergate, are being more widely courted now. By leveraging distrust and resentment towards women, minorities and progressives, many of Gamergate’s most prominent voices – characters like Mike Cernovich and Adam Baldwin – drew power and influence from its chaos. These figures gave Gamergate a new sense of direction – generalising the rhetoric: this was now a wider war between “Social Justice Warriors” (SJWs) and everyday, normal, decent people. Games were simply the tip of the iceberg – progressive values, went the argument, were destroying everything. The same voices moved into other geek communities, especially comics, where Marvel and DC were criticised for progressive storylines and decisions. They moved into science fiction with the controversy over the Hugo awards. They moved into cinema with the revolting kickback against the all-female Ghostbusters reboot. Despite colonising the world with pointless tech and plastering modern film and TV with fan-pleasing adaptations of niche comic books, nerds still had a taste for revenge. They saw the culture they considered theirs being ripped away from them. In their zero sum mindset, they read growing artistic equality as a threat.”
The Guardian has issued a style guide decree about the “alt-right”. We will use the phrase, but not without qualifying it as a far-right movement.
And that’s exactly what #GamerGate and the straight white male supremacist so-called alt-right et al want.
“If Trump Tweets It, Is It News?” is a genuinely pressing question. This is a good exploration of the issues in the New York Times.
The Labour Party are having an inquiry into “fake news” and I can’t even etc etc
Well, that’s a somewhat disheartening headline on this round-up of the state of fact-checking in Europe.
Mathew Ingram with some thoughts on “Why Facebook and Twitter Aren’t Good for News“:
“Sociologists note that networks like Facebook work in part by making people feel part of a tribe or group—not just family or friend groups, but ideological groups as well. And that means content gets shared not because it’s true, but because it confirms a person’s membership in a group.”
Steven Wilson-Beales suggests that talk radio might have a role to play in piercing people’s social media filter bubbles. That, and the poo emoji.
P.S. He also has a vacancy for a Meme Overlord.
This is Nic Newman writing about the mobile lock-screen being the new inbox. I feel like I’ve spent the last ten years trying to get eyeballs onto journalism in increasingly smaller and smaller spaces, and the lock-screen is surely the final frontier. It is the reason I’m so keen on the Guardian’s chatbot being curated by humans in the morning, so we can send a personalised message into that space.
I was in Paris talking about chatbots this week, incidentally. This article makes it sound like I did it in really good French.
I also did not realise quite how egotistical this opening slide was going to look on a massive screen. Or how disabled my left arm now actually looks from some angles…
Congratulations to Quartz on growing large enough to pass the 150 employee threshold. Here is their take on the ways that it inhibited them being quite-so-Quartz-like: “Something weird happens to companies when they hit 150 people”
Facebook are experimenting with increasing attention time by adding mini-retro games into messenger and the news feed.
This is worth a read, Rowan Kerek Robertson on the information diet of Millennials.
Triggered by a piece written by Owen Jones at the Guardian, where I work, I think this is an excellent write-up by Marcus of something I don’t think newsrooms collectively pay enough attention to: “The problem with The Guardian’s take on racism in LGBTQ+ spaces”:
“Owen Jones did everything right in his racism in the LGBTQ+ community piece: he sought out LGBTQ+ people of colour, quoted them, linked to statistics and called the community to task. But there is a problem: the fact is, it’s 2016, and the issues LGBTQ+ people of colour have been facing and challenging for decades are still being written up in rudimentary fashion within mainstream media publications by people who are least affected by these issues.”
“Just about every journalist who has worked at the Herald over the past several decades has a story to tell about a Castro-related call during a vacation or family outing. There was false alarm after false alarm. Each time, we would revisit the plan, tweak our coverage, update the stories and assign new ones.”
“Data has biases. This might occur because there are gaps in how we collect data: for example ~10–20% of the UK and US population are not online because of issues such as cost, disability, location or motivation. Data also includes the biases in society such as those affecting gender and race. Bias can also occur through the people who decide how to analyse and use data. People write code and people are biased. If our political parties increasingly use the web and data to get them over the electoral winning line then they are likely to focus their efforts on winning over groups that are well represented in the data and predictable by the algorithms. Other people may be ignored.”
“The so-called Local Democracy Reporter scheme emerged out of the lobbying which surrounded the febrile process of BBC Charter renewal earlier this year. At that time, many newspapers were calling on the government to curb the BBC’s autonomy. One of their main arguments was that the BBC’s local journalism hollows out the space for their own activities. This ignores the fact that a similar erosion of the local newspaper market has taken place across the English-speaking world, not least in the United States, where there is no BBC to blame.”
“Why is the BBC giving licence fee cash to the companies who have slashed local journalism?” – Jonathan Heawood, OpenDemocracy.net
A new project from talented Robyn Vinter worth signing up for – The Overtake
Press regulation in the UK is an absolute dumpster fire, and now one of the regulatory bodies has been accused of sending heavy-handed emails trying to get publications on-board. Meanwhile Paul Dacre exits IPSO to a chorus of some well-deserved boos, while also making this almost entirely sensible point:
“It’s a bitter irony that while print media, which is declining, is more tightly policed than ever, rampant internet journalism is utterly unregulated – unless of course a website belongs to a newspaper group. Resolving this contradiction will be a considerable challenge for those who believe in a responsible, independently self-regulated, press.”
This is a really great read on the plight of my local football team, Leyton Orient, where I am cursed to have a season ticket. It explains not just the issues with the ownership, but also captures exactly why fans are in such a quandary on what to do next. I just feel a bit sorry for my poor lad who I keep dragging to endless home defeats. I think he’s been to five matches this season and not seen us score once yet.
Also good on the football fan front: “Inside Italy’s ultras: the dangerous fans who control the game”
Friday Reading is a weekly series of recommended reads from journalist and designer Martin Belam covering journalism, media and technology. Sign up to get it sent to you by email every week.