Tag Archives: Mathew Ingram

LinkedIn Continues To Evolve

Mathew Ingram writes at paidContent

The site now offers “channels” or categories of news, much like a magazine would, and users can follow or subscribe to those channels, as well as to individual authors who are part of LinkedIn’s Influencer program, another relatively new addition.

When a user clicks on the News heading in their LinkedIn toolbar, they now get a splash screen that outlines the different categories or channels of news they can subscribe to. There are some fairly obvious examples such as Economy, Entrepreneurship and Leadership, as well as broader categories such as Healthcare, Technology and Social Media — and a few somewhat more unusual channels too, like “Things I Carry” and “My Best Career Mistake.”

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Connected, But Not In Contact: The Future Of Online Etiquette

“Some people are so rude. Really, who sends an e-mail or text message that just says “Thank you”? Who leaves a voice mail message when you don’t answer, rather than texting you? Who asks for a fact easily found on Google?” This begins a biting and personal piece on the etiquette of online communication by Nick Bilton of The New York Times.

As more bits of information are transferred via social network and text, telephone conversations and emails can seem cumbersome and time-destroying. Bilton recalls a story where, after his father left him 12 unanswered voicemails, papa Bilton “called my sister to complain that I never returned his calls. ‘Why are you leaving him voice mails?’ my sister asked. ‘No one listens to voice mail anymore. Just text him.’ My mother realized this long ago. Now we communicate mostly through Twitter.”

At GigaOM, Mathew Ingram responded to Bilton’s blog post smartly:

I think a larger problem Bilton touches on, but doesn’t address directly, is that we have more competing forms of communication available to us than ever before — and not only are different people at different stages in their evolution from one to the other, but people also use them for very different purposes. So for Bilton’s dad, voice mail is a great way of passing on important information, but Nick prefers the real-time nature of texting or Twitter messaging.

While commenters thought Bilton was too harsh, almost to the point of being rude and insensitive toward his parents, both Bilton and Ingram understand that one must know her audience. Perhaps for our older interlocutors, sending an email or chatting on the phone is worth the extra time, a gesture of respect.

What neither of these writers mention explicitly though, is the notion of not wanting to be reached. I understand how a text or a tweet can be less invasive than listening to a voicemail, but I’m curious about our expectations of availability.

Bilton’s argument is one of efficiency, using seamless communication technology and discarding outmoded mediums. Ingram takes a more sympathetic approach and reminds us that not all of us are Twitter power users. But what about silence? Quiet time? Just because I have a phone doesn’t mean I want to be reached.

When I read these articles I thought of the invisibility feature on Gchat and Facebook messaging, how, at times, I’m in reading/consumption mode, or in the mood to communicate only with a select few. So it’s not that I’m ignoring my parents, or hating on phone calls and older kinds of talk-tech, but realizing sometimes I want to be connected, but not in touch with anyone.

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With Fake Viral Videos, Tradional Media Are Duped

First there was the bird of prey nearly snatching up a baby in his talons.

Now an adorable, heroic pig saves a drowning baby goat.

As it turns out, both of these videos were manufactured stunts. Writing at paidContent,the media observer Mathew Ingram praises these vids for their entertainment value, but criticizes the journalistic outlets who broadcast them without verifying if they are, in fact, authentic.

Where BuzzFeed and Reddit specialize in this kind of sharable, internet gold, traditional media merely amplify the marketing efforts of these viral campaigns, Ingram argues. He also notes that this both erodes the trust we have with journalists, and by imitating linky internet sites, renders their journalism more irrelevant.

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Jon Stewart As Debate Moderator: Fact-Checking, Subjectivity And A Future For Political Journalism

CNN’s Candy Crowley will moderate the 2nd presidential debate.  It will be in the infamous “town hall” setting, the one where “everyday” Americans (shitty haircut + struggling small business +  improbable accent) ask pre-vetted questions and the candidates stare into their mom-jean souls as they spit back slightly personalized rote talking points and reveal to the audience at home just how compassionate, intelligent and beer worthy they are.  (I’ll initiate the first Twitter joke: What the hell is a town hall?)

On Thursday night,  after Mitt Romney’s convincing “Robots can cry, too!” speech, CNN cut to Ms. Crowley and foreshadowed the tone of the incoming October debate. Paraphrasing here: “Well, the speech was good, but not earth shattering, and I spoke to two Romney camp people and they told me that convention speeches are supposed to be kinda shitty like this and, yeah, so what if he didn’t propose anything susbtantive…he doesn’t have to.”  It was as if she was doing an E! red carpet fashion critique with Joan Rivers, instead of, you know, making sense of the speech from a man who may become president. 

Watching her report on the convention, in the way that too many journalists do, commenting solely on the efficacy of campaign marketing and saying precious little on the validity of policy arguments, it wasn’t hard to imagine how she would moderate the debate: Wow, Mr. Obama, that was an eloquently phrased answer on not closing Gitmo, but who am I to evaluate the truth-claims of your legal policy? I’m just a political journalist, after all!  …Mr. Romney, who is your favorite character on Modern Family?” 

Given even more attention recently through the development of the fact-checking fiasco radiating from the Romney/Ryan campaign, media writer Mathew Ingram and journalism professor Jay Rosen’s critiques on political coverage are essential reading.  To summarize:

Romney and Ryan have been talking serious amounts of shit about Obama, much of it outright lies.  Rather than reporting it as: “Romney camp said this, but Obama camp said that,” several news outlets have explicitly called out the Romney camp: LIARS!  While you may think this is not unusual, most political journalists (Rosen says 95%) write and speak in what is called “he said/she said journalism.” 

This brand of coverage adopts a view from nowhere, and hides behind something called “objectivity” which, after watching too much CNN, reporters take to mean endlessly qualifying everything you say so that you end up saying nothing but what other people have said.  (After watching someone barf at a frat party Wolf Blitzer’s “objective” report would sound something like: “Good evening. I just spoke to two expert party-goers and they told me that a person just produced a pile of unprocessed food debris on what appears to be carpet.  However, after speaking with the person who allegedly vommed, he told me that the giant stain from undigested beer and cheeseburger was already there when he got to the party.  I, of course, was here as well, but in my pathetic attempt to appear balanced and objective I will rely on other people’s accounts even when their comments are blatantly self serving  and do nothing to help the viewer understand what is going on…Back to you.”)  

Miserable political reporting manifests in other ways too: You are already familiar with “horserace” coverage, where polls and tactics are privileged over all else.  There is also reporting on “insider gamesmanship,” (or, what Rosen identifies as the entirety of Politico.com’s content) where all reporters talk about is how effectively politicians fooled us, how deftly they dodged criticism, how slick their incoded messages were, how easily they manipulated the audience into focusing on some side issue instead of, ummm… how the oceans are about to boil. 

So, the media took one Jon Basedow baby step forward by calling out Romney, but then Romney’s people essentially said: “Yes ok, you caught us, but shitting on Obama with lies is working.  Now go beat off into a sock, media! ”  The question for political writers and readers then became: now what?

If most coverage is nothing but slurping up the savvyness of campaigns, can we eventually develop a type of journalism and viewership that cultivates not deference but critical thought? Rosen thinks so, and he sees a small but important change brewing, he calls it #presspushback .  (It’s when the lies or deceptions of politicians becomes its own story, when the press begins to see itself less as a purveyor of campaign information and more like an arbiter of the nation’s conversation.) 

We view it most nights with Rachel Maddow, in many of Frank Rich’s political columns, and we see it, in glimpses, on The Daily Show  (The interviews where Stewart gnaws on Jim Cramer’s bulbous skull or pisses on Tony Blair’s royal grin are especially good.  Consider also the famous clips during Katrina when Shep Smith goes bizerk on Sean Hannity or when Anderson Cooper and Tim Russert absolutely pwn incompetent government officials.)

This type of political journalism is aggressive, assertive and honest.  Rather than pretending to be inanimate observers, using the spectre of objectivity as an excuse to act dumb and not form conclusions, this kind of journalism is concerned with evaluating truth-claims, it treats the viewer like a critically thinking student rather than a consumer of political marketing product.  This type of political journalism is unafriad of bias accusations; we know Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart are liberals but they do their best to guide us through their internal deliberation; they are transparent about being intelligent adults with deeply held opinions (this is the essential role of the reporter: to go on an investigation and turn private discoveries into a public education).  This contrasts sharply with the mind-eroding, toxic drivel that oozes from the panels of Fox News and CNN, with the reports of Chuck Todd (NBC) or Wolf Blitzer.  They can only be relied upon to tell us what political operatives want us to think.  This has its use, but there’s a lot more to politics.     

A more assertive and open journalism, one that has more in common with a professor and her students than a reporter and her ill-formed conception of objectivity, could also be expressed in the official presidential debates. 

In the season’s penultimate episode of HBO’s Newsroom, this exact scenario was imagined.  (If you haven’t watched any Newsroom, its just like Game of Thrones minus the swords, the plot, the dragons, and none of the characters have functional genitalia.)

The lead, Jeff Daniels (Fly Away Home), tells some Republican operatives what we’ve all been thinking.  With too much structure, too little time, and too much power given to the candidates, the debates are more like talking-point GIFs, repeated over and over regardless of the question being asked.  Why not have a moderator who is more like a professor or a judge, one who has dominance over the debate and is most concerned with illuminating the most useful or persuasive arguments rather than desperately trying to appear fair. This boss moderator would say things like: Mr. President, nobody who just listened to that believes what you just said, or, Governor, I have a team of fact checkers streaming on my computer and that is a lie, care to answer again?  Someone like Jon Stewart would be perfect for the job.  (Eventually, as a society, we’ll have to correct the fact that the official debates are run by a shell company which is run by the two parties.)      

For now, fact-checking and boldy calling people out should become the new normal.

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