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What’s Killing Journalism?

The state of the Fourth Estate—and who can save it.

Brittany Karford Rogers writes: If hashtags had been a thing, these would have been some #FakeNews whoppers.

The 32 BC Mark Antony takedown: it began with a fake-news campaign masterminded by Octavian, complete with Tweet-like proclamations on ancient coins.

The Simon of Trent humdinger: in 1475 a prince-bishop in Italy set off a story that local Jews murdered missing 2-year-old Simon—and used his blood for rituals. Fifteen Jews burned at the stake.

The Benjamin Franklin special edition: he concocted an entire 1782 newspaper, peddling a fake story about Native Americans scalping 700 men, women, children, and infants.

In short, fake news is old news.

For all the handwringing over fake news today, BYU journalism professor Joel J. Campbell’s (BA ’87) response is more “meh.” It’s another punch for a profession that’s been in the ring for the better part of a decade. Trust in news media is at an all-time low. Revenue models are upended. Reporters are exhausted. Readers are fragmented. And that’s just a short list of jabs.

Looming larger in Campbell’s eyes are analytics-driven newsrooms and disenfranchised readers, who, flooded with content, are living in information silos or, worse, opting out altogether.

So how does one make sense of the crowded, increasingly polarized news landscape? And what’s left of journalism as we knew it?

[Read the full text here, at BYU Magazine]

BYU faculty and alumni practitioners—their collective résumés spanning Fox News, C-SPAN, CNN, the Atlantic, and more—have some ideas.

Before you throw your hands up, consider the forces at play, take heart in journalists’ earnest self-searching, and look in the mirror—because the finger pointing goes all the way around.

It’s worth asking, “Is journalism still doing its job?” But as our panel of experts chimes, there’s an equally important question: “Do the citizens of this country have the will to save it?”

A Happy Accident

Journalism has a lofty goal—one epitomized by the career of R. John Hughes.

The emeritus BYU professor won the Pulitzer Prize in 1967 for his coverage of an attempted communist coup and its bloody aftermath in Indonesia. Over his career as a writer for and then editor of the Christian Science Monitor, he covered revolutions and interviewed world leaders.

“Journalism was almost like a religion to me, to get the story, and get it right, to help evince change,” Hughes says. “It’s a kind of love affair for most journalists, shining light in dark corners.”

Journalists call themselves the watchdogs, the truth seekers. The press is dubbed the Fourth Estate after all, the final check on all three branches of government. Democracy requires informed citizens; the press make up the informants. “Democracy Dies in Darkness” goes the new Washington Post tagline.

That’s the why of modern journalism.

The how—being objective, non-partisan—“is rather a new phenomenon in the history of news,” says Campbell.

It has always depended on who’s paying.

Wealthy traders and merchants underwrote the first news in the Americas, and it was all route intel. In the colonial period political parties footed the bill for most papers—party organs that were far more partisan and acrimonious than what we cry foul at today. It wasn’t until the penny-press era—the 1830s on—that a new funding model developed: scale up the circulation, then sell readers’ attention to advertisers. That advertising revenue could bring the cost of the paper down to something many could afford.

Writing to a mass audience, publishers began to recognize there was a market for real, honest news that could cross political divides and speak with a relatively neutral voice. This paved the way for professional journalism standards. And for most of the 20th century, it made newsrooms the information power brokers.

Then the internet smashed the model.

“For the last decade, we have seen a steady erosion of the advertising economy for newspapers,” says Campbell. That’s the nice way of saying it. Revenue streams have been gutted.

Department stores and auto malls, the go-to advertisers, cut back on ads, facing their own disruptions: e-commerce competition and recession. Craigslist happened to the classifieds. And reader eyeballs, once concentrated among a few media outlets, are now diverted to Facebook, YouTube, and that thing you just Googled—and the bulk of advertising has followed them.

[Read the full story here, at BYU Magazine]

As they say in the industry, the digital transition traded print dollars for digital dimes and, in turn, digital dimes for mobile pennies.

One thing is certain: it’s a fascinating time to study the news. Alum Seth C. Lewis (BA ’02) holds the Shirley Papé Chair in Emerging Media at the University of Oregon and is a leading scholar on the digital transformation of journalism.

“We’ve gone from media monopoly to media disruption and ubiquity,” says Lewis. And in ubiquity, no one gets a sizable piece of the economic pie.

Lewis suggests that maybe the last century of advertising-based news subsidy—which fostered these objective, non-partisan notions—“was just a happy accident. Maybe instead we’re returning to other forms of funding and thinking about the news.”

 

Illustration by Dan Page

Casualties of the Internet

The internet is not the first technology to shake up the news industry. It happened after radio. It happened after TV.

This shakeup, however, may have taken more casualties.

News staffs have been decimated. The journalists who still have jobs are stretched thin—while the internet demands more of them than ever. Read the rest of this entry »

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Home Appliances that Might Testify Against You: Fridges and Washing Machines

murder-suspect-fridge

Is it Time to Make Our Fridges and Washing Machines Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements?

High-tech washing machines and fridges will soon be used by detectives gathering evidence from crime scenes, experts have forecast.

“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely, if they choose, to give controlled access to the premises while away from the property. All these leave a log and a trace of activity. The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the internet of things.”

The advent of ‘the internet of things’ in which more devices are connected together in a world of ‘smart working’ could in future provide important clues for the police.

Detectives are currently being trained to look for gadgets and white goods which could provide a ‘digital footprint’ of victims or criminals.

Mark Stokes, the head of the digital, cyber and communications forensics unit at the Metropolitan Police told The Times: “Wireless cameras within a device, such as fridge, may record the movement of owners and suspects.

samsung_smart_fridge

“Doorbells that connect directly to apps on a user’s phone can show who has rung the door and the owner or others may then remotely,m if they choose, to give controlled access to the premises while away from the property.

“All these leave a log and a trace of activity. The crime scene of tomorrow is going to be the internet of things.”

The new Samsung Family Hub Fridge has cameras that carry a live feed of its contents, so shoppers can tell what they need when they are out at the shop. The dates and times that people logon to the fridge, therefore could provide alibis or prove people were not were they said they were.

Mr Stokes said detectives of the future would carry a ‘digital forensics toolkit’ which would allow them to analyse microchips and download data at the scene, rather than removing devices for testing. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Internet Boom

jungx493

Online experimentation doesn’t have to be limited to tech companies.

Edward Jung It’s tempting to portray the rapid growth of the Chinese Internet as just one more example of China’s efforts to catch up with the West: Alibaba is the eBay of China, Baidu is the Google of China, Didi is the Uber of China, and so on. But China is actually conducting some fascinating experiments with the Internet (see “The Best and Worst Internet Experience in the World“). You just need to look outside the tech sector to notice them.

The most significant innovation is happening not among Chinese Internet companies but in the country’s so-called “real” economy. Corporations in old-school sectors like construction, agriculture, transportation, and banking are pursuing new business models based on big data, social media, and the Internet of things.

These are some of the largest firms of their kind in the world, yet many are young enough to be helmed by their original owner/founders. They’re like ­Rockefeller, Ford, or Carnegie with access to smartphones.

So it’s China’s largest residential-­property developer—not a tech company—that is pioneering the integration of Internet-based technology and services into fully wired communities. Vanke wants to create urban hubs that supply residents with gardens, safe food, travel, entertainment, and medical and educational services, all enabled by the Internet. Read the rest of this entry »


The Mechanics of Mechanophilia: Why Men Find Siri Sexy

flying-robot

We all have relationships with tech. The question is: how far do you go?

How would you feel if you walked in on your flatmate pouring his iPhone a glass of Cristal and remarking on her exceptional ‘wallpaper’? Open mouthed and curious, right? Well, welcome to the future. For some technophiles at least.

Apart from neo-Luddites, we all have relationships with tech. The question is: how far do you go?

A survey from 2012 revealed the extreme level of attachment many of us feel towards our gadgets. It found that three-quarters of the 2,500 people polled said losing a personal device would give them more anxiety than losing a wedding ring. Another from 2016 discloses that nearly 40pc of millennials say they interact more with their smartphones than their co-workers, parents, children or friends.

Of course, such interactions could be simply checking the time – and if you started calling your friends to do that they’d think you’d gone batty – but what these stats betray is the shaping of an emotional bond between man and machine that seems to be growing year on year.

robot

“People use things in a sexual way all the time. You could name any object, from a radiator to a tin can, and there’s someone out there that gets sexually aroused by it.”

–Professor Mark Griffiths

Sci-fi programmes like Humans, depicting the trouble caused when overly lifelike AI get mixed in with the rest of society, may be fictional, yet our relationship with tech still gets closer and closer. Quite alarmingly close.

Virtual assistants (VA for short), also known as personal assistant A.I.s, are digital secretaries that can schedule meetings, order meals, play audio and visual files, and assess online accounts. Not to be confused with ‘virtual assistants’ that work remotely and are actual people, current VAs on the market include Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and, of course, Apple’s Siri.

“Most new technology seems to turn to porn eventually. Webcams, virtual reality, Internet etc. I see no reason why A.I won’t be included in this. It’ll certainly be cheaper to run phone sex lines with an army of bots instead of having to pay women to answer the phones.”

— Steve Worswick, an expert in the field of digital A.I

Last month, in an interview with The Times, Illy Eckstein, chief executive of Robin Labs, creators of a virtual assistant and satnav known as ‘Robin’, said that 5pc of interactions in their database are classified as “clearly sexually explicit”.

Trawling the Internet for evidence of the above I discovered a Reddit forum titled: ‘I masturbate to Siri and I feel disgusting’. The poster says he’s a 20 year old male, who started talking to Siri sexually as a joke before realising that “it really turned me on.”

The phenomenon clearly has farther reaches than one sole forum post. VA creators and chatbot companies predict such interactions and put algorithmic safeguards in place to deter feelings of emotional and sexual attachment from costumers.

[Read the full story here, at telegraph.uk]

Earlier this year one of the key writers for Microsoft’s Cortana, Deborah Harrison, revealed at the Virtual Assistant Summit in San Francisco that “a good chunk of the volume of early-on inquiries” regarded Cortana’s ‘sex life’ adding, “That’s not the kind of interaction we want to encourage.”

Steve Worswick is an expert in the field of digital A.I. He’s also the leading developer of Mitsuku, a family-friendly online chatbot.

robot-waitress-zhejiang

“Mechanophilia: love or sexual attraction to computers, cars, robots or androids, washing machines, lawnmowers and other mechanized gardening equipment, sexual relations between living organisms and machines.”

He told Telegraph Men that he used to have a banning system (five strikes and you’re out) for anyone who attempted to have sexually explicit conversations with Mitsuku. However, he received so many emails from people who wanted to treat the bot sexually, that he removed the strike system and instead programmed Mitsuku to either ignore sexual requests, say something to steer the conversation to other topics, or simply insult the user.

Worswick believes men are using Mitsuku in this way and seeing bots as “sex objects” simply because they cannot fight back, have no legal rights, and are not going to judge them or contact the authorities or their wives or girlfriends.

Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Hackers Infect DVRs to Pull off Internet Breach 

Hackers took control of home security cameras and video recorders to launch one of the biggest Internet attacks in history this month. The unprecedented attack raised questions about how the Internet will cope with a flood of connected and vulnerable devices expected to come online in the next few years.

flat-screen-television


[VIDEO] First Self-Powered Camera Developed

Researchers at Columbia University have created a new type of smart camera that operates without any external power supply. Photo: Computer Vision Laboratory, Columbia Engineering


OUT: Shipping Your Enemy a Packet of Glitter. IN: Shipping Your Enemy a Bag of Dicks

Gummi-Dicks

And you thought shipping glitter was all the rage.

This month, the Internet has borne witness to the launch of not one, but two major sites that let you ship your enemies—or your friends, for that matter—a bag of gummy dicks…. 715 more words

Observer


Healthcare Organizations Under Siege from Cyberattacks

A new report says medical devices such as this kidney dialysis machine have been compromised in cyberattacks. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / January 1, 2011)

A new report says medical devices such as this kidney dialysis machine have been compromised in cyberattacks. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times / January 1, 2011)

Chris O’Brien  reports:  Add this to the list of things to freak you out: Healthcare organizations of all kinds are being routinely attacked and compromised by increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

A new study set to be officially released Wednesday found that networks and Internet-connected devices in places such as hospitals, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies are under siege and in many cases have been infiltrated without their knowledge.

The study was conducted by Norse, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity firm, and SANS, a security research institute. In the report, the groups found from September 2012 to October 2013 that 375 healthcare organizations in the U.S. had been compromised, and in many cases are still compromised because they have not yet detected the attacks.

In addition to getting access to patient files and information, the attackers managed to infiltrate devices such as radiology imaging software, conferencing systems, printers, firewalls, Web cameras and mail servers.

Read the rest of this entry »