Media Trump

This Globe and Mail article by Simon Houpt, which is a good read, asks more questions than it answers about how the media is handling Donald Trump:

“His appeal raises hard questions: about clickbait versus quality journalism, and whether the two are mutually exclusive; about bias and fairness; about polls; about outrage journalism; about the little-examined role that class plays in media; about journalistic integrity; about whether the media – even the media outlets that position themselves as the true voices of real people – are actually in touch with real people.”

Whatever the answers, Trump is using his notoriety to make him money, not to make him president. He knows the media loves bad news and sensationalism, so they will pile on to the next story about the sky falling.

Trump has little chance of getting more than a fringe vote and the GOP won’t think he’s so grand when it’s time to pick a viable contender who can get the votes that Romney couldn’t attract.

Perhaps the Trump benefit is that more people will vote due to the heightened news coverage and awareness. If so, the media can be credited with helping to get out the vote, even if they’re struggling with how to report on Trump.

Live Tweeting The Weather

Tornados are top of mind in Ontario these days after one ripped through Goderich this week and the threat of severe storms earlier tonight. This fact was evident for a few hours on Twitter. #tornadowatch, Southern Ontario and Weather Network, where I work, all trended in the Canadian top nine.

Ontarians, including a couple talented people at The Weather Network, live tweeted about the storm so that I could virtually see it moving east across the south part of the province while also reading about conditions elsewhere in Ontario.

As I said in a note to the writer, “I think you set some kind of national or international weather live tweeting record.” And more importantly, people got the news they needed about the storm’s severity.

TV and web can’t match this pace. Sure their reach is far greater with millions more people tuning into our on-air broadcast and web site. But if you wanted to know what was happening every few seconds in different areas, these live streams provided nice little chunks of easy to digest news. Which greatly complimented information on our other platforms including Facebook. As evident by the tweets referring to our TV reports and web radar models.

It’s common for Canadians to need their weather news. Tonight’s weather reinforced this fact while also highlighting Twitter’s information sharing strength.

Not as strong as the thunder and lightning, high winds and violent rain just experienced, but impressive all the same.

Tribalism, Bias and Climategate

The current battle between climate change believers and deniers provides great reminders about the realities of media and tribalism.

The climate change skeptics have gained considerable momentum as illustrated by the heated debate concerning emails hacked from servers at the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit. I wonder what motivated the hackers.

The hundreds of pages of hacked emails apparently contain some very persuasive content. More persuasive than the radio campaign launched by the Friends of Science that I commented on here. As I said, the climate skeptics needed to collaborate and use social media instead of attack ads. Well, they certainly have developed some good partnerships and Climategate has ignited a lot of social and traditional media discussion.

Much of the discussion concerns the alleged scientific biases in the hacked emails; apparently some of the climatologists may have manipulated some of their research.

Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote a compelling article about the Climategate coverage. His conclusion:

“Now is a good time for journalists to reassess their coverage of climate change, weed out any bias from their reporting strategies, do what they can to disentangle politics from science, and be more aggressive about covering what many scientists, business figures, policymakers, and activists think is the most important climate story of this still-new millennium.”

This isn’t an indictment of journalists but instead refers to the complexity of the issue and, no surprise here, the dwindling resources that traditional media must now cope with. According to Brainard:

“As with business and political reporting, there is a tendency for science journalists to become too reliant on and close to a limited number of sources, which can lead to ideological bias in terms of accepting the sources’ statements uncritically… In addition, the mainstream media tends to abhor complicated stories on areas of scientific uncertainty about the causes and consequences of climate change. This tendency is not exclusive to science reporting—most editors tend to prefer distilled and simple news bites.”

As a member of a tribe or community it’s hard to imagine not becoming too close to and reliant on friends, colleagues, sources, etc. The close connections are valuable, the give-and-take is rewarding and biases hard to avoid. Shared biases might actually be part of the glue that holds communities together. Given this reality, it’s important for citizen journalists and traditional media alike to not be unfavourably influenced by their prejudices.

As online communities and social media continue to flourish, it will be interesting to see how opinion and biases continue to shape journalism and conversations.