Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Met with ‘Alt-Right’ Freedom Party Leader | Teen Vogue

FYI Smarties…

It seems Teen Vogue has taken on the task of investigative journalism. With Elaine Welteroth at the helm we get to see smart media at its best…

From the article:

The “alt-right” is known for its extremist and racist views, as well as being severely anti-Semitic. It seems like the association between the Trump campaign and neo-Nazis won’t be broken any time soon, as his chosen national security advisor, General Mike Flynn, recently met with Heinz-Christian Strache — the head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which was established by former Nazis after World War II”

#RESIST

You can do this by

  • contacting your local representatives with your concerns
  • Joining and donating to watchdog organizations like pro publica
  • Staying informed and tuned in to smart media
  • Buy a subscription to Teen Vogue

Smart Media Consumption and My Kids

Long-time Smarties know I’ve got six whole kids! They range in age from 10 months to 16 years. Technology has been a huge part of their lives. They literally can’t comprehend a world before smart phones. They giggle at the inconvenience of telephones with chords and vinyl records. They laughed through the original Ghostbusters and it wasn’t at Bill Murray’s quick wit. It was in response to the “cheesy special effects.” Continue reading “Smart Media Consumption and My Kids”

Five Ways to Spot Fake News

I’m going to rant a little bit today. I find myself arguing with otherwise reasonable people over fake news. It’s an issue. So much so, I have to talk about it here and probably more than once.

The onslaught of fake news and websites dedicated to producing click bait grows by the day. My news feed is consumed by hyperbolic headlines that are complete bullshit. We have reached a pinnacle of, ‘feelings as facts’ reporting. It is more important for publications to get clicks than to do their due diligence. For most people this seems ok, as long as the content reinforces their own ideology. Those people can fuck off.

In fact, post-truth became the Oxford Dictionary international word of the year in 2016. Defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

In the information age, objective facts have become less influential than emotional and personal belief. This is ridiculous, reckless behavior. Please know, I do indeed judge you harshly if you are the type of person to put your personal feelings in place of factual information.

Journalistic integrity is dead and that feels tragic to me. The press is supposed to exist as a checks and balance to those in power.

They gave the First Amendment as a way of giving a fourth branch of government — in fact, the press — an ability to question those in power in any of those three branches of government. -Ken Auletta, Writer, The New Yorker

The irony of it all is, we have the power to debunk, dismiss, and denounce this practice, by using the power of the internet to research any given topic, at any given time. What is the point of having access to all of the information in a device that can fit in your pocket if you are going to exist with your head in the sand, gravitating only to content that soothes you and affirms your personal dogma?

Dear friends – get your heads out of your asses and start digging in deep…our very lives depend on it. I am here to help you, help us end the business of bullshit news and teach you how to spot a fake.

#1 – Trustworthy writers credit their sources

Any writer of worth knows they are nothing without their sources and reference materials. I have seen writers of all visibility use the words of others as their own, claiming content mysteriously appeared to them without citing even an anonymous source. A good story has a lot of breadcrumbs that the reader can follow. If an article or news source is stingy with sources, chances are it’s fake or plagiarized. Please understand fake news and bullshit writers can exist within real news publishers.

#2 – Reliable reporting is balanced

Above all else, news is meant to inform, not delight us. There is no rule that it cannot do both but it must do the first thing…inform. If it is not an op-ed there should be no slant to the reporting. Balanced news does not take sides, it reports the facts and tells the story without any bias. If you are reading something and it is heavy on the hyperbole or it doesn’t present all sides, chances are it’s fake or propagandist news.

#3 – Authentic publications have a track record

Fake news often comes from publications more interested in getting you in front of their advertisers. This is how they make money. Pay attention to the website you’ve landed on. If it is full of advertisements and pop ups, chances are its existence is to get you in front of sponsored ads and not to report the news. Pay attention to how long the site has been in existence. Check their archives and research their body of work. If there is little substance, it’s a good sign it isn’t a reliable source.

#4 – Poor editing is a huge giveaway

As stated above, fake news exists as a way to bait you over to the site so they can sell you things. They don’t much care about the quality of the content. There is no editor working tirelessly to ensure the story is accurate, never mind proof reading. They only want your eyes on their advertisements because this is how they are profiting off serving you fake news. If the content is full of bad spelling and even worse grammar, it’s fake.

#5 – Misinformation and skewed facts

In a lot of cases the news has becomes a propaganda machine. Post-truth, feelings have replaced facts. Many fake news sites intend to misinform and change the narrative to fit their ideology. Check your facts, if a reporter cites a statistic, look it up. If you come across enough conflicting information, chances are your news source has an agenda other than giving you accurate information.

Bonus tip:

Keep in mind that technology to manipulate photos and videos exist. In this day and age, a good rule of thumb is, “question everything and do your homework.” In this way you can be your own reporter and get to the bottom of any subject on your own.

Too many times we are so quick to hit that share button in order to get some type of information out. Do a little homework before hand.Sharing a fake story can often have the opposite effect of raising awareness and instead cause more confusion.

Here is a comprehensive list to help you weed out the less obvious offenders.

fakenews

The Gap and Black Girl Magic

Fuck you Gap. Black girls are magic. Black Girls Matter. Black. Girls. Are. Magic.

I was minding my own business this weekend. Getting my home into some semblance of shape after having a new baby a few weeks ago. I was working pretty hard and felt I deserved a break. So I took one and as per usual logged into Facebook to see what was going on. To my shock and horror this is the fuckery that greeted me:

The_Gap

Your ad campaign aimed at making young girls see themselves as whatever they can dream of set little black girls up to be arm rests for adventurous white girls.

You suck and everyone who isn’t a racist asshole knows it.

I want to thank Fatima LaJuan Muse for bringing this troubling content to my attention. She breaks it down on her Facebook page so succinctly here. The Root has also done a piece on this here. They have said much of what needs to be said regarding this controversy in better ways than I ever could.

Instead, I want to talk about it in the way I talk about a lot of things around here. This is what lazy content looks like and we deserve better. Our girls deserve better.

This is what content looks like when there is no diversity behind the scenes. Without a black person and other non-black persons of color working in collaboration, with mostly white people, there is no one who can say, “this is inappropriate, people are going to feel a way about what is depicted here and I’ll tell you why”

Without that input we get this unedited, white person version of what (white) girls are capable of being – a dancer, gymnast, adventurer and what (black) girls are capable of being – A prop? Arm rest? Inanimate object? I’m not sure who this was supposed to inspire but in me it evokes something wholly maternal and viscous.

I want to snatch this baby girl out of this photo and tell her, she’s better than an armrest, she’s MAGIC!

 

As I’ve said so many times, representation matters. It matters how we see ourselves reflected in the pages of magazines, on TV and the big screen and (white) America has done a shit job of showing the depth and breadth of who we are as a wholly colorful civilization (see #oscarssowhite).

To flip through a magazine, channels on a television, or any movie trailer in the last 80+ years would lead any alien society to believe this earth is full of mostly dominant white people with a smattering of subservient brown people.

I’m not even exaggerating. According to a 2014 Women in Media Report, white people are cast in lead roles more than twice as often as people of color, and white film writers outnumber minority writers 3 to 1. In 17% of films, no black people had speaking parts.

So, ads like this just reinforce and validate this disparity with a giant exclamation mark thrown in for good measure. I can’t even begin to tell you what an image like this does to the mind of a young black girl, who will spend most of her life questioning her worth and her place in a world that consistently tries to deny her humanity. It is wholly degrading and wholly despicable.

If you are a smarty, and if you are reading my blog I know you are, you know what I am going to ask next – please boycott The Gap – please reach out to them through any means necessary and voice your outrage.

Shout out their shame on Twitter or Instagram

Contact them via Facebook or email

You can even write them a strongly worded letter the old fashioned way:

Gap Inc./Synchrony Bank
PO Box 965004
Orlando, FL 32896-5004

Put your power as a consumer to work and let The Gap know they fucked up and we aren’t having it!

 

Apps to Help you Survive a Busy Life

Running a household is tricky business. Keeping everyone organized, fed, clothed, smart, and fit takes careful consideration, planning, and in the 21st century, a handful of apps to keep things in place. That’s how it works in my world, I’m a digital mom, raising five kids, my smart phone is a lifeline. With it I can keep track of all the myriad appointments we have in a week, log every school function, all the extra curricular activities and play dates, share it all with my partner and vice verse.

I’m plugged in and do my best to use my devices and apps to my benefit. Sure, there are always going to be time sucks – anyone with a Facebook profile knows this – but for the most part I like to think of my gadgets as sidekicks. Reliable, agreeable, intuitive, and ever ready to lend a helping hand. My smart devices are like electronic butlers, personal assistants, event coordinators and even confidants.

Some might say I am too dependent on technology, they are probably right but, I don’t have the luxury of “going off the grid,” no, I’m firmly entrenched. However, like everything in life, balance and moderation is key. If you are plugged in like me then you are going to love this post. I have long wanted to share the apps I use to help keep me and my family organized. Today is that day. I hope they are as helpful to you as they are to me!

COZI Calendar 

Cozi_app

With this calendar I am able to keep track of myself, my partner, and my kid’s myriad appointments and plans. I wish life worked so simply, everything color coded and put in a place. I can open up my calendar and see a snap shot of appointments and know who they are for immediately. I can also sync my calendar with my husband and share the kid’s important events to co-parents, grandparents, and bonus parents. I can also plan recipes, keep shopping lists and manage to-do lists through this app. For a free version this app packs a powerful punch!

Yummly

Yummly_app

How many times can you make meatloaf before everyone just gives up? How many ways can you really make chicken? These questions plague me. I want my kids to have a healthy relationships with food, be open to trying new things, and make good nutritional choices as they grow. Yummly helps me keep things interesting by providing a large library of recipes to choose from when baked chicken and mashed potatoes is gets old.  I can organize my favorites in collections of my own choice, add as many collections as I please and share my recipes via email or social media app. So far I have tried several recipes and I have not been disappointed.

MagicPlan

MagicPlan_app

 

If you are redecorating, reorganizing, or just want to move some furniture around for a change of pace, this app is for you. You can use it to take an accurate measurement of the rooms, windows, doors, floors and even stairs in your home. The app creates a floor plan for you and allows you to build home decorating projects. You can also, connect and share plans. It’s a genius little app and I find myself using it more and more everyday.

CamScanner

camscanner_app

 

Several years ago we decided to go paper-free. We converted registered all of our accounts online and requested email bills instead of snail mail wherever possible. Our school district uses e-backpack and other online browser-based programs to keep us informed on our kids homework, classwork, and grades. We hardly ever print anything but, every so often we will receive a note from school or a letter in the mail that requires a signature before emailing back. This is the brilliance of CamScanner. It takes a photo of your document and converts it into a PDF, files it and allows you to upload it to a cloud, email or share it with recipients of your choice. Perfect for permission slips, summer reading lists, and doctor’s notes!

Pinterest

Pinterest_app1

I’m a pinhead – I really love this social media app so much. It keeps my to-do’s, have-to’s, and must try’s all in one place. I use it for everything from planning my daughter’s party to saving recipes, knitting patterns, and arts and crafts projects. It’s empowering to put mini-vision boards together, where each photo contains it’s own practical tutorial to help you get it done. Not every project is a winner, there are tons and tons of #pinterestfail posts on the web to attest to that but when you find a project that wins – it’s a thrill for the whole family!

Trello

Trelllo_app

Project management simplified is how I can best describe this app. Create projects of any kind from a block party to the PTA bake sale, set up to-do lists, and use color coded labels to keep everything and every one assisting on the project organized. You can also share projects and “project cards.” Trello is a browser-based app so you can access it from any device, as well as, on your PC. I have used this app for a ton of both personal and community projects.

None of these companies have offered me any payment in return for my favorable endorsement. I am just a modern gal trying to live an organized life in a busy world. These apps make things that would usually seem tedious or overwhelming more manageable and fun. A lot of these apps help keep me interested too. It can be very easy to put your day on auto-pilot but what fun is that. Engaging with smart tech can keep us feeling not only in control but inspired as well.

I love apps, from the old reliable like Facebook to the new and exciting like Dubsmash.  I would love to hear what your favorites are. What keeps you organized, entertained, and connected? Share them with me here or let’s talk on Facebook or Twitter xoxoxox

 

 

My Favorite Debunked Viral Stories: 2014

The 21st Century has seen a serious decline in journalistic integrity, I’ve talked about it a few times already. The priority seems to be ratings, clicks and visits with legitimate news channels jumping on trends rather than actual stories. This year was ripe for fake news going completely viral and being reported on as truth. The 24 hour news cycle has forced reporters to stop caring about things like research, I guess.

The moral of all of these stories: If you are a reporter, working a story, do your research, make some phone calls, dig a little deeper, like you know, it’s your job or something.

Here are some of my favorite debunked viral stories in 2014:

Drunk Girl Video

2014 was a big year for combating the catcalling issue. Dozens of videos popped up on the internet showing what women experience just trying to get a bagel in the morning. A dozen more videos popped up discussing the issue and providing their own commentary.

One video in particular saw it’s week in the spotlight – Drunk Girl in Public – which featured a women who was obviously intoxicated, trying to get home and hoping for some assistance. Throughout the video the assistance she receives is from men trying to take her to their own homes instead, so creepy, right? It was very scary and people were outraged. Problem was, It was all a fake, the men were tricked and the woman was an actress. You can get the full story here.

The Lady with Three Boobs

When this story first hit my news feed, I thought – “this isn’t true” – it was ridiculous for anyone to think this was biologically and scientifically possible. So I laughed it off and kept on scrolling until I realized that sites like Huffington Post and the NY Post were actually reporting the story.

So, after many, many websites rode the controversial (though completely fake) story, it was revealed that *GASP* the whole thing…this is stupid, I can’t even finish this entry. Read about it here if you want.

Macauley Culkin is Dead

I feel like Culkin dies every single year, I don’t know why people like reporting this.

culkin_tweet

I think people on the internet see a headline, react to it, then share it, without reading the full story or digging any deeper. He’s not dead, all any reporter needed to do to learn the truth was make a few phone calls.

Little Girl Kicked out of KFC

People were foaming at the mouth when they heard that a KFC restaurant asked a little girl to leave their establishment because of the scars on her face. Everyone from CNN to the Daily Mail were talking about this. Through some actual sleuthing it was discovered that the whole thing was a hoax and of course those same news outlets reported on that too – like it was actual news.

Banksy arrested w/mugshot

Guerrilla street artists and followers were in a tizzy when it was reported that the beloved Banksy had been arrested, complete with a mugshot revealing his identity! The story was picked up and shared via the National Report – a fake news website – and was ultimately viewed 6 million times.

Eventually Banksy’s publicist had to make a statement – he’s still roaming the streets with spray can in hand!

Siri – Where do I hide the body?

Back in August, news sites like Business Insider, Yahoo, and Fox reported that a Florida man, on trial for murder, asked Siri how to hide the body. Every one of them attached a photo of the supposed screen shot.

siri_hideroommate

However, According to trial reports, the image was probably something the defendant just scrolled past on Facebook and not an actual query he made himself. You can read about this and other BS viral stories here.

Since journalists are not doing the job they are supposed to be doing, it’s up to us to dig a little deeper and do some research. Never take a story at face value, if you are unsure, search and be sure all the sources being shared are reputable. Happy sleuthing, smart media peeps!

A Recap of Women in Media 2014

I am a woman in media and I am really proud of that. Despite the struggle to find my place and gain recognition in a male dominated industry. According to a report by the Women’s Media Center, this is typical, male reporters still account for 63 percent of bylines in the top 10 papers in America. This year individual winners of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism were all male with the exception of one, Inga Saffron of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The report goes on to say that women still don’t appear on-screen or hold sway behind the scenes in sufficient enough numbers. Of the women who do appear on-screen the majority were nude or partially nude. This is indicative of who is making the calls. Production company executives, predominantly male, choose directors, also predominantly male, those directors determine the stories being told and the actors who are telling them. This was the theme of a study titled, “Race/Ethnicity in 500 Popular Films: Is the Key to Diversifying Cinematic Content Held in the Hand of the Black Director?” released in October 2013.

“We know that what we see on-screen is in direct proportion to who’s calling the shots,” Annenberg professor, researcher and culture critic Stacy Smith, the study’s lead author, told the Women’s Media Center.

When industry leaders think about directors they tend to think male. This outlook limits women directors despite the gains made by female storytellers in 2013. Until we begin to conceive and perceive the directing role as gender neutral it will be difficult for women to move beyond independent film and into commercial arenas.

Study after study, with every new report, the status of women in all aspects of media, including journalism, film, broadcast, and even gaming and technology is grim. For example, women are almost half of video-game buyers, but we are still only a fraction of that multi-billion dollar industry’s developers.

gamedev_gender

Women are underrepresented in the technology industry over all. According to an article on PBS.org last year, “women make up just a quarter of the tech workforce in the United States and only 17 percent in Britain. In Africa, women form a majority of the population and half of the overall workforce yet they fill only about 15 percent of tech jobs.” According to many in the industry, public-image and a lack of understanding about computer engineering or sciences is part of the problem. Most young people, simply don’t come into contact with the industry in their daily lives.

So what can we do as media consumers to demand a more diverse landscape for women? The Women’s Media Center report suggests the following:

  • Write letters to the editors and station managers, individually or collectively to voice your concerns about coverage and diversity in newsroom staffing
  • Know the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules on broadcast media ownership and join the chorus of players who have been demanding more efforts to increase the low number of TV and radio stations owned by women
  • Use your dollars to let the media powers-that-be know you can choose when and where to spend your cash and refuse to spend it until serious changes are made

You are not an idle consumer, you are a major player in the supply and demand chain, as a matter of fact, you make up 85% of consumer purchases over-all.

women-consumer-purchase-statistics

 

We also make up 71 percent of the audience on social networking sites, in fact 40 million more women visit Twitter than men. Among the nation’s roughly 130 million social media subscribers, women’s use outpaced men’s by almost 10 percent. The power is in our numbers and it is up to us to raise our voices and demand more and better representation throughout all media.

Many thanks to the Women’s Media Center and their extensive report for inspiring today’s post. What are your views on women in media? Do you feel appropriately represented? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below.

What does a Modern Feminist Look Like?

I’ve said before that modern feminism is complicated. There really are no rules and women continue to redefine the feminist movement everyday. Fifty years ago the movement focused around reproductive rights – abortion rights to be more specific – and cases such as Griswold v. Connecticut helped pave the way for Roe v. Wade.

Today, as ridiculous as it may seem, we are still fighting for our reproductive rights but, the fight looks a little more diverse than it did before:

nuns

Pictured above is the National Coalition of American Nuns…”we want to make clear that the sin is not a person using birth control. The sin is denying women the right and the means to plan their families.” That is what modern feminism looks like, it’s versatile, we are past the days of feminists as man-hating, butches.

Modern feminists come in every color, shape, size, and even gender:

feminist_looks_like1 feminist_looks_like2
Modern feminism is about raising your voice, speaking your mind, and expressing yourself without fear. It is about standing against forces that seek to oppress and limit women and pushing for social, political, and economic equality. I am proud to be a feminist today because there is still much to fight for and much more to do.

I am in good company as the modern feminists below can attest:

As reported by News.Mic, the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) in Brazil unveiled a shocking statistic: over 65% of surveyed respondents said that, “if dressed provocatively, women deserve to be attacked and raped.” Even more upsetting is that over 66% of those who participated in the survey were women. As you can imagined, this sparked outrage in modern feminists everywhere but in particular, Brazilian journalist Nana Queiroz. She created a Facebook page with the hashtag #NãoMereçoSerEstuprada, or #IDon’tDeserveToBeRaped. Within 24 hours over 32,000 women — and men — joined the page.

Meanwhile, in Nairobi hundreds of women took to the streets to protest after a woman was attacked by men and stripped in public for wearing a mini-skirt.

The Guardian covered the protest and reported a video had emerged online. In response many Kenyans took to social media uniting under the hashtag #MyDressMyChoice. There is also a Facebook group Kilimani Mums organizing “miniskirt protest” in central Nairobi to defend their right to wear what they choose.

kenyan_protestors

Fighting for the right to make choices for our bodies is critical to the modern feminist movement but a modern feminist knows it’s about more than taking up specific causes. Much of modern feminism is about doing what hasn’t been done before and breaking down stereotypes that persist.

Meet Prof Maryam Mirzakhani,

myriam

An Iranian mathematician Prof Mirzakhani – who teaches at Stanford University in California – is the first woman to win the Fields Math Medal, ending what has been a long wait for the mathematics community. Her seminal research focuses on shapes called Riemann surfaces. These are convoluted mathematical objects that can be analysed using complex numbers.

“Women are doing so well now in mathematics that this is just icing on the cake, it’s the sort of thing which will really catch the public’s imagination – and as a result I think it could have quite an impact on a new generation.” – Prof Alison Etheridge, lecturer in applied mathematics at the University of Oxford

This is Malavath Poorna – she is the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest.

Malavath

Malavath hails from the Pakala Village of Srikanda Mandal, the daughter of agricultural laborers. When asked about whether she understood the difficulty of scaling Mount Everest, she responded “I know it fully. I have some idea of it after trekking Mt.Renock. I will prove it. and prove it she did. She recently sat down with the Times of India to discuss this amazing accomplishment. Her story is worth reading and truly inspirational.

Modern feminism takes on many forms in the 21st century and it can mean many things to different people. Whether you’re a mom breast-feeding in public or running the most marathons ever, set goals and meet them, this pushes the feminist movement that much further every single day.

Many thanks to Buzz Feed for their recent post on 10 Badass Women you Probably didn’t Hear About in 2014 for inspiring this post.

What is Smart Media?

Smart Media_featureI’ve been at this blog for a few months now, it’s actually the second personal blog I’ve launched. The first was a fashion, life and style type of blog which was plenty fun but a lot of fluff.  With this blog, however, I decided to cut out the fluff (at least for the most part) and make it about content that is meaningful. My philosophy is simple:

open_quotesSmart media is, authentic and sincere content that influences smart people in positive ways.

I stand by this philosophy both in my personal and professional writing. As a freelance marketing consultant it’s my job to develop content that speaks to people, brings about awareness, and drives leads. This isn’t easy, there are no quick fixes – you can’t rig the system – reaching the masses, in an authentic and sincere way, takes time, patience, dedication, and above all, hard work! Sure, there are robots and automated tactics you can employ to grow an audience but you wont be connected to them in a meaningful way. And yes there is plenty of software out there to help you target, engage, track, and re-target potential leads but, at the end of the day, nurturing those leads requires a personal touch.

When companies give up that personal touch for cheap and efficient automation, disasters like this occur:

entemanns not guilty tweet

Of course there are plenty of instances where the human touch is just as disastrous:

Going-to-Africa-Tweet-Justine-Sacco

That ridiculous tweet came from Justine Sacco, a senior P.R. person, of all things, for corporate giant IAC she tweeted this before her trip to Africa. Of course the story took on a life of its own and turned into a PR nightmare for her and the company she represents. Sometimes people need a filter, checks and balances are critical to building successful content. Being thoughtful about what you say, thoughtful about how you say it and thoughtful about how you represent yourself to the masses is essential.

But I digress, smart media is not easy to create. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to help them figure out how the human mind works and then millions more to use that information to manipulate you into thinking their stuff is the best stuff. Big data means knowing who, what, where, when, and how people shop and then ensuring your content is at the right place at the right time. Big data also gives you the power to manipulate news and information to fit a narrative your audience can relate to – I’ve spoken about this topic at length here.

All said and done, I became a marketing professional because, more than art and academics, marketing and advertising reaches the masses. You can change the world with smart media –  remember the Arab Spring uprising? By mid 2005, the use of social media to organize groups began to take hold in Tunisia and Egypt. That’s powerful.

To a lesser degree, Dove, while trying to find a way to revive their brand conducted a study of more than 3,000 women in 10 countries to learn about women’s priorities and interests. What they discovered is that only 2 percent of women interviewed considered themselves beautiful. Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign was born. Now 10 years old, this campaign highlights the power marketing has to change the conversation and create something new, different, and vital for the masses.

Smart media is honest and positive, it doesn’t pander or manipulate, it informs and uplifts. It’s a difficult combination to achieve but I hope that’s what I am building with my blog here. Really smart media that speaks to my audience in a way that is truly meaningful and helpful to them. If even one person takes away something positive by reading my blog than I have done my job.

Smart Media Check

 

The Truth About Media

Media is powerful. Media can influence people to think, act, and react in very specific ways.  In the online world this becomes a dangerous game of rigging the system. Content publishers aren’t posting media to get the word out in a balanced and informative way. In this day and age of 24 hour news, publishers want clicks, shares, and comments. The more they get, the more secure their jobs.

This leads to an enormous amount of manipulating – hyperbole filled headlines and inaccurate slant on news to match the ideals of their target audience. The news is decided not by what stories need to be told, it is decided by what will grab the audience’s attention most. In a 2010 panel discussion Sam Whitmore – a tech media consultant – said of the current state of journalism:

It’s now a luxury for a reporter to write a story about an obscure but important topic. That used to be a job requirement. Now it’s a career risk….

…Two reporters from two different publications this month both told us the same thing: if you want to write a story on an interesting but obscure topic, you had better feed the beast by writing a second story about the iPad or Facebook or something else that delivers page views and good SEO.

Think about that for a moment, how in the world can you ever trust a news source or know that the information you are getting is reliable, important, or accurate? Beyond the current state of journalism – is the current state of media ownership.  Less than 50 years ago you had 50 companies owning 90% of mainstream media – today a total of 6 companies own all of mainstream media.

media-ownership

That means whatever news or entertainment you are watching, whether online or on TV, it is being delivered to you with a specific agenda in mind. Here’s a great example of what it means when a single corporation owns a multitude of broadcasts networks:

It also means that the narrative can and often is framed to serve a specific agenda rather than to deliver honest and balanced news:

This is the case for much of the news you watch on a daily basis. The situation in Ferguson is a prime example. When the announcement was made not to indict the officer who shot and killed Michael Brown – people were indeed angry but many were expressing that anger in media-spoonfeeding-cartoonproductive, non-violent protests. However, much of what was reported on the news were those few people who chose to express their anger in violent ways and that is what dominated your news feed. In this way the narrative was framed around the small amount of looting and rioting rather than the very real and honest issue of brutality and lack accountability by those in power.

So the question becomes, how do you avoid the trap of manipulative news and seek out honest and balanced journalism?  It isn’t easy, you have to be a tireless researcher but I have some tips to help you:

  1. Never take anything at face value. Now that you know how easy it is to manipulate a narrative be willing to dig deeper to learn all sides of the story.  Online search engines are your friend – use them to seek out many different reports on the same story.
  2. Pay attention to sources. Balanced reporting means seeking out and using a lot of different sources.  A good news article will use these sources to tell an honest story and share those sources with the audience. Follow the trail to make sure information presented is coming from reliable places.
  3. Utilize sites dedicated to debunking fake stories. Snopes.com is a great example – they work tirelessly to  bust myths and debunk all the fake news being generated online.
  4. Never share based on just a headline. Content publishers manipulate headlines – which are often hyperbolic nonsense that gets you to click on their story. They are not interested in whether you actually read – so if you see a headline that seems so outrageous you just have to share – follow tips #1 – #3 first and make sure what you are sharing is real.
  5. Rely on sources not devoted to getting more clicks.  Ebola and climate change are prime examples of topics that are manipulated to serve the agenda of the group building the narrative. Don’t rely on the news, rather seek out the experts in these fields – science, medical, and business journals and reports are non-biased and devoted to sharing real and actual information.
  6. Be critical, be skeptical, be a sleuth. Journalists are no longer allowed to do this job anymore so it’s up to you. Never believe what you read or see, rather take in everything with a critical eye and do the research to either debunk or prove the accuracy of the media you are consuming.

The moral of the story is – assume that all of it is propaganda – I know that sounds paranoid but we live in a time where we MUST question everything.  Be a truth seeker and choose to consume smart media, in this way we can force publishers and media outlets to get back to real, reliable reporting.