I’ve been reading about digital forms of narrative recently. The impetus for some of the new topics is the advent of Alexa and other voice-reactive media sources. One worry that came up was that if the airwaves/alexa waves were controlled in quite specific ways then entire topics might be ignored by listeners. Then came the idea of using different tools to attract listeners to stories — who chooses, who is the curator and arbiter of what is in the public interest?
“Data can be abused,” says Brendan Sweeney, director of new content and innovation at KUOW public radio in Seattle. “And it’s simultaneously true that the myth of a journalist’s or an editor’s gut being the all-supreme thing, that’s also problematic.” The challenge, Sweeney says, is not to assume listeners avoid entire topics, but to instead look at the data more closely to see if something else might be turning them away. “If an important story isn’t finding the audience it deserves, we need to adapt how we tell that story. Experiment with leads, framing, tone, etc.,” Sweeney says. [link]
Getting people to pay attention to what you want them to listen to is a topic about ‘newsworthy’ all of its own. Do newspapers reflect public perceptions or do they guide and reinforce them?
And in that vein, how does social media guide, reflect, and/or reinforce them?
Mirkham [link] writes that the very structure and use of social media determines the output and not in the freely determined way that Castell perhaps posits:
“the last thing posts on social media are is representative of reality: indeed they are nothing more than the overdetermined products of the commercial, or neoliberal,
logics that drive the design, promotion and management of these platforms.”
He points out that social media platforms such as Facebook get you to identify and describe yourself in relation to consumer goods — favourite films, products, holidays etc. You reflect your consumer identity more than anything else.
I’m trying to assess whether this is something that can be modelled. My process has been very much about Twitter so far. Facebook has a more obvious way of tracking consumer links but Twitter is not so obvious from what I can tell.
This brings me back to Gary Younge who writes that Twitter is not the real world. Journalists see it as a proxy for the world but the world is out there not on your phone. Twitter storms happen, he says, but does anyone outside Twitter even notice?
This is checkable — do politicians notice? do they reference it? do they change policies?
In the case of the faith advisor story, the mayor did notice it and made disparaging remarks to a congregation of people who gathered to hear his interview. No policy changed, which is the criteria Chomsky states as being a useful tool to assess things.
One of the latest Twitter storms is about the Canary — a left-wing media site that has taken up a position against mainstream newspapers such as the Guardian, Telegraph, Times etc. Mostly the Guardian, I’d say, because that is the paper that says it is on the left — it is the book end of left mainstream thinking and writing.
There seem to be two issues about the Canary’s authority [and I write this from a distance because I don’t read the Canary; for various reasons]:
- the topics the Canary covers range between legitimate opposition and deviant spheres (Hallin); they covered the Julian Assange trial while no other paper gave it much space at all, for example. The Assange trial is arguably one of the most important trials for journalistic freedom;
- The style of the Canary’s writing and processes don’t conform to what mainstream journalists are used to producing. There is no immediate sense of ‘authority’ because the guidelines of what counts are not there. Some pieces are emotive, topics are covered there that you wouldn’t ordinarily see, etc. The fact that you don’t get an ‘impartial’ examination of issues makes it difficult to assess the value of the news item. You need to trust the authority of the journalist and media source rather than the content. But the media source and the writer aren’t immediately known. (that’s not well phrased I know but my point is that because the content can’t be trusted on its own, it needs to gain its strength from the authority of the media source or its writer — neither seem to have enough journalistic professionalism or tools to make that possible). I think this needs a little more thought about its phrasing.
- In contrast, the socialist newspaper the Morning Star may cover topics that aren’t covered elsewhere but the style of writing is similar in tone and shape to what other professional newspapers produce.
Hypothesis to look at: style and practice give authority.
A Twitter storm or at least lots of Tweets went out yesterday, 16 December 2020, about Jeremy Corbyn giving an interview to the Canary. Guardian columnist Owen Jones said Corbyn should not be giving interviews to the Canary.
I tried to find reasons for people disliking the Canary but there was really only one that came up — singular, not plural — the Canary is anti-Semitic in the same way Corbyn was anti-Semitic.
Not one mention of the professionalism or behaviour of its writers other than anti-Semitism.
This is an interesting reason because of its one-sidedness. The people making the accusations don’t apply the same reasoning to other media sources. Kier Starmer was on LBC and didn’t address the white supremacy comments from a listener, for example.
Mainstream newspapers have over time justified bombing Kosovo and Iraq and Syria and Lybia, shown support to Saudi Arabia etc. [link] But killing millions of people doesn’t fit in the same reasoning as the alleged anti-Semitism of the Canary even though one is quite clear.
But the point is that the professionalism and writing style of the Canary doesn’t really come up in people’s complaints. Is this because it’s an unconscious understanding of which are the professional and authoritative news sources?
In Google’s patent for its algorithm, it mentions that local news is of lower quality than national newspapers. Why is that?
Anyway, on to lists. I have been making lists of the topics I have written about over the last month or so and I have been doing it in Word rather than on the blog. While I believe that being transparent with my work processes is important so I can not only explore what it is to be a researcher but so others can see it too, the list work is too immense to post each day. The first attempt at pasting all my work in one document was 68 pages. I then made the font smaller until it was 52 pages. I’ve deleted parts and made bullet points of other notes and yet it’s still 32 pages.
It’s not as quick as I’d imagined!