On crib notes and TelePrompters: giving a speech in front of the world requires some back-up plan. Why the press tattles on trivialities while ignoring the real stuff.

When I started working as a Language Studies professor at Mohawk College in the early aughts, I did not like the idea of talking in a public forum. I was always more of a Teller than a Penn. I studied my subject matter, and then wrote out entire scripts of each of my lessons and decided to I was going to be chained to my dais, and that’s that.

Over time, I let go of the dais and walked around the room, so that students in the back couldn’t hide away from me and have little private gabfests. That meant I had to forego scripts, and by then, I was confident enough to just use overheads as reminders.

Eventually, I could give lectures with any aids or props at all. No notes, nothing.

It helped that I gave the same basic speech — making it constant practice.

If I were a world leader, I don’t think I would be so brazen. I did teach public speaking, and I always warned students to have a back-up plan in case everything that could go awry during a speech, did.

So the press going on about Donald Trump’s crib notes is just silly. Barack Obama used a TelePrompter, and it didn’t always work, either — but if you are giving a speech to the entire world, I would expect some form of aid and back-up.

I never understood the Right’s obsession with Obama’s TelePrompter, nor those in the press who called him out for it — television anchors use them. They are there so you can not worry about blanking out in the middle of a speech — and as someone who taught students how to give speeches — I have seen my share of otherwise confident and smart young people blank in the middle of a presentation — and what they usually blanked on was the things they otherwise knew cold.

The use of speaking aids is not news: it is the method of conveying information. A speech is essentially a press release with a face — or an audio book version of one. It’s a petty, nothing thing to talk about — there are real things happening and unravelling as they are imploding — that’s what needs to be covered.

You can have the best speech and deliver it flawlessly — but if you are facing dangers all around you — words will not change anything. It’s about action.

But for the press — it was also about uncovering inaction; unfortunately, their own inaction and relying on stories that require no research, that contributed to the problems facing the world now.

The Guardian’s David Vujanic problem: vetting the politically incorrect in a Post-Progressive era.

The New York Times had Quinn Norton as one of their opinionists for about one day before her tweets were “exposed” (considering they were not deleted and were always public, it is hard to make an argument about exposure, or unearthed, considering information can be called up with a search engine, not digging through papers), and now the Guardian has a similar problem with David Vujanic, described as a Serbian “anti-racism YouTube star” whose own tweets were, for the lack of a better term, also exposed.

He made Hitler/Holocaust jokes and used racial slurs about five years ago. I am not certain if the former offence was a poor attempt at dark humour from someone whose people also were slaughtered in the Holocaust, but my grandmother’s family was killed in concentration camps during that period, and I am not one to make cracks because it is not the way I cope. That’s not an excuse at any rate. I have seen photographs of the atrocities committed by the fascist Ustaše, and it was not humane in the least, and were far worse than the Nazis in their torture and killing of Serbian civilians during the Second World War.

But the racial slurs do not have a single grain of leeway. None. The Guardian took down the video, which itself was not offensive. What was offensive was the old tweets.

You would think that in 2018 where what is left of the news media, who are already obsessed with what people on Twitter rant about, would vet, looking at early tweets.

It still is a Live Out Loud generation. The Guardian should have done some homework. The New York Times could have done some homework.

Because people who live and die by social media seem to know all about these lapses.

There is a difference between being controversial and being offensive.

He was being offensive and obtuse, and the Guardian should have properly vetted him.

Why CJR is out of touch.

A pair of articles worth mentioning:

The cost of reporting while female

That article by Anne Helen Petersen whose premise sounds an awful lot like my own writings here.

Mine are here and here.

Both done in 2016.

In case you are averse to clicking links, here is the original poster:

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Here is the visual memo that still serves as the header for this web site.

Gee, how original, CJR. How about trying to write while original.

The second article is all about how dreadful for press freedom it is that Newsweek fired their reporters for reporting on the company’s dark deeds.

And the fact they never reported on their employer’s questionable dealings before the authorities raided their offices wasn’t a blow to press freedoms?

Because when you work for people like that, they give you no freedom to write on reality.

Hello-a! You are working in a place that has secrets that need to be kept secret. Just how much freedom do you think you ever had?

Think, Sherlock, think!

CJR has always been out-of-touch. No critical thought. No original thought. No thought whatsoever.

And when you do not have critical or original thoughts, or have no thought at all, here is one thought to go by:

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If you are still wondering why journalism collapsed, it’s because thinking is really not an easy thing for many in the profession.

Information-gathering requires an active, radical, vigilant, original, and skeptical mind.

Otherwise, you have a profession of glorified stenographers…

A mission for journalism in a time of crisis? How about finally coming to grips with its destructive side: The Guardian may wish to keep the status quo, but it is time for an alternative model of journalism.

The Guardian, which as a needlessly long piece trying to drum up support for journalism is…well-meaning, but clueless.

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That cover itself reminds me of my high school Man in Society class, and could very well serve as a collage cover you have to make for your big essay, except it would Margaret Thatcher instead of Theresa May. (When I was in high school, I was wearing my Free Nelson Mandela t-shirt proudly, and it was in my final year when he finally was freed. I was a typical politicized kid who was heavily involved in world issues as well as local ones, and had even given a much-played radio interview on my take on things as I organized one anti-apartheid event in my school that caused controversy and angry parents calling both the school and media outlets to complain about me bringing reality to the classroom. The school caved in by lunch, but the local press loved our event. Even back then, social justice was my life as well as fashion and publishing).

But back to the Guardian.

You do not need to talk about journalism, Ms. Viner.

You need to listen.

You do not need a long article. That is not going to change fortunes. For someone talking about technology, the author should have kept her ideas short to reflect today’s attention spans.

So let me be brief.

Journalism collapsed because of long, meandering pieces that have a confirmation bias.

You need facts. You need to have system of finding, processing, and disseminating facts. You need to get rid of spin and narrative, and have a quality control that is effective in preventing grifters, psychopaths, and narcissists from hijacking your vehicle.

Journalists had that mission over a decade ago, and chose not to accept it. The end.

You had people like me who screamed from the top of my lungs that the Internet was a serious business, that reporters were sloppy and unprepared, that a new system was needed, and it began with a radical new method of educating journalists and altering the method of information-gathering while the Internet was still young and accommodating.

I was dismissed and ignored. I wrote books and articles in places such as Skeptic and Critical review. I even started a hard news site with the idea of fixing a profession.

It meant absolutely nothing. I am female, and unless I am prancing in a Versace gown with a distinctive jiggle, I am blending into white noise.

Now that journalism turned into a hot mess, now we have people such as Katharine Viner making pleas that mean nothing. Journalists never learned to listen, let alone consider they were the ones who needed to make deeper, atomic changes to the way they did business, but learning a new set of rules was, like, really hard.

And so, they paid the price.

It all imploded, and there aren’t that many gullible patrons left to fund a vanity project.

We need an alternative to journalism. Something fresh from scratch, and something that compels those in it never to take anything for granted, and embrace changing and improving what they do as they honour those who began before them.

Sugarmommies to the Atlantic’s Rescue: Happy news’ sleight of hand, and why seemingly happy news is no news at all.

Once upon a time, I was a journalist who covered the journalism industry for the likes of Presstime as well as other publications.

I was a complete newbie when I began, but I learned fast. I learned a lot about venture capital, Ebitda, paywalls, and the smoke and mirrors game of keeping up pretences.

Newspapers were very good at hiding the extent of circulation declines at the time. Canada began including free giveaway newspapers (count as one cent) as part of their circulation way back in 1999. This would include all those untouched newspapers you see at restaurants, laundry mats, and college campuses. I always had to understand the rig, and why it placed there.

I also understood that when everyone’s fortunes are crumbling, and one seems to buck the odds, you have to look at it with skepticism, and not awe. Bernie Madoff seemed to have the golden touch, and it was revealed that he didn’t.

So when the Atlantic boasted of hiring 100 people, I already was not surprised. They are not bucking a trend, but what they are experiencing is the largesse of a sugar mommy: in this case the widow of Great Man Steve Jobs.

This is not uncommon, but it requires some explaining.

This isn’t the first media player who has had this kind of set-up. Steven Bannon had billionaire widow Rebekah Mercer play patron to him until he became a liability with a big mouth and she kicked him to the curb. These relationships usually end in the patron wising up, realizing they are being used as their endgame is not going to happen funding a sinking ship, and they cut their losses.

I had known about this wrinkle for some time, and knew the score when I was invited by a friend to attend a little Fear and Pity Talk in Toronto at Facebook’s satellite headquarters last year. The little panel discussion on uncomfortable bar stools was supposed to about truth and journalism, but it mostly about how no one in the business was getting any clicks anymore…and too much left-field praise about The Atlantic magazine.

It was more than obvious that people in traditional media semi-got together and tried to rebuild their decimated fortunes with a brand name the same way they tried to bluff advertisers by including not-read-newspapers as part of their circulation (or currently with fake Twitter followers). As a tactical move, it could not be worse, but from a single discussion, it was easy to see right through those see-through heads, as the Hives once sang.

But patrons and venture capitalists are not uncommon, and online publications are now imploding because those funders have seen the writing on the wall, and are bailing out.

For the uninitiated, Crunch Base is a good start in seeing various publications getting funding — not from subscriptions or advertisers, but from funding (or venture) rounds.  You can look at Buzzfeed’s funding rounds, for example.

The upside is that you can raise big money faster with the theory that money will give you a push. Sometimes it works, and other times, not.

Take Meez, for instance, a non-journalism vehicle.

They raised over 12 million dollars for instance, allowing people to make their own cartoony avatars, like this one:

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That one pretty much looks like me now (surprising given that the animation is about a decade old), and it was a handy way to add humour to my web site.

But Meez no longer exists.

They had millions of subscribers, and many (such as me who used it for website graphics rather than personal entertainment) who paid for premium perks. They had high-end retailers have virtual clothing for cash purchase so your avatar could dress in that season’s fashions. Bands, movies, and television shows also sponsored various items and backgrounds over the years. You could make animations, such as the one above, or you could enter chat rooms to talk.

It was all the rage in the 2000s. It had subscribers, advertisers, and venture funding.

And then it imploded, going offline permanent in December 2017 without a prior warning (though users had been expecting doom as moderators seemed to have vanished).

I stopped using Meez years ago, but always kept a watch on its fortunes.

If me-centred media could not make it a go with patrons and/or funding rounds, it should aa serious sign for journalism.

How so?

Meez was the ultimate in embracing technology, courting youth, embracing progressive values, and keeping hip and with the times. Time magazine called it one of the worst sites of the year back in the day, as traditional media has always had a fear and disdain for technology. They did everything right.

And they couldn’t make the venture funding translate into self-sustaining success.

Steve Bannon, a shrewd man who understood strategy and managed to secure funding, also couldn’t sustain it.

The Atlantic will not be able to sustain it, either.

Its sophistry is too weak to be taken seriously, and it is no contender to any ideological challenge (when I wish to practice my critical thinking skills, all I have to do is read an Atlantic article, and I can take it down to shreds in seconds). It is the same smug, patriarchal mess that is offered everywhere else, including, the now crumbling Vox which is letting staff go. It has no new model of journalism, meaning there is no way for it to be able to take advantage of any kind of funding. Wealthy widow money burns at the same rate as any other kind of patron funding. Hiring a bigger staff when people no longer see journalism as something to consume will not change its fortunes.

But it will serve as a reason why government funding will not change journalism’s fortunes in Canada, either. You cannot keep opening the same door and expecting a different horizon. The news is pure PR, nothing more, and nothing for a dead profession to celebrate.

It is interesting how they are trying their hand at the same kinds of bluffs Canadian newspapers tried to pull in 1999. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now, either. The Left are losing communications resources, and have decided their best bet is to focus on the inert Atlantic.

They will watch their fortunes continue to shrink with intellectual lightweights trying clumsily to psyche out detractors.

It’s not working. It will comfort the fearful flock for a moment, until the money runs out, and it flops just like everyone else around them.

 

On breaking the journalism monopoly: Confronting rot from root to leaf.

When I was teaching Write to Publish at Sheridan College circa 2004, I was still actively working as a journalist, and was now writing Don’t Believe It! and then OutFoxed within the same year.

I also contributed giving workshops to other professors. The second one was how to incorporate “pop assignments” (a form of a pop quiz, but I argued out-of-the-blue assignments that had to be done right then and there were essential), but the first was talking about a novel use for blogs — using them as a teaching aid in classrooms:

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It sounds ridiculous now as it’s common practice: in 2004, it wasn’t. I was using a blog for my courses at Sheridan, and had been surprised it wasn’t common practice back then.

It was an interesting experience. Instructors were required to take a course in teaching fundamentals:

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Although I was teaching how to get published in fiction and nonfiction, we were required to have a videotaped lecture in front of our colleagues, and instead of what I normally taught, I decided to do a lecture on information verification for journalists — an idea I was trying to get through with absolutely no luck (when I find the video of that lecture, I will post it on the site).

I hand my handouts, and these were it:

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Those articles were all proven to be fake news.

And this was all something I had been working on for years as a journalist. I had tried to get a textbook for j-school students published for years. Here is a blind reviewer (not so blind that I could not figure out the identity) and the endorsement for the book…way back in 1999:

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Yes, a ringing endorsement, but it wasn’t universal: I had others knock down my experience, even though I was writing about the journalism industry for various trades such as Presstime, and one that thought I should team-up with a “name” journalist (which would have been a disaster). This was not the publisher that would finally publish Don’t Believe It! — that would be the Disinformation Company in 2005.

But in 2004, I was actively researching how those lies became news in the first place.

When I was the first female recipient of the Arch Award in 2004 as well, I was discussing what one of my long-term goals would be — in the final paragraph:

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I had researched as sorts of scams and lies over the years, however, not just in journalism:

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I have had many people over the years be dumbfounded when they find out my credentials and goal, and wonder why I have been as stymied as badly as I have been. The answer is complex as it is simple: bottom line, I am Writing While Female in a patently sexist profession that is obsessed with Great Men who they see as the only ones who can be visionaries. It is also a profession rife with egotism, meaning anything resembling criticism is seen as an unforgivable sin.

It is for those two main reasons why the profession destroyed itself (not the only ones, however). No one helped them in that regard. People need to be informed, but that is not what is happening: they are being agitated as they are being told how to react. There is a big difference.

But because journalism has been the only model of informing a general public, we assume that is the only way to do it.

And it’s not.

We need to get away from the Patriarchal mode because our world is now global. Before, a local paper had the monopoly of the community’s attention; now, not only can others read what that local paper is writing, but citizens can read any outlet they wish from anywhere in the world.

We have gotten away from the model of the One.

Journalism still is entrenched in it because its core has been rotted with that stifling assumption.

And that rot has gone up all the way to the top.

If we wish to have better form of mass communications, we have to consider something other than journalism. Social media doesn’t have the empiricism or the expertise to inform in a way citizens need to navigate around. We are living in an information void where we lack facts, but are overstocked with opinion.

Journalists never experimented in their labs — the real world.

Well, almost of them.

I did.

I was a psychology student in the mid-1990s when it hit me: why not be both the experimenter and the test subject and take the lab out of the ivory tower, and into the real world.

I even had a name for this brand of experimental journalism: Method Research.

Actors use a method to get into roles — they immerse themselves; so why not an experimenter?

Why not a journalist?

I set up experiments. I had results. I had hypotheses to test. I was a journalist looking at the problems of journalism — and then finding alternative ways of doing journalism.

Experimenters in laboratories do not have the same problems: breaking news happens, you hit peculiar roadblocks, and you have to wing it as you go along. Labs are not usually war zones to researchers, but they could be for journalists.

It could be done — but not through journalism. When you have celebrity gossip and “gee, it’s really cold out” leading newscasts, that is not the place to do something of value.

Journalism is an archaic concept that no longer fits in our diverse and changing world. It is anarchy in a void and journalism collapsed because it didn’t actually understand the environment or know the difference between reality and a narrative.

We need new models. We need Matriarchal theories, as Patriarchal has reached its limits. We need explorers, and people who have both the intelligence and humility to know they are not experts in an unknown field.

New paths cannot be build any other way. Journalism worked when they could hold all the cards, but they aren’t playing with a full deck these days.

But the world cannot sit and wait for them — and has marched on without them.

But they still need to be informed — but in a better way than they were before.

 

Stoney Brook j-school dean: Journalism students need to know how to spot fake news? I wrote the textbook for that idea way back in 2005. Too bad you are ill-equipped to teach it.

Stoney Brook needs to get with the times and the ethics of the profession of journalism. Their dean Howard Schneider is talking about how journalism students need to know how to spot fake news.

Really?

You just thought about this now when I came up with the textbook in 2005.

This book:

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That was the reason I wrote it in the first place.

Bakersfield had a class that used it when the book first came out, but it wasn’t j-school program per se.

But don’t expect Stoney Brook to have a course worth anything because their premise is too flawed — and do not touch the reasons for journalistic credulity.

There is no empiricism in their approach. A broken mindset will make matters worse.

You needed a course such as this over a decade ago.

You need an alternative to journalism now because to j-schools, they live in their ivory caves and have no natural feel for what needs to be done.

This is all about patching up things and keeping flawed and fragmented egos and mindsets protected. The problem is propping up rot doesn’t solve anything.

I had also proposed courses in information verification to various North American colleges and universities for twenty years. I was turned down by them all.

This isn’t anything but a face-saving course that merely wallpapers over the rot.

They are not equipped to devise a course like this — the problems in their educational system are too deep and too wide.

J-schools needed to make revolutionary changes a long time ago.

Now, they are cribbing ideas from elevators and trying to spin it as their own brilliant ideas as they get Great Man credit, but as they do not understand the nuances, they miss the mark, and make matters worse.

Start from scratch. The profession is dead and a course isn’t going to change a thing.

You need a new program run by fresh, untainted blood.

Not this.