Thank You, Craig

I am proud that starting today, I am on the faculty of the newly rechristened Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. My friend Craig has given a generous gift to endow our J-school and we have named it in his honor. This represents an ideal alignment of missions — his and ours — in the service of trustworthy journalism in a public university.

I can’t remember exactly when I first met Craig. Like everyone I’ve ever witnessed meeting him, I was impressed to meet the Craig of craigslist. He is unique: a self-proclaimed nerd’s nerd, a model of humility, curiosity, goodwill, intelligence, humor, irony, and most of all generosity.

I love watching others puzzle over him. Many years ago at the rich and ritzy Foursquare business conference, I saw the CEO of a then-major media company throw up his arms in frustration at Craig’s refusal to clog his service with ads and

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Thank you, Secretary Clinton

Friday at Radcliffe — in a tent wonderfully filled with 80 or 90 percent women, from the class of ’41 on— I had the privilege of seeing Hillary Clinton receive the Radcliffe Medal. I left ever-more impressed with her wisdom, experience, and civility — with her leadership — and, of course, ever-more depressed that what should be is not what is.

As a journalist and journalism teacher, I was grateful for her defense of my field in the face of the right’s attacks on it and in spite of its certain role in her defeat. “Defend the press,” Clinton urged. “And believe me, that’s not easy for me to say all the time. But I know well that in the absence of a free and vigorous press our democracy is not going to survive.” While the press itself is busy tying itself in knots debating whether to call a lie a lie (isn’t that our

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Facebook is on its way to hiring 20,000 people to identify the hate and bile that we, the people, leave there because laws — Germany’s NetzDG, among others — and media demand it. Let me repeat that: 20,000 employees.

Now consider that the total number of daily newspaper journalists in America was 32,900 in 2015 and is probably below 30,000 today.

20,000 shit-pickers vs. 30,000 journalists.

What does that say about our priorities as a society? Yes, I know, I’m mixing a worldwide number (the 20,000 conversational janitors) with a U.S. number (journalists) but the scale is telling — not so much about Facebook or technology or business models but about us.

By these numbers, it is clear that we as a society are more concerned about policing playground twits who thereby get just what they want — attention — than about policing the truly powerful. How screwed up is that?

Now there are plenty of people

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Perspective, please

I’m going to straddle a sword by on the one hand criticizing the platforms for not taking their public responsibility seriously enough, and on the other hand pleading for some perspective before we descend into a moral panic with unintended consequences for the net and the future.

[Disclosure: I raised $14 million for the News Integrity Initiative at CUNY from Facebook, Craig Newmark, the Ford Foundation, AppNexus, and others. We are independent of Facebook and I personally receive no money from any platform.]

The Observer’s reporting on Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of Facebook data on behalf of Donald Trump has raised what the Germans call a shitstorm. There are nuances to this story I’ll get to below. But to begin, suffice it to say that Facebook is in a mess. As much as the other platforms would like to hide behind their schadenfreude, they can’t. Google has plenty

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MediaShift Podcast #262: YouTube Battles Conspiracy Theories; ‘Techlash’ at SXSW; Civil’s Matthew Iles on Plans for ICO

In the news this week, YouTube announced it would add text blurbs from Wikipedia to counter conspiracy theory videos. The only problem is they forgot to tell Wikipedia about their plan. The big South by Southwest conference is known for launching hot new apps, but this year it’s been about politics, ideas and a big backlash against the tech giants. Apple announced it was buying Texture, a “Netflix for digital magazines” in an attempt to boost subscriptions within Apple News. Our Metric of the Week is Google’s Subscriber Boost, and we’re joined by Matthew Iles of the blockchain journalism startup Civil to find out about the hype and reality about initial coin offerings Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out our Digital Media Brief below!

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MediaShift Podcast #261: States Plan Crackdown on Tech Giants; Facebook Ready for Mid-Terms?; Report for America’s Steve Waldman

In the news this week, the U.S. Congress doesn’t seem to be making much headway in regulating tech giants, so many states are stepping in and taking action. Facebook announces it will work with the Associated Press to debunk misinformation ahead of the mid-term elections, but will they be ready for the storm that’s coming? The Boston Globe plans to raise print subscriptions 80% to a whopping $1350 a year. Talk about sticker shock. Our Metric of the Week is Conversational Health, and Report for America co-founder Steve Waldman joins us to discuss the first round of reporters sent to cover local news – and do community service – across the country. They’re still taking applications until March 23 for the next round of reporters.   Don’t have a lot of time to spare, but still want to get a roundup of the week’s top news? Then check out
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The Flight to Quality is on the Runway

Sometimes, things need to get bad before they can get good. Such is the case, I fear, with content, conversation, and advertising on the net. But I see signs of progress.

First let’s be clear: No one — not platforms, not ad agencies and networks, not brands, not media companies, not government, not users — can stand back and say that disinformation, hate, and incivility are someone else’s problem to solve. We all bear responsibility. We all must help by bringing pressure and demanding quality; by collaborating to define what quality is; by fixing systems that enable manipulation and exploitation; and by contributing whatever resources we have (ad dollars to links to reporting bad actors).

Last May, I wrote about fueling a flight to quality. Coming up on a year later, here’s what I see happening:

Platforms: