/Tag: newsphobia

Think before you link.

The latest research on how fake news spreads on social media. Tl;dr, it’s pretty grim, although I think maybe the take-home is for all of us to start focusing more on “good reblog hygiene”, i.e. thinking before we reflexively reblog things that tug at our emotions, particularly emotions like vindication or outrage.

Also, personal quibble: journalists need to stop calling psyops units that intentionally spread disinformation propaganda “bots”. A bot is, like, all those _ebooks Markov chain accounts, or that electric eel’s account. A bot is not a dude who’s paid by a government agency (and/or shell company) to pose as a foreign citizen for the intent of infiltrating and undermining a political movement. That distinction matters.

2018-05-09T08:32:29+00:004th November, 2018|Tags: culture, newsphobia|


I’ve spent 25 years as a journalist and have repeatedly seen the discomfort that journalists feel about proclaiming one political party to be more successful than the other on virtually any substantive issue. We journalists are much more comfortable holding up the imperfections of each and casting ourselves as the sophisticated skeptic.

Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.

David Leonhardt on false neutrality.

2018-05-01T09:40:26+00:0017th October, 2018|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

From the outside.

And this is why we are now going through a phase of hysterical reaction to the “fake news”: because it is the first time that non-Western media are not only creating their own global narratives but are also trying to create narratives of America.

For people from small countries (like myself) this is just something totally normal: we are used to foreigners not only appointing our ministers but being present throughout the media space, and even influencing, often because the quality of their news and scholarship is better, the narrative about country’s own history or politics. But for many people in the US and the UK this comes as a total shock: how dare foreigners tell them what is the narrative of their own countries?

Branko Milanovic on narrative monopoly.

2018-02-20T14:46:08+00:007th August, 2018|Tags: culture, newsphobia|


As an industry, the media specializes in the worldwide production of audiences. The artifacts of this industry have become our common culture, and this is why we worry about the effects of the media. Journalism is something different. It is a social practice essential to a democracy— and democracy is more than mere openness. What journalism produces is not an audience, but a public, and we should worry when journalism fails to have this effect on us.


What’s confusing is that both the media and journalism have an interest in news. But the media sees news as low-cost material— a cheap way to engage us in the moment. The purpose of journalism is to engage us, not in the moment, but in the present— especially the political present. Journalism falters when it loses its authority over the present, it’s ability to engage us in the public world as it presently stands.

Jay Rosen on journalism vs. the media.

This is the text of a lecture Rosen gave in 1993, of all things (the internet didn’t even exist in ’93!), but it remains startlingly and terrifyingly relevant.

2018-02-01T08:02:16+00:0019th July, 2018|Tags: culture, media, newsphobia|

Powderkeg news.

Why Modern Journalism Is Terrible, Amazon-Recommended-Terrorism Edition.

My favorite quote:

The ‘common chemical compound’ in Channel 4’s report is potassium nitrate, an ingredient used in curing meat. If you go to Amazon’s page to order a half-kilo bag of the stuff, you’ll see the suggested items include sulfur and charcoal, the other two ingredients of gunpowder. (Unlike Channel 4, I am comfortable revealing the secrets of this 1000-year-old technology.)

2019-01-17T08:35:10+00:006th March, 2018|Tags: newsphobia, science|


If triple j wants to cover Charlottesville with a truly non-partisan approach, it could simply report on the facts: white nationalists armed themselves and rioted at UVA. Several counter-protestors who attempted to stem the flow of hate, and protect at-risk people of colour, were injured. A peacefully protesting woman was run down by a self-identified white supremacist. He has now been charged with murder. The rioters were armed with torches, guns and some wore swastikas. Some of them self-identified as Nazis.

This is the non-partisan approach to covering this news — not asking a white nationalist how he feels about being a white nationalist on the national broadcaster.

Matilda Dixon-Smith on shitty opinions.

Topically dated by the time this gets off the posting queue, but I still like this pull-quote nonetheless.

I think the “facts are the non-partisan approach” thing gets lost–intentionally lost–in a lot of “bothsiderist” journalism nowadays. “Balanced” news reporting is reporting objective facts; it is not regurgitating other people’s shitty opinions, simply because people have those opinions, and it’s certainly not allowing people with shitty opinions airtime to promote their shitty opinions.

2018-11-26T08:07:22+00:0024th December, 2017|Tags: culture, newsphobia|


I know it’s wild that a bunch of people just died and we’re all in our feelings, but let us never forget several essential items: 1. White men are the most common culprits of domestic terrorism in this country. Full stop. 2. People who murder in this way chose to murder in this way. This “incident” did not happen to them. They happened to other people. 3. People who choose to end their lives as a tool of mass violence do not get to have a public eulogy in which they are memorialized fondly for whatever the fuck they did before they decided to aim indiscriminately into the crowd.

Kim Selling is having none of your eulogizing.

2018-02-08T08:42:25+00:0010th October, 2017|Tags: culture, cw: mass shooting, newsphobia, usa|

Newsglut (also, HTTPS still sucks).

Back in the early days of the web, the Guardian ran a brilliant ad which asked “Ever wondered how every day there’s just enough news to fit in the newspaper?” It was advertising the Guardian website, and the fact there was more there than you’d find in the paper.

Now? There are a gazillion websites – but tons of them are simple copies, monetised by adverts from Google or whoever, which leach from the originating sites by copying their content. We’ve now established the limits of how much news is generated each day: it’s more than fits in newspapers, but less than fits on all the websites currently dedicated to “news”.

Charles Arthur on volume.

The whole post, which is kind of old now (I’m still going through my backlog of links… from 2015), is mainly talking about tracking and advertising online.

Incidentally, as an aside, one of the things I almost never see mentioned in any lament on the rise and rise of online surveillance is the contribution from the parallel rise of HTTPS.

Yeah, you heard me.

Here’s the thing. Back in Ye Oldene Dayes of the internet, you didn’t need to follow everyone around the internet to find out where they were coming from to reach your site. You knew, because whenever they hit up one of your pages1 their browser used to send along a little thing saying where they visited from, a.k.a. the referrer.

The thing about HTTPS, is that one of the “privacy”2 features it offers is that it does not send the referrer when you move between pages. If you’ve run any kind of traditional tracking software on your website, e.g. Mint or Piwiki or Jetpack, and have done so for a while, you’ll notice that they get less and less useful data every year. Referrers from blogs? Gone. Social media? Forget about it. Even most URL shorteners work by obfuscating the true source, meaning you might know someone came to your site from Twitter (, but to find the actual originating Tweet you’re going to need to do a manual search or scrape and API.

See, back in Ye Oldene Dayes, individual webmasters used to be able to assemble reasonably good profiles of their website’s users; who was linking them, who were the repeat visitors, and so on. It went both ways, too; bloggers and website owners got to know each other and built their communities around the referrer log. Nowadays, if you want that information? You’re going to have to buy it from one of the Internet Surveillance Megacorps (and it’ll cost you). In other words, the web has moved from “small town/nosy neighbor surveillance” to the capitalist Big Brother variety. Various social media sites will pretend to give some of this community back to their users–think things like Tumblr reblogs–with the key emphasis being on keeping the community on their platform (and, thus, marketable to their advertisers).

Ranting about things like this is one of the hallmarks that makes me old, I know.

  1. Actually, any resource. So if they embedded one of your images on someone else’s site? You could tell. Which is a related-but-different-story altogether… ^
  2. Don’t get me started… ^
2017-07-17T11:40:49+00:0016th November, 2016|Tags: advertising, https, internet, newsphobia, privacy|

The language of US imperialism.

What the media really means when they talk about

2019-01-17T08:35:15+00:007th November, 2016|Tags: newsphobia, politics|