Social media has set a precedent in the way the country will engage with high profile cases, the attorneys in the Trayvon Martin shooting case said Saturday at an Associated Press event in Orlando.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, and George Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, spoke at the Florida Associated Press Broadcasters Banquet.
O’Mara said social media will impact how a jury will be picked in the case.
“I think that if I could do away with all media, including all social media, that I would not have it involved in a criminal case,” O’Mara said. “But that’s a fantasy that is 40 years ago.”
Crump agreed, adding that social media has given “people who normally would not have a voice in matters like this” a forum to engage in the case.
There’s an enormous amount of important information in this latest Pew report for anyone who considers staying well-informed an essential civic duty.
The excerpts below are from the “Overview”, which itself is quite long. I haven’t had a chance to read through the entire report as it would likely take days, however what I have read is both compelling and disquieting.
For those who have neither the time nor the inclination to slog through the entire report—or who need something “tweetable” & eye-catching—there’s an excellent Overview Infographic here (it’s huge, but very well done).
Please be sure to visit the source page as there are several links there to other reports and surveys that I didn’t include due to time constraints. Added emphasis is mine.
In 2012, a continued erosion of news reporting resources converged with growing opportunities for those in politics, government agencies, companies and others to take their messages directly to the public.
This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands.Signs of the shrinking reporting power are documented throughout this year’s report. Estimates for newspaper newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put the industry down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978….A growing list of media outlets, such as Forbes magazine, use technology by a company called Narrative Science to produce content by way of algorithm, no human reporting necessary. And some of the newer nonprofit entrants into the industry, such as the Chicago News Cooperative, have, after launching with much fanfare, shut their doors.
This adds up to a news industry that is more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And findings from our new public opinion survey released in this report reveal that the public is taking notice. Nearly one-third of the respondents (31%) have deserted a news outlet because it no longer provides the news and information they had grown accustomed to.
At the same time, newsmakers and others with information they want to put into the public arena have become more adept at using digital technology and social media to do so on their own, without any filter by the traditional media. They are also seeing more success in getting their message into the traditional media narrative.
So far, this trend has emerged most clearly in the political sphere, particularly with the biggest story of 2012—the presidential election. A Pew Research Center analysis revealed that campaign reporters were acting primarily as megaphones, rather than as investigators, of the assertions put forward by the candidates and other political partisans. That meant more direct relaying of assertions made by the campaigns and less reporting by journalists to interpret and contextualize them. This is summarized in our special video report on our Election Research, only about a quarter of statements in the media about the character and records of the presidential candidates originated with journalists in the 2012 race, while twice that many came from political partisans. That is a reversal from a dozen years earlier when half the statements originated with journalists and a third came from partisans. The campaigns also found more ways than ever to connect directly with citizens.
“Journalists get lots of pitches…these days, which is partly a reflection of how the number of journalists has shriveled while the number of publicists has grown.” —Journalist David CayThere are signs of this trend that carry beyond the political realm, as more and more entities seek, by various means, to fill the void left by overstretched editorial resources. Business leaders in Detroit, MI, for example, have created an organization to serve as a kind of tour guide to journalists with the goal of injecting more favorable portrayals of the city into media coverage. The government of Malaysia was recently discovered to have bankrolled propaganda that appeared in several major U.S. outlets under columnists’ bylines. A number of news organizations, including The Associated Press, recently carried a fake press release about Google that came from a PR distribution site that promises clients it will reach “top media outlets.” And recently, journalist David Cay Johnston in writing about a pitch from one corporate marketer that included a “vacation reward” for running his stories, remarked, “Journalists get lots of pitches like this these days, which is partly a reflection of how the number of journalists has shriveled while the number of publicists has grown.” Indeed, an analysis of Census Bureau data by Robert McChesney and John Nichols found the ratio of public relations workers to journalists grew from 1.2 to 1 in 1980 to 3.6 to 1 in 2008—and the gap has likely only widened since.
Efforts by political and corporate entities to get their messages into news coverage are nothing new. What is different now—adding up the data and industry developments—is that news organizations are less equipped to question what is coming to them or to uncover the stories themselves, and interest groups are better equipped and have more technological tools than ever.
For news organizations, distinguishing between high-quality information of public value and agenda-driven news has become an increasingly complicated task, made no easier in an era of economic churn.
The end of the “Overview” page identifies six major trends of the year (detailed descriptions of each are available at the link above):
- The effects of a decade of newsroom cutbacks are real – and the public is taking notice.
- The news industry continues to lose out on the bulk of new digital advertising.
- The long-dormant sponsorship ad category is seeing sharp growth.
- The growth of paid digital content experiments may have a significant impact on both news revenue and content.
- While the first and hardest-hit industry, newspapers, remains in the spotlight, local TV finds itself newly vulnerable.
- Hearing about things in the news from friends and family, whether via social media or actual word of mouth, leads to deeper news consumption.
Earlier this year, I was taking part in a panel discussion about social media in the Arab world. One panelist was actually from the Arab world; the rest of us were Europeans and Americans. The lone Arab voice stood silent for much of the discussion until he declared timidly at the end that, in his opinions, Al Jazeera played a bigger role than social media. People talked about TV coverage of the rebellions, he said, not about tweets. TV beat texting as an enabling force of revolution.
This is not news. Islam scholar Bernard Lewis already said as much in a 2005 essay for “Foreign Affairs”, in which he wrote: “Television also brings to peoples of the Middle East a previously unknown spectacle - that of lively and vigorous public disagreement and debate. In some places, young people […]sometimes see even Israeli Arabs arguing in the Knesset, denouncing Israeli ministers and policies - on Israeli television”. Or even that “Modern communications have had also another effect, in making Middle Eastern Muslims more painfully aware of how badly things have gone wrong.”
TV retains the advantage of still being somewhat of a “communal experience”. The fact that millions of people can watch the same program at the same time provides a common ground on which people can discuss issues the following morning. The limit consists in the access barriers to TV. It is not by chance that the presidential guard in Egypt was dispatched to protect the presidential palace and state TV when clashes erupted between supporters and opponents of President Morsi in November. During the past sixty years, every single coup d’etat in the Arab world was soon broadcast from the occupied studios of state-owned TV and radio stations.
Social media might not be as important as TV, but it can’t be neglected either. Actually, the use of social media is more widespread than we might think. According to a recent survey by PEW Research, 34 percent of Tunisians use social media websites (In Egypt, it’s 30 percent. In Jordan, 29 percent). We can expect that most of the users are young and live in urban areas - i.e. in the centers of the rebellions. A relatively high percentage - between 60 and 68 percent - also told PEW pollsters that they use social media to share political content.
Three years ago, a few days before Andrew Cadieux’s 21st birthday, a stranger sharing his last name sent him a message on Facebook. His mother denied knowing the person at first, but eventually admitted the stranger was his birth mother’s sister. The woman he’d called mom all his life was another aunt.
The revelation tore the lid off 21 years of family drama that she’d hidden from him.
Cadieux’s birth mother had Down syndrome and couldn’t care for him; his aunt and uncle had adopted him. When his adoptive father died, a feud tore the family apart, leading Cadieux’s mother to decide it was better to sever ties with the family and never share with the young boy his history.
“Without Facebook, she wouldn’t be part of my life because they didn’t want her to have anything to do with me,” the 24-year-old software engineer from Connecticut said.
It’s hard to keep secrets in the age of social media and the adoption world is no exception. Cadieux’s story is just one that shows how the Internet is making it easier for birth relatives to find each other, hastening the end of the era of “closed” adoption, the nonprofit Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said in a report released Thursday.
Late on Wednesday, just as Americans were taking off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Facebook announced its intention to change the feedback process for the policies which govern use of its service.
For the last few years, as I’d mentioned in Wired a few months ago, Facebook held sham elections where people could ostensibly vote on its policy changes. Despite lots of responses (the most recent Site Governance vote got far more people participating than signed the secession petitions on the White House website), Facebook never promoted these policy change discussions to users, and the public has never made a substantive impact on site governance.
Now, Facebook follows the steps that most tyrants do, quietly moving from sham elections to an official policy that users will have no vote in site governance.
Read it all: Facebook Makes It Official: You Have No Say - Anil Dash.
Mark Zuckerberg, the creator and CEO of Facebook, has never been an easy guy to like. The 28-year-old social-media magnate comes across as distant and unfeeling and is prone to awkward pauses. He’s no friend of privacy advocates, who fret about the vast sea of personal information that more than a billion Facebook users have uploaded, and is criticized by users themselves for changing the rules about how data is shared. Zuckerberg was even accused of stealing the Facebook concept itself, as anyone who watched the 2010 film The Social Network knows.
So it comes as little surprise that Zuckerberg would irritate investors, too. Facebook’s initial public offering this spring was not only billed as the biggest tech IPO since Google’s in 2004, but stood as a testament to how much social media has changed (some might say invaded) our lives. It was also viewed as a test of Wall Street’s ability to create and spread around massive amounts of wealth. Some even argued that, by convincing ordinary investors to put money back into the stock market, Facebook and its hoodie-clad creator could revive the ailing U.S. economy.
The result, given the hype, wasn’t pretty. On May 18, Facebook’s stock began trading at the IPO’s offer price of $38. A few minutes later it climbed above $40 as the masses rushed in, and then promptly sank like a stone—with an anchor tied to it. The shares eventually bottomed out at around $17.55 about three months later, wiping out more than $50 billion in value.
I’m trying to avoid saying that the hashtag “worked”. I’m not even sure what that would mean. Twitter even makes it difficult to measure the number of times a hashtag is used, unless you’re looking at trends in the last 24 hours. And maybe, that doesn’t matter: all e-activism is less a form of protest than it is advertising, and like advertising, one measures its effectiveness not in the one-to-one ratio of “ads seen” to “individual action taken”, but in the sedimentary accumulation of conventional wisdom or social norms. It’s less important that every voter on Twitter contribute a thought on #my2k than it is that the Obama administration has put another mark on the tablet of public knowledge that represents not just its policy goals but the kind of relationship it wants to have with voters: one of the most self-consciously interactive in the history of politics.
This is not to say that it’s a relationship of equals, or that internet users have as much control over the conversation as the White House does. They can always pull the plug. (Or, more ominously, see who else you’re talking to – and about what.)
Rather, the Obama communications team has, over time, recognized that they don’t control the conversation completely, and that attempting to excerpt control over it will limit its fruitfulness as well its unwelcome digressions.
Think about it: with the awareness that comes with a popular hashtag comes the risk – almost the certainty – that not everyone is going to stay on message. Encouraging conventional forms of voter pressure doesn’t carry the same kind of risk. Making sure voters have their congressman’s number doesn’t guarantee they’ll agitate for the policy you want, but they also can’t hijack the very message you want to send, turn it against you in a way that can make what the message intended just an afterthought.
President Barack Obama is introducing a new hashtag to the fiscal cliff debate.
The White House plans to promote (hashtag)My2K on Twitter and other social media - a reference to the estimated $2,200 tax increase that a typical middle-class family of four would see if the Bush tax cuts expire.
Obama is holding an event with middle-class Americans on Wednesday and urging the public to press Congress to protect tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.
Jihadist social media postings helped lead to the arrest and charging of four Los Angeles area men, who were allegedly on their way to Afghanistan to train with the Taliban and join al Qaeda, federal officials said.
They were also plotting to kill American soldiers and bomb government installations, according to a joint statement Monday by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles.
One of the men, a U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, encouraged two of the others to embrace violent Islamic doctrine by introducing them online to radical teachings, including those of deceased U.S.-born al-Qaeda imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
The three exposed their connection to each other and their radical leanings explicitly on Facebook for over a year. And one of them detailed his intentions to participate in jihad in an online chat with an FBI employee.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke attracted a great deal of attention last April when, disgusted by the avalanche of misinformation being tossed around on the campaign trail, he wrote an obituary for Facts.
The piece rapidly became a graveyard smash and an Internet sensation. It was shared on social media nearly 89,000 times in a matter of days.
Since that time, we’ve been through a hotly contested presidential election. So what was the impact on poor old Facts? Any likelihood of a resurrection, or did the politicos simply drive a stake through his heart?
Sounds like Huppke is leaning toward the latter.
“It got really bizarre,” he says. “There was a level of dishonesty out there that was pretty striking.”
Huppke cites Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s widely debunked claim that Jeep was moving production jobs from the United States to China; Democratic House Speaker Harry Reid’s evidence-free assertion that Romney failed to pay taxes for a decade; and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s error-laden convention speech as just a few of the many signs that Facts remains deeply buried. When Ryan said his iPod playlist “starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin,” it was game over.
“It’s hard, because we’re bombarded with information, and if you have a life — you’re going to work, taking your kids to school, and finally you go home and fall asleep — it’s impossible to really keep on top of what’s happening and what’s right and wrong,” Huppke says.
“For as great as all the access to information is, it has created an enormous amount of noise,” he adds.
Huppke says the rise of blogs, which do not have the same checks and balances as traditional media, played a role in sealing Facts’ fate. “But when you got to Twitter — everyone and their uncle is a reporter.”
Twitter is similar to a game of telephone, Huppke says. “If you have 20 people on the line, and you whisper something to the person next to you, it’s totally different by the time it reaches the end of the line.” Except this time, not everyone’s laughing when the last person in line mistakes “banana” for “Romney’s proposing a $5 trillion tax cut.”
“Saying, ‘I [read] this thing in the [newspaper] that Obama did’ and ‘I heard on Twitter what Obama did’ is very different,” Huppke says. “I think Twitter is like another vehicle for letting us zip around Facts.”
Do people even miss Facts, or are they perfectly content hanging out with the survivors listed in Facts’ obit, his brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and his sister, Emphatic Assertion?