The Unreal Pandemic

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Recently, a freakishly prescient magazine interview from a 1995 GQ Magazine resurfaced last year that speaks to one of the big issues with trusted information we’re battling today. Author Terry Pratchett was interviewing Bill Gates and asked about the “parity of esteem” that the Internet was enabling, allowing anyone to claim authority and make it hard for people to know whether something is honest or deceitful.
 
Bill Gates, oblivious to the conspiracies that would spread about his role in global pandemics 25 years later, argued that there would be electronic systems that would ensure that some information would hold more authority thanks to indexes and other tools.
 
Pratchett 1, Gates 0.
 
One lovely part of this story is that it spread last year through a tweet of a photograph of a magazine page. The tweet was from a biographer of Pratchett, and as he told The Guardian, no one actually asked him if the photograph was real or faked. It could easily have been faked.
 
On the flipside there’s the apocryphal “640K will be enough for anyone” Bill Gates quote that he never actually said. There’s a great debate on the Bill Gates Wikipedia Talk page over whether he said it or not. Everyone who says he did just argues Microsoft PR is talking it down. But can they come up with an actual reference? No.
 
Checking sources. Searching for references. Building a well founded picture of reality. That’s the hard work, and it’s the work journalists try to do every day. But do readers bother wondering if we’ve really checked our sources? Or built our stories on facts?
 
Facts aren’t driving ‘engagement’ quite like a flashy video full of stock footage that says the world is asleep and it’s time to wake up to the reality of a flat world under a mind control spell… or something like that.
 
I often wonder if the lost revenues to the wider world of online attention is becoming less of a threat than the fundamental shift away from caring about whether something is true or not. Reality is dead. Unreal hyperbole is king.
 
It’s all tied up in everything becoming political too. And, weirdly, there are so many examples of how tech was on the front wave of these disinformation campaigns. Before 5G was whipped up into anti-vaxx viral conspiracies it was Gamergate being ignored by social media giants. Even the early years of Wi-Fi had their conspiracies, as did all phases of mobile networks. If it’s wireless, it means it’s bombarding you with things you can’t see.
 
So now the politics has started to hammer into the idea that everyone is welcome to their own facts, which means many feel they can read any story they like and if they like it it’s true.
 
Ideas and expressing them is free. And like free email, it makes it easy to send ideas out but puts a load on the recipient to filter and manage all these signals to find something helpful.
 
The shift toward subscription models at big news outfits, and the early positive signs some are seeing through this, gives hope that at least some people value news that takes more effort to produce. But it’s something we have to fight for in a tough time when that parity of esteem also means a parity of dismissal for those who don’t want to believe day is day anymore.
 
When I used to manage reviewers I would talk about the idea that most readers don’t care about the benchmarks and the specific test data we put a product through. But they like us to show our working. Seeing the working means they can skim past it and have added confidence we know what we’re talking about.
 
Maybe we need to show our working a little more often again. Just to emphasise what people aren’t getting when they’re stumbling into the misinformation elsewhere.
 
That goes for the surveys or analyses or other information we get from PR to tell catchy stories that companies are eager to seed into the media landscape. The number of times I’ve asked for things like the total sample group or the margin of error on a survey and not had those details available? Let’s do better to make sure we rise above the rubbish out there.
 
Also, I delivered you some misinformation above. It was Wikiquote, not Wikipedia, where the Bill Gates quote debate was happening. Did you click to check the link? That said, the Talk Page at Wikipedia is another great example of showing your working.
 
I’m tired of hearing kids told not to trust Wikipedia. It’s so wrong that it’s its own misinformation because it fails to teach anyone good media literacy. Wikipedia is a great place to learn things, especially if you check the sources and the Talk page to learn how this information was pieced together. Maybe more news outlets need a Talk page equivalent to bolster the understanding behind the hard work that goes into serious reporting.

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More Media News

Ahern leads new STEM publication

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Ex-Cosmos Media CEO/co-founder Kylie Ahern has come forward with a new STEM newsletter called The Brilliant.

Scheduled for release every Thursdays, the publication is designed to educate the public on STEM-related matters, including profilers on leading researchers and new scientific advances. 

It will also support the advocacies of industry body STEM Matters, of which Ahern is the CEO. 

“There’s definitely a hunger from within the STEM sector, and from the wider community to hear from the experts and be inspired by the progress and results in meeting the biggest challenges that we face as a society. The Brilliant plugs that knowledge gap,” said Ahern.

The plan calls for The Brilliant to be published as a free newsletter, with paid advertisers to follow if readership grows.

Catching up with David Hague on the Australian Videocamera journey

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on

 

David Hague is an industry stalwart and has been carving his own path with his Australian Videocamera website and e-magazine for a good long time now. We asked him a few questions to help catch us up on his approach and how the efforts have been going.
 
How long have you been running in this format now? How often has it been tweaked along the way?
About 7 years now. Major tweak was going from web only to jointly with an interactive approximately monthly PDF once I discovered how to embed video into a PDF as a streaming file (NOT an easy task!). Adobe tell me they have made this easier in the latest updates of InDesign and I am investigating this now.
 
We have also changed from the original monthly magazine template designed web hosting system to a flexible WordsPress one (3 years ago). We did a brief flirt with a name change to Film Video and Virtual Reality (and the website still reflects this behind the scenes) but it didn’t have the right “ring&rdq

Stock assumes Weekend Herald-Sun editor spot

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

The Melbourne Herald-Sun has appointed Dan Stock as its new weekends editor.

The remit calls for him to focus on celebrity profiles and new lifestyle material relatable to Victoria readers.

He has been with the paper for over six years, primarily as Victoria food and restaurant writer. 

He also contributes for Delicious.com.au.

Follow Stock on LinkedIn.

Kitchin opens new publishing firm

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Magazine editor Sido Kitchin is going forward with a new company called School Road Publishing (pictured).

The company is slated to produce four new titles in print and digital form starting October 2020. 

School Road will be Kitchin’s first major undertaking since wrapping up as editorial director of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, and Lucky Break when Bauer Media closed down its NZ division. 

Former Bauer Media ANZ CEO Stanley Dykzeul has agreed to be School Road’s new consultant.

“I know how much New Zealanders love magazines, taking them into their hearts and homes across generations. It’s a buoyant market for mags right now and in a COVID world, readers are relishing the comfort, connection and inspiration they bring. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to create fresh, new titles that will enhance Kiwi lives with 100 percent locally-generated content and I look forward to anno

In praise of sub-editors

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on

 

Throughout my two decades in the media they’ve been under threat from tightening budgets and leadership that doesn’t much care for finesse work. So here’s a quick shout out to those unsung heroes of the industry – the sub-editors.
 
I’ve had a lucky run over the years to have worked with subs at Next Media, Allure Media, CBS Interactive, and ScienceAlert. That’s a pretty amazing run through an awful lot of my career – and through periods when subs were being dropped out of budgets all over the industry.
 
Like all the best support roles in this world, most people only notice a sub when they weren’t there to save an egregious error from being missed in plain sight. But a good sub can do so much more than just fix a few words and point out mistakes.
 
Subs can be guardians of style, champions of voice and flow, and trusted advisors when you really want to make a feature sing. What is missing? What needs more substa

Pezeshki joins Chattr

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Ariana Pezeshki has signed on with young-adult content platform Chattr as its sub-editor.

She had previously written for Happs and was recently a freelance reporter for Pacific Magazines.

Follow Pezeshki on LinkedIn.

5 minutes with Alex Walker

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Alex Walker joins Influencing this week for our latest 5 Minutes, with plenty of thoughts on his journey through journo land.
 
What do you do and where does your work appear?
I'm the editor of Kotaku Australia, and all my stuff appears on https://www.kotaku.com.au
 
Anything else in your career you’ve been known for?
I basically led all the gaming coverage for ABC Technology + Games, I've written for PC Powerplay, Cybershack, games.on.net when that was around. Main thing was doing a lot of esports coverage for the first decade of my career, but my job now requires me to be more of a generalist. Before that, I used to run a lot of esports -- just gaming in those days -- tournaments around Sydney, which was a great experience.
 
What did you really want to be when you were growing up?
An astronomer!
 
Which story or stories are you most proud of?
Writing about drugs in esports, an interview with my Discord impersonator, breaking local stories th

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