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Babel policy can be counter-productive

April 3rd, 2012 No comments

Angela considers the pros and cons of the comment-rich internet

Who guards the guardian?

Or maybe, The Guardian?

Is it ‘whimsicaleye’, who recently wrote….. ‘It’s time to smash the state.
Summer of Discontent 2012
F*** the olympics.
F*** the c**** jubilee’.

There, loud and proud, on the Guardian’s justly famed website with around 38 million unique users a month. Good stuff, eh?
Over at The Irish Times, are people reading it online for the humour of Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary, the polymathic brilliance of Fintan O’Toole, or the robust interventions of his well-behaved interlocutors? On irishtimes.com, comments generally appear after Comment pieces, rather than any old bit of news on sites such as TheJournal.ie.

The issue of who is providing journalistic content has gone well beyond the concept of the ‘citizen journalist’. This is the brave, public-spirited individual who reports on events, meetings, injustices, without the benefits of pay or professional training. They then post their accounts of what’s going on for the benefit of all.
But as well as the CJs, there’s a multitude of commentators, aggregators, and responders, who append their comments to news stories on websites. Some also blog and put across their view of the world – whether well-founded or not it’s often impossible to tell.
In last Saturday’s Irish Times newspaper, contributor Stephen O’Byrnes raised the issue of what you might call ‘user-generated content’, and how it should be handled. Here’s a sample…
‘Offering engagement and accessibility to Seán and Mary Citizen
is all well and good (“do keep your texts and tweets rolling in”),
but too often this is becoming a platform for political soreheads
of every hue.’

Although (as I said on Twitter) there was a whiff of elitism in O’Byrnes’ argument, he did raise a point of decision and discussion for ‘big media’ platforms. To what extent do you allow your product – which all news platforms are, if they want to make money – to go open-slather? Over the past five years there has been a mounting enthusiasm, or anxiety, among publishers and broadcasters for using and publicizing the reactions and comments of the audience. (Yes, even audience is a bit of a dirty word now, suggesting the ‘us and them’ structure of the old days of ‘gatekeeper’ journalism, when news was the sacred possession of the narrow and self-elected journalist class.) Read more…

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Kony2012

March 13th, 2012 No comments

The viral success of the Kony2012 film by Jason Russell brings together the power of social media, the idealism of youth, the horror of a human rights atrocity, and the skill of a slick film-maker in one very modern – and possibly very short-lived – media sensation.
Here’s the film…80 million hits in just a few days.
Kony2012

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Be first or be right? Tweet dilemma for old media

March 8th, 2012 No comments

Angela Long

In March the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland upheld a complaint against the state broadcaster, RTE, regarding a Tweet read out on a current affairs programme. The problem was that the programme’s producers had not verified the provenance of the Tweet – which purported to come from political party Sinn Fein. But the bigger problem was that this Tweet was believed to have assisted in the downfall of then presidential candidate, Sean Gallagher.
The circumstances: a televised debate involving the five six candidates for Ireland’s presidency was held in October 2011. Sean Gallagher, a businessman and ‘dragon’ on the Irish version of Dragons’ Den, had healthy figures in the polls and was a likely winner. His rivals included the Sinn Fein politician, and deputy first minister in the North of Ireland, Martin McGuinness. During the programme, the host, Pat Kenny, said that a Tweet had been received from Martin McGuinness’s campaign office. This claimed Gallagher had received money from a Fianna Fail supporter some years previously ( a claim which brought up the recent spectre of political corruption, bribery, and ‘brown paper envelopes’). The Tweet, Kenny declared, also said a press conference giving full details would be held the next day.
Slight as it might seem, this was enough to seriously damage Gallagher, and in the event he polled poorly in the vote (which saw Labour Party candidate Michael D. Higgins elected).
Afterwards, Gallagher complained to the BAI about the use of the Tweet, citing unfairness and irresponsible journalism. He also complained of an interview Kenny did with him on radio the following day. Both contained unfair and partial material, it was claimed.
The BAI found in his favor.

Adjudication text

This brings up the issues of sources, verification and the competition traditional (legacy, if you like) media faces from the immediate, informal social media channels such as Twitter. Pressure is immense on legacy media workers to adopt and master Twitter. In the ongoing alarm and dilemma over how to switch the legacy business model to viability in the digital environment, media bosses are insisting that Twitter and Facebook be used – but often without thinking hard about the limitations of these.
As Ireland’s communications minister said, commenting on the BAI ruling, the national broadcaster is supposed to be the ‘gold standard’ for journalistic practice. Hence the mistake was a serious error, as the leader for ethical and professional journalism had been caught out in rushing to broadcast without any serious attempt at checking the facts.
Fact-checking is a fundamental of all journalism. Where did this information come from, why was it released, and who might benefit?
Indeed, the Tweet looked like it came from a Sinn Fein source – but a child of 10 could tell you that fake Twitter accounts abound, and in Ireland there are plenty of well-known examples (such as the account attributed to Geraldine Kennedy, former editor of The Irish Times, and first woman to hold that position).
RTE’s defence, according to the BAI adjudication, rested largely on the ‘but it was true anyway’ (that Gallagher had received money on behalf of FF interests.) This sounds a bit like ‘the dog DID eat my homework’.
As of today, Tweets are still unregulated, constant, opaque – and often break news. News organisations – in fact anyone using Tweets as a source – have to decide which is more important to them: to be first; or to be right.
(500)

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Women taking care of business in Ireland

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Emma Rafferty has ‘exported’ a great Australian concept to her new home in Ireland – the meat pie.

Bonza Pies, the company Emma started with husband Colin, has just opened its second outlet in Dublin. Now the couple have their eyes on “a new branch every year, and eventually we would love to set up a franchise,” says Emma, originally from Perth.

The couple was swimming against the tide when they set up their venture just as the Irish economy was taking a disastrous tumble, over three years ago. But with persistence, patience, and, above all, faith in their product, they are succeeding.

‘We’re flat out busy from about 11am to around now, ‘ Emma says at 3pm one weekday afternoon, in the rustic-looking Bonza 2, next to Mulligan’s famous pub in Poolbeg Street. “People come in, try the pies, and then they’ll be back for more!”

But it was Emma’s Irish husband who suggested the business idea. “Colin had been living in Australia for seven years, working in construction, and having pies for lunch every day,” said Emma. “When we came back here, intending just to spend a year, Colin found there was no construction work. And he missed the pies too!”

With Emma’s support, Colin retired to the kitchen for weeks and worked on recipes for pastry and filling. Every time friends or family came round, they found themselves eating – pies. “Colin was so enthusiastic – never got sick of it, always trying new things.”

As a result they have a long menu – 11 different varieties – which surprises the not-pie-savvy Irish, who come expecting one mysterious meat filling, and are impressed with the choice.
Read more…

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Desmond ethically-challenged

January 13th, 2012 No comments

For those of you not enjoying the Leveson inquiry in the privacy of your own homes, don’t miss these golden moments when master of the universe Richard Desmond sweetly admitted that he wasn’t sure what the word “ethically” means.

Wot is efficks

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