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Posts Tagged ‘yellow journalism’

In the last couple of months we’ve had several high profile events (reporter escape, #iranelection, swine flu)  on the planet that demonstrate the direct influence the media has on events.  As much as journalists and media personnel attempt to be impartial reporters they never are and never can be.  It’s simply impossible to report on an event without impacting it especially in this ever more everything digitally connected to everything else.  This is not necessarily bad or misguided.  What is problematic though is operating media properties without careful navigation of the fine line between influence and observation and consuming media without judging it’s impact.

I’ve recently read the Dave Cullen book, COLUMBINE.  On top of  its literary positives this book does an excellent job of picking apart the media coverage’s direct influence on the events as they unfolded and our analysis (and current thinking!) on the events, the people, the causes.  People died as a result of the fundamental misunderstanding about media’s impact on events.  People’s lives continue to be out of sync with what really happened and why it all happened because of the media’s impact on the events and investigations.

I suspect we’ll look back on the Iran election in a similar light.  Perhaps, in this case, media will be a more positive influence.

The recent NYTimes+Wikipedia strategy is another example of potential grave misunderstanding.  In this case the potential influence of media was recognized before hand but…… now that it is public how we can manipulate media and the Internet population there’s another problem looming.   Are we opening a can of worms by allowing the media to be used strategically in political and military efforts?

I recently had a mini-debate on facebook about whether it was a such a good idea to encourage folks to confuse and hide identies behind false settings and proxy servers on Twitter during the Iran Election.  Though the intentions behind these activities seem worthwhile – helping citizens fight for political freedom – this is a slippery precendent to be setting.  Where do we draw the line on using the shifty nature of online media as a strategy?  How can we legally hold criminals accountable for these same actions?  How can we identify suspicious behaviors when we’ve encourage this use of media by everyone?  Is it OK for journalists to use this tactic when pursuing a story?

Trying to understand the world is difficult enough.  The Internet and new approach media is great for its openness, DIY approach and general “we’ll figure it out as we go” utility.  However, unchecked by the very people creating and consuming it as the situation is now we’re only creating more confusion and muting the considerable utility of this platform.  What I am directly saying is that all of us in media (reporting and tool building) need to spend a little more time reflecting and strategizing and a little less time trying to be the first on the scene, the one with the most pageviews, the one with the exclusive.  This approach won’t come about without some direct actions on our part and lives depend on figuring this out.

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