Thursday, November 05, 2015

Where For Art Thou, Dan Gillmor?

An essay in today's Chronicle email belaboring the lack of "journalism" training for the masses reminds me of the work of one of this blog's patron saints, Dan Gillmor.

Dan predicted the technology shift that would force closed door events like the Olympics to open up in the face of what would become social media.  His last book, We The Media, covered what Jennifer Brannock Cox found dismaying in 2015.  He did it in 2004.

Cox was dismayed at some of her social media classroom experiments led to very unintended consequences.  Her "commenters"  spent more time in snark than expanding the discussion.  She comes to this as one of her major points:

Unfortunately, social media is not the most reliable source of reporting, and our "journalists" are not trained. When anyone can post anything any time without restraint, the perpetuation of false and subjective information is inevitable.

Back in his transition from Cal to Arizona State, Gillmor made a huge point that one of the future cornerstone courses of media education should be just that:  a gen ed course on media that talked as much about how to consume it as how to generate it.

Cox's essay brings that right back to the forefront.  To which I ask the question of my media & comm colleagues: are you creating that course?

From the past is prologue school, another golden oldie from Dan.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is Social Media Commentary Next?

In a ruling that should catch the attention of all employees of state agencies, a federal appeals court upheld a ruling that former Georgia State psychologists didn't have a case against their employer over a memo they wrote critical of a policy change and reorganization of their student services clinic.  Inside Higher Ed's story has this key passage:

A district court found, and the appeals court affirmed, that the memo the psychologists wrote was "employee speech" related to their duties and thus not protected by the First Amendment.

Keep in mind, this was a memo to the employer.  Point being, if they'd decided they weren't getting a hearing internally and took to social media, would they have had more - or less -- First Amendment standing?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Well Intentioned, but Dangerous

The Chronicle notes today the petition of over 70 groups to require colleges and universities to address the anonymous harassment from sites such as YikYak.

The key in the story:  failure to monitor anonymous social media and to pursue online harassers as a violation of federal civil-rights laws guaranteeing equal educational access.

YikYak in particular, and most social websites in general, do not provide the level of anonymity promised, particularly when the free speech crosses the line into terroristic threatening or other legal areas (fake bomb/violence threats).  Neighboring student at UCA becoming the latest to learn that lesson the handcuffs way.

However, to require universities -- or public agencies in general -- to be the police of the internet is at best futile and at worst draconian.

By no measure do I condone or lessen the real issue here -- I've seen it up close.  Does this extend to RateMyProfessor reviews?  Does it include message boards like Topix -- the ancestral cesspool of these mobile-enabled platforms like 4chan and YikYak?

We are asking our universities to become larger and larger police agencies.  I might add, an unfunded mandate of the first degree.

This is a "Dear Colleague" with the best of intentions, but it will be little more than the Internet Monitoring Full Employment Act if pushed to its conclusion.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Soak It In

One last bit of data from the Pew Research Center's report on where generations get and from whom they trust their political news.  The graphic says it all:

Trust Levels of News Sources by Generation

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Because That's Where the Recruits Are

So why do we strategically spend time placing our news in social media formats?  Because studies continue to show that millennials find their news in social media, and contrary to the Twitterati's over-attachment with their platform and news, more millennials find news in Facebook.

You can read the Pew Research Center report that is behind this and many traditional news stories recently at this link.  Something to keep in mind, this was by brand, not "social media".  Twitter, for example, had about the same usage across generations.  It was Facebook -- the one that "none of the kids" are on any more -- that had the generational shift.


My theory:  It's their internet.  The Gen X grew up with websites, and they live in the domain name world.  The Boomers tuned to a channel, either over the air or on cable.

But the Millennials?  Just like they wouldn't begin to know how to use an 8-track, they grew up inside social media.  Sure, they socialize more on the newer mobile platforms -- Snapchat, InstaGram, etc. -- but they get their information from their reference point.

I've argued for some time that websites are now used as almanacs, the Wikis of our enterprises, because no one uses a printed reference anymore.  News doesn't come in a paper, it arrives in email or social.

That's not to say we don't use all our operative platforms, but the old Willie Sutton meme reigns supreme here:  because that is where they are.

Limits of Academic Freedom

Regardless of where you land on the spectrum of what is protected speech, today's Chronicle article is a solid primer in the recent cases where professors got into trouble.  Pay special attention to the case of a student who recorded a classroom exchange.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

They Do Read News

Tip of the hat once again to PRSA's daily Issues email for this one, an interesting study reported in TIME about the news habits of millennials.  One could argue, that's a bit self-serving - a news organization that says counter to stereotype that millennials are into news.

In some ways, its generational biased, both ways.  Of course a minority of any group is keenly aware of the news -- a "surprising" finding by TIME.  But I can dig up stories from the 1940s where the current generation was worried about the lack of knowledge of the generation fighting the war.  Or the 1960s.  Or the 1990s.

The one constant:  Kids these days.  Get off my lawn.

And, here's a little something from Pew that speaks to that consistency . . .

Younger Adults Have Historically Followed National News Less Closely than Older Adults

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Crisis Social Must Read

The Chronicle has a nicely sourced story about the perils of when your school is in the cross hairs of national negativity.

This line echoed in my head as we approach the one-year anniversary of the great helmet cross event here at A-State.  The person quoted is from Kansas, during the Mark Roth NRA tweet episode:

"We had talking points," recalls Timothy C. Caboni, vice chancellor for public affairs. "But the majority of callers were so irate there wasn’t an opportunity to give a response."

Literally, that's what it was like.  They didn't want to hear reason, or talking points (well, most didn't; those that did, it was truly retail, one-on-one PR).  They wanted to scream and know you took it.

Similar experience previously at Northwestern State with a meltdown of the Banner system (excuse me, Elucian) that resulted in student refund checks being extremely delayed.  It was social media triage, but in the end, we gained some advocates to fought other complainers for us.

The key takeaway in this story also rings true to personal experience:

Ignore at Your Peril