Daryl Ilbury

Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Let’s exorcise anonymity from social media

In Eish!, Fools, media on March 31, 2016 at 1:10 pm

freddy-krueger-vinyl-mask

‘CrispySkin69 has sent you a friend request’

It’s one of Shakespeare’s most enduring lines: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose”. Perhaps it’s time mainstream media did their best to exorcise unnecessary anonymity from social media.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I love the fact it’s encouraging change in the media landscape, but I hate that it’s driven by people generally unqualified to sit behind the wheel; especially mysterious people with unknown qualifications. In fact, I find that quite scary, because in the media a name is important.

This is especially so for a young journalist, because there’s no bigger thrill than when they first get their name in a byline – that part of an article that carries the name of the person by whom it was written.  It’s not a given for a journalist that every piece they write will automatically carry their name. That right has to be earned through an initiation of anonymity. 

They will have to bloody their notebooks, scribbling their way up through the ranks from, say, ‘staff reporter’ through being attached to a ‘beat’ such as ‘court reporter’, before finally cracking sufficient acknowledgement to be anointed with their own name in the byline.

It’s only at that stage that, it could be argued, they become recognised by their peers as qualified to carry the mantle ‘journalist’.

The name is important not only for the purposes of recognition, but also for accountability. For all the titles I wrote it was made clear that if my name was on the byline than I was accountable for what I wrote. It was the same when I was in radio – my name was on the show, so I was on my own. If someone took sufficient umbrage with what I said, legally the station would step back and let me take the fall.

Such is the responsibility for being a ‘name’ in the media.

But social media has changed all that. There seems to be the belief that anonymity goes hand in hand with ‘democratisation’, that not only is it permissible to opine without restraint, but that this should be done behind a curtain of secrecy. No names and clear head-and-shoulder shots on the byline taking full accountable credit for what was said; instead commentary should wear the scab of mysterious characters shielded by fictitious epithets and avatars.

And this is my beef: if you want to play the media game, you play by the rules; and one of those rules is the issue of accountability. If you want the credit for what you say, have the balls to attach your real name and image to it.

So what can the grown-ups of mainstream media do? Exorcise the anonymity. Don’t give credit where it’s not due. If you’re going to publish a comment or pull one off social media and put it on-air, online or in print, only choose those by people playing by the same rules as yourself. So you don’t quote ‘DragonMistress’ and ‘KnobHead69’; only real people. And you make this clear in your media guidelines. It should be carried above your comments section, on your website and mentioned on-air.

Anonymity has a place in social media: the damp and fetid dungeons of the dark web.

 

 

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Food can kill you!

In Eish!, Fools, Science, Scoundrels on April 14, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Derp of the DayI have followed with detached interest the rise and fall of Vani Hari (yes, as in Mata Hari), a.k.a Food Babe – ‘detached’ because to engage with her and her doting acolytes would send my blood pressure sky high, and ‘interest’ because what she’s doing worries me. For those who don’t know, Hari is an American self-appointed arbiter of food safety. Her qualifications for such are zero.

OK, that’s a little harsh; she does digest food. The point is she has no academic qualifications. She’s certainly not a dietician. [This is a good point to emphasise the difference between a dietician and nutritionist: essentially dieticians are registered and belong to a regulated body; nutritionists not necessarily so]. She calls herself an ‘activist’. Translated: she makes a lot of noise about something; and you know the saying about what makes the most noise…

The thing about lots of noise though is that attracts attention, and as traditional media battles social media for the minds of media consumers, lots of noise on social media tends to be picked up by a reluctant traditional media. And that makes food companies scared. Hari’s ’cause’ for activism is what’s in food, specifically food that is prepared or packaged for consumers. For her, unless it’s organic it probably contains poisons, and she presents as evidence the varied scientific-sounding additives and preservatives found in most prepared foods. One of her biggest nemeses is azodicarbonamide (sometimes referred to as ADA), a chemical substance approved for use as a whitening agent in cereal flour and as a dough conditioner in bread baking. She has made a noise about it also being used in the manufacture of yoga mats. True, but then the zinc found in spinach is used in the manufacture of car batteries (we’re made of chemicals, people!) She selects as a source the website of an organic food disciple, Max Goldberg, who in turn quotes a WHO report that “links ADA to respiratory issues, allergies and asthma”.

So let’s go there: The report says: “Evidence that azodicarbonamide can induce asthma in humans has been found from bronchial challenge studies with symptomatic individuals and from health evaluations of employees at workplaces where azodicarbonamide is manufactured or used”. Sounds scary. Loosely translated: people who show a sensitivity to it should avoid it, especially those who work with it.

But this is true for any chemical, including something found in almost all prepared food – a chemical so dangerous that symptoms of toxicity to it can include dizziness, changes in blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, convulsions, coma and eventual death. It’s called sodium chloride – yes, common table salt.

At long last science is beginning to stand up to Vani’s narcissistic (she presents herself as evidence her activism works) scaremongering. Mainstream media is finally getting the message. But what has really made my day is to see scientists take her on via her media platform of choice: blogging – meet Science Babe.

Will local radio survive social media and the smartphone?

In Eish!, Science on April 8, 2015 at 3:15 pm

John Maytham

567 Cape Talk’s John Maytham – holding the key to compelling radio

It hurts me to say this, but I no longer embrace something that was my life’s passion – local radio. The reason is two-fold: there has been a dramatic change in the media landscape, and local radio is failing to adapt.

Few industries have been affected by advances in technology more than the media. In my 25 years in radio I wrestled with analogue (vinyl, reel-to-reel and carts) and digital hardware (CDs, DAT and minidiscs) and the varied PC programming software now used on radio stations. I have turned and pushed sliders and clicked many a mouse. As a writer and journalist I have worked in print – newspapers and magazines – and later online. I have even combined media formats by integrating radio and online content. But the relationship with the consumer has always been the same – I created the content and then shared it with the consumer, with the occasional feedback from calls and SMSs.

But things are different now. Social media has empowered the consumer. They’re no longer passive; they produce content as well as consume it – they are content ‘prosumers’. Importantly, the hardware used is not in a radio studio, it is in their hands – it’s the smartphone. And if radio stations aren’t there, they risk being nowhere.

Let me give you a snapshot of how I ‘prosume’. See if you can spot where radio fits in:

  • I wake each morning and, over a quiet cup of coffee, check my Twitter feed on my iPhone for any breaking news. I tweet/retweet what I find compelling. I then click on the apps for BBC News, The Economist, Reuters, RT, News24, and EWN.  I don’t turn on the radio for news.
  • I check the weather forecast via my weather app. No radio for weather.
  • I then sit at my computer, with a second cup of coffee, and access Feedly for non-current news. Using Hootsuite I schedule messages across my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. If I feel like listening to music while I do this, I access one of the hundreds of free online stations on iTunes, few of which carry any advertising. So I don’t turn on the radio for music.
  • However, I do enjoy talk radio. So when I feel like listening to really good talk radio in the morning I tap the UK Radio App on my iPhone and select LBCSteve Allen is wicked and the breakfast show host Nick Ferrari is one of the best in the business. I select the airplay settings on my iPhone and listen to them through my hi-fi speakers. Alternatively I use the UK Radio Player. So, no, I don’t turn on the radio.
  • In my car I have a 32GB USB with a selection from my iTunes library plugged in to my sound system, which is set to break into the music with radio traffic reports if broadcast. So….radio?…only briefly.
  • And when I am relaxing with an afternoon drink, looking for specialised on-air content I access the US Public Radio app on my iPhone and select any one of the many stations that carry specialised content – jazz, rock, blues, classical or folk music, or news and talk – with little or no ad breaks. I hook it up to the hi-fi and chill. Again, no turning on of any radio.

There are now so many options for immediate access to the diverse content I want, at no point during the day do I switch on my radio in hope that it will give me that content.

Well…there is one occasion. In the afternoons, if I am in my car. Then I listen to John Maytham on 567 Cape Talk. Why specifically then? Because John Maytham creates the one thing that can save local South African radio from its current mundane menu of music sweeps, insipid waffle (even our talk radio is too nice), and packed ad breaks: tension.

John is highly intelligent and uncompromising, even brutal at times; the result is radio rich in tension and intellectual rigour. When someone grabs you by the neck and tells you stuff, it’s hard not to pay attention.

So wake up, South African radio. There are apps without your name on them.

The unfortunately unwritten rule of posting comments

In Fools, Scoundrels on January 22, 2013 at 3:59 pm
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Taku2 was pleased with itself. Precious were its comments.

This is especially for you ‘bigboi’, ‘jenny27’, ‘TheRealDarthVader’ and ‘MagicTits’.

As someone who has worked across multiple media platforms and who writes for both print and online, I have to be both protective towards one and embracing of the other. I am old-school enough to feel the pain every time I hear of a newspaper in trouble and having to lay off journalists and staff, and at the same time I am new-school enough to get frustrated with those mainstream titles that are reticent to embrace the exciting opportunities of an online offering, such as the immediacy of reader comments.

When social media took off, it changed the relationship between printed media and the reader, because instead of the reader being purely a consumer of content, he or she could become a producer and disseminator of content – creating the concept of a prosumer. Importantly, the prosumer became empowered.

But that didn’t mean the prosumer was qualified to play in the big league…

Professional journalists have to work according to a set of rules, not least of which is being accountable for what we say. If I cross the line in an op-ed piece and skirt with libel, I am the one who gets sued. If I say something that people disagree with, they have the right to challenge me directly. If I report on something incorrectly and in the process cause someone disservice, the injured party has direct recourse and knows whom to contact to demand a correction or a retraction. This is why my (real) name is in the byline of everything I have ever written.

It is also why I, and many other journalists I know, accord no credence whatsoever to any comment posted by anyone who doesn’t use his or her (real) name. If you’re not willing to be accountable to what you have to say, don’t expect anyone to take what you say seriously.

It’s also a matter of respect towards the journalist.

‘bigboi’, ‘jenny27’, ‘TheRealDarthVader’ and ‘MagicTits’ may be great handles to use when you’re in a chat room for breathless fans of Justin Bieber, but if you want to be taken seriously in the big league, play by the rules.