How I want to look at online media during terrible events

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I think the latest Ask Amy video covers a some of my thoughts about how we view stuff online, and how to find better images to fill our minds and brains with. It’s hard not to seek out news stories when something happens, but it also felt wrong to me at the same time. I’m aware that a lot of the media coverage of the Boston bombing was probably very distorted – the facts on the ground weren’t known completely, and people tweeting and video posting events from their point of view can be a window into events or a fun-house mirror that tells us more about ourselves than it does about what’s actually happening. If people need information on how to grow their online media, they can visit here and get help.

I think stepping back from the flood of information online – especially when I don’t know the veracity or relevance of it – is a good idea. I think a lot of my fascination with and time spent on the events in Boston was in observing how social media was spreading information around (that has gained 1k views recently), which is an interesting inquiry, but I’m not exactly a viral expert (it’s not my job to watch these patterns of information), so it’s an exercise in navel-gazing that isn’t exactly productive or enriching to my psyche.

In contrast, though, I’ve started to see the “I don’t want to know who he is or why he did what he did” meme going around facebook already. I’m uncomfortable with that reaction. I agree that we don’t want to glorify people who do terrible things with a spot in history, but I also hate the idea that we just accept that things happen without assigning blame on the responsible parties. If we listen to the guy’s manifesto, we can counter it with messages about why he’s wrong, which I think is important.

Because I don’t believe we have to just accept that “bad things happen,” or that we can’t create change because we clearly can. I think holding people accountable is important, and proving that they are wrong in their wrong beliefs advances us culturally to be more civilized and to have opportunities for more rewarding lives. If you had told me 15 years ago that our country would accept and allow gay marriage in our lifetime, cynical me would not have believed it for a second. But change is coming on that front, and it a good way. We can change the way the world thinks, the way they believe. It may be a long and arduous process, but we have done it countless times in the past, and we can do it again.

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Journalists vs. Pundits

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I disagree with about 90% of what Meghan McCain believes in, but in general I think she’s a likable girl. I think part of that is because in the back of my head, I think she’s really a closeted liberal just waiting for the light bulb to go on so she can come out of the conservative closet. Today she’s pretty far off base, though.

Today on the Daily Beast she’s commenting on Keith Olbermann’s temporary suspension from MSNBC for making campaign donations. Her point there is that he shouldn’t have been suspended, because she doesn’t think he’s a journalist.

Olbermann needs to determine if he is a commentator or a journalist. It never really crossed my mind that he was considered a journalist by anyone, just like I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist. And, for the record, neither does he. Both Beck and Bill O’Reilly (as recently as his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher) said they fall on the commentary side of the network. This is the state of the media.

I’d like to call bullshit on this one. It is indeed true that Beck and O’Reilly ARE actually “commentators” or rather pundits, and that they are not journalists. Journalists tend to have a much better relationship with the facts than either of these guys. The professional goal for journalists is to uncover the truth – Beck and O’Reilly, on the other hand, are interested in pushing their point of view and have only a vague notion of what the truth might be, because they aren’t really interested in it.

But 90% of the viewing public doesn’t realize that Beck and O’Reilly are pundits rather than journalists. Most of them think that what they see on Fux “News” is actually news, provided to them by actual journalists. They don’t make any sort of distinction between journalists and “commentators.” In fact, that’s exactly what Beck and O’Reilly are counting on – that their “commentary” be mistaken for real, investigated, researched journalism.

So that line of “I never assumed that anyone considers Glenn Beck a journalist” is all kinds of bull. The vast majority of the viewing audience considers that to be so, Meghan, because they don’t know any better. And I’ll bet Beck and O’Reilly aren’t going to be thrilled that you’re musing about those sorts of distinctions publicly.

So Olbermann – journalist or pundit? Journalist, in my view. He sure does have an opinion, but it’s always in service to uncovering the truth. When he’s wrong, he corrects himself. He reports actual, factual news.

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Maddow’s “make your own verb suffix contest”

I’m not sure I can even adequately paraphrase the point of this contest, so let me take advantage of their paraphrasing: “The short version is that an Amazonian tribe uses verb suffixes as a means of indicating the source of their information. Your challenge is to come up with verb suffixes for English to make it easier to know where a person is coming from with what they’re talking about (and whether they’re worth listening to).

Be sure to read the comments; they’re priceless.

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links for 2010-04-09

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