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Media

As part of its UK Public Opinion Monitor research, which aims to track the UK public’s attitudes towards development, the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex recently released this 10-minute film pleading for better coverage by UK television of the developing world, and of issues related to poverty:

The film revisits arguments advanced over many years by the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT), One World Media (formerly the One World Broadcasting Trust), POLIS, and other civil society groups. [Five years ago, I wrote and researched IBT’s report, Reflecting the Real World 2, on how new media were impacting on UK TV’s coverage of the developing world.] These groups have consistently put forward the arguments – based on research they conduct and commission, and on interviews they conduct with senior decision-makers in the UK media – that coverage of the developing world by UK broadcast television is weak, and tends to focus on crisis, corruption, and conflict, in both news and other TV genres. They argue that this has serious implications both on how genuinely informed the UK public can be about large swathes of the wider world, and therefore on how constructive domestic public debate and opinion can be about why we give aid, to whom, and on what basis.

It’s encouraging that a serious institution like IDS is interested in addressing these issues. So why does the film itself leave me so disappointed – and what might they have done differently?

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I forgot to cross-post this, which I wrote in December for the UNA-USA’s The Interdependent:

How we communicate and connect, how we see and document the world around us, how we express ourselves—all have been transformed over the past decade. Hundreds of millions of us on every continent experience this directly in our daily lives, from receiving a text message or making a mobile call to video-chatting with relatives or colleagues around the world.

As 2011 made so pointedly clear, communication technologies and networks of this kind are now so intrinsic to how many of us live, work, and interact that they are influencing how we think about, claim, and advocate for human rights. As the UN celebrated International Human Rights Day on December 10, for instance, it chose to highlight how “social media helped activists organize peaceful protest movements in cities across the globe—from Tunis to Madrid, from Cairo to New York—at times in the face of violent repression.”

This new reality is something that advocates and activists need to face head-on, urgently and collectively. Human rights concerns are at the heart of the technologies we use, the more domesticated, indispensable and close-to-home they become. But what does this mean in practical terms?

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This year’s Newsfoo felt to me rather different from the 2010 edition. There seemed to be less discussion of how to sustain or resource news, or about the contexts of news consumption, and more about how to deal with some of the cognitive, knowledge-management and even ethical issues of news journalism. This post is on initiatives/tools for fact-checking and knowledge management in the news [Update: a more current list is here.]

Knowledge management, fact-checking in news organisations

After last year’s Newsfoo, I pondered whether “a key emerging role for news media and journalists might lie in more systematically tracking and unpacking the nature and web of connections, instances and influences that flow to and through and from events” – Bruno Latour’s Macospol is one example of how this might be done. Some human rights organisations are using new tools to collect and mine data, build and visualise patterns, and draw conclusions and present evidence (e.g. B’Tselem’s pretty jaw-dropping forensic collaboration with Situ Studio and Goldsmiths). What kinds of tools and methods are news organisations using to conduct this kind of work – establishing facts, establishing connections, and building a web of evidence that helps people decide what is happening around them?

Three Newsfoo discussions in particular prompted this post (alongside Baratunde‘s reminder to us all that The Onion has fact-checkers):
– Jonathan Stray asked first how news organisations could implement better knowledge management as they gather and process information – in a sense, a “context layer” for the web. As one person put it in another discussion, “the process of journalism is very lossy”, in that a lot of labour-intensive, useful information gathered in the process of doing journalism never gets used, or stored and made available to others to search or build on.
– Dan Schultz and Sasha Costanza-Chock talked about how to provide a “truth and credibility layer” for news consumers when they interact with journalism: how do you know if a statement reported online is true or not?
– a range of participants came together for a session specifically on fact-checking, looking in part of how Politifact works, and other initiatives (like this) enabling quite granular analysis of political and business discourse and reporting.

Also, a week before Newsfoo, Craig Newmark had posted on how he’s extremely dissatisfied with the state of fact-checking [UPDATE: and a new post from Craig Newmark at Nieman Lab continues to argue that fact-checking and -challenging is a critical part of how news organisations earn, retain and grow trust]. And a week ago, Ethan Zuckerman wrote helpfully about Morningside Analytics’ work on the US online fact-checking ecosystem, and Lucas Graves’ work on the landscape of fact-checking in the US. There’s a lot of discussion about the state of fact-checking generally at the moment, so I won’t retread the discussions had in these sessions at Newsfoo (not least since there was a fair amount of FrieNDA.)

So read on for a list of resources mentioned in these Newsfoo sessions, along with some others I’ve added to round things out a bit – I hope it’s of use. Most of these are US/UK only – who’s doing this in other parts of the world, in other languages? Thoughts? Additions? Let me know through the comments box!

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The FT’s Business Life Editor, Ravi Mattu (diclosure: Ravi’s an old friend) covered Cameras Everywhere in his FT column last Thursday (it’s paywalled, unfortunately):

When the Egyptian government shut down the internet during the protests in Tahrir Square, it was seen as a form of repression.

Should access to technology now be seen in the same way as access to, say, clean water? And does this mean that the companies behind those technologies have a particular moral obligation to their users?

The authors of Cameras Everywhere, a report published earlier this month by Witness, a non-governmental organisation focused on using video to expose human rights abuse, argue that they do. (Full disclosure: Sameer Padania is the report’s co-author and a friend.) They looked at the role of mobile telephones and social media, as well as technology providers including Google, Twitter and Dailymotion, in documenting human rights abuses.

It’s a sign of the enormous shifts around us that even a paper like The FT can find room on its pages for a relatively specialised report of this kind. Next step is to encourage media outlets with paywalled content to make their human rights stories publicly accessible…

Cameras Everywhere noted by my good friend Ravi Mattu in his latest FT column:

When the Egyptian government shut down the internet during the protests in Tahrir Square, it was seen as a form of repression.

Should access to technology now be seen in the same way as access to, say, clean water? And does this mean that the companies behind those technologies have a particular moral obligation to their users?

The authors of Cameras Everywhere, a report published earlier this month by Witness, a non-governmental organisation focused on using video to expose human rights abuse, argue that they do. (Full disclosure: Sameer Padania is the report’s co-author and a friend.) They looked at the role of mobile telephones and social media, as well as technology providers including Google, Twitter and Dailymotion, in documenting human rights abuses.

Thanks, Rav!