Transparency is the antidote to fake news

In the coming year, we’ll see continuing tension between the public and the press over what’s “real” and what’s not. With the president calling journalists in the mainstream media “a stain on America,” it’s safe to say that the “fake news” conversation will persist — and that attacks on the press will, too. It all means that news organizations will have to keep fighting for the trust of a skeptical public, coming up with ways to demonstrate our credibility across all of the platforms on which we publish our journalism. At Frontline, we believe that one such way is through journalistic transparency. It’s something we’ve long practiced — but now more than ever, we’ve been cracking open our reporting process and offering new, self-directed opportunities to explore, search, and share what goes into building our journalism. As part of our broader Transparency Project initiative, this fall we launched The Continue reading "Transparency is the antidote to fake news"

From algorithms to institutions

Here’s an easy prediction: 2018 will bring mounting pressure to develop large-scale, automated responses to online misinformation. And here’s a hopeful one: That pressure will spark an increasingly frank discussion among journalists, policymakers, and platform companies about how to bolster the fact-building institutions that anchor public truth claims. The quest to automate online fact-checking began well before the furor over so-called “fake news.” Fact-checks have a consistent structure built around discrete data elements — a claim, a claimant, a verdict — that lends itself to marrying human and machine intelligence in interesting ways. One of the first attempts to do this was Truth Goggles, an MIT project that (as initially conceived in 2011) tried to harness the work of professional fact-checkers to build a “magical button” that would instantly flag false claims on any web page. Since then, fact-checkers and computer scientists have worked together on a string Continue reading "From algorithms to institutions"

R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)

In 2017, if you couldn’t find an audience or revenue model, for any of a myriad of reasons, there was apparently only one thing to do: pivot to video! And while that’s become a media punchline, it’s not hard to see why the publishers who took that approach did. As the content boom finally seemed to go bust (see: Mashable, Mic, and Vice) and platforms proved themselves increasingly unreliable (read: terrible) partners, focusing on video was a Hail Mary attempt to ease economic and investor pressure by pandering to ad buyer preferences. It sounds better to say you’re “shifting resources into short-form video” than that you desperately need to reduce your run rate. But it has already proven extremely shortsighted. There is no evidence consumers want more video, and video production is expensive, logistically difficult, and hard to scale (read Heidi Moore’s excellent CJR piece for more Continue reading "R.I.P. Pivot to Video (2017–2017)"

With the people, not just of the people

If the past few months have shown anything, it’s that relying on advertising as a primary business model is, at best, risky, and, at worst, suicidal. The scraps left over after Facebook and Google have consumed almost all U.S. ad revenue are not meaty enough to nourish the thousands of hungry media sites aggressively circling them. To counter that, more and more companies are moving toward a rebalancing of revenue between advertisers and readers. Whether it’s via membership models, hard paywalls, metered paywalls, ticket sales, or some other method, it’s clear that the revenue burden is shifting toward consumers. But changing where we’re getting money from can’t happen in a vacuum. We also need to rethink the relationship we have with paying readers. It’s not enough for us to say, “What we do is important, and you to help fund it.” We need to listen to and engage Continue reading "With the people, not just of the people"

The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea

In our prediction for 2016, Alexis Lloyd and I wrote about the importance of private social networks. Specifically, we identified a trend where information was increasingly being shared in places that were not publicly accessible, searchable, or discoverable. While this was true, and did have significant impacts — from formalized systems like Slack and Snapchat that continued to grow in importance, to ad hoc systems like the whisper networks of women who protect each other from predatory behavior in their workplaces — the biggest example of this phenomenon was not chosen by its users. Rather, it was imposed on users invisibly, by design and by algorithm. Whether it be a Twitter user who only follows like-minded accounts, or a Facebook user whose experience is sheltered from opposing thought by platform’s algorithms, spaces that could be used to share intelligent thought are becoming isolated and increasingly toxic. The outcome is Continue reading "The intellectual equivalent of the Dead Sea"

Navigating journalistic transparency

As an industry, it’s our duty to help readers understand what we do, how we work, how we make money, and how they are part of this process. The media industry has shifted in so many ways in the last two decades, but our readers have not been privy to the process in a way that helps them understand. For instance, they might not understand why we break news the way we do, or why quality journalism can be expensive to generate. Distrust in institutions — including flinging the term “fake news” at our best news organizations — only contributes to the problem. In 2018, I anticipate more newsrooms sharing how the sausage gets made to our consumers, engaging with young readers to stress news literacy at an early age, or getting readers involved in the reporting/producing process more frequently beyond commenting and sharing stories on social media.

Doug Jones Doesn’t Agree With Dem Senators Calling on Trump to Resign Over Allegations Against Him

Alabama Senator-elect Doug Jones said this morning he doesn’t agree with the Democratic senators calling for President Trump to resign over the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. One of those Democrats is Cory Booker, who campaigned for Jones in Alabama, and Jake Tapper asked Jones this morning if he agrees that the President should resign.
“Where I am on that right now is that those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge before that election. I think we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues. Let’s get on with the real issues that are facing the people of this country right now, and I don’t think that the President ought to resign at this point. We’ll see how things go, but certainly those allegations are not new and he was elected with those allegations front and center. Continue reading "Doug Jones Doesn’t Agree With Dem Senators Calling on Trump to Resign Over Allegations Against Him"